31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives 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 Baume, Mr Cadman, Mr Howard and Mr O’Keefe.
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:
The Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act imposes a tax of 15 per cent on lawnmowers and edgers whereas other household goods are taxable at a rate of 2Vi per cent.
This is a distinct anomaly particularly as similar items for household use such a vacuum cleaners, carpet sweepers and brooms are only taxable at Vh per cent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Third Schedule of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act be amended to include lawnmowers and lawn edgers and thus taxable at the rate of 214 per cent.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr N. A. Brown.
To the Honourable Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petitioners certain citizens of Australia respectfully showeth the urgent plea to appoint and call our Nation to establish and observe a National Day of Prayer to Almightly God seeking His deliverance of our Nation from all the evil forces oppressing our Nation in these days.
Our action recognises and accepts God’s promise expressed in the Second Book of Chronicles, chapter 7, verse 1 4.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that God ‘s Word would be observed ‘If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and will turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land. ‘
We believe that God affirms this promise in the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 28, verses 1 to 14.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. .
Petition received. by Mr Cadman. Petition received.
Public Telephone at Coombah Road House
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 there is a need for a public telephone to be installed at the Coombah Half Way House for emergency use on the 225 km stretch of lonely Highway linking Wentworth with Broken Hill, New South Wales. That continued refusal by Telecom Australia to provide an’ emergency telephone threatens users of this highway with danger to life and property.
The cost of providing a service, at the privately owned Coombah Road House is prohibitive to the operator and should be undertaken as a service to the outback travelling public by the Federal Transport Department.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr FitzPatrick. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Sydney respectfully showeth:
That the financial guidelines given to the Australian Schools Commission have destroyed the independent nature of the Statutory Body and will, in the future, effectively prevent them from making recommendations to this and future governments on the basis of the educational needs of children.
That these same guidelines represent improvements to private schools, particularly those categorised as Level 1 and Level 2, which are to be financed at the expense of the government school system.
That the abandonment of cost supplementation to cover inflation in the buildings program and in the non-salary area of the recurrent program, will seriously undermine the future building programs of all state government and must mean a drastic curtailment in the programs to update schools to acceptable standards in terms of accommodation and sanitary conditions.
That equality of opportunity has long been an important social goal in Australia and this could be defined as equal access to schools of equal standards. The guidelines impede any progress towards this goal. Only by pursuing the targets laid down by the Interim Committee of the Australian Schools Commission in 1973 will this important social and educational goal be reached.
That the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled need to re-examine the principles on which federal funding for education are based and restore to the Australian Schools Commissioner its right to, under section 13 (2) of the Schools Commission Act 1973, report to the Minister on the needs of. . . schools in respect of buildings, equipment, staff and other facilities and the respective priorities to be given to the satisfying of those various needs . . .’
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Howard.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Rt 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 ail points in Europe at a level that is currently being charged to Great Britain and more than twenty other major cities in Europe.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrJull.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we do not believe that a person’s freedom to choose their own doctor and treatment should be banished by pressure on the Government by the Australian Medical Association or any other body, nor that they should be deprived of the right to Medical Insurance rebate, to which they have been contributing for years.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that legislation abolishing health insurance rebates for treatment of cancer patients by Dr Milan Brych in the Cook Islands not be introduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Scholes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors respectfully showeth:
That they are greatly concerned about the fact that so many people, including such a large number of young people, are receiving unemployment benefits without any condition except that they are not able to find suitable employment. Your petitioners therefore pray that Parliament give consideration to the suggestion that, to enable individuals to maintain their self-respect and dignity as human beings, and for the good of the community at large, the provision of unemployment benefits carry the requirement that the recipient of such benefit be available for service to the community for a time equal to that which would produce a similar return at minimum wage rate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Wilson.
The honourable member for Melbourne having read a notice of motion-
– Knowing the commitment of the honourable member for Hindmarsh to the parliamentary institution and knowing that he knows the Standing Orders as well as anybody, 1 just draw his attention to the fact that he passed in front of the honourable member for Melbourne while the honourable member for Melbourne was reading his notice of motion. I am quite sure that the honourable member for Hindmarsh will join me in wishing that all members of the House would show courtesy to an honourable member who is speaking and not pass between him and the Chair.
- Mr Speaker, I acknowledge that. I was just recovering from having bowed to you, Sir.
– I hope your recovery is quick.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. As far as the Prime Minister can recall, on what date did he first discuss with Sir John Kerr a further government appointment for him in the event of his retirement as GovernorGeneral?
-An offer of a particular appointment was made to Sir John Kerr very shortly before the announcement was actually made. Nobody had ever hidden the factSir John certainly had not because I think it was in his own statement when he retired from the office of Governor-General- that he was hoping that would not be the end of his useful and productive working life either in private industry or in the service of Australia. The offer was made very shortly before the announcement.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Will the Minister inform the House as to how soon legislative action may be expected to implement the Government’s promise to extend the charter of the Commonwealth Development Bank to enable it to provide finance to small businesses?
– May I at the outset pay a tribute to the work of the honourable gentleman in relation to exposing, in this House and outside it, the needs of the small business community. As the honourable gentleman has made very clear, the Government in its election campaign indicated that it would extend the charter of the Commonwealth Development Bank to allow the Bank to cope with all forms of lending through to all forms of business. Therefore, this will mean that the Bank no longer will confine its lending to the rural, tourism and industrial sectors. In addition, the manner in which the activities of the Australian Industries Development Corporation might be extended in relation to the small business community is under examination.
Apart from that the general question of the provision of adequate finance for the small business community is very much understood and appreciated by the Government. The Treasurer and I had discussions with the private banks specifically on this matter recently. Of course, we have indicated to the private banks through the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia the need for adequate funds to be made available to the small business community.
That matter is very much before the banks at the present time. I expect that the legislation to extend the charter of the Commonwealth Development Bank will be before the House during the course of the next few weeks.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer him to the February Neimyer statement which shows that there is still in excess of $5,000m of company and other personal income tax receipts to be paid in the remainder of this financial year. Given that there is only $420m of Treasury notes on issue- $ 1 ,800m less than in February last year- I ask the Prime Minister what steps the Government intends to take to avoid a severe seasonal drain on liquidity which would put upward pressure on interest rates and aggravate the recession? Specifically, what steps will be taken to ensure that any injection of funds will not lead to further capital outflows and put pressure on the balance of payments?
-The honourable gentleman will be aware that there has been considerable success in the Government’s economic policies over recent times and that this Government is pursuing a steady course. That was made perfectly plain to the people of Australia. They voted accordingly. As a result of the steady course, inflationary expectations in Australia are much lower than they have been for many years. The December quarter increase in the consumer price index was one of the lowest December quarter increases for a very long while. Now people can see plainly what the underlying trend of inflation is in Australia. We do not have to talk about the Medibank adjustment, which was an aberration.
As a result of that inflationary expectation, it has been possible to begin a downward movement in interest rates. As that movement continues it will advantage very greatly the whole Australian community and small business and the rural community in particular. It will benefit all businesses, home owners and everyone who has to borrow money. That process also will be maintained with the steady continuation of the Government’s policies. Even though in more recent times there has been a conversion loan, through the operations of the Reserve Bank of Australia there has been heavy subscription from the non-bank public. The Government is well placed in relation to the funding of its own deficit. That again is a responsible monetary situation with the growth of the money supply well within responsible limits.
As the honourable gentleman would know from his previous experience, the Government authorities and the Reserve Bank in particular have a very considerable armoury of weapons available to them to prevent any undue tightening of credit at the seasonal liquidity rundown period. It may well be that because the holdings of securities in terms of their maturity dates are somewhat different this year from last year, the mechanisms needed will have to be adjusted. But it is within the power and within the capacity of the Reserve Bank so to adjust its activities if it decides that it is necessary to do so. It would not be appropriate to try to forecast two or three months before the event the precise decisions that the Reserve Bank in its judgment may believe will be necessary to avoid any kind of undue tightness in the credit situation. Over the last couple of years the Bank has shown a degree of sensitivity in its market operations and its general management of monetary policy which I believe has won praise from those who have followed these matters.
The honourable gentleman would also be aware that, with the phasing in of quarterly company tax payments- the first payment of $550m is already being made- a slightly lesser drain will be created at one time of the year than would otherwise have been the case. If the honourable gentleman is concerned that there should be no undue squeeze in relation to credit, the Government would certainly share that concern and its instructions to the Reserve Bank would be couched accordingly. At the same time, because of the general settings of the Government’s policies which are showing marked success in relation to inflation, with inflation in this country still bearing down although in some other countries inflation is tending to grow again, I think the other fears or concerns which the honourable gentleman has expressed will certainly not be sustained with the continuation of the policies of this Government.
-Will the Minister for Transport please indicate to the people of Hobart why Sullivans Cove Ferry Co. Pty Ltd, which incidentally gave very valuable service when the bridge went down, was not given the opportunity to purchase two of the floating pontoons which are now being dismantled and transferred to Launceston for use by the Launceston Port Authority? Further, whose fault is it that this transfer is now being effected? The people of Hobart are earnestly waiting for this answer.
– I need to make two points perfectly clear to the House. The first one is that, under the terms of the Hobart Disaster Fund, any assests that are left after it is wound up belong to the Commonwealth. Having said that, I should point out also that, under the terms of the Fund, the State may retain any assets that it wishes to retain. The State has done so in respect of a number of other items. In respect of the ferries, the State made it clear that it did not want to retain them. Therefore, under the terms of the Fund, we asked the State to call for tenders for the disposal of the ferries. The Commonwealth was informed that there was only one tenderer for the ferries, and that was the Launceston Port Authority. Nobody else was interested in the matter. It was not until I approved the transfer of the ferries to Launceston that I was notified by Tasmania that Sullivans Cove Ferry Co. Pty Ltd was interested in the ferries. I make it clear to the House that it was perfectly within the province of Tasmania under the terms of the Disaster Fund, to have kept the ferries operating as they were. If there is to be any blame for the disposal of the ferries in this fashion it must rest with the Tasmanian Government.
-My question to the Prime Minister relates to the Hilton bombing outrage. Will the Prime Minister inform the House on what advice the Government decided to select licensed premises in the heart of the city of Sydney as being the best security area in which to hold a regional conference? What consideration was given to the rights of the many people who would be within the precincts of the building? What other buildings or areas were considered and, if they were rejected, what was the reason for that? Finally, now that the Government has decided to compensate the shopkeepers, will it also consider giving to the unfortunate victims of that blast and their dependants proper compensation in accordance with common law liability?
-I will treat the last aspect of the honourable gentleman’s question as being on notice. Let me say that in relation to the three children of the two families involved the Commonwealth is in the process of establishing a special trust. The Commonwealth is leading the nation in establishing a sum of $ 15,000 for each child in that trust and it will be administered for the benefit of the children and the families. I think it is worth saying in passing that if other individuals, groups or organisations in the community wish to contribute, that would add to the resources of the trust. I make that point because I have been approached privately by some people and by some members of the delegations involved. They have stated that they would like to contribute. That would influence the technique by which we are seeking to assist the families. As the honourable gentleman would know, the families are, of course, eligible for assistance under the provisions of the New South Wales employees’ compensation regulations.
– It is very limited.
-That matter is within State jurisdiction as the honourable gentleman would realise. The last matter that the honourable gentleman mentioned I will treat as a question on notice. I will have it examined and see in what way I can advise him.
In establishing this conference there was not all that much time to give notice of the holding of the meeting to particular hotels. Hotels make their decisions on the holding of conventions many months before the convention is held. We had, I suppose, two, three or, at the most, four months in which to decide on a particular location. Hotels in Melbourne and Sydney were considered. On examination, the Hilton was far and away the best in terms of conference facilities and a uniform but high quality accommodation that could be offered to the delegation. Other hotels obviously could have held the conference, but some which could were already booked out with conventions of one kind or another. The bookings had been made, and the hotels were not in a position to make themselves available.
– What about hotels in Canberra?
– It would have been possible to hold the conference in Canberra. International visitors come to Canberra on many occasions. I have had the view, and I think the Government has had the view for a significant period, that Canberra is by no means the whole of Australia. I thought it would be a good thing, because of the number of people involved, to have this meeting in one of Australia ‘s major and great capitals. In this instance it was either Melbourne or Sydney. In view of the number of people who would be at the meeting- not just the heads of government but members of the delegationsthe facilities of Melbourne and Sydney obviously would be much better than the facilities of Canberra. I believe that the city of Sydney was proud to be host to the delegations and to the visitors during the period. I believe the State
Government was also proud of the fact that the conference took place in Sydney. I know that Victoria was disappointed that the conference was not held there. Victoria was ruled out because its hotels were already booked up, as I have indicated.
Having found that the Hilton was far and away the best so far as the conference centre and accommodation for the delegates and heads of government were concerned, the next thing, obviously, was for a security assessment to be made. That assessment was made in conjunction with New South Wales authorities. The advice was that adequate and proper arrangements could be made and would be made. As the honourable gentleman knows, the original arrangements were already more extensive than any that had been made, I think, previously in Australia’s history. As a result of the bombing and as a result of conversations with the Premier of New South Wales, much more extensive security arrangements were immediately introduced; and I believe necessarily so. I think the Premier of New South Wales also had the same view. The arrangements, in the event, were carried out between State and Commonwealth officials and instrumentalities, with a very high degree of co-operation and determination to achieve the necessary security.
If the honourable gentleman is suggesting that with hindsight some other decision could have been made, let me also point out that the tragedy was perpetrated by somebody who was utterly indiscriminate in his intent. The intent could only have been indiscriminate although it could also be suggested that the bomb was aimed at one or two particular people. Anyone using a bomb of that kind would be indiscriminate. If the bomb had gone off earlier in the day, at a time when there was a demonstration of 100 of 150 people being held not against one of our Asian friends but ironically against New Zealand, many people in that area would have been killed. The area in which the demonstration took place was also the area in which people were being greeted- about five yards from where the bomb was located. However, because of the demonstration at least two visitors were greeted on the other side of the hotel. The Hilton Hotel has an alternative entrance, and it was obviously of very great advantage in that instance.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Productivity. Has the Minister communicated with the South Australian Premier in such a way as would justify the Premier claiming in the South Australian Parliament yesterday that the Federal Minister for Productivity is so favourably impressed with the industrial democracy policy of the South Australian Government that the Premier had had a request from the Federal Minister that the Federal Minister should address a world conference on industrial democracy being organised by the South Australian government to be held in that State at the end of May? The Premier claimed that he acceded to this request and welcomed the constructive participation of the Minister for Productivity. I ask the Minister whether the Premier’s assertions are correct.
-The answer is no. I have not communicated with the South Australian Premier in that fashion. As a matter of fact I have not seen the South Australian Government’s legislative policy in this area. I have read newspaper reports this week, as apparently has the South Australian Opposition, which relate to a proposed legislative program to place employees on the boards of both public and private corporations. In fact, as I understand the position, it was as a result of those reports that the Leader of the Opposition in South Australia asked a question in the South Australian Parliament, and the reply from the Premier was that I endorsed the policy. The only document which I have seen in relation to the South Australian policy, apart from a tripartite committee’s advisory report, was a statement from the South Australian Minister for Labour and Industry from which I might quote an extract which I think illustrates the argument. He states:
Considerable debate on industrial democracy takes place between the South Australian Government and the Opposition. However, this debate often ignores the very strong common element between both the major parties on this topic. The South Australian Liberal Party Policy is very similar to the one supported by the South Australian Labour Government in 1973-74. That policy supports job enrichment programs and the formation of joint consultative councilsthe types of initiatives which occupy most of the time of the Unit for Industrial Democracy. The major areas of difference are with respect to the involvement of trade unions and the election of workers directors.
As the South Australian Minister has said, there is a strong common element between the policies of the two major parties in respect of so-called industrial democracy, employee participation and so forth and in practice the South Australian Branch of the Department of Productivity and the South Australian Department of Labour and Industry have worked together very closely in this area. I have not seen a statement of the legislative policy of the South Australian Government but if the South Australian Minister says that the major differences between the two parties relate to worker directors and the role of trade unions, I believe that would be the position. I support this Government’s policy, and that is, therefore, the policy which I espouse. His Excellency the Governor-General made it clear yesterday. I quote:
A wider spirit of participation and employee involvement in the work-place will be encouraged so that employees and employers can co-operate to improve industrial safety, working conditions, job satisfaction and productivity.
Our policy is clear. The Premier of South Australia, as I understand it, has spoken about prescriptive and enabling legislation and said that there will not be prescriptive legislation; he will only facilitate the appointment of employees on the boards of companies. I believe that if that is the Premier’s policy he is starting at the wrong end. The policy of this Government is to look for direct involvement between employees and employers regarding the matters mentioned yesterday by His Excellency. We believe that in fact it would be counter-productive to improved employee-employer relations for emphasis to be placed on employee-directors.
– I ask the Minister to draw his answer to a conclusion.
-Mr Speaker, it is important -
– I accept that it is important, but the answer needs to be drawn to a conclusion.
– I will conclude by saying that there is no evidence of which I am aware that the quality of work life or productivity improvement is increased by having worker directors. This Government is directing its attention to the improved relations between employees and employers by way of job redesign, semi-autonomous work groups and the like. In respect of the honourable gentleman’s question, I have not communicated with the Premier of South Australia. He has written to me and invited me to address the seminar. I will be pleased to do so. I have not yet formally accepted his invitation. He can be sure that when I do so I will make a constructive contribution on the question of employee participation.
-I address my question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the order by the Governor-General dated 13 February 1978 and published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette for 14 February 1978 calling out the defence forces following the bomb incident at the
Sydney Hilton Hotel. If the Prime Minister does not have a copy of it, I have one for him. Why was the order drafted in such a way as to allow it to operate for an unlimited period and in States other than New South Wales? Was there a Cabinet decision prior to the recommendation to the Governor-General about the terms of the order? Why is the order still in force? Is it proposed to revoke the order? If so, when? Is it a fact that the terms of the order would permit the use of the Army and other defence forces in domestic political matters such as strike breaking?
– I think I ought to indicate to the House a little more of the background to the order and the detailed questions. A joint Press statement was issued by myself and the Premier of New South Wales. It needs to be understood that what was done was done in cooperation as the concerted action of two governments. I have nothing but praise for the cooperation that Mr Wran gave the Commonwealth, and at the same time I have nothing but praise for the co-operation that was established between the police force of New South Wales and Commonwealth officials in the various coordination arrangements that were made. I would like to read one paragraph of the joint Press statement. It states:
Having regard to the discussions among Heads of Government which are to be held at Bowral, additional security precautions have been decided upon. These will impose additional strain on New South Wales police resources and, with the agreement of the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales, members of the Australian Defence Force will be used to supplement police resources.
That was clearly the wish of the New South Wales police. I do not know how many kilometres it is from Sydney to Bowral.
– It is about 80 miles.
– It is about 80 miles. To secure that road to make sure that there was no possibility of a bomb being in a culvert or something being mounted at any crossroads obviously imposed a significant manpower requirement. We believed that the road needed to be examined as it was. I travelled back to Sydney from Bowral by road and not by helicopter specifically so that I would be able to see for myself how obtrusive or evident were members of the Defence Force. I must say that I believe they undertook their task with a greater degree of discretion than has sometimes been described recently. I believe they undertook their task well.
Mr Speaker, I hope you will not mind if I take a moment before getting to the specific questions. Some comments by the Premier of New South Wales are pertinent and I think they ought to be put on record in this House. Mr Wran made the following comments, I think in the New South Wales Parliament:
It is now the task of Government, the Parliament and the community to do everything possible to ensure that yesterday ‘s scar does not permanently damage the fabric of our society. This will need vigilance, co-operation, unity, goodwill and, above all, a realisation that our young but great country is now pan of a world in which international and internal violence and terrorism has become almost commonplace. On behalf of the people of New South Wales, I wish to thank personally the Prime Minister . . . for the concern and understanding he has demonstrated towards not only those who have suffered but also those who have been involved in this great tragedy which has occurred in our city and our State.
There has been close consultation between Mr Fraser and me during the past 36 hours in relation to the terrorist bombing at the Hilton Hotel.
I was assured by the Prime Minister that the security measures taken were the most comprehensive that had ever been mounted in this country. It was a joint effort by the Commonwealth and State police forces, security and otherwise.
There will be further consultation with the Commonwealth Government in relation to continued co-operation on security work at a Federal and State level.
Shortly I will be making a statement to the Parliament in relation to those matters.
I turn to the honourable gentleman’s specific question. The call out order was framed in the way it was on legal advice from the AttorneyGeneral ‘s Department. If the honourable gentleman wants further information than that I suggest he puts questions on notice and I will make sure that the Attorney-General answers them. What was the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question?
– I asked whether there was a Cabinet decision. Why was the order drafted in such a way as to allow it to operate for an unlimited period? When is it to be withdrawn?
-The honourable gentleman asks whether there was a Cabinet decision. Of course there was a Cabinet decision in relation to that matter. The order is not now in force. It has already been revoked.
-On Monday. It has been revoked. That will be a matter of public record, in the same way as the order itself is a matter of public record. The order is not now in force. It has been revoked. It was framed in the way it was on the basis of advice given. If the honourable gentleman wants further information on that matter, again I suggest that he puts his question on the Notice Paper and the Attorney-General will answer it in a full and detailed way.
I might add also that there are two parts to the authority. There was a requisition by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. That requisition was cancelled after the Bowral operation was over. Therefore, while there was a call out, there was also a call in as soon as the Bowral operation was over. Then as soon as the last Head of Government had left the country the authority itself, through the Executive Council, was cancelled, as it ought to have been.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Resources seen reports that the Chairman of the United States Congressional Sub-Committee on Trade has suggested that Australia should embark on a public relations campaign in the United States to sell more beef? Can the Minister indicate whether such a course would be helpful to Australia’s beef producers?
– I am aware of the report. In making the statement I believe that Mr Vanik was being helpful to Australia in preserving its position in the United States market. At the moment there is no way in which we can get more meat into the United States or sell more meat in the United States because of the voluntary restraints which operate. These impose a ceiling of 301,000 tonnes of beef for this year. I believe that that quota will be filled. However, I believe that there are some prospects that there might be a relaxation of that quota. There has been a sharp increase over the last couple of months in the price of manufacturing type meats in the United States. Its national herd has receded considerably in the past two years. There seems to be growing consumer pressure to try to hold down prices in the United States.
To assist in gaining further access to that market- we will also be trying to gain further access to other markets- the Minister for Special Trade Representations has been in Washington this last week. He will be further putting our case to see whether we can sell more meat. It is interesting to note in passing, however, that the American International Trade Commission found, following a request from American cattle producers, that imports of meat in the United States were not causing serious damage to the meat industry; nor did they look like causing serious damage to the American meat industry. So I am hopeful that in the not too distant future we will see some relaxation of the American restraints.
– Is the Treasurer aware that figures released today show that dwelling commencements in the December quarter fell by 7,300, or 19 per cent below the level of the December quarter a year ago? In the light of this information, what measures is the Treasurer taking to ensure that the unusually severe seasonal tightness of liquidity expected in the coming months will not restrict the flow of funds for housing finance and further aggravate the recession in this industry? Does the Treasurer realise that the financial institutions cannot lend money if they do not have the money to lend because of the Government ‘s monetary policy?
– In answer to the honourable gentleman, yes, I am aware of those figures. I would give the customary caution, for the benefit of the honourable gentleman, against drawing too many inferences from one month’s set of statistics. The honourable gentleman’s question implies that there will be an unusually severe situation so far as the liquidity rundown is concerned between now and the end of the financial year. The Prime Minister has already canvassed this matter in his answer to an earlier question. It will not be unusually severe. The matter will be the subject of constant monitoring by the Reserve Bank and, as the Prime Minister indicated, the Reserve Bank has available an armoury of facilities to ease any problems that do arise in terms of that rundown. I can assure the honourable gentleman that that part of his question which conveyed a genuine concern will be kept very much in mind by the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and concerns the dispute over recruitment to the Commonwealth Employment Service in New South Wales and Victoria. Can the Minister inform the House of the current situation in relation to this dispute?
– In order to answer the honourable gentleman’s question it is necessary to review briefly some recent history. The House will remember that last year the Government commissioned Mr J. D. Norgard to make a review of the Commonwealth Employment Service. Amongst his recommendations were some referring to the staffing of the CES. He recommended increases in staff and also recommended that some of that increase in staff come from outside the Australian Public Service to improve the diversity of skills and experience within the Service. Action to implement that recommendation is being taken. Only in New South Wales and Victoria has action been taken to prevent that being done. The prevention of that implementation has been caused by action taken by the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association.
The purpose of staff recruitment is to achieve an improved placement ability by the Commonwealth Employment Service and to improve the administration of the many manpower programs which are part of its responsibilities these days. It is in the interests of all those looking for work, including those receiving unemployment benefit, that this ability of the CES to provide a proper service be implemented as soon as it can. The Government has been extremely patient on this issue but subsequent to a refusal by certain officers to proceed with the selection in respect of those applicants from outside the Public Service, those refusing this direction have been or are now in the process of being stood down. The numbers involved so far are about thirty. The Government will be seeking to bring this matter back before the Deputy Public Service Arbitrator as soon as possible, hopefully this afternoon, and if the matter is not resolved there the Government will be considering what further action to take in the Industrial Court.
– I ask the Treasurer a question which is effectively supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Reid. I refer the Treasurer to his announcement on Friday, 10 February, that the Australian savings bond would be reintroduced at an interest rate of 9 per cent. Is the Treasurer aware that this new Series 1 1 savings bond will offer interest rates higher than those offered by most building societies, which are moving to cut their rates to 8V4 per cent, and savings bank investment accounts, which are being reduced to VA per cent? Will the Treasurer agree that at these rates of interest, the savings bonds will erode bank and building society deposit growth, which will mean less money for housing loans?
-I think the Leader of the Opposition has fallen into the same error as have a number of commentators on this subject in regard to a comparison of the rates offered on Australian savings bonds and rates offered on comparable deposits by banks and building societies. They have taken a fairly selective comparison of reductions in the rates of the ASBs as opposed to those for building societies and banks. The fact is that reductions in official interest rates have run significantly ahead of reductions in interest rates offered by banks ana building societies.
Whereas it is true that the Australian savings bond Series 1 1 effected a reduction of only 0.25 per cent against 0.5 per cent by the banks and the building societies, it is equally true that since the middle of last year there has been a total reduction of the order of one per cent in the rates offered on ASBs and something in excess of one per cent in the long term bond rate. If the honourable gentleman were to take that into account I think he would have a far better perspective of the situation regarding the comparative competitive position of the ASB and the deposits offered by the banks and the building societies.
I do not agree that the action of the Government in reissuing the ASB Series 1 1 at a rate of 9 per cent has altered the comparative competitive position of the ASB and the banks and building societies. When the honourable gentleman is comparing interest rates and therefore the comparative competitive position, I exhort him to look at a longer time frame than the time frame which embraced the reduction of 0.25 per cent in the ASB rate and 0.5 per cent in bank interest rates.
– Is the Minister for Defence satisfied as to the adequacy of surveillance measures presently implemented around Australia’s coastline?
– No, I am far from satisfied as to the adequacy of surveillance of Australian waters, and neither is the Government satisfied. As a consequence of that dissatisfaction, the Government has appointed a committee of permanent heads to advise the Government as to the steps which may be taken to improve our surveillance capacity with respect to this country. I welcome the honourable gentleman’s question. If I may say so, it is reflective of the sustained interest he has taken in this issue. May I also say that I appreciate the debate which is now taking place in the community. However, I should say that I hope there will be some reasonable perception of the difficulties associated with surveillance.
I shall give two quick illustrations of those difficulties. Taking a line say from Cairns to Broome, there are approximately 3,000 miles of coastline. Within the area north of that line there are more than 300 registered airfields. I suspect that there would be more than twice that number of unregistered airfields. To detect low flying aircraft within that area at least 100 radar stations would be needed. That is for detection alone. Then there is the problem of identification and, further to that, the problem of apprehension.
I ask the House to reflect on the sum of money that would be involved in that. Some people have said: ‘Well, you cannot even detect refugee boats coming from Vietnam’. I invite the House to consider this matter: The area of water that could be traversed by Vietnamese boats from Timor to Darwin or from the Roti Island group into the Kimberleys is about 30,000 square miles and to sustain a 90 per cent detection probability over that area we would need to have one Orion aircraft on station 24 hours a day. After a few quick sums and looking at the proposed EEZexclusive economic zone- it can be appreciated that we could be looking at an area of water covering 2,500,000 square miles. As a consequence, if we are to use Orion aircraft for the purpose of surveillance- I suggest that is not their primary role- we would be looking for approximately 300 Orions and at a cost of $ 12m each this would involve a pretty tidy sum of money. I know that my powers of persuasion are pretty limited, even though I have managed to remain in this place for 23 years, but I do not think I have Buckley’s chance of coaxing that sum of money out of the Treasurer.
– Killen, you are magnificent.
– It has taken the honourable member a long time to make that admission. The last thing I would say is this: What I think is the best prospect for surveillance in this country is the see-over-the-horizon radar known as Jindalee. I have sought to encourage that project. It has shown most encouraging results and if those results can be furthered and the device improved this country will be saved from expending huge sums of money to ensure that surveillance is, to use the honourable member’s description, adequate.
