31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt. Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that since the twenty-acre subdivision in the Ruthven Way-Vasey Concourse area in the Shires of Ringwood and Croydon is the only remaining bushland area of a 168 acre subdivision made by Walter Burley Griffin in the 1930’s, and since its further subdivision into smaller housing allotments would destroy its unique bushland character and its use as a passive recreational area for residents and visitors.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that further subdivision be halted and that the area be preserved as part of the National Estate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrBaillieu.
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 on 13 September 1977, Steve Biko, President of the Black Peoples Convention died, aged 30, while being held in communicado for questioning in detention without trial in South Africa;
That this is the 20th death of a black political prisoner in similar circumstances in South Africa in the last 18 months; and the 44th death of a prisoner while in police custody in recent years.
That Steve Biko had been held in detention since August 22; and had previously been held for 101 days without trial; and in addition, was under a5 year house arrest and restriction order;
That Steve Biko is the acknowledged leader of the black people’s resistance to apartheid, racial exploitation and injustices in South Africa, and that in this context his death in the hands of the white police must be regarded with grave suspicion;
Your petitioners accordingly request the Australian Government to register the strongest protest to the South African Government at the circumstances of Biko’s death and decline to accept the credentials of the new South African ambassador due to be appointed shortly.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dawkins.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth. That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a futher term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974/77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30 June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30 June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 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 Willis.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
This House notes with grave concern that during the term the present Leader of the Opposition served as Minister for Social Security:
Purchases were made from the international computer firm IBM for between $ 1 0m and $ 15m worth of computer equipment without public tenders having been called.
The action taken was subsequently endorsed by the previous Government.
Representatives of the firm IBM accompanied officers of his Department on an overseas trip prior to the equipment being ordered.
The explanation given to Parliament at the time, by the present Leader of the Opposition, of this irregular purchase was plainly deficient, and the whole affair was not only less than an acceptable level of public administration, but a blatant misuse of public funds.
And this House therefore calls on the Leader of the Opposition to table without undue delay all the documents in his possession relating to this lapse of ministerial responsibility, and misuse of taxpayers ‘ money.
– I move:
Mr Speaker, the Opposition is prepared and, indeed, is keen to debate this matter forthwith. This matter has been brought forward in a desperate effort to create a diversionary issue, to distract public attention from a major matter before this Parliament- the Prime Minister’s personal intercession in tendering processes in relation to a computer, an intercession which, if properly conducted, gives every appearance in spite of that of having elements of impropriety associated with it. In fairness, that may not be true but on the basis of what we can see it would seem that the Prime Minister has a great deal yet to justify and explain before the public and this House can be satisfied that his involvement in this matter so far has been correct, proper and consistent in all respects.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is entitled to debate the motion to suspend Standing Orders so as to discuss the notice given by the honourable member for La Trobe. The honourable gentleman is not being relevant to the motion that Standing Orders be suspended. I ask him to come to that point.
-Mr Speaker, I should have thought my remarks were highly relevant. I shall not pursue that point any further but move on to make what I think are relevant points.
- Mr Speaker, on a point of procedure, the Government does not intend to oppose the motion to suspend Standing Orders. Perhaps in those circumstances the honourable gentleman might reserve his remarks until a later stage, during the substantive debate.
– I thank the Leader of the House for that indication. Is the Leader of the Opposition agreeable?
– It suits me. Could I establish one further point? What is the extent to which the Leader of the House is proposing that debate should ensue in this matter? As I understand the Leader of the House, the Government will support the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– We will not oppose it.
– Then the Government will allow debate, which will be led by the honourable member for La Trobe?
– How many speakers from each side will be allowed in the debate? I would hate to agree and find after the honourable member for La Trobe has spoken that the question is to be put.
– We are not playing games any longer.
– Well, it is a change. This is an indication of how much confidence we have in the Government.
-The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The matter before the House -
– How much debate are you allowing?
– The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent. The House is dealing with a motion, moved by the Leader of the Opposition for the suspension of Standing Orders. I have a written motion before me which has been seconded by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Does the honourable gentleman second the motion?
– I second the motion in the context that the Opposition wants an assurance that there will be a full debate on this matter. Otherwise, I wish to make a point about why is it urgent that Standing Orders be suspended.
-The honourable gentleman is entitled to speak to the motion that Standing Orders be suspended.
-I want to make the point that this is obviously a matter of importance to the Government now because it is prepared to have the matter debated. The Opposition wants a full scale debate with at least three speakers from this side of the House to put our point of view. There are a number of very important matters that we want to raise about the Government’s close affiliation with personnel from IBM. We do not want a debate limited to one speaker from each side. It is important that we have an assurance that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will take part in the debate because there are a number of questions about his conduct and whom he saw that we want answered. We are very concerned about the public interest. This could be a mere tactic- a back bencher giving notice of a motion in an attempt to malign the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), who has a perfect defence in this situation, and then closing the debate. The Opposition will be taking up a fair bit of the time of the House today in order to deal with this matter because it is of wide ranging concern. Facom Australia Ltd has a case to put as well and we are very anxious to put it. The basis of Facom ‘s case is that IBM has received special advantages because of its close association with the Prime Minister on a personal level. The Opposition would like an assurance that following the suspension of Standing Orders there will not be just a very limited debate. It is no good just having us confined to a back bench suggestion that there was something wrong years ago. What we are very anxious to discuss now is what has happened since last September and how it is that the Prime Minister intervened to help IBM in particular in getting favourable consideration. New matter has been received this morning by the Opposition.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The Leader of the House made a suggestion that the Government would not oppose the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. The Opposition knows quite well what it is doing in this particular matter. It knows quite well that it is seeking to cover up the activities of the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Speaker, the Government has made an offer to the Opposition that if it were to move a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, we would allow that to be passed and debate could then take place. But if the Opposition just wants to procrastinate and waste the time of the House in arguing that earlier question, then the matter will be opposed completely.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to speak to the point of order which obviously was taken by the Prime Minister in order to take up some of my time. The point I make is that we want an assurance- we have not got it even now- that we will have a full-scale, unlimited debate.
– I must remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he is the seconder to a motion and that he is therefore in the position where he has seconded a motion which I want to put to the House.
– Yes, Mr Speaker, and I am anxious that you put it to the House.
– Well I shall do so.
– Thank you for your concurrence, Mr Speaker. But before the motion is put could we get an assurance on what the Leader of the Opposition has asked? That is not a very onerous request.
– You cannot write your own ticket.
– No, we only want to write your ticket.
-Order! There is no provision under the Standing Orders whereby there can be any conditional moving of a motion.
– With respect, Mr Speaker, by indulgence the Leader of the House could indicate the situation.
-The Leader of the House does not choose to do so and there is no way in which I have power to require him to do so. The question before the House as moved by the Leader of the Opposition and seconded by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent this matter being debated forthwith. ‘This matter’ is the notice given by the honourable member for La Trobe when notices were called this morning. It is in these terms:
This House notes with grave concern that during the term the present Leader of the Opposition served as Minister for SS-
I take it that ‘SS ‘ stands for Social Security-
I take that to be the firm, International Business Machines- for between $ 10m and $15m worth of computer equipment without public tenders having been called.
The question is that the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders be agreed to. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
– It seems that the chickens are coming home to roost. I have in my mind at the moment the well known quotation: 0, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!
The Opposition in this Parliament has spent the last few weeks trying to deceive the people of Australia into believing that the Fraser Government has in some way in the recent past indulged in a practice, with regard to the ordering and purchasing of computer equipment, which in some way is reprehensible. It has completely failed to substantiate that claim. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has made it patently obvious in his statement to the Parliament this week, that the behaviour of the Government in the events that led to the reletting of tenders for certain computer equipment has been conduct of the highest and most meticulous order. It has reflected an approach to the use of taxpayers money which has been lacking in the recent past to a very notable extent, but which has been restored since that occasion in December 1975 when the Fraser Government was elected with an overwhelming majority. It was elected with that majority for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the people of Australia called for a whole new approach to the administration not only of government in general but also of the use of public funds in particular.
The Opposition has sought to denigrate the actions of certain Ministers which took place towards the end of last year when it was known that computer equipment was required for use by certain Government departments. It came to the attention of Ministers and of the Prime Minister in the course of the good and orderly conduct of their departments that certain measures which had been taken in the commercial world did not appear to be clear and above board. What did the Government do? The Government called for a complete reappraisal of the approach to the tendering process as it related to the ordering of this computer equipment. The Government sought advice from senior public officials regarding the matter. It convened an appropriate committee of senior public servants to investigate and to report on the whole train of events that had taken place. It finally came to a decision in the interests of the Australian taxpayer that justice not only should be done but also should clearly be seen to be done. As a consequence, tenders for the contract are to be recalled.
The Prime Minister listed in this Parliament the reasons why the Government was taking such action. He set them out plainly for all to see. What happened? The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) responded in the debate which followed- I quote him virtually verbatim- by saying that he approved of the action that the Prime Minister had taken, and disapproved of a situation which existed in respect of a senior public official who had been closely involved in the study of tenders and in the whole negotiating process leading up to the recommendation of the successful tenderer. It was found that that public official had resigned from his post and taken up a position with the firm which was to be recommended as the successful tenderer. I believe that it was a situation with which not one single member of this House could feel comfortable if the Prime Minister had not taken action to have tenders recalled.
So, the Government began to have a serious look at the regulations and the procedures that are adopted in the consideration of tenders for public contracts. What is the result of that action? Our minds go back to an incident in 1973 when the present Leader of the Opposition was serving the Parliament in his capacity as Minister for Social Security. It came to our attention that the Department of Social Security was in the course of considering the purchasing of computer equipment to serve what subsequently turned out to be the Medibank system.
I remind honourable members that at that time, the word ‘Medibank’ had not actually been coined. All we knew was that some new and unique form of medical health insurance was about to be introduced into Australia. We were told that it did not fit the model of the United States. We were told that it did not fit the model of France. We were told that it did not fit the model of Canada. Yet it transpired that officers of the Department of Social Security had gone on a mission to Canada to look at IBM computer equipment that was used in Canada’s health scheme. I remind the House that the Minister had already said that the Australian Government was not going to use the health insurance scheme adopted by Canada. One might well ask the question: Why was a mission going from the Department of Social Security to look at IBM computer equipment in Canada, given the fact that our system was not to be based on the Canadian system? There was more to come. It came to the attention of the Liberal-National Country Party Opposition that executives of IBM Australia Ltd were accompanying officers of the Department on the mission to Canada. One might well ask the question: What was the purpose of sales representatives of IBM accompanying officers of the Department?
– They wanted to make a sale.
– The honourable member for Robertson intervenes to say that the representatives were trying to make a sale based on the equipment used in Canada. But it was said that we were not going to use the Canadian system. So what was the good of sending a mission to look at the Canadian system? The plot thickens. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), a very alert member of the Opposition at the time, representing the interests of the country and the taxpayer, had the audacity to ask a question of the Leader of the Opposition who was at the time Minister for Social Security. He dared to challenge the then Minister for Social Security to explain to the Parliament firstly why officials had gone to Canada to study the Canadian system when the Parliament had been advised that the Australian Government was not going to adopt the Canadian system and, secondly, why representatives of IBM were accompanying those officials on the mission. I venture to say, as Hansard makes patently clear, that it was not apparent to the present Leader of the Opposition why officials were in Canada at all. In particular, it was not clear to him why officials of IBM were accompanying his officers. I venture to say that he is still in some doubt as to why representatives of IBM were accompanying his officers. The question this House asks is: Why were officials of IBM accompanying representatives of his Department on this mission? Why did the Leader of the Opposition not know that officials of IBM were accompanying his officers?
The allegation which the Government makes against the Leader of the Opposition is most serious. When the Leader of the Opposition responded subsequently to the honourable member for Corangamite he made it patently clear that he did not know what was going on in his own Department but that he would take steps to find out. What happened?
– The honourable member for Prospect might well express some misgivings about what I am about to say next. It does not reflect well on the present Opposition or on the honourable member who is the present Opposition spokesman on health. The Leader of the Opposition as he now is made a subsequent statement to Parliament for the benefit of the honourable member for Corangamite who had raised the matter in the first instance. He confirmed to the House, in somewhat apologetic terms, that in fact he had to confirm the basis of the question that the honourable member for Corangamite had asked. He had to confirm to this House that his officers were on a mission to Canada- for some reason that was strange because the Australian Government was not going to adopt the Canadian system. He had to confirm to the House that representatives of IBM Australia Ltd were accompanying them every step of the way. I make it plain to the House that this Government will have no part of such conduct; it will not have officials buying equipment for Government departments and Government instrumentalities being led by the hand around other countries by representatives who, to put it plainly, are trying to flog their equipment to the Australian Government.
– Who paid for the drinks?
– The honourable member asks: Who paid for the drinks? Perhaps when the Leader of the Opposition responds he will tell us who paid for the drinks. It is a good question. Who paid not only for the drinks but for many other things as well? It is part of this whole shabby scheme of affairs which the previous Labor Government entered into and it is part of the way in which honourable members opposite conducted themselves in respect to government purchases. Little wonder it is that a notable former member of the previous Labor Government said: ‘We spent money as if it was simply water’. The previous Labor Government spent thousands of millions of dollars, much of which it cannot account for. It did not account for between $10m and $15m of public money which was spent in this case.
The officials came back from the trip and very soon afterwards an order was placed for this equipment. I ask the House to consider the firm with which the order was placed. It was IBM Australia Ltd. Not one other computer company was given the opportunity to tender for this equipment- not one company in the world. There are dozens of companies engaged in the manufacture and sale of computer equipment. The Australian officials were conducted around Canada and other countries by representatives of IBM. They were feted from one end of the country to the other. They looked at equipment which was servicing a system we would not use. Very soon after their return to this country, an order was placed for a number of pieces of equipment. An amount of $4.5m was spent on one item, $3. 3m or $3.4m was spent on another piece of equipment and a further amount, in excess of $5m, was spent on another part of the order, making in total a sum of about $ 1 5m.
This Government asks the question: Who had their sticky fingers in the bin? Why was the procedure adopted whereby $15m of public money was spent without any tender being let and without any advertisements being given of the Government’s intention? Was it because this was the cheapest way to go about it? I suggest to the House that it was not. I suggest to the House that a deal was done. A very clever deal was done whereby the departmental representatives and the Minister who was in charge of those representatives put themselves in the most hopeless position of having no option but to honour the hospitality they had been given. This is the sort of approach to the spending of public money that this country can do without.
The Leader of the Opposition says that he welcomes the opportunity to debate the matter. We welcome the opportunity of hearing his explanation of this affair. We welcome the opportunity of seeing the Leader of the Opposition rise to his feet in this Parliament and telling this House, in no uncertain terms, why it is that some $ 15m of public money was spent on computer equipment without public tenders having been called. It is the sort of question that will not be left to rest by this Parliament, by this Government or by the people of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition must be prepared to explain the issue fairly and squarely in this House, in a way that puts it beyond doubt. I do not believe that he can do it. I do not believe that the people sitting behind him today believe that he can do it. He was called upon to do it during the period when he was in government. He refused repeatedly to expand on his answer in the Parliament, either verbally or by way of a reply to a question on notice. It has to be stressed- I say it now unequivocally- that this order was placed on the specific authority of the then Minister for Social Security. It was placed on his specific order and he put his signature to the documentation. That order could not have been placed without an authority from the Minister in the first instance and obviously a subsequent endorsement by Cabinet. That is the charge that this Government places against the Leader of the Opposition.
It is little wonder that the Leader of the Opposition has spent all this week and half of last week trying to pin on the Fraser Government and the Prime Minister that the present Australian Government in some way has taken some mischievous action regarding an order that it now contemplates placing. So we have a situation where the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues have been trying to create a smokescreen, a diversionary tactic, to take the attention of this House from consideration of what took place previously. That is why this House welcomes the opportunity to hear the Leader of the Opposition stand up, place his credibility fairandsquare on the line and explain to this House in terms which everybody in this House, everybody listening to this debate and everybody in the Australian community who is paying taxes can understand. It is for that reason that we call on the Leader of the Opposition to put his house in order if he can. We do not believe he can. We require him to stand up here and explain his position and to produce in this Parliament forthwith all papers in his possession relating to this series of incidents. We call on him to stand and to do it now.
-The honourable member for La Trobe should formally put the motion of which he has given notice.
- Mr Speaker, in accordance with your direction, I formally move:
That this House:
Notes with grave concern that during the term the present Leader of the Opposition served as Minister for Social Security:
purchases were made from the international computer firm IBM for between $ 10m and $ 1 5m worth of computer equipment without public tenders having being called;
the action taken was subsequently endorsed by the previous Government;
representatives of the firm IBM accompanied officers of his Department on an overseas trip prior to the equipment being ordered, and
the explanation given to Parliament at the time, by the present Leader of the Opposition, of this irregular purchase was plainly deficient, and the whole affair was not only less than an acceptable level of public administration, but a blatant misuse of public funds, and therefore;
2 ) Calls on the Leader of the Opposition to table without undue delay all documents in his possession relating to this lapse of ministerial responsibility, and misuse of taxpayers’ money.
- Mr Speaker, I second the motion and reserve my right to speak at a later stage in this debate.
– I want to deal quickly with the assertions of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) which were stated shortly but over and over again. There is no substance to them. There are two main points to what he is asserting: Firstly, that a representative of IBM Australia Ltd accompanied officers of the Department of Social Security in Canada when I was Minister for Social Security. That is true. Secondly, that tenders were not called for computer facilities to service the introduction of Medibank while I was Minister for Social Security. That is true too. Let me explain briefly the background to both of those points. As I pointed out yesterday after Question Time in this House, the accompaniment of officers of the Department of Social Security by a representative of IBM occurred without my knowledge. As soon as I discovered that it had occurred I immediately took steps to terminate that association. I was advised by the Department, as I pointed out yesterday, when it contacted its representatives in Canada that in fact the association had been terminated before the contract had been made. However, the public servants pointed out to me that they were a little miffed at the toughness of my attitude because they said it had always been the accepted practice in the past on somewhat similar occasions under conservative coalition governments that that sort of association take place between a representative of a potential tenderer and people from the Department visiting overseas. That is, they had that sort of precedent. Yesterday I quoted the remainder of my statement in this Parliament of 25 May 1973 which, through forgetfulness and unfortunate oversight on the part of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), he had not quoted earlier. I put on the record again that I said:
I might add that I understand there is some son of precedent for this sort of practice. For example, in the mid-1960s, a representative of another computer supplier accompanied a representative or representatives of the then Department of Social Services on a visit to the United States of America when the visit was for the purpose of inspecting computer installations.
Now, what happened was that the Department of Social Security had not realised that the incoming Labor Government had higher standards and applied tougher requirements in these matters than the previous Government. Accordingly, that sort of relationship was terminated and the instruction was issued that never again under a Labor government should the sort of practice, which was accepted under conservative coalition governments, be resorted to. Let me make reference -
– Well, table the documents.
– I will talk about that aspect in a minute; make no mistake about that. My hands are clean. But neither the heart nor the hands of the Prime Minister are clean in the matter that we are trying to raise in this Parliament, and a little later I will release some information which will surprise the lot of you. On 29 August 1973–
Government supporters interjecting-
– I look for you protection, Mr Speaker. This is a very important matter.
-The honourable gentleman will proceed.
-On 29 August 1973 I pointed out: . . . the Department intends to request the Commonwealth Stores, Supply and Tender Board to certify that it is inexpedient to call open tenders and that an order be placed for the supply of all the equipment under this heading from IBM
I further said:
I mention that this computer needs to be fully compatible with the Department’s existing IBM equipment to facilitate the development of common computer programs. Any other course would involve totally unacceptable delays in the implementation timetable for the Australian Health Insurance Plan.
That was said publicly then and, as far as I recall, was not disputed. A certificate of inexpediency is a procedure which has been resorted to by many governments in situations similar to that which I outlined in my answer to the question in August 1973. It was a practice which had been used on a number of occasions by conservative coalition governments. The effort by the honourable member for La Trobe to try to distract public attention by manufacturing something less than proper as an association with the procedures adopted here is shabby. He is seeking to establish this distraction to take pressure off the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is increasingly looking like a guilty man to me. I have been prepared to say thus far that it may well be that the procedures followed by the Prime Minister, although reflecting great incompetence on his part and erraticism, which is hard to understand, were taken with proper motives but they appear not to be proper. It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to assure us otherwise. The longer these hedging tactics are adopted, the more the Government resorts to evasiveness and misrepresentation, the greater the doubts are that mount in the public mind.
– Your concern.
– It is not just my concern. This issue is now moving into the editorial pages of the newspapers. The Government should recognise that increasingly the public are becoming concerned about this matter. As far as I am concerned, every document, every paper and every matter relating to the issue of the certificate of inexpendiency for the acquisition of computer equipment in 1973 when I was Minister for Social Security can be released. I have none; the Department has them. As far as I am concerned, they can be released. They can be released to the Press; they can be released to anyone, who wishes to have a look at those documents. The only person who can stand in the way of that release, I would expect, would be the Prime Minister. If he will agree to release those documents, I will take whatever steps I can to see that they are available, to anyone who wants to look at them publicly, forthwith. Everything that was done was consistent with the established procedures. The Prime Minister does not believe at all that there is any substance in the motion moved by the honourable member for La Trobe because yesterday in this House the Prime Minister in relation to this matter said:
An uncharitable person-
I presume he had in mind the honourable member for La Trobe- . . . could have drawn the conclusion- I do not draw this conclusion- that the honourable gentleman, in the light of subsequent events, was devising a scheme for the advantage of IBM.
The Prime Minister does not believe it. I know that it is not true. As far as I am concerned, the documents can and ought to be released. Anyone who wants to look at them ought to be allowed to look at them as much as they want to and in as much detail as they want to and to report them in as much detail as they want to. Now, that is more than the Government is prepared to do. Maybe the Government feels sensitive about releasing some aspects of the documentation because the disclosure at this stage may disadvantage a potential tenderer in the near future when tenders are re-opened. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said in this House yesterday, I think, that they had been re-opened. I understand that that is not true. I suppose it is not a terribly important point.
What is important is that the Prime Minister, if his hands are clean in this matter, should be prepared to allow the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) and me to go through those documents, not only to assure ourselves that proper conduct was followed in this matter but also so that we can establish to the community that it appears to have been followed. The two things have to be done. I do not believe that the appearance of proper conduct has been established. I am increasingly doubtful because of the behaviour of the Government whether practice was properly followed. Let us go through the behaviour of the Prime Minister in the matter of computer acquisition for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Trade and Resources. His behaviour is totally different from the behaviour in relation to the acquisition of a computer in 1973. He says that he felt concern on 23 September when he became aware that a Mr Harragan had accepted an appointment with one of the tendering firms. I put to one side the detail of his statement in this Parliament the other night which made it clear that Mr Harragan ‘s input in the whole exercise would have been limited and I put to one side my own concern about the general principle of public servants being recruited to private firms.
I share the censorious feelings that honourable members experience about Mr Harragan. I wonder why they did not experience that sort of feeling on earlier occasions; for instance, when Sir Charles Davidson went almost immediately from the ministerial portfolio of PostmasterGeneral to Plessey Australia Pty Ltd and when Plessey then obtained a contract for mail sorting equipment at the Redfern mail exchange in Sydney. I put all those things to one side. I want to focus on the Prime Minister’s behaviour in this matter.
He says that he was concerned on 23 Septemberwe have only his word for it, a statement in retrospect- but he did nothing until 28 September, five days later. He did not initiate action. Sir Alan Carmody of his Department initiated the action, suggesting that there may be a smell of impropriety at least. Perhaps he said more than that, and that is why it would be handy to look at the documentation. That is why the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I should be allowed to have access to it. The initiation of action- the manifestation of concern in some sort of real sense- did not come from the Prime Minister; it came from Sir Alan Carmody.
Then on 4 October, six days after that- so great was his concern that he could bear with it for six days- he contacted the Chairman of the Public Service Board. Lo and behold, he is such a tough minded, determined man that he changed his mind entirely from the proposition put to him by Sir Alan Carmody with which he agreed, namely, that a new interdepartmental committee should be set up, and accepted the recommendation of the Public Service Board that a review be made of Mr Harragan ‘s association with the tendering processes. Then nothing much happened on the part of the Government until 4, 1 and 8 November. Cabinet sub-committee met- not Cabinet itself. We have it only on the word of the Prime Minister- we know how valuable his word is in times of inflation like this- that concern was expressed. But nothing was done- so great was his concern.
On 2 December Mr Moyes of IBM Australia Ltd contacted him by letter. How we would love to see that communication. What are those four crucial points that Mr Moyes raised, to which the Prime Minister alluded in his letter of 1 7 January but on which he will not give us any information? On 22 December he spoke with Mr Moyes and said that perhaps fresh tenders should be called, but on 17 January this strong-willed man who seems to be erratic in his attitudes on this matter apparently changed his mind again. He wrote to Mr Moyes and indicated that proper procedures had been followed and there had been no impropriety, on the advice of the heads of his Department, and that Mr Moyes ‘s organisation could make submissions according to modified tender requirements.
Mr Speaker, we should bear in mind that tenders were called in 1976. They were closed- I repeat, closed- in February 1977. The Prime Minister, presumably by his own decision, reopened them in late 1977 or early 1978. On 8 February the Prime Minister by his own action, it would appear, peremptorily terminated the whole tendering process and said there would be new tenders. Let us look at what he said the other night in Parliament. I hope honourable members opposite will not interject because this is a most disturbing disclosure. On 7 March the Prime Minister said:
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.
The Prime Minister cancelled them on 8 February. I ask honourable members to listen to the point I am about to make. It is most crucial. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) is yawning but he will be doing more than that in a minute. On 8 February Facom sent a telex to the Stores and Tender Board. Amongst other things, it said: . . . Facom has accepted this timetable for the submission of the requested supplementary data and feel it to be in the public interest. We request your current reconfirmation that the submission date of February 13 will be enforced. In view of the unprecedented course of events followed to date by this particular tender we do not wish to find that, having submitted our response further delays to the closure date are then subsequently granted. . . .
It did suit Facom to proceed with the tendering process. Presumably it did not suit IBM. Remarkably, in this intervening period when the Prime Minister started interfering with the procedures associated with the tendering process, IBM was able to bring on line new computer services and new computer equipment. Accordingly, one presumes, it would have been advantaged over other tenderers if fresh tenders were called. I have no choice but to say that the Prime Minister’s behaviour in this matter, on the evidence before us, has been most improper. His behaviour should be subjected to the most searching scrutiny. I am happy to have tabled all documentation related to the 1973 tendering processes. I realise there may be some problems in tabling all the documentation in the matter we are raising. The correspondence, at least, ought to be tabled. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) and I ought to be allowed access to all files in this matter otherwise the suspicion in the community that something crooked has happened will mount and the reputation not only of the Prime Minister and the Government but also of the Parliament will be brought into serious question. IBM does seem to have been favoured in this matter. It is appropriate that IBM should have had its case put by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) who is a member of the Melbourne Club where IBM has a representative in Mr Andrew Grimwade–
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is disappointing that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) does not understand what this matter is all about. The question involved is the procedure that the Government of our persuasion follows and the alternative procedure which he, as the responsible Minister, and the Government of which he was a member followed in 1973. The matter is whether today there is an adequate prescribed acceptable procedure which is totally proper and whether that procedure will be followed in future and whether another procedure was followed in 1973- a procedure that was carried out behind closed doors. It is a procedure which has not produced documents. Sure, this morning the Leader of the Opposition said that he is quite happy to have all documentation revealed. I wonder why! So far as I can see and from some contact with officers who also worked with me within that same Department some years earlier, there seems to be no record of any direct instructions to the officers of that Department. The Leader of the Opposition said yesterday that he had given instructions and that he hoped those instructions were still being followed. Not unnaturally the Minister responsible thought that he should examine those instructions or, at least, ascertain whether they existed. I am afraid that so far as we can find, the Leader of the Opposition gave no instructions in writing. If he gave instructions they must have been very vague and uncertain. We are not sure to whom they were given or in what manner they were given. Perhaps that is why today he says he is quite happy to have all those files revealed.
Let us examine the circumstances. Since this Parliament resumed the Opposition has tried in a series of attacks, first on the personality and integrity of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and, secondly, on the capability and responsibility of this Government, to suggest that in re-opening tenders we are not, in some way, following a true and proper procedure. What absolute nonsense! The same sort of inhibitions that applied to the Labor Party when it said it did not want an open election by the people of Australia in November 1975 in order to resolve fundamental differences as to how this country should be governed apply today in determining whether tenders should be free and open and available to all parties. The unfortunate implication of the motion moved by my friend and colleague, the honourable member for La Trobe, Mr Marshall Baillieu, is that the only way in which we can determine whether a proper procedure was followed by the Leader of the Opposition is by the introduction of a motion of this sort.
I think it is important that we realise that there are a series of fundamental questions with which the people of Australia need to be concerned. Have correct and proper procedures been followed in relation to the calling of tenders and the letting of tenders for Australian Bureau of Statistics computers in 1976, 1977 and 1978? Were correct and proper procedures followed by the Leader of the Opposition as Minister for Social Security in 1973 with respect to the letting of tenders for two major computer installations? Was the Leader of the Opposition in fact snowed by his Department in 1973? Did he just accept the advice of his Department? Did they come to him and say, as they said to me about 10 years previously when I was the Minister: ‘We have always been associated with IBM. We do not think anybody else has a role with this Department. ‘ I think that what is happening politically today to this man is that he is being snowed by his left wing. He is showing that he is subordinate to those in the trade union movement instead of the parliamentary members behind him. What happened in 1973 is the same as what is happening to him, politically, today. He was completely fooled by those officers who reported to him.
The whole purpose of this censure is to ensure that the man who today condemns the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is revealed for the person he is. What seems to have happened is that instead of questioning the advice given to him by his officers, as he should have, he accepted that tenders should just be let. He says: ‘Just a minute. There has been a procedure. There has been a certification of inexpendiency. ‘ That was a certificate which the Department said it would issue. The Leader of the Opposition says: ‘Therefore we did not have to go ahead with that procedure’. Does he come into this House and tell us that he, as a responsible Minister, did not go to his Cabinet? What happened was that he went along to Cabinet and said: ‘I think we really ought to accept the advice of this company. On the one hand we condemn these multinationals but on the other hand we are pretty dependent on them. My Department has a good deal going. It has just had an officer in Canada.’ Is that the way it happened? If the Leader of the Opposition is quite prepared to reveal all the documentation I wonder whether that is the way it will come out.
That is a serious question. Was he snowed by his Department? Was he just prepared to accept its advice? Why did not those two contracts go to open tender? Why was no other computer company allowed to tender? It makes one wonder. He was then, we thought, a responsible Minister. He did not really know very much about the circumstances of IBM representatives accompanying his officer to Canada. He says: ‘But that happened before’. I notice that in his remarks today he referred to the Ministerial Statement that he made and which appears at page 27 17 of Hansard of 25 May 1973. He said: . . . in the mid-1960s, a representative of another computer supplier accompanied a representative or representatives of the then Department of Social Services on a visit to the United States of America . . .
What a wonderful precedent that is. What he is saying is that it happened before, therefore he did not worry about it. In complete contrast, this Government has thrown open these tenders again. If they were not immediately re-opened, they are about to be. There is no doubt of the procedure. The Prime Minister has said in this House, in correspondence and in public pronouncements, that because of a suggestion of possible impropriety- and this was acknowledged by the Leader of the Opposition- the tenders would not be let on that basis. I refer the House to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition as reported at page 463 of Hansard of 7 March 1978. He said:
I believe that his behaviour -
He was referring to Mr Harragan- 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 . . .
We are not making innuendoes against Mr Harragan: What we are saying is that he certainly was in a position to reveal confidential information. I quote to the House part of an interview involving Mr Harragan last night on the television program This Day Tonight:
Derek Harragan: No. If I had been offered -
He was referring to a position- after the tender decision had been made I would have rejected it . . .
Paul Griffiths: Why did you see it that way?
Derek Harragan: Well because of my involvement.
Paul Griffiths: It could have been seen by other people as a payoff?
Derek Harragan: Yes. Yes. I mean that would have beenwell whether it was a question of a pay off or not- I wouldn’t have seen that as ethical.
That is what this is all about. There was information from the statement given to this House the other day. There was information available to a senior officer of the Department concerned after his having had an approach from the company and prior to his being excluded from the selection committee set up for the purpose of choosing the preferred tenderer. What the Government has done has been to say that we believe that if there is any possibility of an officer having a preferred position, having access to confidential information, of being in a position where he might improperly see that a contract is let without all the open scrutiny and without the complete security necessary in determining the way in which the tenders are let, then that tender should not be let to that party. That is what this is all about. What we have done has been to establish firmly and for the future that there will be no hint of any impropriety by an officer of the Government resigning early and perhaps being in a position to divulge confidential information and as a result there being any suggestion that the company concerned might gain some advantage in the tendering process.
I think it is important that we look at the whole of the circumstances surrounding the involvement of the Leader of the Opposition as Minister for Social Security in 1973. In complete contrast to our procedures, I am afraid that in 1973 those procedures were not followed. My colleague, the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), in question 696 of 29 August 1973, revealed for the first time that a series of tenders had been let, two of which were very significant, and that there had not been open tender opportunities. One was for a large data processing system to be installed in January 1974 at a cost of approximately $5. 5m. The other was for a large data processing system to be installed later in the year at a cost of approximately $4.3m. There were two major installations, both tenders for which were let without there being access to anybody except the one company which won the contract. Those tenders were let after there had been a visit overseas by officers of the Department of the then Minister for Social Security, along with an official of the company concerned. It might well have been that no undue innuendoes can be placed on that visit but the point is that the Minister had been told about it. The Minister replied by saying to the honourable member for Corangamite:
In so far as Item 1 -
That is, the first of the tenders- is concerned, the Department intends to request the Commonwealth Stores, Supply and Tender Board to certify that it is inexpedient to call open tenders and that an order be placed for the supply of all the equipment under this heading from IBM.
The important point is that this was a reply to a question on notice given some time after the question had been lodged, given after it had been revealed to the Minister that an officer of IBM had travelled overseas with officers of his own Department. In other words, there had already been a direct association between the company that was to be given the nod and officers of the then Minister’s Department. Yet the man who today is criticising the Prime Minister for what he sees as establishing impropriety, himself established that his Department was going to produce a certificate of inexpediency. That is what this matter is all about. The Labor Party comes into this chamber and criticises the Government for taking correct and proper procedures to ensure that there is no hint of influence. Yet in the Labor Party’s own dealings, so obviously, so patently and so deliberatelyand the Leader of the Opposition is the man principally responsible as the then Minister- it accepted without even going to open tender the fact that there should be an association with the particular company concerned.
