31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to inform the House that we have present in the gallery this afternoon the Rt Hon. B. E. Talboys, New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Overseas Trade and members of his party. On behalf of the House I extend to the right honourable gentleman and his party a very warm welcome.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30 June 1978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30 June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 to $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 dewlling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burns, Mr Fife, Mr Howard, Mr Ian Robinson, Mr Sainsbury, Mr Scholes and Mr E. G. Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the citizens of Australia totally reject communism and call upon the Government to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Shipton.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Trade and Resources left Australia yesterday for discussions in Japan. He is expected to return on 22 March. During his absence the Minister for Special Trade Representations will act as Minister for Trade and Resources. For today, however, the Minister for Transport will respond to any questions in relation the the Minister’s portfolio.
The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations left Australia for New Zealand last Sunday to attend the Seventh Asian and Pacific Labour Ministers’ Conference. He is expected to return on 20 March. During his absence the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will act as Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations.
– I refer the Prime Minister to his Press release of 2 December headed ‘Protecting Employment ‘in which he said:
My Government will not allow the destruction of 120,000 jobs in the clothing, footwear and textile industries.
In view of the Prime Minister’s unequivocal commitment to the workers in these industries, I ask: Is he aware of dismissal notices being served on 300 employees at Universal Textiles Australia Ltd, a subsidiary of Dunlop Australia Ltd, in Hobart last Friday? What action has the Government taken or what action does it intend to take on behalf of the 300 employees concerned? Was the Press release I have referred to just another election gimmick?
-The honourable member well knows that that Press release and what was stated during the election were against the background of the Government’s decision to maintain the levels of activity in the textile clothing and footwear- apparel- industries following a report which came to the Government from the Industries Assistance Commission, I think last July or August, and which would have resulted in very considerable further unemployment. As a result of that, the Government asked the Industries Assistance Commission to advise it on what measures would be necessary to maintain the levels of activity in those industries for three years during which time the industries would have discussions with the Minister for Productivity and his department aimed at establishing in Australia industries which would be able to look forward to the future with a much greater degree of confidence and certainty. In the meantime the Government had indicated a very firm position over a three-year period.
I do not have any information about the specific matter which the honourable gentleman has raised regarding Tasmania. The Government is concerned about any prospect of closure of industry or increase in unemployment and against that background I will ask for a report on the matter. I know that the Ministers concerned have been looking at it up to this point.
For the benefit of the House I also note that only three or four days ago the Leader of the Opposition made a speech on a somewhat public occasion clearly calling for lower levels of protection. A senator from the Australian Labor Party made a speech to the Young Labor Farmers Organisation, I think it was- it was some Western Australian organisation- plainly calling for lower levels of protection for Australian industries. I hope that the honourable gentleman, from the nature of his question, is dissociating himself from, in the present circumstances, those rather too free trade ideas.
-I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether on his recent visit to Bangkok he pursued the issue of Vietnamese refugees and, in particular, the issue of the reunion of Vietnamese families in Australia. If he did pursue those matters in Bangkok can he tell us the outcome of his discussions on those issues?
-During the past week I held talks in Bangkok and attended the annual meeting of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Whilst I had discussions with Thai officials- the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and others- in regard to refugees generally, which is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to discuss when I report to him on those discussions, I also raised with the Vietnamese Vice-Foreign Minister the question of 400 applicants who had been approved for entry to Australia by my colleague but regarding whom there has been little progress achieved by our representations to the Vietnamese. I had wide-ranging discussions with the Vice-Foreign Minister. This was a follow-up to the important meeting, the first meeting, in New York last year between the respective Foreign Ministers of our countries. I stressed in regard to the 400 refugees that have received approval that we wanted to get matters moving. I told Mr Hoang Bich Son that whilst I understood that the Vietnamese would examine the matter on a case by case basis I hoped that there could be some expedition. He replied to me that the Vietnamese had reached agreement with a number of other countries on family reunions. He was aware of Australia’s request and did not believe that people should be held against their wishes.
However, as I expected, he emphasised that the Vietnamese Government would continue its policy of looking at individual cases. I indicated to him the distress caused to families in Australia by continued separation from members of those families in Vietnam since the events of 1 975. The Government will leave no stone unturned in seeking a solution to this problem. I am confident, in the light of the spirit in which the representations which I made last week were received, that the Vietnamese Government is not only well aware of the strength of our feeling on this subject but also prepared to move forward on it. Let me say in passing and in conclusion that the Minister indicated specifically that, notwithstanding certain differences, the relationship between our particular countries was a sound one and that he hoped he would be able to assist in this specific humane matter.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that in his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Moyes of IBM Australia Ltd -
Government supporters- Oh!
– I am not surprised that honourable members opposite are shocked. Is it a fact that in his letter to the Prime Minister dated 2 December 1977 Mr Moyes of IBM Australia Ltd said:
I urge you to take special steps to ensure that the responsibility for this decision is taken at the highest level within the Government.
Does the fact that the Prime Minister personally intervened in the tendering process after receiving Mr Moyes’ letter mean that he regards the advice of senior business executives to be of greater worth than that received from senior public servants? Further, is it the usual practice of the Prime Minister to have personal telephone conversations with specially favoured tenderers about contracts in which they are involved?
-The honourable gentleman should be aware that a considered and lengthy statement on this matter has been made to the Parliament. The facts contained in that statement were compiled after the matter was referred to the heads of those departments or instrumentalities involved. The reason why that occurred may not have struck the honourable gentleman but it is very simply because different departments have their own files on this subject and the total knowledge within the Government probably did not reside in any one person. Since my Department in the circumstances certainly would not have had access to all the files of the other departments it was necessary to check to make quite certain that essential facts had not been overlooked and that the document was an accurate document. That document was an accurate document. I think I made it perfectly plain in that statement that my concern was aroused not only when Mr Harragan ‘s resignation came to my notice but in particular because of the advice given to me at a much earlier time by the Secretary to the Cabinet. Anything that happened since has only confirmed the wisdom of the original advice from the Secretary to the Cabinet.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, concerns deep sea fishing off the Australian coast. Is the Minister aware of the most conflicting and extraordinary reports about the Government’s deep sea fishing licences in the new zone for the Tasmanian Government and for Soviet, Polish and Japanese factory ships to fish in Australian waters? Will the Minister tell us when these licences will be issued and also- this concerns a matter of policy and I would be ruled out of order- will he consider making a statement after Question Time for the convenience of the House because his reply is likely to be long, complicated and interesting?
-I hope that the honourable member’s last comment is true. As to the two former comments, I doubt that I will be as long as the honourable gentleman suggests. I am aware of his interest in this matter and I commend him for the speech he made the other night during the adjournment debate when he suggested, quite properly, that the opportunities available for Australia, Australian fishermen and Australian investment as a result of the extension of the fishing zone to 200 miles are matters worthy of very serious consideration by this House and open very significant opportunities for the future. Feasibility fishing and joint fishing ventures within the existing 12-mile limit are already well defined and sufficiently understood. With respect to the extension of the zone from 12 miles to 200 miles, a series of discussions has been undertaken between the Commonwealth and the States- indeed as late as last week- to determine how the extended sovereignty can best be administered between the States, which have the predominant responsibility at the moment for administration, and the Commonwealth. Although no final decision has been taken as a result of that meeting I hope, shortly, that we will be able to announce a basis by which Commonwealth and State administrations will share responsibility after the declaration of the 200-mile fishing zone.
As regards feasibility fishing, again I do not believe there is any reason for confusion. There is very real sympathy by the Commonwealth for the undertaking of exploratory fishing by shared ventures, involving overseas interests and Australia, intended to identify the available resource and to relate that resource to known markets or possible markets to be developed. Again I point out that already a number or projects have been approved and a very considerable number are under study.
I turn to the third aspect of the development of the 200-mile fishing limit, namely the question of joint ventures. There is no policy as yet prescribed which would cover the basis on which any of the many countries, and the many individual operators within those countries, might be able to share with their Australian potential partners in the development of the resource. Until we are certain of the results of the feasibility fishing proposals it is hard to accept a basis by which those joint ventures could undertake any long term fishing project. Our objective is to ensure that that resource is used, firstly, to Australia’s advantage; secondly, where Australian fishermen or Australian investment is not capable of utilising it, to the maximum on a shared basis; and, finally, if there is residue, perhaps to the advantage of other countries.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will draw his answer to a close.
-Certainly, Mr Speaker. Finally, where there is an opportunity that will not be taken up on that other basis, we will have to develop a way by which other countries might utilise the resource. It is true that in so doing we would hope to be able to seek investment from those countries which might perhaps be able to give us some other reciprocal access. I do not believe at this stage that there is reason to make a detailed statement to the House but I will do so at an appropriate time.
– Does the Prime Minister have any recollection of receiving a letter dated 2 December 1977 from Mr A. G. Moyes of IBM Australia Ltd in regard to what has now become known as the infamous computer affair? Did that letter say in part:
It is a project of immense national value; it is a viable project; but in certain circumstances it becomes a high risk project.
What did the Prime Minister take Mr Moyes to mean when referring to ‘certain circumstances’? Does the Prime Minister think that Mr Moyes was giving him a friendly warning? Is this whole infamous affair another example of the way in which the IBM company -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will cease using the word ‘infamous’. If he wants to seek information he should do so without attributing any motive in relation to it.
– I could substitute the word dubious ‘ but I thought that ‘ infamous ‘ was commonly used.
-If the honourable gentleman argues with me I will immediately rule him out of order.
– Is this whole dubious affair another example of the way in which the IBM company influences government in other countries to buy its products?
– I was advised about 10 minutes ago that the honourable gentleman had found a copy of that letter which had fallen off the back of a truck, so he will know what is contained in it, and other members of his Party will know what is in it. That he has a copy is not surprising because over the past week or two a truck seems to have been running around Parliament House quite frequently dropping copies of various documents from it. Be that as it may, the statement I made in the Parliament stands as the full and complete story of what happened in relation to this computer contract. I reiterate that it was the Secretary of Cabinet who first advised me of the very serious manner in which he looked at this affair. That too is contained in the statement that I put to the House. The honourable gentleman seems to have overlooked the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has classed the behaviour, the conduct, of Mr Harragan as improper and deserving of censure. Against that background, how could the Government possibly have done anything other than recall tenders?
-Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to newspaper comments, in particular that in the National Times at the weekend, with regard to ex-service personnel who are in the employ of large companies that supply equipment to the defence Services? Can the Minister inform the House as to whether these gentlemen have been or are in a position to influence decisions favourable to their companies during the decision making process?
– Yes, my attention has been drawn to the article to which the honourable member referred. The first observation I wish to make is this: There has been some suggestion to the effect that there should be a law of sorts against former senior servicemen entering the employ of private companies or public companies that stand in some contractual relationship with the government of the day. For myself, I should imagine it to be a rather fanciful pursuit that such a law should seek to be enacted. I frankly take the view that it would be disturbing in terms of people who respect the traditions of freedom. But beyond that, I have the gravest of doubts as to whether any such law could be enacted. Hence I side with the Prime Minister that there should be a code of ethics. I think that is about as far as the matter can be pressed.
But I say to the honourable gentleman and to the House on the specific point that in the procurement of major defence equipment in this country, some 15 malor steps must be taken from the time that there is, shall I say, the first glint in the eye -
– What a pity your father got one. There are some 15 major steps from the first glint in the eye until the equipment is purchased. A whole series of committees stand between the would-be supplier and the country- and I speak of the country in its corporate sense. I take the view that there are probably few countries in the world as well served in the preservation of the integrity of civil servants in the matter of defence procurement as is Australia under its existing defence procurement system. There are four major committees through which an order is processed. The last committee before the matter goes to the Minister of the day, whoever he may be, or to the Cabinet, no matter of what kidney the government may be, is the Defence Force Development Committee which consists of the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Chief of Defence Force Staff and the Chiefs of Staff. I am sure that I voice the views of every person sitting in this Parliament when I say that it would be absurd in the extreme to think that a committee of that nature would be exposed to, or would be vulnerable in the least to, any blandishment that could be offered by any company in this country.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that the four particular concerns on which clarification of the original tenders were sought from the mainframe tenderers for the new computer -
Government supporters- Oh!
– It is painful, is it not, on that side? Were the four particular concerns for the new computer for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Trade and Resources that: First, the system should be supplied by a single vendor; secondly, the system should be built with proven products; thirdly, the major software components should be standard products from successful vendors; and fourthly, the successful vendor should have an existing support structure which demonstrates its capability of successfully completing a project of this magnitude? In any case, are these not the same four particular concerns which Mr Moyes of IBM Australia Ltd raised in his letter of 2 December 1977 addressed to the Prime Minister?
-Any technical matters were handled by officials. The honourable gentleman will know from another letter that he has seen that in the letter of 1 7 January that I sent I indicated that I had been advised that the technical matters had been taken into account and whatever necessary was done in the then shortened re-tendering process. It might be worth noting, I think, that the honourable gentlemen does not withdraw from his allegations of impropriety in relation to Mr Harragan and at the same time does not withdraw from his earlier statement that what was then done was worthy of censure. It would be interesting to know what the Leader of the Opposition would do in the circumstance in which something improper had occurred- something worthy of censure had been done by somebody at the heart of the Government’s tendering process for computers. Would the honourable gentleman do nothing about it? From all of the other things that he has been saying about this particular case, we can only assume that the honourable gentleman would have ignored that impropriety, would have ignored that act which he himself has said is worthy of censure and would have gone ahead and given the contract to Facom Australia Ltd.
– My question to the Prime Minister relates to the shock announcement of 300 retrenchments at Universal Textiles Australia Ltd factory in Derwent Park, Tasmania and it simply is this: At any time prior to the announcement at 5 p.m. last Friday, did Universal Textiles or its parent company, Dunlop Australia Ltd, seek any special aid or assistance direct from the Federal Government in order to avert or avoid the said proposed retrenchments?
– I am told that the answer to that question is no.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer to his statement to the House on 7 March relating to computer equipment. In that statement, the Prime Minister was at great pains to tell the House what happened in Canberra on 22 December last. Will he advise the House in what circumstances he had a conversation with Mr Moyes on that date, who was present at the conversation, and what report he gave to Mr Moyes concerning the computer equipment?
-The honourable gentleman should know that I have nothing to add to the statement that was made in the House on this matter. The honourable gentleman is still in the position in which his own leader has made it perfectly plain that Mr Harragan ‘s act was not only improper but also deserving of censure. Under those circumstances are we to assume that the honourable gentleman would continue to award the tender?
– Can the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs advise the House whether there are any proposals to limit compensation payable to Aborigines for the mining of uranium on Aboriginal land or land claimed to be Aboriginal land? I further ask what is the present state of negotiations with the Northern Land Council concerning uranium mining in the Ranger area as it has been recently reported that the NLC draft agreement is said to be calling for a 37!£ per cent interest in the total profit from that operation?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for the question because there has been some talk publicly about the Government intending to limit the moneys payable to the Northern Land Council and, through the Council, to Aboriginals in the Northern Territory for the rnining of the Ranger deposit. There are no proposals before the Government to limit compensation. I think what has been happening has been misunderstood. Under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act there is a requirement that before mining can commence under the Atomic Energy Act or under the Northern Territory mining ordinances an agreement has to be entered into with the Northern Land Council. By reason of the decisions of the Government, mining of the Ranger deposit will be under the Atomic Energy Act. Therefore, it is necessary for the Commonwealth to reach an agreement with the Land Council. I also remind the House that the Commonwealth is a joint venturer in the Ranger deposit so what must occur is that the Commonwealth will negotiate with the Northern Land Council to reach agreement on terms and conditions including the payment of moneys before mining can proceed. The Land Council at a meeting with officers back in I think, November tendered a draft agreement. That was its negotiating position at that time. The Government has had under consideration since then what its response will be. The latest advice I have from the Land Council is that it is anxious to resume negotiations. Because of that the Commonwealth will be determining what position it will take at the negotiating table.
-I refer the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to the fact that the Western Australian Government intends to provide for the Minister for Community Welfare in that State to override the Commissioner for Aboriginal Planning and, by extension, the Aboriginal Land
Trust in relation to approving the entry of further diamond prospectors, including a subsidiary of the South African De Beers group, to Aboriginal reserves in the Kimberleys. As this will conflict with the wishes of the local Aboriginal community and is contrary to the provisions of the Commonwealth land rights legislation, will the Minister indicate whether the concern he expressed for Kimberley Aborigines prior to the recent Kimberley by-election extends to taking action to prevent the State Government disregarding the wishes, in particular, of the Oombulgurri people?
– I am aware of the situation to which the honourable gentleman refers. Of course it deals with State legislation in different areas- the operation of the State mining laws, laws dealing with Aboriginal reserves and also the establishment of an Aboriginal Lands Trust in Western Australia. Under that legislation the Lands Trust has the responsibility for ascertaining and expressing the wishes of the local people. So far as I know, the Lands Trust has had discussions with the Oombulgurri people and also, I understand, a month or so ago had some discussions with the Premier of Western Australia. I do not know the outcome of those discussions or what further action is being taken. It is a matter exclusively within the jurisdiction of the State Government operating under its own legislation.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. I refer to the Treasurer’s reply to the honourable member for Bonython on 1 March when he stated that the deficit, as projected in the Budget last year, would be exceeded but was being adequately financed by non-bank takeup of Government securities. In the light of these developments, can the Treasurer still assure the House that the Government’s intention to reduce interest rates will be maintained? Can these two aims be achieved simultaneously?
– I recall the reply that I gave to the honourable member for Bonython. The Government stated during the course of the election campaign, and has since stated, its belief that sustainable reductions in interest rates of the magnitude of 2 per cent in respect of the calendar year period of 1978 were feasible and in prospect. I think it should be borne in mind that there has already occurred a reduction of onehalf of 1 per cent in interest rates as they affect most home borrowers from building societies and banks throughout Australia. I should add that the reductions in building society interest rates up to the present have occurred in some
States and they are in prospect, so I am informed, in other States.
The Government has all along indicated that it wishes to see progress towards sustainable reductions in interest rates. These can be achieved only given continued success with other Government’s policies including the Government’s monetary policy and the Government’s policies of expenditure restraint. In respect of the Government’s policies of expenditure restraint, I say again what I said in reply to the honourable member for Bonython: Whilst it is anticipated that the Budget deficit for the current financial year will be larger than that projected at the time when the Budget was brought down, there are wholly understandable and wholly explainable reasons why this situation has come about. I repeat, for the benefit of those opposite who are trying to interject, that part of the reason why the Budget deficit for this current financial year will be somewhat higher is that the rate of progress that the Government has achieved in reducing the rate of inflation has run marginally ahead of the expectations that were present in the Government ‘s mind at the time when the Budget was brought down last August.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Will the Government take steps to take over Aurukun and Mornington Island Missions before the Queensland Government does so on the pretext of improving services to Aborigines? What further steps have been taken since the change of government in 1975 to implement abolition of the racist, feudal State settlement laws and regulations in Queensland- an action which was promised by the Government? Has his attention been drawn to recent statements of the Queensland Premier that moves for land rights in the States, as implemented in the Northern Territory, could lead to a black takeover backed by communist countries? Will the Government take steps to implement Aboriginal land rights throughout Australia, or will the Government continue to defer to the States which prefer to subject Aboriginal rights to mineral exploitation?
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will answer the question.
– The honourable member’s question deals with the action announced yesterday by the Queensland Government to take over administration of Mornington Island and the Aurukun Aboriginal communities from the Uniting Church in Australia. I was advised of the action by the Church. I am concerned if this action is being taken against the wishes of the communities in both those places. This morning I received a telegram from the chairman and council at Mornington Island which states:
Council and community not consulted on Government take-over. What is happening? Please help us.
I have also received a request from the Uniting Church that I hold urgent discussions with it. I shall be seeing a deputation tomorrow. The Uniting Church has a long and distinguished record in the administration of Aboriginal communities in northern Australia, and also in other parts of Australia, pursuing modern policies of self-management so that Aboriginals may take charge of their own affairs and make decisions for themselves. The Government and I are watching the situation very closely and we will examine what needs to be done to preserve the interests of Aboriginals in these places.
– The Minister for Industry and Commerce will be aware of the Australian Financial Review report of 7 March regarding the reversal of the role of the Australian Industry Development Corporation in the financing of small businesses. Does this reversal confirm the complaints by many small businessmen that there is widespread discrimination by financial institutions against lending to small business? What progress has been achieved towards the Government’s stated aims of providing loans and equity finance for small business?
– Support for the small business community of Australia is a very important part of this Government’s philosophy and economic program. I welcome the question which the honourable member for Bowman has put to me. I noted the article in the Australian Financial Review some days ago asserting that the Government had decided that the Australian Industry Development Corporation would not form part of the Government’s program designed to provide additional lending to the small business community. I can inform the House that no decision on that has been taken by the Government, although it is true that discussions have been proceeding concerning the appropriateness of the AIDC involvement in the provision of loan funds for small business. The Treasurer and I, as well as the Corporation itself, have some reservations about proceeding in relation to this initiative and therefore it is still under consideration at present. However, I stress that the Government is moving with expedition to make more funds available for small businesses. I think the House is aware that the extension to the charter of the Commonwealth Development Bank will shortly be the subject of a Bill which will be introduced during the course of this session. I also make it clear that the Government is stepping up markedly its program of assistance to small business and attaches the highest priority to this program. Apart from lending through the Commonwealth Development Bank a number of other initiatives are under consideration by the Government and they should certainly assist the improved availability of finance for the small business community.
-I refer the Prime Minister to the announcement last week that the inquiry in the United Kingdom headed by Mr Justice Parker has recommended in favour of the establishment of a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at Winscales. I ask the Prime Minister whether a decision by Great Britain to implement this proposal would seriously undermine the current international nuclear fuel cycle evaluation discussions in which Australia is a participant and which are expected to continue for several years. I also ask whether, in view of the Government’s safeguards policy stated last May, the Australian Government would now be obliged to give blanket prior approval to reprocessing uranium exports to Britain. If so, would this reduce the Government’s so-called safeguards policy to a meaningless gesture as it would set an undesirable precedent for conditions on any uranium exports?
-The advice I have indicates that the decision in the United Kingdom does not run counter to the fuel cycle evaluation program which, as the honourable gentleman knows, Australia is participating in very fully because the Government regards- and I believe the honourable gentleman regards- its objectives as being of the greatest possible importance. I think that Australia can say that since our safeguards policy was announced almost 12 months ago there have been some significant moves in both Canada and in the United States to accept and to apply safeguards much nearer ours than had formerly been the case. As the honourable gentleman knows, Canada has been negotiating with Europe over new safeguard clauses in terms of existing contracts. I believe the fact that Canada has been in part successful in upgrading the quality of those safeguards was due to the fact that Australia itself had announced a safeguards policy which at the time was stricter than any such policy in the world.
– What about President Carter’s policy?
– I am also advised that some of President Carter’s more recent actions have been moving in the same direction. So to that extent I believe that all Australians can take heart already from the role and influence that Australia has had through the enunciation of its safeguards policy.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and concerns developments in the Horn of Africa. Will the Minister tell the House what is the Government ‘s attitude to the removal of Somali forces from the Ogaden? What are the prospects for a ceasefire? Is there any prospect for the withdrawal of Soviet and Cuban military personnel?
-I call on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to answer the question but ask him to remember that the width of the question is such that it perhaps should call for a statement. I ask the Minister to answer the question.
– Would the Minister like to make it shortly?
-Here we go. The honourable member for Port Adelaide is stroking his platitudes until they purr again. I will keep the answer as brief as possible, Mr Speaker. The Government has, of course, been following developments in the Horn of Africa with close attention. It has been extremely disturbed at the opportunities which the hostilities between Ethiopia and Somalia have provided for interference in the region’s affairs by outside powers. As I have stated before, Australia firmly believes that territorial disputes are best settled by negotiation and compromise rather than by resort to arms. We earnestly hope, therefore, that both sides will observe the ceasefire and that it will be possible to commence negotiations directed at bringing about a peaceful settlement and restoring stability to the region.
In regard to the latter part of the honourable member’s question, in such circumstances the continuing presence of Soviet and Cuban military personnel in the area can only exacerbate tensions. Put bluntly, we do not accept that the Soviet and Cuban military presence can be justified at all. We look to their withdrawal as a necessary contribution to the restoration of peace in the area to which I referred earlier.
– I refer the Minister for Industry and Commerce to an answer that the Prime Minister gave on 2 March to a question regarding the release of the full details of the family business interests of the honourable member for Flinders. The Prime Minister said:
In the light of that answer, I ask the Minister: Was it his decision to release or not to release the document? If it was his decision, when will he carry out his promise made to the Australian community on 18 November last year to provide full details of his family business interests? If it was not his decision, will he indicate whose decision it was?
– This matter has been subjected to very thorough scrutiny. The honourable gentleman is aware of the various persons who provided input into a document which was subsequently released. That document was prepared in conjunction with Mr Stephen Charles, Q.C. I remind the honourable gentleman of the statements which have been made concerning this matter. As to the document, all I can say is that at the time it was considered appropriate that a public statement of my financial affairs should be prepared in conjunction with Mr Stephen Charles, Q.C, for reasons which I think should be obvious to the honourable gentleman. He will recall that Mr Charles, Q.C. provided independent advice to the Prime Minister. That course of action was followed. Press statements were issued at the time. My letter to the Prime Minister at that stage was a matter of public record. I assure the honourable gentleman that the matter has been the subject of the most exhaustive scrutiny by persons independent of government. I can also assure him that, apart from that, I have absolutely nothing to add on the matter.
– Is the Treasurer aware that at least one major trading bank has recently communicated in the following terms to an Australian Capital Territory applicant for a small business loan:
We regret that because of present tight lending restrictions we are unable to provide the funds sought.
Is such action contrary to Government policy on small business finance outlined in this House? In view of the Government’s decision announced recently to restrict substantially the availability of home finance in the Australian Capital Territory, can the Treasurer indicate whether the Government has embarked on a credit squeeze?
-Dealing first with the latter part of the question, I can inform the honourable gentleman in most unequivocal terms that the Government has not decided to embark upon a credit squeeze. Any suggestion to that effect both misreads the existing situation and totally misunderstands Government policy. With reference to the first part of the question, I think it would be extremely undesirable if I, as Treasurer, took it upon myself to comment upon the merit or otherwise of individual communications between the many thousands of branches of banks throughout Australia and their customers. I think all Ministers would hold that view. A statement was made by the then Treasurer, the right honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch), I think in October last year in which he indicated the general attitude of the Government towards loans and bank facilities for small business. That remains the policy of the Government. It remains under very close attention and is monitored continually by the Government. The Government is anxious to ensure that effect is given to the spirit of that policy. If honourable members know of instances where this policy seems not to have been followed, I ask them to let me have details. I think the honourable member for Canberra will understand very clearly how undesirable it would be for me to express a view on the merits of a decision made by an individual bank as to whether it should grant a loan.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Act 1964 1 present the annual report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– Pursuant to sub-section 12D of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1 973 I present the Academic Salaries Tribunal 1977 Review.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on files and rasps.
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister with regard to two matters today. I seek leave to make a statement in response.
– The first misrepresentation concerns the matter of protection. The Prime Minister stated that a Labor senator and I had been responsible in recent days for public calls for reductions in protection. What I have said consistently is that there are structural changes taking place in the Australian economy; that they will lead to higher levels of unemployment even at a time when the economy is regarded as being fully employed and that the resort to more and more protection is not a constructive way to handle this matter. I have pointed out consistently that if there are to be any changes in protection levels, they should proceed only in an environment in which there are appropriate structural adjustment programs such as compensation, retraining, relocation and so on. The senator concerned stated:
In the prickly issue of protection two political realities stand out: Tariff reductions or tariff reform is not likely while unemployment remains high regardless of who is Prime Minister, and while Malcolm Fraser is Prime Minister there will be no tariff reductions regardless of the level of unemployment. One should probably add that unemployment will remain high while Malcolm Fraser is Prime Minister.
I move to the second misrepresentation. In reply to questions this afternoon related to the supply of a computer to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Trade, the Prime Minister observed that I had indicated that I believed that Mr Harragan should be censured for the way in which he had taken up private employment with a company which had been a tenderer to the Government. I stand by that, but that is not the point of dispute. I will make only two points about this matter. The first is that the situation has been brought into focus by the neglect of the conservative coalition Government, a neglect which is long standing.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation. I cannot permit him to proceed.
-Mr Speaker, may I make the second point as to why the Opposition has raised this matter. Very simply, it is that the Prime Minister’s behaviour is a matter we want to question.
-Order! The honourable gentleman has not been misrepresented.
– Is the Prime Minister in IBM’s pocket?
– In Hansard of 7 March at page 463 -
-Order! Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented? If he wishes to make a personal explanation, he may proceed.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. In Hansard oil March -
– A point of order, Mr Speaker. Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
-The Prime Minister claims to have been misrepresented. I have given him leave to proceed with a personal explanation. I call the Prime Minister.
– In the first column at page 463 of Hansard of 7 March the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) makes it perfectly plain that in his view Mr Harragan ‘s action was quite improper. On the same date he indicated that the action is deserving of censure.
