31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr Kenneth Lionel Fry made and subscribed the affirmation as member for the Division of Fraser, Australian Capital Territory.
-Mr Speaker, I raise a matter of privilege based on an editorial published in the Sunday Observer of 26 February 1978 under the heading ‘Political Bludgers’. I will produce a copy of the Sunday Observer produced by Mr Alan Leonard Armsden of 46-49 Porter Street, Prahran, Victoria, for Peter Isaacson’s Sunday Newspapers Pty Ltd of 44 Market Street, Melbourne. The article states:
The over-taxed, Government-burdened people of Australia were treated to a disgusting exhibition by many Federal politicians this week.
Many of our so-called leaders proved themselves lazy, two-faced bludgers at the opening of Federal Parliament in Canberra.
It happened last Tuesday and, until now, not one newspaper has bothered to point out the outrageous antics of these power-puffed thespians of the parliamentary stage.
While our new Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, delivered his speech to the combined Houses, politicians from all sides appeared in their newly-cleaned suits.
Colours were carefully chosen for ties and handkerchiefs and members’ wives preened themselves for the ceremonial hoo-ha.
Of course. The television cameras were rolling. Here was a chance to be shown off to the public.
Politicians were actually seen in the House, apparently taking some notice of official business.
But after the official ceremonies were over they skulked out like thieves in the night.
While new Opposition boss, Bill Hayden, made his first speech in the House as leader, members lounged about in the bar.
And when Federal Treasurer, John Howard, built up to an important parliamentary appearance the House was half empty. Once again the bar was adequately occupied.
Mr Speaker, I do not think I need to read any further. All this is supposed to have happened last Tuesday and I do not think that the bar was available last Tuesday. Most of us were outside in the garden. As to the failure of the Press Gallery correspondents to report the matter, of course nothing at all occurred on that day. They were probably in the garden as well. Therefore, Mr Speaker, I ask you to rule whether this sort of comment is, in your view, prima facie evidence of a breach of privilege, a matter which should be referred to the Committee of Privileges and a matter which I could bring to the attention of the House later.
– I ask the honourable gentleman to provide me with a copy of the article in question. The Standing Orders make provision for precedence to be given over all other business to a matter involving a breach of privilege if the Speaker is of the opinion that the matter involves a prima facie breach of privilege. My understanding of what the honourable member read out is that, in his submission, it amounts to a breach of privilege by way of contempt. I shall look at the matter and advise the House at a later hour this day my decision as to whether the article constitutes a breach of privilege. If my opinion were that it constitutes a breach of privilege, a course of action would proceed. If my opinion were to the contrary, the matter would be at an end. In the meantime, the matter is in abeyance.
– 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 Connolly, Mr Lusher, Mr McVeigh and Mr Sainsbury.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on 30 June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30 June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 197S under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $ 1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government ‘s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson, Mr Peacock, Mr Willis and Mr E. G. Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
We welcome the decision to mine and export Australian uranium, under Australian and international safeguards. This decision will result in great benefits both for Australia and the whole of humanity.
We recognise that:
Rich nations, heavily dependent on Middle Eastern Oil, are relying on atomic power to maintain their standard of living.
Ten poor nations with limited energy resources of their own are relying on atomic power to raise their standard of living.
Your petitioners humbly pray that your Honourable House will take steps to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr N. A. Brown. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the electors of Lilley, respectfully showeth:
That we, the electors of Lilley and the Undersigned voice our disapproval an abhorrence of those sections of Volume 3 of the Final Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships, pertaining to abortion on demand.
We see no justification on any occasion, to deliberately kill or destroy the unborn foetus.
We wish to object to the use of public money to subsidise abortions.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Kevin Cairns. 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.
The humble petition of certain citizens of Australia, electors of the Division of New England respectfully showeth the needs of the R. A. Phillips Rehabilitation Unit at 1-3 Bryson Street, Chatswood 2067. Patients suffering the disabilities of Multiple Sclerosis attend the Unit for treatment and occupational therapy but space is limited and there is a great need for accommodation for in-patient treatment.
Also we would like to bring to your notice the fact that research into the cause and cure of Multiple Sclerosis is conducted mainly at the Department of Medicine and Immunology at Sydney University and at the Melbourne
University and at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, findings being pooled with 20 other countries. However, funds are limited so that Australian scientists are hampered in their research work.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that there be an increase in the subsidy granted for these works, sufficient to ensure that Australian scientists may be able to take their place in world research and that many more patients may be rehabilitated to lead a reasonably normal life.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hunt.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That on 13 September 1977, Steve Biko, President of the Black Peoples Convention died, aged 30, while being held incommunicado for questioning in detention without trial in South Africa;
That this is the twentieth death of a black political prisoner in similar circumstances in South Africa in the last eighteen months; and the forty-fourth death of a prisoner while in police custody in recent years;
That Steve Biko had been held in detention since August 22; and had previously been held for 101 days without a trial; and in addition, was under a five year house arrest and restriction order;
That Steve Biko is the acknowledged leader of the black peoples resistance to apartheid, racial exploitation and injustice in South Africa, and that in this context his death in the hands of the white police must be regarded with grave suspicion;
Your petitioners accordingly request the Australian Government to register the strongest protest to the South African Government at the circumstances of Biko ‘s death and decline to accept the credentials of the new South African ambassador due to be appointed shortly.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hurford.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned Volunteer Firemen attached to the New South Wales Fire Brigade Service respectfully showeth:
That the Volunteer Firemen of the New South Wales Fire Brigades are performing an essential community service in suburban and country towns by providing low cost fire protection and in sacrificing their leisure and rest hours to perform this essential service, are being subjected to severe financial loss by having to pay income tax on two incomes which under the present taxation system discourages most individuals from having two jobs.
That the present situation has resulted in the resignation of a large number of volunteer firemen because of the effects of taxation, leaving a number of fire brigades under strength and a reluctance of potential recruits to pay excessive taxation.
That this growing problem could be effectively dealt with by granting taxation concessions to volunteer firemen in the State of New South Wales similar to those being received by members of the Citizens Military Forces.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will urge the Government to review the Taxation Act to exempt the earnings of volunteer firemen in the State of New South Wales from income tax, or give consideration to separate assessment of earnings and so protect the future of the volunteer fire service in New South Wales.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lusher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Millar.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many pensioners who are holders of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card, have suffered undue hardship as inmates of Private Nursing Homes, because the Federal Government subsidy was insufficient to meet the charges as laid down.
Many pensioners whose spouse was an inmate of the Private Nursing Homes suffered poverty in an endeavour to sustain their partner while in the nursing home.
Only in rare cases was the statutory minimum patient contribution as laid down adhered to.
That the telephone was a matter of life and death to many pensioners, but because of the cost of installation of the telephone many are unable to afford the installation.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else to live on and are forced to pay high rents, are in many cases living in extreme poverty.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sainsbury.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Ballarat respectfully showeth:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that Members in Parliament assembled should require Telecom Australia to examine urgently possible ways of eliminating those burdens, and to make appropriate recommendations to the Government through the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Short.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia being parents and teachers from Chandler High School respectfully showeth that we are greatly concerned at the Federal Government’s proposed expenditure on education.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that you will increase the allocation of funds to Australian government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Yates.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the report relating to the former Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Mr Malcolm Booker, where he indicated that his embassy had been subjected to surveillance by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and that he himself had been subjected to ASIO surveillance, contrary to the official rules. Can the Minister confirm those allegations? In accordance with the spirit of the Security Appeals Tribunal and the Hope report on security and intelligence, which refers to grave and permanent injustice being done to people in the Public Service by such ASIO reports, could those reports be made available to Mr Booker? Will the Minister also state what use, if any, was made of those reports to deny Mr Booker continuance in the Public Service?
-There is no truth in Mr Booker’s allegations which were cited in the National Times of 27 February and which were to the effect that he was forced into retirement and that ASIO reports were used for that purpose. There is no truth in the allegation that ASIO reports were made on Mr Booker. All I will say on this matter- this has already been indicated by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government- is that the circumstances in which ASIO reports will now be made available is pursuant to the recommendations of Mr Justice Hope. All I will say in regard to Mr Booker, apart from denying that ASIO reports were used against him, is to reiterate what I said once before about him, and that is that he was not forced to retire on any ground at all. He chose to retire rather than to accept re-appointment to the Public Service in Canberra at a level lower than that which he regarded to be his due or to accept another appointment overseas as a head of mission, which was discussed with him.
– I ask the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development: When is a decision likely to be made on a grant to assist the Australian Commonwealth Games team to compete at the Edmonton Games in August this year?
– I thank the honourable member for this very timely question. The Government has decided to provide a total of $225,000 to assist our national team to compete at the Edmonton Games to be held in August of this year. That figure will be made up of two amounts: a lump sum grant of $150,000 will be provided to help offset the expenses of equipping and transporting the team to Edmonton, and the balance, $75,000 will be used to establish a pregames training fund. The grant of $ 1 50,000 is a very significant increase on the $35,000 allocated to the team which went to Christchurch, New Zealand, for the 1974 Games. The pre-training fund is a new initiative. It has been established because the Government recognises that these games will be held out of season for our Australian athletes. In order to ensure maximum performance it is desirable that athletes have some form of pre-event training to help them to acclimatise to the conditions in the Northern Hemisphere and to provide additional high level competition prior to the games. I recognise, and the Government recognises, that the Commonwealth Games Association must raise substantial additional funds to pay for the team’s total expenses. The Government is confident that the business community and the public will support the fund raising efforts to ensure Australia ‘s success at Edmonton.
-The Minister for Industry and Commerce will be aware of the disastrous state of the motor manufacturing industry, among many industries, at the present time. Is it a fact that the most recent motor registration figures show an alarming drop? Is the Minister urgently conferring with representatives of the industry and, if so, which representatives? Will the Minister consider applying a reduction in sales taxes to stimulate the industry? What plans are there to rationalise the industry and make it more competitive? When does the Minister anticipate making an announcement on policy decisions relating to these matters?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for asking a question on a subject which has certainly been taking up a considerable proportion of the Press reporting in recent days. The honourable gentleman can have my personal assurance that all sections of the industry are subject to consultation by the Government at the present time. I have seen a number of significant sections of the industry to this stage and further consultations are in fact in process. I regret that the honourable gentleman raised the matter of sales tax. I must say to him, as I said in earlier days when I was Treasurer, that a reduction is not part of Government thinking because of the impact it could have on inflation in Australia and in a particular sense, in relation to Government economic policy, because of the impact it would have on the Budget deficit.
There has been a considerable degree of Press reporting on the results achieved by General Motors-Holden’s Ltd and Chrysler Australia Ltd. In the light of the very subdued market last year and the difficulties for those two companies and others in maintaining their market share and in coping with the overall question of cost pressures, not forgetting the question of the costs associated with the introduction of new vehicles, a worsening of the profitability situation of those and other companies is not unexpected at the present time. I believe that the continuing decline in the overall rate of inflation- I might mention in the same context the introduction of the Government’s tax reforms- will lead to an impetus in consumer spending. That should create a more favourable climate in which the companies will be able to operate in the future.
Although the motor vehicle market certainly has been very flat- and I do not want to qualify that for the honourable gentlemen- the outlook for 1978, according to my information- and it is a matter of judgment with which the honourable gentleman might disagree- is better, with an upturn expected some time in the second half of the year. The Government’s policy for the industry, which as the House will be aware, involves an 85 per cent local content plan and an 80/20 market sharing arrangement, is designed to provide a framework within which the five manufacturing companies can operate. An essential part of that policy, which derives from decisions taken in the past, is to allow the two Japanese companies to manufacture in Australia on equal terms with the three local manufacturers rather than to supply the market with imports, leading to disruptive effects on the local industry. It was expected that an inevitable result of this approach would be a higher degree of initial competition amongst the five manufacturers. Whilst the Government would be concerned in the present circumstances if the viability of any of the manufacturers were at significant risk, the Government does not see its role as being a guarantor of the survival of individual companies.
Insofar as the trading losses of Chrysler and General Motors-Holden’s are concerned both companies have expressed their confidence in the future- in a better performance in 1978- and have re-affirmed very substantial investment plans. Apart from the question of the passenger vehicle market, the honourable gentleman will be aware of the reference that has been sent to the Industries Assistance Commission in relation to light commercial vehicles. The honourable gentleman will also be aware that the IAC’s report on heavy trucks is before the Government. A decision will be announced as soon as the matter has been brought before the Cabinet.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. Before the general election, the Government undertook to provide assistance towards air fares and accommodation for people in isolated areas who require specialist medical attention. Can the Minister give any information as to progress in this matter?
– The Government has been considering the details of the proposed isolated patients travel and accommodation scheme. Some negotiations and discussions necessarily have to take place with the States because the States have some schemes that impinge upon the proposal that we advanced during the last election campaign. I hope that the details of that scheme will be resolved in the not too distant future and that legislation will be introduced during this parliamentary session to bring the scheme into operation. I am well aware of the serious problems from which patients in isolated areas, particularly in the electorate of Leichhardt, suffer. When a patient from such an area is referred by a general practitioner to a specialist in, say, Brisbane he could have to pay hundreds of dollars for travel and accommodation. It is thought only fair and equitable that, in a system in which we have universal health insurance, some provision should be made to try to remove that financial disability from people living in isolated areas.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer to Press releases from the Minister numbered IEA 94/77, 95/77 and 96/77 concerning Indo-China refugees but, in particular, to statements in those releases about a far reaching and comprehensive refugee policy; of strict screening, medical and quarantine controls and the adoption of a humanitarian and compassionate attitude towards refugees. I ask: What is the total number of refugees to come to Australia from Indo-China? How many are boat people? How many have been refused entry? Has the Minister received reports from any source that among other things charitable organisations cannot satisfy the demands on them from those refugees for furniture, food and clothing; that hospitals in the vicinity of centres accommodating Indo-China refugees are treating some of them for venereal disease, scabies and even leprosy? If so, does this indicate that the Government has broken its promises to national and international organisations and handed over its responsibilities to charitable organisations and State health authorities? If the Minister has not received any reports, will he check and inform the House whether there is any substance in the widely circulating rumours I have mentioned?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question because it enables me to inform the House of the policies pursued by this Government in relation to Indo-Chinese refugees and to compare them with the sorry record of his Party when it was in government. From memory, since 1975 some 6,100 IndoChinese refugees have come to Australia. Of that number just over 1,000 have arrived in small boats on the north coast of Australia. I have given assurances that medical checks will be carried out, as they have been, particularly when we have had the opportunity to do so in the camps in Malaysia and Thailand in particular. Obviously those people arriving in small boats have not been checked medically before they arrived but immediately after arriving extensive medical checks have been carried out. Where some medical problems have been discovered action has been taken to overcome any possible risk to public health that they may represent. I have been in constant touch with voluntary organisations in relation to the successful integration of refugees, not only Indo-Chinese refugees but all refugees coming to Australia. The Government is continuing those consultations. I should like to pay tribute to the interest and commitment of the voluntary organisations in this humanitarian work. Last year the Government had two meetingsfrom memory the last one was in Novemberwith representatives of the voluntary organisations. These meetings are designed to ensure that the closest co-operation and co-ordination of effort take place. I will check after Question Time to see whether there are any aspects of the honourable gentleman’s question that I have not covered. If there are, I will reply to him further.
-My question is also directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Today’s Melbourne Age states:
The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr Mackellar, has predicted an influx of black, white and coloured South Africans into Australia.
Since various newspapers have reported recently that the Minister believed that there would be a great wish for a large number of black people to come to Australia, I ask the Minister: When and on what basis did he make the prediction? Does the Minister consider that migrants from Southern Africa will be shunted into dirty jobs, as one part of the Age report also suggests?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. On 22 February I was interviewed by a journalist from Australian Associated Press. He asked me many questions about aspects of migration to Australia. In the course of that interview I said that I saw a continuing influx of people into Australia in the future and that we would probably see a change in the countries of origin and the proportion of people coming from those various countries to Australia. I mentioned that it would not be surprising if we had a bigger intake from Southern Africa than we have had in the past. I also mentioned North America and South America in relation to possible increased intakes.
I was also asked whether, in referring to increased intakes from Africa, I was talking about blacks as well as whites. I said, in reply, that I believed that there would be a great wish for a large number of black people to come to Australia. In the context of the questions I was asked I clearly intended this to mean that I believed that there would be interest on the part of a large number of black people to migrate to Australia. That in no way was intended to suggest that there would be an influx of a group of people of any particular colour from Africa into Australia.
Our immigration policy is and will continue to be one of non-discrimination in the sense that eligibility criteria are applied in the same way to all people applying to migrate to Australia. Whilst there is undoubtedly interest among many groups of people in migrating to Australia, whether they are approved depends on their meeting eligibility criteria. Therefore, in short, I did not predict an influx of black, white and coloured South Africans but did indicate that I would not be surprised if larger numbers of people from Southern Africa who meet our eligibility criteria come to Australia.
People who are suggesting that migrants are being admitted specifically to do the dirtiest jobs either do not understand our current migration policy, or worse, are deliberately trying to mislead people as to what that policy is. At present the only unskilled people who are being admitted are some of those who qualify under the family reunion or the refugee criteria. I believe that there is a unanimous view that these eligibility criteria should be maintained. Other migrants are approved on the basis of a list of occupations in strong and continuing demand in Australia. That list is prepared by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and is circulated to all members of Parliament. Members who receive that list will know that it is confined to professional, technical and skilled occupations.
– I refer the Minister for Trade and Resources to a report compiled by the Department of Overseas Trade which forecasted a balance on current account deficit of $2, 528m for 1977-78. 1 ask: Does the Minister still acknowledge that Australia’s trade and balance of payments position is noticeably weakening given that the current account deficit stood at $1,3 5 4m in the seven months to January compared with $703m in the seven months to January one year earlier? In the light of these recent figures, does the Minister see his Department’s forecast being realised for 1977-78?
-The Leader of the Opposition is referring to a document which was leaked during the course of the last Federal election campaign. That document, as was revealed, was some months out of date and needed to be revised in accordance with more up to date figures. It is true that we have a balance of payments situation that cannot be taken complacently. Therefore, it is the Government’s policy to ensure that the strategy that we are following in trying to get more investment in Australia under way will be pursued. If we can do that it will help with the balance of payments situation not only in regard to capital inflow into the country but also in regard to developing industries which will help to earn overseas exchange.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, concerns uranium and Australian participation in the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation. What stage has the INFCE study reached? What efforts is the Government making to ensure that the work of INFCE is effective? Is the Australian Government taking a particular interest in the long-term supply of technology and fuel?
– Australia’s participation in the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation flows directly from the Government’s uranium and nuclear safeguards policies. It is based on the conviction, as expressed in Washington in October 1977 in the communique of the INFCE organising conference, that effective measures can and should be taken at the national level and through international agreements to minimise the danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapons without jeopardising energy supplies or the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The INFCE study is now fully under way and it has our active support. All the eight working groups which cover the whole spectrum of the nuclear fuels cycle, from fuel availability through to enrichment, reprocessing, fast breeder reactors, waste management and even advance reactor concepts, have met and have organised their work programs.
There has also been a meeting of the technical co-ordinating committee which is responsible for overseeing the total work program. Australia is participating in seven of the eight INFCE working groups. We are a co-chairman, with the Philippines and Switzerland, of working group three dealing with assurances of long-term supply of technology, fuel and services about which I note the honourable member specifically asked in the latter part of his question. In this role our concern will be to ensure that any measures which may be agreed to eventually are consistent with and contribute to non-proliferation objectives while, of course, meeting energy requirements. Furthermore, Australia’s Ambassador-at-Large on nuclear nonproliferation and safeguards, Mr Justice Fox, has established an office in London and is maintaining an active travel program in monitoring developments on non-proliferation issues, including developments in INFCE and, of course, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. It concerns the case of Moore v. Doyle in which nine years ago the Industrial Court, in a unanimous judgement, stressed that a system of trade union organisation was urgently needed, which would enable the one body to represent its relevant members in both the Federal and State arbitration systems. The Minister will remember that this Parliament passed the legislation recommended by Mr Justice J. B. Sweeney three and a half years ago and he may remember that he told me two years ago that he would be looking at the States’ side of the problem with State Ministers as soon as possible. I now ask him: Was this matter on the agenda at the conference of Ministers for Labour last Friday, the eve of the ninth anniversary of the judgment? When does he expect that the States will play their part or any of the States will play its part in producing a solution which the Industrial Court said was urgent nine years ago?
– I am well aware of the honourable member’s long-standing interest in this complex issue and it seems to take the form of an anniversary commemoration in this House. As I informed the honourable member some time ago, this question has been discussed both formally and informally at meetings of Ministers for Labour since I have become Minister, and I have no doubt long before that as well.
As I informed the honourable member, informal discussions took place on this question at the last meeting but one of Labour Ministers in Perth in September last year, it having been on the formal agenda at the meeting before that. I had requested State Ministers to indicate their views. As a result of the discussions in Perth it became clear that the four State governments which had some interest in this issue- not all State governments are concerned, of course, because two States have wages board systems- were not interested in enacting legislation of their own complementary to the legislation which has been enacted in this Federal Parliament. In addition, they indicated to me that they saw little profit in pursuing the matter further. Under those circumstances the Moore and Doyle issue was not on the agenda for the meeting of Labour Ministers last Friday.
– The Minister for Primary Industry will be aware of the concern of dairy farmers, particularly those in Victoria, over the delay in the announcement of a review of underwriting support for certain dairy products and of the need to either defer or make more equitable the Australian Agricultural Council plan for stage 2 of the national dairy industry. Can the Minister inform the House of any progress in either of these matters?
-I am fully aware of the honourable member’s interest in these matters. Indeed, he assures me that there are more dairy farmers producing more milk in his electorate than there are in many other States. The industry has gone through quite significant changes over the course of time since the Industries Assistance Commission report was brought down by Sir John Crawford. The Australian Agricultural Council, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and the working party on the dairying industry have examined in considerable detail the arithmetic that has emerged from Sir John Crawford’s recommendation. There has been an agreement to disagree on formulae established for national aggregate entitlements and State aggregate entitlements. At this stage the Federal Government has taken no final position with respect to the distribution of such entitlements, although we would hope it may be possible to devise a basis by which future levels of milk production in Australia can reasonably be equated to payable markets both at home and abroad.
There is very real justification for the maintenance of an adequate level of underwriting to ensure the incomes of dairy farmers during this time of transition. The position with respect to stage 2 and future marketing arrangements, of course, applies after 1 July next. A very critical overview of the whole of the circumstances of production within the industry was taken following the last election. Cabinet has decided therefore that there should be some adjustment of underwriting limits. It is intended that the limit should be set at 75c for the period from 1 January to 30 June. I shall make a detailed statement after Question Time setting out the level of support that will be undertaken and the approaches that will be made to the States with regard to each of the commodities. We believe that this should enable the dairy industry to maintain a reasonable return in circumstances where both seasons and markets have so prejudiced the opportunities of farmers. We believe that this is just another illustration of this Government’s concern for the wellbeing of rural producers.
– I address my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Minister aware of the difficulties being imposed upon the people of the New Hebrides by the failure of the French and British Governments to create a viable legislative assembly and to take effective steps towards self-government for the Territory? Is he aware that the major political party in the Islands, the Vanu Aku Party, withdrew from the November election because of this and that there is a rising tide of tension in the Islands? Will the Minister use whatever strength of persuasion Australia can muster with the French and British authorities to have a new constitution drafted granting adequate powers of self-government to the local people with new elections to be held as soon as practicable? Will he point out to the administering governments that they are creating a potential trouble spot in our region and that their continuing administration of the territory is an anachronism?
-I am aware of the difficulties facing both the political parties and the people of the New Hebrides as they move on the path towards independence. As the New Hebrides is one of our closest Pacific neighbours and is a territory with which Australia has long-standing and quite diverse links it is only natural that we should be concerned about the direction taken by recent events there. We have watched the developments there closely and we have been in touch on occasions both directly and indirectlythrough accredited diplomatic representatives and those who have come to see me to discuss the matter- with most of the principal parties involved in the situation.
We welcome the determination of the administering powers of the New Hebrides- that is, Britain and France- to advance the territory to independence by 1 980. 1 hope that this will be achieved in full accordance with the wishes of all the people of the New Hebrides. However, the Australian Government has been disappointed to note that the peaceful transition of the New Hebrides to independence currently appears threatened by the failure of the parties concerned to reach full agreement. In particular, we have observed with some concern the manner of the establishment of a so-called provisional government. Whilst it is not for us to interfere in the internal affairs of another country or territory, we feel as a neighbouring member of the South Pacific region that it is our duty to urge all the parties concerned to endeavour to reach a harmonious solution to the difficult situation which now exists in the New Hebrides. We feel sure that common ground exists whereby the prospect of disorder can be avoided and the processes of self-determination, to which all concerned have pledged their adherence, can be fulfilled.
Summing up the situation from the Government’s point of view, we look forward to the achieving of a solution and a lessening of the tensions which are foreign to the South Pacific. In regard to the final element touched on by the honourable member about new elections, I believe that one means of achieving the solution with less tension that I referred to earlier may be to take advantage of the recent call by the Vanu Aku Party for fresh elections in the New Hebrides to take the process of reconciliation a step further.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that on 18 November of last year the then Treasurer promised the Australian public that he would release the full details of his family business interests? Is it a fact that he later presented such details to the Prime Minister in a 30-page document plus 20 pages of attachments but that the Prime Minister refused to make this document public and instead released a much briefer, sanitised version? Why has the Prime Minister prevented the ex-Treasurer from releasing these documents so far and, to use a phrase much used by the ex-Treasurer in 1975, will the Prime Minister allow the ex-Treasurer to come clean and release all of those documents now?
– I suppose it was only to be expected that the Australian Labor Party would renew this kind of approach to politics. Let me make one thing perfectly plain.
– You are a tax dodger.
-Let me make one thing plain: There have been no statements by me.
– Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will withdraw that remark.
– I will withdraw it.
– I ask the honourable gentleman not to interject while the answer is being given.
-Let me make one thing perfectly plain: I have made no decisions as to what may or may not be published. On the other hand, the statement which I issued, which incorporated the statement which had earlier been seen and approved by Mr Stephen Charles who had conducted the most exhaustive examination of this matter, is one which I believe should end that matter. The public commentaries at the time in some journals which are not always fully in accord with the Government’s views seem to reflect that attitude. In addition, honourable gentlemen will note that an inquiry by Mr Justice Bowen has been instituted. If, as a result of that inquiry, it appears that there are matters that ought to be pursued in the general context the Government will obviously consider them with a good deal of vigour. I believe that that is all that needs to be said at this stage.
– I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: What action has been taken to alleviate complaints that are being received from television viewers and individuals using other forms of radio communication, of interference allegedly caused by some- I repeat, some- citizen band radio operators?
-Nearly 200,000 citizen band licences have been issued since last year and the introduction of that number of licences has of course led to teething problems. I believe that if the CB users continue to co-operate with the Government in this matter it will be possible for us to iron out the problems. My Department is now seeking extra staff to help to handle the interference problems. Such problems can normally be overcome fairly easily with the advice of local district radio inspectors.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to the continuing deplorable over-crowding and lack of maintenance of Aboriginal housing at Wreck Bay. Will the Minister confirm that the plan of the Australian Labor Government to build 30 new homes in Wreck Bay was reduced to twenty, and then to six in the current Budget, none of which houses has been built? I understand that allocations in the 1978-79 Budget will allow for only two houses to be built. In view of the delay, will the Minister consider handing this project over to the Department of Construction with the proviso that it uses only the skilled or semi-skilled labour that is available amongst the unemployed at Wreck Bay? Secondly, will he consider his Department’s taking over the responsibility for maintenance of the buildings to avoid the delays which are caused by the responsibility being divided between his Department and the Department of the Capital Territory?
– Over the last couple of years, by the preference of the community itself, a considerable sum of money has been provided for the maintenance and renovation of existing houses. Over the last two years the sum of $1 12,000 has been made available for this purpose. Recently I approved the allocation of $130,000 for the building of four new houses, and during this financial year at least that number of nouses will be built. In November last year my colleague Senator John Knight discussed with me the problems of the Wreck Bay community. He indicated to me that he wished to go there and discuss the matter with the people. I asked him to do that not only in his own interest as the senator representing those people but also in my interest as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Senator Knight did so and reported to me that the people were desirous of having new houses built now rather than a continuation of the previous program of carrying out renovations with labour from the Wreck Bay community. I was very glad to be able to respond to Senator Knight’s representations and to make the allocation of $130,000 that I have indicated for the building of four new houses during this financial year.
I inform the honourable member for Fraser that my colleague the Minister for Construction, through his Department, is my technical consultant in housing programs. His Department and mine liaise very closely together in any programs concerned with building houses for Aboriginal communities through their own housing associations. I also inform the honourable gentleman that my Department is not a functional department in the sense that it does not carry out maintenance of the kind that he requested. That would be a quite inappropriate function for my Department to carry out. Rather, it has the role of policy planning and co-ordination and the fixing of priorities for the appropriation of funds. Where technical assistance is required I call on the adequate services of the Department of Construction.
– I address my question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to the recently announced net profit by Telecom Australia of in excess of $99m, equivalent to more than half a million dollars per day during the last half of 1977. Does the Minister realise that this profit level maintains Telecom’s position as the biggest profit earner in Australia? Will the Minister ensure that a significant proportion of this huge surplus is directed to providing some relief from the burden of installation costs and call charges for telecommunications in the non-metropolitan areas of Australia?
– For some odd reason Telecom likes to refer to its profit as a surplus but the fact is that all Telecom profits are ploughed back into the business of Telecommunications in Australia. It is precisely the fact that these profits are ploughed back which enables extensions to be made to the telecommunications system in Australia. Improvements in rural areas and extensions to the service are made possible precisely because good profits are made by Telecom. The alternative would be a far more costly approach, as I think my colleague the Treasurer would agree. The approach that Telecom has adopted in recent times has meant that the free line plant entitlement has been increased from 12 kilometres to 16 kilometres. As from January a 20 per cent concession on subscriber trunk dialling calls on Sunday has applied and further concessions are envisaged. The Australian Telecommunications Commission will continue to review its tariff structure in the light of costs and other factors and reduce them wherever possible.