There is nothing in what I am saying or what the Government is saying that hints that that particular company was in any way irresponsible. But we are concerned not with the companies that tender: We are concerned about the proper procedures for this Government. We are concerned about the protection of the public interest. This Government must be concerned that the correct and proper procedures are followed. That is markedly different from the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition. It is of no use his coming into the chamber and saying, as he did yesterday, that he believes that Mr Harragan ‘s behaviour was quite improper and that no action should be taken in regard to it. What he has done is to admit in his statement that he supposedly issued an instruction to the officers of his former Department in regard to their travelling abroad with principals who submitted tenders in the past. The instruction he supposedly issued was that that practice was not to continue. If he issued that instruction why did he go ahead and seek that certificate of inexpediency?
The whole of his attack is blatantly political. The situation is that the Opposition does not have anything else going for it. I can well understand that. It is obviously in a position where it can find no fault in our administration and is thus trying to chase any hare that it finds. It is a pity that there is no substance in the cause the Opposition is pursuing. The cause it is pursuing is demonstrably proper. It is demonstrably in accordance with the procedures that should be followed. The Prime Minister at no stage gave any inclination to IBM or to anybody else concerned that, while the Permanent Heads might have concluded that there had been no impropriety, he believed that there had been no impropriety. The action in calling for tenders to be reopened after the whole of the events of Mr Harragan ‘s retirement, in my view, set down not only the correct procedure to be followed in the present instance but also a precedent which henceforth will and should be followed.
The Labor Party, on the other hand, demonstrably does not believe in that sort of responsible action. In its attacks on the Prime Minister and on the Government, the Labor Party is saying that what the Leader of the Opposition did in 1973 was right. We on this side of the House do not accept that. That is why this motion has been brought on today. The motion is designed to try to ensure that the Leader of the Opposition accepts that he cannot have two standards. Those two standards which he might have been prepared to follow as Minister for Social Security are not good enough for this Government; they are not good enough to meet the wishes of the Australian people; they badly need to be roundly condemned. That is why I completely endorse and second the motion moved by my friend and colleague.
– I draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that we have present in the Gallery this morning a delegation of six members of the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea led by Mr Angmai Bilas This is the first official visit to Australia of a delegation of members of the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea. On behalf of the House I extend to those honourable gentlemen a very warm welcome.
-As the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) said, this motion is a blatant political tactic to try to smear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). Let us make it very clear that the motion which is now being discussed was moved by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) who was not a member of this House in 1973. He has been given the task of bringing on a motion dealing with an event which occurred a few years ago and suggesting that something wrong was done at that time. Let it be clear that, if anything wrong had been done in 1973 the then Opposition, the present Government, would have had that matter aired very quickly indeed. The motion is saying, on the one hand, that there is something wrong with IBM Australia Ltd, because the motion deals with a computer contract let to IBM many years ago. There is an inference, an innuendo, an allegation in the motion that something must have been wrong with IBM in 1973 because of the actions taken by the present Leader of the Opposition at that time. Of course, that is the point that we are making about the events of today, not 1 973.
What is the situation now that IBM is getting such a favourable advantage from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)? When we seek to debate the matter, when we seek to have it raised in the Parliament, and when we seek to have access to the records and documents, we are denied that opportunity. Every time we move a motion in this House, every time we ask a question, the Prime Minister runs away. There is a guilty man in this Parliament, and we say it is the Prime Minister, because he could well have done what this motion -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that remark.
-I will re-phrase it. I apologise to you, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister is the one person who knows the full facts but he is not prepared to allow this House to have access to the documentation proving those facts. Let us look at the terms of the motion. It states:
That this House-
2 ) Calls on the Leader of the Opposition to table without undue delay all documents in his possession . . .
The Leader of the Opposition immediately stood up, being the man of integrity that he is, and said: ‘You can have the lot. They are all in the Cabinet records and you can have access to the whole lot of them’. What a difference in attitude that is. We are now engaged in a debate about a company which apparently was deemed to be tainted in 1973 but which certainly is lily white now. That debate is to proceed on the basis of the Opposition being denied access to the documents involving the tender. We are raising this matter in the public interest because of the Prime Minister’s personal involvement in it. He mentioned and virtually blackguarded a person named Harragan on the basis that he was a former public servant who went off to join a computer company. It is recognised, admitted and acknowledged now that Mr Moyes, who presently represents IBM, did the same thing. He was a member of the Department of Social Services in 1953 when he left that Department to join IBM. So, is not the parallel perfect? There is no suggestion of impropriety on the part of Mr Moyes. Yet a scurrilous attack is made on an innocent man. The real issue in this case is the Prime Minister’s action, his motivation and the directions he gave at the suggestion of IBM.
We want to raise a number of other questions because they are of the gravest concern to us, as was mentioned by my leader today. On 17 January a letter was written to Mr Moyes which clearly indicated that the calling of tenders would continue until 13 February. There were four matters of viability to be considered. They were the four matters which Mr Moyes himself had raised. We all know, although we cannot get the Prime Minister to substantiate the fact, that the action of Mr Moyes in raising four matters on behalf of IBM became the rock on which Facom Australia Ltd was to perish. It was the result of the representations of Moyes on behalf of IBM that the letter was written to Facom indicating that further information was required from that company and that it had until 13 February to provide it.
Do you know, Mr Speaker, that Facom was attempting to provide that information? It had especially sent a representative to Japan to get it. That representative was due back in Australia on 9 February. Facom sent a telex to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet seeking a guarantee, in view of the fact that it had been put to all this unusual trouble, that there would be no further delay in the letting of the tender and that 13 February would be the firm date for the closing of tenders. Is it not significant that the date on which that telex was sent, namely 8 February, was the date on which the Prime Minister said: ‘We are not going ahead with any tenders at all. Cancel it’. Facom had gone to the trouble and expense of trying to answer the questions posed by IBM, put up as though they were questions posed by the Government. In fact, they were not. They were posed as a result of the Prime Minister’s personal intervention. Facom had gone to that trouble and expense but was then denied an opportunity to have the matter considered, because, although no reason for it was given to the Parliament, the Prime Minister had a change of heart.
What was the reason for that? On 1 7 January the Prime Minister was saying to a reputable firm: ‘Please furnish more information in a multi million dollar contract’. That firm went to the trouble and expense of providing that information. It asked by telex for a guarantee that there would be no further delay. As soon as that telex was sent the concept of the tenders was scrapped altogether. It smells. It smells of something being done on behalf of IBM. That is the reason why we are pressing for full disclosure on this matter.
Is it a fact- perhaps the Prime Minister can inform us- that the Japanese Ambassador sought an interview with the Prime Minister on this matter? Has he interviewed the Prime Minister on this matter? Is he concerned about the injustice done to Facom? Is that not a matter for consideration by this House when we are dealing with matters of this type? It is well known that the Prime Minister had to send a telex to the Japanese authorities assuring them that the Government was not suggesting any impropriety on the part of Facom. This matter has reached an international level. The reasons for taking the action that was taken are very clear indeed. We want to know what Mr Moyes said in his personal discussions with the Prime Minister. I emphasise that I am talking about more than one discussion. I use the plural ‘discussions’. The Prime Minister was at great pains to say in his explanation to the House that he had only one discussion with Mr Moyes. We dispute that, in view of the letter that he wrote on 1 7 January in which it is stated that he had a number of ‘discussions’.
The most serious aspect is that the Prime Minister himself is personally involved in this matter. Is he the only person involved? That is the point at issue. It is well known and often suggested that IBM really has some personal access to the Government. It has been suggested that it has been a substantial contributor to Liberal Party funds. The figure of $25,000 is mentioned. These are the factors that the public should know. Facom is obviously concerned to feel that when tenders are called- and tendering is what this matter is all about- they be dealt with on a fair basis, that there be integrity, that there be no personal intervention and no special privilege. It should be clearly understood that the matter will be dealt with on its merits. The facts are these: The independent committee which was assessing this matter after Mr Harragan had left had found that the most meritorious tender was Facom’s The committee was not brainwashed by Mr Harragan. He had already left.
The issue was quite clear. As far back as October it was known that Facom would be the winner. From that date action by IBM guaranteed that Facom would not win. We saw personal intervention by the Prime Minister. We see it well back into last year if we look at some of the records. It is a fact that even in September the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet suggested that the work be abandoned. Work be abandoned? As indicated here, the Bureau has been needing the computer for some 2 years. It has been strongly suggested to me that the delay while new tenders are called will seriously prejudice the efficiency of the Government. It is on that basis that the Opposition is raising the issue.
The Prime Minister does not care about the public interest, the morale in the Service or the question of integrity. The Prime Minister has interfered in an area where he has no personal responsibility and has decided to let people write letters and make suggestions to vary tenders. When asked in this House to produce the documents he refuses to do so. It is because of those matters that I move this amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘this House notes with grave concern the Prime Minister’s personal intervention to assist the IBM Co. in the acceptance of a tender for computer equipment for the Bureau of Statistics and his failure to disclose to the House all relevant papers and documents including a personal letter to him from IBM dated 2 December 1977’.
-It is not a question of rubbish. How can honourable members opposite deny the fact that the Japanese Ambassador is concerned about the matter? How can they deny that a responsible company named Facom is concerned to think that on the very day it sends a telex demanding that there be no delay it finds that all tenders are abandoned? Have honourable members opposite got something to hide? Why is it that we cannot obtain the letter that Mr Moyes wrote to the Prime Minister on 2 December. Facom is well aware of the fact that the four questions which were asked of it by the Government were the four questions submitted by Mr Moyes
Let me refer to another couple of interesting points. Is it not a fact that the Government appointed a consultant to evaluate these tenders at an extraordinarily high fee of $80 a hour? Was the consultant a former employee of IBM? How ridiculous the matter is now that all these facts are known. At what stage was Facom on a fair and equal basis with IBM? It was up against the Prime Minister and up against all the intrigue that can flow from personal interference by Mr Moyes of IBM. We have a so-called independent consultant to evaluate tenders who is a former employee of IBM. Can honourable members opposite expect the public to accept this situation? It may be because those factors were leaking out that the Prime Minister felt he had to abandon the whole project, and that he has done, in a most peculiar way. He did so without telling Facom anything about it. It is because of that aspect that the Opposition moves this amendment. It is an amendment completely different from the context of the motion moved by the honourable member for La Trobe which sought to make the Leader of the Opposition disclose all information on a matter which occurred in 1973. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he will disclose all information. Our amendment proposes that the Prime Minister disclose all information and particularly the personal letter to him. He will not do so. There is something improper, he says, with Mr Harragan. The Prime Minister is sheltering behind Mr Harragan on the basis of impropriety. Mr Harragan ‘s impropriety was cleared by the highest level of officials sitting as a committee. The man was completely exonerated. It is unfair and un-Australian to try to suggest that because of Mr Harragan no tenders would be proceeded with. This matter had nothing to do with Mr Harragan at all.
The real issue is that the independent committee which recommended Facom was not influenced by Harragan. The real issue is that IBM is running the Government. It has access to the Government. We are told that it was an extraordinary thing for the Leader of the Opposition to adhere to a certificate of expediency in 1973. That is done right throughout Australia. At present the Prime Minister’s counterpart in Victoria, the State Premier, lets contracts without tender. I am reminded of a gentleman named Mr Taylor who seems to be doing very well on that basis. Nobody is casting any aspersions on that aspect. It is a fact that Mr Taylor is a senior member of the Liberal Party in Victoria. He is able to get contracts worth up to $9m from the Victorian Government without tenders being called. Let us be clear and fair. The honourable member for La Trobe would know this fact. He is well aware of the situation in Victoria. He came in here and presented a muck-raking motion to try to muddy the water and say that something was wrong in 1973. The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) was here in 1973. What action did he take? He should not try to get into the action live years too late. The Leader of the House is now thinking of something he should have done 5 years ago. The fact is that nothing was wrong live years ago.
The other fundamental fact is that the Leader of the Opposition says that he will disclose everything. He has said so publicly. Will the Prime Minister do the same? Why is the Prime Minister running away from a simple proposition? If everything is fair and above board let us have access to the papers. Let the Press have access to them. Let the people read what Mr Moyes wrote to the Prime Minister on 2 December. Let us find out whether the letters sent on behalf of the Government were in the same context as the letter drafted by Mr Moyes. Is it not a fact that the Japanese Ambassador is concerned about the matter on the basis of fair play? Is it not a fact that Facom after it had gone to all the trouble and additional expense involved in flying personnel to Japan and back to meet the deadline of 13 February is denied an opportunity because, without any rhyme or reason and without any explanation even to this House up to this date, the Prime Minister all of a sudden says that no tenders will be proceeded with?
There has been a personal involvement to suit IBM. There is a close affiliation with the Liberal Party at the time. We are astounded to think that the Prime Minister, who has been asked to help in this matter, puts up a back bencher to move a motion that the Prime Minister must have worded himself to try to smear the Leader of the Opposition. It is well recognised on our side that if you want to destroy a man you use the smear context. The Leader of the Opposition had clearly challenged the Prime Minister today. He has said that he will make papers available. Will the Prime Minister do likewise? The thrust of the amendment is that the Prime Minister is afraid of the truth being known. Facom wants the truth known. Facom would have got this contract but for the personal intervention of the Prime Minister.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– It is, Mr Speaker. The House should recount the steps in the computer issue during the last week. The Opposition raised this matter last week by way of a motion which was rejected by the Government. A debate did not ensue. The Opposition did not raise it on Tuesday either by way of discussion of a matter of public importance or by any other substantive motion. What is the action of the Government? On Monday night the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had his Press Secretary creeping around the corridors giving out Government source Press briefings because the Prime Minister was concerned about the progress of the matter. On Tuesday, without any real coverage of the issue in the Press, the Prime Minister issued a long detailed statement forgetting the golden rule of politics: Never complain and never explain. He explained to the Parliament what had happened and how he was absolved of blame.
Yesterday the Prime Minister came in with a brief to answer phoney questions about the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) which indicated that the Prime Minister had spent the night before studying details about the Leader of the Opposition when he was a Minister five years ago. So much for the Prime Minister’s cursory interest in the issue. There is an old saying that dogs come back to their vomit, and the Prime Minister is coming back to the scene of the crime. He feels he must explain.
-Order! I have permitted the debate to be free ranging, but I think that words of that kind do not do anything for the standing of the Parliament. I ask the honourable gentleman not to use them.
– The point I am making is that guilty men come back to the scene of the crime, and the Prime Minister has used all of these -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not imply guilt on the part of any member of this House.
– I did not say the Prime Minister was guilty. I said: ‘Guilty men come back to the scene of the crime’. The Prime Minister has spent the week dredging up an issue to try to malign the Leader of the Opposition. The real issue is this: Nothing happened in this matter until 2 December. On 23 September, Mr Shann, the Chairman of the Public Service Board, advised the Prime Minister that Mr Harragan was about to join Facom Australia Ltd. Five days later Mr Yeend, the Secretary to Cabinet, advised the Prime Minister that he should close off the present tenders and seek new tenders or at least reopen the tendering process. That advice is rejected.
The Prime Minister then establishes a committee of departmental permanent heads. I ask honourable members to listen to the membership of that committee. It was composed of Sir Arthur Tange, Mr Cole, Mr Cameron, Mr Lanigan and Mr Yeend. They were to investigate whether Mr Harragan had influenced in any way the course of the tender. They reported that proper procedures had been followed and that therefore there was no need for fresh consideration of the proposal. That clears Mr Harragan of any improper influence in the decision. This is the point at issue, not the ethics or the politics of the matter. But the Prime Minister then goes on to berate this committee by saying that the assessment was too narrow. Surely these men considered the proprieties of this man’s actions and considered whether he could have influenced the decision. Obviously, on the assessment he did not. The Prime Minister communicated this to Mr Moyes. The Prime Minister accepted this and said in his letter of 17 January to Mr Moyes
It therefore immediately established a committee of senior Permanent Heads under the Chairman of the Public Service Board to review procedures associated with the proposed acquisition. After consideration of all the facts the Permanent Heads concluded that the proper procedures had been followed and that there had been no impropriety.
The Prime Minister stood by that decision in his letter to Mr Moyes of 1 7 January. What therefore is the factor which changed the Prime Minister’s mind? Why has the Prime Minister now sought to denigrate the advice of the permanent heads and act against the spirit of his own letter? It is simply because IBM kicked over the traces. The company remembered the clear lesson of last year when International Telephone and Telegraph was knocked over by L. M. Ericsson Australia Pty Ltd in a tendering process for a Telecom Australia contract for $500m worth of equipment. It has been made known to the Prime Minister that the same thing will not happen in respect to IBM Australia Ltd. IBM will not let the tendering process take place without interference. The company will be right in there pushing its point of view. IBM obviously pushed that point of view on to the Prime Minister because he said in his letter of 1 7 January:
Stemming both from your letter and from issues raised in these discussions concerning the viability of the project, all mainframe tenderers will receive a request from the Australian Government Stores and Tender Board for additional information . . .
He goes on to say:
In your letter you mentioned four particular concerns which you felt could affect the viability of the project.
The reason the Prime Minister has upset the tenders has nothing to do with Harragan. As the Australian Financial Review points out today, there are at least half a dozen precedents this year of the nature of the Harragan one. The reason he has upset the tenders is because Moyes has put the spurs into him and the Prime Minister has reacted in Moyes ‘ favour.
The Prime Minister talks about the committee of departmental permanent heads. He then says that another committee of permanent heads recommended that the tenders be reopened. That committee is composed of Mr Shann, Mr Lawler and Sir Alan Carmody. Only one of those gentlemen served on the other permanent heads committees. The previous permanent heads committee would not vary its statement to suit the Prime Minister and would not admit that its investigation was too narrow. Its members stood their ground and would not be suborned by the Prime Minister. So he has the permanent head of his own Department who was not on the first committee, the Secretary of the Department of Administrative Services and the Chairman of the Public Service Board make this recommendation. Yet we know that Mr Barnett, the Prime Minister’s Press secretary, has been running around the corridors of Parliament House saying that the Chairman of the Public Service Board is the Japanese connection. That has come from the Prime Minister’s office. The Prime Minister is denigrating his own Chairman of the Public Service Board. Mr Shann has reason to feel threatened. No wonder this committee has now recommended that new tenders be called.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to a telex from Facom Australia Ltd. I want to reiterate the importance of this telex. The Prime Minister says quite clearly, as reported on page 46 1 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 7 March 1978:
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-
I emphasise the words ‘strengthened amongst our advisers’- that the shortened tender procedures which they had put to us unfairly favoured IBM.
The Prime Minister is saying that this shortened tender procedure unfairly favours IBM. He went on to say:
It was suggested that it was easier for IBM than Facom to meet the relatively short time limit for lodging revised tenders.
But Facom says that on that day- that same day, 8 February- that it has accepted this timetable for the submission, as requested for supplementary data and that it feels it to be in the public interest. On what basis does this man come into the Parliament and tell us -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not refer to another honourable member as ‘ this man ‘.
– You have allowed this kind of expression in other debates. I do not see why you must be meticulous with me.
– I have not allowed that to happen. .Mr KEATING- Let us have a little uniformity.
-Order! I have not permitted such a form of expression. I have allowed the debate to be free ranging but I want it to be confined within the rules of the House. The honourable gentleman will refer to another honourable member as the honourable member or give him his title.
– Why did this honourable member say in the Parliament that this procedure favoured IBM when Facom had accepted the procedure? Facom had said:
We request your current reconfirmation that the submission date of February 13 will be enforced.
That meant that it would be inviolate. Of course, it was not inviolate. On the very same day the Prime Minister said:
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 -
Not the same officials of course- unanimously recommended that the shortened procedures be abandoned and new tenders called.
On the following day, 9 February, Cabinet endorsed this position. Yet on 8 February Facom had said to the Government that it agreed with the procedure. The only reason why Facom has been run over is pressure from IBM. The only reason the new tendering process has been called for is that it advantages IBM. I submit to the House that the reason for the Prime Minister’s shenanigans with the briefings by Mr Barnett on Sunday night, his statement on Tuesday, his attacks on the Leader of the Opposition yesterday and the pitiful performance of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) who is now hiding in the deepest depths of the back bench is that the Prime Minister feels threatened by the charges against him now appearing in every major newspaper. What we are contemplating is a gross public impropriety on the part of the Prime Minister. That the head of the Government in Australia can be considered in the public’s view to be involved in the tendering process of government to the tune of a $ 1 7m contract must be unacceptable to the Australian Parliament and the Australian public. We on this side of the House have asked for nothing more than all the evidence to be given to the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). We accept the fact that this correspondence cannot be issued publicly but the Opposition should have the o. portunity to know what is going on.
All these letters to which the Prime Minister referred on Tuesday night between himself, the Chairman of the Public Service Board and Mr Yeend do not affect the tendering process or the confidentiality of tender details. They are political matters between the Public Service and the Prime Minister which ought to be made public. Much of the evidence can be made public. The Prime Minister cannot hide behind the ruse that the documents will affect one tenderer or another. They are political matters which are the subject of parliamentary debate. They are impugning the integrity of the Prime Minister. We are entitled to see details of correspondence between the Prime Minister and various members of the Public Service.
– And the oral discussion on 22 December.
– The Leader of the Opposition referred to the oral discussion on 22 December. Notes of that discussion must have been kept. Surely the Prime Minister keeps notes of these things? That, of course, is the turning point. Even the Moyes letter of 2 December saw no reaction from the Government. But after 22 December all hell broke loose. The Public Service had to jump into gear. The Permanent Heads Committee recommendation was dismissed. Its recommendations were pushed under the mat. The Committee was humiliated in the Parliament because the Prime Minister said its investigation was too narrow and therefore lacked credibility. Now new tenders are being called, to the disadvantage of Facom. IBM will be able to introduce new equipment with the extra time it has been given and it may have an advantage. The Prime Minister has provided that advantage.
We on this side of the House clearly believe that the main issue is the Prime Minister’s personal involvement in this matter. The Parliament and the Opposition are entitled to as much evidence as can be properly made available. Anything that may happen to be confidential could be made available only to the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Parliament could then see whether the present Prime Minister of Australia is worthy to hold that office. The Government should not try to turn this issue against an honest man, the Leader of the Opposition, with a motion by the honourable member for La Trobe which he could barely read, much less comprehend or argue. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I am now calling on the Prime Minister to state in his address to the Parliament whether he will make those letters available and whether he will give us the details of the conversation he had with Mr Moyes on 22 December.
– I do not propose for one moment to trace all the labyrinth of the Opposition’s statements in the debate this morning but only to refer the Opposition to the last page of the statement I made to this Parliament where I made it plain that the facts of that statement had been checked with the relevant permanent heads, namely, the Chairman of the Public Service Board and the permanent heads of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Trade and Resources, the Department of Defence, the Department of Administrative Services, the Department of Social Security, the Department of Finance and the Australian Statistician. Since the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) is seeking to challenge the facts in this statement it is perfectly plain that the Opposition is challenging the credibility of those several permanent heads themselves.
There are two or three main points that need emphasis as a result of the debate this morning. We have the circumstance in which the present Leader of the Opposition, as Minister for Social Security, knew perfectly well that an improper course had been followed- he said so himself; he repeated it today- in May 1973. He said that he then issued instructions to see that that course should not be pursued again. We need to ask ourselves: What instructions? Plainly, since he said that he hoped the instruction was still operating we were entitled to find out what it was. But I am advised that there is no evidence of that instruction. Indeed, when the honourable gentleman spoke in the House on 25 May 1973 for the second time on this matter he spoke at great length to defend the activities of his Department. There was none of this moral indignation at that time.
I think we are entitled to ask: Was any instruction ever issued? If the course of action was as morally wrong as the honourable gentleman indicates why did the then Government go ahead and give the contract to IBM Australia Ltd, no tenders being issued? Why did he support a certificate of inexpediency saying that the contract had to go to IBM if what had been happening in Canada about four weeks earlier was as improper as he tried to suggest to the Department it was? Or has it become improper only yesterday and today? Was it not improper then too? Was it not improper at the time he answered this matter in the House on 25 May 1973? Then he defended what was done. The honourable gentleman seems to change his morals as he changes the side of the House he sits on. We have grave doubts as to whether any instruction was issued and what he did at that time. But it needs to be emphasised time and time again that if the action had been improper and wrong the course to take was to throw the contract open to tenders and not to go to the company with which the impropriety had been perpetrated. The Leader of the Opposition has much to answer in relation to that point.
The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) I believe is to be commended for his own initiative in bringing the matter to the notice of the House. The action of the Leader of the Opposition stands in stark contrast to the actions of this Government. That shows the different bases of principle from which this Government acts and the Government of the Australian Labor Party acted, and from which the Opposition acts at present. We have the circumstance in which Mr Harragan resigned from the Public Service and also from a certain committee at a critical point in the tendering for a substantial contract. We need to recall the dates again. He was offered a job on 25 August. He got a copy of the final evaluation on 2 September. Several weeks later on 19 December he advised the Deputy Chairman of the Interdepartmental Committee on Automatic Data Processing that he was thinking of taking a job with a computer firm, but he did not say what particular firm. Three days later he revealed that the name of the company was Facom Australia Ltd, when he knew that on the basis of the evaluation Facom was likely to receive the tender. I think it is worth drawing notice to the point that Mr Harragan, if a transcript I have of an interview with him is correct, indicated that he believed it would have been ethically wrong for him to join the company after the tender had been let but that it would not have been ethically wrong for him to join it at that time. I believe that it is very difficult to see the difference in judgment in a before and after situation such as that.
It is not only my judgment and the judgment of the Government that what was done in those circumstances was wrong. One of the real problems with the Leader of the Opposition in this case is that he has been trying to make a case out of something which he has condemned. Since he condemns it, what alternative course of action would he have taken to the action which we took? He might have said that he would have taken it earlier, but if he was going to condemn that course of action and then do nothing he would have been as culpable as he was in 1973. It is worth noting that the Leader of the Opposition, in referring to Mr Harragan, said:
I believe that his behaviour was quite improper . . . Impropriety covers things like ethical conduct; proper behaviour; the appearance as well as the reality.
I stress those words ‘appearance as well as the reality’. Time and again in this House I have stressed that that has gone to the substance and the heart of the Government’s concern in relation to this matter. Referring to the resignation at that time of somebody working in the heart of the Government’s tendering process, the Leader of the Opposition said that this conduct was deserving of censure- a strong term; a term which I think no other honourable member used. If it was deserving of censure, are we to assume that the Leader of the Opposition would do nothing about it? If it was deserving of censure, are we to assume that he would go ahead and give the contract to Facom knowing that something had happened at the heart of the tendering process which, in his view, was deserving of censure? Really, this is an odd Leader of the Opposition. Now he wants to try to make capital for himself out of something which he says is deserving of censure, namely, the resignation of Mr Harragan and, because we did take action in relation to it, he wants to try to blame the Government for taking that action.
I think that we need to understand quite clearly that the Opposition has gone on with humbug and hypocrisy throughout the totality of this debate. That is made perfectly plain by its actions in 1973, particularly the actions of the now Leader of the Opposition, and by his actions now in relation to this matter. There is not the slightest doubt that if we had gone ahead and awarded the contract to Facom the Leader of the Opposition would then have remembered his warm association with IBM in 1973 and come rushing to the fore on his charger saying that his company, which had served Australia and his Department so well, had been grievously harmed by this infringement of propriety in relation to the tendering process. We knew quite well that he was making a case for both sides of the fence to use according to the action the Government took in relation to the matter.
I believe that the Leader of the Opposition has much to answer for. What kind of instruction was given? After all, it was to be a technical evaluation in Canada. Was that evaluation going to occur? If it was to be a technical evaluation in Canada of IBM equipment, how were people in the Department of Social Security to find out about the equipment without someone from IBM being there to advise them at that time? I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition’s condemnation of that event is something which he has found in the past couple of days because he believes that it will help his case. I suggest also that no instruction was ever issued in relation to it. In the memory of our advisers, there is no precedent for the resignation of Mr Harragan. We know quite well that, as a result of this, this matter is being referred to an inquiry which is being established for that purpose. There is no precedent for somebody being taken out of the heart of the tendering process by a company. Indeed, on the one hand, the Leader of the Opposition is still seeking -
Honourable members interjecting
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. As this debate has proceeded I have permitted some interjections. But the level of interjections now is beyond that which was accorded to the Leader of the Opposition. I ask that the same courtesy be given to the Prime Minister.
– We are advised that there is no precedent for this kind of case in which Mr Harragan has resigned from the heart of the Government’s tendering process at the particular time and stage in which he did in relation to the awarding a particular contract. The Leader of the Opposition says that this is a matter deserving of censure. Having said that he then tries to say: ‘Oh, but it is not really a great matter. No action should be taken as a result of it. Things should go on as they are. The contract should have been awarded’. We now know that that is sheer humbug. If that is what had occurred, he would have said that that was wrong and the Government should be criticised for it.
We know quite well in this particular matter that the Government could have acted earlier, as I made plain in my statement in relation to it. But we also know the urgency with which the Australian Bureau of Statistics was pressing its claims for computer equipment. With the wisdom of hindsight, which is easy to have, it is quite plain that it would have been better if on the very first advice from the Secretary to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet the whole matter had gone back to tors and tenders then recalled. But, as I explained in that statement, the Government was seeking to find a reasonable solution to two principles that basically were in conflict. The first was to get the equipment quickly for the Statistician. The second was to make sure that the procedures had been followed through as properly and as well as they possibly could be. The further we went down the track the plainer it became that there was only one proper course, and that was retendering a fair race for the tenderers whoever they may be. I believe that the Opposition has no case whatsoever. I believe the case made by the honourable member for La Trobe is a substantial one and that this total matter ought to be dismissed.
- Mr Speaker, seldom has any matter in any parliament in this nation -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Lionel Bowen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Baillieu’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to paragraph 1 1 of Schedule 3 of the Airlines Agreement Act 1952 I present the annual financial report relating to the operation of air services by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd for the year ended 2 July 1 977.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report on the working and administration of the Department of Transport during the year ended 30 June 1977, including those matters on which I am required to report pursuant to section 29 of the Air Navigation Act 1920.
-Mr Speaker. I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In today’s Australian an article written by Mr Alan Goodall headed: ‘Cattlemen will make “save us” plea to Fraser’ purports to quote me as harshly criticising the Government and the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party. I state quite emphatically that no one realises more than I the tragically critical financial condition of the cattlemen referred to. I make it perfectly clear that the statement attributed to me was never made by me. I did not make any statement at all to the Australian or to any other section of the media.
- Mr Speaker. I raise a point of order.
– I know that honourable members opposite are uninterested in cattlemen but they should try to be interested. Perhaps they should go and play with their yo-yos.
-Order! The honourable member for Kennedy will proceed with his personal explanation.
– I did not make any such statement to the Australian, to any other section of the media or to anyone at all. I deny that the Government or the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) have done nothing to assist in this matter.
- Mr Speaker. I wish to raise a point of order. The honourable member for Kennedy is making a speech. He has gone far beyond making a personal explanation.
-Order! I will permit the honourable member for Kennedy to proceed for about one more sentence.
-The article in the Australian is quite wrong. I expect the Australian to rectify the misrepresentation in crediting to me statements I did not make.
-I also wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I should make a personal explanation in view of the explanation just given by my colleague the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) concerning the report by Mr Alan Goodall in today’s Australian. On 12 August last, in an article in the Australian Mr Kevin Tooth claimed that I had been offered the chairmanship of the newly-created Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation and that there was some speculation about whether I would accept the offer. The same day I was phoned by Mr Alan Goodall to seek confirmation of this report. I denied any knowledge of the matter and I assured him that there was no substance in the report. Nevertheless, five days later Mr Goodall writing in the New South Wales Country Life predicted that I would resign from Parliament to accept the position as Chairman of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. Mr Goodall again contacted me and after some discussion admitted to me that he wrote the original story under the pseudonym of Kevin Tooth. I assure this House that at no time was I approached to accept the chairmanship of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Sitting suspended from 12.35 to 2.55 p.m.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure in energy policy and its indifference to alternate energy research and energy conservation.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the Business of the Day be called on.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
To date there have been three Acts authorising softwood planting agreements between the Commonwealth and each State. These were: The Softwood Forestry Agreements Act of 1967, which marked the commencement on 1 July 1966 of an expanded softwood planting program in the States; the 1972 Act, which terminated on 30 June 1976; and the 1976 Act, which covered the one year period to 30 June 1977. The purpose of the previous softwood planting agreements was to increase softwood plantings by the State Governments to a level related to Australia’s future needs for forest products.
In the 11 -year period covered by the three Acts, total loan payments of approximately $54m were made to the States. This enabled purchases of land as well as the establishment and tending of about 100,000 hectares of new softwood plantations. In the one year period covered by the 1976 Act, the Government initiated a review of the need for further assistance to the States for new planting. In that time, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Forestry and Timber Bureau of my Department carried out studies on different aspects of the program. The BAE concluded that it should be in Australia’s economic interests to become self-sufficient in most forest products. The studies indicated that softwood plantation forestry would be an economic land use.
The original BAE study which was published in December 1976 and a more recent study indicated, however, that a continuation of planting at the relatively high levels supported under the previous agreements would lead in the long term to an oversupply situation. A major factor contributing to the reduced planting levels considered necessary was the substantial downward revision of population forecasts in Australia. On the basis of available information the Government concluded that further agreements along the lines of those authorised by the 1967, 1972 and 1976 Acts were not justified at this time. It considered however that it should continue to provide finance to meet the same proportion of the State’s maintenance expenditure on the total area of softwood plantations established in the 11 -year period, as the area of Commonwealthassisted plantings bears to the total area of planting in that period.
The effect of this Bill is to authorise agreements between the Commonwealth and each State covering the tending in the five-year period, commencing on 1 July 1977, of the Commonwealthassisted proportion of new plantings. The agreements provide for the full costs of tending plantings to be met, except in 1977-78 when, because of the need to curtail government spending, total payments to all States will be limited to $4.2m. The Government has accepted the principle that as much softwood planting as possible should be carried out on previously cleared land. In the agreements authorised by the 1976 Act, assurances were sought from the States to this effect.