– I ask the Treasurer a question which follows my last question to him. Does he recall an official statement of the Australian Bankers Association made a short time ago at the time of the reduction of interest rates on savings accounts that in spite of the reduction of interest rates there would be no extra money at all for housing? Was it a fact that that statement was made at a time when the Bankers Association believed there would be an absence of the Australian savings bond? Is the Treasurer now suggesting, following his answer to my last question, that the presence of the savings bond offering a higher rate- a considerably higher rate- than the savings banks will mean that more money or even as much money will be available through savings banks for housing as would have applied in a happier set of conditions which the Australian Bankers Association expected to prevail when it pointed out that not one penny more could be made available for additional housing money as a result of the interest rates adjustment?
– I do recall a statement made by the Australian Bankers Association after the reduction in interest rates. It is not correct, certainly so far as the Government is concerned and so far as any actions that lie within the control of the Government are concerned, to infer, as the honourable member has done, that that statement was made by the Australian Bankers Association in the belief that Series 1 1 would not in fact be issued.
– The Bankers Association did not believe it would be issued?
– If the honourable gentleman will allow me to respond insofar as his question relates to beliefs and actions of the Governmentthat is the only area in which I can respond- I can say that at no stage did the Government or indeed, as I am advised, did the Reserve Bank of Australia during the course of the discussions with the banks or the Bankers Association indicate in any way or represent in any way that there would not be a fresh issue of the Australian savings bond. I think that if the honourable gentleman were carefully to read again a statement I issued when I indicated that the Reserve Bank had been instructed to enter into consultations with the banks, he would find no indication at all that the Government -
– Did the Bankers Association think so?
-The question of whether the banks thought so is a matter that you might more properly address to the banks. If it is being inferred that the Government misrepresented the situation to the banks, that is a completely incorrect inference.
– I raise a point of order. I ask the Treasurer to address himself to the question as to how there can be more money available to offset the contraction in the building industry as a result of monetary policy in the terms I have explained.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat. He has asked his question. I call the Treasurer.
-The fact of the matter is that the Leader of the Opposition implied quite directly- and that has been confirmed by interjectionthat the Government in some way misrepresented the position to the banks. That is not true. At no stage was there any misrepresentation, direct or indirect. So far as it does appear to me that the Opposition is critical of our policy of bringing about sustainable reductions in interest rates, let me say that those interest rate reductions have resulted from the success of the Government’s economic policies. They are responsible reductions and they are reductions that can be sustained.
- Mr Speaker, I seek to correct an answer that I gave to a question asked by the honourable member for Franklin.
-The Minister will be given the indulgence of the Chair to correct the answer.
– The honourable member for Franklin raised with me the question of the ferrypontoons in Hobart. Apparently in my reply I referred to ferries instead of ferry-pontoons. That is the first point. The second point is that the decision to dispose of the ferry-pontoons was taken on the advice of the Joint Co-ordinating Committee for the Tasman Bridge Disaster.
– I present, pursuant to statute, the supplementary report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
– For the information of honourable members, I table the communique issued at the close of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting held in Sydney in February 1978. 1 commend the communique to honourable gentlemen.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Australian Tourist Commission Act 1967, I present the annual report of the Australian Tourist Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
– 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 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 58 of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Criminology Research Act 1971, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Institute of Criminology for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 43 of the Criminology Research Act 1971, 1 present the annual report of the Criminology Research Council for the year ended 30 June 1977.
Pursuant to section 44 of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act 1961, I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Council for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– Pursuant to section 82 of the Repatriation Act 1920, I present the annual reports of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunals Nos 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the reports on transformers and inductors; glucose and glucose syrups; paradichlorobenzene (by-law); mushrooms (NAFTA); ceramic tableware; certain internal combustion piston engines and parts therefore; certain spun yarns and wool textiles and other goods; agricultural wheeled tractors exceeding 105 kW; and further short term assistance arrangements for textiles, clothing and footwear.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Act 1962, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 39 of the Housing Loans Insurance Act 1965, 1 present the annual report and financial statements of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1977.
- Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to make a personal explanation on the ground that I have been misrepresented.
-The honourable gentleman will be given leave to do that but I had a prior request for a personal explanation from the Deputy Prime Minister.
- Mr Speaker, I want to ask whether it is the intention of the Government to table the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships. It was not tabled today, which would have been the first opportunity, and it was a report which arose out of a resolution of this House .
– The Leader of the House may respond.
– I will ascertain the circumstances of that report from the Minister concerned and advise the honourable gentleman tomorrow. I do not know from my own knowledge what is the intention.
– The Minister responsible is in the Senate.
– I pick up the interjection by my colleague. I think the Minister responsible is in the Senate. It will be tabled there. If it is tabled there, it will of course also be tabled here by the Minister’s representative at the appropriate time. I will advise the honourable gentleman later in the day.
- Mr Speaker, I would like to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, I have been misrepresented. I am raising this matter for two reasons: Firstly to explain how I have been misrepresented and, secondly, because there is a matter of principle involved which is of importance to all members of this Parliament. On 9 December last year I received a letter from the President of the Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies, Mr Arnold Bloch, drawing my attention to the 2 December edition of a newspaper called the Australian Jewish News and in particular to an advertisement in that issue. I have the advertisement here, Mr Speaker.
As Mr Bloch pointed out, it was not apparent at first sight that all the contents of page 2 of that issue were in fact a paid advertisement. The heading on the advertisement, which was published in such a way as to make it appear to be an ordinary page of news items, was ‘Anthony pleads Nazi’s cause’. The advertisement went on to refer to the fact that I had presented a petition to Parliament calling for the release of Rudolph Hess from Spandau prison. Mr Speaker, I presented the petition at the request of a constituent in my electorate. The advertisement was authorised by Mr J. Zeleznikow of 16 Virginia Circuit, South Caulfield, and it invited support at the election on 10 December last year for Labor Party candidates Mrs Child, Mr Steele, Mr Ross and Mr Holding. On receipt of Mr Bloch ‘s letter, in which he expressed regret at my sponsorship of the petition, I sent him a telegram which I now seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
The telegram read as follows-
Mr Arnold Bloch, President,
Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies, 343 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000
Thank you for your letter of 8 December drawing to my attention the paid full-page advertisement in the 2 December edition of the Australian Jewish News inviting support for Labor Parry candidates Child, Steele, Ross and Holding and carrying the heading ‘Anthony Pleads Nazi’s Cause’.
I agree with you that there is an inference in this advertisement that I condone racism, neo-fascism and anti-Zionism and I note your assurance that most members of the Victorian Jewish community would wish to disassociate themselves from such an inference. I can assure you that this inference is utterly unfounded. I regard this advertisement as malicious in the extreme and a blatant distortion presented for political purposes.
I am sure you would understand that as a Member of Parliament I feel an obligation to present petitions to Parliament when I am asked to do so by my constituents whether or not I agree with or support the objectives of the petition. I am sure all Members of Parliament follow a similar practice.
The petition in question was presented by me at the request of a constituent in my electorate and the suggestion in the Labor Party advertisement in the Jewish News that in presenting it I was in fact pleading the cause of a Nazi is absolutely unfounded.
I note with concern the claims made concerning the antecedents of the Order of the White Cross and I should point out that it has been my understanding that this organisation was in fact simply the inoffensive creation of a man in my electorate and that it existed on a quite limited scale. The serious implications raised by the advertisement are such as to require me to examine my position with respect to the damage which might have been done to my reputation. Thank you again for drawing the matter to my notice.
-The clear inference in the Labor Party advertisement in the Australian Jewish News was that in presenting a petition to Parliament I was personally pleading the cause of Rudolph Hess. Mr Speaker, I am sure that you and all members of the House would take the view that it is the duty of any honourable member to present a petition when asked to do so by constituents, even though he might not agree with the contents of the petition. It is worth noting the statement by the President of the Senate on 3 September 1903:
It is the universal rule in all parliaments that I have ever heard of that any member is bound to present a petition, no matter what the contents may be, so long as it conforms to the Standing Orders.
Also in the Senate, on 18 September 1969, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson said that it had never been his understanding that a senator, when he presented a petition, necessarily presented his own point of view. He said that he considered it was the accepted and traditional view that anybody or any group of people had the right to petition parliament and that the parliamentarian in turn, as he represented an area, had an obligation to present the petition to Parliament. I am sure every member of this House would agree with that view.
On 22 December last year the editor of the Australian Jewish News advised me that the material in question was in fact a paid advertisement. The newspaper published on 9 December an explanation that the advertisement had been inserted and authorised by sympathisers of the Labor Party’s cause. I feel that the explanation published by the newspaper suggests that the newspaper was not as careful as it might have been in making clear the real nature of that advertisement. I suggest that the publication of this material by the Labor Party in the form in which it appeared and its use in a distorted manner to try to damage the Government and me were reprehensible acts on the part of the Labor Party. Mr Speaker, I would welcome your examination of the matter and any advice or comment you feel able to give me in respect of the implication of this matter has on the rights of members of this House.
-The Sydney Morning Herald of 20 January 1978 published an article by Mr Ian Frykberg which purported to be an accurate version of what happened at the last meeting of the National Executive of the Labor Party. He alleged, among other things, that, in dealing with Mr Combe ‘s analysis of the reasons for Labor’s electoral defeat, I had been criticised by members of the Executive. He wrote:
Criticism was not confined to Mr Combe. Mr Whitlam and Mr Clyde Cameron of South Australia received their share. Mr Cameron came under fire because it was thought that his public comments had not helped Labor’s credibility.
The article continued:
It was said that he had made ‘something of a crusade’ of attacking Mr Whitlam over the past two years.
I have checked with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) who was at the meeting, the National Secretary of the party and at least six other members of the National Executive. I can say that nothing like the alleged remarks were made by anyone attending that meeting. No one criticised me for anything. I am told that there was criticism of Mr Rod Cameron of Australian Nationwide Opinion Polls on the outcome of his surveys, but even he was not criticised for allegedly making public comments against the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam).
If this imaginary incident had been reported to Mr Frykberg as a fact by a member of the National Executive, I say that that person is an unmitigated liar and ought to be drummed off the National Executive. If it germinated in the mind of Mr Frykberg, I say that he is not only a liar but also a menace to the credibility of the paper which employs him. Mr Frykberg virtually condemned himself as a fabricator of news, because in another article published three days later he sought to purge his guilt by writing the truth. In that article he wrote:
Mr Combe came under fire, but then so did Mr Whitlam, Mr Cameron, the party’s research organisation and anyone else who could be seen to have had a hand in the rejection of Labor.
I serve notice on my detractors that every time my good name is sullied, directly or by innuendo, I shall move to defend myself and, if need be, to strike back. I shall send a copy of these remarks to the Ethics Committee of the Australian Journalists Association with a request for suitable action. If that body refuses to act I shall be left with only one other course, but I shall defer any further action until I see the outcome of my complaint to the AJA.
-I desire to make a personal explanation. I refer to the matter raised by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) in relation to an advertisement which appeared in the Australian Jewish News. The honourable gentleman not merely -
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– I certainly do.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
– It was the clear implication that the persons whose names appeared in the advertisement would have approved it. The Deputy Prime Minister referred to the advertisement being authorised by the Australian Labor Party. Let me state the facts. I am able to verify them for, among other things, I am the President of the Victorian Branch of the ALP. The Deputy Prime Minister should have known that this advertisement was not authorised by the Labor Party.
– He did not say it was.
– I am sorry, the right honourable gentleman did say it was.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will not be assisted by interjections from my right. The honourable member is speaking for the first time in this chamber. I do not regard it as a maiden speech in the normal sense.
– I am a slightly used maiden, sir.
– It is customary to listen to a new member in silence. In any event, interjections are out of order.
– I do not count it as a maiden speech either. Certainly the Deputy Prime Minister in the cavalier way in which he raised this matter has misled the Parliament in regard to the position of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party which did not authorise this advertisement. It was authorised by individual members of the Jewish community who support the Labor Party. This has been a long-standing practice of individual members of this community. If the Deputy Prime Minister looked at past advertisements as they have appeared in this paper he would find that various citizens of that community at their own volition from time to time have placed advertisements supporting political parties and individuals of their choice. That is a matter between those citizens and the Deputy Prime Minister. I suggest that -
– Order ! The honourable gentleman is now debating the matter.
– I have received letters from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107 I have selected one matter, that is that proposed by the Leader of the Opposition namely:
The Government’s responsibility for the worst unemployment since the Great Depression.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– The Government is responsible for the worst unemployment since the Great Depression. No relief is in sight from this massive social and economic distress. In November 1975 the man who is now Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) promised the people of Australia ‘to restore prosperity, defeat inflation and provide jobs for all’. Two years and three months later the number of people seeking work in this country is officially recorded at 445,000 or 7.2 per cent of the work force. It is the highest level of unemployment in Australia in 40 years. It is 163,500-1 will repeat that figure; 163,500- more than when the Prime Minister made that promise in 1975. That was the first of many promises to the Australian people which he has continually failed to keep. So much for the restoration of prosperity. So much for ‘jobs for all’. So much for the Prime Minister’s word.
An admitted official figure of 445,000 unemployed can be seen only as a national crisis. It is not the full story. It is not the real indication of just how many Australians have been driven out of the work force by this Government’s policies. It is only that part of the unemployment crisis that refuses to be submerged by the Government’s crude campaign of bluster and moral blackmail against so called ‘dole bludgers’ and its continual fiddling of the figures. By that I mean the Government’s periodic attempts to understate the level of unemployment by amending the basis of its public presentation. That is the true measure of this Government’s concern for unemployment in this country. It is motivated more by the political impact of the monthly statistics than any real compassion for the misery and hardship of the unemployed and their families. As I have pointed out, this is only part of the story, part of the crisis of unemployment in Australia. Over the last two years the number of people described by the Bureau of Statistics as ‘keeping house’ or ‘voluntarily inactive’ has increased by 253,000 after remaining fairly static in the previous three years. Even if we concede that many of these people might have chosen to leave the work force statistics suggest that at least 100,000 of them would seek to return to work if jobs were reasonably available. That figure of 100,000 is additional, of course, to the 445,000 people registered as unemployed in the most recent Commonwealth Employment Service release. Then there are the thousands of new school leavers who want work but cannot find jobs and, because of this Government ‘s callous attitude to young people, have not yet registered for employment. They have little hope of getting jobs now or in the foreseeable future. The hopelessness of their situation is underlined by official statistics which show that last November- the end of the most recent school year- there were still 110,000 unemployed teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 on the books of the CES from earlier in the year, and even from 1976.
What all this means is that the real level of unemployment in Australia is much higher than the official figures disclose. It is realistically more like 600,000 at the present time, or some 9.5 per cent of the potential work force, and it is increasing. The Government, of course, will seek to denigrate this statement, to dismiss it with the same arrogant disregard for the truth as the Prime Minister displayed during the recent election campaign when he told the Australian people that he could see no reason why health insurance contributions should be increased. A month after polling day the first of the private funds increased its basic family contribution rate by 24 per cent. So much for the Prime Minister’s credibility when it comes to dealing with unpleasant truths. His veracity is as questionable as his Deputy’s dealings in the real estate market. The unemployment crisis is more than just a matter of depressing statistics. The Government’s record in the past two years shows no recognition of the grave social and economic waste caused by mass unemployment. There is a wealth of survey evidence which clearly demonstrates the close links between unemployment and higher crime rates, suicide, mental illness, heart disease, drug usage, domestic violence and other medical and social problems. Let me give some examples.
A study by a South Australian Government department showed a dramatic 238 per cent increase in offences committed by unemployed juveniles in the age group 14 to 18 between June 1973 and June 1976. At the same time employed juvenile offenders increased by only 37 per cent.
A recent Macquarie University study suggested strong links between the incidence of heart disease among Australians and the level of unemployment. A survey carried out by the Victorian Mental Health Association found that in Dandenong suicides were 12 times the area average amongst the unemployed, and seven times greater in Ballarat. The New South Wales Health Commission’s drug and alcohol advisory service reported the detection of substantial groups of addicts in areas of high youth unemployment in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.
About one in ten unemployed has been receiving unemployment benefit for more than a year. More than one in four unemployed have received benefit for more than six months. The number is increasing. These social costs are borne primarily by the unemployed and their families while less directly, but certainly as importantly, the whole community incurs costs to correct social disorders. The Government has repeatedly pursued ad hoc short-term policies which defer economic recovery and which place in jeopardy the prospects of sustainable economic recovery when it occurs eventually. The Government’s restrictive policies have caused a severe run down in productive capacity in may key sectors of the economy. Bottlenecks will be encountered which will restrict recovery and add to inflationary pressures in the economy.
Again let me give some examples. There is a grave risk that we will be short of skilled manpower in many sectors of industry. In 1976-77 about 36,500 people registered to take apprenticeships. This compares with about 42,400 in 1973-74. The building industry sector has been hit hardest. The number of apprentices declined from 10,400 in 1973-74 to 6,500 in 1976-77. This sector of the economy has had to bear the brunt of cuts in Government spending as well as the severity of the credit squeeze. Since the coalition came to office, every Australian family has experienced a progressive reduction in spending power. This has been achieved by the combined effects of limited indexation of wages and taxes failing to onset price increases and higher Government-induced charges. The erosion of real incomes has put a brake on consumer spending which, in turn, has led to reduced production and higher unemployment. The Government, in the meantime, has been obsessed with its campaign to ‘reduce the deficit’. It has cut heavily into public sector spending and clamped down on Public Service employment. Certainly the policies of the Prime Minister and his colleagues have achieved some reduction in inflation. But the cost has been enormous.
Virtually every published production statistic has registered a decline over the last two years. Manufacturing industry is operating at significant levels of under-utilisation of equipment while staff is being maintained, in many cases, at levels higher than necessary for the scale of output. Stated simply, this is squeezing profits by keeping unit output costs up. The inflationary effects of the 1976 devaluation on imported components and materials are squeezing profits still further as business desperately seeks to hold its prices in a toughly competitive market. Many businesses, especially small and medium sized ones, have been required to shed labour because of this combination of import cost/declining market squeeze and the Government’s tight money policies. Since January 1976 private sector employment has fallen away by a massive 197,000 people. Not only are new jobs not being created but existing job opportunities are still contracting. These points illustrate the widespread uncertainty and loss of confidence that exist in the business community and its unrealised expectations in the Government’s ability to ‘restore prosperity and provide jobs for all ‘. There is a hollow ring to that promise.
Clearly, the ordinary voter is not the only one who cannot trust the Prime Minister to keep his word. It is against this prevailing, deepening recession in the economy that the Government’s ineffective policies and dilatory behaviour must be held to account. The Government has no coherent program of job creation. In the 1975 Budget we provided $200 m to relieve unemployment. In its last Budget the Fraser Government provided only $ 102m, and much less than that in 1975 real terms. All that the Government really creates is the impression that it believes a high level of unemployment is desirable since it ‘keeps the unions quiet’. What the Prime Minister glibly offers the jobless instead is an elusive $6,000m of mining investment, and some inequitable tax cuts which his Government is trying hard to take away through depressed wages and higher health costs. In his election policy speech, the Prime Minister promised that Australia was ‘ready to go’ with $6,000m in development programs.
Like much that the right honourable gentleman says, the statement was totally misleading. A number of the projects that could be included in such a program are only in the preliminary stages of feasibility study. A good many of them will need years of detailed research and negotiation before any significant expenditure takes place. They will require a massive innovative mobilisation of Australian funds, since it is clear that the weakening Australian dollar, the consequent outflow of capital and the depressed state of international economic activity will deter overseas financing of major new developmental projects in this country for the foreseeable future.
Our Prime Minister, the six billion dollar man, has provided no evidence to support his grandiose throw-away claims. Since the elections he has done nothing even to retrieve the situation. So much for ‘restoring prosperity’ and providing ‘jobs for all ‘. The other toothless proposal being offered to the jobless is the tax cuts which came into force this month. They are supposed to increase spending, which in turn is supposed to increase jobs. But because the economy is operating far below capacity, the stimulus to demand from this source would take up only some of the slack productive capacity in industry without adding to employment. If the Government were in any way committed to increasing opportunities for the jobless, more of the tax benefit would have gone to the lower income groups. Yet the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has estimated that 43 per cent of the benefits will go to the top 10 per cent of income earners. This only confirms what many people already believe- that the real purpose of the tax cuts was to pander to those special interest groups which fund the Liberal Party machine.
What will these high income earners do with their new higher salaries? Surveys suggest that those on high incomes tend to spend proportionately less of an income increase than do people on lower incomes. What they do spend, however, tends to go towards the luxuries, the finer things in life, the expensive imported goods. For instance, one needs only to look at the Prime Minister, who now has an extra $70 a week from his new tax scheme to indulge his fetish for highpriced foreign cars. At least the right honourable gentleman can say he is increasing his own comfort and prosperity.
Another major point that must be emphasised in considering the dislocation and disruption caused by unemployment is the massive ecomomic cost incurred by all Australians. There is the cost of unemployment benefits, which are a transfer of income, through taxes, from income earners to the unemployed. This would be running at more than $800m this financial year. Then there is the cost of lost production and income. On a conservative estimate, the unemployment of 450,000 people would mean a loss of $3 billion in wages. Lost production would be even higher. In total, therefore, we are looking at an annual loss of wealth of something like $5 billion or almost 6 per cent of gross domestic product whilever the current level of unemployment continues.
What acknowledgement does the Prime Minister give to this massive dissipation of the national product? He returns time and time again to his ideological crusade against the trade union movement. Last year industrial disputes cost some $65m in lost wages. By comparison, the value of wages lost from unemployment is about 50 times greater. Yet the Prime Minister is constantly proposing further initiatives to stifle the union movement while he benignly views the highest level of unemployment in Australia since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is in the same context of the Government’s union bashing that the Prime Minister seeks to have the ordinary wage earner carry the burden of his Government’s destructive policies. Just how high must unemployment go before his Government realises that the situation is serious?
– At the outset it may be said that if this debate is to be a serious debate on the unemployment level in Australia and a serious consideration of methods by which current unemployment might be solved one recognition may be conceded on both sides; namely, that at the very least the Opposition and the Government are agreed in their concern about the present level of unemployment. I want to make one thing very clear at the outset. I wish to put to rest the rather facetious and certainly incorrect claim that is so frequently made by members of the Opposition that it is an instrument of the Government’s economic policy to maintain a significantly high level of unemployment. It has never been part of the policy of the Government to use unemployment as an economic weapon. We have not used it at any time since we came into office, and we will not use it at any time while we remain in office.
The differences that exist between the Government and the Opposition on the level of unemployment are not differences of concern about that level but rather differences in methodology. In other words, the Government disagrees fundamentally with the approach taken by the Opposition as to how the level of unemployment can be solved. We in the Government believe that one cannot look at the level of unemployment without looking at the level of inflation. We believe that one cannot look at the level of unemployment now without acknowledging the significance of wages policy to unemployment. It is very significant that there were two major omissions from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). Apart from one fleeting reference, and that was by way of criticism of the Government’s policy of opposing full wage indexation, he did not make a single reference to the relevance of wages policy and wage increases to the level of unemployment. Had the Leader of the Opposition intended his remarks today to be a set-piece statement of the Opposition’s approach to the principal economic problems at present, it was a very dismal commentary on his understanding of our economic policies to devote 15 minutes of this Parliament’s time to an attack on the level of unemployment and not make one reference to the contribution that the wages explosion of a few years ago made to that level and not to make one reference to the success of the Government’s wages policy in the long-term solution to unemployment.
I think it is very interesting that he talked about the alleged benign neglect of the Prime Minister and the Ministry towards unemployment. He ought to look to his own benign neglect of the relevance of wages policy to unemployment. He ought to recall some remarks he made in 1975 when he was seized of the more immediate responsibilities of trying to solve some of the intractable economic problems that the Government of which he was a member had created. During his Budget Speech in 1975 his references to unemployment were replete with concern about wage increases and squeezes on profits. He said:
It does employees generally no good to get higher and higher money incomes if the results are just higher prices, a severe squeeze on profits, a slump in new investment and a contraction of job opportunities.
On that occasion his economics were fairly good. On that occasion he was talking sense about the relationship between inflation and unemployment and the relationship between wage increases and unemployment. Now, in February 1 978 at the beginning of a parliamentary session, no longer seized with the responsibility of addressing serious and proper solutions to unemployment, he devoted a 1 5 -minute speech to the problem of unemployment, which he described as the worst since the Great Depression. Yet, he made no mention of the link between inflation and unemployment and not one constructive reference to the significance of wage increases and the relevance of wages policy to unemployment.
The Leader of the Opposition accused the Government of ad hoc economic policies. If there is one thing that the Government cannot be accused of, even by its fiercest critics in the economics area, it is ad hockery in the economic sphere. One thing that has characterised the Government’s economic policy since it took office in 1975 is a very strong and persistent adherence to a basic economic strategy- at times a strategy which has been criticised, a strategy which over a period has started to show results and started to deliver the goods in economic performance. He persists with his description of the Australian economy as one which is currently in a deep recession. He constantly talks about the recession that exists in Australia. Of course he ignores the very significant results that the Government has achieved in reducing inflation.
The Leader of the Opposition ignores the fact that, on the activities side, the national accounts for the September quarter, which form the most recently published consolidated resume of economic indicators and economic performance in Australia, show that the real gross non-farm product rose by 1.2 per cent for the September quarter, that consumer spending increased by 1 .9 per cent and business investment by 4. 1 per cent. He ignores the recently published figures covering the December quarter in relation to capital expenditure. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics survey, the increase during that quarter was, on a seasonally adjusted basis at current prices, 7 per cent, indicating a further strong real increase. He ignores the very significant improvement that has occurred particularly in the mining industry investment area and more modestly in the manufacturing industry investment area. He ignores the steady increase in the level of consumer spending and consumer confidence, as indicated by the most recently published figures.
So the Government rejects at the outset of this parliamentary term the notion that the Australian economy is in any kind of recession. We reject the notion that there is any shortcut solution to the problem of unemployment. What has the Leader of the Opposition advanced during his 15-minute speech in the way of an alternative economic policy? He has not advanced any alternative economic policy. The only contributions that the Leader of the Opposition has made in recent months to alternative economic strategies were those made shortly before the August Budget of last year. At that time the Leader of the Opposition joined with his then Leader to issue a lengthy statement on the economy. If the policies contained in that statement were carried out they would have effectively added in excess of $ 1,000m to the deficit for that year.
During the election campaign he was a principal party to a policy which would have taken away the taxation reductions that are now available to all Australian taxpayers. They were put in effect as from 1 February. That policy advocated the use of that money to fund the abolition of payroll tax, a device and a procedure which would have had dubious consequences in reducing the level of unemployment. The Leader of the Opposition chose to attack the taxation reductions implemented by the present Government. So let it be recorded that on the first sitting day of this new parliamentary session the Leader of the Opposition has attacked the taxation reductions introduced by the present Government. He criticises them as being inequitable; he criticises them as being of enormous benefit to the wealthy in the community; he criticises them as being socially unfair.
Of course, under the new revised taxation scale a person on a high income receives a greater money benefit. That is a matter of simple logic because of the fact that that person in the first place pays a much higher level of tax in money terms. It would be an extremely odd restructuring of a progressive income tax scale if that result were not to occur. But to categorise that as being some kind of selective fiddle for the benefit of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and other people in the community is, I think, doing less than justice to the office which the honourable gentleman now occupies. The truth of the matter is that the 10 per cent of Australians who are in the highest income tax bracket paid, prior to the introduction of the new tax scale, approximately 37.8 per cent of total income tax collections. Under the new revised scale they pay approximately 37.3 per cent. So in terms of the total burden of taxation borne by the high income earners in Australia- the so-called wealthy people in Australia- there has in reality been no significant lightening of that burden in relation to the rest of the community.
The people who reap the real benefits of these tax reductions, I believe, are those to be found in the middle income brackets. No longer does a person who earns $ 10,000 a year and who wishes by way of overtime or extra effort to increase that income jump into a much higher tax bracket by passing the $12,500 a year mark. In fact, the standard rate of taxation of 32c in the dollar remains constant until a person reaches an income of $16,000 a year. I think one of the very beneficial aspects of the taxation revisions which the Government has introduced is the extent to which, in that particular area, there will be greater incentive and greater encouragement for people to earn a higher income and to work harder.
The debate is about, and ought to be about, the alternative strategies which the Government and the Opposition ought to adopt towards the question of unemployment. My colleague, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), will deal in more detail with the specific schemes which the Government has introduced to cater for certain aspects of the unemployment problem. I say again that the Government is absolutely resolute in its belief that there cannot be a long term lasting solution to the unemployment problem in Australia if that solution is divorced from the economic realities* of Australia at the present time. In other words, unemployment in Australia cannot be solved on a permanent basis if we ignore the consequences of inflation on the Australian economy. We cannot ignore the consequences of wage increases.