-I ask the Minister for Transport: What information is he able to provide to the Parliament on statements made in the Papua New Guinea Parliament yesterday relating to alleged dealings between Qantas Airways Ltd and a Minister of the Papua New Guinea Government? Is it a fact, as claimed, that the Papua New Guinea Minister for Transport was in receipt of payments from Qantas?
– All I know of this matter is what I read in the newspapers this morning. In the newspaper reports I read that Mr Jephcott claimed and stated flatly in the Parliament of Papua New Guinea that he had received no such payments. It ill-behoves the honourable member for Shortland to repeat in this House an allegation which already has been denied by the Minister for Transport in the New Guinea Parliament. Having said that, I shall make inquiries of Qantas Airways Ltd to see whether Qantas has anything to add.
– Is the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware that at page 23 of the White Paper on Manufacturing Industry the Government promised to continue the long-term review of the tariff initiated in 1971 with a view to making progress as quickly as possible consistent with economic circumstances? Is the Minister aware that industry reviews under that program take, on average, two years to complete? When will the Minister make the remaining references to the Industries Assistance Commission so that the Government in due course may honour its commitment?
– I draw the attention of the honourable member for Moore and of the House to the decision taken by the Government early in the second half of last year not to send to the Industries Assistance Commission the remaining references concerning the metal industries. It will be recalled that that decision was taken because of prevailing economic conditions in the metal industries. The Government pointed out quite clearly at the time that it had no intention of sending the references forward in view of the conditions operating then, or during any period when the references were likely to erode confidence in the metal industries. It is a fact that when such references go forward it takes some time, possibly in the order of two years, for them to be considered. The Government holds the strong view that if references of that kind were to go forward at this stage they would undermine confidence in the industry and would lead to a reduction, if not the elimination, of investment in the industry, with resultant further unemployment. The Government has no intention of sending references forward under those circumstances.
– For the information of honourable members I present the final report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships. I thank the members of the Commission for their work.
– Pursuant to section 88 of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1974, I present the annual report of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– Pursuant to sub-section 8 of section 125 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904, 1 present the annual report of the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– For the information of honourable members I present reports by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled: ‘Mainline upgrading- evaluation of a range of options for the Adelaide-Serviceton rail link’ and ‘Mainline upgrading- evaluation of a range of options for the Sydney-Brisbane rail line’.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of Aboriginal Hostels Ltd for the year ended 25 June 1 977.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on injection moulding machines (by-law) and the Industries Assistance Commission interim report on brandy and whisky.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964, I present the thirteenth annual report on the administration and operation of that Act and, pursuant to section 53 of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1976, 1 present the first annual report on the administration and operation of that Act during the year 1976-77.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr Speaker. In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of Saturday, 25 February, there was an article headed ‘Women”stay at home and breed “. ‘ The article stated:
Women should stay at home and have children instead of going out to work, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr Michael MacKellar, said yesterday.
The article then continued. That issue was again raised in the editorial of the Sunday Telegraph of 26 February. I should like to quote from a section of an interview I had relating to this matter. I was asked:
Population surveys show a long-term fall in fertility levels. What can be done to encourage people to have larger families?
My answer was:
I think how many children couples have is very much their own decision and I don’t want to be seen as an advocate of a breeding farm or anything like that. I think there has been a lot of nonsense talk in relation to Australia over recent years about zero population growth, as though by achieving zero population growth in Australia we were going to vastly affect the world’s population. We have 14 million people here. We are probably below a long-term replacement level in terms of natural fertility in Australia. How can we encourage people? It’s been demonstrated that economic incentives only have a brief impact on raising the fertility level. I think what we’ve got to do is get a change of attitude around the place which suggests it’s not such a bad thing to have a couple of kids, that it’s not such a terribly demeaning thing for a mother to stay at home with her children rather than feeling that she must go to work. I have talked to a lot of women about this. A lot of women feel a great pressure on themselves that modern society somehow expects them to be unfulfilled unless they are out doing something else rather than the traditional role of being a mother and raiser of the family. If we can get what I would regard as a more balanced approach to public attitudes towards having and raising children this would have an effect on fertility. I don’t want to be seen as saying the State expects you to have more children. That is an individual decision.
Surely, Mr Speaker, you would agree that I said nothing like the initial statement reported in the
Sydney Daily Telegraph. I believe that headlines and statements such as that only bring newspapers into utter disrepute.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- byleave- agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Act 1964, this House appoints Dr Everingham and Mr Ruddock to be members of the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies and to continue as members until the dissolution of the Thirtyfirst Parliament.
-I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The appointment of Sir John Kerr as Australia’s Ambassador to UNESCO.
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 appointment of Sir John Kerr as Ambassador to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation in Paris is not just an indecent exercise of the rankest cynicism. It is, in every respect, an affront to this country. More than that, it is a further demonstration of the degree by which the high office of Governor-General has been abused by the former incumbent for personal gain and manipulated by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for political advantage.
The matter of Sir John Kerr’s actions in November 1975 has been an issue of the most divisive political debate in the Australian community. More recently, his acquiescence to the Prime Minister’s demand for an unnecessary election a full year before it was due similarly created widespread controversy. This latest appointment can do nothing but confirm the views of those who believe Sir John acted with gross impropriety in each case. The dimension that is added to the debate is that he did so- certainly in the most recent instance- for his 30 pieces of silver. The Melbourne Age, in condemning the appointment, referred to Sir John Kerr as ‘Lazarus in a top hat’. I have no doubt that ‘Judas in a morning suit’ is equally as apt.
The Melbourne Age has not been alone in its criticism of the appointment and of the Prime Minister for making it. Every newspaper in the country that has chosen to comment on it has done so in the most critical terms. The anger felt by the community as a whole is reflected in the Letters to the Editor’ columns. These overwhelmingly have registered the outraged feelings of ordinary Australians to this latest example of what the Prime Minister sees as correct behaviour. In reality, of course, correct prime ministerial behaviour is anything the right honourable gentleman thinks he can get away with.
Since the appointment was announced, the Prime Minister has sought to defend it as fair and proper on the grounds that Sir John Kerr should not be denied the opportunity to serve in public life because of his decision to resign as Governor-General as ‘a contribution to the healing process in this country’. Apart from the fact that such a remark is outrageously provocative when applied in the circumstances, the Prime Minister carefully avoids saying why, if he really expects the public to accept such an untruth, he did not announce the appointment before rather than after the general election.
Sir John Kerr’s resignation as GovernorGeneral was announced as far back as last September. The Prime Minister publicly admits that he discussed ‘some future appointment’ with Sir John some time last year. But the Prime Minister, as usual, did not take the Australian people into his confidence. He waited until after he had secured his early election and had been returned to office. Only then did the Prime Minister announce that Sir John Kerr, who had already fled the country a week before polling day, was to be comfortably set up in Paris on his sinecure, as reported by the Press, of $80,000 a year. Clearly the Prime Minister had no intention of putting the appointment to the test of the ballot box. That was a risk he would not accept. Instead, the Prime Minister chose the coward’s way and waited until he was sure he was back safely in The Lodge before the public was told how Sir John Kerr was to continue to serve their interests 13,000 miles away in a job which has been described in the Press as a ‘tax-free refuge for precious, arty types- a real bludge offshoot of the United Nations’.
The puzzling aspect of the issue is that one can not establish any special qualification or experience which would justify the appointment of Sir John Kerr to this position. So one goes to that well-known apologist for the conservative coalition parties, Mr David McNicoll, who said, in the Bulletin of 28 February that the reason for the appointment lay in Lady Kerr’s liking for France. We have new principles upon which key decisions are made by the Government about important appointments overseas. Mr McNicoll said:
If we assume that the Kerrs wanted some job which involved living in France, it is easier to unravel the reasons why the PM picked the UNESCO job out of his ‘forget’ drawer.
How generous of the Prime Minister, who believes that there ought to be austerity, self-denial and not a little sacrifice in life! The measure of that austerity, self-denial and sacrifice is awfully inciting to a great deal of the community. They would love to join in it.
What is remarkable is the remuneration which is to be provided to Sir John Kerr- not just the amount of $80,000 which from time to time has been cited in the newspapers but, more significantly, the gross income effect of that amount of money in total that is now available to him before tax. That gross income effect before tax is of the order of $140,000 a year. Surely that makes Sir John one of the most highly rewarded men in public life in this country, not only contemporaneously but also in the history of the nation since Federation. He receives a non-contributory pension of $33,000 a year, which is equivalent to a gross income effect before taxation of $55,000 a year. He has a luxury flat overlooking the Seine which is worth at least $500 a week. In a before tax gross income effect that amounts to nearly $38,000 a year. On top of that, he has his ambassadorial income of $30,000 a year, an allowance of $1 1,700 a year and an entertainment allowance of $6,000 a year, which may be austerity for him. I am not sure whether the last two amounts are tax free. I am treating them as though they are taxable income. If one adds those figures together one arrives at a conservative figure of $140,000 a year gross income effect before taxation available to Sir John Kerr. Some reward for services provided! That is more money than is provided for 32 pensioner couples 64 people- on which to live in one year.
The Australian editorial of 13 February- as I mentioned last week, a not terribly critical source of commentary where the Government is concerneddefined Sir John Kerr’s appointment as a ‘nothing job’ and added, refreshingly for its candour:
It is a job overflowing with the perks and trappings of office but very few of its cares.
What is particularly curious about this appointment is that 18 months ago this post was closed by the Government. The Government asserted firmly that the post was unnecessary and that in its view the services of the Government in that area in the world could adequately be provided, in the absence of that post, by the ambassadorial staff appointed to Paris. More relevantly, from that time to the present there has been a reduction of 26 members in the staff of the Paris embassy. Rather than the Government believing that there is justification for an expansion of the services in Paris, consistent with its commitment to reduce expenditures, while seeking to maximise efficiency of service from such centres, the Government has clearly seen a substantial case for a reduction of these services.
I am disconcerted to learn from Press sources that it has been reported that Sir John Kerr has already proceeded towards using the resources available in his office in Paris to allow him more easily to write his memoirs. The timing of the publication of his memoirs will be interestingperhaps it will be a short time before the 1980 election. I ask questions about Sir John Kerr’s role. Will it be full time? Will he be supervised? In what way will the services he provides from his UNESCO appointment be assessed? In short, I am suggesting that there needs to be a proper monitoring and accounting of Sir John Kerr’s role and the way in which he fulfils his task because of the widespread concern and disillusionment in the community about the way in which this appointment was made, and the way in which political jobbery was resorted to by the Prime Minister. I shall move on because Sir John Kerr the person is not important. Some very important principles are involved in this appointment. That is why the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) opposed the appointment strenuously in Cabinet and for his effort was run over by the Prime Minister’s Cabinet juggernaut. The Prime Minister has reduced blatantly and dangerously the position of Governor-General to one of political patronage.
Any comments I make in this respect are related to issues. They certainly except the present incumbent, Sir Zelman Cowen, who enjoys a very high regard in the community. What has happened in the case of Sir John Kerr implies at least, and certainly to be put into practice at some future time I suspect, that there will be rewards for tractable Governor-Generals. Those who are prepared to toe the line can expect that the future will not end with the termination of their periods of service as GovernorGeneral. If they toe the line that is laid down they can expect further plums, further considerations, further comfort and accommodation. The line is laid down by the Prime Minister and it is not a noticeably straight line. This situation represents a development which gives cause for the gravest concern in the community. The position of Governor-General has been established in recent years- more specifically since 1975- as one of enormous power. It includes the reserve and discretionary power of the Prime Minister which seems to be almost boundless; his power, which we saw quite recently, to authorise the declaration of a state of emergency which can be limitless; and, of course, his authority to allow an election to take place quite out of phase with the normal parliamentary period of office, which was used in 1977. On this aspect it is particularly important to note what the Governor-General said in India on 28 February 1975. 1 realise that this quotation has been given many times before but it deserves to be resurrected today and undoubtedly it will be resurrected many times again. This quotation shows that the principle that the Governor-General was prepared to lay down firmly in February 1975, he is prepared to bury just as determinedly in late 1 977. He said:
Parliament should not be dissolved early simply to help a party leader or a party solve their own difficulties. The country should not be forced to an early election merely to help leaders solve internal party questions but only when it is necessary to deal with a situation which Parliament itself cannot solve. The decision to dissolve Parliament in midterm is one of the matters which the Constitution leaves to the Governor-General to decide on his own. It is not a power exercised by the Governor-General in Council.
No one now will believe in the light of that statement and the behaviour of the Prime Minister, almost a conspiracy in the view of so many people in the community, in conjunction with that of the former Governor-General in late 1977 and early 1978, that the then GovernorGeneral did not change his mind because of some sort of encouragement- vulgar minds would say some sort of inducement. I put this very squarely because I repeat that the position of Governor-General is one with enormous power. That has been established but we do not know the bounds of that power. If anything has been established as a dire need in the community by the conjoint behaviour of the Prime Minister and the Governor-General it is that we need a careful definition of what the limitations should be to the authority of the Governor-General in the operation of his high office. We cannot have confidence in the security and independence of democratic institutions of government if there is to be this unbounded power which presumably can be infected in its use by certain blandishments and approaches.
I regret having to put that matter as firmly as this but in doing so I ask honourable members to recall one fact: Since November 1975 until the present they will find no record of my having said anything tough or anything personal about the previous Governor-General and the sacking of the Labor Government in 1975 except to express concern that the former Governor-General had not allowed Supply to run out before he took his precipitate action. Any reservations that I may have harboured in the deeper part of my heart about the action he took have been completely destroyed by his behaviour and that of the Prime Minister in recent times. There are other matters of importance. One is the propriety of a former Governor-General accepting a subordinate role in the Public Service- a service from which he once was completely separate and independent in order to discharge his role fully. Are we to see a situation in future in which Governors-General who are supposed to exercise this role will be casting an eye over one shoulder at possible heads of departments where in future they may find some sort of comfortable accommodation? Will their actions be influenced by a wish to ensure that the accommodation is there when they serve their term of office and that it remains comfortable for them when they take it up? No one has summed up the situation better than Geoffrey Fairbairn, a well known conservative and a former contact of the Prime Minister. He said:
The almost unbelievable squalidness of the Kerr appointment dramatically reveals the bankruptcy of conservatism in Australia. The Prime Minister of this country is quite clearly a mountebank- ‘An itinerant quack who from a platform appealed to his audience by means of stories, tricks, juggling and the like, often with the assistance of a clown ‘.
Mr Speaker, overlying all these observations is the principle of key concern: Will governmentsmore precisely, will Prime Ministers- in future make Governors-General tractable by holding out the promise of plums- rewards, if you prefer to be vulgar- for those who toe the line?
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker, the honourable gentleman has sought to establish a curious case because, partly at least, he was upholding the high office of Governor-General. He noted the power of that office. I rather thought that one of his predecessors tried to say at times that the Governor-General had no independent authority whatsoever and that he was the tool of the Prime Minister and must do what the Prime Minister advised and told him to do. Indeed a significant part of the problem of 1975 arose from that contention. I am delighted to know that the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr
Hayden) knows and understands that there are certain circumstances in which GovernorsGeneral not only have an independent authority and power but must so exercise it to preserve the rights and liberties of the people of Australia. The independent exercise of that power in 1975 was designed quite specifically to protect the Parliament, the authority of Parliament, and hence the authority of the people against an executive that was seeking to trample upon the rights of Parliament and the rights of the people throughout Australia. It is refreshing to know that the present Leader of the Opposition understands full well that that can be and, at times as it did, had to be the role of the Governor-General. That is the most refreshing advance since the events leading to this whole debate first occurred.
I would like to refer quite directly to one or two matters which the honourable gentleman mentioned before going through the events of the time in some detail. I will make it plain why the present position exists. It was indicated by the Leader of the Opposition that the action taken by the Governor-General was initiated by the Governor-General. It was not. It was initiated by the then Prime Minister who forced the Governor-General to act in the only way that was proper within his constitutional powers and the only way that honour and the protection of the rights of the people of Australia could possibly permit.
The honourable gentleman sought to find something wrong in the holding of an early election at the end of last year. Maybe if an election were held now the Labor Party would lose another 10 or 15 seats, I do not know. Sir William Slim on a previous occasion gave authority for an early election in circumstances not dissimilar. If the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom got an early election some time before his Government’s present 5-year term ended because he judged it proper and expedient, and it gave him an advantage over the Conservative Opposition, would the present Leader of the Opposition say that it was improper of the British Prime Minister? Of course he would not. He know quite well that in the total practice of the British system an independent initiative is left to Prime Ministers here and in Britain to determine the timing of an election. It has been regarded as normal and proper.
If the honourable gentleman wishes to make an issue of remuneration he should make it an issue in relation to other people, as I pointed out to the House a day or two ago. It was Labor legislation introduced by the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, that led to the circumstance where former members of this Parliament keep their pensions and whatever remuneration is provided by some subsequent job. The same applies to the Governor-General through legislation that the then Prime Minister quite specifically and personally introduced into this Parliament. He thought it proper at the time. He now presumably thinks it is improper. If it is improper for Sir John Kerr, why is it not improper for Mr Justice Murphy of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation fame? What qualification did that give him for a subsequent job or for keeping his parliamentary pension and being paid as a justice of the High Court. I refer also to Mr Barnard. I make no criticism of Mr Barnard, one of the most honourable men ever to come out of the Australian Labor Party, who is fulfilling a post and representing Australia abroad with high distinction. But the same applies to him, as it does now to Sir Gordon Freeth.
There is one other matter. Let me make it perfectly plain that any ambassador is under the full and complete authority of the Foreign Minister and the Department of Foreign Affairs, and rules relating to one are rules relating to all. There are no exceptions.
It would not hurt this Parliament to recall the long and distinguished public service of Sir John Kerr. He is the son of a Balmain boilermaker. The family and Sir John had a strong Labor background. Sir John was educated at Fort Street Boys High School. He won a scholarship to Sydney University when, unlike the present, not many scholarships were available. He won nearly every prize in law school including the University Medal. He was admitted to the Sydney Bar in 1938 at the age of 24. In 1942 he joined the Australian Infantry Forces and was seconded to the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs which was under the personal control of the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Thomas Blarney. As the war ended he was instrumental in the formation of the Army Civil Affairs Unit out of which grew the Australian School of Pacific Administration. He visited the United Nations with Dr Evatt in 1947 when the Pacific region was under discussion.
In 1949 Sir John returned to law. He resigned from the Labor Party in 1 954. Because of the circumstances of the Labor Party at the time one would not be entirely surprised. He was President of the Industrial Relations Society in 1960. He was President of the Marriage Guidance Council of New South Wales in 1961. He was a member of the Bar Council in 1960 and President in 1964. In 1966 he was appointed Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. In 1 966 he was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and Deputy President of the Trade Practices Commission. He was chairman of the Commonwealth committee which reported on a review of administrative decisions in 1968. In 1970 he was chairman of a review on pay for the armed Services. In 1971 he was chairman of a committee of review on parliamentary salaries. In 1972 he was appointed Chief Justice of New South Wales. That is a long and distinguished career in law and of service to the people of Australia.
Sir John Kerr voluntarily left the position of Chief Justice at the age of 59- the normal retiring age is 70 years- to become GovernorGeneral at the invitation of a former Prime Minister. He was thus a Labor appointee to a most distinguished and high office in Australia. He filled that position I believe with great distinction in the only way in which he could fulfil it in the circumstances into which he was forced by an outrageous Prime Minister of the day.
It is necessary to review the circumstances that led to Sir John Kerr’s resignation as GovernorGeneral during the course of last year. We need to understand that in 1975 the Government in power was seeking to govern without the approval of Parliament. It was grinding this country to a halt. It could not get Supply through the Parliament. In the total history of government in this country and in the United Kingdom it is perfectly plain that any government that cannot get Supply through Parliament must resign. That is a cardinal fact of the British system. It is understood in the United Kingdom that if a British Prime Minister cannot get his Budget through Parliament he must resign. If he would not resign what would happen in the British constitutional situation? Her Majesty would have to act. There would be no other way out unless the deadlock could be broken in the Parliament itself. We had a situation in which the proposal put by the then Prime Minister made it impossible for the deadlock to be broken from within the Parliament. The Prime Minister was proposing a half Senate election as a means of breaking the deadlock.
Whatever happened at the half Senate election would not have altered the situation. The new senators would not have taken their seats for another six months. Was the country going to starve until a vote was taken on 1 July? It was a nonsensical proposition right from the very start. Sir John Kerr acted in the only way he could. He acted to protect the institution of Parliament and to protect the people ‘s right and the voice of the people, which is the Parliament itself, against an Executive which was the most outrageous, incompetent, improper and reprehensible Executive ever seen in the history of Australia.
It might be worth while to remind some people of one or two of the things that were done in those days. There was a meeting of Liberal leaders, Country Party leaders and leaders of the Opposition from the Federal Parliament of Australia. The meeting was convened because of the plan by the present Leader of the Opposition to force the trading banks of Australia to finance the affairs of government. I think many people in Australia have forgotten that this was one of the odd by-products of those days. A government was illegally, illicitly and improperly subverting the Constitution and seeking to get the trading banks to finance the operations of government. It was quite well known that any dollar so spent would be a dollar which the banks could not legally claim back from the Commonwealth because there would be no appropriation through the Parliament. The Commonwealth had no power to provide funds or to guarantee the repayment of funds unless an appropriation had been made through Parliament. No appropriation had been made. It ought to be noted, as I am advised, that it was the present Leader of the Opposition who dreamed up the plan to try to force trading banks to finance the operations of a government which had lost its power to get its Budget through the Parliament. That says something about the Opposition and the way it continues to look at these problems.
There were two solutions to the problem which faced that Administration of getting its financial program through the Parliament. The solution of the then Prime Minister to hold a half Senate election was no solution at all. There was also the Hayden plan which would have resulted in robbing the banks in a most illicit, illegal and improper way. I believe we need to understand that in those circumstances there was no option but for the Governor-General to act in the way in which he did. The present Opposition tries to turn democracy on its head and say how undemocratic it is to give the people of Australia a vote. I would have thought that is the one supreme moment when people are most democratic. That was the one moment which the then Prime Minister and the people around him feared most of all. They knew quite well that if there was a vote of the people of Australia they would be dismissed as incompetent and reprehensible.
We need to remember the rabble incited by the then Prime Minister and by Senator James
McClelland on many occasions at that time. We need to remember, quite distinct and different from that rabble, the authentic voice of the people of Australia when they had the opportunity to vote at the election. Who then was vindicated? Who then were judged the guilty men? The former Government was judged guilty. Sir John Kerr and the decision he took were vindicated as being proper and right and as being for the protection of the people of Australia.
At a later point- last year- Sir John Kerr resigned as a contribution, as he believed, to the healing process in Australia. I believe that decision was right. I believe that he took it from a high sense of purpose and duty to the people of Australia and Parliament- people he had served in many offices over a long period. We need to understand that the Australian Labor Party had fought a campaign on this issue and lost. Its members now seek to re-open those old wounds. They seek to heap their own sins on the head of Sir John Kerr. We need to understand that they will not and cannot succeed in that. Their actions will tend only to remind people in this country what the Australian Labor Party is made of. We know quite well that the people of Australia hope that the Labor Party can show itself as being worth something more under its present leader.
Sir John Kerr was forced to act. He acted honourably and in the face of immense provocation. It was the then Prime Minister who was saying to Sir John Kerr: ‘You must do what I tell you’. There is no continuity in the office of Governor-General of this country as there is in the United Kingdom. As the then Prime Minister was well aware, a telephone call to Buckingham Palace from him- if he had been still Prime Minister when he made the telephone call- could have led to the termination of the appointment of the Governor-General. Then what would have happened? The then Prime Minister certainly would have put a compliant person in that office- a thing which the present Leader of the Opposition was doing so much to condemn just a moment or two ago. We know quite well that, flowing out of the earlier circumstances and the infamous Executive Council meeting, there was the very real prospect of the sacking of Sir John Kerr if ever he gave the then Prime Minister time and if he indicated that he would not meet that person’s wishes.
To say in all the circumstances that Sir John Kerr should never again serve Australia is, I believe, mean. I believe that it is petty. It would be seeking a latter day victory for the rabble. This
Government will have no part of a situation which seems to give that victory to the rabble.
-Order! The Prime Minister’s time has expired.
-Extolling Sir John Kerr’s virtues in this matter now is no defence for the matter which the Opposition has raised. What is at issue is not Sir John Kerr. What is at issue is the credibility of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in appointing Sir John Kerr as Australia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. The Prime Minister has talked about the affairs of 1 975. 1 will deal with them very briefly. He undertook to the Governor-General to guarantee Supply. In fact, had the Bill not passed this House or had it been repealed by this House after we found that this gentleman had been appointed Prime Minister, there could have been no Supply to hold the election. Let us not talk about the mechanics of the operation. If the Senate Opposition had been appraised of the events of that day, the Bill would never have passed that House either. The whole issue was that the then Opposition did not have the guts to vote against the Budget. It did not defeat the Budget. It put off passing the Budget. The present Prime Minister was as white as a sheet for a week before 1 1 November 1975. He twiddled with his pens every day in the Parliament because he knew his whole Party was against him. On 11 November 1975 I travelled down to Canberra with another honourable member who is a Minister in the present Government. I remember him saying: ‘I do not know what our crowd will do. We do not know where this is heading’. Honourable members opposite knew what the then Leader of the Opposition was playing with. He was a wrecker. But what happened? The Governor-General saved him. No amount of extolling the virtues of the Governor-General will save this man from the judgment of history. This man was prepared to tear the fabric of Australian politics to pieces to get into office by what Steele Hall described as the sleazy road to power. Let that matter rest.
What we are dealing with today is why the Prime Minister has appointed this symbol of division and derision in the community to a major Government post. The new Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, just two weeks before this appointment was announced said in his Australia Day message:
It is part of our vision for Australia ‘s future to bring out the things we agree on, not allow ourselves to be distracted by partisan interest or by sectional demand.
Then, two weeks later, the Prime Minister announces an appointment which rips the country to pieces again. It tears up the whole consensus about which Sir Zelman Cowen talked when he referred to a touch of healing. What chance is there for a touch of healing when a political brigand like this is in the Prime Minister’s chair? There is obviously none. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has referred to some of the attitudes of the more conservative supporters of the Prime Minister on this matter. He quoted the words of Geoffrey Fairbairn. I think that the Leader of the Opposition should have quoted the rest of Geoffrey Fairbairn ‘s letter. He said:
That is the Prime Minister- has dishonoured the most deep-seated ideas of Australian decency, ideas that still beautifully transcend party-political allegiances; in his spoilt-boy arrogance he has struck at what makes a nation of us . . . Mr Fraser is a walking and talking disaster area for the future of this country. I can only hope that other conservatives realise this.
There is also a letter from Alan Watt, a diplomat, in much the same terms. When the Prime Minister has been questioned about these letters he has said: ‘There have been one or two editorials and letters on the subject’. But the truth is that every major newspaper in the country panned the decision that he took. Let me read the newspaper headings. The Australian headed its editorial ‘Ripping the scab off the sore’. The Age carried the heading ‘Lazarus in a top hat’. ‘Jobs for the Boy’ was the editorial heading in the Melbourne Herald. ‘A pension in Paris ‘ was an article heading in the Sydney Sun. The conservative CourierMail, of all newspapers, headed its editorial ‘Good Lord, it can’t be!’ The heading ‘Undiplomatic posting’ appeared above The Canberra Times editorial. These were the editorial headings directed at a man who does not take notice of editorials. He stated on the PM radio program on 10 February that there were one or two editorials on the subject. But, he said, after 20 years in politics he was not going to be distressed by editorials. This is the man who in 1975 hawked himself around every newspaper proprietor in the country and told them that he would not reject Supply unless he received their full editorial support in advance; and he got it. This is the man who said: ‘I will not move in the Parliament without your unqualified support’. He is now saying that editorials mean nothing and that there is no consensus against him. He says that only a few cranky letters to the editor have been against him. Obviously, this man is now chronically and disastrously out of touch with Australian public opinion. So much for public opinion and informed debate.
The Prime Minister has contempt for any person who does not agree with him. There can be no national consensus with this man as Prime Minister. He rules by division. I would like to quote from an editorial that the Deputy Leader Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) also quoted last week. It is the editorial of the Australian Financial Review of last Tuesday. It states:
His personal history. reveals a disturbing capacity for creating drama and tension around him.
How apt that is. This is the man who talks consensus but who rules by division. He is not only divisive and contemptuous of the feelings of people and the sensitivity of the electorate; he is also a chronic trafficker in distortions. It does not matter whether it is an election promise, a reply to questions asked in the Parliament or a statement of government intentions, this man will distort ad infinitum.
Last week at Question Time I asked the Prime Minister when he first discussed a further appointment with Sir John Kerr. He said to me:
The offer of a particular appointment was made to Sir John Kerr very shortly before the announcement was actually made.
In other words, the Prime Minister made the offer to him some time this year. But Sir John was looking over his present Paris apartments last June. I will quote from one of the newspapers. Laurie Oakes, writing in the Melbourne Sun, had this to say:
According to Foreign Affairs Department sources, he -
That is Sir John Kerr- checked out the accommodation and facilities in the new Paris Embassy when he and Lady Kerr were there a month or two later on their mid-year overseas trip.
The Governor-General announced his resignation about May. Later on he went to Europe and during the course of that trip looked over the Paris apartments he is presently occupying. Yet the Prime Minister had the effrontery to deceive the Parliament and say that he never discussed this matter with Sir John Kerr until a couple of days before the appointment. Quite obviously the appointment was sewn up last year. He bought off the Governor-General in order to get a dissolution which led to massive majorities in both Houses of Parliament. Despite what the Governor-General said in New Delhi about dissolutions of Parliament, the Prime Minister bought him off. This is the principle at issue. Not only is it divisive, it is plainly wrong.