– That is not the point. It is the Prime Minister’s behaviour we are questioning. Is he in IBM’s pocket?
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The honourable gentleman knows that personal explanations are not a point for debate.
– by leave- I move:
That this House-
That the terms of this resolution be conveyed to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
Mr Speaker, on 10 March 1977 I advised the House that as a result of an initiative taken at the 1975 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Kingston, the Commonwealth’s member countries had decided to set aside the second Monday in March as a day on which to reflect on the significance and value of the Commonwealth. On Monday 14 March last year we observed Commonwealth Day. Yesterday, Monday 13 March, we again observed Commonwealth Day.
In the last twelve months the Commonwealth has continued to demonstrate its capacity, value and potential as a forum to discuss international issues of common concern.The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in June 1977 provided Commonwealth leaders an opportunity to meet with their colleagues and to exchange views, openly and equally, on a wide variety of important matters. Views and opinions were expressed in greater intimacy and equality than exists in any other major international forum. This is a characteristic of Commonwealth meetings and one that we, the participants in these meetings, value extremely highly.
The many Commonwealth member countries meet on a global basis every two years to develop closer practical bonds of co-operation at the regional level and it was proposed at the London meeting that the Commonwealth should expand its consultative process to take in the regional interests of its members. The need was felt to foster to the maximum possible extent the Commonwealth’s unique tradition of consultation and practical co-operation through informal discussion, and enhance the Commonwealth’s capacity to act as a channel of communication within the region. As a result of this initiative the Heads of Government of all twelve Commonwealth countries in Asia and the South Pacific gathered in Sydney last month to discuss issues of concern to this region. I tabled in the House on 22 February the communique of this Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting, or CHOGRM, as it has come to be called.
The success of the recent Sydney meeting was a clear confirmation of the importance of this form of consultation. Despite the economic and social differences separating us, the meeting served to highlight Australia’s sense of identity and shared interests with our Asian and Pacific Commonwealth neighbours. I believe that my colleagues attending the meeting were reassured of Australia’s firm practical commitment to the development of the countries of our region, and of the spirit of co-operation in which we approach our relations with our regional neighbours. The meeting clearly underlined the common interest of all participants as commodity exporters. A dominant theme of the discussions on international economic problems at the meeting was the urgent need for liberalisation of world trade and in particular for improved and more stable market access in the major developed countries for the region’s agricultural exports.
The meeting gave us the opportunity to explore a wide range of perspectives on world affairs. The twelve countries reflected different preoccupations and attitudes to the major international political issues of the day. They also represented a microcosm of views on the important politico-economic area of international relations that is summed up in the phrase ‘the northsouth dialogue’. It is a testimonial to the success of the meeting that at no stage did the economic differences between participants become a prominent factor in discussion. Rather, heads of government sought to identify and build on possibilities for positive co-operation, for example, the shared purpose of India and the small island states of the South Pacific in promoting development at the village level, especially in relation to fuel supplies. Throughout, discussions of major issues of trade and economic development affecting this region were thoroughly open and constructive. I believe that this was one of the major achievements of the meeting.
The proposals emanating from it are more than just words. They represent a strong commitment by heads of government to practical cooperation among Commonwealth regional countries. Two consultative groups will be established, one on trade to be convened by Australia and another on energy to be convened by India. Separate working groups will be established to examine problems of illicit drugs and terrorism. They will be convened by Malaysia and Singapore respectively. The groups are expected to produce results of real benefit to the regional member countries as well as to other countries of the region. They will help to foster further the sense of regional identity that this meeting has initiated.
A particularly important aspect of the meeting was that it enabled the small Pacific island Commonwealth countries to present their viewpoints and have the leaders of larger communities in the world take note of their needs. One area of particular difficulty which was stressed was the problem of international representation in, for example, trade and technical assistance negotiations. This problem is particularly acute for small island states.
The Secretary-General was requested to develop and put forward to the Commonwealth senior officials meeting in Malaysia later this year proposals on special Commonwealth programs to assist small states.
There was a consensus among the heads of government who participated that the meeting had been worth while in terms of achieving a better understanding of each other’s attitude and policies. As a result there was unanimous agreement by the participating heads of government to hold a second Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting in India in 1980. I believe that a unique process of regional Commonwealth consultation has been launched in Sydney, that it will grow and prosper in the years ahead.
The Commonwealth is of considerable importance to Australia. It has an important role to play in international affairs and is a vital link between the old and the new worlds, the developed and developing, the rich and the not so rich. We will continue to promote the Commonwealth and be a source of support for the Commonwealth. I believe very firmly that there are practical possibilities of the Commonwealth itself, or through the Commonwealth mechanism, helping to resolve some of the great differences between north and south and between rich and poor. Australia has a role to play in that. The changed attitude that Australia has adopted to the common fund is, in part at least, motivated not only by our belief in that common fund and its purpose but also by our belief that there needs to be movement by the two sides to that particular dispute to achieve a resolution and agreement, so that advances can be made instead of leaving two opposing groups deadlocked in division which would only add to bitterness in the world between rich and poor. I commend the motion to the House. I ask the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) to excuse me while he is speaking- I hope that he will support what has been said- as the New Zealand Foreign Minister is waiting for me and I do not want to detain him.
-The Opposition does not intend to oppose the motion but I welcome the opportunity to place on record its views on both the value and the limitations of the rediscovery by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of the Commonwealth as a major vehicle for Australia’s global and, more recently, regional diplomacy. The Commonwealth has proved to be a surprisingly resilient survivor in a period of significant political and social change. Anachronistic though the basis of the original association may be- colonial links with Britain- the interests of the great majority of Commonwealth members are apparently served by continuing to belong. Perhaps a less positive formulation may reflect more accurately the Commonwealth’s relative importance among the foreign policy priorities of a number of governments. It very seldom impinges sufficiently upon the interests of any individual member for it to be worth considering seriously ceasing to belong. There is no real price attached to membership. The political obligations arising from membership are minimal. At the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings, or CHOGMs, to use that jarring acronym, no votes are taken and no member is bound to abide by any recommendation which might emerge.
The Commonwealth association now seems to be useful primarily as an institutional framework providing the excuse for regular informal consultation among decision-makers in a cross-section of over 30 governments from around the globe. These consultations in some cases might not take place otherwise or might occur only sporadically. They cannot be objected to, nor are they necessarily of earth-shattering importance. Beyond this, among some of the older members traces can still be found of the bonds of sentiment which were cemented in the hey-day of the Empire. These days such links rightly inspire little more than benign nostalgia, although the occasional conservative politician sees more in them than contemporary history would justify or the British Government would believe.
Probably more fundamental to the approach of the newer members is the feeling that colonial history has landed them in the Commonwealth and that, since the organisation would become defunct without them, it is up to Britain and the older members to make it worth their while to remain in it. It is no coincidence and no bad thing in itself that the Commonwealth Secretariat’s vehicle for development assistance, the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation, has greatly expanded its budget in recent years. Nor should one complain that the Third World, predominantly African, majority among the heads of government almost invariably succeeds in monopolising CHOGM agendas with items reflecting its own political pre- occupations. We recognise the appeal of the modern Commonwealth connection for such a late starter as this Government was in accepting its responsibilities towards the Third World. It is clearly of international political advantage for the Fraser Government to be seen to be involved in and contributing sympathetically to discussions on the issue of racial conflict in Africa and on other political and economic issues in areas geographically remote from us. These might otherwise receive insufficient policy attention.
I consider it a good thing that the relatively small membership of the Commonwealth, with its heavy representation of Third World countries, exposes the Government to more searching scrutiny of its policies, especially on questions involving race, than would be the case if our international appearances were confined to the larger, more anonymous forums. If the coalition parties had adhered steadfastly to the set of attitudes with which they had become identified before the decolonisation process began in earnest and before South Africa was forced to leave the organisation, Australia’s membership of the Commonwealth might indeed have become uncomfortable for us. Knowledge that, if changes were not made, the Government would face regular criticism from increasing numbers of Commonwealth members as well as from elsewhere, may well have influenced the speed and extent of the policy review.
However, this having been said, it is best to be realistic about the standing of the Commonwealth in the wider world beyond. It may not be too harsh to suggest that one reason why the Commonwealth still survives is that it goes largely unnoticed by the rest of the world. It does not contain members of sufficient political or economic stature to be capable of changing the course of world events. Not a single Commonwealth member has, until now, reserved its principal multilateral effort in international affairs for the Commonwealth, and no developing member of the organisation is pinning its hopes in the north-south dialogue upon a response from within the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is worth while as far as it goes but its value to Australia should not be exaggerated. I do not wish to denigrate the activities of the Commonwealth Secretariat, but these are secondary to the Commonwealth’s main raison d’etre. It remains, and should continue to remain, primarily a talking shop. Any significantly greater effort by Australia within the Commonwealth context, whether in terms of commitment of more human resources within the bureaucracy or of cold cash, should be made only after a rigorous political cost-benefit exercise has shown that all alternative uses of the same resources would produce a lower yield for Australia internationally. The
Opposition remains to be convinced that such an exercise has been carried out or that there are any plans to initiate one.
I turn now to the Prime Minister’s first major venture in regional diplomacy, the meeting of leaders from Commonwealth countries within the somewhat arbitrary boundaries of longitudes 70 and 1 70-CHOGRM, to use his even less melodious acronym. As I said, the Australian Labor Party is not opposed to- indeed it warmly welcomescloser consultation between countries in the region. Honourable members will recall that the first suggestions for a new collective approach of a non-military nature to the problems of the region came from the last Labor Government. But an accident of colonial history is perhaps not the best basis for determining admission to such a gathering. Whilst this sort of meeting may be better than no meeting at all, there is something artificial and limited about the framework. The Prime Minister appears to have flailed around, looking desperately for some means of relating institutionally to the region, and to have eventually come up, as one might have predicted given his background, with a solution evocative of traditional links rather than promising new frontiers.
The point about regional organisations is that they usually concentrate on regional problems. There is no particular perspective upon the Asian-Pacific region exclusive to its Commonwealth inhabitants. It is fine for these regional heads of government to caucus for tactical reasons prior to each global CHOGRM. By becoming better organised they may succeed in securing a more balanced agenda at the larger meetings by drawing more attention to the burning issues in this part of the world. But for the much grander design which the Prime Minister has in mind for these regional meetings, one cannot ignore the handicap of not having represented at them such major forces in the region as Indonesia, Japan, China and the Philippines. The first CHOGRM ‘s deliberations have not been greeted with acclaim by any of them and they appear not to have aroused much interest in Britain itself- the very fount of the Commonwealth- let alone in the United States of America or in other Pacific rim countries.
For this Prime Minister, bent as he is upon self-aggrandisement, I suspect it is a case of the smaller the organisation the taller he stands. The safer and probably the more productive course in the long run would be to institutionalise such regional consultations as little as possible; to follow the principles that meetings should occur only as frequently as the need for them is identified and that there need not be a fixed attendance. Attendance should rather be dictated by the interest of potential participants in the subjects to be discussed. That was, I had understood from the Prime Minister’s public references to the idea in London last year, closer to what he originally had in mind.
I emphasise again that, in my view, it would help rather than hinder these discussions if the Commonwealth membership test was relaxed and other relevant Heads of Government admitted. Nor is there any need to confine the regional focus to Asian and South Pacific affairs. There might be considerable interest if ad hoc consultations were initiated on Indian Ocean questions among the littoral and island states and if the countries of the Pacific rim got together occasionally, particularly to discuss commercial questions. Even if the Prime Minister adhered to his preference for the Commonwealth, the adoption of such a proposal would bring in quite a few new faces. One wonders why Mauritius in particular and also Canada were not considered for the Sydney meeting.
Let us look finally at the practical achievements of the meeting. An extremely disparate group of leaders got to know each other a little better as individuals. That ought to be an undeniable plus, and we all hope that it will lead to greater co-operation in the real world outside the military cordon around Bowral ‘s answer to Gleneagles. The establishment announced in the communique of a number of consultative groups looks like being a solid accomplishment. But how much practical impact will there be upon the drug scene, for example, when key countries like Thailand and Burma are not part of the team? The Opposition warmly welcomes the earnest of good intent implied by Australia’s leading the consultative group on trade. That would seem to have been potentially the most divisive issue at the meeting. We were further encouraged by the Prime Minister’s opposition to trade barriers expressed to the Papua New Guinea GovernorGeneral last week. Given that Australia currently has the second highest average level of protection in the world, there will be no more crucial test for us in ensuring the region’s future acceptance of Australia than for the Government to demonstrate sincerity on this question.
The Opposition would not be so churlish as to vote against the Prime Minister’s motion. We recognise that the Commonwealth has some place in Australia’s future. But in asking Australians to reflect upon its value, we ask them also to remember that an enhanced commitment to the Commonwealth is far from the complete answer to defining a national identity appropriate to the last quarter of this century. Finally, I might observe a little wryly that the Prime Minister seems to be one year late by one day. If he had made this declaration last week we could have commenced acknowledging the adoption of Commonwealth Day on the second Monday of March, which was yesterday.
– I would like to associate members of the National Country Party of Australia with the motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). In so doing, I point out that I am disappointed at the almost churlish response of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) to a motion which was introduced today, this being the closest parliamentary sitting day to Commonwealth Day which, as he has just intimated, was yesterday. There is no doubt that it is necessary that we not only preserve traditional links but also form new links within the Commonwealth. Rather than the reverse being the case, I see as auguring well for the future links within the Commonwealth the fact that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting took place at Sydney which evoked with such success responses from countries which formerly were members of the British Commonwealth.
There is no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party in their attitudes towards the British Commonwealth traditionally have tended to see it as almost an anachronism in modern days. Some members of the Labor Party have advocated the cause of republicanism. They have suggested that we should cast aside those bonds and traditions which have served us so well. We on this side of politics take the reverse view. We see both the preservation of the monarchy and the preservation of our links with the Commonwealth as enhancing, rather than reducing, the image and potential of this country and the people who live in it. Although the British Commonwealth no longer exists, we see the Commonwealth of Nations, which is its successor, as not giving any one country within the Commonwealth paramountcy but rather giving to each of its individual members an equal right to share and participate in discussions. That helps to enhance the image of the Commonwealth as a whole and understanding between the peoples who are the citizens of the respective countries which are members of it.
We believe that this motion, which commends the value of the institution of the Commonwealth as a unique world forum for free and open discussion and exchange of ideas between member countries of ‘diverse cultures, religions, languages and local history’, if I might quote from the motion, refers to concepts worthy of preservation. There is obviously a need, in a world in which there is so much over which to divide, to find cause to unite. The motion commends a concept, an idea, a reality. I believe that the churlish response of the Leader of the Opposition goes little to his credit, or to the credit of members of the Australian Labor Party.
The National Country Party, and members of the Government, in supporting this motion, believe that we are not looking back to yesterday but looking forward to tomorrow. We believe that the undertaking in Australia of the first CHOGRM conference reflects something of that new dimension of opportunity. The members of my Party strongly endorse the motion and believe that, in supporting it, we are providing yet another opportunity for better understanding between the nations of the Commonwealth and, hopefully, the nations of the world.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I desire to inform the House that on Thursday afternoon last, accompanied by the Attorney-General, I waited upon His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House and personally presented for the royal assent the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill 1978, this being the first Bill ready for presentation following the swearing-in of His Excellency. His Excellency, in the name of Her Majesty, was pleased to assent to the Bill which is now Act No. 1 of 1 978.
-I wish to inform the House of nominations of senators and members to be members of the following Joint Committees:
Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence
Senators Sir Magnus Cormack, Scott, Sim and Young have been nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Senators Bishop, Sibraa and Wheeldon have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in that House.
Mr Dobie, Mr Katter, Mr Martyr, Mr Neil, Mr Shipton, Mr Short, Mr Simon and Mr Thomson have been nominated by the Prime Minister and Mr Armitage, Dr Blewett, Mr
Bryant, Mr Jacobi, Dr Klugman and Mr Scholes have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition.
Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory
Senators Archer and Knight have been nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Senators Devitt and Ryan have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in that House.
Mr Burns, Mr Dean, Mr Haslem and Mr Lucock have been nominated by the Prime Minister and Mr Fry and Mr Innes have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition.
Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House
Senators Drake-Brockman, Missen and Young have been nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Senators Mcintosh, Melzer and O ‘Byrne have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in that House.
Mr Haslem, Mr Lloyd and Mr Simon have been nominated by the Prime Minister and Mr Innes, Mr Keith Johnson and Mr Keating have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition.
I also inform the House of nominations of members to be members of the following committees of the House of Representatives:
Standing Committee on Road Safety
Mr Bradfield, Mr Goodluck, Mr Peter Johnson, Mr Katter and Mr Porter have been nominated by the Prime Minister and Mr Humphreys, Mr Charles Jones and Mr Morris have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition.
Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation
Mr Baillieu, Mr Cotter, Mr Fisher, Mr Hodges and Mr Simon have been nominated by the Prime Minister and Mr Cohen, Mr Howe and Dr Jenkins have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition.
Standing Committee on Expenditure
Mr Aldred, Mr Kevin Cairns, Dr Edwards, Mr Lloyd, Mr Lusher and Mr McLean have been nominated by the Prime Minister and Mr John Brown, Mr Dawkins, Dr Klugman, Mr Morris and Mr Stewart have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition.
Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs
Mr Calder, Mr Falconer, Mr Roger Johnston, Mr Ruddock and Mr Thomson have been nominated by the Prime Minister and Mr Dawkins, Dr Everingham and Mr Holding have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition.
Select Committee on Tourism
Mr Drummond, Mr Goodluck, Mr Jull, Mr Ian Robinson and Mr Sainsbury have been nominated by the Prime Minister and Mr Cohen, Mr Charles Jones and Mr Stewart have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition.
-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-
-The Opposition raises this matter of public importance because of the Government’s failure to deal with the question of energy policy, research into and development of alternative energy sources, and a conservation policy for energy in Australia. The Government has now had over two years to contemplate the problems of energy policy in Australia. Yet all we have seen during those two years has been lipservice by a succession of government Ministers. Committees have been established, some of them comprising very good, interested and competent people. But their reports have fallen on deaf ears. They have only been alluded to by Ministers in parliamentary debates. Nothing has been accomplished. There has been an absolute dearth of hard decisions by the Government in respect of energy policy.
By contrast, in the United States of America, the Carter Administration, within six months of taking office, was presenting hard legislation to the Congress. It has been the source of much debate there. While some of the measures have been unsuccessful, the result has been a comprehensive approach to energy being taken by the administration of that country. As I have said, this is in sharp contrast to the situation in Australia where, of course, there is this malaise in government thinking.
The problems are quite complex. The most disturbing problem is Australia’s dependence upon a dwindling reserve of indigenous crude oil. At the moment about 70 per cent of Australia’s oil comes from indigenous sources. But by 1985- and that is not so far away- the position will be reversed, with approximately 70 per cent being imported and 30 per cent coming from indigenous fuel. So there is a need to direct government policy towards changing this situation. In two years of the Government’s tenure of office there has been only a modest improvement in oil exploration activity. More must be done in this field. There is but a handful of drill ships offshore. If one accepts the premise that the areas of greatest prospect are offshore, then more needs to happen in this regard. More rigs need to be operating off the Australian coast so that deep water drilling in particular can take place. At the moment our rigs are only partially occupied, and only a year ago a couple of rigs were lying idle in ports around the coast. So even if we were to have the good fortune of finding another reserve of oil offshore, it would take approximately eight years to bring it on-stream. No matter whether we strike it lucky in the near future or later, there will be a serious gap in Australia’s capacity to supply oil for its own purposes from its indigenous reserves. We will have to rely on imports, with all the havoc that will wreak not only upon our balance of payments but also upon our own independence in energy.
The same malaise in government thinking exists in respect of natural gas. Natural gas represents for Australia a great opportunity as an alternative fuel. Yet there has not been one glimmer of hope, not a mention from the Government side as to a natural gas policy as a complement to a total energy policy. The Government thinks all it has to do is approve the export of liquid natural gas from the North West Shelf venture in Western Australia and that will amount to the totality of its gas policy. There has been no real assessment of natural gas demand in Australia, of how the usage of natural gas should be encouraged or of where it should be encouraged. There has been no discussion and no policy on the pricing relationships between natural gas and oil. These matters have been left untouched.
There should have been an attempt by the Commonwealth to sit down with the States and hammer out a proper fuel policy, particularly with respect to natural gas. I refer in particular to the natural gas now entering the Sydney market- the largest potential market in Australiafrom the gas fields in Moomba, South Australia. This should have acted as a catalyst for getting the Government off its tail to sort out a policy with the States. Instead, we find this ludicrous position where the oil companies are still discounting fuel oil to try to keep natural gas out of the Sydney market and to limit its penetration. From memory, natural gas accounts for about 8 per cent of Australia’s energy utilisation. The world average is about 2 1 per cent. It is likely that by about 1990, if we work at it, our average could be 15 per cent to 20 per cent. At the moment there is no gas policy for Australia. The Government is apparently not interested in it. Not one potential on-shore user of North West Shelf gas would have any clue as to the Government’s thinking on a natural gas pricing policy. This means that none of the possible users of gas in the Pilbara area or in any of the industrialised centres of Australia can plan ahead for future projects, whether they involve the upgrading of minerals to secondary processing or the use of gas as furnace fuel. There is no clarity of thinking on the part of the Government in respect of natural gas pricing.
There should be an encouragement to upgrade natural gas exploration. There is always talk about exploring for oil. That is easy to talk about. But everybody forgets about natural gas exploration. Natural gas would seem to be a good prospect for Australia. If exploration companies are to be believed, the North West Shelf has mature stratas that could be explored successfully for natural gas. They would provide for Australia much greater energy independence than we have at present. The Commonwealth has control over offshore territories of Australia by virtue of the Seas and Submerged Lands Act; yet it is quite disturbing to find that the Government of Western Australia is giving away tenements with mature drillable structures to foreign companies when they should be going to Australian companies. I instance the Getty oil and allied chemical groups tenement which was given to that group in preference to an Australian company. Natural gas exploration is something that ought to be encouraged. The North West Shelf is a prospective area and we could improve Australia’s energy independence because of it.
Let me deal now with liquid petroleum gas which is something that has been forgotten in energy terms in Australia. A policy on liquid petroleum gas would have been the Government’s easiest initiative since coming to office. The Government has been in office for over two years. When it took office it had the opportunity of considering the report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum headed by Mr Justice Collins. The sixth report of that Royal Commission made clear recommendations as to the penetration of liquid petroleum gas into the Australian motor vehicle fleet market. I quote a couple of paragraphs from this report. On page 9, the report states:
Only LPG is a feasible substitute for motor spirit between now and 1 990. Yet granting all the dedication that successive governments have applied to the national retention of indigenous crude oil, no part of any similar dedication seems to have been applied to LPG. Not merely a similar, but in transportation terms directly substitutional national resource to the nation’s crude oil resource has thus year after year been exported as if it was self-renewing.
The lack of a recognisable energy policy has resulted in the Bass Strait fields being administered as to natural gas and LPG, substantially as a local or Victorian resource. For natural gas it has meant that the Victorian-Sydney pipeline has not been built and at a greatly increased cost very much much more expensive natural gas has been brought to New South Wales . . .
The report at page 7 says:
Australia has LPG in quantities far exceeding current or reasonable projections as to future local demand. The key issue in terms of public policy is how this surplus production of 1½ to 2 million tonnes per year in the 1 980 ‘s may be best disposed of in the interest of the nation as a whole. Past policies or lack of policies have led to a situation where almost all LPG produced from Australian oil and gas fields is exponed at prices which as a result of the 1973 crude oil price rises, give the producers windfall profits. These prices which are higher than local prices fixed by the Prices Justification Tribunal remove all incentive to create a local market. Why turn LPG into a local market at $67 a tonne when Japan will pay more than $90 a tonne f.o.b.?
In other words, it is saying that the deficiency in Government policy has meant that the Bass Strait producer- Esso-BHP- has had this quiet windfall with LPG which is being exported to Japan at world market prices without any attempt by the Government to encourage or to establish a domestic market for LPG.
Liquefied petroleum gas is, of course, a clean fuel. While most of the petrol stations throughout Australia do not have the facilities to supply LPG, it is a first class fuel for vehicle fleets which return to depots where they can be supplied with it. These include taxi fleets, bus fleets, municipal garbage vehicles and all the various civil vehicle fleets which operate in this country. Indeed, Army vehicles could use LPG to the extent that it could be a substantial complement to other liquid fuels. At the moment the use of LPG is being overlooked. We have heard absolutely nothing on it from the Government. In the report presented last year by the National Energy Advisory Authority on a policy for conservation of energy it mentioned this point; the Government has done nothing about it.
Let me deal briefly with coal policy. There should be an assessment of the high vitrinite bitumenous coal for coal making and conversion to oil and gas, but this has not been done. The Government seems to be disinterested in coal. The totality of its coal policy is concerned with what it can export by way of coking coal and steaming coal. It has failed to look at a coordinated policy on coal exploration and development. The New South Wales Joint Coal Board report- which is put out by the Commonwealth and New South Wales- has no writ whatsoever in Queensland. We can find no definitive information about Queensland ‘s coal resources. Even the Joint Coal Board has not access to Queensland. These matters ought to be attended to as a matter of urgency; and they have not. We need to upgrade coal mining recovery rates. We need to look at mining techniques. This is another area which has been ignored.
Time is running out, so I will now deal specifically with the question of fuel conservation. While the Government has talked about energy conservation, it has done very little about it. It could take a number of important steps without great resistance. Firstly it could set fuel economy targets for vehicles produced in Australia. This could be done without upsetting motorists or manufacturers. This could substantially conserve fuel which would otherwise be lost through the exhaust or wasted as heat dispersed through the radiator. At present no fuel economy targets are being set for Australian car manufacturers. Traffic and transport planning ought to be high on the priority list of any government that is interested in energy conservation. Other aspects that come to mind include the shipment of major heavy commodities between the various capital cities particularly between east coast cities by rail. The electrification of our railway systems is possible and electrification can be fed by electricity generated from the coal seam that exists right down the east coast of Australia. Therefore, traffic and transport planning ought to be a must for the Government.
Another requirement is the development of a strategy for energy efficient vehicle systems. We should be looking at new vehicle systems which are much more energy efficient than the present ones. Most importantly, a comprehensive national fuel pricing policy must be developed. This can be developed only after consultation with the States. In current circumstances, industry is not sure which way to move if it wants to make new capital investment because there is no clarity of thinking on the part of the States and the Commonwealth in the corporate sense as to the price of various energy commodities. So, wrong investment decisions are made because at a certain time in history one commodity is cheaper than another.
The feasibility of blending synthetic fuelsthat is, the production of ethanol from cropswith motor spirit is another possibility that the Opposition thinks is worthy of study. At the moment hardly any research is being done in this area. The problem with research into alternate energy in this country arises because all that is undertaken is small research efforts which are largely unco-ordinated. The Australian Labor Party policy on energy agreed to in Perth in 1 977 deals comprehensively with the method by which we would introduce a co-ordinated and well funded research effort. We see the opportunity of imposing a secondary profits tax on energy commodities to raise sufficient funds to manage a major energy research effort in Australia. Australia is blessed with first class researchers who are not adequately supported or co-ordinated. The Opposition believes that the Government has failed in the formulation of energy policy, including the conservation and research and development policy. It is time that the Government brought down a statement outlining a comprehensive policy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I welcome the chance to be able to talk on the subject of energy and what the Government is doing about it. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), the Opposition’s spokesman on fuel and energy, made certain points on our policy. I must say that his criticism of what the Government is doing does show a rather deep ignorance of the programs that we are developing and, among other things, the piercing policies which we already have in operation.
Firstly, he made some points about exploration. I am staggered that the Opposition would dare to raise in this place any criticism of our policy on exploration when it is well known that within the three years when it was in office exploration activity in this country fell to an all time low. I am pleased to be able to say- as I did in answer to a question in this place a little while ago- that that position, because of the policies we are pursuing, has now been totally reversed. Secondly, the honourable member made a point about natural gas. Again, I am staggered that he should come into this place and talk about natural gas and what the Government is doing. If there is one thing that these fellows who now sit in opposition did when they were in office it was to make dash sure that the North West Shelf operation in Western Australia simply grounded to a halt. That operation offered the best chance for the development of natural gas in Australia. It is true that the honourable member was talking about the quantity of liquefied petroleum gas that goes out of Bass Strait through the EssoBHP operation. Again I have to point out to the House that many of those contracts which now result in the export of that gas were signed when the present Opposition was in office. So once again we can see the double standard.
– You are missing the whole point of the debate.
– I will come to that in a moment. Let me turn this debate to its positive side by indicating what this Government is doing about an energy policy. In 1976-77, we laid down clear areas in which we were working in energy and towards developing an energy policy. I will reiterate them for the House. The first instance is a clear crude oil pricing system which would encourage exploration and the development of the gas and oil wells that we have in the country. The second area is that of a clear guideline for foreign investment. The third is a clear export policy. The fourth is a decision to export uranium. That is again in direct contrast to what the Opposition would do if it were in government. The Opposition has made a clear declaration that it would not honour contracts that this Government has arranged for the export of uranium ore. The honourable member for Blaxland spoke about the need to pay for our deficiencies in crude oil in 1985. But the Opposition seems to forget that the very wealth that we gain from the export of our uranium ore will help us to pay for the crude oil- at least 70 per cent of our requirements- which we will have to import.
