31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr Ransley Victor Garland made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the Division of Curtin, Western Australia.
-Mr Speaker, I rise on a matter of parliamentary privilege. I have been advised by the Serjeant-at-Arms that he has received advice from the Postmaster at Parliament House that due to an industrial dispute he does not expect any mail to be delivered to or dispatched from the House today. I regard this as a serious breach of privilege in that members will be prevented from carrying out some of their parliamentary duties. Important correspondence from electors requiring urgent attention by members will not be delivered. I do not know how long the dispute will last. However, with the rising of the House tomorrow for two weeks for the Easter period, correspondence to and from members may be delayed for some considerable time. Mr Speaker, I raise this matter at the earliest opportunity and ask you to advise me whether this serious disruption to the parliamentary duties of members of this House constitutes a prima facie breach of privilege.
– I will consider the matter and inform the honourable member and the House of my decision at a later hour this day.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we do not believe that a person’s freedom to choose their own doctor and treatment should be banished by pressure on the Government by the Australian Medical Association or any other body, nor that they should be deprived of the right to Medical Insurance rebate, to which they have been contributing for years.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that legislation abolishing health insurance rebates for treatment of cancer patients by Dr Milan Brych in the Cook Islands not be introduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr N. A. Brown and Mr Carlton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Anthony.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners ) Act 1 974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30 June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30 June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, 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 cost and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lusher.
– I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether he is aware that in his letter of 2 December to the Prime Minister, Mr A. J. Moyes, of IBM Australia Ltd, said:
Immediately before your announcement of the election, and again soon afterwards, I expressed some of my concerns on this subject to Mr Lynch.
Were these the only two occasions on which Mr Moyes raised with the Minister the matter of a computer for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Trade? Has Mr Moyes at any other time in the past approached the Minister about other computer contracts?
-The Leader of the Opposition wrote to me- I think I received the letter yesterday and it was dated the day before- picking up questions which he had raised with me at Question Time last week. I will be responding to the honourable gentleman’s letter shortly and will take on board the questions which the honourable member for Sydney has now raised. I can assure both honourable gentlemen that there is no drama in these matters and that they will be attended to in the proper way.
-I direct to the Prime Minister a question on federalism. The increase in the allocation to local government from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent of income tax has been well received. Can the Prime Minister inform the Parliament of the timing of these payments?
– I know that local government throughout Australia is looking forward eagerly to the extension of the policy that the Government introduced some time ago to provide significant additional sums to local government which it could spend as it chose and not as somebody else directed. The policy that we have adopted in relation to local government has established the circumstance in which local government has been able to go about its business, to make a judgment about its own priorities and, in a very large number of cases, to hold rates in ways which otherwise would not have been possible. So the policy has been of advantage to local government and of great advantage to ratepayers. The figure of 1.52 per cent of income tax obviously will increase year by year. The increase this year over last year was in the order of $20m. I do not want to be held absolutely to that figure but it was something of that order. I make that point only to indicate that local government can expect an increase in funds from the Commonwealth no matter what the Government’s timing is in relation to the move from 1.52 per cent to 2 per cent. The timing of that move, however, will be within the life of this Parliament. The actual timing each year will have to be decided in the budgetary context, so this matter will come up for review in the budgetary context each year. Let me emphasise the commitment that the move from 1.52 per cent to 2 per cent will occur during the life of the Parliament.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that he issued an instruction on 22 December 1977 that a letter of intent awarding a major computer contract to Facom Australia Ltd should not be issued. Is it a fact that the Prime Minister took this unilateral action without the advice of his Cabinet? Is it also a fact that the Prime Minister issued this instruction blocking the awarding of a contract to Facom on the same day as he spoke personally by telephone to the Chairman and Managing Director of IBM Australia Ltd, Mr A. G. Moyes?
-On 7 March 1978 I made a lengthy statement on this subject covering the main elements. At the time the Government was faced with two particular matters. First, the Australian Bureau of Statistics was pressing the Government for a new computer which it needed urgently and, secondly, concern was expressed to the Government by the Chairman of the Public Service Board and, in a particularly pointed way quite early in the piece, by the Secretary to Cabinet after it became clear that Mr Harragan intended to take up a position with Facom Australia Ltd. I think it is useful to refer again to the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition which appear at page 467 of Hansard.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. This is the second day running on which the Opposition has directed specific questions to the Prime Minister and he has refused to answer them. He has been speaking on matters related to the questions but not directly answering them. We will not continue to accept his evasions.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
-The question is being answered very specifically indeed. I have directed the House to the lengthy statement on this matter which covers the issues which are relevant to the House and to the public. I was about to point out that on 7 March 1978 the Leader of the Opposition said that he had no brief for Mr Harragan. One wonders whether he really meant that, in view of some of his later statements. He said:
I have no brief for Mr Harragan. I believe that his behaviour was quite improper -
Later, after the sitting had resumed at 8 o’clock, he said:
Although it was deserving of censure in my view -
He was referring to Mr Harragan ‘s action. It is perfectly plain that if the Government had gone ahead with the tender the Leader of the Opposition would be seeking to criticise the Government for allowing an act that was deserving of censure to go unnoticed and without response. The Government took the only proper course open to it, and it took that course after due consultation and advice from departments and the people principally involved, and amongst Ministers, as my statement of 7 March makes perfectly plain.
-Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been drawn to Press statements relating to the Warner Creek Dam project? Has the Federal Government received any recommendation for funding under the national water resources development program from the Tasmanian Government? Is it true, as claimed by the Tasmanian Premier, that the State will be asked to contribute to the capital cost on a dollar for dollar basis? Have guidelines for funding under the national water resources development program been developed? Will the Federal Government give favourable consideration to the Warner Creek Dam project if recommended by the State Government?
-Mr Speaker, I know that this matter will be dear to your heart. The honourable member drew my attention to the Press statements a couple of moments ago. The position is that the Federal Government has announced a water development program for the nation involving $200m over the next five years. To my knowledge, the Tasmanian Government has not yet put any proposition for any water projects in that State, including the Warner Creek Dam. If the State Government wished to put a proposition on the Warner Creek Dam the Federal Government would examine it.
We would prefer funding to be on a one for one basis, perhaps even a sharing arrangement with local government as well. If the State Government has a special proposition to put we will look at a loan or grant arrangement on a StateCommonwealth basis. The only other point I would make is that it is important that the State assess its total requirements on water projects. If it were to give top priority to the Warner Creek Dam we would look at the matter very favourably.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I remind him that he told the House last week that a reason for calling for new tenders for the Australian Bureau of Statistics computer was that the shortened tender process decided upon last December would disadvantage Facom Australia Ltd and favour IBM Australia Ltd. I ask: Does the Prime Minister agree that that statement is in direct contradiction with a telex message from Facom to the Government on 8 February in which Facom agreed to the shortened tender process and stated that it felt that it was in the public interest? Will the Prime Minister now explain to the House that contradiction, given that he has had six days to think about it?
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now out of order. Enough of the question has been asked to make it answerable.
– I again refer the honourable gentleman to the statement which has been made in the Parliament. The advice from officials became increasingly, as 8 February got nearer, that the shortened tender process would favour IBM. The honourable gentleman might question if he so wishes whether that was right or wrong, but that was the advice the Government was given. Thus, after having had unanimous advice from three very senior public servants- the Secretary to the Department of Administrative Services, the Chairman of the Public Service Board and the Secretary to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet- it was decided in discussion by Senator Withers, the Treasurer and myself, that the proper course was to recall tenders in their entirety. If the honourable gentleman wished to attack the Government and if he had stated that we should have made the decision to recall tenders in their entirety at an earlier date, instead of pursuing the path that he has pursued, I could understand it, because that would have been an option open to us. If we had not been seeking to meet the wishes of the Bureau of Statistics to get a computer more quickly than otherwise might have been the case,
I have no doubt that that is what we would have done.
-I call the honourable member for Swan.
Government supporters- Hear, hear!
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. Obviously honourable members did not hear about my duck at cricket the other day. I am no champion. Is the Treasurer aware that the readers of Church and Nation, which is a Uniting Church in Australia fortnightly publication, are being encouraged to seek tax deductibility for donations to an organisation known as the Movement Against Uranium Mining? Will the Treasurer assure the House and the country, and particularly the readers of Church and Nation -
-Order! The honourable gentleman should ask for information, not for assurances.
– Will the Treasurer assure the House that those people should put their money in the plate rather than waste it on MAUM?
-The House had not heard not only about the honourable member’s duck but also about mine. I had not previously been aware of the suggestion that readers of that magazine were being encouraged to make contributions to that organisation. I do not wish to make any generally critical comments about that magazine. However, I can inform the honourable gentleman that it is my understanding that contributions made to that organisation would not be tax deductible. Further, there is no way that I would recommend to the Government that they be made tax deductible.
– It is just as well that the selectors chose Ogilvie to go to the West Indies before that question and answer.
-Does the Prime Minister recall telling the House last week that, in clearing Mr Harragan of any impropriety in the Australian Bureau of Statistics contract tendering procedures, the Committee of heads of departments had conducted their inquiry on too narrow an ambit? Is it not a fact that the Committee conducted its inquiry on specific terms of reference drafted by the Prime Minister himself? Is it not also a fact that the Committee, in its report, addressed itself to a specific list of questions directed to the Committee by the Prime
Minister? Will the Prime Minister now table those terms of reference?
-The honourable gentleman will also recall that I referred to a misunderstanding, and the misunderstanding ran to the ambit of the matters that were put. I certainly believed that they were clear enough. I also believe now, as I believed then, that the ethics of the matter and the possible activities of Mr Harragan before 25 August and before 2 September were highly relevant to consideration. Those particular matters were not so considered.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I understand that President Carter has just signed into law the United States Non-Proliferation Bill. Can the Minister give details of that Bill to this House and indicate its potential importance in relation to Australia’s safeguards policy?
-Mr Speaker, I shall be as brief as I can. It is simply indicative of the respect I have for you that I get that remark in first. The Australian Government, of course, welcomes the recent signing into law by President Carter of the United States Non-Proliferation Bill. In his statement on signing the Bill into law, President Carter left absolutely no doubt as to the importance of nuclear power as a source of energy for the United States and for other countries. At the same time he emphasised, as the Australian Government has continuously emphasised, the imperative need to press ahead in efforts against nuclear weapons proliferation. He referred to the importance of adequate nuclear fuel supplies for countries accepting non-proliferation and safeguards requirements.
As succinctly as possible, the Act gives a central role to encouraging universal adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, lt specifies conditions that will be required for nuclear exports from the United States. These include, of course, the application of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards of indefinite duration and cover all peaceful nuclear activities in nonnuclear weapon states, the prohibition of nuclear explosive uses, the maintenance of adequate physical security, and United States consent to re-transfer, et cetera.
– And opposition to nuclear waste reprocessing.
-If the honourable member listened to me he would recognise that many of these provisions are closely in line with Australian safeguards policy and bear out the sort of things we said throughout last year to the effect that if we adopted such tight safeguards other countries would follow suit. That is what has happened. The United States will be renegotiating its existing bilateral agreements with customers for its nuclear exports to incorporate the tighter conditions provided for in the legislation. Our own negotiating position will be strengthened by the shared aims of our two governments in this important area of nuclear safeguards.
President Carter also said that substantial progress had been made in the last year in the field of safeguards and non-proliferation. He has previously paid credit to the Prime Minister and to this Government for the policies they have pursued in this area. He pointed to the guidelines established by the nuclear suppliers group and to the commencement of the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation. We agree that these and other developments constitute substantial progress. There is no other way in which to put it. During the period leading to the formulation of the Government’s own safeguards and uranium export policies, and subsequently, there has been extremely close contact with the United States. As I say, this has unquestionably been of substantial benefit to both countries in the pursuance of shared aims in restraining proliferation.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Was the contract for a 12-month lease of a $2.5m computer for the Department of Veterans ‘s Affairs approved yesterday? Has the lease contract been awarded to IBM Australia Ltd without the calling of tenders? Was a similar 12-month lease of a $1.5m computer for the Department of the Northern Territory finalised in December? Did that lease contract also go to IBM, again without the calling of tenders? Were certificates of inexpediency issued in both cases? Did Mr A. G. Moyes, of IBM, telephone or write to the Prime Minister in either case to seek his personal influence in ensuring that IBM was given both contracts?
– I am utterly unaware of the contracts to which the honourable gentleman refers.
-Can the Prime Minister inform the House what steps the Government is taking to review ways in which health care is paid for and ways of containing its cost?
-My colleague the Minister for Health will be tabling a document which will set out certain options. It is a discussion paper and I hope that it will provoke constructive debate. I believe that Australia still has open to it an option which may not be open to many other countries, and that is the option to establish in totality a health system of which the costs are within the capacity of the nation to afford. In a number of countries costs seem to have run away so fast and institutional arrangements have been made in such a way that it would seem almost impossible to contain costs in those countries. Australia has to be quite certain that it does not get into the same situation. The Minister will table a discussion paper which sets out certain options and which is designed, as I understand it, to encourage public debate. No Government decisions have been made in relation to it. No Cabinet consideration has been given to the paper at this point. We certainly will be interested in the public debate that follows, and we hope that it will be useful and constructive.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Will IBM Australia Ltd gain $lm of taxpayers’ money in rental charges for the two computers being leased to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of the Northern Territory? Did Facom Australia Ltd make an offer of cheaper lease arrangements in the case of both computers? Is so, why did IBM get both contracts? Is it a fact that the lease arrangements have been negotiated preparatory to both departments each buying a computer when the leases expire? Will the award of the lease contracts to IBM give that company the inside running in the eventual purchase of computers for the two departments?
– I will ask the Ministers concerned to see what information can or should be given to the honourable gentleman. He seems to be drawing on his own experience as Minister for Social Security when he awarded very significant contracts to IBM without calling tenders -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The question was asked and it is deserving of an answer, which is now proceeding. I ask honourable members on my left to remain silent while the answer is given.
-Very considerable orders were given to IBM without calling tenders because the government of the day wished to get in a certain scheme within a certain time scale, and the Leader of the Opposition himself has given no evidence of what he claimed was an instruction he had issued to his department as a result of that matter. Indeed, there is very considerable evidence to suggest that the honourable gentleman issued no instruction whatsoever.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed the constitutional debacle that occurred in South Australia yesterday when the appointment of judges, the sacking of Salisbury and the setting up of a royal commission were found to be invalid?
-Order! I will permit the honourable gentleman to proceed, but the Prime Minister has no responsibility at all in this matter.
– I was just about to ask a question relating to the same subject. Is that in order?
-I will allow the honourable gentleman to proceed.
– Can the Prime Minister give an assurance that the same situation does not apply in the Federal field and that all similar appointments are constitutionally correct?
– I have no reason to believe that any Commonwealth appointments are anything other than constitutionally correct. I suppose I could say that I am not entirely surprised at certain activities in South Australia.
-Has the Minister for Health seen a claim by Mr Cade, the General Manager of Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd, that private hospitals are defrauding private health funds, including Medibank Private, by charging for days patients did not spend in the hospitals? Are these allegations being investigated by State or Commonwealth police? If not, why not?
– These allegations have been brought to my attention only in the last day or two. I will ask my Department to undertake an investigation to ascertain whether the allegations made by Mr Cade are in fact correct.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the recent Palestine Liberation Organisation terrorist attack on Israel, will the Minister take the necessary action in the United Nations to oppose the continued presence of the PLO as an official observer to that body? Will the Minister accept that the PLO can play no constructive role in a negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict while that organisation still ceases to recognise Israel’s right to exist in accordance with United Nations resolution 242? Will the Minister now accept that many of the accusations levelled against Israel at international conferences regarding its practices in occupied territories should not be regarded so much as human rights issues but as Middle East issues, recognising that Israel has been subjected to hostilities on a continuing basis for many years from neighbouring countries? Finally, in that context, will the Minister ensure that at such conferences Australia will adopt a more sympathetic attitude to Israel than has hitherto been the case?
– I raise a point of order. I do not wish to underestimate the importance of the question which has been asked of the Foreign Minister, but it seems to me that if a statement is to be made on a matter of such consequence it ought to be made as a ministerial statement to this House. It would be quite a lengthy statement. The matter involves governments of both persuasions. I would think that the Foreign Minister ought to make a statement to the House on this subject.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide has not raised a point of order. It is a reasonable request for the honourable member, as the Manager of Opposition Business, to make in the House. I call upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs to answer the question as asked.
- Mr Speaker, I can assure you that I had absolutely no idea that the question was to be asked. This is not one of the questions normally referred to as Dorothy Dixers. Had I known the question was to be asked or even expressed in these terms, I would have reminded the honourable member that it was hardly right to include in a question the viewpoint that Australia has not been ‘sympathetic’ to Israel, as was implied by the question. I refer honourable members to the policy of this Government as laid down throughout its period in Opposition and prior to the change of attitude by the previous Government which, under the guise of evenhandedness a guise that this Government specifically rejected- laid down a policy viewpoint in 1975. Our policy was based firmly on United Nations resolutions 242 and 338. That policy has been expressed consistently by me and by the Government and in its voting in the
United Nations where frequently we have stood witu maybe one or two other countries in the defence of Israel against those who would seek to implement or support the charter of the Palestine Liberation Organisation which is specifically aimed at the destruction of that state.
I can assure the honourable member, quite apart from the content of my answer to date, that I would have therefore rejected any implication that we do not support Israel’s right to exist. Quite the contrary. The Australian Government has never given any specific recognition to the PLO. It will not do so while the PLO maintains its denial of Israel’s right to exist as expressed, as
I have referred to, in the Palestinian national charter. However, Australia’s diplomatic representatives in relevant capitals do have informal contacts with PLO representatives as circumstances sometimes require that in the role of Australian diplomatic work. I have already expressed on behalf of the Government our attitude towards the Palestinian attack in Israel on
II March. I have received reports that Israeli forces this morning crossed the frontier into southern Lebanon. Those reports have been confirmed. It has been reported that Israeli land, sea and air forces are moving against concentrations of Palestinians in southern Lebanon, but these and other details of the action are yet to be confirmed. I think it would be asking too much of me at this juncture to comment further on that matter. But I reject, as I feel bound to do by the nature of the wording of the question, any implication that this Government has not stood by Israel’s right to exist. It has done so in undertakings given before being elected to government and it has executed it in its actions, votings and stances in the United Nations, and I see no reason to change.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Foreign Minister again extended his answer to the question to take in reports of what occurred this morning in the Middle East. Many honourable members on this side of the House would like to express a view about what has occurred in the Middle East over the past 72 hours. I think that the Foreign Minister ought to take on board- to use a cliche of one of his colleagues- the suggestion that a statement ought to be made in the House in order to give honourable members on this side of the House an opportunity to speak on the matter.
- Mr Speaker -
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat. There is no substance in the point of order. Does the honourable member for Perth wish to raise a point of order?
- Mr Speaker, may I ask a supplementary question of the Minister?
– I address a question to the Prime Minister about his aspiration, broadcast last Sunday, that the Public Service should recapture the absolute propriety and unquestioned integrity that were a hallmark of the Menzies years. Does he believe that this hallmark was exhibited in the Menzies years by the four Directors-General of Posts and Telegraphs who, on retirement or resignation, immediately became respectively Chairman and Joint Managing Director of the British General Electric organisation, Chairman and Managing Director of Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd, Chairman of a commercial radio station and General Manager of the International Telephone and Telegraph organisation for our region?
-Order! The honourable gentleman is asking questions about persons. Although he has not used their names, they are readily identifiable. The honourable gentleman well knows that questions containing imputations against the character of a named person should be put on the Notice Paper, not asked without notice. The implication is one of imputation against the actions of those persons. I therefore rule that the honourable gentleman is out of order.
-Sir, the next two sentences are undoubtedly in order.
-Because of the standing of the honourable gentleman in this House I shall hear the remaining sentences.
– I thank you, sir. I also ask: Is the situation still as described by Sir Robert Menzies in one of his last answers to me, that is, that an officer on resigning from the Public Service is not required to state what form of employment he intends to take up and that details as to his new office and employment cannot be provided from any official records? Lastly, has his Government yet considered the recommendations which were made to correct such situations by the Committee of Inquiry into Government Procurement Policy under Sir Walter Scott in May 1974 and by the Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration under Dr Coombs in August 1 976? If so, when will the Government announce its decisions?