Because of the necessity for financial restraint, the Government was not prepared to fund land purchases in the first year of the proposed agreements. It has been indicated to the States, however, that the Government would be prepared to review the situation prior to the commencement of the second of the five years covered by the proposed agreements. This review will be made shortly. The assurance of continuing finance for the tending of plantings financed previously by the Commonwealth will assist the States in maintaining employment at present levels in the rural areas in which plantations are established. The tending of plantations as planned will ensure the healthy development of the resource base for future forest product industry development and expansion and the creation in the longer term of substantial employment opportunities. I commend this Bill to the House
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Superannuation Act 1922, the Superannuation Act 1976 and the Superannuation Amendment Act 1976 to rectify some shortcomings that have emerged in the new superannuation scheme for Commonwealth Government employees since it commenced on 1 July 1976. When introducing the superannuation legislation in 1976 I explained that the legislation was extensive and complex and had been produced under considerable pressure because of time constraints. In these circumstances the Government gave an undertaking that if any shortcomings emerged in the operation of the new scheme any necessary remedial action would be taken. This Bill honours that undertaking. At the outset, I make clear that the changes embodied in the Bill do not vary the basic benefit structure of the scheme.
Apart from one change, relating to the taxation position of the Superannuation Fund Investment Trust and the Superannuation Fund, to which I shall refer later, the amendments fall into three broad categories. The first group of amendments is to ensure that the intended benefits can be properly paid. The second group authorises the making of regulations prescribing the matters to be taken into account in determining particular benefits as well as extension of the authority to make regulations retrospectively to a date not earlier than 1 July 1976, when the new scheme commenced. The third group consists of drafting changes clarifying the intention and purpose of particular provisions in the legislation, and formal drafting simplifications. I do not propose to detail all the provisions in the Bill but I shall mention the more important ones.
The Bill deals first with amendments to the Superannuation Act 1922. The principal amendments concern the reversionary benefits payable under that Act. The Bill corrects an anomaly in regard to the benefit entitlements of children of those contributors who died in service before 1 July 1976. For example, children of deceased contributors aged 21 to 25 undergoing full time education will now be entitled to benefits in the same circumstances as the children of pensioners who died prior to 1 July 1976. The 1976 amendments made spouses’ benefits available to a wider range of persons including, under certain conditions, a de facto spouse and the spouse of a marriage after retirement. The Bill ensures that the total benefits paid in respect of a spouse or spouses and children of a contributor or pensioner who died before 1 July 1976 shall not exceed the pension that would have been payable to the member.
The amendments to the Superannuation Act 1976 are more numerous. They include provisions to ensure that the legislation provides for payment of the intended levels of benefit. An example is an amendment that provides for the apportionment of a spouse’s benefit according to relative needs where a deceased contributor is survived by more than one eligible spouse. Other provisions have the purpose of clarifying some of the provisions of the 1976 Act. For example, one such provision will enable regulations to be made prescribing that certain costs of, and incidental to, the management of the Superannuation Fund by the Investment Trust may be charged to the Superannuation Fund. Another clarifies the procedures relating to the issue of benefit classification certificates in respect of employees who, on entry, are found to have a physical or mental condition that would affect their entitlement to particular levels of benefits.
It has been found that under the 1976 Act a person already in receipt of an early retirement or age pension who is re-employed and thereby qualifies for a second pension can obtain a higher aggregate rate of pension than if there had been no break in service. The Act is to be suitably amended to correct this situation. The Act presently does not allow a member or the spouse of a deceased member to alter an election for a particular form of benefit once it as been made. The Commissioner for Superannuation has received requests from time to time to reverse an election made to take a lump sum in lieu of the contributor-financed pension.
The Government has agreed that, in some circumstances, it should be possible to. cancel such elections, for example where it is apparent that at the time of the election all relevant information was not available. The Bill provides that in deciding whether or not an election may be cancelled the Commissioner shall have regard to any matters that are prescribed in regulations and to such other matters as he considers relevant. Clause 27 of the Bill provides that the Investment Trust and the Superannuation Fund are not subject to taxation under a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory to which the Commonwealth is not subject, except where prescribed by regulations. The Government will be examining whether the Superannuation Fund should continue to enjoy complete exemption from taxation, given that private sector superannuation schemes do not have this advantage and having regard to the practice of the individual States in respect of their own schemes.
The Bill also includes provisions of an administrative nature. Examples of these are the introduction of procedures for the recovery of overpaid or falsely obtained benefits and provisions to take account of changes made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1976. The Acting Australian Government Actuary has advised that overall the changes to the scheme proposed by the Bill will not have any significant cost implications. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to give effect to the Government’s decision to provide assistance to the manufacture in Australia of bench or pedestal drilling machines. These machines which are non-power fed are operated by means of belt-driven pulleys and have a drilling capacity of not more than 60 millimetres in mild steel under continuous operation in normal working conditions. Following advice from the Industries Assistance Commission in its report No. 146 of 30 September 1977 on bench or pedestal drilling machines belt-driven pulley operated (non-power fed), it has been decided to accord assistance, by way of a bounty scheme, providing for payment to Australian manufacturers of a bounty at the rate of one-third of the factory cost of the machines.
The bounty, which is payable from 1 January 1978 is’ seen by the Government as according short-term assistance to local manufacturers pending implementation of the decision on the longer-term assistance to the metal working machine tool industry. The question of long-term assistance has been reviewed by the Industries Assistance Commission and the Commission’s report in this regard was circulated to interested parties in October 1977. Because of the shortterm nature of the proposal, provision has been made for the scheme to cease on 30 June 1 979 or such earlier date as is fixed by proclamation. Clause 20 of the Bill continues the Government’s policy of expanding, where appropriate, the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to administrative decisions which affect the rights or entitlements of persons under Commonwealth legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
-I mo ve:
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. The Proposals implement the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on files and rasps. The effect of this decision is to increase the duty on imports of files and rasps from most sources to 30 per cent. The new duties operate from tomorrow. The proposals also contain drafting changes which do not involve any variation in rates of duty. A comprehensive summary setting out the changes contained in the Proposals is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill follows the broad lines of the Bill of the same title which was introduced last year but lapsed at the end of the Thirtieth Parliament. That Bill was referred by the Senate to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs which furnished a useful and constructive report to the Senate on 26 April 1977. The Government reconsidered the Bill in the light of the Committee’s report and the present Bill takes into account the recommendations of the Committee. The Bill is directed to meeting two problems that have arisen in Australia and elsewhere in recent years. Thus, the first objective of the Bill is to prohibit persons preparing for or engaging in incursions into foreign countries. The second is to prohibit the recruiting in Australia of persons to serve in armed forces in a foreign country.
As to the first- prohibition of foreign incursionstwice in recent years persons from Australia have carried out incursions overseas. The Government takes the view that circumstances in overseas countries and Australia make possible the repetition of these activities. The Government believes that it should do what it can by legislative means to discourage them. While under existing law- provided information is obtained early enough- some limited action can be taken to prevent these activities achieving their ultimate objective, past events have shown that existing law is not adequate. In all the circumstances, including the need to preserve international relations, there is a need for legislation to deal specifically with the problem, including preparations in Australia for these activities.
To this end, clause 6 will prohibit incursions into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities. This clause will apply to Australian citizens, persons ordinarily resident in
Australia and persons who at any time during the period of one year immediately preceding the commission of the offence were present in Australia for a purpose connected with the offence. In regard to the last category of persons I mention that persons meeting this description participated in previous incursion episodes. Clause 6 refers to hostile activities against governments and the term ‘government’ is defined in clause 3 of the present Bill to mean, in relation to a foreign country, the government recognised by the government of Australia as the lawful government of that foreign country. The term was not defined in the earlier Bill and the report of the Committee on that Bill recommended that it should be defined but did not indicate the form of the definition.
The alternative to defining ‘government’ as the government recognized by Australia as the lawful government would have been to define it in effect as the de facto government of the particular country. But it must be noted that clause 6 in effect distinguishes between the would-be overthrowers of a regime and the supporters of a regime. The first are prohibited; the second are not. Such a distinction could not be justified in relation to a regime that Australia had declined to recognise as lawful.
Further, if such an approach had been adopted, the lawfulness or unlawfulness under the legislation of activities could fluctuate from week to week as the de facto control of a particular region changed. Finally, it will be a matter of public knowledge whether a government is recognised by Australia as the lawful government of a country and there would thus, under the approach used in the Bill, be certainly in the application of the law. For these reasons, the Government chose the definition of ‘government’ appearing in the Bill.
Clause 7 prohibits preparations for incursions into foreign countries. In relation to acts done in Australia, the clause applies to all persons; in the case of acts done outside Australia, the clause applies to the same persons as clause 6. Clause 8 prohibits the recruiting of persons to join organisations engaged in hostile activities against foreign governments.
The seriousness with which the Australian Government regards these matters is reflected in the heavy penalties provided for breaches of these provisions. Thus, the penalty for a breach of clause 6 will be 14 years imprisonment. The penalty for making preparations for these acts of terrorism will be 10 years. It should be noted that the consent of the Attorney-General will be required for any prosecution for a breach of the Act.
As to the second main purpose- prohibition of recruiting- many countries including Australia have been concerned by the recruiting of, or attempts to recruit, persons in their territory for service as mercenaries in foreign forces. A United Kingdom statute, the Foreign Enlistment Act, in force since 1870 and applicable to the British dominions, dealt with enlistment by British subjects in foreign forces but in terms inappropriate in today’s circumstances. The United Kingdom Government established a Committee of Privy Counsellors under the chairmanship of Lord Diplock to examine the problem. The Committee recommended the abolition of the offence of enlisting while abroad as a mercenary and of leaving the United Kingdom in order to do so. The reasons given by the Committee for this view were:
First, for reasons we have given, we do not think it practicable or just to try to define an offence of enlisting as a mercenary in such a way that guilt would depend upon proof by the prosecution of a particular motive as actuating the accused to do so. Secondly, a penal prohibition sought to be imposed by the State upon what an individual does abroad involves a restriction on the liberty of the individual which we think can only be justified on compelling grounds of public interest. Thirdly, the practical difficulties of proving such an offence would mean that there could be very few successful prosecutions; and the chances of convicting the accused would depend not so much on his actual guilt as on his exceptional bad luck in there being available to the prosecution in his case sufficient evidence to convict him on his trial in this country.
The United Kingdom Committee, however, recommended new legislation to prohibit recruitment of persons to take up service as mercenaries abroad, including prohibition of offers of employment as a mercenary, publishing information as to how or where to apply for such employment or to reach the place where it is available, or making any payment or taking part in any arrangement to enable or assist a person to do so. The law in the United States prohibits recruitment of any persons as mercenaries within the United States but does not prohibit a citizen or other person in the United States leaving the country to enlist in a foreign military service.
Independently of the United Kingdom inquiry, the Australian Government had conducted its own examination which produced the same broad conclusion as the Diplock Committee, namely, that it was not appropriate to attempt to prohibit enlistment outside Australia or to regulate overseas military activities of Australians except incursion activities dealt with under clause 6- but it was desirable to control recruitment within Australia of mercenaries for service in foreign forces. To implement this conclusion, clause 9 of the Bill will make it an offence for a person to recruit, advertise in respect of recruiting, facilitate or promote recruitment, of another person to serve in or with an armed force in a foreign country, whether government, insurgent or otherwise.
In order to meet circumstances where it is in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia to permit the recruitment in Australia of persons to serve in particular armed forces, the Minister will be authorised to exempt recruitment for such forces. However, the legislation will not prevent an Australian from going overseas and enlisting in armed forces in another country. The Government recognises that occasions will arise where persons will wish to enlist and serve in the armed forces of another country because of a deeply held personal belief. To prohibit this generally would be an infringement of individual freedom.
The report of the Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs recommended that the Bill be amended to ensure that persons serving with the armed forces of a government or a force approved by the Minister pursuant to sub-clause 9 (2) should not be liable to penalty for acts done during the course of their service with those forces. Sub-clause 6(4) was accordingly included in the present Bill to meet the point raised by the Committee. The Government believes that the addition of this provision adequately deals with the matters raised by the Committee in this connection. A further recommendation of the Committee was that the term ‘advertisement’ in paragraphs 9 ( 1 ) (b) and (c) should be defined to include items published as news items but which were in fact published pursuant to some contractual or commercial arrangement. Sub-clause 9(5) has accordingly been added in the present Bill to deal with the point made by the Committee.
As the Committee pointed out, in the debate on the earlier Bill in another place the Government indicated that it would amend that Bill to ensure that an instrument under sub-clause 9 (2) should be subject to the same requirements as a regulation as regards scrutiny by both Houses. The Committee indicated this was a satisfactory ‘solution. Sub-clause 9 (4) of the present Bill achieves the result recommended by the Committee. The Committee indicated its disapproval of the inclusion of provisions in the earlier Bill enabling the Attorney-General to delegate his function of consenting to proceedings for commitment of a person for trial on indictment for an offence against the Act. The Government in the debate on the earlier Bill in another place indicated its preparedness to accept an amendment to this effect. Clause 10, as now expressed, meets the Committee’s recommendation.
I believe that the House is indebted to the Committee for its thorough examination of this measure. The Bill, as now presented, accords with the Committee’s recommendations. It represents a significant contribution to the Government’s overall objective of dealing with all manifestations of terrorism and other resorts to violence whether in Australia or in other parts of the world. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 2 March, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1978, as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1978 and the Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1978 make provision for the Government to prescribe, by way of regulation, fees or other charges that should be imposed in respect of proceedings in the courts specified in the legislation. These measures have already been passed by the Senate and have been the subject of debate in that place. It is clear from the submissions put forward in the Senate by the Opposition that the
Opposition does not intend to oppose the passage of these Bills through this chamber. However, we want to make it clear that the Opposition’s policy is that court fees should not be charged but that it is appropriate within the ambit of the legislation to repeal the relevant provisions.
The legislation provides that court fees can be imposed by regulation. The current situation is that such fees are imposed by the judges. It is appropriate that the judiciary should not have the responsibility of being a tax gatherer for the Government. However, we regard court fees as being somewhat of a tax on justice. Problems arise when people of limited means have to meet excessive costs. Court fees add to the problem. This measure is not meeting opposition, not because of its merits but because of the way in which it is drafted. In the view of the Opposition there should be equality before the law. The imposition of budgetary measures, which is what this measure seeks, in that people are obliged to pay money to try to help a Treasury point of view, should not be introduced into legislation. Legal action is a part of the system of justice, and there should not be a tax on it. It is important that the same opportunities are available to a low income earner or a high income earner.
We are disappointed that the Government’s approach to legal aid has been rigidly enforced. The Labor Government adopted a compassionate and flexible point of view. Under the guidelines laid down by the present Government, a great restriction has been placed on the amount of money available for legal aid. Under the former Labor Government the means test was set at an income level of $50 a week and was applied with some flexibility. The Fraser Government has reduced this income level to $40 a week and has reduced the allowance for dependants even more savagely. I remind the House that a circular to the legal profession in Tasmania on 29 September last from the Deputy Director of Legal Aid in Tasmania clearly indicated that the means test had to be applied rigidly for the express purpose of reducing the number of applicants. I draw the Government’s attention to the fact that the same circular contained guidelines for the determination of applications. It contained a direction that the recipients of sickness and unemployment benefits were deemed to lose their federal status immediately upon conviction. In other words, if they wished to appeal against any conviction in a criminal matter no legal aid would be granted in respect of that appeal. This strikes at the heart of what we are talking about, that is, should not justice be available to all irrespective of means?
The Opposition is saying, as it said in the Senate, that if there is to be the imposition of fees we should do something about people who are in what is called forma pauperis, which is a low income position. My colleague Senator Button asked the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) whether he would agree that in cases where there was virtually an eligibility for legal aid- that is, in the case of people who are really poor- those people should be exempt from paying court fees. At that time, 2 March, the Attorney-General had this to say:
Perhaps I had better put it no higher than an assumption at the moment. As far as I know, the matter has not come up for decision by the Government.
I would like an assurance from the representatives of the Attorney-General in this House that there is no question of our having to rely on an assumption. We want a definite commitment that people who are eligible for legal aid, restricted as it is in the way that I have mentioned, should not be obliged to pay court fees. They should be exempt from payment of such fees. I would like an assurance from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) that the Government has considered this matter and has agreed with the assumption of the Attorney-General when he spoke on this matter in the Senate on 2 March.
Whilst the Opposition does not oppose the legislation we do not support, for the reasons I have mentioned, the concept of fees being paid. We give an assurance now that when the appropriate time comes for us to legislate in respect of this matter we will abolish the need to pay court fees. They are of no significant budgetary benefit. They are a problem for the people who have to pay them. Members of the legal profession will know that probably as much money is spent in collecting and accounting for fees as is collected in total. I think this measure is an indirect method of suggesting to the Treasury that the poorer people should still pay their way although they cannot afford to do so. The Treasury has been able to influence the powers that be in the Government to extract as much as possible from the people because this will help budgetary considerations. The real issues are jus jtice equality before the law and a guarantee that people can get equal rights irrespective of income. Where there is a need to grant legal aid, even under this rather mercenary approach which I have mentioned, surely there should be a commitment from the Government that the people concerned should not be obliged to pay court fees. The only other thing I say is that a proper method of legal aid should mean an appropriate legal aid commission which has adequate funding to ensure that all classes of people are given sufficient funds to promote their cause of action without any inhibitions because of lack of funds or because of the obligation of paying court fees.
– In view of what the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) has said, it is really not necessary to engage in a long debate on these Bills. Accordingly, I will be comparatively brief. The surprising thing is that the legislation is necessary at all. I thought it was the generally accepted practice that persons seeking the use of the courts could reasonably be expected to bear some of the costs of administering the courts. The purpose of these Bills is to give to the Executive Government the power to make regulations on the specification of those costs with respect to the proceedings of the court and to the service or execution of the process of the court by officers of the court. One would have thought that that was a fairly well established practice by now.
I was surprised to read in the second reading speech and to hear it confirmed by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith that the attitude of the Labor Party when it was in government was that there should be no such costs. The reason why that policy decision was adopted apparently was the general position that that party takes, namely, that the courts should be open and available to all, even those who cannot, from their own funds, afford to approach and to use the courts to obtain justice. That is a very desirable objective. It is an objective with which few people would disagree. It should be remembered, however, despite what the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has said, that a wide ranging legal aid scheme has existed in this country for many years. In fact, I think the Victorian Public Solicitor’s Office was established in the late 1920s. It is a fact that a wide ranging legal aid scheme is operating within Australia under the auspices of the Federal and State governments and a series of private organisations to enable people who do not have their own means to approach and to use the courts to obtain justice for their cause. That is the first point. There is a wide ranging legal aid scheme.
I would have thought, with respect, that it is appropriate and reasonable that charges should be made for court fees and for service and execution of process by officers of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court and the
Northern Territory Supreme Court. Someone has to pay, although it may be desirable to say that the individual litigant should not have to bear the cost himself. If the litigants do not bear the costs themselves, the taxpayers, as a whole, have to bear the costs. As with so many other examples one could give, there is no such thing as a free day in court. If the individual litigants do not bear the costs themselves, the taxpayers, as a whole, will bear the costs and inevitably that will give rise to more costs because a larger administrative structure will be needed to service that arrangement.
It may well be true, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith said, that the court costs levied do not go anywhere near the overall cost of administering the court. It may therefore be appropriate for the Government each year in the course of its normal reports to indicate what proportion of the cost of running these courts is recovered by means of court fees. Perhaps by that means people may realise that what the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith mentioned is indeed true, namely that the individuals using the courts are in fact not contributing sub.tantially to the overall running costs of the courts.
One thing that the Government could perhaps bear in mind in the course of making regulations to levy fees and the costs of service and execution of process is that it is a considerable nuisance for the legal profession and individual litigants to have to pay a separate and individual fee every time they file a separate document in the court. I would commend to the Federal Government a reform in this regard introduced and now operative in the County Court in Victoria, where I think it is commonly acknowledged that many desirable reforms have been made in the area of law. What happens in the County Court in Victoria is that the litigant on instituting the proceedings pays one sum by way of stamp duty on the issue of the summons to cover the filing of all documents in the course of the proceedings. It would be appropriate if the Government considered this practice in the course of drawing regulations, that is to say, to provide for one fee so that once an action is instituted the litigant and the practitioner acting for him in the matter do not have to keep paying a separate fee on the filing of each document, which must of itself, of course, inevitably add to an increase in costs.
In my view it is fair to say that the proposed amendment to the Act will not impose unfair burdens on litigants who may not have the funds to maintain their own cause of action in the courts. As I have already said, a wide ranging legal aid scheme is operating in Australia. People often forget that there has always been another unsung legal aid system operating in Australia, and that is the system provided by the profession itself. The legal profession does not always trumpet its own work in this field. Often its work is overlooked. For many years the legal profession has given voluntary service in the conduct of litigation in the courts and the provision of other legal services for those who cannot afford to pay for those services themselves. For those reasons I do not believe that anyone is excluded from the courts today by a lack of means. I do not believe that the amendment to the Act will impose any financial burdens on people who seek the use of the courts and who cannot afford the funds to maintain their actions in the courts. Rather, this amendment to the Act is a very commendable attempt to recover for the purposes of the public purse some share of the expenses imposed by individuals on the structure of the courts.
– I note that the legislation we are now discussing was introduced originally in 1977 and that it was allowed to lapse because of the dissolution of Parliament. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) reiterated Australian Labor Party policy that charges should not be made for actions in the supreme courts of the Territories. This legislation, of course, seeks to introduce such charges. I support this proposal. I am sure that my colleagues in the Northern Territory would do the same because they believe there is a need to see that people who use the courts make a subscription, insignificant as it may be, to meet the costs of running those courts.
While I support the Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill in essence, if the Northern Territory had a Supreme Court in its own right as part of the process of meeting its own responsibilities, this legislation would not be necessary. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith referred to what he called the crux of the matter. I ask him to correct me if I have interpreted him wrongly but I see the crux of the matter as being that the Northern Territory, in reaching a stage of responsibility, should control its own Supreme Court. If responsibility for self-government is accepted by the Northern Territory, surely it is not correct to deny it legislationit goes hand in hand with the legal side of things- which gives it control of the highest court in the Territory.
The Commonwealth Government has stated on previous occasions that self-government should include the running of affairs in the Northern Territory. If the Territory is to have fully responsible self-government in relation to state-type matters- surely this is a state-type matter- it follows that self-government should include control of the Supreme Court. Apart from that, it is of great importance for the Northern Territory, as it is coming to the state of self-government and accepting responsibility, to have control over the Territory’s legal profession. To my way of thinking, it is not a forward step to have such control vested in the Commonwealth. It is a drag on the development of what this Government has been aiming to do- that is, to give the Northern Territory full responsibility. I might add that I believe it is the opinion of the judges in the Northern Territory that this is so.
Objection has been raised to the Northern Territory controlling its Supreme Court on some grounds of principle. I can wipe aside that objection because the matter of principle is this: If we are to have self-government in the Northern Territory, we should have full self-government and self-determination. Therefore, we should have the right of control over the highest form of justice in the Territory. From the practical point of view, it has been suggested that if the Northern Territory controlled its Supreme Court it would not attract legal men and other people to the profession. That is completely and utterly wrong. If it were the other way about and the Northern Territory had the responsibility for its own Supreme Court there would be a flow of legal interest to the Northern Territory.
It is the Commonwealth Government’s stated policy that the Northern Territory will achieve statehood in time and self-government in the short term. Therefore, control over its Supreme Court would surely go hand in hand with the Government’s thinking. I put it to the House that the objections are raised on bureaucratic lines by people who do not really look to the future to see that the Territory is moving wholeheartedly towards self-government. That means control of its own Supreme Court.
– in reply- The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) referred to the payment of legal fees by persons who are receiving legal aid. As the honourable gentleman indicated, that matter was discussed in the other place. I repeat what Senator Durack stated as a general principle. He said:
We believe that people’s inability to meet court fees is a matter to be taken into account when looking at legal aid generally. Court fees are usually a very minute proportion of the total cost of litigation. If people are within the guidelines for legal aid eligibility, court fees are not charged. In our view it is proper that those litigants who can afford it should make some payment towards the general cost of the administration of justice.
It is worth repeating that statement of general principle which sets out the Government’s position. Senator Durack referred to the Family Court. As he pointed out, fees payable in the Family Court are not paid by those who receive legal aid in that Court. There is a specific exemption. It is true, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith pointed out, that Senator Durack assumed that the general principle would apply with regard to other courts. What he said, which I have just indicated to the House, is enough to cover the point made by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. From my own experience in handling legal aid matters I know that the capacity of an applicant for legal aid to pay court fees, as small as they are in comparison to solicitor’s and counsel’s costs, is taken into account in assessing his eligibility for legal aid and whether he is in a position to make any contribution towards the legal service provided. But, as I have indicated, there is a specific provision with regard to the Family Court that a person receiving legal aid does not pay court fees.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 2 March, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8 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.
– It is customary in this debate that members from both sides of the House extend their congratulations to the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees on their election. I accept that custom and would be grateful, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you would convey my congratulations to Mr Speaker and the Chairman of Committees. Whilst making reference to their election I should like to draw attention to the concluding paragraph of Mr Speaker’s expression of appreciation to the House for having elected him as Speaker. It is recorded on page 9 of the Hansard record of 2 1 February. He said:
In the meantime I believe that the person occupying this Chair must maintain his independence from the Executive and from any threat from the Opposition. That is what I intend to do and will continue to do so that I may in my own way be seen to be impartial and in fact be impartial.
I hope that Mr Speaker does maintain that policy. On the opening day of the Parliament when the Chairman of Committees was elected, if a telegram that lay on the Speaker’s table had been read earlier there would most certainly have been a different Chairman of Committees. I refer to the honourable member for Lyne, Mr Lucock, who was defeated because of a disagreement in the National Country Party. I believe that because the honourable member for Lyne had displayed a degree of impartiality during the previous Parliament, the Leader of the House, the honourable member for New England, Mr Sinclair, by the use of other members of that Party, saw that Mr Lucock was not re-elected. Hence the honourable member for Lyne is no longer the Chairman of Committees in this Parliament. But if Mr Speaker had displayed the ideals contained in the last few words of his statementimpartial and in fact be impartial’and read that telegram earlier I am certain that my congratulations today would have been extented to the honourable member for Lyne. I should also like to take the opportunity of congratulating all new members of the Australian Labor Party Opposition on their maiden speeches. It must be obvious to Government supporters that they will really have some trouble on their hands for the remainder of this Parliament and in parliaments to come because there is no doubt that those men will be members of a Labor government in the not too distant future.
– You are having yourself on a bit.
-No. The only reason that you have survived as the honourable member for Paterson is that your Party gerrymandered your electorate to take out parts of it that were voting Labor and to put in parts that would vote National Country Party- vote for you.
– That is rubbish. You know that I have held that seat because of my hard work.
– You were dead set lucky to hold the seat in 1972 and 1974 and you know that it is not rubbish. You know that the facts of life are that you would not be here today if there had been a fair dinkum vote for the people of your electorate instead of the rort that was put through by your Party in altering the boundaries.
-Order! I advise the honourable member to address his remarks through the Chair.
-I beg your pardon, Mr Deputy Speaker. So much for the honourable member for Paterson who, as I said, is only here because of the skulduggery of the Country Party. The Governor-General in his opening Speechwhich incidentally is written for him by the Government; therefore when we talk about the Governor-General’s Speech we are actually talking about a paper that is prepared by the Government- on the first page stated:
After two years of hard work and substantial achievement, Australians now look to the future with new found confidence.
I wish that were true. I take no pleasure from the large numbers of people who are unemployed in this community today or from the way that Australia is stagnating as the result of the Fraser Government’s economic policies. Look at what its friends in the banking world have to say about the Government, and in particular that statement in the Governor-General’s Speech, which I read just a moment ago. Referring to the monthly business indicator survey of the ANZ Banking Group Ltd, the Australian Financial Review of 28 February stated:
There is little prospect of sustainable economic recovery in 1978 and a consequential fall in unemployment if the Government continues to follow its present economic policies, according to the February issue of the ANZ Bank Business Indicators survey released yesterday.
The statement which I quoted, which the Governor-General was forced to make on behalf of this Government, is typical of the half-truths and lies in which this Government has indulged in the years it has been in government from December 1975 right through to the present time. It is typical also of the attitudes of the Government parties in their previous 23 years in office. They told most outrageous political lies then and they are continuing to do so now.
– It is bordering on corruption.
-It is not bordering on corruption; it is straightout corruption. This morning we debated the subject of a tender for a government computer project. The whole thing smells, just as the policies of this Government smell. Even with respect to unemployment the Government does not give people a fair go. I want to produce facts and figures to show just what I am getting at. I think that what this Government is doing to people with respect to unemployment should be brought more and more to the attention of the people.
I shall cite figures indicating the level of unemployment in January of each year from 1975 to 1978. In 1975, when we were in government, 311,596 people were unemployed. At that time the Labor Government did its damnedest to get. people into employment. We introduced the Regional Employment Development scheme. We did all the things that Treasury told us we should do to provide employment for people. But when the Fraser Government came into office it set about creating an additional pool of unemployed. There is no doubt- the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said this time and again- that the Liberal Party is putting forward unemployment as the solution to inflation. We think that this is a cruel policy which will put people out of work, destroy their confidence and destroy their feeling for other people.
– It is inhuman.
-It is an inhuman policy and I thank the honourable member for Chifley for his advice and support. I call upon the Government to do something about this situation and to provide employment for the people. The ANZ Banking Group has indicated clearly that, as far as it is concerned, the Government is doing nothing about the situation, that the Government’s policies will not create employment for the people. I appeal to the Government to change its policies so that people can be employed.
I return to their figures cited earlier. In January 1975 the number of people unemployed was 3 1 1,596. Then the Fraser Government took over and the figure rose to 343,939 in 1976, to 354,589 in 1977 and to a record figure of 445,300 in 1978. That was after the Government had manipulated the figures in 1977 and again in 1978 when it would not allow school leavers to register for the unemployment benefit. In this way the Government was able to push those young people out of the way. These figures are false. It is typical of the Government that the figures are false. As I said earlier, the Government is a corrupt government which is prepared to gerrymander electorates and to manipulate these figures which I have cited. That shows just what sort of a government we have. It is a crook government, a corrupt government and a government which will get up to anything to maintain its position in office. It got into office with the assistance of a crook Governor-General who was prepared to sack a government which still had Supply for seven weeks in order to put Fraser and his crowd into office. It is time that the people of this country woke up to the Government and did something about putting a decent and respectable government into office.
– Then they tried to pay him off.
-The Government did not try to pay off the Governor-General; it paid him off with the job at the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. But the appointment was so hot and so stinking that the people of Australia were on the verge of revolt against it. Finally, the Government had to sack him once again.
Next, I express my concern at the way in which this Government has treated my electorate and at the increase in the level of unemployment there in the period it has been in office. In January 1975, when Labor was in office, 9,414 people were unemployed in my electorate. In two years of ‘Fraserism’ that figure has risen to 15,034. Representations have been made to the Prime Minister to provide employment opportunities in the Newcastle district. But this Government has done nothing to assist.
The only Government that has displayed any interest in trying to reduce unemployment in the district has been the New South Wales Government. In a very short period after gaining office, it put into operation a new floating dock at a cost of $15m. When the Federal Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) was asked for financial assistance in that project he refused point blank. He would not be a party to the proposal. The State Government also has endeavoured to do something about the problem of unemployment by providing money for sewerage projects and road works.
According to the Governor-General’s Speech, the Government claims as one of its economic policies:
Advocacy before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for wage restraint so that inflation can be further reduced and job opportunities expanded.
Look at the manner in which this Government has expanded job opportunities! Consider the increase in the number of persons unemployed in the short period this Government has been in office.
I do not want to go back over the figures now. As a result of the policy put by this Government to the Commission, it is estimated that the Government has succeeded in suppressing wages by approximately $10 a week. The fact accepted today by the Commission, the business community and the trade union movement is that the fellow receiving something less than average weekly earnings- roughly a tradesman’s rate of pay of $ 1 80 a week, give or take $5 to $ 10 a week above or below that figure- is about $ 10 a week worse off as a result of the policies of this Government. How does that policy on wages restraint stand comparison with its policy on company profits? This Government has threatened to disband the Prices Justification Tribunal. It has put sustained pressure on the Tribunal to allow costs to increase. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Statistics Group which sets out the profits of a number of leading companies, banks and newspapers in Australia for the years 1974 to 1977 inclusive.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) and the House. This table shows, for example, that in 1974 the Bank of New South Wales Ltd made a profit of $34,481,000. Its profit has increased quite substantially year by year. In 1977, its recorded profit was $53,079,000. This is representative of the trend throughout the whole of the banking community. I ask honourable members to look at the increase in profits that the great newspaper supporters of the Liberal and National Country Parties- the Murdochs and the like- have been able to achieve. For example, John Fairfax Ltd made a profit of $4,545,000 in 1974. This increased to $7,066,000 in 1977. It is not the amount of profit that concerns me; it is the percentage increase that has taken place in a period when this Government has been putting great pressure on the workers of this country, the lower income people in this country. My complaint is that the Government is doing nothing to curtail the increased profits that are being made by the larger companies.
I mention the food distribution field. Thousands of people go through the shop doors every week. G. J. Coles and Coy Ltd, for example, made a profit of $16,889,000 in 1974. It rose to $36,351,000 in 1977. Inflation is occurring through the profits that are being made by these companies and not as a result of the increases that the being granted by the court in wages after costs have risen. I call upon the Government to do something positive in this respect to force companies to curtail their profits. I have no objection to a company making a reasonable profit, but it is obvious from the table that those companies are making huge and unnecessary profits and are raping the community. I have not included in this table the master profit maker, Utah Development Co., which made a profit of $ 136m in 1976 and a profit of$ 158m in 1977.
The other thing that concerned me about the election campaign was the manner in which the Prime Minister misled the people of this country by saying that people on incomes of about $180 to $ 1 90 a week would receive a $6 a week reduction in taxation. Even the Liberal Party disowned him after a while. That is an example of the untruths, the half truths and the straight out lies that have been told by supporters of this Government over the years. I object also to the Government’s use of taxpayers’ money to advertise Government policy under the pretext of indicating to people what will be their tax rebate. We see pages of advertising costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars. I strongly object to that. If the Liberal Party wants to advertise its policies it should pay for doing so out of the slush fund, out of the donations made to it by the huge profit makers which are listed in the table I have incorporated.
– Like IBM.