The fifth area is the proper tax arrangements made by this Government which were directed particularly towards the mining companies so that they would have confidence once more and an incentive to start sinking new wells around our coast and on-shore to try to find the oil and gas that we will need to meet our requirements in 1985. Finally, we negotiated with a consortium in respect of the North West Shelf. The definition and development of that project is now going ahead satisfactorily. That is what we did in 1976-77.
In November 1977 we laid down clear policy objectives. They were, firstly, to bring the prices of our crude oil up to those that reigned internationally. We are doing that. Secondly, we undertook to strive for self-sufficiency in oil and gas. Thirdly, we said that we would export those energy minerals that we could export as long as we got a just return for them. I have made the point about uranium. It is extremely important. Next we promised that we would increase substantially the amount of money that we put into research and development. That promise still stands. It was reiterated in our policy statements during the last election. It was reiterated by the Governor-General in his Speech. Finally we undertook to conserve liquid fuel so that we could curb the growth in the use of our fuels wherever we could so that we would be able to make the best use of the fuels that we have in the country and so that we could cut down on the number of exports. They were clear guidelines and clear objectives. In November, if I remember correctly, the honourable member for Blaxland endorsed that policy. In fact he went so far as to say that we were pinching his Party’s policy. Well, so be it. Let us not argue the point. I thought that we had clear agreement that at last we had a clear policy, a policy with six planks, for this country. What have we done since then? I have told the House that during the election campaign in November and December we made it clear that we had a clear objective to develop an energy policy in this country. As soon as we were returned to office we created the new Department of National Development which I head. It has a clear direction. It will be responsible for developing an energy policy in this country. That energy policy will include important minerals such as gas, oil, uranium and coal. I assure the House that we are pursuing these new objectives with some vigour.
– What are you doing about coal?
– What have been the effects of our policies to date? Because of these things like -
– Why are you closing coal mines?
– Listen to the old yabber up there. If for once he would keep quiet and listen to something that was going on in this House he might learn something. Since then we have had our policies in operation. I enumerate them again: Taxation incentives; proper crude oil pricing; proper clear foreign investment guidelines which will encourage people to invest in this country.
– What about fuel oil prices?
– I will come to fuel oil in a moment. Our policies include a proper decision on the North West Shelf which allows the consortium involved an investment environment where it knows it has markets for its natural gas. Now it has the incentive to go ahead and develop the area. The result of those policies is that we now have a North West Shelf project. The project is going ahead and the Government is confident that by 1 984 natural gas will be flowing to the shores of Australia where it will be used both nationally and internationally.
I mentioned before in this House how, in contrast with what happened in the years of the
Labor Government, we have achieved some worthwhile exploration activity around Australia. I mentioned in answer to a question the other day that the advice from industry which we are receiving is that in 1978 between 40 and 68 new exploration wells will be drilled. I hope that the advice we are receiving from industry comes true. There is a third area. Because of our crude oil prices West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd is going ahead and developing eight new wells in the North West Shelf area. That company, because of the crude oil policy that we have developed, is willing to put $4m into that extra development. It may lead to even more things. It is expected that around about 1,200 extra barrels of oil a day will flow to this country. They are examples of the positive effects of our policies. I ask this House and the people who may be listening to this debate to compare our policies with what happened between December 1972 and December 1975.
What are we doing for the future? The honourable member for Blaxland did us the courtesy of quoting from the National Energy Advisory Committee’s reports on conservation. The National Energy Advisory Committee had provided us with three important reports; let me deal with two of them now, one on conservation and the other on the problems of octane ratings and lead in petrol. Last Friday, at the Minerals and Energy Council, the Commonwealth Government put those two reports fairly and squarely in front of the minerals and energy Ministers from the various States. I have no quibble with what the honourable member suggested along the lines of conservation. These are good guidelines and we intend to pursue them. We have agreement now with the States that a task force will be initiated immediately to report to all the governments before the end of April on how we may implement that NEAC report. Already I have issued instructions to my Department that the task force be armed with proper terms of reference and that it get on with the job now. As soon as we receive that report, I assure honourable members that Ministers from the States and myself will meet again and implement the recommendations of the task force concerning the NEAC report and have a proper conservation policy for this country.
The second report I mentioned was that on octane ratings and lead in petrol. As I said, the Commonwealth made sure that the minerals and energy Ministers from the various States had this report put in front of them for urgent consideration. Those Ministers, under the leadership and encouragement of the Commonwealth, have agreed that octane ratings now should move to 92 for regular grades. They will support an education program and a publicity campaign to encourage Australians to use petrol with a 92 octane rating in preference to a 98 octane rating. I will not go into the details of that but it means considerable savings, at the refinery end, in the use of our crude oil.
I refer now to that part of the report concerning lead content in petrol. After examining that report it has been agreed by the Ministers that there should be a halt now in the States’ movements to reduce the level of lead in petrol. The more lead we can use the less crude’ oil we will use. That will mean a substantial saving to Australia. There are difficulties associated with the environment and health in this area. We have said: Let us hold the present level of lead emission rules and regulations to about that which pertains on average- about 0.50 grams per litre. We will take action along these lines. I will be writing to the Australian Transport Advisory Council and to the National Health and Medical Research Council to ask them to look at these things and to give us a definitive statement of the position. At least we are now moving in this area.
The honourable member also mentioned liquefied petroleum gas. The NEAC report to which I have referred also contained a reference to LPG. I agree with the honourable member; a positive move should be made now to try to get more people to use LPG, particularly in the areas the honourable member mentioned. I can report that last Friday the Commonwealth successfully urged the Ministers from the States to pursue the increased use of LPG. The Commonwealth is looking now at setting its own house in order. I will be putting to the Government a proposal for using more LPG in its fleet. We will also be looking at such things as a reduction or even removal of sales tax for the conversion of cars to LPG. We will be looking to the area of excise so that there is a differential between motor fuel and LPG. I hope in saying these things that I assure members on this side and on the other side that already we are making precise and urgent moves to have something on the table which will have some real effect in forming an energy policy for this country.
The honourable member mentioned research and development. I have no quarrel with the honourable member about the urgent need for properly co-ordinated research and development in this country. Again I am quite happy to tell the House that the Government, in its election promises and in the Governor-General ‘s Speech, said that it would create a body that could coordinate and look at the priorities that we should have in this country on research and development projects over the whole range of energy matters, such as coal and solar energy. The honourable member mentioned ethane being obtained from vegetable matter. I am happy about all of these things. The point is that I hope that we will be in a position very soon to announce the group which will be formed to coordinate these things. We will announce what it will be called, who will be in it and what will be its precise terms of reference.
– Have a look at our policy.
– It may deal with that. I think the honourable member will agree that it is absolutely essential that the Government and the Opposition for once on one issue should have a consensus on energy. If we do not we will not be able to attract the necessary overseas capital, for example, that will have to come into Australia to do some of the things that the honourable member and I would like to do. We have to have it. I am glad we have. The only other thing I would say about research and development is that we made a promise that there will be a substantial increase in the amounts of money available for such work. I hope that I shall be in a position soon to make an announcement about that. The honourable member would know that already we have $3. 5m in trust funds from the coal levy which can be applied immediately we establish this body that we are both talking about to make precise recommendations on how that money should be spent.
I could go on at length about what the Government is doing. I should like just to summarise these things: We do have a policy. We do have objectives for developing an energy policy in this country. As the honourable member for Blaxland said, it is absolutely essential that the country knows what that policy is. It is not possible to put it together in four or five pages and to say: ‘That is it’. It must necessarily be developed part by part along the lines that I have been talking about dealing with such matters as octane ratings, liquefied petroleum gas, lead in petrol, conservation and so on. I have demonstrated where we are moving now. This country has a department responsible for national energy policies; the country will have a national energy policy; it does have a national energy policy.
-The Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) seems to be confused on the question of what is the subject under debate. He confused ad hoc decisions that have been made, the flogging off of Australia’s resources, with what we are asking about; that is, an energy policy. I think he gave himself away in the last few minutes of his speech when he said that this country will have an energy policy. Maybe it will have, but it has not got -
– Yes, and I said it ‘does have ‘.
– Yes, the Minister corrected himself quickly. The Government has had over two years in which to implement its energy policy, and it has done nothing. All we hear are truisms about the need to develop alternative energy sources and the need to introduce energy conservation measures. But nothing happens. Australia needs a coherent, integrated energy policy and needs it now. The Carter Administration implemented a comprehensive energy policy within four or five months of gaining office. The Fraser Government, at least in practice, has adopted the mistaken attitude that all is fine on the energy front- we will just export our coal and uranium and import oil. Such complacency is appalling in view of the experience of other developed countries such as the United States of America, which was once regarded as being energy rich.
The establishment of a national energy authority responsible for co-ordinating research and development has been recommended by numerous bodies reporting to the Government, including the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources and the National Energy Advisory Committee. But where is this authority? The silence from Canberra is deafening. The Government has done little to promote alternative energy research. The use of solar energy has great proven potential for Australia both for domestic use and for export. But the Government has chosen to ignore solar energy research despite the certain knowledge that our oil supplies will be virtually exhausted in 15 years. We will then face an oil import bill exceeding $2, 500m a year.
At the moment solar energy research is fragmented, piecemeal and poorly funded. The major recipient of federal solar energy funds is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which in 1976-77 operated on a budget for solar research of approximately $ 1.27m. Under the Australian Research Grants scheme funds for solar research total $150,000. The figure has been increased to only $249,950 for 1978. The Universities Commission was allocated $180,000 in 1976 for solar research. In comparison with federal expenditure on nuclear energy research, for example, funding of solar energy research is scandalously inadequate. The Atomic Energy Commission spent over $19m on research in 1976-77. The United States Government spent more than $300m on solar research last year. One doubts that the Fraser Government is seriously concerned about our dwindling supplies of conventional energy sources. If the current attitude of this Government continues predictions that solar and wind energy will be uneconomical for the rest of the century and beyond will probably turn out to come true- a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Over 20 years ago CSIRO was an international leader in the field of solar energy application. It had developed the important, attractive technology for water heating using flat plate collectors. The potential of this industry has been shockingly neglected. The State governments have taken a lead in promoting solar research and development, largely in response to the Federal Government’s inactivity and lack of concern. The New South Wales Government made a grant of over $lm to the Science Foundation for Physics at the University of Sydney for research into solar energy. A major breakthrough was in danger of being lost overseas because of the Federal Government’s lack of interest before the State Government picked up the tab. Last year the New South Wales Government announced subsidies to farmers who switched to solar power. With the help of Premier Wran, Sydney University Professor Harry Messel has acquired an Arabian loan of $ 1.08m to finance the University’s major solar energy research project which was jeopardised by lack of funds. As Dr Swindell, lecturer in science at Mount Gravatt College of Advanced Education, said in a letter to the Australian of 5 November 1977:
It must be embarrassing to the Minister for National Resources, Mr Anthony, and Senator Webster, that many of the States have financial commitments to solar energy which indicate a far more visionary understanding of the impending global energy crisis than has been displayed by the present Government.
The essential role of private industry has been totally ignored by the Federal Government. These are the people best geared to link innovation to the final marketable product. A Sydney businessman, Mr Kevin Chilman, has recently won a contract to sell a solar-powered, prefabricated house to Saudi Arabia against a huge German company, Dornier, and a huge French company. He stated recently
I’ve been asking the Federal Government for months to give funds to research and develop some of this key equipment, but without any success. Unless we hurry, our three years lead in solar power will disappear overnight … It would be tragic if Australia, a potentially very lucrative market, failed because of lack of Government aid.
There is a strong argument for increasing rather than reducing research and development spending at a time of recession if it is accepted that a nation’s international competitiveness is assisted by leadership in science and technology. One of the problems we are creating for the future is that the more we become committed to existing forms of energy the more difficult it will be to change in the future. The argument will be that as we have this or that form of investment, it will be wasteful or uneconomical to switch to another form. We can see already the enormous political muscle of the uranium miners and the way they weighed in with advertising and funds to the Liberal Party during the recent election. It would be interesting to contemplate the debate in Australia about future energy resources if General Motors or Westinghouse had hundreds of millions of dollars invested in solar energy.
The Government has failed to implement an energy conservation program. Its only significant measure in this area has been to raise the price of local crude oil to world parity. But increased prices are unlikely to lead to any marked reduction in consumption where viable alternatives are not readily available. It will merely result in people spending more of their money on petrol to the detriment of the economy. And, according to the Industries Assistance Commission report on crude oil pricing, import parity pricing is unlikely to stimulate exploration expenditure for new oil. Even if sizable oilfields were discovered and brought into operation in the next few years, the gap between production and consumption would continue to widen alarmingly, given the rapidly increasing level of demand. Oil in the future will be expensive, available from a declining supply and controlled by a concentrated bloc, conscious of its power over the industrial economy increasingly dependent on liquid fuel for its survival. The Government should be initiating a national program to educate the public in energy conservation. We have been far too complacent about energy prospects for the future, largely because we have been cushioned from the crises affecting other developed countries by our Bass Strait oil supplies. But known reserves are now at the peak of production so we will shortly have to come to terms with the worsening situation, and the sooner the better.
The Government, as has been said before, should be encouraging the use of more efficient cars as well as conversion to liquefied petroleum gas fuelled vehicles. At present most of our LPG is being exported to Japan despite the fact that its usage here would represent a saving in energy purchases from overseas, savings in currency, employment of Australians and less dependence on foreign prices. The United States has proposed tax deductions of up to $400 for householders who install approved solar heating appliances. Nuclear technology in the United States has had 25 years intensive development under enormous government subsidy to reach the point where it can build commercially viable reactors to produce electricity which is anyway competitive in an economic sense, whereas solar energy has, with only a few years subsidy, at a fraction of that provided by the government for nuclear technology, improved from its position of a little over a decade ago where it was thought capable of fulfilling only a few per cent of energy requirements, at 10 times the cost, to the stage where it can now clearly produce the major proportion of heating requirements at costs which are competitive and may soon fall below the costs of electrical heating.
The Government has been tentative and equivocal about making a commitment to a program of energy conservation. Last September, the Minister for National Resources welcomed the mild proposals on energy conservation made by its National Energy Advisory Committee. But, less than two months later, the same Minister maintained in the Parliament that the continued use of large and increasing quantities of energy’ was essential for Australia’s economic wellbeing. He, and his successor in energy matters, the Minister for National Development, cannot have it both ways. If the Government is serious about this matter it will act.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Before calling the honourable member for Kalgoorlie I call on the Minister for National Development who wants to make a correction to something he said earlier.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have to correct something I said earlier in this debate. I made the allegation that liquefied petroleum gas contracts out of Bass Strait had been approved by the Labor Government when in office. I have now been informed that that was not so.
– It is very cheering indeed to note that the Opposition now has some new-found interest in energy conservation in Australia and some new-found interest in developing new energy methods and means. It was well known that during its period of government the Labor Government did more to destroy the incentive for companies and individuals to seek new energy sources, to explore for oil, gas and so on. It is also interesting to note that the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) appeared to be talking abject nonsense in relation to costs of power generation. I am very interested to know who, in fact, wrote his speech. It was quite obvious that his speech was written long before the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) delivered his speech here in which he made several points quite clear. The honourable member for Robertson was unable to put several points in the right context even though he had just been acquainted with the facts by the Minister. I was very surprised to see him continue to read such an ill-written speech.
The present Government has done more to conserve energy, to formulate an energy policy and to carry out that policy than any previous government in this country. We have the oil industry moving after three years of complete stagnation. It is well known that two years ago, following three years of Labor Government, there was only one oil drill working off the Australian coast. There are now several oil drills working off the Australian coast. It is expected that 50 to 60 oil wells will be drilled around Australia in the forthcoming months. We have implemented taxation concessions of a magnitude that will allow investment and will encourage investment of Australian capital in Australian companies. It is significant indeed that a large number of permit areas around Australia have been released for exploration in recent months. In every case there have been far more applicants than permit areas. It is also significant that in almost all of those permit areas there is an Australian company within the consortium. So there is an incentive to keep the energy field within Australian interests. A great deal of interest has been shown by Australian companies and Australian personnel to be involved in such exploration. It is recognised, of course, that the necessary major capital items do need farm-in agreements with major multinational companies.
We have encouraged research into the liquefication of coal to oil. It is significant- this has been reported in today’s Press and in last week’s Press- that at least two State governments are having negotiations with South Africa to seek the methods it uses to liquefy coal to oil with a view to setting up major industries within Australia. Some of these applications could lead to an industry worth $2,000m which is not a small investment and is not a small plant. Such a plant could produce up to 50,000 barrels of oil a day.
It is well known that Australia leads the world in solar energy research. This fact is recognised. The research carried out by several arms of commissions and government instrumentalities in Australia is recognised throughout the world as a major breakthrough. For instance, I refer to the breakthrough by Telecom Australia in relation to the solar energy research it has carried out. It is well recognised that Australian research into domestic water heating leads the world. People are coming from all over the world to look at our methods. In the past we have been a major operator in the field of tidal research. It is interesting to note tidal energy research is being revived in Australia now to see whether, in the present day and age, tidal energy can again become viable. When tidal energy research was carried out previously it was found then that it was not viable because of isolation and load requirements.
We have encouraged natural gas exploration and development within Australia both on land and under water. It is now well known, of course, that the North West Shelf and other major gasfields- I refer particularly to those off the west coast, those within Western Australia and in the basins within Central Australia which are now being explored again after a halt of some three or four years- will be a major source of energy for Australia in the coming years. They will play a major part in conserving our meagre oil supplies and perhaps will alleviate our total dependence on imported oil in the future. We have a comprehensive and far-reaching energy policy, unlike the previous Labor Government which had hotch-potch policies of actually stopping development and stopping exploration. We saw this happen. It is not political rhetoric; it is a fact that exploration for oil, minerals and energy sources almost stopped. Yet, in the short period of two years, since coming to power, we have seen a complete revitalising of such exploration. We have seen a complete revitalising of development in the oil and gas fields. We have seen a major step forward in the coal industry. A major decision, of course, has been made on the question of uranium. If it were not for the Opposition’s policies, and if it were not for the Opposition’s followers of those policies, of preventing the development of uranium we would have seen some development already under way. We would have seen uranium being developed and the profits which would have accrued from that industry would play a major part in developing energy sources available to Australia.
There is no question that this Government has a far better track record than the Opposition in the energy field- in energy research and in the development of energy sources. The Government commissioned three reports on energy. It received those reports only late last year. It is acting on them already and it will continue to act on them. It is interesting to note that the National Energy Advisory Council is now a full time body; it is not an ad hoc body as it was previously. It is advising the Government on an on-going basis.
I think it is particularly pertinent to look at our fuel pricing policy. It was aimed specifically at conserving energy and at making people far more aware of the desperate energy needs of the world and particularly of Australia. The Government has also taken steps to alleviate and to even out the effects of that fuel pricing policy on the more remote consumer. We are in the forefront of the world’s research into solar energy. We have done more research into tidal energy than almost any other country. We have been conserving and will continue to conserve our fuel, particularly our oil, gases and liquid fuels. We are very aware of our vast quantities of coal and we are taking steps to utilise these resources to the best of our ability.
Finally, in Western Australia and in other areas of Australia we have major grain alcohol plants that have been turning grain into alcohol. That fuel has been used in transport throughout Western Australia for a long time. In the last two or three years it has been banked down because of rising costs. Its production is now reaching another interesting stage with the rising costs of fuel. I believe that there will be a great deal more emphasis placed on the production of fuel from grain. In Australia, and particularly in Western Australia, we are well equipped to carry out this production. We already have production plants; we have passed the pilot stage; we have passed the research stage. We can actually become productive again tomorrow as we have been in the past. The rising costs caused by the Opposition when it was in Government stultified that project. There is no question whatsoever that the present Government has a better track record in the field of energy than the Opposition and it will continue to do so.
-Order! The discussion is concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of the Bill relates to the arrangements agreed upon between the South Australian and Commonwealth governments to finalise the transfer of the non-metropolitan South Australian railways to the Commonwealth. In accordance with those arrangements, provisions are to be included in the Australian National Railways Act, which will allow transferring South Australian railway employees to maintain their current long service leave entitlements and their workmen’s compensation arrangements. The Bill also includes a minor amendment to the principal Act to preserve the long service leave entitlements of a small number of employees of the former Commonwealth Railways.
Before turning to the details of the Bill, I want to remind honourable members of some of the background to the proposals now before the House. As honourable members will be aware, the arrangements whereby the non-metropolitan South Australian railways and the Tasmanian railways were transferred to the Commonwealth resulted from a policy initiated by our predecessors. The transfer of the liabilities and assets of both those railways took place on 1 July 1975. Since that time the railways have been operated by the State authorities concerned, but subject to direction by the Australian National Railways Commission. During the period since 1 July 1975 we have been working with the governments of South Australia and Tasmania, as well as with representatives of unions and railway management, to finalise a number of detailed operational and industrial issues. In December 1977 the three governments agreed that all matters had progressed to the point where a date for completion of the transfers could be set. This date, called the ‘declared date’ in the transfer agreements, is 1 March 1978. From that date, the Australian National Railways Commission assumed full control of the complete ANR system.
This is not the occasion for a long statement on railway policies. There are, however, a number of comments which are appropriate at this point. First, the completion of the transfers will place the ANR in a far better position to get on with the number one task of increasing the overall efficiency of services and reducing their deficits. I also remind honourable members that the Government has recently announced new measures aimed at assisting the railways operated by the State governments. We have undertaken to provide substantial support for the setting up of the Australian Railway Research and Development Organisation, which is designed to improve the railways systems’ analysis and development capability. The work of setting up this organisation is well under way and the Government will be looking for it to come up with constructive, management-oriented proposals, to improve the railways ‘ overall commercial and operational performance. We have also announced that we will provide substantial capital assistance, amounting to some $70m over the next five years, to upgrade State government railways that are part of the main interstate national railway network, and $65m to upgrade interstate railways in Western Australia. This proposal was discussed by Ministers at the last meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council. All State Ministers welcomed our initiative, and discussions will commence shortly at officer level on the details of this proposal, and I hope to be able to bring forward proposals for consideration by the Parliament during the autumn session.
Turning to the Bill, I have circulated an explanatory memorandum to assist honourable members. One point of clarification may however be appropriate. While the substance of the Bill covers arrangements with regard to transferring South Australia employees, there was no requirement for such arrangements with regard to transferring Tasmanian employees but there are a number of machinery references to Tasmanian employees. Honourable members will note that the legislation has been drafted to provide for retrospective operation as from 1 March 1978, and clause 2 covers this aspect. The substantive provisions relating to long service leave and workers compensation are set out in clause 5. The agreement reached on long service leave is that transferring South Australian employees who make application for long service leave or pay in lieu, after the declared date, will be entitled to either the State provisions which apply on 1 March 1978 or the Commonwealth provisions applying at the date of the application, whichever is the more favourable. The agreed arrangement in respect of workers compensation is that transferring South Australian employees will be given the right to elect, at the time of injury, to have their claim for compensation dealt with under either Commonwealth or State workers compensation legislation. Provisions have been included to achieve this, and no reciprocal amendment of State legislation is required. Clause 5 also preserves the long service leave entitlements of a small number of railway employees, whose employment with the former Commonwealth Railways began before 7 October 1944. Their entitlement was originally defined under a 1936 railway by-law. This by-law will be repealed as from the declared date, and the proposed clause in effect expresses their entitlement as part of the principal Act. The other clauses of the Bill are the normal definitions and machinery clauses and are selfexplanatory.
Finally, although the long service leave and workmen’s compensation amendments relate to areas normally within the responsibility of my colleagues, the Minister assisting the Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Security, the particular provisions relate only to railway employees and for this reason it was thought more appropriate to amend the Railways Act, rather than other Commonwealth legislation. I commend the Bill to the House.
– Before moving the adjournment of the debate, I would like to ask the Minister about two matters which are outstanding. I thought he might have indicated that they would be dealt with by way of an amendment in the Committee stage. Will the Minister inform the House if these matters will be dealt with later.
– Is the honourable member referring to repatriation benefits?
– Yes, I refer to repatriation benefits and the settlement sum.
– Because there is some doubt as to the clarity of the situation, the matter has not yet been resolved by my colleagues. It will be dealt with in the Committee stage if an appropriate settlement can be reached.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 9 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.
Upon which Mr Willis had moved by way of amendment:
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
neglects to provide firm guarantees for the protection of civil liberties by legislative enactment within the powers of the Australian Government’.
-May I take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Speaker not only on his knighthood but also on continuing in his position as Speaker. I have served under him for the last two years and I feel that he does a remarkably good job. I wish him well and I am sure that he will hold that position for as long as he wants it.
-I will pass on to him the honourable member’s words.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I also congratulate you and the others who serve as Deputy Chairmen of Committees. This duty is performed by a number of members of this House. It takes up their time during the sitting day, but it is a duty that they undertake willingly as a parliamentary responsibility.
I congratulate also the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) on his election as Chairman of Committees. In the three weeks that he has held that position he has carried out his duties with dedication. I feel sure that, as time goes by, he wil develop into an excellent Chairman of Committees. It will be my privilege to serve under him as a Deputy Chairman of Committees.
The honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) served for many years in the position of Chairman of Committees. I say to him that it was a privilege for me to serve under him as Deputy Chairman of Committees. I believe that he demonstrated the full measure of impartiality and wisdom that was required of him in that position. He has made a tremendous contribution to this place in the years in which he has been associated with the Chair.
I congratulate the new members of this place to whose maiden speeches I have had the pleasure of listening. I include in my congratulations the new members on both sides of the House. A tremendous wealth of talent has come into the Parliament on this occasion. I am sure that we will hear a lot more of the men from both sides of the House who came into the Parliament following the election in 1977. Whilst I may be a little overawed by their ability, perhaps they reflect the general standard of members of Parliament. In the five years in which I have been in this place I have never ceased to be amazed at the dedication of all members of Parliament. Their reason for being here is their willingness to serve this nation and to make it a better place in which to live. If this Parliament comes into disrepute, if it comes under criticism from outside, I am sure that this is not the result of the actions of the great majority of members of Parliament. The life of a parliamentarian is not easy. They enter this place to try to make a contribution and to see that this is a better nation for all of us to live in.
In a way I speak as a new member in respect of a vast section of my electorate, the sub-division of Katanning which is some 30,000 square kilometres in area with 8,500 electors. It was added to the electorate of Forrest following the recent redistribution. I lost the shire of Waroona on the northern sector of my electorate to the electorate of Canning. I know that the people in that district will be well served in that electorate, but I was very sad to lose them. It was a great community and a great agricultural area. As I said, the seat of Forrest now includes the vast area of the Katanning subdivision. This has made the electorate of Forrest some 70,000 square kilometres in size. I am not sure where it ranks in size among Federal electorates but when it was 40,000 square kilometres it was the 16th biggest electorate in Australia. It must be within the first ten now.
It is quite a challenge to represent an electorate of that size. I am more than pleased to have the subdivision of Katanning in my electorate. This vast agricultural area is well known for the reliability of its seasons. It is the best and most reliable grain growing area in Western Australia. It is renowned for its wool production and its cattle. In fact, it would be one of the best mixed areas in Australia. It includes the large towns of Kojonup and Katanning and some seven shire councils which brings the total of shire councils in my electorate to 22. I have had the opportunity to visit most of the new shire councils. I have found them a reflection of the other shire councils in my electorate. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the people, from the presidents down, who are involved in running the shires. The third tier of government really is close to the people. All the shires in my electorate are well managed by dedicated people who serve their communities without payment. They are in a reasonably satisfactory position. They face the problems of any other shire councils in Australia and are delighted that the Government is moving towards sharing 2 per cent of personal income tax with local government as its right. The commitment is for the next three years. I take the opportunity to urge the Federal Government to pursue this matter as quickly as possible so that the sharing is raised to 2 per cent as soon as possible within the proposed period of three years.
While speaking of my electorate, I mention the problem of those in the eastern sector in relation to television. In fact, the people in these areas do not receive television services basically because there is no television service from Albany to Ravensthorpe and Esperance. The previous Minister for Post and Telecommunications made the commitment that the people in these outlying areas, which are reasonably well populated, would receive television services in the not too distant future. Prior to the last election, I was invited to tell the people in those areas that this project was very close to being undertaken. But following the election, after a little more investigation of the planning and progress of television services in the remoter areas of Australia, such as this area, I am a little afraid that this development may be further away than I was led to believe.
Once again I urge the Government, in fairness to people in these areas, which whatever anyone might say are the wealth producing areas of this nation, that they be given the same facilities as people who live in the cities. I know that Telecom is responsible for reinvestment in capital works. At the same time, taking into account Telecom ‘s fairly massive profit, I believe that the time has come when people in fringe areas of Australia as of right should have communication facilities, whether they be telephone or television services.