-Before I call the right honourable gentleman, I indicate that my ruling is that the question as asked up until my intervention is out of order. The remainder, after my intervention, is in order. I call upon the right honourable gentleman to answer that part of the question.
-The honourable gentleman referred to a report provided to his Government in May 1974. I shall examine aspects in relation to that and see what I can advise the honourable gentleman. I have already indicated that my Department and the Public Service Board are examining procedures in relation to computer purchasing. That examination was initiated some several weeks ago. In relation to the matters that had been put before the Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration in, I think, January 1 976, 1 raised with the Royal Commissioner, Dr Coombs, the need for having a code of ethics for the Public Service. As the honourable gentleman knows, the Royal Commission did not formulate a code of ethics. In September 1977 the Cabinet referred that matter to the Public Service Board for development and for advice. When the Government receives that advice we will look at it and see what steps should be taken. It is a matter in which the Government acted in broad terms in seeking advice as to what should be done.
In relation to the more recent incidents, of course, the honourable gentleman will know also that we are seeking advice from Sir Nigel Bowen in relation to certain specific aspects of conflict of interest. I draw the attention of the House to the difference between a code of ethics for the Public Service that would cover, I would imagine, a wide range of matters, and a specific element that in a sense would be contained within that, namely, the possibility of conflict of interest, which can be either a conflict of pecuniary interest or a conflict of activity of one kind or another. I believe without any doubt and without any equivocation that the reputation that I attributed to the various Menzies governments was one which was accorded generally by the Australian public throughout those years.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry advise the House of the progress being made towards the introduction of a beef classification scheme?
– The Government is particularly anxious, at a time when unfortunately there seem to be even more difficulties in marketing beef than we had expected, that there should be an early introduction of a classification scheme, because only after classification is a reality will there be any realistic possibility of introducing some type of stabilisation scheme for the industry. However, the implementation of a classification scheme ran into some difficulties. At the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in Adelaide some two months ago it was agreed that a committee chaired by an officer of the Victorian Department of Agriculture, Mr Carraill should recommend on the steps that should now be taken. That report has been received, and in fact it recommends that there should be an introduction of a partially subjective classification system, which in my view would enable the industry to move ahead on the track that we are so anxious for it to follow and which would make available throughout Australia classification that is meaningful to the producer and the consumer at the other end of the chain, and of course to everybody in between. Therefore we hope that the report of Mr Carraill might now be adopted.
Unfortunately some State governments do not particularly want to move in that direction. I am apprehensive that as a result of that there could be a move towards separate and different classification systems in the States. Accordingly, I am now proceeding to call together Ministers who are members of the Australian Agricultural Council to try to maintain a unified approach to this very critical subject. I believe that classification is essential and I can assure the honourable gentleman that we in the Federal Government will do all we can to expedite its early introduction.
– I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs: Is he aware of the fortunes, running into hundreds of thousands of dollars- some suggest millions of dollars- now being made by former importers of clothing, footwear and textiles who, because they imported large quantities during the past few years, have been allocated tariff quotas which now they are able to sell? Is he also aware that these are the very people who created the need to establish quotas in that period by importing large quantities of cheap goods from low cost labour countries? Is he further aware that, because of the moving base for the establishment of future quotas, these people will remain a privileged elite, able to make fortunes without any effort, forcing up prices and denying access to import quotas to genuine traders?
– I am aware that quotas are being transferred and that high prices are in some instances being paid for these quotas. It is also a fact that quotas are allocated on an historic basis. As indicated by the honourable member, until quite recently there was no moving base. The Government took the decision to introduce the moving base period so as to bring closer to the period of the allocation of quotas the basis upon which the quotas were being allocated. The Government believes that this is fairer from the point of view of the genuine importer and it was for that reason that the decision was taken. I take the opportunity, in answering this question, to indicate that this is an area of concern to the Government and that certain aspects of quotas or the method by which quotas are allocated are under review. I would like also to make it clear in a very definite way that the Government is committed to quotas in the interests of preserving employment in Australia. I do not think the honourable member for Robertson is questioning that premise, but I wanted to make that clear lest my remarks in relation to the allocation of quotas be misinterpreted. Certain matters, such as those raised by the honourable member and others, are under review at the present time.
-Is the Treasurer aware that individuals and private companies have employed a number of measures to minimise death and gift duties, one such method being the establishment of so-called Gorton companies? Does the Treasurer recognise that the majority of these cases involve farm families who will suffer extreme financial hardship if they are required retrospectively to pay gift duties and interest over a number of years? In view of the Government’s most welcome abolition of probate and gift duties -
-The honourable gentleman will come to the point.
-Can the Treasurer indicate whether persons involved in Gorton company structures will be required to pay such duties?
-I am aware of the widespread use of what is called the Gorton scheme. I am not sure whether the honourable gentleman is correct in asserting that the majority of circumstances in which it has been used relate to farm families. My understanding is that its use has been widespread. I will examine the proposition that the honourable gentleman has put to me and try to indicate a definitive response on behalf of the Government as soon as possible.
-Is the Minister for Defence aware that on 15 March 1973, five years ago today, the then Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, indicated that he was shocked and concerned that no study of the requirements for the defence of Australia was in existence? I ask the Minister: Did the then Minister also announce on 10 October 1973 that such a study had been commenced? Can the Minister inform the House whether that study was completed? If so, is the report still in existence?
– I will see what information is available and provide it to the honourable gentleman. I invite him to reflect on the fact that if this country could perceive a threat, defence planning would be made that much easier. The difficulty of contemporary Australian defence planning lies in the fact that, whereas there is no clearly perceived threat, clearly the country must take into account all sorts of contingencies. They range from being immediately practical and real to those that may be distant.
– You used to see Reds under every bed.
-The only threat that I have had in my life from the honourable gentleman is 23 years of his company, and I am trying to recover from it.
– I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether his attention has been drawn to a nationwide survey of small business, which is causing concern to the Victorian Small Business Development Corporation, in which it is stated that there is a 70 per cent probability that a new business will fail within five years of inception. Does the Minister agree that even if this survey result is 50 per cent inaccurate, it is a matter of grave concern in a free enterprise society?
-Order! The honourable member will come to his question.
-Very well. Will the Minister consider the urgent appointment of a specialist group to examine what extra measures must be taken at this time of understandable restraint to save the very backbone of industry and commerce?
– I welcome the honourable gentleman’s question. I have some recollection of the survey to which he refers, but not a close knowledge of it. However, the information which he has provided to the House seems to me to be a reflection of what the report stated. As I have mentioned previously, this Government attaches great importance to the small business community and has already, both in its early period of government and in recent months, taken a number of steps which will be helpful to the development of the small business community. The earlier reforms include the introduction of the 40 per cent investment allowance, the trading stock valuation and the reforms to Division 7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. In addition the Government, being conscious of the problem of finance for the small business community, has as part of a program to meet this problem announced that it will be introducing legislation to extend the charter of the Commonwealth Development Bank. Apart from the financial and taxation assistance which has already been provided the Government has embarked on a wide-ranging program to boost this very important sector of the Australian community.
I mention the small business counselling and consulting service. Subject to further discussions with the States, that service will be a significant initiative which is designed to complement State facilities and not to act in competition with them. Another point which bears on the question raised by the honourable gentleman is that the Government is introducing an additional series of short management training programs. I mention the question of research. With reference to the establishment of a committee, subject to further discussions with the Prime Minister it is my intention to establish a small business advisory council which will be advisory to the Minister in matters concerning the small business community. That should provide the advantages which the honourable gentleman sees in the establishment of a formal committee.
-Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to add to an answer I gave during Question Time today.
-The right honourable gentleman may proceed.
-My Department has advised me that the Interdepartmental Committee on Automatic Data Processing met yesterday. I am also advised that there was a request from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for a certificate of inexpediency for a computer purchase from IBM Australia Ltd. I am further advised that the Interdepartmental Committee knocked back that request; it refused the request.
-I have received advice from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that he has nominated Mr Short to be a member of the Select Committee on Tourism in place of Mr Drummond.
-by leave- For the information of honourable members I present a discussion paper on paying for health care prepared by the Hospitals and Health Services Commission. This paper does not necessarily represent the Government’s views. The preparation of the paper was the last major task performed by the Commission under the chairmanship of Dr Sidney Sax. As I announced on 2 March, the Commission is to be wound up and Dr Sax is to head the new Social Welfare Policy Secretariat which will have responsibilities ranging over the wide field of health and welfare.
I take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Dr Sax and the Commission for their work over the last few years. Under his guidance there has been a wide-ranging scrutiny of the health care delivery system, including the pathology and high cost diagnostic technology inquiries, and a number of innovative programs have been introduced which will be of lasting benefit to Australians.
As honourable members are aware, the Government, when it was in Opposition and more particularly from the time it came to office in 1975, has been concerned at the rapidly escalating cost of health care in Australia. In the last five years national expenditure on health care has increased from $2.2 billion in 1971-72 to $6.3 billion in 1976-77, a staggering rise of 1 80 per cent. This means that an ever-increasing percentage of the nation’s resources is being devoted to health services. This discussion paper demonstrates that the causes are varied and interrelated. The trend towards more and more of the nation’s resources being devoted to health care is consistent with the trend in almost all developed countries of the world. However, there is no reason for complacency in Australia.
The Government moved in 1976 to restrain health care costs, with the introduction of modifications to the health insurance system. The figures for the financial year 1976-77 indicate that there has been a significant fall in the rate of increase since 1 October 1976, the date on which the modified health insurance arrangements became effective. This slowing down in the rate of acceleration of health costs gives some justification for cautious optimism. This has been achieved whilst retaining those desirable principles of universal coverage, protection of pensioners and low income earners, and restoring freedom of choice. The modifications were also designed to encourage a sense of personal responsibility, which is so essential to a freeenterprise society.
In any government-sponsored health scheme there is the inherent danger of developing a psychology of dependence and a lack of personal and community responsibility. It is essential that in any universal health insurance system there are incentives which encourage self-reliance and a sense of personal responsibility. Although there has been a slowing down in the rate of increase in costs, the Government is not complacent and acknowledges that more needs to be done to restrain the mounting costs of health insurance and health care. One of the most important advantages of the changes that were introduced on 1 October 1976 is that the changes have identified to the people the costs of health care. While ever they were buried in Consolidated Revenue both the providers of health care and the community at large tended to ignore the problem. Health costs are paid for either by taxes, levies, health insurance premiums, direct patient contribution or by a combination of these means. However, the community at large will not escape the bill. Health care costs have to be paid for by one means or another. There is therefore a great responsibility on the health providers and the community to ensure that we obtain the best value for the dollar spent.
Since the debate in the House on 23 February there has been much said and written on health care costs, and the media has covered the subject at great length. However, to some extent the issues may have become clouded and much of the argument has been subjective. I believe that the discussion paper has objectively set about the task of identifying the factors underlying the problem, examining the reasons for them and reaching conclusions. Those conclusions will be the subject of debate and discussion and, albeit modified, could lead to solutions to the problems. In reviewing the financing of health services in this country and in discussing possible alternatives to the present arrangements, the discussion paper is provocative in many respects. I can predict with absolute certainty that all of the statements made or conclusions reached will not be universally accepted, but this is not its purpose. It will stimulate discussion among all those directly involved in the health care industry and among the community as a whole. In this way I believe a better system will be developed which will not only provide the high level of health care for which this country is renowned but also do so at a cost which the community can afford.
In order to achieve our goal it will be necessary for all to co-operate with good will- not only the providers of health care, particularly the medical profession, but also health administrators, health care financers, governments, both State and Commonwealth, and, indeed, the people of Australia as a whole.
In conclusion I can do no more than quote from the introduction to the discussion paper, which highlights the crux of the matter. It reads:
Medical care is of such vital importance to so many in the community that it must be financed on a basis which removes financial barriers that could impede access to essential care. The central problem is that if increases in expenditure continue unchecked, a critical situation could develop and result in arbitrary curtailments of both supply and access.
Whilst this paper canvasses many of the major problems affecting the costs of health care delivery, and sets out some options available to the Government, the paper does not necessarily represent the views of the Government. I commend the paper to honourable members.
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I was given a copy of this paper only a couple of hours ago. It is my intention to commence my remarks and then to ask for leave to continue them at a later stage when this matter again comes up for debate. So I shall commence my remarks at this stage.
-I do not wish to encroach upon the honourable member’s time, but I point out that although the procedure he has opted for is a perfectly valid procedure he will not be given more debating time.
-No, I realise that. I am pleased that the Government tabled this paper today. As I have said, I obviously have not had an opportunity to examine it in any detail. I assume it is a good paper, having been prepared by the Hospitals and Health Services Commission under the direction of Dr Sax, who was appointed by the Labor Government in 1 973. He certainly knows what he is talking about. Hopefully the people who helped him to produce the paper know what they are talking about on this occasion. Of course, the difficulty is what advice should be given on what to do about the problem. In any case it is important in the first instance to clearly isolate and define the problem.
I think to some extent the Government has been forced- certainly the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has been forced- by its back bencher supporters into tabling this paper. That is certainly my belief. Some of the more extreme free enterprise elements on the back benches on the Government side of the chamber have started to believe the Government’s propaganda and are blaming Medibank for everything. Of course, if one believes that, there is an obvious solution to the whole problem of health care costs, namely, abolish Medibank and all will be sweet. That, of course, is not the solution to the problem. I repeat that I am pleased that the Minister for Health has tabled this paper. The other day when he appeared with me on the radio program P.M. he emphasised the point that he was not blaming Medibank. In an interview on that Australian Broadcasting Commission radio program on 23 February he made certain comments about Medibank. The transcript of the interview reads:
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.
He repeated that statement later in the interview. I think it is important that that be put on the record. The problem of health care costs is an extremely complex one. In his statement the Minister refers to the causes as being varied and interrelated. He claims that the changes which were introduced on 1 October 1976 and which are often described as Medibank II have led to a significant fall in the rate of increase in health care costs. He said in his statement:
The figures for the financial year 1976-77 indicate that there has been a significant fall in the rate of increase since 1 October 1976- the date on which the modified health insurance arrangements became effective.
I think the important point to make is that that fall was even more significant when we introduced Medibank. We started to reverse the trend. Let us not forget that in the year before Medibank was introduced there was a 37 per cent increase in health care costs. Due to a large extent to the introduction of Medibank that rate of increase fell from 37 per cent to 26.7 per cent.
It has now fallen to 19.5 per cent. Obviously it is still too high. I think honourable members on both sides of the House would agree that the rate of increase is too high.
I hope that in debating this paper we will not be engaging in the use of too many cliches, as the Minister did in his statement. He referred to personal responsibility being essential to a free enterprise society, the danger of developing a psychology of dependence, and the lack of personal and community responsibility. I hope that he was using those phrases for the benefit of his back bench colleagues and I hope that they will not be relevant to the decisions which arise from the paper which has been tabled today.
I shall take a very quick look at some of the conclusions which the paper contains. The third conclusion reads:
It is concluded that patients should pay a larger share of the costs of health care directly out-of-pocket for three reasons . . .
One of the options specified reads: to retard rates of expansion in the use of medical and hospital services.
We do not know whether in fact it would do that, but that is one of the possibilities. The next two points are self evident; they are tautology. One reads: to reduce the rate of growth of Government expenditures on health services.
If a patient has to pay more, one assumes that the Government will have to pay less. The third part of the recommendation reads: to reduce the rate of growth in health insurance contribution rates.
Again, if a patient pays more, the health insurance funds will have to pay less. So they are fairly meaningless statements. I think one of the important conclusions is C5, which reads:
The Private health insurance industry has not taken overt initiatives to develop the claims review procedures that are necessary for studies of health service utilisation and the implementation of utilisation review.
In other words, the Government has had no cooperation and all of us in this Parliament who want to help with this problem have had no cooperation whatever from the private health insurance industry, though it ought to be in its interests to provide those sorts of figures. I support the propositions in regard to the rationalisation of hospital facilities. I point out again that there is a great need in this regard for cooperation to be forthcoming from the States and from individual politicians- politicians representing both State and Federal electorates. It is very important that they act responsibly and do not demand the construction of new hospitals in every one of the suburbs or country towns they represent and demand that those hospitals have all the possible facilities. A member of parliament who was successful in having all those facilities provided might be a very good local member but, as a person concerned with health care costs, he certainly would not be helping the situation.
There are three further significant points from the conclusions, two of which state:
C19. There is a lack of information about levels of use of, and expenditures on, health services . . .
C20. It is essential that statistics on claims for health benefits be available for analysis . . .
Then C21 gives a number of matters which require intensive study. I urge the Minister to try to obtain those relevant pieces of information, which are clearly not available at this stage, before he jumps in and again makes further changes to the health scheme. It is quite clear here that the information is not available. This is partly the fault of the Government and partly the fault of the health funds. But the information is not available and certain matters require intensive study. It is ridiculous for the Government to commit itself on deciding what ought to be done about improving the financial aspects of the health care system before it has these pieces of information.
My view is that the basic point that must be attacked is not who pays for these things but the general values, cost-benefit analyses, et cetera, of the health system. I am therefore pleased that Dr Sax has been transferred to head the new Social Welfare Policy Secretariat. I believe very strongly that there is an overlap between the fields of health and welfare. We can often push costs away from health but all we are doing is pushing them on to welfare. The community as a whole has not gained. Individuals have in fact lost because of their invalidity and so on. Whilst it may look better from the pure economics of a particular department, in this case the Department of Health, it obviously does not help in general. I urge the Government to consider very carefully this report and other discussions that should follow and not necessarily be panicked into changing things as from 1 July. Everything in Australia happens on 1 July, the beginning of the new financial year, or begin on Budget day. There is no extreme hurry about this. We are not sure, and obviously the Government is not sure, as to what the effect would be in carrying out particular changes to our health insurance system. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The urgent need for the Federal Government to assume full legislative and administrative responsibilities for Aurukun and Mornington Island Aborigines in Queensland to ensure implementation of the Federal Government policies of self-government.
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-
– Back in December 1973 the second of a series of articles by Clifton Pugh, who will be well known to honourable members, was published in the Melbourne Age, entitled ‘It’s a long sad wait for the dawn on Mornington Island’. The problems he outlined there were those which I had on another occasion called ‘cultural cannibalism’. By that I meant that people had been uprooted from their traditional land, from their traditional culture, from their traditional way of survival and existence and had been thrown into a parasitic existence on the white community. That sort of thing occurs not only in mission settlements like those on Mornington Island and Aurukun but, outstandingly today, in the State settlements administered by the State of Queensland.
In recent days there have been allegations by the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, Mr Charles Porter, and by the Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, that the Uniting Church which now administers these two missions in the Gulf of Carpentaria is unable to provide adequately for the health and education of the inhabitants- 750 or more at each settlement; over 1,500 people. This ought to be, and I am sure is, the concern of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who is at the table. He has said as much in recent Press statements. It is inconceivable that, if that is the situation, this Minister should not be informed by the State of Queensland. The matter should not be brought to his attention by way of an urgent telegram from the Aurukun people saying: What is happening? Help us’. But that is what happened. The health and education standards there ought to be our common property. I hope that the Minister, in his discussions today with the Uniting Church delegation, will be able to inform us further as to whether this is true.
We can no longer trust the opinions or the statements made by the Queensland Government on this subject. Some time ago that Government alleged that it was necessary for it to step in because the church authorities could no longer control law and order on the settlement. That was made the excuse for threats to take over the settlement. The allegation was refuted amply and adequately, I believe, by a spokesman of the church administration. He pointed out that it was the Queensland Government’s responsibility to provide police, even though they would be seldom needed, and that repeated requests over several years had failed to get any positive response from the Queensland Government. The Queensland Government had failed to provide the police to restore law and order. From what I have seen of Queensland settlements, I am perfectly satisfied that police would have to be provided if the settlements were taken over by the Queensland State administration. Now we are told that it is health and education that the church authorities cannot manage. Once again, it is the responsibility of the Queensland State Government, not the church mission which has a franchise to operate on these settlements, to provide nurses, to provide visiting medical services, to provide flying doctor services- all the services which Mr Bjelke-Petersen says are now inadequate. In the case of education, it also has the responsibility to provide teachers. It is the Queensland State Government’s responsibility to see that all these things are taken care of. The Queensland Premier tells us that his State is in a solvent and healthy position. Let it use that wealth to overcome these urgent problems which are its responsibilities, as I have said, not those of the Church which it intends to oust.