Let me quote another example of the Prime Minister’s distortions not only to the Parliament but also to the nation. During the election campaign Paul Kelly of the National Times asked the
Prime Minister in Perth about such an appointment. The direct words of the Prime Minister were that an appointment was not under contemplation in November. Yet Sir John Kerr had been to the Paris apartments in May. We find now, just after the election, that he has been given a sinecure. How can anybody take any notice of this Prime Minister? He is a congenital deceiver. He cannot tell the truth to Parliament, to the electorate in election campaign promises -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is going beyond the bounds of parliamentary language.
– Well, Mr Speaker, I will keep to the point. The appointment was exclusively his affair. He manipulated this man in 1975 and he manipulated him in 1977. 1 know that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) who is at present sitting next to the Prime Minister, to his eternal credit and good sense fought the Prime Minister in Cabinet over this matter but the Prime Minister wanted to get his way. The Minister for Foreign Affairs did not like the appointment but, of course, he was crushed. The rest of the Cabinet, in the gutless fashion that we have become used to, of course knuckled under to the Prime Minister because they will want the odd appointment from the grand man when they decide to leave politics, as has Senator Bob Cotton and others. The Minister for Foreign Affairs was put down, crushed and pushed to one side by the numbers in the Cabinet.
The disturbing fact which emerges from this situation is that this country is being run ruthlessly by one man. There is no power in this Government other than his power. There is no power in the front bench. It is a mediocre front bench which is led by a dominant Prime Minister who wants to run the Liberal Party through this personal appointments basis. The Prime Minister has more power than we see in any United States President. At least a United States President has to deal with his legislature. Even if the executive is with him he has to fight the legislature. This man has the legislature and the Executive all wrapped up right under his foot.
We will see more and more division in the community throughout the life of his Prime Ministership. What is disturbing is the fact that he will go to any odds, even to the extent of buying off a Governor-General. There is no person more arrogant or more conceited with his power than this Prime Minister. He will take on any task. Nothing is too hot or too heavy, be it refusing Supply, ripping up conventions or buying off
Governors-General. The Prime Minister will be in anything. He is an insensitive totalitarian toff and he will end up tearing the fabric of this country to pieces. He is a dangerous individual who, over time, will take Australia to the edge of civil strife. Honourable members opposite may sit back and smile but they should mark my words. In their hearts they know and believe what I am saying to be true. They all live in fear of him.
The Prime Minister has made a mockery of our major institutions. He now has the former Governor-General, who should be above poll.tical appointments, serving in a sinecure in Paris that is not worthy of the man or, for that matter, any member of this place. This is a result of the chicanery of this Prime Minister. He is divisive. He can never be trusted to tell the truth in the Parliament or outside and the result-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw.
– I withdraw. The result of the whole matter is that he has suborned a Governor-General and the office of GovernorGeneral is being dragged into disrepute because of him.
– We have been listening to a rather hysterical performance by a person who obviously is obsessed with bitterness and hatred. I think it is very timely that we have a public debate on this issue because it gives people the opportunity to recall the events of 1975 which led to the bitterness of the Australian Labor Party being displayed. If there is an inherent weakness in the Labor Party it is its unforgiveness. If it dislikes someone it will hate that person until he is dead. The Labor Party is trying to make life impossible for a man who did what was right and proper for his country. I believe that the bitterness and vindictiveness which the Labor Party is displaying towards Sir John Kerr has no place in Australia and will be supported only by a minority of people. If the Labor Party wishes to pursue Sir John Kerr and not let up on him it will continue to take the consequences which the Australian people have demonstrated on two occasions. This will happen because what Sir John Kerr did in 1975, whether the Labor Party understands it or not- and perhaps it will never understand- was right, proper, correct, legal, constitutional, necessary and inescapable. If the Labor Party continues to pursue him the Australian people will overwhelmingly reject it as a bitter party which wants to keep divisions within our society and not accept the facts of the day.
Sir John Kerr has paid an enormous personal price for the action he took. He has paid an enormous price to the people who were his friends and associates and to the government that appointed him to do the job, a government which respected his service to the country. But when this man saw the need to act, and to act correctly, that government turned against him. In fact, members of that government and its supporters have virtually exiled the man from this country. The Labor Party has pursued this vigorous and personal vendetta not because he did anything wrong but because of its own bitterness and resentment at being denied the chance to carry through its plans to smash our democratic system and the principles and traditions by which we govern this country. It was denied the chance to govern this country without the authority of parliament and without Supply.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) said today that Supply should have been allowed to run out before the Governor-General exercised any judgment. What a defeatist situation that would have been. We would have reached the point of chaos before action was taken. As it was the Governor-General allowed the matter to go on for three weeks before he took action. He took action at the last moment. But no, the Labor Party believes that when it appoints a person that person must, at all times, do exactly what it tells him. Well, there are a few people of principle who are prepared to accept their responsibility in respect of the job they are doing and thank goodness that Sir John Kerr accepted his responsibilities.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide has been interjecting constantly.
– He forgot to tell us about Senator Field.
– If the honourable gentleman interjects again I will have to deal with him.
-The Labor Party continues to pursue the attitude that the then Government was changed by Sir John Kerr. That is not true. What Sir John Kerr did was to give the Australian people the right to determine who should govern the country and who was right in view of the circumstances. If that is an attack on democracy it is the first time that democracy has ever been threatened by giving the people the right to vote. Yet that was the nonsense we heard right through the 1975 election campaign. If the
Labor Party felt that this was an emotional issue of the moment it certainly did not display itself in the result of the 1977 election when the people again had the right to vote and again supported the actions of this Government.
I believe that the performance of the Labor Party in the last few days in relation to this matter again shows that it is not prepared to change its ways. Anyone who questions Sir John Kerr’s suitability and qualifications for this appointment ought to spend a few minutes in the Parliamentary Library. If they look through the Australian Parliamentary Handbook they will see the responsibility and service he has given to this country. Sir John Kerr’s appointment to the position of Ambassador to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation is to a position in which we know there will be increasing work activity this year. It needs a permanent official. He is a man who can admirably fill that job. But the Australian Labor Party will chase Sir John Kerr to the grave. Under its philosophy there is no forgiveness for a person whom it believes has scabbed. A scab, no matter how right or honourable he is, who goes against the principles of the Labor Party must be destroyedhe must be annihilated. There are people who are prepared to stand up to defend the parliamentary system in Australia. That is what Sir John Kerr did.
One issue which seems to concern many people is the former Governor-General’s pension and salary he will receive in his new post. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) pointed out, it was the former Prime Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam, who took action in this Parliament to ensure that holders of public office would not have to forfeit their pension entitlements in the event of those people accepting another public position. I think that is correct. Does the Labor Party now dispute what its former leader did? Does this anger apply to all former holders of public office or only to Sir John Kerr? Of course, it would not apply to a certain appointment to the High Court of Australia. Was the change made at the time to suit a particular appointment- maybe the one at the High Court? Would the Opposition have the Parliament pass special legislation now to allow it to pursue further this vicious vendetta so that one man cannot get his pension or cannot have the job?
Is it suggested that the pension which attaches to a public office should be forfeited in the event of the holder of that office taking on further employment to give further service to this country, particularly if he is known to have suitable qualifications and experience? Surely the pension attaches to an office and is payable in recognition of service given to the nation. That is what Sir John Kerr gave as Governor-General of Australia. Is further service undertaken or employment accepted to provide for a man to have a salary in recognition of the further work that he is doing? It is no additional expense for the Commonwealth. If another man were appointed he would still have to be paid the salary. Of course, no matter what job Sir John Kerr took, the Opposition would use it as an excuse to lampoon him in this Parliament as often as it possibly could.
A great German philosopher, Goethe, once said that hatred is a heavy burden and that it sinks the heart deep into the breast like a tombstone on all joys. This malady is obviously within the Labor Party. It was an obsession of the previous Leader of the Opposition. Apparently this new Parliament will be infected with the same disease by the Opposition continuing this bitterness against a very honourable Australian- a man who did what he believed was right and proper and whose service to this country should be recorded. If he had not taken the action that he did there would have been absolute chaos and turmoil in Australia. Thank goodness that was avoided and thank goodness the Australian people had the opportunity of making a choice. As it turned out, it was the right choice.
-The discussion is concluded.
-The honourable member for Werriwa has indicated to me that he wishes to make a personal explanation.
-I thank you, Mr Speaker. Last Thursday you gave me the indulgence of correcting the situation which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had attributed to me in respect of judicial pensions and the Governor-General ‘s pension and now I appreciate your indulgence to correct the situation as once again stated by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). The situation is that judicial pensions and the Governor-General’s pension are non-contributory. The judges know that while they are in office they will be able to act without fear or favour because when they retire they will receive a pension which will be so ample that they will not have to take jobs in retirement.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is debating an issue which came up in a discussion of the matter of public importance. I gave him indulgence the other day. That is on the record. I ask him to conclude his remarks.
Mr E. G. WHITLAM By the same token, Sir, the Governor-General was given a pension similar to that of the Chief Justice so that he could act without fear or favour because he knew that in retirement he would have an ample pension which would not require him to seek other employment. The position is this -
-The honourable gentleman is now debating the matter.
– I shall conclude in one sentence, Sir: Judges and the Governor-General cannot take jobs when they are in office; because of their pensions they are not expected to take jobs in retirement.
The customs tariff proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1 966. The proposals implement the Government’s decision to maintain tariff quota arrangements and existing rates of duty on brandy. The rates- $12.50 per litre of alcohol for clearances within quotas and $32.50 per litre of alcohol on clearances outside quota entitlements- will apply pending a report by the Industries Assistance Commission in the light of the outcome of the 1978 vintage. I commend the proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 February, on motion by Mr Carlton:
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.
-I am not by any means the first person to have once been a member of this House and to have returned to it, but I am in a reasonably unique position in that I not only now sit in this chamber with the present honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack), who is a successor of mine, but also had the opportunity of sitting in this House with my predecessor. Of course, my predecessor is well known to most people not only in this House but also in Australia. He is Kim Beazley, who served in this Parliament for more than 32 years. He and John Curtin, who preceded him, together represented the electorate of Fremantle for over 44 years. The tradition of Australian Labor Party representation of that electorate is a tradition which I intend to maintain.
Returning to this place after two years’ short service leave, I find myself deeply troubled by what I see. I first came here, and indeed return here, in the belief that it just may be that being in this place presented an opportunity to participate in decisions which affect the lives of Australians and which will bear on the future development of this country. When I was first elected to this Parliament I sat on the other side of the chamber behind a Prime Minister and a Ministry which had a passionate commitment to solving many of the problems which faced and I regret to say still face this country. They set about their task with verve and industry. Despite the smallmindedness of honourable members opposite, their efforts will be one day accorded the respect they deserve. The period from 1972-1975 will be acknowledged as the time when Australia came of age in social and political terms. We saw an end to ad hockery and the beginning of a rational and national approach to so many problems- the problems of urban life, manufacturing industry and education, the immense problems faced by Aboriginal people, the inadequacies of childhood services and health care delivery services, the conservation of our natural and built environment, the development of our natural resources and the upgrading and bringing into the twentieth century of our international relations. It was this new approach, this new enthusiasm, which was the hallmark of that time. Despite persistent attempts to ignore those achievements and to exaggerate and wrongly ascribe blame for the failures that occurred, no one can deny that simple truth.
That was a time when to be a member of this House was to participate in something of significance, to be part of a minor revolution. Parliament was momentarily the focus of Australia ‘s activity. For a brief second it was seen as active and relevant. It was not always viewed with approval but it was at least noticed. So it has been a shock for me to return to be confronted by a sea of faces on the other side oozing cynicism and smug self-content from every pore. These are the people in power and these also are the people who seem to be intent on repudiating the trust which the people of Australia have handed them.
They are not interested in action or innovation. They are not interested in solving problems. Indeed, they seem to be intent on denying the very existence of the greatest problem which confronts this nation. These are the men of indifference. They are totally indifferent to the problem of unemployment, which is seen by them as a necessary and justifiable consequence of their economic policy. They could not care less about what it actually means to people- what it means to be a middle aged worker without work for the first time in his life; what it means to be a woman ready and eager to return to the work force but with nowhere to go; what it means to be young and well educated and to have door after door slammed in one’s face; what it means to be parents who see their children gradually lose their self-esteem and self-confidence in the face of this continual demoralising rejection; and what it means to these kids who, when they attempt to find other ways in which to fill their time, are hounded by police, scolded by courts and admonished by governments.
This Government could not care less. It is always someone else’s fault- Whitlam’s fault, the unions’ fault, the consumers’ fault, the investors’ fault, the Labor Premiers’ fault, anyone’s fault except Fraser’s fault. The well-heeled gaggle which sits opposite sits there mute, passive and comfortable as the horror progresses. Maybe they have been overawed by the indulgence of this Parliament and the ridiculous pomp which seems to remove us all further from the people and their problems. We seem to be more interested in carrying on as though this were some sort of museum rather than a place where issues are raised, anxieties ventilated and problems solved. It does not really worry me if the Ministry wants to parade around in striped trousers or if the Speaker wants to look comical in that absurd wig and now wants to extend the nonsense into some sort of farcical procession.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member is reflecting on the Speaker. I ask him to withdraw that remark.
– I was reflecting only on a tradition which the Speaker has seen fit to revive, which was not a tradition when I was last here.
– I rule that the remarks reflect on the dignity of the Chair. I require the honourable member to withdraw them.
– Insofar as they reflect on the Chair I withdraw them. I could accept all that pomp, all that nonsense, if it was a complement to rather than a substitute for useful work. Some honourable members seem to be under the misguided impression that the people outside share their reverence for this institution. The reputation of politicians and parliaments has never been lower, and the whole process is seen by people outside as expensive, irrelevant and greatly overrated. When the only people who extol the virtues of this place are the people who sit in it, clearly something is wrong.
This Government is making the mistake of reading into the recent election results deep seated support for its policies and for this institution. However, the results of the last two elections stemmed directly from carefully manufactured incidents of political turmoil. The political climate in Australia remains fundamentally unstable with no commitment to either this Government or this institution. The people will support and should support this place only when it demonstrates its worth and its ability to do something about the issues which are of such grave concern to them. We do not demonstrate much dedication by sitting here in this remote hothouse, carrying on meaningless debates which simply end in the Government’s doing precisely what it wants to do anyway. What this Government wants to do is absolutely nothing. It is a government that sits on its hands. It believes that no government is good government. It believes that there is some sort of virtue in minimum public expenditure. The Government is committed to the devolution of power from this democratically constituted Parliament to gerrymandered and malapportioned parliaments around the country. This is its approach, at a time when the solution to the problems rests not only on government action but on national government action.
So I ask: What is the real point in coming here and pretending to apply ourselves to the issues which concern the people of our electorates if, almost universally, the Government does not want to know about those problems and if it is even less interested in hearing what we have to say about them? Many of those issues involve questions fundamental to the direction which Australia will follow in the last quarter of this century- questions concerning our rising affluence while we continue to be surrounded by countries which suffer from immense and deep seated poverty; questions of how to employ our people whose skills are being made daily more redundant by the relentless march of technology; questions of our extravagant use of energy in an energy starved world; questions of how in an increasingly materialistic society we can be encouraged to have some concern for our fellow man; questions of how we deal with powerful international economic forces in this country so that Australians do not sacrifice further the control of our country’s destiny; questions of how best to share power and responsibility between the various tiers of government; and questions of the alienation of minority and other groups which manifests itself eventually in a repudiation by them of law and order.
There are many other such questions equally fundamental and they are all questions about which we should be concerned and for which we should be trying to seek solutions. Our response in recent times has been to isolate these problems or problems like them and to refer them to expert judicial or independent inquiries for report. This has two major shortcomings. The first is that the problems are usually seen in terms of short term solutions, and implications for other issues are often ignored. Secondly, whilst the reports may sometimes be debated in Parliament, any action depends almost entirely on the response of the government of the day. It is time that we as members of this House took charge of these matters. We will never get to discuss them here adequately because the processes of the House are ordered for the convenience of the Government.
What we must do is to establish from amongst ourselves a commission on Australia’s future to consider these and other questions; to remove ourselves from Canberra, and to go out amongst the people and into the streets, the pubs, the shops, the schools, the factories and the universitieswherever people are ready and willing to talk to us. Only in this way will we give people a real say in their future and real access to the decision-making process. It will also give us as members of this House a real opportunity to participate in solving important questions which are submerged by the weight of the parliamentary process. For too long we have left to experts and judges, who are answerable to no one, the task which is really ours.
These are not questions which have clear or absolute answers. The answers will come only as a result of an assimilation of ideas from many people and as a result of a carefully regulated clash of ideologies and values. The answers will come not in response to facts but in response to the feelings of people throughout the country. What could be a more appropriate task for politicians? Ideas, feelings and people are what we are all supposed to be concerned with. They are our stock in trade. I believe that a monumental effort is required to raise the status of this Parliament, not just for its own sake or for our sakes, as some honourable members seem to want, but simply in order that the people of Australia can have some respect and some faith in it as a place where things are done. It is no fun for any one of us to be a member of an institution which, twice in the last week has drawn severe rebukes from editorialists. What we must avoid is simply recoiling in horror and chiding our detractors, because it is just possible that they may have a point. The challenge for us all is to set about doing something to improve this institution so that its defenders are to be found not only within its walls but also amongst the people outside whom it is supposed to serve.
-It is interesting to listen to an honourable member who has returned to this House and to hear what he has been able to learn whilst outside the House and perhaps viewing things differently. I am afraid that I have heard from the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) the same things I heard two years ago and the same sorts of things that put the Labor Government out of office. The present Government was returned because of its policies and because of the failure of the Australian Labor Party to grasp realism. I think that the endorsement of the administration of this Government over the last two years has proved that. The Australian people have said: ‘ We wish to see a continuation of your intentions. What you have shown us in two years is the sort of thing that we can closely associate with’. At the same time I believe that the Australian people have put out a challenge to the present Government. The propositions put forward in the Governor-General’s Speech spell out areas of success and areas of concern for future government decision making. It would seem that alongside the successes there are also areas where the Government must be cautious, where it needs to be imaginative and where it needs to accept challenge.
The success of this Government in the next three years will depend on its realising the objectives set out in the Governor-General ‘s Speech. I think that success in the areas of inflation, of general recovery and of dealing sympathetically with some of the problems of unemployment, but at the same time having regard for social welfare and the aspirations of individuals who cannot help themselves, has been recognised by the electorate. A vital area that must be investigated and encouraged by the Government is the entrepreneurial spirit of all individuals. The real spirit and progress of our nation, the drive which needs to be tapped and encouraged in this nation, can be found in the rural industries and in small and medium businesses. These people need encouragement and all Australians will benefit from it. In the rural industries and in small and medium businesses the greatest employment is offered to Australians and the greatest investment is made by Australians. The areas in which there can be development, progress and specialisation within our nation are most obvious. Small and medium businesses and small and medium rural industries often are the sources of innovation. They are the areas from which new, imaginative, creative and inventive ideas come and the ideas are taken up by larger corporations and larger groups of individuals. These are the areas from which each individual Australian benefits.
The common interest that is shared by both the rural and the business worlds is not easily recognised. In fact, this Government’s opponents seek to divide the city interest from the country interest. It must be recognised by all Australians that we have a common heritage and common problems in so many of these areas. The dedication of an individual’s capital, for instance, is often the single underlying factor of commonality between business and rural interests. The long hours of work by individuals who have a decision making capacity, who are in control of their own business or who accept responsibility at an executive level, are common throughout these industries. Throughout these industries the seeking of reward for effort is also a factor that drives people on to make new decisions and new investment, to employ more people, to be innovative and to adopt new technology and new ideas. The prices and profits that these individuals take are often not of their own making. In rural industries prices are set often by the capacity to make sales on markets that are not within the control of the Australian Government and not within the ambit of our sphere of operation.
The same thing applies to the small businessman. He tends to be a price taker. He cannot control completely the price that he accepts for his goods. The small manufacturer is under constant pressure from imports and from his competitors to accept a price which is offered to him by somebody wishing to buy but it is not always possible for him to realise completely the full benefit of the work and the time that he puts into achieving the processing of his goods. Often families are involved with these people, and the decisions that are made on a day to day basis are supported by wives and families working long hours with the manager or the controller of the business. A sense of uncertainty, of economic difficulty, is most obvious in the areas where small and medium businesses operate. They are the ones which, because of their inability to control decisions that affect them closely, suffer from insecurity and lack of opportunity. Their families often receive fewer benefits than many employees of these businesses. The sense of frustration in rural industry and small or medium businesses is often brought about by their incapacity to make governments understand what their problems are. They are often not organised into effective industrial groups. They do not have the capacity to bring forward to government in an organised way their views, their demands and their suggestions. Therefore, in that climate they tend to accept the inevitable. At times the inevitable is what is least good for the nation.
The way in which government can assist these industries in a general sense- this has been done over the past 2 years by this Government- is to look at their cost factors and to assist them in overcoming increasing costs which result from inflation, high interest rates and factors of a general nature which affect the whole community. In that way encouragement is given to rural industries to cut the cost of repayments on money borrowed to buy stock and machinery. This general policy is bearing fruit. It will continue to make the way of life of people on the land and in small and medium businesses less difficult and their opportunities more realistic. Small and medium businesses are often dependent on larger organisations for the provision of services and for contractual arrangements. Therefore, the Government’s stimulus by way of an investment allowance and its protection from unwarranted competition is something that flows down to lower levels. This flow-on effect has been recognised by the Government and has provided support and relief to people operating in lower levels of service and also to large industry. However, primary producers are completely dependent on overseas markets and what can be bargained for in the world market place. In its move to seek more markets the Government has been partially successful. The Government’s decision to establish a rural bank has given support to rural industries and to primary producers but I suggest that the Government needs to look in an indepth way to tapping the grass roots problems in many of these areas. It seems to me that it is not sufficient for us to adopt an attitude of doing more of the same thing by the mechanisms of protection and closing up and that the support of our Australian industries as they now exist should be the entire activity of this Government. That is not the case. The Government has adopted a number of initiatives which will expand the work force base and the opportunities for all levels of business.
I suggest to the House that future progress, new business, new opportunities, new jobs and a better way of life for all Australians may lie in our utilising some of the vast resources that we possess. I refer to our energy and mineral resources and to our agricultural wealth. It seems to me that we are rich in resources. To take advantage of those resources now seems to be the challenge that we face in the time ahead of us. We have to offer to the world buyer a greater variety of both manufactured and primary products so that not only can buyers have a wider selection and not only can we be more effective on world markets but also so that within Australia the infrastructure of service and support for various aspects of primary, secondary and tertiary industry can be diversified. That will lead to new opportunities for the businessman who conducts a small or medium sized enterprise. It will lead to new opportunities for the man on the land to diversify his crops and his production.
One of the real problems that faces the man on the land in that regard is the lead time involved in his making decisions. A decision to change from one commodity to another or from one source of production to another could take from 3 to 5 years to bring to fruition. Governments do not seem to understand that fluctuations in world markets and sudden changes introduced by foreign powers can leave a large block of primary producers without markets, without opportunities and without prospects. Primary producers, as individuals, their families and the whole community suffer from such unfortunate movements or sudden decisions.
However, if we were to look at our primary industries and to assess the prospects of more closely manufacturing and refining commodities there would be a joint benefit both to the primary producer and to the city dweller. I am told that most of Australia’s hides and skins are shipped out of Australia without any processing work having been done. It seems to me that there are wonderful prospects in this country if we examine those primary products which can be refined and presented to buyers in a diverse form. We could establish a decentralisation program which would provide opportunities for employment, which in turn would diversify the Australian community and would also provide markets of a different type for primary producers.
For those engaged in small to medium sized businesses, development of our energy and resources provides a need for . services of all types. It provides a need for services so diverse as to encourage a great number of individuals who wish to seek opportunities and who wish to take advantage of opportunities that they perceive. We need to develop a more aggressive spirit in our attitudes towards world markets. In fact, we need to employ our best salesmen and to take advantage of every opportunity to explore existing markets or to gain access to existing markets. Both the American market and the European Economic Community are open to approach, not by direct routes but by indirect routes. The prospect of using countries such as Malta or Greece to gain access to the EEC should be examined by Australian industry and by Australian producers. I noted with interest the Australian Dairy Board’s approach to the Maltese Government to establish a reconstituting plant in Malta so that our dairy products could flow into the EEC.
We need men of great calibre and men of imagination and vision to employ these techniques, rather than relying on traditional salesmen and people who traditionally seek out markets, such as those who do so from various boards and authorities in Australia. We need to employ a different approach so that we can provide not only a diversity in the products presented to foreign markets but also a diversity of source to foreign markets. There is a need not just to bolster the existing industries, to seek new industries and to have an effective co-operative effort between our primary, secondary and tertiary producers; there is also a need to provide more sophisticated industries, better informed people within those industries and an educational process which will ensure that decisions made are accurate, investment is not wasted and real advantage is taken of Australia’s place and comparative advantages in the world. We need to ensure that there is a better delivery of Australian goods on foreign markets and we need to ensure that our products arrive on time in the condition in which they were despatched. An export drive such as that envisaged by the Government could bear good fruit.
In Australia there needs to be a return to some sort of pride in workmanship and the Australian community needs to be encouraged to buy Australian goods. That sort of confidence can be encouraged in the Australian community by a greater examination of the benefits of mutual cooperation in the work place. Very often we hear the word ‘productivity’ used, and it is translated immediately to mean greater production. That is not the meaning of the word, and that is not the way in which it is used in those quarters which understand its meaning and the need for greater productivity. Greater productivity means an improved way of work life, an improved technique whereby both employee and employer together gain the benefits of improved technology, new ideas and the application of new sales techniques- in fact, the whole area of operation of a particular business. We should be investigating the establishment of a national conference to examine the way in which all Australians can benefit from increased productivity. Such a conference would involve representatives of both industry and unions sitting down together and working out how, to mutual benefit, they can gain advantage by increased production, can achieve working hours that are more congenial and surroundings that are conducive to a better application to the mutual task. Such matters need to be examined not only at a national level but also on the shop floor amongst the individuals who are involved in the day to day process.
It would seem that offering awards to various industries would also assist in directing the attention of the community to the need for greater productivity. Australian firms should be encouraged to compete for a demonstrated capacity to increase productivity. Foreign firms which have investments in Australia should also be encouraged so that various techniques can be compared. In that way other people can take advantage of decisions made by companies with diverse interests. We should encourage amongst employers at the management level and amongst the workers themselves an attitude of pride in what has been achieved so that awards can be made to those who can prove that they have successfully coped with the difficulties of current situations and have provided an improved way of life for their work mates or for their industry.
The challenges before this Government are great. The challenges the Government has met are really significant. I suggest to the House that the difficult decisions already taken by this Government and the achievements made are an indication of the way in which the Government will meet its challenges.
Order! Before calling the honourable member for Batman I remind the House that the honourable member is about to make his maiden speech. I ask the House to observe the usual courtesy of listening to the honourable member without interruption.
-The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Cabinet he dominates in a number of respects are reminiscent of the Administration of Richard Nixon: They will continue as long as they are able to retain a capacity to mislead the public into believing that promises mean more than performance, that mythology can masquerade as truth and that the mere repetition of assertions of higher morality will act as a certain cover for dishonesty, deceit and, at times, corruption. Nowhere is the penchant for dishonest misrepresentation made clearer than in the GovernorGeneral ‘s Speech. His Excellency said:
My Government rededicates itself to govern for all Australians and to work in partnership with all groups to build an Australia in which its people can have security, the knowledge that they can plan ahead with assurance, and that their efforts will be rewarded.
Towards the end of the Speech, the GovernorGeneral said:
While the objectives my Government has set itself have been endorsed unequivocally by the majority of the Australian people, my Government is determined to act as a Government of the whole and not a Government for the majority alone.
Its trust is to all the people of Australia, and its concern is for all- all section, all groups, and all interests who care and serve this great country of ours
What hypocrisy! What cant! There has never been a government in the history of this nation which has sought more to destroy the possibility of a national consensus, which has worked harder to deceive and mislead the Australian public about its basic purposes and whose policies, as opposed to its promises, were more designed to underline and reinforce the basic divisions which exist in Australian society.
The Fraser Government was elected in December 1975 after forcing an election with tactics which destroyed effectively, perhaps for all time, the convention that a government that continues to have a majority in the lower House has a right to expect to govern. As a new member of this the people’s House, I want to make it clear that it is my view that there can not be any consensus about the democratic process in Australia until the issues raised by the tactics and actions of successive leaders of the Liberal and National Country Party Oppositions in 1974 and 1975 are resolved. It is simply beyond credibility to believe that this Government is genuinely interested in establishing a national, as opposed to a partisan, approach to the political problems facing this nation while it leaves unhealed the divisions which it was substantially responsible for creating in 1975. That is not to suggest that I believe it is in the short term interests of this side of the House to dwell unnecessarily on the events of the second half of 1975: Rather that the Australian people will forget those events at their peril.
The Fraser Government forfeited its right to become a government of national consensus by the means it chose first to achieve power. It is made quite clear in the Governor-General’s Speech that no energy is to be devoted by this Government to reforming the nation’s Constitution so that it does ensure the basic political equality of all Australians. It is clear that this Government does not believe that political equality is one of those matters which unite all Australians or, more importantly, that political equality is basic to giving Australians a greater measure of choice, power and freedom.