I invite the attention of all honourable members to the submission of the Government in the current national wage case. If the Opposition really wished to make a contribution towards the unemployment problem in Australia it might use some of its influence with its political colleagues in the State governments of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania to persuade them to adopt a different approach towards national wage cases. The level of unemployment which we now face is of concern to the Government as well as to the Opposition. To have a policy stance at the Federal level which completely ignores the relevance of wage increases to unemployment and to have a policy stance at the State level which more or less advocates full wage indexation on every occasion is to ignore the economic realities of what caused unemployment at the levels we now experience first to occur. All honourable gentlemen know that unemployment of the order we now have occurred during the term of the previous Labor Government. Let that not be forgotten. Let it not be forgotten that the basic causes of the levels of unemployment that we now see were laid during those three years. Let us please have from the Opposition a constructive alternative policy which seriously assists in dealing with this issue.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The Minister’s time has expired.
– Having had a look at the new Treasurer (Mr Howard) and having had a look at the previous Treasurer, the present Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), I must say that it seems to me that the only difference between them is that the new Treasurer wears glasses. He too has entertained the Parliament by reading out the notes provided by Treasury, just as his predecessor did. He bored us with all the rhetoric that comes from Treasury and he ignored the issue upon which this debate is based. He denies that the Government involves itself in ad hockery. I suppose the wage price freeze was the climax of its ad hockery policies over the last two years.
Today is the first day of debate for the session. Some honourable members may have expected that Labor Party members, having suffered an overwhelming defeat at the election, would be probably a little bent and not looking forward to the debates which will take place in the Parliament. I make one point quite clear on behalf of the Labor Party and honourable members on this side of the Parliament: Under no circumstances do we accept that the Government, in spite of its majority, has a mandate to extend proverty, has a mandate to extend unemployment, has a mandate to extend family breakups, or has a mandate to promote greater drug dependence in the community. Those are some of the offshoots of high unemployment in this country.
Twelve months ago my colleague, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), asked the Government to channel a little more expertise in this Parliament to looking at the unemployment situation in this country. The Labor Party was predicting then that 6 per cent or 7 percent of the work force of this country would be unemployed in early 1978 unless steps were taken in late 1976 and early 1977 to overcome the problems which Australia was heading into. The Government ignored those predictions. Indeed, it charged us with being irresponsible. It charged us with lightening away investment. It charged us with all the charges that could come to the lips of Government supporters to try to defeat us in debate in the Parliament. But now we have it. The one figure that the Treasurer did not mention was that there are 445,000 Australians- 7.2 per cent of the work force- now out of work. Of that figure 163,000 people have lost their jobs or failed to get jobs since this Government came to power two years ago.
I remind the Parliament of some of the cliches that have been used by Government spokesmen. The first and the most infamous was: ‘Only under the Liberals will there be jobs for everyone’. That was contained in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in 1975. Since that statement was made 163,000 more people have become unemployed. Then we had a second cliche. The Prime Minister seems to save them up for election campaigns. In the last election campaign it was: ‘As from February unemployment will start to drop’. I suspect, although I do not know, that he does that on the basis of the advice given to him by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). There are 75,000 more people out of work now than when the Prime Minister made that statement. It is no wonder he could say that unemployment would drop from February. The Government was expecting unemployment to increase slightly in January 1978. It will say that it is all due to school leavers. If it were not for those dastardly school leavers unemployment would not rise in January 1978. But the school leavers in January 1978 represented only 25 per cent of the increase that took place in that month. Only 9,000 of the 40,000 people who were looking for work in January were people who could be described as school leavers.
There is a structural problem in the economy about which the Opposition has been telling the Government for two years but which it refuses to recognise. Questions asked in the Parliament today pointed to the additional problems being felt in the dwelling industry and the figures in this morning’s newspapers reveal the problems in the automobile industry. We have such excess capacity in many industries in Australia today that unemployment, unless it is checked by Government programs, will continue to grow. But the Government does nothing. Now it says: Why do you not put up some proposals? The Opposition has done so. Many of the State Premiers have followed the initiatives taken by the Opposition. It is no good this Government trying to do anything unless it calls together State governments and local government authorities throughout Australia to see what sort of crash program can be initiated to put people back to work quickly. We are no longer in a position where we can embark on a long stage program and hope that we can get the figure of 445,000 down to 250,000 in time for the next election. We have massive social problems in this country which every member who attends his electorate office ought to be aware of. Every member ought to be aware of the young people who cannot find jobs. He ought to be aware of the highly qualified youth who visit our electorate offices daily, disillusioned with society and this Government because all their studies are wasted as they go out on the street to work with a pick and shovel if they are lucky enough to be able to find employment of that nature. Still the Government does nothing.
Yesterday, in the Governor-General’s Speech, written for him by some of the brilliants of the Prime Minister’s Department, it was stated that there shall be no trade off between inflation and unemployment. That means that we are given notice by this Government that in no circumstance will the priority given to reducing inflation be traded off for some humanity, for some sort of appeal to help those people who make up that 445,000. By some strange coincidence this Government thinks of figures as figures. It refuses to recognise those figures as human beings who live in every region in every part of this country. It is no longer just a labour force matter in Labor areas or a working class matter. Middle class families throughout this country are being affected just as much as working class families. It affects all the regions, all the cities and all the major provincial towns. In Queensland almost 9 per cent of the work force is unemployed. Still the Government sits here and says that it is going to concentrate on inflation. What is the peak figure of unemployment in this country necessary to bring the Government to its senses? How far will it allow all the social ills that exist in our society today to go before it takes some steps to start talking to people about what will occur.
The Opposition has said time and again that there are structural problems in the economy. They ought to be looked at by this Parliament, but the Government refuses. We can have parliamentary committees on terrorism, foreign affairs, Aboriginal affairs and 10 1 other subjects, but we dare not have a parliamentary committee on unemployment because that might prove embarrassing to the Government. So far as the Opposition is concerned, the Government should take notice that it has no mandate to build an army of unemployed. It must take action forthwith to reduce those 445,000 unemployed. It is no good sending a Minister into the chamber to say that we have the National Employment and Training scheme or a youth employment scheme or some of the other things that have been put forward over the last two years. They are not even scratching the surface of this massive social problem with which this country is confronted today. It is about time conservative politicians who sit on the other side of this House realised what must be done. As I said, there is no restriction on the people who are affected by unemployment.
The other matter we have to take into account is that not only do we have this massive number of people unemployed but also that over the last two years an unknown number of young people have left school, for no other reason than that they cannot find employment and have been forced back to school because their parents do not want them wandering around the streets. They say: ‘Go back and waste another year of your life by repeating your matriculation or fourth year high school or just so we know where you are’. That is all the design of this Government. The Government’s great theory was that if inflation was reduced unemployment would be reduced. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) tells us that the Government’s economic theories have worked, its economic package has been a success and inflation has dropped below double figures. If we accept that inflation is down from double figures to single figures, according to the economic package of the Government two years ago unemployment should have dropped also. Inflation has dropped, according to the Government, but unemployment has risen by 163,000. If the automobile industry is working at 70 per cent capacity, which is the evidence given to us by the industry -
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is clear from the speech of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Young) that the Australian Labor Party, having created the unemployment problem in Australia as a result of gross economic mismanagement and by refusing to support responsible economic and wages policy, would do it all again if it had the chance. As the Treasurer (Mr Howard) pointed out a moment ago, there is an inescapable connection between wages policy, general economic policy, including public spending, and unemployment. We did not hear a word today from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) or the honourable member for Adelaide which gives the slightest indication that they have learnt this simple lesson. The Government is, of course, concerned about the employment situation in this country. One area that has been of special concern is that of youth unemployment where, I remind the House, as in other Western developed economies, the percentage of young people looking for work has increased as a proportion of those unemployed. At a time when they wish to enter the work force, the demand for their skills and abilities is often limited. In recognition of this problem, the Government has developed a comprehensive range of initiatives, each specifically designed to meet the needs of those unemployed within- I stress this- the context of the Government’s overall economic strategy. The basis of that strategy, as the Treasurer has emphasised, is the containment of inflation. With inflation brought under control, we will have established the climate for a sustained recovery in economic activity leading to an expansion in permanent- I stress the word ‘permanent’- employment opportunities and a consequent reduction in the overall level of unemployment. It is not expected, however, that these measures by themselves will provide a complete solution to unemployment. A substantial reduction in inflation is the essential precondition. That will take time, but the Government’s policies are succeeding. Even the Opposition has given some acknowledgement of that fact. But our policies must continue to succeed or there cannot be any permanent improvement in the employment situation. Our concern at the current level of unemployment, particularly amongst young people, has been demonstrated, as I mentioned a moment ago, by the introduction of a number of initiatives. For example, there has been particular emphasis in the field of labour market training, including the Special Youth Employment Training Program and new apprenticeship support programs. Other initiatives directed towards young people include the Community Youth Support scheme which aims to encourage community action for the provision of programs and services to the young unemployed; the educational program for unemployed youth to assist those whose educational qualifications are low or inadequate in the labour market; and the establishment of tripartite youth employment task forces in each State to encourage employers to make a special effort to take on additional young people- particularly, at this time of the year, school leavers. Special youth employment bureaus have been created in each State, and youth job centres have been established in all capital cities and are now operating a central self-service employment facility for young people as well as an information centre for employers.
I should like to make a brief comment on the manpower programs now in operation. It is a very impressive range and at least comparable with the range of manpower initiatives of most other developed countries. All of these programs are the initiatives of this Government or have been substantially and effectively improved by us. The Commonwealth Employment Service is a manpower program in its own right and is the delivery system for the bulk of the other programs. The CES operates through a network of some 230 local offices and 160 agents. In 1966-67 the CES referred over one million applicants to employers, placed more than 450,000 applicants in employment and received nearly 700,000 vacancy notifications. The first ever full review of the CES was conducted in 1977 by Mr John Norgard. His report, which has been broadly accepted by the Government, recommended sweeping changes to the organisation to transform it into a modern manpower service more able to deal with the labour market problems of the 1980s. Action to implement Mr Norgard ‘s recommendations is already under way. One of his recommendations was an immediate increase in staff numbers in the CES to cater better for the needs of those seeking assistance, including the recruitment of people from outside the Australian Public Service to improve the diversity of skills and experience within the CES.
The whole process of upgrading this vital agency is being gravely prejudiced by the action of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association in directing its members to refuse to process applications from persons outside the Australian Public Service for positions in the Commonwealth Employment Service. It needs to be emphasised that the role of the CES in making these manpower programs available will require adequate numbers of high quality staffsome with industry experience not necessarily available within the Public Service. If this sort of action by the ACOA continues, thousands of people seeking work, particularly young people, will be denied the benefit of the wide range of programs which have been especially designed to assist them.
We have also decided to set up special youth employment task forces, as I mentioned a moment ago. These are chaired by the State Directors of my Department and comprise representatives of employers, trade unions and the State Governments to encourage employers to take on additional young people.
I turn now to the National Employment and Training scheme- NEAT. Assistance under that scheme can take many forms, including formal course training to people undertaking approved formal training in educational institutions, either full time or part time. On-the-job training, though, is where we put particular emphasis. Currently some 90 per cent of NEAT trainees are receiving on-the-job training. Employers providing this training are subsidised for a period during which the person is learning his new skill. In addition to these general provisions of the NEAT scheme there are a number of special purpose programs operating within it. One is the Special Youth Employment Training Program. It is available to young people up to the age of 24 years. Since the commencement of SYETP in October 1976, more than 35,000 young people have been placed, while 45,000 young people are likely to be assisted in the current year. This program in particular has proved successful in getting large numbers of young unemployed people into satisfactory and permanent employment.
There is also the Education Program for Unemployed Youth. I regret that time will not permit me to give a full run-down of the benefits available under that program. However, I think the expenditure on training programs by the Government indicates our concern for the problems with which they are designed to deal. Expenditure has risen from $31m in 1974-75 to an appropriation of $54m in this Budget. But I emphasise that, as already announced, finance will not be a barrier to those seeking training who meet the labour market criteria of the NEAT scheme. The number of people trained has risen even more substantially- from 21,800 in 1975 to more than 60,000 in 1977. Under this Government, more people- more than 85,000 since we came to office- have received practical on-the-job training than ever before, training that is equipping them with skills that are in demand. More than 90 per cent of them are gaining on-the-job training while engaged in productive employment. I need only mention the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training scheme to indicate our concern with apprenticeship. It has been successful even in a time of fairly slow economic activity. It has resulted in an increase in the intake of apprentices of about 8.5 per cent last year. There is also the Community Youth Support Scheme under which some 350 projects have been approved. Some 15,000 young people will be benefiting from the scheme.
The brief description I have given illustrates beyond doubt the Government’s concern about unemployment and its consequences. We are operating a greater range of manpower programs than any other post-war government in Australia. We are concerned and will continue to demonstrate our concern practically and constructively. Other initiatives will be considered when and if they are shown to be necessary and appropriate and if they are compatible with our strategy for economic recovery.
-At the outset I remind the House of the quite remarkable statement by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in this debate. The Treasurer said that the Government rejects at the outset of this Parliament that the economy is in any sort of recession. That is indeed a remarkable statement. If 7 per cent unemployment does not constitute a recession what in God’s name level of unemployment do we need before we can say that we have a recession? Obviously it is ridiculous to assert that this economy is not currently in a state of recession. In our view, it is only a matter of our saying ‘depression’ rather than ‘recession’. The fact is that we have a high level of unemployment. It has become much higher during the last two years, and all the indicators are that it will become much higher in the next couple of years if this Government pursues its current policies.
I remind the House that in the last two yearsfrom January 1976 to January 1978 - unemployment increased by 101,000. Most of that unemployment occurred in 1977. In other words, as this Government’s policies got into gear, as the Government really started to get hold of the economy, the rate of unemployment accelerated remarkably. In 1976 whilst Labor Party policies were still having some effect, the increase was only of the order of 10,600. But from January 1977 to January 1978 there was an increase of 90,700. We have had a much more rapid rate of increase in unemployment in the last year and, indeed, this looks like continuing if something does not happen in this Government’s policies to bring about a dramatic change.
Another example of the extraordinary change in the labour market is the ratio of unemployed to job vacancies. Two years ago there were only 9.8 unemployed for each job vacancy. That was bad enough but compare it with what it is now. There are now 18.3 unemployed for each job vacancy- a virtually doubling in that time. So let us have no talk about dole bludgers and that sort of thing. Undoubtedly there may be some people who do not want to work but currently there are 445,000 registered unemployed and 24,300 registered job vacancies- 18.3 unemployed for each job vacancy. Quite clearly, if every job vacancy were filled there would still be a very high level of unemployment. Furthermore, if we look at the level of employment over the last two years we will see that the total number of wage and salary earners in civilian employment has actually fallen by 8,000. There are fewer than two years ago. In private enterprise there are 65,000 fewer in employment. There has been a very substantial reduction over that period. Where is the turning on of the lights that we were promised two years ago? I submit that this has happened for reasons which have very much to do with the policies produced by this Government.
Clearly the Government has a grave responsibility for this alarming situation that now faces us. Indeed, it deserves the strongest condemnation for pursuing policies that have promoted such high levels of unemployment, for indicating that it continues to pursue those policies and for its absolute lack of compassion for the victims of those policies. Firstly, let me consider the policies that have promoted unemployment. Basically it stems from the Government’s approach that inflation reduction is the prime policy aim. Implied in that is that there will be a trade-off for higher unemployment. What is said quite clearly by the Government is that it is going to reduce inflation and if it has to increase unemployment substantially to reduce inflation then it will do so. That, of course, has been the policy it has pursued for the last two years. We do not deny that inflation has been reduced, nor do we deny that it is an important policy objective to reduce inflation. Indeed, we share the Government ‘s concern about reducing the rate of inflation to much lower levels but we totally disagree with the Government that we should be prepared to pay the price of a substantial increase in unemployment in order to bring that about. This is the basic policy difference between the Opposition and the Government. We want to launch a simultaneous attack on inflation and unemployment. The Government says: ‘We do not care about unemployment. We are going to get inflation down first’. In saying that, it is totally out of step with the economic policy being pursued in most other Western countries. It is totally out of step with the policies being recommended by responsible bodies like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Monetary Fund and others. This Government is pursuing a policy which virtually makes it unique in the Western world. It is a policy of increasing unemployment and having no concern for the people who become unemployed as a result.
As to the policy of cutting government expenditure, in real terms there was a 4 per cent cut in 1976 and a further cut of one per cent in 1977. Those cuts in government expenditure in real terms reduced the real level of demand coming into the economy and therefore meant that there was going to be more unemployment unless there was an increase in demand from some other quarter. What was that other quarter going to be? Was the demand going to come from the consumers? The consumers are mainly wage and salary earners and their real income has been slashed quarter by quarter for the last two years. In six out of the last seven national wage cases the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, being heavily leaned on by this Government, has given less than full wage indexation. Indeed, the Commission has applied about 70 per cent of full wage indexation which has resulted in a very substantial reduction in the real level of wages. So the people who are having their real incomes reduced quarter by quarter- their wages going up at a lesser rate than inflation- are at the same time being told by this Government: ‘If only you would spend more, then we could have some sort of economic recovery’. What a ludicrous economic policy. If people can see unemployment facing them with more and more people going out of work, if their real incomes are being reduced, why should they suddenly rush into the streets and spend all their money? This is an absurd proposition but that is the policy being pursued by this Government.
The wages policy being pursued by this Government implies a very substantial further reduction in real wages. In the latest national wage case the Government pursued the concepta concept with which many members of this House may not be familiar- known as the real wage overhang. The real wage overhang, says the Government, is the measure of the excess of real wages over the level of productivity. The Government says this real wage overhang is of the order of 10 per cent. In other words, real wages should be cut by 10 per cent so that we can have good economic recovery. We say it is a ludicrous economic policy to cut real wages by 10 per cent and expect there to be an increase in consumer demand and economic recovery in the near future. That is an economic monstrosity of a policy but that is the policy that is being pursued by this Government and we reject it totally.
In saying that, may I also make the point that the Treasurer has said that if the Labor States wanted to be responsible they would fall in with this Government’s wages policy. He cannot even get the non-Labor States to support his own wages policy. The fact is that in the last national wage case only Western Australia supported the Federal Government’s wages policy. Queensland and Victoria supported some increase in wages; not full wage indexation but some increase. They certainly did not support the policies being pursued by the Federal Government.
Further, there is the policy of boosting investment by the investment allowance and what this is doing, as the Government itself has argued quite strenuously in the national wage case, is increasing investment at the expense of jobs. This is what the Government keeps arguing in national wage cases. It says that we are having a big increase in investment. But it is almost totally in labour replacement investment. It is not capital widening; it is not creating more jobs; it is putting more people out of work. At the same time there is the 40 per cent investment allowance which is encouraging employers, at a time when there is no increase in demand for their goods, to go heavily into new machinery. Inevitably, of course, they go in for more capital intensive production which puts more people out of work. As 1 said, there are 65,000 fewer employed in private enterprise now than there were two years ago; and no wonder with this sort of policy being pursued.
The fact is that along with all of those policies we have had, despite what the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) says, a very pathetic effort in the manpower area. There has been nothing in the way of job creation programs in the government sector. Despite the fact that previous Liberal-National Country Party governments in 1961, 1967 and 1971 had job creation programs in the government sector for local government and State government, this Government with much higher levels of unemployment refuses to introduce any such scheme. Therefore there is no job creation and no attempt to assist the States and local government to alleviate unemployment by creating jobs. Furthermore, in the areas that the Minister has mentioned, such as the special youth employment training program, there is no demand for subsidising new jobs. It is not a matter of adding to the work force. It is just a matter of subsidising the same level of people as the Government employed before, so there is no job creation there. The new apprenticeship scheme known as CRAFT- the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training scheme- has, as the Minister has said, had an increase of 8 per cent in intake. We acknowledge that; that is not insignificant, but it is nowhere near what is needed. We are losing 50,000 tradesmen a yearthis is according to figures I have from the Minister’s own Department- because the intake nowhere near matches the number of people leaving the skilled work force. Employers just will not employ apprentices any more or at least nowhere near the numbers that are needed. What we have, instead of a comprehensive attack on unemployment through this program, is a reshuffling of the subsidy scheme which has had some marginal impact but nowhere near tackles the real problem. On top of all those other policies which I have not time to go into, we have of course the fact that this Government has shown a total lack of concern for the individuals who are unemployed.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Opposition has proposed for discussion as a matter of public importance the following:
The Government’s responsibility for the worst unemployment since the Great Depression.
I believe that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has dealt very adequately with the Government’s economic policies and the way in which through these policies it is trying to restore real health to the Australian economy so that there can be a growth in the Australian work force and in economic activity generally. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) dealt specifically with a number of programs that his Department has introduced to cope with various aspects of unemployment and the creation of employment opportunities. I want to deal with some of the things that the Opposition has not raised in this debate- some of the gaps in the comments of Opposition speakers in their attacks on the Government- because they have sought to say that the Government is totally responsible for the present level of unemployment.
We all have concern for the level of unemployment in this country at present. But I think it is a measure of the inadequate thinking of Opposition members that they have not raised in this debate a large number of factors which influence the total level of unemployment. For example, there was no recognition of the structural changes which have taken place in Australian industry, many of which were promoted and exacerbated by the activities of the former Labor Government. It is not a matter of casting our minds back to the days of the Whitlam Government and saying that all blame must rest with it. But we must recognise that a number of longterm structural changes started to take place in the Australian economy as a result of actions taken by that Government. I refer, for example, to the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut which really put many industries totally out of business and which made sure that many Australian companies were wary about ever investing in Australia again. I think that those of us who have read the comments by Mr Fred Daly in a book he published recently will know that there was great disagreement even within the ranks of the Labor Government- certainly he expressed disagreement on his behalf and on behalf of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron)- about that action. There was no recognition from the Opposition in this debate of the problems facing a government which inherited the economic situation of two years ago compared with the relatively minor problems which the Labor Government inherited when it came to power. It took over an economy in good shape. Let us look at what the present Government took over when it came to power. When the Labor Government came into office it inherited an unemployment figure of about 135,000 people. When it left office, that figure had increased to 328,000 people. Moreover, in respect to unemployment amongst the young- those young people under 20 years of age- when Labor came into office 80,000 young people were unemployed. When it left office, the youth unemployment figure was 152,000 or nearly double. We can say at least that the Opposition brings one element of expertise to this debate. Honourable members opposite are experts in creating unemployment.
In addition, there was no recognition in the comments from honourable members opposite who spoke in the debate of the social changes which have been taking place in Australian society. For example, I refer to the increase in the number of women in the work force. I do not suggest that every job presently occupied by a woman would otherwise be occupied by a school leaver or somebody else who is on the unemployment lists. But certainly there have been changes in the patterns of preference of employers for labour. We must take those changes into account. It is in recognition of this type of social change that the Government has introduced the Special Youth Employment Training Program designed to reduce the cost to an employer of taking on a young person and training that young person in a productive form of work.
There was no recognition from Opposition speakers in the debate of the contribution which has been made to unemployment by people over whom the Government and indeed the Australian community has no control. I refer to some of the more irresponsible elements in the trade union movement- the people who, for example, brought about the La Trobe Valley power strike last year. The effects of that power strike are still being felt throughout the economy, not only in Victoria but interstate as well. I know of a number of small businesses which found that that was the strike which put them out of business. The owners of the businesses decided that they could not continue any further when the strike was over and that they should not go to the bother and all the trouble of re-investing and re-employing people and trying to get back into business. That strike had a long-term effect on the survival of many small to medium-size businesses in particular.
Of course, I must refer also to the bans imposed by members of the Australian Builders Labourers Federation on major building projects in Victoria. There are now a number of organisations, companies and certain people interested in building projects in Victoria who say they will not take on new construction commitments in that State because they have no certainty that it will be possible to carry out those commitments with any efficiency and according to any predetermined timetable. Therefore, we find that a number of projects which could have been started and which could have employed many more people have not got under way because of that irresponsible industrial action which was taken last year. Certainly, no one can lay the blame for that sort of action at the feet of this Government.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), in his speech introducing this debate, accused the Government of continually fiddling with the figures. I am not quite sure what he meant by that because I believe that there is real concern on both sides of the House to obtain figures on the employment situation which give us an accurate impression of what is happening and to give us a proper basis for an analysis of the figures and for subsequent action. In order to indicate that this concern is expressed on both sides of the House, I will quote from the House of Representatives Hansard of 1 1 September 1975 when the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) asked a question of the then Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I wonder whether the question was perhaps a Dorothy Dixer. The honourable member for Gellibrand asked:
Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration inform the House why the unemployment figures compiled by the Department of Labor and Immigration from its Commonwealth Employment Service records are substantially in excess of those produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics through its quarterly labour force survey? In view of the fact that the Bureau’s unemployment figures are compiled on an internationally accepted basis, what reliance can be placed on the CES figures as an accurate measure of unemployment in this country?
I do not disagree with the tone of that question. I do not think that anyone on this side of the House would disagree with the content of that question. But it indicates that there is concern on both sides of the House about the accuracy and the reliability of the figures that we receive on unemployment in this country.
I think that a number of points can be made about the unemployment figures which we have to indicate some of the factors which can cause error and cause misleading information to arise. For example, I refer to the fact that many people who are unemployed find employment for themselves and subsequently do not notify the Commonwealth Employment Service that they have found such employment through their own resources. Those people remain on the unemployment statistics for some time afterwards until it is discovered that they have found employment through their own resources. There is a lag in taking people who find employment off the lists. I suggest that there is a greater tendency now, compared with many years ago, for people to register as being unemployed with the CES at a very early stage. School leavers quite properly are urged by their teachers and by careers officers to register as unemployed as soon as possible with the Commonwealth Employment Service to put themselves in the best position to find available jobs and so their eligibility for unemployment benefits eventually can be determined.
I think it is fair to say that 10 or 15 years ago there was not such a community acceptance of a person who was unemployed immediately registering as being unemployed. People tended to register, to receive unemployment benefits only when they were in very difficult straits. They did not accept, as it is accepted now, that it was their right to accept unemployment benefits, whatever their financial situation might have been. There is a greater social acceptance of registering as unemployed and in accepting unemployment benefits. I do not quarrel with that. But when we are trying to compare figures produced in respective years we must consider the changed circumstances and changed community attitudes. I believe that the Opposition has failed in this debate to bring forward a number of factors which are important and which should have been considered.
-Order! The discussion is concluded.
– I move:
The Excise Tariff Proposal relates to a proposed alteration to the Excise Tariff 1 92 1 . The proposal formally places before the Parliament, as required by law, a tariff change introduced by Gazette notice on 17 November 1977. This tariff change, which has effect from 18 November 1 977, restructures Item 1 7b of the Excise Tariff to clarify the duty liability in relation to condensate included in the Government’s crude oil absorption scheme. Prior to this change, some producers of condensate in remote locations had interpreted the Excise Tariff as excluding such condensate from duty under Item 17b. This interpretation is contrary to the Government’s policy in relation to the absorption of indigenous crude oil and condensate and the resultant liability for excise duty.
The overall effect of the tariff change, and of the crude oil absorption policy in relation to condensate, is beneficial to producers of the condensate and to small inland refineries which process the condensate. Producers receive import parity price for their product and refiners can obtain feedstock at the average Australian price for indigenous crude oil. I commend the proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
– I move:
This motion covers a range of matters pertinent to the running of the House. It relates to the hours of meeting, the Speaker’s discretion when a quorum is not present, the counting of members in a quorum, the adjournment of the House, including time limits for speeches, the routine of business, the ringing of division bells for successive divisions and the power to add a protest or dissent to a Committee report.
As honourable members know, these matters are not new. They have been debated on a number of occasions in this chamber. During 1977 they operated successfully, as we would see it, on a trial basis as sessional orders, in keeping with the November 1976 recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Standing Orders. It seems to the Government that these proposals have now been tried and tested by this House. They are matters which seem to meet the convenience of honourable members from both sides. I therefore commend the proposals for inclusion now in the Standing Orders of this chamber.
– Whilst not opposing the motion moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) I think it is opportune to say a few words about some of the problems with which we may be confronted. It is not the Opposition’s intention in any way at all to obstruct the business of the House. Indeed, we face so many problems that in many ways we will try to assist the Government in getting through its business. Nevertheless we have to protect not only the rights of the Opposition but also the rights of individual members of this House in grievance debates, General Business debates and so forth. We will be keeping a very close eye on things to see that those rights are not submerged by the Government in any move to amend the Standing Orders.
Perhaps these things should be said later in the Budget Debate on the Parliament, but I want to say at the commencement of this session of the new Parliament that the times, the sittings and the working conditions under which honourable members will operate in this Parliament will perhaps be a little worse than they have been for a long time. Some honourable members with their staff and their officers are going to be a little cranky by the end of the week with the long sitting hours and with the Parliament trying to operate in a building which obviously has outlived its usefulness. I have been transferred to an office which has less ventilation than a Kentucky coal mine. I think by Thursday night at 1 1 o’clock I will be looking forward to going home. These conditions will have some effect on the performance of members of this House. We are entitled to have staff members available to us in the Parliament. The Government reserves the right to extend the arm of the Executive throughout the premises of Parliament House. Many honourable members will be working under very trying conditions in this Parliament over the next few years. I say that there is probably a case for having a very close look at the hours and days on which this Parliament sits, to see whether we cannot have a more regular sitting- nine to five or whatever it may be- so that we do not have to put up with these cramped conditions and these very unpleasant working surroundings which undoubtedly we will have to put up with in the foreseeable future.