During the Labor Government’s term of office it passed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1975. It was binding on the State of Queensland but it has not been enforced, even though during the election campaign at the end of 1975 the parties now in power assured us that it would be enforced in Queensland. No steps have been taken to bring Queensland into line, although the Act binds Queensland. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs says that he has no legislative power with which to override Queensland in the matter of negotiating mineral rights or the takeover of the administration of the missions on these Aboriginal reserves. That is correct. He has no legislation on the books which will enable him to do so, but he could do as we did: He could pass a law which was binding on the whole of Australia and therefore Queensland. He has a precedent that he can follow and he does not have to go back to a Labor government for it.
One of the first Acts of Federation in 1 90 1 was an Act along these lines. The then Prime Minister Barton wrote a letter- honourable members can see a copy of the letter at page 856 of the Parliamentary Papers for 1901 in the Parliamentary Library- to the Premier of Queensland by the name of Philp. He was connected with the Burns Philp empire which has made enormous riches out of South Sea Island people. The Premier of Queensland opposed the repatriation of people who had been imported into Queensland to work sugar plantations in which, of course, the Philp family was interested. The Queensland State Government opposed the repatriation of those black people to the Pacific Islands even though Australia wanted it, Queensland wanted it and the senators from Queensland and the House of Representatives people from Queensland, who they had been elected on a universal franchise, wanted it. The Premier of Queensland of that day said: ‘But we do not want it. Our Government is against it.’ But his Government was elected on a multiple voting system. It was a planters’ government, which operated on lines very similar to the gerrymander which operates in Queensland today where acres have more votes than people. In many electorates, two to four times as many votes are needed to return one Labor member to Queensland Parliament as are needed to return a member of the Government parties. It was even worse in 1901. Nevertheless, the comparatively conservative Federal government of the day moved to override Queensland, and this Parliament can do the same thing today. That legislation went through the Parliament, despite the protests of the Queensland Government that what it was doing was its business. Aurukun and Mornington Island are Australia’s business, not Queensland’s. The referendum in 1967, which gave this Parliament the power to pass laws regarding Aboriginal affairs, was passed by an unprecedented majority, a far bigger majority than that which passed the original Constitution on which Sir Edmund Barton relied in 1901 to overrule his conservative colleagues in Queensland.
The people who are speaking for the Uniting Church in Australia are convinced, the people who represent the Queensland Council- it is not recognised by the State Government- are convinced, the Australian Labor Party supporters are convinced and I believe that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who is sitting at the table, is convinced in his heart that this takeover is a move by the Queensland Government to ensure that it has maximum control over the spokesmen for Aborigines so that it can push forward to fulfilment its agreements with the mining interests which want to mine bauxite on part of the Aboriginal reserve at Aurukun. I ask the Minister to ensure that the State Government does not go ahead with this takeover. It is the Minister’s responsibility and it is the Government’s responsibility to lead the way in this matter. An article in the Age of Wednesday 7 April last year, reported that the Queensland Ombudsman, Mr Longland, had outlined the genuine concern among the Aurukun people that no consultations had occurred with them beyond the initial consultations about explorations. Mining activity started without any further consultation, which had been promised to them. It is the Minister’s responsibility to inform himself, if he does not already know, whether those further consultations have taken place and, if they have, whether the wishes of the people on those settlements have been truly expressed.
If he has informed himself of the situation in Queensland, as many of us in this House have, he will know that the sorts of opinions that are produced from Aboriginal councils on State government settlements in Queensland are totally unreliable. The councils are comprised of people who are in the position of an Uncle Tom; people who know that they can be thrown off the reserve by the administrators, who kowtow to the State Government authorities or who will not be seen to oppose them because if they are seen to oppose them they will cease to have an appointment in that State Aboriginal settlement. If the Australian Government is going to take the word of an Aboriginal council set up by a State administration against the word of a council which has been set up in an enlightened way, as the Minister himself has told us councils on these settlements have been set up by the Uniting Church, the Aboriginal people will lose all trust in this Government and this Parliament and we will have black power in its worst form emerging from some of the young people who talk of irrational behaviour that will help neither them nor Australia, behaviour such as the derailing of trains or goodness knows what.
It is the responsibility of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to check the insane attitudes of the Premier of Queensland who is talking of abolishing land rights, restraining all possible land rights for Aboriginals on the ground that this could lead to a black takeover in Queensland with the assistance of communist governments overseas. He has been saying this in recent weeks.
– You are joking.
– He is not joking. He really believes his nonsense. He is a sick man and when we have a sick man like that in charge of the State of Queensland it is imperative that this Parliament and this Government should move to override him in this matter of takeover. These Aboriginal people are asking only for a little bit of -
– Does the Deputy Speaker agree that he is a sick man?
– I am willing to issue a certificate to that effect. I am registered to practise in Queensland.
-The honourable member for Capricornia will address his remarks to the Chair.
– The position is that Mr Bjelke-Petersen is impermeable to reason. He is quite impermeable to appeals to be honest. He has been caught out by audiences watching national television in contradicting documentary evidence and then trying to evade his prevarication. I am not allowed to use in this House the word which ordinary Australians use about his untruths.
– ‘Mendacity’ is a good word.
– Well, mendacity will do. This gentleman is quite unreliable when he talks about health and education standards deteriorating at Aurukun. I place far more store on the report of the Queensland Government’s own Institute of Medical Research. I refer to an article that was written in 1970 in the Medical Journal of Australia. I have no reason to suppose that things have deteriorated since 1970. The authors of the article were Jose and Welch. They reported that there was no evidence of nutritional brain damage at what is now the Uniting Church settlement. They praised the work of a couple of sisters there who had fed expectant mothers with protein and vitamins. But when they compared the settlement with State administered settlements they found at the State administered settlements that half the children had nutritional brain damage; some children aged six years looked about three years; and children were falling behind other children in their schooling. Children aged six years in the church settlement were equalling the attainments of white children, but children at the Queensland
State administered settlements were not attaining those standards.
This is a dangerous man in charge of Queensland. It is for this Parliament to stop him before he blinds more people as he did by interfering in the eye care program, before he kills more infants and before he damages more brains by his unenlightened and completely untrue account of what is going on in Queensland. I ask the Minister to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs which, I am sure, will be discussing it in any case under its present terms of reference. I ask the Minister to reassure the House that he will live up to his obligation and ensure that legislation is produced in time to stop this takeover by Queensland, otherwise Aboriginals will be brain-washed into accepting what the mining interests want by a man who has become rich on mining speculation- the Premier of Queensland.
-Yesterday in this House I answered a question asked by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). In my answer I made it quite clear that the Commonwealth Government was extremely concerned at what was proposed by the Queensland Government in moving to take over from the Uniting Church in Australia the administration of the Aboriginal communities at Mornington Island and Aurukun. In that answer I pointed out that the Commonwealth is concerned to ensure that policies of self-management are pursued throughout Australia because through those policies Aboriginals, wherever they are, are enabled to live in freedom and to have independence in a way in which they can manage and control their own affairs like any other citizen of Australia. That is at the heart of our policy. That is what was expressed in the Aboriginal affairs policy statement of the Liberal and National Country parties which was published in November 1975. Also in that statement we set out quite clearly our concept of Australia as a multi-cultural society as it applies to Aboriginals:
We recognise the fundamental right of Aborigines to retain their racial identity and traditional lifestyle or, where desired, to adopt partially or wholly a European lifestyle.
That concept, coupled with the policy of selfmanagement which we are actively pursuing, is at the heart of Commonwealth Government policy today. That policy is reflected in a number of statements made by myself and by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and by references in the last policy speech. It was referred to in the Speech of the Governor-General on the occasion of the opening of the Thirty-first Parliament on 2 1 February this year. I quote from that Speech:
Australia is a multi-cultural society and my Government is concerned that all groups have the opportunity to enrich their identity and develop their talents to the full.
Emphasis will be given to assisting Aboriginals to become more self-sufficient and acquire the skills to manage their own affairs.
I heard of the proposed takeover by the Queensland Government from the Uniting Church itself. An expression of immediate concern was relayed to me. My regional office in Brisbane was in touch with my office immediately. I took steps straight away to invite representatives of the Church to come to Canberra and discuss the matter with me. I asked them to inform me of the background to the takeover, of their attitude towards it and what they saw as their future role with respect to these two Aboriginal communities.
I saw four representatives today from the Church in Queensland and from the National Assembly. The discussion was very helpful and worth while. I said yesterday in answer to a question that the Uniting Church in Australia, the Presbyterian Church before it and the Methodist Church have a long and distinguished history of activity in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. It is some 70 years or more since the Church first went to the Aurukun and Mornington Island regions of the Gulf of Carpentaria. It needs to be realised that the missionary role of the church has changed quite dramatically in recent years. This applies not only to the Uniting Church but also to all other denominations which are active in the area. They have for some years been pursuing the policy of selfmanagement. I have been to communities where the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Uniting Church and other denominations are active. This policy of selfmanagement is being actively pursued by the church. The church is still there in its spiritual role. It is providing material resources to enable the people in those communities to manage more effectively their own affairs. The Commonwealth has been very pleased to provide financial support to the churches, together with the financial support it gives directly to Aboriginal communities in fulfilment of that policy.
Let me very quickly outline the position of the Commonwealth in Aboriginal affairs today. Following the 1967 referendum, legislation was passed by the Commonwealth authorising it to enter into agreements with the States for the Commonwealth to take over the administration of Aboriginal affairs, particularly with regard to policy planning and co-ordination. All States, except Queensland, have entered into an arrangement. Queensland chose to stand out. It chose to administer Aboriginal affairs in that State through the State Government. Nevertheless the Commonwealth provides to the State Government a considerable sum of money- it is many millions of dollars- for its programs in Aboriginal affairs. This money is provided parallel to the funds which the Commonwealth provides directly to Aboriginal organisations in fulfilment of the policy of self-management and self-sufficiency. In Queensland the legislation which controls Aboriginal reserves is different from the legislation affecting Aboriginal land in all other States and in the Northern Territory.
As I see the position, when we speak of selfmanagement we are really contrasting that with government administration of people who live on reserves. That is the fundamental question at issue over the proposed takeover of Mornington Island and Aurukum. I do not see that, simply because land is reserved or set aside for the benefit of Aboriginals, governments today must administer and manage the lives of the people who live on that land. So our policies and those of the Uniting Church have the fundamental emphasis on self-management and self-sufficiency.
The reference I made about the recognition of the fundamental rights of Aborigines to retain their racial identity and traditional lifestyle also affects another situation at Aurukun. I refer to the decentralised groups which have gone out to their tribal land on the reserve to live a tribal life to the extent that they wish to do so but which also take advantage of modern society to the extent that they wish to do so. Of course health care, education and other needed resources must be taken to those decentralised groups so that they can maintain a healthy and fulfilling life.
I was concerned to know immediately the wishes of the people at those two places. I have not been able to get in touch with them directly. Amongst the great sheaf of telegrams I have received- it literally is a sheaf- supporting the Aboriginal people is one from Mornington Island. I quoted from it at Question Time yesterday. It was from the chairman and council at Mornington Island and stated:
Council and community not consulted on government takeover. What is happening? Please help us.
The Uniting Church, as the House would expect, has been seeking the wishes of the people at both places, but more particularly at Aurukun, because this is where the issue centres. It was rather a surprise that Mornington Island was coupled in the takeover with Aurukun. I was provided, at the discussions I had today with the Church representatives, with a copy of a letter dated 1 8 November from the Aurukun Council which is led by Donald Peinkinna and others. I recognise a number of the names as people I met when I was in Aurukun in January 1976. The letter, addressed to Mr J. C. Hooper, Division of World Mission, Uniting Church in Australia at Brisbane stated:
We, the undersigned members of the Aurukun Community Council, have, after exhaustive talks with the members of the community of Aurukun, found that it is the people’s wish to remain under the Administration of the Uniting Church of Australia.
We would therefore appreciate it if you would pass this to the Synod of North Queensland, along with our thanks for their support. We look forward to working together in the future.
I am advised that that communication, after a resolution by the Synod, was notified to the Queensland Government in January of this year. The Church received no further communication until Reverend Professor Busch was approached on Friday of last week to meet with the Queensland Minister on Monday afternoon. He had no idea of what the meeting was to be about. When he met the Queensland Minister he was told of the intended takeover. He was handed a letter which I am authorised by the Church leaders to refer to. With the leave of the House, I seek to have the letter incorporated in Hansard.
The letter read as follows-
OFFICE OF THE MINISTER FOR ABORIGINAL AND ISLAND AFFAIRS
10 March 1978
The Reverend Professor R. A. Busch, Moderator,
The Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod, Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Dear Reverend Sir,
I have to advise that Cabinet has considered the overall position relative to Mornington Island and Aurukun Aboriginal Communities and to inform you of the following decisions by Cabinet:
The Uniting Church be informed that at the expiry of the current advance payment period, viz 3 1 March 1 978, the Government will no longer continue to provide subsidy support to the Church for management of Aurukun; and Mornington Island and the Aboriginal Councils be similarly advised.
The Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement takes steps forthwith to provide an effective management service at each of the Communities and assumes total responsibility for the material wellbeing of the people from that date on a similar basis to other Aboriginal communities in the State.
The Uniting Church be informed that the transfer of management authority will be on the basis of ‘walk in, walk out’ without capital compensation by the State and without cash exchange either way, except for suitable retail stock in trade which, if required, will be purchased by the Department at actual landed costs at Aurukun and Mornington Island.
Members of the Church staff serving at each centre be offered positions within the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement provided they are considered suitable and acceptable to the Director, but that such positions be not necessarily at Mornington Island or Aurukun nor with Public Service rank equivalent to their status within the Church staff structure.
Sole responsibility devolves on the Church to administer spiritual needs of residents; and land considered suitable by the Director be set aside on the Reserve for permanent use of the Church as a place of worship and a residence for the clergy, noting that an existing place of worship and a place of residence may be made available to the Church free of charge.
I would appreciate your co-operation and that of your Church organisation in effecting the change-over a soon as possible and in the best interests of the Aboriginal Communities.
Yours sincerely (Signed) CHARLES PORTER
– I will quickly summarise this letter from Mr Charles Porter, the Queensland Minister, to the Reverend Professor R. A. Busch.
– Professor the Reverend.
– That may well be correct. It is addressed as I read it. The letter advises that Cabinet has considered the overall position relative to the Mornington Island and Aurukun Aboriginal communities and states the decision by Cabinet. I shall paraphrase the five points set out. The letter states, firstly, that all supporting funds would be withdrawn from the Church as from 3 1 March 1978; secondly, that the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement would be taking steps forthwith to provide effective management service at each of the communities and to assume total responsibility for the material well-being of the people; thirdly, that the Uniting Church would be informed that the transfer of management authority will be on the basis of walk in, walk out’ without capital compensation by the State and without cash exchange either way except for suitable retail stock in trade which, if required, would be purchased by the Department at actual landed costs at Aurukun and Mornington Island. I am advised that that stock belongs to an Aboriginal incorporated body. The letter states, fourthly, that members of the Church staff serving at each centre would be offered positions within the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement provided they are considered suitable and acceptable to the Director but that such positions would not necessarily be at Mornington Island or Aurukun or with Public Service rank equivalent to their status within the Church and, fifthly, that sole responsibility would devolve on the Church for the spiritual needs of the residents.
Against that background, I think the House can understand the concern of this Government. Not only did I invite Church representatives to meet with me immediately but also I invited Aboriginal representatives from both Mornington Island and Aurukun to travel to Canberra at the Commonwealth’s expense to meet with me and discuss the situation. I expect them to arrive in Canberra tomorrow night and to see me on Friday.
– Would you have let them meet the Aboriginal Affairs Committee of this House?
– I shall see them and ascertain their views and then I could certainly consider that matter. The other matter to which the Government has directed its attention is an examination of the full background of this matter and an assessment of what future action it might need to take. That action might follow the course of providing additional financial support to Aboriginal groups and communities at Aurukun and Mornington Island as well as to the Church. It may require going so far as this Parliament passing legislation to protect the interests of Aboriginals. The Commonwealth Government is examining that. The Commonwealth Government would not like to have to go that far but, if necessary, it would be prepared to do so. I think that indicates clearly the policies which the Commonwealth Government is pursuing, the concern with which it approaches this subject and the note of urgency which I seek to inject into the whole matter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-The announced action of the Premier of Queensland in my view is a blatant violation of human rights and a violation of the will of the Aboriginal people- indeed that of the people of Australia. The Queensland Government has announced that it intends to withdraw the subsidy for the maintenance of the Aurukun and Mornington Island settlements after 3 1 March. Of course, the Uniting Church in Australia, which has administered those two reserves for 76 years, regards this action as being against the best interests of the Aboriginal people. Queensland is the only State not to have handed over its responsibilities for Aborigines to the Federal Government in terms of the 1967 referendum. There is no doubt that this move is designed to put the kibosh on the Mornington Islanders’ land claims, to smooth the way for Aurukun mining operations and to curtail the movement of Aurukun people to their tribal lands.
I know that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who preceded me in the debate, is sympathetic to the Aboriginal people in this matter, but the Opposition is certainly not satisfied with the action that he has taken. I ask him to seek a more positive response from this Government which since 1976 has hardly been in the vanguard insofar as the introduction of progressive legislation and the taking of action to safeguard Aboriginal land rights are concerned. I ask the Minister Why did this Government not support the Aboriginal people in their case earlier this year before the Privy Council when they sought an order restraining the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement from entering into an agreement without consulting members of the Aboriginal community in respect of Aurukun? There are many questions that I think the Minister should answer. For example, when will this Government tell the Premier of Queensland that it disagrees with his plans to take over these Reserves? A statement in an unequivocal manner seems to be outstanding at this time. When will this Government uphold the International Labour Organisation and United Nations conventions with regard to the rights of indigenous people insofar as land and other matters are concerned? When will this Government formulate investment policies which will prevent the violation of Aboriginal rights? When will the Government exercise its constitutional power and legislate more effectively to protect Aboriginal rights? When will the Government enforce the Federal Aboriginal policy through its control of bauxite exports?
On 21 November 1975 the Aurukun people and BOEMAR- the Board of Ecumenical Mission and Relations- were staggered to learn that the Queensland Government had approved a $ 1,000m bauxite mining and alumina refining scheme on the Aurukun reserve. Of course, the necessary legislation was prepared and pushed through the Queensland Parliament in that very difficult period after the Whitlam Government had been removed from office. There is no doubt that if that event had not occurred the Queensland Government would not have been prepared to move in such a dramatic way in respect of this issue. A Labor government would have taken a very firm stand on this matter. The issues concerned at that time were raised strongly. They involved the question of the caretaker Fraser Government’s foreign investment policy. The first plank of such a policy in respect of Cape York ought to be the protection of Aboriginal land rights. Would any international consortium enter into an agreement for a $ 1,000m mining project without ensuring that there was no impediment represented by Federal policies? It is because there have been ambiguities about the investment policies that this action has proceeded in such a heavy handed manner.
Of course, the imprimatur was given by the Fraser Government, if only by its inaction, and it was given at that time in contempt of its caretaker obligations to the Governor-General. Where were the warnings of the former Attorney-General? Where was the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs at that time? He should have been acting as a watch dog for the Aboriginal people when this assault on the rights of the Aurukun people took place back at the end of 1975 and the beginning of 1976. It is all right to make vague expressions of concern but much more could have been done about the situation. Little that is effective has been done up to now.
– I was there on my birthday, 21 January 1976, and stayed overnight.
– Why do you not look up from your notes and listen to the point?
-The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was asked a question by the honourable member for Dundas, who is now interjecting, on 2 March 1976. He answered:
Two questions are involved- the rights of the people at Aurukun and the foreign investment policy of this Government. I am advised that under present circumstances the companies involved are wholly owned overseas. As a result of discussions that were held this morning I will be writing to the Premier.