I take this opportunity to mention the situation in certain parts of the town of Kojonup where television reception is impossible. This matter has been under investigation by Telecom and the Government for some time. There was supposed to have been a report on it before Christmas. Its presentation had been put off a couple of times but there was definitely to be a report presented before Christmas. As yet it has not been forthcoming. I would like the Government and particularly the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) to take note of that.
I was delighted to see in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the Thirty-first Parliament that the Government was honouring its election commitment to hold a public inquiry into whales and whaling. The Governor-General ‘s Speech indicated that it will commence shortly. Since the announcement many people have said to me that I am in trouble because the only whaling station in Australia is in the town of Albany, within my electorate of Forrest. I assure everyone that not only I but also the people of Albany in the whaling industry, the people generally in Western Australia, and fairminded persons in Australia welcome with open arms an inquiry into the whaling industry in Australia. Such an inquiry will thoroughly examine all the facts of the industry and the position of the International Whaling Commission, its validity and what it is trying to achieve. I feel sure that after such an inquiry the existence of the whaling industry in Australia, particularly in Albany, will be found to be justified. I am waiting with interest to see what facts the opponents of whaling can bring before the inquiry because I am sure that the inquiry will be dealing with facts and not emotions. It is a very welcome inquiry and I trust that the Government will soon be setting it up. I urge the Government to do so.
A lot has been said about unemployment in the Address-in-Reply debate to date and I too would like to say a few words about it. There is no doubt that the unemployment situation is far from good and there is no easy way in which to get ourselves out of the position we are in. I suppose the work force has doubled in the last 20 years, particularly in view of the entry of so many women, including mothers. In addition we have the problems created by modern technologythe use of computers and new machinery, particularly farm machinery. Honourable members really have no idea of the size of big tractors and headers and the work they can do on farms today and the situation on the land probably reflects the position in offices and industry generally. I have a very big chipboard factory within the electorate of Forrest- it is the biggest chipboard factory in the southern hemisphere- which employs some 30 people. It is a masterpiece of technology. The machinery is wonderful but there are not a lot of people working there. This is the trend and it must aggravate the unemployment position.
We have a number of unemployment schemes operating, such as the Community Youth Support Scheme and the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprenticeship Full-time Training scheme. We have also the Youth Employment Subsidy scheme which has proved to be of great benefit. It is interesting to see that State governments are employing hundreds of young people under this scheme. Many people in my electorate are working under it. I wonder a little when on the one hand we are paying people a reasonable unemployment benefit, because they have nothing to do and we cannot find jobs for them, while on the other hand we have the Community Youth Support scheme operating. I am sure that all honourable members have projects operating under this scheme in their electorates. I have four projects operating in Forrest. We invite people to participate in the scheme. They are volunteers. They do all sorts of work. Some work five days a week for nothing- they are getting just their unemployment benefit- because they want to work. On the other hand we have the National Employment and Training scheme under which the Government provides a subsidy of $56 a week. There is a tremendous number of takers under this scheme. Jobs can be found for the youngsters. The State government departments particularly are very interested in the scheme.
All this means that there would be a lot more jobs in the community if wages were not so high. I know one employer who employed five youngsters over the Christmas period under the Community Youth Support scheme. He picked up a couple of them under the National Employment and Training scheme. He assures me that if he did not have to pay them so much he could employ them fulltime. There might be screams of slave labour’ and what have you but what is worse than paying people to do nothing when some scheme could be evolved to ensure that employment was available? It may not be acceptable or even possible, but my suggestion is that we do away with the minimum wage.
– Especially on farms.
– It might not be acceptable to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who will scream about slave labour and what have you but somewhere along these lines there is a solution to this problem. It is something that we should look into. I congratulate the Government on its performance over the past two years. It should try to reinforce its attitude to many of the things that are still a worry and are not going as well as we would have expected. I fully support the Government and look forward to stable, sensible and progressive government in the next three years.
-The honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) must have been announcing the resignation of the Government when he said that we are going to have stable, sensible and progressive government. From my personal observation he is a very good farmer- I do not know that the word ‘successful’ is the word to use about farmers these days- but it is a pity he is so poor at politics. Nevertheless, some of his observations are worthy of a good deal of consideration. I know there is deepseated feeling in the community about wages and I too will raise a few points about that as I go along. However, I must say that I am not with him on the subject of whales. I suppose logically that one could say that while we do not want to kill whales we do not mind eating his sheep. This is an emotional area and is something to which we have to pay some attention because if we destroy the whaling industry the town of Albany will suffer substantially. There does not seem to be any creative energy around in this Government, and even less in the State Government of Western Australia, to find solutions to problems when they arise. We live in a world in which technology is releasing people from drudgery, but, unfortunately, only into misery and into a society in which they are unwanted. We have to do something about this. The Opposition’s complaint, which is expressed in the amendment it has moved, is that the Government is doing nothing about it. I suppose the GovernorGeneral’s Speech expresses the Government’s view of the aspirations of the Australian people. In fact the Governor-General said: the basic direction of the Government’s policies reflects their aspirations and interests.
If that is so, they must be very dull people indeed, because I regard the Speech as a very dismal dossier. There was no announcement in the Governor-General’s Speech of policies for Australian industry, the work force, Aboriginal people, migrants, youth and, most importantlythis seems to be at the heart of the economic debate- the public sector, which supplies so much of the background and muscle of the country.
I fear that we are now in the hands of the absolutists, the theoreticians, who take a more theoretical view of the economy than commonsense view of what is happening to people. For instance, we talk with almost bated breath about interest rates. The other day I heard the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) say that if the deficit increased interest rates must increase.
I have heard that said quite often but I have examined the deficits and interest rates in various countries and I do not see any necessary correlation. There may be a correlation but I cannot find anything in the documents to prove it. We are living in a world of abstractions. We hear it stated that if the Government’s deficit increases inflation will rise. What is the proof of that? Honourable members may, if they wish, look at the figures; go to the reports of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and turn to the charts at the back; see the figures for the 20 member countries and how they are related to expenditure, productivity and all sorts of things. They may look at other reports but they will not be able to find a statistical correlation.
We are living in a world in which the economists give us absolute answers. A medical practitioner, who may have a great deal of skill, is never absolutely certain that he can make someone better. There is a chance that the person will have a good funeral. A lawyer will say that, by taking on a case, he might win or lose. He may suggest that the person seek a second opinion. An educationalist may say the same thing. But unfortunately economists give absolute answers. We are told that if we spend too much money on the public sector we are milking it from the private sector and that all sons of dreadful things will happen. I cannot find any relationship between the money supply, the deficit, inflation or anything else of comparable countries. One Minister spoke this afternoon about overseas capital and said that we must encourage it. Australia has a national inferiority complex about capital. I think that the classic example is General MotorsHolden’s Ltd. All it did was borrow some money from the Commonwealth Bank and proceed from there to expand. I do not think that it brought in a large amount of capital, if it brought in any at all.
I am worried that there is no effective examination of the resources behind the system- the resources of people, skills, materials and manufacturing capacity. I do not know how we can make people or governments examine these resources, the enormous wealth around us and the great potential that we have to enjoy the good things of modern society which technology is providing for us. I think that a number of issues will cause a great deal of social disarray in the community. The first one with which I shall deal is the wages policy. The honourable member for Forrest mentioned the difficulties that are created by high wages and said that a case might be made out for a reduction in or the removal of the minimum wage. I do not think that this should be tolerated. One of the lessons we have learned in recent years is that our community is an integrated community. Everybody, whether his work is skilled or unskilled, is important. The physical or intellectual capacity of everybody, whether he is a professional person or the most lowly worker, is important. If the garbage men stop work it is not long before the community suffers a great deal of hardship. If a handful of railway men stop work all the trains stop. If the telecommunications people stop work or throw a few switches here and there Australia grinds to a halt in a few hours. I do not think that we recognise the integrated nature of society and the importance of each individual.
In Australia increasingly we aspire to equality of wages. I cannot justify in any way the current process by which the work force is having its share of the wealth that it produces reduced consistently, both proportionately and absolutely. This is a most inequitable and unjust political procedure. I cannot understand why the people of Australia are putting up with it. We are living today in a totally new world. We have not arrived at a conclusion about what is a fair day’s work or a fair day’s pay, particularly a fair day’s pay in relation to somebody else ‘s pay. The wage levels in Australia have shown less disparity than they have in other parts of the world. Top salaries in Australia are not very many times more than the average weekly earnings. That is the kind of society in which I want to live.
We have to produce an economic structure which gives access to the products of modern society to all the people in the community. That facility is available. It is possible for everybody, rich or poor, to have that facility as long as we adjust the relative salaries and wages in the community. In the days of Elizabeth I, 370 or 380 years ago, the people who were the aristocracy had clean clothes of rich cloth but these were obtained at the expense of countless thousands of people who were exploited and given a minimal return for their labour. These days we can all have such things because we have a high quality of production available to everybody as a result of technology. The same applies to luxuries and the cultural processes. We can all listen to the State orchestra at dinner time. Elizabeth I and the people around her could listen to fine music and now, as a result of technology, we can all do so. Our objective ought to be to bring these advantages to everybody in the community.
There has been a reduction in the share of wealth going to the work force, and this cannot be tolerated. The figures can be produced. Every hearing before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission produces further injustice and inequity. As a result, a great deal of dissatisfaction will be expressed by industrial action and by people dropping out of society, refusing to work for low wages. Honourable members opposite should do some arithmetic instead of talking about high wages causing a great deal of worry to business. If they did so they would know exactly what sort of returns employers are getting per employee. I have cited these figures before but it does not hurt to remind honourable members of them. The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd made $5, 1 16 per annum profit before tax per employee, or $98 per week; the Bank of New South Wales $7,255 per annum, or $135 per week; the Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd $5,726 per annum, or $110 per week; and the National Bank of Australasia Ltd $7,487 per annum, or $144 per week. Is that share going to the proprietors depriving other people of their capacity to work?
The fundamental question facing the Government is how to create work. The Opposition put forward the suggestion in its amendment that the Government should create in the ultimate 400,000 new jobs. How will it do that? It is chasing rainbows to think that the private sector will produce those jobs. There is only one way in which it can happen and that is through the activities of government itself. As I said before, the muscle and backbone of Austalian Industry are government supplied. It is the governments in Australia that establish the main basis of industry. The power supplies, with electricity grids throughout eastern Australia reaching into almost every home, farm and factory; the gas supplies that exist in the major cities; an the transport systems are almost all government created. They are almost all parts of the public sector. They are the only parts of the economy which we can expand.
There is no possibility of the private sector expanding. Why should it? It could take up another 20 per cent of demand and almost all sections of Australian manufacturing industry could play a part in that without having to put in new plant or to construct new buildings. No matter whether one is talking about the giants of industry, such as the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, or the hundreds of small factories to be found in the electorates of most of us, if an order were put in they could meet it simply by putting on another worker, by increasing the amount of overtime worked, by engaging in shift work, or by other means. Australian industry is running at perhaps between 60 per cent and 70 per cent capacity.
There would have to be an enormous increase in demand before any real impact is made on employment. The only way in which demand can be created- I think this is the challenge to the monetarists- is by government activity. Perhaps we could set out on a program of rehabilitating the Australian railways system. We have just had introduced into the House the Australian National Railways Amendment Bill which seeks to amend the Australian National Railways Act. I think there are something like 25,000 or 26,000 miles of railway track in Australia, extending from the far north of Queensland to north of Perth in Western Australia; it runs through every community. Perhaps the railway system is the major means by which we could give effect to energy conservation. It is not hard to do the arithmetic on what would be the annual saving on petrol if, say, an extra train a day were to run between Melbourne and Sydney. I drive from Melbourne to Canberra fairly often. I think an average diesel train will use about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel to pull approximately 1,000 tons of freight from Melbourne to Sydney. How many semi-trailers would be required to haul that same volume of freight?
I am absolutely certain that unless we apply our minds to expanding those areas of the public sector which need to be expanded and those areas of the private sector which can absorb more staff, such as the housing industry, we have no hope of creating more employment. In the years ahead it may well be that we will be able to do something about the system so that we work perhaps 30 hours a week or so that people can take more time off or so that some people, who are prepared to do so, can go through life without having effective work to do, just as so many of the aristocracy did once upon a time. We all belong to a society which produced the work ethic. We all might suffer from an energy crisis sometimes when we have to get out of bed and go to work. But we have to find a way by which people can find satisfactory work in the community. If we do not do so, we will create social destruction.
I appeal to every member of this Parliament to begin to examine the methodology of the monetarists, the structure of budgeting and the way in which resources can be taken out of banks and put into projects such as at the Belconnen Mall. That has just been done to the tune of about $30m, with only two per cent or three per cent of it being public funds. We should see whether we can apply that concept to every sector of the economy which is in absolute need, whether it be farms, housing, railways, public schools or private schools. An enormous number of work opportunities are available. All we lack is the wit- not so much the will- to be able to produce a system which does something about the situation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Initially I want to associate the electors of Darling Downs with the expressions of loyalty to the Monarch, to our country and to the Australian way of life. On their behalf, I want to be associated with all the expressions of congratulations to Mr Speaker and to the Chairman of Committees, the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) and at the same time to extend very deep and grateful thanks to the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). In the Australian Parliament Mr Lucock established a reputation for tolerance and courtesy, and at all times he brought a disciplined approach to what were quite often difficult circumstances. His shoes are very difficult shoes to fill, but I know that the honourable member for Wide Bay will rise to the challenge.
I congratulate all honourable members who have been returned to the Parliament and I welcome all the new members to the Parliament. All members of the Parliament have a part to play in moulding and chiseling into shape the Australian ethos. Irrespective of on what side of the House the new members sit, I hope that their stay in this place is personally rewarding and that at all times they act in such a way that it reflects their own individual point of view and philosophy of life.
Most honourable members represent seats which in part or in whole have been changed by the recent redistribution. Of course, there was much trauma and probably agony for those of us who, having grown up in an area and represented that area in this place, found that it had been transferred to another electorate. That happened in my case. I publicly thank the former constituents in the area that I lost for the confidence they placed in me during the time I have been in this place. I congratulate them on espousing all that is good, decent and honest in Australian society. One redeeming feature for the people who reside in the area that I have lost from my electorate is the fact that they will now be represented by a great gladiator, a real fighter for the men and women and children of the west, in the person of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). I know that in his hands their future destiny will be guided in such a way that they will achieve a standard of living approaching that of people who live in the metropolitan areas.
I welcome as my constituents the people who live in the new areas that form part of the Darling Downs electorate. I am glad to know that they belong to the same sturdy group of individuals whom I had the honour of representing previously. They know that Australia has been made great, and that it will be made greater in the future, by a return to the work ethic. I am proud to number them among my constituents.
It is time, at the start of this Parliament, to review the situation, to learn from the past, and to plan for the future, whilst not forgetting about the present. All of us have a responsibility to mould the Australian ethos. There will be nuances in people’s opinions about what we will achieve in the foreseeable future, but unless we look at where we are going, at the type of ethos we are endeavouring to establish, we could lead ourselves to disaster.
I have been listening with a great deal of interest to the speeches made by new members of the Parliament. I have admired the practical approach of some of them. I have smiled wryly on occasions and I have shed a few furtive tears on other occasions when I have noted the flowery images about which they speak when looking through rose-tinted glasses. Unless those new members who sit on the benches opposite express ideas similar to those so well delivered by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who preceded me in this debate, they will leave this Parliament as members of a party which can have no claim other than that the record of its achievement can be inscribed on a pinhead. I hope that their achievements will be greater than that, but unless they come down to practicalities, that is all they will achieve. Our foes opposite are advocates of sterile policies. The achievements of 1972 to 1975 could be measured by a very small sheaf indeed; it is a sheaf of fruitless and bankrupt ideas.
I want to state the policies, the platform and the aims of the National Country Party. The National Country Party, as opposed to the socialists who sit opposite, can be summed up in a well known saying by someone who put it far better than I.
– Anyone could say it better than you could.
– The honourable member has a head full of stewed prunes and the only things he got when the good Lord was giving out things were the left-overs.
-I invite the honourable member to ignore all disorderly interjections.
– Many years ago someone said: ‘Give a man a fish a day and you feed him forever. Teach him how to fish and he feeds himself forever’. That underlines the significant difference between the National Country Party and the socialists: We do not believe in a handout mentality. Rather we believe in the dignity of work and the fact that there is nothing wrong with Australia that a good, decent day’s work will not rectify.
I am proud to belong to a government that, in an election campaign, did not go around trying to buy votes but which, when returned to office and having the confidence of the vast majority of the Australian people, put into legislative form what it had promised. There is a whole litany of achievements with which I am proud to be associated.
– Name three.
– First, there is reduced interest rates; secondly, there is the abolition of death duties and thirdly, I mention income tax reductions.
– Give him another one.
– The honourable member for Lalor cannot count. We all know what his Leader in the Victorian Parliament, the now honourable member for Melbourne Ports, Clyde Holding said. These are actions of which we can be proud. The honourable member for Lalor has not heard of fuel freight equalisation. He has lived on the bitumen all his life; he would not know what it was like to be on the black soil track. All the achievements I have mentioned have been fundamental in achieving a life of selfrespect for people. These indicate that they do not want handouts, but that, given a fair go, all of us can get on with the job of developing Australia. We in the National Country Party are proud to be associated with a government that is determined to reduce inflation and, by reducing inflation, to overcome the associated problem of unemployment.
I join in opposing the views put by members of the Opposition regarding our immigration policy. I cannot accept the view that, because we have high unemployment in Australia, we should curtail our immigration program. The destiny of Australia has been guided in the past by the many ethnic groups who have come to Australia, blazed a trail and helped Australia become one of the greatest trading nations in the world. In my electorate, as in the electorates of other honourable members, there are Greek communities, Italian communities, German communities and other ethnic communities. They have brought to us the free gift of education in their skills. Above all, they have brought a sense of culture which has not only enriched our lives but also contributed to upholding and enriching their dignity.
I submit that what we want in Australia is a medium immigration policy, a policy which will allow the re-uniting of families with a greater spread than is applicable at present. I get somewhat concerned when I find that brothers and sisters of people living in Australia are not allowed to come to Australia. I hope that, in the ensuing three years, our Government will have a good, hard look at immigration on the basis of a wider family re-union. I hope that it will have another look at a situation which possibly exists in our policy at the present time- and I offer this as an honest expression of opinion- by which we may be discriminating against whites. I make no comment other than to say this: An analysis of immigration statistics shows that there is presently an increasing number of non-white people coming to Australia as compared with the situation 10 or 12 years ago.
– You are a racist.
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson will cease interjecting.
– I submit to the honourable member that we could be reaching a situation in which we could have to plead guilty to the charge that we are discriminating against whites. I am just trying to draw the attention of honourable members to that tendency. I believe that it is appropriate to recall that the percentage of immigrants from the British Isles has decreased by 24 per cent in a 10 year period whilst the number of immigrants from non-white nations has increased. I make the point that we should look at the situation overall to ensure that we have not swung the pendulum too far the other way, thereby discriminating against whites. I find it very difficult to accept that we can allow in non-white immigrants, yet we discriminate against white Rhodesians. Surely white Rhodesians who have exactly the same type of living oppressions in their homeland as other refugees do, are entitled to be considered for immigration to Australia.
I make that point because at present there is very great concern amongst the Australian people about our immigration policies. I say this: Turn on the taps of immigration at a moderate rate so that we can have family re-union and so that we can have skilled workers and some unskilled workers. I wish to make my position crystal clear as regards those whom we term the boat refugees’ from Vietnam. I believe we have reached an intolerable situation when 29 boat loads of people, numbering 1,097 in all, can in effect jump the queue and come to Australia in preference to people who have to go through the formalities and wait for entry to Australia. We must have another look at the situation. The Wilson report on immigration has been under way for almost eight years, yet no Government has seen fit seriously to consider that report. Suffice it to say, there is no way in the world that the Australian population will reach the 20 million mark by the turn of the century. What a curious ambiguity there is in our immigration policy when we can allow people in- admittedly they are refugees- without great attention to the procedures they have undergone to get here, yet we refuse to allow into our country a blind girl from England. I shall leave the matter of immigration at that point.
The Governor-General, in his Speech, made the point that the Commonwealth Government was going to allocate the sum of $200m for the purposes of water resource development in Australia. This is a further point to the query raised by members of the Opposition. It is another promise that has been put into legislative form. Almost two weeks ago, the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) brought into this Parliament legislation which indicated that what we say we deliver. I hope that, when the Queensland State Government lists its priorities as regards water quality or water quantity and conservation matters, the Federal Government will take cognisance of the fact that in Queensland, say in the Lockyer Valley, there are areas that have been committed to irrigation for many years. Those areas have a problem as to water quality and water quantity. I cannot see the wisdom of establishing huge dams in areas away from centres of civilisation when we have problems in areas where the people have developed a type of agriculture based on technology, initiative and capital commitment. Surely these people deserve top priority. They are committed to irrigation. There is no point in putting dams where there are no people. Of course we must not forget about the problem of town water for the inland cities and towns of Queensland. All of these are matters on which the Commonwealth Government has shown an initiative and has delivered what it has promised.
It would be remiss of me, as a member of the National Country Party, if I did not make one or two comments on rural matters. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics indicates that the aggregate farm income for this year will be reduced by 13 per cent to $ 1,600m. This situation is exacerbated by the inflation rate increase. So, in net real values, farm income could be down by some 19 per cent. On the other hand, farm costs have increased by 6 per cent. I wonder why members of the Opposition never do their homework on rural industry and come up with the facts and figures. As a wheat farmer, it grieves me to have to acknowledge that, every time the Australian housewife pays 52c for a standard loaf of bread, she pays more for the wrapping and cutting of the loaf than the wheat grower gets for the wheat content in that loaf. The wheat content in a 52c standard loaf of bread amounts to only 8c. That indicates the cost factor that the Australian farmer has to put up with.
We do have some anomalies in our overall rural outlook which I believe need rectifying. When a farmer wants to export his grain or his produce, he first has to honour a commitment to the local Australian population. Of course I support that. But surely when the farmer is reaching a situation of a short term in production and there is not much possibility of export, imports into this country should not be allowed to go unchallenged. At present, because of an expected downfall in the sorghum crop, importers are trying to import sorghum into Australia. But the Federal Government can do nothing about the situation except perhaps use the quarantine regulations to prohibit the imports. The only ones who will benefit will be the importers who will get a rip off. I hope that the Government will take the initiative and do something to ensure that imports, be they sorghum, grain, celery, tomatoes or whatever, are not allowed into this country to the detriment of local producers.
Another anomaly which I find very difficult to understand is the fact that we as a Government allow tractors to come into Australia free of duty but we do not allow parts to come into Australia free of duty. Surely that is an anomaly. The parts are not made in Australia and when it is necessary to import them on account of breakdowns the farmer has to pay exorbitant prices for the parts.
I will refer to another great problem that faces the potato and onion growers of the Lockyer Valley. I am delighted to see that the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) is in the House because he is interested in the potato and onion growers of Queensland. I am delighted to know of his support on this matter. We find that potato growers are at the mercy of merchants who usually operate on Sydney markets. They tie up the markets. In many cases, because of the company arrangements and financial arrangements they enter into they go bankrupt and farmers do not receive payment for their produce. I hope that the Commonwealth will get together with the State governments on this matter because in the final analysis marketing is the responsibility of the States. I hope that the Commonwealth will do something about overcoming the problem of white collar crime. There is too much of it going on and the farmers are the people who are disadvantaged.
During the last 12 months the price for potatoes on the Sydney market has varied from $60 to $350 per tonne. Price fluctuations create very great difficulties in the 23 major agricultural regions in Australia. The causes of these price fluctuations have to be ironed out. I believe that one way in which the Commonwealth Governmentbearing in mind that basically this is a State matter- can help to overcome the problem is to help those officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation who are trying to develop what we might term a simple forecasting scheme. In the 32 potato growing districts the 4,000 growers could help considerably if each month or so each grower was advised of the area planted, the area lost by flood, frost or disease, the area harvested and the yield. Much remains to be done in the vital area of marketing. A journey of 1,000 miles necessitates someone taking the first step. Let us take that first step. At least if potato and onion farmers had access to a reasonable forecasting scheme they would be able to iron out some of the peaks and troughs that occur in the marketing of potatoes and onions.
The other point I want to comment on is this: We have great support for a trade union training college known as the Clyde Cameron college but we have no support whatever for a similar type of initiative in respect of farm leaders.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Under this Government the Australian economy has fallen into a deep and damaging recession.
Only the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and their henchmen reject the notion that the Australian economy is in any kind of recession but the facts speak for themselves. The number of people unemployed has risen to 445,000, or 7.2 per cent of the work force. This is a rise of 1 63,000 over the number of registered unemployed as at December 1975. In lost wages and lost production, unemployment is costing Australia approximately $5 billion or 6 per cent of its gross domestic product This loss is more than 50 times greater than the estimated loss of $65m in wages through industrial disputes. There is no concern for the productive people who are put out of the work force for reasons completely out of their control. The Government is concerned only with statistics. Behind the scene moves have been made to minimise the importance of Commonwealth Employment Service statistics and to issue only Australian Bureau of Statistics figures which do not cover people seeking part time employment or readily established worsening unemployment trends.
The housing industry is in a state of serious decline. The number of new dwellings begun in the December quarter dropped 19 per cent compared with December 1976. There were 7,300 fewer houses built when the need for more reached crisis proportions. Small business is going out backwards. Last year, 1,270 small businesses went bankrupt; non-business bankruptcies totalled 2,196, 926 more than the previous year, that is an absolutely unprecedented increase. There has been a sharp decline in trade reserves. In 1976-77 Australia had a deficit of $ 1,866m in the current account. Trade reserves are dangerously low and now cover only three months’ worth of our import bill.
We have heard a good deal about the rural sector of the community. The fact is that our farmers have been ignored. Real farm income per farm is estimated to fall by a mammoth 19 per cent this year, calculated on an annual inflation rate of 9 per cent.
– This is done deliberately by the National Country Party.
-This is done deliberately by the National Country Party whose members make all the noises here but deliver nothing which would be of benefit to the rural community. Inflation has been mentioned. The fact is that inflation continues unabated. The drop in the annual rate of inflation to 9.3 per cent is out of step with the average rate of inflation in the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which is 8.3 per cent. So the Fraser Government has been less successful in bringing down inflation than other governments and it has deliberately caused unnecessary hardship and unemployment. How did this incompetent Administration escape the wrath of the people on 10 December? How were the voters deceived into believing that this Prime Minister, who is as sensitive as a stormtrooper in a teashop, could weld together this calamitous collection of conservatives we see opposite, this Dad’s Army, and make them the administrators of our nation to do even more damage and to wreak even more havoc on the unsuspecting citizens of this country?
The Fraser Government has been outstandingly successful at disguising motives, deliberately creating false impressions, stating one thing and doing another, and obtaining much political mileage out of the continued economic insecurity of the electorate. The fact is that the Prime Minister has used successfully the technique of statement fortified by restatement in order to create an impression, in the place of evidence to the contrary, that the situation is as he has stated. To get away with this he has not to be subjected to close media scrutiny. This is achieved in Australia by the Prime Minister and the Government maintaining the support of the Press and media barons. This is made easy because they are so few in number. Australia has the most concentrated media in the world. We are now down to 17 capital newspapers as against a peak of 26 in 1923, and we are down to three proprietors against a peak of 2 1 in that same year, 1923. If a journalist gets retrenched from the Packer newspaper stable his only choice is the Fairfax stable or the Murdoch stable and that limited choice helps to make captives of the people who serve the media.
The avoiding of close media scrutiny is achieved also by reducing the political criticism, or the effect of political criticism, emanating from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is achieved by cutting back on the sums of money allocated to the Commission. This reduced media scrutiny is achieved by appointing ABC commissioners and chairpersons calculated to respond to or be sympathetic to the Government, and I instance Mr Norgard who came from the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and Sir Henry Bland who came from the Department of Defence. Management then can make administrative decisions in keeping with the Fraser strategy. There have been cutbacks in the transcript services of the ABC. There have been cutbacks in the Broadband type programs. There have been cutbacks in overseas visits by the news units of the ABC. Of course there is intimidation of reporters into toeing the line. If the reporter becomes too penetrating or critical in a line of questioning his or her effect is minimised. I instance the case of George Negus who was not given another substantial political interview with the ABC after interviewing the Prime Minister before the last election. The result is that reporters very often impose self-constraint in keeping with the unstated limits of management.
The reduced media scrutiny is achieved also by minimising the viewing audience of the ABC by forcing the Commission through financial constraints or political pressures not to continue with or to sell popular programs. All this is done while the Government espouses, as the Governor-General stated in his Speech, its fundamental belief that a better society can be realised only by giving the men and women of Australia a greater measure of ‘choice, power and freedom’. This statement of empty rhetoric is accompanied by repressive action through the operation of an economic policy which diminishes, not increases, for most Australians their choice, their power and their freedom.
The effectiveness of the Prime Minister’s use and manipulation of the media can be illustrated by several current examples. Let me refer first of all to the uranium decision of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The ACTU resolution was to honour existing contracts from the stockpile at Lucas Heights or from Mary Kathleen but stipulated that labour would not be available for the commencement of any new mining project unless certain conditions were fulfilled. These conditions related to proliferation, terrorism, safeguards in relation to nuclear weapons, the existence of proven safe ways of disposal and/or storage of radioactive wastes, environmental concerns and the rights of Aborigines.