– I wish to take just a moment to express the view that the amendments to the Standing
Orders will mean that we will have a continuation of the five minutes limit on speeches in the adjournment debate, resulting in six speeches of five minutes duration per evening. As was shown in the last Parliament, it does not take very much imagination for one to disrupt completely an honourable member’s opportunity to speak in this debate. When points of order are taken one after the other in a five-minute speech, we see that five minutes is a totally useless and inappropriate amount of time- I repeat that it is totally useless- to be set aside for an adjournment debate speech.
The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) is at the table and is listening very carefully to what I am saying. I know that in reply he will say that, if we want to go back to the old system under which honourable members were allowed to speak for 10 minutes, there would be time for only three speakers on the adjournment. The other option open is to continue to sit on into the night. Knowing how honourable members feel about the old style of sittings, when we used to sit until 3 o’clock in the morning, I realise that that option will not be taken up. Nevertheless, I believe that any government has an obligation to give private members an opportunity to raise matters which they believe are of importance. I do not believe that the grievance debate, which gives about six honourable members an opportunity to speak for 10 minutes about twice a year at the most, is an appropriate outlet for them and I believe that honourable members rely very heavily upon the adjournment debate at night.
Mr Speaker, I am not accusing any individual from any particular party but you have seen that both sides are guilty of planned disruption if the view is held that what the person on the other side has to say may be destructive or hurtful to the other side. We have all indulged in this sort of practice. The Leader of the House should undertake here and now, while he knows that he has support for the measures he is proposing, in the next month to review the system. Perhaps he will come back to this place having concluded that the ordinary business of the House will cease at 10 o’clock at night so that we can have the restoration of six 10-minute speeches on the adjournment.
– Where are your gumboots.
-Many of the honourable members who are referring to my rural electorate would be unaware of the fact that in previous years there was no time limit on adjournment debates. Honourable members should listen. I am just trying to help them. I have no complaints but they obviously have. Previously the adjournment debate would commence at the end of Government Business and the House would sit until honourable members no longer wanted to rise. That meant that if honourable members so desired the House could sit all night and all next morning. We are now subject to restrictions which are in many ways sensible but which are very inhibiting. I am referring to something which has been lost by those private members who smiled a moment ago. Before I resume my seat, I ask the Leader of the House: Have I your assurance that you will not dismiss these remarks lightly and that you will come back in a matter of weeks perhaps with a further amendment along the lines I have suggested.
– I call the honourable member- Mr DONALD CAMERON- I had not finished. The Leader of the House has not acknowledged my request.
– Order! The honourable member for Fadden will address all his remarks through the Chair and not directly to any other member of the chamber. If he continues addressing himself to the Leader of the House I will require him to resume his seat.
– In view of your statement, Mr Speaker, I will resume my seat. I believe that the message has got across and that we can look forward in the very near future to the changes I seek.
-The honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) is on the right track for once. As long as he stays on points of procedure and keeps away from politics he will do all right. If in the past he had been brought into contact with Australian rules football, he could have suggested that we have a time-off provision. The time taken from a member’s speech because of the calling of quorums or some other behaviour of that nature could be added to the member’s speaking time. That may be a solution.
I want to raise with the House for the moment the impossibility of fitting the business of this Parliament into the present days and hours of meeting. We must discuss how we can adjust the meetings of the House to the business before it and take account of the requirements of our electorates and all the other things which make the life of a federal member particularly inconvenient. By the time a member travels to this place, gets things sorted out here and tries to get back to his home and to his electorate he finds he is faced with an impossible task. We certainly make it impossible for us to handle the business of this Parliament- a modern Australian Parliament- by our choice of the days of meeting. I refer in particular to Standing Order 40 and to other provisions which are not in the Standing Orders which require the House to be called together.
I want to raise three things to put the arithmetic on the record. First of all I refer to the actual days of meeting. In the last 10 years we have met, on average, 68 days a year. In the first 20 years of Federation the Parliament met for more than 100 days on four occasions. In fact in 1920 it met for 1 14 days. The highest number of days that we have met since that time is 92 days in 1947. Gradually the number of sitting days has diminished and settled somewhere in the 60 to 70 mark. It is quite obvious that such a number of sitting days will not meet the present requirements of this Parliament.
The hours of meeting have been reduced. In 1901 Parliament met for 806 hours. That is reasonable, I suppose. In 1920 it met for 842 hours. In the 1920s the minimum number of hours per year was 389, and the maximum 646; in the 1930s the number of hours varied from 257 to 646; in the 1940s from 402 to 796; in the 1950s from 460 to 803; and in the 1960s from 530 to 710. No matter how much more work we crowd into the program we still try to handle it in the same number of hours or thereabouts. This will not work. We all know that.
Let us look at the legislative program. In the first 20 years about 40 Bills a year were handled. In 1940, 101 Bills were handled-the first time that the number of Bills handled by the Parliament rose above the century. The number of Bills then dropped back to the 70 or 80 mark, until in 1965 it rose to 168. In 1973, 253 Bills were handled; in 1974, 236 Bills; in 1975, 215 Bills; and in 1976, 230 Bills. Last year 164 Bills were dealt with, the sitting time being truncated by the election. Those figures refer only to the amount of legislation but take no note of the fact that in recent times we have not been able to fit in discussions on ministerial statements or general matters of policy. I have been a member since 1 955 and during the first -
– Too long.
-Yes, but fortunately about 39,000 people in my electorate say I still ought to be here. Only 12,000 or 15,000 say the honourable member ought to be here. That is a fair indication of rights and truth and of what is fit, neat and proper in Australian politics. Once it was quite usual for us to have several days discussing foreign policy statements, tariff proposals, general principles or matters of any sort before the Parliament.
– Or Standing Orders.
– I am on the Standing Orders Committee. I am putting a proposition to Mr Speaker that we should meet as frequently as possible to discuss these general matters. I suggest to the House that if we want to fit in, say, 100 days of parliamentary sittings a year- the arithmetic is simple- it could be 20 weeks at 5 days a week, 25 weeks at 4 days a week, 33 weeks at 3 days a week or so on. One of the great difficulties we impose on ourselves is not so much the days and hours of meeting but the number of weeks we do not meet. There are lots of reasons for that. We could arrange a time-table so that in February, March, April and May we make a fairly consistent attack on parliamentary work. The same applies to August, September, October and November. Two months are clear before the beginning of the Autumn session, that is December and January, and another two months are clear in the middle of the year, that is June and July. We could regularise that time-table.
I make an appeal to the House, to Mr Speaker and through him, with due deference, to the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair). A lot of factors are involved apart from the convenience of members. There are all the matters on which the Australian Broadcasting Commission has to decide. There are the many other factors which go into the functions behind this Parliament. Principally I make the appeal that we start to bring some regular system into the days and times of meeting and that we get to work to reduce the pressures upon us to rush legislation through at the end of each session. It will not work. Apart from that, we should bring forward the inquiry into the committee system to examine some ways in which we can carry on simultaneously two, three or four different parts of the parliamentary function so that we can make the place a parliament instead of just a processing machine.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Pursuant to Standing Order 18 I lay on the table my warrant nominating the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond), the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles) and the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) to act as Deputy Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees. I hope to be in a position shortly to nominate additional members to the panel.
Mr Carlton for the Committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, presented the proposed Address which was read by the Clerk.
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it please Your Excellency
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to Our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Firstly I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your re-election as Speaker- for the Thirty-first Parliament. It was my privilege to serve you in your former capacity as Leader of the Opposition during the period when you carried out a reconstruction of the policies and organisation of the Liberal Party. That laid the foundation for many of the successes that have been achieved since then. I hope that your present situation of total impartiality will not prevent you from having some pride in that achievement. I also congratulate the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) on his election as Chairman of Committees. I wish him well in his new role.
I would also in passing express my appreciation of the work and friendship of and cooperation given to me during many years in my former capacity as General Secretary of the Liberal Party in New South Wales by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock), the previous Deputy Speaker. This, I think, is indicative of the general spirit of co-operation and friendship that exists between our two parties in New South Wales. Before referring to His Excellency’s Speech, I wish to say something about my predecessor from the electorate of Mackellar. I regard it as a great honour to succeed the fourth William Charles Wentworth as the second member for Mackellar. Mr Wentworth entered this House in the vintage year of 1949 and I believe that he served the Parliament and the Commonwealth with distinction.
He is a person possessed of a restless and creative mind and he delved not only into all the great issues of our time but also into many of the nooks and crannies that others of us did not think about. His main achievements certainly will be seen in the area of Aboriginal affairs in which his very detailed knowledge and his compassion made him capable of carrying out policies that were at once not condescending and also very practical. He was also a successful Minister for Social Services, in which capacity he exercised great compassion and concern. Of all the things for which I remember him, the main one is that he probably did more than any other Australian to achieve a standard gauge railway system on this continent. Just as his predecessor, his great grandfather, the first William Charles Wentworth, blazed a trail across the Blue Mountains to open up the western plains, so did the fourth William Charles Wentworth blaze a trail around Australia of a standard gauge line for commerce and communication.
It is interesting to note that his maiden speech in 1949 gave some indication of his power of foresight. His speech was devoted to the powers of the Senate and the possible difficulties constitutionally should that House exercise its undoubted capacity to block Supply. Mr Speaker, should you be concerned that I might follow too closely in my predecessor’s footsteps, I assure you that I will not be quite so creative and innovative in my interpretation of Standing Orders as he was.
It is customary, I understand, in a maiden speech to refer in glowing terms to one’s electorate. I would not want to deprive honourable members of the exquisite boredom of this exercise. Nonetheless, let me say that the electorate of Mackellar is one of stunning natural beauty. It really is a superb place for people to live and for the citizens of Sydney to play. Yet should it be thought that bountiful nature conferred these benefits only on Liberal voters, one has only to look across Broken Bay to the electorate of Robertson to see that they are conferred also on people in Labor seats, albeit after redistribution. The people of Mackellar share the concerns of all the people of Australia. They have individual and collective concerns about which it is my duty to worry, and I will serve all of the people in the electorate to the best of my ability, regardless of their political persuasions.
Let me turn now to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. I am sure that all members of this House will regard the appointment of Sir Zelman Cowen as a most felicitous action by Her Majesty as Queen of Australia and that they will share the hope that His Excellency will be with us for many more such occasions. The intentions of the Government which were outlined in the Speech reflected a continuing concern about the state of our economic management and the twin evils of inflation and unemployment. Indeed any government must be concerned about these two things in order to survive. It is on the latter subject of job opportunities that I want to devote the rest of my speech and I think it is appropriate that it should follow the discussion of the matter of public importance on the general subject of unemployment.
The last two years have been extraordinarily difficult ones in the area of economic management. Had it not been for the iron will- I say that advisedly- of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), ably supported by the former Treasurer and other Ministers, it would have been impossible to stem the haemorrhage flowing from externally inflicted and some self inflicted economic wounds. I welcome the commitment given in the Speech to build on the substantial progress already made, of which we have had clear evidence in the fall in interest rates and in the fall of inflation below 10 per cent. The fall in interest rates is particularly important as it is the really tangible evidence that the Government’s economic policies are working. It will encourage businesses to maintain their staffs and to think about new investment. It makes it possible for consumers to reduce their mortgage interest repayments and to think about extending houses, perhaps buying new ones, or new household items such as furniture and carpets. The fall in interest rates will certainly encourage further employment. The really tangible results of the policy are now beginning to be seen.
The next pay-off must be in the area of employment. It is here that the Government’s critics can score cheap points without necessarily having any coherent alternative program to suggest. I think it is unrealistic to suggest, after following certain economic policies for two years in periods of extraordinary difficulty, that there should be an immediate turnaround the day a new government takes office. I am confident that the Government’s economic package will improve the climate of employment this year. However I think we all recognise the longer term task as well as the immediate one. We in Australia share with the Western world the structural problems in patterns of employment. Certainly there are changing patterns which may require basic changes in the structure of our economy and possibly also in our lifestyle in order to get back to the infinitesimal levels of unemployment that we enjoyed before 1972.
Youth unemployment is a particular concern. I had the very great privilege to attend a meeting addressed by the late Senator Humphrey in New
York in 1976. Senator Humphrey had an extraordinary capacity to identify problems, to articulate them and to make people concerned about them. I always felt that he was not quite so good in putting forward precise programs to deal with those problems. I was very moved by his statement about youth unemployment in America, particularly that of young blacks which was in excess of 30 per cent. He stated that unless it was treated as an absolute first priority it could become a cancer within the American community even more damaging than that of Vietnam. We too must treat this problem as a matter of great concern- not just by talking about it, not just by expressing concern, but we must realise that the attitudes of life and work of a whole generation can be distorted if suitable choices of employment are not available to our youth.
I think it is important to identify some of the separate factors affecting employment opportunities so that we can obtain some idea of the situation we could achieve by good economic management, structural change or a total change in attitude. Some of the problems of unemployment are brought about by more discrimination on the part of those seeking jobs. Higher levels of education have given young people the view that they will accept only certain types of employment. We have to accept that as being a natural outflow not necessarily of more successful education but of more plentifully available education programs. We also note that there are more women in the work force. I do not think this is bad at all, except in cases where women are forced to work when they would rather stay at home. In 1954 some 22.8 per cent of the work force were women; in 1977 the figure was 35.6 per cent. Of course we have had to provide jobs for those women.
The restructuring of industry has had its effect on the economy. Much of that restructuring in the rural sector had already occurred by 1972 when the former Government left office. Rural employment had fallen from 13.3 per cent of the work force in 1 954 to 7.9 per cent in 1 972. It has fallen slightly further since then, adding to unemployment problems, but the main restructuring in the rural sector occurred before 1972. A more dramatic movement has occurred in manufacturing. In 1954, 27.8 per cent of the work force was in the manufacturing sector, compared with 26 per cent in 1972. There was some fall, which was indicative of a trend. But the 26 per cent of 1972 is translated into 21.5 per cent in 1977. In terms of the total work force, that gives us some idea of where these jobs have gone.
What were the reasons? Besides the general problem which has been shared by other developed countries of a decline in manufacturing, there were self-inflicted wounds without any doubt. The revaluation of late December 1972 of 7 per cent was one factor; the across-the-board tariff cut of July 1973 of 25 per cent was another. The labour cost increases, particularly in 1974, when wage rates went up by 28 per cent over 1973, put us well above American wage rates, whereas, previously we had held a competitive advantage. No single thing amongst these was responsible for this restructuring. The combined effect of these, together with certain other things that were happening to business, had a profound effect on the structure of our manufacturing industry. A restructuring which may have been spread over a very great number of years, with the possible reintroduction of new jobs in manufacturing industry to replace the old, was rendered impossible and the whole thing was done in a very short time without any replacement.
Another factor operating at this time was that the cost of employing youth was increased relative to the cost of employing other workers, to the disadvantage of youth. The cost of employing women, to my mind, was rightly increased. It is interesting to see that it had virtually no effect on the employment of women. Industries Assistance Commission inquiries had an extraordinarily damaging psychological effect, supported as they were by the then Government with a great deal of rhetoric which was damaging to business confidence and decision-making. In fact, many industries and companies expired purely because of the extremely adverse reactions to being pilloried in public. The idea of having a draft report which seemed so final and which was generally picked up by others and used to beat the industry concerned had a damaging effect upon the psychology of that industry which I believe was not understood by those who had well-intentioned designs of restructuring the industry. I do not believe it was so much bad intention as a lack of understanding of the decision-making processes of those businesses that were affected. At the same time the Prices Justification Tribunal was set up, new trade practices legislation not wholly in keeping with the requirements of a small market like Australia was being introduced, and there was a great deal of hysteria about multinationals. The combined effect was such as to accentuate the other measures and to bring about a dramatic fall in the manufacturing employment.
What are the conclusions we draw from this and what are the things we should be looking at? As a member of this House I hope to use some of my past experience in business and the analysis of business undertakings to look at some of these things in greater depth with a longer term future in mind rather than looking at our immediate economic problems. We obviously must accept the damage done by tariff cuts, revaluation and the wage explosion as having occurred. Those events are behind us now. Their effects are not fully behind us. Obviously, we must continue to put forward responsible submissions to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on wages and keep a restraining hand there. We should consider also possibly changing certain benefits already given. Certain industries, for example, tourism and the hotel industry, have been sorely damaged by silly benefits regarding penalty and overtime rates and the like agreed to in that period. My State colleague in the New South Wales Parliament, Mr Dowd last week detailed the loss of employment in the tourist industry due to these benefits which were certainly not in the interests of the workers concerned and certainly not seen by those workers to be in their interests. They were negotiated at higher levels without adequate reference back.
We need to have a more co-operative and planned approach with industry to have this necessary restructuring. It is awfully important that we do not introduce measures with the wrong psychology that will kill off industries before they have the opportunity to restructure themselves in line with external market requirements. I should also like to see defence production brought more into this equation. We might need to be more adventurous in the kinds of things we buy in Australia and perhaps there should be some cost penalty and some substantial increase in the defence budget as a proportion of the whole.
We need to welcome the role of women in the work force but we should not necessarily have them there by force. We ought to examine the incentives we could give to women to stay at home. I do not know what the economic implications of this are: I would like to have a look at that. Perhaps we could examine the possibility of a tax reduction for private people in domestic employment, not just for women but for men as well, as a means of expanding employment. We have to accept greater discrimination amongst job seekers as something desirable. Certainly the role of the education system in creating false expectations should be examined and I will certainly be looking at the Williams report with considerable interest when it is available.
I do not think we should accept that it is impossible to have growth in this day and age. In
Australia we may be able to have a good growth economy when other countries are relatively static. We are one of the few countries that could consider the option of vastly expanded immigration. It is possible that the net benefits of such immigration would outweigh the difficulties in employing migrants. I would certainly like to see this option looked at carefully. We might also put greater emphasis on Australian rather than foreign investment. Much nonsense is talked in this area and there is much concern about the socalled multinationals and foreign corporations. I have worked overseas in industry. I have worked with American corporations, advised them and observed how they work. I am not frightened of them. It is important for Australians to understand how they work. We are a sovereign nation, we set our own laws, we have our own views about what should be done for us and we will achieve our national objectives more effectively by understanding, by determination and by pushing our own interests rather than by hysteria and lack of understanding. There may well be a need to re-examine the way our capital market operates. It may be necessary for us to sacrifice a great deal of our security of investment in Australia in order to promote more Australian risk investment and perhaps thereby import fewer pieces of equipment from overseas that could be made here.
Overall, I believe it is necessary for us to have an absolutely creative approach to the new structure of our economy over the next 20 or 30 years and not to assume that we must necessarily be a totally tributary economy of overseas economies. It is necessary for us to look at our own skills. We have in Australia the necessary skills to look at the problem with creativity and imagination. I certainly do not accept that overseas is best. I have worked in places overseas where people did not have anywhere overseas to look and they had to sit down and do things themselves. This is something that some of our best people have done. It is something that nationally more of us should do. Certainly in what is a world problem of youth unemployment and unemployment on a general scale we should have an Australianmade solution which may well lead the world.
-Mr Speaker, I rise to second the motion so ably moved by my colleague the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) that the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to.
Before speaking to the motion though, I would like to take this opportunity, as did the mover, of extending to you personally, Mr Speaker, my sincerest congratulations on your new year knighthood and on your re-election as Speaker of this House. As a student of politics, for the past two years I have listened keenly to your contributions as Speaker. I fully endorse the remarks made yesterday in this House by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) and others, when I say that I believe you have brought to your office and this place, great dignity, an important sense of propriety and, in what is often an electric and intense environment, fairness and impartiality, and a very welcome sense of humour. I am still a student of politics but, more relevantly, I am a new member of this House. I look forward to serving for many years under your patient guidance, Mr Speaker.
At this time may I also convey my congratulations to the newly elected Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker.
Further, I wish to pay tribute to another person who first stood to speak in this building, but in the other place, 35 years ago. That person also had the honour, which I now share, of being involved in the moving and seconding of a motion in respect of the Address-in-Reply. But that person, in being elected to the Commonwealth Parliament, also achieved another distinctionthe distinction of being the first woman member of the Senate.
The person to whom I refer is, of course, Dame Dorothy Margaret Tangney. To those honourable members in this House who do not know her, or indeed of her, let me state that Dame Dorothy was a distinguished Western Australian senator for 25 years, from 1943 to 1 968. Her abiding interests throughout her career were to uphold and maintain the dignity and the importance of the Parliament, to further the people’s claims in the area of social welfare and to contribute to the planning and development of Canberra as the nation ‘s capital.
Her creation as a Dame of the British Empire on her retirement and the establishment and naming after her in 1974 of the Federal seat of Tangney were fitting marks of recognition of Dame Dorothy’s long service to the people of Western Australia and the nation.
Dame Dorothy is today still reasonably active. I consider myself extremely fortunate in having had the opportunity to call on her and to meet and to talk with the very person after whom my seat in this House is named.
She is truly a grand old lady of Australian politics. Her portrait hangs in Kings Hall, and she has the rare distinction of having met all of the men who have been Australian Prime Ministers to date.
I bring from her to this Parliament warm greetings to old colleagues, and I stand ready to return the same. May I say to those honourable members concerned that such greetings may not be before time if they wish to influence her remembrance and record of history for, barring ill health, she fully intends to complete her autobiography.
In paying tribute to Dame Dorothy I have mentioned my electorate of Tangney. At the outset I again thank my Party in the Tangney electorate for selecting me as its candidate. Further I thank all Party members and supporters, as well as my very close State parliamentary colleagues in the area, for the tireless work and effort that they put into the election campaign to ensure that I could stand in this place today.
Geographically, Tangney is well known to most honourable members in this House, if for no other reason than that in its brief three-year history it has already been described twice by new members making their maiden speeches. As the third member, I trust that it will be a case of third time lucky. I do not wish, however, to be unduly superstitious, but it may be prudent that I should not follow precedent too closely.
Suffice it to say, then, Tangney is basically south-east metropolitan Perth. Mainly it is made up of dormitory suburbs, some old and well established, many new and fast-growing, although it has some areas of light industry.
Demographically though, I believe Tangney represents a microscopic picture of Australian urban society- old people and young families; all types of workers, be they unskilled or manual; professional people; academics; students and migrants. They are all to be found in Tangney. It is a microcosm of urban Australian society. As such people in Tangney experience the same hardships and problems, have the same goals and aspirations, and enjoy the same pleasures and relaxations as do urban dwellers all over Australia.
I am very proud and honoured to represent Tangney and its people- my people- in this Parliament. I know I have a great responsibility towards them to provide them with full-time grass roots representation and to play my part in this Parliament to ensure that this country is governed in accordance with their wishes and needs, insofar as those objectives are compatible with the wishes and needs of the nation as a whole. Certainly they deserve from me no less.
It is at this point that I return my attention to the Governor-General’s address. I do so with enthusiasm and excitement, and confidence for the future. I believe it to be an address which reiterates and comprehensively expands on policies which the Government has pursued with enormous success over the past two years.
Past achievements are noted. I refer to those concerned with the economy- inflation sharply reduced, interest rates falling, government spending under control, business confidence and investment reviving, the excessive taxation burden relieved. One can find similar impressive achievements in the area of social welfare: Family allowances, the supporting parent’s benefit and the indexation of pensions and benefits. The list is long.
But the Governor-General ‘s address is not one which records past achievements. It clearly outlines many objectives and programs for the future. Amongst these are several of direct interest to me. One of them is concerned with continued taxation relief- keeping money in the pockets of those who earn it, giving them the responsibility and the freedom to dispose of it as they wish and choose.
Another is the further development of the concept of new federalism, giving the States and local government greater decision-making powers and responsibility- putting power where it belongs, closest to the people it most affects.
Another area of interest to me is the need for wage restraint and the direct link between that and the relief of unemployment.
Another is the urgent development of our uranium resources and the North West Shelf.
I am interested also in government-boosted assistance being available to small business all over the country. These are some of the areas of interest to me. Certainly they are all areas of vital importance to the nation. The great temptation is to attempt to speak on all of them. But debates on these topics will follow and opportunities to speak will come again later.
As I resist temptation then, let my comments foreshadow separate contributions I may be able to make on these areas in the future, given the opportunity to do so in this place. Suffice it now for me to say that in the Governor-General’s address the Government boldly faces up to the great problems of the nation. In facing up to them it projects and puts forward policies and objectives which I know will achieve the desired end- the development of an economically and socially healthy and prosperous Australia, rich in opportunity for all its people to live the life they choose, fully and freely.
I believe that this Government recognises the problems. The Government has the policies to overcome those problems, and those policies enjoy the support of the majority of the people. There will, of course, be debate, discussion and indeed modification, but I believe that with these policies success and solutions are simply a function of application, effort, resolve and time.
I now wish to address myself to one final topic and one topic only. I believe it to be an issue of the greatest fundamental importance as this country moves from the decade of the 1970s into the 1980s. I believe it is an issue which goes beyond policy, and the mandate that can be found for that policy in election results. That something of which I speak I believe to be found deep in the mood of the nation and the feeling of the people. One senses it in the community, in the air almost. One certainly discovers it from talking to everyday, average Australians the country over. That something I believe is the yearning and the longing of the nation- the silent but overwhelming cry of the people for national leadership. We must recognise that there has been in our society over recent years a crisis of confidence in our political system. The mood of the nation is for stability, security and certainty. I believe the feeling of the people to be for social harmony, political respect, parliamentary peace, electoral normality and national unity. This country needs leadership that is strong, direct and purposeful, yet fair and compassionate; leadership that is morally and politically incorrupt and incorruptible; leadership that recognises and holds up high, above all else, the personal freedom of individual men and women; that puts people first, rejecting any notion of subservience to the State; leadership that recognises personal choice, initiative, enterprise and energy; leadership that withdraws from the nuts and bolts of everyday life decisionmaking and instead provides leadership- just that, leadership- which points the way by example and by deed and action.
In electing the Fraser Government in 1975 I believe the nation was calling for this kind of leadership. Clearly, the people wanted to put the division, dissension and bitterness of the early 1970s far behind them. In returning the same Fraser Government in 1 977 1 believe further that the people were still desperately crying out for this leadership. One can see the urgency of their desperation reflected in the voting shifts away from the major political parties, the two major potential sources of leadership in this land. Yet I believe that drift is unwarranted. I believe these people can find reason now to put away their disappointment and temporary desperation. For now, over and above matters of specific policy, the Government fully recognises its commitment to the people of this country, the commitment to act as a government for the whole nation, to reach out and embrace the whole country. In giving this commitment I am delighted to see that the Government sees it in terms of a trust to be honoured. In my view it is a trust of enormous responsibility. It is a trust that goes beyond single issues of policy. It is a trust from the very soul of the nation. It is a trust that I believe has been accepted none too soon. With that trust and the leadership necessary to honour it rests the very faith of this nation in its politicians, in the democratic Westminster style of government, in the Constitution and in the essential nature of our present decision-making process.
Let there be no mistake or misunderstanding of the importance of that trust. If that trust, once accepted, is broken or if the execution of that trust is not up to the national expectation, I shudder to think about which way the mood of the nation will turn. Will it die or disappear dejectedly leaving the way open for the fanatics of the left or the right? Will it again act decisively but this time in the direction of the extreme left or the extreme right, rejecting parliamentary democracy as being corrupt and uselessly ineffectual and impotent? I feel it may be in the direction of the extreme right for the left has already been soundly rejected. But whatever the possibilities, it is in the hands of this Government to ensure the success of and continuing support for the parliamentary democracy and its decision-making process which I so much love and revere.
Despite my solemn words of remembrance for the importance of the task before the Government and my raising of possible future dire consequences, I have every confidence that this Government can succeed in honouring this trust and honouring it well. It is a Government that for two years has displayed a strong, defined sense of purpose and direction in the area of policy with considerable success which I know will continue. At the same time, it has now recognised an even fundamentally greater task. That task I know is also recognised in this place. Only yesterday I heard honourable members from both sides of the House calling for greater respect for the institution of Parliament. That respect, I believe, can be simply engendered by examples of respectful behaviour, and in that context I thank all honourable members for listening to me in silence. In the same way, I believe that by encouraging reasoned and rational debate in this
House, by rejecting cheap political point scoring and the cheap jibe, this House as a whole can assist the Government, itself, the democratic processes and the nation. I believe the Government has the policies for success. I know the Government has the ministerial quality on the front bench and the necessary Prime Ministerial stature and integrity. We backbench members, I believe, must also rise to the occasion. With unity behind it I know the Government can go on to further display that leadership which will not only ensure the continuation of this nation’s measured and sustained progress but also that leadership which can rekindle in the hearts and minds of the people confidence, national spirit and the deserved respect for our institutionsthree things which are all so vitally necessary for true national greatness.
-While the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) was speaking, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) entered the chamber and in the practice that has been accepted in the past, nodded his head as he passed between the Speaker and the honourable member speaking. I do not single out the honourable member for Kennedy other than to draw to the attention of the House that the Standing Orders provide that members shall not pass between the member speaking and the Speaker. I drew the attention of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) to this earlier today. I regard it as a matter of courtesy to the member who is speaking. I mentioned both the honourable member for Hindmarsh and the honourable member for Kennedy as both of them are members with considerable seniority who will not feel offended by my drawing this to the attention of the whole House and by using them as criteria.
