31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That experts in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, law and religion together have placed on record the following unpleasant facts about homosexuality:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will preserve and uphold the sections in the Criminal Code which prohibit the practice of homosexual and incestuous acts.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Donald Cameron and Mr Hodges. Petitions received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens (instructors and teachers of Modern Languages) of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of 40 per cent tax upon our earnings, as instructors and teachers of Modern Languages, with the Saturday School of Modern Languages, is both a heavy burden and unjust; and request:
We, the petitioners, regard ourselves as poorly paid for the services we provide to the Community and Education and seek favourable consideration.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Bryant. Petition received.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate and 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 1 974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30th June 1978.
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 1975 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 Bryant.
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 Unking 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.
Petition received. by Mr FitzPatrick Petition received.
Rail Service from Wynyard to Hobart
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:
There are a number of reasons why the Tasman Limited should be kept on.
We the undersigned are deeply concerned at the constant dwindling of our public facilities. Country post-offices are being abolished, and people forced to pay dearly for mail bags, which are most unsatisfactory.
If we lose our post-office at Leith, pensioners who have no means of transport other than the Tasman Limited will be very much handicapped.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the proposal to take the Tasman Limited off the Wynyard-Hobart rail run be reconsidered.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Newman. Petition received.
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 the citizens of Australia totally reject communism and call upon the Government to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Shipton. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned residents of Maryborough, Victoria respectfully showeth:
That we strongly disapprove of the practice of hunting and killing seals and whales, for any purpose whatsoever.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that legislation is enacted to ban the killing of seals and whales.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Short. Petition received.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs left Australia on 6 March to attend a meeting of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. He is expected to return on 10 March. During his absence, the Minister for Primary Industry will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that Mr Andrew Grimwade is a friend of the Prime Minister and a fellow member of the Melbourne Club and has been known to the Prime Minister since their days together at Oxford? Was Mr Grimwade nominated by the then Opposition in 1974 to serve on the Remuneration Tribunal? Further, is it a fact that Mr Grimwade was appointed by the Prime Minister to act as a supervisor in relation to government properties such as the Lodge and Kirribilli House? Is it also a fact that Mr Grimwade is a director of IBM Australia Limited?
-Mr Speaker, a great many people are members of the Melbourne Club and, as you know, I happen to be one of them. Mr Grimwade happens to be another. I add that a former most distinguished Speaker of this House, Mr Cope, happens to be on the Official Establishments Committee.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In regard to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and its report tabled in the last Parliament, has the Minister any progress to report to the Parliament in relation to the implementation of the recommendations of that Committee?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. It refers to a very important matter affecting Aboriginals and, I might also say, Australians generally, that is, the excessive consumption of alcohol. The report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, of which the honourable member for Dundas was Chairman in the last Parliament, drew attention to the need for action on a number of fronts in the Northern Territory and right across Australia. Those matters have been examined by myself and my colleagues, the Minister for Health, the Minister for the Northern Territory and the Minister for Education. We are formulating overall policy in relation to the recommendations made by that Standing Committee.
One matter that I can mention to the House now and inform the honourable gentleman about is the purchase of the border store at Oenpelli by the Gunbalanya Council, an allAboriginal council of the people living at Oenpelli. The interim report of the Standing Committee drew attention to the need for action to be taken to limit the sales of liquor from that outlet. The Fox report drew attention to the same need in its uranium environmental inquiry. As a result of those two recommendations, I instituted action which has now led to the agreement to purchase the border store in Arnhem Land for the Gunbalanya Council. The purchase price was $125,000 plus the value of stock on hand at the time of takeover. Management will be in the hands of the Aboriginal Council. Of course, it will be assisted by whatever support is necessary from the white population. But I am quite sure that in the fulfilment of the Government’s commitment to a policy of self-management and satisfying the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee and the Fox inquiry report this action will be seen as of lasting benefit for the Aboriginal people.
-I refer the Prime Minister to his letter of 17 January to the Managing Director of IBM Australia Ltd, Mr A. G. Moyes in which he mentions Mr Moyes’ letter to him of 2 December and ‘to our subsequent discussions’ in the matter of a new computer for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Trade and Resources. I ask: How many of these subsequent discussions between the Prime Minister and Mr Moyes took place? Were they private discussions or did they take place in the presence of government officials? Were they telephone discussions or did the Prime Minister meet with Mr Moyes at his home and /or his office? Following those discussions, is it a fact that the Chairman of the Government Stores and Tender Board wrote the first of three letters to the tenderers, each widening the specifications of the computer contract? How long has the Prime Minister known Mr Moyes and in what capacity?
– I have known Mr Moyes for quite some time because of his association with the Australian American Association. I imagine that many honourable members of this House would have known him in that capacity. On 22 December, after the Government had been sworn in, I was at home and the Chairman of the Public Service Board sent me by Vocadex a minute on the substance of the discussions that the Chairman of the Public Service Board had had with Mr Moyes. That appointment was arranged as a result of the letter that Mr Moyes wrote on 2 December. The Chairman’s minute emphasised- this is the point that had concerned me since I received the original note from the Secretary to Cabinet on this subject many, many weeks earlier- that Mr Moyes came back time and time again to the possibility that Mr Harragan, even in a gentle and not obvious way, might have had some impact on the final decisions and final recommendations that were made. I think honourable gentlemen will agree that it is a somewhat unusual business for somebody at the heart of the decision-making or recommending process in relation to government tendering just weeks before that final process is concluded to leave his government employment and to join the company that becomes the successful tenderer.
As events unfolded later it became plain from a published report that Facom had offered Mr Harragan a job on 25 August, but it was also claimed that on 2 September he had received from those in the various departments concerned a final evaluation report which would have formed the basis of the inter-departmental committee ‘s recommendation to the appropriate Minister and thence to the Government. By 2
September Mr Harragan virtually knew that, unless unusual events intervened, it was highly likely that the decision would go to Facom because the recommendation was for Facom and the IDC would need substantial reasons for overthrowing that recommendation.
It was not until 19 September that Mr Harragan told the Chairman of the IDC that he had been offered a job. He did not say by whom. That became known two or three days later. I believe that that is unusual behaviour to say the least. When that was first brought to my attention by the Secretary to Cabinet, the Secretary to Cabinet, on behalf of the Department, had recommended that a new IDC be forthwith convened. I put that to the Chairman of the Public Service Board. For various reasons that course was not pursued. It was opposed at official level. It would have been much better had that course been pursued right from the outset because that is virtually the process to which we have come. I think it ought to be known that later today it is my intention to make a statement about this subject so that the history of the matter can be fully laid out for all honourable gentlemen.
– The Minister for Transport will be aware that last week the Major Airport Needs of Sydney Committee released details of proposals for meeting Sydney’s airport needs. Will the Minister indicate when all background papers from the MANS Committee will be available, including the proposals for the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport? Will the Minister indicate the status of all papers? Will the Minister assure the House that all options will receive proper attention from the Committee? As the people of my electorate have suffered continual rumour and speculation for more than five years will the Minister assure the people of Sydney and of the electorate of Mitchell in particular that the delays which have already occurred with the MANS Committee will not continue?
– As the House knows, the function of the MANS Committee is to provide recommendations to the Government on the airport needs of Sydney for the next generation or so. I think the honourable member will agree with me that this is probably the major aviation decision that we have to take in the years ahead. The MANS Committee has proceeded very effectively to this point. It has been devoid of any sense of party politics from this Parliament. I congratulate members from both sides of this Parliament who have helped to keep it that way.
Some politics have been played on this subject in Sydney. I do not want to exacerbate the situation by saying any more than that. I hope that politics will be kept out of it so that the MANS Committee can reach a final decision in advising the State and Federal Governments on the options for further development.
At the moment the MANS Committee is having discussions with interested groups in the public area around Sydney. I am advised that the discussions are likely to take another five or six weeks. By that time the MANS Committee ought to be in a position to advise both State and Federal governments on what the real options might be having regard to the social, environmental and economic factors with which it has been confronted. It is not my wish to delay the processes at all, nor do I want to so hurry them up that they are cut short and it is thought that they are not carried out properly. Therefore I ask the honourable member to convey to the concerned people in his electorate that we are taking our time on the matter; not trying to rush it or to delay it. Hopefully in about six weeks advice will come to both governments. It will then be a matter for the State and Federal governments to make a decision. I remind the House that the MANS Committee is advisory. It is no more nor less. It cannot take any decisions at all. It is a matter for this Government, ultimately, to make a judgment in respect of Federal matters and to seek the support of the State Government if it has to make certain judgments in respect of the provision of services for airport needs in Sydney. Therefore the process is working very well. I am hopeful that we can arrive at a proper and rational decision on the matter later this year.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that IBM Australia Ltd made representations to the Government last year seeking alterations to the Trade Practices Act and in particular seeking to change the definition of the word ‘consumer’? Why was the Act subsequently altered to meet the IBM demand against the advice of the Swanson Committee and the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs whose attitude was reflected in the statement by the Acting Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs on 7 July when he said that the IBM case had no merit? Is it also a fact that the first public announcement of the proposed amendment did not come from the Government but from IBM in its half-yearly report on 21 October? Was there any written or oral communication between Mr Moyes of IBM and the Prime Minister in relation to this matter?
– It is a fact that IBM Australia Ltd made representations to me last year in relation to the definition of the word ‘consumer’ in the Trade Practices Act. It is also true that a number of other trading organisations made similar representations to me. In fact, I received interested groups in deputation. I discussed the problems that were raised with me at the time and later sought advice from my Department as to how the particular problem might be overcome. Subsequent to that discussion with my senior officers, I released a statement publicly as to what was proposed and sought representations on the matter. After a period of time- I do not recall the precise period but it was several weeks- I discussed with the Department the various representations that were received and then I made a public statement to that effect. Subsequent to that, of course, the matter was canvassed fully in this House when I introduced the legislation. It was debated and passed through this House and another place.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, arises from advice that Mr Milan Brych will be entering Australia in the near future from the Cook Islands. Is the Minister aware that many Australians alive today, who were advised by local doctors that they had terminal cancer, honestly and sincerely believe they have been cured or that their life expectancy has been considerably increased after treatment by Brych? Will the Minister take steps to see that Brych is interviewed by responsible people nominated by the Minister to evaluate the treatment methods and medical knowledge that he possesses? Will the Minister subsequently advise the Parliament of the results of such investigations?
– I am well aware of the reports that have come to hand from patients who claim to have been cured by Mr Brych. I am also aware of some of the sad cases where survival has not been a fact of life. That will be a saying of the week. I must say that those people who benefited from seeing the Willesee program on television Channel 7 recently would understand that there have been a great number of people who have returned to Australia and have not survived. The Cancer Society of Australia undoubtedly will be meeting Mr Brych should he come to Australia. Certainly I would not put any impediment in the way of proper meetings and seminars if necessary taking place to enable a full discussion. Of course, there cannot be a proper evaluation of his treatment methods in such a short time. Oncologists and others who are interested in the problem of cancer treatment inform me that it takes many months, if not years, properly to analyse a method of treatment involving immunology. The only undertaking I can give the honourable member is that if there is any way in which my Department can help to ensure that meaningful discussions take place between Mr Brych and people who are properly qualified to discuss these matters, I will make sure that that facility is available.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. It relates to an answer he gave earlier about tenders for the computer to be installed for the Bureau of Statistics. I draw the Prime Minister’s attention to the fact that he wrote a letter to Mr Moyes on 17 January in which he clearly exonerated Mr Harragan from any impropriety. In that letter the Prime Minister referred to four matters of viability which Mr Moyes had raised with him in personal discussions. He also said that tenders would be dealt with by the middle of March. Will the Prime Minister identify to the House the matters of viability? Will he also say why he suddenly changed his mind on or about 8 February and cancelled the tenders altogether?
– I think the letter received from Mr Moyes on 2 December raised four main issues. The response to those issues, as indeed the response to the letter as a whole, was based on departmental advice and on what officials thought ought to be said because parts of the letter dealt with questions of specification which are certainly matters not for politicians or for Ministers but for those who are technically qualified to make a judgment. The House will be aware that although no charges or allegations are made against Mr Harragan, there is the question of the appearance of the matter. I have stressed that time and time again. If any honourable gentleman is prepared to say that it is a proper procedure for a member of an interdepartmental committee charged with making a recommendation to a Minister and thence to the Government to resign from that committee weeks before a final decision is to be made, after it has been operating for many, many months, and to join the company that shortly afterwards might become the successful tenderer, I would be very surprised indeed. I would regard it as a most improper procedure and one which I hope will never be pursued again.
Other matters in relation to this issue will be dealt with in more detail when I make a statement later today. I indicated earlier that the Secretary to the Cabinet, once he learnt of Mr Harragan ‘s resignation, advised that a new IDC should be constituted. I put that to the Chairman of the Board. For a variety of reasons there was opposition to the proposal. One of the things that was being pressed upon the Government by officials throughout this matter was the need to obtain a new computer for the Bureau of Statistics and not to waste time about it. The counter matter of concern was to make sure that matters were handled properly. There was a desire on the part of officials, and to an extent also on the part of the Government, to try to meet the timetable of the Bureau of Statistics to the maximum extent possible. In the end that was a course that could not be pursued. Ultimately a decision was taken which would have saved time. That was to recall tenders in their entirety.
It was significantly the desire to meet the timetable of the Bureau of Statistics that led officials over the Christmas period and into early January to propose to the Government that there ought to be a shortened tender procedure to enable the original position to be tested as to its viability and fairness. That position was confirmed at a Cabinet meeting about the middle of January and it resulted in advice being sent to other tenderers also. The further down that path officials went- there were requests from companies for further clarification and further information- the more it became clear that that shortened procedure, which had originated not from any Minister or from me but from officials, would of itself have prejudiced the final outcome in favour of IBM.
That was not the intention of the Government at any stage. I think it would have favoured IBM for two specific reasons. Its tender was a bundle; IBM would do everything. So if IBM was to alter anything it was easier for IBM to alter it than for another company to get together with other people who were also involved in the process. Also, it was suggested that IBM had larger resources and therefore could respond more quickly. The concerns in this area grew throughout January and early February and, on the recommendation of the head of the Department of Administrative Services, the Public Service Board and my own Department on 8 February I discussed the matter with the Minister for Administrative Services and the Treasurer. The recommendation to us was unanimous and the response was unanimous; that we ought to go fully to a re-tendering position because that would be the only fair thing to do in the totality of the circumstances. But again I emphasise that there are other aspects of this total situation which I shall be happy to speak about later today.
– I briefly preface my question to the Minister for Trade and Resources by pointing out that the mining and export of uranium is of particular concern to the people in the northern part of this continent and in my own home areas we have the only mine which produces and exports uranium at Mary Kathleen. Is the Minister satisfied that there are now no difficulties in the way of honouring in full Australia’s contract for the supply of uranium to overseas customers?
– It has been a commitment of this Government and of previous governments that contracts entered into by mining companies prior to 1972 would be honoured. I am pleased to see that the trade union movement has also accepted that these contracts should be honoured. I think people should be aware that the contracts entered into by Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd, Queensland Mines Ltd and the Ranger partners involve about 11,700 short tons of uranium which is to be delivered up until 1986. Those shipments commenced in 1 977. Up to date that commitment has been met partly with exports from Mary Kathleen and partly from the Government’s stockpile. But the reserve at Mary Kathleen is only 6,500 short tons and the Government’s stockpile is 2,000 short tons. If one does the arithmetic one will see that we are still about 3,000 short tons short of being able to honour our contractual commitments. Another mine or more mines will have to be brought into operation if those contracts are to be fulfilled. I think the more important thing to realise, however, is that the rate of delivery from Mary Kathleen is to be spread over that whole period until 1986. That means that mines will have to come on fairly quickly if we are to meet our obligations. Even at the moment it looks as though we could be in a serious situation by 1981 to 1982 if more developments do not take place. This only heightens the importance of developing the Ranger mine as soon as it is possible to do so after all the negotiations have taken place with parties to which the Government has given a commitment that those negotiations would take place.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Given the low priority given by the Government to manpower planning can the Minister explain: Firstly, the criteria upon which job categories are developed for application to persons intending to migrate to Australia; and secondly, whether there has been an easing of restrictions on formal qualifications required by intending migrants who wish to enter skilled job categories?
-The first part of the honourable member’s question is based on a false premise. The Government does not give low priority to manpower planning and in fact has been devoting considerable resources to this question following discussions at conferences of Ministers for labour, including discussions with Ministers from the honourable gentleman’s party, and the National Labour Consultative Council. So far as qualifications for migrants coming to Australia are concerned, as I have explained to the House on previous occasions, the criteria used to establish entry eligibility are the same as those applied to people seeking entry to any of our training schemes under the National Employment and Training scheme. The House will be aware that the recognition of formal qualifications gained overseas has been a long-standing problem. Successive governments over the years have sent tripartite teams, made up of government, employer and union representatives, overseas to try to establish mutually acceptable criteria on which overseas qualifications may be recognised in Australia. This Government is continuing that practice.
-Will the Prime Minister advise the House whether the Government has considered taking any action in respect of the future of the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd abattoirs at Brooklyn, Victoria?
-Certainly honourable gentlemen from Victoria will be aware of a serious situation that developed in relation to this Co-operative. The Government has examined the matter in detail and has come to the decision that, provided the Victorian Government agrees, we will be able to share fifty-fifty with that Government in guaranteeing what would otherwise be a commercial loan to the company. Representatives of the company came and saw the Treasurer, me and, I think, the
Minister for Primary Industry late last week. Certain proposals were put to us. A proposal of this kind was amongst their recommendations. I hope that the Victorian Government will accept this offer on the part of the Commonwealth- I will be in touch with the Victorian Premier, Mr Hamer, later this afternoon- as I believe the proposal will enable the Co-operative to meet its commitments fully and to continue trading profitability as it is doing at the moment. One of the aspects that producers in Victoria would find very difficult to understand is how it is that a cooperative which, at this stage, is trading profitably should have been forced to go into liquidation. There seems to be a basic contradiction in that state of affairs which, I am quite certain, no producer would understand, comprehend or agree with. The Government has expressed considerable sympathy for that point of view. I hope that the Co-operative will be able to continue trading profitably and will trade its way out of its past problems.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Capital Territory. The Minister knows that a mile from here a large building bears a large inscription ‘Croatian Embassy’ in both English and Serbo-Croat while a flagpole in front of it flies what is claimed to be a Croatian flag. I ask: Did his Department give permission for this inscription and flag to be displayed in the way that it gave permission years ago for a bust of General Mihailovic to be erected in front of a church also a mile from here? Since the Foreign Minister before Christmas expressed concern at the establishment of what he called this ‘selfstyled Croatian Embassy’ which obviously could provide no consular or diplomatic services- I quote the Minister’s precise words- and since Australian governments have never recognised the independence of Croatia, I ask: What steps are being taken to bring an end to this misleading and provocative display?
– I am not aware of any permission that my Department has given in relation to the matter. I will investigate it and give the honourable gentleman an answer when I have it.
– Is the Minister for Transport aware that the number of aircraft movements at Perth Airport is increasing many times faster than movements at the major eastern State terminals? Is he aware of the overcrowding and inadequate facilities which presently exist at Perth
Airport as a result of this trend? Is the Government examining the future needs of Perth Airport and, if so, when will this examination be completed and the necessary corrective work commence?
– A number of fairly extravagent claims has been made in respect of the development and usage of Perth Airport. Let me give some figures to put the matter straight. It is a fact that between 1970 and 1976 the international traffic at Perth airport increased by 300 per cent. I should point out that for the same period international traffic at Melbourne airport increased by 650 per cent and at Sydney by 200 per cent. Between 1970 and 1976 domestic traffic increased by 50 per cent in Perth, 153 per cent in Melbourne and 137 per cent in Sydney. So the claim that has been made, that the growth in traffic at Perth has been greater than the growth in other capital cities, is not correct. However, that does not deny that there is a problem at Perth airport in peak periods.
The problem arises from the two-airline system, with parallel scheduling, with Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australia Airlines both discharging passengers at the same time. The honourable member will know that the Domestic Air Transport Policy Review committee is to report to me on 3 1 March. One of the particular questions at which it is looking under the two-airline arrangement is parallel scheduling. I hope that the report will lead to a solution to that problem. In addition I should point out to the House that a Commonwealth and State committee has been looking at the very question raised by the honourable member as a result of the concern expressed by the people of Perth. It likewise will be reporting very shortly on ways of overcoming the problems at Perth Airport. I am conscious of the matter that the honourable member raises and I hope that something can be done about it.
– My question, which is addressed to the Treasurer, deals with dividend stripping. Is it a fact that Mr Justice Mason of the High Court of Australia recently remarked that the defects and deficiencies of section 260 of the Income Tax Assessment Act had been apparent for a long time and yet the Government has made no move to plug the loopholes? Can the Treasurer make an estimate of the millions of dollars of revenue lost through arrangements and agreements devised by lawyers and accountants under that section for their clients to dodge paying their fair share of tax? When does the
Minister expect to introduce legislation to close these loopholes and to amend the section to overcome what is an obvious anomaly?
– In the last Budget the then Treasurer foreshadowed action by the Government -
– On trusts.
– No. He announced action in respect of trusts but he foreshadowed action generally in respect of tax avoidance. This matter has been receiving very close attention from the Government and I do not think the honourable gentleman will have to wait long before he knows the extent of the consideration that it has received from the Government.
-Is the Minister for Trade and Resources aware of a long-standing dispute between the New South Wales Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board and the Department of Mines over mining coal from beneath water reservoirs to the south of Sydney? What effect would the banning of beneath-reservoir coal mining have on the south coast underground coal mining industry in general and on my electorate in particular?
– I am aware of a longstanding dispute between the New South Wales Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board and the Department of Mines. I know that the present Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs is also well aware of it. I think he was responsible for appointing the Reynolds Commission in New South Wales to arbitrate on that matter and to investigate it thoroughly. After about three years the Commission reported back to the New South Wales Government that, provided adequate safety measures were taken, mining could take place underneath water storages. One of the Departments involved in the Royal Commission is now having legislation introduced in New South Wales to stop mining taking place under these water storages. I know it is for New South Wales to make these decisions but this matter has a certain bearing upon the national interest, the export performance of this country and the availability of coal. I am aware that the mining operations of a subsidiary of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd, at Wongawilli in the honourable member’s electorate will be forced to close down immediately putting off some 300 men should this legislation be passed. There is also the Bulli colliery which has reserves to keep it going for 10 to 15 years should it be able to mine underneath the water storages. If the legislation is introduced that operation will cease probably in five or six years time. This matter has implications for employment in the honourable member’s district. I think it is a strange decision to make after having a royal commission into the matter.
-Does the Prime Minister recall that the then Treasurer in his last Budget Speech said:
The Government is well aware of the activities in recent years of tax planners who, increasingly, are promoting tax avoidance schemes and arrangements throughout the business and professional community. We-
That is the Government- propose to crack down hard on such practices.
Does the Prime Minister recall also that in one of the more flamboyant passages in his 1975 election speech he said:
We will not use the earnings of Australia’s families to finance Gold Coast holidays for those who do not want to work.
Does the Prime Minister stand by these statements? Why did he reappoint the honourable member for Flinders, the man involved in the Lynch affair, as a member of the Ministry?
– I refer the honourable gentleman to the statement I made on this subject some considerable time ago.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the statement made in Peking last Tuesday by Mr Liao Cheng-ching, a member of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, to the effect that the United States should sever any diplomatic or military links with Taiwan. Is the nature of the links of the Australian Government with Taiwan completely acceptable to China, that is, to Peking? Further, has the Government considered pursuing a less rigid and exclusive approach to Taiwan than it is claimed is presently required due to the nature of our diplomatic accord with China?
– There is no doubt that the relationship between this Government and the Government of China has developed very extensively as a result of the personal visit of the present Prime Minister as well as other visits. We have, as a result of a wide range of diplomatic and commercial affairs, a rapport which I think helps to promote understanding and future good will between our respective peoples. There are a number of areas where commercial contacts are maintained with Taiwan. As the honourable gentleman might know, a number of members of the Taiwanese Press corps are attending a conference in Canberra this week. I understand they are visting Australia in a private capacity to attend that conference. In other words, there is still an opportunity for an exchange of points of view between citizens of our respective countries. Certainly that applies at a commercial level. Relationships between the United States and China are somewhat different in many respects. I believe the bases by which our relationship with China have developed are in the mutual interests of our countries and I see little reason to move away from them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Is the Galbally Review of Post-arrival Programs and Services to Migrants still continuing its investigations? If not, has the committee concerned presented a report to the Government? If so, when was the report presented? Will the report be tabled and when? If the committee’s report has not been presented to the Government, why has the Government gone ahead with major restructuring of migrant services, including the transfer of the telephone interpreter service, the Outreach program and migrant services sections from the Department of Social Security to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, before receiving a report which presumably would be advising the Government on these very matters?
– I am not aware of whether the members of the Galbally Committee are still hearing submissions. I believe that the submissions have been completed. I understand the situation is that the report is in the final processes of being written. It has not yet been presented. As the honourable member would know, the Galbally Committee was set up by the Prime Minister and it will be reporting to the Prime Minister. In respect of administrative arrangements, that again is the decision of the Prime Minister. He has made those arrangements and has announced them.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to add one or two points to what has been said by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The Chairman of the inquiry has written to me on a number of occasions. He did recommend and support that transfer of functions. He did not want that transfer to wait until the final report came forward. The honourable gentleman might also recall the additional initiatives that were taken in English language training, not only the expansion of existing programs but the proposal to use facilities in universities or colleges where arrangements could be made over the summer period for members of the migrant community. Those initiatives came out of the Galbally inquiry’s recommendations. I think other groups had also put the same view to the Minister concerned. As it was clear that we ought to do something, there was certainly no wish on the part of the inquiry that that should await its final report. I can only confirm what the Minister has said in relation to the timing. It is my understanding that the final drafting of the report is in process at the moment.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Have bans been placed by the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union on the export of livestock, both sheep and cattle, from many Australian ports? Has this ban seriously affected export income and the income of many primary producers? Can the Minister state the present position in regard to this important problem and what ports are available for livestock exports at the present time?
– There have been discussions in the last couple of weeks between producer organisations and the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union. In terms of the relationships between this Government and exporters, the position remains that we recognise no restraints other than those that are enforced by virtue of the import regulations of various customer countries or, for example, those which apply, for the time being at least, with respect to merino sheep. From time to time different arrangements have been entered into in different States of Australia. Throughout last year I recognised that there were particular circumstances in Western Australia. For that reason export permits were granted but only after recommendations had been received from the Western Australia Minister for Agriculture about the particular circumstances that applied there.
I understand that in discussions between producers and the trade union movement there has been some agreement on a general objective of increasing carcass trade wherever possible. That objective is one which the Government also shares. However, we equally believe that it is not possible to ship meat, be it beef or mutton or lamb for that matter, to many present destinations while the trans-shipment facilities in the tropics are as they are, and while the methods of handling meat for delivery to customers in those countries is relatively inadequate when compared with what we are accustomed to in Australia. In those circumstances, we certainly believe that there needs to be a maintenance of livestock exports until carcass exports can be increased.
I share the honourable gentleman’s concern that actions taken by the trade union movement in the short term, supposedly for the advantage of maintaining labour for its employees, might well in the long term be to its distinct disadvantage. I hope that that aspect is brought home to individual members of the trade unions on whose behalf their principals purport to be currently negotiating. I hope that, out of these discussions, there can be a continued acceptance that a proper balance between livestock exports and carcass exports is not possible just by the establishment of any fixed ratio. Rather there is a reason to have a flexible position applying throughout Australia, in the case of both beef and sheep. I trust that that flexibility will enable the maintenance of what has been a very worthwhile extension of Australian exports for the pastoral industries at a time when producers returns have been so low. I commend an early solution to what seems to be otherwise an imponderable problem to those who are negotiating this matter.