The media commentators and the Press seek to create the impression that the ACTU has given the go ahead to uranium mining. The Australian newspaper conveniently heads an article: ACTU honours uranium contracts’. The news talks of reversal of a hard line against uranium. Significantly the media and the Government are attempting to equate the ACTU conditions, which have to be satisfied before labour can be used for new mining ventures, with the safeguards policy of the Fraser Government. These conditions are not the same. The blurring of the distinction is deliberate. The Press is serving the purpose of the Fraser Government. The differences are ignored. Instead, the Australian public is showered with statements from the Prime Minister calculated to relieve the genuine concern of the majority of Australians but which do not stand up to close scrutiny. The emphasis is to the effect that safeguards are effective, that the problems of disposal have been solved, that the environment is safeguarded and that the rights of Aborigines are protected. This is done regardless of objections and pinned on the disposable myth that Australia’s uranium supplies are required to meet present and future international shortages in energy supplies. The Fraser Government, through the Governor-General, reiterates its intention to proceed with the development of uranium. This is a top priority with the Fraser Government because of the dictates of the Government’s backers and its upholders.
Another example of the manipulation of the media occurred in connection with the regrettable Hilton bombing. The Prime Minister launched into a military manoeuvre and by executive action of dubious constitutional validity called in the troops, and the troops responded in this dress rehearsal as it has been called. No analysis has been made of why the existing security arrangements were wanting. No explanation has been given of why the conference took place in a venue that local security authorities advised was not suitable because of the difficulty of maintaining adequate security. No mention was made of reports that the Government had been advised by the New South Wales Police that the Hilton was not suitable.
In the face of such opposition to the venue, who made the decision? Once the tragedy occurred Australia was overnight thrust under martial law. The beneficiaries of this incident, because of careful use of the media, were the security services, the very services which failed us. The impetus is lost on the proposed inquiries by the South Australian and New South Wales governments into the actions of their special branches. The impetus is given to allocating more funds to and expanding police forces and security forces. The Prime Minister benefited because the tragedy removed from public attention the failure of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting to achieve anything of substance. It was a futile, expensive exercise in grandstanding. It placed in the background for a time at least the controversial and damaging appointment of Sir John Kerr as Ambassador to the United Nations Educational
Scientific and Cultural Organisation. It placed security matters ahead of economic matters at a time when a dramatic increase has occurred in unemployment, which is not solely attributable to school leavers, the currency is under threat and Australia’s access to international markets is deteriorating. So we have a continuous deception and manipulation of the media in order to fool the people.
The year 1975 was when the hypothetical loans issue, loans which were never made and the order for which was revoked, was successfully used by the Prime Minister to give him advantage in the December election in an attempt to justify the actions of blocking Supply. In 1977 careful use of the media prevented the true domestic and international economic position of Australia permeating to the electorate. The Prime Minister was able to project to the electorate that his economic policy was working in the face of all the indicators which were to the contrary and that Australians could not afford a change in political direction again. This was a play on the insecurity of the electorate, a sort of: We’re the hard medicine now; things will get better; it will be stupid to change the medicine to obtain an alternative strategy for economic recovery’.
In the Governor-General’s speech the Government indicated its intention to adhere to the same medicine and to use the same stonewalling techniques with the media that served it so well at the last two elections. But the medicine will not lead to an economic cure. Those who are copping it now are the middle and low income earners, small business and sections of the Australian owned and based middle and large industries. Under the banner of choice, power and freedom, the so-called fundamental belief of the Government, more Australians are denied economic freedom and the right to work and are rendered unproductive and powerless as unemployment is deliberately increased. The Australian economy is marching from recession to serious depression under the manipulation of the media by the Fraser Government.
-I congratulate Mr Speaker on his re-election and his knighthood and the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) on his election to the position of Chairman of Committees. Speaking in the Address-in-Reply debate gives one an opportunity to look at some of the matters that face Australia today on a more general basis than is available in some of the other debates. I would like to spend my time in looking at the problems that have come about in Australia in the 1970s and at some of the points which I do not think are recognised by the Government or indeed by many people in the world of commerce in Australia. We have gone through a resource usage revolution. The 1950s and 1960s was a time when the resources of Australia applied to economic growth. The background was based on meeting post war shortages, on a growing population, on a rapidly industrialising Australia and on what was very much a rural economy. We saw industry striving to develop the areas of production and productivity which were so great into the 1960s.
In the 1960s we saw a change in emphasis again. The service industries came to the fore. The 1960s saw a profitability and a profit centre grow in Australia as we had never seen before. Unique opportunities were taken by both corporations and individuals to expand their positions in society. The 1970s have brought about a completely different aspect in the Australian economy. For the first time we have come to realise that the population is not growing at the rate we expected. Business expectations that were fanned so heavily in the late 1 960s are not being met and will not be met.
I recall in the late 1960s listening to the chief executive of Australia’s largest insurance company talking about his problems of investing in the year 2000 on the expectations of that time. I know only too well today that those expectations are not met and the real problem of insurance companies is one of survival in the face of many surrendered policies. In the face of the present situation I think it is fair to say that we ought to look at manufacturing industry in particular because this is the area which is the biggest employer of people in Australia. Manufacturing industry has something like 25 per cent of Australia’s employment. What has happened in this area? Management has become defensive. It is no longer looking for the expanded empires, expanded opportunities and the area in which to invest more money to embrace more employment of both human and material resources.
I turn now to labour. The pattern of employment in Australia has changed markedly from the primary to the secondary and now to the tertiary areas. This is not good in the overall context of Australia in the 1 980s. We cannot support the continuing burgeoning numbers of people who are going into the service industries. Unless we can come to some grips with that expansion we will be not be able to live on the principle of taking in each other’s washing. Domestic markets in Australia are now recognised as having limited growth. The domestic market is not big enough to develop new products or for a new company to expand into a world-wide organisation because to do that means to export.
Here we come to the very real crunch as I see some of the problems. We are now pursuing a foreign policy which embraces a close association with the ASEAN countries and encouragement to the Third World. All these people wish trade opportunities within Australia and they will be pressing in their foreign affairs debates and their foreign associations to endeavour to get a greater access to the Austraiian market for their labour intensive goods. Because of this the 1980s will be bound to be a period in which our export markets will even more diminish or be more refined to particular capital intensive goods. Capital, in the period, has to become more particular. Inflation has had a dramatic effect on its movement and its investment. Indeed, in the 1970s most of the capital investment has retired from manufacturing industry. Approximately 45 per cent of all moneys invested in Australia in the manufacturing industry is foreign. In the 1960s roughly 44 per cent of that investment, or approaching one-half, was direct foreign investment. In 1975-76 that amount was a negativeminus 2 per cent. So honourable members can see that there has been a real flight of capital out of manufacturing industries in Australia. What developments have taken place there have been at the expense of the labour component in manufacturing. Most money spent has been to improve capital investment at the expense of direct labour employment. If this is to continue, the impact on employment opportunities in the 1 980s will be very great indeed.
I should like to look at some of the needs of industry today. I am convinced that it is no good looking for foreign investment and for a revival in Australia unless industry in Australia has a firm footing on which to base its expectations. Naturally this can come only from consumer demand and companies must make a value judgment as to how much they can expect and what pattern will follow in the ensuing three years. But industry needs a light on the hill. It needs to know for its future planning what are the projected tariff policies of this Government and any future government. It is a shock to anyone who operates a business to find out, as in 1973, that there is a general overall 25 per cent reduction in tariffs and then to find out, as in 1975-76, that tariff protection is back in. Any investment pattern that is based on those sorts of movements will be most hesitant. Who blames companies for being hesitant? One cannot possibly go into a major capital development unless one has confidence that the project or area in which one plans to operate will be consistent for a period of five to seven years at least. Because of this I hope that both the Government and the Opposition can come to some common approach to tariffs in Australia because it is vital that for the next 10 years at least we come to a common accord on this issue.
– Why do you not call for a select committee?
– I think we have more committees here than we know what to do with. I turn now to the area of export. One cannot engage in an area of foreign policy with heavy emphasis on the ASEAN agreement, Asian countries and the Third World, without expecting those countries to require access to our markets. When we consider our policy towards the manufacturing industries in Australia- as to their export potential and as to the areas in which they should be encouraged- these aspects should be taken into consideration. I believe it is inevitable that our relations with these countries will force us to accept these facts. Therefore the 1980s will need to see the export industries in Australia more concentrated and specialised and certainly not will-nilly as we have seen in the past. What limited export areas we have for industrial goods are in the Pacific Basin and in this area we should be able to defend our markets. But what is an export incentive to an Australian industry rapidly becomes dumping in another country. Only too frequently we hear here of our manufacturers complaining of dumping procedures in Australia by overseas companies. That is a legitimate reason for complaint but we cannot expect the export incentives that we offer to be treated lightly by some of the competing countries.
I turn now to taxation policy. We have all heard a great deal about personal taxation. But it is in the area of corporate taxation that we need to look at some of the benefits that can accrue, and have been accrued, both by foreign and domestic companies. We will need to set out for the 1980s what we expect of companies. I hope that the whole of the tax approach to this area might be changed. I hope later to make a small mention of this. It is important for manufacturing industries to know what the taxation position will be if only in relation to their depreciation, to the amounts of money that can be spent in various areas. It is in the area of depreciation or capital write downs that there can be the greatest benefit towards the development of manufacturing and export industry of real long term value to
Australia. If the benefit is used in the short term it will be wasted.
The balance of payments area will become utterly critical to Australia in the next two yearsindeed even sooner. Because of this, manufacturing industries will need to be looked at. We have run huge deficits on balance of payments in Australia over the years. I think that since the Second World War I can recall roughly only three years of surplus of balance of payments. I do not believe that we can afford to run these huge deficits indefinitely. No one can alford to run the losses that we have. There will always be short term fluctuations which can always be handled. That is the purpose of the International Monetary Fund. But in the longer term- into the 1980s- the role of the manufacturing industry and its impact on the balance of payments is all important. When we go to the manufacturers and say what we believe the policies should be, these should take into consideration what our alternatives are in relation to imports, exports and import substitution in Australia. We will need to look very closely at what can be. done in relation to the impact of the manufacturing industry on the balance of payments.
I also think it is absolutely vital that the question of currencies and balance of payments be looked at. Until we face the fact that it is high time we had a forward cover market for capital movements I cannot see how we can honestly expect major capital development works to take place in Australia at the speed which we would like. We have the resources and the potential here but what company would commit its currencies in Australia until such time as there is some surety as to what it is moving into and what it can insure against? At the present time one can get forward cover on trade contracts but one cannot get forward cover on capital movements. I appreciate that even to mention these matters to the Department of the Treasury incurs wrath under the broad heading of ‘speculation’. One might say: ‘What is wrong with speculation?’ It is high time we recognised people who move currencies into investment in Australia do so with very considerable emphasis on the question of the value of the currency of the nation to which they are moving that capital. Until we recognise the speculative nature of such action we will not really come to grips with it. The value of currency can be isolated purely by putting it to one side and managing a float of the exchange rate. That can be done in the short term but it cannot be done over a 10-year period if one wants to develop a nation which is sustaining in its own right.
I turn now to the impact that will have on Australia. I believe that because of this silent revolution in the use of Australian resources the 1 980s will see a very big change in the demand for labour. At the present time, our educational institutions are not turning out the product that will be required. Until such time as the nation accepts that we are turning out an unemployable product for the 1980s we are only doing ourselves a lot of harm. Not enough emphasis in the educational field is being directed towards the ultimate goal. The approach to employment will have to change. I think that in the past- certainly in my days at university- it was not very difficult to obtain a job. Indeed, there was a number of choices. Representatives of perhaps five, six or a dozen companies would be running around saying: ‘Please come and join us’. The products of education that we will turn out in the 1980s will have to be far more self-reliant. They will need to be people who will go through technical training rather than academic training. They will need to be people who will approach life with a selfreliance that I do not think we have known. A lot of people, certainly in Australia, have gone from one activity to another because the opportunities fell into their hands. In the 1980s, opportunities will have to be sought out with far greater determination than previously.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was talking about the different patterns of usage of resources in Australia in the last decade. I shall conclude on the point that the greatest growth industry in Australia in the last decade has been tax evasion. I hope very strongly that the Government will give careful consideration to this matter in the forthcoming Budget. I am aware that in the last Budget it was stated that a number of loopholes would be closed. I have never known so much effort being put into evasion and avoidance as is occurring today. A whole subculture is devoting itself to eliminating or evading its duties to the Australian nation in terms of tax payment. It is led, in the main, by lawyers. I hope that something constructive will be done to overcome this problem.
Almost the majority of provisions of the existing Income Tax Assessment Act are amendments to close loopholes in the original Act. After nearly 40 years under the current Act, this might well be a suitable time to rewrite it and to make it a document that can be understood by the layman. In very simplistic terms the best way to approach this task it to look at the question of deductibility- not to add to deductibility but to work towards the elimination of it. By doing this, most of the avenues for avoidance would be closed automatically. If one cast the net over the thousands of millions of dollars that are lost through these avoidance schemes, the general level of tax payable, in Australia would come down not as a result of the reforms that were introduced on 1 February this year but in significant steps. No one would be paying more than 50c in the dollar if the present evaders were stopped. I support the Address-in-Reply and I look forward to the Government’s economic proposals.
-In supporting the Opposition’s amendment to the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech I wish to concentrate on the sixth item listed in that amendment. Point (6) states:
. that the Government’s legislative program as outlined in the speech-
I wish to stress this aspect, particularly as it relates to Aboriginal affairs and Aboriginal land rights. This is one of the many areas in which the Government is dragging its feet. Outside the Northern Territory and other Federal Territories, the Government today has washed its hands of any responsibility for land rights. In reply to the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) this morning, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) said that land rights is a matter exclusively within the jurisdiction of the State Government operating under its own legislation’. He was referring to the proposition that the Western Australian Government is now trying to edge its way into Aboriginal lands in Western Australia against the wishes of the local Aboriginal community.
Without consulting the land rights body in Western Australia and without consulting the Commissioner for Aboriginal Planning, the Western Australian Government intends to hand over to the Minister for Health and Community Welfare the absolute control of entry by diamond prospectors, including the De Beer group from South Africa. The Minister for Health and Community Welfare would be one of the most racist people in any government in Australia. He was caught by the Court of Disputed Returns fiddling the ballot in the Kimberleys where the Aboriginal land with diamond prospects is situated. He made statements justifying himself in that court hearing, saying how lacking in understanding the Aboriginal people were and what a shame it was that he had to waste his time campaigning for their votes because they were so unintelligent. One can imagine what sort of cognisance he will take of Aboriginal feelings and sentiments when it comes to consulting people on the rights of entry of mining prospectors to their land.
The same sort of thing applies in Queensland, which is under an even worse administration. In Queensland the most feudal and blatantly racist policy still exists. It applies to Aboriginals and Aboriginal settlements. In the 1975 election campaign we were assured by the parties now in government that they intended to implement Federal policy on Aboriginal affairs, to implement Federal policy on land rights and to implement the recommendations of the Woodward Commission and the Ranger Committee of Inquiry. The Government undertook to restore some degree of justice to the people who inhabited this land before 1 788. It has given us repeated assurances in recent weeks that it intends to do this in the Ranger uranium area in the Northern Territory. Even today one of the Government’s supporters asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs about this and the Minister said that the Government intends to see that the mining interests have full consultation with the Northern Land Council before any mining takes place in the Ranger area. But in the same Question Time the Minister told the honourable member for Fremantle that he completely washed his hands of the Western Australian affair, that it was completely within the jurisdiction of Western Australia under its legislation and that he would not step in.
The case of the Aurukun people in Queensland was decided by the Privy Council in favour of the Queensland Government, against the wishes of the local Aboriginal community and against the wishes of the mission authorities who have the confidence of the Aboriginal community. What has the Federal Government done about that? It has done nothing to amend any weaknesses in Federal law, which could restore land rights to Aboriginals. Unless Aboriginals live in Federal territories, it seems that the Government has no intention of taking any notice of their rights. Yet a record vote- probably the highest percentage vote ever recorded in any kind of election or referendum in Australiagave to the Federal Government the power to control and to legislate on Aboriginal affairs and the power for that legislation to override all State legislation. This Federal Government has the legislative power to take over all Aboriginal settlements, all Aboriginal reserves and administration of Aboriginal affairs in every State. Those States that have co-operated with the Federal
Government, with the enlightened mission authorities and with the Aboriginal communities have voluntarily handed over these rights. Why does Western Australia not do the same? Why does Queensland not do the same?
When the Labor Party was in government our legal advisers suggested that if we moved to take control of Aboriginal affairs against the wishes of a State government, such as Queensland, that government could haul us through a few courts, including the Privy Council, to exact from us payment for the market value of the land and improvements on those Aboriginal reserves and settlements. Negotiations were stalled for a long time while we worked out how to get around this without a headlong confrontation with the Queensland Government. In the 1975 election campaign the parties now in government assured us that they would pursue this matter and would take it up with the Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen. After that election all sorts of mollifying noises were made. It was said: ‘We have conceded a few points to Mr Bjelke-Petersen but he really has good intentions. There are just three points on which he has dug his feet in; on which he does not yet want to acknowledge Federal law, Federal responsibility, Federal policy; which he does not yet want us to enforce.’ These include international obligations against discrimination and racism. That position has not improved one whit since. In fact, it has worsened with Mr BjelkePetersen appointing Uncle Tom Aboriginal councils to try to get around some of the propositions that are said now to be Federal Government policy but which, in fact, are not being implemented.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs claims that he is ever so much more enlightened than his benighted Queensland Government which keeps Aboriginals in a feudal and dependent state, frightened to make any decisions for themselves; which keeps them bound by regulations which were exposed in the second annual report of the Commissioner for Community Relations, Mr Grassby; which keeps them bound to ask permission before they can even ring for a doctor and sometimes forbidden to do so even in cases where serious medical and obstetric complications have arisen; which keeps them bound to get permission before they send a telegram, which is censored; which keeps them bound to get permission before they bring a visitor into a Government settlement or to go out of a settlement and come back in again; which threatens that they will not be able to draw out their money even to pay hire purchase payments if they do not toe the line of some of the racist administrators. Not all these things are bad but the facility and the capacity for them to be oppressive, tyrannical and feudal is there under Queensland law and this Government has done nothing to confront the Queensland Government on it or to change that situation. The Commonwealth Government has that capacity. A universal human right is involved. It is time some action was taken to alter this situation.
In answer to a question I asked him at Question Time today the Minister said that he had very kind words to say about the Uniting Church and how enlightened it was in introducing what he called ‘modern policies and self-management for Aboriginals’. He said that he was concerned about the moves by the Queensland Government to take over the Aurukun and Mornington Island settlements from the Uniting Church, and that he wanted to ensure that that was the will of the communities. He will be discussing this matter tomorrow with a delegation from the Uniting Church. I hope that when he has those discussions he will show that the Federal Government intends to enforce the power given to it at the referendum on Aboriginal affairs and not cave in as it has so often caved in to State governments on these matters. It caved in completely to the Queensland Premier who pestered the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) with telegrams and phone calls day after day to sack two of the most able, efficient and hard-working field officers who had ever worked with Professor Fred Hollows in the eye care program for Aboriginals in Queensland. They were sacked, it was said, just until after the elections. So far as I know that eye program has not been resumed in Queensland. It may never be resumed. Professor Hollows has limited time and he moved on to New South Wales where he could obtain some co-operation. The alternative offered to him by Mr Bjelke-Petersen was completely unacceptable. Mr Bjelke-Petersen wanted a couple of Uncle Toms as field officers to replace those efficient men who were well recognised and well respected. Do honourable members know why those men were replaced? It was not for any of the reasons Mr Bjelke-Petersen gave. The Federal Electoral Office in Queensland was unable to confirm the Premier’s allegations that great stacks of electoral rolls had been handed in by these capable field officers. They were not political activists in that sense. They did their work properly.
What is really biting Mr Bjelke-Petersen is that they are two leading members of a movement for a land council in Queensland. As I indicated earlier, there is a land council in Western Australia which is just about to have its teeth drawn. But Queensland will not even countenance land rights. We know what the Premier of Queensland has stated in recent weeks about that proposition. The Premier of Queensland has mineral leases through which he and his family have become fabulously rich by speculation. They did not get out and use a pick or a shovel themselves but the Premier still claims that he is developing Queensland by speculating in mineral interests. It is quite improper for any person involved in evolving mining policy, such as he is, to engage in this speculation. He says that if the Government gives to Aboriginals the rights that he is already exercising improperly there will be a black take-over of Australia. They will be helped by the communist countries. The communists will come in and use black power to take over Australia. That is the sort of man who is running Queensland, the sort of man to whom the Minister for Health in this place kowtowed over the eye care program, which possibly has resulted in blindness that could have been prevented. It is the sort of kowtowing that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is engaged in with the Western Australian Government and I strongly suspect that it will continue to happen after the Minister’s interview tomorrow with the Uniting Church.
It is not, as the Premier has claimed, that the Aurukun and Mornington Island people have a bad health record and do not have the money to carry on, forcing the State to take over and provide them with more nurses or teachers or whatever. They have a much better record than the State settlements. The Torres Strait islands have one of the highest rates of venereal disease in the world and the doctor in charge of the Thursday Island hospital has been pleading with the Queensland Government for ages for adequate facilities to cope with that and many other problems, such as emergency care, immunisation programs and health surveys. He is getting nowhere with the Bjelke-Petersen Government. Health standards in the islands are far below those in the settlements that the Queensland Government proposes to take over from the Uniting Church. It is not that that is eating Mr Bjelke-Petersen; it is mineral rights. He wants to get his filthy mining hands on that land. For example, in the Torres Strait Islands he has already taken over a tuberculosis hospital established by the Commonwealth. When the tuberculosis hospital was closed it was made into an old people’s home but that reserve of Aboriginal land has been signed over now to the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement. Of course, it is not advancement; that is the Premier’s term for it.
I could go on for many days enumerating the racist policies of the Queensland Government. Basically this proposal is the thin end of the wedge to turn all Aboriginal land into State Government land. When the Commonwealth Government gets off its tail and legislates, it will be too late to take over Aboriginal reserves. They will already be in the hands of the State Government and it will have its hands on the mineral rights. Aboriginals will not have a say. I ask the Minister to carry out what he says in his policy, to let Aboriginals determine their own affairs. He said that he was doing this in Maningrida but he sacked the very people the Aboriginal community wanted kept there. He did it as a cover-up for two stirrers and trouble-makers who had to be sacked. Along with them he sacked the people whom the Aboriginals wanted to keep. He did this on the ground that he intends to allow Aboriginals to manage things.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I commend the Governor-General for his speech on the occasion of the opening of the Thirty-first Parliament. The Speech outlines the Government’s program of action for the term of this Parliament and I identify myself with it strongly. Early in the speech the Governor-General said:
After two years of hard work and constant achievement, Australians now look to the future with new found confidence.
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.
That is a challenge for all Australians. I ask that all Australians think of the sort of Australia that they want for today and for the future. What type of country are we to mould for ourselves? What son of industries do we want? What are we best at and what industries are most appropriate for the Australia of today and the future? What is our proper position in the world, recognising that we are basically a European enclave in the Asian region. What is our proper reaction to the pressures upon Australia from Asian countries for Australia to take more imports? These are the questions I would like to talk about tonight for they concern the type of Australia for the future.
Where will the growth occur in our economy? The generally accepted definition of ‘industries’ includes tertiary, primary and manufacturing industries. The tertiary sector is split between the public and private sectors and further between the services and the private sector. The honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) earlier in this debate referred to the need for subcategorisation in relation to the impact of technology on the information areas in the tertiary sector and perhaps there is some good sense in that. However, what industries are we going to encourage in Australia and what is the place for each? I welcomed this statement in the Governor-General’s Speech:
Essential to my Government’s economic program is the growth of Australian industry, the development of our resources, and a renewed emphasis on growth in exports. These hold the key to greater prosperity and the creation of more jobs.
Let us look briefly at industries case by case. The primary industry sector is under great pressure and many farmers are facing bankruptcy. In the beef industry particularly some farmers have had losses for the last three, four and in some cases five years. What are the pressures on them for the creation of more jobs? I suggest that farmers are wishing to increase productivity and will in the future employ less labour. In the tertiary area, the private sector, which includes the banking, insurance and travel industries, because of high wage rates is using less labour and more machines, computers and electronic data processing. In the last decade the proportion of the total working population employed in the manufacturing sector has shrunk from about 29 per cent to 20 percent.
I would like now to comment on the interdependence of all these sectors of the economy. I get sick and tired of primary producer organisations and free traders attacking the manufacturing sector. Farmers and farming organisations cannot have their cake and eat it too. They cannot expect consumers in the city who buy at least half of their produce to drop their standard of living and put themselves out of work because the farmers want less protection of Australian industry. If the farming organisations succeed in their point of view they will throw Australians in the cities out of jobs and further reduce their own market, so it is a self-defeating exercise. Let us look at the pressures on the nation from outside. There are pressures from Asian countries upon us to take more goods. The large growth in the world’s work force will occur in the region immediately around Australia and we have to decide what is our place in that part of the world.
I turn now to the Australian scene to look at the nature of and growth in the population and the work force. Our population is growing very slowly- it is almost stagnant- but here there is an inherent contradiction because the work force is still growing. It means that despite virtually no population growth there is a large growth in the work force. I have looked at a number of estimates and between 100,000 and 170,000 jobs will have to be created every year for the next five years to absorb those people wanting to enter the work force. That is a challenge for governments, industries, the unions and the whole nation alike. It affects our population, our family policies and our immigration programs. Where will these jobs come from?
I believe that the statement I referred to earlier about encouraging and placing renewed emphasis on exports is one of the keys to the solution of this problem and we will have to develop programs the like of which we have not seen before. The labour market is significantly different now from what it was in the 1950s and 1960s. Employers are seeking to reduce and /or contain labour costs. Those without qualifications in the work force face an unusual and different labour market. Technological progress is compatible with and supports growth in job opportunities and full employment but labour and capital will need to be flexible and, most importantly, there will need to be sufficient investment. Some informed people forecast that developed countries will find it difficult to return to past economic growth rates and will continue to face higher levels of unemployment into the first half of the 1980s. I would like Australia to be unique and prove to the rest of the world that this is not so. Rather than follow we have a unique opportunity to lead the way.
I referred earlier to the developing countries ‘ population and labour force, the growth in which is changing dramatically. At the turn of the century the world’s labour force was growing by 50 million each decade. Today it is growing by 50 million each year and most of this growth is occurring in the developing countries. Workers in industrialised countries at the end of the war represented one-third of the world’s labour force. Today they represent less than one-quarter and by the end of this century they will represent less than one-seventh. The Third World’s labour force in Asia alone, the part of the world in which Australia is placed geographically, will exceed that of all the industrialised countries by the end of the century. This dramatic change in the distribution of the world ‘s labour force, together with the changing nature of Australia’s labour force, has important implications not only for our domestic policies but also for international trading relationships and our population policy.
The surplus labour in the world today seeks to move to the richer countries, and this is particularly so in Europe, while capital seeks to flow to the poorer countries in search of cheap labour. This is the paradox that is created. We have to define the sectors which will generate our wealth and employment in the future, and they may be different from those that have generated it in the past, but we have a responsibility to generate jobs for Australians. Governments will become more concerned with the redirection of resources and the pressures for more jobs, particularly at the unskilled end of production, will create further problems. Our present generation of young people has grown up in the most prosperous period Australia has known but perhaps they face more problems. Young people have an enormous expectation that jobs will be available in the community. We as a community have properly led them to that expectation yet society itself is not rewarding them with jobs that are available. We have an education system that is turning out students of whom about 20 per cent cannot read or write and are not trained even for an unskilled job such as driving a truck because to do that they need to read a street directory and street signs.
Let us now look at the nature of the work force and the effect of wage policy on resource allocation. We are short of skilled labour in this country and this is something which honourable members on both sides of the House have said repeatedly. I ask the Parliament: Recognising that we are short of skilled labour, why is this so? There is a common view that it is because we do not have adequate facilities for training people for skilled labour but I believe that we need to question this view. We may in fact have adequate training institutions but because of wage relativities people trained in a trade and other technical areas leave that area either on graduating or qualifying or before they graduate or qualify to go into another area of activity. The implications for policy making are enormous. We need to ask ourselves whether we should spend millions of dollars of capital on more technical training institutions or whether they are adequate but people are merely transferring out of this area of activity in the economy.
Let us look at some wage rates that indicate that this is so. The minimum legal award for a builder’s labourer is $185 a week whereas the legal minimum award for a metal trades fitterhis wage used to be the bench mark- is $144.10.
There is some over-award payment that can be added to that. Those wages of $185 for the builder’s labourer and $144.10 for the metal trades fitter are the amounts to which indexation applies. Indexation applies to the actual award wage, not to the over-award wage, and therefore the difference is permanently locked into the wage structure and the gap is widening. Truck drivers, clerks and government employees are paid more than the metal trades fitter. Indexation has exacerbated the situation. Let us look at an Australian Government public servant in his first year of employment. He receives a wage of $ 168. 15. So rather than spend four years training and doing an apprenticeship to become a fitter, one can join the Australian Public Service and get $168.15, which is $24 more than a fitter’s wage. After five years in the Australian Public Service the disparity is $44.45, the minimum wage being $186.55.