– May I say that I heard him but I could not see him.
-Mr Speaker, may I add my congratulations to you upon receipt of your Imperial honour and also upon your re-election to the high office of Speaker. I shall be grateful if you will convey my congratulations to the Chairman of Committees, your deputy, on his election to his high office. I would also be most remiss if I were not to congratulate the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) and the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack) for the contributions they have made in the House this day in their first speeches. I am quite sure that from neither gentleman will it be his last. I take issue with the honourable member for Mackellar on just a couple of points. It seems to me from what the honourable gentleman was saying that his solution to the unemployment problem in Australia -
-Order! I interrupt the honourable gentleman. There is very considerable need for congratulations to the honourable members who moved and seconded the motion, but I ask honourable members to remember that another member is addressing the House.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. I do not quite share the exuberance for the future expressed in their speeches. It seems to me that the solution put forward by the honourable member for Mackellar to the unemployment problems of Australia is for all Australians to go into menial servitude in domestic service. He said that the tourist industry was damaged by silly benefits given to employees. As I heard his words, he said in effect that if the tourist industry in this country is to prosper, it will prosper by being able to use employees at a lower rate of pay than is generally acceptable in the community or with lesser benefits than are acceptable to the community. In other words, he said that the tourist industry in Australia can best be boosted by the employees in that industry subsidising it so that those who own the industry will be in a much sounder financial position. He elaborated on that point. He went on to say that it could be worth while if tax deductions were given to those who employed people in domestic employment. Again the honourable member made the point about people being in the menial employment of other people. He said that service in the tourist industry and in the domestic service of other people could be described only as menial and that people should be encouraged to go into those industries to become servants and to benefit those who cared to employ them.
The honourable gentleman said that he had a great deal of business analysis experience. I trust that under the iron will of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the honourable member will display that experience whilst he is a member of this chamber. But the honourable gentleman obviously has no knowledge of the industrial laws in this country or he would know that people who go into private domestic employment are not covered by any award; they are completely award-free. The reason for that is that the courts are loathe to give trade union officials the right to enter people ‘s private homes. So the honourable gentleman would be quite happy to see a situation in which those who could afford to employ people from out of the vast army of unemployed- the 450,000- to do their menial tasks for them, would do so at a rate of pay which they determined. That, to me, is not quite Australian. It is quite unacceptable to me, and I feel sure it would be quite unacceptable to the majority of Australians.
Because of the honourable gentleman’s familiarity with multinationals, he was given to say that he was not afraid of them. He said: ‘Well, why should we be afraid of them? We are a sovereign nation’. I point out to him that Chile is also a sovereign nation, but it would seem that a vast multinational corporation had a great deal to do with the destruction of the Marxist government in Chile and with the death of the President of Chile, President Allende. So in that context I express fear of the multinationals. I am not too sure that the sovereignty of any nation is as strong as the power wielded by multinational corporations which stride across national boundaries and which owe allegiance to nobody but themselves.
I wish I could share the exuberance of the honourable member for Tangney who said his piece very well. I listened to him with great intent, as did other honourable members. He endeavoured to enthuse the House with the thought that there is a horizon. However, he has overlooked the fact that Western Australia already has its quota of Ministers.
– A toastmaster.
-The honourable member for Hughes reminds me that the honourable member for Tangney is probably an ex-toastmaster. But I do not believe that the Parliament could have been more demeaned nor that the electorate could have been more betrayed than it was by the address made to the Thirty-first Parliament by the GovernorGeneral. His Excellency the Governor-General is a loyal and principled person, quite unlike his predecessor, and it must have disappointed him greatly to have been asked to mouth the platitudes incorporated in the Speech and to have been reduced to the level of a loquacious backslapper for a government of autocrats which is intent on destroying every civil liberty enjoyed by the Australian people, a government so unsure of itself, so lacking in self-confidence -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Is it within the Standing Orders to describe the Governor-General as a loquacious back-slapper?
-The point of order is sustained. I ask the honourable member for Burke to withdraw the remark.
-May I argue that point, Mr Deputy Speaker? I did not say -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I have ruled on the point of order. I now call on the honourable member to withdraw the remark.
-Will you tell me which remark to withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker? Are you asking me to withdraw the statement that the Governor-General is a loquacious backslapper or would you wish me to repeat the words I used?
– I request you to repeat the words which you used to describe the Governor-General.
-I said ‘it must have disappointed him greatly to have been asked to mouth the platitudes incorporated in the Speech and to have been reduced to the level of a loquacious back-slapper’. I am not saying that the -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. After discussion with the Clerk, I am persuaded that the reference is not sufficiently direct to offend the Governor-General. The remark is allowed, and the point of order is disallowed.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. With the greatest respect to you, sir, I shall refuse to be seated in future when I know that I am correct.
– The honourable member must not reflect on the chair.
-I am not reflecting on the chair, sir. I have been sent here by some 69,000 constituents, and I will continue to stand in this place whilst I am correct.
-Order! The honourable member will proceed with his speech.
-Thank you. I was saying that this is a government of autocrats who are intent on destroying every civil liberty enjoyed by the Australian people, a government which is so unsure of itself, so lacking in selfconfidence, that it will not brook the citizenry organising itself to express a contrary view. This Government, led by the present Prime Minister stole office in 1975 by conspiring with the man Kerr, who then occupied the illustrious office of Governor-General. There has been great speculation about whether there was a conspiracy, but we have now been made wiser by the passage of time. A defunct position was resurrected. In other words, a sinecure was created to provide a further $30,000 a year as a pay-off for services rendered. That is not my view; that is how the electorate sees it. The strongest Liberal supporters in my town are ashamed of such blatant reprehensible behaviour by the Prime Minister. Tawdry, pedestrian and banal as the Speech by His Excellency may have been, it almost attained an aura by comparison with the dull, lacklustre statements we have just heard.
Let us firstly consider the rhetoric of His Excellency’s Speech. It contained phrases such as:
After two years of hard work and substantial achievement, Australians now look to the future with new found confidence.
Government supporters- Hear, hear!
-Government supporters say, ‘Hear, hear! ‘. How the speechwriter must have been pleased with himself as those words rolled off the platen of his typewriter. There is a well-known Australian expression which describes the Governor-General’s statement perfectly. I cannot use it in this place, but it is equated with bovine excrement. I expect to hear that expression in its crudest sense when I repeat those words to the more than 3,000 people registered for unemployment at the Glenroy Commonwealth Employment Service office. I expect the 1,700 under 20-year-olds registered at the same office to be even more forceful. The 450,000 Australian people who are seeking work but who cannot find it would lift the roof off this august building if they called out in unison. To think that such arrogant smugness could be so introduced to a speech made to all Australians! What confidence can a young person unemployed for nine months or more have? His horizons are not very broad on $39.50 a week. What confidence can a young married man with children have if he cannot find work? We must do away with the attitude of the blue rinse set that there is work for those who want it.
Our Prime Minister once tried his hand at finding work for the unemployed. He rang one of his Melbourne Club cronies at Nylex in Bentleigh and obtained an undertaking that there would be jobs there for three young men. The young men had homes in the electorate of Wannon. Yet the Prime Minister offered them jobs that were more than 250 miles away and for which there was no regular bus service. Let us imagine the confidence of a middle aged or near middle aged man in employment who, on any pay-day, can receive a slip of paper in his pay packet terminating his services. If the Government understood these problems it would not make such asinine remarks.
The first section of His Excellency’s Speech is full of such idiotic unjustifiable platitudes. Platitudes and rhetoric will never 4>e accepted by the people as remedies for the ills that beset our great nation. No government that has brought sterility and stagnation to our society and our economy can expect to receive plaudits; rather it will receive brickbats.
Many contradictions appear in the Speech. For example, His Excellency speaks about the ‘Rigorous restraint of Government expenditure so as to provide for longer term expansion in the private sector’. Is this Government completely unaware that the biggest single purchaser in the Australian community is the Australian Government itself? Is the Government completely unaware that it has a major and significant role in the development and construction of the infrastructure needed to allow for the expansion of our nation? Has the Government overlooked the fact that government purchases are made from private suppliers? Does the Government not know that public works are carried out by private contractors? The Government’s argument is without logic or even common sense. Perhaps the psychological effect on the community of the Government ‘s tight-fisted policy should be explained to it. Again we hear a rejection of the notion that there can be a trade-off between inflation and unemployment. Who, other than the immediate past Treasurer, can understand that gobbledegook? The Governor-General loudly proclaimed that his Government ‘ . . . will continue to give the highest priority to reducing inflation for only in this way can there be a substantial reduction in unemployment’. Such impudence, such disregard for facts and such a retreat from a former position! We have been told by the Prime Minister and his previously trusted buddy, the Deputy Leader of the Liberals, that inflation was being drastically reduced; indeed that when it reached a single digit figure it would be manageable. Well, the claim over the last two years was that in fact it was being reduced, and amid wild squeals of delight it was announced in December that inflation for the calendar year 1977 was a single digit figure. Small comfort to those who had been added to the dole queues. The dole queues did not grow shorter; in fact, they consistently grew longer.
Let us examine the equation as served up by the Liberal Government. It says that less inflation means more employment opportunities, therefore less unemployed. The equation in fact has been less inflation, fewer job opportunities equals more unemployment. These boys are hard to convince though, so instead of studying their theorum they proceeded to allege that the statistics were wrong. I checked the statistics for my area and surprisingly for the Government I found they represented people- men and women, young and not so young, able, capable and willing to work and unable to find it. Why does the House have to be hectored with this blatant humbug?
The matter of trade unions obviously is very high in the mind of the Government. The Government has tried over the last two years to introduce legislation to destroy the trade unions. It fears the trade unions. It fears any group of citizens who come together with the aim of ensuring that democracy in this country is not destroyed. There can be no stronger organisation of people in this country for the protection of democracy than the trade unions- the great trade unions with their long history, their long traditions of democracy in this country. His Excellency the Governor-General said:
My Government will continue to support industrial laws which protect the rights of individual unionists and which contribute to a just and orderly system of industrial relations.
What a beautiful sentence! We know from the experience of the last two years what is meant by this business of protecting the rights of individual unionists. We know that it is to foment, to foster and to protect scabs in the trade union movement with an intent to destroy the trade union movement from within. We know that from the legislation that either has been introduced or was attempted to be introduced into this place. What is meant by ‘contribute to a just and orderly system of industrial relations’? Only the Government can interpret what is just and orderly in its system of industrial relations. In other words, those things which please the Government in industrial relations will be considered as being just and orderly. Those things which displease the Government apparently will be found to be unjust and disorderly and therefore to be crushed. That is a dangerous statement to make; a very dangerous statement to make in any democratic country. However, it surprises me not with this Government with its avowed anti-union attitude, with its history of union-bashing, that that statement is there. The Governor-General went on to say:
A wider spirit of participation and employee involvement in the work-place will be encouraged so that employees and employers can co-operate to improve industrial safety, working conditions, job satisfaction and productivity.
I applaud that statement. It is about the only sensible statement that I could find in the whole of the document I applaud it because the words of one of the Government’s own Ministers, the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) in a statement issued in Canberra, dated 20 February 1978 and headed ‘High Cost of Industrial Accidents and Occupational Illnesses’, make it quite clear that the cost to industry of lost production in any year caused by industrial accidents and occupational disease is twice the amount of time lost through industrial disputes. In the almost 9 years that I have been a member of this Parliament not once have I heard any member of the Liberal Party or the Country Party stand in this place and say that there was a need to reduce lost production time by finding out through industrial clinics the causes of industrial diseases so as to prevent industrial accidents. Rather I have heard them stand regularly and at the drop of a hat give us a great diatribe about the number of man days lost through industrial disputes. I remind the House- these are the Minister’s own figures- that in 1971-72 the number of working days lost was 320,000 and a year later 360,000 and time lost through disability resulting from accidents rose from 840,000 man weeks in the previous year to just over one million man weeks in 1973-74. This is a far more serious problem in many ways than industrial disputes. I look forward to the Government following the advice of its Minister for Productivity and doing something positive in this area and not just rabblerousing on the whole question of industrial disputes no matter for what reason.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– It gives me great pleasure to rise in this Address-in-Reply debate to the Governor-General’s Speech, a Speech to which we all listened with great interest yesterday in the Senate chamber. I take this opportunity to congratulate our two new members, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) and the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack) who have made their maiden speeches in moving and seconding the motion in respect to the Address-in-Reply. It is always an important time in the life of any member and both honourable gentlemen have acquitted themselves well today. I wish also to congratulate the Speaker, the right honourable member for Bruce (Sir Billy Snedden), on his reelection to his high office and on the knighthood which has been bestowed on him by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Billy Snedden entered this Parliament some 23 years ago as a young man; he was in his twenties. His service to his fellow Australians and to this Parliament has been distinguished. Both his knighthood and his re-election as Speaker are well deserved honours. I also congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on becoming the Chairman of Committees. As a Deputy Chairman of Committees I look forward to working closely with you in the coming parliamentary session. Congratulations also are in order to the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who has been elected by his Party, the Australian Labor Party, to fulfil the role of Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. I wish him a long tenure in that post.
In referring to the new Leader of the Opposition, one cannot but mention his predecessor, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam). In the eleven or so years that I have been a member of this House, Gough Whitlam always has been leader of his Party. It seems strange to me, as it no doubt does to others, to see him sitting on a back bench. As one who supported governments that preceded his and who supported the Government which replaced his Government, I cannot but pay tribute to him and to the role he has played in this Parliament and, indeed, in Australia. It was said of Caesar by Shakespeare’s Mark Antony:
The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones.
I am not suggesting that the honourable member for Werriwa did any evil. But the point I wish to make is that -
– He is far from being interred.
– People are inclined to see and remember only the wrong men do or the mistakes men make in public office and to forget the good that they have done. I in no way wish to equate the honourable member for Werriwa with Caesar. But it is worth noting in passing that Caesar was knifed in the back; Gough Whitlam stood down as leader of his own free will and with what I believe to be considerable grace following the defeat of his Party at the recent election. I am one of many honourable members on this side of the House who have criticised many of the policies which he and his Government expounded. But one would be less than fair if one did not say also that there were many good initiatives and innovations which he brought into effect which will be for the lasting good of Australia. He has been a man of considerable stature and I believe that this Parliament has been a better place for his membership of it. I sincerely hope that this present move does not mark the beginning of a premature retirement. I am assured by the honourable member for
Scullin (Dr Jenkins) that this is not so. Gough Whitlam still has a great deal to contribute to this nation. I hope that a position which will make use of his considerable abilities and talents will come along in the not too distant future.
However, the greatest congratulations of all must go to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). In 1975 Malcolm Fraser led the coalition Parties into the greatest victory of any government since Federation. After two years in office he then led our Parties to the second greatest victory of any government since Federation. That is some achievement. But the career of Malcolm Fraser has been one of considerable achievement. This is true also of the first Fraser Government.
When our Government first took office in December 1975, we inherited an economy which was in considerable disarray. At that time inflation was running at 17 per cent and unemployment at 5 per cent of the work force. One of the first announcements of Prime Minister Fraser was that the curing of Australia’s economic ills would have top priority with his Government and that it saw the reduction of the inflation rate as a major factor in achieving this. Due to the Government’s policies, inflation now has been reduced in two years from 1 7 per cent to 9 per cent and there is evidence to support the belief that inflation will fall further by the end of the financial year. In addition, interest rates have begun to fall and should fall further during the coming year.
A major problem still facing the Government is a reduction in the rate of unemployment which has been boosted to around 6 per cent as school leavers have entered the work force. An unemployment figure of this dimension in the past has been quite foreign to Australia, apart from during the Depression of the 1 930s, although it is accepted as the norm in some other Western democracies. Unemployment is not only an economic problem; it is also a very human problem. I was glad to hear the Governor-General state in his Speech yesterday that one of the Government’s top priorities would be to build on the progress made in the last two years, to defeat inflation and unemployment and to restore full economic health to the nation. The policy of the Government to place a high priority on employment and training schemes, particularly those which increase the skills of young people to enable them to take job opportunities as they arise, is to be applauded.
In his policy speech before the last electionthis was confirmed by the Governor-General in his address yesterday- the Prime Minister promised that within the course of the next three years local government’s share of personal income tax receipts would be increased from 1.52 per cent to 2 per cent. I am delighted that this is to occur and it is a policy I have advocated for some time. However, I am sorry that it will take three years before the figure of 2 per cent is finally reached. I am sure that councils in the municipalities of Nunawading and Ringwood and the ever expanding city of Knox- cities covered by the electorate of Deakin- will agree with me in that regard. In fact, I know that they will. I have always believed that there are many functions which should be performed at the local level rather than from Spring Street in Melbourne or Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. But the limiting factor on councils has always been lack of finance and there is a limit to how much rate payers can be taxed. I realise that the Government has provided substantial increases in general purpose assistance for local government since it came to office two years ago. This must not be forgotten. An amount of $ 140m was provided in 1976-77, an increase of 75 per cent over the amount provided in 1975-76 when the Whitlam Government was in office and that $ 165.3m was provided in 1977-78, representing a further increase of 1 8 per cent over the amount provided in 1976-77. The proposed increase over the next three years in local government’s entitlement to two per cent of net personal income tax collections will further assist local councils to meet their commitments to their residents. But I urge the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Government to make every effort to achieve this figure at an earlier date if possible.
I now turn to another matter. On 12 October last year I made a speech during the adjournment debate in this House advocating the abolition of probate. I would not be so bold as to claim the credit for this Government initiative which the Prime Minister announced in his policy speech. But I would like to think that perhaps he heard my speech and it gave him an idea. In this speech which is recorded at page 1943 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 12 October 1977 1 stated that I believed the abolition of probate would be a just initiative and would be a further step by the Government to bring equity into the taxation system. I pointed out that in the year 1976-77 federal estate duty receipts amounted to $76m. The total receipts from all sources of taxation however amounted to $ 19,497m. As a percentage of overall income, estate duty therefore represents a comparatively small amount. But the hardship imposed by estate duty is in many cases great. Husband and wife can work together for many years to buy a home and raise a family. But we find that such thrift and hard work penalise the surviving spouse following the death of the other spouse. Those people with small businesses and those on the land are particularly affected. Estate duties are expensive to collect, create delays in administering estates, are unequal in their operation and impose hardship on those least able to cope with estate duty. It is a bad tax.
I finished my speech on that occasion by saying that the Government would have taken a further important step in establishing an equitable taxation system if it abolished Federal estate duty. The Government has now taken the first step in this regard by its decision to abolish Commonwealth estate duty on property pasing to a spouse or parent or child of a deceased, and that abolition will be retrospective to 21 November 1977 when the Prime Minister first announced the decision. In addition, no gift duty will be payable on property given on or after that date by a person, his or her spouse or child or parent. The legislation will also provide that estate duty will be abolished altogether in relation to all property in the estates of all persons who die on or after 1 July 1979. Likewise, no gift duty will be payable in respect of any gifts of property made on or after that date. Mr Deputy Speaker, I applaud that decision.
I was disappointed that there was no reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to an increase in immigration. In the late 1960s Australia was absorbing approximately 180,000 newcomers to this country per year. They made a considerable contribution to our development, to our growth and indeed to our whole way of life. The Whitlam Government cut immigration to 30,000 people per year when it became apparent that unemployment in Australia was approaching 5 per cent of the work force. When departures from Australia were taken into account, this reduced immigration figure resulted in a net loss to Australia of between 5,000 and 8,000 people per annum. It is my belief and it is the belief of many informed people that immigrants, rather than increasing unemployment, actually stimulate demand and hence employment. A statement in the Melbourne Sun yesterday by Mr Ian Spicer, the Secretary of the Victorian Employers Federation, is worthy of note. The report read: ‘Unemployment could be cut by stepping up immigration rather than cutting it back’, Mr Ian Spicer said yesterday. ‘Most unemployed people were unskilled or semi-skilled. But for every skilled worker employed, jobs would be created for at least four semi-skilled or unskilled workers.
Consequently migrants coming into Australia, who are especially selected to meet the skills that our society needs, could be the first step towards reducing our level of unemployment, ‘ he said.
The report went on:
In Canberra yesterday, the Immigration Minister, Mr MacKellar, said that any cuts in migrant intake would retard economic recovery. Skilled workers were needed for jobs which could not be filled by unemployed Australians, he said.
When it came into office in 1975 the Government increased immigration from the 30,000 of the Whitlam Government to 70,000. I suggest that there is no evidence to show that that increase adversely affected employment in Australia. If Australia ceases to grow in both productivity and population it will stagnate. Our progress and increase in living standards will slow down. This must not be allowed to occur. I believe that immigration must be stepped up in the not too distant future.
The Governor-General also stated in his Speech that international air fares to Australia are to be reviewed and, hopefully, reduced. This is a wise move. Australia is at the end of the line as far as air fares are concerned. Cheaper fares mean more tourists. More tourists will help Australia’s balance of payments. The GovernorGeneral also stated that in a further effort to boost Australia’s trade balance the Government would embark on a program to increase exports and that increased access to overseas markets would be actively sought. I approve of such action. It is in great contrast to some actions of the Labor Party when in office.
During the recess I travelled via South Africa as part of a fact finding mission which took me to Europe and the United States of America. In South Africa I was informed by Australian officials and businessmen, who were in a position to know, that Australian officials had been informed by the Labor Government that no efforts were to be made to step up trade with South Africa and that no encouragement was to be given to Australian businessmen wishing to trade with South Africa because of its apartheid policies. I am on record in this House as having said that I do not believe that apartheid is the answer to South Africa’s racial problems, but it is sheer lunacy to damage Australia’s export trade to that country because of its internal policies. We are only biting off our nose to spite our face. We are only damaging Australia.
Originally there were two Qantas Airways Ltd and two South African Airways flights per week between Australia and South Africa. No doubt partially due to the reduction in trade between the two countries, these were reduced to one
Qantas and one South African Airways flight per week. Now only one South African Airways flight operates the route and Australia, through its airline, now loses out on what was at one time a very profitable flight path. The first interest of any government must be the welfare of its own people. I hope that in the future this Government will boost our exports to any country which wishes to trade with Australia, whether it practices apartheid, whether it is a communist country or anything else.
There were many other admirable initiatives announced in the Governor-General’s Speech. Time does not permit me to go into them as fully as I would like. No doubt other honourable members on the Government side will do so. The program outlined by the Governor-General is an excellent one. I look forward to a period of stability of government in Australia in the next three years which will enable our Government to carry out its initiatives to the benefit of all who live in this great country of ours.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, first of all I would like to congratulate you upon your election to the position of Chairman of Committees. I did my best behind the scenes to organise a vote against you. We nearly succeeded. But you are there and we accept with good grace the fact that you had the numbers. The majority decision of the Parliament always carries with it my respect and you of course automatically attract to yourself that respect by virtue of the fact that you are the chosen representative of the majority. But, sir, this brings me at once to the very question of the position of Parliament in relation to the executive arm of government.
The executive arm of government itself, the Ministers, should remember occasionally that in politics they are birds today and feather dusters tomorrow. They should remember that they are just as much a part of the Parliament as is the most humble newly arrived backbencher. Therefore every member of this Parliament is beholden to remember that we are living in peace and tranquility and in a state of law and order in this country today because we have the institution of Parliament- because we have a thing called the Parliament. But if the Parliament is to be treated with the scant respect with which the executive arm of government, of parties from both sides of the Parliament have been guilty of treating it and if they are to go on treating the Parliament with the contempt with which they have treated it, they will find that the Parliament which alone stands between the rule of law and the rule of the street will collapse and they will go down with it. The executive arm must realise that it has more to gain by preserving the status and the proud position of Parliament than has the private backbencher of the Parliament.
– Have you forgotten what Jim Cairns said: ‘I will take government to the streets’?
-The honourable gentleman is smiling at the thought of it. He says: ‘We will take government to the streets’. That means that the honourable gentleman, like so many out there in the street, believes that it would not be a bad idea. The more we see of the way in which the Parliament is being abused and being treated with utter contempt by the Executive the more we begin to understand that this institution to which we belong is a very fragile one. It is so fragile that it will collapse unless the Executive starts to return to it the prestige, the power and the position which the people’s Parliament is entitled to hold.
It has been the people’s respect for the institution of Parliament that has saved us from the violence of revolution and the law of the street. It has been nothing else. It has just been the people’s inane respect for a parliament which most people, foolishly, still think is the supreme power in the land. If the people of the country knew how the Parliament was being treated by the Executive- like the rubber stamp that it has become- they would no longer give us the respect that they, in their ignorance, now give to us. But the veil of ignorance is being torn aside, mainly by the arrogance of Ministers and the arrogance of Prime Ministers. The people are beginning to question whether the thing in which they had such faith for so many generations is something worthy of continued faith.
Unless something is done to change the relationship between the Parliament and the Executive arm of government the people will not be entitled to continue to have the faith they now have in the Parliament, because the Parliament will be an expensive rubber stamp that ought to be cast to one side. If we are to have a dictatorship by one man let us get rid of the tomfoolery of pretending that we have a democracy. Nobody wants to dispense with the great institution which has stood the test of time and which for 600 years has given to the English-speaking people of the world the proud distinction of their being the only people in the whole world who have true government of the people, by the people, for the people. We have not got that system any more. We now have government of the people by a dictatorship or a faked democracy for the benefit of the privileged few. The Parliament is no longer a people ‘s parliament.
Until 11 November 1975 a majority of our people always believed that social justice and reform could be won by constitutional means per medium of the Parliament. I was one of those people. I am beginning to doubt now that it is possible to bring about social justice and reform through the institution of Parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in particular, is treating the Parliament with utter contempt and disdain. If he is prepared to treat it in that way, why should he expect those outside to do otherwise?
– How can you accuse the Prime Minister of that?
– All Prime Ministers have done it; not only the present Prime Minister. The one before him did it; the one before him; the one before him; and the one before him. Of course they do it. Prime Ministers, irrespective of parties, are all arrogant despots. Once they become Prime Minister they have absolutely no regard for the Parliament. They have absolutely no regard for the Cabinet. They have no regard for the Ministry.
A Minister who wants to get on under this socalled parliamentary democracy has to be a cringing, crawling cur to the Prime Minister. He has no future if he is not. This applies especially in the Liberal Party. A Liberal member cannot get into the Cabinet unless he crawls his way into it like some termite. At least in the Labor Party members are elected to the Cabinet. A Labor Prime Minister cannot say who can be in the Cabinet or out of it. It is true that the last Labor Prime Minister sacked three of those who were elected by the Caucus. It was done apparently on the basis of the Prime Minister saying: ‘The Caucus can elect, but I can reject’. Fortunately, the Caucus has changed its rules. It has now stated clearly that no Minister elected by the Caucus shall ever again be sacked as were Cairns, Cameron and Connor, unless the sacking is done with the approval of three of the four parliamentary leaders and then endorsed by a special meeting of Caucus. At least we have put our house in order, but the Government’s house is not in order.
All members opposite know that there is no future for a Liberal back bencher unless he is prepared to become a yes man to the Prime Minister of the day. When I look around the chamberI notice that the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) is in the chamber at the moment- I see brilliant young men rotting in the back benches while secondraters, nincompoops and yes men are sitting on the front bench. They are there for one reason only. They have been yes men and lickspittles for the Prime Minister. It makes me say that it is time the Parliament sat up and had a good look at itself and had a good look at what Prime Ministers are doing to the Parliament.
The Executive has permitted the erosion of its own power. The Parliament has allowed the Executive to emasculate the Parliament’s power. Prime Ministers have allowed themselves to be seduced and flattered, almost to a point of insensibility, by the expert flatterers in the Public Service. We can hear them now saying: ‘Good morning, Prime Minister. Yes, Prime Minister. No, Prime Minister. Would you like me to brush your boots, Prime Minister? Prime Minister, is the sun in your eyes, sir? Prime Minister, I think that you ought to have a talk to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations because I have a letter here from a very influential person telling me that the Minister is being a little too soft on the unions, Prime Minister’. And the Prime Minister loves it. Every time public servants call him ‘Prime Minister’ their status goes higher and higher. ‘What can I do for this great man?’, says the Prime Minister at the end of the year. A knighthood? ‘No, I would rather have the money’, says the man. Of course the public servant is elevated and goes further and further up the scale. He becomes a level 1, then a level 2, a level 3 and a level 4. Finally the great day arrives when he becomes a First Division officer. This happens all because he said ‘Prime Minister’ often enough at the right time. The Prime Minister’s head gets as big as a boarding house pudding. He then thinks he is as great as the polished flatterers in the Public Service tell him he is. He thinks he is so much greater than the rest of the Ministry that he treats them with the disdain that a man who is as great a man as he is made out to be ought to treat them. So the whole thing becomes a shambles.