– The Prime Minister will be aware from Press reports that book publishers, both in Australia and overseas, are vying for the publishing rights of Sir John Kerr’s memoirs. Is it not a fact that the Government has sought legal advice with a view to preventing Sir John Kerr from publishing his memoirs and thus telling the full story of the events of 1975, specifically the role of the current Prime Minister in the weeks leading up to 11 November 1975? Does the Government intend to legislate to prevent the publication of memoirs? If so, will the legislation apply to all government officials or will it be limited to a gag on the former Governor-General?
-The publication of books seems to be the fashion. I do not know why the honourable gentleman or anyone else should take objection in a particular case.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the annual report of Qantas Airways Ltd for the year ended 3 1 March 1977.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act 1949, 1 present the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on tyre cord fabric and the Industries Assistance Commission report on the tourist accommodation industry.
– Pursuant to section 42 of the Australian Film and Television School Act 1973, I present the annual report of the Australian Film and Television School for the year ended 30 June 1976. In tabling this report, I should explain that the letter of transmittal printed with the report is addressed to the Prime Minister who was the Minister responsible when the report was printed. The report has, however, been furnished to me as the Minister now responsible.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930, I present the statement of receipts and expenditure relating to the administration and development of the Australian Capital Territory for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That Mr Barry Jones be discharged from attendance on the House Committee and that in his place Mr John Brown be appointed a member.
– 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 Government’s lack of a coherent and nationally acceptable wage policy which is reducing real incomes and contributing to the recession.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– The Government’s wages policy, to the extent that one can be identified, is neither coherent nor acceptable. It is not coherent because it markedly depresses real income. It does that at a time of deepening recession. It accordingly accentuates the depressionary atmosphere existing in the economy. It is not acceptable because it forces the greatest burden of sacrifice on wage and salary earners. It is, accordingly, neither fair nor just.
The Government seeks to argue that its policies generally are designed to increase real spending power. As recently as the weekend, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) asserted that adjustments to the taxation system would, in fact, increase people’s real disposable income and allow an increase in economic activity. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the evidence is clear. There has been, on the part of the Government, a conspiracy to depress real spending power for wage and salary earners in the community quite markedly. It would appear from the effects of Government policy that the Government strategy is to strive for economic uplift by increasing the immiseration of the community ‘Salvation by prolonged stagnation’, as the former honourable member for MacKellar was wont to claim in this Parliament up until the last election.
When we talk about wages policy we are talking about more than the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the national wage case. We are talking about the effect of Government charges on people’s spending power. We are talking generally about taxation policy and its influence on people’s living standards. I want to deal with three main points. The first concerns the Government’s argument that real wages have to be reduced so that profits, in national account terms, can be increased. I accept the argument about the importance of profit levels as measured by national accounts to allow an improvement in economy activity. But I also believe that because of the way in which the Government has presented this proposition there has been a blurred focusing on what has been occurring in the community and a misunderstanding of the reasons why total resources going to profits as a proportion of gross domestic product have been declining dramatically quite recently while those resources, as a proportion of gross domestic product going to wages, have increased. The fact is that profits are down and wages and salaries are up as a proportion of total resources because economic activity overall is down. If the Government is to proceed with the determination it has indicated to make further dramatic reductions in real wages we have nothing in our midst but a thinly veiled reversion to the Premiers * Plan of the 1 930s.
What happens in a situation like the present of marked economic recession is that fixed costs and costs of substantial inputs like labour increase as a proportion of the total value of income earned by a business. That happens very simply because the level of output is reduced but the capital equipment items, measured as fixed costs, brook larger as a proportion of the income earned from a lower level of output. This is also true of the burden of wages as a proportion of the total costs which a business has to bear. It happens at a time like this that business often carries additional labour force members rather than retrench them in the hope that the promises of the Government of a recovery about to occur will be fulfilled. It is inevitable, from the economic statistics which are available, that business is on the verge of shedding further labour. Its expectations are about to be destroyed once again. The point is borne out by the fact that government statistics show capacity utilisation for manufacturing industry is down to about 77 per cent.
If we take production output statistics, we observe that output for major consumer durables in the last couple of years has gone down consistently and is now down by between 30 per cent and 50 per cent. As production output levels tend to lead retail sales activity by about a quarter, the evidence is that we are far from having reached the worst of the recession. There is a deeper level of the recession yet to come. There is more unemployment, as a proportion of the total work force, yet to be endured. What I am putting to the House and to the Government is that its policies, designed to reduce further real spending power, very simply will mean less consumer demand and accordingly a lower requirement for economic activity and people employed in the work force. In other words, the recession- the downward trend of the economy- is accentuated.
The Government is suggesting that wages alone caused this problem. In the February issue of Syntec it is observed:
We see now why the 1976 devaluation did not lift inflation. Hundreds of small-to-medium companies absorbed the devaluation’s cost in squeezed profit margins.
So it is quite clear from the report of Syntec that a substantial factor reducing the level of profits in business was Government policy. Yet it is a determination of the Government- in my view it is wrongly supported by Syntec- that the answer is to turn upon the innocent wage and salary earners in the community and to seek to reduce dramatically the level of real wages in the community. That can lead only to further economic dislocation. That can take us only further along the road of economic disaster. Very simply, it will mean less money spent in real terms, fewer goods bought, more unemployment and a deeper level of the recession.
There is another aspect of the Government’s policies which must be considered in conjunction with wages policy and which indicates the unacceptability and the lack of coherence in what it is doing. It is the imposition of government costs which in so many ways are nothing more than thinly veiled taxes imposed on consumers. They accordingly reduce the capacity of people to buy goods and services. In consequence they reduce the level of activity in the economy- they worsen the recession. It is quite obvious that the Government’s unwise tactic of introducing substantial charges for health insurance has had this clear effect: The effect of health insurance charges introduced in 1976 was to add 3.2 per cent to the consumer price index. That immediately reduced the spending power of people by the amount of the charges for health insurance and subsequently, because of the claim before the Arbitration Commission, resulted in a further partial reduction in the real spending power of people on the basis of the Government’s assertion before the. Commission that those sorts of charges should be offset; that is, there should not be an equivalent increase in the indexation factor now feeding through to wages to offset the increased cost of living, that increased cost of living being a direct result of Government policy.
There is more of this to come. There are further increases in health insurance charges. Hospital charges also are to be increased. No doubt consistent with the Government’s policy on this matter it will argue before the Arbitration
Commission that when the indexation factor is applied there should be an offset built into it to preclude allowances being fed into the indexation adjustment for these increased costs. What this simply means is that the Government is forcing wage and salary earners in the community to bear the cost of its own decisions. Because these costs not only increase inflation but also lead to the Government making before the Arbitration Commission the claims I mentioned, there is a two-way squeeze on the real living standards of wage and salary earners in the community. What is particularly unacceptable is that the middle to modest income earners are the people who overall are most disadvantaged by the regressive effects of these charges. Accordingly, they are the people who are most penalised as a result of the Government’s policies.
I refer also to petrol pricing. This has represented a windfall gain to the oil companies amounting to $150m. But again, the wage and salary earners have been expected to bear the burden. Again, the Government has argued before the Arbitration Commission that there should be no equivalent adjustment in the indexation factor to offset these cost increases. These cost increases have contributed 0.3 per cent directly to the consumer price index. They will contribute more through multiplier effects. On top of this there are the effects of devaluation which have been calculated to contribute about one per cent increase in the consumer price index. So we see from these three areas alone that there has been an increase of about 4.S per cent in the last 12 months in the consumer price index, about half of the total increase contributed directly by the policies of the Government. It has been the determined purpose of the Government in appropriate forums- here in the Parliament, in public forums including the Arbitration Commission- to argue that there should be no adjustment to offset this reduction in people’s living standards as a result of these Government policies.
The third area I want to talk about concerns the Government’s tax adjustments. As recently as the weekend, as I mentioned a few seconds ago, the Prime Minister asserted that these tax adjustments would result in an increase in economic activity in the community and that consumer demand would pick up. During the Federal election campaign the Government commenced by suggesting that the average income earner would be some $6 a week better off because of this policy decision. In the light of truth imposed on the Government by public criticism, it was forced to acknowledge that the increase in disposable income at best would be no more than $3 a week. The total dishonesty of the Government’s behaviour then was underlined startlingly by the fact that it was currently having a case presented for it before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the then national wage case which argued that there should be no increase in wages to offset inflationary movements in the preceding quarter.
In fact, the Government went further than that. It argued quite forcibly that there should be a most substantial reduction in the real income of wage and salary earners in the community as part of this generally unwise, excessive tactic that it has been putting forward about the need to depress the spending power of the people; in other words, the need to depress the economy further as part of its tactic to bring the economy back into control. That is a completely unwise and ill informed approach. The fact is that in the most recent case, as a result of the Government’s plea- it was not successful, of course, because again it sought no increase in wages- it no doubt was somewhat influential in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s final decision. The result was partial wage indexation again at the lowest rate at which it had been applied since these hearings had been instituted.
The result was cuts in the tax benefits amounting to some 30 per cent or $120m for the rest of this year. So it is not true to suggest that people will have the full benefit in monetary terms of these tax concessions as suggested by the Prime Minister. In fact, they will receive less income as a result of the clearly pressed case by the Government before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Of course, the Prime Minister will retain his increase of $70 a week in disposable income. But if we take the case of an average income earner we find that after paying taxation, after paying private health insurance charges and so on, he will be only about $1 a week better off as a result of these changes. If he is $1 a week better off, that represents only about half a per cent increase in disposable income to cover a quarter when the inflation rate increased by over 2 per cent.
What I am really putting is that, in fact, the Government’s policies have been markedly contractionary on the wages front since it has been in office and that its behaviour in terms of wages, in terms of government charges and in terms of its approach to these tax adjustments makes it quite clear that whatever it proposes to give with one hand it will at least take back as much and in most cases a lot more with the other hand in the form of various charges and reductions in real wages. In 1975-76 and 1976-77 average wages increased by 12.5 per cent. The tax per adult person in the community increased by 14.3 per cent. The last eight decisions of the Arbitration Commission increased average weekly earnings by $30 to offset rises in the cost of living. The increase based on the increased cost of living should have been $42 a week. In fact, if the Government’s proposals had been accepted the increase would have been only $4 a week.
What the Government is doing is unfair and unjust. It is excessive in its clamp down on the wages front. Its action is contrary to the purposes it espouses in the community, namely the desire to get the economy moving again. What we are asserting is that the Government lacks a coherent and nationally accepted wages policy. In the event of a recovery starting to develop the absence of any appropriate adjustment mechanisms to restore relativities will mean that the economy will be confronted by grave difficulties.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This is a very serious topic and I am glad to see that the Opposition is approaching it in such a serious way. Even though the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Haydon) may have represented the dragging out from some old closet many of the old catch-cries we heard during the election campaign, I think it demonstrated that there is a recognisable difference between the policies of the coalition parties and the Labor Party on which the people of Australia made a choice only last December. The decision that they made related to whether they wanted the policies which are now being espoused by the Leader of the Opposition or those being maintained by the present Government. It is evident from recent economic history in Australia that these different approaches have brought different results. Under Labor’s policies there is no doubt that there was a trend to higher real wages. The figures demonstrate quite clearly that there was an increase of about 10 per cent in real wages during the period of the Labor Government. But those higher real wages went to fewer and fewer people.
In only two years of Labor Government the unemployment rate trebled. The number of people actually employed, the number of people actually at work, in only one year under Labor declined so that fewer people received those higher wages. That is history, and I imagine that it is undisputed history. It demonstrates simply that that was a conscious economic policy from the gentlemen opposite and apparently it is being maintained here today. The difference between that policy and the Government’s policy is that the Government is determined to provide wages to more and more people. If the cost of getting wages to more people means lower real wages to some people, that is in effect a far greater degree of wage justice than ever took place under the Labor Government. The facts are- these are facts that the Labor Party endeavours to pretend do not exist- that more people in Australia are employed today than there ever were under the Labor Government. The statistics which are available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics clearly demonstrate that. The statistics of employed persons show, for example, that in August last year 5,867,000 people were at work in Australia compared with only 5,688,000 people in the same month under the Labor Government, an increase of 1 80,000 people.
I want to stress that more people are employed in Australia now than under Labor. If one wants to go back in history one can see, however, that the number of people at work actually declined under Labor when it pursued the policies which it is now endeavouring to force upon the people, at least through this Parliament. The facts demonstrate clearly that the policies the Labor Party is pursuing now are policies which did not work before. Even more disturbing than the selective use of statistics by the Leader of the Opposition to demonstrate that real wages had declined was the simple basic economic dishonesty involved in pretending that wages are the only component of consumer spending.
That is arrant and straightforward nonsense. It is incompetent nonsense from a man who holds himself out to be a responsible economic commentator. It distresses me that the Leader of the Opposition has been able to maintain this facade of responsibility when in fact the economic claptrap he uses is so facile and nonsensical that I imagine a first year student in economics would be aware of the fact that wages are only one component of household disposable income and that in effect we can have the slight reduction in real wages that we have had (as a matter of determined economic policy) while at the same time having an increase in household disposable income, that is, the money that people actually have to spend, that they are capable of spending. I point out to the Opposition that in the Budget Speech that was clearly spelt out, if only honourable members opposite would turn their attention to it and understand it. On page 37 of the Budget Papers it is stated:
Projected growth in average weekly earnings and prices would lead to some decline in real average earnings per employed person over the course of 1 977-78.
In other words, what we are debating here today is what the Government said clearly would happen when the Budget was introduced in August 1977. It was on that Budget that the people of Australia judged us. The Budget Papers went on to state:
Employment growth of the anticipated magnitude would, however, be sufficient to mean no decline in real aggregate earnings over the period. Given the actual and projected changes in personal taxes- the indexation reduction of 1 July 1977 and the new scales of 1 February 1978- cash benefits and other income components, aggregate real household disposable income would in these circumstances show a noticeable rise over the course of the year.
If the Opposition needs a simple lesson in economics perhaps it could look to the various items on which the Government has legislated to provide for increased real income. Not even the Opposition can duck the reality of the tax cuts. They are a magnificent way of increasing the capacity of people to spend without adding to the cost burden of the Australian economy. That is something that the Opposition simply cannot conceive. It does not understand that the only coherent positive way in which we can get Australia out of this mess- the mess resulting from three years of hopeless spending under Labor- is the way we are doing it now, that is, reducing inflation and reducing costs. Since this Government came to power it has cut the inflation rate in half. That is the first basic essential way of getting Australia out of the spending-induced mess of 1973, 1974 and 1975.
However, we agree with one point in the Leader of the Opposition’s speech. We agree that it is essential to have a strong level of consumer spending. So here we have the Government and the Opposition agreeing with the basic point that the Leader of the Opposition tried to make. The point that we disagree about dramatically is the way in which we should go about doing it. The Leader of the Opposition wants increased spending power for people as a result of higher wages, which bring higher costs, which price people out of jobs, which make imports much more attractive than Australian goods and which rob us of our export markets. That is the pattern of what happened under the Labor Government and it is what the Leader of the Opposition now says should take place. On the contrary, we say that we must surely have a strong level of consumer demand, as Labor says, but we want it without increasing the cost to the nation, without pricing people out of their jobs and, as a former Federal Labor Treasurer once said, without meaning that ‘one man’s tax rise is another man’s job’. The statistics of recent economic history demonstrate so clearly that that is exactly what happened under Labor.
In brief, instead of bringing higher real wages to fewer people, we are endeavouring to bring smaller real wages to more people but at the same time to increase the total aggregate of household disposable income in Australia. I have since spoken to the Treasurer’s office to see whether the expectation in the Treasury document, which I just read of higher domestic household disposable income will in fact be realised, whether the results are as expected. The answer I got today is that it is definitely correct; those projections are ‘spot-on’. I think honourable members will find the Treasury managed to be pretty ‘spot-on’ last year. So there is higher disposable income for the average Australian. That is definitely part of Government policy.
I think the facts are underscored by what has happened in retail sales since the tax cut took effect on 1 February. It is fascinating that in his lengthy quotations of many figures and his decimal points, which were probably the only sound points he made, the Leader of the Opposition failed to mention what had actually happened as a result of the tax cuts of 1 February, to what extent our policies are working not only in reducing inflation but also in increasing the capacity of Australians to buy products. This morning’s Sydney Morning Herald had an article on this subject. In it it quotes Mr R. M. Lawrence, the Executive Director of the Retail Traders’ Association of New South Wales, who said that a much brighter scene had appeared in the past few weeks following the tax cuts which applied from the first pay period in February. The article states:
People have been realising particularly in the past two weeks that they have more take-home pay and that inflation is being brought under control.
The two essential features of Government policy are confirmed here by the experience of retail traders, surely the very area where one would see a failure of Government policy if in fact there had been a failure. If there had been a failure we surely would have heard of it from the Leader of the Opposition. But instead of that the Executive Director of the Retail Traders’ Association pointed out that because inflation is under control and take home pay has gone up people are prepared to get out and to spend. That is the way the economy will emerge from the terrible problems that were generated by the massive inflation of the Labor years. Mr Lawrence continued:
In January there had been a lot of concern about unemployment and this had an influence on consumer confidence. It certainly was a disappointing month.
The author of the article, Mr Pierce, stated:
The pick-up reported by retailers is in line with economic forecasts that an increase in consumption spending should follow the tax cuts.
These tax cuts were outlined in the August Budget and were a significant part of the Government’s election campaign. They were understood by the voters of Australia who recognised that they provided a much better way of restoring economic confidence and therefore restoring the level of employment in Australia than anything that the Labor Party was suggesting. The article continues:
On the basis of data from the Household Expenditure Survey … the ANZ Bank estimated that there would be an increase in spending equal to about two-thirds of the amount of the tax cuts.
Using this ratio the bank forecast that there would be an increase of around $270m in consumer spending for the rest of 1977-78.
So the evidence clearly shows that the Government’s policies are the right policies and that the Opposition’s attacks on them are nonsense, and are shown to be nonsense in view of its failure over its three years. Also, the facts are now clearly showing that our policies are working well, and that there is no justification for an Opposition, which showed itself to be so incompetent in government, to claim that there is a lack of a cohesive wages policy and that this is having a serious effect on Australia. The facts are that provided this Government’s policies continue, we are no longer in a situation where one man’s pay rise will be another man’s job. At last, under this Government, we will get an increase in employment instead of the decline we had when the Opposition’s policies unfortunately held sway in this nation.
-Last week’s decision in the national wage case was a disaster. It reduced the real value of the national average wage by $2.12 a week. It will increase unemployment, not reduce unemployment as the Government claims. The truth is that this Government has no wages policy at all, except to attack workers’ wage adjustments as being responsible for inflation and unemployment. In 1975 the present Government pretended to have a wage policy. It promised to support full wage indexation. Since then it has reneged on that pledge on every possible occasion. I quote from a document entitled ‘Employment and Industrial Relations Policy’ which was released on 29 July 1975 by the Liberal and National Country Parties. It stated:
In wage adjustments, two principles should be observedthe raising of the minimum wage as well as appropriate rewards for skill, effort and responsibility.
I shall later show how the Government has treated the skilled tradesman in the metal trades industry over the last two years. The policy document then waffled on:
The Liberal and National Country Parties are determined that all Australians will enjoy the highest living standards the nation can afford.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) acted with equal duplicity in his policy speech on 27 November 1975. He said:
The Government will support the - presentwage indexation agreement -
The current indexation agreement at that date referred to full wage indexation. Since then the Government’s record has been one of duplicity indeed, as I have noted. Some five weeks later in January 1976, after having made these promises, the Government opposed full wage indexation in the case for the December 1975 quarter. It argued for half of the 6.4 per cent increase to be awarded. It was not successful. Since then it has opposed full indexation on six occasions and the result has been seven out of eight plateau or partial wage indexation decisions. Their actions have cost the average wage earner in Australia in excess of $ 13 per week.
The role of the media during this exercise over the last 2Vi years has been interesting. For instance, I cite one national newspaper, the Australian, which seems to be leading the charge for reduced real wages in the media and for less frequent hearings of national wage cases. After the first indexation case the Australian stated on
II May 1975:
For the first time in a year someone has grasped the nettle. Yesterday’s decision by the Full Bench must rank as one of its finest decisions.
The decision of 10 May 1975 granted full wage indexation. Supporters of wage indexation in 1975 saw it as being a weapon against unemployment and inflation. But since then the Government has opposed wage indexation on every occasion and has sought to frustrate the trade union and Australian Council of Trade Union cases, culminating in the recent demands that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should discount the effects of the personal tax cuts, which the Prime Minister claims will be worth $406m to 1 July this year, should discount the consumer price index for the increased petrol prices and should discount it for the effects of devaluation. The Prime Minister argued yesterday that these tax cuts were worth some $406m to 1 July. He said that they would stimulate the economy in a way similar to what was being called for by Mr Witterveen of the International Monetary Fund, that is, calling for industrial countries to adopt more expansionary economic policies. But how could these tax cuts be stimulatory? The average weekly wage at the end of December 1977 was $205.50. The tax cut was worth $3.25 a week to a person on that wage. The net loss, to a person earning the national average wage as a result of the national wage case decision last week, was $2.15 a week. So 65 per cent of the so called consumer stimulus in those tax cuts was taken away as a result of the wage decision.
The Government puts the simplistic and spurious argument that all increases are highly inflationary and that this in turn results in further unemployment. If this equation were true- and I remind the House that the real national average wage has been reduced by more than $ 13 a week in the past two years- if the Government’s argument were true, the level of unemployment should have fallen. But the level of unemployment has not fallen. It has increased by at least 163,000 in the last two years. The honourable member for Macarthur commented that the size of the work force has increased in the last two years. I can assure him that, despite the increase in the potential work force resulting from additional persons attempting to join the work force or seeking employment for the first time, the size of the work force is down by some 36,000. 1 know that factors other than wage cuts affect the economic scene. One is the degree to which this Government has been cutting government expenditure. Obviously that has been a contributing factor to the leap of 163,000 in the level of unemployment. I certainly argue that the reductions in real wages are also a major factor to be considered.
Let me illustrate how successful the Government has been in reducing the real level of wages. In December 1975 the national average weekly wage stood at $166.90. In December 1 977 it was $205.50, an increase of 23. 1 per cent. In the same period- the eight quarters from December 1975 to September 1977- the consumer price index rose by 26.8 per cent. If full indexation had been applied in that period the national average weekly wage in December 1 977 would have been $2 1 7, that is, $ 1 1 .50 more than its present level. If one takes into account last week’s decision, the national average weekly wage would have been $13.65 higher. Yesterday Mr Ron Fry, the national director of the Metal Trades Association, argued that the shortage of skilled tradesmen could seriously hamper economic recovery, particularly in the metal trades area which is the biggest sector of industry in the country. One little wonders at this situation when one considers the falling value of wages in the metal trades. Let us examine this position. In January 1976 the award weekly wage in the metal trades industry was $1 14.60 with an over award payment of $32, making a total weekly wage of $146.60. Today the over award payment has not risen- it is still at $32- and the total weekly wage on average is $178.30. If full indexation had been applied to award wages in the metal trades industry the average weekly average wage would now be $152.43 instead of $146.30. If full indexation had been applied to all total metal trades industry wages the average total wage would now be $195 instead of $178. The Government has robbed Australia’s skilled metal workers of over $ 17 a week. It is disgraceful that this same Government which screws workers’ wages has smugly handed out sinecures for favours rendered and hands out $27 a week in tax cuts to workers on $500 a week.
Many Australian workers in the steel industry and in the rural sector earn wages of about $ 145 a week. They pay $18 a week in taxation and Medibank commitments. That leaves them with a pitiful disposable income of $127 a week. Many skilled tradesmen earning that $178 a week have dependent wives and children and pay $25 a week in tax, $9.60 for Medibank private and $1.34 for Medibank Extras B. They are lucky to have a disposable income of $142 a week out of which they must pay rent or, perhaps a housing loan of up to $40 or $50 a week, and meet the cost of food, education, clothing, entertainment and all the rest. No wonder the building industry is in a slump; no wonder the motor car industry also is in a slump and suffering record losses. The consumer led recovery is a joke. We need a national wages policy, not stubborn flatfooted opposition to wage indexation which is aimed at compensating for price increases that have already occurred. Such a policy should be based on full automatic quarterly indexation of the consumer price index to all wages up to the national average wage for the preceding quarter. After all, we do not have to give immediate effect to full indexation on very high incomes. Later it should not be too hard to make any periodical adjustments which may be appropriate.
I am concerned not about the so-called fat cats. I am concerned about the 82 per cent of workers who are on award wages of less than the national average wage. This Government seems to carry an abiding hatred of these workers- the backbone of our society- and blames their meagre wage adjustments as a prime cause of unemployment. Now the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) is saying -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The consequence of the rapid increase in real wages in 1973-74 was record inflation of 17 per cent and massive unemployment. Yet the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) comes into this place and extols the virtue of that approach which of course was so damaging to the economic fabric of this country. The Government’s wages policy objectives have been defined. I believe that they present to this nation a proper and responsible approach. They have been defined, firstly, as a means to achieve economic, industrial and social objectives and thereby the raising of living standards and the maintenance of job security. Surely job security should come first. It ill behoves the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for Cunningham to endeavour to pull the wool over the eyes of many Australians particularly those in the hard working section of the community by suggesting that the facts are otherwise. If the economic policies proposed by the present Leader of the Opposition were ever to be implemented, of course the whole spectrum of the economy of this country would again drastically change. In the current economic circumstances, the most appropriate policy is to support a centralised wage fixing system based on orderly and equitable principles. It is really startling to discover that the Opposition is suggesting a movement away from this approach.
The Government has supported wage indexation principles. However, the Government is participating in a review of the principles currently being followed through a proper inquiry into wage fixation and the basis of wage fixation. The inquiry is being, chaired by the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Surely this is a proper approach to determine any changes to and any modifications of the present system. Yet in this discussion on the matter of public importance now before the House the Opposition is really proposing a departure from this approach. The submissions made by the Government in the December quarter wages case were positive, correct and certainly were accepted to a very large extent by the Commission. The principal submission was that the current economic circumstances preclude any increase being awarded at this time. Increments to disposable income flowing from tax reductions and the creation of a climate in which a ‘no increase’ decision would be beneficial and acceptable were also strongly put and largely accepted. The facts are that no wage adjustment should be awarded on equity grounds since the union argument to maintain the value of real wages ignores the wider equity considerations of the Australian community. The honourable member for Cunningham completely ignored that aspect. He completely ignored the reference to unemployment and then used the ploy, as did the Leader of the Opposition, that the present movement in the economy reflected that the Government’s policy was not working. The honourable member for Cunningham totally ignored- or he failed to recognisethe fact that inflation has come down from 17 per cent to approximately 9 per cent. He failed to recognise that this is the basis upon which we will see a restoration of unemployment. He ignored the exact figures in relation to the unemployment situation. He ignored the fact that in 1972, when the previous Liberal-Country Party Government went out of office, unemployment was down to the low figure of 136,000, or 2.4 per cent of the work force. In December 1975, when Labor left office, there had been an astronomical increase in unemployment to 328,000, or 5.4 per cent of the work force. That was the highest level of unemployment for a quarter of a century. Unemployment had rocketed by 140 per cent in three years. I mention that because it is the real answer to the honourable member’s assertion that wage increases are desirable if we are to have an effective approach to economic restoration.