The Fraser Government, which, as I have suggested, has shown little or no interest in these questions, has worked systematically in all other areas of government policy to destroy the possibilities of further movement in this society towards the principal aims of the Whitlam Government- greater social and economic equality. It has sought to prefer and advance the interests of particular groups of wealthy and privileged people rather than to seek any overall improvement in the living conditions of ordinary Australians. The Government’s priorities are clearly demonstrated in its approach to the problems of inflation and unemployment. During the past two years, the Government has given clear priority to the struggle against inflation. The principal policies which have been designed to defeat inflation have been those of wage restraint and restriction on the availability of credit. These measures have been designed to reduce the real standards of living of working people and to limit their capacity to consume additional goods. On the other hand, the investment and depreciation allowances have been designed to encourage industry to replace workers with capital equipment and effectively to reduce the number of employees necessary to maintain existing and hopefully increased levels of production.
A direct result of these policies insofar as they have had an effect or reinforced a trend has been to encourage the rate of growth in levels of unemployment so that we have now reached the situation where more than 450,000 people or 7 per cent of the work force are unemployed. People are increasingly remaining unemployed for longer periods of time. The average duration of unemployment in 1977 was 19.5 weeks compared with 6.3 weeks in 1973. In November 1977 more than 34,000 Australians had been un employed for more than a year. There is increasing evidence that some of the people who are being employed are often employed only part time and that the various employer subsidy schemes of the Government are resulting in the displacement of established employees with the unemployed. Unemployment is hitting women more harshly than men and the hardest hit of all are the recently arrived migrants.
The Government constantly seeks to minimise the impact of unemployment and its effect on people’s lives. Despite research which establishes that there are no significant differences between the values of the unemployed and comparable people in employment with respect to the work ethic, the Government continues to take a punitive attitude towards the unemployed. This attitude is paralelled by the Government’s attitude to the trade union movement, which is subject to continuing criticism and the introduction of intimidatory legislation. No doubt the maintenance of high rates of unemployment, the absence of job creation programs or stimulatory measures, and the Government’s influence in resisting wage increases has had its effect on inflation.
However, these policies can hardly be described as forming the basis for any sort of consensus or social contract. On the contrary, they indicate that the unemployed and the militant or even defensive trade unions are not numbered amongst the Australians for whom the Government has concern. Let us take, for example, the Government’s introduction of tax cuts, which are often presented by it as a concession to the trade union movement. What is the reality? It is that the ordinary worker can expect to benefit by no more than $3 a week. The Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in Melbourne has estimated that, by contrast, the top 10V4 per cent of income earners get 43 per cent of the benefit from all tax cuts. The Prime Minister- the man who is so concerned about all Australians- gets an additional $70 a week. He wants to look after John Kerr. He wants to look after his mates. Above all, he wants to look after himself.
The Fraser Government, rather than having any record or will for consensus, is constantly driven by a need to identify scapegoats; to divide the world into workers and bludgers, the admirable and the reprehensible. Its judgments are often simplistic and even contradictory. It suited Malcolm Fraser to suggest that the Australian Labor Party had forgotten that the vast bulk of resource allocation decisions are made by private individuals, companies and commercial organisations which are subject to Government direction and /or control only in a limited way. All honourable members will remember the talk about four out of every five jobs being in the private sector. The reality is that in recent years in Australian governments of either political persuasion have found it less and less possible to influence and/or control the investment policies of major industrial and finance capital. That fundamentally is the problem about which the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) was speaking but, of course, he could not say anything about big business because he belongs to its party.
The McMahon Government failed to control the massive direction of capital from overseas and within Australia into speculative mining ventures. Similarly, the Whitlam Government could not direct the pattern of speculative land investment in accordance with its strategies for metropolitan and non-metropolitan growth. We think that that was largely because of the opposition of Liberal Party controlled State governments. Likewise, the Fraser Government faces massive outflows of capital at a time when it claims it is stimulating investment in the industrial and mining sectors. It appears more than likely that what capital is attracted to large scale ventures will result in the expropriation of huge profits, along the lines of the Utah Development Co., and in the creation of only a miniscule number of jobs for Australian workers. The tendency present in conservative governments towards the ‘blame the victim’ syndrome, constant denigration of the unemployed and union bashing simply distracts attention from the fundamental problem which faces national democracies such as Australia to establish effective democratic control over national resources and their utilisation.
International and domestic monopolistic capital is able to override the interests of national governments and to determine the conditions which exist in the smaller scale and competitive economic sectors. I think that is what the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) said. He said that the conditions under which small business operates are set time and again by the big boys, by the people who control the goods being supplied and the raw materials, and who are vertically integrated. We can talk about big being beautiful and large scale being efficient, but let us not at the same time say that we are on the side of small business because we are not and the Liberal Party is not. It is about time small business people recognise that fact. It is increasingly clear that the Australian private economic system is divided into competitive and non-competitive sectors and that government subsidies tend above all to favour the monopolistic and large scale or non-competitive sector. It is simply nonsensical to claim, as the Prime Minister claimed at the Melbourne Stock Exchange last year, that:
We are committed to a system where worthwhile free enterprise can flourish.
Imagine the wooden way in which he said it. He continued:
Our commitment is not simply founded on the fact that free enterprise is the most efficient economic system, or the most efficient producer of the resources required to provide a better life for all Australians though it is both of these. We support free enterprise because it is -
What a joke! the most democratic system.
The Prime Minister knows that the greatest freedom to experiment and innovate is present in the larger scale sectors in Australia where competition is reduced to the absolute minimum, but where capital is available on a scale which permits research, experimentation, evaluation and a rational approach to the development of company and corporate policy. It is when industry is shielded from the full rigours of competition that so-called ‘risk taking’ is possible. Indeed it is in this sector in the giant companies, often internationally owned, that there occurs a process of planning which in many respects is most akin to the public sector planning which the Prime Minister so strongly rejected in his speech in Melbourne. I wish to quote from Stuart Holland who I believe is an important thinker in relation to the question of international capital. He shows the situation clearly when he points out: . . . decisions over the allocation of societal resources are no longer -
In Britain and I think we could say in Australia- mainly determined by family firms. But nor are they mainly determined by governments. They lie in the board rooms of the handful! of giant firms in the meso-economic sector which have come to constitute the commanding heights of the economy.
That is, the top 200 firms. Eighty-seven of the top 200 firms in Australia are overseas controlled and employ 50 per cent of all of the people employed in the manufacturing industry. Stuart Holland goes on:
Britain, like other capitalist economies, still carries a parasitic and numerically small class of personal shareholders on these companies . . . but the crucial power over the allocation of resources either in Britain or abroad lies with a miniscule class of enormously powerful top managers.
Of course there is evidence to suggest that the concentration of power in the oligopolistic sector in Australia is as significant, if not as great, as in Britain. It is fundamentally important for any serious analysis- not for honourable members who get up in the House and rattle on, but for any serious analysis of economic problems- to make a distinction between the competitive sector which the Government claims it is interested in and the monopolistic sector which we know damn well provides the funds for its campaigns and has the controlling say in its party room. If the Prime Minister is committed to the Governor-General’s word- I do not believe he is- about ‘giving the men and women of Australia a greater measure of choice, power and freedom’ it is to this corporate sector that he must turn. In his 1975 policy speech Mr Fraser referred to the need to create more democratic structures in the trade union movement and to reduce and make more accessible and responsible the government bureaucracy.
Where are the measures mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech? Where are the measures that were mentioned in Her Majesty’s Speech last year designed to make the major corporations more accountable to the Australian Government, their shareholders, and their employees? In what ways are these giant combines to be made accountable and democratically responsible to the Australian people? Until this thorny nettle is grasped no government can afford to have taken seriously rhetoric about governing on behalf of all Australians. The Labor Party is committed to the introduction of economic planning of the utilisation of Australia’s physical and human resources on a democratic basis. No one could possibly argue that major insurance companies, banks, finance companies and multinational combines operate democratically or even that they are subject to the restraints of market forces, as the Prime Minister has suggested. There is a real sense in which these corporations represent a form of private socialism. The task ahead is to convert that reality to democratic socialism.
The Government has made it clear that it is prepared to take on the trade union movement. If it is committed to achieving consensus as opposed to conflict it should also indicate that it is prepared to take on major capital. For example, the introduction of a resources tax as proposed by the Labor Party would transfer funds, for example, from Utah Development Company’s overseas shareholders to job creating prospects in Australian cities, and for that matter in Australian rural areas. The Fraser Government pretends to be a strong government. In fact it is composed of union bashing bullies who shrink “– n confrontation with large scale capital even v when it clearly operates in a way which is detrimental to the interests of the Australian people.
At various points in the Governor-General’s Speech the increasingly diverse nature of Australian society is acknowledged. A commitment is entered into ‘to care for or show concern for all sections, all groups and all interests ‘. The electorate of Batman which I represent is a diverse electorate within the north-eastern corridor of the City of Melbourne. It bears the marks of the rundown in manufacturing industry and it has high levels of unemployment- 10,000 people in the region are unemployed and only 400 jobs are available. The vast majority of the people living in the electorate are ordinary working people who have been suffering over the past two years from a systematic reduction in their living standards ‘the little people’ that we hear so much about from the other side. This is reflected in the situation of small business in the area, which is currently depressed and facing depressed circumstances. Nothing has been done for small business by the Liberal-National Country Party Governments in the past 26 years.
During the Labor Party’s term in office people in Batman received certain limited gains. Improvements were made in education, community health centres were established, research was made into social and environmental problems and possibilities were opened up via the area improvement program. Funds were made available for improvements in public transport. Migrants received assistance via welfare rights programs and were able to establish more effective communication through ethnic and community radio. Local government benefited from the creation of direct grants from the Federal Government through the Grants Commission. In many respects these funds that flowed and the resources that were made available were only marginal compared to the needs and the problems that existed.
It is not possible to sweep away the mark of discrimination and inequality in two or three years. Batman has suffered because this Government, which talks so much about consensus and accord, in a totally partisan manner decided to sweep away the entire urban program which Labor established. The result is that while needs were established and exciting possibilities outlined, they have been put to one side. The
Fraser Government was prepared to waste thousands of hours of paid and voluntary effort simply because it wanted to sweep away every trace of Labor’s concern for the cities of this nation. If the Prime Minister wants to govern for the people of my electorate, he should commit himself to providing funds for job creation programs. People appreciate support while they are unemployed, but more than anything else they want the opportunity to participate in meaningful and useful work.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I take this opportunity to extend personally to Mr Speaker my sincere congratulations on his New Year knighthood and on his re-election as Speaker of this House. To you, Mr Millar, I extend my congratulations on your election to the most important position that you hold. Also, as a mark of respect to Mr Lucock, I extend my congratulations for the job that he did over so many years. To the people of Franklin who worked so tirelessly to have me re-elected I extend my thanks. I thank also my wife and family for being able to put up with and to tolerate some of the problems that they definitely encounter as a politician’s wife and family. I will work to the best of my ability to please them and to please the people of Franklin and Tasmania. Let me say to the newly elected members that I have certainly received plenty of advice; some I have heeded and some I have not. I think that if new members work for all the needy people in their electorates they will gain immense satisfaction and sometimes the disillusionment that occurs in this place will vanish quite dramatically. I congratulate the new members on their very fine addresses. I trust they will all be very happy in this place.
I found the Governor-General ‘s address very interesting, even taking into consideration how hot it was in the Senate. I would like to talk in the time afforded to me about the Government’s priorities, particularly the priority to provide effective assistance to the disadvantaged in ways that promote independence and self-respect. One would be a fool to say that we do not have problems in Australia today in this area. Disregarding the dreadful problem of unemployment which is argued so continually in this House, the plight of the elderly remains a difficult problem to overcome. Of course some of the elderly have taken adequate precaution for the future whilst others, for various reasons, have found it very difficult to plan for their retirement. 111 health, family problems and so on are important factors in whether the elderly remain happy in the twilight of their lives. I believe that no stone should be left unturned to assist the people who have virtually made Australia the very fine nation that it is.
In travelling up to Canberra the Sunday before last, my family and I stopped at a suburb in Melbourne to attend mass. Whilst the priest was relatively elderly I could tell by listening to his somewhat fiery sermon that he had a great concern and compassion for the problems of the elderly in Australia. Among many things that he said which made a lot of sense to me and no doubt made a lot of sense to many other members of the congregation was that far too often too few change the lives and happiness of many of the people in Australia. Rather than get into the deep psychological, emotional points that he endeavoured to convey in his sermon, I will refer to one rather alarming statement. For a moment I had to shake myself to realise that I was in a normal church in a normal suburb in Australia. He said that the people in power, meaning the politicians of all persuasions, were being influenced by the vocal change minority. He said that if a pill was developed that could curtail the lives of the elderly it would be introduced. In fact he was saying that Australia and the world are heading towards euthanasia. He was saying that to make the world like some would like it to be no stone would be left unturned. He said this was particularly pertinent to the elderly.
I was horrified at this statement and I sought the priest after mass. I said ‘do you have any foundation or basis for the argument that you presented in the sermon?’ He said: ‘Yes. I am sure that it is coming’. Of course I disagreed vehemently with him. I said that there was not one politician from either side of the House who would condone or even think of euthanasia in Australia. I think he indicated that there is great concern for the elderly, not only by the clergy but also by many people in Australia. We as politicians have the difficult task of overcoming this massive problem. I think that by talking and arguing about it we are not proceeding very far. It is about time that we got down to the task of working together for the elderly of Australia.
I have said- and I have said it in this House on one occasion- that some people cannot wait to get rid of their elderly parents, that they cannot wait to put their parents into institutions or some lonely place as long as their parents are away from them. There are reasons for this. These people say that it relates to the children. They say that they cannot afford to keep their parents. But it does not overcome the immense sadness and the immense problems that are confronting Australia in regard to the elderly. Pensions are provided of course. We all know that they are completely inadequate. We all know that the elderly can just survive on the pension but they cannot plan. They cannot enjoy the little luxuries that I think the elderly people should be able to provide for themselves. Family problems, health problems, et cetera distract them from happiness. I think that they yearn for happiness and for independence. Unfortunately some die a very wretched and miserable death. Everybody in this Parliament has a responsibility to work constructively to help the plight of the elderly.
I do not know what would happen if we did not have people in every centre in Australia who seem to be able to lead the elderly in senior citizens’ clubs, in sixty and over clubs and so on. These people bring immense joy and pleasure to the elderly and give them the feeling that they are wanted. I think one of the heartening things of my two years in politics has been the ability to be able to attend many senior citizens’ functions and to see at first hand the way that very ordinary people come out of the mass and are able to talk to the elderly and give them that little bit of happiness that they so urgently require. The elderly make new friends and new acquaintances. I think that if we followed the pattern of some of the leaders in the elderly citizens’ clubs we could learn a lot.
During my personal involvement in a campaign concerning a lone fathers’ benefit, I was alerted- possibly I was completely aware of it before- to the disadvantages that are suffered by many children of lone parents. The difficulties of raising a family today are increasing. I think it is evident by the number of marriage break-ups, family break-ups, et cetera, that are occurring in Australia today. Of course these break-ups have a great bearing on the lives and future lives of the children of Australia. The children are extremely vulnerable in today’s society. Although in many cases it is not the fault of parents, children are left alone for long periods. I do not always take note of the great talkers throughout Australia who are able to sit around the table and talk about the problem but who sometimes, I am afraid, do not get their hands dirty and do not really realise the problem. They have never encountered the problem in their lives but seem to be able to dictate to us the course of action that we should take as politicians to overcome it. I have seen at first hand in many cases poor diets, lack of warm clothing and on numerous occasions extreme emotional situations which largely have been created by the unhappiness or the drop in morale caused by the loss of a parent. This, of course, has a deep psychological effect on the children.
We all know that children need a great deal of personal attention and care. If they are to grow into adults willing and able to contribute to society, security and stability are essential. Many people in this House have talked about unemployment. I believe it is a bit of a political battle. We all use it for political gain. Sometimes I think a strong link exists between the problems of the children that I have mentioned and the problems of unemployment. As a matter of fact I believe that statistics indicate that employment difficulties emerge for children who have had very disturbed backgrounds. Honourable members can argue about unemployment until they are blue in the face, but we must look at ways to overcome the massive problem. We have talked about various schemes, but I believe that we could make a start by looking at the problems of the children I have mentioned.
Lone parent families suffer a high degree of social and economic disadvantage. Family and friends often are not able to provide much assistance and the problem must become a community responsibility in order to minimise the changes forced upon the children. Support services must be available and I know that this Government and other governments have done everything they can to assist and hopefully to minimise the problem. They will never be able to overcome it completely. But I believe that with drive and enthusiasm from all the newly elected politicians in this House and from some of the older politicians who perhaps have lost a little of their drive and enthusiasm we can start to work together again to overcome these massive problems. We must realise that we have massive problems in this area in order to overcome them and consequently to overcome some of the other problems that I have mentioned.
I think it is well known that I have a great concern for the petroleum industry in Australia. Some would say that I have been rather outspoken about it and that I have made quite a few enemies in this area. But I have firm beliefs in respect of the great disparity between the selling price of petrol in the capital cities of Australia and the selling price of petrol in some of the outlying and the more central areas. I make a simple comparison which I believe highlights the point that I have been trying to make for a couple of years. I would like to make certain that my Government restructures the oil industry in the best interests of all Australians on the basis of equality. Why is it that the Prices Justification Tribunal fixes a maximum wholesale price in every capital in Australia? I believe that the maximum wholesale price of petrol in every capital city at the moment is approximately 1 6.8c per litre. In Hobart, it is 16.97c per litre. I suppose that in Tasmania we pay a little more for the water that must be crossed to come to us. But in most capital cities it is possible to buy petrolboth super and standard grades- well below that maximum wholesale price level. Yet in Tasmania the maximum wholesale price is charged. Of course, when the dealers impose their margin there is a disparity, sometimes up to 30c a gallon, between the price paid for petrol by Tasmanians and by people in the capital cities. We must consider at the same time that Tasmania has one of the highest costs of living in Australia and that Tasmanians receive the lowest wages. Yet if we take the total number of motorists in Tasmania and compare them with an equal number of motorists in Melbourne, we find that the Tasmanians are paying an additional $13m a year for petrol. My Government in the near future will be introducing a fuel equalisation plan. I have said that it should be called a fuel freight subsidy plan in the hope that it will be possible to offer the country people in Australia a petrol price which is one cent a litre above the relevant city price. I have said that my Government will find it very difficult to determine a relevant city price, and I believe that before the scheme can be introduced it will be necessary to have a very solid talk to the oil companies.
The problem is difficult and complex. For many years the people of Melbourne have enjoyed paying a low price for petrol. This has spread to other States and I know that the smaller oil companies which are dependent on an allocation of local crude oil which is cheaper than imported crude must maintain a volume of sales. In order to maintain that volume of sales they find it necessary and desirable to sell in volume. Of course, they sell to companies such as ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd. I believe that one of the honourable members who is present in the House today has something to do with that company. But he had the audacity to talk about small business. I ask him to consider the plight in which small businesses and other institutions in Australia are placed because of the operations of ACTU-Solo and the flood of other independent service station operators. I am not blaming the ACTU-Solo altogether for the present position of small businesses, but I am saying that there should be fairness in the petroleum industry.
There should be fairness in respect of ACTUSolo, Yellow Cabs of Australia Pty Ltd and other companies which are able to sell petrol at a price below the maximum wholesale line. Goodness only knows what price they pay for that petrol from the oil companies. Of course, the other companies must subsidise their dealers so that they can compete. Sometimes, unfortunately, those dealers are left in a difficult situation in which one could say that gross discrimination occurs.
I believe that petroleum is precious. I believe that it should be fair and just for all Australians to be able to buy petrol at a fair and reasonable price. I urge the Government to take note of my comments, and further I urge my Government to restructure or work towards restructuring the oil industry in the best interests of all Australians. I take no pleasure in noting that our car manufacturers are finding it very difficult in this economic climate to make a profit and as a result create new jobs. But I again urge them to look at the alternatives. I have said before that the car manufacturers offer options in their vehicles. They offer different gearboxes, differentials, upholstery, et cetera. But why do they not offer engines which can be powered by liquified petroleum gas as an alternative? Why do we not try to influence the manufacturers to use LPG to conserve the precious petroleum products we have and to use some of the LPG that is available in vast quantities in Australia?
– What about the steam car?
-Of course, there are also the steam car and the electric car. There are many other alternatives to petroleum. I only hope that my Government will take note of this plea. I believe that my calls are starting to gather momentum and that other people are starting to realise the need to look for alternatives.
Debate (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) adjourned.
– At the commencement of the sitting of the House today the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) raised a question of privilege. He raised the question of privilege in terms of whether an article which appeared in a newspaper breached parliamentary privilege in the sense that it was a contempt of the Parliament. Under the Standing Orders, the Speaker is required to consider the matter, for if the Speaker decides that it amounts to a prima facie case of contempt amounting to a breach of privilege that matter must take precedence over all other matters until disposed of. The fact that I have now concluded that it does amount to a prima facie breach of privilege means that the matter now has precedence over all other matters until disposed of. The honourable member for Holt is entitled to move his motion.
-For the convenience of honourable members and the House I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Speaker, I take this early opportunity while you are in the chair to congratulate you on your reelection as Speaker. I look forward to the spirit of impartiality characterising your period in that office. I would like also to congratulate the newly elected Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar), and those honourable members from this side of the House who have made their maiden speeches. The calibre of the incoming parliamentarians is very high. I acknowledge that that happens to be the case in respect of honourable members on both sides of the House. As the parliamentary Whip for the Australian Labor Party I, of course, have a special regard and excitement for the intake on this side of the House, the great replenishment, the resurgence of enthusiasm and idealism which is characterised by the very high calibre of honourable members who have joined us here. Of course, we have the honourable member for Capricornia, Dr Everingham, back after a short sabbatical leave. He had served 8 years in the Parliament to 1975. Then, of course, we have Mr Humphreys, the honourable member for Griffith, who shortly will make his maiden speech. Mr Humphreys is a successful businessman and he has been a Labor activist in Queensland for many years. Mr John Brown, the new honourable member for Parramatta, will also be making his maiden speech shortly. Mr Brown is a company director and is well known in Labor Party circles. He was an alderman in the local government authority at Parramatta. We have already heard from Mr Brian Howe, the honourable member for Batman. He holds the degree of Master of Arts and was a lecturer in sociology. He has already demonstrated his great qualities. We have also heard from Mr Barry Jones, the honourable member for Lalor, a very distinguished academic who holds Master of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees. He is a former State member of Parliament, having served in that capacity since 1972.
Soon after dinner tonight we will hear a speech from Mr Clyde Holding, the new honourable member for Melbourne Ports, who was the member of the Legislative Assembly for Richmond since 1962 and a State leader of the Labor Party from 1967 to 1977 when he resigned. Dr Neil Blewett, the new honourable member for Bonython, is a former Rhodes scholar and a very accomplished academic. He also shall be speaking tonight. Earlier this afternoon we heard a speech from Mr John Dawkins, who is now the honourable member for Fremantle. The honourable member held the seat of Tangney from 1 974 to 1 975 during which time he was the youngest member of the Parliament. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make those introductory and laudatory remarks of my colleagues. I appreciate your indulgence.
I would now like to refer to the GovernorGeneral ‘s Speech. The Governor-General outlined the Government’s legislative intentions for the next 3 years. He made special reference to two top priorities that the Government holds. He said:
My Government’s priorities are clear. They are:
To build on the progress we have made in the last two years, defeat inflation and unemployment, and restore full economic health to our country.
To promote vigorously the development of Australia’s resources and enlarge our external trade.
I think it is important to analyse the so-called progress of the Fraser Government since we now have this threat of a repeat performance. I contend, and I want to substantiate the view, that the Government’s economic performance since it took office in 1 975 has been disastrous.
First I want to refer briefly to unemployment. Nobody can say that the Government’s performance in respect of sustaining a high level of employment has been satisfactory. In fact the number of people registered as being unemployed has risen to 445,000 or 7.2 per cent of the work force, a rise of 163,500 over the number of registered unemployed as at December 1975. That figure stands, of course, after the Government has ruthlessly pursued the unemployed around the countryside in its desperate bid to get the numbers down by fair means or foul, by causing the unemployment benefit to be paid in arrears and by taking people off the registered list on the ground that they have not made sufficient endeavour to secure employment by themselves. But there it is- a rise of 163,500 over the number in December 1975. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) put it the other day, the real number of unemployed is more like 600,000 to 700,000 since there are many who are demoralised and deterred from applying for the unemployment benefit. People naturally lose their motivation after going from job to job. I suppose we would be absolutely horrified if we saw the real figures.
The number of people described by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as keeping house or as being voluntarily inactive has increased by 253,000 in the last two years. This contrasts with the situation under the Labor Government when there was an enormous intake of females into the work force and work opportunities were facilitated for them. Many of these people have been driven back, against their will, into the kitchen and, of course, they are being denied the fulfilment to which they are entitled.
If one looks at the Government’s disastrous performance in the housing area one is in for yet another shock. The number of new dwellings commenced in the December quarter dropped 19 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms when compared with the December 1976 quarter. This represented 7,300 fewer houses. On a year by year comparison ending December there has been a drop of 10 per cent from the year 1976. Bad enough as that is, what worries all diligent and conscientious honourable members who are concerned about the housing needs of the Australian community is the fact that there are no initiatives in sight under the Fraser administration to redress this highly unsatisfactory situation. Only today I received a deputation from a pensioner organisation contending that it is the Government’s intention not to renew the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act and to cut funding under the Aged Persons Homes Act. Of course, we all know that in the lifetime of this Government there already has been a reduction in the level of subsidies for such programs- from four to one down to two for one. The Government’s disastrous record in the field of housing seems to be one of continual decline, with no sign of any new initiative or any new governmental inputs.
I now turn to the car industry. We are told that this Government will continue its economic performance. I am sure that the people who are employed in the car industry and those who are entrepreneurial in the car industry are hoping for a better performance than the Government has been able to produce up until now. The leaders of the industry are throwing up their hands in despair. There has been a mammoth drop in car sales in Australia. General Motors-Holden’s Ltd has announced a purported loss of $4.2m. Chrysler Australia Ltd has announced a purported loss of $27. 8m, a loss of $25m more than last year. Chrysler’s chairman, Mr T. J. Anderson, was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald of 25th of this month as saying that the figuresthat is the drop of 7.3 per cent in total registrations, and the number of registrations was the lowest since 1973- have resulted from ‘one of the worst years ever experienced by the Australian automotive industry’. Is there anybody on the other side of the House who can point positively to new Government attitudes which might change this regrettable situation or are the people engaged in the industry just to wait patiently until the day when the axe falls and massive retrenchments take place? January registrations, seasonally adjusted, stand at 38,478 compared with December registrations of 46,710. Registrations are running at about 100,000 below the forecast market objective of 570,000 for the 1978 calendar year.
Figures revealed in today’s Melbourne Age point to a massive downturn which, if interpreted into annual projections for 1978, shows a great shortfall of 100,000 less than what the industry hoped to achieve. I know that the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles), who is in the chair and who is a South Australian, would be especially concerned about that situation as so many people in that State have a great dependency on the motor car industry and have little else to go back to when government mismanagement brings about such a disastrous situation. Surely the Government must be wondering whether the attack on the purchasing power of this community might be resulting in a fall in the production of motor cars.
I turn now to a more general area- the area of business. Of course, one has to distinguish a little in this regard because some of the large corporations, multinationals and the like that are favoured by this Government are doing very well in the current situation and have always done well under the Fraser Government. There is no doubt about that. Nobody would complain about the achievements of the Utah company, for example, with its record profits and its repatriation of dividends overseas. My colleague the honourable member for Cunningham knows the figure for that.
-It is $ 126m.
-The amount of $ 126m has been repatriated overseas. That would be unbelievable in any comparable country in the world. That company is doing very well and it will go on doing very well. But there is a different story to tell as far as the small industries are concerned. In the last year for which statistics have been compiled- 1976-77- there were 1,270 business bankruptcies and 926 non-business bankruptcies, giving a total of 2,196- more than the previous year’s total. Heaven knows what that represents in lost investment and in dashed careers, fallen hopes and personal disasters for the employees who become victims of the overall economic mismanagement which characterises the Fraser Government’s administration.
I turn to the subject of devaluation. In November 1976 there was a mammoth devaluation of per cent. Notwithstanding that Australia has not improved its economic performance at all. The Australian dollar remains under seige. The Government has launched a mammoth foreign loan program to shore-up the dollar. It has done so not to buy back the farm, which the former Labor Government sought to do by way of loan negotiations, but simply to shore-up the dollar to enable us to retain our selfrespect in the international economic world. The indications are that the Government will allow the value of the dollar, which is presently declining, to continue to decline under the new triumvirate fixing process. If one looks at our reserves one will note that there continues to be a sharp decline in Australia’s foreign revenue assets. Notwithstanding the revaluations of our gold reserves and the mammoth loan program entered into by this Government the official reserve assets have dropped by approximately $ 1,000m since January 1977. More importantly, Australia now has in reserves only enough to cover three months of imports. We are virtually living hand to mouth.
Let us compare the present situation with that which prevailed in previous years. In June 1973 Australia’s reserves covered 10 months of imports. In July 1975 Australia’s reserves covered 5 to months of imports. In 1976-77 the balance on current account was minus $ 1,866m. Of course, that is brought about by the fact that the invisibles turn the credit into a deficit. The Fraser Government has produced a shocking and sorry overall performance. Yet we have the dire threat, the intimation, contained in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government will go on repeating this economic performance. When the people of Australia come to understand the facts, and come to understand the products of this continuing trend they must really come to be alarmed.
The living standards of most Australians have dropped during the Fraser Government’s administration. Real wages are down because less than full wage indexation is given to workers. Contrary to the Prime Minister’s express promise to maintain wage indexation, he argues against it at every opportunity and sends the legal luminaries into the courts towards that end. Real wages are down because the Government has transferred the cost of health, welfare and other traditional public expenditure programs to the individual. The capacity to pay principle is being eroded. No longer can we expect the rich to pay more than the poor in many of these areas. It is still the case with defence. No doubt it is still the case with education. But when we come to matters like health services we find this diminution of the capacity to pay principle and all must pay equally whether they are rich or poor. That, of course, favours the people who sent to this Parliament those who sit on the benches on the other side of this chamber.