I do not mind members of the Executive allowing the Prime Minister to stick the boot into them. I do not mind members of the Executive allowing the Prime Minister to trample on them and to treat them like dirty rags if that is what they feel like. Any thing for the money. I do not mind. That is their business. I object though when the Executive treats the Parliament like a dirty rag. I object to the Executive using the power of party discipline to force Parliament to subjugate its own rights and to grovel in the dirt at the feet of an Executive that ought to be its servant. The party system, I believe, forces the Parliament to debase itself every time the Parliament permits the Executive to tell the Parliament what moneys it will be permitted to spend on its own needs and on its needs to serve the people.
If we are to succeed in restoring the Parliament to its proper position of power, we must begin by lifting the status of the person we elect to be our Speaker. I do not refer to ‘the Speaker’; I refer to ‘our Speaker’, whoever he is, whether it be Sir Bill Snedden or Sir Clyde Cameron. Whoever is elected by this Parliament to be the Speaker is not just the Speaker from one side; he is our Speaker. We have a right to respect him while he is in that position. It is our duty to see that his status is upheld. It is our duty to stand up and revolt against any attempt to demean him, to belittle him or to erode his position of prestige.
The role of the Speaker has been allowed to deteriorate, and the role of the Parliament has deteriorated with it. The deterioration of the role of Speaker began about 1920- more than two generations ago- and steadily we have allowed it to get worse and worse. As we have allowed the status of the Speaker to be reduced we have unwittingly allowed, whether we know it or not, our own status to be reduced, because our status rests with the Chair. The status of that Chair determines what our status is, and the independence of this Parliament over the Executive is determined by the extent to which the Chair is independent of the Executive. The Speaker should have the discretion to accept or to reject a motion for the gag or a motion that a certain elected member of the Parliament should no longer be heard. The Speaker should have the right to say: ‘I reject the motion. Whether you are the Leader of the House or the Prime Minister, I am here to protect the rights of the elected members of this Parliament. I refuse to accept the motion. The honourable member will resume his remarks.’ The Standing Orders can provide for that. By a simple amendment to the Standing Orders we can at once give that power to the Speaker, and we ought to do it. It is a parody of parliamentary democracy that we, the members of the Parliament itself, allow somebody outside the Parliament to fix our Speaker’s salary.
– I agree. It is disgraceful. There is no other democratic system in the world in which the Parliament or the Congress allows an outside body to determine the salary of its Speaker. It is a disgraceful thing and we ought to hang our heads in shame that we allow it to be done. The Speaker’s salary should be fixed by the Parliament itself.
– Hear, hear!
-Hear, hear! I am glad to hear the honourable member say it. The fact that the Executive has permitted our Speaker to be reduced to the salary status of a junior Minister and to a status even below a junior Minister in regard to travel facilities is symbolic of the Executive’s contempt for the Parliament. The office of Mr Speaker does not even appear on the VIP flight list that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) holds in his office to determine who shall be entitled to a VIP flight when the urgency of the situation demands it. Speakers of the House of Commons have always enjoyed the status of a senior Minister. Never have they been below the status of a senior Minister. A senior Minister in the United Kingdom considers that there are only two positions higher than his own at which he can aim. One is to be Prime Minister and the other is to be Speaker of the House of Commons.
– But in England they always fly with a parachute on.
– Speakers in England are not seen as party hacks as we have forced them to become here. They remain in office even with a change of government. They are not opposed in the House of Commons after an election and they are not even opposed by the Government or the opposition parties on the hustings during a general election. The more independent of party politics we can make our Speaker, the more independent will be the Parliament. The more independent the Parliament, the more dependent the Executive arm will be upon the power of Parliament. As things now stand, the Executive determines what money we receive for capital expenditure, staff salaries and for the work of the parliamentary committees. We can appoint parliamentary committees until we are blue in the face but that little coterie down there having their legs pulled by the public servants in the Treasury can say: ‘You can appoint your committees but we will not give them any money to operate. You will not be able to employ a secretary; you will not be able to go overseas to investigate whatever you might need to investigate because we control the Parliament; the Parliament is our rubber stamp and no more.’
– It is contempt of members.
– It is contempt of members. The Parliament can set up whatever committees it likes but always the Executive arm can prevent them from operating. The Speaker now determines the staff, for the Parliament but the Treasury tells him whether the money will be provided for that staff. The Speaker has the right to approve capital expenditure, but the little tinpot public servants in Treasury tell the Speakerthat is, they tell us- whether the money is to be made available. One former Speaker told me that when he wrote to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to try to obtain money to make it possible for members of this Parliament to have rooms to themselves he did not even enjoy the respect of receiving a reply. Never did he receive a reply from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, so contemptuous was the Department of the letter that the Speaker sent. The Governor-General’s message relating to Supply for Parliament should be on the advice of the Speaker.
The Constitutional point that the High Court would have to resolve- I am sure it would resolve it in favour of the Parliament itselfwould determine whether the Speaker is the person who recommends to us what we should spend on our Parliament. The crowning indignity of all- I do not know whether it is true- was the rumour that went around last year that the Prime Minister actually had the hide, the damn cheek and audacity, to tell the Chairman of the Remuneration Tribunal what salaries he thought members of Parliament should receive. The Government, the Executive arm, ought to keep its nose out of the question of parliamentary salaries. It is not a matter for the Executive arm to determine; it is a matter for this Parliament alone. If this Parliament chooses to appoint the Remuneration Tribunal to do it, the Government, the Prime Minister and the Executive arm ought to keep their greedy well-paid noses out of the affairs of the Tribunal and allow it to make its decisions unimpeded by the authority of the Prime Minister and the Executive arm of government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I may not always agree with the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), but I believe that his remarks are always relevant and worth listening to. Mr Deputy Speaker, would you convey to Mr Speaker my congratulations on his well-deserved knighthood and his reappointment as Speaker and to the new Chairman of Committees on his appointment. I want to concentrate in my speech on those aspects of the Governor-General’s remarks which referred to rural policy and which are important to the electorate of Murray. I shall first refer to the dairy industry. In 1977 in the autumn session the first stage of the national dairy plan was legislated for in this Parliament. It followed an Industries Assistance Commission inquiry following the failure of the dairy industry to sort out for itself a new stabilisation scheme. It is anticipated that in this session legislation for stage 2 of the national dairy plan also may pass through Parliament.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the industry have had a difficult job because the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation changed its recommendations on what items should be included. There was disagreement at the August meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council and the matter was referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture. The industry itself is very much divided. There is some federal control; there is some State control. There is a city milk sector and a manufacturing milk sector. At the January meeting of the Agricultural Council it was obvious that some real progress has been made towards a truly national dairy industry- something that was thought impossible just a few years ago. In the Murray electorate there are 3,500 dairy farmers not including share farmers- more dairy farmers than in any other electorate in Australia and more than in some of the States of Australia. It is the most important dairying electorate in Australia and, in particular, it is the most important manufacturing dairying electorate.
On balance, in spite of the progress and some of the useful innovations, the stage 2 proposal for the Murray electorate and for Victoria is unfair. It is unfair because the entitlements for preferred production, which are the basis of the scheme, are not spread evenly throughout Australia. Some of the other States say that they have controlled and reduced their production and therefore it is quite right and proper for Victoria to be penalised in this way. I say- I have said this to the Minister for Primary Industry by letter and in discussion- that this is a spurious argument. The reason why the majority of production in Australia is in Victoria and, to a lesser extent, in Tasmania and the south of South Australia is that they are the most favoured areas for such production. They have the most efficient producers, just as other agricultural industries are centred in other areas in Australia. There has been a dramatic fall in the number of dairy farms in the Murray electorate, and in Victoria, but because of technical efficiency, technical innovation, the right sort of climate, and the use of irrigation it has a record second only to that of the
Waikato region of New Zealand for its ability to grow grass and have low cost production. It is the second most efficient dairy producing area in the world.
– Rubbish! You want to come to my electorate.
– Murray has always been a significant dairy electorate.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member for Fadden will cease interjecting.
– He is denigrating my dairy farmers.
-The honourable member for Fadden will cease interjecting.
– If I am denigrating the honourable member’s dairy farmers, perhaps I am achieving something. In the past Murray was also an important producer of beef and fat lambs. The Riverina area of New South Wales was a more efficient producer of fat lambs; hence fat lambs production declined in Murray. Queensland has developed its beef industry. Beef production has been reduced in Murray. If it is right for the other States to say that because my area of Australia produces more than another area and is more efficient it should be penalised, my beef producers and my fat lamb producers should receive special consideration and the fat lamb producers of New South Wales and the Queensland beef producers should be penalised in a way similar to what is being proposed with stage 2.
In discussions with the Minister I have put that four aspects are unacceptable to me and to the Victorian dairy industry. One is the size of Victoria’s entitlement relative to the other States and the fact that Victoria is the only State required to have over-entitlement production. The second is the manner in which the known surplus of entitlement will be transferred from the other States. There should be a mechanism that allows its more immediate and more automatic transfer. Thirdly, market milk or city milk, has to be included and be seen to be included. Even with the inclusion of market milk on a butterfat basis, a dairy farmer in my electorate on one bank of the Murray River will receive little more than two-thirds of what his friend across the river in New South Wales will receive for producing the same amount of milk.
– I cannot go into the detail, but the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has produced a paper on this which the honourable member may read. The fourth point concerns the determination of the national aggregate and through it the State aggregate entitlement for future years. There must be a basis which is equitable and which has limits on the change that can take place from year to year so we can have some stability in the industry. One cannot turn on and turn off the dairy industry as one can a production line in a secondary industry. I have said to the Minister that the correct position for him to adopt is to defer for 12 months the implementation of stage 2 because of the rapid changes taking place in the industry at present. For example, in Victoria and New South Wales new city milk arrangements are being incorporated which are having quite an effect on pricing policy over winter periods and causing a dramatic reduction in dairy farming on the outer fringes of the capital cities of those two States.
Considerable product change is taking place in the industry, with cheese and whole milk coming up very quickly and butter and skim milk powder going down. There is also a continuing shift and decline in the industry in each of the States, and more and more concentration in the south-east corner of the nation. The sensible thing is to wait and to see what is happening, and be able to assess it and make the decision that is best for all of the industry in Australia when we have the facts, which are not clear to us at present because of these changes.
The beef industry is suffering more than any other primary or secondary industry at present, with the possible exception of the canned fruit industry. The problem is caused by a combination of the cattle cycle, drought, access to overseas markets and the fat stock marketing or selling system in Australia. The result is extremely low and extremely variable prices to producers. A government cannot solve all these problems. It cannot counter the cattle cycle. It cannot alter the weather. It is very difficult to obtain access to all the overseas markets that we would like, although this matter is being debated in the Geneva section of the Tokyo Round of the Multinational Trade Negotiations.
Some things we can do. We can significantly reduce short-term price variability, that is, the week to week variation in the auction yard which can mean a difference of 1 5 per cent to 20 per cent from the previous week for the price of an animal, depending on whether there is a strike, whether a particular buyer shows up or whether all the buyers get their heads together. From the New Zealand experience, I believe that if we can reduce the variability of prices and increase the return to the producers we can provide slightly higher prices. Through this we can improve price stability to the producer and the consumer. We can improve quality control for producers and consumers by a carcass classification scheme. In the statement of the Minister for Primary Industry to the House on 22 September last year- I believe the most important statement on the beef industry that has been made to this Parliamentthree of the policy announcements were in this area. They were the acceptance of a certain financial responsibility for carcass classification equipment, investigations into the feasibility of a weight and grade selling system and a price buffer or price smoothing system similar to that in operation in New Zealand.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics was commissioned to report in six months on the feasibility of a price smoothing scheme and I understand this report is due next month. Classification must come ahead of a price smoothing scheme because we must have an objective measurement system. There have been delays and difficulties with the very complicated and advanced system recommended by the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation. The Australian Agricultural Council, at its January meeting, acknowledged these problems of implementation and stated that it required within a month, which presumably is due next month also, a report on an interim or compromise classification scheme pending the final development of the more mechanical one. I would see it as a compromise between that ultimate scheme and the present New Zealand visual-manual scheme.
Once these two reports are in it is important that the Government acts quickly because of the state of the beef industry. The New Zealand experience is most important when considering what should be done. There are four aspects of the New Zealand selling scheme. Firstly there is classification. Secondly, there is a weekly price schedule for fat livestock. Thirdly, there is a high percentage of weight and grade selling; that is, selling direct to an abattoir or freezing works. Finally, there is the price smoothing scheme which has now been operating for about 15 months. I have followed the New Zealand experience and when details of the new scheme in New Zealand became available I circulated them to other interested members of Parliament, raised the matter in the Party room and raised it in Parliament. A little more than 12 months ago I went to New Zealand and looked first hand at the scheme amongst other aspects of policy in that country. In discussing this and debating it with the Minister for Primary Industry I became aware from the way in which he responded that he was already assessing these proposals several months ahead of his September statement and several months ahead of the noisy intervention in this debate by a certain producer organisation.
I have just returned from New Zealand again where I attended a seminar on agricultural trade between Australia and New Zealand on the one hand and access to the European Economic Community, Japan and North America on the other. I looked again at the dairy and horticultural policy of that country, its Rural Bank, its young farmers establishment scheme, telephone charges and fuel equalisation and relevant to this debate, I talked to Meat Producers Board officials and its chairman, Mr Hilgendorf. I visited several freezing works or abattoirs, talked to growers, government officials and meat works executives on the New Zealand system. I am pleased to see greater interest in the New Zealand system of selling meat apparent in quite a number of Australians, whether government officials or primary producer officials, in New Zealand now.
However, it seems to me that for a price buffer scheme to be successful it must have all the aspects of the New Zealand scheme. Classification and weight and grade selling are acknowledged in the Minister’s statement but a weekly price schedule is also essential even if it does not have the authority of the New Zealand system or the New Zealand schedule, which allows the intervention by the New Zealand Meat Board. Initially, it may be only an indicator schedule for different grades and different areas, but it is essential. At a later date I want to speak again in greater detail on more aspects of the New Zealand system and how I see them applying to Australia. The important thing now is to urge the Government to act quickly when it receives the reports I mentioned and at the same time explain to beef producers around Australia that the proposed new system will not solve all their problems. It has limitations but it can put some price stability, particularly in the short term, in the selling of their livestock.
I turn now to the canned fruit industry. Three primary industries- the dairy industry, the export industry for fresh apples and pears and the canned fruit industry- have suffered the most from Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community five years ago. Those industries have had to accept an unfair adjustment burden because of that entry. The real standards of living of the people involved in those industries have at least halved in those five years. The canned fruits pack is now about two-thirds of what it was before Britain entered the EEC. Because of reduced cannery throughput, processing costs have escalated and cash liquidity pressures have been placed upon the canneries. Price wars have resulted among the canneries because of that and the grower has always suffered. His payments are too little and too late.
The industry has tried to adjust and the Government has provided some help with the tree pull scheme. But only partial success has resulted from cannery rationalisation, marketing economies and price stability. At the Australian Canning Fruit Association conference at Shepparton 1 8 months ago the grower section of the industry decided to ask the Minister for Primary Industry to support an industry proposal for a stabilisation scheme. He agreed to that proposal at a meeting with the growers in November 1976. But the establishment of a committee to draft the proposals to be contained in the scheme was delayed for several months while the industry tried once more to rationalise its cannery capacity.
Certain sections of the industry mistakingly believed then, as they mistakenly believe now, that rationalisation would solve all the problems of the industry. They cannot see that a restructured Canned Fruits Board, using a levy power to control price cutting and to improve the level and speed with which payments are made to growers, is essential and must go hand in hand with rationalisation. To be more specific, both are necessary; one can go ahead of the other. Both the industry and the Minister believe that some restructuring of the Board is necessary and that it requires greater powers.
About 12 months ago a sub-committee of the Canned Fruits Board was set up. I was seconded to that sub-committee. The sub-committee reported last October, and its proposal was considered at the January meeting of the Canned Fruits Board. Although a majority of the members of the Board apparently agreed with the principles of the scheme, which are similar to those in operation in a number of primary industries, the Board was not able to agree completely on a basis of reform for itself or for its better control of the industry. Growers are shocked because of the vulnerable financial position in which they will be forced to continue because of this failure to act. They are talking about possible government intervention to sort out the industry unless the Board accepts its responsibility to work for all the industry rather than for the short term considerations of each of its members. I am presently discussing this situation with the Minister. I hope that some action will be taken in time for it to be effective during the 1 978-79 season.
I do not have time to talk about all the other important areas of government policy which affect rural people, such as the 2 per cent of personal income tax which will go to local government, rural roads, rural health initiatives, small business, fuel equalisation, salinity problems of the Murray system, telephone charges, the welcome announcement of the abolition of death duties, drought assistance policy, the Tokyo round of trade and access for agricultural products to other markets, the Australian Rural Bank or the young farmer establishment scheme. I hope at a later date to speak in some detail on the new special settlement scheme in New Zealand, which is its equivalent to the young farmer establishment scheme which we promised in our 1975 election policy to introduce and in relation to which a considerable amount of work has been done in the Rural Committee and in the departments.
I simply report that from speaking to officials at the head office and regional office level and from visiting a farm or two with young farmers recently settled the New Zealand scheme is working well although in a limited way. It is working as they wish it to be working in a deliberately limited way. About 100 young farmers will be established on properties each year. New Zealand recognises, just as we are beginning to recognise, that if young people are to enter agriculture they must receive some form of special assistance because of the great capital demands in establishing a farm. We want to have farmers in the industry who have the technical ability, the willingness to work and to innovate and the ability to continue operating with dynamic agricultural methods rather than those who just enter the industry because of some inheritance or because their parents happen to be wealthy professional people who live in a nearby capital city. I believe that the New Zealand scheme is working well. I hope that, before this Parliament is dissolved, our election promise of 1975 will come to fruition so that a young farmer establishment scheme will be operating in this country.
– The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has put words into the mouth of the Governor-General which tend to convey the impression that the Government wants democracy. On the first page of the printed copy of Governor-General’s Speech the Government pledges itself to work in partnership with all groups, but on page 4 of that Speech we see that the partnership is really the relationship of master and servant. The Government there undertakes to encourage involvement of employees in improving safety, job conditions and satisfaction and productivity.
As the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) suggested in this debate, this is a welcome breath of fresh air. Perhaps it is the only one in a speech full of platitudinous promises. However, I fear it will remain an empty promise. It will not solve the growing problems of industrial confrontation until there is also provision for employees, and consumers too, to participate not only in improving safety, job conditions and satisfaction and productivity but also in what is the basic activity of industry, namely, setting the long term policies of industry- the planning of social objectives. If the employees and consumers, the producers and consumers, are not involved in the planning of the social impact of an industry, that industry will become a growing arena for confrontation. That is the direction in which we are heading.
The fifth priority among the Government’s priorities listed on page 2 of the Governorgeneral’s Speech is to promote independence and self respect for the disadvantaged. I want to pay some attention to the specific proposals which are made to achieve that end. The fact that the Government has maintained the Labor Government’s initiative of having a separate Department of Aboriginal Affairs would suggest that it considers that just being Aboriginal in itself may at times be a disadvantage. Despite promises made at the last two elections, funds allocated to overcome those disadvantages have been cut in all areas- health, education, housing, work projects and industrial enterprises by Aboriginals. The cuts were sometimes in actual dollars, but in all cases they were cuts in real terms if we allow for inflation.
– Whose inflation?
– Real cuts in real value. It is true that some Aboriginal enterprises have been failures. The most publicised of those was perhaps a turtle farming project in the Torres Islands. Let me remind those honourable members who have short memories that that project was started under a Liberal Government, was conducted by white self styled experts with scant regard for Aboriginal aims and interests, and was uncovered only after an investigation was set up by the first Labor Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). By contrast, in those cases where a genuine Aboriginal enterprise is proposed by Aboriginals for genuine Aboriginal needs, the funds do not appear to be forthcoming. A scheme to train a group of Aboriginals in erecting pre-cut homes for Aboriginals in Queensland has, I am advised, been turned down without explanation, despite an able and detailed submission. At the same time a continuing health project in Queensland has been allocated several thousand dollars for the purchase of a truck and a video tape recorder to be used for evaluation. I am awaiting further details of these projects. It seems that the pious hope expressed on page 8 of the Governor-General’s Speech, namely, to give the public access to government documents in those cases where it will not harm the public interest, remains a pious hope to anyone who may want details of projects of that kind.
The claim is made that the projected new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement will increase accommodation opportunities for low and moderate income earners. Like the rest of the sweeping promises for everyone in the Speech, nothing is said of where the money will come from. Meanwhile, fewer houses are being built under government contracts and otherwise. It seems that the States are to be put on the spot to raise their own money to meet all these promises by imposing their own supplementary income tax or else to carry the odium of breaking this Government’s promises once again. It is fine to express concern, as is done on page 7, that all groups have the opportunity to enrich their identity and develop their talents to the full. The tendency among the affluent who blandly vote Liberal is to contend that we have equal opportunity already. That is about as true as saying that the Ritz Hotel is open to everybody, the appeal courts are open to everybody or that if one is short of bread there is no law against eating cake. The Government claims to place a high priority on employment and training schemes but it has virtually eliminated the most successful employment schemes introduced by the Labor Government which employed approximately 20,000 people. That was a very good start which has been abandoned. The Labor Government took much of the burden of improving the environment from ratepayers and it gave dignity and pride in their work to people who, in some cases, are now becoming cynical of ever being acceptable in the work force because there are dozens of registered unemployed chasing each job vacancy.
Let us turn for a moment from welfare policies to industrial planning policy. Lip service is paid to developing exports and large scale developments overseas backed by Australian exports. In the energy field this is not contemplated except for uranium exports and presumably the continuing cheap sell out of our fossil fuels. Whilst it is claimed that an energy conservation program will be carried out, nothing is said of encouragement of development of alternatives to fossil fuels or uranium for power generation. The Australian National University Research School of Physical Sciences leads the world with a proposal to develop electricity generation from solar energy along with methods of storing that energy in chemical form to overcome the problems of daily and seasonal variations in sunshine. This proposal envisages a pilot scheme for an isolated township where already power costs exceed the modest projected costs of this new solar alternative. No other research project in the world competes with this one in its capacity to provide for small isolated communities, along with greatly increasing economic advantages for increasingly large centres later on, especially as the costs of power generation from coal and petroleum rise and as expertise in the new method accumulates. No other scheme offers such promise of boosting the Australian steel and automobile industries which would be called upon to provide much of the hardware and which in 1 0 or 15 years might actually be producing units for export with this new method of power production, particularly to under-developed nations, in a volume that would exceed in value our present automobile industry.
If the Government would back this project which has been temperately and conservatively costed and investigated in a practical way by practical people with advice from industry and from experts with experience in the field, I believe it would pay a little more than lip service to promoting exports, which is all we have seen so far from the Government. Instead, the Government seems dazzled by the grand salesmanship of the multi-national giants who stand to lose thousands of millions of dollars if nuclear power development continues to be delayed, as it has been recently by President Carter who is awaiting further assurances of safety and economy. These super salesmen have sold the Government the idea that it is its duty to developing nations to promote this highly monopolised, this administratively tyrannical alternative to nuclear power, but in fact it is the most developed, the most centralised and industrialised nations which are planning this technology and have started to use it for their own advanced economies. Their requirements are not in the same league as the requirements of the developing nations.
The Government has congratulated itself for its assistance to beef producers. Certainly the $10 per head disease control grant with a $2,000 limit has one virtue. It does not give more relief to the big, affluent operator than it does to the small man as long as the small man has 200 head of cattle to treat. However, this does not entirely stop the more affluent from getting the lion’s share. One third of the cattle producers earn $15,000 or more a year despite the fact that another third have a net loss of income. It is the affluent ones who have been accustomed to spreading their assets prudently, as did the Treasurer in the last Parliament. It is the affluent ones who in many cases have been putting 200 or more cattle in the name of each member of thenfamily so they can multiply this benefit accordingly. If there are six members in the family each with 200 or more head, the family receives $12,000 instead of the $2,000 that a small operator might receive from this benefit.
It is some months since I made a suggestion which I think is more equitable, fairer and more considerate of the man who is struggling to survive in an industry where he has been a viable and efficient producer. I suggested to the Government a scheme to give help where it is most needed by providing unemployment benefits to beef producers who stay on their properties, provided there are more than enough other people offering for and closer to existing job vacancies in the area, instead of forcing them to queue up for scarce jobs, leaving the property to be worked by their families. I suggested that this money could be a loan to the farmer if the Government does not want to pay it outright but that the Government should charge no interest on it as long as it was repaid in amounts equal each year to 10 per cent of his income tax. In other words, no payment would be required until the property became viable. When it became viable the payment would be no more than a 10 per cent surcharge on income tax. I have had no Government reaction to this suggestion. I note the proposal to subsidise the freight differential for petroleum products in country areas. This policy was first proposed by the late Arthur Caldwell as Labor Party leader, whereupon the Menzies Government of the time promised and later introduced a partial subsidy. Both major parties adopted a similar policy at the last election.
However, there is a need to look at other disadvantages of isolated communities which affect not only petroleum- certainly a very important factor in their living costs- but more broadly other products brought from a great distance. For example, despite strong representations over several months we see no response to the suggestion by Labor Party spokesmen and others that sales tax should not be applied to the freight component of prices in the outback. For a government which protests that it wants equal opportunity and help for the disadvantaged by lowering taxes this was more than an oversight. It shows that these protestations are empty. The Government would not even acknowledge the suggestion. The major tax relief has continued, as under former Liberal governments, to be for those on the highest incomes. This has more than offset the advantages of the petroleum freight subsidy for those on lower incomes. It is even doubtful whether the States and the Northern Territory will be able to meet the conditions proposed for this petroleum subsidy, knowing that the States will have to share the costs or nothing will be done.
In the time left to me, I return to Aboriginal affairs. New initiatives are projected for Aboriginal health but the Government’s record in this regard, to give it its kindest designation, is negative. Although some new programs developed under succeeding governments are starting to have some effect and some impact on the disgraceful disease and mortality rates among Aboriginals, it seems that the moment the present Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has to make a decision he retreats behind the nineteenth century attitude of the Premier of Queensland, as he did when he disbanded for several months the eye health program for Queensland on the ground that Aboriginals involved in the project were politically active.
A number of questions on the Notice Paper directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs relate to the action which the Government proposes to implement as to international conventions regarding indigenous people which this country has signed and which Queensland persistently and consistently ignores. I have had dozens of accusations of political pressure similar to that to which the Premier of Queensland objected. Indeed there have been reports of intimidation of Aboriginals by Queensland State employees favouring the Queensland Government. But the Aboriginals were never treated by the Whitlam Government or by me as its Minister for Health in the cavalier fashion adopted by the national Minister for Health at the behest of the Premier to demand the sacking of Aboriginals engaged in an independent organisation just because it receives a Federal subsidy even though it is performing its job well in cleaning up a major health problem which causes blindness amongst Aboriginals.
I trust that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) means to carry out the promise in the Governor-General’s Speech that Aboriginals will be helped to acquire the skills to manage their own affairs. But he must demand more than that. He must demand that when they have those skills they be allowed to exercise them. This the Minister has refused in recently over-riding the wishes of tribal land owners at Maningrida and elsewhere regarding who should have entry to their lands.
The Government is still dragging its feet on occasions concerning pastoral leases in which Aboriginals and the Ranger uranium partners are interested. So far all its assurances to Aboriginals have been empty and vague. Its encouragement to mining interests has been far more concrete. This may not be the personal responsibility of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Nevertheless, it is contrary to the Government’s continually stated policies. If the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs cannot persuade the Prime Minister and other Ministers to mend their ways, he should follow the honourable course which the honourable member for Wannon adopted on one occasion when he could not tolerate the actions of the man who put him into Cabinet. He resigned from the Ministry. If the Prime Minister cannot persuade his colleagues that they are breaking his promises, he should do the same again.
– I wish to convey my personal congratulations to Sir Billy Snedden on the understandable and meritorious majority with which he has been elected to the position he now occupies. It would be unworthy of any member of this House to forget to acknowledge the very great work that was done for many years by the previous Chairman of Committees, the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). He has won the very great respect of all honourable members. We wish him well. I also wish well the new Chairman of Committees, the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar). I know that he will perform his task with a very great sense of fairness and justice. The House will certainly benefit from his judgments.
The Government has been elected with quite an overwhelming majority. There may therefore be those who would regard the past as being the oyster of those on the Treasury benches in this Parliament. Those who would regard it as such should never forget that they can live off that past for only a very short period of time. In subsequent elections we will be judged on what occurs during the next three years. I hope the Government will approach those three years with that principle pre-eminently in mind because throughout the world democratic party systems are going through a time of very great crisis.
I wish to mention a speech which was delivered recently by the former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Roy Jenkins. He had several points to make. I shall refer only to two of them tonight because they are important. In the first place, he reflected that the number of electors who are opting to vote for the major parties in all the countries of the democratic West is decreasing. He said that an increasing proportion of the electorate was making the decision that it would vote for some new organisation, for some extra political organisation or for a party with a very short history. That ought to cause political parties to look to their merits in making their own decisions as to where the votes lie. To rely upon a rigid class vote as has been the case in the past will not suffice. It will cause a decreased vote for parties. With great respect, and without meaning to hurt in any sense, I say that the Australian Labor Party ought to look very closely indeed at that advice given by Roy Jenkins.