Let us look what savage wage increases did. They put us into our present circumstance of record unemployment. Now the Government is faced with lowering the number of unemployed, and the job is being well and truly done. This matter of public importance should read: ‘The Labor Government’s lack of a coherent and nationally acceptable wage policy which reduced real incomes and contributed to the recession’. That is exactly what happened. Conditions for wage restraint are the real issue of this debate. The Government has established the circumstances that make it necessary to ask for wage restraint. It has done that by the introduction of family allowance, tax indexation and the new standardised tax system which began operating on 1 February. That was just over 30 days ago. Yet the honourable member for Cunningham and the Leader of the Opposition say that it is not working. They have not even given it a few weeks in which to get under way and they try to point to lack of success, which of course shows that they are totally ignorant of the real considerations.
In other matters they have failed miserably to make out a case. They have referred to the problems in certain sections of industry in regaining demand. Of course there are difficulties. The Government has never suggested otherwise. It has always been quite clear that there would be a time lag, but the important element is what is happening in respect of arresting the drift. That is to be seen in two areas. The first is the halt in the increasing level of unemployment. The figures at the end of December showed a lower level of unemployment than that which applied when the Government came to office just 24 months earlier. The other area is the increase in consumer spending during the December period. Naturally there would be a fall back in January. That is not unusual. Perhaps it was a little greater than usual on this occasion, but let us look at the real facts. The confidence is there.
I believe that it does a disservice to this nation to attempt wilfully to say that there is lack of evidence of the success of the economic policies proposed by the Government, which were accepted by the people at the ballot box. Submissions put to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by the Government have been largely accepted. The proposals put to the Commission by the Australian Council of Trade Unions have really been totally rejected. Obviously there is a restoration of business confidence in this nation. Yet we have a quite mischievous proposition pur before the House. It must have been difficult for the Leader of the Opposition to draft the text of his matter of public importance. The words are quite contradictory. We see that half-way through it contradicts what is stated in the first part. That shows how difficult it is for the Leader of the Opposition, finding his feet very slowly and very gradually, to develop any kind of coherent economic policy. Of course, we remember his last Budget. He proposed an increase of about 22 per cent in wages for that year but he also proposed tax increases of 44 per cent. I hope that the honourable member for Cunningham will go back and tell his constituents the real truth about what his own leader proposed for this nation in the short-lived Budget that he presented in this House three years ago.
– He can tell them how concerned you are.
– My friend says that I am conservative. I remember a colleague of his, another Treasurer, the former honourable member for Melbourne Ports appealing for the lowering of wages. He said that high wages meant the taking of another man’s job. I believe that that was an honest statement made by the former honourable member for Melbourne Ports. The honourable member for Hindmarsh, who undoubtedly supported him at that time, is now trying to escape from the responsibility of making an approach which I believe was correct at that time. But for political expediency of course another policy and another course are now being proposed by the present Opposition.
This matter of public importance has highlighted once again the fact that the Opposition is totally bereft of a positive economic policy. It is totally bereft of solutions to the unemployment problem. This was disclosed in the Australian Labor Party’s election policy when it suggested a very miserable proposition for the restoration of employment in this nation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill which was introduced in the last Parliament, but lapsed on its dissolution, will amend the Evidence Act 1905 to provide for business records to be admitted as evidence of the matters contained in them in proceedings before the High Court, the Federal Court of Australia and other federal courts on a uniform basis. Under the present law, the admissibility of such records depends on the law of the State in which the court sits. Laws of evidence relating to the admissibility of business records vary from State to State, so that the law to be applied in particular proceedings in, say, the Federal Court of Australia under the Trade Practices Act depends on the State in which the proceedings are heard. A change of venue or an adjournment of proceedings from one State to another may therefore result in a change in the applicable law, and even in evidence being rejected which would have been admissible had the proceedings confined in the original State.
The Swanson Committee that reported on the Trade Practices Act therefore recommended that that Act should be amended to allow business records to be admitted in evidence, along the lines of the recommendations made on the subject by the New South Wales Law Reform Commission. Provisions for this purpose were at first included in the Trade Practices Bill introduced into the Parliament in February last year. The Government subsequently decided that it would be desirable to apply such provisions generally to proceedings in federal courts. They were then removed from that Bill. Under the present Bill the provisions for business records to be admitted as evidence will apply to all proceedings before the High Court and federal courts.
The Bill mirrors very closely provisions contained in the New South Wales Evidence Act following an amendment to that Act in 1 976 to give effect to the report of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission. In the absence of a special statutory provision, business records are not generally admissible in a legal proceeding to prove matters which are recorded in them. This exclusion results from the fact that business records, like other written material, are regarded as hearsay evidence. The rule against hearsay evidence applies to exclude evidence which is not within the actual knowledge of the witness. As a general rule, the exclusion of hearsay evidence is clearly based on a sound principle. To quote from a classic statement of that principle, ‘hearsay evidence … is not the best evidence, and is not delivered on oath. The truthfulness and accuracy of the person whose words are spoken by another witness cannot be tested by cross-examination and the light which his demeanour would throw on his testimony is lost ‘.
The admissibility of business records under the Bill is not intended to detract from the value accorded to oral evidence given on oath in court. Where evidence is given in person the worth of that evidence can be properly assessed by crossexamination and in the light of the manner and conduct of the person giving it. It could be expected that, where practicable, oral evidence will continue to be given on matters of importance and on matters which are likely to be the subject of dispute, notwithstanding that evidence of those matters could also be admitted in the form of a business record.
There are, however, occasions when evidence, which is strictly hearsay evidence, should be admissible. In certain circumstances hearsay evidence may be the best or only evidence available on a particular matter. Business records are likely to be created in circumstances which will often make them the most reliable record of the facts contained in them. They are, for example, likely to be created at the time of or soon after the occurrence of events recorded in them when there is a clear recollection of those events. Furthermore, where a record is maintained in the course of a business there is generally no incentive to misrepresent the matters contained in the record. The need to provide a means of enabling such records to be used in evidence in legal proceedings arises, in many cases, because of the difficulty in locating or identifying the person who made the relevant record. In other cases the expense or delay involved in calling witnesses to give evidence in person on a minor or noncontentious matter could be avoided by relying on a business record which contains evidence of that matter
The term ‘business records’ is intended to cover a wide range of documents. Documents created by government in the course of administration, as well as those created by business in the commercial sense, are included. The records, which will be admissible under the Bill, will include documentary records such as books, plans, paper and the like, and records obtainable by mechanical devices, such as computers. The Bill contains certain restrictions on the admissibility of business records designed to ensure that a party against whom such records are sought to be used as evidence is not unfairly prejudiced. A wide discretion is given to a court to exclude evidence, otherwise admissible under the Bill, where its admission would be unfair to a party to the proceedings. The Bill provides for the court to take account of all the circumstances from which an inference can reasonably be drawn as to the accuracy or otherwise of the statement and evidence of the credibility of the maker of the statement is admissible to the same extent as it would be if the person had been called as a witness. As well there are special safeguards regarding the use of business records in a criminal proceeding. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned.
– I move:
Customs tariff proposals Nos. 3 to 9 ( 1978).
The Customs tariff proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. The proposals formally place before Parliament, as required by law, tariff changes introduced by Gazette notices during the last recess. Proposals Nos. 3, 4 and 8 implement the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its reports on glucose and glucose syrups, certain internal combustion piston engines and parts therefor, certain spun yarns and wool textiles and other goods, transformers and inductors, further short term assistance arrangements for textiles, clothing and footwear and ceramic tableware.
Proposals No. 5 has the effect of amending the customs tariff to meet Australia ‘s obligations as a contracting party to the Customs Co-operation Council Nomenclature Convention. The amendments are drafting changes only and do not involve changes in rates of duty.
Proposals No. 6 gives effect to the Government’s decisions on recommendations made by the Temporary Assistance Authority in its Reports on luggage and fork lift trucks et cetera not being battery operated.
Proposals No. 7 maintains the fixed rate portion of the duty applying to brassieres, entered outside quota entitlements, at $2 each until 30 June 1978. Proposals No. 9 provides for the admission under by-law, of acetate yarn for use in the manufacture of woven fabrics. A comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the changes in duty rates contained in these proposals is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 February, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill now before the House is a fairly simple Bill in some ways but it raises some important issues. The Bill is an extension of legislation previously introduced by the Labor Government in 1973 when the legal basis of appropriation of funds for statutory authorities established by a territory ordinance was brought into doubt. The legal difficulty related to the fact that territory ordinances are subsidiary to legislation passed by this Parliament and if they were found to be inconsistent in any way with Acts of this Parliament they would clearly be in danger of challenge. In respect of statutory authorities established by territory ordinances this meant that the normal provisions contained in Acts of this Parliament in establishing statutory authorities such as the Australian Shipping Commission, TransAustralia Airlines, the Commonwealth Trading Bank and many others could not be included in territory ordinances establishing statutory authorities.
Such provisions concern the appropriation of moneys for the purposes of the authority, the availability of loans for the purposes of the authority and its tax status. The inclusion of details such as these in a territory ordinance runs the substantial risk that they could conflict with an Act of this Parliament. Thus, in respect of appropriations, where an Act appropriates money for the purposes of an authority created under a territory ordinance it would appear to be inconsistent with the appropriation to have a provision in an ordinance saying that the moneys are payable only to the authority in such amounts and at such times as the Minister for Finance directs. The legislation passed in 1973 made this provision for all territory authorities. Accordingly, no problem of inconsistency between territory ordinances and Acts of this Parliament could then arise.
Although the Bill now before the House repeals the 1973 legislation, it incorporates its key provisions and so the point is still covered. Since the 1973 legislation in respect of appropriations was passed similar doubts have arisen in respect of the validity of territory ordinances containing provisions in respect of loans and taxation in relation to statutory authorities. It would probably be inconsistent with an appropriation in an Act of this Parliament providing for funds to be lent to a territory authority for a territory ordinance to provide that the Minister for Finance may determine rates of interest and other terms and conditions of the loan. Thus, the Bill goes beyond the 1973 legislation by providing that for all territory authorities the Minister for Finance may determine the terms and conditions of the loan to a statutory authority of moneys appropriated for the purposes of this Parliament.
It is not so clear to the Opposition why the Bill authorises the Minister for Finance to guarantee loans from sources other than the territory authority as this would seem to be a matter that could properly be included in a territory ordinance. However, we take no objection to its inclusion in the Bill. We assume it is a matter of convenience to have them together. The Bill also extends into the more controversial area of taxation and here again the legal problem is that if taxes are imposed under Acts of this Parliament and apply to a territory authority it would be inconsistent with the tax Acts for a territory ordinance to provide that they do not apply to a territory authority. Such a provision can be made only by Act of this Parliament and the Bill now before the House accordingly exempts some territory authorities from both Commonwealth and State taxes but renders others liable to Commonwealth income tax and sales tax. In doing so the Bill specifically provides that the Canberra Commercial Development Authority is liable for income tax and sales tax.
This Authority was established under a Capital Territory ordinance in 1974 to construct a substantial shopping centre in Belconnen in the Australian Capital Territory. Two previous such shopping centres established in the Territory, at Civic and Woden, had been developed by private enterprise. It was the decision of the McMahon Government to establish a statutory authority to develop and manage the centre for Belconnen. The decision to make this and other authorities in the Australian Capital Territory liable for taxation has provoked considerable controversy in the Australian Capital Territory, particularly in the Legislative Assembly which has not been consulted at all about this measure.
Before considering this aspect further, however, I wish to make some general points about the taxing of statutory authorities. Although there seems to be no hard and fast rule, in general it appears that statutory authorities established by this Parliament are subject to income tax and sales tax when they are engaged in commercial operations in competition with private enterprise. Thus such authorities as TAA, the Australian National Line and the Commonwealth Trading Bank are all subject to tax. We support the fact that they are so liable. It is, in our view, thoroughly appropriate to tax such bodies so that a substantial part of the profits that flow from their commercial operations will flow into consolidated revenue and be available for governments to allocate in accordance with their priorities. In this way a competitive public enterprise can provide substantial benefits to the community, quite apart from its business role.
There are also important resource allocation reasons for supporting their taxability. If scarce government funds are to be allocated to an essentially commercial enterprise rather than to be used to meet some of the other demands on governments which may be of higher priority, then it is important that these funds be utilised efficiently. Levying tax on such authorities is a way of ensuring that they operate in a fully commercial manner, as they are obliged to earn a higher rate of profits in order to show a given rate of return after tax than they would need to earn to show the same rate of return if tax did not apply. However, in the case now before us, some special factors apply which seem to us to justify a postponement of the decision to render various territory authorities taxable.
The major reason for postponement is that, with the impending move towards selfgovernment in the Australian Capital Territory, the whole question of the responsibilities that will be transferred to the Territory and the financial arrangements by which the Territory will meet those responsibilities is very much up in the air. Given that the new federalism as practised by this Government in respect of the States seems to be a process of forcing them back much more on their own resources and having more responsibilities returned to them by the Federal Government, there is accordingly substantial concern in the Territory about the terms on which the Territory will become self-governing. In this atmosphere of genuine and realistic concern, there undoubtedly is alarm in the Territory that, by this Bill, the Federal Government will deprive a self-governing Australian Capital Territory of a potential substantial source of revenue by providing for the Canberra Commercial Development Authority in particular to become liable to both income tax and sales tax.
Surely such a decision did not have to be made at this stage. There is no prospect of the Authority paying any taxes for some years hence as it is yet to make money and will have considerable development expenditure to write off against revenue once it becomes profitable. This is clearly a matter that could have been and should have been left for consideration in the context of the arrangements for self-government of the Territory. Particularly is this so when it is remembered that the Income Tax Act already allows local government bodies undertaking such commercial operations to be free of tax. One such case is at Campbelltown on the outskirts of Sydney where the local council has developed a shopping centre. Under section 23d of the Income Tax Act and section 78 of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classification) Act, it is exempt from all such tax. This has clear relevance to the Canberra Commercial Development Authority because after self-government the Territory will be more or less in between a State and a local government. Certainly it will be carrying out all of the functions that local government carries out elsewhere. If local governments in the States are exempt from tax on such enterprises, then there is clearly at least an arguable case for the same exemption to apply in the case of the Australian Capital Territory.
It could be claimed, of course, that the Canberra Commercial Development Authority was in a privileged position because it received a no interest loan from the Australian Government to commence operations. That did not apply to the Campbelltown enterprise. On the other hand, under section 19 of the ordinance establishing the Canberra Commercial Development Authority, it is provided that the Authority shall repay the capital in a manner stipulated by the Minister in consultation with the Treasurer and that it shall pay to the Australian Government such proportion of the profits as the Minister, in consultation with the Treasurer, determines. That provision, of course, does not apply to the Glenquarie enterprise in Campbelltown. With the whole matter of the arrangements for selfgovernment now to be decided, surely it would have been better to have discussed this matter as part of the arrangements rather than simply to have imposed it on the Territory without any discussion at all. The concern felt by the Legislative Assembly in Canberra was expressed in a unanimous resolution concerning this legislation which was passed by the Legislative Assembly last night. That resolution states:
As I mentioned previously, that resolution was passed unanimously. It is clear from this resolution that the Legislative Assembly, representing various political viewpoints, is very concerned about what this Government is doing in this legislation. In our view, and for the reasons I have expressed, it has substantial reasons for that concern. I therefore move:
That all words after ‘that’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not denying the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that provisions relating to taxation of statutory authorities in the Territories should be withheld pending discussions on the financial arrangements for the Territories as they move towards self government ‘.
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
-In speaking to the Territory Authorities (Financial Provisions) Bill 1978, we are aware that the original Act was passed in 1 973 and made provision for the Darwin Community College which was established under a Northern Territory ordinance. Certain provisions could not be correctly included in the Territory ordinance. The 1973 Bill was brought into the House and passed in order to cover the subject matter of this present Bill. Two other Acts were passed at the same time to cover the principal and staff of the Darwin Community College. They related to aircraft accidents and the superannuation liability of the then Australian Government.
The three Acts were designed originally to cover the Darwin Community College. At that time provision was made in relation to any other authorities which might have been incorporated in the future for a public purpose by a law of a Territory and prescribed by regulation under the Act. The 1973 Act referred solely to the Darwin Community College, but since then other authorities have come into being, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and as was envisaged by the former Labor Treasurer, Mr Frank Crean. Those authorities are, of course, the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority, the Capital Territory Health Commission and the Legal Aid Commission, as well as the Canberra Commercial Development Authority, which the honourable member for Gellibrand spent quite some time discussing, the Canberra Showground Trust and the Poker Machine Licensing Board of the Capital Territory.
This Bill repeals the 1973 Act. It sets out to include the substantive provisions in the original Act. The other two Bills which were passed cognately on 9 October 1973 will, I take it, stand because their provisions are very relevant to the people in the Northern Territory and to the staff at the Darwin Community College in relation to which the original legislation was passed. As I say, we are discussing the replacement of the 1973 Act which came into being as a result of the establishment of that College in 1 974.
The Bill, in Part II of the Schedule, makes provision for liability to taxation of certain authorities. Those authorities are the last three which I mentioned and which are set out in the Schedule. One of them, of course, is the Canberra Commercial Development Authority. I am aware that the only Northern Territory authority currently affected by this Bill is the Darwin Community College. But, of course, there is no telling whether others will be established, as we have seen occur since the original legislation was passed. The Darwin Community College is still the responsibility of the Commonwealth Department of Education, but it is to be passed over to the Northern Territory in July 1979. As is stated in clause 8 ( 1 ) of the Bill, it will remain exempt from taxation together with the other authorities mentioned in Part I of the Schedule. The Bill provides for the Treasurer to authorise the lending of money to prescribed Territory authorities and to guarantee loans entered into by those authorities.
With the Northern Territory being so close to having self-government, the provisions of clause 7 of the Bill are very relevant at this time. The Northern Territory Majority Leader and his Deputy have recently been engaged in very serious and far reaching financial talks with Commonwealth Ministers, including the Treasurer (Mr Howard). The thrust of this legislation is being entirely misrepresented at the moment to the people of the Northern Territory by the Labor Opposition. It is important to refer to that part of the second reading speech delivered by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) which states: . . . there will be appropriate consultation before any authority is prescribed under this Act or before any amendment to the Schedule is proposed to the Parliament.
They are fine sentiments. We have heard them expressed before. I hope that that will be the case in this instance. In many other spheres such authorities have been thrust into the background, despite the outstanding recommendation of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory following its inquiry into the constitutional development of the Northern Territory. In view of the Minister’s remarks in his second reading speech, I shall read to the House a brief extract from the Committee ‘s report: … the Committee stresses the need for close consultation between the Australian and Territory Executives so that local knowledge and expertise can be utilised.
The Committee referred also to: … the need for continuing and close consultation and co-ordination of effort between the National and the Territory Executives on a wide range of matters.
It concluded by formally recording and stressing the view: . . . that without close and responsible co-operation between the National and Territory Executives, this brave experiment -
That is, in relation to constitutional development in the Northern Territory: . . . in self-government in the Northern Territory - which is very close at this time: . . . is doomed before it even takes the vow.
I mentioned that because in this Bill, as in many other Bills which have reference to the TerritoriesI am talking specifically about the Northern Territory- there is an underlying requirement, which is essential for the development of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, for the Commonwealth Government to consider the needs of and to consult and to co-operate with the people in those Territories. We heard the honourable member for Gellibrand say that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly had not been consulted. That is the case time and again in the Northern Territory.
So, in rejecting the amendment and supporting the Bill, I stress the point that continued and strong consultation and co-operation should take place between the governments of the Territories and the Commonwealth. I am afraid to say that I think the amendment is somewhat selfishly based on the Australian Capital Territory. I imagine- I understand this happening- that the people who live in the Australian Capital Territory think of themselves. The people who live in the Northern Territory think of themselves. Because I believe that the amendment is specifically based on the requirements of the Australian Capital Territory, I reject it.
-I take up the last point the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) made. He alleged that the amendment is based on the Australian Capital Territory. That claim is erroneous. What it does is to point up the problems being created by the decisions being taken in the way in which they have been taken or will be taken by the Government in passing this legislation and not giving effect to the amendment. The decisions which are given effect in this legislation prejudice the future if the principle of consultation which the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) outlined is not carried out. I claim it is not being carried out in this instance.
I shall refer to the history of the legislation to state the basis of what needs to be done in the future and the justification for and the value of our amendment. The Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory in its December 1974 report spelt out clearly and unequivocally the confusion and the problems involving the financial arrangements in the Australian Capital Territory, as well as events that could occur in the period leading up to self-government. It did so in order that the people of the Australian Capital Territory would not enter into selfgovernment sight unseen. It spelt out the absolute necessity for consultation to take place. We submit that there is every justification to set aside this matter which has been going on for some considerable time. The Government seems to be acting with indecent haste in trying to pass such legislation without its being part of the package deal, if that is the correct terminology, to be taken up by the people in the Australian Capital Territory at the time when self-government becomes a reality. The report of the Joint Committee speaks for itself. I think there is sufficient evidence on pages 56 and 57 in section 190 of page 50- section 190 is headed ‘Criticisms of These Accounts’- to show that in that report the issues to which I have made reference are facts of life.
As I would like to give an opportunity to my colleague, the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) to contribute to this debate I move on
– The document refers to the States and the Australian Capital Territory and sets out under various headings such things as taxation, financing items and income from enterprises. It lays out the clear picture of the Australian Capital Territory vis-a-vis the States. The gap to which reference has been made is the shortfall, as I have indicated, between expenditure and the amount of revenue collected by the Australian Capital Territory and the various States. The Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly has set up a select committee on self-government. It has gone into this matter and conducted a typical Grants Commission type exercise. It argues that the figures contained in the original document of the Minister were wrong. It says that the per capita gap for the Australian Capital Territory was $696, for New South Wales $420 and for Tasmania $704. An erroneous picture was painted at the time because to the next area that ought to be raised. I refer to the Staley proposals- that is, proposals of the former Minister for the Capital Territory now the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. They are outlined in Hansard of 15 September 1977. He referred to the gap between local expenditure and revenues collected in the States and showed the differences and the deficiencies that existed in Tasmania and other areas. The Minister tabled a paper entitled ‘Proposals for the Constitutional Development of the Australian Capital Territory’. The paper was not printed. The assessments in that paper clearly establish once again the obligation of this Government to defer this matter for further consideration. As I will show in a few moments, that paper was clearly wrong and prejudicial to the people of the Australian Capital Territory. I seek leave to have a document incorporated in Hansard. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), who is at the table, has given permission for it to be incorporated.
The document read as follows- if the conclusions based on those figures are correct they highlight the fact that the information which the Minister gave was wrong.
– How could a Minister make a mistake like that?
– If the honourable member relates my remarks to the Minister and the type of individual he is it is quite easy to realise how he could make the mistake. Either that is the case or the Minister has been misled by public servants who have undertaken an exercise wrongly. The Government will hold the people of the Australian Capital Territory to ransom. It is nonsense to say that the Australian Capital Territory will move to self-government in such a way that everybody will be confident of what will be done and will have been able to assess the situation. The Government is trying to get them to buy a pig in a poke. The Government is also adding insult to injury by adding the effects of this legislation to the commitment of the people in the
Territory without properly examining its ramifications.
As I pointed out, the gap between the total expenditure in the States and the total local-type reserves collected in those places is a matter of conjecture. I comment on only one section of the argument. I think it has been probably spelt out clearly and unequivocally in documentation that has been presented time and time again that Canberra is the only Australian city- it is one of the few cities in the world- which is not founded for some reason of natural commercial advantage. The community is small and the Territory has limited natural resources for future commercial exploitation. The planning philosophy emphasises dispersed residential areas, large amounts of open space and extensive land use. The high standard of operation and maintenance is influenced by the National Capital image and determined by decisions of the Commonwealth Government, not by the ratepayers, and is influenced by the tourist showcase need. The principal industry- the Commonwealth Government and the Public Service- is not taxable or ratable. The Commonwealth does not pay rates on any of the land it occupies or reserves. It does not pay such taxes as payroll tax, stamp duty or motor registration. The Commonwealth Government does not pay rates in other parts of Australia. The Constitution bars the imposition of taxes on the Commonwealth by the Australian States.
A whole range of problems has to be genuinely discussed between the Minister responsible and the representatives of the people of the Territory. Therefore the amendment is of great value in allowing these things to be taken into account. My colleague, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), pointed up to the fact that an anomaly exists between local government authorities and a complex in Campbelltown. Comparisons can be drawn. Why the indecent haste? Why does the Government have to rush in at this time? Why is it not prepared to set aside time for consideration of the matter?
The other point I raise relates to financial arrangements. The previous Minister for the Capital Territory said that consultation would take place. Proper and adequate consultation has not occurred. That being the case the picture is not as rosy as that painted by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) who suggested that it was only a matter of a question being asked by the people of Canberra and answered by the Government. I assure him it is not. The schedule refers to the Australian Capital Territory but we certainly do not know where that will finish. What will be the next issue involved? Will it relate to other areas of concern for the people in the Northern Territory? Will it simply be once again this Government displaying its scant respect for the people of this Territory and other local areas by running roughshod over them. There is no necessity for haste. The issue has been outstanding for some time. The relevant ordinance has certain implications in it. It probably has not been tested to its fullest extent.
The run up to self-government is farcical. I understand that a telephonic vote was taken and there was an overwhelming indication that people did not want self-government. Why would they want self-government? Why would they vote for self-government when they would have self-government sight unseen if this Bill is any example. It seems to me that all the work of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and the consistent raising of matters by members from the Legislative Assembly have been wasted. The Minister for Health, who is sitting at the table, and some of his colleagues were part of a unanimous decision calling on the Government to set this matter aside, not to rush in with indecent haste, to consult with them and to show that this could be one of the things within the whole financial arrangement that would lead to self-government in the Territory.
I think we have established a case that cannot be argued against. Last evening the Legislative Assembly unanimously voted for the principle that is in the amendment. It seems to me that the previous Minister for the Capital Territory either purposely, or alternatively because of advice, misled the House on the correct position of per capita grants. The present investigations of this select committee of the Legislative Assembly have indicated also that if the Australian Capital Territory gained self-government it would not be in worse position than Tasmania and that it would almost maintain the status quo, as it were, in the application of rates and the like. In justice and equity, this is another argument which supports the Opposition’s stand that the amendment ought to be carried.
I state finally that I think the amendment does not present an outrageous suggestion to the Government. But it is obvious that the amendment will be treated with scant respect- the same scant respect with which this Government treats the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the people of other local authorities when it is considering their destiny and future. If selfgovernment means anything the Government must come clean in respect to this matter. It must tell the people of the Australian Capital Territory what is before them. They must know the burden and what they will have to pay. What is the price they will pay for self-government? We are not objecting so much to the legislation itself in the overall sense. What we are saying is that this matter will affect the future financial position of the Australian Capital Territory. It ought to be considered in the light of the financial arrangements to be entered into finally with the people of the Territory so that they can lead up to selfgovernment and truly have it as a right, not to confront the impost of the burden that this Government is prepared to put upon them without any redress or consultation.
-I support the amendment. I was rather amused to hear the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) claim that we are acting in our own interests. My word we are. If we do not act in our own interests, we can be quite sure that the Government will not. It has demonstrated quite clearly ever since it has been in power that it is out to get Canberra. It has done this very effectively. This is just another example of the way in which this Government wants to discriminate against the people of Canberra. Its action is discriminatory because I have no doubt that in every State of the Commonwealth- certainly, this is so in the State of New South Wales with which I am more familiar- there is a whole range of semi-government and government projects which do not attract tax. The local government sponsored shopping centre at Campbelltown was mentioned as an example, but there are dozens of others also. For example, I refer to parking lots that are operated by local government authorities and which do not pay tax on their profits. Many local government bodies indulge in land development. They buy land, sub-divide it and make nice profits out of it when they sell the land to the public. They do not pay tax on the profit from this operation. In the same way, this enterprise should not pay tax.