Real wages are down and living standards have been reduced by the cutting of funds in real terms for community programs- for health and welfare, transport, road, sewerage, housing, migrant services, education programs and the like. Of course that is the case. Living standards fall when the Fraser Government assaults and makes inroads into the corporate care principle. When one ceases to be one’s brother’s keeper and when one turns people back on to their own resources it results in a massive onslaught on and a negating of the standard of living of people who have to meet these needs from their own resources. Real wages are down. Country people are particularly disadvantaged. For the last three successive quarters- June, September and December- the publication of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics called Trends has recalculated downwards the projected drop of real income per farm. In the June 1977 issue, based on an inflation rate of 10 per cent, real income per farm for the year was calculated to fall by 14 per cent. By September 1 977, using the same rate of inflation, real income per farm was projected to fall by 16 per cent. The latest figures- the ones for December 1977- calculated on a rate of inflation of 9 per cent that real income per farm would fall by a mammoth 19 per cent. That drop, of course, is on top of the previous bad year for farmers. So country people have received nothing but pious words from a government that is more anxious to represent the large mining interests than the traditional agricultural interests of Australia.
The Governor-General has conveyed a frightening expectation to the Australian people by saying that the Fraser Government is to continue the same economic policies. Greater hardship will result. Unemployment will be the order of the day for a larger number of people. There is no doubt that it will not be long before the people will rue the day that they ever fell for the pious platitudes of Fraser on the hustings.
-Firstly, I congratulate Mr Speaker on his election to serve a second period as Speaker of this House and the Chairman of Committees on his election to serve his first term in that position. I am sure that there will be many subsequent terms in that position for him. I add my comments to those of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), about the quality of the maiden speeches which have been made on both sides of the chamber. I have been most impressed with them. I may refer to one or two of them later in my remarks. I want to deal specifically with a part of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which is of great interest to me, that is, the reference which he made to the spirit of participation and employee involvement in the work place. I shall read the sentence which contains that phrase. Referring to the Government’s objectives, he said:
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 want to deal with this concept of worker participation, or industrial democracy as it is sometimes called, and point out some of the fallacies, the traps and the advantages of it. In my view it is often a misunderstood concept, because when people think of phrases such as ‘worker participation’ or ‘industrial democracy’ they often have different things in mind. So people ‘s reactions to these concepts, whether they are in favour of them or against them, often vary because they are really thinking of something different, not because they disagree with the basic concepts.
It seems to me that three streams of thought represent the concept of worker participation. Firstly, some people think in terms of workers participating in the financial side of a company, having a financial share in it. An example of this in Australia is Fletcher Jones and Staff Pty Ltd in which employees have a right to hold shares. They can hold them until they leave the company. If the employee dies those shares go on to his widow but eventually they must return to the company so that they can be resold to new employees. That is one concept, and we have had put to us from time to time developments on that shareholding concept. I recall 18 months or two years ago a gentleman by the name of Kelso visiting Australia to promote his concept of employee share participation or the Employee Stock Option Plan-ESOP, as he called it.
There are other systems, whereby the employees can be tied into the financial success of their companies by way of wages contracts, which include some element dependent on the profitability of the company. This is very typical of the larger Japanese companies in which they have a system of annual wages contracts which incorporate annual bonuses related to company profitability. This situation is very appropriate to the Japanese context because Japan has a history of company-based labour unions, and a negotiated contract can therefore be worked out between the company and the labour union within that company. That cannot necessarily be translated into the Australian environment in exactly the same terms but there is a range of things which are often meant by people when they talk about worker participation. I do not want to eliminate that sort of financial arrangement or shareholding arrangement. It may be appropriate in some companies but it will not be acceptable to some company managements and indeed it will not be acceptable to some employees and trade unions. They may feel that they do not want to be tied into the financial success of the company in quite that way. I think it is a good idea where that arrangement can be reached by negotiation between both sides but it is certainly not something that ought to be imposed on unwilling parties.
The second stream of thought which represents the concept of worker participation is the appointment or election of worker directors to boards of companies and public enterprises. I suppose that in many people’s minds this is the thing that really comes to the forefront when the term ‘worker participation’ or ‘industrial democracy’ is used. I suggest that if we start off thinking of worker participation as meaning necessarily the appointment of worker directors to boards of corporations and public authorities we are likely to stand the whole thing on its head and produce a great number of suspicions which we could overcome with a rather more subdued and cooperative approach. I raise as an example the reaction to the Bullock report in the United Kingdom. From the reports I have”1 read of the attitudes of industry organisations and trade unions I am led to believe that there is now a stand-off situation in the consideration of the Bullock report which recommended on the appointment of worker directors. Both sidesemployers and employees- are suspicious of this concept of the appointment of worker directors. The situation seems to have reached something of a stalemate.
Indeed, one can see a number of objections in proceeding too rapidly into this field of the appointment of worker directors. Firstly, there is the possibility that a conflict of interests can arise with a worker director on a board. I raise something that I have raised in this Parliament in the past and that is the position on the Australian Postal Commission of Mr George Slater, the General Secretary of the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union. I pointed out some time ago in this House the situation in which he found himself during the period of the Medibank strike when the Postal Commission, of which he was a member, urged employees of the Post Office to turn up for work and the union, of which he was General Secretary, urged people not to go to work on that particular day. So he faced this situation of a conflict of interests between his Commission position and his union position. That is something we need to think about a great deal further before we rush headlong into the idea of the appointment of worker directors.
There can also be a problem with the lack of experience in business procedures of some people who are appointed as union representatives. If they go on to a board of directors without having adequate training in or orientation with business procedures that are to be used it may well be that they would feel uncomfortable and out of place and not able to make the contribution which we would hope they would be able to make to the solution of problems of relationships within that company. Therefore there is the danger that if we proceed too fast in that direction it will lead to a feeling of inadequacy on the part of some union officials who are appointed to such positions. Then of course there is the danger of tokenism. It is very easy to say, ‘We will appoint one or two worker directors to company boards’, but those one or two people can always be outvoted by the other directors on the board. That company can then say ‘We have worker participation’, but what does it mean in real terms? It can be just a mere token to provide some sop to the clamour for greater worker involvement.
What we are really talking about when we talk of worker participation and industrial democracy is the third stream of thought that I want to raise, and that is the real involvement in the organisation of work and the decision making by employees throughout the whole structure of industry and commerce starting from the factory floor. The areas of job enrichment, job enlargement, autonomous and semi-autonomous work groups are the areas in which some start needs to be made. Many of the more progressive companies in Australia have already made a start along these lines. It is a difficult problem with which to grapple because it means laying down or putting aside some of the old jealousies and perhaps areas of exclusive authority that various people have had in the past. It means a changed attitude on the part of some managements to the involvement of their employees in company affairs and a greater willingness on the part of those managements to make a wider range of information about company activities, its successes and failures, available to those employees.
In many cases it also means the abandoning of some of the trade union jealousies that exist within the trade union movement itself. If one is to talk about job enlargement, giving people a wider range of activities and a wider area of involvement in their work place, one can conceivably run into demarcation disputes between individual unions within the same plant. So union attitudes to the work that their members have to perform will often need to be changed, and that may have a consequence for the vested interests of certain union officials and the structures that they have built up. This has enormous implications for government training policies and for attitudes towards the trade union training authority, for example, and its role in the training of people with a proper perspective of worker participation and worker involvement. I suggest that what we need to do is to develop from the bottom up, if I may put it that way, rather than to try to impose something from the top down. That was the fundamental error of the Bullock report, from all that I can read of the reactions to that report in the United Kingdom.
I want to move from that area to develop some of the points which were raised particularly by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) in his maiden speech when he moved the motion to adopt the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. I thought it was an exemplary maiden speech, one which was thoughtful and which produced a great deal of material which ought to be considered further by this Parliament. In addressing himself to some of the problems of the Australian economy and to the structure of work in Australia, he said:
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.
I think that was a very timely comment from the honourable member for Mackellar because one of the real problems that we face in this country is developing the potential of the tourist industry which we ought to have in Australia. Quite frankly, it is appalling that Australians can be offered package tours to South East Asia, New Zealand, the Pacific countries and Hawaii which are cheaper than the prices of package tours which can be offered to Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. I believe that part of the reason for that discrepancy is the cost structure of the tourist industry. Where we have a situation where normal pay is based on the concept of a nine to five job for five days a week from Monday to Friday and where any time worked outside those specified hours has to be paid for at overtime rates and special penalty rates, we have a situation where we cannot develop realistically a tourist industry in Australia that will compete with overseas tourist industries. I refer, for example, to a person who decides to take five days leave, one normal working week’s leave, from his employment. That person would usually choose to travel on the weekend in order to turn that five days leave into eight or nine days holiday using up the weekend on each side. But it is at the weekend, when people want to use airport facilities and airlines, and to check into and out of hotels, when the maximum penalty rates have to be paid. Therefore, it is impossible in many areas of the tourist industry to operate a 24-hour, seven day a week service at anything like a competitive rate. I do not suggest that the Australian tourist industry should pay people at cheap rates or at rates they do not earn. I suggest that in the structure of award rates and penalty rates, we must give some consideration to the nature of the industry. It cannot be regarded as an industry with a normal working week from 9 o’clock to 5 o’clock Monday to Friday, as happens in many other industries. It is a seven day a week industry and should be treated that way. Therefore, it was with some concern that I noted the response of the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) to the very fine speech of the honourable member for Mackellar. When referring to the honourable member for Mackellar, the honourable member for Burke said:
As I heard his words, he said in effect that if the tourist industry of 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.
Later, again referring to the honourable member for Mackellar, he said:
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.
That is a most inadequate understanding of the nature of service industries and the tourist industry in particular. There are many people, a large proportion of the work force, who are engaged in serving other people in one form or another. I was disappointed that the honourable member for Burke chose to describe the speech of the honourable member for Mackellar in that way.
I was most impressed with the analysis of the Australian work force which was given by the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) in his maiden speech. He is an old friend of mine, if I might describe him as such. We have met in a number of contexts in the past. In describing what he called the quinary sector of the economy, he said that this category provides services which are provided within the home or are analogous to domestic services, for example, the provision of food and shelter, the care of children and the aged, cleaning and other home duties, and voluntary work for charities.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting for the dinner break I was referring to the speech made by the honourable member for Lalor in which he had divided the economy into live sectors and in which he spoke of services which are analogous to domestic services, such as the sort of work which might be done in hotels, restaurants and in relation to some tourist activities. I believe his contribution was a very valuable and thoughtful one which provided a great deal of information which we should consider further. I agree with him when he says that we need to look at the area of the provision of personal services as being a most important area in the future development of the economy. The point I was making about the tourist industry was that our general conception of working patterns and of industrial relations, such as the fixing of awards and determinations, does not quite suit the needs of the tourist industry and probably does not suit the needs of the development of these personal service industries generally.
I move on to deal with another need which I see in the economy, and that is the great need to ensure that there is further interchange between government, private industry and academia. I have noted with great pleasure that in recent months the Government has started a program of interchange between personnel in the Public Service and private industry. Some of the major companies, such as Civil and Civic, Mobil Oil Australia, Imperial Chemical Industries, Mayne Nickless, and James Hardie and Co., have supplied people to government departments on an exchange basis, and in return people from certain government departments, such as the former Department of Overseas Trade, the Department of Defence, the Department of Transport, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Foreign Affairs Department, have been provided with short term employment in private companies. That sort of activity is most necessary, particularly when one considers that in Canberra at present we are developing a second generation of people who have only a Public Service background. I refer to the sons and daughters of public servants who are themselves moving into employment with the Public Service.
In order to ensure that there is a proper appreciation of the roles, experience and expertise of each sector of the economy- government and private employment- it is necessary to ensure that this interchange of personnel takes place. Personally I hope that in future that system of interchange will include the universities and other tertiary educational institutions. There is a grave need to ensure that people in universities enter the Public Service and private industry for short stints so that everyone can gain from the expertise that they have to offer. That may mean also that we have to re-think some of our attitudes in relation to the sort of continuity of employment, guarantees of employment, that might be necessary to enable the appropriate release of people so that such an interchange program will work. Those are a number of the points which I believe need to be considered in developing a much more flexible work force which can contribute to Australia ‘s growth.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! Before calling the honourable member for Bonython, I remind the House that the honourable member is about to make his maiden speech and I request that the normal courtesy be extended to him, namely, that he be heard without interruption.
– I understand that certain traditions and precedents are associated with maiden speeches. I am afraid that I have scant respect for outmoded traditions and rather antiquated precedents- precedents and traditions which are not well designed for the tempo of life in late twentieth century Australia. Indeed if I might say, without being impertinent, having been in the House for only four days but having studied its proceedings for a lifetime, it seems only too apparent to me that the traditions and customs of this House require a drastic overhaul if we are to serve the nation that we represent and the democracy that we profess. Therefore, on the customary aspects of a maiden speech, I will be brief.
To you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I offer my congratulations on your election and to the Speaker my congratulations on his re-election to offices which are vital to the good functioning of this House. Of my predecessor in Bonython, Mr Martin Nicholls, who served this House, his Party and the electors for 14 years, I am glad to say that he is much recovered from the illness that brought his parliamentary career to a premature close. As for my electorate of Bonython, I have a single social statistic to put before the House. There are at present 4,387 people in Bonython receiving unemployment benefit. Discussions with welfare officers and unemployment officers suggest that the actual number of unemployed in the electorate totals at least 5,000. Thus one out of ten of the potential work force in Bonython is unemployed. My chief task for my electorate in the immediate future is to compel this Government to adopt a more humane, a more compassionate and a more generous response to the needs of the unemployed, the chief victims of the Government’s economic policies.
I wish tonight to examine a single sentence from the Governor-General’s Speech. It is perhaps the most complacent sentence in a complacent and vacuous speech. He said:
The Thirty-First Parliament assembles following general elections in which Australians have returned my Government with a majority surpassed only once before.
I wish to examine the moral authority of that massive majority. The election of 1 977 needs to be placed in the context of contemporary Australian politics. Since 1972 this country has had four national elections- a series of unnecessary and premature elections unparalleled in Australia’s history. Never before have the Australian people been compelled so frequently to the polls. The conservative journal, the Economist, stated in a now famous article:
Australians have been rotted by too much politics.
I repeat the words: ‘rotted by too much polities’. Of course, being a conservative journal, the Economist failed to ask who had done the rotting. Each of those premature elections was the result of the greed of the conservative parties in this country to regain or to retain office. In 1974 they threatened to breach constitutional convention in their grab for power. In 1975, by a gross perversion of the practice and custom of the Constitution, they compelled a double dissolution. In the premature dissolution of 1977 opportunism was their only guide. The Australian Financial Review of 4 October 1977 made this comment:
The reason Mr Fraser wants an election is that he feels he can get himself another three years by going now. He has absolutely nothing else- no long term economic strategy, no major issues on which he is seeking a genuine mandate.
A week later the same newspaper described the opportunism of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in these terms: . . . an attempt to grab any issue to force an election before unemployment really starts to bite in the school leaver onslaught of next year.
Not one of those unnecessary elections was in the national interest; not one of those premature elections was in the economic interests of this country. Indeed, as economists now point out, each of them imperilled the economic recovery of this country. That series of conservative actions has rotted the political institutions of this country and damaged the social fabric of the nation. Never before in the history of this country have the needs of the nation been so prostituted to the greed of party.
In the speech he delivered in this debate on Wednesday, the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) waxed eloquent on Labor’s campaign pledge on payroll tax. Such a pledge may well have been mistaken and may well have .been unwise, but at least it was honest. By contrast, honesty was at a discount in the Liberal campaign of 1 977. To retain power in 1 977 the conservative coalition debauched the economicdebate by a combination of the politics of deceit and the crudest appeals to human greed.
The politics of deceit were all pervasive from the start. The Finance Editor of the Melbourne Age had this to say about the Liberal policy speech:
The unfortunate opening paragraphs of this election policy were the worst collection of half truths and distortions I can remember in a Prime Minister ‘s policy speech.
Then there were the bubble balloons which day after day proclaimed that the Liberals had reduced inflation from 19 per cent to nine per cent. I am perfectly prepared to grant the Government a moderate achievement as regards inflation, although clearly the Government both exaggerates its achievement and minimises the cost of that achievement. But modest achievement is not for the present regime. No responsible economist in this country could be found to support the fantasy figure of 19 per cent as being in any way a valid comparative figure; nor any intelligent layman that such a gross distortion contributed anything to the needed and rational economic debate. And what today of the election pledge that the Government had no information which would justify an increase in health insurance contributions? The people may choose between incompetence and deceit. I suspect a bit of both.
It is clear that the politics of deceit were endorsed from on high. Debate now rages in this country in general and in the Press in particular as to- let me put this as delicately as possiblethe Prime Minister’s tortured and tortuous approach to the truth. I am not one of those who believe that the Prime Minister is given to the deliberate telling of untruths: Rather, I believe that the Prime Minister of this country has raised to a high art form the ability to mislead his peers and the people and to misinform the nation while remaining, in the technical sense, correct. Examples of this technique are well known. The present Speaker of the House was in fact the first victim. In January 1975 the present Prime Minister said:
Bill Snedden has my full support … I repeat … I support the elected leader of the Liberal Party.
The Labor Government was the next victim. In March 1975 he said:
I generally believe that if a government is elected to power in the lower House and has the numbers and can maintain the numbers in the lower House, it is entitled to expect that it will govern for the three year term unless quite extraordinary events intervene.
The 1977 election campaign provides many examples of this prime ministerial technique. Most typical is his statement on unemployment when he said:
Unemployment will fall from February and keep on falling and falling.
Because of the seasonal patterns of unemployment, that statement may well be, with some luck, correct in a rather arid, technical arithmetical sense. But in terms of economic sense- that is, in terms of seasonal adjustment, and in terms of a month by month comparison with previous years- unemployment will get tragically worse in the months ahead.
Australians would be well advised to treat each statement by this Prime Minister as they would treat the contract of a dubious second hand car dealer. It is not the big promises of the opening paragraphs that they should note but the qualifying detail of the fine print.
To this deceit in the election campaign were added the crudest appeals to human greed. Nineteenth century philosophers feared that democracy would bring with it the politics of greed, that is, the buying of votes by the crudest and most vulgar promises of individual material reward. Their fears were fully realised in Australia in November and December of 1977. 1 quote from a Liberal Party advertisement, which states:
Liberal Income Tax Cuts. Mr Fraser’s tax reforms mean that 225,000 Australians who pay tax now will pay none after February. Are you one of them? Dial Adelaide 1 1 562. Dial any time and a recorded message will let you know.
Paraphrased, this message was: Telephone Telecom and find out how many extra bucks you will get if the Liberals get back on Saturday. Nothing so trivialised the economic debate in this country, nothing so debased the political morality of this society and nothing was so counter-productive to the real economic problems of this nation than this contemptible pandering to individual selfishness and individual greed.
Having by these means won their great victory, the man and the parties most responsible for the polarisation of this country now present themselves as the advocates of national unity, the creators of consensus, the new depolarisers. In the Prime Minister’s victory statement, in his Australia Day declaration and in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, we find this commitment: . . . to bring out the things we agree on, not allow ourselves to be distracted by partisan interest, by sectional demand.
I agree with the Prime Minister in that commitment. But his past makes him a most unlikely begetter of the new consensus and, for the present, there is a vast chasm between his rhetoric and his deeds.
What might we expect of a Prime Minister who is committed to the pursuit of the ‘things we agree on’ after the bitter years of the mid-1970s? Perhaps a magnanimous gesture to his great but defeated rival, the former Prime Minister. Perhaps a generous response to the unemployed who have borne the burdens of his economic policy. Perhaps a revision of the basic pension guidelines which have remained unchanged since the Labor Party was in power. But we get none of these. Instead, what do we get as one of the first executive acts of this new age of unity? We get the extraordinary ambassadorial appointment of the most divisive figure in this society; the most affluent of Australian pensioners; the most eager job seeker in the ranks of the unemployed. Nothing comparable has been seen since the Emperor Caligula appointed his horse a Roman Consul. Nothing could be better designed to divide and embitter this nation. So much for the pursuit of unity!
We will not solve the mounting problems of this society by the politics of deceit and greed that are now garbed in this latest hypocrisy. The Government will only increase the tensions in this society by the present punitive level of aid to the unemployed. The Government will only cure the conscience of its own supporters by the creation of a dole bludger syndrome, given the grave international and structural weaknesses of this economy. The Government will salvage little but its own numerical predictions by sending out teams of inspectors to hunt down unemployment malingerers. Such resources would be much better placed in those Department of Social Security offices in regions of high unemployment where the social security system is close to breaking down. In Bonython and elsewhere, unemployment benefit payments have been running a week to two weeks behind. Only a minimal amount of sympathy and imagination is required to translate those delays into terms of individual hardship and distress. Not that this is the fault of the officers of the Department of Social Security, who do a herculean task under most difficult conditions. In Bonython, unemployment has increased by 300 per cent since 1974, but the staff of the local Department of Social Security office has increased by only 33 per cent in the same period.
Nearly 40 per cent of the unemployed are young people. The Government is in danger of creating a generation denied of work experiences and the skills and confidence that come with employment. The Government can win an election by offering a quick buck to the employed and forgetting the unemployed, but it does so at enormous individual and, ultimately, social cost. If the Government creates a lost generation of the unemployed and unemployable, that generation will ultimately ravage our social system.
Throughout this debate we have heard a plaintive refrain from Government back benchers proclaiming that they, too, love the unemployed; that they, too, are concerned for the unemployed. If so, let them match their words with deeds. Let them join with the Opposition in encouraging a more compassionate response from their hard-faced masters on the Government front bench. Let me suggest a five-point plan that they might pursue with us to match their words with action.
Firstly, let them persuade their Ministers to drop their favourite stereotype of the unemployed as dole bludgers, morally blameworthy for their own unemployment, and present them instead as they really are- the victims of an erratic economic system; victims bearing for all of us the burdens of a stagnant economy secondly, let them persuade their Ministers to minimise the bureaucratic hassles which entrap the unemployed and which turn the unemployed, who are perhaps not the best organised elements in our society, into the chief form fillers in our society, form fillers who are harshly penalised if their form filling is inadequate or late. Thirdly, let them urge their Ministers to support us in our call for putting more resources into social security so that the dreary queues may be shortened, the delays in payment removed and the unemployed served as Australian citizens should be served. Fourthly, let them persuade their Ministers to transform the work test and the appeals system, which are sources of much unnecessary hardship. In recent years, some 60 per cent of the appeals against benefit cuts have been finally upheld, but not until much hardship has been caused to the appellants. Fifthly and finally, let them convince their Ministers to provide the unemployed with benefits above, not below, the poverty line.
The Government may have its majority but it is a majority morally flawed by the methods of its attainment. Moreover those methods have fostered and played upon attitudes of individual greed which offer no solution to the economic and social problems which face this country. Herein lie the seeds of this majority’s destruction.
Today over most of northern Europe democratic socialism is the dominant and governing political force. In most of Mediterranean Europe more radical versions of socialism are poised on the edge of power. The triumph of socialism in Europe reflects the growing conviction that a humane and democratic socialism offers the only way forward from the economic and cultural malaise that now grips the capitalist world.
We on this side of the House share those values that must underwrite a revised economic order in this country. Industrial enterprise should be geared not to the private profits of the few but to the economic needs of the many. The resources of this nation should be treated as the heritage of all Australians, not simply the source of wealth for a few, and too many of that few from overseas. Nor should the environmental needs of future generations of Australians be squandered for quick returns now. Those principles are at the heart of a socialist ethic which places communal needs above individual greed. Only through a party committed to an economic interventionism in the interests of all and which is sceptical of the shibboleths of so-called free enterprise will Australians secure the restructuring of the economy which is the prerequisite for economic advance. For all of those reasons I am confident that this Government is doomed. I can only hope that its going down will prove less destructive of the political order and less damaging to the social fabric of this country than was its coming to power. Today belongs to the Government; tomorrow belongs to us.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, on behalf of my constituents I should like, firstly, to extend to you most sincere congratulations on your election to the position of Chairman of Committees. It is always very good to see a fellow Queenslander honoured in this House. I would ask you to extend to Mr Speaker our congratulations on his re-election and indeed on his elevation. As well I should like to extend congratulations to the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) on his maiden speech that we have just heard. The honourable member comes to this House with quite a reputation from his academic career, his work at Flinders University and his work as an independent political commentator on an Adelaide television station. In fact he comes to us as one of Australia’s leading academic socialists and I am sure that his contribution to this House will be most valuable.
I should like to take this opportunity personally to thank my constituents for their help and co-operation during the past two years. I have deemed it a great honour indeed to be their representative in this House because I believe that together we have achieved much for the electorate of Bowman. I hope that in the coming years we may together continue to improve our part of society and in particular to assist those persons in our community, who because of reasons beyond their direct control may find themselves in need of assistance and understanding. As a member of Parliament, I accept unreservedly the responsibility for assisting these disadvantaged people. I have always held the belief that no matter how wealthy our society may appear to be, we can only measure true prosperity by the standards of those in circumstances not as fortunate as our own. I am reminded of the words of the late American Senator Hubert Humphrey- a person whose deeds and ambitions for his fellow man must stand as an eternal goal for all legislators. Senator Humphrey said: ‘Life was not meant to be endured; it was meant to be enjoyed’. There are many people in our community whose life to them must seem to be only an endurance. There are people in our community who find it a never ending struggle just to feed and to clothe themselves. There are people in our society for whom life must seem a never ending struggle from crisis point to crisis point and from problem to problem. It is to these people that we as legislators owe our greatest responsibility. It is to these people that we must direct our greatest efforts. Whilst we may boast that we are without doubt one of the most prosperous nations in the world, we are also a nation with pockets of poverty, with seams of discrimination, and with an everwidening band of individual intolerance. Whilst we have much to be proud of, we also have much to be ashamed of. These clouds over our society should be righted and I believe that they can be corrected. They must be eradicated if we as a whole are to progress and to be an example to the rest of humanity. There is no greater shame to man than inhumanity and we as representatives of our community must ensure that those misfortunes which fall upon others are rectified with a sense of compassion, urgency and understanding.
This is my third speech to this Parliament on an Address-in-Reply. I have served in the Parliament for over two years and I still have much to learn. But I hope that my years in this House do not tarnish my sense of idealism and do not cause me to become cynical of our Parliamentary system and institutions, as some of my colleagues on the other side have become. That is obvious from their speeches delivered during the past week. We must never forget that we are the Parliament. Any failure of the Parliament to come to grips with a problem is our failure. Any cynicism which may develop is only an admission of our own lack of faith and shortsightedness in this Parliament. After all, a cynic is but a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. I hope that as members of this Parliament we never lose sight of the value of our parliamentary system as a vehicle to improve our society. The Government has been returned with a large majority but that does not mean that we should be complacent about our responsibilities and duties to the community. It means the exact opposite. It means that this government has been given a vote of confidence to govern responsibly and to tackle the problems which threaten the very fabric of our society. It would be indeed foolish of all of us, as parliamentarians, to pretend that we know all the answers and that we have all the solutions. I do not think we do; I do not think anyone does. But as legislators we have a responsibility to find the solution to our major problems.
The last two years have not been easy for the people of Australia. Although we have succeeded in turning the tide against inflation it is evident that our battle against unemployment is not proceeding as fast as we all would like. Unemployment is not an easy problem to solve at the best of times. It is not a problem that can be pinpointed to one particular cause. But it is the singular, most important area of policy to which we must all turn our attention. There are some people in the community who say that we should be content with six per cent or seven per cent of our workforce being unemployed. I for one do not subscribe to that cancerous opinion at all. I believe that it would be a very foolish government which would rule this nation on such a premise. Nevertheless we are faced with a problem which is testing the whole fabric of our community. Not only are some people finding it difficult to obtain employment, but there are alarming numbers of people who are finding it frustrating just to receive regular unemployment benefit cheques.
I do not think it is any secret to members who represent marginal seats with large pockets of unemployment that our system of handling unemployed persons is in need of some major reform. When it takes in some cases up to five or six weeks for a person to receive an unemployment benefit cheque, something in the system is wrong. Perhaps more to the point, something is amiss if it is impossible to reach a close degree of liaison between Commonwealth Employment Service offices and the Department of Social Security when a person’s subsistence is at stake. There are times when the bureaucracy seems so incapable of being compassionate and understanding that one feels like pleading with the clerical officers who are making the decisions in the Department. The sad aspect about the whole system is that the meat in the sandwich are the unemployed people who in many cases are only concerned to get enough money to feed their families. When one department gives out green forms, another department gives out white forms, some forms are returned to one department one week, and to another the next weeknot only is the whole system utterly confusing, but it is also administratively scandalous. Let us not forget that departments are created to help people, not to hinder them.
The bureaucratic administration of the whole unemployment process is far too complicated and in need of some common-sense restructuring. Too often to an outsider it would seem that the system is designed to suit some Public Service planners rather than the people who are actually unemployed. Indeed the process of changing over from advance payments to arrears payments of unemployment benefits could not be more complicated if it was deliberately designed to be so. If this system is allowed to continue as it has during the past few months, it would be an indictment on this Parliament. It is no wonder that current affairs programs are having a field day with regard to unemployment problems.
There are many dedicated public servants working in the field of unemployment and welfare benefit payments. There are many people who really feel for the unemployed. But lately in Queensland I have noticed a change in attitude. Some clerical assistants are becoming absolutely rude and arrogant on the telephone. Their voices reflect that view not only when members of the public telephone them for information but also when members of Parliament telephone them. The strain of the system is catching up with people to such an extent that quite often the unemployed are told deliberate falsehoods just to get them off the telephone or out of the office. Something has to be done. In my opinion the warnings have been on the wall for quite some time. Unfortunately, the Public Service is slow to react.