This House has still to learn what the Prime Minister wrote, what were the results, whether the Prime Minister was satisfied with the results and whether any action was taken as a consequence. A great game of table tennis is going on at present and has been going on since this Government took office, but the rights of mining companies seem to go unfettered at the expense of those of the Aboriginal people. On the same day as the honourable member for Dundas asked that question, I asked the Prime Minister:
Are the terms of the Queensland Government’s Aurukun Associates Agreement Act such that Aboriginal people are cheated of royalties and deprived of ownership and customary use of their land? Has the Queensland Government infringed United Nations and International Labour Organisation conventions regarding the rights of indigenous people in respect of their traditional lands, particularly the right to be consulted? In what way is it intended to redress this situation?
The Prime Minister answered:
I have no wish to add to the answer that I have already given on this subject -
So this inaction goes on in respect of the Aurukun Associates Agreement, which is now the subject of an Act passed by the Queensland Parliament with most indecent haste. This Act concerns primarily the rights of this great consortium made up of Tipperary Corporation, an American land developer, which has 40 per cent of the shares; Billiton Aluminium Australia, a subsidiary pf Royal Dutch Shell, which has 40 per cent of the shares; and Aluminium Pechiney Holdings Pty Ltd, an offshoot of the French Pechiney group, which has 20 per cent of the shares. Of” course, they were the signatories to this agreement, together with the Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, a governmental figurehead. The unfortunate fact is that, although this project had enormous consequences involving the development of a refinery, a smelter, a town, a harbour, various works, mud ponds, mines, stockpiles and various quarries, the Aboriginal people themselves were not signatories to that agreement. Of course, the situation has not improved since then.
The Aboriginal people and the Church have reacted strongly. The Reverend John Brown, who is the Chief” Executive Officer of the Uniting Church’s Commission on Mission, said:
The Queensland Government had already drawn up an agreement with the consortium, they had enacted that agreement, and it was only at that time that anybody found out about it- we heard that the legislation was to be enacted a few days before it was passed and in response the Aurukun people protested very loudly.
Then Keith Saunders, who was the representative on the Aboriginal Congress, declared in a telegram that the Fraser caretaker administra-lion had allowed the Queensland National Party and Liberal Party to lease Aurukun Aboriginal land without the will of the people. The people themselves sent out a Press release which stated:
We, the Aurukun people, will not allow any mining at all on our land. We will not accept any money for our land. Our land is sacred to us. We hunt on it and have our sacred places on it. We want Comalco, Pechiney and Tipperary to leave our land alone. We must protect our culture.
Telegram after telegram expressing concern was sent. That is the state of the nation in this matter. Mr Deputy Speaker, I put it to you that the people of Australia are concerned not just with the high-handed attitude of Mr Bjelke-Petersen but also with the indifference displayed by the Fraser Government since the beginning of 1 976. I invite the Government to take more positive action because, if it does not, there will be a great reaction on the part of the Aboriginal people throughout this land and Australia will be darkened in the eyes of the people of the world.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I rise to speak today as the representative elected by the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island to speak for them on this very important matter. I have no brief to speak for the Commonwealth or State Government or the Uniting Church. I must say that I was surprised at the recent actions of the Queensland Government concerning the proposed takeover. It appears that it acted without warning and without consultation with the people of the communities of either Aurukun or Mornington Island. I believe that the major question is: What do the people themselves want? If we claim to be a democracy, I believe that they must be given an opportunity to state freely their views and wishes.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) has explained briefly the policies of assimilation and self-management. The policy of the State Government of assimilation may well be necessary for some of the communities close to the larger towns. However, I can see great difficulty in any assimilation in places such as Mornington Island- an island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, many miles from any large centre. The same applies to Aurukun at present. As the Minister said, the Commonwealth Government and the Church welcome self-choice, selfmanagement, self-determination and, hopefully, eventually self-sufficiency. Two main groups of people plus some mainland people live on Mornington Island- about 680 people altogether. They are a strong, independent people. I believe that it is a well administered community. It has great housing problems because most of the houses were destroyed by a cyclone at the beginning of last year. There is no doubt that those people are very certain about what they want. I shall come to that later.
At Aurukun there are about 750 people- 400 to 500 people living in the central community and 250 to 270 people living in eight decentralised communities. All these decentralised communities are in clan or tribal groups and on clan or tribal land which is part of the reserve set aside by the Queensland Government for the people of the area. The decentralised groups are doing very well. I believe that they show a great example of self-management. They have moved from the somewhat difficult atmosphere of the main settlement- it is difficult for many reasonsand they have been forced to do things for themselves and to make decisions for themselves. An old friend of mine, Bob Massey, who is the leader of the community at a place called Ti Tree, earlier this year flew to Weipa and opened an account at the Weipa store. Now he has supplies flown in to his decentralised community whenever necessary, at a much cheaper price than they are available at the main Aurukun store. That seems to me to be a very good example of self-management and selfsufficiency.
I understand that the State Government does not approve of decentralisation. The people of Aurukun, particularly those in the decentralised communities, are very afraid that if the State Government takes over they will be moved back into the main community. I last visited Mornington Island and Aurukun in December 1977- three months ago. I found on Mornington Island a very strong support for the Church remaining to administer them, as it is doing at the moment. Just before I visited Aurukun a survey was taken- I think it was in November 1977- and the community council wrote to the Church stating very firmly, as the Minister quoted, that it wished the Church to remain in control. I found some support for a State takeover amongst the people in the main Aurukun community; but the great majority of the people, particularly those in the decentralised communities, wanted the Church to remain in control.
I wish to quote from a resolution of the Church Synod, which was sent to the State Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement on 30 December 1977. Two paragraphs of that resolution read:
The Uniting Church in Australia would abide by the expressed will of the Aurukun community determined by a means yet to be devised but which can be seen to guarantee free expression by the community.
The lights of those groups desiring to live on and work their tribal lands within the boundaries of the reserve be recognised and that the Government accept the responsibility of maintaining essential services such as medical, education, communication and supplies in consultation with the groups.
I believe that these people must be given the time and the opportunity to make their own decision, free from external pressure and that, as the Church stated in its communication to the Minister on 30 December from which I just quoted, it should be ‘determined by a means yet to be devised but which can be seen to guarantee free expression by the community’. I would welcome that. I believe that it would be impossible to achieve that aim by 31 March, when the State intends to take over the administration of these two reserves. These people need time to sit down and talk to each other. The people of the decentralised areas need to be able to discuss this so that we can have a free and genuine expression of what they want. There is a tendency, if they are asked by someone they do not know very well, for these people to give the answer which they think that person will like. We must be sure that this does not happen in this expression of opinion. As the Minister said, it may be necessary for the Commonwealth to continue especially to fund the Uniting Church so that it may continue the administration until the people are able to express their wishes. When I was there last November the impression I gained was that the Church perhaps would have been quite happy to give up the very difficult job of administering these two communities, provided the people wanted them to go. At that time the people indicated that they did not want the Church to go and the Church communicated that decision to the State Government.
I believe that we have a responsibility to these people to give them every opportunity to make their own decisions. Whatever those decisions are, the State Government, the Commonwealth Government and the Uniting Church should accept the wishes of the people. It may well be that the Church is not the best organisation to administer these communities. They have problems but of course there are problems in the communities administered by the State. In my electorate there are 13 Aboriginal communities and 14 inhabited islands in the Torres Strait so I have a fair breadth of experience of the many problems in the area. I plan this weekend, provided I have permission of the councils of the communities, to visit both Aurukun and Mornington Island and to let the people tell me their views themselves. I will convey their expression of opinion to the Minister. I hope I will have an opportunity to meet the representatives who are coming to Canberra in the next couple of days. I reiterate that I believe that we have a very grave responsibility to make sure that the final decision is acceptable to the people. I trust that the Minister will make that possible by whatever action is necessary.
– This is a quite remarkable debate because to the present time everybody who has taken part agrees that something is wrong. A significant part of the contribution of the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) revealed that he also agrees that something should be done and he is the local member for the area. I cannot think of any better evidence for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) that something urgent should be done. My colleagues already have indicated adequately and eloquently the problems of the people in the two areas concerned. I want to draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that the resolution states that there is an urgent need for the Federal Government to assume full legislative and administrative responsibility. That is the whole nub of the debate. Why is the Government unable to do anything about this matter? It is quite clear that it has the power, and if it has the power it has the duty. The problem we in Australia face at the present time is that in two States, namely Queensland and Western Australia, people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait descent are suffering under the burden of State governments. They are unable to exercise their normal rights and the Federal Government is tame and afraid to stand up to the State governments. I think the Minister was unwise to use the expression he used when talking about how other State governments have been co-operative in entering into agreements whereby the Commonwealth Government could administer the problems related to Aborigines. He said that the Queensland Government chose to stand up. That is not so.
– Stand out.
-I apologise. The fact is that it is certainly standing out- and in my view standing up- to the Federal Government. If we go back briefly to the question of human rights it will be seen that we have no appropriate Federal legislation because the Premier of Queensland said to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that he would not have a bar of that legislation. Therefore people in Queensland who want to exercise their rights are gaoled if they demonstrate. What a tragedy it is to think that in a nation with a national Government, that national Government will not exercise its responsibilities.
Let us remind the Minister, who is a quite capable Minister and one whom we consider understands the problems of Aborigines, that it is no good quoting letters written by Mr Porter or resolutions passed by the people concerned if the Government limits its actions to that. It has a definite responsibility to legislate in this area if it needs to do so. Let us look at the law as it stands at the present time. These people are on reserves which, admittedly, are State owned. They come under State administration. The Queensland Aborigines Act of 1971 clearly defines that a reserve is ‘land reserved and set apart for the benefit of Aborigines’. That is the point. We are dealing with land reserved and set apart for the benefit of Aborigines, not for the multi-national mining companies. That is the point made by my colleague the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). The real purpose behind removing the control of the Church and affecting the rights of these people is to grant mining leases. Already there has been a case in the Privy Council dealing with the question of royalties from these leases. The point made by my colleague is that the agreement entered into by the Queensland Government with the multinational concerned was not with the consent of the Aboriginal people. It gives them no rights at all and I am advised by my colleague that the Queensland Government is prepared to give rights to the freehold title of part of that reserve to the mining company concerned. So much for consideration of the people.
Let us look at the mining consortium from the point of view of Government policy in respect of overseas control. This consortium is 100 per cent foreign controlled. It is 40 per cent Dutch, 40 per cent American and 20 per cent French owned. Where is the Australian equity in that from the point of view of a Government policy in relations to mining? That is the agreement that has been entered into by the Queensland State Government. Let us get the facts clear. In 1 967 a referendum was overwhelmingly passed to amend the Constitution. The appropriate section of the Constitution states:
SI. The Parliament shall . . . have power to make laws . . . with respect to:
The people of any race, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws:
We do not need any persuasion or any more consultation. It would be a waste of time to talk to Mr Bjelke-Petersen or even to try to convince Mr Porter. We have seen them both in action and they are people who are determined to do what they want to do. They have a peculiar mentality in the sense that they approach problems from the point of view that they always know what is best and anyone who stands in their way must be removed. So much for the unfortunate people in Queensland at the present time. It is 10 years since that referendum was passed. In 1975 the Labor Government passed legislation pursuant to the powers vested in it at the time. That legislation, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Act 1975, relates specifically to Queensland. Under the terms of that Act a reserve refers to any land that is for the time being reserved for the purpose of the Aborigines Act 1971 of
Queensland. The Federal Act is related to that Act. So, under the power that has been exercised already, rights are vested in the Aborigines. They are rights of residence and rights of conduct- in other words, normal rights that one would expect to be given to anybody who is almost an owner of the land.
It has been shown clearly in the evidence submitted by my colleague the honourable member for Capricornia that the Aboriginals sought to purchase this land but the Queensland Government vetoed the purchase of the land. How discriminatory can the Government be from the point of view of trying to help these people? The Federal Government has the power. In my view it has the obligation but all it says is that it will have more consultation. It will have to stand up to the Queensland Government. It has the power to take over the administration of these reserves. I cannot see any Act which would prevent this and it is the Government’s duty, in the national interest, to do so forthwith. There would be nothing wrong with emergency legislation being passed by this House by tomorrow- I assure the Government that the Opposition will grant it a speedy passage- whereby the jurisdiction of these reserves would be vested in the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who would be in a position to ensure that they are administered in a way which is consistent with the wishes of the inhabitants. That is the real issue. There is no need for the Government to hide behind the fact that it is worried about what the Queensland Government will do. The issue is clear. This is what the Government must do to protect the rights of these people.
It has been made clear by concerned people that unless the Government does this it will be denying these people their rights. It will be making a national tragedy of its responsibilities. This Government, as the national Government, has an obligation to take immediate action in this field. The solution is there. There is no doubt about it. The people of Australia passed the appropriate amendment to the Constitution. Nobody other than the Queensland Government is objecting to the Government taking such action. The Queensland Government, paranoid as it is, is prepared, for the reasons I have mentioned, to assist mining interests and does not want anybody to stand in its way. Mr Purcell, its legal adviser, has said:
It is a question of the philosophy of the Queensland Government as against the philosophy of the people in the mission that runs them. The Queensland Government wants to impose on these people what the Queensland Government wants and its colonial paternalism decides what they need.
That is the Queensland Government’s philosophy, and mining is one pan of it. This is the real issue. When we debate matters of public importance normally we can expect the Government to present a case against our argument and to suggest that there is another point of view. However, every speaker today has said that there is no reason at all why some action should not take place. The only hesitancy or doubt was expressed by the local member who said that he would like to consult with the Aboriginal people again. I assure him that there is no need for that. The people already have indicated their wishes to the Opposition. They have voted twice already for the mission to continue to control their destiny.
One of the matters at which the Minister might look is what is happening to the people under his own administration. I am advised that people employed by his Department are not being paid award wages and this is something that he should look into. However, that is a very minor matter compared with the major issue with which we are dealing now. When we talk about responsibility to the Aboriginal people we mean responsibility to protect them, to give them their rights, to give them ownership of their land and to give them their entitlement to the profits therefrom. It is easy for the Minister to say that he will take over the administration of these reserves- and he can do it. The Queensland Government might decide, because it thinks it has the fee simple vested in it, that it can take eviction action. Perhaps it can, but we could then go to the courts to argue the merits of that action. Surely when State administration came into being there was an obligation upon the States to respect the rights of these people. This is not a normal fee simple position. This is Crown land which was set aside in perpetuity for a specific purpose. For that reason these reserves virtually come under the control of the Minister who has the power under the Constitution and the Act to take control. Our plea is that he take immediate action, and legislate, if need be, to assume control over all those reserves in Queensland. I assure him that he will have the full support of the Opposition.
-This is a very important debate but unfortunately, notwithstanding the measured tones in which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) has spoken in the debate and the informed remarks of the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson), the local member, there have been speeches which one could mildly describe as provocative and likely to exacerbate rather than help in a very difficult situation. I was disappointed, although I am not renowned for defending the Premier of Queensland, with some of the terms used by the spokesman for Aboriginal affairs on the other side of the House, the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). He made references to the Premier being insane and indicated his willingness to certify him.
– To certify him as ill- sick.
-Yes. I was almost inclined to see whether there was a manner in which that could be dealt with under the Standing Orders. The honourable member will not help overcome this very difficult situation or help the Aboriginal people involved by making those sorts of remarks. If we are to embark on a program of confrontation, as the Opposition has sought to do, we will be in exactly the same situation which the Australian Labor Party was in when it was in government. Then, because of its activities, it turned the people of Queensland almost to a man against it. It got to a point where in this House it held only one seat in that State. I am surprised that one who suffered as a result of the policies of that Labor Administration and lost his seat would want to push us headlong into confrontation.
That is not to say that the Government has not been provoked somewhat in this situation, or that the points that the Minister and the honourable member for Leichhardt have made have not been well taken. They have. There is no doubt in my mind that there are clear policy differences between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government which need to be resolved, and they will be resolved, but only by discussion and proper action on the part of this Government, if that is necessary. If honourable members had listened carefully to the speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs they would have seen in it not a flagging of confrontation but a clear statement of that commitment that this Government has to legislate if necessary. Notwithstanding that we now have a debate, brought on in a precipitate way, in which the Opposition is demanding that immediate action should be taken. What honourable members opposite want is to get this subject into the headlines and to have it reported that they have made some points. They think it will help them.
– Kim Beazley moved this two years ago and you still have done nothing about it.
-I will come to the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) because he is a gentleman who has no knowledge of the steps that this Government has taken. He persisted, despite the interjections of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs which he ignored so that they would not appear in Hansard, in putting points of view which were quite wrong. He tried to say that this Government had no interest in the welfare of the Aboriginal people in Queensland and to suggest that the Government had taken no part in the action that was brought by the people of Aurukun to challenge the exercise of the position of trustee by the Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement in Queensland. The fact of the matter is- the honourable member ought to have known itthat that action brought by the Aboriginal people went to the Privy Council and was funded by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs through the Queensland Aboriginal Legal Aid Service. That is a direct involvement of this Government. The consent of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs was required to enable the action to be pursued. The main point which the honourable member for Hughes made in his speech was flagrantly wrong. Yet he persisted in making those sorts of remarks which I regard as inflammatory and quite unhelpful in the situation in which we find ourselves.
He went on to deal with mining as a major point, almost as though the Government had not made its position clear and was not strong in its stand. He ignored the answer which had been given by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to a question without notice asked by the former Leader of the Opposition on 23 March 1976. In relation to Aurukun the Prime Minister made the Government’s position clear when he said:
As honourable gentlemen would be aware, the Commonwealth is concerned that there should have been adequate consultation with the Aborigines of the Aurukun community concerning the proposal and the arrangements between the Queensland Government and the consortium in question.
Further on the Prime Minister added:
The Deputy Prime Minister will be taking up with the consortium concerned the question of foreign investment guidelines of this Government because the present arrangements involve 100 per cent overseas ownership, and that is not in conformity with the policies of this Government.
I repeat that. The Prime Minister said:
There was no ambiguity about it; it was quite clear. As I said to the honourable member for Hughes when he spoke, one would think that the Opposition had turned the first sod. No mining has commenced up there. The situation is not one that has been resolved in favour of the mining companies. Consultations have occurred and are still occurring. I want to finish the quotation from the Prime Minister’s answer because it is important. He continued:
I am advised that there was no proposal by the consortium actually to undertake activities for some little time. Therefore the negotiations might be protracted.
The Prime Minister made it clear that there would be negotiations but that the policy of this Government, as stated, was quite firm. In the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), which also disappointed me, the honourable member worked on the presumption, as honourable members opposite do, that if the Government has the power to do something it has a duty to act. I cannot accept that. There are many powers which the Government has under the Constitution but the Opposition often adopts a different attitude to the exercise of power by governments even in situations which demand it, such as in relation to security matters involving the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Opposition members do not say ‘You have the power; you have a duty to act’. Yet when it comes to a situation like this they say in a precipitate way: ‘You ought to act immediately, no matter what the consequences may be. ‘
They spoke in terms of standing up to the State Government. That is really their phobia. If we scratch them that is really what we find underneath the surface. They are so concerned about having a go at the Queensland Government that they want to act in a precipitate way. They are not concerned about the Aboriginal people, involved, nor are they concerned about the subject of this matter of public importance. The honourable member for Leichhardt put the matter into perspective when he discussed the welfare of the people involved and the need for them to be consulted. When we have discussed the questions, honourable members have been quite capable of reaching agreement on what ought to be done.
The report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs on the Alcohol Problems of Aboriginals dealt with one very important matter, the movement to outstations. The Committee, in its report, referred to the movement to outstations, in the Northern Territory in particular. This was not a specialist observation; it was a general observation. The report stated:
The Committee accepts that decisions to decentralise are for individual communities to make and recommends that the movement to outstations be supported where such movement is a considered decision by the community concerned.
Clearly, we can reach agreement by sitting down and discussing a desirable policy which will benefit the Aboriginal people. We are quite prepared to pursue that objective jointly, but we will not be able to achieve that or the policy objectives about which the Minister spoke if we seek to have a confrontation over this issue and to legislate before time. I think it is quite proper that the Minister should have the negotiations and the discussions which he has foreshadowed and that we take the action that has been foreshadowed at the proper time if it is necessary.