– Yes, like IBM. That company is a great contributor to the Liberal Party. As I have said, the Prime Minister misled
the people by saying that the man earning about $ 1 90 a week would receive a $6 a week reduction in tax. The fact is that the man earning $185 a week has received a reduction of $2.65 a week. When one compares that with the fact that a man earning $400 a week has received a reduction of $16 a week and the Prime Minister has received a reduction of $60 a week one can appreciate how the people have been misled and fooled by the glib tongue of the Prime Minister and, most
importantly, by the propaganda machines of the Press of this country. As I have shown in that table, the Press has made huge profits. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table that compares the net incomes of families under the dependant rebate and family allowance schemes. Once again, I discussed this table with the Minister who was previously in charge of the House.
The table read as follows-
-This table was prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library, whose research is accepted as Holy Writ in this place. The table compares the Hayden system of taxation and the child endowment payments at that time with the phoney scheme of family allowances brought in by the LiberalNational Country Party Government. It shows clearly that a family with one child is $95 a year worse off under the Liberal-National Country Party scheme than it would be under the Hayden policy of the 1975-76 Budget. A family with two children is $138 a year worse off and a family with three children is $181 a year worse off. In the case of families with four children, the man earning $8,000 a year is $38 a year worse off but everyone earning above that amount is $237 a year worse off. It is obvious from those figures that the people were conned by the Government and the publicity merchants of this country, namely, the media as a whole and the Press in particular.
I turn now to family allowances. This Government has talked about indexing everything. It has indexed everything under the sun with the exception of pensioner dependant allowances and family allowances. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which sets out what the family allowances would be if they were indexed.
The table read as follows-
-The table shows that the family with one child is 70c a week worse off, the family with two children is $ 1 . 70 a week worse off, the family with three children is $2.90 a week worse off, the family with four children is $4.10 a week worse off and the family with five children is $5.50 a week worse off. If one takes that comparison right through to the family with 19 children one finds that that family would be $25.20 a week worse off as a result of this Government’s failure to index family allowances. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out the total savings to the Government resulting from its decision not to index family allowances.
The table read as follows-
-This table shows that the saving to the Government from its decision not to index family allowances has been $195,770,755. That is how it is robbing the women of this country. It has fooled them into believing that they do better under the family allowance scheme than they did under the child endowment scheme. If the $7.50 a week special allowance payable to pensioners and to those on unemployment benefit, sickness benefit and special benefit had been indexed as pensions have been indexed, the amount would be $9.65 a
week. There are 1 15,000 children of recipients of those benefits involved. They are being robbed of $ 12,857,000 a year. The 309,000 children who are dependants of pensioners are being robbed of$46,448,000.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I heartily congratulate Sir Billy Snedden on being honoured by Her Gracious Majesty the Queen with a knighthood and on being elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. He is a great Speaker who is held in high esteem, and he brings great honour to this Parliament. I also congratulate my colleague, Mr Clarrie Millar, the honourable member for Wide Bay who was elected to the positions of Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker. Great tribute must be paid to the honourable Philip Lucock, C.B.E., the former Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker of this House, for his wonderful service over a record term of years- 14 years in all. He is held in high esteem by honourable members on both sides of this House and he has given the Parliament and the nation great service over that time. We thank him very much indeed for his wonderful contribution to the Federal Parliament.
We have just heard a speech from the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). He talked about the seat of Paterson being gerrymandered. The honourable member has been trying for five elections to get rid of the honourable member for Paterson, and he has failed to do so on each occasion. Indeed, he has failed to such an extent that the majority of the honourable member for Paterson has been increased at every election. It has increased from 7,700 to 14,880. That is a pretty good performance, and it will keep the honourable member for Newcastle busy in the future should he venture into the realm of the Paterson electorate.
It was very interesting to hear the honourable member for Newcastle talking about the tremendous profits made by private companies in Australia. How different he is to his colleagues who have been prophets of doom and who during debates on matters of public importance and the Address-in-Reply debate have said that owing to depressed conditions companies in this country should not be showing any profits at all. Many Opposition members have made that statement in these debates. I am pleased that the honourable member for Newcastle has told us that companies should be making profits. It is essential that companies make profits. Profit is a dirty word to honourable members opposite, but in our system it is essential for the economy of the country, in order that shareholders can receive a return for the capital that they have invested.
In this cocky ‘s corner- that is what honourable members opposite call it, but we are proud of it- we represent in the main the great primary producing areas of this country. One should never lose sight of the fact that 60 per cent of our export income is derived from the great primary industries- our wool, our wheat, our meat, our livestock, our sugar and our coarse grains.
– Where is your farm?
– I will talk to the honourable member for Newcastle later and tell him where my farm is and how it is operating. These industries bring in big export income to this nation. Now, for the first time- this has occurred in the last 12 months- coal has led in individual primary production. Coal exports exceeded a billion dollars at 3 1 December. So, we are very proud to be in a position to represent these great primary industries.
The beef industry has been in a very depressed state for the last two or three years. We have been able to help the beef producers. I know of beef producers in the Paterson electorate who are not even receiving the equivalent of the social security payment of $48.50 a week. It became apparent that the Government had to help these people and we have helped them. Honourable members opposite know that we have helped these people in the past few weeks. We have helped the beef producers of this nation, contrary to what honourable members opposite have said. We received 34,385 claims for assistance from beef producers of which 3 1 ,700 claims have been assessed and 24,4 1 1 claims have been paid. Claims paid to 24 February 1978 total $37. 84m. This will help the beef producers of this nation who are in real trouble.
– Because of you.
– No, it is for other reasons which I do not have time to tell you about now. One feature of our great primary industries which does concern me is that Japan is our major purchaser- a very important purchaser- of all the items that I have mentioned plus our coal, iron ore, salt and other minerals. I say that we as a government should be endeavouring to find other markets for all these products. If Japan were to suffer an economic downturn we could be very seriously affected in this country. We should be developing other markets as fast and as securely as we possibly can. We have to look to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and to the eastern bloc European countries such as Yugoslavia, Romania and Hungary. They are all markets for our primary products. We must ensure that we have a very active program and get in and develop these markets because they are of great importance, as is the Japanese market. The Japanese market is taking the major portion of our primary products. Thank God for the United States of America, so far as our cattle industry is concerned, because it has been the greatest buyer of our beef. This year it is taking more than 300,000 tonnes of Australian beef which must be of great benefit- export-wise- and which must assist the home market prices and the cattle producers.
One thing this Government has done which must be applauded by everyone is to eliminate estate duty. The legislation, firstly, will provide that no estate duty will be payable by the estate of a person dying on or after 2 1 November 1977 in respect of property passing to the spouse, a child or a parent of the deceased person. In addition, no gift duty will be payable on property given on or after that date by a person to his or her spouse, child or parent. Secondly, the legislation will provide that estate duty will be abolished altogether in relation to all property in the estates of persons who die on or after 1 July 1979. Likewise, no gift duty will be payable in respect of any gifts of property made on or after that date. That legislation will be of great benefit to the people of our nation because over the years we have seen valuable cattle studs and sheep studs dispersed because of the estate duty that has had to be paid. The properties have had to be liquidated. Businesses and many people right across the nation have been seriously affected in this way.
– Even the worker.
– Yes, even the worker. He is also affected. I was pleased to note in His Excellency’s Speech that it is the policy of the Government to mine, mill and market our uranium with all haste. This country has 25 per cent of the world ‘s known uranium deposits, and probably more than that because many more fields may yet be discovered. We should be actively marketing our uranium to countries that will use it for peaceful purposes. Uranium sales will increase our export income and at the same time provide other countries with a power source. Another important aspect of our uranium industry is that by the 1980s Australia will require more export income to pay for the petroleum products that we will have to import for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other countries on the Persian Gulf to keep our great transport system going. At present our petroleum deposits are being diminished at the rate of 10 per cent a year, and that is a very serious situation. The present Opposition, when it was in government, allowed off-shore exploration and drilling programs to run down to absolutely nought. There were 19 rigs drilling offshore for oil when Labor took over, but when it went out of office only one remained. I am pleased to say that oil exploration in Australia has been speeded up and that more money than ever before is being expended in the program. But I am a little pessimistic, and I am afraid that in the early 1980s we will be importing considerable quantities of petroleum. It is essential from a economic point of view that we develop our uranium exports to provide the funds to meet that situation when it arises.
The Government is very keen to assist local government and, as honourable members know, in the last Budget 1.52 per cent of personal income tax collected by the Commonwealth was made available to local government throughout Australia. That has had a most beneficial effect on the finances of municipal and shire councils right across the board. In the Government’s next three-year program that amount is to be increased to 2 per cent, which will be very gratifying to local government bodies throughout the land. Local government is under real threat from increased costs. Rates have reached saturation point, and people are finding it extremely difficult to meet their rate payments. Conscious of that, the Government is increasing the grants to be made to local government, and I am sure that all honourable members will approve of that action.
The figures released by Telecom Australia to 31 December indicate that Telecom made a profit of $99m. It has stated that it will use the money to provide more facilities and more telephone exchanges throughout the country rather than borrow finance and pay interest on it. As a member representing one of the great country areas of New South Wales, I believe that more funds should be made available for the provision of decent telephone facilities to people living in the far-flung country areas of my State and the rest of Australia. A telephone exchange at Spicers Creek in my electorate burned down on Christmas Eve and the subscribers had to be hooked up to Wellington on various party lines. The people there have made representations to me for an automatic exchange to be built out of these funds. I forwarded their proposal to the State manager of Telecom and to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) and to the present time I have received no satisfactory reply. This is an instance where funds could be made available for an automatic exchange to be built at Spicer’s Creek to give the people living in that country area the service to which they certainly are entitled
– An excellent point.
– Yes. People at meetings which I attend in my electorate think that the Australian Telecommunications Commission and the Australian Postal Commission should be amalgamated. I think that is wishful thinking because the situation has gone too far. They are separate entities and it would be very difficult now to amalgamate these two services, to return to the position that existed previously. I want to say a few words about the Federal rural bank which will be established by this Government. I, along with my colleagues, am disappointed that this bank has not been put into operation prior to this time but we are mindful of the great problems that exist in establishing such a bank. It will provide funds for the purchase of land, machinery, plant, fencing materials and other expenses incurred by the person on the land. The money will be made available for 10, 20 or 30 years, commencing at a commercial rate of interest. My colleagues and I would like to see interest rates reduced but we appreciate that interest rates are controlled by the amount of money on the money market and so we accept that this bank must start its operations charging commercial rates of interest.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has assured us that every effort will be made to reduce interest rates on these advances. Young men going onto the land today have great difficulty buying livable areas of land because of the capital cost of land. With the establishment of this bank there is no doubt that these young men will be given the opportunity to borrow money to enable them to get a start on the land. The money will be made available by way of overdraft through the bank with which the parties deal. We feel that the establishment of this Federal rural bank will be of great advantage to young men who desire to take up a career in the great primary industries.
The Government will also be making finance available to small business through the Commonwealth Development Bank. This has never happened before. Small business has been denied access to the rural bank. Just how important is small business to our community and to the economics of Australia? Small business provides 60 per cent of the employment in this country and if we can help it we can help the employment situation.
Unemployment is a great problem. Every honourable member who has spoken in this debate and on matters of public importance has mentioned the problem of unemployment. Who started this unemployment? In 1975 the then Labor Government reduced tariffs across the board by 25 per cent without any investigation and without any prior notice. This really commenced the run of unemployment. It has continued ever since. Governments are limited in what they can do to provide employment but this Government has introduced apprenticeship schemes which have been of benefit to young men and women who want to take up a career or trade. There is the National Employment and Training scheme and the Youth Employment Training program under which young people can be trained in skills to gain employment. I am fortunate that although the level of unemployment in my area is serious, it is at a minimum level. I am proud to say that it is either static or it is coming down. I can appreciate, however, that the overall situation is a problem. I am most concerned for school leavers because if these young people leave school and cannot find employment they can get into a situation where they are drawing social security benefits and the urge to work could disappear. This is a national problem. I know the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) is doing all he possibly can, with the backing of the Government, to improve employment facilities and opportunities for young people. I support the motion that the Address-in-Reply be adopted. The policies which have been enunciated by His Excellency the Governor-General are the policies of this Government. I support them to the hilt, as do also my colleagues of the Liberal-National Country Parties of Australia who form the Government of this nation.
-The opening address by a Governor-General at the beginning of a parliament is an extremely important address in which he sets out the legislative program for the Government for the ensuing parliament. We on this side of the House find that the programs which were spelt out by the Governor-General this year are lamentably short of what is required by the country at this time. I therefore move:
That the following words be added to the Address: , but note that the Government’s legislative program as outlined in the Speech-
fails to deal adequately with record levels of unemployment;
2 ) fails to stimulate productive output;
leaves serious uncertainty about the progress of the Australian economy;
ignores the serious recession in the international economy;
fails to provide immediate and long-term guidelines for industry; and
6 ) neglects to provide firm guarantees for the protection of civil liberties by legislative enactment within the powers of the Australian Government.
That amendment is moved by me on behalf of the Opposition as being an important matter for the House to debate as it points up the various deficiencies in the legislative program which the Government has put before the Parliament and the people of Australia. Before going into detail on those deficiencies I sketch in some of the background of the previous few years. As all honourable members and all people in Australia are aware, we have been through immense political and economic turmoil over the last five years. Probably there has been no time in our history when there has been such a combination of political and economic turmoil. The political turmoil has been predominantly the responsibility of the people who now form the government of this country. As various speakers from this side of the House have said in the course of this debate, there are many ways in which the Government has debauched the parliamentary process and the processes of democracy. An example is the frequency of elections. We have had four elections in five years, the last three elections being held at the behest of the LiberalNational Country Parties. All those elections were held well before time.
We have had various breaches of convention which I will not go into. They have been spelt out by speakers from this side of the House. We have had developed to an acute art form the electoral campaign of misrepresentation. All of these factors amount to immense debauchery of democracy. We say to members of the Liberal and National Country Parties that if they wish to continue in this sort of fashion they will be causing immense damage to democracy in this country. They cannot defend democracy by debauching it. If they undertake this sort of behaviour, if they breach all the conventions and if they tear up the normal principles of democratic behaviour, they destroy the democractic process. They do not save it by those actions. We say to them that they are responsible for the immense political turmoil which has beset this country over the last few years.
Underlying that political turmoil has been economic turmoil. It has been the economic turmoil which has been the rationalisation for the political turmoil which has been created by the Government parties. I am sure all honourable members are well acquainted with the economic turmoil. We know we have had a great upsurge in inflation, a big increase in unemployment and much lower rates of economic growth than we are used to. In fact, there was almost no growth at one stage. So all this has been a tremendous turn around in the economic situation in this country. This has provided the rationalisation for the behaviour of the Liberal-National Country Parties. In 1974, when they blocked Supply, they used inflation as the reason for taking that unprecedented action. The so-called reprehensible circumstances which the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) used to justify his actions in 1971 were principally the state of the economy. So this economic turmoil has been fundamental to what has happened in this country over the last four or five years, not just in an economic sense but in a political sense.
But was it really the fault of the then governing party, the Australian Labor Party, in 1973 to 1975 that this economic turmoil occurred? Undoubtedly the Australian people have been persuaded to believe that it was. The overwhelming majorities of the Government parties in the last two general elections bear testimony to that fact. But I say to Government supporters and to the people of Australia that they should ponder whether the then governing party, the Australian Labor Party, was in fact responsible for the economic turmoil that occurred. I think that only now is it beginning to be perceived by the people of this country just how widespread that economic turmoil was and how much a fundamental part it was at that time of the Western capitalist world. This fact has probably been put most effectively by a very respectable source, Dr Witteveen, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. I quote in part from a speech entitled ‘Financial Stability in the World Economy’ delivered by Dr Witteveen to the Conference Board in New York on 15 February 1978. Dr Witteveen said:
You will recall that, just a few years ago, the world economy was struck by a series of major disturbances: a virulent and widespread inflation, a severe and prolonged recession, and a massive disequilibrium in international payments.
I draw particular attention to the next sentence:
Unquestionably, the situation that developed during the period 1973-75 constituted the most serious and complex set of economic problems to confront national governments and the international community since the end of World War II.
What Dr Witteveen is saying there is that the period 1973 to 1975, when the Labor Party happened to gain office after some 23 years out of office, was the period which coincided with a tremendous upheaval in the international economy, the like of which had not been seen in the postwar period. But has there been any acknowledgment of that fact from Government supporters? Of course there has not been. In two general elections they have perpetrated the absolute lie to the Australian people that inflation and unemployment were the fault of the Whitlam Government. As this speech shows, that is a gross distortion of the truth. Dr Witteveen continues:
The precipitous rise of foreign trade prices made it much more difficult to control inflation and maintain economic stability.
Of course it did. During 1973 an increase in the price of our exportable quantities accounted for 40 per cent of the then inflation rate. There was a tremendous upsurge in import prices later. In fact, Dr Witteveen says later in his speech that world trade prices increased by 20 per cent in 1973-74 over prices in 1972-73 and by 40 per cent in the following year. In Australia, the increase in the price of our imports was almost exactly that figure. The import price index in Australia in 1974-75 increased by 43 per cent. In the previous year it had increased by 1 6 per cent. No government could have taken any action to offset that situation, other than that taken by this Government and that is revaluation. Those sorts of factors are tremendously important in assessing whether there were any reprehensible circumstances which would justify the kinds of debaucheries of democracy undertaken by the Liberal and National Country Parties over the last few years.
Why did all this happen? Why was there this economic chaos around the world? Dr Witteveen lists the causes. Firstly, there was a simultaneous boom in industrial countries in 1972-73, fuelled by an overly expansive fiscal and monetary policy. I remind honourable members that in the last half of 1972, the money supply was increasing at an annual rate of 34 per cent. I repeat: A 34 per cent annual rate of increase in that half year period- predominantly a period in which the McMahon Government was supposedly running this country. Secondly, Dr Witteveen lists the upsurge in primary commodity prices because of shortages, anticipatory buying to beat inflation and currency uncertainties. Thirdly, he lists the escalation of oil prices at the beginning of 1974. These factors were the reasons for the tremendous economic chaos that occurred.
It is absurd to suggest that the Whitlam Government was basically to blame. Even if one did say: ‘Well, all right, there was this economic chaos around the world, but was it really the fault of the Whitlam Government? If it was not the fault of the Whitlam Government then maybe its performance relative to the performances of other countries was not so good ‘. But, in fact, that is not the case either. If we look at the growth of the GDP in Australia in 1975 we see that it was 1.5 per cent. For the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Western capitalist developed countries, it was minus 1 per cent, so we did much better than the rest of the comparable world. Compare that with the last 12 months. The growth in Australia for the year to September 1977 was 2.7 per cent compared to 3.5 per cent in the rest of the OECD world. So there has been a transformation: Australia did better under the Whitlam Government, worse under the Fraser Government.
The same may be said of unemployment. In 1975, when the Labor Party was in office, the unemployment rate rose to 4.4 per cent. The OECD average was then 5.4 per cent. What is it now? The latest comparable figures are those for August 1977. They show that already Australia has surged past the OECD average. The figure for Australia was 5.7 per cent and that for the OECD was 5.5 per cent. Admittedly, the inflation rate has come down closer to the OECD average. In 1 975 it was 3 per cent above it, and now it is only 1 per cent above. But if we look at the overall comparative performance, the Labor Government’s performance in running this country in immensely difficult economic times was quite commendable; it was nothing to be ashamed about. It was a period in which we were under tremendous difficulty, and that has simply got to be acknowledged by the people of Australia if they have any sense of fair play, which I am sure they have.
Turning to the economic policies of the present Government, it is important to look at the keynote aspect of economic policy which dominates the rest of government policy in the country at this time. The Governor-General’s Speech reads:
My Government rejects the notion that there can be a trade-off between inflation and unemployment. It will continue to give the highest priority to reducing inflation, for only in this way can there be a sustained reduction in unemployment.
That quotation is at the heart and soul of present economic policy. It determines economic policy in respect of the deficit, in respect of wages, in respect of the money supply, all of which are having an immensely contractionary effect upon economic policy generally in this country. The passage I have just quoted is an enormous distortion of the truth. It says that the inflation-first policy does not involve a choice between that aim and the aim of reducing unemploymentbecause a reduction in the level of unemployment on a sustainable, long-term basis can be achieved only by reducing the inflation rate. We say that that is an absurd statement, that it is patently false, that it conflicts with general world opinion and that it conflicts with much industry opinion in this country.
Let me go through these various aspects. It is incontrovertibly clear that the policies of the Fraser Government have produced some decline in the inflation rate, but this has been at the cost of a massive increase in the level of unemployment. In other words, there has been this massive trade-off. It is of no use asserting that there is no trade-off when, in fact, all the evidence is that there has been a massive increase in the level of unemployment. It has increased by over 100,000 in the last two years, the two years during which the Fraser Government has been in office. During that period there has been an actual decrease of 8000 in the number of wage and salary earners in jobs. In private enterprise the figure is down by 65,000. Is this no trade-off?
Thirdly, there has been the Government’s refusal to fund job creation programs- a deliberate refusal to take action to offset unemployment- because it is said to be inflationary. Is that not the essence of a trade-off? The Government also refuses to make funds available to the States for capital works to reduce the level of unemployment because that would increase the deficit and therefore, in the Government’s view, be inflationary. All this shows that it is totally untrue to say, as the Governor-General did on behalf of the Government, that there is no trade-off, that the Government rejects the trade-off. The Government’s whole economic policy is based on the concept of a trade-off and it is incredible that it has the absolute gall to try to say otherwise to the Australian people. It is a wonder the Governor-General did not choke on the words when he uttered them.
As I mentioned previously, this economic policy, which is based on an increase in the level of unemployment for the purpose of reducing the rate of inflation, conflicts with international economic opinion. All the respectable economic opinion in the Western world, and I put ‘respectable’ in inverted commas- the sort of respectability which I expect honourable members opposite to accept- now says that the economic policies being pursued by this Government are wrongly based. It is about time this Government faced up to that.
During most of last year there was much talk in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and elsewhere of the need for the co-called locomotive economies- that is, the major economies: The United States, West Germany and Japan- to reflate their economies and to increase their imports from the rest of the world in order to bring about a general economic recovery in the Western world. But that is now seen to be an insufficient basis for recovery because, firstly, of the refusal of West Germany and Japan to reflate in a concerted way and, secondly, the realisation that the rest of the world must do something to reactivate its own economies because of the frighteningly high levels of unemployment. So now calls are being made from various quarters in the international economic arena for a more expansionary policy to be adopted by all of the industrial economies so that economic recovery will be generated without simply relying on the locomotive economies.
There are 16 million people unemployed in the OECD countries at the moment. That figure is increasing and it will continue to increase unless there is some dramatic change of economic policies on the part of countries such as this one which are continuing to generate more and more unemployment. The first major call for more expansionary policies in other countries was made by the prestigous Brookings Institute in the United States. That Institute each year gathers together respectable economists from the various OECD countries- Japan, Western Europe and North America- to produce a review of the domestic economic policies in industrial countries. I shall read to the House a brief extract from its review of November last year:
The developments reviewed thus far point to the need for greater stimulation of denamd in most industrial countries.
So, the Institute is calling for more stimulatory policies. It went on to say:
Concern about inflation continues to be warranted, but nowhere among the industrial countries can inflation now be attributed to excess demand. The intention of these proposals is to bring about higher real growth rates and at the same time provide for further reductions in inflation.
In other words, it is asking for a simultaneous attack on inflation and unemployment; not an attack on inflation first, which is the policy this Government is pursuing. It is asking for a simultaneous attack, as the Opposition has argued for the last two years. The Government cannot just close its eyes to growing unemployment and say: ‘We are getting inflation down; therefore everything is all right’. The Government should take notice of what the Brookings Institute is saying to it and to other governments. The OECD, in the December issue of its publication Economic Outlook said much the same sort of thing:
A weakening of the present fiscal support to demand would be one important factor likely to contribute to the slowdown.
In other words, it is saying that cuts in government expenditure will create a worsening of the economic recession. But the Government is pursuing a policy of cutting government expenditure. The OECD publication went on to say:
This would leave OECD unemployment at the end of 1 978 even higher than now, amounting perhaps to some 1 7 million, or over 5 1/2 per cent of the labour force . . Weak output trends might not bring much further benefits in the shape of lower inflation.
So the OECD is saying that unless policies change unemployment will increase and the level of inflation will not be reduced. Those are the sorts of messages which the OECD is sending to its constitutent members, including Australia. But is the Australian Government listening? If it is, it is showing absolutely no evidence of doing so. In its publication Economic Outlook the OECD goes on to say under the head ‘Policy Considerations’:
To achieve the sort of growth path that leads, during 1978, to falling unemployment will imply a considerable acceleration between the two halves of the year.
Further on it states:
The need for further policy action to buoy up demand, over and above that already taken, if the gap between forecast growth and national objectives is to bridged, seems clear enough.
So, here we have a concerted call for more expansionary policies falling on absolutely deaf ears in this country, as the Governor-General’s Speech shows. I do not have time to read to the House the other passage from the OECD report which I intended to read, but I refer it to honourable members. It appears on page 10 of the December issue of Economic Outlook. On that page the OECD calls for increased deficits. It says that it is the role of governments now to start to educate people of the need for higher deficits. Just cop that! Has the Prime Minister read this sort of document? I do not think he could have done so, because evidence of such a reading certainly does not show in his economic policy.
The OECD is saying that governments should be more expansionary in their policies and that, in the process of doing so, deficits need to be increased. It is saying that governments should then be persuading the people of the need for higher deficits. This Government is doing the absolute opposite. It is doing its best to get the deficit down and at the same time it is telling the people, as it has done for the last two or three years, that high deficits are inflationary and therefore terrible. In fact, as the OECD says, high deficits are not necessarily inflationary at all. The OECD is asking countries such as this one to adopt more expansionary policies to reduce unemployment. It all gets down to a matter of priorities.
The overwhelming view of the OECD, the Brookings Institute and the International Monetary Fund is that there is a need for more expansionary policies because the unemployment problem is serious and just cannot be ignored. The same is being said right here in Australia by employer organisations. George Polites, the Industrial Director of the Confederation of Australian Industry, is calling for more attention to be paid by the Government to unemployment. Calls from the Metal Trades Industries Association of Australia, the Housing Industry Association and the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd for more expansionary policies are among a whole stream of calls of that nature from what one would think would be from the point of view of honourable members opposite highly respectable circles, but this Government goes on blindly with its policy of attacking inflation first. In so doing it is sending this country further and further into recession, creating longer and longer dole queues and driving this country into a state which will be anything but the envy of the rest of the world.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
-Before I call the honourable member for Isaacs, I remind honourable members that this is his maiden speech. I hope that he will be accorded the courtesy usually accorded in this House to maiden speeches.
-I am humble and proud to have been elected to the Thirty-first Parliament as the representative of the new electorate of Isaacs. At the outset I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to pass on to the right honourable member for Bruce, Sir Billy Snedden, my congratulations on his re-election as Speaker of the House of Representatives. His capabilities are well known and respected. I hope that my efforts in this Parliament will be as effective as his have been. I extend congratulations also to the honourable member for Wide Bay, Mr Millar, on his election as Chairman of Committees.
My thoughts at this time turn to all those worthy people who helped me to attain the position in which I find myself today. I arrived in Tasmania in 1951 as a Little Brother sponsored by the Big Brother Movement and settled down to farm work in the beautiful Derwent Valley. In 1952 I was introduced to the Young Liberal Movement and have not looked back since. At that time I met Senator Reg Wright, who has remained a great friend and adviser. I believe that he is one of the greatest constitutional lawyers and orators that the national Parliament has seen. His advice and guidance to me throughout the years certainly has been most appreciated and never will be forgotten. The national Parliament and Australia will be the losers when Reg Wright retires from the Parliament in June. Following my arrival in Victoria many people helped and encouraged me both personally and politically. Without them I would not be here today. I take this opportunity formally to thank each and every person who worked for me in Isaacs during the election campaign. The knowledge of their friendship, untiring efforts and general support always will be valued by me.
The electorate of Isaacs is named after Sir Isaac Isaacs, who was the first native-born Governor-General of Australia. His appointment was made on the recommendation of Prime Minister Scullin in 1931. Sir Isaac Isaacs had a distinguished career in politics as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria from 1 892 to 1 90 1 , during which time he was the Attorney-General in both the Patterson and Turner ministries. He was a member of the Federal convention appointed to draft the Commonwealth Constitution and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1901 as the member for the seat of Indi, which is now held by my colleague, Mr Ewen Cameron, who will be its member for a long time. The electorate of Isaacs must be one of the most attractive in Australia, having a coastline of some 12 miles from Sandringham to Frankston and containing people from all walks of life. A couple of the better known personalities in Isaacs are Bob Hawke and Don Chipp. As their Federal member I will be pleased to help them out with some beneficial advice should they ever ask for it.
As a matter of fact, I was so impressed, having them as constituents, that I was moved to dedicate the following poem to them, with apologies to Robbie Burns, of course:
Down the Bay, in Isaacs
We ‘re a varied group of folk,
Sometimes differing politically-
Oft times, we share a joke.
Of all those Liberal supporters
Who vote as well as talk,
Can we count among our numbers
The Messrs Chipp and Hawke?
It’s true- most honoured gentlemen,
That Don and Bob reside
In the heart of Isaacs territory-
The fact cannot be denied.
Bob and Don, you ‘ve shown good j judgment
In living where you do
And as your elected representative,
I trust next time, you’ll vote Liberal too!
I would like to comment now on some of the remarks made by members of the Opposition in this debate that have caused me a great deal of dismay. I refer firstly to the claims that the Government, of which I am immensely proud to be a member, secured office by indulging in contemptible misrepresentation at the recent general election. I regard these rambling claims merely as evidence of bareness of thought of those who made them.
The honourable members making those claims should contemplate the implications of the great national decision that was made on 10 December last. They should ask themselves whether the people’s verdict was not right after all and whether they could not learn certain lessons from it. They seem to believe that they themselves are quite incapable of making any wrong decisions. The disparaging remarks about the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser, by certain members in this debate compel me to say that it is one of the proudest privileges I could ever expect to enjoy even to be ranked as a mere back bencher in a government led by the Prime Minister. The confidence in his leadership and his ability were clearly shown by both party and electorate which returned the Government with the second greatest majority in the history of Australia.
Mr Deputy Speaker, you will doubtless know that this place has been variously described by the more vocally colourful members of the public as being many things, not all of them flattering. This brings to mind a topic I would like to draw to the attention of honourable members. I refer to the zoological gardens of Australia. Zoos have indeed progressed from their original inceptionwhich involved a menagerie of animals constrained in pits, chained or enclosed behind heavy iron grids- to the present-day system of presenting them to the public. Zoos are in fact gardens and, more importantly they are part of our education system. Animals are housed in such a way that constraint is frequently not obvious: They are on soil and grass instead of concrete; they have water, rock, herbage and trees in their enclosures; and where possible they are behind moats rather than fences. In any case, iron bars have disappeared.
Most enlightened zoological garden administrations seek to exhibit their collections in surroundings which resemble the natural habitat; sometimes surroundings are a very real duplication of the natural habitat. Education is dominant. It may be by visual presentation, by graphics or by actual teaching. The latter approach is receiving increasing attention in this country, from the zoo administrations themselves and from the education departments. The major zoological gardens in this country are noncommercial. They receive governmental support in most instances. Sometimes they receive support from municipalities.
One can list the principal Australian collections very readily: Taronga Park, Sydney; the Adelaide Zoological Gardens; the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens, the second best zoo in the world; the Perth Zoological Gardens; the Sir Colin Mackenzie Fauna Park at Healesville, Victoria; the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo, New South Wales; the Werribee Fauna Park, Victoria, which is being developed currently; and a broadacre fauna park which will be developed outside Adelaide. All of these collections need greater financial support than they now receive not only to meet the cost of their operations but also to provide a service to the community while at the same time making relatively low charges for admission.
Industries and foundations are already assisting but they would do much more if they were given tax protection. Some foundations may make grants only to institutions which themselves have tax protection. It should be possible for industry and foundations to make contributions to zoological gardens for specific education programs such as those which have been established at the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens. These programs are directed and run by qualified teachers. When this program was first introduced in 1965 2,600 school children went through the education system. In 1977 there were 68,000 children in Victorian primary schools with 1 8,000 children on the waiting list.
Research is also part of the education concept. Exhibits should be included also if they are so designed that they present fauna in a natural habitat- real or simulated- in which they are normally found. This is a particularly important education process in itself. Education in zoological gardens should not be merely an elaborate biology course. More importantly it should be so designed to teach people, and particularly youngsters, where and how they fit into the unbelievably complex environment of which they are an integral part. Contributions to support such activities should receive taxation relief. Such a ‘concession’ should be confined to noncommercial operations such as those I have listed. Maybe there are a few others. I hope that this Government will give this matter serious consideration.
I was interested to hear in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech at the opening of the Thirtyfirst Parliament on 21 February that this Government, which has already given significant support to small business, which employs 2 million people, by way of the investment allowance, trading stock valuation adjustments and other concessions, will now take steps to make access to finance easier by an extension of the charter of the Commonwealth Development Bank to enable the Bank to lend to all kinds of businesses, including equity finance for small businesses. The Government will also assist small businesses by extending the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. The impending and long overdue abolition of Commonwealth probate and estate duty will not only be of great advantage to the entire nation but also will lift forever from the shoulders of small businessmen, family operations and primary producers an intolerable yoke and burden which has weighed them down for far too many years.
I now turn to the Yooralla pre-employment training program for physically handicapped and normal children which is unique in Australia. I hope that my Government will assist this organisation with some form of government funding to ease the financial burden. The four major aims of the Yooralla pre-employment program are: First, to provide work experience and information; secondly, to endeavour to equalise the socialisation opportunities for disabled young people with those of their ablebodied peers; thirdly, to increase the independence of disabled people so that as much as possible they may lead a life style independent of financial support systems; and fourthly, education of the public, both generally through the interaction of the able-bodied and disabled people in the program and with employers involved in the unit.
The problem of gaining employment for most young people is frequently related to their lack of knowledge of the working world and of realistic expectations with regard to their work skills. Many employers require experience and yet students do not have the opportunity to gain this required experience. Information regarding a person’s ability to be punctual, to take initiatives, to relate to his work mates and to take pride in his work may be sufficient impetus for an employer to provide a work trial. Whilst these problems apply to most young people, disabled students are more disadvantaged by problems of access and transport which prevent them from gaining an insight into many aspects of the work force.