The Government has used every opportunity to discriminate against the people of Canberra. The previous Labor Government tried to encourage this sort of enterprise in Canberra. It tried to encourage the people of Canberra to undertake initiatives and innovative ideas in order to overcome the basic disadvantages the people have in relation to self-government. Many people are not aware of this position. My colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), pointed out that if the Australian Capital Territory had the same sort of subvention equivalent per head of population to Tasmania, the Territory would be more than able to pay its way. I understand that now we would need considerably less subvention than Tasmania to pay our way because we are moving to a stage at which we are getting very close to paying our way. This would be the case if we received a normal subvention in the way of loans from the Government.
The Labor Government encouraged people to undertake these projects. It is not something that was done overnight. It has been part of the platform of the local branch of the Australian Labor Party for many years. The whole idea was to break through this monopoly- this David JonesLend Lease syndrome- that has existed in Canberra for many years. For many years there was no general department store in Canberra apart from that operated by David Jones Pty Ltd. Fortunately, the Canberra Commercial Development Authority has ensured that Myers Ltd will move in. People will have some variety and there will be some competition. I have heard complaints from hundreds of housewives in Canberra about the lack of variety in these big stores because they just do not have the competition. We wanted to break through that monopoly and we thought we had succeeded, until these people proposed this tax impost at a time when, as my colleague said, the whole question of the finances of the Australian Capital Territory is up for consideration in relation to the movement towards self-government. I think it is most inappropriate that this sort of tax should be introduced at this time. I do not think that the idea was initiated out of the Government’s desire to tax the Authority. I am quite sure that pressure came from the vested interests in Canberra- from the local chamber of commerce.
It is interesting to see that the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) is not taking part in this debate. I understand that through his family trust- it is quite legitimate- he has commercial interests in Canberra and the passing of this legislation would be in his interests. The amendment which the Opposition is moving would not be in his interests. He obviously agrees with this proposition to tax the Authority. I think that people should be clear on what taxing the Authority means. It is not a retailing agent. It is a landlord. Hundreds of shops operate in that shopping centre which will be paying tax in the same way as any other business. The argument was advanced that those shopkeepers would be receiving an unfair advantage. Nobody has explained to me what unfair advantage they would be receiving. They pay commercial rents the same as any other business and they pay taxes in the same manner. The legislation means that a great proportion of the Authority’s net profit will go back to the Government in some form or another. I do not know what the amount will be because it is not spelt out. But if the normal taxation that applies to proprietary companies or public companies were applied, the Authority would be losing about 50 per cent of its net profit. I think that the taxation rate is about 46c in the dollar. This merely means that half of the profit which normally would have been invested in community facilities will go back to the Government and the Government will be under pressure to provide those facilities.
People should be quite clear on this point. The whole idea of this Authority is that the net profit from the operations of the landlord and the developer should go back into the community. It is contemplated that the profits would provide occasional child care centres at shopping centres and recreational facilities which have not been supplied by the Government in the Belconnen area. It is notably devoid of any of these sorts of facilities. The profits of the Authority would provide general recreational and child care facilities and any other facilities or amenities that are not supplied by the Government which has let the people of Canberra down very badly in that respect. When we try to do something on our own initiative to generate funds to do these things that the Government is not doing, it moves in and says that it wants to take half of the profit. That money goes back into Consolidated Revenue. The people do not see it at all. There seems to be some misapprehension that the Authority has some advantage by receiving cheap funds from the Government.
The Authority received only a very small grant from the Government. I understand that there are provisions for that money to be paid back. But the great majority of the funds- something like $30m- was raised through normal banking channels. The Authority pays interest on the money in the same way as any other business. It is a lot of nonsense to say that these people have a particular advantage and that they should be taxed because of that.
– They do not want selfgovernment.
– If the honourable member wants the people of Canberra to stand on their own feet and pay their own way, he should give them a fair go. If they develop some initiative or some innovative idea- I think that this is a very innovative proposition they have carried outthey should be encouraged to carry it out and devote the funds to the interests of the people. I would like to pay a tribute to the people who have got this Authority under way. They have had all sorts of obstacles to overcome from the Government and from the National Capital Development Commission in relation to parking. It has taken years to get the project under way. I must pay a tribute to the Chairman of the Authority, Mr Jim Pead, who has borne the brunt of this work for many years at great personal loss to himself and to his health. I must say that Jim Pead has been a great servant of the people of Canberra for many years. He should be encouraged in these operations, not discouraged and paid the discourtesy of not being consulted, either in respect to the Legislative Assembly or the Authority, on this matter.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory agreed that there should be consultation. But, of course, there has been no consultation, despite the undertakings given at different times by various Ministers of the Government. In November 1977 the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) gave a pledge that there would be full consultation before any legislation was contemplated. Even on 23 February 1978 Mr Eric Robinson the then Minister assisting the Treasurer, said:
In view of the advance towards self-government in the Territories there will be appropriate consultation with the authorities prescribed under this Act.
He just has not fulfilled that undertaking. I think it is the height of discourtesy to try to push this Bill through the Parliament without any consultation with the Assembly, or the Authority itself, at a time when the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) is calling for the closest consultation with the people of Canberra in order to bring forth an acceptable standard of selfgovernment for those people. I think the amendment is a fair one and I am pleased to support it.
-Mr Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to: That the question be now put. Amendment negatived. Original question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
That the question be now put. Amendment negatived. Original question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
-Mr Chairman, I wish to deal particularly with clause 9. Clause 9 is the one which gives the-
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put
The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative. Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion ( by Mr Hunt)- by leave- proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, we have been discussing a matter of important principle with regard to taxation.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put. The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Order! There is no subst ance in the point of order.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to the proposed acquisition of computing equipment for the Australian Bureau of Statistics the ABS- and the Department of Trade and Resources.
– Honourable members will know that there have been questions in the House and some Press comment on this issue. I will first set out the facts of the case. On 22 September 1977 a senior public servant closely involved in the proposed acquisition of the computing equipment in question gave notice of his intention to join the staff of one of the two short-listed contenders for a major part of the contract. I refer to Mr D. A. Harragan, formerly of the Department of Social Security, now employed by Facom Australia Limited. Mr Harragan was, until shortly before his public service employment ended, a member of the Interdepartmental Committee on Automatic Data Processing (IDC on ADP). This IDC had the responsibility to review the tender specifications prepared by ABS and the Department of Overseas Trade, their evaluation of tenders received and their recommendations as to which tenders should be accepted. The relevance of Mr Harragan ‘s position will become clear after I explain the tender processes.
The first stage of the tendering process is the identification of a need. In this case, the identification process formally began on 1 August 1975 when the Acting Commonwealth Statistician raised the Bureau’s need for a new computer network with the IDC on ADP. Mr
Harragan was at that time a member of the IDC. On 1 6 October 1 975 the IDC on ADP considered proposals for the acquisition of computing facilities for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Department of Overseas Trade. It supported in principle the establishment of a computer communication facility to meet the needs of the two organisations. Mr Harragan was present at that meeting.
The second stage involves the formulation of specifications. In this case, a working party, which did not include Mr Harragan, was established by the IDC to assist ABS and the Department of Overseas Trade in formulating the tender specifications. The IDC at its meeting on 16 September 1976 approved the working party’s recommended specifications with some modification. Mr Harragan was present at this meeting.
The third stage involves the issue of tender documents. Cabinet had given broad approval for tendering in July 1976. The Stores and Tender Board duly called for tenders and tenders closed on 1 February 1977. The Bureau of Statistics was sent the tender documents submitted by the tenderers, and cautioned that they should not be disclosed to anyone who did not have a need to know. Tender documents were seen only by officers of the Stores and Tender Board and the evaluation team.
The fourth stage is the evaluation of tenders. In this case, the tenders were examined by an evaluation team comprising officers of the ABS and the Department of Overseas Trade. In addition, five officers- two from the Public Service Board, two from the Department of Social Security, and one from the Department of Health assisted the evaluation effort on a part-time basis. Mr Harragan was not a member of the evaluation team. On 11 May, the IDC considered reports on the proposal and agreed to a short list as the basis for further consideration adding two network tenders to those proposed by ABS and the Department of Overseas Trade. Mr Harragan attended that meeting. The final evaluation and recommendations of the evaluation team were sent to IDC members on 2 September 1977. This report contained information on the main features of the tenders including prices, although the actual tender documents were not included. Mr Harragan, as a member of the IDC, received that report on 2 September 1977.
On 19 September, Mr Harragan telephoned and advised the acting Chairman of the IDC that he was considering an offer of employment from an unnamed computer supplier and requested that he be excluded from any IDC deliberations until the matter had been clarified. He was directed not to peruse any IDC material further and he was specifically excluded from any further IDC discussions. On 22 September, Mr Harragan advised that he had accepted the offer and that it had come from Facom Australia Ltd. Facom is reported in the Press to have stated that it approached Mr Harragan with a job offer on 25 August. Eight days later he received the final report of the evaluation team for which his prospective employer was a major contender. It was not until 17 days later that he made known his new employment interest.
On 12 September, the Australian Financial Review reported that Facom had been recommended by a departmental selection committee. A further report in that newspaper on 28 September stated Mr Harragan was to be employed by Facom, ‘in expectation of large computer orders from Canberra’. On 25 October, a report appeared in the Tokyo Press that Facom had won the contract. Each of these reports appeared before Cabinet had had any opportunity to consider the recommendations on the computer acquisition.
Although Mr Harragan did not take part in the IDC’s deliberations after 19 September, he left the Public Service on 27 October- after the IDC had decided to endorse the evaluation team’s recommendations in favour of Facom as the mainframe tenderer. While Mr Harragan did not take part in this final process, he was certainly in a privileged situation. He had had access to the confidential report of the evaluation team. He would have known that it was most unlikely that the team’s recommendations would be rejected.
Let me summarise the sequence of events: 25 August- Mr Harragan, according to Press reports, which subsequently appeared on 10 February 1978, was offered a job with Facom. 2 September- Mr Harragan received a confidential report recommending that his prospective employer, Facom, be awarded a major government contract. 12 September- A Press report suggested that the Facom tender had been recommended by a departmental selection committee. 19 September- Mr Harragan advised the IDC of his possible involvement with an unnamed computer company. 22 September- Mr Harragan identified his future employer. 12 October- The IDC recommended that Facom be selected as the successful tenderer. 27 October- Mr Harragan left the Public Service.
I was advised by the Chairman of the Public Service Board, on 23 September, of Mr Harragan ‘s decision to take employment with Facom. I was immediately concerned that Mr Harragan ‘s action might cast into doubt the impartiality of the Government’s tendering procedures. Mr Harragan had placed himself in a position which many would argue involved a clear conflict of interest. I was concerned, and remain concerned, about the construction that could be placed on Mr Harragan ‘s involvement on the IDC on ADP and his subsequent employment by Facom Australia Limited.
My concern was deepened on 28 September when the Secretary to Cabinet sent me a minute questioning the wisdom of proceeding with the awarding of the contract and advised that an entirely new IDC should be formed to reconsider the tenders. I saw merit in that view and notified the Chairman of the Public Service Board on 4 October that a completely new IDC should be formed to make fresh recommendations on the computer tender. He recommended against taking this course of action on the grounds that Mr Harragan ‘s resignation from the IDC was sufficient. In the light of that advice, and of the strong view of the ABS that the acquisition of the new computing equipment was a matter of the utmost urgency, on 10 October I directed the Chairman of the Public Service Board to convene a meeting of the permanent heads whose departments were on the IDC to report to me that they were satisfied all proper procedures had been followed and consequent on Mr Harragan ‘s resignation that no requirement existed for a fresh consideration or alteration of procedures.
The permanent heads meeting was convened by the Chairman of the Public Service Board on 24 October 1977. It was attended by Sir Arthur Tange, Secretary, Department of Defence; Mr R. W. Cole, Secretary, Department of Finance; Mr S. Burton, Deputy Secretary, Department of Overseas Trade; Dr R. J. Cameron, Australian Statistician; Mr P. J. Lanigan, Director-General, Department of Social Security; and Mr G. J. Yeend, Acting Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. It concluded that proper procedures had been followed in regard to the proposed acquisition of the computer equipment for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Overseas Trade and that therefore there was no need for fresh consideration of the proposal. I will return to the work of that departmental group at a later point. If a full understanding of the precise nature of its examination had been in the Government’s mind at that point, different decisions might well have been made earlier.
In the light of this clearance from permanent heads Ministers proceeded with consideration of the recommendations of ABS and the Department of Overseas Trade, as supported by the IDC. Cabinet committees discussed the matter in three separate meetings on 4, 7 and 8 November. During these discussions Ministers expressed concern about the possibility that Mr Harragan ‘s actions would lead members of the public and the commercial community to believe that the integrity of the tendering process had been compromised. Ministers discussed at some length whether fresh tenders should be called, but decided not to do so at that stage. Since it was an important policy matter, in accordance with traditional practice they agreed that the matter be held over for consideration after the election when the matter could be determined by a committee of Ministers without further reference to Cabinet.
As a result of Mr Harragan ‘s appointment, the note to me from the Secretary to Cabinet and other discussions, I had a deep seated feeling that it was not possible to demonstrate that the accepted Commonwealth procedures had been carried through in their entirety both in spirit and in fact, although up to this time I had been persuaded not to take the course of action to which I was initially attracted, namely, a complete recall of tenders. On 2 December Mr A. G. Moyes Managing Director of IBM Australia Ltd, wrote to me about the computer tender. He had earlier communicated with the then Treasurer, Mr Lynch. The most important of the issues he raised with me was, in my view, his questioning of the appointment of Mr Harragan to Facom Australia Ltd. This was the first communication I had had with Mr Moyes on the matter. Far from initiating a concern about the Facom tender, Mr Moyes’ letter to me came a considerable time after my doubts had been raised, as had those of the Secretary to the Cabinet as he expressed to me in his note of 28 September. There was also the concern manifested at three separate meetings of Cabinet committees at which Ministers had expressed their reservations. These concerns had all been pushed aside because of the urgency with which the need of the Bureau of Statistics had been argued.
Arrangements were made for Mr Moyes to meet with the Chairman and a Commissioner of the Public Service Board on 22 December to discuss his letter to me. The Chairman reported to me that in discussion Mr Moyes returned again and again to the possible influence that Mr Harragan could have had on the conclusions reached with respect to the acquisition. The Chairman also drew my attention to the fact that the committee of Ministers appointed by the Cabinet decision of 8 November had approved the issue of the letter of intent, the dispatch of the letter was imminent, but that he had asked that dispatch be held up pending final confirmation from me that it should issue. After receiving the report of the Chairman of the Public Service Board of his discussions with Mr Moyes I discussed the matter for the first and only time with Mr Moyes and then with the Permanent Head of my Department and with the Minister for Administrative Services.
The points raised by IBM served mainly to support the very real concern of my Department, first expressed to me on 28 September and which I had continued to feel, about the Harragan issue. I must say that my concern had not been allayed by the discussions on this matter. My misgivings would have been greater had I appreciated at the time the narrow ambit of the permanent heads’ committee discussions and report. Accordingly, on the same day I asked that the letter of intent not be issued and that no further formal action be taken until Cabinet next met, in January. My concerns had been reinforced. I had come increasingly to the view that, in all the circumstances, re-tendering was the only totally satisfactory solution. The Bureau of Statistics, however, pressed in the strongest possible way the urgency of its need. To meet these pressures, officials endeavoured to devise a method which would be fair and seen to be fair but which would get the new equipment quickly.
Officials were then of the view that a brief additional period in which tenderers could revise their tenders would meet these needs. This would avoid complete re-tendering whilst providing a way for testing the validity or otherwise of the original tenders. Such a course of action was endorsed by Cabinet on 1 7 January. Cabinet also decided that the Department of Administrative Services, with its responsibilities for Government purchasing and contracting, should be added to the IDC for the reassessment of tenders and that an independent assessor should be appointed and that he be required to report separately to the Government. Later that day I formally replied to Mr Moyes’ letter of 2 December, informing him of the decision we had taken. In my one discussion on 22 December I indicated to him, as I had said to Sir Alan Carmody, that retendering seemed appropriate.
The following day the Chairman of the Stores and Tender Board wrote to the four mainframe tenderers informing them of the Government’s decision and asking for responses by 13 February. Following these letters, the Chairman of the Stores and Tender Board received further conflicting representations from IBM and Facom, including representations on 7 and 8 February respectively. At this stage a very real concern strengthened amongst our advisers that the shortened tender procedures which they had put to us unfairly favoured IBM. It was suggested that it was easier for IBM than Facom to meet the relatively short time limit for lodging revised tenders. This was because of IBM’s greater resources and the fact that it was tendering entirely its own equipment, whereas Facom had many sub-tenderers- including several Australian companies- which would have to be consulted before revised tenders could be submitted.
Indeed, the Treasurer, in writing to me on 5 January 1978 to press that the Government proceed with the Facom tender, expressed reservations about the short tendering process. On 8 February, the permanent heads of my Department and the Department of Administrative Services and the Chairman of the Public Service Board, contrary to the view previously expressed by officials, unanimously recommended that the shortened procedures be abandoned and new tenders called. I discussed the situation with the two Ministers most directly concerned, the Minister for Administrative Services and the Treasurer, both of whom agreed that this recommendation should be accepted. On the following day, 9 February, Cabinet endorsed this position.
The information gained since that time has reconfirmed the Government’s view that recalling of tenders was the only possible decision to make. Indeed, if the total information had been available in October or November, and in particular had we realised that the permanent heads had not considered all the aspects of the case which Ministers believe to be relevant, including the plain question of ethical behaviour, we would have recalled tenders then. Ministers in their judgment placed heavy reliance on the permanent heads’ report. It has since emerged that, due to a genuine misunderstanding, the report was of much narrower ambit than had been intended and than Ministers believed. The permanent heads did not consider the ethics of Mr Harragan ‘s employment with Facom. I know now that the meeting was concerned merely as to whether Mr Harragan had influenced other members of the IDC, and, as I mentioned earlier, whether procedures had been normal; and that the permanent heads received assurances from other members of the IDC that Mr Harragan had not so influenced them. The report of the permanent heads’ committee was based on those assurances. But that hardly seems to go to the nub of the matter. The real issue is whether a senior Government official was in a position to give confidential information and provide support to a particular tenderer.
There is no evidence that this occurred. But in terms of the public appearance of the matter, there is no way in which the Commonwealth could ever prove that it did not occur. As a result of this total experience, the Government has decided that the processes for the purchasing of computer equipment should be revised. Over the last month there have already been discussions between the head of my Department and the Chairman of the Public Service Board concerning variations in the role and composition of the Interdepartmental Committee on ADP. This matter will be the subject of early consideration by the Government with the objective of achieving greater safeguards in the system to protect the integrity of the Government’s tendering process. It has already been decided that the Department of Administative Services will play a more active role in these purchases in future, and independent assessors will be appointed where appropriate. Both will be involved in evaluation of the tenders for the new equipment for the Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Trade and Resources.
Mr Speaker, the course the Government has taken in this case will cause some inconvenience and added cost to tenderers and to the Bureau and Department. All have their own legitimate needs and interests and the Government has done its utmost to meet these without compromising its principles. There was a conflict between the interest of rapidly acquiring a computer for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Trade and Resources, and procedures which would not only be just but would appear to be just. It was because of the desire to facilitate the purchase of a computer that re-tendering was not called from the moment doubts first arose, leading officials to advise a shortened tender process. Ultimately, the conflict between departmental convenience and the imperative that justice both be done and be seen to be done became clear. No compromise was possible. Thus we have called for new tenders, which it is plain is and was the only totally proper course.
Any who might still wish, against all the evidence, to question our action in calling new tenders should consider what the position would have been had matters been allowed to proceed and the tender awarded to Facom. There would have been immediate and completely justified criticism that the Government had ignored a highly irregular situation. The damage to the integrity of the tendering system would have been great. There is another point worth making. The Facom tender involved offsets which would have benefited Australian industry. The Government is fully conscious of the benefits which can be gained in this area. All other things being equal, we would lean towards a tenderer which offered the most beneficial offsets. In this instance, such consideration would favour Facom.
Finally, a few words must be said generally to all companies and all public servants involved in the tendering process for government purchases. If any companies believe they can employ a public servant or serviceman intimately involved in a tendering process and not cause grave problems for that individual, for the Public Service, and for good government, they are sadly mistaken. That applies whether they take on such a person before or after the Government’s final decision is made. In this instance, a company that may still end up being the successful tenderer employed an official who was working on the IDC at the heart of the tender process within weeks of the final decision being made. As far as we can ascertain, the circumstances of Mr Harragan ‘s appointment are unprecedented. I am informed that officials cannot recall a previous occasion where an officer whilst being significantly involved in a current tender case has left to join one of the tenderers. I can say only that this is a practice which I believe should not be repeated.
Some countries have specific rules to cover such matters. I am advised that the British Government requires that, save with express permission, no senior public servant may take up such a position within two years of leaving the British Civil Service. The Government has decided that this question should be one of the matters expressly referred to the inquiry on conflicts between public duty and private interest, which is about to be undertaken by His Honour Mr Justice Bowen. Mr Speaker, one thing is abundantly clear. No one has received an unfair advantage as the tenders have been recalled, and the contract will be awarded on its merits. The facts of this statement have been checked with all relevant permanent heads- namely, the Chairman of the Public Service Board, the permanent heads of the departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Trade and Resources, Defence, Administrative Services, Social Security and Finance, and the Australian Statistician.
by leave- The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is welcomed. Superficially it is reassuring but on further consideration there are still many questions that need answering. There are too many grey areas that have not been attended to and it would seem to me that the Public Service and Mr Harragan, but more especially the Public Service, have come out of this statement as the scapegoats for all the problems which have erupted. The handling of this matter by the Government has not been adroit and has contributed to the suspicion and rumours which have erupted, especially in the media. The Government has had nearly a month since this matter was first divulged publicly in the media to make a full and considered statement on all aspects of it. That would have been an excellent opportunity for the Government to remove all doubts, to resolve all queries in a full and proper way.
The statement today goes a long way towards that but it does not go as far as the Opposition would wish and I want to raise a number of questions a little later. I hope that the Prime Minister and his colleagues will respond helpfully. I want to make it clear, however, that the Opposition has no brief for any tenderer, nor has it any commitment to Mr Harragan. I note the Prime Minister’s comments in the closing paragraphs of his statement that the Government intends to refer the matter of private employment for public servants to the inquiry on conflicts between public duty and private interest. We regard that as justification, albeit belated, of a principle that we have argued not just for years but for more than a decade in this Parliament. I recall that in the nearly 17 years that I have served in this place the Opposition has argued consistently that something should be established in relation to proper guidelines for public servants taking employment outside in circumstances which could compromise the Public Service and the service within the Public Service. This is not the first time that this sort of matter has arisen, albeit I concede freely to the Prime Minister that within my knowledge it is easily the most dramatic and worrying instance. For instance, as just one illustration of the point I wish to make I remind the House that in November last year the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam) received an answer to a question on notice from the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). He asked, in part:
The answer was no and the Minister made it clear that there was ineffective legislative enactment to control those sorts of appointments. I mention this merely to indicate that the practice of public servants taking positions outside in circumstances which can legitimately raise doubts as to the propriety of their taking those appointments has been a matter of continuing concern in this Parliament. As I said, the Opposition welcomes the fact that this matter has been referred to that committee although I wish to see the terms of reference before I endorse what the Government is proposing. Quite frankly, it is my view that that committee is perilously close to a whitewashing exercise with regard to particular matters which the Opposition intends to raise in the course of this parliamentary sitting.
I want to address myself to the Prime Minister’s statement. It seems to me that there are two key thrusts to the Prime Minister’s statement -an implied attack on the Public Service and its ability and Mr Harragan being left with a serious cloud of doubt over his head and with his integrity in question. It may well be that those things are justified but if so substantial evidence has not been produced to support such a serious onslaught against that man. I would argue, on the basis of evidence produced to the Government and on the basis of the Government’s behaviour and statements, that there is no evidence to support such a serious implication as hangs over that man’s head. I want to make it clear that I have no brief for Mr Harragan. I believe that his behaviour was quite improper within the code of proper conduct which I believe should apply but that code of proper conduct has not been established by the Government and until now the Government has always treated askance suggestions that there should be such a code of conduct.
I turn now to the case I want to establish of the Government’s attack on the Public Service. It is clear that the Prime Minister has sought to make the Public Service a scapegoat for the abundant shortcomings of himself and his colleagues in this matter. He started in the most curious way by saying that he had always had doubts about the propriety of this matter from 23 September on. In spite of that, in spite of harbouring doubts, in spite of being the Prime Minister, the first Minister, the most important, influential and responsible Minister in the Government, he was prepared to submerge those doubts, to be led by the nose by public servants- men of stouter will and greater determination. I find that very hard to accept and if that is the proposition that the Prime Minister is seeking to imply, his own stature comes out of the exercise very poorly.
At page 8 of the Prime Minister’s statement he says that a committee had been appointed. This is a top committee. There are no tiros appointed to it. The committee consists of Sir Arthur Tange, Mr Cole, Mr Burton, Mr Cameron, Mr Lanigan and Mr Yeend- all the very top men; the cream of the Public Service; experienced people who would well know the implications of an exercise like this. The Prime Minister suggests that:
That is, the Committee- concluded that proper procedures had been followed in regard to the proposed acquisition of the computer equipment for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Trade and that therefore there was no need for fresh considerations of the proposal.
Let us dwell on that statement for a few seconds because it is very important. Later on in his statement the Prime Minister argues that the investigation of the Committee was too narrowly conceived and its findings accordingly too narrowly based. He suggests that the Committee was concerned about only one thing: Whether Mr Harragan had sought to influence members of the interdepartmental committee which had been processing these tenders. It is very important to understand the limited way in which that is presented at page 8 of the statement because in the Prime Minister’s letter of 17 January to Mr Moyes of IBM Australia Ltd, he says- and this is substantially different because it enlarges very greatly the area of consideration of that Committee:
After consideration of all the facts the Permanent Heads concluded that the proper procedures had been followed and that there had been no impropriety.
It was found that not only had the proper procedures been followed but that the permanent heads, experienced men, tough, able public servants, well versed in the implications of a matter like this, had concluded also that there had been no impropriety. No one could imagine Sir Arthur Tange being snowed or giving inadequate consideration to a matter like this. Nor could anyone imagine Mr Cole, a particularly careful and dedicated public servant, being snowed or giving this matter inadequate consideration. None of those men on the Committee would have been snowed on a matter like this. None of them would give brief attention to a matter with such far ranging implications. And they concluded that there had been no impropriety. Impropriety covers things like ethical conduct; proper behaviour; the appearance as well as the reality. Public servants recognise full well that the appearance is as important as the reality of the practices which have been adopted. They, I repeat, are particularly competent people.
Indeed, I find the Prime Minister’s letter of 17 January a rather remarkable document in the light of the way in which he sought to present this matter. The Prime Minister gives much greater primacy to the fact that IBM was concerned that the proposals might affect the viability of the project. That seemed to concern him more than the other matter. Indeed it would seem that he wrote ofl” the other matter as not being important. That is a curious thing for a man in the Prime Minister’s position, with the experienced advisers that he has behind him. It is particularly curious in the light of the concern which he said he experienced continuously and the action he subsequently took.
I wish to return to the series of events that are related to this matter. On page 13 of the Prime Minister’s statement he says- and it can be taken as nothing but an onslaught against the Public Service:
Indeed, if the total information had been available in October or November, and in particular had we realised that the Permanent Heads had not considered all the aspects of the case which Ministers believe to be relevant including the plain question of ethical behaviour, we would have recalled tenders then.