What is needed is one department to manage the whole unemployment situation. We need one department to register the unemployed, to counsel them, to help them find jobs, to pay their benefits and to make sure that they are not without payment for long periods of time. The unemployed people have got to be stopped from being passed from one department to another- from the CES offices to the Department of Social Security. We only have to talk to some of these unemployed to realise just how often they travel from one department to the other, trying to get some satisfaction to their problems. While we have this problem on our plate, we must make sure that our administration is tailored to help, not to hinder those, it is meant to serve. I realise that I might be unpopular in certain quarters for expressing those views, but I am comforted by Sir Winston Churchill’s view that if our parliamentary institutions and parliamentary democracies are to survive it will not be because constituencies return tame, docile, subservient members, and try to keep out every form of independent judgment. Unless we as members raise those matters which our constituents relate to us this House will fail in its responsibility to be a vehicle of change and social improvement.
As I have said, unemployment is the greatest single problem facing the nation today. Although as a government we have taken a number of steps to encourage businesses to expand their employment opportunities, the response in some areas has been very disappointing when translated into the number of unemployed. We have introduced investment allowances to encourage businesses to expand; we have introduced taxation incentives; we have provided training programs both at a preapprenticeship level and on a work subsidy level for employers; we have introduced a modified apprenticeship training rebate scheme; and we have even gone as far as providing employers with direct financial benefits if they employ young people for a period up to six months. Yet despite these advances and despite other changes, it seems we are still falling slightly short of the mark.
There is no doubt in my mind that there are some unemployed young people who just do not want to work- people who are quite content to exist on the unemployment benefits they receive rather than work for a living. Indeed it is not uncommon to hear of employer reports stating that people have started work and left at lunchtime on the same day saying they would rather stay at home and collect the benefits for nothing. I have even heard of cases in my own electorate where people have asked the employer to sack them so that they do not have to wait six weeks to continue receiving the benefits. It is indeed unfortunate that we have these people in our community. It would seem that for some of our unemployed the desire not to work coupled with the ease with which unemployment benefits can be obtained has given birth to an attitude that the rest of society can go on supporting them.
I have tried to analyse why there is this desire not to work, but I find it very complicated. We have to ask ourselves: Is it because our education system does not prepare our young people for the world of work? Is it because their parents do not give them encouragement? Is it because they are just lazy, or perhaps more to the point, is it because they no longer feel that work can give them life’s fulfilment? I do not know the answer. I have spoken to many young people and asked them why they think this lack of work morale exists, and they tell me a variety of answers. But I suggest to this House that until we start trying to . find out the answers to these questions we will not completely come to grips with an important and critical section of our unemployed.
Although we have high unemployment we do not have a lack of work in our community. There is a shortage of paid employment but there are no shortages of jobs at a community level which need to be done. Community improvement projects are around us everyday. What is wrong with initiating such projects which will not only rekindle the incentive to work for some of our unemployed, but will also result in a direct benefit to the community and ultimately to the taxpayer. We need community betterment projects which will put our chronic unemployed to work rehabilitating public facilities, making neighbourhood improvements, and even undertaking some repairs and maintenance in low income housing areas. We need a program whereby our unemployed can again become active, if only for a few days of the week instead of just sitting at home as many of them do, waiting for something to happen. No doubt there are some who will say that unemployment benefits are a form of assistance, not cheap labour. To those people I say that something has to be done about the work morale of our unemployed. Something has to be done so that we the taxpayers, get some value for money. Although the Government has introduced a Community Youth Support Scheme, commonly called the CYSS, to boost young people’s morale, not all areas of major unemployment have these programs in operation. I have one in my electorate and I know that many of my colleagues in Brisbane also have them in their electorates. They are a tremendous innovation and the people that run them are doing a fantastic job. But we need to go further. There are plenty of charitable organisations and non-profit associations which undertake many worthwhile projects in our community which could well do with another pair of hands. Why not encourage our unemployed to help these organisations? It would cost the Government nothing, but the value to the community could be immense.
I detect a growing feeling in our community that unemployment benefits are not utilised in the wisest manner. There is a growing body of opinion in the community that the unemployment benefit payment scheme should be split up into a subsistence- basic level of payment, and a secondary works tested payment. As many members would be aware Australia is one of the few Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries that pays a form of unemployment benefits without any backup system of collective insurance. In the
United States and Canada and also in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Sweden, unemployment assistance also takes the form of an insurance benefit which is paid by regular worker contributions. It is only when these insurance payments have been exhausted that the government accepts the responsibility to step in and provide some form of financial assistance. The interesting aspect of the scheme is that in some countries young people arriving on the labour market do not as a rule receive unemployment insurance benefits since they have not had the opportunity to contribute to a fund while in a previous job. However, as the problem of youth unemployment has grown in a world wide sense many countries have modified their schemes to give some assistance to young people.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the point I wish to make by citing these instances is that in Australia the nature of our unemployment benefit system has not taken account of the need to make people themselves more responsible for their financial being should they become unemployed. And so, whilst not wishing to change the basic structure of our form of financial assistance towards the unemployed, I do believe that we should take some steps to ensure that the benefits are not just paid out without any form of work commitment. By this I mean that it is time that we took another look at our International Labour Organisation Geneva commitments with a view to adopting a policy which will help us in our particular situation. It could be a very worthwhile step if meetings were held with some of the peak union councils to discuss this aspect.
I believe that the Australian community, on both sides of the political fence, wants to see unemployment benefits paid in a more responsible manner. Whilst we should have a basic subsistence level of payment, I believe that an additional benefit should only be paid upon the completion of some sort of work, in the form of community betterment projects, putting our young people to work rehabilitating public facilities, undertaking some charitable work or, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Bonython, some work in the environmental sphere. Whatever it be, I think the community expects us to introduce some form of work payment scheme for extra employment benefits.
I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development who is responsible for youth affairs for initiating the research project into youth unemployment. The research officer from his Department, Denise Boettcher has prepared an excellent publication of this whole problem of youth unemployment and I would hope that all members of this House would take the time to read it and to see what is being initiated. They may see some areas where improvements could be made.
I also wish to take this opportunity in replying to the Governor-General’s Speech to raise the question of the public’s opinion of politicians. We have heard a great deal about it in this House during the last week. There is no doubt about it. There is a growing disenchantment with our profession in the community. While there will always be sections of the community who disagree with their parliamentarians, or who are cynical as to their purpose, I detect a growing swell of opinion that people believe that politicians are incapable of concentrating on and solving the important problems of our community. Although there are some who expect us to be supermen, there are others who believe we are lazy and do not earn our money. In many ways I suppose we are all to blame for this image because we do too little as a profession to sell ourselves. Although we are called upon to represent our constituents in the Parliament, we also have a responsibility to represent them at functions within our own community. It is just as important that we undertake our community responsibilities as we do our parliamentary responsibilities. Although at times these community responsibilities may require us to fulfil many roles such as a social worker, marriage guidance counsellor, father confessor, committee worker for many of our constituent organisations, or lobbyist for important community projects. These roles are too often forgotten by the public. When a person comes into an electoral office with a personal problem we have just as much a responsibility to help him or her as we have to make speeches in this House. As a profession we should never forget that we represent individuals, that we are elected to serve and to help those individuals. I am reminded of the words of Sir Edmund Burke who said:
Party divisions, whether on the whole operation for good or evil, are things inseparable from free government:
However, if we are to raise the standing of our profession, we must be aware of pelting each other for supposed public good at the expense of collectively setting our minds to the task of improving the nation.
In the time remaining for me to speak, I wish to deal with a further couple of points from the Governor-General’s Speech at the opening of the Parliament. The first one came to light in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. I know that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin
Cairns) joins with me and the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) in accepting the words of the Prime Minister to go ahead with the restructuring of the Brisbane airport program. From my investigations it would seem that this work has already commenced. Initial survey work is already under way. Programs aimed at diverting some of the waterways in the area to form the new Brisbane airport are under way also. In addition, in the next couple of weeks research will be conducted to ascertain what type of fill can be used in the new airport complex.
The decision was welcomed not only by the people of Brisbane but also by all the people of Queensland. It will make a very real contribution to the economy of Queensland and to the welfare and the betterment of the people of Brisbane. I was interested to hear my learned friend, the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer), this afternoon speak in a most considered way about the problems that are facing the tourist industry in Australia at the moment. This is one of the ways in which the tourist industry in Queensland will be helped considerably. I would like to take the opportunity also to express my hope that the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism will be reconstituted in the near future. That Committee last year made a very real contribution to what one would hope would be the restoration of the industry in Australia. I believe that there is much more work to do. The next three years will be exciting years for Australia.
-Before I call the honourable member for Melbourne Ports I remind the House that although he has immense experience in another place, nevertheless this is his maiden speech in this House. I ask the House to afford him its usual courtesies.
– Thank you very much, Mr Acting Speaker. I would like to congratulate all the newly elected members of this House on their maiden speeches. In particular, I congratulate the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe), and the honourable member for Bonython (Mr Blewett) for their thoughtful contributions to this House. On behalf of the constituents of my electorate of Melbourne Ports, I would like to wish the new Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, every success. Of course, it is a fact that Sir Zelman Cowen was born in the St Kilda part of my electorate; so that makes him very much a favoured son of the people of Melbourne Ports. I suppose that their other favoured son needs no introduction to this House. I refer to my predecessor, Frank Crean. His skill and dedication to his Party and the nation, both in government and in opposition, need no plaudits from me for they are a matter of public record. That is a record which many in this House will try to emulate but which very few will ever be able to attain.
The Speech that the Governor-General presented on behalf of the Government is, on the very best view of it, a trite document. It expresses sentiments or contents so general as to be glib or alternatively so praiseworthy that we all would agree. The problem with the praiseworthy contents of the Speech is that it is in no way related to the Government’s record or its behaviour. Let me refer to the eighth page of the Speech where the Governor-General states:
My Government will carry out a continuing program of law reform, particularly with a view to protecting civil liberties and enhancing individual rights. Constant viligance is required to ensure that the rights of individual citizens are not eroded or ignored.
What laudable sentiments they are. One can also almost see the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) burning the midnight oil as he writes them: I repeat:
Constant vigilance is required to ensure that the rights of individual citizens are not eroded or ignored.
It is legitimate for any honourable member of this House to ask: Have our individual rights been eroded or ignored? Mr Acting Speaker, let me refer you to the findings not of a party select committee or of any particular party but of Mr Acting Justice White in his initial report on Special Branch Security Records. I have been fascinated by the discussions that have taken place in this House about parliamentary privilege and about how this institution is enhanced if Mr Speaker, instead of coming in through the back passage, comes in through the front door. I have been fascinated by the view that somehow the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility will be enhanced if all Ministers of the Crown attend the opening of the Parliament in their mourning suits. I know that one of them carries a Queen’s Counsel opinion in his hip pocket which will prove that he has never been guilty of any sort of unworthy offence. I put it to you, sir, that the standards of this Parliament and the concepts that underlie the whole basis of parliamentary privilege are not necessarily strengthened by the garb of Ministers or by the course by which Mr Speaker finds his way to the chair.
Let me deal with some aspects of civil liberties which strike at the very privileges of this Parliament. They would be bad enough, goodness knows, if we were talking about just the rights of the average citizen. We find that Mr Acting Justice White had this to say in paragraph 16.1.2 of his report:
After 1953-1954, Special Branch files assumed a new dimension of intense interest in (Labor) political opinions and (Labor) trade unions. All elected State Labor leaders became the subjects of index cards, and sometimes of subject sheets and files. Interest in extreme right-wing organisations paled into insignificance. Interest in moderate right-wing opinion was virtually non-existent. Interest in centre, moderate left, radical and extreme left opinion was the main preoccupation.
I ask honourable members to listen also to what is stated in paragraph 16.2.2:
It seems to me to be a grave invasion of the privacy of all A.L.P. Parliamentarians that they have, without exception, ‘come under notice ‘ of Special Branch by having cards raised in their names (and sometimes separate sheets and files) by reason only of the fact that they have Labor sympathies.
He goes on to point out that there was actually one card relating to a Liberal Party headquarters. There was actually a Liberal Party parliamentarian who somehow or other found himself near a bookshop and on that basis had his name taken. The mind boggles in respect of the one honourable member on the other side who might have got himself into that unfortunate situation.
How do we as a Parliament listening to all this talk about parliamentary privilege and the rights of members contemplate a situation in which all honourable members representing the Government are prepared- and presumably the Prime Minister is prepared- to accept the situation in which they know that every member on this side of the House, and every Labor parliamentarian throughout Australia, has been the subject of a security dossier? On any view of it that constitutes not merely a gross invasion of privacy but also as gross a repudiation of the concepts of parliamentary privilege that I have ever heard. The Prime Minister cannot say that he does not know about it. He was written to by the Premier of South Australia who asked the Federal Government to ensure the destruction of any files held by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in regard to innocent people. I would say that I and all my parliamentary colleagues would fit the description of innocent people.
I would have thought that a Prime Minister who was concerned about civil liberties and a government concerned about civil liberties would have given an unequivocal undertaking to this House and to the people of Australia that those sorts of files simply would be destroyed. But what does the Prime Minister say? He says that he made it clear in his reply that ASIO would not destroy records and files of actual or potential security relevance. I am entitled to say to the Prime Minister or to the relevant Minister in charge of this government department, and that is what it is: Ultimately it is answerable to a Minister of the Crown, and under our system it is ultimately answerable to this Parliament. I seek an unequivocal assurance that any files relevant to any member of this House and any files relevant to any parliamentarian in any State of the Commonwealth be made available to the Parliament. They should be delivered to the Speaker. Let us all have a look at what is involved. Then we will know just how sincere this Prime Minister and this Government are when they put a document into the hands of the GovernorGeneral. Talk about preserving our civil rights and our liberties!
I want to turn to the question of this Government’s political strategy and its constant peddling of the view which was reiterated here earlier today by the Prime Minister when he indicated that the great economic problems that emerged in Australia in 1975 were completely and solely the product of the Whitlam Government. As a strategy, politically, I understand that view. But let me say this: If the Prime Minister and his colleagues really believed that I fear for all of us, because inherent in that approach is the single-minded refusal to understand that the boom in advanced capitalist societies that lasted from 1948 to 1974 is at an end and that the very expansion in knowledge, technology and living standards that were part of that period have given rise to a whole new range of attitudes and problems that were referred to by my colleague the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) when he spoke so eloquently to the House about the problems of the post-industrial society. I will not enlarge upon those problems other than simply to say this: Reliance on large scale technology and the growth of big business promotes the growth of big government at a time . when I believe the social process requires decentralisation and participation rather than more centralisation of power. The massive use of energy- and it is interesting to note that within advanced Western countries the responsibility for the production of energy largely rests with governments- the development of multinational corporations and their role in the large-scale exploitation of natural resources will produce tremendous problems for Australian society in the 1980s.
One only has to come to my own home city of Melbourne, which is now geographically one of the largest cities in the world, to see the problems that have been brought about by increased urbanisation. In 1971, 83 per cent of Australians were classified as urban. The future of our manufacturing industry is in question. There are real problems in that sector. I would like to quote from the Jackson report which was presented in July 1974. Things have not got better since then; they have only got worse. The major findings were:
Australian manufacturing industry is in acute financial crisis. Unemployment is high. Factories are running below capacity. Many firms have borrowed to the hilt, with capacity under trust deeds and credit standing eroded. Their profit record and prospects make it hard to raise equity. . . . In part manufacturing’s problems are manifestations of the world economic crisis in which all countries including Australia are enmeshed. But in Australian manufacturing there is a deep-seated and long standing malaise. That malaise has sharpened the impact on industry of the current economic crisis. When it passes, the malaise of manufacturing will still be there.
There has been much talk about restructuring industry. Certain industries in my own State- the textile industry is a perfect example- are so located regionally that when we talk about restructuring industries we are talking about restructuring whole country communities. It is not a simple problem. It is certainly a problem that cannot be dealt with effectively by a government which simply says: ‘We will solve our economic problems by making fewer decisions as a government and leaving it all to the private sector’. That is a view that is rejected by the more intelligent sectors within private industry.
The central plank of the Government’s economic strategy is deflation. It involves, first, the maintenance, and extension if necessary, of unemployment, partly as an end in itself, because the Government genuinely holds the view that if there is a high enough unemployment figure this will in fact reduce the level of inflation, and partly as a method of holding down wage claims, and thus disciplining the unions. Secondly, this economic strategy involves reduction in real wage levels over all. Thirdly, it involves a redistribution in national income towards profit, a reduction in the Australian Government’s role in economic management and a shake-out in domestic industry to the advantage of larger firms and those less dependent on government support.
The full employment pledge of 1 945, and accepted for 30 years by all political parties as the right of all Australian citizens, was abandoned by this Government in 1976. No attempt was made by the then Treasurer to indicate when, if ever, full employment would be reached. Less than a week ago in this House the present Treasurer (Mr Howard) took the view that there is really no economic crisis. Let us not talk about unemployment in terms of this Government’s policy as some short term objective. The fact is that it is a long-term strategy, a strategy which will be rejected, once it is understood by the Australian people, particularly by that generation of Australians reared with the concept of full employment. In the meantime, this House and this Government must understand the very real damage that unemployment is doing to the social fabric of Australia.
The economic approach of this Government constitutes the greatest assault on the living standards of Australian wage and salary earners since 1920. The mere fact that cheques are paid to the unemployed through the Post Office means that we do not see dole cheques. But the hardship is there, the suffering is there and the agony is there. The very same policies which are part of the total strategy of this Government were introduced in toto by Mr Heath in England and by Mr Muldoon in New Zealand and produced confrontation with the organised labour movement. The same will occur here. The tactic of trying to avoid confrontation by implementing these policies in a piecemeal fashion will not succeed.
I believe that the average Australian worker will accept some degree of sacrifice in the interests of the nation but that sacrifice has to be equal and it has to be seen to be equal. In our society it is a bit hard to say to a man who is trying to keep a wife and three children on $160 or $ 1 70 a week that he should not have the full flow on of indexation and should make economic sacrifices when at the same time the Government is engaged in a sordid appointment for the former Governor-General involving sums and terms beyond the comprehension of the average wage and salary earner. At the same time that the average Australian worker is being told that he must make a sacrifice, one of the chief architects of this strategy finds it perfectly morally acceptable to make a windfall or a profit of over $70,000 from land dealings. Cynicism is a very real threat to the whole institution of Parliament and if this Government is talking about economic sacrifice let it show that that sacrifice begins at the top and not where it always begins in the thinking of this Government in terms of the living conditions of the average Australian wage and salary earner.
This afternoon, Mr Acting Speaker, I heard the Prime Minister, when left alone for a few moments in the heat of debate without the aid of his script writers, pour out his venom for the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam) the former Prime Minister of this nation. At that moment the real Malcolm Fraser revealed himself. The Prime Minister, the man who on Australia Day talked of unifying this nation, referred to the 42 per cent of Australian citizens who disagreed with him as rabble. That was his term, not mine. It is a turgid term. It is a despicable term coming from the mouth of a Prime Minister- any Prime Minister. But I will say this for the right honourable gentleman- at least he is consistent.
Labor’s program- the program of the Whitlam Government- rested on the assumption that economic growth could be sustained. In that regard we were wrong because we did not accurately assess the fact that the international boom was over. But that does not diminish either the credibility of the achievements of that Government or the ideals which sustained it. Nationally that Government gave hope of a new deal for equal treatment to thousands of Australians. For the first time in the fields of education and health care there was the view that these were matters of right for all Australian citizens. That Government removed once and for all the political divisions created by State aid. It involved the Commonwealth in its responsibilities in urban planning and water and sewerage supply and gave a new deal to local government in the affairs of the nation. Internationally it got Australia out of Vietnam, ended the blight of conscription and opened up a new era in international relationships in which all Australians could walk tall.
The very expectations that this Government has raised as so-called economic managers will ultimately destroy it because nothing within its economic package will solve this nation’s economic problems and nothing within its philosophy will unite this nation. The speeches that we have heard to date and the address given by the Governor-General indicate that this Government does not even perceive the great challenges of the 1980s. I assure the House that the ideals and philosophy which motivated the Whitlam Labor Government have not been abandoned by large sections of the Australian community and, more importantly, have not been abandoned by the Labor movement in Australia. I assure this House that I do not believe they will ever be abandoned by its representatives in this House. I am proud to be in this House as a spokesman for a great movement and a great party- a party which has served this nation well in opposition and which will serve it even more ably in government.
-Before I call the honourable member for Hume it seems a proper occasion for me once again to say, as I have said on many occasions before, that anyone taking the place of Mr Speaker in this chair is properly termed Mr Deputy Speaker. To help those honourable members who have come from State parliaments or who are new to parliamentary procedure, I point out that the only time an Acting Speaker is in this chair is when the Speaker is overseas or away and someone is acting in his place. There are times when honourable members get the two terms muddled. I mean no disrespect to any honourable member who has misused the terms. The other point I raise is that the term ‘Malcolm Fraser’ is not parliamentary language in this House.
– I should think not.
-The proper -
– It is a term of abuse.
-Order! When the little game is over, I will continue. The proper term to use in this House is ‘the Prime Minister’ or ‘the right honourable the Prime Minister’, whatever an honourable member wishes. With those few words -
– He is not right or honourable.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will behave himself for a minute. I hope the House will forgive me for bringing that matter to mind but I think it is proper that I should do so. I call the honourable member for Hume.
-Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. That is a hard act to follow. I have just been given a quotation of the words of Sir Winston Churchill in 1935 on the occasion of a provocative maiden speech being made. He said:
Call that a maiden speech? It was a brazen hussy of a speech. Never did such a painted lady of a speech parade itself before a modest parliament!
I think that that is probably worth saying, particularly as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), who has just left the chamber, described himself in this place last week as a well worn maiden. Mr Deputy Speaker, I would be pleased if you would pass on my congratulations to Mr Speaker on his reelection to his office and his elevation to the knighthood, and to the Chairman of Committees on his election to that position. I am sure both will serve this House well. Mr Deputy Speaker, it is also good to see you back in this House in your capacity as the honourable member for Wakefield. I also congratulate those who have made maiden speeches in this Parliament and those who are yet to make them. I think it is good to hear maiden speeches being made in a parliament. It is a healthy sign that there are honourable members who are prepared for one reason or another to step aside and make way for others. This is a fairly restricted House. Only 124 people can be elected to it at any one time. Obviously if people outlast their useful stay in the Parliament they make it difficult for those who have a capacity to make a contribution. It is a healthy sign to see new members of this Parliament. I commend those people who have spent some time in the Parliament and who have been prepared to step aside to make way for others. I know that in some parliaments the pension system is such that in some cases people who have served in a ministerial capacity are encouraged by the force of pecuniary incentive to retire relatively soon after they lose their ministerial office.
– That does not happen in this Parliament.
– It does not happen in this Parliament, as the honourable member for Hindmarsh has reminded me. But I think that on occasions we can be criticised as a parliament for having some people among us who have probably outlived their usefulness and who are only warming a seat to the exclusion of somebody else who may be able to make a contribution. It may be possible to devise some system which encourages more maidens to come into the chamber.
As a result of the redistribution the electorate that I represent has been changed significantly. Its enrolment rose from slightly in excess of 50,000 constituents to slightly less than 70,000 constituents, which is a fairly sizable increase. The area covered increased from 30,000 square kilometres to 50,000 square kilometres. There may be some on my right geographically, although not politically, who do not appreciate what it means to represent an electorate of that size, but it does create all sorts of difficulties. My electorate has taken in the subdivisions of Forbes, Canowindra, Bogan Gate, West Wyalong, Ardlethan and Coolamon and as such has taken in a far greater area of the magnificently productive southern and south-western slopes and central area of New South Wales. I think it is inarguable that the electorate of Hume is the most productive agricultural area in Australia. It is highly productive in terms of wheat, wool, fat lambs, cattle, fruit and other things which are important in the agricultural community.
I pay tribute to a former colleague of mine, the former honourable member for Riverina, John Sullivan. He made a great contribution not only to his party but also to the Parliament and his electorate of Riverina. He, as much as anybody, was a victim of the redistribution which came into force prior to the last election. John Sullivan’s electorate was expanded to take in the majority of the former electorate of Darling, including, of course, the great industrial city of Broken Hill. It just was not possible, despite the magnificent effort he made during that campaign and despite the number of votes that he won, to withstand the effect of the redistribution. Let me reinforce some of the arguments that were put the other night at a dinner in Horsham by my leader, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), when he said that there are electorates in Australia that are getting beyond the bounds of manageability, where the country voice is being diminished. I do not know what is the solution to these problems unless it is to extend the size of this Parliament quite considerably. Something needs to be done to ensure that people have reasonable access to those who come to this Parliament to represent them.
On the subject of the Parliament let me refer to remarks that have been made and questions that have been asked in recent days by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). I think it is proper that those remarks were made. I noted with interest also that Mr Speaker himself made certain comments in relation to the Parliament. The honourable member for Hindmarsh raised the question of the estimates for the Parliament, matters which ought properly to be the responsibility of the Parliament and which ought to be debated in the Parliament. He raised the matter not only in speeches but also by way of questions to Ministers. If my memory serves me correctly, he asked a question on this subject of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and Mr Speaker commented upon it. I think that the answer that was given was probably a proper one in view of what happens, but what we need to think about, in terms of the Parliament and the estimates, is whether there is some way in which those estimates could be discussed in this place before they are submitted to the Government for confirmation or otherwise.
It could very easily become a routine part of the autumn session of the Parliament to have some time set aside in which those responsible for drawing up the estimates for the Parliament could submit those estimates to the House for consideration. The House could make some input, comment and discussion on those estimates and they could then go on to the Government, having been approved by the House, not subject to interference by the Department, the Public Service or the Executive. I think that this is something that ought to be thought about and I personally am grateful to the honourable member for Hindmarsh for raising it.
Similarly, improvements could be made to debates. I do not think that the Parliament has enough control over the matters which are debated in the chambers. Some sort of arrangement ought to be made with the Leader of the House to see that opportunity is given for the Parliament to set its own priorities to a greater extent than it does, rather than dealing solely with the Executive’s business. We must find a way to do that. I do not know how it can be done. I do not advocate a confrontation with the Executive although, if things do not improve, that may be the only way in which it can be done. In this chamber there are more members than there are Ministers and perhaps, if honourable members are of a mind to do so, the Executive can be outvoted. At this stage I do not advocate that line of action but we have to find a way to improve matters.
I draw attention to the fact that committees of the Parliament which sit for long hours and which do a great deal of work over a long period, present their reports to the Parliament and, 99 times out of 100- I do not think that I am exaggeratingthey lie on the table, they are not debated, nor are they acted upon by the Executive. Some provision should be made in the practices of the House for that to be done. In this context we must remember that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House has suggested that 1988 would be a good time at which to open the new and permanent Parliament House, on the 200th anniversary of Australia’s settlement by Captain Phillip. In matters such as the debating of parliamentary committee reports and the Estimates, which are so dear to the heart of the honourable member for Hindmarsh, the Parliament should have some say in whether or not we are to proceed with this new building. We should bear in mind that if we want to open a new building in 1988 we ought to make a start on it fairly soon.
I was pleased to hear Mr Speaker express the view that the office of Speaker should be politically independent. That is a matter that ought to be pursued. As a result of different matters that have been raised and different attitudes that have been expressed by honourable members and by Mr Speaker himself, I look forward optimistically to the time when the Parliament becomes more independent and, to some extent, more the master of its own business and affairs than it appears to be in practice, although on paper the situation is different.
Let me mention some of the concerns that are being expressed at the moment in my electorate. I suppose that the first concern is with unemployment, its administration and the way in which matters are developing in that area. I do not want to get into debate about dole bludgers. That term does not appeal to me particularly. People in my area are concerned- it is a concern that I share and that I am very happy to express and bring into this place- that there should be some change in the system to discriminate between those who are genuine and those who are not. A system of administration is needed in the area of unemployment benefits to achieve that end. It has been suggested to me that perhaps it could be done if a recipient of unemployment benefit had to present on a regular basis, as he does with his income statement, a list of those positions for which he has applied, with some comment from the prospective employer as to why he was not successful. That would provide a reasonably easy way of determining whether a person is genuine or not. If he could not produce an application for jobs -
– They do that now but there is no power to compel an employer to make that comment.
– That may be so. I am just canvassing a view. I am not suggesting that it is the only view. Something needs to be done. People object- I think that they are entitled to object and I object myself sometimes as a taxpayer- at the amount of money that is going out and at the return that is coming in for it. There is supposed to be a lot of unemployment. Let me cite an example. My family recently placed an advertisement in the Land newspaper and in the Goulburn newspaper for a farm manager and, in the entire readership of the Goulburn district and in the area covered by the Land newspaper, there were five applications for the position. It makes one wonder whether people are really serious. I do not want to canvass the matter any- further than that except to say that people are concerned and the Government is expected to come up with some sort of solution to see that the people who are genuine receive the unemployment benefit but that those who are not do not receive it.
That argument can be taken into the area of social security generally. People are becoming more and more aware of the sorts of figures that were mentioned in the last Budget Speech, that 57c in every dollar that is raised in tax goes into the area of social security. People are entitled to object to that. If we are not careful we will finish up with a taxpayer’s revolution. They will not be prepared to continue to support that sort of thing. Every time something new is handed out or a new benefit is made available it becomes part of the system, and it is impossible to retrieve it. One thing that interests me is that in a couple of areas at least people can qualify for a benefit by taking deliberate and positive decisions and action. The supporting mother’s benefit is one such area. There seem to be innumerable cases of young girls deliberately getting themselves into the situation of bearing children for no other reason than to make themselves financially secure and independent for as long as they choose.
– Is that why you invited them in?