The problems specifically related to work experience are compounded further by the limited socialisation experiences of disabled people who are frequently institutionalised in residential care or isolated from the general community when placed in special schools. Because disabled people frequently require assistance- for example, medical facilities, physiotherapy and aids- the problem of leading a life style independent of the support systems is very real. It is felt that the Yooralla pre-employment program offers a positive environment in which independence can be not only encouraged but also shared. The participants undertake tasks together because they like each other rather than because it is the job of the professional to help.
Able bodied employers in the community frequently are frightened of the unknown. This seems to apply especially to those who have had no previous contact with disabled people. Often they are concerned about issues such as embarrassing the disabled person and the fact that the disabled person may require extra assistance. Yet when employers have been approached personally and have had the disability explained, most have been willing to provide work trials and some have provided full-time employment. The educative role of having both able bodied and disabled young people together is an innovative concept and is proving to be invaluable. It has led to the understanding of issues of vital importance to the disabled person which would not have been possible to the same extent without the continuing contact between the two groups. The result of this interaction is best summed up by a student from the first preemployment program who said:
The prospect of mixing with some disabled people who I had not mixed with before was a little bit exciting.
Three months later they were the best of friends. The position of the 11 participants in the program as at 1 March 1978 is as follows: Five are in full-time employment, two have returned to tertiary studies, two are in sheltered workshops, two are working as volunteers with organisations and one is being considered for full-time employment. I ask the Government to give earnest consideration to the questions that I have put before the House today. I hope that during my time in this Parliament I shall be able to give a little back to Australia, a country which has given me so much since I came out from Ireland.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Bums) on the occasion of making his first speech in this Parliament. I trust that his stay here will be agreeably challenging and rewarding to him as a parliamentarian. However, I must observe that although there have been many occasions on which I have heard this place referred to as a circus, this is the first instance I have heard about a zoo being introduced into it.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the Governor General’s Speech by tradition is an outline of how, and by what means, the Government intends conducting the affairs of the nation during the term of office for which it has just been elected. Again by tradition, it is supposed to offer hope and encouragement to the people of this country for their future and this country’s future, to excite the imagination, to reinforce the majority’s view that they chose wisely at the ballot box. It should be, in every sense, a declaration of commitment by the Government to the needs and aspirations of the Australian people- all the Australian people.
It is no reflection on His Excellency, the new Governor-General, that what he had to say to this Parliament and to the people of Australia two weeks ago, is none of these things. The words came from the office of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The policies come from that same gentleman ‘s rigid and sterile mind. As such, they are a depressing ragbag of distortion and mis-statement, a dull, dreary document of little substance and no ideas, the same tired old mix of rhetorical gloss and insensitivity. We should not have expected any better from this Prime Minister, even though the Australian people and this country’s future deserve much more.
It is now traditional that this Prime Minister ignores tradition in the same way he ignores convention. It is now increasingly obvious that this Prime Minister rules only for the sake of power and for the privileged in our community. Anyone who honestly doubts that need only read carefully and with an open mind the address delivered by His Excellency on the Government’s behalf. It stands as its own most damning indictment of the Prime Minister’s unresponsive and irresponsible attitude to the great problems that confront this country. This Government has a mandate to govern for the next three years. That cannot be in dispute. It has a clear majority in both Houses of this Parliament. Its legislation will receive our support when it is deserving of that support. But let me say at this point, at the outset of” this new parliamentary session, that I and the Party that I lead do not trust this Government and certainly we do not trust this Prime Minister.
Since it came to office, this Government has done everything to confirm our distrust of its policies, its motives, its alleged compassion and its professed concern for all the people and the national interest while the man who leads this Government has done nothing to allay our distrust of his motives, his glib jargon, his fetish with secrecy and, perhaps most of all, his ominous use of authority. During the next three years it will be our duty to ensure that the people of this country come to know this man, his Government and his methods for what they really are. I have no doubt we will succeed. During the Government’s current term of office Australians will perceive that they, like Macbeth, were ‘led on by small truths, only to be betrayed in greatest consequence.’
I have no less doubt that the economy and the Government’s management - or mismanagementof it will dominate the life of this Parliament. A sound economy and proper economic management is the cornerstone of what government can do in any given policy area. Unless the health of the economy is assured, all other government programs suffer accordingly. This best explains why this Government’s broad approach to the many problems before it, in all policy areas, is in such disarray. Its failure after more than two years to come to grips with what is fundamentally wrong in the economy is the reason why so much else is wrong in the areas of employment, social welfare, education, health, migrant welfare, farm industry, mining, manufacturing, the motor industry, and Aboriginal programs.
One would have thought that at the start of a new Parliament a government so apparently secure in its control of both Houses would have outlined specific objectives in specific policy areas. But that is not the way of this Government. Its wrongly conceived principle is that it is better to do nothing and hopefully risk little than to take bold action and perhaps risk all. The real tragedy of such a ‘do nothing’ attitude is that ordinary Australians have to carry the burden, particularly the unemployed and the disadvantaged. Their plight makes a mockery of the Government’s claim that it is making considerable progress in restoring economic activity. The reality is far different from the delusion. Unemployment is at intolerably high rates. The deficit is ballooning. Credit is tight. Our external economic position is shaky. The dollar is weak. There has been a severe rundown in industrial output.
These are all clear, unambiguous signs that the economy is not progressing. In fact, despite all the soothing noises the Government makes, the economy is in severe recession. That is not an unsupported assertion. The index of economic activity produced by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd has declined for all but one of the last 30 months. The Government’s economic policies were inappropriate and outdated two years ago. They are no less inappropriate and outdated today. Their continuation will lead to even more damage and greater dislocation.
The Prime Minister and his Treasurer (Mr Howard) cannot go on ignoring the need to apply some careful stimulus to the economy to boost both business activity and consumer spending. One has only to look at the advice of both the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Monetary Fund which argue strongly in favour of responsible expansionary policies. Yet in the face of such advice, and the depressing trend of domestic indicators, this Government clings to its discredited ideology that somehow restraint of public sector spending releases resources for the private sector. It does not; it has not; and it will not. Today there are 200,000 fewer jobs in the private sector than there were two years ago, in spite of the the fact that the Government has screwed down public spending to the greatest extent possible. Today there are 445,000 people, young and old, officially registered as having no jobs at all.
Where, might we ask, is the expansion of the private sector that the Prime Minister and his colleagues keep promising will take place? If the Government does not understand that the economy is not progressing, then Australian families certainly do. They have stopped spending- or are not able to spend- in those areas where employment is most sensitive. Production of cars and station wagons has fallen 1 7 per cent in two years. New vehicle sales last year in terms of growth were the worst for 10 years, a point reflected by the huge trading losses now being announced by some major manufacturers. Production of refrigerators has gone down by 30 per cent in two years. Washing machine manufacture has gone down by 40 per cent. The manufacture of television receivers has fallen a massive 50 percent.
These industries are now confronted by the worst possible trading conditions- increasing costs caused by the 1976 devaluation of the dollar and declining scale of production, coupled with intense competition and vanishing profit margins. And yet the Prime Minister and his Government have the gall to go on insisting that their economic policies are making ‘considerable progress’. The automatic response of our opponents whenever we on this side of the House point to unpalatable truths is to get hysterical and to claim that we are ‘talking down the economy’. That is only a smokescreen for their own deficiencies, a variation of the Prime Minister’s usual tactic that bad news is to be ignored until it can be ignored no longer, and that those who hold up bad news to the public are to be denigrated and, if possible, discredited.
The Labor Party will not be cowed into silence by such manoeuvres. And I am not seeking to ‘talk down the economy’ when I say that increasing unemployment and business failure will be a characteristic of 1978- and 1979- unless this Government changes its policies. Contractions in the manufacturing and construction industries, which provide the fundamental basis for growth in the economy, inevitably are affecting the tertiary industries. After a year of zero employment growth, these are now going into decline. Compounding the social and economic costs of declining job opportunities and rising unemployment is the natural growth of the work force. Reliable projections make it clear that some 380,000 new jobs in the three years to the end of 1980 are needed to satisfy this growth. Yet to absorb these new workers and to reduce unemployment from the prevailing high level of 7.2 per cent of the workforce- to the still unacceptable level of 3 per cent, or 200,000, by 1 98 1 -will require a real growth rate in the gross domestic product of an average of 6 per cent a year for the next three years. That is not achievable. Compare what is needed with the last Lynch Budget forecast of 2 per cent real growth for 1977-78, and with the later and rather optimistic OECD forecast for calendar year 1978 of VA per cent, and one can better understand the magnitude of the unemployment crisis confronting this Government.
What is the response of the Prime Minister to this crisis? In the 6,000-word statement delivered to the Parliament in the first week, and sneeringly referred to in the Press as the Government’s ‘blueprint for the future’, the actual word ‘unemployment’ is mentioned just three times. The issue of employment gained a generous nine lines. Even the limited job retraining schemes the Government is funding are being restricted by the Government’s own ceiling on public service staff levels. Such is the extent of the coalition’s concern for the 445,000 people officially out of work in this country.
The worst unemployment in 40 years is the price the community has been forced to pay, and will go on paying, for the reduction in inflation that we freely acknowledge the Government’s policies of attrition have achieved. Until a few weeks ago it was the sole achievement of the Prime Minister’s 28 months of office. He also can claim now to have squeezed a one-half of one per cent cut in selective interest rates from the banks and from some building societies. Whether or not this modest reduction can be sustained, let alone improved, in the current climate of tight credit is extremely doubtful. What has been achieved is only cosmetic and unless the Government relaxes its restrictions on money supply the half of one per cent rate reduction will do nothing to stimulate new home loans or the declining building industry.
In the wages field, the Government repeatedly calls on the wage earner in front of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to bear the brunt of its austerity measures. At the same time, it continually announces decisions which in themselves are inflationary; such as the new oil pricing policy with its dramatic effect on fuel and petrol costs, increased health charges, and the massive 1 7.5 per cent devaluation of the dollar in 1976. One need look no further than Australia’s worsening balance of payments for a dramatic vote of no confidence in the Government’s handling of the economy. This trend can continue only if present policies are continued. It will be compounded by increasing recession in most overseas countries and the contraction in sales and contract prices are already being felt by our major exporters of coal and iron ore.
Two measures are easily within the Government’s reach to shore up the strength of the dollar and to damp down the outflow of private capital. The Government should consider initiating forward foreign exchange cover to discourage destabilising outflows of funds. And it should change the system of the trade weighted basket of currencies under which the value of the dollar is controlled to a currency weighted system. I can see no reason why both these measures ought not be introduced immediately. Both are necessary and both would be applauded by the business community as well as being stimulatory to investment. Besides, if the Prime Minister can find the time and effort to intervene on his own initiative- without his Cabinet’s knowledge- to assist the financial interests of the world’s largest computer manufacturer I fail to understand why he cannot act similarly, in concert with his Cabinet, on behalf of this country’s national interest.
Government neglect- or pig-headedness- is not confined to economic management. The Government gives no indication it has a coordinated policy to provide for Australia’s energy future. We face a crisis situation within 10 years so far as liquid fuel supply is concerned, yet the Government offers only a tentative and partial energy conservation program. It proposes subsidies for petroleum exploration and hopes to pay for oil imports with uranium exports. Neither measure, singly or together, is any more than a short-term palliative. Despite this, there is no more than a passing reference in the Governor-General’s address to ‘increased research and development of new energy sources’.
The Opposition supports the encouragement of new petroleum exploration and development. But we will need to be satisfied that the Government’s financial incentives, including its tax rebate scheme for investors, cannot be abused. The scheme represents a substantial commitment by the Australian community in forgone taxation revenue. We will insist that this commitment is carefully scrutinised. We need a major program of energy conservation such as exists in nearly any other industrialised country. We need to assess the costs and benefits of other energy sources. Certainly we need expanded research into solar energy. Such measures must be initiated and promoted by the Government and not left to the vagaries of the market place or the whims of private investors.
In the rural sector, our farm industries and the provincial centres and country towns that service them have been fed much lip service by this Government- and precious little else. The farmer’s alleged friend, the National Country Party, has been too preoccupied in whingeing about its reduced parliamentary numbers and its diminshed significance in the coalition, while at the same time tugging the forelock to the demands of the mining companies, to pay more than fleeting attention to the serious plight of the man on the land. Government action is necessary to implement technical advances in plant and animal production as well as possible changes in farm structure and management practices. Some form of socially equitable farm income stabilisation, perhaps on a regional basis, must be achieved. More attention must go to developing realistic markets for farm exports. The Government should stop the hypocrisy of its assault on European Economic Community trade barriers and exploit the opportunities which exist for rural sales to expanding markets like China, Vietnam and the Middle East.
As for our cities, this Government long ago abandoned any pretence to responsibility for the mounting problems of this country’s great urban complexes. In the last two years, there have been savage cutbacks in funding for urban renewal, sewerage, land commissions, growth centres, health facilities, schools, parks, libraries and child care. Housing has been caught by the credit squeeze. Commencements are at their lowest point for three years while the number of homes under construction is the smallest for six years.
The Government’s attempts to improve the status of women in our society are nothing but a joke. The establishment of a National Women’s Advisory Council is pure tokenism while there is not a single policy initiative of the past two and a quarter years to suggest the Government even acknowledges the role of women in the work force. Clearly the Government takes as little interest in the status of Australian women- and the discrimination they still endure- as it does in the affairs of our migrant communities.
Migrants remain merely a question of numbers, to be recruited wherever they can be found, according to the needs of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, the Ford Motor Co. of Australia and General Motors-Holden’s Ltd, and then abandoned to the complexities of change, and the social, educational and cultural deprivation which most minority groups undergo in a new and strange country. The majority of migrantslike the majority of our women- are among the losers of our society under the administration of this Government and this Prime Minister.
It is a long list of losers, from the unemployed, to the poor, to our migrants, to our women, to our teenagers leaving school, to our wage earners on low incomes, to single income families on middle incomes, to young couples trying to buy a home, to small businessmen going broke, to small farmers going bankrupt-all the way down to our Aboriginal people who, as ever, remain at the bottom of this Government ‘s priorities.
The winners are in a minority but they do well. They include Esso-BHP which gained windfall profits of $1 10m when the Government changed its crude oil policy; the Wapet group on Barrow Island which benefitted by $42 m; the Utah Mining Corporation which included a $25m hand-out from the Government’s phased abolition of the coal export levy in its record profits last year of $ 158m; the big business interests that exploited the Government’s investment allowance to expand their plant and machinery at the cost of workers’ jobs; and the top 10 per cent of income earners who gained 43 per cent of the Government’s recent income tax generosity. As the record shows, some serve more profitably under this Government than others, and some go on abusing the truth and the nation’s trust to the further detriment of this Government’s credibility and the well-being of this country’s future.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Before I call the honourable member for Herbert, I remind honourable members that it is a maiden speech and I ask that the normal courtesies be observed. I call the honourable member for Herbert,
-May I firstly add my own warmest congratulations and good wishes to the Speaker of this House on his receiving a knighthood and on his election to the Chair of the House. I also congratulate the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees on his election to those positions. My predecessor who represented the division of Herbert was one Robert Noel Bonnett, more familiarly known as the Duke, Dukie or Duko. I guess also that he had the reputation of having the biggest nose in the business, but let me add that it was a very canny nose because he was in fact a most effective member of this House and representative of his people. Duke Bonnett is a man of strong character and good humour. He has a manner that enables him to mix easily with all people in all places. He is a man of considerable ability and he has been a ceaseless worker for his people in the electorate of Herbert. At the same time, I believe he has made a significant contribution to the workings of this House. He can look back with quiet pride on the 1 1 years he spent in this place, and we all I am sure, would want to wish the Duke and his wife Esme all the very best in their new life here in Canberra.
I am very glad to succeed the Duke in representing the people of Herbert. It is part of a great and big country up there and its people are equal to it in spirit and in enterprise. My own division starts at the southern boundary of the city of Townsville and stretches north to just south of the town of Innisfail. It lies east of the coastal ranges of north Queensland and, therefore, stretches by road some 150 miles in length and some 50 miles in width. Townsville is my home city. It is of course the biggest centre in the electorate, having an urban population of about 100,000. It is the tenth largest city in the Commonwealth of Australia. To the north of Townsville, within my electorate, lie the towns of Ingham, Tully, South Johnstone and Mourilyan.
I thank the people of Herbert for electing me to this House. I look forward to my term of serving them and also this Parliament. Northern Australia, which I regard as being that part of Australia lying north of the Tropic of Capricorn, comprises almost 40 per cent of the total area of this continent, including Tasmania. That 40 per cent is occupied by only some 600,000 people. That is barely 5 per cent of the population of Australia. We have 5 per cent of the population occupying some 40 per cent of the area. Many of these 5 per cent therefore live a long way from each other. Townsville is further away by far from Darwin than it is from Brisbane. All of the people of northern Australia live a long way from the capital cities of the south. Townsville itself is some 900 miles by road from Brisbane or, if we have to talk in metric terms, about 1,500 kilometres by road from Brisbane. No wonder many northern Australians often feel a sense of isolation and a sense of distance from the rest of Australia.
The problems of distance and isolation intrude into many areas of life in northern Australia. Significant cost burdens are borne by the people living there. For example, it is costly to make a trunk line telephone call. It is costly to travel towards the south. After all, we in north Queensland enjoy the beaches of the Gold Coast as much as much as anybody else does but it is much more costly for us to get there than it is for somebody to get there from Brisbane or Sydney.
Then there is the freight cost burden which afflicts many of us in our everyday life. Motor cars, pharmaceuticals, spare parts, much of our food and clothing, many of our housing materials, steel and heavy equipment- I could go on with the list- all have to be freighted very long distances and of course we have to pay the cost. What is even more inequitable and unjust is that on many items where sales tax is calculated on the final retail price we are paying sales tax on the freight component of that price. We have long complained about that. Our complaints appear to have fallen on deaf ears, and we wonder whether it is a qualification to be Treasurer that one must be a little deaf. Honourable members may rest assured that we will continue to complain about this injustice until there is some redress.
The cost burden of living in the north is by no means the only or the most significant result of our distance and isolation. No doubt we as people of Australia have the same needs and aspirations as people in the rest of Australia but at the same time there is a significant regional aspect to those needs. For example, if I were to discuss the need for the establishment of the proposed medical school at the James Cook University I could make out a strong argument for proceeding with that school on regional grounds alone. Honourable members hear about the prospect of a glut of doctors in the south. We cannot get sufficient doctors in the north. It seems that they prefer to be unemployed in the south than to go and find employment in the north. Many professions and businesses can give examples of the same problem. We just cannot attract sufficient skilled and professional people for the needs of the north. Again it seems that they would rather stay unemployed in the south than be employed in the north. The experience of many is that the only way we will get sufficient numbers is to train them in our own institutions. That is why we need a medical school at the James Cook University in north Queensland.
I could give many other examples of the peculiar regional needs of northern Australia. For example, along the cyclone belts of the east and west, cyclone-resistant measures must be built into our housing. That is costly and it is time consuming. There are also particular circumstances to be met or considered when building roads or providing sewerage or drainage. The suddenness and severity of the wet season has its own individual effect on those things.
Unemployment in some of the northern sugar towns has a particular and unusual regional aspect. The modernisation of sugar mills and mechanical harvesting have resulted in shorter working seasons with the result that during the slack, inactive period, large numbers of people in these towns are just sitting around unemployed. There is a need for assistance in developing initiatives which will take up some of the unemployment in northern sugar towns. Reafforestation schemes may be one answer. Such a scheme, which is known as the Herbert-Tully River reafforestation project, has been proposed and is carefully documented. It is worthy of consideration.
There is yet another aspect of the problems of distance and isolation which may be the most important of all. It relates to the culture and society of northern Australia. With some justification, the north is regarded as the ‘Deep North’.
We northerners are often considered to be culturally backward and socially unsophisticated. Of course, my speech of the last 8 minutes proves otherwise. Nevertheless, we are distant from the cultural centres of the nation. Many of us are not exposed to the latest plays, the latest shows, the latest acquisitions of museums and art galleries, the latest restaurants and the latest buildings. Most of us who like opera see little of it. The Queensland Symphony Orchestra and some Australian Broadcasting Commission artists do tour the north, but not very often and they do not tour a great deal of it. Much of the north still does not have the benefit of those tours. Indeed, the north does not even receive the ABC’s second radio network, which means, unfortunately, that my constituents cannot hear this speech at this very moment.
– I thank honourable members for their sympathy and compassion. I turn now to the Address of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral in order to give examples of how decisions should be influenced by a consideration of northern needs. The Governor-General stated that part of the Government’s strategy will be to assist small business. Legislation is to be introduced to enable the Commonwealth Development Bank to extend its lending activities relating to small business. That may be very useful, but as far as north Queensland is concerned it may not be enough. There are far greater problems facing us. Quite obviously, the freight cost problem is one of them. Another, of course, is the cost of telephone calls. But probably the most significant problem of all facing small business in northern Australia is the sheer cost of establishing that business or enterprisethe sheer cost of moving personnel, goods, equipment and the wherewithal there. It may well be that if governments want to encourage growth and decentralisation in the north they will have to provide special incentives to business to establish and operate there.
In his Address His Excellency went on to say that legislation is to be introduced to provide further annual grants for the improvement, among other things, of roads and water resources. I am certainly pleased to see that the Government is taking steps to have the water resources supply program implemented at an early date. That program will have to be worked out co-operatively between the Commonwealth and State governments. I hope that in Queensland ‘s case the State and Federal governments will see some of the particular needs facing some areas of north Queensland. Well over 100,000 people rely on the water supply of the city of Townsville, which is in my electorate. Stage 2 of the construction of the main dam, the Ross River dam, must be completed soon but that will be good enough for only another eight years or so. The cost to the people of Townsville of completing Stage 2 is really quite excessive. It is in excess of $ 10m. Already the Townsville City Council faces a substantial financial burden in relation to the funding of Stage 1 of that dam, which is still quite new. The Council is in need of substantial help for the completion of Stage 2. More than that, because the supply will be sufficient only for another eight years or so, governments, both State and Federal, must already be looking forward to the future- to the needs and requirements of the late 1 980s.
Let us not forget that northern rivers, while they carry a lot of water in the wet, are dry in the dry season. We need dams, and we need them badly. We need them more than people in the south recognise. The fact that we have a lot of rainfall does not mean that we have a lot of water.
Governments also will have to bear in mind that many of our coastal rivers along the wet belt of North Queensland are short rivers and when in flood they flow very swiftly to the sea. That is the geography of the region, and that reflects the suddeness and the severity of the wet season. I am talking of rivers such as the Herbert, the Tully, the South Johnstone, the Pioneer or the rivers further north or even further south. The swift and savage flooding of these rivers can do and does do significant river bank damage. Again, much more than is readily recognised by people in the south, there is a very great need for river bank improvements to protect those short swift rivers from the ravages of wet season floods.
Whilst talking on the subject of water, it would be remiss of me not to make reference to the Burdekin Dam scheme. Honourable members would be disappointed if I did not make reference to the Burdekin Dam scheme. I do make reference to that scheme very seriously indeed. The agricultural, industrial, electricity generation, flood mitigation and water supply benefits of the scheme to a very large area of northern Australia have been very well documented. I believe that State and Federal governments have a responsibility to move positively and without delay towards the construction of the Burdekin Dam.
So far as roads are concerned, again in the wet belt areas of north Australia there are particular requirements which are not mirrored elsewhere in the Commonwealth. In that high rainfall area even the best of sealed roads can and do deteriorate rapidly. I understand that the problem has to do with seepage under the road surface and that has to do with the very wet subsoil conditions that exist during the wet season. There is a need for far better road construction methods in the north- a need which governments will have to recognise as they allocate funding for northern roads.
It is noted that the Government is to study closely the report of the current committee of inquiry into land and housing costs. Home owners in northern Australia are disadvantaged on many counts. One is, as I have already mentioned, that some of us live in a cyclone belt. That means that we have to have cyclone resistant measures built into our houses at additional cost. The second problem is that many of our housing materials have to be freighted to the north, which adds to the costs. The third problem is that the premiums for insuring houses in the cyclone areas of northern Australia are far more costly than the premiums that are payable on insurance policies in the south. These are quite significant cost factors that simply are not sufficiently recognised by governments. These are the sorts of things that have to be borne in mind by governments when any relevant legislation is to be introduced or when any policies are to be determined.
His Excellency also said that he was concerned about the quality of education in Australia. The northern part of Australia has only one universitythe James Cook University of North Queensland in Townsville. That university at least serves the whole of northern Queensland, if not the whole of northern Australia. Yet, that university- that one small university- has not even reached the stage where it exists on one campus. It has two departments still living out a less than suitable existence in sub-standard and outmoded buildings on an earlier college campus quite a long distance away from the main campus. A relatively modest sum would solve that problem. The only university serving the whole of northern Queensland should at least be completely sited on its own campus. Also I regret the delay in the construction of the teaching hospital attached to the James Cook University of north Queensland. I have already alluded to the significant regional aspects of that situation. I make a further comment. It seems to me that there is considerable value for the whole country in ensuring that Townsville ‘s rapid development and increasing sophistication are maintained. That is important from the point of view both of decentralisation and the provision of support and services to a large part of northern Australia. The completion of James Cook University and the establishment of the medical school would go a long way towards that.
I could talk about many other significant regional aspects and I could go on referring to the Governor-General’s Speech. I could refer to coastal surveillance. We in northern Australia are far closer than the main population of Australia to the problems of our vast and isolated coastlines. We feel the need for protection, we need protection, and we hope that this Government will not stint or delay long in providing that protection.
We need strong support for the arts. The Government said in the Governor-General’s Speech that it would give strong support to the arts, but let us hope that that strong support is not concentrated in the populous areas of the south. Let us hope that some of that strong support finds its way to the north, whether by tours, by more telecasting, or by whatever means possible. Let us hope that some of that strong support finds its way to the whole of northern Australia.
I have been dealing with northern Australia as a whole. No doubt within northern Australia as a whole and southern Australia as a whole there are much smaller regional areas of regional need. But painting with a broad brush, I believe that there are the significant cost factors, regional needs, cultural and social factors to which I have referred, affecting the whole of northern Australia. I should make it clear, of course, that we in the north do not complain about life in the north. Indeed, we rather like it, just as many southerners like it when they come north during our magnificent winter weather. We are not inferior and we do not feel inferior about living in the north, but we do point out that southerners need us up there. Southerners must recognise that living in the north does create its own particular set of circumstances which ought to be recognised, which must be recognised and which must be taken into account by governments as they make decisions. I see one of my tasks in this Parliament as being to maintain a constant reminder of the needs, the aspirations and the hopes of the north as this Parliament carries out its business.
– Before I call the honourable member for Fraser I would like to say that I know it is unusual to make a comment from the Chair, but the performance of the honourable member for Herbert shows that Duke Bonnett has a very worthy successor.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, would you convey to Mr Speaker and Mr Deputy Speaker Millar my very warm congratulations on their appointment to their high offices? They can be assured of my full cooperation when carrying out their duties. Unfortunately, I was not able to be present for the opening of the Parliament and the delivery of the Governor-General’s Speech. However, having read it I can only agree with the remarks of many of my colleagues, who have described it variously as vacuous, complacent, irresponsible, and even an insult to the people of Australia. As we would expect, it was studded with platitudes and cliches. I believe that the Speech was an attempt by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to express the rather paternalistic view that he and the establishment he represents would like the ordinary men and women of Australia to have of him and his Government. I rather thought, after reading the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, that missing its delivery was somewhat akin to missing the latest issue of the Reader’s Digest, and I say that without any disrespect to the Governor-General, whose unfortunate duty it was to deliver the Speech.
The basic dishonesty of the Speech lay in the manner in which the real issues and problems confronting Australia today were studiously avoided on the one hand and the phoney or manufactured issues played up on the other hand. Whilst terrorism and security were played up, the urgent problem of surveillance of our 200-mile economic zone coastline did not rate a mention, despite the remarks today by the Prime Minister to the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea about aid to overseas countries. There was no mention of that in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, which makes one wonder about the sincerity of what the Prime Minister said today.
The immediate problem of escalating health costs, due mainly to the blatant exploitation of Medibank by certain members of the medical profession was completely ignored in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. As usual great emphasis was placed on inflation and very little on unemployment, despite the reality that inflation now is a receding problem in Australia, as in most other Western countries, whilst unemployment is a growing problem in most Western democracies. I find it rather frightening that this Government continues to accept the rather simplistic view that unemployment will disappear when inflation is brought under control. In fact the record is that unemployment in Australia continues to increase at a rapid rate as inflation recedes. Our strongest trading partner, Japan, brought inflation under control very effectively many years ago. The Japanese economy is rapidly slowing down and unemployment is a growing problem. I read recently that last year there were 18,000 liquidations of businesses in Japan, including some very big businesses. One company owed the Government $5 60m. I read also that six major shipyards in Japan are expected to close down in the next six months. So there is a considerable body of evidence to refute the suggestion that because inflation is under control unemployment will disappear. The record in many nations is quite the opposite.
There was no indication in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that the Government intends to take any positive action to come to grips with the urgent need for structural readjustment in manufacturing industries, one of the major problems confronting Australia today. On the contrary, the Speech contained a direct threat to the Industries Assistance Commission which can only inhibit that body in carrying out its functions in the long term interests of Australia.
The shameful and blatant attempt by the Prime Minister to exploit the bomb tragedy outside Sydney’s Hilton Hotel and to carry this gross over-reaction into the Governor-General’s Speech can be seen only as a crude attempt to detract attention from the continuing and escalating failure of the Government’s economic policies. Looked at objectively and in the less emotive atmosphere of today there is no real evidence to support the view that Australia has suddenly come under siege from the threat of terrorist activity or that there is an urgent need for a rapid expansion of our security forces. I do not see any evidence of this. The Hilton episode indicates rather- if we have learnt anything from itthat our existing security forces need to be made more effective, not necessarily increased, so that if somebody plants a bomb in a garbage can outside the door of an important conference we should have a reasonable expectation that the security forces will lift the lid and look into the garbage can. Of course, such a precaution in Sydney would have been much more effective than calling out the Army after the bomb had exploded killing three innocent victims.
To attempt to transfer the emotive overreaction to the Hilton Hotel tragedy to Parliament House in Canberra was the height of absurdity. Unfortunately I was not present for the opening of Parliament, but the absurdity of overreaction was borne out by many reports that long-standing employees were delayed, harassed and searched before they were allowed into Parliament House whilst complete strangers gained entry without any check whatever. It is well known that most of the victims of political terrorism- the few cases that there have been in Australia- have been members of the Australian Labor Party or generally to the left of politics. Quite often those who perpetrated the terror were from the right of Australian politics.
Listening to those defending the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, I have been appalled by the number of Government supporters who have seen fit to launch scurrilous attacks on the courtesy and dedication of the staffs of the Commonwealth Employment Service and the Department of Social Security. These much maligned public servants have the unenviable task of managing the huge increase in the level of unemployment caused by the Government’s mismanagement of the economy. They have been given a task for which they do not have the resources. In Canberra during the three year period from November 1974 to November 1977 unemployment rose by 212 per cent whilst staff increased by only 62 per cent. I have only contempt for those people who criticise public servants in these circumstances. Within my office we have received nothing but courtesy and the fullest cooperation from the staffs of these departments. Very rarely do we get any complaints from our constituents in this regard. It is fair to say, certainly in my experience, that the Public Service is not lacking in compassion as some government supporters have tried to claim. It is lacking in resources to do its job competently. This has come about from irrational and arbitrary staff ceilings which have been imposed on the Public Service by this incompetent Government.
I believe that one of the most pressing problems confronting the people of Australia today is undoubtedly the sharply escalating cost of health services. This affects every wage and salary earner in Australia. While some Government supporters have endeavoured to lay the blame on the users, there is no doubt at all in my mind that some members of the medical profession have much to answer for. I am sorry to say that this once most highly respected profession, based on the highest ethical conduct embodied in the Hypocratic oath and surrounded until recently with a certain degree of mysticism, has now fallen from grace in the eyes of many Australians. This is a great pity because I am sure that the majority of members of the profession are still men and women who act with the highest integrity and ethics in the pursuit of their profession. I exclude that majority of the medical profession from my remarks. Unfortunately there is a minority of members- I believe a significant minority- within the medical profession who have debased the ethics of their profession and for whom the practice of medicine has tended to become a business rather than a profession. To the Government’s credit it has come down very heavily on those medicos who have been detected making false claims on Medibank. I understand that about 160 of these people have been brought before the courts. Of course, we do not know how many have not been apprehended. We do not know exactly the extent of that crime.
I find it very difficult to understand how people who are engaged in such a lucrative profession should succumb to the temptation to cheat in this way. I have been told- I do not know whether the position is the same in other areas- that in the Australian Capital Territory an energetic general practitioner can gross $ 1 00,000 per annum. This seems to be regarded as the norm. If some practitioners are not getting that amount, they think they are not getting their share of the revenue. Specialists are capable of earning much more. I have no doubt that much the same position exists in the capital cities of Australia. Those statements are not based on my knowledge; they are based on knowledge, information or opinion which has been expressed to me by people in the profession. These people who falsify claims can be regarded as white collar criminals who steal from the public purse. The best that can be said of these types of crimes is that they do not involve violence.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, I was referring to the fact that one of the most pressing problems confronting the people of Australia today is the very sharply escalating cost of health services. I was commending the Government for the way in which people who falsified Medibank claims had been brought before the courts and prosecuted. I want to make the point that these people are white collar criminals who steal from the public purse. The best we can say about them is that their crimes do not involve violence and that there are no innocent victims of their crimes in an individual sense.
But the thing that really concerns me and which I think should concern all Australians is the growing body of information which is available- much of it is based on professional research and professional opinion- that day after day throughout Australia, hundreds of unnecessary operations are being carried out at a tremendous cost to the community. I suggest to the House that this constitutes not only robbery of the public purse, but criminal assault on the patient as well. In extreme cases of course, it can result in the loss of the life of the patient. These are the undetected crimes of the medical profession. In my view, doctors who perform unnecessary and unjustified operations are guilty of a much greater crime than those who falsify claims on Medibank, despicable as that crime might be.
I do not make these accusations lightly. A good deal of research is available to support this view that many ill-advised operations are being carried out, particularly in the more common areas of surgery such as tonsillectomies, appendicectomies and hysterectomies, and things of that nature. To justify this view I should like to cite a few examples of material that is available in these research projects. An interesting report from the United Mineworkers of America states: . . . when group practice teams of salaried physicians provided services for beneficiaries hospital admissions declined by 32.5 per cent, all surgery by 16.S per cent and appendectomy by S9.4 per cent.