The Prime Minister says: ‘ … if the total information had been available in October or November . . . ‘. What total information? What information has been left out? This is the grey area that concerns me and, I should expect, would concern a great number of people. What had not been attended to by that permanent heads’ inquiry? From this one is encouraged to ask questions such as: What terms of reference were given to the permanent heads in this matter? Experienced permanent heads such as these are scarcely likely to limit unnecessarily their exploration and accordingly their conclusions and recommendations on this matter. They know too well the problems of government and the need for fair and clean public presentation as well as fair and clean procedures being adopted. As for the ethical behaviour, this was clearly covered in the statement of the Prime Minister in his letter of 17 January 1978 in which he indicated that he was convinced that there had been no impropriety. On page 1 3 of the statement he goes on to say:
Ministers in their judgment placed heavy reliance on the Permanent Heads’ report. It has since emerged that, due to a genuine misunderstanding the report was of much narrower ambit than had been intended and than Ministers believed.
Whose misunderstanding was it? Again I ask the question: Is it a misunderstanding that arose because of the limited terms of reference? If so, in that case the misunderstanding and the responsibility for it rests solely with the Government. But if it is a misunderstanding that arose because of a misinterpretation by the public servants, then frankly that, for such an experienced group of people, is incompetence, is intolerable and therefore ought not to be accepted. The Parliament needs full information on this matter to resolve any doubts at all. This is a particularly important point.
On page 14, the Prime Minister suggests that all that the permanent heads had been keen to establish was whether Mr Harragan had influenced other members of the interdepartmental committee. If that is so, I repeat what I said before. I must resort to repetition because these points are particularly pertinent in this matter. If Mr Harragan had sought to influence other members of the interdepartmental committee and if that was the sole term of reference, then why has the Prime Minister not given us the evidence?
An incident having occurred in the Press Gallery- Mr HAYDEN-The Prime Minister is behaving like a public high schoolboy clown on the front bench. We all know from experience that he behaves like that when he feels nettled, when he feels irascible at what is happening.
– I am glad that the right honourable gentleman can find a great deal of levity in this very important matter. The fact is that he has not resolved the questions involved in this matter. We do not find acceptable the resolution proposed in his statement. What I am putting to the House is a very important point: That public servants have been condemned for their failure to discharge properly their responsibilities to the Government. I do not believe that has happened before in this Parliament on such a serious scale. If that is so- and it is quite clear that it is- then there must be follow up action to exact proper retribution for the remissness of those public servants. It is perfectly proper for these points to be raised.
Again I wish to talk about this permanent heads’ report. On 25 October this permanent heads’ committee was set up. But on page 14 of the statement we discover that it took some considerable time before the Prime Minister finally acted on this matter. For instance, he says:
The real issue is whether a senior Government official was in a position to give confidential information and provide support to a particular tenderer.
What I would like to know is why it took the Prime Minister three months to make that decision after he had been reassured by the permanent heads’ committee that there had been no impropriety and had conveyed that reassurance to IBM. I suggest that the Prime Minister’s case is sagging; it does not stand up too well at all. On this basis, it is a legitimate request from us that the documentation relevant to these matters ought to be presented.
There is another interesting sidelight to the Prime Minister’s statement and that is that a number of the actions that were proceeded with on the recommendation of the Public Service were endorsed by the Cabinet. The proper convention is that the Cabinet is then responsible for those decisions. The Cabinet receives advice; it carefully considers it and then makes up its own mind. It does not follow blindly the recommendations which have been given to it. On these statements, it is quite clear that Cabinet believes either that it has been misled by the Public Service or that it has been the victim of incompetent advice from the Public Service. More importantly, from an outsider’s point of view, the evidence is that the Government, not only the Prime Minister, is determined to pass on the responsibility for these shortcomings to the Public Service.
This is a very important point and, frankly, I am surprised that the Government should find cause for levity when I seek to raise these important matters. It is not just my assessment of these matters which will apply; it will be the assessment of people outside the Parliament; it will be the assessment of the media; it will be the assessment of the general public. On the statement by the Prime Minister to this House, it is the Government which is behaving in an improper manner, blaming the Public Service for its own shortcomings and seeking to shirk the responsibilities of its decisions.
I said that Mr Harragan ‘s position in this matter was rather strange. When one looks at the Prime Minister’s statement one observes how keen he is to shelve so much of the responsibility of this matter on to Mr Harragan. I acknowledged before what is in my view the impropriety of past practices of public servants taking positions outside the Public Service. But the behaviour of the Government with its substantial precedent and its attitude expressed over many years makes it clear that it is not a reservation which the Government has shared previously.
We find from the Prime Minister’s statement that Mr Harragan was involved in the first stage of the tendering procedure, that is, the need identification. But he was not involved in the second, third or fourth stages; the second stage being related to specification formulation, the third stage to the issue of tender documents, and the fourth stage to the evaluation of tenders. The fourth stage is the most important stage of all. It is true that Mr Harragan received the final report of the evaluation and recommendations on 2 September. It may be- this seems to be the implication- that Mr Harragan could have passed on some of the information. I do not know whether that is the case, but the fact is that the evaluation, the decision and the recommendations had all taken place before the documents reached Mr Harragan. So I suspect that while it is justifiable to be concerned about Mr Harragan ‘s position in this matter, the Prime Minister has sought to enlarge the role of Mr Harragan beyond reasonable credibility. In fact, it looks increasingly as though there is a great deal of incompetence and inconsistency on the part of the Government in the way in which it has handled this matter.
On 2 December, Mr Moyes wrote to the Prime Minister. But the fact is that the former Treasurer, the present Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), had been contacted by Mr Moyes at an earlier date. The date is not specified, as far as I can establish. It would seem that he was contacted much earlier than 2 December. Accordingly the case for the presentation of documentation related to this matter is increasingly overwhelming. There is no reference to the Treasurer until 5 January. That reference is made at page 13 of the prepared statement made by the Prime Minister to the Parliament. It reads:
Indeed, the Treasurer, in writing to me on 5 January 1978 -
Of course, that is a different Treasurer from the present one- … to press that the Government proceed with the Facom tender, expressed reservations about the short tendering process.
But the fact is that the Prime Minister said that he had worries about that at a much earlier date. In spite of receiving that letter on 5 January, 12 days later, he wrote to Mr Moyes of IBM indicating that he had no qualms at all about the matter and that he was proceeding with it. These are inconsistencies. These are incompatibilities in many ways, as far as we can see the position, which have not been clarified. It was not until Mr Moyes’ letter reached the light of day, when it reached the Press, that we learned more about these matters. The Prime Minister is keen to put the proposition that not only should justice be done but also that it should be seen to be done in these matters. It may well be that IBM would have been advantaged if the procedures of varied specifications had been proceeded with and that Facom would have been disadvantaged.
Because IBM now has a new series of equipment for its computer equipment, it would also seem that IBM may have been more advantaged than otherwise would have been the case. On that basis it would appear that justice may not have been done. It may have been done, but it would appear on that basis that it may not have been done. Accordingly the Prime Minister has not addressed himself to this problem. Nor has he addressed himself properly to the question which was raised in the Parliament today in which it was pointed out that the trade practices legislation was amended following representations from IBM and in spite of firm opposition to such amendments earlier by the Government. Not only is that the case but also it was pointed out that the first public announcement of the proposed amendment did not come from the Government but from IBM in its half-yearly report on 21 October. I scarcely think it proper that Parliament should be receiving advice on such important matters in the annual reports of private enterprise organisations.
Mr Andrew Grimwade ‘s name was raised in Parliament again today and reference was made to his associations with the Prime Minister. Mr Grimwade is a director of IBM. My dealings with him, limited as they have been, have shown him to be an honourable man. But on the same basis that the Prime Minister has sought to raise queries and doubts by innuendo about other people and other procedures, I suggest that the same effect applies here and that, accordingly, it is incumbent upon the Prime Minister to ensure that there should be a full disclosure of these matters.
In his letter of 17 January to Mr Moyes, the Prime Minister refers to subsequent discussions. The word used is ‘discussions’- in the plural. In his statement to the Parliament he makes it clear at page 10 that there was only one such discussion with Mr Moyes. He states: … I discussed the matter for the first time and only time with Mr Moyes and then with the Permanent Head of my Department, and with the Minister for Administrative Services.
I suggest that there are altogether too many inconsistencies in this matter and too many questions not resolved. I suggest that a serious onslaught has been made against the propriety and competence of the Public Service. I suggest that Mr Harragan has been subjected- it may well have been justifiable- to serious doubts about his ethical behaviour, at least by innuendo. All of that has been done by the Prime Minister. Accordingly, when the sitting resumes, I propose to move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from proposing that the Prime Minister forthwith table all relevant documents on this matter so that the House may be reassured that in fact proper procedures were pursued in this matter, that the Public Service did discharge its responsibilities competently, and that the Prime Minister’s behaviour and the behaviour of the Ministry and other people associated with this matter was at all times proper.
-The honourable gentleman will need to put the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders in writing.
– Do you want it in writing now, Mr Speaker?
– I will receive it when the House resumes. I indicate to the House that a senior and responsible journalist inadvertently dropped some papers from the Press Gallery. It was not within the sight of the Leader of the Opposition but it was within the sight of honourable gentlemen sitting on the government benches. It is an unusual experience, but I have received a note from that journalist apologising for having done that. I can assure him that the apology is accepted. The incident was accidental.
Sitting suspended from 6.3 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I indicated that when the House resumed I would be moving a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. I will summarise quickly the points I was making before I do so. I was indicating firstly that I found the Prime Minister’s statement unacceptable in that is sought to move the responsibility in this matter across to the Public Service and to have it accept the blame for a series of actions which, I believe, justifiably deserve criticism and, secondly, that Mr Harragan ‘s role in this had been exaggerated. Although it was deserving of censure in my view, it was not inconsistent with things which had happened in the past in this Parliament. For example, I instance the appointment of Sir Charles Davidson on his retirement from the Cabinet to Plessey Australia Pty Ltd and then that organisation receiving a contract for government mail sorting equipment at Redfern Mail Exchange almost immediately thereafter.
The summary I want to make comes directly from the Prime Minister’s statement and commences at page 7. The Prime Minister said that on 23 September he was advised by the Chairman of the Public Service Board of Mr Harragan ‘s decision to take employment with Facom Australia Ltd. He was concerned. He remains concerned. In spite of that, it was not until five days later, on 28 September, that any action was initiated. It was not initiated by the Prime Minister; it was initiated by the Secretary to Cabinet who sent the Prime Minister a minute suggesting that an entirely new interdepartmental committee should be formed to reconsider the tenders. The Prime Minister saw merit in that view. He took no further action for six days. On 4 October he proposed that a completely new IDC be formed to make fresh recommendations on the computer tender. The fact is that the Chairman of the Public Service Board recommended against taking this course of action on the ground that Mr Harragan ‘s resignation from the IDC was sufficient. The Prime Minister accepted that advice and did not act again until another six days had lapsed.
On 10 October the Prime Minister directed the Chairman of the Public Service Board to convene a meeting of permanent heads whose departments were represented on the IDC to report to him on whether they were satisfied that all the proper procedures had been followed. Some 14 days later the meeting was convened. The Chairman concluded that the proper procedures had been followed and so advised the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister took no further action. Cabinet committees discussed this matter on three separate occasions- 4 November, 7 November and 8 November. No action was taken, in spite of the fact that the Prime Minister has said in this House that right from the commencement of the receipt of the advice about Mr Harragan ‘s appointment to Facom on 23 September he was worried and was concerned. He manifested that concern in no distinguished way. The only time that real initiatives were taken was when they were taken by the Public Service. It seems that he was equating half when it came to taking firm action. He did initially respond affirmatively to the proposal of the head of his Department that in fact a new IDC be set up and then, after a lapse of time, taking it up with the Chairman of the Public Service Board, he changed his mind.
Subsequently the matter went before Cabinet on three separate occasions. Although the Prime Minister says that there was concern in the Cabinet, no action was taken. The concluding point is that no real action was taken until a letter dated 2 December from Mr A. G. Moyes the Managing Director of IBM Australia Ltd reached him. That is when real action started to take place. That is when a number of amendments and adjustments occurred to the tendering processes. That led to the ultimate consequence where the expanded tendering procedures which had been reinstituted long after the tenders had closed were in fact totally terminated. The Prime Minister announced that new tenders were to be called.
I can only say that it leaves a very unpleasant flavour in one’s mouth to find that the Prime Minister should be goaded into action by IBM Australia, an organisation which in recent times has had association with the Government of such a nature that it was able to persuade the Government to change the trade practices law contrary to firm attitudes expressed by the Government at an earlier stage. I believe that this is the most unpleasant aspect of the whole series of incidents associated with this matter; namely the influence of the role of IBM. The Prime Minister suggests that if the amended specifications for the tenders had been proceeded with some favour would be displayed towards IBM. I suggest that as things stand now, with the Prime Minister proposing to call new tenders and with IBM Australia in a position where it can introduce a new series of equipment with its tendering submission, IBM could well be advantaged by the succession of changes.
It appears on the face of it that the amendments and adjustments which the Prime Minister made to procedures after IBM Australia approached him were not satisfactory to IBM Australia. As a consequence he took his ultimate step. After making these adjustments which seemed to be in favour of IBM Australia he suspended the whole procedure with the consequence that new tenders can be called and IBM Australia can submit new equipment which was not available at the time it made its original tender submission. I suggest that that is very improper and, on the face of it, suggests a very unwholesome relationship between IBM Australia and the Prime Minister. It suggests that IBM Australia was able to exert undue and unreasonable influence on the Prime Minister in the way in which decisions were made. Thereby lie the ingredients of what could be a scandal- I am not saying that it is- an improper relationship between the Prime Minister and IBM Australia. That is why we are proposing that all the papers relevant to this matter should be tabled. We take up the Prime Minister’s statement that not only should justice be done but that it should be seen to be done. An impropriety does not worry many of the backbenchers in the Liberal Party but it worries many people in Australia. The succession of events in the relationship between the Prime Minister and Mr Moyes, the Managing Director of IBM Australia, are such as to suggest that this may have happened. It may not have happened. I hope that it has not. But on the face of it, it could have happened. On much less evidence than that the Prime Minister has seen fit to seek to justify in a totally unconvincing way the succession of measures he took in this matter.
I remind honourable members that the Prime Minister was a very uncertain participant in many of these matters. He was worried but took no action. He was advised by his head of department that the whole procedure should be passed over to a new IDC, and he agreed. When he was advised by another head of department that that was not necessary, that Mr Harragan had resigned and that perhaps a simple little inquiry into procedures and proprieties would be enough, he agreed. The Cabinet met on several occasions to discuss this matter. It met on 4 November, 7 November and 8 November and no action was taken. Yet the Prime Minister argues that at all times he was gravely concerned about these matters. We share his concern. We are gravely concerned about the role of the Government in this matter. We are gravely concerned about the role of the Prime Minister. We are particularly gravely concerned about what appears to be the influential association of IBM Australia upon the Prime Minister. We regard that as potentially improper and, accordingly, the only way in which this matter can be resolved satisfactorily is for the Parliament to receive full disclosures of all relevant information, all documents and papers. Not only must the proper course of conduct have been pursued, but also it must have been seen to have been pursued. As things stand now it does not appear to have been pursued. On that score the Prime Minister is vulnerable to serious criticism if not condemnation. It is in his interest as much as the credibility of the Government that the documents be produced. Accordingly, I move:
-Is the motion seconded?
- Mr Speaker, I second the motion. I will be very brief in my comments. The situation is very clear.
-It is important that the honourable member look at the fundamental factors that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has indicated to him. We have a tender that was called for 12 months ago. As far back as last September the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) alleges he had some misgivings about it. It is not until now that we receive a statement from him as to the reason for those misgivings.
In our view, the reasons for the sudden rejection of both tenders was because of representations made by IBM Australia Ltd. Let us look at the position clearly. As far back as 17 January the Prime Minister indicated quite clearly that there was no impropriety on the part of Mr Harragan. It is important that the House and the people of Australia know the full position. The Opposition has moved a very simple motion.
Let us have a look at the papers that have been mentioned in the statement. From the point of view of the Prime Minister’s statement, how can the Government justify a suggestion that the Treasurer was so anxious to have this matter finalised on 5 January, in view of a letter by the Prime Minister on 17 January saying that the only matter that was subject to further discussion was the question of the viability of the project and to that extent he would extend tenders to 13 February and would let the tender by the middle of March? We have that as evidence. All of a sudden, out of the blue, on 8 February tenders are rejected. We say it was because Mr Laurie Oakes, a newspaper man, indicated to the Prime Minister some misgivings about that position. Where is the evidence on which we can judge the cause of that sudden change of heart from what was stated in the letter of 1 7 January to the rejection of tenders on 8 February? It had nothing to do with Harragan. The letter of 1 7 January clears Harragan completely of any impropriety. The officials of the interdepartmental committee exonerated the man. Can honourable members in all common sense imagine Harragan being able to influence all those other senior public servants to do the wrong thing? He had indicated already he was leaving the department. It was after that that the officials made their decision on the merits of the situation.
The significant fact is that the Prime Minister admits he had personal representations made to him by Mr Moyes, not only by way of letter but also in personal discussions- and the word ‘discussions’ is in the plural. The Prime Minister in his statement has gone to a lot of trouble to say that he met Mr Moyes only once. That does not add up to having a number of discussions. The issue, we say, is this: If there is nothing to hideand we have been pressing this matter for some days now- why are not all the papers tabled? Mr Harragan has been maligned across this country under privilege on the basis that because he did something wrong the Government cannot go ahead with tenders. The real issue is this: IBM put pressure on the Government to guarantee that Facom Australia Ltd did not get the tender to which it was entitled. That is the real issue. Let us have a look at the facts. It is admitted that personal representations were made. It is admitted that the Prime Minister personally intervened in this matter. It is admitted that the Government was anxious to let this tender. It is admitted that there was an independent inquiry by an interdepartmental committee of the most senior officials who found no impropriety. What is the reason for the sudden change of heart?
– Who runs the Government?
-We do not want interjections to hide what I am saying. What is the reason for the sudden change of heart that caused the Prime Minister who wrote a letter on 17 January saying this matter would go aheadthat there was no impropriety- to say all of a sudden on 8 February that tenders had been rejected? What suddenly happened? We want to know. In our view, the reason for this goes back to December. The Prime Minister was very anxious on that occasion to guarantee that IBM at least would be listened to and in our view that IBM would be given the tender. We are dealing with $20m worth of public funds. It is for those reasons that we ought to look at whether there is patronage, whether there is favouritism and whether there is undue influence from the point of view of a personal affiliation between IBM and the Prime Minister. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, it is not the first time that there have been representations. No responsible tenderer should be making representations to a Prime Minister about this matter. Representations ought to be made to the Department concerned. A tenderer should not dare to be suggesting that he has personal ideas that he can put before a Prime Minister who then writes a personal letter saying that he has intervened to guarantee that tenders will be extended. It is for those reasons that the public is entitled to have the full facts placed before them. The motion moved by the Opposition merely permits that to be done. The House can be the judge of the situation.
– In the days when the Jimmy Sharman boxing shows travelled round Australia, I think that most honourable members would recall that there were people out in front who used to shadow-box and try to entice the customers in. They rang bells and encouraged passers-by to pay their 50c or $ 1 in order to see the goings on within the tent. All of us know that the Opposition is going through a difficult phase of its political existence. It is not easy. It has received a very harsh election result. At the opening stage of the new Parliament, members of the Opposition are concerned to try to see in what way they can attack the Government. We respect them for it. Of course, there are many areas within which the Opposition suffers from the heritage of yesteryear. Unfortunately, this instance seems to be one of them.
Before I go back to the origins of the Opposition complaint, let me first of all look very briefly at what seems to be the principal problem. The Opposition is concerned to see that Standing Orders should be suspended in order that certain documents can be produced. The whole basis of our argument is that the Public Service of Australia should be impartial, that it should be completely impartial in its advice and that the people of Australia should have confidence that the advice tendered to it is not biased or prejudiced in any way because of emoluments offered, the prospect of services to be rendered or in some way confidences might have been extended. It is important that we realise at this moment that tenders are now open not just for Facom Australia Ltd, nor just for IBM Australia Ltd but for any other interested computer company to tender for this computer installation which is necessary for the efficient and effective operation of the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Trade and Resources. Therefore we have an open tender system and were we to agree to the production of the papers which the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) suggests we might produce we would be immediately offering to all those parties who are going to tender advice which would ensure that their tenders were not impartial and were not without the knowledge of the other’s bids.
We gave very serious consideration to doing just as this motion suggests. But for the very reason that we do not believe that parties who are about to submit tenders to the Federal Government should be forewarned of contracts or of terms and conditions that might be offered by their competitors, we believe that this is not an appropriate time or the way in which it should be done. Therefore, the Government is not producing all the documents relating to this matter but not out of any fear that they might reveal other than that which is in this document that the Prime Minister presented to the House tonight. If any member of the Opposition or member of the Parliament thinks otherwise may be so, I refer him to the last paragraph on page 18 of the Prime Minister’s statement in which he said:
The facts of this statement-
That includes the series of events- the chronological record of events- including all the correspondence and all the communications between each of the companies, the members of the Government and the Prime Minister - have been checked with all relevant permanent heads, namely, the Chairman of the Public Service Board, the permanent heads of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Trade and Resources, Defence, Administrative Services, Social Security and Finance, and the Australian Statistician.
They have all agreed that this statement categorically sets down the record that the Government believes is a complete and honest statement of the way in which this matter needs to be reviewed. However, there are some chronological events concerning the Leader of the Opposition’s statement to which I wish to advert briefly. I thought it was quite extraordinary that in the course of his statement he should refer to a question that he put on notice. The date, 24 August 1977, is interesting. On that date he asked a question of my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), about the extent to which Service personnel were involved in contractual, including sub-contractual, dealing to the value of $100,000 or more on behalf of the Defence Force. Remember the date, 24 August. I suggest that honourable members might like to refer to the Prime Minister’s statement. We notice that it was on 25 August, a day later, that Mr Harragan, according to Press reports which subsequently appeared on 10 February 1978, was offered a job with Facom. Remarkable, is it not?
The Leader of the Opposition has condemned the Prime Minister for his correct action in not proceeding with the letting of a contract relating to a tender in which there was some apprehension that a member of the Public Service might not have been completely impartial in giving advice. On the day after a question from the Leader of the Opposition about the contractual dealings of former members of the Defence Force, that man was offered employment outside the Public Service. That man at the moment is not under suspicion in any way but, because of his acceptance of employment outside the Public Service, and the fact that he must be seen to have had an opportunity to disclose confidential information, it is felt that the tenders should now be reopened. That is what this is all about. It is not a matter of our preferring one company or another; it is not a matter of our accepting one individual’s advice. What has happened is that in order to ensure the total impartiality of the tendering system of the Federal Government, all tenders are thrown open again to bids. That is what this debate is all about.
On the day before Mr Harragan received the first approach from the initially successful tenderer concerning a job, the Leader of the Opposition suggested that a member of the Public Service, albeit a member of the Defence Force, should not accept a job wherein he might be able to contribute confidential information because of previous experience in the defence field. The circumstances of the events that transpired throughout the dealings concerning the computer installation tender suggest that the only way by which total impartiality can be achieved is by the actions which the Government has followed in this case. The Federal Government has followed what I would suggest are the correct, adequate and proper procedures to ensure that there is no prejudice because of any relationship or any connection between any parties to this transaction. I believe that what the Leader of the Opposition has done is establish himself virtually as ‘Each Way Bill’. He is quite prepared on the one hand to say that we should not criticise the public servant concerned -
-Two Bob Bill.
– Yes, ‘Two Bob Bill’ might be preferable. The point is that there is no basis by which tenders should be accepted in circumstances in which there is apprehension that confidential information might have been passed on and that that information might have prejudiced the impartial letting of contracts. That is what this is about. Let me reiterate: The reason that we are not accepting this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is that there is no way by which we should accept a proposition to lay open for public inspection documents which could prejudice the letting of tenders in a totally impartial way. That is why we are not accepting this motion. Indeed, to do so would go completely against the overall intent of the Government’s belief in the total impartiality of the Public Service.
Since there is no basis whatsoever for the criticism that the Leader of the Opposition has made against the Prime Minister any suggestion that there is something fundamentally wrong about an impartial reopening of tenders is just not logical. There is no way by which the Leader of the Opposition can establish that there is a peculiar relationship between the Prime Minister and any particular company. Rather what has happened is that we have ensured that each of the companies which previously submitted a tender might again have an opportunity to do so. As the Prime Minister has said, the company that appeared to be successful in the first instance because of the degree to which it had an Australian content would obviously have a preference over all other companies in this affair.
Mr Speaker, there is no basis on which the Opposition can establish adequate reasons for the Government’s producing all the documents. The only reason that we are not doing so is that it is necessary that tenders be let without the tenderers knowing the confidential commercial figures of their competitors. The whole of the basis of this proposition is rather to cast some type of slur on the personality and integrity of the Prime Minister. There is no basis for that allegation. I have little doubt that this debate is really only a storm in a teacup. I therefore move:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Hayden) be agreed to. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. Is a division required?
Opposition members- Yes.
The bells being rungMr SPEAKER-Order! Honourable members will cease conversing with visitors in the Speaker’s gallery and people in the Speaker’s gallery will behave appropriately. I call upon the attendant to ensure this. If the people in the Speaker’s gallery do not behave in a fitting fashion they will not be admitted again.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I have received messages from the Senate concurring in the resolutions of the House relating to the appointment of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, and agreeing that the resolutions have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Not possible.
-Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– Not possible.
– The honourable member for Chifley has, on numerous occasions in the past, asked to make personal explanations and I have permitted him that indulgence. I ask him to treat other members with courtesy.
-During the debate this afternoon on the Territory Authorities (Financial Provisions) Bill, the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) suggested that I had not taken part in that debate because I was involved in family business interests. I would like it to be known as a matter of record that at the time the honourable member for Fraser made that comment I was in my office listening to the intercom broadcast and seeing one of my constituents. My practice is to interview constituents between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. in my office in Parliament House. As fate would have it, I was in fact interviewing a constituent from the electorate of Fraser who could not make an appointment with the honourable member for Fraser.
-The honourable member has made his explanation.
Debate resumed from 2 March, 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 call the honourable member for Hotham. I remind honourable members that this is a maiden speech. I ask all honourable gentleman to listen attentively.
- Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your re-election as Speaker to this, the Thirty-first Parliament. May I also congratulate you on your knighthood. You, sir, before several redistributions changed the electorates, represent many of the present constituents of Hotham. I know that they would want me to pass on congratulations and best wishes. I also congratulate the Chairman of Committees, the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar).
I come to this Parliament with pride and humility. It is a great honour to be chosen to represent the people of Hotham, and I thank everyone who helped me. My responsibility to the people of Hotham will not be forgotten as I play my part in our Government. I am prepared to work and I will work for them and for all Australians. I am here representing the people of Hotham- all the people of Hotham, not just the Liberal voters but also the Labor voters. I represent not just the big businesses of Hotham but also the small ones. I represent the sick, the professionals, the aged, the unskilled, the young, the housewives- all people. I represent not just the descendants of the migrants of Phillip’s fleet and of the migrants to the gold rush, but all the migrants. I represent them as a resident with an office in the electorate, ever open to all.
The last redistribution had a major effect on my electorate. It added over 30,000 voters from the Holt electorate. This perhaps makes it even more appropriate that there be a new member for Hotham. But I do not intend to talk about Hotham specifically. No doubt there was a description of Hotham in the maiden speech of the former member. No two electorates are physically alike, but like all other electorates the electorate of Hotham is made up of people; thus its needs are basically the same as the needs in other electorates. So, in looking after the needs of the people of Australia, we will be looking after the needs of the electorate of Hotham.