Order! The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 14 March, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Australian National Railways Amendment Bill is a significant one because it marks the concluding stages of the amalgamation of the Tasmanian Government railway system and the nonmetropolitan South Australian railways services with the Australian National Railways Commission, known as ANR. The principal purpose of the Bill is to define the long service leave and workers compensation entitlements of the former Tasmanian and South Australian railway employees transferring to ANR. The provisions of the Bill have been developed after detailed discussions between the Australian Government, the Tasmanian and South Australian governments and the relevant unions. There are still a few matters to be resolved, which I understand the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) will cover in an amendment to be moved in the Committee stage of the Bill, and questions will be raised at that time also. In these circumstances the Opposition does not oppose the second reading of the Bill.
As outlined by the Minister in his second reading speech yesterday, the substantive provisions relating to long service leave and workers compensation entitlements of transferring employees are contained in clause 5. I do not propose to deal in detail with the individual clauses of the Bill, as the explanatory memorandum which has been circulated by the Minister provides the specific application of each clause. However, it is worth restating that the essence of the agreement reached by the parties to the legislation is that transferring South Australian railways employees who make application for long service leave or pay in lieu thereof after the declared date of 1 March 1978 will be entitled either to the South Australian provisions which applied on 1 March 1978 or to the provisions of the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1976 applying at the date of application, whichever are the more favourable to the employee.
In respect of Workers Compensation, transferring South Australian Railway employees will have the right to elect at the time of injury, to have their claim dealt with under either the Compensation (Commonwealth Government) Act 1971 or the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1971 of South Australia. In the case of transferring Tasmanian railway employees, the long service leave provisions of that State are almost identical with the Commonwealth provisions. For compensation purposes they will be covered by the Commonwealth scheme. Proposed new section 52a of the principal Act provided for in clause 5 of the Bill ensures that the slightly more favourable long service leave entitlements enjoyed by the former employees of Commonwealth Railways who commenced service prior to 7 October 1944 are retained. Their long service leave entitlement was originally provided in By-law No. 70 of 1936 of the Australian National Railways Commission.
As I mentioned at the outset, this Bill is significant in that it marks the concluding stages of the amalgamation of the South Australian nonmetropolitan railway services and the Tasmanian Government railway system with the nationally operated system, managed by the Austraiian National Railways Commission. It marks the completion of a major step forward in the creation of a unified, efficient railway service, an objective that the founding fathers had in mind when they formulated section 51 placita (xxxiii) and (xxxiv) of our Constitution. Even as far back as the late nineteenth century they recognised the efficiencies and advantages to be gained from a national railway system to service our vast continent. Unfortunately for Australia, successive conservative governments- even the present one- have continually opposed that objective. Section 5 1 of the Constitution states:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Consitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:
The acquisition, with the consent of a State, of any railways of the State on terms arranged between the Commonwealth and the State:
Railway construction and extension in any State with the consent of that State:
That the founding fathers foresaw the desirability for defence purposes of a national railway system is evidenced by their inclusion of placitum (xxxii) of section 5 1 which states:
The control of railways with respect to transport for the naval and military purposes of the Commonwealth:
It is a national disgrace that 77 years after Federation so little has been done to establish a comprehensive national railway service. The Australian Labor Party is proud that, despite the obstinancy of conservative State governments, in the period from 1972 to 1975 at least the South Australian and Tasmanian Labor governments of that time recognised the benefits to be derived from a national rail service and agreed with the Australian Labor Party Federal Government at that time to transfer to the Australian National Railways Commission the services and personnel that are the subject matter of this Bill. At its Federal Conference in Perth last year the Australian Labor Party reaffirmed its commitment to the development of a national railway service when it endorsed as policy the undertaking of a future national Labor government to build and/or operate any railways, ports, air routes, shipping services or pipelines as provided by the Constitution or transferred to it by a State.
During the recent election campaign the Minister for Transport sought to distort the effects of the transfer to the national Government of State railway systems and to present the objective as an extravagance. Despite the ideological obstinancy of the conservatives, some progress has been made, and the Australian Labor Party will continue to promote the development of a national rail system. Given the Minister’s sharp criticism in the past of the transfer of the South Australian and Tasmanian rail services to the Commonwealth and his continued opposition to the development of the Australian National Railways Commission, the comments in his second reading speech in which he sought to take credit for the progress made by ANR are somewhat curious. The Opposition welcomes his recent statement of financial assistance to be provided for the upgrading and improvement of rail services. The amounts, albeit inadequate at least from this Government with its obsessional hatred of the public sector, are something.
After decades of neglect, railways appear to be regaining something of the financial priority and status due to them as a major transport mode. Governments, industry and the community are once again acknowledging the importance of railways as the most economical and efficient means of transporting goods and passengers. As available energy supplies decrease, the efficient energy utilisation of railways, particularly over long distances, will become more apparent, and this will give greater financial priority to the funds for the improvement of our rail systems.
It is to be deplored also that a report which was commissioned in 1975 on the electrification of the main line systems and which was distributed by the Minister well over a year ago has not yet been brought before the Parliament so that it can make some assessment of the application of the report and the amount of funding that will be necessary. There is much debate about energy and energy conservation. Probably the best potential for moving towards energy conservation rests with our railway systems, particularly our long distance systems. There seems to be little doubt that the astonishing neglect accorded to railways by successive conservative governments, both State and Federal, has been based to a large extent on their ideological bias against public sector enterprises, railways being such an enterprise. They have consistently placed ideology before public safety and operating efficiency.
That climaxed in the horrendous Granville disaster of last year when some 83 persons lost their lives. The inquiry conducted into that derailment disaster by Judge Staunton found that the cause of the derailment was clearly the unsatisfactory condition of the permanent way. The loss of 83 lives and the personal tragedy that that brought to the families of those concerned was a terrible price to pay to convince the conservatives that railways must receive an adequate share of public funds if they are to ensure that their services are safe and efficient.
I turn now to the financial results of the operations of the Australian National Railways Commission in recent years. In the debate which took place in this chamber on the Australian National Railways Amendment Bill 1977 on 4 May of last year I drew attention to the fact that the financial report of the Commission had not been presented. That was 1 1 months after the financial year 1975-76 had ended. This afternoon, some 10 months later, still no report has been tabled in the Parliament of the Commission’s activities for 1975-76 or 1976-77. Last year I said that the Opposition appreciated that there could be some difficulty in consolidating the financial accounts of the existing Australian National Railways Commission and those of the services transferred from the Tasmanian railway service and the South Australian railway service. However, some 21 months since the financial year 1975-76 ended we are yet to see any detailed accounts from the Commission. We believe it is time that the accounts were tabled and an end was put to the wrangling over the treatment of the assets and liabilities of the transferred services.
It is a common exercise to label public sector enterprises, particularly transport enterprises, as being inefficient, as being bunglers and as being extravagant. It is important, in the interests of those enterprises, that their reports and the detail to be found in their annual accounts be presented to the Parliament so that there may be soundly based public discussion on the problems involved. That is particularly so in this case because we are dealing with a major amalgamationa major movement of two services into the national system. Of course, there would have to be problems associated with determining what is the written down value of those services, what the depreciation rate might have been and what share of operating costs might be attributed to a particular section of the service in the year in which the transfer occurred. That is particularly so in the case of South Australia where some lines are in common usage.
We believe that the information contained in those accounts should be available for public scrutiny and not just available to the Government and its advisers. The responsibility for failing to table the annual reports of the Commission must he fairly and squarely with the Minister. I ask him in his reply to inform the Parliament when we can expect the reports to be tabled. I think that those reports should be tabled as soon as possible, even if the Minister does so only out of recognition of his own responsibilities.
As I said earlier, if that factual information were provided we could have a sensible public discussion. There could be a sensible public assessment of the performance. So far all we have had from the Minister- he provided this information in his second reading speech on the Australian National Railways Amendment Bill in May of last year- is his statement that the Commission incurred a loss of $55. 4m in 1975-76 and that that loss comprised $ 14.9m on the Tasmanian services, $30m on the South Australian services and $ 10.5m on other services. That information by itself is insufficient. It gives currency to the view which is often expressed, as I mentioned earlier, that public transport enterprises have to lose money. That does not follow. They can be efficient and they can create a surplus- a sizable surplus- for use for other purposes. The supporting details need to be provided as a matter of urgency. An examination of the Budget Papers for the current financial year reveals that $46,693,000 was provided in 1976-77 to meet the operating losses of the Commission in that year and that $55m has been allocated for the same purpose this financial year. Those figures exclude the $0.45m which is being made available to meet the operating loss of the Tasman Limited. The losses provided for are large and highlight, as I said earlier, the need to present urgently the annual reports of the Commission.
I refer again to those losses, particularly that in the State of Tasmania. An undertaking was given in the Budget that the Tasman Limited would operate only until the end of February. An adjustment has now been made to that earlier decision. Again, if we are to have a debate on what should happen to the Tasmanian railway service, we should be given the facts and the information so that a rational debate can take place and rational decisions can be taken. The point that is often overlooked in relation to railway services is that because of the historic nature of those services- because railways were in so many ways the pioneers of our development during the latter part of the last century and the early part of this century and because of the role that they play in pioneering development- communities and activities tended to develop around the rail corridors which were established.
Railways have a social worth that does not show up in the annual accounts. If we were to have the detail of the accounts before us we could then seek to elaborate on the social benefits of the railway system and the considerable disruption that can be caused when less profitable railway services are closed down. I am reminded that when a cost-benefit analysis is carried out in New Zealand of pine planting activities one of the factors that has to be taken into account is whether termination of those activities would involve the closing down of existing rail services. If that occurs, an assessment has to be made of the cost incurred by the nation of, firstly, the relocation of people, secondly, the community disruption which occurs, thirdly, the loss of employment and, fourthly, the considerable loss to other government bodies of revenue which is generated by the continued operation of the railway and the utilisation of that area by the community.
The social benefit aspects cannot have a nice, tidy figure placed upon them. In a way we are dealing in the debate on this legislation with the social benefit aspects to the employees. The legislation deals with their rights and entitlements. Considerable hardship would be created in some cases if the rights of employees entering the service of the Commission now were not to be continued in the way they had in the past and in the manner on which they had planned their activities.
Honourable members will appreciate that with the addition of the Tasmanian and the South Australian services to the Australian National Railways activities there will be a corresponding increase in the amount of investment funds and in the number of financial transactions. Some idea of the magnitude of the Commission’s operations can be gained from an article written by the Commission’s Chairman, Mr Keith Smith, which appeared in the February edition of Railways of Australia. That article does not substitute for the detailed accounts to which I referred earlier. However, it shows that the Commission now has approximately 13,000 employees as a result of the amalgamation. Its annual wages bill is in the vicinity of $ 1 1 7m. Its net fixed assets have more than doubled from $ 147.3m at the end of 1974-75 to $390m. I assume from the Chairman’s statement that that would be the current figure. Mr Smith listed the Commission’s expenditure as follows: Wages, $117m per annum; supply and upkeep of railway operations, $50m per annum; indirect expenses such as superannuation and furlough liabilities, interest, depreciation and insurance, $28m per annum; thus making up a total expenditure of $ 195m per annum. Income is estimated at $ 125m, leaving a deficit of $70m per annum.
The Minister for Transport, in his second reading speech, adverted to the deficits being incurred by the Commission and the expectation that things would improve once the amalgamation had been completed. He made a similar comment in his second reading speech on the Australian National Railways Amendment Bill last year. I agree with him. I am sure that other honourable members would support those comments. The Commission is a major public enterprise. It faces a difficult task in converting that $70m deficit into a surplus. However, I am confident that we will all want to see the Commission succeed in its task. Its task would be assisted by full financial information on its activities being publicly available.
The passage of this Bill is, in itself, a tribute to all those who participated in detailed discussions and arrangements that have enabled the amalgamation of the two State systems and the national railway system to proceed. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all honourable members when I say that a great lot of hassle and detailed examination and argument took place to and fro. Even though the Minister has his own views about the wisdom of having a national railway system, it is to the credit of the officers of the Department of Transport that, in spite of the complexities involved in the amalgamation of those three rail systems and the added complexity of the number of awards and the number of unions involved, we are now debating this Bill and hopefully concluding arrangements for the future of the employees under the expanded Commission.
Credit must also go to the Australian Labor Governments of 1972-75 and in particular to the former Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), for their efforts in developing the initial stages of the transfers. The record of the Australian Labor Governments of 1972-75 is a good one. We saw the commencement of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs rail line. In that period we undertook to implement the construction of a standardised link between Adelaide and Crystal Brook. Unfortunately the present Minister for Transport and the previous Liberal Government abandoned that project. This afternoon, we are seeing the conclusion of the amalgamation arrangements of the three systems. We are seeing the introduction of Federal funding for urban rail transport. The next Labor Government will continue the program as outlined in the Constitution of developing Australia’s national rail system in the national interest as a matter of high priority. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
-The Bill before the Parliament- the Australian National Railways Amendment Bill- gives honourable members an opportunity to comment briefly upon the operations of the Australian National Railways Commission. Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not intend to trespass upon your indulgence and will therefore restrict my remarks in the same manner as the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), who has just preceded me. More particularly, we are given the opportunity to cover what are almost certainly the last steps of the legislation to pass through our Parliament dealing with the transfer of the South Australian Railways and the Tasmanian Railways under Commonwealth control to the Australian National Railways Commission.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the agreement was entered into between the Whitlam Government, the Tasmanian State Labor Government and the South Australian State Labor Government for the transfer of all the Tasmanian railways and the nonmetropolitan railway services in South Australia a few years ago. This agreement took place at a time when, as a matter of interest, I, like the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) who spoke earlier this afternoon, was between parliaments. I simply make a comment that the arguments which I should very much like to recanvass, as to the merits of the deals done with South Australia and Tasmania by the Whitlam Government, are perhaps too far in the dim past to be strictly relevant to this Bill. If I were to do so, you, Mr Deputy Speaker, would very promptly and correctly call me to order.
I do, however, content myself by saying that there is no doubt in my mind, on reading the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government on the one hand and the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government on the other hand, that South Australia got the better end of the deal. That is a very sad thing because Tasmania has suffered, and I have no doubt will continue to suffer over the years to come, as a result of shortcomings in the agreement negotiated between the Whitlam Government and the Tasmanian State Labor Government. But as I say, that is all water under the bridge and I am very pleased to be able to indicate to the House that my Tasmanian colleagues applaud the fact that when we have had problems with respect to the Tasmanian railways we have found the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) not only sympathetic but also understanding, and in more recent times we have found the Australian National Railways Commission extremely sympathetic and understanding on a question of considerable importance to Tasmania. In respect of this matter, my colleagues the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) and I travelled to South Australia and put submissions to the Australian National Railways Commission. The Commission not only received us courteously and sympathetically, but it in fact upheld part of our submissions and, as a result, made certain variations to a previous determination which was to the benefit of our State. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– At the commencement of the sitting of the House today the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) raised a question of privilege. He referred to the nondelivery and non-dispatch of mail to and from the House today due to an industrial dispute. He considered that this constituted a breach of privilege in that members would be prevented from carrying out some of their parliamentary duties, namely those involving the receipt and dispatch of correspondence. I am informed that the strike is not directed at the Parliament but involves the non-conveyance of mails for the whole of Canberra in which the parliamentary deliveries are but a part.
My duty is to decide whether the facts constitute a prima facie breach of privilege. I have had recourse to the precedents to assist me, but no precedent has been found. That does not necessarily end the matter for, failing precedent, I would then need to decide whether the matter fell in an area which, because of its interference with the exercise of a member’s duty, ought to be considered as establishing a prima facie case. Having in mind the general reluctance of the Parliament to extend the limits of contempt, I am of the opinion that, although important issues are involved affecting the efficiency and workings of the House and its members, in this case the matter raised does not constitute a prima facie case of breach of privilege.
-Mr Speaker, I was referring to the agreements between the Whitiam Government and the South Australian State Government and the Tasmanian Government with respect to the transfer of railway services. Honourable members would be aware that negotiations took place with respect to those agreements in late 1974 and early 1975. The effective operative date for the agreements was 1 July 1975 at which time the entire Tasmanian Government Railways and the non-metropolitan railways in South Australia were to be transferred to the Commonwealth. I merely say in passing that one of the bonuses to the South Australian Government was in fact the retention of the metropolitan services in that State. It is a matter of profound regret to me and to other honourable members from Tasmania that barely weeks before the commencement date of the agreement, namely 1 July 1975, when assets and liabilities were transferred to the Commonwealth, the Tasmanian State Labor Government, in clear breach of a solemn election promise, terminated the Hobart suburban passenger rail service. I am sure, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you will permit me to say on this occasion that I and other Liberal members in this House and our colleagues in the Tasmanian State Parliament will do everything in our power to see that the service is reinstated.
Since 1 July 1975 until 1 March this year, the railway service in Tasmania has been operated by the Transport Commission of that State as agents for the Australian National Railways Commission. Any honourable member who has followed recent controversial matters involving the construction of the slip road at the Hobart Railway Station, the threatened termination of the Tasman Limited service, the threatened closure of the Hobart passenger rail terminal and reports of the closure of up to 13 or 14 country railway stations will be aware that all Tasmanian Federal members of Parliament, but particularly myself, my colleague the honourable member for Wilmot and the honourable member for Franklin have been extremely active in the area of railway operations. It is very significant, and it will come as a surprise to many honourable members opposite, that we in fact have had closer contact with railwaymen in Tasmania than the State Labor Government members of parliament have, even though the unions connected with the railways are affiliated with the Australian Labor Party. I do not want to provoke my friend the honourable member for Shortland into responding but I simply want to say that the track record of the State Labor Government in Tasmania in respect of railway administration is nothing short of deplorable and nobody will trust it any more. Without raking over old coals, I simply say that many of us in Tasmania are now delighted that as from 1 March this year the operations of the Tasmanian railways are fully under the control of the ANRC and, with respect, not the Tasmanian Transport Commission, certain elements of which were very much, in my opinion, hostile to the continuation of Tasmanian rail services.
Some honourable members might be interested to know why we are speaking on this Bill which prima facie appears to deal with the entitlements and rights of South Australian Railways employees who have now transferred to the ANRC. I am informed- I think it is appropriate to mention it at this point in time- that the legislation was specifically sought by the South Australian railwaymen but that in fact no such special legislation had been sought by Tasmanian railwaymen who in respect of the provisions set out in the Bill dealing with long service leave entitlements, compensation and other benefits, are in a very fortunate position and by variation of current awards will get the best of both worlds. To honourable members who query why I am speaking at all on this Bill let me simply say that the very rights of South Australian railwaymen which are protected under this legislation have already been taken care of in respect of Tasmanian railwaymen.
I do not wish to encroach on your generosity, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I would like very briefly for one or two moments to speak in relation to two current matters which affect the Tasmanian railways. Those people who have followed the situation in Tasmania will be aware that last year, as a result of a report received, a recommendation was made that the Tasman Limited service be terminated. It is very much to the credit of the Minister and indeed to all Tasmanian Federal members of parliament who support the Government in both the House of Representatives and the Senate that the Government was prepared to come forward with a special six-month funding program to enable a reprieve to be granted to the Tasman Limited service. I only want to say in very brief terms that I think it is quite regrettable that the initiative shown by our Government was not carried forward by people in Tasmania who should have been protecting the railways instead of standing back in an apathetic manner and not taking the opportunity to ensure that during that six-month trial period everything possible was done to increase patronage on the Tasman Limited service and to ensure that a better service would eventuate.
– The State Government wanted to get rid of it.