-Perhaps the honourable member for Shortland is providing a professional service and standing in outside season. I do not know. It would be better for him not to enter the debate because his remarks could be interpreted that way. As well, this sort of thing occurs in the area of unemployment benefit where somebody deliberately chooses to leave his job and, after a waiting period of six weeks, qualifies for a benefit. I regard that as being totally separate and different from the situation in which somebody reaches the age of 65 or 70 or some age that qualifies him for a benefit, because he cannot hurry up the process, he cannot fiddle with it; he cannot adjust it; it just happens. But there are other areas in which people, by making a deliberate decision, can qualify for a benefit. I refer particularly to the supporting mother’s benefit and to the unemployment benefit. People in my area are concerned about these matters. The honourable member for Hindmarsh might be interested in the fact that the last time the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) made statistics available, on a postcode basis, of where the pensions were going, I went through them and extracted all the details relating to postcodes in the electorate of Hume. The figures showed that one person in five- we can assume that is one adult in five- is in receipt of some sort of social security benefit. That does not include people receiving repatriation benefits and it does not include recipients of unemployment benefits. So the number is significantly higher than one in five. So I suppose that every two and a half adults in the community who are working- and certainly not all adults are working because there are a lot of wives at home who do not work- are supporting somebody on a social security or repatriation or unemployment-type benefit. That is too high a ratio and somehow or other we must do something about it. I think that people in the electorate at large, and particularly people in my electorate, are reaching the stage where they want to see something done about it.
Health costs is another area. I guess one could spend 20 minutes talking about health costs. Again, people in my area- it is not restricted to my area- are getting very annoyed at the trends that are occurring in the area of health. It has come to my notice that in a country town with two hospitals about $100,000 is being paid out each year to the doctors in the town for their normal morning or evening calls that are made as they do their rounds. That is $100,000 which is being paid out which a couple of years ago, before this Medibank monster appeared, was not paid out. It was done under the honorary system. I believe that people and doctors themselves are concerned that they are almost forced to earn these high incomes. I believe that serious consideration ought to be given to the reintroduction of the honorary system. I think most doctors would agree with it. Most doctors would be happy about it, but there are other problems and for some reason it cannot be done. We must look at systems such as no claim bonuses in health insurance and a higher gap which must be paid by the patient when he partakes of some medical service or other without at the same time disadvantaging those who have a genuine problem. These things are important. It is crazy to have a situation where every doctor in the town is almost compelled under our tax system to drive a Mercedes Benz because it is uneconomic for him to do otherwise. People are objecting to it. They know what is going on. They can see it. They are concerned about the fact that if they want any sort of decent health cover it will cost them $400 or $500 a year and the charge is rising fast.
There is a range of things about which I should have liked to speak if time had permitted. I look forward to other occasions on which to do so. Telecom Australia is one subject on which I want to make a final point. We hear a lot about the profit that has been made and the capital program. The capital program of Telecom needs to be looked at by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) and by Telecom itself because I believe that we cannot justify the amount of expenditure that is going into that capital program until everybody in Australia is provided with a decent and reasonable service at a decent and reasonable price. Once we have achieved that situation I do not mind if Telecom then starts to develop all sorts of sophisticated technology through the capital program. At this stage members of parliament, particularly those representing country areas, must bring this argument to the Parliament and make sure that it is understood.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I am flattered by the confidence of the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) in my reproductive capacity but I must confess that I do not share his confidence. No doubt he was thinking of himself. I was rather intrigued also by his suggestion that somehow we should determine by legislation those who are genuinely unemployed and those who are not genuinely unemployed. If such a thing could be the subject of legislation, I would be very interested to see the result of it applied to the honourable members who sit on the other side of the chamber. I am sure that the world outside would very much like to see that kind of definition applied to members of Parliament.
It worries me that in any discussion about employment the debate always gets around to the genuine unemployed and those who are not genuine. Certainly there are the malingerers; certainly there are those who do not want to work. That has always been the case. As far back as the time of Socrates he was deploring the prospects of the youth of his time and asking what was going to happen to them. It is not new. I think the only difference between present day malingerers and those of earlier days is that in the earlier days they were less conspicuous. They were able to conceal themselves in places where they were not seen so frequently or so easily. The sad part about it is that in all areas where there is some form of community benefit, be it pensioner benefit, taxation benefit, depreciation allowance, car allowance or any kind of benefit that comes from the taxpayer, there is always the element that does not have a genuine entitlement. I do not think it helps in discussing the subject of unemployment and the problems that we face in this country, with those half a million people out of work, to try to centre the debate round the very small percentage of people who are not genuine in their attempts to seek employment. The real answer is to raise the level of economic activity. When the level of demand and production lifts all these problems dissipate in that period of improvement.
I would like at the outset to congratulate through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Speaker on his re-election to that high office. I would like also to offer my commiserations to the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) who, I am confident, would have made a better Speaker. I am quite sure he would have acquitted himself well in that position. I would like also to offer my congratulations to the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) on his election to the office of Chairman of Committees and at the same time to express my appreciation and thanks to the honourable member for Lyne, Mr Philip Lucock, for the manner in which he has carried out his duties during the five years in which I have been a member of this chamber. I think at times his patience has been sorely tested, and I think on other occasions the problems he faced were a direct result of the actions of honourable members from his own side of the House which could easily have been avoided. In spite of those problems he carried out his job in an admirable way. He has acquitted himself well, and the fact that he served in that position for 18 years is testimony of the quality of the service that he has provided to the Parliament.
It would appear that his demise is a result of the rebellion by the young Turks in the National Country Party in Queensland who now appear to have the numbers and who are able to overthrow the older brigade within the National Country Party. I think that it is a sad event. The graceful way to do things is for a man who has served in high office for a long period to retire. To be thrown out by one’s colleagues is not the kind of end that the honourable member for Lyne deserved. Be that as it may, perhaps the young Turks in the National Country Party in Queensland saw the position of Chairman of Committees as some kind of consolation for having provided the Minister who held office I think for the shortest time in the record of this Parliament and probably the only member of the National Country Party who was able to talk himself into a Ministership and out of it in less than 24 hours.
I am sincere in what I say to the honourable member for Lyne and I hope that the condition of his good wife, who has been seriously ill over the past seven days, is improving. I place on record before the Parliament my appreciation of the service that the honourable member for Lyne has provided to all of us. At the same time I would like to offer my congratulations to the maidens and the slightly used maiden who have entered the chamber on this side of the Housethe honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe), the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) and the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins)- for the excellent contributions that they have made to the Parliament. I am looking forward to their involvement in the day to day debates and the deliberations that come before us.
Before moving on to the Governor-General’s Speech I want to say something about the tragic event that occurred at the Hilton Hotel on the thirteenth of this month. In doing so I want to express sympathy on behalf of all members of the Opposition to the families and dependants of those three ordinary Australians who, in the course of carrying out their daily duties, lost their lives as a result of an indiscriminate bombing attack. At the same time, having said that, I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of this country has misused and is continuing to misuse the seriousness of that event and the circumstances surrounding it for political purposes. If one looks at the leaders that have been written in the journals of this country, newspaper after newspaper showed evidence of the reaction of the leader writers to what they called a vast over-reaction on the part of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has made constant references to terrorists yet no evidence of terrorist involvement has been placed before the community or the Parliament. I know of no case involving the Parliament or national security so far- I exclude the event which occurred on 13 February- in relation to which evidence has been produced of organised political terrorism. To label the event of 13 February as terrorism without supporting evidence is, in my view, to invite terrorism.
I believe also that the decision to use troops at Bowral and in and around the Parliament on the opening day of the Thirty-first Parliament was an ominous one. As best as I have been able to check, it was the first time in the history of this Parliament- I refer to 2 1 February the opening day- that troops have been used in such a role in and around the parliamentary building during a parliamentary session. I do not think such action was necessary. I believe that other forms of protection are available to the Parliament and to the Presiding Officers in the Parliament and that those forms should have been used.
I believe that the Prime Minister in control of this country today- he is in control of this country, not the Executive; the Executive is a rubber stamp for the Prime Minister- has an obsession for the use of the Defence forces, the use of authority and the use of Service personnel. His obsession is the reason why Defence personnel were brought into and around the parliamentary building on the opening day of the Parliament.
The Prime Minister has returned to the Parliament with a record that was mentioned earlier in the debate, namely, one of confrontation and division. We have not seen divisiveness to that level previously in this country. It seems that what the Prime Minister intended, by means of the presence of troops in the streets of Bowral and in the environs of the Parliament, was to convey the image that normalcy, that safety and that the conduct of ordinary day to day affairs involved the presence of troops. I think that is alien to this institution. I think Parliament could do well to guard against a repetition of that kind of event. I do not believe that any other section of the community is more vulnerable than members of Parliament. If a person wished to do physical harm to a member of Parliament it would be easy for him to do so.
– Well, do not tell them over the radio.
– Does the honourable member think that those who are interested are not aware of it? Because of the way in which we have to carry out our normal duties, because of the responsibility we have to the country and because of the part we have to play in normal life, there is always the possibility that someone will disagree with us. Certainly, few members of Parliament have not at some stage or another had some kind of threat or comment made to them. One forgets that those sorts of things occur in the job. We often say that it goes with the job. For the Prime Minister to present this building as an impregnable fortress, to ring it with soldiers and dogs and police, is to present an invitation for it to be regarded as a target. The people most likely to be affected are not the members of Parliamentthey are here the least of all- but the staff and those people who work in and around the buildings. I think that a great error was made by the people responsible for the safety of the building and the safe conduct of the institution. The precincts of the Parliament is no place, in my view, for troops. The use of troops in the vicinity should not occur again. For troops to be employed in the way in which they were employed on the opening day is to invite trouble. Where are the troops today? Where was the security this morning? Where was the security the day after the Parliament opened? Even on the day the Parliament was opened I was able to walk into the building through the door which I normally use without being subjected to any check whatsoever.
– So could anyone else.
– As the honourable member said, so could anyone else. The spectacle that was presented around Australia was an invitation to those unusual people, those eccentrics, those people who have some queer cross to bear, to involve themselves in something that was most undesirable. I hope that that kind of action will not occur again in or around the Parliament.
I turn now to the Governor-General’s Speech. I express my sorrow on behalf of those half million people genuinely unemployed at the fact that there is no glimmer of hope of the possibility of employment for them in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. Earlier we heard the speech delivered by the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Ml) who suggested that some kind of work test should now be applied. The 55-year- old clerk who now finds himself out of work will probably have to do two days on the road, digging holes or putting in drains. That is the kind of situation about which the honourable member was talking. That would be the result of that kind of policy and it would be a breach of the International Labour Organisation conventions.
The Governor-General’s Speech provides no hope either for equality in the tax burden. No matter how the Prime Minister was able to present, inaccurately, to the electorate prior to the last election the impact of tax changes his Government has introduced, the truth is that the tax burden has been redistributed down the scale. People on the higher incomes now have a smaller tax burden to bear in terms of their incomes than those at the lower end of the scale. At the same time we have seen the introduction of compulsory health insurance- in other words, Medibank II or a health tax. Despite the Prime Minister’s promises during the election campaign that those charges would not be increased, there is no doubt that they will be increased. Together with that, we will see on 1 July of this year the introduction of State income tax. That is mentioned in the Governor-General ‘s Speech in these terms: ‘Increased financial responsibility for local and State governments’. That is the euphemism used for the introduction of State income taxes. I shall deal more particularly in the time available to me with that section of the Speech which reads:
Domestic and international civil aviation policies are being completely reviewed. It is the Government’s desire that some lowering in air fares and freight charges on international air services should result.
Nowhere in the Speech is there reference to public participation in such reviews of aviation policy. I make this point quite clearly. The airlines exist in this country to serve the travelling public. Air services are a form of public transportation. I believe that they will attract an increasing share of the long distance passenger transport task in the years ahead. In its submission to the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism last year, Trans-Australia Airlines pointed out that 83.3 per cent of all long distance public transportation passengers travelled by air, compared with 12.5 per cent by rail and 4.2 per cent by bus. In the year ended 3 1 December last, the domestic airlines carried 9.75 million passengers. That means that the equivalent of about 70 per cent of our population travelled at some stage or other by air during the last calendar year. In the year 1976-77 some 1,032,000 persons travelled overseas, almost all of them by air. Those figures indicate the very important role that airline services play in our daily fives, and they highlight the urgent need for an end to the traditional backroom methods of determining aviation policies.
Under successive conservative governments the aviation industry has been treated as a pampered child, without the public being given an opportunity to express its needs and wants in a public forum. At the present time we are experiencing what could best be described as a shambles in aviation policy, with claims, counterclaims and contradictions being made about what ought to be available, what could be available, what might be available, and what will be available in terms of aviation services both inside and outside Australia. That is a direct result of the haphazard handling of aviation policy by the present Government. I outlined the issues involved when speaking last August in the debate on the Air Navigation Amendment Bill 1977. I mentioned at the time the major issues involved, particularly the fact that the world conference of the International Civil Aviation Organisation had as its main item of discussion the nonscheduled or charter air services.
At the time I called for a widening of the Government’s review of domestic civil aviation policy to include international aviation policy and I said that that should be by way of public inquiry. The Government accepted my request to the extent of widening the terms of the inquiry by announcing a further review of international aviation policy. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) agreed to release submissions for publication if the authors of those submissions gave permission. In that speech I mentioned also a conflict of attitudes on the part of the domestic and external segments of the Australian tourist industry. Those selling overseas travel want cut price air fares; those selling internal travel complain of the inroads being made into their market by the sale of relatively cheap overseas package tours.
Rather belatedly in the present controversy over cut price air fares, a wider and more balanced range of views is becoming evident through some newspaper columns. I note that the editorial in the Australian Financial Review of 1 1 January gave support to the view which I was putting on behalf of the Opposition last year and which I have been putting throughout this year. The editorial supported the opening up of any review of aviation policy into a public forum so that there can be public examination and testing of the claims and counter-claims and there can be a removal of the industry and bureaucratic influence within the Department of Transport and where tests can be made of the proposals put particularly by the domestic airlines and by the major external airlines.
In the Sydney Morning Herald of 20 February the leader writer supported the view being put by the Opposition that there ought to be an end to the obsessional secrecy of the Minister over matters relating to aviation.
Since then we have seen a succession of statements in the newspapers on the subject. Peter Grey from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia put forward a reasonable statement on the situation as it exists in relation to international air travel. Mr Muskens of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents claimed that safety standards could be jeopardised if cut price air fares were introduced. Mr Lim Chin Beng of Singapore Airlines enunciated his belief that the introduction of cut price air fares could have very serious effects on the tourist industry in Far East Asia. Fears were expressed by Mr Leslie Perrott of the National Travel Association that the local tourist industry would be damaged severely by a big outflow of tourists without a compensating inflow. Mr Krumbeck of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents has referred to the confusion over fare schedules being announced before they are actually approved by government.
All of those statements serve to reinforce the claim that has been put by the Opposition, including myself, since August last that the only effective way to ensure the early introduction of lower price air fares within and outside Australia is by way of a public inquiry whereby the bureaucratic boffins can be flushed out into the open and the deals that may be arranged between sections of the industry and parts of the bureaucracy can be brought out into the open. As far as the Opposition is concerned, there is room in this country for a reduction in air fares. We want to see this done as quickly as possible. We want to see it done in a way that will ensure that the travelling public gets as good a deal as possible. We will not get it by a succession of claims, counter-claims, alarmist statements and the announcement of schedules that are not to operate, all of which have confused the industry, have caused people to defer travel in the expectation that lower fares might prevail and have caused acrimony between various sectors of the tourist industry and between sectors of the travel industry itself.
The Minister for Transport has the task before him. In my view he has participated in furthering the considerable chaos and confusion that exists in the public’s mind about cut price air fares. Right throughout the discussion he has given the impression that cut price air fares are just around the corner. He has said on a number of occasions that he is sympathetic to Mr Laker’s proposals, but he knew before he made the first statement that before Mr Laker’s proposals could have any meaning at all, they would have to have the prior approval of the British Government. There has been no evidence to date of that approval being given.
I conclude with this remark: The Opposition believes that there is room for lower air fares within this country and out of this country. We want those lower air fares instituted as soon as possible. We believe that the only effective way to ensure that the public’s interest is protected in terms of the maximum range of reductions and the maximum range of services is by way of a public inquiry so that all of the factors involved in the aviation industry, in the services that could be made available and in the fares that could be made available are brought out for public examination. In that way those people who are making the more extravagant claims and those people whom I think to a large extent are using Qantas as the bunny in the debate, can be called upon under a public examination to provide evidence for the claims they are making.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, in opening my speech in this debate, I ask you to convey to the Speaker and to the Chairman of Committees my congratulations and good wishes on their election to their high offices. The Governor-General in his Speech said:
My Government is committed to a wide program of social legislation which will help those in need, increase opportunities, and bring about greater social justice.
I want to identify to the House tonight a significant and large group of people in the Australian community whom I believe are in need. I am referring to Australia’s families. They are in extreme need at the present time and there is an urgent requirement that governments should look at the needs of families to give them support so that they can fulfil the role that has traditionally been theirs and that I believe the Australian community wants them to continue to perform.
In a report tabled in the Parliament today it was acknowledged that of all our institutions the family is the most influential in terms of human relationships. There is no doubt that the family has a high standing in our social and political rhetoric. Most lament the deteriorating state of the family in Western society. Few do anything about it. The time has come when something must be done. The main focus of the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships sees the principal purpose of the family as providing for the care and upbringing of the children. However, the family has been stripped and is still being stripped of many of its functions- its responsibility for the education of young children; its responsibility to provide the socialising experience for young children; its role in the past as a productive unit; its functions and responsibility to be the unit that conveys social values to young children; and its responsibility to provide to its members some measure of economic security. Many of these roles have been taken away from the family; yet Australians want the family to have an increased responsibility in the areas to which I have referred.
In debates on social policies, the family as a social unit is often lost from view. Governments generally ignore the existence of the family. They concentrate on the needs of the individual and the needs of the state and forget the needs of families. Their approach to the family has been one of laissez faire. I believe that there is an urgent need to develop a national family policy. I was most encouraged that those of us in the community and in the Parliament who have been urging that something be done in this direction were able to read today in Volume 4 of the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships that the Commission is of the view that the Government should initiate a national family policy.
As a nation we have been failing the family. We have been moving inexorably towards a new way of rearing children without giving a second thought to its consequences or the aspirations of Australian families. Over the last two decades families have been under immense pressure. Sometimes the policy initiatives that have been intended to assist families have had a counterproductive effect. In many instances, policies are introduced and measures are put onto the statute book without consideration being given to their impact on the viability of families. Without a conscious family policy we leave a great deal to chance. It is time we stopped taking these risks with the future of the nation.
There is an urgent need for Australia to have a positive and coherent approach to the family. Competition between the individual and the state and concentration on self-fulfilment have resulted in the family being left out of the public debate. As a result, many of the responsibilities formerly shouldered by families have been transferred to the state. Policies to assist families have been given lower priority than those to replan them. This suits those who believe that the care and education of young should be the responsibility of the state. Movement in this direction will continue unless the needs for the family are recognised, and recognised urgently.
The time has come for us to embrace values more supportive of the family. The other day I came across a quotation that I think is worth bringing to the attention of the House. It reads:
If preachers are not to be believed, and politicians are not to be trusted and society as a whole is a jumble of lies and tricks then the family may still be the best bet available and may be even better than being liberated into loneliness.
It is a matter of regret and deep concern that government policies have rarely taken account of the needs of the family. Indeed policies often have an impact contrary to the interests of the family. Wages, taxation, education, employment, social security and many other policies are and should be used, in the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘to protect the family as the natural and fundamental group unit of society’. There has been a significant change in wages policies. Yet appropriate adjustment has not been made to the financial viability of families to take account of changes in wages policies. Allowances for dependent children have not been raised to a level sufficient to take account of those changed wages policies.
It is interesting to note that when Dr Myers recently conducted an inquiry for the Government into unemployment benefit, he recognised the changes to which I have referred. He pointed out that it was difficult to see why unemployment benefit should include a supplementary allowance for dependent children when no such benefit is available to the wage earner. In his view it is more appropriate for allowances for dependent children to be made through another system of income support which would take no account of whether a claimant is employed. He also recommended that, as there are now so many two-income families in which both husband and wife are members of the work force, each should when unemployed be eligible for unemployment benefit. However he properly emphasised the importance of protecting the interests of married couples with only one partner working. The increasing number of twoincome families makes it imperative that we decide whether women with family responsibilities should be able, if they so wish, to remain within the home to bring up their children. Existing fiscal and social policies must be changed if they are to be able to make this choice freely. These policies must ensure that the standard of living of a family with children and a single income does not compare unfavourably with that of twoincome families and of single men and women.
The Government now makes provision for dependent children through family allowances. The introduction of family allowances has been welcomed by some people as an essential start to a family support system. But the inadequacy of these payments is manifest. Pensioners and those people in receipt of unemployment benefit receive supplementary payments if they have dependent children. Other families with dependent children receive no such payments. As a result of economic necessity rather than choice, many mothers of young children are forced to work. As the children become older, personal choice plays a greater part in the decision. Single income families are in urgent’ need of assistance. In my view they are in need of at least as much help as twoincome families which suffer hardship when one member becomes unemployed or cannot find a job when he or she is available for work. If the survival of many families depends on two incomes because one income is insufficient, as concluded by Dr Myers, how can society expect families with young children to survive on one income?
Unless increased family allowances and adequate parent allowances are provided, those mothers who wish to look after their young children have no choice but to seek paid employment. As the criteria used for determining wages no longer takes account- nor should they- of the needs of those wage earners supporting families, we must look to the tax structure and the social security system to recognise the needs of families. Along with social security, pensions, benefits and allowances, the tax structure forms part of the welfare transfer system. The social impact of both the tax structure and the welfare transfer system must be looked at to find out the extent to which families need more support. In the past tax deductions allowed for dependants moved less rapidly than the rate of increase in prices. Child endowment was rarely adjusted to compensate for the declining purchasing power of the dollar.
In 1975 a tax rebate system replaced tax concessions. The rebates for dependants were set at levels which made them worth more to the taxpayer than the concessions that they replaced. In 1976 the tax rebates for dependent children were superseded by increased child endowment payments which were renamed ‘family allowances’. These movements stopped temporarily the erosion of public support for families. Stopping erosion which had occurred for more than two decades was important, but temporary halt in this process is not in itself sufficient. Indeed the support for families must be increased to more realistic levels and must be maintained in value. In spite of continuing inflation family allowances were not adjusted last year and, though indexed, the tax rebate was not increased to remove the tax disadvantage of the single income family. Pensions have been indexed to ensure that they are increased every six months in accordance with the upward movement in the cost of living.
If the Government wants more revenue from income taxes, it must now publicly vary tax rates because indexation prevents it from using inflation to achieve this result without legislation. The Government should not use the fixed money value of family allowances as a means of raising additional resources to provide for other needs. Family allowances should be indexed. If one takes account of the movement in prices one would see that there was a saving to the Government last year of $ 1 1 4m as a result of the failure to adjust family allowances. This year the saving should be $96m. The Government should apply to itself in relation to family allowances the principles it has applied in the area of taxation. If it wants to reduce the real value of family allowances it should do so explicity and not by allowing inflationary movements in prices to erode the value of those allowances. Indexing family allowances at their present levels would not provide families with the support that they need. The allowances must be increased substantially above the level which compensates for the increases in the cost of living since they were last adjusted. As resources are limited, those families with the greatest need should be assisted first. They are the families which include children under six years of age. The majority of these families are single income families. Fair social security and tax systems will enable those women who feel forced to work to stay at home. But such systems should not force those women who want to work to stay at home.
In Australia we are a long way from the optimal tax treatment of the family. We tax the individual and give limited recognition to family responsibilities through tax rebates for dependent spouses and family allowance payments for dependent children. At present our tax system is neither equitable nor neutral so far as the family is concerned. Economic equals, that is families with similar incomes, should be treated equally but they are not. Nor is the system such that families are not influenced to choose one course of action rather than another solely because of the greater benefit to their taxation position under one of the options. The tax now payable by a single income two-parent family is substantially greater than the tax payable by two individuals each earning half the income. In fact, in many instances the additional tax burden placed upon the single income family is more than $600 a year or $10 a week. This applies to a family where the mother is providing support for her family and children at home.
Some would argue that the household economies available to a family make the heavier tax burden on the family justifiable. Many single income earners live in households where they benefit from similar economies, and no adjustment is made to their tax liability. Also many two-parent families with two incomes pay less tax on the same aggregate income than a single income family. The tax liability on families, especially those with young children, should be independent of the proportions in which the income is received by the family.
I put forward two ways to remedy the situation. Firstly it could be done by allowing families with young dependent children to split their incomes on a notional partnership basis. Alternatively, the same result could be achieved by increasing the spouse’s rebate in respect of those families who are supporting young children from $550 a year to $ 1 ,040 a year and at the same time making an adjustment in the rate at which that benefit is withdrawn by having it withdrawn at a rate equivalent to the standard rate of tax- 32c in the dollar- as the nontaxpaying spouse ‘s income rises.
A number of other things should be done to assist families. I am of the view that we must identify what Australians want as family goals. Only then will specific policies be designed to achieve these goals. Only then will other policies be analysed to ensure that they are not inconsistent with the attainment of these family goals. To ensure that Government proposals are reviewed from the point of view of their effect on family life, we should do what many have urged and what the Royal Commission on Human Relationships has recommended. We should require that all Government legislation that is likely to have an effect on the viability of families is subjected to a family impact statement.
I sum up my remarks this evening in this way: I urge the Government to initiate a national family policy. I want it to convene a conference on families to assist in the development of a national family policy. What better year than this to convene such a policy? It could be part of Australia ‘s response to the United Nations Year of the Child. I also urge the Government to require all Ministers and all departments to prepare family impact statements so that the effect of decisions by those departments on family circumstances can be properly analysed and taken into account before final decisions are taken. I want to see the examination of household incomes. The Government should recognise the urgent need both to index and substantially to increase family allowances. It should also acknowledge the importance of removing the penalties now imposed on families by the tax structure either by allowing income splitting or replacing the dependent spouse rebate with a parent allowance at a substantially higher level than present rebates.
– I offer my congratulations to the honourable members who have made their maiden speeches today. The content of the Governor-General’s Speech indicates that the Government is living in a dreamtime world. For instance, the Governor-General said in his Speech:
My Government’s priorities are clear. They are:
To build on the progress we have made in the last two years, defeat inflation and unemployment and restore full economic health to our country.
They seem a little like Voltaire’s character Dr Pangloss. The Government seems to think that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. What is the reality behind the cliches? It has been said before in this House that unemployment is running nationally at 445,000. In my electorate of Cunningham 9,100 currently are unemployed. The worst of it is the tremendous unemployment amongst young people.
Some 1,475 young females are seeking 22 registered vacancies with the Wollongong Commonwealth Employment Service. Some 1,522 unskilled workers are seeking 89 registered vacancies in Wollongong. Some 602 people are seeking jobs in the services sector which has only nine registered vacancies. The Chairman of the Illawarra County Council told me only last night that it received 253 applications for 15 apprenticeships which it advertised. ‘ The long term position is even worse. Three factors affect long term employment in Australia. Firstly, there are school leavers. Secondly, there are migrants. Thirdly, there are women who seek to re-enter the work force. I have calculated, taking these factors into consideration, that we must create at least 900,000 jobs in the next five years, if we wish to keep unemployment down to 200,000. If the Government follows its present economic policy there is no hope in the world of even getting anywhere near that figure of 900,000 extra jobs in the next five years. Despite this appalling situation the Treasurer (Mr Howard) said:
The Government rejects at the outset of this parliamentary term the notion that the Australian economy is in any kind of a recession.
He seems to be the only person in Australia who thinks so. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) points to bandaid schemes such as the special youth employment training program, the community youth support scheme and the educational program for unemployed youth. The special youth employment training program is qualitative in the sense that an employer has to employ someone under 25 years of age who has been unemployed for four months before the employer qualifies for the subsidy. If the scheme is to be in any way effective these qualifications ought to be immediately dropped because they discriminate against school leavers for obvious reasons. The scheme is not effective anyway.
Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd is the biggest single employer in the Cunningham electorate. It employs more than 12,000 people. I am informed that it has less than 20 young people employed under the special youth employment training program. Obviously then the program is ineffective. Other economic problems are bedevilling the Government. I mentioned the rate at which private capital is flowing out of Australia. I understand that from $900m to $ 1,000m has gone out of Australia since 1 July last year, and that the Government has had to borrow some $ 1,700m from overseas to prop up the dollar and avoid devaluation. These facts are well known. The Government said that if necessary it will keep borrowing to avoid devaluation. Let the Government keep borrowing if its economic policies are forcing it to do so. At least it is preferable to devaluation.
I remember that the Government condemned my predecessor for seeking overseas funds not to prop up the dollar but to invest in Australia’s development. Now the Government is borrowing from overseas purely to defend the currency against the results of its own inadequacies. I also point out that $ 1 26m or 1 4 per cent of the $900m private capital outflow from this country in the last seven months was sent abroad by the Utah Development Corporation in the month of September last year. This leads me to deal with the critical area of coal and steel exports. In his Speech, the Governor-General said:
It is our priority to vigorously promote the development of Australian resources and enlarge our export trade.
Let me examine briefly the current position in the coal export trade. I took the trouble several weeks ago to go the central Queensland coalfields and inspect the operations of Utah Mining Australia Ltd. I found- these facts are well known- that the company made a profit of $158m in 1977 from four mines in the Bowen Basin of Queensland. Those mines were Goonyella, Blackwater, Saraji and Peak Downs. The company sent $ 126m of that $ 1 58m abroad. It employs 2,800 workers, 1,237 of them at two mines- Goonyella and Peak Downs. It employed 27 apprentices at those two mines. The company took on nine apprentices in 1978. There are 1,500 students at the Moranbah school. Moranbah is the town that was built to service the Peak Downs and Goonyella mines. I do not know where those kids will find jobs when they leave school but certainly they will not find them in Utah ‘s coalmines. That is for sure.