The prime responsibility of every member of parliament is the good of this country and the management of Australia. We have to plan ahead like successful companies- not with the dogma of the five-year and ten-year plans of the socialist countries but with ideals which should be part of our very way of life. But a government can do only so much. The answers do not lie with legislation as much as they do with the individual citizen. We have to create the environment in which all people can live and work with the maximum individual freedom and human dignity. The representatives of the people- all of us here- were voted into this Parliament because it was felt that we had something to contribute in the management of Australia. There are a number of members such as the Ministers, the Speaker, the Whips, et cetera, who essentially have their jobs prescribed. This leaves a large number of men with much to offer.
This country and the running of it can be compared with a large company, and no company would employ such talent and waste it. These talents must be gainfully employed, and I am sure they will be. The work of this Parliament must continue to be investigation and debate. It must continue to produce meaningful legislation and provide the leadership to inspire Australians to reach their potentials. This is not just the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Ministers but of all members of this Parliament, for without a doubt it is their presence, their word and their example which is the government to so many people. Nobody denies that there are men of talent on the Opposition benches and surely in debate they will bring up useful and worthwhile suggestions. The Government, in its wisdom, will no doubt evaluate these ideas in the spirit of providing the best for Australia. The Opposition members have their articles of faith in politics but they have to accept that we will pass legislation in line with our Liberal philosophies. However, in accepting the differences in philosophy they can still add to the debate and to the betterment of Australia. I am reminded of an occasion when I was in the United States of America in I960 listening with a small group of people to President Kennedy’s inaugural speech. When it was finished one of them clapped. Another turned to him and said: ‘I thought you were a Republican’. The reply was: ‘That is my President of my country. He was voted there by the people of my country. I will back him and help him’.
Many people throughout this country could do well to follow that example, remembering that we are all one country and we must stand behind the Government. While not singling out the unions, the power strike in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley at the end of last year must be counted as a prime example of forgetting that we are all part of Australia and must work in the best interests of all Australians.
People may ask how a new member can have the temerity to question some of the workings of Parliament. During the last election it became obvious that people had little time and not much respect for politicians or Parliament. To campaign under such conditions it was necessary to establish the reason behind this attitude, and it was not hard to find. Along with thousands of people, I have listended to parliamentary broadcasts and have read Hansard. They and I made judgments. Often those who stand apart can judge better. The main reason for the low opinion is the amount of time spent in personal point-scoring in Parliament. However, the public is quite indifferent to the week’s tally of points scored, and wishes that debate and criticism were directed at policies and not at people. Basically, people judge their Parliament by the results and not by the words. They do not want their Government to intrude into their lives in such a fashion.
The media have a lot to answer for with an electorate that is anti-parliament and antipolitician. The media report on the antics, the indiscretion and the unfortunate word to get the public attention, but all of these represent less than 5 per cent of the proceedings of Parliament and less than 1 per cent of the work of parliamentarians. Members of the Press do not write about the dedicated work of a good member. If more concentration were placed on the 95 per cent on which the media do not comment, certain honourable members might miss out on some free publicity and fewer papers might be sold, but this Parliament would once again have the respect of people.
When earlier I talked about the needs of the people of Australia I was not confining myself to things such as social services and health. AU aspects of government have their effect on people- defence, taxation, the environment, foreign relations and public works, among others. On the occasion of the opening of the
Thirty-first Parliament His Excellency the Governor-General spoke about our Government’s tasks, its priorities and the measures proposed to realise these goals. Let us make no mistake: The overriding aim is a stable and prosperous economy. The prime task is to ensure that growth is continued and our nation developed. It is only by developing our resources- our resources include our primary products, our services and our manufactured goods- that we can provide more for the community and a higher standard of living for all Australians. We have to go forward. There is no point in bemoaning the past or glorying in it. We all have to strive together now to achieve our goals.
One area of government has a great interest for me. It was the fourth item of government strategy in the previous Governor-General’s Speech on 17 February 1976 and also the fourth of” this Government’s priorities in the present Governor-General’s Speech on 21 February this year, which read, respectively:
Historic reforms will be made to reverse the concentration of power in the Federal Government and increase the autonomy and responsibilities of Local and State Governments.
To revitalise our Federal system by co-operating with State and local governments and giving them a greater measure of financial responsibility.
Federalism is not just a structural concept with a philosophical justification aimed at preventing a dangerous concentration of power in a few hands. Federalism is at the heart of the Government’s ideals and is the complete opposite of the Labor socialist doctrine. Under Federalism individuals are free to participate fully in governments, and the forms of government are decentralised to State and local governments to permit the maximum response and involvement of people. Governments must be brought as close as possible to people. We must recognise and provide for the growing demands of individuals and community groups to be heard and to participate meaningfully in the democratic process.
The Liberal federalism policy is lengthy and detailed, and the last Liberal Government went a long way towards implementing it. The benefits are starting to show, and nowhere more than in the local councils. Some Liberals may have certain reservations about this policy but I am sure it is because of their place of abode. I personally am seeing the best of it with a great State Government in Victoria and two good councils in Springvale and Moorabbin. I believe that the full implementation of a federalist policy will help to bring people together in the old sense of family and village. It will allow for a more sensitive application of funds for social welfare benefits and the more efficient use of our huge resource of dedicated volunteers in the charity field.
I wish that the Governor-General had had more time to expand on the Government’s intentions under this item but with such a high priority we can certainly expect action to further federalism. The Government has many difficult tasks ahead which will require the skills and energies of every honourable member. It will require men who can stand up and be counted, men who have the courage to make those unpopular decisions which will bring back stability and sanity to Australia. This is our country. It is a great country and it is worth fighting for, so let us all work together for a better country.
-Mr Speaker, first may I congratulate you and the Chairman of Committees on being elected to your high offices. I trust that you will both carry out your duties in a fair and just way. Also may I congratulate all new members of this House. However, I think it a great pity that more of them are not sitting on this side of the chamber. I particularly want to congratulate the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) on his election and to thank him and the electoral distribution commissioners who, with help from a member of the front bench opposite, all contributed to creating a more politically aware seat of Griffith. Perhaps our situation could be improved if more honourable members opposite took a leaf out of the book of the former honourable member for Griffith and, for the good of the country, just moved their electorates over a bit. I commend that to them.
I appreciate the honour that the electors of Griffith have bestowed upon me by electing me as their representative. I would like them to know that I am here to represent all of them, however they voted. My electorate is one of the first to feel the chill of a government which puts social justice at the tail end of its priorities- a government whose harsh policies are actually fermenting social disorder, a government which directs its public servants in the welfare area to stick to the letter of the law and to throw compassion and decency to the wind. My electorate takes in the busy inner city of Brisbane, which has the biggest local authority budget in Australia but which is the only city in Australia forced by the policies of an unsympathetic conservative government to ask its ratepayers to subsidise the cost of public transport. The electorate takes in Moreton Island, which is the subject of an environmental battle. Its near city developing areas are heavily populated by young people of working age, young couples and pensioners- groups of people who are the first to be frustrated and deprived by administrative heartlessness.
Whilst the Government’s policies are often unsympathetic to the point of being absolutely callous, I believe that many of those on the benches opposite are people of compassion. I appeal to them to stir up what little social conscience there is on their front bench. In the short time that I have been a member I have learnt much of the enormous hardships of those deprived by the Government’s attitudes and actions. Only a short drive across the city from my home is the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Centre at Taringa. It can help about 120 handicapped patients on a daily basis and the new facilities opened only last year are commendable because for the first time an attempt has been made by the Australian Government to cater for the real needs of the handicapped people in Queensland. But the shocking thing about the service provided is that although the waiting list for the centre is longer than the list of enrolments, it is the only place of its type anywhere in the State.
When we consider the length of time that Federal Liberal-Country Party governments have been in office in the past 25 years we have all the evidence we need of just how skew-whiff their priorities and values really are. Adequate facilities for only part of this disadvantaged section of our community were provided only last year. Most of the patients at the centre are under 25 years of age. One in four are the victims of motor accidents. One in two have medical problems, such as epilepsy or a heart condition. Until last year this very needy section of the community throughout Queensland had to make do with less than proper and adequate facilities. It was not a Liberal government which set about righting the inadequacy. It was the Whitlam Labor Government which held office for only three of those past 25 years which ensured that funds became available.
I am, of course, aware that another rehabilitation centre is being built in Townsville. That centre too was put into the pipeline by the Labor Government. Care of the handicapped is one matter which should be above party politics. I ask honourable members opposite, when they think of the rising unemployment figures, to think for a moment how it affects the handicapped people in our community. When this Government took office 60 per cent of the men and women who received appropriate training and assessment at the Rehabilitation Centre in Queensland were able to enter the work force. Now, I understand, 20 per cent are lucky to find a job. I have a particular concern for the handicapped in my electorate because they contribute to a problem more prevalent in Griffith than anywhere else in Queensland. This is the problem of the housebound people who, through age, infirmity or handicap are afraid or unable to leave their homes without assistance. The life of a housebound person is one of the loneliest in the world. I urge the Government to give special attention to the problems of the handicapped. A good start would be extended sales tax exemptions on the special aids which are essential to them.
The Griffith electorate includes a large industrial area with acitivities such as oil refining, meat works, fish boards, dry docks and manufacturing. In the past it has been an area filled with the promise of good, steady work for those willing and able to seek a job. Today it is filled with the almost endless fear of losing a job. In the building industry we have the almost continuous hopeless drift from job site to job site of people competing for the few vacancies which become available. For the business sector, particularly the small businessman in the industrial and semiindustrial fields, it means low returns because of slack demand or even bankruptcy. A look through last week’s newspapers points up the economic wizardry of the Fraser Government. The giant financier IAC (Holdings) Ltd announced last week that it had incurred a loss of $5 lm in the year to 3 1 December. It is one of the biggest losses ever recorded by a company operating in Australia. Western Mining Corporation’s profit is down 40 per cent and it does not see its prospects picking up in the near future. General Motors-Holden’s Ltd has just announced a loss of $8.4m for 1977. Chrysler Australia Ltd has announced a loss of nearly $28m. The Nissan Motor Co, (Australia) Pty Ltd has forecast that it will announce a loss. The industry expects the Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd to announce a loss. So far it looks like four out of four local manufacturers reporting losses.
In 1974, the last full year of the last Labor Government, all those companies reported healthy profits. IAC (Holdings) Ltd reported a profit of $6,090,000; Western Mining Corporation reported $15,954,000; General MotorsHolden’s Ltd reported $14m; and Chrysler
Australia Ltd reported $2,571,000. These facts shatter the deception of our opponents’ claims of being sound managers of the economy. The facts show them to be the greatest unemployment producers of all time. Having created record unemployment they appeal to all that is worst in human nature and campaign against the jobless, labelling them bludgers. On top of that, the unemployed are being used by this Government as a part of its union bashing equipment. As far as I know no one in Australia has come up with scientific evidence on the relationship between an intangible, such as work incentives, and the way it is affected by the availability of welfare benefits. The matter has been examined by a number of writers and official bodies overseas. The general conclusion is that for other than a minimal number of people there is little data to suggest that there is a strong link between nonparticipation in the work force and the provision of welfare benefits. Certainly, in any society there are a few hangers-on but I can only feel disgust at this Government’s deliberate campaign to label honest, solid citizens as bludgers.
Griffith presently contains a wasted work force of 13,000. These are the men and women who at the end of January were registered for employment. They comprise one third of the unemployed in the whole of Brisbane. As just one example of their plight, in the West End area of Brisbane 1,336 people were registered for jobs but a total of only 20 registered jobs was available. Teenagers comprise 12 per cent of the work force in Queensland yet they account for 42 per cent of the unemployed. Police spokesmen, social workers and hospitals have reported an alarming growth in crime and youth suicide. They put the cause down to unemployment. We are told by church leaders that the consequences of the present intolerable numbers of registered jobless will be family breakdown, child abuse, mental and physical illness, alcoholism and, again, crime. Churches are concerned with the judgmental and even punitive approach taken towards the unemployed, whether it be by the Government and the policies it sets for the Public Service or whether it be in community attitudes which are fostered. Ben Chifley once said:
It is the duty and responsibility of the community, and particularly those more fortunately placed, to see that our less fortunate fellow-citizens are protected from those shafts of fate which leave them helpless and without hope. That is the object for which we are striving.
That is what the Labor movement and Labor governments since Federation have striven for. The Fisher Labor Government introduced invalid pensions for incapacitated and blind Australians. It brought in the age pension for women at 60 and a means test free maternity allowance. Curtin’s Government set up a vocational training scheme to help invalids return to work. His Government introduced the widow’s pension, allowances for the wives and children of pensioners, the funeral benefit and a social worker casework service. The most important and significant innovation among the host of innovations introduced by the Curtin Government was unemployment and sickness benefits. Under the Chifley Government each State undertook that treatment would be available in public wards of public hospitals free of charge without a means test. His Government liberalised the means test on pensions, extended allowances and introduced new benefits. His Government also established the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service. As I mentioned earlier, the centre at Taringa was a Whitlam Labor Government addition to that service.
I have mentioned these Labor initiatives not only to show the Labor movement’s history of social sensitivity and achievements but also to demonstrate the incredible social inertia of nonLabor governments. This Government seems to concentrate on public relations stunts instead of practical relations schemes in its approach to the jobless. Last year this Government’s Queensland counterpart gained big headlines by announcing that it was co-operating with the Australian Government to do a full scale breakdown of unemployment with a view to providing government initiatives. The idea seemed commendable. For days and days during the slow build-up to the State election, newspapers and television stations carried details. That was all we heard of the matter.
Too little genuine co-operative effort between the Federal Government and the States is being made to combat the rising unemployment figures. In Queensland in the 1930s, Premier Forgan Smith mobilised the unemployed of the Depression to begin projects such as the Storey Bridge, Somerset Dam, Mackay Harbour and the first stage of the Queensland University. Many tradesmen started and completed their apprenticeships through these government initiatives. Today, projects of similar potential longterm benefit are languishing at the drawing board stage for want of government support while school leavers wait months to start careers and thousands more drift disillusioned from one unsatisfactory job hunt to another.
One of Australia ‘s greatest defence hazards is the flood vulnerability of its northern and western highways and the deficiencies of its long distance rail systems. There are well identified flood points that sink under water year after year. Liberal-National Country Party Government policies based on freezing government activity have proved a dismal economic failure. Canberra should now be prepared to contribute, through the Defence vote, to the cost of a jobincentive road improvement program in the far north.
Twenty-one years ago the then honourable member for Wannon, the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in his maiden speech talked of defence and of the importance of improving our roads. He waxed eloquent. He talked of Romans and military victories and the importance that the Romans placed on lines of communication. As Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Wannon, in his defence thinking, seems only to have got as far north as the Bowral line. I have travelled extensively for business reasons on these roads through the far north, the Channel country and the Northern Territory. I know from first-hand experience how quickly wet weather isolation takes control. Impassable roads are no answer to a crisis or an emergency when they are the only roads in existence. The benefits of a job-creating program to build all-weather highways would be immeasurable. Freight costs would be reduced, defence needs strengthened, communications improved and the neglected north would have some sign of interest from a government which is distant in every respect. A ready job force, including the often forgotten unemployed Aborigines of the Channel Country and the isolated outback is waiting.
A monthly review of the employment situation published by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations shows that in Queensland alone, unemployment north of Mackay in the year to the end of January has risen by 2,780 to 16,004. In the same period, the number of job opportunities fell from 3 15 to 297. I urge the Government, rather than turn its back on the vicitms of the present depressed economy, to assist at all levels.
In Queensland last week car registration fees were raised by 25 per cent on the basis that the money was needed by 45 local government authorities to maintain the jobs of road workers. I have great sympathy for anyone threatened by the loss of a job. But the idea of raising money for local government road works by hitting motorists with a 25 per cent hike in registration fees is like increasing the interest rates on home loan mortgages to pay for Housing Commission homes. Local government authorities should not need to go bankrupt or need to threaten to dismiss workers before governments come to their assistance. I was dismayed to read of the reasons that the Queensland Minister for Main Roads, Mr Hinze, gave for his decision to get the money for road development costs from an extra slug on only a section of the community. As reported in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of 1 March, Mr Hinze said:
There was no other way of getting it. I asked the Federal Transport Minister, Mr Nixon, to come here for talks but he was too busy and said there was nothing left in Canberra to give us.
Mr Hinze and the Federal Minister for Transport belong to the same political party, yet we have the amazing spectacle of the Federal Minister refusing to listen to the plight of his State counterpart on an issue that involves hundreds of jobs and the livelihood, obviously, of many more. It is, however, an example of the displacement of priorities which is symptomatic of the approach of both this Government and the Queensland State Government in times like the present. They strike a problem so they look for a new tax, or raise an old tax or create personal hardships by attempting to stop the flow of government money to socially deserving causes. Access to funds for jobs must be made available at all levels. In the case of local government authorities, that does not mean stop-gap schemes such as cutting grass, weeding gardens or painting fences, but worthwhile works which almost every local government body has on the drawing board ready to start immediately funds are available. The Liberal Party and the National Country Party, responsible for our highest unemployment since World War II, seem to have no policies to correct this situation.
In closing my remarks, I should like to repeat the words contained in the fourth paragraph of the Governor-General ‘s Speech:
After two years of hard work and substantial achievement, Australians now look to the future with new found confidence.
If huge company losses and record unemployment are substantial achievements and show new found confidence, then God help Australia.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, may I congratulate you on your reappointment as a Deputy Chairman of Committees. I hope that you will convey to the Speaker my congratulations and the congratulations of my constituents in the electorate of Mallee upon his re-appointment and also upon the honour bestowed on him by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. I should also like you to convey to the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) my congratulations on his elevation to the high office of Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. I know that he will serve in those positions with tolerance and ability. Further, I should like to pay a special tribute to the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) who served this nation so well and for so long as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. In fact he created a record service in that position.
This Parliament has also seen the election of several new parliamentary representatives. I have no doubt that they will make a valuable contribution to the affairs of our nation and will prove to be worthy representatives of our people. I congratulate those new members who have already spoken in this debate but I think it would be true to say that many of them have been quite provocative in their maiden speeches. They cannot expect in the future the sort of treatment they received when making their maiden speeches. Traditionally, such speeches are heard in silence. One or two of them have also been a little bit short on for facts. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Humphreys) brought up the issue of roads. I point out to him that in the last term of the Labor Government it provided $4m for rural local roads right throughout the whole of Australia. This year the Liberal-National Country Party Government has made an appropriation of $19m for this particular section of roadworks alone.
As a result of the recent redistribution, I now find myself the representative of an expanded Mallee electorate which now includes some 23,000 constituents from the former Wimmera electorate. I look forward to the challenge of now representing an area which includes the vast cereal growing regions of western and northwestern Victoria- 58,000 square kilometres of diverse agricultural production and three cities with many vital towns and communities. I must, however, express my concern that rural people are being further disadvantaged by the erosion of their political representation. The loss of the Wimmera electorate from the National Parliament and the forced retirement of its member, Bob King, is a tragedy.
The Wimmera electorate was created in 1 90 1 and has been represented by only eight men. Percy Stewart, Hugh McClelland, Alexander Wilson and Bill Lawrence are all remembered for their diverse achievements and their effectiveness in their support for rural people. Sir Winton Turnbull, my predecessor in Mallee for 24 years, was also the member for Wimmera from 1946 to 1949 until a redistribution at that time saw the creation of the new Mallee electorate.
Robert Shannon King served the Wimmera people for 19 years. His political career was not easy in that he faced three-cornered or fourcornered contests on most occasions. An indication of the support he received and the respect in which he was held is best gauged by the fact that his worst vote was received during the first election he contested and the best vote he received was at the last election he contested in 1975.
Bob King has given a lifetime of service and has been distinguished in many areas. He was a member of the State Council of the then Country Party and served on many parliamentary delegations and committees. He has made a significant contribution to agriculture and in 1971, was appointed Assistant Minister to the Minister for Primary Industry. He served Australia by enlisting in 1940 in the Second 24th Battalion and by going to the Middle East, Tobruk and New Guinea, during which time he was severely wounded. The loss of Bob King, and particularly the loss of the Wimmera electorate, is of real concern for rural Australia. Politicians expect to have some difficulty in contests with other political opponents but to be defeated by the distribution commissioners is a bitter pill. This Parliament should be concerned about the erosion of rural representation. I know that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is concerned because he recognises that, with the potential of the Mallee electorate and its current absorption of half the former Wimmera electorate, any further redistribution may result in one electorate in western Victoria, extending from Mildura to the sea, which could well leave him without a political home.
This Parliament will have to give considerable thought to agricultural policy in a broader context than that given in the few paragraphs espoused in the Governor-General’s address. In earlier debate my colleagues, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) spoke about the difficulties facing many of our specialists rural industries, particularly the dairy and the horticultural industries. However, these problems extend over the broad gamut of rural industry in general. The contribution of agriculture to the growth of the economy is undergoing vast changes. During the early 1970s several major shocks occurred which have had, and are still having, a profound effect upon agriculture throughout the world. It is pretty obvious that the rate of productivity growth in agriculture has begun to decline; thus the number of people fed per farmer and per acre has levelled off.
It appears that there will be few major scientific breakthroughs in crop or livestock genetics, in fertiliser response or in pest control. Attempts made over the past years in Australia and throughout the world to divide the economic pie more evenly have led to an increase in inflation. The economy and especially agriculture have become more closely integrated with the world economy. Attempts at agricultural policy formation are frequently similar to a leaky roof: Just when you get a bucket under one drop, another drop begins. That is not by design, but it does indicate the extreme difficulties faced in formulating any long term agricultural policy in industries which depend almost wholly on world demands and economy.
The experiences during the early part of the 1970s have demonstrated also just how fickle the consumer and, for that matter, the world population is. We remember when the last bushel of grain had hardly been removed from the surplus storage bins throughout the world when everyone became concerned about the imminent food shortages. Old theories about changing climate, population growths, excess in consumption and so on, had all been cleared away in a very short time. During the post-war era agricultural economists attributed the farm problem first to the loss of foreign markets and then to a slack domestic demand.
However, a large part of the problem came from the technical revolution in farming. Australian primary producers have pursued at full speed the infusion of new technology which has resulted in more output per man, per acre and per unit of capital. That, of course, occurred to a very similar degree throughout the world. But farmers as a whole did not reap the full benefits from new technology. The Australian consumer and foreign buyers got more and better food at relatively lower prices. Meanwhile, the economy of our country boomed. Full employment at that time prevailed and generally farmers prospered in line with the rest of our society. Over recent years our agricultural policy in this country has grown out of changing economic conditions dictated by overseas markets. We have seen ourselves priced out of the world market and we have denied ourselves some growth. Artificially high prices have speeded up the adoption of new technology. Increased yields have resulted, in Australia, in some production restrictions. There was throughout most industries, however, and there still is, an unwillingness to accept supply controls. The results are surpluses which tend to stabilise the price at the support level. Farm benefit programs have tended to profit large producers disproportionately. The holding of farm prices above competitive levels has tended to bring about an increase in production costs, particularly in land values.
I shall discuss very briefly one or two of these points, because I believe they will be critical in the formation of future agricultural policy in Australia. The first point is that of production control. Critical questions which need to be answered are, for example, whether the Government should control the quantity of agricultural production and whether those controls should be voluntary or mandatory. Some people contend that the days of over-production have passed. Production controls have been attempted but the result has always been that the acreage quickly shifts from the production of one commodity to another, thus transferring the surplus. Any successful program for production control will be recognised as that resulting in higher prices for both producers and consumers, and that is connected with a possible reduction of export and government costs. One thing which is certain is that any type of price support scheme which does not have production control could be disastrous. Lack of an effective production control technique has been the basis of the shortcomings of most agricultural policies. Chances are that it will also be the major problem with any future programs.
Crop insurance and disaster payments are also areas that need detailed government consideration. A number of natural disasters during recent years have meant that crops planted by farmers have been destroyed well before harvest. Many producers in Victoria in the last season suffered severe crop losses. Those engaged in the vine fruit industry suffered hail damage to their crops, vegetable growers suffered frost damage to their plantings, and farmers in other regions, particularly in Gippsland, suffered severe fire damage to their undertakings. The central question is whether any schemes can provide protection or whether private insurance companies should be encouraged to do so. Perhaps no part of the present farm law will be more difficult to resolve. An alternative that should be considered is that of the producer and government sharing the cost of an insurance program. Most likely the taxpayer will be asked to pick up a portion of the risk in exchange for an adequate food supply.
Of considerable interest in my electorate, which is one of the largest grain producing electorates in Australia, is the matter of grain reserves. The questions being asked are whether we should support a world stockpile of food for times of disaster and whether that reserve should be under the control of the producers or of governments. Proponents of the proposition that reserves should be held maintain that such reserves will ensure adequate surpluses for domestic needs, help stabilise prices, reduce price and income fluctuations for producers, help stabilise lifestock and poultry industries, facilitate export and trade, and provide for domestic and foreign food assistance programs. However, opponents of the scheme maintain that any reserves of grain will distort market signals and depress farm prices. In other areas they could well discourage other countries from holding reserves, they could be manipulated for political benefit, or they could cost too much to manage and hold. It does appear that many world administrations publicly favour holding some reserves, and that will be a major consideration for the Australian Government within the next 12 months.
Several kinds of major conclusions seem to stand out as having implications for Australian agriculture and as being related to the changing structure of our Australian agricultural scene and our producers. Production and marketing of most agricultural products including the major ones in trade, are broad based and reasonably competitive. The grain export industry is probably relatively efficient and aggressive, with strong incentives to operate on a large volume basis. So, the structure of the agricultural industry, as measured by its degree of concentration, does not appear likely to generate major impacts on Australia’s agricultural export trade. Secondly, the agricultural production sector- particularly those farms engaged in the production of most large volume export crops- has become highly labour efficient. This structural change is the result of high per unit labour costs, expanded off-farm employment opportunities and the availability of labour-efficient production technology. Clearly, these factors are inter-related and have resulted in shifts to the use of labourefficient technology and to the production of labour-efficient crops. Moreover, incentives exist for even further shifts in these directions. In this area one can point to investment allowances and to recent changes to rural award rates.
Thirdly, the use of petrochemical inputs has become intensive in several labour-efficient highvolume export crops. Also, the energy content in chemical fertilisers and pesticides is high. Major increases in energy prices, or substantial constraints on the use of petrochemical inputs, generally could generate very substantial increases in the cost structure with resulting shifts in the supply. The impact of higher energy prices will be particularly great. If, for example, energy prices to the Australian farmers increased not only on an absolute basis but also relative to those for competitive producers in other countries it could be quite disastrous on the Australian scene. So, more than any other structural change in agriculture, the move to heavy dependency on the petrochemical industry to underpin the production of major export commodities stands out as one of our major issues.
The possibility of higher prices for energy and inputs with high energy contents and of shortages of petrochemical inputs point up the severe vulnerability of several major export commodities. It is to this third area- that of the importance of fuel costs to the future viability of exportproducing industries- that I direct some final comments in this debate. Our Government is now in the process of implementing a petroleum price subsidisation scheme -
-The Labor Party took it off us.
-That is right. As the honourable member for Darling Downs reminds me, the fuel equalisation scheme, as we knew it for so many years, was removed by the former Labor Government. I only hope, when the Bill concerning this matter is brought into the House in the near future, I will have an opportunity to speak to it. The scheme we will be introducing will have a significant impact on reducing fuel costs to the end user in our more isolated areas. However, I believe that our Government will have to expand further incentives to our exporting industries. Such protection will be essential for several reasons. Firstly the rural sector uses 20 per cent of the total refined petroleum product. It is also heavily dependent on the transport industry which uses 22 per cent of that product. It is essential that action be taken to isolate these export orientated industries from what will be a general thrust towards world parity prices. Secondly, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics statistics indicate that beef, fruit and dairying industries in particular are under extreme cost pressures from petrochemical inputs. Thirdly, alternative energy resources will be minimal for agriculture. Fourthly, agricultural trends for reasons outside the control of these industries have been towards capital intensification so that increased productivity has countered off-farm prices. Fifthly, the balance of payments created by the agricultural sector will be essential to pay for the increased importation of crude oil.