– As the honourable member for Wilmot has said, frankly the State Government wanted to get rid of the Tasman Limited service. Indeed, it is a comment which I am sure would be supported by practically every railwayman in Tasmania. The point I want to make- I think there is a lesson in this for all honourable members who are genuinely concerned about the operation of railway systems- is: Because the Federal Government had made a generous offer to continue support for six months and because there was no budgetary authority for suppport to be extended beyond that time, it was quite obvious that the Minister for Transport was not in a position to extend the subsidy and there was a very grave risk that the service would have had to come to an end in February of this year. Accordingly, Tasmanian members of Parliament had one avenue of approach open to them and one only, and that was to go to the ANRC. I will be quite frank. Apart from Mr Ralph Taylor, who previously had been in Tasmania, I did not personally know any of the members of the Commission; nor, I believe, did Mr Max Burr or Mr Bruce Goodluck, my parliamentary colleagues, know them. We sought an appointment with the Commission and we went to Adelaide on 8 February. I want to place on record- I am sure that my colleague the honourable member for Wilmot will support this-that we were very impressed and most pleasantly surprised at the manner in which we were received by the Commission, the manner in which it dealt with our submission and the constructive approach of that body. I want publicly to place on record our gratitude, which we have previously expressed but I do so for the first time in this Parliament, to the Chairman of the Commission, Mr Keith Smith, and to all the other commissioners for the way in which they received us. They in fact upheld our submissions and instead of the Tasman Limited service being terminated completely as was likely to have happened, the service is continuing but on a reduced schedule basis. It now operates three days a week but I hope that in the period which now will be available to the ANRC properly to review and indeed effectively to promote the Tasman Limited service we will be able to get back in a very short time to a five-day service and eventually to a seven-day service. I know that I can speak on this matter with the support of my colleagues the honourable member for Wilmot and the honourable member for Franklin.
The second matter I wish to raise relates to the future of railways in Australia generally. I believe that the Minister for Transport should be supported by honourable members on both sides of this House in seeking a more substantial allocation of funds from the Commonwealth Government for the rehabilitation and upgrading of Australia’s railway systems. I believe that the Minister- indeed, I am sure that he is cognisant of the fact- knows that the ANRC would like to do a lot of things but frankly cannot do so because of the shortage of funds. In the Budget which we passed last year there was an appropriation of $88.8m from Commonwealth funds. The honourable member for Shortland has pointed out that the assets of the Commission are nearly $400m; its expenditure last year was $195m; and its income was $125m. I suppose we can add to those figures something in the order of $200m to $300m in expenditure by the other States which operate their own services, namely those except South Australia and Tasmania. I am convinced that the roads in Australia will be absolutely unbearable and indeed impossible to travel on within a decade. The cost of fuel to enable people to drive motor cars and trucks, particularly the long haulage vehicles, will become so great that unless we build up our railways now I believe the generation to come will curse us for having let the railway systems fall into disrepair. I am further convinced that as a defence facility an efficient railway system linking all parts of Australia is an absolute must. When the line goes through to Alice Springs I hope that it is continued right through to link up with the line that comes from Darwin because it is absolutely ridiculous that whilst we have an east-west railway line in Australia we do not have a north-south railway line linking South Australia with the Northern Territory. In any situation involving hostilities this must be one of the major links as far as the defence of this country is concerned. Therefore, I urge honourable members to support the Minister because he has made it quite clear that he supports and indeed recognises the need for upgrading and improving the Australian railway system. I believe we have to get it into the head of the Treasurer (Mr Howard), the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and those who, with all due respect, may not be quite as enthusiastic as is the Minister for Transport because I am absolutely convinced that unless we substantially increase our expenditure to upgrade our railways in 20 years the next generation of Australians will curse us for letting go into decay and decline a system which will be vital to the future of this country in the 2 1 st century. I support the Bill.
-Whilst honourable members on this side of the House do not oppose this Bill there are a few comments which I would like to make. The Bill makes provision for protecting the rights of former South Australian Railways employees who are transferred to the Australian National Railways Commission. The word ‘takeover’ has been used on many occasions, but I think the word ‘amalgamation ‘ is a much better word because the agreement between the South Australian Government and the Australian Government in respect of that State’s non-metropolitan railway services was reached freely. The main provisions in this Bill relate to the superannuation and compensation rights of former South Australian Railways employees. In respect of compensation and superannuation, I am glad that the Bill allows transferred employees to choose the system that is more favourable to them. The Commonwealth compensation and superannuation schemes are different from the State schemes. I am sure that there are advantages and disadvantages in both of them. They are mixed bags. It is logical that the employee should be allowed to select which scheme to join. I think that the employee will feel much more satisfied once he makes the choice himself, because the choice is his. I am sure that this will help to overcome some of the difficulties that will occur with the amalgamation. Another matter to which I wish to refer later is the long service leave provision which is mentioned in the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). I will refer to that aspect at the Committee stage of the Bill.
I trust that the Minister will consider any other anomalies that arise in the Bill. I do not think all the problems have been overcome. I know, from discussions with union officials of employees of the Australian National Railways, that quite a number of anomalies still exist. These may finish up in arbitration. They are causing some concern to blue collar workers and to white collar workers. I have spoken to members of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, the Australian Workers Union and other unions and found that they are still concerned about a number of matters. The matters that have been mentioned to me include the possible loss of conditions, such as the away from home allowance and effects on lines of promotion. These matters are causing concern to a number of the unionists involved. They fear that, with the amalgamation, their conditions will be eroded. I trust that when these anomalies surface they will be given consideration and fair treatment by the Government.
There is concern that the amalgamation of the South Australian country lines with the former Commonwealth Railways, which is now the Australian National Railways, will be felt in three major towns in the northern part of South Australia. I refer to Peterborough, Port Augusta and Port Pirie, all of which can be considered railway towns. Port Augusta was the operational headquarters of the old Commonwealth Railways. With the main industry in that town being the railways, any change to the railways can have quite serious effects on the town. Recently discussions were held between Mr Dyason, the General Manager of the Australian National Railways, the Town Council, the local member of State Parliament and myself about the possible effect of the amalgamation on Port Augusta. Mr Dyason was able to give us some assurances that the effect would be minimal. Most of the concern seems to be amongst the white collar staff of the Australian National Railways about what will happen to them, with the headquarters being established in Adelaide. They are wondering whether they will be transferred to Adelaide and what the future holds for them. Certain assurances were given by the general manager. We hope that the assurances will be honoured and will allay the fears of many of the white collar workers involved.
Port Augusta is the headquarters of the old Commonwealth Railways. Possibly two-thirds of the work force there is employed in the railways. The railways have always played an extremely important part in that town. In the former days the City Council of Port Augusta received some assistance from the Commonwealth Railways. I can remember one area of assistance, where the Commonwealth Railways paid for the watering of the main oval in the town and in that way assisted the local government. With the widening of the responsibilities of the Australian National Railways that can no longer apply. When the town contained the operational headquarters of the Commonwealth Railways something could be fed into it. Many other towns are now serviced by the Australian National Railways and will become Australian National Railways towns. Of course, what happens in one town can be applied to other towns.
This brings me to the Government’s policy on the payment of rates. When assistance was formerly available the question of the payment of rates by government instrumentalities was not as important as it is today. Now that those other areas of assistance are gone Port Augusta receives very little by way of assistance from the Australian National Railways, other than an ex gratia payment to the tune of $3 7,000 last year in lieu of the payment of rates. Anybody who knows Port Augusta- as I am sure the Minister does- will realise that the Australian National Railways owns the land for about six kilometres around the foreshores of Port Augusta. Of course, this land is not ratable. The only amount paid is the ex gratia payment which, as I mentioned earlier, amounted to $37,000 last year. This payment covers the Australian National Railways properties that front council properties. This is not a great contribution to a town in which the Australian National Railways is the major industry. There is no contribution by the Government other than the ex gratia payment.
One other matter which concerns the local council is the question of railway business enterprises. We know that the railways are a business enterprise. One of the reasons for setting up the Australian National Railways Commission was to see that the railways were run as a more efficient business enterprise. The ANR runs business enterprises in the town in opposition to local private enterprise. I refer of course to the main one, the Ausrail provisions store which sells all types of goods. It mainly serves people along the line but also serves people in Port Augusta and people who are not strictly railway employees. It is a commercial enterprise outside the council boundaries which does not pay rates although it is in direct competition with people who have to pay rates. Approaches in the past on this issue have been unsuccessful.
Whilst I realise the need for the present government policy on rates, I feel that the circumstances are such that a different approach should be taken in this case. It is not as though the Government is not paying rates on an office block; it is not paying rates on a considerable portion of a city in which it holds most of the prime land. I think the case deserves some consideration when one realises that the city provides most of the amenities which are used by the ANR employees. I feel the city can be assisted by the Government looking at the commercial enterprises which the ANR runs in competition with people who have to pay rates. I trust that the Minister will raise this matter with his colleague the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers).
I refer now to the operation of the railways. Inquiries were set up regarding two country lines in the northern part of South Australia- the Peterborough to Quorn line and the Gladstone to Wilmington line. Both these lines have been the subject of an investigation by a committee. To date we have heard nothing of what is to happen. There is concern in the area as to what the future holds, whether these lines will be kept going or whether the committee will recommend their closure. Any decision will have some effect in the area. We hope that the Minister will release the report as soon as possible in order to allay the fears that exist in that area.
I refer to a few other matters. Mention has been made of the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway line. Since construction started in April 1975 it has progressed at a good pace. It is now well north of Coober Pedy. I have had the opportunity of travelling along the line and seeing the standard of workmanship. I would say that probably it is the best stretch of railway track that has ever been laid in Australia. It is a credit to the people who initially decided to go ahead with that long-needed rail link with the Northern Territory. The last matter I wish to mention is the concern that is being felt in Port Pirie as to its situation as a railway centre. We have noted a number of reports concerning what will happen about joining Adelaide to the standard guauge railway system, ‘'’here have been four or five reports on the subject, but at present the whole matter is still up in the air. I think the people of Port Pirie deserve to be told what the future holds in regard to their situation as a railway town.
-The Australian National Railways Amendment Bill 1978 completes the arrangements for the takeover of the South Australian country railways and the Tasmanian railways by the Federal Government. In particular, this Bill makes provision for the long service leave and workers compensation rights of the railway employees transferring from those State railway services to the Australian National Railways. The Bill legislates for the agreement reached on long service leave. That agreement provides that any transferring South Australian employees who make application for long service leave or pay in lieu after the declared date, which is 1 March 1978, will be entitled to either the State provisions that apply on 1 March or the Commonwealth provisions that apply on that date, whichever provisions are the more favourable.
The agreed arrangements in respect of workers compensation are 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 State or Commonwealth workers compensation legislation. In ensuring that these employees are not disadvantaged this legislation is commendable. But, of course, the legislation should never have been necessary.
The necessity for this legislation is a legacy of a major disaster of the previous Whitlam Labor Government, that is, its centralist takeover of the South Austraiian country railways and the Tasmanian railways- a takeover which never should have occurred. This takeover was initiated following the election of the Labor Government in December 1972. The then Prime Minister, Mr Whitiam, wrote to the various State Premiers indicating the willingness of the Commonwealth Government to enter into discussions with the States to determine whether a mutually satisfactory basis for a transfer could be devised. The Victorian and Queensland governments did not accept this offer and the Western Australian and New South Wales governments, although initially commencing discussions, soon withdrew. However, the South Australian and Tasmanian Ministers for Transport were more compliant. As a result of this the then Commonwealth Minister for Transport, Mr Charles Jones, had a number of meetings with his South Australian and Tasmanian counterparts and reached agreement in principle for the transfer of the South Australian country railways and the Tasmanian railways.
A formal agreement to transfer the nonmetropolitan South Australian railways was signed by the then Prime Minister and the South Australian Premier, Mr Dunstan, on 21 May 1975 and a similar agreement to transfer the Tasmanian Government railways was signed by the then Prime Minister and the then Tasmanian Premier on 23 May 1975. Legislation ratifying and giving effect to these arrangements was passed through the Commonwealth Parliament on 10 June 1975. In the case of South Australia, implementing legislation was introduced at a State level on 10 June 1975. Following an election for the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council in that State it was passed through both Houses. The South Australian agreement transfers only the non-metropolitan railways. Under the agreement all South Australian railways staff have been transferred to the Australian National Railways and the staff necessary for running metropolitan railways are being contracted back to the State Transport Authority.
The main feature of this transfer of railways, particularly in the case of South Australia, was the financial arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State governments. In this regard South Australia received a net benefit to the State’s revenue of $10m in 1974-75. In addition, the Commonwealth Government paid the State $ 1 6.4m as a final payment to accompany its withdrawal from the Grants Commission, in lieu of amounts it would have received from 1974 to 1976 and in the 1976-77 financial year. South Australia was also given a permanent addition of $2 5 m to the base formula of the financial assistance grants to that State as compensation for its withdrawal from the Grants Commission. This represented a continuing and permanent financial gain to South Australia. South Australia also gained the advantage of being relieved of the operating losses of its non-metropolitan railways, which since 1974-75 have been around the $30m per annum mark. The State was also relieved of its capital expenditure of about $5m per annum on these railways. Of course the latter mentioned financial benefit was accompanied by reductions in the general purpose funds available to the State, but these reductions were less than the $30m deficit incurred by the railways. Hence a further permanent and escalating budgetary gain was made by the State.
From this summary of the financial arrangements between the previous Commonwealth Government and the South Austraiian Government it can be seen that the Federal Labor
Government of that time did not care what it paid to get centralist control of South Australia’s country railways. The result was that the then Federal Government was conned by the Dunstan State Government into paying a fortune for the takeover. Of course, the two governments were in philosophical agreement about the nature of the railways takeover. The Dunstan Government was ever ready to comply on a philosophical basis with the Commonwealth Government taking over the running of its country railways, although it should be noted that it reserved the metropolitan railways to its own administration. Mr Dunstan was eager to get his hands on to the money flowing from this cynically over-generous Federal Labor Government.
As I mentioned earlier, the legislation to give effect to this takeover was passed in the middle of 1975. Therefore, when the Fraser coalition Government came into office the implementation of the takeover had gone too far to be reversed. The Commonwealth Solicitor-General advised the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) that the railway transfer agreements were valid by virtue of the legislation approving them. Hence, the Government proceeded to complete the rail transfer arrangements. The Bill currently before the House is a further aspect of the completion of those arrangements.
What has been the result of this takeover for South Australia? Firstly, the metropolitan railways, which the State Government retained under its own administration because it claimed that it could operate those railways more efficiently once it had the alleged millstone of the country railways removed from its administrative responsibility, have in fact increased their losses since the Commonwealth Government has taken over the country railways. However, even more disastrously, in the three short years since that takeover the Dunstan Government has dissipated the whole of the generous financial benefit which was obtained from the Commonwealth through the handover of the country railways.
In the financial year just prior to the takeover the State Government had a Budget deficit of $8m. What might be regarded as a somewhat artificial injection of funds through the takeover of the country railways enabled the State to balance its Budget for the next couple of years. Hence this takeover enabled the Dunstan Government to hide its real financial mismanagement over that period. However, this financial year the Dunstan Government has budgeted for a deficit of $ 18.4m. Despite that disastrous increase in the budgeted deficit the Premier recently announced that by the end of the financial year the Budget deficit would be $26m. This is despite the fact that the Premier in his Budget allowed for an inflation rate for the financial year of 12 per cent when it will in fact turn out to be only 9 per cent and that the Government’s wages and salaries bill will turn out to be $5m less than provided in the Budget. Hence, if the Budget had been adhered to, with the savings from the lesser rate of inflation and the lower requirement for government wages and salaries, the deficit should have been only $8. 4m. Instead it has now been announced that the deficit will be $26m. This is the worst deficit ever recorded in South Australia’s history. It exposes the Dunstan Labor Government as being similar in nature to the Whitlam Labor Government which this country suffered from 1972 to 1975 as regards financial management. It has been only the transfer of these railways that has managed to hide the State Government’s financial mismanagement over the last couple of years.
The railways money has been dissipated over a period of three years. Virtually four generations’ inheritance of endeavour has been dissipated in three years, as a young man might lavish an inheritance on his mistress in jewels and furs. There has been no lasting benefit to South Australia through the expenditure by the State Government of the money acquired through the transfer of the railways. South Australia has the largest public service, per capita, of any government in Australia.
– And the best services, too.
-That is a matter that is open to debate, if we look around the nation.
– Ask the people.
– We will ask them at the next State election. I am sure that they will give their verdict. Apart from this rapid growth in the State Public Service there have been other areas of non-productive State government expenditure. The money certainly has not been used to provide improved transport facilities in South Australia. One would have thought that, given that this money came from the railways- an element of transport- the State Government would have seen fit to allocate a significant proportion of it to improving that State’s transport facilities. For example, the electrification of the Christie Downs railway still awaits implementation. There is a significant lag in the provision of better bus services for the residents of South Australia, particularly those living in the developing outer suburbs as contained in the Kingston electorate.
One could ask the question: What predicament would the State finances be in if this generous financial provision had not been available through the takeover of the country railways? I shall leave that for honourable members to answer. Clearly, from the figures I gave a few moments ago we can see that had that money not been injected into the South Australian budgetary situation that State Government’s finances would have been in a disastrous situation. They are already heading towards disaster in the current financial year. Over a period of three years the funds obtained by the South Austraiian Government from the handover of its country railways have been dissipated without any real and lasting benefit to the citizens of the State. The Commonwealth Government now has the responsibility of administering those railways and it has to bear the cost of that administration in the future. One would have expected a continuing benefit to South Australia from that transfer; but, as I have explained, that just has not occurred and the current budgetary situation of the State Government is such that South Australia will go further into hock in future financial years. As I mentioned a moment ago, the South Australian people will pass their judgment on that aspect of the State Government’s administration at the next State election. But that is not the only predicament which faces the State Government at the moment. Other matters have aroused public awareness of that Government’s incompetence in recent times.
Notwithstanding this, the Commonwealth Government is maintaining an active interest in the affairs of railways and in particular in its relationship with the States with regard to railway services. Recently a number of new measures to assist railways operated by State governments were announced by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). The Federal Government has 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 Federal Government is also to 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.
So the Commonwealth Government, in contrast to the South Australian Government which was only too ready to quit its railways for a temporary financial benefit, is maintaining an active interest in railways and in the provision of an effective railway service for the citizens of Australia. The Minister is to be commended on the interest he is showing in this area, because there is no doubt that at a national level railways do and will play an important part in this nation’s development. Therefore the overall interest which has been shown by the Minister and by the Government is commendable. That is reflected in part in this Bill, which I support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I have four amendments relating to clause 5, which reads in part:
After section S 1 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: “ 52b. ( 1 ) If, when a claim for compensation in relation to an injury sustained on or after 1 March 1978 by a transferred South Australian employee is served on the Commissioner by or on behalf of a person under section 54 of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971, there is also served on the Commissioner an election, in accordance with a form prescribed by regulations made under that Act, by or on behalf of the person to have the claim dealt with in accordance with the applied South Australian provisions, that Act applies to and in relation to the claim, subject to this section, as if the applied South Australian provisions were substituted for the provisions of Part III of that Act. “(2)Where-
a transferred South Australian employee sustains an injury (in this sub-section referred to as the ‘subsequent injury’) that relates to a previous injury sustained by him on or after 1 March 1 978; and
compensation was paid under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971 in respect of that previous injury. that Act applies to and in relation to any claim made by or on behalf of the employee in respect of the subsequent injury-
if an election was made under sub-section ( 1 ) in relation to that previous injury (whether or not an election is made in relation to the subsequent injury)- as if the applied South Australian provisions were substituted for Part III of that Act; or
d ) if no election was made under sub-section ( 1 ) in relation to the previous injury but an election is made under that sub-section in relation to the subsequent injury- as if that last-mentioned election were of no force or effect. “(8) In this section- applied South Australian provisions’ means the provisions of Parts II, IV and Vin of, and the Second Schedule to, the Workmen’s Compensation Act, and of any regulations and Proclamations in force from time to time for the purposes of those Parts and that Schedule, as modified by regulations made under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971 for the purpose of enabling matters connected with the payment of compensation in relation to transferred South Australian employees in accordance with those provisions to be dealt with under Pans I and II and IV to IX (inclusive) of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1 97 1 ;
Commissioner’ means the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971; modified Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act’ means the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971 modified by the substitution of the applied South Australian provisions for Pan III of that Act;
Workmen’s Compensation Act’ means the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1971 of the State of South Australia as amended and in force from time to time.
– I seek leave to move the amendments together.