But it also means this: When members are elected to this place they are elected not as back benchers- a dreadful term- but as private members of Parliament. They should function as private members of Parliament. They should not assume a pre-eminence because they are members of some committee or because they were members of some tribunal. They are private members of Parliament with the rights that a private member of Parliament should have and with the rights of the Parliament that the private members of Parliament should, in turn, acknowledge. The electorate will make that kind of judgment. It is a remarkable feature of the last general election- indeed the results were overwhelming- that the private members of Parliament who spoke out sensibly and who worked sensibly achieved some quite incredible results. I can point to some incredible results and well merited results on both sides of this chamber. So performance wins. The electorate is making the judgment that performance wins. The electorate is not wedded inextricably, inflexibly and rigidly to party slogans or labels. Roy Jenkins, in his lecture, made the point that political parties have to look to their merits in order to gain support.
The second point among a number of others which he made is important, that is, for the good of the democratic system there has to be instituted a continuity of policy quite beyond governments and quite beyond parties- a continuity of policy that an electorate will support, no matter which parties are elected to government or which private members are elected to government. I hope that that would be the rule in the future. It has certainly been a growing one in the past. Let us look then at the Australian situation.
– What about the airport?
-We will come to the airport in a moment. The greatest and the most significant continuity of policy in terms of parties in Australia has been the simple one- those three simple Australian words upon which any policy will be judged- a fair go. The honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), in talking about beef producers, tried to analyse what would go to some affluent producers and non-affluent beef producers in terms of what would be a fair go. Earlier today, when the Opposition said it was concerned at the present level of unemployment, it was saying that it wanted a fair go for those people whom it said were unemployed and whom it said had few employment opportunities.
There is one sense of fair go on which the Australian electorate is becoming increasingly vocal, and any party that forgets this will fail. It is the matter of taxation. As never before, levels of taxation are discussed everywhere in the community. Once upon a time levels and rates of taxation were discussed and pressed only by an affluent few. But today they are discussed by every person who works in the community. I would say that overwhelmingly in the last election the electorate made a judgment about a fango in respect of taxation. Therefore, if I can be so bold, I want to look at some of the practices and proposals that were put forward in the last election.
I invite the House to consider whether one of the great parties in this place has surrendered what should be a fair go. I want to look at the proposal that was put forward, because it should never be forgotten, that in order to relieve unemployment payroll tax should be abolished. It was an unbelievable and incredible proposition because those who proposed it were going to take money from the pockets of relatively modest wage and salary earners in Australia and pass hundreds of millions of dollars into the largest board rooms in this country. Without being ascerbic, without being venomous, it should be remembered that every member of the Opposition supported the proposition that massive amounts of resources should be effectively taken from the pockets of wage and salary earners in Australia and passed into the largest board rooms in this country. It was because Australians at all levels, rich as well as poor, said that that was not a fair go that they decided as they did. After all, any proposition that is put forward concerning economic growth in Australia will be judged on one overwhelming aspect- namely, is it fair; does it distribute fairly; does everybody get a fair go. The laissez-faire system of the 19th century which some would laud was rejected because it did not give a fair go. ‘One for all and all for one’, said the elephant as he danced among the chickens. One does not have to be a fan of Charles Dickens to understand that and one does not have to read Hard Times to realise that democratic electorates, whether in Great Britain or in Australia, will reject any party that does not seek to say: ‘ We will give you a fair go ‘. 1 want to read into Hansard some of the transfers of resources that were proposed in the last election. Taxation will be the principal economic electoral issue in Australia for more than a decade ahead. These facts should be known. I was puzzled beyond belief why the Labor Party should for example, seek to give- that is what it was- to the board room of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd over $33m. I was puzzled why in my own State the proposition was put forward that the Utah Mining and Development Company- it has been scarified and lacerated in this House; it is a useful whipping horse throughout the nation- should have transferred to its board room $2. 5m in addition to its $ 150-odd million profit. I was puzzled why $9m or more should be given to the Myer corporation. I was puzzled why Woolworths Ltd should receive $8. 9m or $9m. Ordinary Australians who realise that there needs to be a decent sense of profitability and who would support a government that says ‘you have to have decent levels of profitability to have decent levels of investment in a country ‘ said that those transfers were not a fair go. So any party in Australia that departs from giving a fair go, from making a fair distribution of resources in Australia, whether it be under doctrines of socialism or whether it be under doctrines of social justice, will be rejected and it certainly deserves and ought to be rejected. To he who hath shall be given is never acceptable and in the last election it was made crystal clear it was not acceptable in the last months of 1 977.
The most incredible proposition that was made, and one which I could not understand, was that $10m to $1 lm of this money was to be effectively transferred through the medium of coal exports from Australia to the great overseas coal buyers. Because of the way the contracts are written, a reduction in cost in terms of tax in Australia has to be reflected in the price at which the Japanese or the Europeans buy the coal from Australia’s great coal exporters. There was some difference between the New South Wales and Queensland contracts. We can argue a little bit about a few million dollars but again the transfer involved was not to the largest board rooms in Australia; it was direct to the board rooms of overseas coal buyers. So a Labor Party, whether it is based upon a sense of socialism or social justice, has to live with its past. I believe it ought to explain to this House how that past would seek to live with it because they cannot go together. In fact the Australian electorate made it clear that they will not go together, and they ought not go together. Australians are not philanthropists but they have a sense of what is appropriate and of what is just. So today, when over and over again in the propositions made by the Opposition that philosophical principle underlies and supports so much of what the Opposition complains about, we should look at what the Opposition says today, in February 1978, and what its supporters proposed in November and December 1977. As a matter of justice to the Australian electorate, that past should not be allowed to be forgotten. I know that honourable members on this side of the House will seek to ensure that it is not forgotten.
One thing further needs to be added to this matter. By that precise action, and even given some of the loan and deficit policies of the Opposition, the Opposition would cause unemployment to be between 30,000 and 50,000 greater this year than it otherwise would be. Payroll tax has little multiplier effect in the economy. Even the Institute of Applied Economic Research in Melbourne in some of its saner moments has to admit that payroll tax in terms of its re-spending co-efficient has a far smaller effect in terms of demand at the shop floor level, the factory floor or shopfront than has money in the pockets of Australians. Those facts cannot be denied and they ought not to be denied.
There is one other point I would mention. Having looked at the matter of taxation and a fair go a brief excursion through some of history is also appropriate to be borne in mind and I want to do this for only a few moments because there are very few moments left to me in this debate. I ask honourable members to look at the rates of taxation. This is going to be a dominant issue and it cannot be avoided. During the period of the previous Labor Government the average rate of taxation on average weekly earnings increased to the greatest level in Australia’s history. It increased to the greatest level that has ever been sustained since uniform taxation came in. It increased to a greater level than John Curtin had to impose during the depth or the height- however one likes to express it- of World War II. An analysis of the data at that time- admittedly a broad analysis in terms of rates of taxation on average weekly earnings, forgetting certain social factors such as family size and so on- illustrates this point. In 1944-45 the rate of taxation on the average equivalent dollar was between 1 9 ‘/4c and 20c in the dollar. During the Chifley and Menzies Governments the rate of tax oscillated between 8c, 16c and 1 7c in the dollar. For a certain period in the mid-1950s it was down to about 6c in the dollar. During the McMahon Government it climbed to 1 7i£c to 1 8c in the dollar. In the term of the previous Government- the Whitlam Governmentand while the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) was Treasurer, the rate of taxation in the average dollar on that broad analysis, and it is a justified analysis, rose to just on 23c in the dollar which was greater than the tax Curtin had to impose.
It is no wonder that this Government said it would bring in tax indexation. It is no wonder that the Opposition hedged its bets with respect to tax indexation. It is no wonder that it had a client report written arguing against tax indexation. The average levels of income tax in Australia now are on the decrease. They are now below 22c in the dollar and we hope that they will decrease further. But I repeat one sentence which needs to be remembered. During the last 18 months of the previous Labor Government, the rates of tax imposed on average weekly earnings exceeded those imposed ever before in Australian history. They exceeded those which had to be sustained during the depths of World War II. Taxation will continue as a measure of government.
What does all this mean? One of the great problems that Australia has to face and upon which the electorate has to be convinced is this: Can a socialist party reduce taxes to the level which is tolerable for Australians? Ought it to reduce that level of taxation to a level which is tolerable for Australians? Will it be allowed by its supporters, with an appropriate program, in fact to reduce the level of tax to what is tolerable for Australians? Does its philosophy, its ethos and its background allow it to engage in such a program? In order to convince the Australian electorate that it can, much more work needs to be done in this place than merely crying and whingeing about a few issues. These will be the continuing issues. They will be the issues that will not go away. The levels of taxation and credibility about levels of taxation in Australia, as well as credibility about the redistribution of money raised from taxation, should be at the central issue of government. We know that the possession by government of the power over the economic and the financial resources of a community ultimately reflects the extent to which governments will allow their people to be independent and the households of the nation to make their own decisions. It will also happen, in Roy Jenkins ‘ words, to determine whether or not governments will be elected.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to comment on a couple of points relating to migrants in the Governor-General’s Speech. Before doing so, I clarify a misunderstanding that has arisen following comments made by me in the last few days concerning my attitude to migrants and immigration. The misunderstandings have arisen due to inherent limitations of the media, not through any malice or deliberate misrepresentation by the media. As the son of migrants escaping from religious persecution and settling in Australia, I am all too sensitive to many of the less commendable aspects of Australian society. This was the case particularly during my childhood. During the years after Hitler took power in Germany before the Second World War, I became acutely aware of the reluctance of too many so-called free nations to open their doors to refugees who, unable to escape, were thrown into concentration camps and were exterminated. Some did manage to escape to Australia, particularly after the War during the term of the Labor Government- that is, some of the few who survived. I again witnessed intolerance, prejudice and lack of active support at government level for the establishment of services to help migrants.
Being born in Australia, I could speak English as a child. Yet, I can still recall episodes of pain, embarrassment and anger. How much worse it must have been for those who could not speak English when confronted with the hostility that other Australians displayed when they forgot that all white Australians are new Australians. Let me not dwell on this aspect any longer, other than to reaffirm that I believe any political, religious or racial refugee should be able to seek refuge, temporary at least if not permanent, in this rich, secure, free country. I say that despite the anxieties we have had in recent days. Compared with most countries, this is a rich, secure, free country. Whatever our problems with unemployment, we must always accept family reunion as an undeniable ground for migration to this country for those Australians, new or old, choosing to reunite their families here.
It is on the subject of migration, excluding these two groups of migrants, that I have attempted to question assumptions and myths. The Governor-General said that the Government, in recognising the multi-cultural nature of Australian society is concerned ‘that all groups have the opportunity to enrich their identity and develop their talents to the full’. After making some motherhood statements about Aboriginals, which if matched by the same inaction or actual withdrawal of support for Aboriginals as we have witnessed in the last two years can only confirm in the mind of the whole community the utter hypocrisy of the Liberal Government, the Governor-General returned to the migrant question. The Government clearly recognises some of the areas of major concern. But judging from the non-specific nature of the proposals for action and worse the indication that even more dependence will be placed on ‘non-government migrant resource centres’ any migrant with any insight can only conclude that little or nothing will be done for 20 per cent of the population suffering disadvantages through barriers of language, in areas or health, welfare, education and job opportunities, just to name a few.
To confirm the cynicism of the Government ‘s approach, we were informed:
Close attention will be given to the recommendations of the expert group currently reviewing Post-Arrival Programs and Services to Migrants.
That is now known as the Galbally inquiry. If this is so, why has the Government changed the whole administrative arrangements for migrants by once again concentrating all power in all areas of migrant welfare in the most centralised department of all, the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs? The advantages of administrative arrangements instituted by the Labor Government- advantages in the dispersal of welfare services, support for the migrants, health services, education and so on provided for all Australians, many of whom are migrants, some of 50 years standing- now have been destroyed.
Why should people be forced to seek help from the Department of Immigration and Ethnic
Affairs and not from the Department of Social Security or the Department of Education, as other Australians may, simply because they are termed new Australians? That is a little box into which they fit. With this new efficient rearrangementwe were told that one of the main justifications for electing a Liberal Government was that it knows how to run things better and how to be far more efficient than the Labor Government was- will we see a duplication of staff in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to perform all these sundry services that were being provided very adequately and when not provided adequately were being expanded rapidly in all these other departments? Is this the Government’s contribution to solving the unemployment problem? It appears that we must duplicate the Public Service facilities in those areas and that will take up a few of the unemployed. But how can this be so if the Government sticks to its view that what we need to do is to keep the Public Service trimmed and to adhere to the staff ceilings? Does that mean, in fact, that migrants will receive second rate inadequate service?
One of the advantages of our moves to decentralise this power, to take it out of Canberra, to get it into the local areas where the migrants live, was that it allowed more direct community responsibility, particularly on the part of the migrants themselves. They could make decisions for themselves. But this Government says: ‘No. We have to keep an eye on it. We have to control it properly. Control, control, control. ‘ I thought honourable members opposite argued that it was the Labor Government that wanted excessive controls, but in my view the truth is that the Liberal Government wants excessive controls. Now everything has to be referred back to Canberra.
The Governor-General went on to discuss the introduction of ethnic television. I presume that that will be like ethnic radio. Labor likes to boast that when it was in government in the 1 940s it instituted a massive migration program. I am not complaining about that. I am not condemning it in any way at all. I think that it has done a lot for Australia and I hope that it has done something for the migrants. But we did not last very long.
– Too long.
– The Liberal Government took over. We have a habit of not lasting terribly long in government in this country. For most of the years when most of the migrants came to this country a Liberal government was in power. What did that government ever do for migrants in the area of communication through the airwaves? It did nothing at all. The ethnic communities had to wait until a Labor government came to power in 1972 before any thought was given to providing ethnic programs for those communities. The Labor Government established radio stations 2EA, 3EA and 3ZZ. The first action of the Liberal Government when Labor was removed and it came to office was none other than to shackle those stations and to dispose finally of 3ZZ.
That station was far too controversial. It allowed migrants to say what they thought. The Government said: ‘They must not do that. We have to look after those naughty children. They must not get involved in polities’. They must not talk about religion or sex either, presumably. The Government said: ‘Let them just talk about nice music and lovely programs and, if they refer to their home country they should not get involved at all in the political situation in that country. Just let them talk about the old folk songs and so on’- nice pap, uncontroversial mush- ‘Let the migrants lull themselves to sleep with lullabies reminding them of the past in their countries, as long as it does not involve the realities of the past’.
– Shooting each other like the Greeks and Cypriots! How stupid can you be?
– The reality is that the migrants themselves have become totally disillusioned by the way in which the Liberal Government has shackled their freedom of expression on ethnic radio.
– The honourable member says ‘Rightly so’. I only hope that some migrants are aware of the fact that a Liberal member has said that, and they can make their own judgment. Migrants do not want to be treated as children. If they have the sorts of brawls about which the honourable member was talking they must face up to those things. It is not for us to act as father or mother to them and to tell them how to behave themselves.
In like fashion I wonder what sort of ethnic television we will get. What I fear is that a licence will be offered to some group which will purport to provide ethnic programs on television. It will have enormous commercial link-ups with goodness knows what. The reality is that there will not be any money in ethnic television providing programs for specific ethnic groups because the population is not large enough. One may want to put on a television program in Italian. Television does not have a very wide range. The total
Italian community of any one of our major cities is not large enough to justify any advertiser spending much money on that station, and so it will not survive economically. That is the reality of the situation. If it happens- I doubt very much whether the Government will ever get around to it- we will be given a sop which will be utterly meaningless to the ethnic communities. I think that ‘tokenism ‘ is the best word that one can use.
Now let me turn to some of the doubts about our assumptions on immigration that have got me into hot water in recent days. Let me commence by turning to the Press statement by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) and the article he wrote in the Age in response to an article by Dr Birrell entitled ‘Immigration and Unemployment’. It was one of a series of articles which make up a book entitled The Immigration Issue in Australia, which has just been released. The Minister and I were both asked for our comments on one particular chapter which dealt with immigration and unemployment. In his Press release the Minister said:
Dr Cass has called for immigration to be cut to the bone as happened under the Whitlam Labor Government. This would deny Australia the economic stimulus and jobcreating effects of a further inflow of skilled workers to fill positions for which there are no available unemployed Australians.
Before I launch into a discussion of the real issues let me say once again that, in calling for migration to be cut to the bone as happened under the Labor Government, we did not discourage family reunion and we did not stop political refugees seeking asylum in this country. So I want to exclude those two groups. I say that explicitly because I have been misinterpreted and people have felt that I was saying that there should be no family reunion. That is not true.
Let us get to the question of the others, the people whom the Government says should be brought in to provide the economic stimulus and the job-creating effects that we all want to reduce our unemployment. The Government cannot have it both ways. If migration does do the thing it is claimed to do- be an economic stimulus and create jobs- the Government should rapidly and immediately increase the migration rate now and not wait until economic circumstances improve, for that implies that immigration inhibits or depresses economic recovery. Surely the cautionin other words, the fact that the Government does not rapidly and immediately increase immigration rates- reflects the true effect of immigration, and the stated policy, or what the Government goes on about publicly, about increasing immigration is simply humbug, an ideological hangup, a nefarious plot to weaken the trade union movement by increasing the pool of unemployment or, worst of all, a simplistic acceptance of up to now generaly held myths whose consequences have never been assessed.
Just what are the effects of high immigration rates? The Priorities Review Staff in their ‘Report on the Borrie Report’ of August 1976 mentioned the usual claim that demand is stimulated and then noted:
The available studies do not really settle the question of whether or not the increase in demand is greater than that due to any other entrant to the work force; nor do they agree on the time pattern of the induced changes in demand and supply.
The Priorities Review Staff continued later: . . . we do not really know whether migration stimulates demand or supply most and we do not know how long it generally takes before either occurs. Some of the lags involved are quite long.
Thus acknowledging a very significant level of general ignorance, the Priorities Review Staff indicated:
Traditionally policy has aimed at cutting back on migrant intake during recession and increasing it during expansion. This has presumed that migration increases supply faster than demand.
In other words, migrants rapidly fill job vacancies, thus getting production to increase quickly, so increasing supply. But here is the rub: People are now not buying the goods that are already available. We are told the inventories are full. We are told that productive capacity is down. People are being put off work because employers- manufacturers- do no want to keep producing at the rate at which they have been producing. They cannot sell the goods that they are producing. So we are caught in a bind. There is no point in bringing in migrants to increase supply when we cannot get rid of the present supply; there is no demand; and the Government cannot bring in enough migrants quickly enough to increase demand, because that is not what they do: They have to earn a living first before thay can start buying the goods; they cannot earn a living if they cannot get jobs; and they cannot get jobs if no one wants to increase supply. In other words it is humbug.
We can hark back to the glorious days when we had a massive increase in migration and the country blazed ahead economically. I suggest it was a sheer coincidence. The economic development was not dependent on the migrants. The migration and the economic development were coincidental. The country may well be richer for having had the migrants. I am not complaining about the migrants. I am simply saying that there is no truth in the assertion that their admission to this country was the stimulus to rapid development. For example, during the same period there were actual falls in population in the other countries. Yet most countries experienced the same rapid development and increase in wealth. I suggest our happy situation was tied up with the whole world economic progress in those years. Migration was incidental. It has done us well, for lots of other reasons which have nothing to do with economic growth.
When discussing these issues in my article I cited the figures provided by Dr Birrell. The Minister, in his reply, claimed, of course, that Dr Birrell ‘s figures were suspect and wrong. The area which we were discussing related to the real problems facing the Australian community, namely, the difficulty of creating sufficient jobs for Australians, new and old- those already in the country and those coming here in the foreseeable future.
Let me in the closing part of my speech give an indication of the measure of the problem. I will not cite Dr Birrell’s figures; I will cite the corrected figures given by the Minister. The Minister claimed that there would be an increase of only 505,000 in the labour force from 1976 to 1981. That means, after we have done a little simple arithmetic, that we must expect an increase of about 337,000 from now till 1981. We now have 445,000 unemployed. We have to provide only 780,000-odd new jobs in the next few years. This means that we have to find only 26 1 ,000 jobs per year. I said originally the figure was 278,000. 1 accept the corrected figure of 261,000. We have provided nowhere near so many jobs. In the period from 1973 to 1977 we provided only 300,000 new jobs- less than half the number we will have to find in the time left to us. That is the nature of the problem facing us. That is the reason why the Government is pausing. The Government should stop talking in this humbug fashion about immigration helping to stimulate all these things. It should face up to the real issue. How will we find jobs for the Australians who are here?
-Order the honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am absolutely astounded by the speech I just heard from the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass). It was quite incredible, coming from a member with his background who knows how local communities support each other. He said that there would not be an opportunity for family unity and for jobs to be found within the family and within the local businesses which the family operates. I do not know whether the honourable member lives in his electorate, but he clearly has no comprehension of how the local migrant families arrange for their friends to come in and to get jobs. To suggest that the wealthy -
– How do you explain the unemployed? Unemployment is mainly amongst migrants. They are the facts.
– He is a sort of a factual man. I will deal with the matter on a rather more personal basis, as I know it.
– They will eat you.
– He is from Canberra. He loves his little facts. Let him have his say.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Holt will address his remarks to the Chair and ignore interjections.
– I beg your pardon, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Maribyrnong was being provocative and also totally destructive to the good relations which we, as a Liberal Government, have established with the ethnic groups. He has gone out of his way, on behalf of the Labor Party, to betray everything that Calwell stood for and everything the Labor Party stood for. They stood for family unity, help for Italians, Greeks and all people coming here and help for them to establish their lives in this country. Speaking for the migrants in my electorate I say that the honourable member stands absolutely condemned.
– I take a point of order. I simply point out that I explicitly said that I was in favour of family reunion. I resent the suggestion that I oppose it.
-That is not a point of order.
-Of course the honourable member knows there is no point of order. He is trying to make my speech more difficult for me. He will not succeed in doing so. The honourable member went on to pretend that the Italian and Greek families have not sufficient money to be able to run their ethnic radio stations or their television stations. The honourable member is a child in international relations. He simply does not know the wealth that this country has established through the Italian and Greek communities. I notice he is about to leave the chamber. I am glad. The proceedings are not being broadcast. He insulted the efforts of the Liberal Party in establishing television for the ethnic groups. He knows full well that it is perfectly possible. He attempts to play the old game of trying to antagonise the ethnic groups against the Liberal Party. The Party opposite tried that at the last election and failed. That serves it right. It will learn the lesson in the long run. Members of the Labor Party believe that people coming here from Hungary and Czechoslovakia will be voting for Labor. What idiots they are. What do they think they stand for? The honourable member for Maribyrnong is laughing. All he can contribute to the House is a giggle. As far as I am concerned he ought to be dismissed.
Let me get on with my speech. Firstly I congratulate the Speaker, who was the representative of Holt for many years, for being knighted and for being re-elected to the chair. I am glad to associate my electors with your elevation Mr Deputy Speaker, to that position and to the position of Chairman of Committees. I am delighted that you have taken the position.
Last night in the House we had a very pleasant reception. Sometimes we overlook the service given by those who work in the building. Sometimes we take them for granted. I suggest that honourable members should not take for granted what was arranged last night at great trouble. The reception was a very pleasant one. I say on behalf of honourable members to the staff who worked through last night- their efforts were greatly appreciated by embassy staff and by people I met from the diplomatic corps- the House is lucky to have such people who are willing to work at receptions. I hope I do not cause any offence by saying that the reception was a very enjoyable event. This was made possible by those who took part in it and those who served in it.
– It was a waste of the taxpayers money.
-What would the honourable member have liked the House to have arranged?
– It should have had a barbecue.
-A barbecue! I am lost. I would say that the Opposition party is a barbecue.
I turn now to the very important speech made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). That cannot be overlooked by this House. It was one of the most important contributions that I have heard in the time I have been a member. I am only a oncer or a twicer or whatever it is. We were told that the Speaker of this House received a message in Norway saying that he could not give a reception to Norwegian parliamentarians because a member of the Executive, a Minister of the Crown, said that no money was available for it. To my mind that is the most unutterable affront that this House has ever received. What will we do about it? It is quite incredible that we allow ourselves to be bound by these ridiculous second grade, third grade Public Service arrangements. After all, I am only a new member of this House, but I spent some time in another Parliament.
When I visited the police unit in Cyprus, a Commander of the Forces in another part of the world, the Brookings Institute and Mauritius, I was told that I had no Parliamentary allowances. I had just been elected to this honourable House so I suppose I was not given allowances in case I made a diplomatic mess in some embassy abroad. Who decides that an honourable member of this House in his first year will or will not receive an overseas travel allowance which is required for him to conduct his normal parliamentary duties? By whose authority is that done? This honourable House, if it is to be a House of Representatives, really must assert itself. It is incredible to me that there should be two grades of member. The honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) who has just been elected to this House- he might make his maiden speech shortly- will not be able to travel far. He is not allowed a travel allowance. He is just second grade as far as I am concerned; I am first grade. Who said that I will be a first grade member of Parliament and that my honourable friend will be a second grade member of this honourable House?
This is the most disgusting affront that I have ever experienced. I am surprised that honourable members have not taken this matter to the Privileges Committee. If honourable members want to be ruled by the Executive and by the Minister who makes all these regulations- I think he comes from another House- it is their fault, but the Australian people will tell them in the years to come that they made a fundamental mistake in allowing that to happen. Do honourable members think that they are here just to play background music for the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the Duke of Plaza-Toro, or the front bench? Why are we here? What do honourable members think our people sent us here to do- to obey instructions from the Whip or the Government or the Leader of the Opposition? That is complete nonsense. I thought the speech of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) tonight was one of the most valuable speeches I have heard.
I now wish to discuss a short visit I made to China recently because that country has had some problems with the rest of the world. Firstly, let me pay a tribute to the former Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam). He at least began to understand that China would play an important part in the affairs of the region in which we live. I believe he was right when he sent Dr Fitzgerald as the first Ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China and to open negotiations between our country and the Chinese people. As a private member I think he did the right thing for the nation. Where have we gone from there? What progress are we making in China at the present time? In 1955 I had the opportunity to visit China with the first parliamentary delegation from the United Kingdom, which was drawn from the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
– Where did you come from, the Lords or the Commons?
– I am just a commoner but I hope to be a Lord later. One can never tell. Life is chance. We travelled to China because back bench members decided that there would be a visit of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Government did not decide it- the back bench members decided. We went to China to see whether the China that was developing would be of any consequence in world affairs. When I arrived in Paris I spoke to a French ambassador who said that any person who thinks that he speaks with authority on international affairs and discards China does not understand the balance of power in the world. I admired him very much and I listened to him with great respect. He suggested that the two great factors in the world economy will be the European Common Market and the balance of power between China and Japan.
On returning to China after 20 years, what were the main changes that I noted? The first thing was that one realised that the Peoples Army runs China. There is no need to elaborate on that point. The Red Army and the people are one. Everywhere one travelled one could not be other than impressed with the tremendous impact that the army has had on China today.
– You should have been at Bowral the other day.
– Would you say that again louder please.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member will direct his remarks to the Chair.
– With respect, I am used to debating and if the honourable member wants to put a good question to me I am perfectly willing to give him leave. I realise that in this House I may not do it. I like to hear his remarks. No matter; let us forget about them. I will go on to the next great problem. In China we are regarded as imbeciles; we do not understand world power; we have not comprehended the power of the Soviet Union. I suppose a few people might have noticed that a satellite driven by nuclear power came down in Canada. How many honourable members noted that? How many people in Australia actually noted that a satellite driven by nuclear power came down in Canada? I do not want to be uncharitable to any honourable member. Did any members of the Opposition rush to the Russian Embassy and say: ‘I say, trade unions and all the rest of it; you are actually putting into outer space nuclear-powered satellites without our knowing ‘.
Was there any demonstration? Did the honourable member for Indi (Mr Ewen Cameron) see any demonstration? Did the Treasurer (Mr Howard) see any demonstration? Was any protest made throughout the nation at the Soviet Union actually having in outer space a satellite driven by nuclear power? It could have crashed into this chamber. There was not a twitter, not a word of protest from honourable members opposite. What about the humbug of which they accuse this side? It is all absolutely pathetic. The Chinese people to whom I spoke at the Institute of International Affairs asked whether we really understood what was going on in the world. The more I analyse the facts, the more I wonder whether the Opposition party or the Government parties understand what in fact is happening in world power. It is really quite extraordinary. We have debates about Indonesia, but nobody seems to understand the importance of submarines of the Soviet Union passing through the Straits of Sunda or south of Australia into the Indian Ocean. At every meeting that I had with Chinese Ministers concerned with foreign affairs they pointed out that Australia and Western Europe are completely unable to understand the power of the Soviet Union.
It is really astonishing. In China I walked into a shop with my guides. They pressed a button behind the counter, the whole floor disappeared and there was a tunnel. They invited my wife and myself to walk down and go through the underground tunnels that had been built in Peking. Mile upon mile we walked. Afterwards I asked whether these tunnels were under all Chinese cities and military establishments. They were. The Chinese take nuclear war very seriously indeed.
Everywhere one went one could not help being impressed by the way they thought that national defence was the most important thing for their country. Do we? It is incredible. We never imagine that we have any problems of national defence at all.