A similar report states that a special study of 1.25 million steel workers and their families in the United States of America found that hospital admissions declined from 135 per 1,000 beneficiaries for fee for service to 90 per 1,000 under salaried services and surgical cases from 69 to 33 per 1,000, that is, more than a 50 per cent decrease.
More recently, in January 1976, the New York Times reported: . . . hysterectomies under salaried services in England and Wales were 60 per cent less than in the United States of America where most surgeons were paid for the operation.
Regarding the Australian experience, Dr Lawson cited to the 1969 Congress of the Australian Hospitals Association figures which indicated that the number of tonsillectomy, appendicectomy and hysterectomy operations in Australia were all about 100 per cent higher than the number carried out in the United Kingdom and the United States of America under salaried services. The number of appendicectomies in Australia was even 100 per cent higher than those under fee for service in the United States. Dr Lawson went on to estimate that in 1967-68 52,000 unnecessary operations were performed in Australia. Applying a conservative mortality rate of 0.5 per cent for elective surgery, this means that probably 260 patients died from unnecessary surgery which at that stage was subsidised by government. That was 10 years ago. One wonders what that figure would be today. It could be as high as 50,000 operations a year.
More recently, Marlene Lugg, Chief Health Statistician in the Western Australian Department of Public Health, in a paper to the American Public Health Association in 1975, gave figures showing that the total operation rate in Western Australia under fee for service was for males, 105 per cent and for females 1 12 per cent higher than the operation rates in England and Wales under salaried services. These are significant figures about which we should think a great deal.
We must acknowledge, of course, that there may be important social differences between the countries I have mentioned. This would account for some of the variations. But even if we allow for these and take a most conservative view, there is overwhelming evidence that under the fee for service system now dominating the Australian profession there is an extremely strong incentive to operate with the certainty of being paid, rather than not to operate. I have no doubt that many general practitioners and surgeons either consciously, or perhaps unconsciously, succumb to this incentive to operate unnecessarily.
– Often without medical competence.
-That is right. Unfortunately, other medicos appear to take the view that because they do not agree philosophically with Medibank or with the Government’s involvement, this gives them licence to exploit the system and undermine it at every opportunity. I regard the exploitation of Medibank by some members of the medical profession as the greatest public scandal in Australia today. It is encouraging to hear the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) starting to speak out at last more strongly on this particular problem. Unfortunately, present indications are that the approach to the problem appears to be concentrating on the patients rather than on restructuring our overall approach to health care.
In recent debates I have heard some Government supporters suggesting that the blame for the increased costs lies with the patients. This is patently absurd. It is the doctors who put people in hospital and it is only the surgeons who operate. I have never heard of a patient who enjoyed having an operation. I had surgery recently and I can assure honourable members that I did not enjoy it and I am still not enjoying it. There are effective answers to the problem, but they require radical and resolute action by government.
I have already mentioned the benefits to the public from the extension of salaried services. This has been fought against tooth and nail by the Australian Medical Association. However, with so many university students clamouring to enter the lucrative medical faculties this year in the universities, there is some hope that we may have so many doctors that they may be prepared to work for a salary more readily than they have in the past. I believe that the introduction of effective surgical audit within our hospitals is an urgent need in Australia today. Undoubtedly, the most effective long-term approach to the problem is to restructure our health services so that a much larger share of the resources is directed towards preventive health programs.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I join other honourable members who have participated in the Address-in-Reply debate to the Governor-General’s Speech in offering my congratulations, through you, to Mr Speaker on his re-election to that high position and also to the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) on his election as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. Both those honourable members will do a fine job in those capacities. Of course the Speaker has already proven himself to be one of the best Speakers this Parliament has ever seen. I am sure that the honourable member for Wide Bay will distinguish himself in the same fashion. I also congratulate those other new honourable members on both sides of the House who are now participating in this Thirty-first Parliament. I trust that they will enjoy their stay here and will be able to contribute with the same feeling and in the same manner as I have been able to contribute in the two years I have been in this place.
It would be wrong of me if I did not once again thank the people of my electorate of Barton for electing me here for another term. In my maiden speech a little over two years ago in this House I thanked the people of Barton. But as has happened to many honourable members, my electorate has changed since 1975. 1 should particularly like to welcome the new people in my electoratethe 5,000-odd people who come from the northern end of my electorate. I welcome those people to the electorate and assure them that I will be doing my utmost to represent them in this place in a proper manner. Also I indicate to them that the door to my office is always open should they have any problems they wish to discuss with me. The electorate of Barton, of course, is a very old one. It came into being in 1922. It has a rather famous history. It was represented for many years- this was many years ago- by the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr Evatt. I am pleased that since that time it has been returned to Liberal hands. The most recent election saw it for the first time returned to Liberal hands at two elections in succession.
Many people talk about what are the duties of. parliamentarians and how they represent the people. They discuss whether there are too many or whether there are not enough. I think it is very worthwhile just to look at a little of the history of the Federal Parliament of Australia. When I was reading some of its early history just the other day, I discovered that since Federation the number of members of parliament has increased by 63 lh per cent, whereas the population of Australia has increased since that time by 273 per cent. The first Parliament of Australia in 1901 had 74 members and each Federal parliamentarian represented 13,000 people. You will know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that these days most Federal members of parliament represent approximately 70,000 people. So, it is a big job and a job which I am sure all members of this House take very seriously.
Before getting on to some national issues, I wish to refer briefly to some of the local needs in my electorate. The Botany Bay region borders the eastern edge of my electorate. Although the development of the Botany Bay area is basically the responsibility of the State Government, I assure the people of my electorate that, wherever Federal responsibility is involved in any part of that development, I will be keeping a watchful eye on it to ensure that any such development that takes place in Botany Bay will leave that region in such a state that it is still a worthwhile, beautiful and historic part of Australia.
People are concerned also about the possible expansion of the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport which borders on the northern end of my electorate. I too am very concerned about allegations that have been made over the last three or four months in the Press, particularly by the New South Wales Premier. Unfortunately his statements are confusing the people of my electorate about what will happen with that airport. At different times the Premier of New South Wales has stated that he is against any expansion of the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. Recently he voiced the opinion that the site chosen by the recently concluded Major Airport Needs of Sydney study are not acceptable to him. I can assure the people who live in my area that I, too, will be fighting in their interests in relation to the airport. I stand by the commitment, which I have always made public, that I do not favour any expansion of that airport which will result in inconvenience to people in the residential areas surrounding that airport.
I turn now to some national issues. I shall speak basically on the economy of today. It would be wrong of me to do that without listing some of the achievements that have been made by the Fraser Government over the past two years. I shall mention some of them now in order to refresh people’s memories. Inflation has been reduced from a rate of 16.7 per cent to 9.3 per cent. Interest rates have recently been cut. They were reduced by one per cent when this Government first came to power in early 1976. People will be delighted at the fact that in recent months interest rates applicable to moneys available for housing purposes were cut by another 0.5 per cent. This Government has treated pensioners fairly. It has indexed pensions. This has resulted in far less hardship for pensioners than has been the case in the past. They now have the knowledge that their pensions will increase automatically and that they will not lose the buying power of the pensions that they receive. This Government has been generous in introducing the family allowance which is designed to help those people who have young families. That has been a great achievement. It shows that the Government is concerned about people.
I want to talk most of all about the taxation cuts which have been introduced by the Government, and particularly the taxation cuts which came into effect only a little more than a month ago. Those cuts are very important to the future of the economy of Australia. Some $ 1,000m has been given back to the people since 1 February this year in the form of generous tax cuts. That $ 1,000m will go back into the economy of Australia in the form of spending power. Some of the editorials and statistics being printed in the various publications give strong evidence that the economy is responding very well to those tax cuts. It is evident from the February spending figures that retail sales for February are well up on the normal levels, which is a tremendous indication of the success of those tax cuts. The resultant benefits will flow on to many other areas in the economy.
– What about the cuts in Public Service and public works?
– Honourable members opposite apparently have some objection to what I am saying. By chance I have with me a paper which was produced by one of the Treasurers in the Labor Government. That person was the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). I shall read to the House some of the statements that he made when he introduced his revolutionary tax program in the 1975-76 Budget. Of course, honourable members will recall that that was the time when major changes were made. That was the time when we changed from the personal tax system, which we had followed for many years and under which taxpayers claimed concessional deductions, to the income tax rebate system, under which everyone received $540 regardless of deductions. Let me read some of the comments that he made in his message which accompanied this revolutionary new tax system. He said:
The present system, which has persisted virtually unchanged for more than two decades, is behind the times. Its shortcomings have become increasingly evident as the years have passed.
They are the words of the present Leader of the Opposition when he was Treasurer. Another part of his message reads:
The new system of personal income tax is simpler, fairer, more flexible . . .
I place emphasis particularly on the word ‘fairer’. In another part of this document he tends to contradict himself when he says:
For many other classes of taxpayer, comparisons are more difficult -
That is, comparisons between this new revolutionary system introduced 2V4 years ago with the old systems: . . . but there must naturally be instances in which the tax to be paid will exceed the amount which would have been paid . . .
That last part refers to the tax paid under the old system. We know now from practical experience that some people were worse off under that system. The people who were worse off were pensioners who received some minor amount of additional income. Every honourable member will have had the experience of some pensioners who received superannuation payments coming into his office more than 12 months ago concerned that all of a sudden he had to pay personal income tax when he did not have to pay it previously. This was the new system brought in by the Treasurer of a few years ago, the person who is now the Leader of the Opposition. Honourable members opposite have the audacity to criticise the system we have brought in, a system that allows people to pay $ 1,000m less in tax and frees 225,000 former taxpayers from having to pay tax at all. They claim- I heard the Leader of the Opposition make the claim in his AddressinReply speech today- that it is a system that advantages the wealthy. It is a system that advantages everyone, particularly those people on low incomes. That is what this Government is about.
What about the abolition of death duties? We have promised to do that. We have already abolished some death duties. We did this on 2 1 November last year. We have promised to completely abolish death duties by 1 July 1 979. What about our proposed alteration to the charter of the Commonwealth Development Bank? This move will aid small businesses. This is another move- I refer also to the $ 1,000m tax cut which came into operation last month- which will help to get this country going. This country is on the way up again. It is coming out of the dark years of 1972 to 1975. These progressive policies will continue.
I would like to say a word about unemployment. I know that unemployment is at unacceptable levels. I get incensed when people from the Opposition say that unemployment is part of the Liberal Party’s economic policy, part of the Government’s economic policy. It has never been any part of the Government’s policy. It never will be part of the policy. We do not want to see people without jobs. We subscribe to the view that all Australians should have the right to work. Our future economic policies certainly will not be designed to keep a certain number of people unemployed. They will be designed, if possible, to get everyone back to work who wants to work.
– They are only economic vandals anyway.
– Of course they are. Members of the Opposition often make the stupid suggestion that unemployment today is greater than in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Of course they are speaking only of numbers. More people are living in Australia today than during the Great Depression. Today about 6 per cent of the work force is unemployed whereas back in the Great Depression 25 per cent of the work force was unemployed. How can honourable members opposite say that unemployment is greater today than then? It concerns Australians when statements like that are made.
I come now to some of the current economic indicators that I mentioned earlier in my speech which show that the economy of Australia is moving up at the moment. The figures show a favourable trend in retail sales in February. The figures for financial approvals for home building show a favourable trend. The statistics which were released only today on the February overseas trading figures show a surplus of $99m. That is a favourable trend. I have here an article out of one of the newspapers of yesterday that talks about an inflow of foreign investment and says how the Government’s economic policy and its overseas borrowing program have stopped any outflow of the Australian dollar and how, in fact, foreign money is starting to come in again. I refer also to the Treasury paper ‘Round-up of Economic Statistics ‘ which in its summary states:
The consumer price index rose by 2.3 per cent in the December quarter . . . Solid growth in retail sales continued in December; motor vehicle registrations have also risen following a decline in the early months of 1977-78. Lending for housing remained strong in November . . . Private non-residential building approvals in the December quarter were 32 per cent higher than a year earlier.
This official document talks also about the general reduction of 0.5 per cent in interest rates. All the indicators of a sound economy are there. I have not the slightest doubt about the economic future of Australia. There is no doubt that we are on the path to recovery. We have made significant advances in the last two years, and those advances will continue.
In the two or three minutes remaining to me I would like to talk about something that is dear to my heart. I refer to assistance to resettle some of the new arrivals in Australia, some of the migrants who are coming into areas of my electorate. I feel that these people need assistance to settle not necessarily in the metropolitan areas which are the places to which they are coming but to settle in other areas of Australia where job opportunities exist in forms which suit their original training in the homeland. I talk particularly of the Lebanese who have settled in the Sydney and Melbourne areas. I have had negotiations with these people. In the next few months I want to put proposals to the Government on a system that will allow these people to go to other parts of Australia and to settle in small groups there. I sympathise with many of these people who have arrived in Australia and certainly with those who reside in the Sydney metropolitan areas where job opportunities are not available. Australians must take up the challenge to assist these people to settle. We have to realise, as established Australians, that we must invest a little in these people and assist them if they are to have any opportunity in the future of contributing towards the economy of Australia. I think this problem must be looked at.
In recent trips around Australia while serving on the Government Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Committee I visited many places where job opportunities existed for our new settlers. I saw many places which would be most suitable for these people. I have spoken to many new settlers in my area. They accept the idea of going to some country areas in Australia, not isolated but beautiful areas, where they can be employed in the agricultural and mining industries. In the closing seconds I have, I assure the new settlers in my area that I will continue to work on this program and hopefully over the next few months I can get a program going that will assist them to settle in other areas of Australia where they will have an opportunity of employment and where they will have the chance to use the skills they have learned in the countries of their origin.
– I rise to speak to what is, in fact, a manifesto of this Government’s achievements and commitments. Its achievements are very few. Firstly, from a commitment in 1975 to provide jobs for all, its policies have put almost half a million people to the torch of unemployment, the highest number since the Depression. Secondly, it ought to be proud of achieving, within the small business sector, a record level of bankruptcy, again the highest since the Depression. The commitments give no comfort to anybody. This Government will relentlessly persist with the policy that has led to the callous abandonment of the unemployed and the small businessman. What is painfully obvious is that unemployment queues are getting longer and corporations are getting biggerand so are corporation profits.
One of the most disturbing factors in recent years is the alarming rate- I could say that the practice is rife- of company takeovers. In the businessman’s jargon, it is called asset stripping. It has reached alarming proportions in the United States of America. It has reached alarming proportions in Australia. Regrettably, because of the fragmentation and non-uniformity of laws in this country, by the time the State and Federal governments get around to doing something to obtain uniform laws to govern such conduct it will be too late. No greater test can be applied to measure this Government’s lack of concern than its attitude to the need for reform, for the implementation of the recommendations of the Asprey report, for instance, the Swanson Committee report, and amendments which are badly needed to the Trade Practices Act in order to protect the small businessman. In addition, there is a crucial need for a uniform companies and security law. The Government’s culpable failure to act has one inevitable result: Big business waxes fat because of this Government’s ineptitude.
A great deal has been said about tax. Who in the community is carrying the greatest share of the income tax burden? It is certainly not the rich or the well-off. We ought to ask a very simple question: Are the commitments of. this Government structured to redress this imbalance? They are not, according to the report of the Taxation Commissioner for the last financial year, 1976-77. If we take income as a percentage of the tax return, we find that net group tax instalments by wage and salary earners and company directors totalled 60 per cent while companies paid 20 per cent in tax. Trusts- we hear a lot about them lately- professionals, partners, small business and property owners paid around 19 per cent tax, and withholding tax represented one per cent. It is obvious that wage and salary earners have practically no avenue to evade their share of the tax burden but the same cannot be said of people who are well off. At present, tax avoidance is rife in the business community. There is a rich field available for investigation.
It has been estimated that each investigation officer in the Taxation Office produces an income, if you like to put it that way, to the tax revenue amounting to $100,000 per annum. I suggest that this Government has adopted a very short-sighted policy in regard to staff ceilings. As a result of that policy the profitable investigation work of the Taxation Office is being slashed. This has flowed from the lack of increased investigation staff and partly from the need for investigators to assist in other areas. I find it rather an ironic twist that this Government can ensure that there are no cuts in staff in the Industrial Relations Bureau; but it does not provide for any additional staff in the taxation assessment office to get at people who really ought to pay their fair share of tax.
Let us look at the dividends stripping. I raised this matter with the Treasurer (Mr Howard) yesterday. The Government has made quite a commitment in this area. It states that in this Budget it will amend the law. I trust it will do so in a substantial way and not in a fiddling way. Large family companies which are pregnant with profits are obliged by law to distribute these profits as dividends to shareholders or bear tax on undistributed profits at the rate of 50 per cent. If dividends are declared, shareholders are taxed at a high rate of tax, as dividends are aggregated with other income in order to determine the total tax payable. Over the years- nearly 30 yearsastute taxation advisers have devised plans to take advantage of chronic loopholes in the Act. These schemes normally involve the use of professional dividend-stripping companies which use complex schemes to create the impression that receipts of profits from private companies are of a capital rather than an income nature. In the past, the Commissioner of Taxation was able to fight these schemes by the use of section 260 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. It provides that schemes for the avoidance of tax will be void as against the Commissioner. As a result of a High Court decision in a recent case between Slutzkim and the Federal Commissioner of Taxation there is now practically no barrier to the well-advised tax dodger engaging in dividend-stripping transactions to his heart’s content. There is nothing to stop this type of action. Surely, millions of dollars have been lost to revenue because of the gaps in the Act.
For many years the High Court interpreted this section in a reasonable manner and the Commissioner had a fair amount of success. Since the Chief Justice of the High Court has been changed this has not been the case. Last Tuesday I raised with the Treasurer what had been said recently by Judge Mason of the High Court. He said that the defects and deficiencies of section 260 of the Act have been apparent for a long time. He said that they go back to the days of Judge Kitto. Yet the Government has made no move to plug the loopholes engineered by the decisions, if we like, of the High Court. Why has the Government done nothing to rectify the position? Obviously, from this side of the fence, it has no wish to offend its wealthy friends who take advantage of every loophole in the law. As a consequence, again the honest taxpayer is carrying an ever increasing burden of the tax impost.
I turn now to trusts. Family trusts have been used for many years by wealthy taxpayers to avoid their tax liability. If income can be split several ways, particularly amongst children who have little or no income, the tax effect is obvious. Until recently, the use of trusts was usually confined to property income. As a result of higher rates of company tax, it has now become fashionable for businesses to be transferred from companies to family trusts. This change of ownership inevitably must have a substantial effect on taxation revenue as the rates of tax paid by trustees or trust beneficiaries are much less than those paid by companies. The Government evidently is aware of this problem. The recent Budget made some minor adjustments. I repeat that they were minor adjustments. But, regrettably they are insignificant. The changes, as I said before, are simply fiddling. The whole area cries out for a full scale reform. I suggest to honourable members on my side of the House who have knowledge of this area that it is about time we got our noses buried deep into the Asprey report and attacked the Government day after day for reforms in this area so as to make the tax burden more equitable. Most of these trusts are carried on in exactly the same way as companies and there is no good reason why they should be able to exploit the trust loophole. Probably it is asking too much to expect the Government to take effective action against family trusts in order to minimise tax avoidance. I do not expect that to happen.
– Were not you here when we did that?
– The initiative will have to come from this side of the House. The Government has already made its move and it was ineffective. Honourable members opposite make full use of the family trust to conduct business on land speculation. A Minister exercised that right, executed it and then enjoyed the benefits of it. One can only wonder how many other members of the Government have family trusts to avoid taxation and have a vested interest in seeing that any legislation to rectify the rip-off is obstructed or that it is toothless. This type of discrimination should not exist in our society. However, one wonders how true is this old saying: ‘You are guilty until proven rich’. Professor Stone put it so aptly when he said that things had been arranged so that the people who call the shots do not have to bear the full risks. How true that is.
Let me turn to another area in which this Government has both abandoned its responsibility and is bankrupt of any ideas. I refer to the oil industry. Repeatedly I have raised in this House the problems facing the marketing side of petroleum and the failure of the Government to correct the problems. Let us have a look at a few of them. They include the exploitation of service station proprietors by greedy oil companies, the chaotic state of petroleum pricing by which motorists in some parts of Australia subsidise others and petrol sales subsidise the prices of other types of petroleum products. I refer also to the over-capitalisation in the petrol market which results in excessive retailing costs. This Government’s response to all the problems of the industry has been to leave it to the oil companies to solve the very problems that it has created. People on the other side call this ‘leaving it to market forces’. That has become a farce, and honourable members know it.
The basic problems confronting Australia is that international oil companies will control their industry to maximise their world-wide profits. If their profit motive conflicts with Australia’s national interest it is Australia’s interests which inevitably will suffer. I have repeatedly asked the Minister for Trade and Resources questions on this matter. In answer to a question I asked him last year he stated that the future sources of Australia’s oil supply at a time when Australia will be importing most of its oil will be left, regrettably, to the oil companies to decide. The need for refining capacity to be maintained in Australia and for more secondary refining capacity to treat heavier crude oil are not matters with which the Government will concern itself. Regrettably this Government will sit by while petroleum station proprietors are being pushed around by oil companies. The Government will do nothing to stop oil companies overcharging motorists to pay for their inefficient distribution systems and their over-capitalised marketing network. The Government will not supervise the wholesale price of imported crude oil and refined products to ensure that overseas oil companies have not overcharged their local subsidiaries for transport costs and technical fees. This practice is termed ‘transfer pricing’. The Government will not tackle that question. , The Government is now set to introduce a rural price equalisation scheme- I look forward to the debate on that with relish- in a form which will give oil companies the right to exploit the Australian taxpayer. While the need to compensate people living in remote areas of Australia for high petrol prices is desirable we can expect that the Government would prevent oil companies from exploiting such a subsidy scheme. This will not be the case if the subsidy scheme is the same as the previous scheme. Regrettably, I suspect that it will be.
The anomalies that exist in the marketing side of the petroleum industry were first publicised in the fourth report of the Royal Comission on Petroleum published in April 1976- two years ago. The Government’s inaction since then is worth recalling. The Government acted to terminate the Commission’s investigation into what one may call transfer pricing. It was an essential investigation necessary to the work of the fourth report which condemned the activities of the oil companies. The Government acted to defuse the fourth report by passing it over to an interdepartmental committee. When the report of that committee was completed the Government refused to release it. Now we ought to ask why. Finally, more than a year after the Royal Commission’s report was completed the Government again bowed to oil industry pressure and announced that it would reject the major findings of the Commission.
– It introduced the main one.
-No, it did not, and it is not likely to. I wonder how many people in this House have read the fourth report- or the fifth, or the third, or the second.
– I have read them.
-I have too. The Government has dodged the report ever since it has been tabled. Without necesary reforms in the industry, the exploitation of petrol resellers and the motoring public marches on its merry way. The Government will do nothing about it. To sidestep the criticism of thousands of small businessmen involved in the industry- that is laid out in the Royal Commission report- the Government announced that it would form yet another committee comprising dealers and oil company representatives. The proposal to establish the committee was announced in May last year. Yet the second meeting of the committee was held only a few weeks ago. That does not represent much progress after two years. The only way by which the injustice in the oil industry can be corrected is if the major oil companies concede to some form of control, and they are not likely to do that. As the whole history of the oil industry in Australia or throughout the world has shown, it is clear that these companies will not concede to any form of voluntary control.
The tactics that they will adopt are becoming abundantly clear. All major companies are increasing the number of self-service stations which are staffed by company employees. The people who are put out of work I assume will be called dole bludgers by those on the other side of the House. But I assume that the oil companies’ profits will increase because of that move. But does it trickle back to the consumer? The answer is obviously no. I repeat that by the time the Government gets around to reforming the company-dealer relationship within the industry there will be no more dealers left so there will not be a problem.
Finally I turn to the question which has concerned me very deeply for a long period and that is the failure of this Government to develop a national energy policy. This problem can also be put in the same bracket. The Government is well aware that securing Australia’s energy future in the crucial area of liquid fuels must involve, somewhere along the line, control of the oil industry if it is in fact to comply with national criteria. Surely the national interest must be placed above that of oil companies. All the suggestions that have been made by the Royal Commission on Petroleum, the National Energy Advisory Committee, and recently by the Institute of Engineers, plus the energy policy of overseas countries, all involve- whether honourable members like it or not- government planning and control over much of the oil industry. The consequences of ignoring this basic fact of life, as this Government has done and will persist in doing, inevitably will lead to disastrous results in Australia.
– But you started Solo. It is one of the main reasons that the oil industry is in such a panic today.
-Never mind about Solo. The Government has to look at a thing that it is not prepared to tackle, and it will have to tackle it before long. The Government is not prepared to do that. The honourable member understands as well as I do the whole structure of the oil industry. Its marketing- its refining- is in a shambles. It is a mess.
– What did you do about it?
– At least we tried by setting up the Royal Commission to make the reports which have now been tabled and published and which ought to be acted upon. The Government is not prepared to do that. I conclude by saying that we ought to note the report of the Institute of Engineers which only last week stated that Australia will be forced to adopt a drastic energy conservation policy as oil supplies dwindle because this Government has left it too late to adopt the necessary policy. The Government should act immediately before this situation gets too bad.
-In speaking to this Address-in-Reply I firstly pass on to the Governor-General the congratulations and best wishes of the constituents of Dawson. We did this separately in a telegram on the day of his taking office. I believe that as a recently acquired and fellow Queenslander the Governor-General has all the attributes that will make a great Governor-General. Our best wishes go with him in his task of representing the monarch within this Government. At this time I take the opportunity of expressing to him congratulations and best wishes as I also do to the elected Speaker of the House of the Thirty-first Parliament. Following the experience he gained in the Thirtieth Parliament I believe that he will establish himself- he has already done so- as one of the great Speakers of this House. To the
Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees, a fellow Queenslander, go my best wishes in the task that he is undertaking- a task that will be challenging during his time in office. But I feel that he has the competence to handle the job and will do so.
At this stage I mention a colleague who is not with us in this Parliament but who was with us in the Thirtieth Parliament; namely, Col Carige from the Division of Capricornia. I believe that this Thirty-first Parliament is a loser by his absence. For two years he battled in this Parliament with determination not normally seen in a new member, and possibly not seen in old membersa determination to set right many of the ills and problems that beset his constituency, his State and this nation. As I said, this Thirty-first Parliament will be at a loss for his absence. I certainly wish him all the very best and a speedy return to this place, preferably within the next three years.
I should like to raise some points related to the remarks of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi). This will surprise him, but I agree with a lot of what he said, particularly about tax avoidance. I bring this forward in my speech because I think I might have a receptive ear from the honourable member’s corner. The challenge that will face this Government within the next 3 years will be to look very closely at the tax avoidance methods that are prevalent. This matter was mentioned by the honourable member for Hawker and I also believe it has been noted by many other honourable members. In many ways the past two years in which we held office were not wasted years, but it is a basic necessity that this Government should come to grips with the taxation problems. We now have a tax indexation system which sets the basis for more equality between low and high income earners. I believe even the honourable member for Hawker will agree with my statement. This system has sought to bring justice to all to the extent that there can be no excuse for people thinking that as a moral right they can avoid what they believe to be an unjust tax. I believe that we can collect as much by closing the loopholes within the next 3 years as we could if we were to raise the tax rate.
I wish to correct what was said by the honourable member for Hawker in connection with section 260 of the Income Tax Assessment Act The honourable member said that it was only in more recent years following a High Court interpretation that this section has proved to be a failure. Actually section 260 has been a failure ever since it has been in the Act- and that is some 1 5 years.
– Twenty years.
– For 20 years. I believe that it has been a failure. But, for goodness sake, all the blame should not be heaped on the previous Liberal-Country Party Government which was in office for 2 years, because the Labor Government also had the same right and opportunity to correct any anomalies when it was in office, from 1972 to 1975. 1 refer not only to section 260 but also to the trust tax laws, company stripping and so on. Now that a standard rate of tax has been introduced, I hope the Government will act promptly to correct the anomalies in the tax legislation and to deal with the tax avoidance procedures that exist. But I add the rider that, whatever we do, we must telegraph our intention to the taxpayers so that we do not have to act retrospectively. Whatever we plan to do should be notified to the public as a change that will operate from a certain date, even if the machinery comes into effect some time later. No way in the world will I countenance retrospectivity in any way in connection with the collection of taxation. I believe that the honourable member for Hawker raised a valid point in suggesting that the Government and the Opposition could look at this aspect and act in concert to make sure that everybody in Australia contributes their lawful and equitable taxation payments to assist in funding the programs that are being undertaken at the moment.
The honourable member for Hawker may now wish to leave the chamber because I propose to criticise the Opposition for an attitude that has been prevalent in this debate on the motion to adopt the Address-in-Reply. On two election polling days- 13 December 1975 and 10 December 1977- the Australian people have indicated clearly that they wish a free enterprise form of government. On both occasions they have rejected by overwhelming majorities the socialism attitude as a way of life in Australia. The voting in those elections indicates to me that the average Australian would prefer to give of his effort than to receive. This is the theme that I believe the Governor-General captured in his Speech when he said of Australians:
They know our nation’s prospects are limitless, and that by working together Australians can overcome the great challenges of unemployment and inflation and restore our nation ‘s economy to full vitality.
The challenge facing not only the Government but also the Opposition is to make sure that we work together to achieve the great development prospects and wealth that this country can provide its people.
Much has been said about unemployment. Much has been said about the lowering of the real value of wages and matters such as that. This is only part of the whole problem. In the 1970s, Australians have been enjoying a standard of living beyond the means that this nation can afford and, as was mentioned by the GovernorGeneral, the sooner we work together and increase productivity the better it will be, because that is the only way we will overcome the problems which face Australia and make it the great nation that it should be.
One aspect I wish to comment on has already been referred to earlier this evening in the maiden speech by the honourable member for Herbert, Mr Gordon Dean. He delivered a fine address. He mentioned north Australia. I will give a few facts. In this Parliament seven of the 124 members represent approximately 40 per cent of Australia’s surface and approximately half of Australia’s coastline. Irrespective of what the other 117 members may say, Australia depends on those 7 members to a great extent for its security, its defence, its wealth, its productivity and its decentralisation. I congratulate the honourable member for stating that he is determined to press for a fairer deal for northern Australia. I had placed the Tasmanian representatives on notice that the 30th Parliament was the year of the Tasmanians. The 3 1 st Parliament, I hope, will be the year of the northern Australian representatives. After all, it is just a matter of changing the emphasis from one end of the nation to the other. The Tasmanians have only 5 representatives but we have 7 representatives.
– What happened to Phil Lucock?
– For the benefit of those people who want to know something about the geography of Australia, the electorate of Phil Lucock is not in northern Australia. I would just like to mention some aspects of the GovernorGeneral ‘s speech which are relevant to the points I have made. The Government’s priorities are:
To secure the defence of our nation and act as a positive force for world peace.
The Governor-General went on to say:
My Government has embarked on a major program to boost exports.
The Governor-General also said:
Legislation will be introduced to enable the proclamation of an Australian fishing zone covering all living marine resources out to 200 nautical miles.
He went on to say:
My Government is most conscious of the need to meet the challenge of present and future international shortages in energy supplies.
These references in the Speech have a good deal to do with northern Australia, about which I wish to talk. The energy problem can be overcome by using the resources in northern Australia. The coal mines in the Bowen Basin export approximately 10 million to 12 million tonnes of coal a year. Unfortunately the water resources program was not mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech but already legislation exists in relation to it. At least 40 per cent of Australia’s water flows to coastal areas from areas within northern Australia. The 200 mile resources zone around Australia affects not only my electorate with its 400 miles of coastline and the Great Barrier Reef but also the whole of northern Australia including the Gulf of Carpentaria and across to the north-west coast of Western Australia. These matters will influence the development of northen Australia. The myth of northern development of course has long been torpedoed. The people of the north now talk about northern neglect; not northern development.
In respect of all of these matters I ask the Government to look at the Governor-General ‘s Speech and to pursue the proposals by using the assets of northern Australia to their utmost so that we can achieve the objectives set out in the Speech. In the period following the proroguing of” the 30th Parliament and the election we saw the threat to our security through northern Australia in the form of Taiwanese boats which put refugees into Darwin and areas on the north coast. We have read also of the importation of drugs coming through the Northern Territory by aeroplane. We know that one has been detected but we do not know how many have not been detected. It is vital not only to our civil and military defence but also to our moral defence that steps be taken to strengthen our northern borders and the coastline which is not far from countries in the north. We must exploit as far as possible the fish resources that no doubt exist in our 200-mile zone. We should not leave this task to other nations as part of some trade-off deal. This is probably the most neglected industry- it is often described as a rural industry- in Australia today. I hope that the challenge presented to us by the declaration of this 200-mile nautical economic zone will inspire Australians to develop the asset that is present in those waters.
I turn now to other aspects of northern neglect. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) referred to the road system in Western Australia. Apparently the funding for national highways throughout Australia is based on the length of the highways with weight put on the population of a State. As I mentioned earlier, account is not taken of the fact that northern Australia suffers from the worst climatic conditions in Australia and over the course of 12 months the roads there have suffered from the heaviest rainfall in Australia. I hope that the Bureau of Transport Economics and the Federal and State departments of transport will look at this matter with a view to allocating more funds for the roads in the north.
Not only are those roads important for trade and commerce and their tourism potential but also they have a defence significance. Somebody put up the argument at one stage during the Thirtieth Parliament that there is a very good reason why we do not upgrade and improve our roads in northern Australia. He said that if we did and the enemy landed on the northern borders he would have a free trip down to the south. I do not really think that that is a good argument. I suggest that the reverse argument should be used, that we might be able to get our defence forces on the spot a lot earlier. Those roads are important not only for military reasons but also for the other aspects of security and defence that I mentioned earlier.
Another thing happened during the Christmas recess. There was one commissioner in the Australian Broadcasting Commission who held himself responsible for the problems faced in regional and rural areas of Australia. After his term of three years was finished his appointment was not reconfirmed. The State and Federal governments are condemned by people because they do not seem to realise that we have problems in northern Australia and in rural areas that people such as the former commissioner have been protecting. I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) to have this matter examined fully, and perhaps to appoint another commissioner to that position to look after the interests of northern Australia. The previous commissioner came from Mackay and the one before that came from Townsville. Now we have none.