The Government has received representations in relation to the application of section 98 of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act to a transferred South Australian railway employee even though he has elected to have his claim for compensation dealt with under the modified Commonwealth Act. The effect of that application would be to preclude a compensation payment in respect of an injury for which a repatriation pension is payable. The transferred South Australian employees have had the right under the State provisions to compensation payments in respect of such injuries. Consistent with the principle that transferring South Australian employees shall not be disadvantaged by the transfer, I am proposing an amendment to the Bill which effectively removes the application of section 98 of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act in respect of claims dealt with under the modified Commonwealth Act.
-The Opposition does not oppose the amendments. We have had consultations with the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and representations have been received with respect to them. The Opposition thinks they are desirable and therefore we do not oppose them. With respect to clause 5, 1 wish to raise with the Minister the situation regarding section 38 of the Workmen’s Compensation Act and what appears to be an entitlement under the provisions of that section, whereby a person could be offered a lump sum settlement from an employer for an injury and could then seek legal advice on the advisability of accepting that lump sum. In the event of the lump sum offer being accepted, under the South Australian Actthere is some doubt as to its interpretation, I understand- it appears that there is an automatic entitlement to reimbursement for the cost of the legal advice sought. I know that there have been discussions in respect of this matter also. I think I could probably assist the Committee best by simply asking the Minister whether in his reply he will given an assurance that the matter will be looked into further and will be dealt with by way of an adminstrative procedure.
The honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) wishes to raise one other matter. But before I sit down I wish to correct a statement I made earlier, when referring to the entitlement to the right of election under the workers compensation scheme. I limited it to the period from 1 March until the date of royal assent to the Bill. I was in error and I wish to correct my error. Under the terms of the Bill the right of election is a continuing right.
– I wish to refer to clause 5 in the Bill. It refers to the operation of the Commonwealth Railways by-laws. It was mentioned in the Minister’s second reading speech. Proposed section 52a ( 1 ) states:
Until that date the long service leave conditions of wage employees of Commonwealth Railways were covered by a by-law. In 1944 the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act was introduced. For some reason the Commonwealth Railways, in enumerating the conditions in its advertisements, did not state that the conditions came under the Furlough Act; it repeated that they came under the by-law. There were certain advantages under the by-law because employees received long service leave after 10 years’ service, whereas under the Furlough Act they had to work for 15 years before they were entitled to furlough. In early 1951, when this fact was discovered, an arrangement was reached between the unions and the then Minister that the year in the provision of the by-law would be changed from 1944 to 1951 and furlough would be excluded. In the early 1960s an employee who joined between 1944 and 1951 received legal advice and found that he would be paid according to the Furlough Act. At that time the furlough was to his advantage. This matter was then taken up with the railways. The railways obtained legal advice and it was agreed that, because of the advertisements, the railways would find themselves in an awkward position if that employee continued his claim along those lines. As a result of the discussions which took place between the unions and the management at that time, it was arranged with the Treasurer that by administrative arrangement any employee who joined between 7 October 1944 and 1951 would have the right to choose whether he wished his long service leave under the Furlough Act or the by-law. He could choose whichever was to his advantage. That was done by administrative action and I would like to raise this point with the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). The Bill provides for an employee who was employed under this Act immediately before 7 October 1 944. Can the Minister assure the House that the administrative arrangements which applied previously will apply in future?
– I am surprised at the sudden interest by leading members of the Press Gallery in what I can describe only as a very important Bill. In respect of the first matter raised by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), I think it best that I read a letter that I sent to the South Australian Minister in regard to this matter. The relevant paragraphs state:
As regards your other suggested amendment, i.e. to bring the provision of Section 38 of the South Australian Workers Compensation legislation into the Bill, I have some difficulty with understanding the purpose of this proposal. I am advised that sub-sections 20 (6) and (7) of the Commonwealth Compensation Act provide a benefit equivalent to that provided by Section 38 of the State Act. Therefore there seems no need to take up Section 38 of the State Act. I am also advised however that the circumstances described in that Section are not precisely the same as the situation described in point 1 of your letter of 1 4 March.
If the differences between Section 38 and the situation described in your letter relate to some administrative practice in the State, to allow recovery of legal costs in a more flexible way than Section 38 provides for, I would be prepared to examine that point further. If that is the case perhaps your officials might contact my Department on the point.
If on the other hand your letter asked only for introduction into the Commonwealth arrangements of what is provided in Section 38 of the State Act, then the advice to me is that there is no need for such a provision, because the Commonwealth arrangements are at least equivalent to the State provisions.
I think that takes care of that point. With regard to By-law No. 70, 1 am able to give the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) the assurance he seeks that the act of grace arrangements that were set up in earlier days will be continued.
– It is a major victory for Laurie Wallis.
– The honourable member may describe it as he likes. The honourable member for Grey can carry that information back to the railway workers. The only other point that I want to make concerns the annual report of the Australian National Railways, referred to by the honourable member for Shortland. This has been delayed because of the failure to achieve a hand-over date. Therefore, it was impossible to set a date for the setting up of new financial accounts. The Government has used the individual system accounts to provide the information of the financial result of the systems and with the passing of this legislation hopefully we will have the impetus to conclude the new financial accounting system, and the tabling of the report will ensue.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon)- by leave- read a third time.
I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. Earlier today I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) two questions about computer leasing arrangements for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of the Northern Territory. At the end of Question Time the Prime Minister said in relation to the arrangements for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs that the Inter-departmental Committee on Automatic Data Processing met yesterday. He said that the IDC had considered an application by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for a certificate of inexpediency to cover the purchase of an IBM computer but that the IDC had rejected the request. The Prime Minister’s answer did not respond to my question. My question was not about purchase of a computer but dealt with leasing facilities available from IBM. I have cross-checked sources available to me and established, as far as I am able, that the IDC on ADP recommended approval of a two-year leasing arrangement for an IBM 30-32 series computer for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The IDC added that its recommendation of approval should be endorsed by Cabinet instead of being concluded in the normal way by Public Service procedures. Finally, the Prime Minister made no reference to the leasing of computer facilities from IBM for the Department of the Northern Territory.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 9 March, on motion by Mr Fife:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I am pleased to lead for the Opposition in the debate on this Bounty (Drilling Machines) Bill and to inform the House that the Opposition supports the legislation. The Bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to provide assistance for the manufacture in Australia of bench or pedestal drilling machines. This is not one of those Bills that are likely to rivet a lot of attention in the country, but nevertheless for the five manufacturers concerned and the 50 or so people whose jobs are affected it is a very important Bill. It is as well for us to recognise that the Government’s decision is based on a recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission in its interim report, No. 146 dated 30 September 1977 and entitled ‘Beach or Pedestal Drilling Machines Belt Driven Pulley Operated (NonPower Fed)’. I have read the report and am delighted not only that the Government has seen fit in cases such as this to support the decision of the Industries Assistance Commission but also that the Commission and the Government are using bounties.
I had something to say about the advantages of bounties over quotas and tariffs a week ago when we were debating another bounty Bill in this Parliament, the Bounty (Polyester-Cotton Yarn) Bill 1978, and I listed the advantages of the application of bounties viz-a-viz alternative forms of assistance under three headings. Firstly, unlike tariffs and quotas, they do not raise the price of the protected product to consumers or consuming industries. In other words, they do not add to inflation. Secondly, when financed from general government revenue, they are less inequitable than tariffs or quotas in the sense that their costs are shared by all and not just by consumers of the product. The third point, which is as well to remember when we are supporting bounty Bills, is that since bounty payments are based on annual Budget appropriations, they are more open and subject to greater public scrutiny than tariffs or quotas in relation to which costs are largely hidden. So where possible we support the use of a bounty to protea jobs which, of course, is the purpose of this measure.
If this debate had taken place just three years ago when the Government parties were on this side of the House and we were in government there would have been a certain lack of integrity in the debate. Political capital would have been made out of the fact that an industry like this was foundering. I want to take a more responsible line and recognise that this country’s industries are in great difficulty at this time and, to the greatest extent possible, join with the Government in seeking ways and means of achieving a longer term scenario and strategy within which business can plan. I am bound to bring that little abrasiveness into this debate because it is as well to remember, and it is as well for those outside this Parliament to note, that the Labor Opposition does not oppose legislation for the sake of opposing it. Where we can support a measure we support it, and this is one of those occasions.
The question of long term assistance for this small industry is currently under examination by the Industries Assistance Commission as part of its inquiry into metal working machine tools. A draft report was circulated to interested parties as long ago as October 1977, and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife), if he replies to this debate, perhaps could tell us the present status of that report. Bench or pedestal drilling machines are currently produced by five local manufacturers. Total employment is only about 50 persons and total annual production in 1976-77 was 1,044 machines, with an average machine value, extimated by the Industries Assistance Commission, at $450. Of those manufacturers two are in Victoria, two are in New South Wales and one is in Western Australia. The manufacture of this product is directed to two markets. There is an industrial use and that is the market which is supplied mainly by local manufacturers. Then there is a second market for goods in these categories which are put under the heading of low priced drilling machines, and at the moment they are mostly imported from Taiwan. There is of course some overlap between the two and that is why it is important for the House and Industries Assistance Commission to consider these aspects of the industry under the one heading.
The proportion of the market held by local producers has declined from about 40 per cent in 1972-73 to 15 per cent in the last two years. Drilling machines from Taiwan accounted for nearly all the growth in imports. The price disadvantage of comparable local machines against products from Taiwan was calculated by the Industries Assistance Commission to be about 90 per cent. So on 24 December 1976 with this problem in mind the Temporary Assistance Authority recommended that temporary assistance be accorded by a quota restriction limiting imports cleared for home consumption in the calendar year 1977 to 750 machines under the normal duty rate- that is, a 26 per cent general rate- with an additional duty of $200 per machine on imports in excess of this level. I note that the Temporary Assistance Authority recommended assistance by way of tariff quota because it was not empowered to recommend assistance other than by barriers to imports. I believe that it was because the TAA pointed out at that stage the disadvantage of using quotas instead of bounties that the Government decided to call for this interim report No. 146 which is the genesis of this recommendation and which has given birth to the Bill that we are debating tonight.
On 25 February 1977 the Government announced the implementation of the tariff quota system. However, by 7 March 1977 the entire 1977 quota of 750 machines had been exhausted. Also on 25 February the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs referred to the Industries Assistance Commission the question of whether tariff quotas should continue after 3 1 December 1977. That was done because quite clearly quotas were not the answer to the problem in this industry. Whilst local producers have made some gains in the low price drilling machine market since quotas were introduced, they appear to have little prospect of achieving a large share of the potential demand for such machines unless their prices are significantly reduced. One of the five manufacturing companies, MacMillan and Co., estimated that 50 employment opportunities in sales and local distribution of drilling machines were being jeopardised by the quota restrictions. I was interested in that way of expressing it because I would have thought that if the total quota was exhausted so soon after the quota was introduced the jobs were more than in jeopardy; there were no machines to sell. So there we have a case of a tariff quota being responsible for a reduction in employment rather than, as is our main hope, an increase in employment.
The Industries Assistance Commission concluded that the drilling machines segment of the industry should be maintained at least until the Government had made a decision on assistance to the whole metal working machine tools industry. The Commission concluded that such maintenance required continued temporary assistance, which was in accord with the rationale of the earlier decision of the Temporary Assistance Authority. However, the IAC believed that the continued use of quotas would frustrate many consumers as well as generate only limited assistance to local manufacturers. The Commission believed that the extension of the bounty currently available to most other standard metal working machine tools- via the Metal Working Machine Tools Bounty Act 1972-73-would fulfil the requirements identified by the Industries Assistance Commission. Of course, this was the action requested by most local producers.
The scheme provides for a payment to Australian manufacturers of a bounty at the rate of one-third of the factory cost of the machine, as long as local content exceeds 85 per cent of such costs. The Bill contains provisions that if local content is less than 85 per cent, a pro rata rate of bounty will be payable- that seems to me to be a very worthwhile provision- and no bounty is payable if local content is less than 55 per cent. If only the same number of machines were to be manufactured in the next year as were manufactured in the last financial year the cost would be $125,000, but I think that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs would be very pessimistic and perhaps a little unwise if he included only $ 125,000 in his next appropriation because it seems to me- I hope that this will be so- that a bounty such as this would lead to increased manufacturing, and that means an increased bounty. The annual cost of this scheme to 30 June 1979 should be greater than $125,000 if that occurs. The Industries Assistance Commission emphasised that these recommendations were only for temporary assistance and that the assumption should not be made that the assistance recommended would continue in the long term.
I have looked at the draft report relating to the longer term. I do not know whether the commissioners were the same, but in that draft report the Industries Assistance Commission has concluded that there should be assistance to this industry, firstly, by extending the present bounty to all locally produced metal working machine tools; secondly, by implementing an additional bounty at the rate of 25 per cent on the design cost included in the total factory cost; and, thirdly, by allowing duty free entry for one particular category of machine tools.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The level of conversation in the House is too high. If honourable members are compelled to speak I request them to converse in subdued tones.
– It is very kind of you to protect me m that way, Mr Deputy Speaker. I realise that for those intelligent people in this House who are taking an interest in a complex measure such as this- of course that includes everyone on my side of the House- my speech is of a riveting nature, and they are enjoying learning about this complicated measure. There is only one other point I wish to make. The Industries Assistance Commission has pointed out that there is a defence reason for wanting such an industry to continue. It emphasised that the levels of assistance implied by the recommendations imposed a high cost on the community. Yet such assistance is warranted only because of the special defence characteristics of the industry. The Department of Defence is asked by the Commission to keep its requirements in regard to this industry under review. I believe that there is probably a case to be made out for this bounty not to come out of any appropriation for the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs- I make this recommendation to the Minister- but out of the appropriations for the Department of Defence. When the Minister is conducting his wars with the Department of Finance over the next few months about the appropriations for his Department for the next financial year he could at least suggest that appropriations such as this one might come out to the Defence vote. I repeat that the Opposition supports this bounty. It hopes that some security will be given to this industry which is important to defence, and it trusts that the Bill will have a speedy passage.
– I just know, from the words of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), that other honourable members are completely entranced with the significance of this Bill. All of our minds are overcome with its enormous significance. After all, it is a Bill to give assistance for bench or pedestal drilling machines. No matter how small a Bill is, it may contain some very great principles. The old Latin proverb, multum in parvo, can certainly apply in this respect. Let me refer to some of the principles involved in this proposal put forward by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife). The report with which we are dealing is part of a larger report by the Industries Assistance Commission on the metal working machine tools industry, which was presented to the Government late last year and which, I presume, the Government is still considering. A few things need to be said about it.
I do not intend to traverse the same ground as has been traversed by the previous speaker. Bounties deserve a great deal of support from the Australian community, as they are a preferable method of assistance to other methods of assistance, for a number of reasons. The previous speaker referred to three of the reasons. Let me refer to a fourth. Obviously bounties distort the market place as a signalling mechanism far less than tariffs, quotas and combinations of tariffs and quotas. It is quite true that, if resources are to be allocated satisfactorily in Australia, if the correct allocation of resources is a principal matter to be considered in respect of the Australian economy, one has to know where the benefits go and who pays the benefits no matter what industry is concerned.
I am fascinated that so much splendid academic expertise has been devoted over recent years to unravelling other forms of assistance to see what is really meant by them. We have had estimates of the consumer tax equivalent of certain forms of assistance. There are estimates of the gross subsidy equivalent and the net subsidy equivalent. I referred to one of them in the House last week. Previously there were calculations of nominal and effective taxes. All the refinements of what is actually involved in terms of protection for industry are devoted to unravelling what is the actual magnitude of the protection, how much it is and what it is in understandable terms.
So those five terms have come into general use in Australia when industry is referred to. Much of the difficulty of unravelling, for example, what is a net subsidy is avoided by utilising the bounty mechanism. The consumer is advantaged. The House knows what is involved in the process. We know where the subsidies go. Once that is known, the correct allocation of resources in Australia is able to be proceeded with satisfactorily. So I support this Bill for a number of reasons.
One other comment ought to be made, and I think it is appropriate. It is quite clear that in this industry, as in other industries, the opportunity for it to produce at a satisfactory level of output is related to the dynamism of the Australian economy. One has to be very careful these days that the economy does not sink into a long term recessive mental attitude. The greatest need in Australia is to get out of a continuing recessive mentality as to the rate of growth required in this country. It is quite clear that we will be able to proceed with the appropriate and correct allocation of resources only if there is an adequate rate of growth in the economy. A stagnant economy produces intolerable problems if resources are to be allocated correctly. Surely the French discovered that in the years leading up to World War II. The difficulty of re-allocating resources in a period of slumpflation or stagnation or during stationary stages in the economy is too great for democratic governments to contemplate. This Bill, by dealing with the principle of bounties, deals with a principle which will enable Australia to see what it has to do in the years ahead.
I wish to mention one or two details of the Bill itself. The bounty involved is $125,000 in a full year. What is that worth? Five principal firms are involved. The two main ones are Sterling Machinery Pty Ltd, which is located in New South Wales, and Waldown Machine Tools Pty Ltd, which is located at Abbotsford in Victoria. They account for 90 per cent of the sales or the products of the industry. It is worthwhile mentioning in passing that having regard to their total number of employees- I do not know whether this includes the managerial staff- a subsidy of $2,500 per person per year is being made available to those firms. That is based on March 1978 figures. It is a significant amount and the House should take account of it. Obviously that amount of subsidy is necessary. But it is an amount about which the House has a right to know. If this assistance were to have been provided by the other mechanisms available- tariffs, quotas and a combination of the two- one would have to enter into a complicated series of calculations to try to unravel what would happen. I cannot help but feel that many firms, in making pleas for assistance, deliberately choose the most complex mechanisms so that the magnitude of the assistance required will not be known to the Australian taxpayer. It certainly would not be known to those industries receiving less than the average assistance in Australia. They are the ones which ultimately enable the resources to be transferred in order that the protection can be provided.
I conclude with the point on which I began. The principles involved in this Bill are important. They enable the correct allocation of resources to occur. They will enable it to occur when a significantly higher rate of economic growth is achieved in Australia. The nature of the thinking involved in this Bill, in the proposals it makes, and in the IAC report deserves to be applauded by the House both for its sense and for its balance.
– in reply-I thank the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) for their very strong support for the Bounty (Drilling Machines) Bill 1978. Perhaps I might be permitted also to compliment them on their contributions to the debate. They have obviously given a great deal of thought to this measure which, although it is a relatively small one, is nevertheless very important when one considers the total benefit it provides to industry and, through industry, to employment.
The honourable member for Adelaide asked me during his speech at the second reading stage to indicate in my reply the status of the long term inquiry of the Industries Assistance Commission into the metal working machine tool industry. I indicated during my second reading speech that the Commission’s draft report has been circulated among the industry and that interested parties are at present making representations to the Industries Assistance Commission. However, I am not able to indicate when the Government will receive the final report of the IAC. The measure which is currently before the House is, of course, a temporary one. It is intended that its provisions will continue to have effect until 30 June 1 979 or such earlier date as is fixed by proclamation. That, in effect, indicates quite clearly that as soon as the final report of the IAC is received and dealt with by the Government and a decision is taken that decision will supercede the short term assistance provided under this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fife) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 14 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 ‘.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, in common with all other members of the House of Representatives, I would be grateful if you would convey my congratulations to Mr Speaker on his election once again to his high office and the recognition from Her Majesty the Queen of his great service to Australia and his high office. Sir, I hope that you, as a Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees, would be gracious enough to accept from me my congratulations on your elevation to your high office. I express also my gratitude to your predecessor, the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). He has been a distinguished member of the House of Representatives for many years. He is thought of by everybody with great affection. He is known to be a man of compassion and a man who has rendered great service to this country.
I wish also to pay some compliment to the former honourable member for Herbert who retired from this House after having been a member of five Parliaments from 1966. Major Bonnett, who is better known in the House of Representatives and in Australia as Duke Bonnett, is a man who came to this House from the north of Queensland after a long and meritorious career in the Australian Army and who rendered in this House particular service on behalf of ex-servicemen. He was Chairman of the ex-servicemen’s committee of the Government parties and was well and favourably known to all members of the House for the great work he did on a number of committees, particularly the
Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation- the Jess Committeewhich looked into the defence forces retirement benefits scheme as it applied in the years before 1972. We will miss his presence in this Parliament for, as an honourable gentleman and a man interested in the welfare of his fellow Australians, he was certainly without peer in this place.