What is happening is that wage policy is determining the allocation of resources and young people when looking towards their future will not be encouraged into the skilled trades areas. This is a real problem for the community. I am convinced that equal pay, junior pay rates and penalty rates- regardless of the moral issues involved in each of them- are creating unemployment in this country. We are getting to the stage where those in jobs are very well off and those who are unemployed have to suffer. The effect of wage rates on policy, to which I have referred, has another effect on the manufacturing sector. In some factories in Australia today there is a shortage of skilled labour. For instance, when the North West Shelf development goes into its final stages some 3,000 to 15,000 skilled metal trades workers will be needed. Some factories in this country are already short of such workers, and when that demand arises what will be the situation in the factories?
The difficulty that the Government faces is that the independent Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by its wage policy is determining allocation of resources- human resources and resources of capital- in this country. I commend the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) who spoke earlier today about resource usage. The matters I have been talking about tonight relate to the use of resources. I believe that the Government must have more say in determining wage policy. The Government cannot abdicate to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the power to determine where resources, both human and capital, should go. By a ridiculous combination of constitutional politics we have got ourselves into the position where the
Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has power to direct resources and the Government through no fault of its own is virtually powerless to stop it.
– Do you want the same power over profits, or do you want to limit it just to wages?
-I will let the honourable member’s useless interjection rest in the air where it properly belongs. I welcomed the energy debate that took place today and I commend the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) for his part in that debate. Energy is one of the challenges for the future. I welcomed what the Minister said about liquefied petroleum gas and his thoughts on encouraging more experimentation in this area by government car fleets and others. Let us look now at the effect on resources of the problems of replacing Bass Strait oil. Unless we find another oil field the size of the Bass Strait fields, by 1985 we will have a serious problem in paying for our current imports. We will need to generate $2 billion to $3 billion at current rates of consumption.
On the credit side of the ledger, we may have exports from the North West Shelf, uranium, LPG and other energy sources. But the European Economic Community is looking more inward and the world trade pattern seems to be slowing down. Demand is not as great as it has been in the past. We have to look at our energy resources and at what our policy is to be in relation to them. We must not lull ourselves into the belief that our gas, coal and uranium exports will necessarily make up the $3 billion-odd needed to pay for our imports in the mid-1980s. I believe that we need to consider getting ready to exploit our coal resources by the processes of liquefaction. It is not a matter of taking our high-grade coals- I think that we ought to export them- but we ought to look at the lower grade coals and perhaps at our shale oil deposits and consider whether we ought to have a national policy, and include that in our energy policy, of having a plant to make liquids. To liquefy coal will cost twice as much as it costs to import oil but, for reasons of defence or resource allocation, it may be the thing to do.
A lot of people say that there is a search for new technology in this area and that a big breakthrough will be announced in the near future. I suggest that perhaps the technology is there but that the major costs of liquefaction will not be in the chemical processes but rather in the cost of the mine itself, the plant, the infrastructure, the ports and the capital needed to build such a project. Let us look at what is happening in South Africa at the present time. There is a new coal liquefaction project there which has just entered the construction stage. It is costing between $2.8 billion and $3 billion. It may be uneconomic in pure terms but I believe that it is the sort of project that we have to look at to see whether it is appropriate for Australia. It will not be in the technology area that the breakthrough will come. We have to look at the cost of plant and equipment. In conclusion, I strongly support the motion that the Address-in-Reply be agreed to.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to make a couple of comments on the speech of the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton). He raises the question of the alleged lack of skilled workers- people who are trained and who then get out of their skilled trade. I should think that the reasons for that are varied. Obviously one of the main reasons is that in our society generally people do not like working for a boss. If they get the opportunity or if they think they can see an opportunity of not working for somebody but of becoming self-employed and, on top of that, possibly making a fortune, they grab it. Many of them are not really qualified to go into business and we see time and again people becoming building contractors -
– Land developers.
– Land developers, service station operators or contractors buying trucks. They see advertisements in the newspapers for the sale of trucks for a certain amount of money a week. About three or four times that large amount of money in profit is allegedly guaranteed each week. That is all right, as long as the truck is working, there is no break down, nothing goes wrong, and they get the load. As soon as they miss out on loads or the truck breaks down, they are in real strife. I think the same sort of situation applies to other people who go into business. We have heard figures cited in that regard. I cannot give them tonight off the top of my head. Some make it and they get very carried away by the private enterprise system. They praise it in letters to the newspapers and so on. They say that everybody can make it. But many do not make it; they go bankrupt and some of them, I assume, go back to their original trades.
Since we are debating the Governor-General’s Speech, might I say that it was a terrible speech. It was written, of course, by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I shall read to the House something written by a group which normally supports the Prime Minister and his Government. The Sun-Herald said:
The Governor-General’s Speech in opening Parliament was inordinately long and dismally standpat in its economic content. 1 think that is a fair summary. There was nothing in it; there was nothing to it. It did not say anything, but it went on and on. I felt sorry for the Governor-General for having to deliver that Speech.
I think one of the points about the Government which is slowly coining across to the Australian population at large- from our point of view it is obviously coming across too slowly and hopefully from the Government’s point of view too quickly- is that a government which is not honest, a government which behaves in a very peculiar fashion. Even people with a conservative outlook who are satisfied with society as it is are beginning to be puzzled about just what is going on. Obviously a significant number of them became aware of the dishonesty of the Government in relation to the issue with which I was concerned, namely, increased health levies and contribution rates following the election. We predicted that those rates would increase. The Government denied that. The Prime Minister specifically denied that they would go up. Of course, they have gone up by approximately 40 per cent. I think that sort of happening does make an impact upon the Australian population.
– What about the effect of Medibank? Do not distort the situation.
-I will come back to that later. Other people who support the Government also have become disillusioned. I shall quote again- I have quoted him before- Geoffrey Fairbairn who is a conservative gentleman from this town with all the right credentials, as far as the conservative parties are concerned. In a letter published in the Age on 12 February- that was when Kerr had been appointed to the job at the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation- he said:
The almost unbelievable squalidness of the Kerr appointment dramatically reveals the bankruptcy of conservatism in Australia. The Prime Minister of this country is quite clearly a mountebank -
He then quotes the definition from the Shorter Oxford Dictionary-
An itinerant quack who from a platform appealed to his audience by means of stories, tricks, juggling, and the like, often with the assistance of a clown ‘ . . .
I do not know who the clown is, but I suppose he is referring to Kerr. Geoffrey Fairbairn goes on to say:
One is tempted to quip about what Mr Fraser will do now that his terribly sad clown has gone to UNESCO. But the total lack of fastidiousness, nay, ordinary human decencythe utter lack of any sense of propriety-displayed on this occasion by the Prime Minister is altogether unamusing, since by his outrageous conduct Mr Fraser has acted far more deeply subversively (using that word in its proper sense) than any politically subversive group could do.
He has dishonoured the most deep-seated ideas of Australian decency, ideas that still beautifully transcend party political allegiences; in his spoilt-boy arrogance he has struck at what makes a nation of us.
So far as I am concerned- and I am only an ordinary conservative citizen of no importance whatever- Mr Fraser is a walking and talking disaster area for the future of this country. I can only hope that other conservatives realise this.
Some did. The centre page of the Sunday Telegraph of 5 March featured a story about Kerr resigning or ‘being resigned’ from UNESCO. The centre page is written by somebody calling himself Cassandra. It usually contains just pure Liberal Party propaganda. That writer said:
The appointment of Sir John Kerr as Ambassador to UNESCO has finally been seen for what it really was- political hypocrisy.
I have defended the right of Sir John to make the constitutional decision he did in 1973 but the government-inspired appointment to an ambassadorial post is to be deplored.
It would be too simple to say that Sir John had done the right thing by resigning the post.
History and time will tell if Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser made a deal for Sir John to step down, and if he knew Sir John intended to resign as UNESCO ambassador.
The article goes on:
It seems clear that Fraser made a mistake- and that’s putting it kindly- when he announced the appointment. But more interesting is the resignation. It is a clear recognition by Sir John that the appointment was being seen as a pay-off.
It’s rare that Fraser backs down, but I’m prepared to bet he went to water on this issue.
So we see that some of the conservative people in this society are becoming disappointed with the behaviour of the Government. The Government’s behaviour during this IBM-Facom dispute on computers clearly indicates one point that is, that the Prime Minister is obviously taking much more note of one of the competitors for this particular contract than he is of the other. For whatever reason, I think this is depressing. I accept IBM ‘s statement that it has not kicked in any money to the Liberal Party. But what it has on the Prime Minister, I do not know. We know that the Prime Minister has made deals previously with very shady characters. I am not suggesting that IBM is shady. All honourable members will remember that one of the closest business associates of the Prime Minister was
Kenneth Gale of Gollin Holdings Ltd. He provided the people who provided the policy for the Prime Minister when he was on the front bench in Opposition. We now know that John Spender Q.C, who was appointed, I think, by the previous Liberal Government in New South Wales to investigate the position, is now, I think- the honourable member for MacKellar (Mr Carlton) will correct me if I am wrongPresident of the New South Wales Branch of the Liberal Party.
-I thought he was elected President. Anyway, he has fairly good credentials in the Liberal Party. He has pointed out that Gale rooked not only others but also his own company.
-Order! I must remind the honourable member that he has already spoken in the Address-in-Reply debate. He is now speaking to the amendment which has been moved. I think he is getting a little wide of the terms of the amendment, and I ask him to direct his comments to the amendment which is before the Chair.
– Surely the sort of behaviour on the part of the Prime Minister about which I am speaking must be covered by paragraph (3) of the amendment which reads: leaves serious uncertainty about the progress of the Australian economy;
-If you keep to that, yes.
-The situation is that people have tendered for a contract under the terms of the tender documents which were originally asked for and then those tenders were revoked by the Prime Minister, contrary to the advice that he received from Cabinet, contrary to the advice that he received from the Public Service. He then went on to set new tender specifications, and we all know the specific technical areas required for the new tenders. The need for new tenders arose out of a suggestion by the Managing Director of IBM, Mr A. G. Moyes, who wanted those particular matters included in the new tendering documents. All I can say, and the point I am trying to make, is that a large number of people in this community are now becoming very suspicious of the members of the Government, about their behaviour, about the reasons for their behaviour. The credibility gap is widening very significantly. Hopefully that situation will remain for the rest of the term of the Government.
I wish to raise quickly a point arising out of the report on the Major Airport Needs of Sydney study which is expected in the near future, namely, a new airport for Sydney. I am one of those who is not convinced that a new airport is necessary. If there is to be a new airport, why should it be placed in the south-western or western area of Sydney? It is quite clear that most people using the airport in Sydney reside in the eastern suburbs or on the North Shore. There has been a statement recently to the effect that somebody is starting a helicopter service to whisk North Shore businessmen over Sydney’s traffic congestion to Mascot Airport. Surely that indicates that this new airport should be built somewhere on the North Shore or somewhere close to the North Shore. A site at Duffys Forest has been suggested previously. I am not an expert on airports but possibly an airport there could take some of the load from Sydney Airport.
I should like to deal now with a question of more immediate concern which has been raised by Mr Jack Cade, General Manager of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia. Mr Cade has alleged that a large number of private hospitals are robbing Medibank Private and other private health funds by charging for days that patients had not spent in the private hospitals. This is a specific allegation made by Mr Cade. Are the police investigating that allegation? We hear a lot about doctors defrauding the health funds and Medibank. This particular case cannot be a fraud perpetrated on Medibank Public; it can only be a fraud perpetrated on Medibank Private if it involves the private hospitals because under Medibank Public people are not insured for private hospital care. But allegedly it is a fraud perpetrated on Medibank Private and it is a fraud perpetrated on the other health funds. It is also a fraud perpetrated on the revenue paid out by this Government because the Government pays $16 a day subsidy towards the cost of everybody who is in a private hospital. If those hospitals in fact are rendering accounts to the health funds for days which the patients did not spend in those private hospitals, surely the Commonwealth Police or the State police should be asked to interview Mr Cade, to find out from him the specific allegations, which private hospitals are involved and whether something is being done. Obviously a significant amount of money is involved.
In passing, I am pleased to note that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has now become worried about his back bench colleagues. They have been yapping at his heels. They believed the propositions which the Government had been putting forward previously about the increase in health care costs being due to
Medibank. Government supporters did not know much about the matter and apparently decided to have a go at the Minister for Health in Caucus. The Minister for Health has now said that Medibank has nothing to do with the situation. I should like to quote part of an interview of the Minister for Health by Mr Jeff Duncan of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as broadcast on PM on 23 February 1 978:
Jeff Duncan: Mr Hunt how do you substantiate your claim that the health costs, spiralling health costs, are due to Medibank alone?
Mr Hunt: I am not claiming that at all. I have never blamed Medibank as such for the great escalation in health costs.
I should like to emphasise that point for the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) who seems to be one of the people who believes that spiralling health costs are due to Medibank alone. The interview goes on:
Mr Hunt: … we have witnessed the greatest explosion in health costs in Australia they having exploded by 73 per cent in two years.
Jeff Duncan: Why is that because of Medibank?
Mr Hunt: Well lam not saying it is because of Medibank.
That is the important point to emphasise. Let me just repeat what I have said before in this House: In the year before Medibank was introduced, health costs increased by 36.8 per cent. In the year after Medibank was introduced, the rate of increase dropped to 27 per cent. I am not suggesting that 27 per cent is a good figure to aim for but it is certainly a lot better than 36.8 per cent. It is important for us to remember that health care costs to the community have been increasing at a very great rate. But those costs have nothing to do with Medibank. Medibank is involved with the question of how to pay for those costs. It is not involved with the question of what the costs are in total.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I support the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. I ask you to pass on to the Speaker my congratulations on both his elevation to the Knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List and his re-election as Speaker. He has earned the respect and high regard of this House and I am sure he will continue to do so during the course of this Parliament. Similarly, I should be pleased if you would pass on my congratulations to the new Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar), on his election to those positions.
I should also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the electors of Barker for their support in allowing me to represent them in this House for another term. Liberal Party members of my electorate worked untiringly during the course of the last Parliament but especially so during the general election and it was only with their assistance that the result in Barker was such an outstanding one.
I wish to say a few words about the new electorate of Barker. As a result of the redistribution, the area of the electorate increased from roughly 42,000 square kilometres to 55,000 square kilometres. Geographically, it is the whole of the southern part of South Australia. It starts just below the intersection of the River Murray and the South Australian border and goes across to Kangaroo Island and all points south. The problems of representing a large rural electorate have been outlined in this House on many occasions. I think that in the case of Barker the situation is probably more difficult because the ‘L ‘-shaped nature of the electorate tends to increase the amount of travelling time with which the local member has to contend. Certainly travelling is virtually a complete waste of time. It means that the local member has less time to consult with and to assist constituents.
The electorate of Barker has an enormous variety of primary production, including dairying, wool, beef cattle, fat lamb production, timber logging and milling, fruit, vegetable and vine growing, wheat and cereal crops, a large fishing industry and a growing oilseed industry. As well, there are flour mills, pulp and paper manufacture, meat works, woollen mills, quarrying and many other industries. Clearly, there are a number of problems in trying to represent properly such a large and diverse electorate. I therefore merely make the point to the electors of Barker that it will not always be possible for me to be on their doorsteps the moment they have a problem. However, of course, I shall continue to do my utmost to assist all electors to the best of my ability.
I turn now to the prospects for Australians in the period ahead. In the Governor-General’s Speech, the Government made it clear that it considered it of paramount importance to continue the battle to reduce inflation. The Governor-General stated:
Essential to my Government’s economic program is the growth of Australian industry, the development of our resources, and a renewed emphasis on growth in exports. These hold the key to greater prosperity and the creation of more jobs.
If we cast our minds back for a moment to the late 1960s and the early 1970s, we will remember that they were periods of increasing productivity. Productivity means that for a given increase in inputs a greater than proportional increase in outputs is achieved. In the past, when there was an increase in productivity wage earners could put their case to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for an increase in wages in line with the productivity increase. However, in 1 974 that situation changed drastically. Let us look at the productivity increases in the period 1971 to 1975. In 1971, the percentage change in productivity was an increase of 2.1 1 percent. In 1972 it was 3.74 per cent and in 1973 it was 2.82 per cent. But in 1974 there was a fall in productivity of 3.56 per cent, followed by a further fall in 1975 of 0.59 per cent.
– Who was in office then?
-Of course the Labor Party was in office then. But it is important to recall that during the period 1974-75 we had a real wage explosion so in fact people were being paid more to produce less. As a result, employers reduced their work force. They tried not to replace their less essential workers when they retired. They looked to substituting capital equipment for labour. Another result of the wage explosion was that we were less internationally competitive. It was harder for manufacturers to sell our highly priced product on the international market. Import competition was increased because of the higher prices being sought for the domestically produced products. These are just some of the reasons why it was essential for the Government to undertake a program of bringing down inflation and at the same time to argue before the wage fixation tribunals for a limitation on any further increase in wages. At the same time, it ought to be remembered that while arguing for restricted wage increases this Government has brought down personal taxation through indexation from 1 July 1977 and the new scale of taxation which operated from 1 February this year.
The Government also has significantly improved welfare benefits. Thus we have ensured that the aggregate real household disposable income- in other words, what families have to spend- has not been substantially affected in this period. I firmly support the Government’s policy that this is the way to ensure full economic recovery. It is only by controlling costs and enhancing our internationally competitive position that Australia is going to be able to get back to the long term economic growth pattern which was rudely interrupted in the early 1970s. Such economic recovery must be the basis for increased employment which, together with the higher priority the Government has placed on employment and training schemes, is the answer to the serious unemployment problems which are facing this country. The Government must continue with its program to build on the progress which has been made over the last two years to bring inflation and unemployment under control. It is only in this way that we will be able to provide effective assistance to the disadvantaged in ways that promote their independence and self-respect.
It is well known that at this time throughout the world when countries are facing problems with their domestic economies there is pressure to increase the protection for their domestic manufacturers. This world wide increased protection provides no long term remedy for the economic ills of this country or any other country. I believe a real economic recovery is closely tied to an increase in trade between nations, not a decrease. I urge the Government to continue to press strongly for reductions in such trade barriers in all forums possible. Of course, my concern with such tariff problems is heightened by the fact that rural producers bear a large proportion of the tariff burden.
The Government must continue its efforts to enhance and strengthen relations with our neighbours in the Asian and Pacific region including, of course, Japan. It may well be the time in fact that we started looking further ahead. It seems to me that there are great possibilities for Australia to become a leading force in the economic development of our region. I include in this development the prospect for Australia to take a great role in international banking in our area. Whilst I can see the need for stria capital regulation and currency restrictions, I believe these ought to be the subject of a thorough going review to ascertain whether we will be able to facilitate investors using Australia as their head office for investment in this region. I add that I know of large companies which would like to do just that and it seems to me that we ought to take advantage of this opportunity.
My electorate, like every other electorate, has benefited greatly by the progress the Government has made in overcoming the economic problems with which we were faced when we came into power in 1975. The fall in the inflation rate and the resultant projected decreases in interest rates and cost inputs have been welcomed in rural areas. However, we are suffering from a severe drought. For a large part of my electorate it is the third year in a row that the rainfall has been below average. Therefore, the promise by the Government to pursue an active program of drought relief was very important. In fact, I understand that in line with that undertaking a meeting of officials took place in Adelaide last Friday to discuss the current drought relief program and recommendations are to be considered by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair).
As well as the problems associated with this drought, we have been faced with an influx of the spotted alfalfa aphid which has devastated lucerne stands in my electorate. This is particularly serious in the deep sands area where lucerne is the main fodder crop and in some cases the only pasture which can be grown. Also, a viable lucerne seed industry in the area was just becoming a major and beneficial contributor to the national economy. The drought and the aphid have caused devastation at a time when rural producers can least afford it. I urge the Commonwealth to continue with State cooperation to examine all practical avenues to assist the hard-pressed people in this time of acute need. I am fully aware that pest control is a State responsibility. However, I consider that South Australia may have a unique case concerning aphid control. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, I understand, has been able to assist the eastern States with its aphid control programs. However, because of the placement of CSIRO breeding facilities, the same assistance has not been able to be extended to South Australia. I therefore have made detailed submissions to the Government which are currently under consideration and I hope that the Ministers will consider that if this is a unique situation appropriate Commonwealth assistance will be given to help in the aphid control program.
Another area of concern to rural producers is the cost of fuel. Last week a Bill was introduced as the first part of the fuel freight equalisation, as promised by the Government at the last election. There is no doubt that assistance at this stage of the development of a country the size of Australia in equalising freight costs is advantageous but this still leaves a difference between city and country prices because of the so-called discounting of petrol in the cities. Such discount is almost totally non-existent in country areas in my electorate and I am sure this is the case with many other country electorates, and indeed Tasmania.
This means that country people are paying more for their petrol over and above the freight differential than their city colleagues. The petrol companies have put up all sorts of arguments for this difference and in fact they have said they are subsidising country petrol. However, we are still left with a situation where, as in South Australia, discount fuel is available at retail outlets almost anywhere in Adelaide at about 15.7c per litre for super grade. I know the retailer is cutting his margin but still the oil companies are supplying wholesale fuel to city retailers way below the maximum price approved by the Prices Justification Tribunal. I understand the PJT maximum wholesale price is about 1 7c per litre.
The so-called discounting is now so widespread that it is becoming the normal price except in country areas. This situation badly needs resolving and I hope that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife), who had his second session with the oil industry conference last Friday, can overcome the problem. Of course, the question being asked in the country is: If discounting is so widespread, then perhaps the discounted price should be the real price throughout the country. I hope the oil companies, or the PJT, which has an application before it at the moment, will provide us with some honest answers.
Finally, a matter for public debate at present is the Government’s attitude regarding the soon to be declared 200-mile economic zone around our coast. A number of proposals have been submitted for joint venture feasibility fishing studies and longer term commercial operations. I have looked at two of these and I consider them to be most unsatisfactory and not in Australia’s best interests. I was therefore heartened by the statement last Friday from the Minister for Primary Industry in which he said:
Until management regimes for this zone and fishery resource are more accurately established, a final response to these applications is not possible.
In the meantime, however, feasibility fishing designed to establish the extent of fishery resources in specific areas and how they can best be exploited is welcome.
The Minister went on to mention a matter which I believe is most important for the fishermen in my area, and indeed in the rest of Australia. He said:
Only those fisheries not currently exploited or those which are under-exploited will be considered for feasibility studies. Under no circumstances is the Federal Government prepared to consider requests for operations in areas being adequately fished by Australian fishermen, or which are likely to be so fished in the near future. The main feature of the feasibility fishing guidelines envisages a project lasting for only a short period of perhaps one or two years.
That was a welcome and timely statement. The Government has two years of sound economic progress behind it. I am sure and confident that the years ahead will be rewarding for all Australians.
– I think that if a person without knowledge of contemporary social conditions in this country were to read the rather bland and complacent words of the Governor-General’s Speech he or she would have no sense that this country is gripped at the moment by the most severe recession since the Second World War. Towards the end of last year the Australian and New Zealand Bank commented that the Australian economy was bumbling along at the bottom of the economic trough. There is no hard evidence that we have yet left the bottom of the economic trough. It is for that reason that five of the six items in the Opposition’s amendment relate to the discouragingly complacent approach of the Government to the economic problems of this country. I do not deny that there are some optimistic signs around. One notes some advances on the investment side. There are some signs of increased consumer expectations.
But if one takes most of the major objective indices and not some of the rather fanciful indicators which were introduced by Government supporters last week, it is clear that this economy remains in deep recession. In the last six months some 25 of the 32 items which are used in the production statistics of the Treasury to measure productivity in this country have been stagnant or in decline. Let us take car registrations which are regarded as another sign of the productivity of the economy. In January 1978- these are the latest figures available- car registrations were 7.2 per cent down on January 1977. Let us take another major measure, private dwelling approvals. Again for the three months ended January 1978- these are the latest figures available- dwelling approvals were down 16.7 per cent on the same period for the previous year. Over the last month the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has confessed that the deficit is ballooning beyond Budget predictions. It appears now that the growth of the money supply is well below Budget expectations. These developments will clearly contradict the Government’s lower interest rate ambitions.
Above all there is the problem of unemployment. According to the latest figures 445,000 Australians are unemployed, and there is much evidence to suggest that these figures understate the actual levels of unemployment. This is the highest level of unemployment since the Second World War and is the single most serious social malaise in this society. Yet in the 1 1 pages of the Governor-General’s Speech unemployment is given three sentences. In 6,000 words it is given some five references. We have been accused of playing politics with the unemployed. I believe that any government which presents a document such as this in the face of these statistics is playing politics with the unemployed by failing to focus on the major social problem of this society today.
Nor is there anything in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech of direct or immediate benefit to the unemployed. I refer to the three brief references. The first is:
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.
I do not want tonight to debate the correctness or otherwise of that thesis. What is clear is that even if the Government’s most optimistic predictions are correct, if every part of that notion makes economic sense, there is no likelihood that we will have much below 400,000 unemployed this year. If we look at the peaks and troughs of the last three or four years the most that has been managed is a fall of 60,000 to 70,000 from the peak. We are not, even on the most optimisticpredictions, going to get much below the 400,000 mark this year; that is, even if the long-term strategy is correct we have an immediate problem of unemployment being around 400,000 for the rest of this year.
The second reference reads:
My Government will continue to place a high priority on employment and training schemes, particularly those which increase young people ‘s skills, and enable them to take job opportunities as they arise.
Again, we welcome these proposals but those members opposite who are honest about these schemes recognise that they are primarily band aids to the basic problem. They provide some relief, and we welcome them. Nevertheless, they make only a marginal inroad into the problem of the actual unemployed in this society. The third reference reads:
As a priority, the Commonwealth Employment Service will be made a more effective manpower organisation, better able to help the unemployed.
This is a proposal we can all support, but it will not do much to solve the problem of the unemployed in 1978.
We are told, however, that the Government is doing something practical. In reading the Australian Financial Review of today I discovered that the Treasurer in a speech at the weekend attacking some of the charges Labor people have made, said:
This charge ignores the practical concern demonstrated by the Government towards the difficulties of those out of work -
That is the phrase I want to take up- the practical concern demonstrated by the Government towards the difficulties of those out of work.
Where is the evidence of the practical concern? How does the Government demonstrate its practical concern towards the difficulties of those out of work? On all the evidence of the operation of the social security network in this country the Government has demonstrated its practical concern by a rigid and unthinking adherence to an unemployment benefit system the concept and basic intent of which has been unaltered since 1947, a system condemned or severely criticised by nearly every major governmental report bearing on the system in recent years.
I take first the Henderson report on poverty which in 1975 condemned the level of unemployment benefits as inadequate and urged immediate action. It argued for the disentanglement of the CES from the payment of unemployment benefits. It argued for modifications of the work test to make it less severe. It urged the abolition of the seven-day waiting period for benefits. It argued for streamlining the administrative processes for the payment of unemployment benefits. But, there has been no significant change in any of those areas. For instance, today the gap between the poverty level and the unemployment benefit is greater than when the Henderson Committee reported; that is, unemployment benefits are now generally further below the poverty level than they were in 1975. There has yet been no disentanglement of the CES from the actual payment and provision of unemployment benefits. The work test, if anything, has been made more severe. The sevenday waiting period remains and, indeed, by changes at the end of last year has become longer. Little has been done to streamline the administrative processes.
The Myers report of July 1977 echoed most of the findings of the Henderson report about the administration of unemployment benefits. Again it argued for the separation of the CES from unemployment benefit involvement. It argued for the modification of the work test. The report said that administrative processes should be streamlined. It argued for the abolition of the seven-day waiting period. It is true that at the rate this Government works a report presented in July 1 977 might not yet have been acted on, and as yet we have no action on the Myers Report. That is not quite true. We had one action which I think is typical. The Myers report argued that the abolition of the seven-day period should be coupled with the process of payment in arrears; that is, it argued for removal of the seven-day waiting period but for payment in arrears. Of course this Government left the waiting period but also introduced payment in arrears. This has meant that most of the unemployed in this society get one payment of one week’s unemployment benefit in the first five weeks of unemployment.
Of course it is not surprising that some of the non-government reports are even harsher on the administration of unemployment relief in this society. I quote from a report that is worth reading by all honourable members, a report of the Brotherhood of St Laurence titled Rough Justice, which describes the system. It states:
Despite the growing number of unemployed persons and the numerous and clear-cut indications that unemployment is the product of forces beyond the control of individual workers and their families, aid given to the unemployed has remained at what could only be interpreted as a punitive level.