This House will be aware that our two major competitors in agricultural trade, the United States of America and Canada, have an on-farm price of automotive distillate and gasoline well below the Australian price even though the cost of their crude oil is more expensive. It is almost twice as expensive as in Australia. I urge the Government therefore to move on the rationalisation of distribution and major inefficiencies in petrol retailing generally and to come towards excise rebating or taxation deductions for those industries dependent on petroleum fuel for their production. I support the motion moved by the two Government supporters, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) and the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack), in reply to the Governor-General’s Address at the opening of the Thirty-First Parliament on 21 February this year.
– I rise to speak in the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The post of GovernorGeneral has never been one renowned for its occupancy by men of radical or even mildly progressive bent. In that sense Sir Zelman Cowen is a good choice as he maintains the tradition of conservatism and reaction for which the post is known. However, I suggest that on 2 1 February even Sir Zelman must have been embarrassed by the conservatism and the stodginess of the program thrust before him to read to this Parliament. I suggest that the conservatism and stodginess are understandable when one looks at the author of this unimaginative and restricting program. I refer this evening to several disturbing aspects of that program. Firstly, at the general level, it offers little hope to the ordinary Australian in the years ahead. It admits that the Government does not intend to attack unemployment by stating:
My Government rejects the notion that there can be a trade-off between inflation and unemployment.
I will return to that matter in more detail, but remaining on the general level that statement, combined with the continued refusal of this Government to revitalise the economy through the public sector, its continued determination to clamp down on any movement aimed at improving life styles in this country, its insistence that the workers and wage earners of Australia must pay the cost of our economic crisis, the sheer pall over any growth, the sheer lack of any excitement or any feeling of national pride or development generated by this Speech, indicate a general feeling of inertia and boredom in our society. But worse than that, there are undertones of direct repression and jackbootery tucked away among the euphemisms poured out by the Governor-General. The Government’s deep concern about the outbursts of violence and its commitment to what effectively means an expansion of the spy functions of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation pose severe and real threats to the civil liberties of many honest Australians active in movements which do not please the Government’s philosophy of big business making profits at all costs. I would like to make a point about the clamp down on terrorism, the tightening of security and the unprecedented use of troops in Sydney and Bowral in recent weeks.
-What would you have done, Ted?
– I will explain that in a moment. What happened last week in this Parliament is indicative of the same syndrome. There is something strange about the Sydney bombing. Its timing, for instance, could not have been more perfect for the Government. In the weeks immediately preceding the explosion there had been two significant events affecting the spy forces in this country. The first was the now wellknown sacking of the South Australian Police Commissioner who placed himself above the Government only to be, perhaps as an afterthought, subservient to the Governor-General whom he thought was a great guy who would not possibly resort to those tactics. This occurred after a report from an acting judge in that State indicated that the Commissioner had misled Parliament over the affairs of the State’s special branch. The report found that the special branch kept files on people active in almost any progressive force in the State; from peace movements to the women’s movement and to conservationists simply trying to save the environment. All of these people were branded as saboteurs and traitors by the special branch. There were even files on all Labor parliamentarians but, appropriately, very few conservative politicians even rated a mention.
It is understandable, of course, that anybody in a progressive movement ought to be mentioned on these files. The special branches and the whole security network, including the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Joint Intelligence Organisation and even the Australian Security Intelligence Service exist purely to preserve the status quo. That status quo, very simply, is a selfish, every person for himself system that ensures that a small minority of Australians and international business people make millions of dollars at the expense of the majority. Conservation movements threaten the system and income by urging controls over the amount of waste and rubbish industry can spew into the air, our rivers, our oceans and our earth. Industry and conservative governments see these controls in only one way: They threaten the profits of big business.
That is why the Government attacks the antiuranium lobby and why police have been used against it. Uranium presents one of the greatest threats the world has faced. It represents a genuine threat to our very existence. But honourable members opposite and their mining friends simply want the profits today and hang the consequences for future generations. The hypocrisy of this attitude is spelled out in their attitude to uranium waste. When the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) was asked whether we would bring the uranium waste back to Australia, he said: ‘Oh, not on your life ‘. As far as the Government is concerned, it is all care and no responsibility. That is why this Government attacks all the worthwhile areas of activity in this country. There is no morality displayed on the part of honourable members opposite, nor is there any morality in the mining lobby. In particular, no morality is shown by honourable members who sit on the front bench of this Government. They use euphemistic terms like ‘responsibility’ and the ‘national good’ to hide their real intentions. But to ensure that their real intentions are not thwarted, they surround themselves with spies and security bodies. They feel themselves theatened when those bodies are challenged or threatened, when the presumed right of the police and spies to tap the telephone of anybody they please or to keep files on anybody they please, is challenged.
– The honourable member who represents that great electorate that Sir John Gorton represented for some considerable time laughs. But he would not know the first thing about security. He has never been a member of a union in his life. He has never suffered the repression that unionists suffer in their attempts to represent the people they are elected to represent. They are not like the honourable member; they were not born with a silver spoon in the mouth and know no other way of life. I feel a little sorry for the honourable member, actually. To make matters worse, it was discovered that the leader of the New South Wales Opposition, a man known for many years for his arch reactionary views, was exposed as being involved in planning a newspaper which aimed to undermine the progressive forces in this country. Its format was presumably the age-old one of putting the most conservative arguments with a dash of small ‘1’ liberalism. Honourable members can see what has happened to the small ‘1’ liberals in this Parliament. They all finish up with darns in their ties or alternatively they struggle on an issue to gain a once only seat in the Senate. That is what has happened to Mr Chipp and to other people who even lauded themselves as small ‘1’ liberals. I do not believe that they ever were. In the wake of the sensations, with the whole security network feeling somewhat insecure and probably feeling itself under the microscope from the Press, although in reality the Press analysis was little better than a scratchy monocle, with the conservative governments and conservative oppositions of this country worried about what dirty linen might come out in the wash, with business disturbed that one of its strongest supporters was under attack, the Sydney bombing got them off the hook. I am not for one moment suggesting that the person who was responsible for such an outrage is not despicable and ought not to run the course of what is justly coming to him. But I am referring to the antagonism of the philosophy of honourable members opposite, a philosophy that presses people into desperate situations, particularly hunting the unemployed, the dole bludger syndrome and the parasite syndrome- all expounded by the parasites on the Government back benches.
There is also this nurturing of people’s feelings. For instance, I refer to the so-called power of the media at the moment that governs the issue of so-called public opinion polls. Public opinion polls now guide the opinion of individuals and do not ask for it. Public opinion polls condition people to accept the fact that the use of troops in the interests of the security of this country will be the order of the day. They will be brought out to deal with workers who have the audacity to stand up for what they believe is right. It is also a conditioning of the people to understand that an unemployment rate of 5 per cent, 6 per cent or 7 per cent is not an unreasonable situation in the development of the capitalist society at this point in time. Of course, it is not. The former Treasurer, the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch), got his fingers caught in the old Jewish piano. He was the man who presented Budgets in previous years. When he was really caught in the difficult situation in which he found himself, the old Prime Minister dropped him like a hot potato. He must have something on the Prime Minister because he is back on the front bench. Honourable members can rest assured that he has not heard the last of that.
I submit that the minds of the people are being conditioned by the very thing that we look to in order to present an unbiased view of what might be happening in regard to the news in this country. I suspect that whoever planted the bomb may not have known the rubbish bin was collected at 1.30 a.m. I hasten to say that individuals may be sick in mind. The unfortunate part about it is that really we do not know and probably might never know in fact who did it. So we must not point the finger at terrorists or people who are sick. Excuses can be offered. It is unfortunate that people have suffered. We all feel for the families of the two garbage men and the constable who have died. But surely it is a poor political gimmick to use those sorts of situations effectively to put before the House a reason to bring out the troops at the drop of a hat.
The Prime Minister effectively declared martial law, whether he likes to call it that or not. It is a rose by any other name. The implications for civil liberties and human rights in this country are frightening. When the Prime Minister can call out the troops at his whim, how far are we from the pro-Western terror regimes such as those in Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia -
- Mr Wran called for the troops.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! I ask the honourable member for Higgins to cease interjecting.
– The honourable member cannot help himself, Mr Deputy Speaker. Interjecting comes naturally to him. How far is Australia from the pro- Western terror regimes of Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and other countries which curtail human rights ruthlessly? The economic policies outlined by the GovernorGeneral are also disturbing. I have mentioned already the non-commitment to attack unemployment. It seems to me that honourable members opposite, in particular the Prime Minister, treat this Parliament with scant respect. The Prime Minister is prepared in an adjournment debate to tell a deliberate lie in the House. I charge him with telling a deliberate lie. I will go on -
-Order! I ask the honourable member to withdraw the word ‘ lie ‘.
– He is handling the truth very carelessly, to say the least.
-Does the honourable member withdraw the word ‘lie’?
– I withdraw the word ‘lie’ and say in its place that the Prime Minister is handling the truth very carelessly. I will go on to substantiate what I am saying. The fact is that on that night he said certain things about the allegations concerning a Commonwealth driver being sent to Adelaide with this Mr Burrow’s instruments in the car. It is reported that he said about the butler- I quote from the Hansard record of 23 February- that on his return:
He travelled to Bowral on a bus, not in a special car, together with other stewards.
That car was booked by Mrs Fraser plus two other people. Mrs Fraser was not in Canberra. She was either in Sydney or Bowral. The same driver who the Prime Minister said did not drive the butler to Bowral in fact did drive the butler to Bowral. Mrs Fraser bypassed the usual procedures. How many people -
– Can you get that out- Bowral?
– Bowral, not in the barrel. How many people around this place could do the same thing? The Prime Minister bypassed the usual procedures. I challenge him to come into this House and deny that he told a deliberate lie to get himself off the hook.
There is one inconsistency in the Government’s economic policy. Australia is in an economic crisis. We have the worst unemployment on record. Government policies mean that unemployment will continue to worsen. The sole concern of this Government, like all Liberal governments, is the small minority who control the country’s finances. It is intent on making the vast majority, the wage and salary earners, pay for the sins of the system. What has really happened is that the Government has continued to apply pressure on the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It has stood over the Commission and now unfortunately the Commission has bowed to that pressure. As Mr Hawke has said, he would have more respect for the Commission if it had been honest and said that it believed that a cut in real wages was necessary to restore Australia’s economic equilibrium. Mr Hawke said:
If they had the decency and the honesty to say that they were in fact engaged in cutting real wages to produce economic results, at least you’d be able to argue with them on the basis of what they are doing.
What has really happened in terms of this overall situation of the non-application of wage indexation, and the tax relief is that we now have a 70c net result on the lower incomes and inevitably there will be an increase in health insurance premiums because of that movement. Since the private health insurance funds have increased their rates it is inevitable that there will be an increase in Medibank rates. I challenge the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) to stand up and say that there will not be an increase, that the Government will relegate the 70c increase to a negative situation. Of course it is a cut in wages. The Government does not have the guts, or the intestinal fortitude, to stand up and say so, but the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is now an arm of the economic strategy of the Government.
How much justification do unions have now to move within the system? How much justification do union leaders have to go out and tell their members that they should operate within the system? It is a dog eat dog operation in which the only commodity that is really controlled in this country is that which the working people sell - their labour. Their level of effective take-home pay is degenerating and the whole burden of the rise in inflation and the problems that the Government faces in controlling and managing the economy is thrust on to the workers. That situation clearly spells out that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has fallen into the trap. It will rue the day because surely to God it will be stood up in an argument with the unions and be called upon to say why it now finds itself outside the parameters of its charter, that is, to reslolve industrial disputes that extend beyond the borders of one State. The Commission is there to resolve disputes; not to make them. It has made its decision at the instigation of the Government and under pressure from the Government.
When we look at the inconsistency of the Government’s policies, we see that Australia is in an economic crisis. I have pointed out that we have the worst unemployment on record. I have mentioned in this House previously that we live under an economic system that is totally unsuitable and totally corrupt because the people on the other side of the House see the views of only one section of the community. So far as the Government is concerned, the destiny of the people of this country is left to the whim of the market place. There is no control over the people that represent and perhaps stand over the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier). I like the gentleman. It seems a pitiful shame that he is in the same category as the indivuals who occupy the front bench. But nevertheless it is true. The innocent victims of the people opposite are the workers. Economists say that in assessing the right of the working people to survive, the destruction of the organisation is the fundamental question facing the Government.
So far as I am concerned, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was about as conservative as the individual who wrote it. I am sure that the Governor-General was a little embarrassed. To sum up the Speech, it guarantees the perpetration of the inequalities and injustices which are eroding Australian society at present.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Firstly, I wish to associate myself with the expressions of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen in the AddressinReply. Secondly, I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to congratulate Mr Speaker most warmly on his recent knighthood and his reelection as Speaker of this House- the highest office the Parliament can confer on one of its members and an office which he has occupied with great distinction, impartiality and dignity. I also congratulate most warmly the new Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees, the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar). Thirdly, I congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply and all the other speakers- particularly the new members on both sides of the Housefor their most valuable contributions to this debate.
The vacuum left by the departure from this House of such great parliamentarians as the honourable Kim Beazley, the honourable W. C. Wentworth, the honourable Frank Crean, the honourable Don Chipp, the honourable Bert Kelly, and newer members Mr Tony Whitlam and Mr John Abel, has been filled by new, young and enthusiastic members of great promise and potential. I am naturally proud to have been reelected member for Denison, notwithstanding an extremely strong and vigorous campaign waged by the Australian Labor Party and a most worthy and distinguished opponent, a former member of this House. I am further proud of the fact that I belong to a Party which constitutionally guarantees to its parliamentary members the right to speak out on matters of conscience even if the views held do not coincide with the publicly expressed policy of the Government. I go further and say that in my judgment members are duty bound to express views which they conscientiously hold- that is why we are here- and it would be hypocritical in the extreme to cower in silence when such a situation arises. Shakespeare said: ‘Thus conscience does make cowards of us all’; but that is true only if a man turns his back on his conscience and runs away from the occasion on which he is morally called upon to express the truth as he believes it to be. Whilst I recognise and respect the conscientious views of those who form the majority opinion in our Government parties on the matter I wish to raise,
I am comforted in the knowledge that they in return respect the conscientious minority views which I and some of my colleagues hold, and our right- our inalienable right- to proclaim our views and to be heard in the Parliament of this nation.
Both conscience and reason compel me to say that I do not accept Australia’s decision of 20 January, 1978, to recognise that East Timor is now part of Indonesia any more than I could accept the decision of the previous Administration that the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were legally part of Soviet Russia; any more than could I have accepted the annexation of Czechoslovakia by the Third Reich of Nazi Germany; any more than I could accept the brutal and murderous oppression of patriotic uprisings in Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Three fundamental questions must be asked and, indeed, demand answers, with respect to Australia’s announcement of 20 January concerning East Timor. They are: What exactly did Australia do on that day and what are its implications both nationally and internationally? Why was that decision taken? Was it right?
Does this House fully appreciate the implications of 20 January, the qualities of the decision and the consequences upon recognition? Let us go back 40 years to another case and ascertain what principles can be extracted from statements made at that time in the House of Commons, and outside the Parliament, by people of great eminence and authority in whose shadows I would never dare even to imagine that I would be fit to walk. It was on 21 September 1938 that the late Winston Spencer Churchill proclaimed the unanswerable proposition that ‘the idea that safety can be purchased by throwing a small state to the wolves is a fatal delusion’. He made that statement in the context of the Chamberlain doctrine of appeasement, which had already brought about the resignation of Anthony Eden, and in the light of the Czechoslovakian crisis of 1938. It was on 15 September that Chamberlain flew to Berchtesgaden to see Hitler and proposed the partition of Czechoslovakia. In his statement of 2 1 September, Churchill warned that the nation should realise the magnitude of the disaster into which it was being led.
The actions of Chamberlain in 1938 are strikingly similar to those of the Whitlam Government in 1975, when the green light was given to Indonesian proposals for military intervention into East Timor and the annexation of the former Portuguese territory. I contend that insofar as the Whitlam Government was prepared to permit the ‘throwing of a small state to the wolves’, in its own way it surrendered to the fatal delusion of which Churchill had spoken 37 years beforehand. Far from improving the security of our South Pacific region, by action of appeasement it in fact will aggravate the position in the years which lie ahead. One month later, in October 1938, Churchill again spoke on Czechoslovakia. He said:
All is over. Silent mournful abandoned, broken Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness. She has suffered in every respect by her association with the Western democracies . . .
How apposite are these words to the small former Portuguese territory of East Timor. Colonised for 400 years by Portugal, shamelessly abandoned by that power, she turned to the Western democracies for aid and comfort when outside military aggression occurred. With the sole exception of Australia which supported the United Nations resolution of December 1975 in condemning Indonesian military aggression in East Timor, none of the Western democracies at that time were prepared to come to her aid let alone utter one word in her defence. Churchill concluded his speech in October 1938 by saying that the world: . . . should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history . . . and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: Thou are weighed in the balance and found wanting. And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and marshal vigour we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden times.
For how long are the Western democracies, including Australia, prepared to appease repeated actions of aggression and intimidation by our nearest and largest neighbour, the Republic of Indonesia, being a nation which shares with us a total opposition to atheistic communism? Yet Hitler was staunchly anticommunist and the same people who berated Churchill in 1938 because he dared to criticise Hitler are saying in 1978: ‘Let us not criticise Indonesia because at least they are on our side and against communism’. I cite the cases of West Irian, North Borneo, the Malaysian Confrontation, East Timor. Who will be next? We have now formally accepted- de facto- the incorporation of East Timor. We now say it is part of Indonesia and whilst we regret the manner in which the incorporation has occurred we can do nothing about it.
What is Australia’s attitude with respect to Papua New Guinea? Many in Jakarta contend that the whole of New Guinea is traditionally part of the Indonesian Archipelago. Will anyone in this chamber say that if trouble erupts on the border between West Irian and Papua New Guinea that we should stand by in silence and do nothing as in fact, to our eternal shame, has been our attitude with respect to East Timor? Many of my colleagues have said to me that whilst they deeply regret what has happened in East Timor, they would not tolerate similar action by Indonesia with respect to Papua New Guinea. Apart from the obvious comment as to why there should be any distinction between East Timorese and the Papua New Guineans, I feel entitled to ask: What guarantee can Australia offer, on its past track record, to our colleagues in Papua New Guinea that their situation would be handled in a different way if an act of attempted incorporation occurs? Remember, the whole thesis of the Indonesian approach to East Timor was that it was vital in the interests of international security that Indonesia, on the basis of its own subjective judgment, should send over 29,000 troops into East Timor. Whilst I might be prepared to accept the good faith of President Suharto- who I am convinced was originally firmly opposed to the Indonesian military intervention in East Timor- I am not prepared to accept the sound judgment of Ali Moetopo and Benny Moerdani on the basis of their performances both in West Irian and East Timor.
In condemning Munich Churchill made no apology for the fact that what he was going to say would be unpopular. In his own words, the House of Commons would not wish to hear ‘the ugly truth’. His speech was repeatedly interrupted by hostile and angry interjections by his own Party colleagues and, indeed, he stood alone with only three supporters on that occasion- Duff Cooper, Bracken and his own son-in-law, Duncan Sandys. Incredible is it not that within a few months practically every leading newspaper in the country was calling for his appointment as Prime Minister and within 12 months the Admiralty was able to send the message to the Fleet ‘Winston is back’, and within a further nine months, in June 1940, he was called upon to lead his nation.
In case any honourable member thinks that I am seeking to draw any comparison between the great Churchill and myself, let me say emphatically that this is not so. I merely point out that when Henry V, on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, spoke of ‘We few’, he highlighted the fact that quality is not necessarily commensurate with quantity. The few who today refuse to let the issue of East Timor die might well find that within a comparatively short space of time their numbers are swelled and their stand is vindicated. The story of Czechoslovakia- the debacle of Munich appeasement is not complete without referring to the fact that barely two months after the German invasion of Czechoslovakia on 14 March, 1939 the United Kingdom Government, to its eternal shame and discredit, granted de facto recognition to the puppet Slovakian Government.
I claim to have been, during my entire parliamentary career, completely even-handed on the question of human rights. Though then a university student I was publicly heard to condemn the brutal retaliation to the Hungarian freedom uprising of 1956. 1 publicly condemned the savage Soviet repression of workers uprisings in Poland and Czechoslovakia. I was affronted and offended by the disgraceful decision of the Whitlam Government to grant recognition to the incorporation of the Baltic States, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. I am proud to say that I played an active role in urging the Liberal Party to make a firm commitment that upon election to office it would reverse that decision- and in fact we did so within three days of the election of December 10, 1975. As I see it the fundamental principle which we so proudly proclaimed over the Baltic States has been violated by Australia’s decision of 20 January.
Since my election to this honourable Parliament I have been out-spoken in the defence of human rights whenever they have been violated, be it behind the Iron Curtain, in Cambodia, Laos and Vietman: in Uganda and other parts of Africa- indeed wherever it has arisen throughout the world. Nobody, either in this House or in the community of the Australian nation, can accuse me of having made fish of one and fowl of another. The violation of human rights wherever it has occurred has provoked my spontaneous condemnation.
Earlier in this speech I posed three questions concerning Australia’s decision of 20 January, a decision which I believe was wrong in principle and bad politically, both nationally and internationally. In the announcement of 20 January the Government said that it had decided ‘to accept East Timor is part of Indonesia’. East Timor is not, never has been and never truly will be part of Indonesia whatever military control has been obtained. Some observers claim that Indonesia in fact controls less than one third of East Timor -but 600,000 residents of this small province do not consider themselves Indonesian and are scarcely likely to do so in view of the acts which have been perpetrated against them over the past 2 ‘A years.
Secondly, I have asked why did Australia take the decision it did on 20 January- totally repudiating our honourable stand in the United Nations in December 1975 when we condemned Indonesia’s blatant military aggression. It is fatuous- I repeat, ‘fatuous’- to say that whilst we deplore Indonesia’s actions, we are nevertheless going to accord Indonesia any sort of recognition. If what was done in 1975 was brutal, immoral and wrong- and it was- it remains so in 1978 and will continue to remain so until rectified by a proper act of self-determination for the people of East Timor in accordance with the principles of international law. The timing of the announcement of 20 January is beyond me although I must say in passing that I was pleased to hear the firm assurance of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) that no deal whatsoever had been done with Indonesia over oil rights in the Timor Sea. Can the decision of 20 January be justified and defended. In my judgment it cannot and I publicly dissociate myself from it. I see the decision as a major blunder and a sad shock to all Australians who believe in fundamental human rights and basic decency in international affairs. In many ways East Timor is our Munich- our sacrificial offering at the altar of Pacific appeasement.
When I resume my seat I have no doubt that I will be attacked- branded pro-Fretilin, if not pro-communist, and generally denigrated by those who do not share my views. I choose, therefore, to conclude by quoting verbatim from a letter recently received in this country from an ordinary Catholic priest who has had the misfortune to be in East Timor during the horrors of the last two years. Speaking of last September, he said:
The war was again intensified. The bombers do not stop all day. Hundreds of human beings die every day- the bodies of the victims become food for carnivorous birds (if we do not die of the war, we die of the plague). Villages were completely destroyed, some tribes decimated and the war enters its third year with no promise of an early end in sight.
He speaks of the cruelties, the pillaging, the ‘unqualified destruction of Timor’, executions without reason. Fretilin soldiers who give themselves up are disposed of- ‘for them there is no prison’. He writes:
The Bishop has resigned and in his place is a apostolic administrator, Father Lopez. The proclaimed liberation is synonymous with slavery- Timor is returning to the years 1 94S-S0 and anti-communism is an islamic slogan meaning ‘iconoclasm’ to us.
He concludes with this plea:
Timor is not integrated but annexed. It has not been liberated from ‘communism’ but handed over to barbarians and sold to Indonesian moslems. Freedom in any aspect does not exist. Please do something positive for the liberty of the Timorese people. The world ignores us and our grief . . . we are on the road to complete genocide.’
Mr Deputy Speaker, the war in Timor is now a religious war, and it appalls me that Australia- a so-called Christian nation will stand by while thousands of our fellow Christians are systematically and ruthlessly massacred, raped and deprived of their freedom and liberty.
In a devastating article in the Pacific Defence Reporter in October 1977, a great Australian, Major General Paul Cullen, C.B.E., D.S.O. and Bar, E.D., had this to say:
Should we really pull up our socks, increase our military effectiveness, it could still be done relatively quickly and say, ‘so far and no further’, and say ‘you have no right to be in East Timor’ and say ‘you must let us determine the wishes of the Timorese in a United Nations plebiscite.’ Perhaps we should say what we know to be right in these circumstances, having regard to our obligations under the United Nations charter, and, in the long term to our responsibility to pressure Australia as an independent nation in the years ahead. In our present policies, we seem to be deluding ourselves as we slide towards another Munich situation.
Timor then, is both a disaster and an intrigue. Churchill said on 19 May 1939: . . . the way to counteract intrigue . . . is to be strong and the united strength of all peacekeeping nations would be overwhelming and would have a deterrent factor.
It is not too late for Australia to change her course of action and at the very least to insist that International Red Cross should be admitted into East Timor and that the brutal murderers of the five Australian journalists should be brought to justice for their foul crime. When I say ‘insist’, I believe Australia should insist that International Red Cross should be permitted into East Timor and those murderers brought to justice. Does anybody in this chamber suggest that International Red Cross is a communist organisation and could not be trusted? Why on earth do the Indonesians refuse to permit it to enter East Timor? Mr Deputy Speaker, what we do now will be judged by history and that judgment will justifiably be harsh if we fail to act with honour and a firm determination as we are put to the test and weighed in the balance on the basic and fundamental question of human rights.
-The debate tonight concerns aspects of the AddressinReply Speech delivered by the GovernorGeneral on opening Parliament. The unfortunate fact is that the Speech basically underlines the intransigence of the Fraser Government’s thinking. The Government is still unashamedly hanging on to the thesis that all is to be sacrificed in the cause of lowering inflation. Beyond that, there is no economic strategy. Unemployment is growing; the deficit is blowing out; the exchange rate is in peril; business confidence is in tatters.
But what do we hear from the Government? Not a single proposal! The Governor-General’s Speech reveals not one new idea. There is now no economic strategy.
The magnitude of the election victory has stunned the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) like a formalin dart. He is a study in suspended animation. Australian economic policy is of course now frozen. To that extent there is no economic policy. It is a wait and see attitude. Let the market forces play their part in the economy and let us see what happens at the end. The Prime Minister’s approach is to see whether we can live with that. What we need to do is to have a look at the history of the Government’s economic policy and particularly its ad hockery since it was first elected in 1975.
Firstly, we had from Mr Fraser an investmentled recovery. That was the way in which Australia was going to get moving. Under the Whitlam Government in 1975 the Hayden approach of a consumer-led recovery was thrown to one side. There was to be an investment-led recovery under the Fraser Government. The investment allowance was proposed. All stops were pulled out. What have we got? Of course there has been no recovery. All we have seen has been a pick up in investment which has been labour replacing and has produced more unemployment. Of course with demand languishing there has been no growth and no job creation. So, the investment-led recovery was promptly and politely dropped by the Government in favour of its second strategy- and that was the consumer-led recovery.
Where is that recovery? Of course it achieved nothing and it has long since been dropped. Retail sales are still going through the floor; savings bank deposits are climbing; and the real value of wages has been constantly depressed by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission at the Government’s behest. So, the second Fraser Government’s economic strategy was politely abandoned. The level of unemployment, of course, is still rising rapidly. Because of the falling off in demand from those who were previously employed, there can be no hope whatsoever for any pick-up in consumerism in Australia while the Government continues with its present policies.