The Minister might also look at the problems associated with bringing television to remote areas- I know that that is already part of the Government’s policy- and also with the provision of translators for mining towns. I fail to see how any government can ask mining companies or mining townships to contribute to their own translator installations, particularly when those mining townships provide a tremendous amount of revenue by way of royalties for the Federal and State governments. They provide a tremendous amount in the form of the coal levy tax, which honourable members on this side of the House have indicated many times is an immoral tax. They contribute revenue in the form of taxes, export wealth and in many other ways and yet the people in northern Australia and the people in mining townships throughout the area north of the Tropic of Capricorn -
– And in Victoria.
– Where is Victoria? I was talking about mining townships. If there is one in Victoria in that category I will for the moment agree with the honourable member. Mining townships should not be asked to contribute to their own ABC services. These people, who are the pioneers of Australia, are deprived of many things these days, and now they are being asked to pay for their own translators. I believe that the Government should make those ABC translators available and have them installed as quickly as possible.
Another matter relating to the seven divisions that I have mentioned is the water resources program of northern Queensland. As I said in a speech last week, that area has a great potential for contributing to the wealth of Australia by the proper use of its water resources for irrigation, domestic and industrial purposes, hydroelectricity and flood mitigation works on the rivers and streams flowing to the coast. These streams challenge the resources of local government and the people in those areas to the extent that I believe that greater funding should be made available for flood mitigation alone. People in the north have been talking about these aspects. They want their views put very forcibly. That will be done by me, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Dean) and certainly the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson). We must press for these things in this Parliament.
Over many years Australia has been faced by changing social patterns. In the remaining years of this decade the Government must face up to those challenges. It must recognise them, implement fresh programs and supply the answers. As the Governor-General said in his Speech, this can be done only by all people working together. The day when governments could supply the needs of the people is a day of the past-the 1950s and the 1940s. What we need is the three levels of government- local, State and Federal- to work together. I believe that this will be achieved eventually under the federalism scheme. Governments also need to work with the people who want to provide the wealth, who want to take up the challenges. I refer to those people who are pioneers in fields such as oil and mineral exploration, rural activities and decentralisation. We have to work together to build a greater Australia. I have much pleasure in supporting the mover and the seconder of this motion. I w ant to place on record my own support for the Governor-General’s Speech and also my support for the GovernorGeneral’s appointment.
-The misrepresentations and platitudes ladled out to the electorate and to the Parliament by the Prime Minister (Malcolm Fraser) and his Cabinet have found no clearer expression than in the section of the Governor-General’s Speech relating to security matters, where he said:
My Government has accepted the basic conclusions of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security. The functions, responsibilities and powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which have been reviewed, will be clearly defined by legislation.
I refer the House to that section of the amendment that says that the Government has neglected to provide firm guarantees for the protection of civil liberties by legislation enactment within the powers of the Australian Government.
It is very depressing to note the hypocritical manner in which this reactionary and authoritarian Government pays Up service to the civil liberties and rights of the Australian people. The Prime Minister announced to this Parliament in October last year and also in a letter to the Premier of South Australia in January of this year that the recommendations of the Hope report would be used as the basis for a sweeping range of reforms and amendments to the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation Act. The Hope report provides no basis for reform of ASIO. Had the Government given careful consideration to the civil liberties and democratic rights and freedoms of the Australian people in this matter it would have rejected outright the substance of the recommendations of the Hope report. The report is the inadequate and sorry climax to the suspicions, the abuses and the troubles which have plagued ASIO since its formation in 1948-49. There is an old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Before exposing the inadequacies of Mr Justice Hope’s recommendations, let me examine some of the abuses of power as outlined in his report regarding ASIO’s operations. In paragraph 1 1 4 in the second report he said:
The inspection of hundreds of files and the examination of numbers of witnesses, including officers of ASIO, have satisfied me that some security assessments it has provided have been wrong.
In paragraph 116 of volume 1 of the fourth report Mr Justice Hope said in relation to ‘particular principles of propriety, including legality, to which ASIO should have regard in fulfilling its functions’ that ‘material before me establishes that there have been departures by ASIO from these principles’. Mr Justice Hope accuses ASIO of acting with impropriety and illegality. Indeed, it is particularly damning that Mr Justice Hope should make the startling statement that over many years ASIO has been allowed to operate without guidelines or questions of propriety. The Hope report makes no contribution whatsoever to changing this state of affairs. Propriety, it seems, plays little part in ASIO’s operations. In the fourth volume of the report Mr Justice Hope went on to say:
I have discovered in the course of my inquiry . . . that despite control procedures, many ASIO personnel in fact have had access to files, sometimes without adhering to proper procedures, and at other times without any sufficient need to know.
Is there no limit to the lengths to which the forces of reaction in this country will go in relation to what they define as national security or as being in the national interest? Later I will examine more closely what is meant by ‘national security’ and ‘national interest’.
I refer briefly to the report of Mr Acting Justice White into the operations of the South Australian Special Branch of the Police Department which, of course, correctly resulted in the dismissal of the South Australian Commissioner of Police. Mr Justice White found that there were a number of irregularities in the South Australian Special Branch. He is reported as having found that: . . . a mass of records (indeed, the greater part of Special Branch records) relating to matters, organisations and persons having no connection whatsoever with genuine security risks . . . In most substantial dossiers, it can be seen that there has been movement of information to and from ASIO . . .
Files and index cards existed on all ALP candidates and elected members, (‘some of it is offensively inaccurate’), on associated Labor Party organisations for young people and university students, on the ACTU and personalities on its executive . . .
Other files include information on homosexuals; Eastern and Orthodox Church groups; worker participation movements; campaigns against racial discrimination; Persons involved in divorce law reform . . .
Such activities were a series of over zealous reactions by the Special Branch of the South Australian Police. The reaction of the Prime Minister to the tragic Hilton bomb blast would appear to be perfectly in line with this Government’s attitude. The compiling of select files regarding public security can only be assured by spying on lawabiding individuals. The Prime Minister has been consistently reacting to the Hilton blast as though it provided evidence of the arrival of international style terrorism in Australia. There is no logical basis for such an assumption. Even Mr Justice Hope was constrained to say in his fourth report, volume I, paragraph 90:
Much violent action- including bombing and shooting- is, of course, simply criminal in nature, and is a matter for the appropriate State police force.
The involvement of any other organ of the State- that is, ASIO and /or the military- should, according to Mr Justice Hope, ‘be concerned only with politically motivated terrorism’. A definition of ‘terrorism’ proper must, in the view of Mr Justice Hope, include:
The act or threat of force designed to terrorise to achieve political ends.
An article in the National Times of 20 February 1978, when referring to the Hilton bombing, stated:
No responsibility has been claimed by any terrorist organisation . . . Well-placed security officials say there is no direct evidence to link the bombing with any international terrorist groups, or with the first stage of an attempt to intimidate the Federal Government by generating hysteria through a series of IRA-type bombings in Sydney.
In short, the real political repercussions of the Hilton blast, as distinct from the personal tragedy, have been the questions raised about civil liberties and individual rights through the gross over-reaction of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister’s reaction has ranged from the calling out of the military to a paranoic obsession with security- an obsession which may threaten the liberties of the Australian people. Yet, even Mr Justice Hope recognised that even in times of national threat care must be taken with civil liberties. In his fourth report, Mr Justice Hope said:
The degree of restriction (of the individual) which is justified is determined by the degree of the danger. In time of peace, with no imminent danger, little if any restrictions are justified.
By the same token, no one wishes to see workers or Heads of Government blown to pieces. However, in setting himself up as a self-styled security supremo, in mounting the largest ever domestic security operation in Australia’s history, the Prime Minister has brought this possibility closer to realisation.
The most dangerous of Mr Justice Hope’s recommendations are those which seek to provide legislative confirmation of the already dictatorial powers of the Director-General of ASIO. The Director-General is an appointed officialthat is, he is ostensibly a servant of the Government. Yet, Mr Justice Hope had the gall to devote eight paragraphs of his report to a consideration of the extent to which the DirectorGeneral may be subject to ministerial control. At the end of this consideration Mr Justice Hope came to the amazing conclusion that:
The question to be resolved is the extent, if any, to which the Director-General should be subject to ministerial direction.
Let us see how far the powers relating to the Director-General of ASIO would go if the Government took the recommendations contained in the Hope report to force of law. Section 4 of the recommendations states:
The Director-General shall, in the performance of his duties and exercise of his powers under the Act, be subject to the direction and control of the Minister except in the following respects:
Where any particular intelligence or matter is or might be relevant to security for the purpose of the Act.
It also makes the amazing assertion that there ought to be no accountability to Parliament and the people whatsoever. The Hope report recommends in these terms:
Although in some democracies there are parliamentary committees for the supervision of the security service, such an arrangement would be inappropriate in Australia. For similar reasons, the idea of an annual report to Parliament is not supported.
What a slap in the face for the people of this country. This Government, in accepting these recommendations, if indeed it does, will in fact be seeking to deny both the people and their elected representatives in Parliament control over the activities of ASIO. Rather, this reactionary Government seeks to place ASIO above the law, above the people and above the Parliament. It seeks to place the Director-General of ASIO–
– That is a lot of rubbish. You do not know what you are talking about.
– The honourable member for Hume would not know anything about civil liberties. This Government seeks powers for ASIO to legalise the use of bugs, the breaking, entering and searching of premises and the opening of mail. In accepting the recommendations of the Hope report this Government plainly seeks to smother the aspirations of the Australian people for a greater degree of civil liberties. It does this by accepting the line that the elected
Minister responsible for the administration of ASIO will have no right to seize or otherwise inspect ASIO files other than at the discretion of the Director-General- an appointed official with no direct responsibility to either the people or the Parliament.
I return to the South Australian affair. Let us examine what really happened in the South Australian affair. At the moment a Royal Commission is inquiring into the dismissal of the Commissioner of Police, Mr Salisbury, for refusing to make files available to the Premier and for telling lies to the Premier. There is no greater condemnation of Mr Salisbury and what he stands for than his own words when he appeared before the Commission yesterday when he was reported as saying that files on governors were probably kept simply because they were at one time governors. Mr Salisbury said that a file on Sir Mark Oliphant had probably been kept because he had marched in an anti- Vietnam war demonstration. That statement is a pretty fair indication of the type of people this Government would put in control of civil liberties in this country. It is a pretty fair indication of the state of mind of people whom honourable members on the other side of the House would put in control of organisations such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which has direct power over the lives of people in this country.
I wish to raise one further point and it relates to the statement made by the Speaker of this House on Thursday, 2 March regarding the security of Parliament. First of all, to the best of my knowledge the Australian Labor Party was not consulted about this matter, members of the Opposition were not consulted, and the staff of the House were not consulted. I know there is a great deal of worry about the fact that wives of members must now identify themselves and cannot enter Parliament House freely. Visitors coming to see members about electoral business have to give their names and addresses. Passes will be issued to staff and visitors.
– Would you rather be blown up?
-There is a limit to how far this can be taken. In the interests of liberty I refer honourable members to the words of a great libertarian, that great Roman orator Cicero who lived almost 2,000 years ago. His eloquent defence of the free institutions of Republican Rome uncannily represents the present position in which the Parliament seems to find itself. He said:
But let us leave the past . . . Defend that if you can! Explain why the Senate is surrounded by a ring of men with arms; why my listeners include gangsters of yours, sword in hand: Why the doors of the temple of Concord are closed … I do these things in self-defence, says Antony. But it is better to die a thousand deaths than be unable to live in one’s own community without an armed guard. You don’t need guards- Antony- you need the goodwill of your own people.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, in supporting the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech I ask that you congratulate the Speaker on his elevation to the knighthood in the New Year’s Honours and also on his re-election to the Chair of this House. I believe his re-election is a due reward for the effective way in which he presided over this House during the last two years. Certainly, as a new, young member in the last Parliament I appreciated his guidance during that period. I ask also that you congratulate the new Chairman of Committees on his election to that position. I believe that we have seen from his performance so far in this House that he will develop a reputation as an effective Chairman of Committees. I pay tribute to the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) for the way in which he chaired the committees during the period of the last Parliament and also for the reputation which he developed over many years in previous Parliaments as Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker. I also congratulate the Government on its return to office in the election of 10 December. I believe that the massive support engendered for the Government on that occasion was due reward for the policies it effectively implemented over the last two years.
In that regard I would like also to thank the electors of Kingston for returning me to serve them for another term in this Parliament. I gained much satisfaction in serving their needs over the last two years and I am certainly looking forward to continuing that task not only in this Parliament but also in future Parliaments. I would like to thank personally the supporters and members of the Liberal Party, particularly the members of my campaign executive, who worked so hard during the recent election campaign to communicate the Government ‘s policies to the electors of Kingston. My ability effectively to represent the electors of Kingston over the last two years was in no small measure due to the support which I had from my parents over that period. That support was evident in many practical ways, particularly on the domestic scene. However, that support also was evident during the recent election campaign, particularly the support of my father who was actively involved, virtually as a Man Friday, in the campaign. In fact, he drove so many miles that at one stage we were expecting the secretary of the Transport Workers Union, Jack Nyland, to knock on the door and ask him to sign up. As honourable members probably are aware, under the Dunstan Government in the State of South Australia compulsory unionism is much in evidence.
– We have not.
-The honourable member for Grey says that we have not but I think that if he looks at the record he will see very clearly that compulsory unionism is very much in evidence in South Australia. The electorate of Kingston has experienced some changes in its boundaries as a result of redistribution which took place prior to the last election. I must say that I am sorry that I no longer have the privilege of representing the area of Glenelg, which had a long historical association not only with the electorate of Kingston but also with the general coastal area that remains part of the Kingston electorate.
– They breathed a sigh of relief.
– I do not know whether that is true. I think they were quite happy with the representation they received and I hope that the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) gives them equally effective representation.
– He will.
– I am sure that he will. I am pleased now to represent the area south of the Onkaparinga River, particularly as it contains the renowned Southern Vales grape growing and wine producing area. This is an industry of great importance to South Australia and it is an industry which is suffering particular problems at the moment. During the life of this Parliament I intend on occasions to raise some of the problems of that industry.
In noting the changed nature of the Kingston electorate it is appropriate to consider the nature of some of the changes which have occurred in Australia in recent years. These changes have created problems which will require new solutions over the next generation, the generation of my own age group. Australia has reached the end of what might be called the post-war era. This is evident in social, economic and political terms. The social signs of decay are observable. They include collapsing faith in the old moral verities; a decline in disciplined behaviour and dedicated purposefulness; a sense of social disintegration and growing division in society; the erosion of the authority of the institutions of Australian society, increasing violence and a proliferation of transient cultural trends appealing to the instincts rather than engaging the spirit, such as R-rated movies, punk rock, post-object art and drug abuse.
This social malaise has been accompanied by economic decline. The post-war era was a long period of dynamism fuelled by the baby boom of the 1940s and the 1950s and a wave of high level immigration. Behind quotas and tariff walls was the growth of ‘import replacing manufacturing’ which had emerged during the isolation we experienced during World War II. This was accompanied by remarkable growth in service industries, both private and government controlled. In recent years the growth fuelled by all of these factors has burned out. The growth impulse from ‘import replacing manufacturing’ has run its course. This was inevitable given the size of the Australian domestic market.
This economic decline would have been minimised had a Liberal-National Country Party government remained in office throughout this period. Understanding the needs of the private sector and the fact that government services can be expanded only in line with the growth in real wealth in the economy, a Liberal-National Country Party government would have retained a firm hand during this period of economic change and pointed the economy in the right direction.
Unfortunately for Australia during the period 1972 to 1975 we suffered the misfortune of a Labor Government. If Australia can ever afford a Labor government, and I believe it cannot, 1972 to 1975 was certainly the period when it could least afford it. Instead of remedying the emerging problems, the policies of the Labor Government exacerbated them. Manufacturing industry, which had a growing export market to overcome the inadequacies of its domestic market, had its ability to compete on international markets destroyed by the exorbitant wage increases encouraged by the Labor Government. Excessive growth in the public sector, which was evident before the advent of the Labor Government, massively accelerated during that Government’s term of office through its uncontrolled spending of taxpayers’ money.
Public sector growth has been a significant factor in the destruction of our dynamic post-war growth. With it came increasing bureaucratic involvement and regulation at more and more detailed level in the economic life of the nation.
The public sector gained ever increasing patronage over the private sector and the life of individuals, eventually reducing both to stunned immobility. This process created a new phenomenon- the public sector interest group, comprising collections of workers occupying State-controlled monopolies in the provision of services, claiming an unwarranted affinity with motherhood and the holidays to go with it, because of its ostensible distance from the allegedly sordid notion of profit. Unfortunately, at its peak, this new interest group found allies in the Labor Government with an insatiable taste for interventionism
– Hear, hear!
Mr CHAPMAN I am glad to have the support of the honourable member for Holt in that regard. This became the second prong for battering our economy, particularly because of the absence of incentives for public sector efficiency and its excessive size relative to our total economy. Hence tax resistance developed among ordinary citizens and taxation reform became a major issue.
In these circumstances the political instability of the first half of the 1970s, which was unparalleled in Australia’s history, is not surprising. The massive support for the coalition parties in the 1975 and the 1977 general elections shows that this political instability is behind us. It gives the Fraser Government the opportunity to overcome the social and economic malaise which has been evident in the recent past.
The return of the Fraser Government in the 1975 general election halted the economic decline which began under competent but complacent Liberal governments prior to 1972 and which accelerated with disastrous consequences under Labor during 1972 to 1975. Over the last two years, the Fraser Government has methodically reversed the worst excesses of the Labor Government. It has instituted a realistic attitude to wages; it has halted spiralling government spending and the growth of the public sector and has instituted significant taxation reforms. The Fraser Government has thus established the preconditions for the restoration of economic growth, particularly as interest rates continue to fall.
The extent to which these pre-conditions will be successfully exploited over the life of this Parliament and into the future, depends on the inventiveness of all Australians. The Government must provide firm leadership to show the way in this regard. Clearly, renewed growth in the economy is dependent upon the deployment of resources to areas where they can compete at an international level- to areas where we have a comparative economic advantage. To maintain investment in sectors of the economy requiring excessive tariff protection or other heavy-handed government intervention for their survival will dampen recovery and, far from maintaining employment, overall will prevent an increase in employment opportunities. The Government’s White Paper on Manufacturing Industry published last year clearly recognises this and the need to restructure our economy.
While it is important to attempt to maintain our traditional markets, including the European Economic Community for Australian goods, renewed growth in the economy requires that we turn our face to Asia. It also requires that the Fraser Government further positively implement its liberal philosophy. A progressive breaking up of the mosaic of detailed government controls and bureaucratic red tape and supervision of our economic life and its replacement by a broader brush liberal approach will free our economic system, allowing market forces to operate thereby allowing an outward looking export oriented strategy to flourish. This must occur gradually and with structural adjustment assistance, where required, to prevent severe economic disruption. But it must occur sufficiently quickly to be seen to be happening.
Potential gains from an outward looking export strategy towards Asia in a progressively de-red taped economic environment are striking. It should be noted that the nations involved in the Association of South East Asian Nations together already rank second to New Zealand as an export market for our manufactures. East and South East Asia comprise one of the fastest growing economic areas in the world. Our economy has an unparalleled opportunity to benefit from participation in this dynamic scene to our north. This strategy implies the injection of a new dynamic into manufacturing and agriculture and the continuation of our successful mining activities. World development experience shows that restructured manufacturing would grow strongly and that rural Industry would be revitalised. The benefit to Australia from increased trade with Asia depends on the development of industries whose output complements rather than competes with those of developing Asian market economies. These include foodstuffs, processed inputs to various industries, capital intensive industries, skill intensive services and high technology sectors.
These changes will offer new hope to those most able and willing to change; a whole generation whose employment prospects were blocked by the end of the postwar era- our young people. The expanded employment opportunities for young people through dynamic growth in our economy under this strategy will provide the base for overcoming the social malaise to which I referred earlier. It will provide worthwhile and achieveable goals for young people.
Social stability will ensure political stability and the survival of our liberal democratic system. It will also ensure that the Liberal-National Country Party coalition government remains in office for many years to come. Young people, having experienced the benefits of strong economic growth and of a society in which the Government has removed itself from the pockets of people through taxation reform and in which in a general way there is less intrusion into their everyday lives through the removal of bureaucratic red tape and intervention in our economy would never wish to return to the policies espoused by a Labor government.
Therefore I have much pleasure in supporting the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency, the Governor-General. That Speech outlines the progress this Government has made in restoring economic prosperity to Australia and certainly in restoring the pre-conditions for renewed and strong economic growth over the life of this Parliament and for years to come. I strongly support the Address-in-Reply and I oppose the amendment. I commend new members of this House, particularly the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) and the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack) who moved and seconded this AddressinReply motion. Their maiden speeches and the maiden speeches of other new honourable members in this House have made a worthwhile contribution to this debate. I look forward to further effective contributions from them over the life of this Parliament
-I am very glad to have the opportunity to speak in support of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) to the Address-in-Reply. The Fraser Government exploits democratic forms such as secret ballots, universal suffrage and general elections, but its spirit is essentially anti-democratic, hierarchical and authoritarian, without that respect for minority opinion, compassion for the weak and capacity to take the long view which is the essence of the democratic spirit. If I might quote myself, as I pointed out in my book Age of Apocalypse:
Fascism was completely democratic in form, relying as it did on universal suffrage.
It is impossible to think of Fascism or Nazism in the context of the traditional, aristocratic regimes, say of the Habsburgs. It was essentially a product, or perversion, of democratic procedures such as general elections, universal suffrage, universal literacy, large-scale advertising campaigns, referenda and mass parties. Fascism was not a party of the extreme right as is sometimes asserted, but of the ‘extreme centre’, basing its appeal on the ‘little man’ who feels threatened by changes in a world that he does not fully understand. It is no accident that the 1920s- the high water mark of democratic forms in Europe- saw the rise of fascist parties in Italy, Germany, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Rumania and the Baltic States- all of them based on mass parties and universal suffrage. Both Hitler and Mussolini came to power absolutely constitutionally, and there is little reason to doubt that they both represented what a majority of the Italian and German people wanted at that time. The justification very often of the Fraser Government’s actions is that honourable members opposite say: ‘Well, we won, didn’t we?’ Of course Hitler and Mussolini could have said exactly the same thing.
To take a more recent example, there can be little doubt that successive Ulster Unionist governments in Northern Ireland elected to the Stormont Parliament were elected according to democratic forms and that they represented the fears, prejudices and hatreds of a majority of the Ulster Protestants. But just as Edith Cavell said: ‘Patriotism is not enough’, we may say that sometimes a bare majority of votes at an election is ‘not enough’. What the Ulster Unionist governments lacked, and what, I suggest, the Fraser Government in Australia lacks, is a sense of the democratic spirit. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has confessed himself to be an admirer of the writings of Ayn Rand, a Russian born writer in the United States, and in particular of her most alarming novel Atlas Shrugged, a truly repellent book which, nevertheless, needs to be read by honourable members if we are to understand the Prime Minister’s political philosophy. That philosophy illustrates what I described in my maiden speech on 23 February as ‘techno-urban fascism’ or ‘friendly fascism’. Miss Rand summarises her philosophy, which she calls objectivism, as follows:
The anti-altruistic philosophy of the central character of Atlas Shrugged, John Galt, who is an extraordinarily Fraserian figure, is a rejection of altruism and compassion. That is one of the reasons why we find that this Government has such an utter disregardfor issues such as unemployment. The view it takes of unemployment is to say, if 7 per cent of the work force is unemployed, that means that 93 per cent of the work force is employed. To the people who comprise that 93 per cent, it is not a problem. Of course, for the 7 per cent who are unemployed, it is a big problem. Seven per cent is only a small percentage compared with 93 per cent. So the Government says that it does not have to worry.
On the other hand, it says that inflation affects everybody. Because inflation affects almost 100 per cent of the population- perhaps the 7 per cent at the bottom do not have enough assets to be affected by it seriously, but it affects 93 per cent- it is really a very serious problem. From a political point of view, it is much more potent. I think the Government is absolutely right in electoral terms.
I believe that this country can no longer be regarded truly as a democracy. We really need a new word to describe Australia’s current rulers. It is extraordinary that Australia, the most urbanised country in the world, should have a ruling elite dominated by farmers, amongst whom graziers are the largest single interest group. We ought to adopt a new word for ‘rule by graziers’. Unfortunately, the Greeks did not have a word for ‘graziers’ because they were all small farmers. The best that I can suggest is the word ‘nomadocracy’ which means rule by pastoralists or the word ‘bucolocracy’ which means rule by herdsmen. I wrote about this matter some time ago to the honourable member for Werriwa (MrE. G. Whitlam). He replied:
We really need a word for rule by wealthy Western District school prefects on the superphosphate bounty. Bucolocracy’ has a nice flavour, though more appropriate, I think, to Anthony than to Fraser.
I believe there are very profound differences between the two major political parties in this country. Some critics, some commentators, feel that the parties have converged towards the centre and overlap a great deal. I believe such people are wrong and I am pleased to see that the honourable members occupying the crowded government benches opposite agree at least with that proposition.
The Australian Labor Party ought to be renamed the ‘Other Interest Party’. The main beneficiary of Labor voting will very often be non-voters- migrants, Aborigines, the sick, the poor and the ignorant- and not necessarily the voter and his or her children. The Labor Party symbol could well be a pair of field glasses, because the voter very often has to look some distance away from himself and his immediate self interest to see the beneficiaries of Labor voting.
The Liberal Party stands, as it has always stood, for the status quo, with some degree of upward social mobility- a preference for society as it is, or as it will be in the short term, choosing the known rather than the unknown. It is a ‘now ‘ oriented party which has a hope of some future economic opportunities for children. Very often Liberal voting is a reinforcement of an optimistic self image, since the people who vote Liberal sometimes have to say: ‘We are a cut above the others in this street. We vote Liberal’.
The Labor Party, on the other hand, stands essentially for change and social levelling. There is a preference for society as it should be or will be in the long term. The Labor Party prefers to take a chance on experimenting with the unknown rather than accepting the known with all its deficiencies. As a result the Labor Party is future’ oriented, with a hope of improved economic security ‘now’. Labor voting is a reinforcement of a sense of concern for others generally, but not excluding oneself. The Liberal Party is essentially hierarchical, paternalist and success oriented.
One of the most extraordinarily successful elements of the Liberal Party is the fact that it secures very many ‘deference’ votes. By the ‘deference ‘ voter I mean the person who feels a greater sense of identification with, and commitment for people whom he perceives to be above him in the social hierarchy rather than people he sees to be like himself. In a sense it is extraordinary the success with which the Liberal Party has persuaded the consumers of Australia that they ought not to identify themselves economically with the interests of other consumers like themselves but 644 REPRESENTATIVES 9 March 1978 Governor-General’s Speech that they ought to identify themselves with the Party of the manufacturers.
Perhaps one of the strangest aspects of all as I say, is that it has persuaded large urban populations of Australia that they ought to be prepared to vote for the party of the graziers. It is also extraordinary in many ways that the area of greatest success for the Liberal Party and its allies has been in securing the votes of women. I was very interested to hear this afternoon the deeply felt maiden speech of the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Burns). It was no accident that when he referred to trie people ‘s House of the Australian Parliament he described to its occupants perhaps five or six times, absolutely correctly, as ‘gentlemen’. While women comprise more than half the voting population of Australia- here we are- an all male Federal House. This is perhaps the most sexist Parliament in the world. The Liberal Party has been successful in persuading the women of Australia that they ought to vote for the Party which has never expressed any interest at all for the status of or the possibility of greater options for women in Australian society and to reject the Party which does invite women to consider that there may be options they may take other than the traditional role. It is obvious from the election results that most women are quite prepared to accept the Liberal Party position in relation to them. I think this state of affairs is bad, not just for the women of Australia but also for the future implications of Australian society.
The Liberal Party, of course, attracts very many traditional votes, but I suspect that one of the reasons why many people in this essentially apolitical society of ours prefer to vote for the Liberal Party is that the Liberal Party seems to be less like a political party than does the Labor Party. This occurs simply because the Liberal Party is more successful in reflecting existing community attitudes than the ALP which is concerned to effect political change and to bring about a different type of community.
The Liberals are supported very much because of what they are or what they are perceived to be, that is, ‘economic managers’, ‘responsible people’, ‘natural leaders’, ‘people who are high on the social hierarchy’, or what they stand for generally, that is to say, prosperity, growth and capital appreciation rather than for what they promise specifically at elections, which is usually not much. Because the Liberal Party does not promise very much at elections it is not harshly judged if it does not deliver the goods. On the other hand, the Labor Party, while it certainly attracts many traditional voters, is rejected by many apolitical voters because they dislike the fact that the Labor Party is committed to political changes which are in conflict with existing community attitudes.
-Order! The honourable member for Lalor will resume his seat. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports twice crossed between the honourable member speaking and the occupant of the Chair. I point out that that is not strictly according to Hoyle.
-S winging voters choose Labor because of the policies it stands for and its specific promises of reform. Labor promises major changes and it is judged very harshly if it does not succeed.
I am concerned because this Government seems to have no clear view of the future. It has failed to understand the changes in the domestic economy or the changes in the international economy. It has no forward vision at all. The Liberal party is concerned purely with an opportunistic view of society in the very short term.
In conclusion let me say that I too share the concern of other honourable members on this side about the proposal for extra security precautions in this House. Somebody said that the worst thing about going to prison was being forced into the company of criminals. It might be said that one of the worst things about being in a parliament house like this is that one is forced into the company of politicians and bureaucrats. I resent anything which acts as a filtering process to sanitize the electors, to keep them out of this House and to deprive them of access to their members. If this Parliament is to have a keen sense of reality and to identify itself with the community it needs to keep its doors open and not closed.
– It gives me great pleasure to be returned as the member for the federal division of La Trobe in the Thirtyfirst Parliament. In saying that I must confess to a twinge of sentimentality. At the recent redistribution I lost literally a third of my constituents.
– They are fine people.
– They are fine people, as the honourable member for Casey says. He would know better than anybody else as he has taken the vast majority of those constituents from my electorate. Those electors had a significant effect in returning him so comfortably in the neighbouring electorate of Casey. It was a great pleasure for me to represent those people for the first 2 years of my parliamentary career. I pay tribute to the wonderful friendships that I made in that capacity and simply say to those people who I once served in this Parliament that I know they are now in the good hands of the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) and the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon). I thank them for the support they gave me in recent years.
I am here because many hundreds of people believed in what the Liberal-National Country Party Government was offering to the electors of Australia. I am also here because those people applied themselves with dedication seldom seen before in any election campaign to support the cause for which I stood. I pay tribute to them. Of all the electorates in the country probably none experienced such a hotly and vigorously contested campaign as that conducted in La Trobe. 1 even recall on one occasion seeing the cheerful figure of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) taking part in the campaign in La Trobe on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. I thank him for doing so. I am sure it was beneficial to the numbers that I was able to poll on that day.
I have pleasure in supporting the AddressinReply so capably moved by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) and seconded by the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack) who, in their maiden speeches, made excellent contributions to this debate. The Governor-General’s Speech had certain special priorities. I would like briefly to mention them. Firstly, he referred to the need to build on the progress made in this country within the last 2 years, to defeat inflation and unemployment and restore full economic health to the country. He also talked of the need to promote vigorously the development of Australia’s resources and to enlarge external trade with other countries. He spoke of the need to maintain the policies which have halted the excessive growth in government bureaucracy and expenditure and to continue the pursuit of greater efficiency and responsiveness by the public sector. He referred to the need to revitalise our federal system by co-operating with State and local governments and giving them a greater measure of financial assistance.
I mention the overwhelming support that exists within the electorate of La Trobe by the representatives of local government who put so much stress on the need for a continuation of the federalism policy that the Fraser Government introduced which was a complete reversal of the more centralised approach to government administration that had been one of the hallmarks of the previous Labor Government. I look forward within the term of this Parliament to the time when we will be able to honour the commitment to increase the revenue sharing arrangements whereby local government will have access to no less than 2 per cent of personal income tax revenues. This most dramatic policy has the most far-reaching implications for people at the local government level. In an electorate like La Trobe, which has many and diverse demands on local government, one realises the tremendously heartening policy that the Fraser Government has introduced.
The Governor-General also spoke of the need to provide effective assistance to the disadvantaged within the community in ways that promote their independence and their self-respect. He talked of the need to protect and enhance the rights and the civil liberties of every Australian. Finally he spoke of the right to secure the defence of this country and to act as a positive and responsible force for world peace. I think it was an excellent statement by the Governor-General. I look to the term of this Parliament to achieve so many steps along the way to make what I refer to as a vision for this country into a reality. 1 want to turn in the course of my remarks tonight to the area of manufacturing industry within Australia. Australian industry is well aware that we are entering a vastly different period from that of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a period in which stability and a good degree of economic certainty still existed as influences on business and investment decisions. Decisions of this nature are so critical if we are to bring about the necessary creation of more jobs, and provide more opportunities for people. Those who have a vision for Australia realise that our manufacturing industries cannot expect to keep looking to the Government’s spending habits for their support. It is obvious and in fact vital that the Government continues to exercise restraint in its expenditure programs. So long as we have governments producing national budgets in which they spend literally thousands of millions of dollars more than they are taking in revenue, a highly inflationary situation will persist. It is quite unrealistic to suggest that that sort of conduct can continue. It needs to be understood that it will compromise the futures, ambitions and possibilities of every person in the country.
Government spending has had to be reined in. It had become excessive and bloated. It placed an undue strain upon our resources. It decreased productivity and it added to inflation and interest rates. Investors must be prepared to take advantages of whatever share of the market can be won for Australian manufacturers. I believe it is essential that serious discussions on industry policy should be developed if we are to resolve the problems and evolve an industry policy for the future which will be capable of being implemented successfully on a national basis. In this regard, the work that has been conducted in the industry advisory councils has been of the first order. I have had the pleasure of serving on the Heavy Engineering Advisory Council. Some of the discussions that have taken place around the table have been of the greatest importance. We are about to commence some work within that advisory council which I think will be of tremendous value to government. This is emerging from an absolutely vital and critical part of Australian industry- the heavy engineering sector.
Although manufacturing dates back to early colonial times, the bulk of present manufacturing industry was developed during and after the Second World War. Government assistance during the 1950s and 1960s greatly assisted this development. During the 1950s, the Government imposed import licensing for balance of payment purposes. This greatly assisted industry, particularly import replacement industries. In the 1960s, industry benefited from Government policies aimed at providing employment opportunities for a considerably expanded work force. However, in the latter half of the 1960s, a number of events took place which were to have a profound impact on Australian manufacturing industry. One of the first of these was the opening up and development of vast mineral project. The dramatic increase in Australia’s export revenue which followed the opening up of these resources removed the long-standing uncertainty and concern about our balance of payments. The development of mineral deposits in the mid-1960s placed great pressure on the scarce resources of labour and capital with the price of each responding to the increased demand.