The consequences of this in human terms needs to be thought about by this Parliament. I have taken four individual cases from my own constituency. These cases are perfectly typical. They have one advantage over some other cases, that each of them has been thoroughly researched. Responsibility for the problems in these cases lies not with the individuals but within the administration of social security. Firstly, Mr W. M., is a father of three children. He found that his cheques have been running two and three weeks behind for the past three months and on several occasions he has been forced to send his two school children to school without breakfast. Secondly, Miss T. D. lives with her widowed mother. She has had frequent delays in the receipt of unemployment benefits. On one occasion not through her fault at all a benefit cheque was delayed a month. Her mother has been served with an eviction notice as on a widow’s pension she is unable to support herself and her daughter and to maintain regular periodic payments of rent. Thirdly, Mr A. A. is the father of six children. His cheques have been regularly late- on average ten days to a fortnight- in the last three months. On the last occasion in early February he was unable to purchase exercise books for his children or afford school shoes for the children concerned. Finally, the fourth case is that of Mr E. P., who has one child and his wife is pregnant. In the eight weeks since he initially registered as unemployed he received only one cheque for $89.70. The child had bronchitis and the parents were unable to afford medicine.
The source of these problems was identified for the Government six or seven months ago in the Myers report. Again I quote:
In the course of visits to DSS and CES offices in many urban, suburban and rural areas, it became obvious to the Inquiry that, almost without exception, they are operating under severe stress. This was most evident in large offices in States in which decentralisation has not progressed far.
The basic cause was clearly the fact that the resources of offices in both staffing and accommodation had not matched the rapid growth of unemployment during the last two or three years.
The effect of this is cumulative. Errors and delays inevitably occur and result in severe hardship to clients whose benefit cheques are delayed.
I make no charge against the officers for as the Myers report says: . . the Inquiry expresses its admiration of the way in which many of these officers, both young and old, have carried their load, but it is clear that most of them are operating under heavy stress and without any reasonable expectation that the load will be lessened.
There is of course disagreement between the Government and the Opposition about the best solution in the long run for the problems of the economy. The Opposition does not agree with the Government that obsession with inflation will solve Australia’s problems. We will also no doubt disagree on who is actually responsible for these problems. But it seems to me that in this Parliament we should be able to agree on ameliorative measures in this year, 1978. We need to increase the staff in the Department of Social Security. We need to push ahead further with decentralisation, though I agree that that is a longer process. I think it is important that the payment of unemployment benefits result from a positive generation of the cheque in the Department of Social Security and not in the Commonwealth Employment Service. I think we should divorce the CES and the Department of Social Security more clearly from each other in these tasks so that one can be an employment agency and the other can deal with the social security problem. That of course is argued by Henderson and Myers. We have to think seriously about entitlement to benefits from the date of registration because these appalling human problems posed by these delays have to be faced by this Parliament.
Even in the simplest way we need to think about the accommodation in our social security offices. I quote again from the Myers report. The comments reflect many of my own experiences. It states:
In visiting various offices of the DSS, the Inquiry noted that the standard of accommodation provided for the delivery of welfare services is, in general, second rate in comparison with accommodation occupied by organisations such as
Medibank. The Inquiry finds that the standard accommodation which greets DSS clients is depressing and believes that persons seeking welfare support should be provided with facilities equal to those provided by private enterprise.
I say in conclusion that the report is there; the proposals are there; let us hope that both the Government and the Opposition can get some action on this problem this year.
– Before commencing my address on the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech, I should like to put some points to the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) who has just resumed his seat. He finished by asking: Who is responsible for inflation and unemployment? We all know who is responsible. The previous Government was responsible for just that. The greatest unemployment and the greatest inflation in Australia’s history were brought about by the Labor Government prior to its defeat in 1975. Regarding unemployment, I ask: What practical concern did the Australian Labor Party show when it was in government? It raised inflation. It priced Australian goods off the market and thereby spiralled unemployment. And here we have a man concentrating his whole address on that topic. I can give examples. The honourable member cited figures. The Northern Territory is supposed to have the greatest unemployment rate in Australia. And yet people I know have offered four different types of jobs and have not had one taker for any of them- not one. My own children in the area have taken jobs at anything that will give them employment. They did not sit back and say: ‘I am a buffalo skinner or a cutlass swinger or something like that’. They have taken jobs and worked. That is the guts of the whole matter. Unemployed people should be prepared to work.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I should like you to thank Mr Speaker for paying me the compliment of asking me to second his nomination for the speakership in this Parliament. Had it not been for the eloquence and brilliance of my colleague the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) no doubt supported by me, the result may have been different. But, as it is, once again we have the right honourable member for Bruce (Sir Billy Snedden) back in the Chair. So we can look forward to three years of tolerance, good humour and able judgment for which he has become so well known. To his deputy, the Chairman of Committees the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar), I say good fortune for he has a tough job. I am certain that he will do it well. To the former Chairman of Committees, the honourable member for
Lyne (Mr Lucock) I say ‘Thank you’ for the assistance and friendship he gave from that office through the years that I have been a member of this House. He certainly leaves that position with knowledge of many jobs well done.
The Governor-General ‘s Speech has been criticised by members of the Opposition inside and outside this Parliament as having nothing for the Northern Territory. My friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) who is attempting to interject can go there and see for himself. He probably will travel to the Northern Territory now that he is a member of a committee dealing with Aborigines. He will find that that is patently and completely wrong. Maybe some of the measures which have been described are not new. Some have been heard of before and work has been done on them. Some were contained in our policy enunciated during the last election campaign. They were also enunciated in the August election campaign for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Those promises, in the main, are now being honoured. The most important promise related to the reintroduction of the petroleum products fuel subsidy scheme. It was abolished by the socialist government on the advice of the Coombs report. It has taken a lot of effort to get this scheme back.
– You fought very hard for it too, Sam. You got it back for us.
– Yes, I admit that I fought very hard but I was supported by my colleagues in this corner of the House and by honourable members in the Liberal Party. I thank them for their assistance in this matter. The Australian Labor Party stopped the people in the Northern Territory and the north of Australia in their tracks. The fuel equalisation subsidy and assistance to primary producers was knocked off the record book. That is one of the reasons why the north of Australia is having such a difficult time getting back on its feet.
The Government is following through its stated policy in relation to the Northern Territory. It has given the Territorians the fuel equalisation scheme; it has introduced the Rural Bank and it has given the Territorians a greater say in their own affairs- something which the Labor Party always spruiked about. Members of the Labor Party came into this House and said that we were not doing enough quickly enough and that we should give the people in the Northern Territory a say in their own affairs. I have heard a former honourable member for Dawson and other honourable members in this place criticise previous Liberal-National
Country Party governments for not giving the Territorians enough say and for not giving it to them quickly enough. Yet at the last election for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, in August, the Labor Party platform was against the proposal for the introduction of selfgovernment for the Northern Territory. That proposal is now coming into effect. Labor Party members are ‘ men for all seasons ‘.
Since I returned to the Northern Territory in 1944 the Territorians- both black and whitehave made strong demands for a say in their own affairs. The Territorians should have that right. They know what is going on in the part of the world in which they live. Hitherto they have been dictated to by people from the south who have not shown much knowledge of or much sympathy for the great northern part of Australia. In the years before I came to this place- and certainly since I have been a member of this House- there have been constant cries in the Territory for a greater measure of responsibility to be given to people in the north. Why should they not be given that responsibility? They know the north and they know it better than anyone else. After all, why would people live thousands of miles away from the Northern Territory, here in Canberra or in the cities of Melbourne and Sydney and so on, know more about the problems in the North and the way in which to handle them?
Yet through the years we have had various examples which have cut clean across the aspirations of the people in the Northern Territory. Despite the report presented by the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory into constitutional development for the Northern Territory, we have seen a constant disregard paid to the knowledge and experience of people in the Northern Territory. We saw some outstanding examples of this when the Aboriginal Land Rights Bill was introduced by the Labor Government, and, later, by the Liberal-National Country Party Government. Legislators on both sides of the Parliament in effect disregarded the advice and knowledge of Territorians. I will not go into that legislation further except to say that it was a very good example of people not taking sound advice. The thrust of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act is now being felt and it is now becoming apparent that it cuts across the understanding of the traditional Aborigines about their land rights. Briefly, traditional Aborigines do not comprehend and do not accept large land councils such as the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council. The traditional Aborigines now are demanding separate land councils. For instance, the Tiwis from Bathurst and Melville islands were promised by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) prior to the election- I think it was in November or December- that they would have their own separate land council. The people at Alcoota, 180 miles north-east of Alice Springs, have also said that they want a separate land council. They have said that they do not want to be told what to do by ‘that mob in town’. They want to be able to indicate directly to the Government just what they want. They want to stay in small groups, in their families and clans.
The main thrust of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was for large land councils and it was completely wrong. I think some people are beginning to admit that it was wrong. I know very well that the land councils will object to smaller land councils being formed because it is advantageous to them to have a large bureaucracy, especially now when we are reaching the situation where the Northern Land Council will be influential and instrumental in dealing with the many millions of dollars which will come from the mining of uranium. Once again I say that this was one of the decisions made in the south concerning people in the north. Hostility is building up between black and white people in the Territory because decisions are made in the south by people who do not understand. This point was emphasised by myself and other speakers from the Northern Territory when the legislation was introduced.
I should like to give another example of how Territorians are being disadvantaged by decisions and actions of people in the south and by the reluctance of the Commonwealth to see the Territory’s point of view. I refer to the failure of the Government to give the Territory control over the Northern Territory Supreme Court. I know that many Ministers are sympathetic to this case, as is the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). I am certain that the previous Attorney-General was sympathetic also. It would appear that the departmental attitude- this attitude is adopted by many- is that the court would not be recognised as a Supreme Court but would be more of a State court and, if constituted under Territory law, it would be inferior. There appears to be some doubt that the Northern Territory would be able to attract lawyers of dignity to the legal scene. But surely self-government for the Northern Territory and the running of its own Supreme Court should go hand in hand. After all, the highest court in the Territory ought to be controlled by the Northern Territory if it is selfgoverning. The Northern Territory should control its own Supreme Court. We have the same situation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service of which, incidentally, we were very critical when the Labor Government introduced it in the first place. Once again it showed a complete lack of understanding, consultation and cooperation with the people in the north. It is continuing to do so. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Northern Territory Wildlife Commission do not seem to be co-operating in the way they should. At stake is the Ayres RockMount Olga National Park and the very large and spectacular and most important Kakadu National Park in the north.
What is happening? The organisation which has done so well and which understands the situation is really being handed the rough end of the stick. It is being brushed aside. Its experience, knowledge and ability to administer are not being utilised. I implore the Government to look very hard and long at this situation because those two great national parks are involved. There is confusion, bewilderment and even resentment over the handling of national parks. With the Northern Territory moving towards self government it is essential to preserve these outstanding national parks. They have a tremendous potential to attract tourists into the area. Those parks have to be well maintained, well administered and the Territory has the necessary organisation. I urge the Government to take heed of my remarks. In its report on the constitutional development of the Northern Territory the Joint Standing Committee on the Northern Territory urged this consultation and co-operation. Speaking in another debate recently I urged this and I do so again because with the coming self government of the Northern Territory there could be disaster unless this feeling of co-operation is strongly espoused.
I wish to discuss for a few minutes the speech tonight of the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). He is a former Minister in the Labor Government and he criticised the States and all other parties on the Aboriginal policies. Yet a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, a colleague of his, described the Australian Labor Party’s Aboriginal affairs policy as a disaster. That is exactly what it was.
– So was the Minister.
– The man who said it was not a disaster. I think there were two or three others who were disasters but that senator was a fairly straight sort of man. The honourable member for
Capricornia went on to say that Aborigines should be allowed to run their own affairs. But he criticised the Minister for sacking from Maningrida the people who were working for the Aborigines. He said that the Minister should have sacked a couple of stirrers. Unfortunately he has the bull by the tail, because had he really known the story he would have heard that the sacking took place to keep at Maningrida those people to whom he referred. A petition was presented of some 30 names from the Gundavijis who live on the Maningrida site. Two hundred or more people went to see one family off. They were the ones that the honourable member said were the stirrers. In fact the family that the 200 people saw off were the people at Maningrida who did all the work. Nothing practical would have been done had those people not been there. The honourable member can ask Silas Roberts or Sam Wagbara of Goulburn Island or Burramurra of Elcho Island; they would all say the same thing, that in fact the Government got rid of all those whites from Maningrida. That is fine, but at least give the credit to the men and women who did the job. Unfortunately the honourable member has the wrong story. It is strange that he has the wrong story about those people who were sacked or not sacked from the trachoma medical team in Queensland. I believe Dr Hollows would not sack two men in the team whom the honourable member for Capricornia described as the two best workers in the team and eulogised for their abilities. I am informed that they were the ones who were blatantly politicking and that is why the whole team was withdrawn. It is very strange that in only two instances the honourable member represented entirely the wrong stories about people who were working for Aborigines. This is a fact of which we should be aware. We should realise that there are people who are sincere about doing things for Aborigines and seeing that they are done right. They are not politicking all the time. The sooner that is realised in the House and outside the better.
-Firstly, I wish to say that I genuinely commiserate with the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) who unfortunately paid the penalty of being honest and just. I wish him well in the future. I think that the way he has been treated is disgraceful. The Governor-General’s Speech is almost a repeat performance of what we have learned to expect from speeches written for the person who unfortunately has to present such drivel at the opening of Parliament. The Governor-General’s Speech contains the same hypocrisy almost word for word as that contained in Her Majesty’s Speech delivered in 1977.
– Is he a hypocrite?
– You are, most definitely. You are a real smart Alec and you will not be here after the next election. I have mentioned on other occasions the conservatism, lack of imagination and sheer blandness of the Speech to this Parliament. I rise to support the amendment to the Address-in-Reply because it is timely to include those words moved in the amendment by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). Without the amendment, the whole thing is baseless and useless. The Speech was depressing and, stripped of its euphemistic grandness and its attempts to describe grandly the most unimaginative legislative and administrative program, it means the perpetration of an economic crisis and the Government’s determination that wage and salary earners- millions of Australians- will pay the price of recovery, if the economy is to recover in the foreseeable future from the deep trough in which this Government has put it. The Government has adopted an immoral policy geared to assist only those few Australians and overseas friends of the Government and the Liberal Party whose raison d’etre is solely to increase profits regardless. It is a successful policy for the Government’s friends who are making increasing profits while the real purchasing power of wages and salaries is declining alarmingly. According to this Government it is not declining fast enough.
Tonight I do not wish to speak specifically about those working people suffering intolerable wage injustice and therefore injustice in declining living standards. Despite their problems- I do not wish to under-emphasise them- there is a group of people in our society living under even worse conditions. A solid core of homeless men and women are suffering unnecessary hardship because of the refusal of this Government to cater for their fundamental needs. In a time of government sponsored unemployment the Government’s responsibility to these people ought to increase. Naturally, with a government insensitive enough to human needs to create record unemployment, nothing has been done for the homeless. The cruel attack on the youth in the Government’s unemployment policy has resulted in an alarming increase in young homeless.
Statistics from a Melbourne institution for homeless persons verified this increase. The Salvation Army has taken out figures for the Gill accommodation centre, a traditional centre for homeless men. The figures show an increase of almost 7 per cent in the past year of residents in the 18 to 25-year age group. The group of 18 to 25-year olds represented 18.85 per cent of the total, compared to 1 1.8 per cent in the previous 12-month period. Even more alarming is that in the breakdown of age groups, the 21 to 25-year old age group was the second highest of any age group. The highest group, with 12.83 per cent of the population, was the 46 to 50-year olds. In those groups, divided into 5 -year blocks up to 60 years and over, the 2 1 to 25-year old figure becomes frightening. The second highest group, with 11.67 per cent, were in this age group. A staggering 7.18 per cent were in the 20 years and under group. This was higher than the 56 years and over age group.
The social trauma to which this massive increase in young homeless can be attributed is the unemployment rate. In my electorate, where by its very nature the unemployment rate is high, the youth rate was about 21 per cent of the total at the end of February. At the Collingwood office 2,344 persons were registered as unemployed and 506 of those were juniors. The junior males and junior females were almost evenly divided at 251 and 255 respectively. I will touch upon the significance of the junior female figures presently. The number of unemployed young people registered and the hidden numbers of unregistered juniors in the community represent a major social catastrophe. That catastrophe now is reflected in the numbers of youth in the homeless, both male and female. The Gill figures reveal the situation only with regard to males but in the past few weeks a project conducted by four Melbourne students under the control of a professional social worker entitled ‘A Study of Homeless Women in Melbourne’ has unveiled a crisis in Melbourne that the nature of the homeless women problem generally has hidden from society.
This happens for two reasons. One is the lack of facilities for homeless women, by comparison with the limited facilities available for men, and the second is the tendency of women to make accommodation their prime concern. In other words, many women who could be classified homeless live in dingy, filthy rooms on which they spend all their minimal incomes or live in de facto relationships, mostly in squalid conditions simply to guarantee a roof for themselves. The study makes revealing and depressing reading as it uncovers a major social problem about which the authorities are doing virtually nothing. Since the establishment of a homeless persons’ section within the Federal Depanment of Social Security there has been some activity in the area for men, but women have received limited assistance. This is no reflection upon the staff* in that section but it does reflect the difficulties inherent in the problem.
One of the disturbing aspects of the study is that a number of women, or girls in this case, who were interviewed were as young as 1 5 years of age. They had been in a homeless situation for some time, alternating between rooms, State hostels, church establishments and de facto relationships. They had drink or drug problems, often had babies or were pregnant, and had a most depressing and pessimistic view of their lives and their futures. Two 15-year olds said they wanted to die or wished they had never been born. Yet the greatest need these people saw for homeless girls and women was flats or community houses where they could establish personal or general relationships. These are areas for which the Government ought to be providing an answer, instead of going on with all the drivel contained in the Governor-General’s Speech. The existing State and church establishments do not serve their needs. They are seen as structured and too disciplined and often the homeless people cannot relate to do-gooders whom they feel have no genuine sympathy or rapport with their problems or life style.
Last year I supported an application by the Salvation Army in my electorate for a Commonwealth Youth Support scheme grant of about $25,000 to assist homeless male and female youth. The Salvation Army is acutely aware of the problem because of its first hand contact with it on a day to day basis, although I suspect its contact is far more with males. Its submission does not discriminate sexually and would provide assistance for all homeless youth contacted by the scheme. The money provided under the grant will be used by the Salvation Army for an employment training scheme. However, through Army funds and possibly a homeless persons’ grant, accommodation would be envisaged also under the scheme. One aspect of the high rate of unemployed youth passing through the Gill home and places like it is the effect that such an establishment must have on young people.
The Salvation Army points out that young people are forced to these places because of an unemployment crisis. They are not alcoholics and Skid Row homeless per se. Certainly, some have alcohol problems but this is a result rather than the cause. However, their problems bring them in contact with what could be described as an exacerbation of the problem by virtue of the type of people with whom they are in contact in the circumstances in which they find themselves. That is a serious consideration, especially for a government which has created a course of economic policies designed to assist only those people at the opposite end of the social scale to those I am discussing today. This Government has increased the numbers of young homeless seeking accommodation at the appropriate home or living in dingy rooms with empty cupboards and tragic futures. It is this Government’s responsibility to assist the victims of its cruel, deliberate policies of making working and non-working people of Australia pay for the ills of an economic system over which they have no control.
The Salvation Army program aims at assisting the less fortunate of these victims. Briefly, it is an outreach workers program. I point to one area of the difficulty. One would not need to have much imagination or to spend much time in electorates such as Melbourne in areas which are isolated by virtue of their geographic position to see that that problem can be multiplied tenfold in certain other circumstances. The attacks that Government supporters, particularly Ministers, have made go only one way. Their whole attitude constitutes a deliberate program of union bashing. The destinies of the individuals to whom I have referred and others are left to the whim of the marketplace. The Government feels that everything will right itself in time. But it seems to me that the problem is not going away. The policies that were spelt out in Her Majesty’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the previous Parliament and what has been spelt out on this occasion have not supplied the answer. The situation is getting worse. What a one-way traffic it is. I refer to the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott). There is a problem on Christmas Island in which the Government euphemistically refers to the people . . .
– I think I would go there before I started talking about it.
– They are termed regionally engaged employees. The Minister should go there and face the magistrate. He is trying to avoid having a summons served on him for breaching the agreement.
– When you go over there and have a look, talk to the magistrate about it.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member will address the Chair.
– Why do you not tell the Minister to stop interjecting?
– You have only a couple of minutes left. I do not want you to waste your time.
-That is all right. You keep writing on your little piece of paper and I will talk about your failure to look after the individuals who need your assistance.
– Never mind my failure.
– The Minister pontificates about what is happening in Canberra.
– You were on this side of the chamber for three years and you did nothing.
– What you have done in this case-
– A great champion.
– You will have to face up to the problem because it is your fault it has gone this far. In outbursts from the other side we hear the cry: ‘Go to arbitration; accept the umpire’s decision’. I have referred previously to a Chinese lass who has been underpaid. There was a breach of an agreement. Pressure was put on the magistrate so that a summons would not be served on the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott). I ask the Minister why does he not go over to Christmas Island and fix the problem there.
The Minister talks about Canberra bashing and big notes himself before the people of Canberra by referring to the politicians in other States. I should mention that the people he described as Canberra bashers were the Joh Bjelke-Petersens and others who take that sort of attitude. The people who really are bashing the people of Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory are those who are enforcing the policies which were spelt out in the Governor-General ‘s Speech. The situation cannot be corrected by the flowery words of the Minister for the Capital Territory nor by the presentation of a Speech such as we heard at the opening of the Parliament.
The Opposition’s amendment sets out a positive program and spells out clearly that the Government has failed to deal adequately with the record level of unemployment. We keep hearing about declining inflation, however minor and temporary it may be, but the dole queues are extending, people on the poverty line are getting poorer and those in the unfortunate position of being discriminated against are being subjected to even more discrimination. There is only one solution at this time and that is for the Government to accept the amendment. At least by doing so it will be facing up to the fact that it has failed dismally. If the Government had any decency it would resign and go to the people. It would learn how they have fared in the few months it has been in office since the last election. The amendment adds the only decent comments to appear in the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply and ought to be carried.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you to extend my congratulations to Mr Speaker on his election to his very important and high office and also to the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) on his election to the almost equally important position of Chairman of Committees. I suppport the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply and reject out of hand the amendment put forward by the Opposition. However, before moving to the subject I had prepared for tonight I must make one short comment to take up the suggestion of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) in the dying moments of his speech that we should go to the people. I seem to remember that we went to the people in December, much to the annoyance of the Opposition which said that we were going too early. We had been in government for two years and the people had had a chance to look at us after we had received a record majority in 1975. What was the result? We had a win which was almost as great as our previous win. I am sure that the honourable member for Melbourne, like many of his colleagues, is on a self-destruct course. They want us to go to the people so that they can lose more seats. We will not oblige them just yet. We will let them wait three years and then see how they go,
I turn now to the Budget Papers and to the Governor-General’s Speech. In last year’s Budget Papers an interesting study showed a startling trend in expenditure over the past 10 years. I am not in any way saying that the trend is incorrect but merely pointing out the trend that has occurred. Table 2 of statement No. 6 reveals certain interesting trends during the period 1967-68 to 1976-77. In 1967-68, 17.1 per cent of total expenditure was provided for defence. In 1976-77 this was reduced by 50 per cent to 8.8 per cent of total expenditure. The decline has occurred not in any one year but steadily over the full 10-year period. In 1967-68 education expenditure was 2.8 per cent of total expenditure and this increased over that period to 9 per cent. Expenditure on health increased from 5.8 per cent to 10.5 per cent, and in 1975-76 under the Hayden Budget peaked at 13.5 per cent. The real acceleration in growth was in social security expenditure which rose from 16.7 per cent in 1967-68 to a mammoth 26.7 per cent in 1976-77. Nobody denies that these are areas of need. It is just a question of how far a government can go in expending the public purse. Expenditure this year on social security should reach 27.2 per cent. Expenditure on education, health and social security- only three items in the Budget- totals 47 per cent, nearly 50 per cent, of total expenditure. The people of Australia must be made aware of what is happening, of where we are going, of the trends and of what the Government intends doing in these areas.
Let us look at these areas in money terms instead of percentage terms. Total Budget expenditure in 1967-68 was $6,225m. I dare say that the Treasurer of the day thought that that was an extremely large amount of money. In 1977-78 it will cost the taxpayer $26,656m, more than a 400 per cent increase in a 10-year period. Those in government must ask how long the drain on our national resources can be maintained in order to keep up the astronomical increase in expenditure. Expenditure on education has risen from $172m in 1967-68 to $2,37 lm this year and expenditure on health from $360m to $2,8 14m and expenditure on social security from $ 1,039m to $7,248m. These expenditures no doubt are necessary because these are areas of need- there is no denial of that- but obviously if they receive almost 50 per cent of total expenditure other areas must suffer, including defence, transport, roads, communication, water supply, electricity supply and national development. We cannot spend more than 100c in any dollar. It is not possible. Who then pays the bill? Taxation pays the bill. Who provides the taxation? The taxpayer provides it and it is important that he be made aware of where this money goes.
I am sure that taxpayers would agree that this Government- I go back to the results of the 1 975 election- has shown some concern for how money is expended. The people have shown that they want proper management. They want a government that can handle the expenditure which is necessary to cover the items of need I have mentioned. They want to be sure that this country progresses while they receive, as we have been able to grant, a reduction in taxation. That shows management skill, something which was seriously lacking in the three years of socialism. Interest costs to be borne by the taxpayer this financial year are estimated at $ 1,727 m as against $476m in 1967-68. Even though the taxpayer carries the burden, through good management and good government we have been able to provide a cut in taxation and the people’s recognition of that was reflected in the polls. Greater public demand for expenditure in the welfare state, coupled with more demands for lower taxation- in other words, spend more but give me more- is not the way of this country. No responsible government or people in the world can survive with that doctrine. We had three years of it, then threw it out. We have chosen responsible government instead.
We are proving that we are responsible and as a result there is a sense of national responsibility emerging throughout the country. People have woken up after three years of socialism. We told the people all this two years ago in 1975 and they supported us. We told them again in 1 977 and on that occasion were able to show them the results of our actions. What did they do? They put us back in office. There is no doubt that the people feel that we are the proper parties to be in government.
– We have proper policies.
-As my colleague, the honourable member for Fadden, says- he is almost a Country Party member now, or at least a member representing a country electorate- we had proper policies. Budgetary control and responsible management are as much a part of government as they are a part of any business organisation. A prosperous business is only as good as its own self-control and management. That applies also to government. No more or less does living within one’s means apply equally to government, the home owner, the family man or the individual.
It is significant to look at savings bank deposits. Criticism comes from the Opposition benches about the state of this nation’s economy and about the poor state of the people who are suffering under this Government, but savings bank deposits were able to increase from $15,706m in 1976 to $17,109m in 1977, an increase of 8.9 per cent. If people are not receiving good incomes, if they are not making a good living, if they are not able to live under the state of the economy they cannot put money away in savings banks. So that makes a lie of the bulk of the arguments put forward by the Opposition. Certainly we know that there are people in areas of need. There always were and there always will be. They are the people whom this Government has also taken action to assist.
I believe that at this time those people who are placing their money in savings banks must also start to show their acceptance of the responsibility of this Government and start to spend some of that money, because we need spending. We need stimulation of our own industries, imported goods, manufactured goods and the retail industry in this country. The way to do that is for people to spend, to circulate the money. That will create extra opportunities in industry and will therefore create extra employment opportunities. It is no less the responsibility of unions. I am not union bashing when I say that everybody- government, unions, working men and employers- must take a proper share in the responsibilities of making this country go. We have set up the management system. We have set up the basis of good economy. Now it is up to everybody else, including the unions, to pull their weight. I see my friend the honourable member for Melbourne agreeing with me entirely, as he usually does.
I turn now to the subject of telephones, a subject dear to the hearts of many honourable members who represent country electorates, such as my friend and honourable member for Fadden who can be heard supporting me. I want to talk about the almost annual topic of standard telephone charges. Back in the days of the Postmaster-General’s Department, honourable members on this side of the House used to ask when we were going to get standard telephone charges. Then the Australian Telecommunications Commission was set up and we were assured that things would be changing for the better. There have been some remarkably good changes, but rural industries and rural people are paying a much higher rate for telephone services, as well as paying an enormous amount extra to have a telephone installed if they happen to live more than a few yards from the nearest telephone pole.
– Absolute discrimination.
– That is absolute discrimination. It is about time we had some facts from Telecom. The parliamentary committee of which I have been a member for the last two or three years has constantly asked Telecom to provide it with facts as to how much extra income it would receive if telephones worked on a payasyoutalk basis. Let us not talk in fancy language. I am referring to a pay-as-you-talk system. A person in a country area pays for a Subscriber Trunk Dialling call if he is phoning someone 15 to 20 miles away, just outside the radius limit but not outside his STD area. In my electorate a person can telephone from Bendigo to Kilmore by dialling direct, but is immediately on the STD rate. If the call lasts more than the prescribed time the charge goes above 9c and it goes up each unit registration for the length of the call. A person living at Sunshine can talk to somebody at Frankston or Dandenong on the other side of Melbourne for about 9c and talk all day. If that is not discrimination against a section of the community, I do not know what it is.