In Melbourne I went aboard the Jeanne d’Arc which is a French assault boat- I suppose nuclear. I am amazed to think that the French have a boat which they are able to use in attack and defence or to land commandos and which is escorted by a frigate and a supply boat. That boat could easily cover 2,000 miles or more of coast. Do we have any comparable boat in the Australian Navy? Why not? I am very sorry to take the time of the House for so long. The important point is that unless we are prepared to co-operate with our neighbours in defence and take our defence seriously nobody will take us seriously. Therefore, any demands that the Minister for Defence makes upon this nation should be treated seriously and with respect. That means that, as we are interlocked with the world powers- the United States of America and those other countries which support us- anybody who suggests that we should withdraw in any way from the defence capability which we have is making a great mistake. If our nation is to have any credibility in world affairs it certainly must take its defence capacity seriously and must cooperate with its neighbours in every respect. The Governor-General in his Speech said:
The Government will also continue to develop and strengthen its important and highly valued associations which it has built up elsewhere in the world.
Our associations with the Commonwealth are important to us. The balance of power between China and Japan is important to us. We must never overlook what friendship, what guidance and what else we may receive by co-operating with China in the world in the years ahead.
– I will attend to a number of points to which the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) referred. First of all I refer to the question of taking an issue seriously. One of the great problems that this country faces is trying to take this Government seriously. How can one take its attitude to defence seriously when it has been busy dismantling the shipbuilding industry and has given most of Australian industry a very severe knock? How can one take its foreign policy seriously? I can understand the honourable member’s attitude. He has come here from Europe in recent years, although he has been in Australia a good while now. For the last 30 years the members of the Government parties have been building up a terror of Russia.
The Russians were coming! In fact this goes back to the last century. Some of the forts around Sydney Harbour were built in the 1 860s to keep the Russians out. I think that is why Victoria established its Navy and bought the Cerberus and so on.
– They are in Canberra at the moment.
-That is right. We have always had Russians ready to descend upon us. A few years ago, about the time of the Vietnam conflict, it was not the Russians who were coming; it was the Chinese. They were just to the north somewhere. They were the threat from the north. People asked: ‘Where will we stop it?’ The great problem the honourable member for Holt faces and we face is to try to get some serious concentration from the Government on the facts of life in world affairs. My heart goes out to honourable members as they try to understand the aberrations of my friends opposite. This is a question I hope will be debated adequately in this Parliament before too long. The honourable member for Holt referred to the state of the Parliament. I agree with most of the things that my friend the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said. I refer to the matters to which you refer.
– Direct your remarks through the Chair.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, will you pass the message to the honourable member for Holt that I am referring to a subject to which he referred- overseas travel. I have sent a message to my colleagues in this Parliament. After all, we have a communion of interest in some things. The Remuneration Tribunal took up the matter of overseas travel, which had been suspended by our friend, Senator Withers, upon his appointment to the Ministry in charge of that at the beginning of 1976. As I understand it, the honourable senator, having used up all his own travel funds, immediately abolished the funds for other members as soon as he came into a position of power. He referred the matter to the Remuneration Tribunal, which is gradually getting around to considering it again.
I made provision during the recess to visit the New Hebrides. Having made the arrangements to visit there and having made all the bookings, I applied to the Australian Capital Territory Travel Bureau for the tickets to be made available. The Bureau was advised by the Department of Administrative Services that funds were not available because they were suspended from the time of the issue of the writs until the time the
Parliament reassembled. When I was informed of this, it was a little late in the day. We had already booked the seats, I had packed my toothbrush and we were ready to go. I am also a little reluctant to allow a government, even this one, to stop me from going wheresoever I will, even if I have to pay for the trip myself.
I contacted the various departments. I was referred to the Department of Administrative Services. I got on to the Minister’s office and I was told: ‘We referred your request to the Attorney-General’. I got on to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) and found that he had sent it to the Department. It sifted down through the system and somewhere along the line somebody said: ‘The determination really means that funds are suspended from the issue of the writs until the reassembly of Parliament’. One young man assured me that they were actually the words of the determination. I soldiered on for 24 hours arguing about that. Then amongst my records I managed to find a copy of the determination. I turned it up. It did not say it quite like that at all. I should have got on to my friend and technical and legal adviser, a man like the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown), who would have been able to sort it out. I am a simple soul. I went to school and learnt the same sort of English as the rest of us, but apparently people in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department learnt it differently. According to the report of the Remuneration Tribunal other benefits or resources at the disposal of honourable members are restored to them after their re-election. I sent a communication to the three members of the Tribunal at their home addresses. I received an acknowledgment from the Chairman, who said he would contact the others. Obviously the wheels rolled on and he contacted the Minister. By this time, of course, I had paid the $800 fare for my wife and myself and taken myself off to the New Hebrides. When I came home I wrote to our friendly Minister for Administrative Services and said that I could do with a refund. He replied with his normal glowing eloquence.
– Did he say no?
-That is right. His reply went like this: ‘In response to your telegram, the Chairman of the Tribunal has advised me that it was to be implied that the travel rights of members would be restored upon their reelection to the Parliament’. In other words, either on the declaration of the poll or on the night of the election, when in Wills I had what might be called a handy lead, it would be said that a member was in business again and his rights would be restored. But the Minister said: ‘I have referred this question to the Attorney-General’s Department’. He had by-passed the AttorneyGeneral by this time, giving him up as a bad job- and I do not blame him for that. He said: ‘Really, that is not a determination’. I will send all honourable members a copy of what he said. One of the most disheartening aspects of this Parliament is that when members who become Ministers- after all, they are members of Parliament first and they are Ministers second- make a ruling or determination on behalf of the rest of us they do it to our disadvantage.
I think there is a great feeling in this Parliament, as there is in the community itself, that it is time that something were done about straightening out the way in which we run this part of the system. I am very much afraid that we backbenchers are becoming irrelevant, not because of the institution itself but because of the way in which we run it. It is one of the last real strongholds of authoritarianism. The Public Service is pretty hierarchical and authoritarian, and this Parliament is even more so. It is up to us to get together and do something about it by some means or another. As I have asked honourable members previously, what is wrong with us that we allow a small minority of members to rule us in this way? After all, their writs run only as a response to the responsibilities that we have imposed upon them.
– Most of them did not get as many votes as you obtained.
-That is right; they do not and they will not. Let me turn to the matter before the House, namely the Address-in-Reply debate. In this debate one can cover the whole range of human endeavour, if one wishes to do so. It is, of course, a happy hunting time for the current political and economic mythology. We have heard that from many honourable members opposite, including my friend the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) and my friend the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). For instance, the honourable member for Lilley said something about the great benefits Labor proposed be given to the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd as a result of our proposed payroll tax deductions. I ask him: What about the oil pricing policy and a few other policies of that nature of his Party?
However, the honourable member did raise a couple of questions of great interest. What is a reasonable level of taxation? It is my view that the Australian people will pay almost any amount in taxation if they see what they are getting for their money. But that is one of the great problems of democracy. I come from the Stone Age State of Victoria. It has some aspects which make Queensland look fairly progressive. I have lived in areas in which the streets are private. I have had great difficulty in trying to explain this concept to people who come from areas north of the Murray. When streets are made, the local council does not make them at its expense; it makes them at the expense of the budding owner. I recall that when the streets were made in the area where we lived five or six years back the bill for the Bryants was $3,600. That amount was taken from us in quarterly payments over ten years. It is a fairly substantial sum. Some of the other people in the street were pensioners, but their bills were not quite that much. We lived in an area in which the normal house frontage was 90 or 100 feet. The cost of putting in the roads for the individual house owner could be up to $2,000. Although that caused a great deal of hardship to many people, they all fronted up because they could see what it was all about. They could not see any alternative.
The point is, of course, that while the system is idiotic the Australian community will, if provided with a fair measure of understanding, front up to taxation and regard it as a payment for something which is to their advantage. I think that we have to begin to re-educate the community and perhaps to re-educate ourselves on the whole taxation system. We have to take out of it the idiocy of so much indirect taxation. As for me, I would just as soon receive my taxation bill at the end of the financial year. When the Treasurer, whoever he may be, has made a mess of the public accounts and the Budget deficit in meeting the cost of paying out unemployment benefits and all other charges to the revenue is $30,000m, the Government would say to a taxpayer: ‘Your share comes to $13,236.32.’ If by paying taxation directly in that manner we abolished sales tax and all the other idiotic charges we impose such as tax on cheques and so on, I would be all for that system. I believe that, if a long-term campaign were conducted, we could get most Australians to face up to it. We would have to face the fact, of course, that it would be very difficult for us to overcome some of the difficulties in the taxation system such as those implied in the capital gains tax and so on. I think we have to develop a philosophy of taxation which is different from the one which presently prevails in this country.
A few other remarks have been made during the debate today on which I shall not dwell now.
The Governor-General said in his Speech that government spending had been brought under control. I do not quite know what he means by that. If we look at the figures taken out at the end of each December over the last five years or so we find that the deficit in 1973 was $ 1,800m, in 1974 it was $2, 100m, in 1975 it was $3,700m-it was increasing even under our reign- in 1976 it increased to $4,300m and in 1977 it was $4, 100m. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the present Government is any better at controlling that aspect of the system than it is at controlling any other aspect.
One should note several other points of the current mythology. One is concerned with the state of the economy in 1975 when the present Government came into office. Of course, the Australian economy was one of the strongest in the world at that time. On the whole the Australian people were doing better than almost anybody else in the world. I have worked out what one could buy with one’s average weekly earnings in particular years. The average weekly earnings increased from $93 in 1972, to $159 in 1975 and to $191 in 1977. It is instructive to work out how many loaves of bread and items of that nature one could buy with the average weekly earnings. For instance, in 1972 the purchasing power of average weekly earnings could buy 372 loaves of bread; in 1975 it could buy 420 loaves of bread; and in 1977 the number of loaves of bread dropped to 374. In the case of tea, the purchasing power of average weekly earnings in 1972, 1975 and 1977 could buy 140 lbs of tea, 190 lbs of tea and 95 lbs of tea respectively.
I have here similar comparisons in relation to rump steak, bricks, electricity and motor cars. For instance, in 1972 a person worked 24 weeks to earn the price of a Mini motor vehicle; he worked 20 weeks in 1975; and he was back to working 24 weeks in 1977. The only commodity with which a person did better was that of overseas travel. The only way one could make any progress with this Government was to leave the country. That kind of arithmetic is very carefully obscured throughout the country and during any consideration of the economy. Production throughout Australia was high when this Government took office. Of course, it is a fact of life that the production capacity of the community has overrun the consumer needs of the community. Our export earnings were higher than our import costs; our production was greater than the rate at which we exported commodities. Our policies had won better terms for our producers in most overseas markets. We had high overseas reserves. I ask honourable members opposite to give some specific example of the way in which the country is better off now than it was in December 1975. 1 do not want to hear some airy fairy nonsense about a reduction in inflation and that son of thing.
– You should have resigned out of shame following your performance as Minister during the Whitlam years.
– I thought everybody was proud of and pleased with me.
– You did a good job for me.
-That is right. I did a good job for everybody else. I did have trouble with the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron). I remember that the Labor Government bought a building in his electorate for the purpose of establishing a hostel for the Aboriginal people of Australia, the original inhabitants of this country. What happened? The honourable member for Fadden, who was then the honourable member for Griffith, stirred up the citizens. He said: ‘Look what this fellow is doing to you. He is going to allow Aboriginal people to live amongst you on your land’. I called at the hostel one Saturday morning. An enormous crowd of people was there shouting at us and telling us to take it away. They were led by the honourable member. The honourable gentleman’s behaviour was disgraceful.
One of the other parts of the mythology is concerned with the incompetence of the Labor Government and the general competence of this Government. The Labor Government made more than 4,000 cabinet decisions. Some of them were concerned with quite minor matters, of course, such as the appointment of people in a temporary capacity to head departments. Others were concerned with matters of great moment, such as the Moomba to Sydney pipeline. Those people who are interested in defence will recall the decision to order the Leopard tanks and the conclusion of the Fl 1 1 deal and so on. There were lots of other matters which were of great moment and part of that decision making apparatus. If honourable members opposite were to go through the records they would not find one of them in relation to which they could lay the charge of incompetence, corruption or anything else. There were some decisions with which I disagreed; that would be logical enough. There would be some with which honourable members opposite may have agreed or disagreed. But the charge of incompetence for the way in which members of that Ministry administered their own affairs or the affairs of their departments could not be laid at their door.
Now let us consider the record of the present Government. Let us consider for a moment the situation in relation to Medibank- one of the most fantastic muddles of all time after the present Government started to fool around with it in 1976. The actual Medibank system was one of the great administrative creations of the time. Millions of transactions were taking place and the whole thing was running like a charm. The Government started to fool around with it. Honourable members on the other side of the House supported the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in doing so and now we are left with something -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. It being 10.30 p.m. I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Political Party Funding- Commonwealth Employment Service- Sir John Kerr- Sale of the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd- Construction of a National Health Laboratory
– I wish to raise at the very first opportunity in the first session of the Thirty-first Parliament a subject about which I have spoken on many occasions during the term of the previous two parliaments. I refer, of course, to the funding of political parties. I understand from unconfirmed reports which have been given to me today that at last the Liberal and National Country Parties are taking some notice of what the Labor Party has been saying about this matter for some years and have acted. Before getting on to the decision which may or may not have been made by the Liberal and National Country Parties, let me say that the 1977 election was, as the Opposition predicted, a showplace for vast sums of money to be spent, especially by the Government Parties, from unrevealed sources to buy favours of which we are unaware in this Parliament and which will lead to a further degeneration in respect for the national Parliament of this country. There can be no doubt that the amount spent on the 1977 election was the largest single amount ever spent on any election in the history of this country. If we can judge by the Victorian experience after the last State election, the Government parties probably have finished with surplus money after the election.
Of course, much of the money was wasted but many accusations have been made subsequently about the amount of money that was spent by individual candidates and the political parties.
We on this side of the House believe that the Liberal and National Country Parties spent throughout Australia something in the vicinity of $6m.
-Could you not get enough from the unions?
-The Opposition heard that individual candidates from the Government parties spent in the vicinity of $60,000 to $70,000 in some electorates. We know that the fund raising machines of particular candidates are unable to raise that amount of money, as we know that the normal old schemes of raising funds for political parties are unable to raise $6m. I have said it before and I will say it again in the Parliament until we get reform on this matter that major donations have been made to political parties. Donors may be the beneficiaries of legislation or Government decisions and it may mean that their donations are not donations at all but, rather, should be looked upon as an investment in future business decisions which will be made in this country.
Every comparable country has undertaken reform on this question. Even blockheads like the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) will have to recognise that this is necessary. Today, I am told, the Liberal and National Country Parties have referred to their secretariats for investigation the funding of political parties and the limit that should be spent on political campaigns. I raise this question again not only to show the Opposition’s intense concern to bring about reform on this matter but also to show up the Government’s lack of knowledge about how these matters should be dealt with. To refer these matters outside is a mistake which ought to be realised and reversed immediately. The body that ought to be dealing with this matter is the Parliament. Parliaments throughout the world have dealt with this matter and brought about reform. David Combe and Tony Eggleton are not responsible to the people of Australia. The people who are elected to this Parliament are responsible. David Combe and Tony Eggleton will not be brought down if there is some sort of smirch or conspiracy or some sort of donation which reveals that some individual may have made a donation for benefits he can receive later on. It is this Parliament and the people who serve in it who ought to be on the committee investigating what has happened throughout the rest of the world that has been necessary to bring about this reform. All I am saying is that the Liberal and National Country Parties have taken the first step. They are like a baby on this issue. They have acknowledged that there ought to be an investigation on it. All the Opposition is asking- because we are quite sure what will happen once the investigation takes place- is for the Parliament to do the investigating. A joint committee of the political parties in this chamber ought to be investigating the issue, not people outside the Parliament. The Government has made a very grave mistake.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am ceaselessly amazed at the hypocrisy of Labor supporters who talk about the funding of political parties because whilst it might be reasonable that there should be some sensible look at the whole problem, it is blatantly obvious from what the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and other Opposition supporters have said on many occasions here that all they are seeking to do by devious means is to have a situation whereby one day they can outlaw, in effect, all or substantial donations to the Liberal and National Country Parties, entrench their own economic conscription from Labor unions, their own theft from ordinary Australian people that they impose compulsorily, institutionalise it even further, raid the coffers of the Treasuries to get an extra subsidy for their own policies of socialism to take over the remaining parts of the economy or whatever they can get hold of and then entrench themselves even further. The whole aim is to make sure that they cripple the Liberal and National Country Parties and entrench themselves financially forever. Whilst it might be worth looking at the proposition, one needs to ensure that the motives of the Labor Party are never allowed to come to fruition. I for one am sure that the Government will make sure that that will not happen.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I congratulate you on the position that you have attained. Tonight I want to draw the attention of the House to another matter relating to trade unions which is causing absolute outrage and is a scandal amongst the constituents in St George. I refer to the refusal of certain persons in the Commonwealth Employment Service to process applications for employment. If some of the persons concerned are respected employees in the St George area, I appeal to them to go back to work, maintain common sense, continue to process applications and continue to serve the public, particularly the unemployed whose plight is serious and whose plight the Labor Party is continually talking about. What is happening? The trade union persons involved are interfering with the operation of the CES. The branch in Sydney may even have to close down. In other States this action is not being taken. It is happening only in New South Wales. They have decided in New South Wales that they will not process the applications. This will interfere with the operation of the CES. Interviewing will be prevented if it occurs. Advice and placements of people in employment will be stopped, and it is no joke if one is stopped from having a job because the CES closes for two or three days and the jobs are filled in other areas or through the old boy network.
The CES is the major operational organisation which promotes the National Employment and Training scheme, the Community Youth Support scheme and the Special Youth Employment Training Program. All these schemes are in jeopardy if the solution is not found in a hurry. Ultimately the payment of unemployment benefit will be affected because the CES acts as an agent for the Department of Social Security. It receives income statements every fortnight. What will happen if it has to close and the income statements cannot be received. Unemployment benefits will probably not be able to be paid. Let us remember the principle. These persons are being employed by the public at public cost to perform a public duty. In return for this they obtain permanency of employment and a number of other special benefits in life. What do we find? They seek to maintain a closed shop. They seek to exclude talent and ability and by doing so they are cutting off their own noses to spite their faces. All they are doing is causing great concern in the community.
The history of the matter is well known. The Norgard Committee recommended that there be more staff for the CES; that some of the staff have experience in industry and commerce; that some be recruited from outside the Australian Public Service so they would know the sort of jobs they are trying to provide for people. The normal procedure is to have someone from the CES on the selected panel interviewing people who apply for positions. Experienced managers in the CES have been asked to serve on the panel but they have refused to do the work of processing these applications. A spurious appeal was brought against a decision of the Public Service Arbitrator telling them to go back to work. They have kept their bans imposed. There is a right of appeal except in the case of a person coming in from outside. Obviously that is because if an outsider gets a job, if there were a right of appeal and an appeal were successful, he would have to leave that job and go back to his former position. There is a total refusal. It is an absolutely ridiculous proposition. I appeal for two things:
One is for these persons to do this work and to assist the public to have the services they require performed, and the other is for the Minister and the Government to make sure that they do not back down. These stand downs have to go ahead. These people have to be taught that they must perform their duties properly. The Government has to take all legitimate measures within its power to ensure that it does not back down and that a satisfactory solution to this disgraceful episode is brought about as soon as possible.
– I begin my remarks by saying, without any hesitation at all, that I deplore the action of certain members of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association in refusing to allow people outside the closed circles of the Public Service to come in and be employed in matching job placements and the like. I think it is an absolute disgrace that class 8 public servants on $17,000 a year should be able to stand up and say to this Government: ‘So far as we are concerned we are the government of the country, not you. We have decided that thousands of unemployed people are to go without the opportunity of getting a job; they are to go without the right to be paid unemployed benefit because we, the class 8 members of the Public Service on $ 1 7,000 a year, believe that we are more important than the hundreds of thousands of unemployed people in this country’. I hope that they will not be allowed to say that this old school-tie system of recruitment shall go on for ever and ever. Of course the class 4 people who are to be recruited at $ 1 1 ,000 a year ought to be drawn from industry, because they know something about the needs of the unemployed.
However, that was not what I really meant to talk about. I want to refer to an even more disgraceful state of affairs than that, and that is the appointment of John Kerr to the position of Ambassador in Paris. Here we have a man who, after a miserable 3Vi years of office as GovernorGeneral, is qualified for a pension of more than $30,000 a year. No wonder he retired; he receives a bigger pension than his salary. He was allowed to retire on a pension of more than $30,000 a year, with the Government paying for two first class seats for Lady Kerr to fly overseas while pregnant wives of certain public servants are given a single economy class seat for the same journey. Yet Lady Kerr was lounging back in two seats at taxpayers expense because she says she cannot get a comfortable ride in a first class compartment while travelling around the world. But that is not all. He has now been given a job which is nothing more than the resurrection of a sinecure. It was never anything but a sinecure. It was abolished altogether by this Government. It has now been re-established just to make a job for Kerr. While this Government is telling Kerr that he can have his $30,000 a year pension for a 316-year stint at Yarralumla with all taxes and all expenses paid for, with free grog and free food, he is to be given -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member is talking about somebody that he elected to the office of Governor-General. Now he sees fit to criticise that man.
-There is no substance to the point of order.
– I did not select him at all. I had nothing to do with his selection. I got quite a surprise when I was told by the then Prime Minister that Kerr had been selected as Governor-General. I knew nothing about it. Some poor aged pensioner with an income that is a little bit more than the permissible amount, some miserable income of a little more than about $5,000 or $6,000, is told that he cannot get any pension at all.
The Government ought to talk about jobs for the boys. I know how this came about. In August last year, Mr Arblaster, a member of the New South Wales Parliament and a former senior vice-president of the Liberal Party, met Kerr at Kirribilli House where they thrashed it all out. At that stage, Kerr was refusing to grant a dissolution of parliament. The next night Kerr met the Prime Minister at Kirribilli House, then hey presto, it was decided that the dissolution would be granted.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Surely this comment is totally out of order in this House of Parliament. It is casting reflections on the action taken by a GovernorGeneral when in office.
-Order! There is no substance to the point of order. The time of the honourable member for Hindmarsh has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. On two occasions now the honourable member for Bendigo has taken points of order during an adjournment debate when members have only five minutes in which to speak. This means that at least a minute and a half of the time of the honourable member for Hindmarsh has been taken up by points of order which the honourable member for Bendigo knew, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you would overrule. Both sides can play this game. Unless the honourable member for Hindmarsh is granted an extension of time we will continue to take points of order on any member from the other side of the House who rises to speak.
-There is no point of order.
Motion (by Mr Clyde Cameron) proposed:
That the honourable member for Hindmarsh be granted an extension of time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Hindmarsh cannot move that he be granted an extension of time.
-The Chair is aware of that. I call the honourable member for Mallee.
-I rise tonight to seek this Government’s intervention in the sale of the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd at Brooklyn, Victoria. I do this in an attempt to negotiate alternative arrangements that would fully protect 10,000 primary producer shareholders and to ensure that the producers are able to exercise some influence in their industry.
This co-operative was placed into receivership in June 1975. Since that time it has traded successfully. This has been achieved by contract killing arrangements which have seen a $5m trading surplus. (Quorum formed). As well as this $5m trading surplus, there have been payments of some $460,000 on interest commitments and devaluation differential payments with an additional $259,000 being used to upgrade the works. Despite this and a reasonable certainty of an increasing upturn in the meat industry, a tender by Protean (Holdings) Ltd of $ 10.25m has been accepted for an abattoir whose rebuilding value would exceed $30m. It was the Australian Industry Development Corporation which in 1975, kept this business intact. However, it is the AIDC, which was established in 1970 to encourage the development of Australian industry, that has recommended that this tender be accepted and secured creditors be paid in full. The AIDC, as the major creditor, has recommended this action based on its judgment that it would be a sound commercial practice. However, I contend that the AIDC must bear major responsibility for the now financial position of CF&G for the following reasons: Firstly, it insisted that the administrator, Mr Smart, be given extraordinary powers over the cooperative’s management to the extent that he was in fact and in law the virtual dictator of the entire enterprise thus enabling him, without the knowledge of directors, to make from the cooperative ‘s cash funds loans totalling nearly $2m to certain business enterprises which are now insolvent. This loss of $2m was largely responsible for the appointment of the receiver in 1 975.
The AIDC also appointed watch-dogs who were supposed to keep check on Mr Smart and his management of the co-operative but they failed to do so. The AIDC also encouraged Mr Smart to embark upon a costly and uneconomic expansion of the co-operative’s activities. This was financed largely by massive loans from the AIDC at high interest rates. Having thus materially contributed to the financial disaster into which the Society was plunged in 1 975 the AIDC has now washed its hands of the whole matter and by exercising its power under its mortgage is now going to recoup its money at the expense of completely destroying a producer’s co-operative. These details have been submitted to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). In discussions with the AIDC I have tried to put forward a scheme of arrangements which would assist this co-operative to continue to operate. I seek to impress upon this House the need for this Government to use any powers open to it to assist the AIDC in arranging the financial assistance necessary to save the CF&G co-operative from disintegration.
– I should like to add my support to the remarks of the honourable members for Mallee (Mr Fisher). I think that in the circumstances of the case that he has cited a statement from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) should be made to this House.
– This is not a point of order.
-I understand that the honourable member for Bendigo does not know what is going on in this place. I am making a speech, as I am entitled to do. I did not realise just how dense he was. The matter which the honourable member for Mallee has raised is of some consequence, as I would have thought that even the honourable member for Bendigo would agree. The Australian Industry Development Corporation is moving to close or to sell off an organisation which believes that it can trade its way out of its present difficulties. This organisationthe Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd- has very substantial assets but if the present procedures continue it will mean that the members of the co-operative will lose those assets and they will be transferred to an organisation at very much below their real value. I think that is something which is important especially as it is a farmers’ co-operative which has had difficulties before and traded out of them and as this is a difficult period for the meat industry generally. I think this House is entitled to an explanation from the Minister as to why the organisation is to be sold off, what action the government is able to take and what discussions have taken place with the AIDC.
I want to raise another matter in this adjournment debate. During the recent election campaign and immediately following it considerable discussion arose because of unfortunate discoveries in Australia of a virus of the bluetongue disease. During the campaign it was announced that funds would be made available to commence construction of the National Animal Health Laboratories at Geelong. So far no announcements have been made of contracts but I understand that contracts are undergoing preparation.
– It is going to be moved to Bendigo.
-I think good judgment is shown sometimes. There are a number of aspects which I think the House ought to consider. My understanding is that a substantially new design has been developed for this project and that a contract will be let on that basis. I draw to the attention of the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) that if that is a fact then it is most likely that it will be necessary for him to prepare and present to this Parliament a motion which would exempt the new design from examination by the Public Works Committee because substantial alterations which were considered to that design some time ago could render the decision of the Parliament out of date and invalid. It is only a matter of the Minister submitting a motion to enable the work to proceed so as to overcome any legal difficulties which may exist. I draw this to the attention of the Minster more to be helpful, if that is necessary, and not in any way being critical. I hope that the project is not delayed for any reason.
The other matter which I am concerned about in regard to this project- I have raised it in the House before- is the low priority which the Government gave to the project during the two years of its previous term in office and prior to what became a serious threat to substantial sections of primary industry. It is a long lead time project. It will not be in operation for some six to eight years. During the two years- the Minister for Primary Industry acknowledged this during the election campaign- the Government kept deferring the matter on the ground that it did not consider it had high enough priority to warrant an allocation of funds. The project is urgent to protect vital areas of primary industry.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I draw the attention of the House to the sinister implications of the point being parroted forth regularly, at least twice a day, by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). This relates to his desire to see party structures and their campaigns financed by the taxpayers. We have already seen in New South Wales a desperate attempt by the Labor Party to destroy the small parties in that State, in particular the Australian Democrats. This attempt was in the changes that were proposed by the Labor Government in New South Wales to the method of election of members to the upper House in that State. There was an attempt through a system called the ‘list system ‘ effectively to destroy the prospects of any small party ending up with a representative in the upper House. This was simply dishonest. It was a system that was not used even by the Labor Party in its own elections. It was the system that was withdrawn in one of the many shameful retreats that the Labor Premier of New South Wales has been obliged to make.
That has been cancelled, but there we saw one direct attempt to destroy the possibility of new smaller parties achieving any place in the political scene. It was done because the New South Wales Labor Government realised that the threat to the Labor Party was a real one from these new parties. The same thing has happened in the federal scene. The proposal by the honourable member for Port Adelaide is an attempt to ossify the existing political structures so that the only way one would be financed at taxpayers’ expense would be through the existing political parties on the basis of the votes received at a previous election. This would destroy the prospects of a new party getting any support whatsoever. It is part of a long term apparently consistent campaign to prevent the growth of any new parties and it is being done by a party which realises it is losing more and more the support of the bulk of the people who had supported what was once a great party. This is a desperate attempt to keep -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned till 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 February 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780222_reps_31_hor108/>.