After that we had the devaluation-led recovery. This was the third economic strategy. This is the policy that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, hatched up over one long weekend and dropped upon Australia without any notice. Of course this policy, like the other policies, smacks of the ad hockery which has distinguished this Government. We then witnessed the 17½ per cent devaluation followed by the humiliating process of the Prime Minister being bailed out by the committee headed by the Permanent Head of his own Department, the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Secretary to the Treasury. We saw a W/i per cent devaluation, 1 5 per cent, 1 4 per cent and finally it was reduced to 12 per cent. Now it is up around 15 per cent again. So of course that strategy was abandoned. We have seen no appreciable difference in the performance of the economy since the devaluation took place.
Then there was the fourth economic strategythe prices and wages freeze strategy. That was to be the great recovery; the rabbit out of the hat. We remember the famous Premiers’ Conference with Hamer and all the other Premiers on the steps of Parliament House trumpeting this great breakthrough in economic policy. He dropped it as somebody drops a bus ticket. At the Premiers’ Conference the Prime Minister grasped the strategy with great gusto, but what happened? We saw the Government move away from it slowly over a period. When the Government realised that it was in tatters, that nobody was taking any notice of it, that it was unworkable, unmanageable, ill conceived and ill thought out it politely and quietly slipped away. Of course the media let the Government get away with it again. That was the fourth economic strategy.
Finally, in the last election campaign we had the fifth economic strategy. This was the uranium export, mineral investment recovery strategy. We heard during the election campaign how uranium mining was going to save Australia’s economic bacon; that there was to be a $ 15,000m mineral project recovery. This great investment recovery in the minerals sector was going to pull Australia out of the doldrums and we were going to move along the path to economic progress once again. But what was the truth of that? The truth is that no new projects are starting. There will be no new iron ore mined in Western Australia at least in the next four or five years. Only one major coal mining project in Queensland will start up in the immediate future. There will be only incremental expansion of these mines. What we will witness this year is a cutback in the quantity and value of exports from Australia particularly to Japan and also to Western Europe because of the languishing international economy.
As well as that we have a depression in nonferrous metal prices which is seriously threatening the viability of nickel and other non-ferrous metal mines in Australia. Just a week or so ago we heard the news that the plants in Western Australia that have been pelletising iron ore are threatened and may have to close down because they cannot run at half capacity. They have to run at full capacity or not at all. So that is the great mineral recovery strategy of the Fraser Government, the fifth recovery strategy in two years. Where is it? It is in the sky with the rest of Mr Fraser ‘spies -
-Order! When the honourable gentleman is referring to the Prime Minister he should refer to him by his correct title and not as ‘Mr Fraser’.
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, but the strategy is in that state. This is just another demonstration of the Government’s ad hockery. What is the present state of the Australian economy? The reality is that Australia is jammed into an inflation rate of about 9 per cent. At the moment the real unemployment rate, taking in the hidden unemployment figures, is probably nearer 9.2 per cent. According to the official statistics provided to me by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library, in the month of January 1976 registered unemployment was 5.62 per cent and in January 1978, two years later, and in the two years since the Fraser Government took office, it was up to 7.2 1 per cent. If one considers the people who have not bothered to register for unemployment, according to the Bureau of Statistics quarterly labour force survey, one finds that the real unemployment rate is about 9.2 per cent, accompanied by a growth rate in the economy of about 1.4 per cent. The point is that there is no job creation and without job creation there can be no falling away of unemployment. With unemployment high, consumer confidence remains languishing where it is.
So much for the great economic managers who continue to trumpet their capacity to deal with the problems of the economy, who have sacrificed all, who have torn down government outlays and reduced public amenities to bring inflation down by only two or three percentage points. Of course, most commentators and people interested in Australia’s economic question now believe that the inflation rate is riveted firmly at 9 per cent. The most serious problem which the Government faces is getting the economy and Australia moving again.
– What about interest rates?
– Interest rates were another one of the Government’s red herrings.
– They are coming down.
– Oh, yes, they are coming down, with pressure from the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on the banks to reduce interest on savings bank deposits by half of one per cent. There is to be no decrease in respect of the trading banks, but the commitment is to a 2 per cent reduction in interest rates this year. The honourable member knows well that interest rates will not decline even by half of one per cent this year because without any reduction in the inflation rate there can be no reduction in the interest rates. I was one of the people who, in the days of the Labor Government, sat through a myriad of meetings with people from the Department of the Treasury looking at ways of artificially reducing interest rates and subsidising them. It just cannot be done. The price of money, like the price of every other commodity, is linked to the inflation rate. Despite the Prime Minister’s phoney promise about a 2 per cent reduction in interest rates, it will not occur. So much for interest rates.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said recently that there must be a reflationary policy for the Western economies, and they include Australia. Instead of that, what do we see from the Governor-General’s Speech? We see more of the same- deflation, more unemployment and no light at the end of the tunnel. These are the policies of a government that promised to turn on the lights. All I can say is that it has taken a long time for the Prime Minister to get to the switch. He is grasping feverishly, tugging at every damned switch on the wall, trying to make one of them work. Of course he cannot. Australia is caught in an economic vice of continuing unemployment, a staggeringly high inflation rate and high interest rates.
Another pressing problem is the question of the exchange rate. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Treasurer has indicated firmly where the Government stands on the exchange rate. They are not game to do so because they know that in the past we have had devaluation by stealth, a secret committee looking at the basket of currencies each day, moving the Australian dollar progressively downwards. Foreign investors who may be able to invest in this country and maintain some kind of equilibrium in the balance of payments will not put their money into Australia. Who will take a capital loss and invest in Australia when the Australian exchange rate is suffering from an acute balance of payments problem? There can be no pick up in capital inflow while this problem remains, with heavy borrowings by the Government to maintain the exchange rate. The real reason is that foreign investors have no confidence in the managerial expertise of the Fraser Government. As we saw from the OECD during the course of the election campaign, economies comparable with Australia have shown positive movements in all of their economic indicators far beyond anything which Australia has even hoped to achieve. At the moment we are looking more like a banana republic than one of the Western economies.
What is continually aggravating the problem is the balance of payments question. What is the prospect for the balance of payments? The Government has been forced to borrow $2 billion to hold the exchange rate where it is, and the portents do not look good. As I mentioned earlier, iron ore exports will be down in both volume and value in this calendar year. The same applies to coking coal. The pellet plants in Western Australia are due to close if there is no change and if the minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) is not prepared to put a tough case when he goes to Japan in a week’s time. We are faced with an ever-increasing bill for crude oil as our dependence upon Middle East and imported crude rises. The invisibles are climbing rapidly at an alarming rate. Freight, insurance and repatriated dividends are high. Because there is no reinvestment in the minerals sector the huge revenues lying around are being exported. All these things threaten the balance of payments and put pressure on the dollar.
Let me refer again to the Bureau of Statistics bulletin of 9 February. I make the point in relation to the balance on current account that in the seven months ended January 1977 there was a deficit of $703m but in the seven months ended January 1978 there was a deficit of $ 1,354m, or twice as much. I refer to the net official monetary movements from July of last year to now. In July there was a deficit of $30 1 m; in August there was a deficit of $386m; in September there was a deficit of $49m; in October there was a surplusthe only one- of $71m; in November -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– In November there was a deficit of $76m; in December a deficit of $62m; and in January a deficit of $1 13m. There is no let-up in these figures. I refer to a report of a survey conducted by the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group. The report states, in part:
On the question of Australia’s balance of payments position, the survey said that overall the immediate outlook for Australia’s balance of trade appeared reasonable as, after adjustment for seasonal influences, exports rose by 8.S per cent and imports fell by 2 per cent in the three months to January 1978 compared with the previous three months.
However, the survey went on to say that net invisibles averaged a deficit of $2 80m in the seven months to January 1 978, which it considered to be well ahead of the present or likely future balance of trade surplus.
Whether or not the balance of trade is good, what we are in fact witnessing, as a result of the invisibles, is a permanent balance of payments deficit which can be arrested only by a pickup of investment in Australia or a pickup in exports. What will happen if the exports pickup does not occur or if the investment into Australia does not come? What recourse will we have then and what is the position of the Government on the balance of payments? We hear very little from the Government about this matter. We heard in one flurry from the Treasurer (Mr Howard) not long after his appointment about how he was going to stand by the dollar but we have heard no other commitments by the Government to maintain the exchange rate at its present levels. The Government cannot continue to borrow.
What we may find in the long term is that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will be humiliated once again with problems with the exchange rate which could spill across to higher costs for imports and, of course, give a boost to domestic inflation or if not give a boost, at least maintain inflation at around 9 per cent or 10 per cent. That means that interest rates will stay frozen. It means that investment will stay down. It means that the building industry, which is the major employer in Australia, cannot get started again. It means there will be no investment in Australia from overseas. It means that the major mineral projects will not pick up again. This Government is locked into a stagnant Australian economy and there appears to be no respite at the end of the tunnel.
Opposition members were disappointed when we heard more of the same in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, an outline of the Government’s policy, about where Australia is going. Australia simply is going absolutely nowhere under this Government. This Government is just banking on the goodwill of the Australian people but its alibis have run out. In 1974 the Labor Government’s alibis ran out concerning the McMahon Government and the Gorton Government but in 1977 this Government’s alibis about the Labor Party have run out. This Government is on its own freight and is carrying out its own weight. If the Government continues in this way there will be no change in the economic portents and it will not be able to save itself. As well as being an incompetent government this Government is a seamy government as is evidenced by today’s sad, sorry story about the Prime Minister’s intervention on the IBM matter. The same applies to the Prime Minister’s divisive appointment of Sir John Kerr.
The Prime Minister is running Australia single-handedly. This is obvious at Question Time. He can answer in detail questions relating to the portfolios of every other Minister. He knows them backwards because he is involved in their affairs. He is running Australia singlehandedly and that means that he must be right all the time. All honourable members know that no one man can do this and survive. I say to honourable members on the other side of the House who give embarrassed smiles that their chances of maintaining themselves in office are becoming slimmer and slimmer with the performance of their Prime Minister but the real thing which will destroy them is the performance of the economy. Sadly for the Commonwealth, the Parliament and the nation the GovernorGeneral’s Speech shed no light upon any changes. The magnitude of the election victory has convinced Government supporters that they are right. If it had been a smaller victory perhaps they would have changed their tune and switched their economic policy but they are locked into a’ policy which will give Australia continuing economic stagnation, high inflation rates, high interest rates and, of course, a delayed economic recovery. The best thing that can happen for Australia is for the Government to get its act on and over and allow a decent party into office to manage Australia’s fortunes once again.
Debate (on motion by Mr Short) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-The matter I want to raise tonight deals with the compensation legislation applying to Commonwealth employees. I am not concerned so much with short term recipients of Commonwealth compensation as for the long term recipients, those who are off work for over six months. Those who are off work for up to six months receive full pay but after six months their compensation drops to a level far below their normal wage. This whole business has a pretty sorry history over the last few years. During the term of the Labor Government comprehensive new legislation was introduced to cover Commonwealth employees, something that was more comparative with up to date State Acts. Unfortunately at that time the Labor Government did not control the Senate and that legislation did not get past the Senate. In 1975 legislation was introduced quickly to update the payments. At that time the payments were $57 per week for the injured person, so much for his wife and so much for any children. With the sacking of the Whitlam Government by Sir John Kerr this legislation became a casualty. It meant that those people who had to exist at that time on what was a miserably low level had to wait until October 1976 before they received any increase. In October 1976 the present Government updated the payments to, I think, $80 per week for the injured person, $2 1 for his wife and $10 for each child. The figures have remained at that level since October 1 976.
During that period we have seen inflation running at between 15 per cent to 18 per cent so that the amount which was granted then has been eroded considerably since. I suggest that this matter must be looked into by the present Government. These people are its employees. Most of the employees who are in receipt of this long term compensation, those who are suffering injuries which put them off work for over six months, are wages employees. The cases with which I come into contact are Telecom employees, Australia Post employees and, largely, Australian National Railways employees. In the latter case, they are mostly fettlers who work along the east-west and north-south railway lines. In most cases they have back injuries and that, in itself, is an extra burden for these people to carry. I am sure that all honourable members would agree that they are entitled to more consideration.
I urge the Government to look sympathetically at this whole question of compensation to long term recipients of Commonwealth compensation to see whether the figures cannot be updated to what is a more realistic amount. If we compare the present amount with the amount payable in the States, particularly my own State of South Australia, we see that the Commonwealth Act is far below what is available under State Acts. Any examination of the rates shows just how bad the Commonwealth rate is. I could cite other examples of how the present Act operates against the best interests of employees. This whole matter shows the lack of a sympathetic approach to this particular problem.
One of the features which I feel should be considered in any new legislation to cover Commonwealth employees, even if it is only a question of updating the figures, is the matter of weekly payments. At the present time the weekly payments are $80 for the injured person, $2 1 for his wife and $ 10 for each child. To a man with, say a wife and two children, that means $ 12 1 a week. It is a little bit of an imposition to ask a tradesman or an engine driver or a fettler, all of whom earn above that amount, to live on that amount. I do ask that these figures be indexed in any future legislation so that if there is any movement in wages the amount of the compensation will move accordingly. I suggest that the amount of compensation should be raised to a reasonable figure and indexed so that when wages move the amount of compensation moves also. I ask that because pensions are indexed and Commonwealth superannuation is indexed. I therefore ask that compensation payments to long term recipients of Commonwealth compensation, after they are increased to a reasonable and decent amount, also have the benefit of indexation.
-This morning in the House I asked a question of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) about Mr Milan Brych who is giving medical service to Australian residents and others in the Cook Islands. I sought from the Minister an assurance that he would authorise certain officers to have discussions with Mr Brych during his anticipated visit to this country. I think the answer I received would be well known to members of the House. I have subsequently had discussions with the Minister to pursue this particular point and I am pleased to say that I think the Minister’s mind is moving in the direction that I was trying to develop at Question Time this morning.
I should like to say a word or two on this matter during the adjournment debate tonight. The Government’s position and the Minister’s position regarding Mr Brych is clear to everyone. Clearly that position is not favourable to Mr Brych. Previous answers by the Minister make it clear that he considers that Mr Brych has no medical qualifications and that he does not want Mr Brych in Australia; that Mr Brych set up practice in the Cook Islands in somewhat extraordinary circumstances, supposedly after having fled to the Cook Islands from New Zealand rather than face an inquiry; and that an Act of Parliament was amended in the Cook Islands in order to enable him to qualify as a medical practitioner. It is claimed by detractors in this matter that Brych has no qualifications from his native country of Czechoslovakia and that he allegedly will not divulge his treatment methods or allow any scientific evaluation of his treatment.
I commend to honourable members that they speak to somebody who has been told by a registered medical practitioner in this country specialising in the treatment of cancer that they have no reasonable life expectancy with the treatments that are available in this country and who, following that advice, has gone to the Cook Islands and sought and received treatment from Brych and who subsequently returned to Australia claiming that they had had considerable remission- perhaps ‘cured ‘ is not the correct word to use- from the medical condition diagnosed in this country. The other day I had the experience of speaking to a woman who went to a surgeon in Melbourne to have a lump removed from her leg. It was removed and the surgeon advised her that he did not regard it as a dangerous lump. A subsequent diagnosis revealed that it was a very serious melanoma. The surgeon advised her quite specifically that there was no treatment for her complaint in this country, whereupon she said, in effect, to the doctor: ‘Well, what do I do next?’ I am advised that he said to hen ‘If you were my wife I would send you over to Dr Brych’. That lady went across to the Cook Islands and she has come back with a very considerable remission in her condition. To the best of all my hopes and her hopes and, I am sure, the hopes of members of this House, she is cured.
It is incidents like this which should bring home to honourable members the fact that the Government has a clear responsibility either to see that Brych comes to Australia and is investigated and his claims are checked out, or that a deputation is sent to the Cook Islands to carry out exactly the same process there. If the information given to me is correct it is entirely contrary to the advice that has been coming through to the Minister regarding Brych. My advice is that Brych would welcome such investigation in the Cook Islands.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I support the approach taken by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) in regard to the question of Mr Milan Brych which he has put before the House. I think we are too restrictive about so many things in a world in which there are great tragedies flowing from things such as cancer. We know little about its origins or anything else. It is not the Government’s place to restrict people from at least discussing the subject or to restrict the gentleman involved from visiting this country and talking about it. What we do about the practice of medicine is, of course, a different question. I turn now to a much less significant matter, I suppose, but one which affects us all. Again it has to do with restrictions. It has to do with the security provisions that will now prevail around this Parliament. Today we all received a letter from the Deputy Usher of the Black Rod. It refers to the various sorts of things that will be done around Parliament House to protect us from various dangerous elements which might invade the place, including, obviously, the spouses of members. The letter states:
Photographic passes will also be issued to Senators’ and Members’ spouses who come to the building frequently, if this is their wish.
There is a form attached to the letter on which the senator or member can list his spouse ‘s name. What is the place coming to? Perhaps a case can be made for some form or other of security to stop people coming in here and throwing stones at us or putting bombs in the place or all the rest of it, but I am not sure that this proposal will help the situation. In fact I am pretty certain it will not. A lot of honourable members present were here during the period of the Vietnam demonstrations when the public galleries were full of people who were very angry with all of us, even those people on our side of the House who were, we thought, on their side.
I think it is one of the elements of parliamentary democracy that that is one of the risks we have to take when we stand for public office. We have to be seen in public, we have to be accessible. Of all the institutions in this country, this one has to be accessible. It may well be that there are things that we should do around the corridors, the lobbies and so on to make sure that people do not get in there and do whatever damage they might. However, in the 20-odd years I have been in parliament no such thing has occurred. For heavens sake, can we not apply some common sense to this matter and get rid of the hysteria and start to grow up? There are enough attendants around this place to police everything. If they cannot be given documents or some sort of indication as to who are the members and who are their wives then somebody else ought to do the job. I find the attendants very competent, friendly and capable people. There is no need for what I can only refer to now as nonsense.
The other day we gave certain support to the general idea regarding security. At the time it seemed that there might be something in the idea but now, when I see put down on paper exactly what it all means, I say that it is nonsense and that we ought to stop it forthwith. We ought to ask the wives to intervene. If we are going to stop the wives of members who have been coming to this place and have been walking freely around it for 20-odd years, it is time we took a look at ourselves or left this place and handed it over to somebody else.
From the second matter I wish to raise tonight it will become apparent that we might as well do so. I refer to the behaviour in this place of the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier). He has turned this House into a parliament of puppets. The only contribution he makes to debate or to political development here is to apply the gag.
-Order! The honourable member will not reflect on another honourable member.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not reflecting on him, I am describing him. I wish to raise here tonight the general question of the measure of debate that takes place in this Parliament on public issues, important issues. As soon as the debate gets under way, almost inevitably, at the whim of the leadership on the Government side, the honourable member for Bendigo, exercising his authority on that side of the House, stands up and moves the gag -
-Order! The complaint by the honourable member for Wills may have some substance but I suggest that he should not identify any particular member. He can refer -
-This is the point that I am making, Mr Deputy Speaker. I do not want to challenge you at this stage, Mr Deputy Speaker, but surely one of the issues in the Parliament is that there is no freedom of debate. I will change what I said. Some anonymous person, some person who is a non-person and certainly a nonparliamentarian, enters this Parliament at the whim of the electors of one of the unknown electorates in this country and, at the caprice of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) who is again an unknown person, stops debate. I think it is a disgrace. There is no way in which the Parliament can operate in that way. With all the wisdom which flowed to you from the people who elected you to the office- these decisions now rest with you- the question I put to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, is this: Can you tell me what is wrong with the people of Bendigo that they send him here?
– I request the honourable member to put the question on notice.
-For two weeks now I have been meaning to raise an important matter during the adjournment debate but I have not been able to do so because I have had to respond to the intemperate ravings by Labor Party supporters on matters that they have raised during the adjournment debate. I now want to discuss a most important day in our national life which occurred not so long ago. I refer to Australia Day. Throughout Australia it was said at the time that we in the community did not acknowledge sufficiently Australia Day. It did not have the impact it should. In Sydney a number of activities were organised. There was a ceremony at Lady Macquarie’s chair; there were some lunches and a few other activities. I took the opportunity to go to Melbourne to see what happens in Melbourne on Australia Day. After that, I returned to Sydney to attend an excellent community activity put on by the Rockdale Shire Council which has a most admirable way of getting communities together. At the same time it holds a naturalisation ceremony and a small pageant. I noticed that Melbourne holds activities additional to those held in Sydney, some of which I do not think would be suitable for Sydney but at which we should look. One activity in particular is the raising of the flags, which I commend. Melbourne holds a ceremony at which many flags from the various countries which have produced persons who have contributed to Australia are raised. More than 100 countries have sent us migrants, as honourable members would know.
I went to Melbourne, amongst other reasons, to check the position, because I had been contacted some time previously by a Mr Jonathon King who is a lecturer at a Melbourne university and who is the director of the First Fleet Reenactment Committee, a Committee which he has formed with a number of very prominent citizens for the purpose of re-enacting the First Fleet’s arrival in Australia. That project will involve sailing to Australia in 10 years’ time- in 1988- a replica of the First Fleet which at that time will have arrived here 200 years ago. There are a number of ships throughout the world which could be converted for the purpose and a number of other ships will have to be built in special yards. I point out the obvious implications to Australian shipyards of having some chance to participate in that project.
The project was launched in Sydney on a sailing ship berthed at Pyrmont wharf in Sydney Harbour on the Sunday before Australia Day. King is an extremely enthusiastic person. He is a descendant of Governor King who was the Aidedecamp to Governor Phillip when he first arrived in Australia. Honourable members will know that Botany Bay, which is very close to my electorate, was first visited by Captain Cook who made a report on it. He said, amongst other things, that the water of the Cooks River was fresh and that the area nearby was good for grazing. When Phillip arrived, the water was not as fresh as expected and the area was not found to be good for grazing. After three or four days Phillip moved to Port Jackson and the colony was founded with the raising of the flag at Port Jackson in 1788.
Jonathan King’s ancestor was there. Now this man has taken it upon himself, with a little community support, to try really to show to the Australian public what it was all about, and to bring to Australian young people in particular and migrants a very worthwhile project which will present a magnificent spectacle. Any honourable member who had any connection with the American Bicentenary will recall that the Americans sailed to America a fleet which they had reconstituted from various sailing ships. It created a tremendous impact in America. What is needed, of course, is for this Committee to be given appropriate national recognition. Some business groups have offered some support. I have had the opportunity of discussing the matter with the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) who has amongst his ministerial responsibilities the area of the arts. I understand that other government Ministers are interested. But what is important is that the project get off the ground in a proper manner.
It will need some government support and the support of the whole community. It will take at least 10 years to organise, judging on the
American experience, if one thinks just in terms of building a ship, getting people together, finding people who are prepared to travel on the ships. Of course, they will be charged an appropriate fee to make the journey. I put to the House that a select committee of the House be set up on a bipartisan basis to assist in the development of that project and to ensure that in 10 years’ time Australia can produce a worthy event, the reenactment of the sailing of the First Fleet from Plymouth to Sydney. This would be something of which the entire nation could be proud. I believe that a committee of the Parliament is necessary to help push the project along.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to raise a matter which has already been adverted to by my colleague, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). I refer to the somewhat extreme measures which seem to be contemplated in this Parliament for our so-called security. It seems to me that perhaps honourable members on the Government side of the House are having themselves on when they think that they are in fact so relevant that there might be someone in the community who would want to shoot them or blow them up. I am bound to say to honourable gentlemen opposite that, if someone were silly enough to throw a bomb onto that side of the chamber, from my casual observation the explosion would not do very much damage as those benches for the most part are vacant even when debate is in progress.
I turn to one of the aspects of this matter that is serious. I believe that the average citizen has to have recourse to this Parliament and to the members of this Parliament. I believe one of the inalienable rights of citizens is to be able to contact freely their members of Parliament. But this nonsense is contemplated in this Parliament. If there is a terrorist group which really believes that it can do some damage to this institution by carrying out a well planned raid, its members will not be impeded by the fact that people in the building are walking around displaying photographs of themselves. I happened to be in Lod Airport within a matter of a few days of a very serious terrorist attack. That community, far more used to living with terrorist activity than fortunately we in Australia have ever had to contemplate, simply works on the basis that as soon as the attack is over the situation is returned to normal as quickly as possible. To the extent to which governments overact to these situations, terrorist activity is seen to be having some success.
As a Federal member I occupy a room in the Old Customs House in Melbourne. It is a matter of concern to me that I learned the other day that people who come to visit me in my capacity as a member of Parliament- there are only two or three members of Parliament who have offices in the building- have to sign a book. I want to raise this matter with the relevant Minister. I object, as I believe any member of this House is entitled to object, to any constituent who wants to see a Federal member, for whatever purpose, being asked to sign a book. I do not know what happens to such books when presumably they are completed. I do not know whether they are put away.
– Shift your office back to your electorate.
– I would be delighted to do that, and I propose to do that. At the same time, as long as that building is being kept for public purposes and it is being used by members of Parliament- other members of Parliament occupy the building apart from myself- I object not only on my own behalf but also on behalf of any citizen who wants to go and see Senator Missen or any other member of parliament who occupies an office in that building.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned till 2.15 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
No further correspondence has been received from The Victorian Council For Handicapped Readers.
The administration of the Copyright Act 1968 comes within the responsibility of the Attorney-General.
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
Which International Labour Organisation conventions has Australia ratified since June 1972 (Hansard, 16 August 1 972, page 281) and when did she ratify them.
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
Convention No. 81- Labour Inspection 1947 (ratified on 24 June 1975).
Convention No. 83- Labour Standards (NonMetropolitan Territories), 1947 (ratified on IS June 1973).
Convention No. 86- Contracts of Employment (Indigenous Workers), 1947 (ratified on IS June 1973).
Convention No. 87- Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948 (ratified on 28 February 1973).
Convention No. 98- Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949 (ratified on 28 February 1973).
Convention No. 100- Equal Remuneration, 1951 (ratified on 10 December 1974).
Convention No. 1 1 1 -Discrimination (Employment and Occupation), 1958 (ratified on 15 June 1973).
Convention No. 131- Minimum Wage Fixing, 1970 (ratified on 15 June 1973).
Convention No. 137- Dock Work, 1973 (ratified on 25 June 1974).
am asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 February 1 978:
When did the Federal and State Ministers responsible for the Major Airport Needs of Sydney study accept extention of the study period to mid- 1 978.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In November last the New South Wales Minister for Planning and Environment, Mr D. P. Landa, and I both agreed that the study period should be extended in order to permit an effective public participation program.
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Yes.’ The Insurance Commissioner’s Third Annual Report contains the consolidated figures for (a) workers’ compensation and (b) compulsory third party premiums for 1975-76. According to that Report direct premiums were:
According to the Insurance Commissioner’s Third Annual Report benefits (including legal, hospital and medical costs) paid and administration expenses and commissions for the financial year 1975-76 were:
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
What arrangements have been made to resume the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program in Queensland. (Hansard, 8 November 1977, pages 3024 and 3026)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No firm arrangements have yet been made to recommence the survey in Queensland. However the program is continuing in New South Wales and it is expected that the survey teams will be in a position to return to Queensland at the conclusion of the wet season.
Officers of my Department are in regular contact with the program organisers preparing the detailed plans.
In accordance with previous undertakings the Commonwealth will be liaising with the relevant Queensland authorities to formalize the arrangements for recommencing the program in that State.
United Nations Resolution on the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (Question No. 185)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 March 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780307_reps_31_hor108/>.