The increase in export receipts from mineral exports led to a changed balance of payments aspect. The increase in reserves led to demands that the Australian domestic market should be made more open to the world and that imports should be consciously increased. People began to question the levels of protection accorded manufacturing industry, arguing that this protection allowed manufacturers to bid up the prices for our scarce resources and thus increase the costs of Australia’s export industries. The phrase ‘misallocation of resources’ became fashionable, the argument being advanced that the high level of protection given our manufacturing industry was resulting in a serious misallocation of resources within Australia. Consequently, the growth rate was lower than it otherwise would have been. The government of the day recognised the desirability of having the Tariff Board review the tariff levels of products which had not been looked at for some time. Thus the tariff review program for all industries came into being and is still proceeding.
Since the beginning of the tariff review in 1971, the average tariff on manufactured items has fallen from 23 per cent to 1 7 percent. During the same period a very high level of inflation, influenced largely by the rise in wage costs, also confronted manufacturing industry. Average weekly earnings increased from $79.80 a week in 1970 to $96.70 in 1972 and $133.50 in 1974. The 1976 average weekly wage was $180.50 a week and today it is over $200 a week. That is an increase of 150 per cent over these years. In this period female earnings also rose at a rate faster than male earnings, reflecting the implementation of equal pay for women. These increases greatly exceeded comparable increases incurred by our trading partners and so led to the competitiveness of Australian manufacturing industry being compromised. This decline in competitiveness was a prime reason for the devaluation in November of 1 976. That devaluation impact has been affected to some extent by subsequent revaluations and price rises for imported raw materials. The last devaluation eased the situation on the domestic market for Australian manufacturers and also helped their access to export markets.
Another influence is the change in community attitudes towards general working conditions and pollution controls. All these pressures have resulted in higher costs which in many cases have added to the pressures arising from increased import competition. The increased competition from imports is not derived just from internal changes; it is derived also from changes occurring outside Australia. The changes in the international monetary and trading systems which have taken place over the last few years are some of the issues affecting Australia’s industry structure, although Australia’s move to a more flexible exchange rate offset to some extent the problems we faced in the previous system. One aspect which is being looked at closely is the influence of flexible exchange rates on the effectiveness of the tariff. Recent experience has shown that changes in the exchange rate can be more significant than tariff changes. Therefore, the Government will continue to maintain a close watch on the implications of movements in the exchange rate.
The recent world recession has emphasised the interdependence of the economies of various countries. A recession in one country has been transmitted to others. As domestic demand falls or export markets dry up, industries in such countries seek other export markets. This phenomenon was a contributing factor to the import surge we have experienced over the last few years. Increases in imports of manufactured commodities have a more marked impact on the structure of Australian industry than the same volume of imports would have on the industry structure of other developed countries. This is mainly because of the small size of the Australian domestic market.
A further factor in this surge has been the continued development of technically advanced industries in developing countries. Such countries have set themselves as an objective the achievement of 25 per cent of the world’s industrial production by the year 2000. This contrasts with their present contribution of less than 7 per cent. The continued pressure of industrialisation in developing countries and their consequent requests for more liberalised access to the Australian market will be a major influence on Australia’s future industry structure. For instance, our imports of textiles, clothing, apparel and footwear from countries in the Association of South East Asian Nations has multiplied nearly 18 times in the past six years to a current rate of $35m per annum. It is not always understood that Australia is one of the largest importers per capita in the world of textiles and clothing from developing nations. We are ahead of the European Economic Community, Canada, the United States of America and Japan. If these developed nations further restrict access to these imports from the developing countries, Australia cannot become a market of last resort. Our economy just is not big enough to absorb the surpluses created.
Despite these problems, manufacturing industry is still playing an important part in the Australian economy. In particular, it accounts for about a quarter of national production and contributes about one-fifth of total exports. In addition, it employs 22 per cent of the total work force, comprising over one and a quarter million people of whom one-third were born overseas. The dramatic turn in the fortunes of manufacturing industry since 1974 can be illustrated clearly by a table I have on employment and production statistics. Employment fell by 9 per cent between May 1974 and August 1975. It rose by 1.7 per cent to a million and a quarter people in November 1976. Yet production fell by 13 per cent from early 1974 to mid- 1975. It has since picked up to be about 6 per cent below the early 1974 levels. These figures pose an interesting question. Industrial production is now only 5 per cent below 1974 peak production levels whereas employment is 7 per cent lower than for the same period. So production is recovering at a faster rate than employment. This is a situation which exists in many developed countries. It is becoming a major discussion item between those countries.
A frequent response to the employment problem is to say: Let the tertiary sector absorb those unemployed in the manufacturing sector. But steady growth of employment opportunities in the tertiary sector is by no means assured, at least in the short term. For one thing, the tertiary sector covers a wide range of diverse economic activities, each facing different pressures. Furthermore, wage costs in the labour intensive tertiary industries such as tourism, accommodation and retailing are affecting growth possibilities. In other areas new technologies are being applied which are affecting job opportunities. To provide some perspective I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a short table which outlines the current pattern of employment in the tertiary industries.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the House. There is a case for specific policies to be developed and applied when it is apparent that across-the-board policies are inadequate to handle the problems of a particular industry which, for one reason or another, must be maintained. An example of this is in the motor vehicle plan which is now in operation. The issues that I have raised in these few remarks highlight the complex and difficult nature of the problems which have to be faced in understanding the future of Australian manufacturing industry. Australia is not a series of isolated groups and governments- Federal,
State and local. The primary, manufacturing, mining and tertiary sectors are all involved with each other. The prosperity of one group is important to the prosperity of others. This is an interdependent society and all sectors must work together in the economy we seek. I emphasise that a successful industry policy can come about only through discussions between all interested bodies- governments and Oppositions, both Federal and State, industrialists, unions and consumers. It will not come out of a single body or person alone. Consensus and a will to work are necessary.
– I rejoin this Address-in-Reply debate to make some comments flowing from statements which were made in the House earlier today by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when the House debated once again the issue of what may now be called the Facom affair. I was concerned at several levels. The first level relates to the status and the nature of a ministerial statement. Under the Westminster system all honourable members are bound to accept the truth and veracity of a statement made by a Minister of the Crown to the House. Therefore, when a Minister chooses to make such a statement he has to accept a personal responsibility for the detail of that statement and for its accuracy. An extraordinary sort of argument was developed by the Prime Minister in this House today when he suggested -
-Order! The Standing Orders do not provide for resuscitating a debate held on the same day. If I might give the honourable member a lead from the Chair, he is perfectly entitled to debate the issue; what he cannot do is to refer to a debate that occurred this morning.
– If I might make my remarks more general, it is an extraordinary argument, as a matter of general principle, for any Minister to produce a ministerial statement to the House and then to suggest that if honourable members are not satisfied with the veracity or the accuracy of that document, because the Minister concerned has gone through the exercise of handing the document over to some public servants, he should be able to say: ‘Although all these matters are within my control and within my knowledge, if you dispute any aspect of their accuracy then of course you are attacking the Public Service’. That, of course, is a standard which is completely unacceptable in any parliament which purports to operate under the Westminster system. Having examined the ministerial statement made by the Prime Minister I am bound to say that such statements as have been delivered to the Parliament by the Prime Minister, when they are examined in terms of other available information, simply do not hold water in a number of serious regards.
I want to reiterate quickly the claims made by the Prime Minister in his ministerial statement. I think it fair comment to say- I doubt whether any honourable member opposite would disagree with me- that the nub of the Prime Minister’s approach to this matter rests with the view that the integrity of the tendering system had been put in jeopardy by the actions of Mr Harragan. That was, in fact, the substance and the nub of the Prime Minister’s approach. In what has to be regarded as a highly personalised statement he referred to a whole number of occasions when he was concerned about that aspect of the matter.
-Order! I am sorry to be difficult again, but the honourable member is debating the amendments proposed by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). For that reason he has only 15 minutes and not 20 minutes in the debate. I shall use my discretion from the Chair to allow the honourable member a couple of minutes to finish the remarks he is currently making. I think that is fair. But strictly, the honourable member is meant to be debating the proposed amendment, a list of points on which no doubt is in front of him.
- Sir, I shall relate my remarks to the amendment.
– I would be pleased if you would.
– The proposed amendment deals with the legislative program outlined by the Governor-General’s Speech. It deals with a whole range of issues, among which is the question of civil liberties by legislative enactment within the power of the Australian Government. One person’s civil liberties are involved in this matter, namely, those of Mr Harragan. He has been the subject of a great deal of discussion in this Parliament. I believe there are views that ought to be put in this Parliament, which have not been put, which concern that aspect of the matter. I shall ultimately relate my comments to that.
The issue is simple. As I said, the Prime Minister had one thought running through a whole series of statements. It was simply that he was concerned about Mr Harragan’s position. So concerned was he that he referred the matter to what must be regarded as one of the most high powered, prestigious committees of public servants that has ever been assembled in this Commonwealth. The members made recommendations to the Prime Minister in which they said that they could find no impropriety in respect of Mr Harragan which would upset the tendering system. That was their decision. I would have thought that it was then open to the Government or the Cabinet to accept or reject that proposal. The Prime Minister said that he was still concerned. He was so concerned that the matter was subsequently the subject of discussion at three separate Cabinet meetings. We have the extraordinary situation where at the Cabinet meeting there was a recommendation from this illustrious body of public servants, but the Cabinet did not make any decision.
It was open to the Cabinet to say: ‘We accept the findings of this prestigious group of men’. It was open to the Cabinet to say: ‘No. Whatever their finding is we have to take a view which might be unfortunate for Mr Harragan and which in the ultimate might affect his reputation and standing. But that is what we are going to do’. That course was open to Cabinet. But it did not take that stand until the Prime Minister was contacted, not by any public servant but by a competitor who had a special business interest in this tender and who, it was admitted, had a personal relationship with the Prime Minister. This worries me and honourable members opposite must look at this matter. The Parliament was told by the Prime Minister in his statement- not in some statement by a public servant- that what was concerning him was this position into which Mr Harragan had got himself. The Prime Minister has been very reluctant to table the documents. I do not wonder why, because the more one sees of the documents that are in the file the more the position of the Prime Minister is put in jeopardy. I ask the House to compare the statements made by the Prime Minister about Mr Harragan ‘s integrity with what is set out in a telex which has come into my possession and was directed from the Prime Minister’s office-
– I wonder who leaked that?
– That is your problem. If I am quoting from a document that is alleged to be inaccurate, the matter can very simply be resolved by the Prime Minister putting all the documents on the table, but he will not do that. This telex was directed from the Prime Minister to Mr Cobayashi who is the President of Fugitsu Ltd, the senior parent company of Facom Australia Ltd. It is in response to a telex which was received on 10 February by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. This is what concerns me. In the telex the Prime Minister says:
I have noted that your company is concerned that the Government’s decision in this matter could be interpreted in some way as a reflection upon the company. I assure you unreservedly that this is not the case, nor is there any reason whatever to reflect upon the personal integrity of Mr Harragan.
Time will not permit me to read the whole of the document into Hansard but, in the sixth paragraph, he states:
The situation created by Mr Harragan ‘s employment by Facom has also to be taken into account. As I have already stated, Mr Harragan ‘s personal integrity is not under question.
– How about reading it in full?
– If honourable members or the Prime Minister believe there is a misrepresentation, let the Prime Minister put all the documents on the table. The one thing the Prime Minister is not entitled to do is to come to this House and present a ministerial statement which is not supported by the facts and is not supported by the view that the Prime Minister subsequently put to the parent company of Facom. What an extraordinary situation. What a dubious exercise in mendacity. There is one story for this Parliament and the people of Australia; and the Prime Minister refuses to make the documents available. But when some of the documents become available- and they have had to be prised out one by one- it is perfectly clear that the Prime Minister is saying something completely different from the parent company. Is Mr Harragan ‘s integrity involved or not? Were all the pious sentiments that we heard from the Prime Minister and some of his back bench supporters just the view that was to be expressed to the Parliament by the Prime Minister irrespective of what damage it did to Mr Harragan while the Prime Minister was saying to the parent company ‘Well, look, really it is not like that at all’? At the same time he was saying that he was in the interesting situation of not making any of the documents available to the Parliament. What is the extent of the personal relationship between the head of IBM Australia Limited and the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister in his statement says: ‘Well, I only ever had one discussion . . .’ -
– It is no wonder you left Victoria.
– I can understand that honourable members opposite do not like being told about the mendacity of their leader because they have to follow him blindly.
– Which leader are you talking about?
– It is very simple. This is an exercise in the use of the English language, and I can understand that the honourable gentleman might have some difficulty in that respect. The Prime Minister does claim to have some educational capacity. I put this simple question: Although he has told the House in his statement that he had only one discussion with the head of IBM, how is it that in his letter to that same gentlemen he says: ‘I refer to your letter of 2 December 1977 and to our subsequent discussions’. The plural ‘discussions’, is used. As I said when I commenced my speech, a statement made to the Parliament by any Minister of the Crown is a very important document. It has to be accurate and, above all, it has to be truthful. The Prime Minister has refused to make the full facts available to the Opposition or to the Parliament. He has refused to make all the documents available. But such documents as are available indicate that in critical areas the Prime Minister has greviously misled this House. Mr Deputy Speaker, it would be a serious matter for any member of this Parliament to suggest that the Prime Minister has lied to the Parliament.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports would have to withdraw if, by inference, he says that the -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, with great respect, you are slightly overanxious. As I said, I am certain you would agree that it would be a serious matter indeed for any member of this House to suggest that the Prime Minister had lied to the Parliament.
– I accept the explanation.
– All I am suggesting, sir, is that if one looks at these documents -
– Show us the documents.
– I am perfectly happy to make them available to the honourable gentleman. I suggest that the honourable member who disgraced himself today on the question of private tenders ought to talk to the Liberal Party branch to which he belongs and which has been trading in tenders with Liberal branch supporters for years. I suggest he cleans up his own State and his own party before he comes into this Parliament and makes claims such as he made today.
I finish on this point: The fact of the matter is that there is a grave discrepancy between a carefully prepared ministerial statement made by the Prime Minister to the House and the facts of the situation as they emerge certainly in one telex that has gone from the Prime Minister to the head of the parent company that subsequently lost a tender of considerable value. That is not a satisfactory standard. The whole situation is coming closer to being one of huge public scandal. There is a stench of corruption around this whole matter. It can be cleaned up only by all the documents being tabled. I suggest on behalf of all honourable members who are concerned to ensure that the integrity of ministerial statements is preserved that in the interests and the integrity of this Parliament the Prime Minister ought to table all the documents as soon as practicable.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Macphee) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr Macphee) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn
-There are several matters to which I wish to refer. Last night our esteemed colleague the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) had a few words to say about me. In referring to me I think he used the term ‘old geriatric’ or ‘geriatric old ‘.
– That is tautology.
– I have no objection to the honourable member for Bendigo using either term. I do not care what he says but I do wish he would use the English language correctly with some respect for accuracy in using it. Tautological expressions might be all right when he is trying to describe a political situation to his advantage, but when he is describing me I ask him at least to attempt to use the English language correctly, although I do not expect him to be accurate.
I want to refer to a matter which was raised by my honourable friend from Bonython (Dr Blewett) last Thursday night. It concerns the events of 1 1 November 1975. It might be useful if I place on the record the facts as one of the victims of that situation saw them at that time. First of all, how was the Governor-General treated by the Cabinet of which I was a member? He was always treated with the utmost courtesy and respect for his rank, office and responsibilities. On no single instance can I recall the Cabinet making an announcement of a decision which required the Governor-General’s signature before he had signed. There was never any suggestion in any way that we would pre-empt his right to say yea or nay to matters to which he had to put his signature. On every occasion when the Executive Council met, when I and my colleagues went out to Government House to meet him, he was treated with great respect and friendliness. I always found him to be completely affable on those occasions. I want to put it on record that he was treated with absolute and unconditional respect from the moment he took up his appointment. My objection to his behaviour is to the way in which he treated every one of us on the day he dismissed the Australian Labor Party Government. Let us look at the position on 1 1 November 1975. In the first place, the Senate had before it for discussion the Budget. It had not made a decision. There was no way of knowing whether the Senate would make a positive or a negative decision. It had not made a decision. The country was still running. We had not run out of money. The necessary money to run the country for another three weeks until 30 November was in the bin, to use a colloquialism. There was no suggestion that we were breaching any law or any procedure.
– This sounds like tedious repetition tome.
– I have said often here and I am fortified in my belief that, when one is dealing with slow learners, one has to be completely repetitive. The facts were that the Senate’s position had not been resolved, the money supply had not run out and the Governor-General had not discussed the matter with the then Government. What should he have done? The Governor-General is the President of the Executive Council. Under Labor’s system all the Ministers are members of the Executive Council and the Governor-General works on the advice of his Ministers. Once he had become aware of the great difficulties that might have arisen from the situation he should have consulted the Executive Council by convening a full meeting of it. He did not do that.
– Would you have sacked him?
-The honourable member for Dundas says that we would have sacked him. How could we have done that? He should have consulted us. We should have placed the options before him and he should have placed the options before us. 1 take strong objection to the Governor-General’s behaviour. Without any indication, and without any subsequent communication to us, he threw us aside as if we were dirty old clothes. I believe that his action was dishonourable, discourteous and irresponsible. It sowed the seeds of the destruction of the parliamentary system. The right honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), now the Prime Minister, when he took office against the vote of confidence in the House, acted in treason against the parliamentary system. All those on that side who supported him are guilty of that offence.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to express my regret to you for remarks I made last night. It is not permissible for a private member or anybody in this House to question whom you call. My remarks last night were a reflection on the Chair and I apologise for them. To my mind, the adjournment debate should be used by the private members to question the actions of the Executive. It is a pity that our Standing Orders do not insist that the members of the Government are here to answer complaints which private members bring to the attention of the Government.
– Where are they?
– It is not in the Standing Orders. Unfortunately, this House does not have those rules. This evening I wish to discuss what the Government has done to help the young unemployed. It is with very deep regret that I record that the former government did not even recognise that they existed. In my electorate I have four Community Youth Support schemes in operation and I am deeply grateful to the chairman, Mr Murray Gill, for what he has done to combine all four schemes to help the young unemployed. The Berwick Youth Employment Project is run by Mr Michael Peling and Miss Michelle Gibson. During 1977 300 young people registered as unemployed. They were able to find jobs for 120 of them, which is not a bad effort. The second scheme, known as the Dandenong Resources Co-operative, run by the Reverend MacDonald, takes the waste from industry, reconstitutes it and sells it. Half of those who were registered as unemployed had found full employment.
The third Community Youth Support scheme, the Dandenong Youth Employment project, for office procedures and job opportunities, is run by Councillor Jan Wilson. This project is designed to help girls to find employment in industry. Out of the 180 girls training with the project 60 have found employment through that organisation and the rest through the Commonwealth Employment Service. A number are still in training. The fourth scheme, the Doveton Youth Unemployment Centre at Grassmere, run by Mr Geoff Warren, has had 52 members being trained, and 25 of them have found full employment. It is a matter for regret that the funds for this project run out on 15 March. This morning I asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) to extend their finances so that they may be funded until the end of June. In a letter the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said to me:
Over 100,000 people were assisted under these schemes in 1976-77, and given our commitment that funds will not be a limiting factor this financial year, we expect many more to be assisted in 1977-78.
I feel that the time has arrived when we should start a proper youth community service cadet scheme for the young unemployed who can serve the community here and then, having been trained, can serve the community abroad. I am sorry to see that the trade union movement seems to want to obstruct young people under 1 8 years of age taking jobs unless they are on an apprenticeship. Is that fair? Young people going out and getting job experience is important but what happens about workers compensation if they are injured? In all, I think that the young people of this nation are entitled to a full and comprehensive government scheme which will assist them to find employment. I honestly believe that it is in the national interest that we should assist them to find fulfilment in life by training them in the community youth service and then by allowing them to assist this nation in community service abroad. In all, I consider that the Community Youth Support scheme arranged by this Government has done a great deal to help the nation, and I am deeply grateful for what the Government has done for the young people.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, this is the first chance that I have had to congratulate you on your appointment to your high and responsible position. We will certainly miss you from the Joint Committee on Public Works where your capacity and wisdom were always appreciated. I think that you will be the equal of any Deputy Speaker that this House has had. My main reason for rising tonight is to raise a matter in which I believe a great injustice has been perpetrated on one of my constituents. It is an immigration matter. I apologise for not informing the Minister for Immigration and
Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), for whom I have a great respect, that I would be raising this matter so that he could be present in the chamber, but I was not sure that I would receive the call.
The man concerned, Mr Alfred Goff, of 18 Elizabeth Street, Argenton, is a very worthy man of the highest character. He and his wife migrated from England about 1 5 years ago. He is 69 years of age. As an illustration of his patriotism I point out that just before he left England his two sons were due to be called up for national service. He saw to it that they remained behind and fulfilled their duty to the British Government. They carried out their duties in the armed forces in Britain as was required of them at the time. Mr Goff became widowed. For some years he worked for Sulphide Corporation Pty Ltd at Argenton. He receives a pension from his former employer. He also receives an age pension and he has some money in the bank. He lives alone in a house. He is now retired.
His sister who lives in Scotland wishes to come to Australia to join him. She is 67 years of age. They are in what one might call the evening of their lives. She is in excellent health. Mr Goff signed the necessary papers for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, pointing out that he would provide her with shelter and any means of sustenance should it be required. But the Department’s policy- under the control of Mr MacKellar- stated in reply to applications that I made that Miss Goff was not eligible within the Government’s guidelines because she did not have an independent income. But Miss Goff has private means. She receives the British age pension. I suggest that whilst she is not eligible under the family reunion provisions of the Government’s immigration scheme, she should be eligible under the retirement provisions. In correspondence to me the Department stated:
Provisions exist for the entry of persons for retirement purposes but it is a firm requirement that they should be selfsupporting without recourse to social welfare payments.
Here is a highly respected woman who wants to join her widowed brother in Australia. They are both of impeccable character but because she is not rich she is prevented from migrating to Australia under the Government’s guidelines. I have learnt since this case came to my notice that people from Canada who want to migrate here in similar circumstances, who have no independent means and are not wealthy, have obtained money temporarily from a sponsor- a relative or someone else- and then have been able to show the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that they have independent means. The people whose case I am presenting are too honourable to do anything like that. But that is one way of subverting the Government’s provisions.
The Minister already has reviewed this case for me and I hope that he will review again this case of Miss Goff who wants to join her widowed brother in Australia. I believe this case screams for mercy. It screams for further consideration so that these two people who are devoted to each other- they are brother and sister- may spend the twilight of their lives in happiness in Australia. I hope the Government’s provisions will be widened not only to overcome the anomaly and injustice that exists now but also to overcome any future problems.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I wish to raise a matter which I view with the greatest concern. On 22 February in this House the Opposition raised the subject of unemployment as a matter of public importance. In the debate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) in attempting to pillory the Fraser Government for the present level of unemployment, said:
A survey carried out by the Victorian Mental Health Association found that in Dandenong suicides were 12 times the area average amongst the unemployed, and seven times greater in Ballarat
The clear implication of the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley was that this was a situation that had arisen during the period in office of the present Government and that this Government was responsible for the suicide rate. What the Leader of the Opposition omitted to say was that the survey to which he referred was carried out in 1 97 1 , more than six years ago. This was a time when employment in Ballarat was at a peak and unemployment was at a near record low.
The gentleman also omitted to mention several other facts, including that the survey made specific mention that Ballarat contains a psychiatric and mental hospital with about 1,000 beds and that most of the attempted suicides in this institution would comprise people classified in the unemployed category, thereby, of course, heavily loading the incidence in this category. This is not the first time that the Labor Party has used this survey in a deliberately distorted and vicious manner. The Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament, Mr Wilkes, tried it on in September last year. He was promptly put straight by the Assistant Minister for Health, Mr Jona, and the State member for Ballarat North, Mr Tom Evans.
The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) made the same allegation in a debate in this House on 6 October last. Labor spokesmen know they are indeed playing lightly with the truth when they make these wild assertions. They know that the survey is six years old and they know that the figures must be heavily qualified. They know that they cannot be applied with any validity whatsoever to the present situation. They ought to know that surveys such as that in any case do not demonstrate any causal relationship. More importantly, they also ought to know that such untrue wild assertions do great hurt to those who are unemployed. They ought to know that such assertions arouse deep anger amongst fair and reasonable people. The economic and social problems facing unemployed persons are great. They must be faced realistically and compassionately.
The Opposition does the unemployed a great disservice by attempting to make the unemployed political cannon fodder. That reflects on the integrity of the Opposition. It reflects particularly on the integrity of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). However, that integrity has been shot to ribbons in recent days. The honourable member for Oxley is having a bad time of it. His integrity is at present in great question. His parliamentary performance as Leader of the Opposition has been lamentable, and already there are whisperings in the Labor corridors about how long he is going to last as Leader of the Labor party. The people of Ballarat particularly the unemployed, will have no truck with the Leader of the Opposition playing with the truth, as he has done over the past two weeks. His assertion, to which I have referred tonight, has disgusted my electorate and I have no doubt that the electorate at large feels the same.
-This evening Mr Moyes of IBM Australia Ltd issued a statement in which he again canvassed a number of issues which have been the subject of debate and questioning in this Parliament. The difficulty in which the Parliament finds itself is that despite repeated requests to the Government to disclose all information relating to the tenders called for the computer required by the Bureau of Statistics we cannot get that information tabled. The Parliament is placed in the rather ridiculous and stupid situation of getting information dribbled out by people who are directly concerned with the tendering, whether they be from Facom Australia Ltd, IBM or any of the other tenderers. It should be made clear in the public interest that the Parliament is entitled to know what happened but is not able to get the information because the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will not disclose that information. In the public interest, the Opposition is very concerned as to why the information has not been disclosed.
Mr Moyes has entered the public debate by malting a statement. For the sake of the record, and in the public interest, let me correct some of the matters that he has mentioned. In this evening’s statement Mr Moyes refers to the time when he was a public servant and the question of computer requirements arose. On that basis he admits, and I think we have all assumed it, that he was a government employee until 1953. He states that he left the Public Service in 1953 to join IBM. I think that that too was known but Mr Moyes has now acknowledged it. He then states, obviously making an indirect reference to Mr Harragan, who has been the subject of quite an attack in the Parliament, allegedly on the basis of impropriety -
– By your Leader.
– Shut up.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Reid to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
-The point Mr Moyes makes in his statement is this:
I was neither a recommender nor a decision maker nor a member of the working team specifically related to the project . . .
I interpose that the project was the purchase of IBM equipment. Mr Moyes makes the point that he had nothing to do with it. What Mr Moyes should tell the public is that his father-in-law was the head of the department at the time. Further, it is on record that his father-in-law’s recommendation was against the advice of the Tender Board. That should be made quite clear when honourable members talk about Mr Harragan being guilty of impropriety. Mr Moyes said that he was neither a recommender nor a decision maker nor a member of the working team but he could have added: ‘But I was a relative by marriage’.
I come now to the other point. Both Facom and IBM agree that when they received the letter on 18 January saying that tenders would be extended until 13 February, they were ready, willing and able to meet that deadline. Both of them have said that they could meet the deadline. In fact, Facom said that it had flown its representative especially from Japan on the ninth, and again Mr Moyes confirms that when he states that they were surprised when there were no tenders. This came as a complete surprise to IBM on 8 or 9 February.
What was the reason for the Government suddenly abandoning the situation? It was not, as is now suggested by Mr Moyes, that any special privilege was going to be extended to IBM. That is contrary to the suggestion made by the Prime Minister in his statement. Facom was quite prepared to go along with that situation. We come to the final point. The Prime Minister has placed great stress on the fact that he had only one discussion with Mr Moyes. Mr Moyes’ statement this evening says that it was a telephone discussion some time before Christmas. The statement of the Prime Minister shows clearly that Mr Moyes discussed the matter with government officials on 22 December, and that he himself discussed it with Mr Moyes on the same day. Are we to assume that Mr Moyes after leaving the government officials, telephoned the Prime Minister? I think not. I think there would have been more than one discussion. It is on that basis that on 22 December Mr Moyes knew ahead of everybody else that fresh tenders would not be called. He was told that by the Prime Minister on that date. For these reasons the Opposition suggests that the full facts should be disclosed, and that when Mr Moyes makes any other statement he should disclose the full information to the public.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is it not a rule of the House that members of the front bench do not participate in the Adjournment Debate? Other members have very little chance to express their point of view at any other time.
– There is no substance to the point of order.
Honourable members interjecting-
-The House will come to order. I inform the honourable member for Franklin that not only is there no substance to the point of order but also that he took the point of order in a seat other than his own.
– I thought that we had finished with the debate on computers this morning but some people still want to drag it on. Nevertheless, I want to mention a great Australian event that is far more important in my opinion than the debate on computers. I am pleased that my very good friend the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom), the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development within whose portfolio this matter falls, is in the House tonight.
I appreciate his presence in the chamber. The matter about which I wish to speak concerns a great Australian sporting event.
– The Melbourne Cup.
– It is not the Melbourne Cup. It is something more important than that. Many thousands of Australian people would recognise the name Sir Donald Campbell and many people would recognise the achievements of that great personality. He spent most of his life making attempts on world speed records. Many Australians will remember that he came to Australia some years ago and attempted to break a world speed record using Lake Eyre in South Australia. Eventually and unfortunately his desire to break the world water speed record took his life. The speed attempts of Sir Donald Campbell over the years cost millions of dollars and required a small army of workers. When he was in Australia for his record attempt on Lake Eyre he received considerable assistance from the Australian Government. As a result of the great work that he did and his desire to break this speed record he was honoured by the British Government with a knighthood in recognition of his services.
It is not Donald Campbell about whom I want to talk tonight. I want to talk about a great Australian who, with a far smaller budget, achieved in Australia on 20 November last what Donald Campbell could not achieve over all those years. I speak of a fine Australian by the name of Ken Warby. He was born in Australia and is residing in Sydney. As I have said, on 20 November last he broke the world water speed record. Unfortunately, he has received very little recognition for it in the Press or from the Australian people in general. I think it is disgusting. Ken Warby in his boat named the Spirit of Australia, built in the backyard of his Sydney home on a limited budget, with virtually no help, broke the world water speed record by achieving on a two-way run a speed of 288.175 miles per hour. On one of the runs that boat achieved a speed of 302 miles per hour. Ken Warby has done this on his own initiative with a limited budget. He has achieved a great record for Australia. He deserves far more publicity than he has had.
His boat was fitted with a second-hand jet motor out of a worn-out Royal Australian Air Force Neptune aircraft. The whole thing was done in Australia. The early speed attempts were carried out on Munmorah Lake which is just north of Sydney and, finally, in November, he broke that record on Blowering Dam at Tumut. That was a magnificent achievement and worthy of far greater recognition by the people and Government of Australia; certainly it is worth greater publicity than Mr Warby has had. As an Australian citizen and as a member of the Federal Parliament I feel embarrassed and certainly on my own behalf I thank Warby very much for his magnificent achievement. I hope that in the near future the Australian people and the Australian Goverment will recognise him for what he has done.
-In the short time available tonight I raise a matter which is of some concern to me and to a number of people in my electorate. In Pentridge Gaol in Melbourne at the moment there are two Cape coloured South Africans named La Fleur. They are being held for deportation. They have not received the sort of publicity which would normally go with this type of deportation because at all times they have refused to act in any way which would embarrass the Australian Government. They are substantially accepted in the Geelong community and they have contributed as well as any other citizen. The father, Arthur La Fleur, has been in Australia for some two years now. He was first arrested for deportation some time in September of last year. He was subsequently released about 10 days before the last election after having been held for seven weeks at Midway Hostel. Deportation orders were subsequently confirmed by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). I mentioned to the Minister that I intended to raise this matter tonight.
I make the point that these two South Africans are being condemned, by their deportation to South Africa, to a second-class citizenship existence. They are of that section of the community which, at one time, was accepted in South Africa as not being coloured but subsequently, as the laws were tightened up, they were declared to be coloured. They have easily obtained and maintained employment. They are obviously respected by their employers. They were given back their jobs even though the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs forced them to take seven weeks ‘ leave. The union of which they are members has made representations to the Minister on their behalf as have a large number of people in the Geelong area who know them.
I raise this matter because I think the Government might show some compassion. I suggest that we would not send people back to some countries because of the station to which they were returning and under which they would have to live. To deport to South Africa coloured people who are good citizens and against whom this country has nothing, other than that they came here in the only way possible- under a tourist visa- and then sought to stay, is a crime. But if one is sufficiently desperate that is the only means available. While it is wrong, people who make these sorts of decisions sometimes have to decide whether they will undertake that sort of action in order to come to Australia or whether they will merely give up. We congratulate and accept with open arms people who leave countries such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned till Tuesday next at 2. 1 5 p.m.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the answer provided by me to his question on notice No. 1203. Hansard, 8 November 1 977, pages 3 1 64-5.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
What provision is there under the NEAT scheme or other schemes for the training of the handicapped in rehabilitation centres or sheltered workshops.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Special provisions exist under NEAT for the training of handicapped persons, particularly young people, in both training institutions and on the job. While undertaking formal training arranged by my Department under the NEAT System, handicapped people are eligible for normal NEAT allowances. Employers providing on-the-job training for handicapped young people under NEAT are eligible for a special subsidy of up to 85 per cent of the Male Adult Average Award Wage ( MAAAW) for 6 weeks of training with up to 40 weeks being provided at the subsidy rate of 40 per cent of MAAAW for those aged 1 8-20 and 33 W per cent for those under 1 8. These subsidy rates are now under review. There is also provision under NEAT for employers who take on handicapped people to be assisted with the costs of any modifications to plant and equipment which may be necessary for the person to work in the establishment.
The training of the handicapped in rehabilitation centres or sheltered workshops is however the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Social Security. People who are in receipt of a pension or benefit from the Department of Social Security may be eligible for assistance from these sources. There is continuing liaison between my Department and the Department of Social Security to minimise overlap in these areas. I refer you to the Minister for Social Security if you want a more detailed reply on the facilities available through rehabilitation centres and sheltered workshops.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 March 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780309_reps_31_hor108/>.