I am loth to bring up the subject but I notice that Telecom has been spending an immense amount of money on advertising its services. That is good. Obviously it wants to increase its income by talking about service. But what about first of all providing that service in areas where it is badly needed and what about spending money in those areas? I refer to another matter that concerns people in country areas, and that is the actual installation of a telephone. In many of the reports that have come out from Telecom, in recent months, I have noticed that mention is made of the average installation period being four weeks. That is not telling a he. It is the truth. But of course it applies to the almost daily installations that take place for people who are fortunate enough- or unfortunate enough- to live in the metropolitan area, as opposed to the nine months to 15 months’ delay, advice of which is given in writing by Telecom, suffered by people who happen to live in country areas and just outside the main town in any country area. In towns and cities in the country one finds many cases of delays of three to four months.
The committee approached Telecom to find out why this situation had developed, what was the problem, and why could telephones not be installed. Telecom came back and said that it does not have the equipment. If it is not an inadequate supply of cable, the next excuse is that it does not have the diggers. I cannot for the life of me imagine that a digger used for laying cable would cost more than one of those television programs showing a golf exhibition in Melbourne. I am a fan of golf but I would much rather see that money spent on providing Bendigo with two or three extra diggers and all the cable needed. Then we might be able to say to the people: ‘If you want telephones you can have them. You will increase the revenue for Telecom and everybody will be happy. ‘
– Who pays for the golf?
-I am sure that plenty of other people will pay for the golf. The golf has always gone on whether it has been paid for by Telecom or not. We have to set our priorities in order. I can understand the concern of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) who represents a Melbourne electorate. After all, it will be his constituents who will complain the moment we talk about standard telephone charges and he is one of the people who will have to stand up in this House and be counted on this issue. We will wait and see what happens. Many people, even those in country areas, overlook the fact that a standard telephone charge operating on the STD system of pay-as-you-talk would apply equally to country areas as to metropolitan areas. That would mean that not only could my friend from La Trobe and his wife talk on the telephone all day for 9c, as no doubt they occasionally do, but also my wife could talk on the telephone around Bendigo for the same charge. If we bring in standard charges, everybody has to be prepared to carry the burden.
We have asked Telecom to show us how much it will cost to install the necessary equipment. We have received all sorts of figures, ranging from $40m up to $200m. It depends on which day one asks. We have received all sorts of reasons why, if any system other than the one we have now is brought in, the cost of making an ordinary local call would rise to about three times its present cost. It does not appear to me that a great deal of real research has been done into this problem. We have never yet been able to tie Telecom down to what are the facts. We want to know what exactly is the cost, exactly what can be done, how long it will take and how much extra money will be needed to provide a system of standard telephone charges. I am sure that it can be done. There is no problem at all. If necessary we will get the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) to buy another computer.
This is a matter of grave concern, not only in the metropolitan area. Business people who have elected to move out of the metropolitan areas and to set up factories in the country have found to their annoyance and alarm when they go into the cost of running a business, as any competent firm would do, that whilst their transport costs may be less, and usually subsidised by the State government, telephone charges increase astronomically, in many cases to thousands of dollars. This is a crushing amount to have to carry for a business that intends to transfer. The reason businesses want to transfer to country areas is logical. They find that by setting up in the country they receive a certain amount of decentralisation assistance in Victoria and they have the added advantage of fairly stable employment from their employees. This means that the factory tends to be more profitable and in turn it provides jobs in the country areas. We want them. They are afraid to go because of this great burden of telephone charges that they have to carry.
– Pep it up a bit.
-I think it was the honourable member for La Trobe who just interjected. I have heard his speeches and they are never pepped up. They are probably the worst I have ever heard. In the few moments remaining to me I want to refer to aged persons homes. I am concerned about the amount of the nursing home benefit which is currently provided. The situation at the moment is totally out of kilter and needs to be looked at by the Government. To my knowledge it is a problem which has never been faced up to by any government. I refer to the differential between the grant received by registered nursing homes and the fees set by the Government of the day to be charged to the patients. What normally happens is that the fee is set. But that fee has to be increased because of added cost pressures such as labour and other costs. I suppose it is quite right that they have to put up the fees. When such increases take place they are usually quite substantial, because we all know the rate at which labour costs increase. Following that we immediately find that the Government grant has not increased.
When the charges which these registered nursing homes legitimately impose are increased, the amount of the grant should be increased also so that no great hardship is placed on many of the aged persons who reside in these homes and on their families who at present have to carry the burden of supplying the differential between the two amounts. I am not suggesting that the differential should be totally wiped out at present. I understand the economic situation. We have to wait and gradually wear it down. Successive governments are increasing the amount of that differential because of the time lag between the grant being provided and the charges being increased. So it is time we as a government directed our attention to that problem and did something positive about it, just as we should do something about requesting Telecom to levy standard telephone charges throughout this country to the betterment of all, including the honourable member for La Trobe.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
suggests that the Government either does not understand, or more likely does not want to understand, and does not want to come to grips with basic problems facing this nation. The various clauses of the amendment itemise some of those problems, although the full force of the amendment becomes clearer when one examines particular sections of the Governor-General’s Speech. It has become too easy in Parliament for people to gloss over basic intentions and policies either by concentrating on the vaguest of generalities or, alternatively, by confining debate to the details of very specific and narrow pieces of legislation. Government is, after all, about the ordering of society’s priorities with respect to the whole range of resource allocation decisions. Its effectiveness cannot be properly measured by the latest unemployment and /or inflation statistics taken in isolation. Indeed, in some respects, one of this Government’s principal aims is to restrict the attention of the voter to a narrow range of economic indicators and to avoid any form of relevant discussion of its overall policies and programs.
I believe, for example, that a careful analysis of the Government’s policies with respect to transport- in that regard I want to talk about urban transport- clearly reveals that this Government is not what it purports to be and, indeed, that it is not serious about the high sounding objectives that are set out at the beginning of the Governor-General ‘s Speech. Despite the fact that transport expenditure in Australia represents more than 13 per cent of gross national expenditure of almost $ 10,000m per annum, the subject barely rates a mention either in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in November of last yearperhaps that is the more significant- or in the Governor-General’s Speech. Given the fact that the transport industry has a central place in the economy, employs hundreds and thousands of workers and involves very large scale organisational resources in both the public and private sectors, that is surprising. It is surprising that the Government fails to recognise the central importance of transport policy for the health of the nation’s economy. Thus it was possible for the Governor-General to promise ‘a national energy conservation program’ without making any suggestion that such a program might have implications for national transport policy.
According to the Department of Transport’s annual report for 1 976-77 the transport sectors in Australia account for about 37 per cent of the nation’s final energy consumption and about 60 per cent of its consumption of petroleum products. It is highly dependent on oil supplies, in that 99 per cent of the energy used in transport is derived from an oil base. Further the rate of consumption of liquid petroleum fuels in transport has been greater than the average increase in the average rate of oil consumption. For example, in 1975-76, the consumption of motor spirit and automotive distillate increased by 3.9 per cent and 4.6 per cent respectively over consumption in 1974-75, which increase was well above the one per cent increase in oil consumption of all petroleum products. In all, road transport accounts for 79 per cent of total transport energy use, with the private motor vehicle using 57 per cent of total transport energy.
The report underlines the fundamental contradiction which is built into the nation’s transport program when it refers to the near certainty of Australia’s reversal to overwhelming dependency on imported oil in the 1 980s at a time of a mounting world wide petroleum crisis. The report states:
Australia is rich in energy resources with substantial known reserves of coal and uranium but these resources are not suited to meet transport needs, given existing transport technology with its dependence on liquid petroleum fuels.
The solution to this problem does not he in the hands of technology alone, as the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) seemed to suggest earlier. It is fundamentally a political problem. The redirection of the resources which have been invested in a land based transport system involves challenging the authority of whole industries which are controlled by capital, which in turn is not subject to effective Australian control and direction. Furthermore, those industries now employ directly and indirectly hundreds and thousands of workers who are vulnerable to any important change that the Government might evince. It is not as if only the automobile industry were involved; also involved are fringe industries such as the dealers, the garages and the service centres. Then this industry is caught in a wider web of the also internationally owned and controlled oil companies, the financiers, the rubber companies, the road construction firms and so on. At a time when energy policy above all demands change, the complexity of the infrastructure and above all the concentration of power in the hands of large scale capital makes the most effective and responsible change difficult to achieve.
Of course, while the energy crisis makes the need for a fresh approach to land based transport in Australia compelling, especially with respect to Australian cities, there are other factors involved as well. The number of automotive accidents, including the deaths of 3,500 Australians each year, represents an enormous loss of potential life. We can add to that the 100,000 reported injuries each year, with the concomitant costs to the nation in loss of production, of health and the expensive treatment which often extends over the balance of an injured persons ‘s life. Those costs are rarely calculated and yet they represent a major loss of annual production and contribute largely to the nation’s health bill. Why do not those people who want to cut health costs have a look at this problem? There is no doubt that even the partial adoption of an alternative transport system would do much to reduce the nation ‘s health bill and to compensate for the vast losses in productivity resulting from death and injury on the nation ‘s roads.
Alongside those who suffer the direct effects of collisions on the road are the more subtle effects of environmental pollution. I refer, for example, to the problem of air pollution, carbon monoxide liberated in large quantities from automobile exhausts is a respiratory poison. More than 38 lb from every 10 gallons of petrol is released and one could go on. Photochemical smog, causing pain and irritation to the eyes and lungs, is produced by the effects of sunlight and substances in the car exhausts. Lead, which is a particularly poisonous element, is discharged into the atmosphere in Australia at the rate of 14,000 tons per annum. The problem of noise pollution might also be added.
Perhaps even more seriously is the ever escalating tendency for cities and living environments to be shaped by the private motor vehicle. During the post-war period in Australia and in other comparable countries governments have been goaded by the powerful financial, industrial and automobile association lobby groups to spend almost unlimited funds on roads and other improvements designed to promote without limit the use of a motorised vehicle for every transport task, no matter how inappropriate or no matter what the cost to the non-user or to the urban environment. There has been no sense of a hierarchy of appropriate transport modes, no sense of the need to rationalise the different systems in existence, no consideration of the sensitive interrelationship between land use planning and transport planning. Let us hear some more about the 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I require that the question be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
-It cannot be over emphasised that, through a lack of commitment to responsible planning, we have allowed the growth of cities that are designed to force up transport costs and which are therefore inherently inflationary in character. The costs associated with unplanned urban development rise exponentially and it is the responsibility of government to ensure that this spatial cause of inflation is attacked properly. The worker pays for a lowering of his standard of living while large scale authorities luxuriate in their engineering skills. In some respects, the whole debate about energy and transport in the Australian city has been focussed around the construction of urban freeways. At a time in the early 1970s when commonsense dictated a multi-model and more flexible approach to urban transport, increasingly large resources were put into a single moderoads and road based transport. The most dramatic example of the imbalance of priorities which has been characteristic of Australian transport planning has been the attempts made in almost every Australian city to construct urban freeways, a form which is intrinsically alien to the urban environment.
The urban freeway has been the subject of extended battles of which one of the most bitterly fought has been the struggle to impose freeways on inner Melbourne and in particular, to build the now notorious Eastern Freeway. This freeway is one of the few remaining projects which has survived the now totally discredited Melbourne transportation plan. The freeway, which has been subject to a number of studies and modifications, is designed to carry traffic from Ringwood, with a connection to Dandenong, through the Koornung Creek Valley and the Yarra Bend National Park to Alexander Parade, a tree-lined avenue and recreation area which divides the historic inner suburbs of Collingwood and Fitzroy.
Since 1969, road authorities in Melbourne have been endeavouring to persuade local councils and residents to accept initially an 8-lane freeway through their municipalities. Residents and councillors have together resisted every overture and even a handsome bribe in the belief that the expected traffic volume of 70,000 vehicles a day would destroy the social environment. Finally, after a belated study in 1976 and negotiations with local government last year, the Victorian Minister of Transport lost patience and sent in more than 400 police to assist the Country Roads Board at about 3 a.m. to force the removal of council-placed restrictive paving and to erect the necessary signalling. The police acted mainly against local residents, women and children, whose only interest was to save their neighbourhood from the ravages of traffic.
Scenes such as that in Alexander Parade illustrate the fundamental contradictions which are built into a system of transport which does not respect physical and social differences, which takes no account of differential costs and benefits and which can be justified only by engineers and bureaucrats who have lost all awareness of the changing need of priorities in the light of the factors which I have been outlining in this speech. Unfortunately, the present Government, as in so many other areas, has allowed the Environmental Protection Act to be watered down so that we now have the absurd situation in Victoria where in my own electorate in the City of Heidelberg in respect of the Bell Street-Banksia Street connection, the construction authority is carrying out its own impact studies. This project is subject to no external study and the local communities have lost all power to influence transport planning decisions. The F1 9 or Eastern Freeway experience totally makes nonsense of this Government’s commitment to devolution, to asserting the rights of local government and to conserving the social environment.
It is not possible in a speech of this length to do much more than open up problems within the context of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand. Suffice to say that the field of transport is a rich field for a government which wishes to confront the problem of unemployment, which wishes to raise productivity and which wishes to provide a proper framework for an industry to plan and to protect and to enhance people’s rights as citizens. It would seem to me that the Government’s commitment of $60m a year for the next five years to urban public transport is trivial, if not laughable, and indicates a complete lack of grasp by the Government of the problems which demand to be faced. According to my reading of the Bureau of Transport Economics report entitled ‘Urban Capital Requirements: 1977-78’, urban public transport could use more than $ 1,000m over the next three years. It could certainly use $2 1 5m for existing projects and $500m for new projects.
Assuming a 40 per cent share from the Commonwealth, this would require $U2m in 1974-75 prices and allowing for inflation, the figure should be at least $ 1 50m or two and a half times what is proposed by the Government over the next five years. I ask honourable members to remember what we have been spending on roads, unchallenged and unscrutinised, apart from looking after the rural electorates and the rural local roads, every year since the war.
A more serious commitment could begin a process of moving resources, particularly people, within the transport industry across to a field which will become more and more important in the years ahead. To fail to do so would be to fail to grasp the nettle of opposition to all those vested interests which will continue to benefit from short term rather than long term and future oriented policies. The cost of the present unbalanced urban public transport systems will become increasingly large, particularly if proper account is not taken of the indirect costs which I have specified. The benefits of shifting gear in a time of excess capacity and economic recession would be great. Finally, the Government would begin to make possible affirmation of rights of those people who have been victimised by past policies and who are very often being denied the most basic of human rights.
Debate (on motion by Mr Graham) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed.
That the House do now adjourn.
-On Sunday morning as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and I made our way towards Sydney to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Central Synagogue, the Great Synagogue of Sydney, I learned of one of the most horrifying, vicious, brutal, senseless massacres that I think this country or any other country has ever heard of. I refer of course to the murder of the 37 Israelis by 11 Palestinian terrorists who came ashore between Netanya and Hertzliyya on the Haifa Road. I cannot for the life of me understand what objective they had in mind in murdering innocent men, women and children. It is said that the objective is to wreck the peace talks now taking place between Egypt and Israel. I was one of those, probably along with every other member in this House, who welcomed the initiatives taken by President Sadat of Egypt. We were delighted, even though we recognised that there were enormous problems ahead, that at long last the Arabs and the Israelis were going to sit down together. If the Palestinians believe they they will weaken the Israelis resolve, then I suggest that they seriously underestimate the people with whom they are dealing.
It is said that they are trying to teach the Israelis a lesson for their arrogance. Well, I do not know what the outcome will be, but I suggest that it will be neither of these things. If anything, I believe it will strengthen their resolve and the result will be, regrettably, massive retaliation which in turn will result in possibly hundreds, though hopefully not, of innocent Palestinian men, women and children being killed. The philosophy of the Israelis has been that when Israelis are killed in a senseless way they will retaliate. I suppose one could understand if the Palestinians were to attack military objectives. It is a war situation in that region. I suppose that soldiers and military targets are reasonable objectives but senseless killing just goes on. Bombs are exploded in plazas and school children are killed as they were in places like Kiryat Shimona and Maalot. This has gone on year in year out for the last 30 years. I think it has repulsed the whole world, and it does nothing whatsoever to help the cause of the Palestinians. It only stiffens the resolve of the Israelis to carry on. I have no doubt, and I do not think anybody in this House or in the world has any doubt, that there will be retaliation. Hopefully there will be retaliation against military targets, against the guerrillas themselves but not against the children. Those honourable members who are familiar with the Middle East situation will know that it has been the practice of Palestinians to have their guerrilla hideouts in villages so that when the Israelis retaliate they hit villages with the result that women and children are killed. The most sickening part of the whole incident was the sight of the spokesman for the Organisation for the Liberation of Palestine- PLO- being interviewed on television and saying to the world that they had killed soldiers, they had hit military objects. This might be a lesson to those people- there are many in politics today- who are sucked in by Palestinian propaganda, a good deal of which is terribly deceitful, terribly dishonest. The Palestinians have been able to get away with this sort of thing by dressing it up with some pseudo academic appearance to give it some -
– Yes, to give it some respectability and putting the propaganda over as fact, history and truth. This is the sort of thing that is said. Here was this man saying that they had killed Israeli soldiers and they had hit military objects. This is a warning, I say, to those people who are unfortunately taken in by much of the Palestinian propaganda. I suggest that this whole House ought to condemn, and I believe would condemn, this horrifying action. We express our sympathy to those in Israel who have lost kin.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In the few minutes at my disposal tonight I would like to bring to the attention of the House some misconceptions that have been floated more recently in relation to the Ord River project in Western Australia and to try to put the record straight. This project has been plagued with problems over many years. It was a very bold and imaginative project initiated quite some time ago. After the initial flush-of-success period the project almost immediately ran into troubles. These troubles mostly evolved around the problem of insects damaging crops and the inability of the farmers in the area to lower the insect numbers sufficiently to enable them to harvest a viable crop. It is well worth remembering that the Ord River dam itself has a capacity of 5,700 million cubic metres which is approximately nine times the quantity of water in Sydney Harbour. It is no small project. Over the last three years we have seen great strides made in the control of insects by biological means and almost with a complete absence of any chemicals such as DDT, parathion or anything like that.
The crop results farmers have been achieving in the Ord River in recent years have been outstanding. I know of areas that have consistently been yielding 70 bushels of wheat per acre or over 150 bushels of wheat per hectare. Farmers consistently have been able to get 20 tonnes of sugar per hectare in 12 months. This is an enormous yield not only by Australian standards but also by world standards. Great strides have been made in the production of legumes such a mung beans and soya beans. These are showing great promise in the field of protein development. A good deal of work has been done and a large quantity of produce has been exported from the Kununurra area in recent years to supply pig and poultry feed to Darwin and Singapore. In fact, almost all of the pig and poultry feed used in Darwin is grown on the Ord River. There is a very viable and strongly established broom millet industry which employs a large number of Aboriginals in the area.
All in all the farmers in this area basically have overcome the worst of the problems. I want to put the record straight because I heard in another place tonight people making all sorts of rash statements about the Ord River. Obviously they have not heard of, read or studied the situation which has applied in the last two or three years. One of the main pests in the area was the insect Heliothis. It grew 14 inches to 18 inches long and could destroy crops in its path. It is now able to be completely controlled with a parasitic wasp. If in the future insects such as the Heliothis are able to emerge in great numbers suddenly and the wasp is not able to cope with them there is now an established method to kill these insects by using bacterial spray. The bacteria kills the Heliothis and other similar insects but has no effect on the parasitic insect so we would still have a strong method of control by using the parasitic insect. All in all the Ord River is now facing a new, enthusiastic and exciting future. People who say this project is a white elephant and a waste of money are not conversant with the present situation. I would just ask them all to look at the facts. There are some well documented publications which set out the facts. A lot of very good research has been done recently which proves the viability of the Ord River scheme. I am confident that the Ord River and the port of Wyndham are going to play a major part in the development of foodstuffs for supply not only to South-East Asia but also throughout the whole of northern Australia. This project is going to be a viable proposition. It will be an attractive proposition again for farmers and the project will go ahead almost completely without the use or assistance of chemicals.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to talk briefly about the problems being faced by the Community Youth Support Scheme conducted by the Fremantle City Council. I have been prompted to speak as a result of the speech made here on 9 March by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) in which he quoted a letter he received from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I repeat the quote. It reads:
Over 100,000 people were assisted under these schemes in 1976-77 -
And this is the important bit - 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.
In August last year the Fremantle Youth Involvement Committee received $16,300 for a period of 26 weeks to allow it to employ two full-time workers under the CYS scheme. After a thorough review of the project late last year it was decided that attempts ought to be made to extend the project beyond the boundaries of the city of Fremantle. Discussions were held. I attended those discussions. Representatives of three local government bodies were at that meeting. It had been decided already with the East Fremantle Town Council that its area ought to be included in the projects conducted by the Fremantle Youth Involvement Committee. However, it was proposed that the program should be extended further to include an area of the city of Melville known as Willagee. We envisaged there might be some problems with the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, so on 24 January I approached departmental officers involved in the scheme and discussed with them what problems may be confronted if we tried to extend this project even further than the city of Fremantle and the town of East Fremantle. It was made clear to us that there would be no insurmountable problems. So in order to consult with the community of Willagee we held a public meeting which 33 people representing 10 organisations attended. The meeting unanimously supported the view that the project which had been so successfully mounted by the Fremantle City Council should be extended to that part of the city of Melville.
The Fremantle City Council project was to be the subject of another submission because the period of its approval of 26 weeks was about to expire. So, instead of proposing simply an extension of the existing scheme, it was decided to apply for an expansion of the scheme to include five full time workers and three part time workers at a total cost of $38,000. The disturbing aspect about this incident is that that proposal was never submitted to the State committee established to consider projects put up within Western Australia. In fact it was referred straight to the Melbourne office and the Melbourne office decreased the scope of the scheme. Instead of approving $38,000 it simply approved $24,000 for a period of 17 weeks therefore allowing the employment of only three full time workers and three part time workers.
The point I make is that this whole incident has pointed up some very serious shortcomings in this scheme. In the first instance, the period of the approvals is far too short. Approvals for periods of 17 weeks, even up to 26 weeks, are too short to allow project officers to really get their projects mounted with any degree of security at all. The second point is that in this case there was an attempt to increase the efficiency of the scheme through regional co-operation. It appears that those attempts have now foundered on the bureaucratic decisions made by the Department. The third important point is that no reference was made to the State committee. The fourth point about this project is that it is taking far too much time of people who are not being financially supported by it. Officers of the City of Fremantle who are not being supported by the Community Youth Support Scheme, are spending most of their time preparing and repreparing submissions for the scheme. There seems to be as well very little regard paid to the fact that the Fremantle project has been a great success. I have a report here covering 1 8 pages which indicates that approximately 2,000 young people have been assisted by this scheme in six months. It seems that it is certainly a project which is worthy of support. I am very disappointed that the Department has not seen fit in view of the Prime Minister’s undertaking to allow for the extension and expansion of the project.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I raise a matter tonight which is very similar to that raised by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) in the sense that I believe that both sides of the Parliament will appreciate and support what I intend saying. I raise the question of union blackmail of workers in the building industry. In Canberra at present the Building Workers Industrial Union, which is a major building industry union, is in the process of blackmailing quite a number of Australian working people and sub-contractors in the building industry by forcing them against their will to join unions. I know that in some parts of Australia this has been commonplace for some years. We know of some of the events in places like Broken Hill. But one hopes that in these days it is not one of the forms of activity that people will go along with for very long.
Some of the people from Queanbeyan in my electorate and people from the electorates in the Australian Capital Territory are being forced because of the actions of these unions to pay fees or leave sites in Canberra at present. The situation is that the unions, by heavy handed blackmail tactics, are forcing themselves on major employers who are being forced to buckle under because the employers cannot afford, in the competitive environment of the building industry, to close down the job for a protracted period while litigation takes place. They cannot afford the costs of these delays. They are finding that it is probably better to go along with the unions and ask sub-contractors to have their employees join the unions.
We in Australia, as I understand it, have always believed in fair play and in freedom of the individual to make decisions on these matters. In fact this Government has legislated in that direction. We have legislated for the setting up of the Industrial Relations Bureau. We have legislated for amendments to the Trade Practices Act and in particular an amendment to section 45d which has very widespread support throughout the building industry. We recognise that costs in the construction industry are inevitably passed on to consumers. The point I make tonight concerns not so much the cost to the consumer but the cost to the principals involved in this country of so-called freedom play.
A particularly nasty character is getting around building sites in Canberra at present. I refer to Mr Ron Driver of the Building Workers Industrial Union who is using this form of blackmail. It is possible, I understand, for building workers who are conscientious objectors to obtain a legitimate conscientious objection certificate from places such as the Master Builders Association. I understand however that Mr Driver is then able in those circumstance to call out other unions. I am not a lawyer but I would say that under section 45d of the Trade Practices Act that black banning would constitute an offence. As I said, the unions hold the whip hand because of the terrible costs involved to the major contractors. We in the Government parties will not rest until people like Mr Driver are cleaned out of the industry. People like Mr Driver prejudice the lives of honest working people amongst whom are many of my constituents. We need a concerted drive by the major contractors to weed out these agitators. We want to be rid of the people who prejudice the lives of Australians against the best interests of consumers and of the industry as a whole.
– It is true that during the time of the last Parliament I spoke on a number of occasions of the need for a new airport for Brisbane. As the House will realise, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his policy speech gave that undertaking. Work for the new airport will be commencing very shortly. However, we do have a situation in Brisbane now of which I am rather ashamed. I think it should be brought to the attention of the House even though it might seem a little fickle in a debate such as this. At the end of October last year, I wrote to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) regarding baggage trolleys at Brisbane Airport. Some 20 baggage trolleys were provided to service the needs of that airport. He wrote back and said that obviously he did not think that that was quite enough and that the Department was making investigations into the supply of more baggage trolleys.
– How many are there now?
– Now there are eight operative baggage trolleys. I wrote to the Minister and saw him in February. He sent a minute to the Department demanding the immediate provision of baggage trolleys. Nothing has happened in the last month.
– It is a great shame. After all, Brisbane International Airport is the third gateway to Australia. It is an airport with one of the fastest rates of increase in the number of international travellers passing through its gates. I simply rose in the House tonight to ask that the Minister get behind somebody in the Department, give him a good swift kick in the pants and make sure that those baggage trolleys are provided. The situation at the moment is quite ludicrous. There are eight trolleys to service that airport. The problem is even more pronounced on a Friday morning when a Qantas 747, a British Airways 747 and an Air New Zealand DC 10, invariably full, come in and disgorge many hundreds of passengers into the terminal. These people arrive after long overseas flights and find that it is absolutely impossible to get a baggage trolley to cart their baggage through the customs office and out to the car park and taxi areas.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
Is it yet possible to provide information from the 1976 Census on the number of persons in the largest ethnic groups in (a) electoral divisions at that time and (b) present electoral divisions (Hansard, 3 1 May 1 977, page 2251)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am advised by the Australian Statistician that it is not yet possible to provide information of the type sought by the honourable member from the 1 976 Census.
Preliminary information, relating to both 1968 and 1977 electoral boundaries, containing limited birthplace information (persons born in Australia, born in United Kingdom or Ireland, born in other overseas countries, not stated) was compiled during the initial stages of processing of the 1976 Census and provided, during 1977, to the Parliamentary Library, political parties and Members of Parliament.
Final processing of the 1 976 Census if not yet complete and, at this stage, the Australian Statistician is unable to indicate exactly when the information sought will become available.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 23 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Finance directions provide as follows:
Prime Minister’s use of Qantas Airways Ltd, May-June 1977 (Question No. 202)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 23 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 1 March, 1978:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The first meeting of the Federal Working Party was held recently in Canberra and meetings at State level are now being arranged. I will be carefully considering the reports and recommendations arising from the Working Party investigations.
Social Security: Expenditures in Werriwa Division (Question No. 346)
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 2 March 1 978:
What expenditures were made under major programs administered by the Department of Social Security in the Electoral Division of Werriwa in 1976-77.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I refer the honourable member to the information provided in answer to question No. 1 157, page 1354, Hansard, 20 September 1977.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 2 March 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Sperm whale monitoring and biological research
Aerial monitoring of the Southern Right whale
Aerial monitoring of the Humpback whale
Processing whale statistical data
Contribution to International Conference on Age Determination of Odontocetes
International Decade of Cetacean Research, South East Indian Ocean whale marking cruise.
Funds are also provided by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service to study bottlenose dolphin in southern Queensland waters.
Mr A. G. Bollen, Chairman and Australian Commissioner,
Mr E. A. Purnell-Webb, First Assistant Secretary, Fisheries Division, Department of Primary Industry and Alternate Commissioner;
Dr K. Radway Allen, Chairman, Scientific Committee;
Mr J. L. Bannister, Director, Western Australian Museum and Vice-Chairman of the Scientific Committee;
Dr G. P. Kirkwood, CSIRO.
In addition it is anticipated that a senior officer from the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service will be a member of the delegation.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 7 March 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Minister for Transport: Overseas Travel by Members of Family (Question No. 428)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
-The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Minister for Transport: Overseas Travel by Members of Family (Question No. 429)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 8 March 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 March 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780314_reps_31_hor108/>.