I will now give the basic figures for the operation of the company. This is important. The company’s initial capital investment was $440m to get four .nines on stream. It received $622m in coal export earnings in 1977. As I have said, $ 1 58m of that amount was profit and $ 1 26m was sent overseas. An amount of $79m was paid to the Federal Government via the coal levy. Why is the Government, in view of these figures, considering the removal of the coal export levy without due consideration being given to a resources tax?
– What is the company paying in company tax? Give the figures, please.
– I would think that a company which made a profit of $ 1 58m- the highest profit ever recorded by a company in Australia- would be entitled to pay $79m in the form of a coal export levy. Let me come to some conclusions in regard to the situation. Utah runs a highly capital intensive operation. This is obviously the case as only 2,800 people are employed by it. The company refuses to employ any Australian workers on its coal export ships, despite the fact that in 1975-76 only 2.7 per cent of our imports was brought to Australia in Australian ships and only 0.2 per cent of our exports went abroad in Australian ships. The company has an immensely high profit rate on its initial capital investment. If an initial capital investment of $440m can produce an annual profit of $ 158m it is obvious that in 2.8 years the Utah Mining Australia Ltd will repay its entire capital investment.
The third conclusion I reached was that the company is not recovering all the coal through its open cut mines. At Goonyella I saw a seam of coal some 20 feet high and 80 feet down had been uncovered and mined. The cut was then filled in on top of another coal seam that is supposed to be not more than 100 feet below that. We have immense reserves of coal but they are not strong enough to withstand that sort of an operation. Fourthly, Utah is undercutting the price received by the New South Wales underground mines. I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the figures I am about to give are accurate. The South Coast mines are currently receiving $47.25 a tonne for their coal. Utah is selling its coal from $45 a tonne down to $43.60 a tonne for coking coal. Of course, its transport costs are cheaper. As a result of the downturn in the world steel industry, the Japanese are not taking their full export quotas. They are discriminating against New South Wales South Coast underground mines. For instance, the Coalcliff mine, one of the biggest underground mines in Australia, which is run by the Kembla Coal and Coke Pty Ltd had contracts with the Japanese to supply 2.3 million tonnes of coal in 1977. The Japanese accepted only 1.5 million tonnes of coal, or 65 per cent of the contract. The contract with Utah was for the supply of 12.6 million tonnes of coal. The Japanese took 1 1.06 million tonnes of coal, or 87 per cent of the contract. Obviously in a downturn situation the Japanese preferred to give more business to the Queensland open cut coal producers.
In addition, most of these contracts are now expiring and representatives of all the mines generally are overseas to re-negotiate new contracts. It was printed in the national media last Friday that the Thiess-Dampier-Mitsui group which runs the Moura mine in Queensland has had its coal price screwed down by $1.30 a tonne to $42.54 a tonne for the next two years. The contract also contains no escalation clause for the next two years and has cut the volume of sales by 20 per cent. This prompted the Australian Financial Review last Friday to state:
There is little doubt that the Japanese will use the ThiessDampierMitsui agreement as a precedent in forthcoming negotiations with other suppliers.
I say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to this House that there is a timebomb ticking away in the New South Wales underground coal mining industry and that unless the Government takes some action on the matter a critical situation could arise. Today I received a copy of a telegram which was sent by Mr Kelly, the General President of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees’ Federation, to the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony. Mr Kelly stated:
Miners Federation requests urgent discussions regarding export quotas and prices of export coal. Request Government refusal to grant export permits to any company accepting a reduction in present contractual agreements at present until after conference with Commonwealth Government and mining unions liaison committee.
There should be a conference and a debate in this House on the possible crisis looming in the coal industry and also in the steel industry. Action ought to be taken on this matter to set up a national negotiating authority to act on behalf of Australian exporters. There ought to be action also to achieve the results that Rex Connor achieved in 1974-75 when he was successful in forcing a uniform price for all coal of the same quality. There ought to be a resources tax to cream off the profits that Utah is making. Finally, in the long term, there ought to be increased public ownership in the industry. That is the best way to preserve our exports and in the long run to get the best results for Australia. Honourable members opposite might ask: Could we do it? Of course we could do it. It will cost Utah $250m to develop Norwich Park, the mine which I saw in Queensland. Utah will probably produce 4.5 million tonnes of coal a year from that mine, and on the profit made by Utah in 1977 the initial capital investment for Norwich Park will be repaid in less than five years.
Australia’s coal resources are vast but they are not infinite. They are non-renewable energy resources that were created from 250 million years of natural development. We badly need a national energy policy to rationalise export targets and our own future needs- to replace the present short-sighted rip-off, rip-out, sell-out policies of the present Government. The Utah company exported $ 126m worth of jobs last September. The day will come when Rex Connor’s words will ring true in this country. He said that it would be better to have black gold in our own land than green paper in someone else ‘s.
There is also a developing problem in the steel industry. Of course, the problems in the coal industry are a direct result of what is going on in the steel industry. The European Common Market countries are currently producing at 68 per cent of capacity. Japan is producing at 71 per cent of capacity, the United States of America at 77 per cent and Australia at 84 per cent. I understand that Australia may be down to 65 per cent of capacity next year. Understandably, the Common Market countries are reluctant to continue to’ accept and increase exports of steel from Australia. Currently, we export some 44 per cent of our national steel production. Four per cent of those exports go to the European Economic Community. At Port Kembla, some 41 per cent of steel produced goes all over the world and 7 per cent is sent to the EEC. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has been accused of dumping steel on the EEC market. That is, it has been accused of selling steel below the import reference price. Currently, that is about 6.5 per cent below the Common Market price or minimum guidance price. It is necessary to export steel from Australia. Indeed, it is most desirable. With our great advantages of abundant coal and iron ore it is tragic that, because of obsolete technology, we are not competitive with the Japanese. But before we squawk too much about the Europeans we should look very hard at our domestic consumption levels. Our steel consumption levels have been artificially reduced by this Government’s attacks on wages and by its cutbacks in Federal spending for construction jobs.
Before I conclude my contribution to this debate I want to compare the consumption rates of the Common Market and Australia. In 1976-77 258 million people in the Common Market consumed 127 million tonnes of steel which is 0.49 tonnes per capita. Australia, with 14 million people, consumed 5 million tonnes which is 0.35 tonnes per capita. If we were to lift the domestic consumption of steel by resuscitating the Australian economy even up to 0.4 tonnes per capita it would mean we would use almost another 700,000 tonnes of steel per year and probably would take the sting out of any loss in Common Market sales.
Let me return briefly to the general economic recession. Let us all urge this Government to stimulate employment by allocating extra funds to the States for capital works. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development urges this, the International Monetary Fund urges it, and the States are urging it. But the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) defends his stagnation policies as rigidly as the high priests of ancient Egypt defended their ancient gods. The Governor-General referred to this point in his speech:
Rigorous restraint of Government expenditure so as to provide for longer term expansion in the private sector.
Last year the economic editor of the Melbourne Age said: ‘But in Australia, instead of resources being transferred to the private sector they have been transferred to the unemployed sector’. The National Times of last weekend said: ‘Australia is leading the world in conservative economic policies’. Today an Australia and New Zealand Bank report said: ‘There is little prospect of a sustainable economic recovery in 1978 if the Government follows its present policies’. There is a great need in Australia today for new economic initiatives and ideas. This Government is bereft of ideas. I would suggest that the Government very strongly consider permanent cuts in sales tax, particularly on motor cars, as that might help General Motors-Holdens Ltd, Chrysler Australia Ltd and the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd a little bit. Perhaps in return for a permanent cut in sales tax these companies could offer to peg the price of new cars for at least 12 months. Perhaps they could cease to depress real wages which already have been depressed by some $10 per week over the past two years.
I find it very strange that the Government should argue: ‘Increases in wages cause inflation and that causes unemployment so therefore we must get real wages down’. I say the Government already has depressed wages down by $10 per week over the last two years and in that period the number of unemployed persons has risen by 163,000. This is very, very strange reasoning on the part of the Government. The next thing we need to do is to put heavy amounts of Federal expenditure into capital expenditure for State and local government. There are many projects in my electorate on which money could be spent in a worthwhile manner, particularly in the area of public transport. New roads are needed. We need, for instance, money to be spent on the F6 expressway to a great new housing estate which is known as site 7,200. A northern distributor for which people have been waiting for years; the new coal roads which will be needed to get coal from the Burragorang Valley to the new coal loader at Port Kembla. There is an urgent need for the rail line between Sydney and Wollongong to be electrified. A light rail line needs to be constructed to get workers from the dormitory suburbs in the south of my electorate to Port Kembla.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (upon motion by Mr N. A. Brown) adjourned.
Unemployment: Whyalla- Newspaper Articles: Drugs; Trade Unions- Fishing Industry- PensionersUnemployment Parliament- Pensions and Unemployment Benefits: Income Tax
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-When a petition is presented to this House the Clerk usually states that the subject matter of the petition will be referred to the appropriate Ministers. I certainly hope that the petition I presented to the House the other day is referred to the appropriate Ministers and is acted upon. The petition was signed by 8,300 citizens of the City of Whyalla and they expressed their concern about future employment opportunities in what is the largest decentralised city in South Australia. The city of Whyalla grew from a small iron ore exporting port prior to the Second World War to its present size on the basis of its shipbuilding industry which was established during the war years. Whilst we saw in later years the growth of a steelworks at Whyalla it was the shipbuilding activity that gave the city its platform for that expansion. Whilst steel production at present provides employment for the majority of the work force of that city, the shipbuilding industry employed in excess of 1,800 people at the peak of its activity and provided a living for approximately one-third of the city’s industrial population which, of course, is made up mainly of migrant people. People from all over the world with shipbuilding experience were brought to this city and as a result migrants make up approximately 65 per cent of the population.
Some two years ago concern was expressed for the future of the industry by individuals and organisations in the city. This concern was expressed by organisations such as the Whyalla Combined Unions Council, the City Corporation and other bodies. As a result several deputations came to Canberra to express their concern about the future of the shipbuilding industry to the appropriate Ministers. Although certain assurances were given it can only be stated that the Government ignored the arguments put forward by the deputation. Senator Sir Robert Cotton, who was then the Minister responsible for this field, gave an assurance to the Mayor of Whyalla that he would visit the city to assess the situation. But, again, that assurance was not given effect as the then Minister never took the trouble to visit the city in an effort to evaluate the situation. This affront was felt by the City Corporation of Whyalla.
Other steps were taken to try to save the industry, one of which resulted in a meeting at Whyalla between the City Corporation, local members of parliament, both Federal and State, and South Australian senators from both sides of the Senate. All Federal politicians present, representing both sides of parliament, agreed that they would support certain proposals and recommendations that were put forward in the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. However, of course, when this matter came before the Senate on the initiative of a Labor senator the Liberal senators reneged on the people of Whyalla and voted against the proposition.
I do not have much time remaining in which to complete my speech. However, the main thing I want to say is that because of the particular situation that was developing the Premier of South Australia established a working party to try to find alternative employment in that city. The working party has carried out a considerable amount of work to try to find alternative employment opportunities. It came up with suggestions, one of which was the establishment of a national fishing fleet following the extension of our economic zone to 200 miles. Another suggestion was the establishment of a railway stock manufacturing plant at Whyalla. It is felt that this would be a logical industry to replace the shipbuilding industry because at present the 13.2 per cent of the work force unemployed in Whyalla is made up mostly of tradesmen and their assistants who cannot secure alternative employment. As I have pointed out, the South Australian Government working party has recommended the establishment of a rolling stock manufacturing plant. Of course, this is the subject of the petition.
I certainly hope that the appropriate Ministers give the petition their attention because it is only by establishing an industry similar to the shipbuilding industry, employing the same type of labour, that the problems facing Whyalla can be overcome. I certainly hope that the Ministers will give the petition their support because it comes from citizens of Whyalla who are now facing a pretty grave situation with regard to employment in their city.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The matter I wish to raise tonight concerns a report in the Sunday Observer of 26 February 1978 entitled ‘Banned drug here’. The report is described as a special probe and is by a person named Bill Johnston. The report deals with a drug called duogynon. Importation of this drug was banned by the Federal Government in February 1976 and in December 1976 the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee requested that all existing stocks be returned. That was done because of authoritative advice received by the Federal Department of Health that duogynon could have serious side effects if administered to pregnant women.
The Sunday Observer report is full of inaccuracies. For example, it talks about the ‘Adverse Drug Reaction Department in Canberra. There is no such department. Presumably the reporter means the Adverse Drug Reaction Advisory Committee, which is a sub-committee of the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee. The report names a Mr Jack Sandry as the Secretary of the non-existent department. Mr Sandry is in fact a press officer attached to the Department of . Health. The part of the report to which I take great exception is that which quotes a spokesman for the Melbourne company Schering Pty Ltd as saying that although the drug is banned ‘there is still plenty of the stuff around and you can get plenty from the Ballarat Base Hospital’. That is totally untrue. The Medical Superintendent of the Ballarat Base Hospital has advised me that duogynon has not been used at the Hospital certainly for more than two years and probably nearer to four years and that the hospital has not had any stocks of duogynon since that time.
I am told that Schering Pty Ltd has now denied that it made any reference whatsoever to the Ballarat Base Hospital when it was approached by the Sunday Observer. I am also told that the Observer reporter did not contact the hospital to check the facts before running the story. If that is an example of a Sunday Observer special probe, I dread to think what inaccuracies are contained in its less probing reporting. At the same time, however, I am concerned at reports that duogynon can still be obtained at some pharmacies in Melbourne and that some doctors are still prescribing the drug. I have expressed this concern to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and I trust that he will cause immediate investigations to be made into these allegations.
– This morning I read an article in the Australian headed: ‘Sinclair attacks unions over funds for Labor’ and an article in the Sydney Morning Herald headed: ‘Scrutiny of work right increasing’. The main issue I wish to deal with tonight concerns a media release by the Department of Primary Industry dated Tuesday, 28 February 1978 dealing with an address by the Right Honourable Ian Sinclair, Minister for Primary Industry, to the Constitutional Association of Australia in Sydney yesterday. It deals with the right to be a non-unionist worker. On page 4 of it the Minister for Primary Industry and Deputy Leader of the National Country Party had the impertinence to state:
While there is no denying the benefits of awards which recognise skills attained through apprenticeships, trade training or other academic qualifications, the identity of an employee with his employer would seem to me more important than his identity with his fellow tradesmen.
In other words if motivation in industry is to be achieved, and I suspect productivity enhanced, it is critical that an employee sees himself first as working to produce particular goods for the company rather than only as a member of a particular trade.
When I read that I thought that my eyes were deceiving me. The Minister was chastised about six months ago when he started to interfere with the trade union movement on the issue of Pommy shop stewards or English shop stewards. He had to back-peddle on that issue because he was embarrassed by it. Yet yesterday he said that what we should do now is kick the trade union movement, and kick the fellow worker. He is a kind of silvertail. I do not think he has ever been in a trade union movement. What employer would be game not to be a member of an employer organisation? Why should the trade union movement not subscribe to the Australian Labor Party? Why does the Government not agree to our proposals for the details of the donations to political parties to be made public? On 27 February 1978 the Minister made a speech at a tribute dinner for a good friend of ours, Bob King, on the weakening of the political voice of the country areas. He said that the voice of the National Country Party of Australia is weakening under the present political system. I think the Country Party should wake up to the fact that it is being conned by the Liberal Party of Australia, particularly by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
We all know it is losing votes. Its members have been elected here on 10 per cent of the votes cast in Australia. It polled an almost similar number of votes as the Australian Democrats. I am upset by this statement of the Minister, as I think anyone who has a chance to read it will be. The Minister has never been in a trade union movement and would not know what the trade union movement was about, yet he attacks the trade union movement about its organising. From where did the Australian workers get the 40-hour week, long service leave and the conditions that they receive? From where did they get their minimum rates? Does the Minister think they got them just because people thought that it was right for them to receive these benefits? How have they got these conditions that they have in Australia? Through hard work by the trade union movement. Yet we have a person who has never been in a trade union movement bashing and kicking them. He has a reputation for doing this all the time. He has even sacrificed certain people in this area in the last couple of weeks. He is entitled to do that.
– Phil Lucock.
– I will not say his name. The honourable member for Chifley could be right but I will not buy into the matter because it is embarrassing. The Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) was humble in saying today that we should stick together, that Australia is a big place in which to live, that we should not hate, and that we should not have bitterness. But what does his deputy do? He says: ‘Give the trade unions a good kick’. The Deputy Leader of the National Country Party is starting trouble again. I think his Leader should have some discussions with him and tell him what are the facts of life. Either the Leader of the National Country Party is a hypocrite for saying what he said in the debate today concerning the former Governor-General or he has no say with his deputy.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, before I commence my remarks I request that the last remarks concerning the Governor-General be withdrawn.
-Is the honourable member raising a point of order?
– I am sorry. I am incorrect. I think I heard what the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) said, but he may care to repeat it. If you heard it, I suggest that you request that it be withdrawn.
– I do not remember attacking the Governor-General.
– I call on you to withdraw the word ‘hypocrite’.
– It would have to be used in the right context, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am wondering how I used it.
– You described an honourable member as a hypocrite. I ask you to withdraw the term.
– I withdraw it, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– I wish to deal tonight with the fishing industry. I was amazed to hear tonight a second major story about Australia entering into the fishing industry. The honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) told us that Whyalla is com.templating having a number of boats and buildings boats to operate a fishing fleet in South Australia. At Albany in Western Australia a $2. 5m fishing program is underway and boats are to be built for fishing off Albany. I read in a newspaper yesterday that the Tasmanian Government intends to bring in 16 boats for fishing off the Tasmanian coast. I understand that Victoria is also looking into bringing in more boats from Hull and Grimsby and is also going to start fishing operations in Victorian waters. It is incredible that nobody as yet, as far as I can make out, has discovered the extent of the fishing in the area. At present a Commonwealth survey ship is actually trying to discover the suitable areas for fishing in these regions.
– Ask the Russians, the Japanese and the Taiwanese. They know.
– I am glad for that yell from the honourable member. He obviously understands quite clearly that the Taiwanese present no problems at all to the fishing industry. They are taking fish which is of no consequence. He is quite right to suggest something else, that there is now a story that the Japanese will bring a large fishing fleet into the waters around Australia. I can add further to his confusion. I was told the day before yesterday that a firm in Victoria had negotiated with a Russian factory ship and was going to supply the Russian factory ship with six boats. The firm was going to supply a Russian factory ship, although it indicated that it might be a Polish ship.
Before this country goes off the deep end about fishing and what fish there are- we are to extend our territorial limit to 200 miles- I suggest that it would be in the interests of the House and of the nation if the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) were to come into this House and really attempted to tell the country and all those who are really interested what is the policy of the Government in relation to our national resources and our national fishing industry. Otherwise what will happen? All the scallops in Port Phillip Bay were fished out. The boats stood at Mornington and of course they were sold. The abalone trade is still going on. Those of us who know something about the crayfish industry watch all the crayfish being pulled out of the waters.
It would be in the national interest if we could persuade our kind Minister for Primary Industry to come and tell this House and the nation what is the Government’s policy concerning the fishing industry. Do we negotiate with the Russian factory ships and sign a contract with them? Are we going to sign a contract with the Japanese factory ships and allow the Japanese in? Are we going to sign a contract with the Tasmanian Government? Are we going to support Sir Charles Court and the Western Australian Government with all its expertise at Albany and elsewhere? The fishing prospects for this country require a proper, lucid and sensible contribution from the Minister for Primary Industry as soon as possible.
– It always amazes me to hear Government supporters say that a Minister should come into this place and say this, that or the other.
– The honourable member asks: ‘Why not?’ That is precisely the point. We on this side of the House are constantly saying that the Government should announce its policies not only on fishing but also on a number of other items. The honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) will have his chance in the party room tomorrow. I am sorry. I withdraw that. I do not think that he will have his chance in the party room tomorrow. If he had his chance in the party room he would not have to come into the Parliament and lambaste the Government which he sits here and mutely supports.
– We have freedom of speech over on this side.
-The honourable member ought to tell that to Don Chipp.
– I raise a point of order.
-He is at it again. Only five minutes are available to honourable members in this debate and as soon as I start to hurt him in debate he rises to take spurious points of order.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Holt.
– I much respect my honourable friend on the other side of the House but he has no reason -
-Has the honourable member a point of order?
– Yes. I suggest that he has no reason to cast any reflection upon me. I can make any statements in the party committee -
-The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no substance in the point of order.
-That brings me to another point. Only five minutes are available to an honourable member to raise matters in this House that are of importance to his electorate. The honourable member for Holt, who was rejected by the House of Commons, rejected by his constituency in London and rejected by the Conservative Party in Britain, migrated to Australia and somehow by accident wound up in this place. He is constantly standing up and raising matters that are not points of order, in contravention of the Standing Orders of this place which are available for any honourable member to read. Mr Deputy Speaker, if the person who occupies the chair that you occupy with such dignity really did his job he would apply Standing Order 303 and shoot him straight out the door because he is guilty of wilfully disrupting the House.
I want to raise a matter tonight, with due deference to the fishing industry and to the hardships that those people are suffering. Honourable members opposite proudly laud the fact that they support the free enterprise system in this country. But when there is a need for something to be done, they do not mind the Government having a hand in that do they? They do not mind coming forward and saying that the Government should negotiate in respect of factory ships offshore, with the Russians, the Japanese, the Taiwanese or anybody else. Obviously, the private enterprise experts in this field cannot do that.
In the few minutes that remain after the interruptions by the honourable member for Holt, let me say that a very serious situation exists in this country insofar as pensioners are concerned. The Government, following the proposition of the Labor Party, has decided to give regular increases to pensioners.
Government supporters- Hear, hear.
-Hear, hear! I agree with honourable members opposite on that. The Government has done this on the basis that it has indexed the increase to movements in the CPI. The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) nods his head in agreement, so I must be correct. He is the doyen of the Liberal Party on the Government side. But what has the Government done about the amounts that a pensioner can earn supplementary to his income. What has the Government done about the very small amount that disqualifies a pensioner from his fringe benefits- his telephone concession, his public transport concession, and a number of other concessions that are worth money to him?
Therefore, one is really not just talking about the amount of money that a pensioner gets. The Government is being completely and utterly dishonest about the whole matter. It is saying that it has indexed pensions and that the pensioner will get a rise as the cost of living rises. I laud that, but how about looking at the other side of the coin also? It does not take very long now to earn $25. If a pensioner earns $25 his pension begins to be affected. Nor does it take very long to earn the $5 or $6 that a pensioner may earn weekly in addition to his pension before he loses his fringe benefits. Is the Government and all these champions sitting opposite of deprived people, doing anything about it? It is not. I have not heard a single Government supporter raise it in this place. On the contrary, I have done so tonight and notice that I have finally silenced all those yapping jackals on the other side, because the wisdom of what I am saying has sunk into their thick skulls. I trust that tomorrow morning they will take this matter into the party room, along with the fisheries problem, and discuss it with the appropriate Minister so that he can tell them where they are wrong. Then, let them come back into this House -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
MrBAUME(Macarthur)(10.48)-Forthe information of the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), I will send him a copy of collected speeches from members on this side of the House, especially speeches I made up to two years ago in this place, dealing with the very matter to which he has belatedly awakened; but that, of course, fits the pattern of the honourable member. Someone has apparently pointed out what was, and is, concerning the Government, and as to which members on this side have spoken with some vehemence. I refer to the need to index such things as pensioner medical cards and other fringe benefits. These matters were raised by Government supporters when the honourable member for Burke was, as usual, fast asleep.
I raise tonight one of the quaint fallacies that we keep hearing from Opposition members, and that, unfortunately, intruded into my living room on Saturday night. That was on a program called Four Corners. I have a great deal of respect for Caroline Jones, who is a very effective and efficient journalist. However, I am rather tired of hearing the proposition that at the moment unemployment in Australia is worse than it was during the Depression. In fact, this is a simple bit of lying with statistics. Maybe honourable members opposite are proficient in that activity; but I would hope that those who are sufficiently mature or aged to recognise that there are statistics going back to the 1930s would in fact bother to find out what the facts really are before maintaining this fiction, or providing the Australian Broadcasting Commission with the capacity to parrot these allegations.
The fact is that, according to the Census of 1933, unemployment, as a proportion of the work force, was then 17.65 per cent. This was in 1933 after the Depression had passed its worst. I seek leave of the House to incorporate this statistic in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) agreed that leave would be granted. I do not know whether this is another of the usual delaying tactics.
The table read as follows-
– I thank the House. The statistics in those days clearly demonstrate that in 1933, 17.6 per cent of the work force was unemployed compared with a seasonal peak at the moment of 7.2 per cent. Also, the year book which relates to those times, the peak of the Depression, shows that up to 28 per cent of the registered work force was unemployed. We must treat those figures with some care because in those days the unions rather than the statisticians were obliged to report on how many people were unemployed. It may well have been that for political reasons the unions decided to inflate the figures or to muck around with them. Who knows? What is evident is that the figures show that about 28 per cent of the work force was unemployed compared with 7.2 per cent of the work force now. Yet we still hear the nonsense being perpetuated by the honourable members opposite that we now have a worse level of unemployment. One assumes they mean in honest terms- I could not imagine that they would speak in dishonest terms - unemployment as a proportion of the work force. The figures demonstrate clearly that what they are saying is nonsense.
I simply conclude by commenting on some points made the other night by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) about immigration and migrant education in Wollongong. May I say how disappointed I was that in his critical speech of this Government he did not bother to mention that the adult migration program, in particular the telephone interpreter service, will, as an initiative of this Government, for the first time be opening in Wollongong. It was not opened by the previous Government, and I can assure the honourable member for Cunningham that the volume of immigration in the last two years has not been so dramatic that the situation has changed monumentally in Wollongong. The Government is meeting the needs of the migrants in Wollongong that the Labor Government failed to meet.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– If ever there was an example of an honourable member tilting at windmills, it is the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume). He made the statement that the Opposition has been saying that unemployment is worse now than during the Depression. The Opposition has never said that. It has said that unemployment today is the worst since the Depression. I want to make that quite clear. The honourable member goes further and uses the most extraordinary imagination, or even a complete lack of knowledge of when the great Depression occurred, to say that the Depression was not taking place during 1933. Anybody who knows very much about what went on in those days or who has any understanding of it would know that in 1933 we were still well and truly in the Depression.
– The Depression, my friend. That was why it was the Great Depression. The peak was in 1931.
– The honourable member should educate himself. He should start reading, get rid of the academic nonsense he talks and get a bit of common sense. The fact is that the Depression was of very long duration. There was a further very solid recession in 1937 and unfortunately it was not until the War commenced that everyone really went back to work. For that reason I think that the honourable member is using an extraordinarily fertile imagination in making those statements. I clarify the situation: At all times the Labor Party has been making the point that this is the worst unemployment since the Depression.
I want also to make the point that the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) and I had an agreement here a little while ago. We have found time and time again when speaking on the adjournment debate that incessant points of order are taken. The honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) and the Government Whip are particularly adept at this procedure. I issue here and now a straight out challenge. If this is to continue we will utilise all the forms of the House to make sure that honourable members opposite find it equally difficult, in fact a lot more difficult, to speak. They deliberately use points of order as a means of stopping us from having our democratic rights as members of this Parliament and putting our case before the Parliament. This was done in the last Parliament time and again.
There is another matter I wish to bring up while time is available. The Department of Social Security should be required to deduct income tax from pensions and unemployment benefits when they are taxable instead of the present procedure of simply deducting tax when requested. A lot of people do not realise that they are liable to tax. The Department is fully aware from the files as to whether they are liable. Under the pay-as-you-earn system every employer is required to deduct tax from wages and salaries. But the Department will do this only when requested.
I have seen cases of great hardship when people on unemployment benefits or pensions, and with very small incomes are suddenly faced with a big tax bill. This creates a great deal of hardship for them. It is incorrect that different values are set for a government department, in this case the Department of Social Security, and individual employers. The law requires an employer to deduct tax. The Department says that it will do so when requested. As I said, this results in a great deal of hardship for a lot of people who would much rather know what their liability is and take account of it. I am talking about pensioners who have incomes ouside the pension. I suggest that Liberal members should look at this matter in the Party room.
I further suggest that in future this business of taking invalid points of order when we have only five minutes in which to speak should be stopped. It is being done deliberately to stifle discussion in the Parliament. It is being led by certain honourable members on the Government side and it is being directed particularly at certain individual members on this side. It was a general practice in the last Parliament. It created a great deal of uproar, but that is nothing compared with the uproar which will occur. The Labor Party will use all the Standing Orders and the legalities of this Parliament if it continues.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure that all members on this side of the House will join in rejecting the blackmail threats that the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) has just put to the House. His tactics will not be allowed to succeed. Two members of the Labor Party have been talking absolute rubbish tonight.
– I take a point of order. The reference to my making blackmail threats is unparliamentary. It should be withdrawn.
– I remind the honourable member for Chifley that the remarks he made to this House which attracted the comment from the honourable member for St George in which he demonstrated his resolve wilfully to obstruct the business of the House could well, by declaration, infringe Standing Order 303. In the circumstances, I do not uphold the point of order.
– In the brief time remaining I refer to the rubbish spoken by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). He conveniently forgot that the 1975 Hayden Budget was a vicious rip-off of aged persons. This Government had to fix that. It has done so. Secondly, it has abolished the assets component of the means test. We now have a good means test of income only. Thirdly, it indexed pensions, which the Labor Party was never prepared to do. Finally, after doing all that the Government can get round to indexing the fringe benefits means test level. I am sure that it will be able to do that in the near future. I make only one comment on the statement by the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon). I place on record that I believe the majority of Australian people want non-compulsory unionism, they do not want to see a compulsory theft of their funds for political parties and they want the abolition of preference clauses in awards.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 February 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780228_reps_31_hor108/>.