I shall make some comments now about the political climate that was revealed by the remarkable result of the Federal elections held on 10 December 1977. It is my privilege to be in my ninth Parliament. It is a long time in which people can consider -
– Not with the short parliaments we have been having, Bruce.
– I can appreciate the comment from my learned and compassionate friend, the honourable member for Scullin. Nevertheless, I feel I must make some comment about these circumstances because, by comparison, the results of general elections from 1949 onwards almost pale into insignificance. The truth of the matter is that when my friend the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam) led his party to victory in 1972, references were made in the fourth estate to what was called a ‘landslide’ on behalf of the Labor Party. If I remember correctly, the Labor Party has a majority of nine seats over the coalition parties led by Sir William McMahon.
But the 1975 and 1977 general election results were without parallel in the political history of this country. Try as members of the Opposition might to ignore the facts, there can be no doubt at all that the magnificent tribute to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in that result cannot possibly be ignored. The result was unprecedented in the history of political results involving the House of Representatives. It represented a total rejection of the Labor Party and the policies of that Party, a total rejection by the Australian community of policies which were profligate policies based upon the theory that government expenditure could be virtually unlimited. They were policies designed to put the Commonwealth Government into the position of being the most benevolent of employers. The then Prime Minister- I was here at the time so I can well recall what he said- put it this way: ‘ We shall lead the way so that conditions of service in the Commonwealth Public Service will be the best conditions of service in employment in Australia.
At first glance, these opinions appear to be acceptable. It is only when they are translated into action that one realises the damage they create in the Austraiian economy. The fact of the matter is this: Foreign policies were rejected by the Australian people, foreign policies that were designed to lead Australia out of alignment with the United States of America, with the United Kingdom and with our allies of more than half a century. There is no doubt about this. Those of use who were here at that time will recall the most unfortunate, the most vulgar and offensive remarks made by Ministers of the Labor Government visiting the United Kingdom and the United States of America. There was the rejection by the Australian people of illconsidered and irresponsible decisions like the 25 per cent tariff cut across-the-board. If there was one action by the Labor Government which was more characteristic of lack of understanding and experience in the business world, and if there was one action which in fact did more harm to the Australian economy in such rapid time, I have yet to know what it was. It was a tragic decision.
Then there was the rejection by the Australian people of the technique of government which permitted the attempted borrowing of $4,000m for 20 years under the title of a ‘temporary loan’. Statements have been made in the House of Representatives which have led us to the conclusion that such an act by the Executive ought to be challenged in its basic integrity. But I do not do that. I simply say this: If the people of Australia elect a government, then that government, acting as it sees the best interests of Australia, should have the right to act in such a manner. But eventually, having called the tune, it must pay the piper’s bill- and it was in December of 1975 that that bill was paid.
I turn now to the Governor-General’s Speech. I wish to make reference to several comments made by the Governor-General relating to the Government’s policy on unemployment, in particular as it applies to young people. The Governor-General said this:
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.
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.
Here is a demonstration both of the interest of the Government and, as I shall cite later, a complementary interest of private enterprise. I shall read to the House a statement made by my friend, Mr Noel Mason, the Executive Director of the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales. I think it is interesting comment for the House to consider in relation to this important matter involving the unemployment of young people, to which reference has been made in this House in recent weeks. Mr Mason said:
The Chamber is involved in a joint Federal and State Government task force which is examining ways of encouraging employers to take on more young people.
In fact the initiative in this was taken by the Chamber itself last October when we wrote to all of our 3,500 member companies asking them to employ young jobless people where possible, as a matter of social responsibility.
We are continuing to encourage our members to engage some of these young people. Even if each company could take on only one it would provide several thousand jobs.
Certainly it would be an investment in Australia’s future. We are a little too inclined to look at investment in material terms, such as investment in our coal and mineral resources. Of course our greatest assets are people, and we will need many trained and skilled young people in the work-force as business conditions improve.
The time to start training is right now.
Although the problem of the young unemployed is serious, we should not overlook the fact that a high proportion of all people between 16 and 20 are in jobs and making a useful contribution to the country ‘s future prosperity.
When looking at the unemployment situation we should not ignore the good work that they are doing.
The social problem lies with the others, many of whom ate out of work not only because of difficult times but because of discouragement, personal apathy, or because they have not been properly prepared by their schools or their families to go about the business of seeking employment.
There is at least as much preparation needed for a job interview as for a football match.
I believe that those comments which I have just read were worthy of being presented to the House because, to me, they are a manifestation of the self-interest that can be demonstrated in private enterprise. Private enterprise organisations have a total involvement in the prosperity of the Austraiian economy. I am not at all so sure that this can be said of socialist government enterprises in quite the same way.
I move on very briefly to the subject of growth and development which is referred to in the Governor-General ‘s Speech:
Encouragement of the North-West Shelf development and other natural resources projects will continue. Legislation will be introduced for a tax rebate scheme for shareholders subscribing funds for off-shore petroleum development and exploration.
A question must arise about limiting the scheme to the off-shore areas. Why do we not include onshore areas? Prior to 1954, for many years, onethird of the funds so subscribed were deductible for income tax purposes. In later years all such funds were deductible but then the Labor Government abolished all incentives. Apparently the Labor Party really did not want small
Australian companies to participate in the exploration industry. In the tragic period between 1972 and 1975 we witnessed the rapid destruction of the infrastructure of the Australian industry which was so slowly created and constructed between 1954 and 1972. Of course, major international companies were here in Australia and their contribution has been of enormous significance within the Australian industries dealing with the mining of all minerals and the exploration for deposits of oil and natural gas. I simply do not understand why the Labor Party should adopt such an attitude, unless it is wholly due to the Connor policies which were aimed at government ownership, direction and control of all the assets to which I have referred in this part of my speech. The mania of the doctrinaire socialist to destroy free, private enterprise is a sad mental malaise, and from 1972 to 1975 it was responsible for causing great harm in the Australian economy and nobody can deny that. In view of some of the comments about Premiers that were made this afternoon, I feel that those comments are fair and reasonable.
In the last few minutes available to me in this debate I want to make some comments about defence policy and the problem of surveillance. The Australian Government faces this problem and the essence of the problem is finance. The task in Australia is enormous. The cost of the task, in its entirety, should not be charged against the Defence vote, in my judgment. We should consider establishing a special surveillance corps or coastguard and study the United States experience in this field. It must be admitted that this will be a very expensive project and possibly the total expense is beyond the Australian people in terms of priorities in considering all the other significant calls upon the public purse. There is no doubt that recent events should have convinced Australians that surveillance has become a very significant political matter. There is no doubt that we will have to concentrate on this area in the future and that it will be a highly expensive concentration.
I reject the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). To me it seems extraordinary that the honourable member should move such an amendment which refers to a failure to deal adequately with record levels of unemployment because he and his Party made the greatest possible contribution to the development of those levels of unemployment. The amendment also refers to a failure to stimulate productive output, yet the honourable member sat in this House and heard his own leaders talking about the time having arrived in 1973 for a transfer of assets from the private sector to the public sector of the economy. He watched and heard those same people over a period of several years say in this House and elsewhere that one man’s increase in pay was another man’s job, and that it was not possible for the economy to be maintained in a viable state if the unions were to follow the policies that they were pursuing while the Labor Government was in office. In those circumstances the putting forward of an amendment of this description makes one wonder whether the Labor Party can be taken seriously at all.
The amendment also states that the Labor Party believes that the Government has ignored the serious recession in the international economy. The Government is conscious all the time of what is happening in the international economy. In those countries where we have to penetrate markets if we are going to sell our goods- we must look to our own capacity to produce goods for sale on those markets- we must have, as we do at the present time, continuous dialogue with the countries and prevail upon them to recognise what can be described only as the need for a fair and just deal for Australia. We have provided immediate and long term guidelines for industry because industry must be aware of the fact that rising costs are its most serious problem. One would hope that a rational appreciation by the trade union movement of Australia’s economic problems will lead to the adoption of sensible policies. I oppose this amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand. I support the motion which has been moved on behalf of the Government.
-I support the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). In order that the House can fully understand the amendment I will read the major points of it. The amendment indicates that the Government’s legislative program as outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech fails to deal adequately with record levels of unemployment; 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 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. Each of these points clearly is correct, and can be seen by anyone who cares to read the Governor-General ‘s Speech.
The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) made an interesting speech. At one stage in his speech he extolled the virtues of free enterprise and claimed that we have a free enterprise government. But at another stage in his speech he made it quite clear that under no circumstances did he support free enterprise or free competition, which is supposed to be the basis of free enterprise. In fact, his speech indicated that the greatest failing of the socialist government, as he called it, was that it took action to reduce the limitations placed on free enterprise within Australia. I will not argue about providing protection to industries one way or the other, but the honourable member cannot have it both ways. If he says that he is a supporter of free enterprise he has to support free enterprise. If in fact he is a supporter of private capital socialism, I think he ought to say so. In fact, this Government is not a free enterprise government, and any other government which is likely to take office in Australia- be it a National Country Party government or a Liberal Party government- will not be a free enterprise government.
The facts on unemployment are that the level of unemployment has consistently risen since this Government came into office and it will continue to rise unless the Government takes other policy initiatives which are designed to stimulate the economy and bring about a restoration of the sort of confidence which would enable employment opportunities to develop. That will not be easy; it may well by now be impossible. A continuation of the present stagnation policies will bring about a situation in which the level of unemployment must continue to rise. If anyone wants to stop inflation, that is very easy. One just stops all forms of money flow and all forms of commercial activity and closes down the nation totally. In that way one will have no inflation; make no mistakes about that. One will have chaos and ruin. One will have no industry and no employment, but one will certainly have got rid of inflation. At the moment the direction of government policy is to close down everything in the name of restricting inflation.
We have heard in this House from the Government for two years now and for 12 months before that when it was in Opposition that one of the reasons for the substantial rate of inflation is deficit budgeting. The Government makes a virtue of blaming deficit budgeting. When in Opposition members opposite were not in any way averse to increasing the government deficit by $800m when they rejected the initial levy to pay for the Medibank scheme. They voted against it in the Senate and in this House. The deficit was added to by $800m by the gentlemen who now sit on the Treasury benches. They now talk about the evils of large deficits.
The Japanese economy, which I think most members opposite would suggest has a lower rate of inflation now than we have, last year had a 32 per cent deficit. That Government was proposing to increase its deficit in order to stimulate the Japanese economy. If that occurred in Australia-
– Thirty-two per cent of what?
-Thirty two per cent of the Japanese Budget was being financed by private banks. The deficit of expenditure over revenue was 32 per cent. The amendment sets out quite clearly the shortcomings of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I will deal with one other matter. We hear almost daily about a return to parliamentary integrity, about the need for parliamentary integrity and the needs of the institution of Parliament. In this debate a few moments ago the honourable member for North Sydney dealt with the need for a surveillance force. I took him to say that we ought to establish a coastguard service to defend northern Australia. At this stage I do not want to debate that matter. I think this Parliament ought to debate what sort of defence and surveillance forces we should have and how they should be manned and financed. I think it is a province of the Parliament. I do not think it is something that should be tucked away in a back room where a number of departmental officers with axes to grind and seeking to gain favour for some later project by agreeing with someone else and playing tradeoffsthat is what this is all about- should make a decision which has severe implications for the budgetary, defence and national sovereignty policies of this country. It is a matter about which members of Parliament ought to be at least consulted and given the opportunity to discuss and investigate fully.
The honourable member for North Sydney suggested that we ought to examine the situation relating to the United States Coastguard. I cannot imagine anything less relevant to the Australian situation than the United States coastguard. It has 35,000 men. America’s coastline is about the same size as ours. The United States Coastguard has 272 large ships, including 23 of over 3,000 tons. The figure of 272 most likely exceeds the number of ships in our Navy. It also has several hundred aircraft, small boats, helicopters and other forms of equipment. The US
Coastguard is not relevant to the Australian situation. We do not have the funds to provide those facilities for our defence forces, let alone a subsidiary coastguard force. We ought to be looking at how we can carry out surveillance of the Australian coast within the finances that are available. We should ensure that the best use is made of those facilities, capacities and skills which are available within Australia and which are within our capacity to employ. We cannot have everything we want, as much as we would like it.
We must have what we can afford and what will serve the purpose of surveillance and maintenance of our territorial integrity. I do not think it can be done by a separate force. I believe all that would happen is that two forces would be bidding against one another for the same facilities. It would be far better to maintain the existing type of arrangement or adopt a new arrangement whereby the defence forces carry out the actual physical duties on an agency or similar basis. I know how the defence forces treat incursions into their budgets. It is up to the Government to make sure that the incursions do not occur. I do not think it is a defence to put up spurious arguments about incapacity when the capacity exists and, I think, the responsibility exists. I think the defence forces should be engaged in shooting wars and should have a direct responsibag to protect the sovereignty and integrity of Australia and its territorial areas.
I started to mention the integrity of Parliament I think the integrity of Parliament means not adopting slogans but guaranteeing its own integrity by its actions. We must give serious consideration to matters which come before us. We must make serious attempts to put forward what are the right policies or what are seen to be the right policies, not what are seen to be things which will be momentarily popular in the electorate. I refer honourable members to Edmund Burke’s speech to the electors of Bristol in which he told his constituents quite clearly that he was not their agent but that he was their representative; they elected him to use his judgment on their behalf, not to do what they thought was popular at any given time.
There is one other thing that I think seriously impinges upon the parliament, but not necessarily this Parliament. Those honourable members who have been following the events in Victoria will know that Sir Gregory Gowans yesterday presented a report to the Victorian Parliament on what has been known as the lands affair. The report casts some doubts on the judgment of a Minister. It said that there was no negligence on the part of any Minister. I accept the report. I will not challenge its validity. The Parliament and Ministers in Parliament suffer because of the nature of that report. No one accepts responsibility for millions of dollars of taxpayers money being squandered, misappropriated and misused in Victoria. That is a reflection on the parliamentary system. Someone is responsible. Although no wrong is committed a Minister is still responsible for the actions of his department.
Let me talk about another matter which occurred in the Victorian Parliament not very long ago. A man was elected to the Victorian Legislative Council. The same man will either this year or next year be elected without challenge to the Victorian Legislative Assembly.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! I remind the honourable member for Corio that he is speaking to the amendment which has been moved to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. He is covering a wide range of subjects. I have allowed him a lot of latitude. I think he should come back to the amendment before the Chair.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I am dealing with the sixth paragraph of the amendment which suggests that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech has failed to provide firm guarantees to protect the civil liberties of the Australian people. Surely, the Parliament must be one of the instruments by which civil liberties ought to be protected.
-I think that the honourable member, as a former Speaker of this House, knows that he has gone fairly wide of the mark. I have given him a lot of latitude because of his past position. I hope he will now come back to the amendment which is before the Chair.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I will not challenge your ruling, but I find it hard to talk about civil liberties without referring to parliaments. I think they are the bastions and the guardians of civil liberties. If you say they are not, I accept your ruling.
-Order! I did not say that parliaments were not the bastions of civil liberties.
– You said that I could not refer to them while talking to the amendment.
-Order! The honourable member has misrepresented what I was saying. I did not say that.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, in the time I have left and as I cannot refer to the matter to which I intended to refer- I will do so at some other stage- I draw attention to the first paragraph of this amendment which states that the Government’s legislative program fails to deal adequately with the record levels of unemployment, Unemployment is increasing in Australia although we will have a second set of figures which are designed to show a lower level than the other set of figures. There will be a comparison between like sets of figures. We have had such tactics from this Government previously. We remember that the seasonally adjusted figures were dropped from the program when they became embarrassing. We are now to have a third incursion in order to confuse the situation. In my electorate and in the electorates of most honourable members who represent provincial areas there are serious problems concerning young people seeking employment, especially young people who have recently left school. The Government is restricting entry into those areas of employment where they could be accommodated and where there is need in the community.
Recently one of the municipal libraries in my electorate offered a job for an assistant in the library and 180 girls applied for that position. There were 180 applicants for one position. It was not a terribly well paid position but it was a job. We hear too regularly that young people do not want jobs. We hear them abused by every possible means. Recently in my electorate a person was struck off the unemployment benefit list because he was not home when an inspector called; he was out looking for a job. A crime is being made of seeking employment. Unemployed people have to stay home in case they are visited. That person had his unemployment benefit entitlement restored, make no mistake about it, but it takes from three to six weeks of living without money to get one’s entitlement restored on appeal. That is a punishment for no wrong. If that person had been home doing nothing and not seeking a job but was putting in his forms in the normal manner he would not have been struck off the list.
Unfortunately, large numbers of young people have been out of work too long and have been forced to Front up to the same employers seeking work too often. They must suffer mental and physical anguish every time they ask the same people for the jobs they know they are not going to get. Because they have been around so often their chances are diminished when a job is available. People become used to them being unemployed and they become classified in that way. I support the amendment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The House is engaged in the dying hours of debating the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech in anticipation of its presentation to the GovernorGeneral tomorrow. The debate does little more than reflect the great disparity of view that exists between the two sides of politics in this House. It is inevitable that the Address-in-Reply should have attracted an amendment from the Opposition, which emphasises again the lack of commonality of view and the continuing concern that Australian people cannot come to some accord on the requirements necessary to re-establish our nation on a sound footing. I am inclined to say that the solution to out dilemma probably lies somewhere between the divergent views. It is an inevitable requirement of overcoming our present dilemma that there should be some common understanding among Australians as to the nature of our dilemma and the formula that might lead us into the more prosperous times that Australia might freely regard as its entitlement, being a land that is so bountifully served by national resources.
It is absurd for the Opposition, with all due respect, to argue that wage levels and standards of living can be maintained with total disregard to the overall economic situation, just as it is folly on the part of private enterprise to believe that that term should be construed as a licence to rape, pillage and exploit as distinct from a situation in which people will be fairly rewarded for initiative, enterprise, energy and risk. As a nation, as a people, we have to accept the fact that we are required to live within our means. It is true, as I am convinced can be proved by the record, that we have for some considerable time within the total political spectrum embarked further and further into a fool’s paradise. Australia, as a trading nation, is required to meet the market conditions prevailing in the trading world. We have increasingly priced ourselves out of that market. We have lost competitiveness and we have been required virtually to retreat from the exposed position in which we found ourselves to another position where we can consolidate and advance again. We are precariously exposed under enemy fire- if I may speak in analogous terms- and it is prudent that we should withdraw- not retreat- consolidate and advance again.
If the work force persists in the folly that improved wage and award conditions are preeminent it does so in ignorance of the fact that the best job conditions on earth are worthless if one does not have a job. Jobs can be made available through only two sources- through a vibrant and vital private enterprise system or through a socialist edifice which creates jobs without necessarily having regard for economic viability. We are faced with the fundamental choice of opting for one of two types of society. Whilst I would not advance either of them as representing near perfection I suggest that the record, consistent with the Australian character, would show the advantages to the average Australian to be most predominantly on the side of the free enterprise system.
I wish tonight to make some reference to the Governor-General’s Speech. In it he said:
Emphasis will be given to assisting Aboriginals to become more self-sufficient and acquire the skills to manage their own affairs.
New initiatives will be undertaken concerning Aboriginal health, alcohol abuse and juvenile welfare, and the Government looks forward to the fullest consultation with the National Aboriginal Conference and the Council for Aboriginal Development on these and all other issues affecting Aboriginals.
I have quoted that section of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech because for some time I have been sorely troubled by a domestic problem in the city of Maryborough, which is within the electorate of Wide Bay. A number of my constituents have had less than their due by being circumstantially the victims of a national conscience. I shall trace the background to this situation. It came to my attention some two and a half years ago- in about September 1975- when I returned to my electorate from Parliament on a Friday. All honourable members would be painfully familiar with what is involved in that regard. On taking a position in my electorate office to conduct interviews, I had three or four Aboriginal people, male and female, attend my office. Uncharacteristically, it was a wet and miserable day in Maryborough, Queensland. These people had been living on the bank of the Mary River. They were Aborigines and were for all practical purposes destitute, without shelter and without future. They sat on the other side of my desk. They had a problem that would not go away. It demanded the maximum of my attention. For two hours they sat there with plaintive expressions, probably suggesting a greater competence on my part to help them than was consistent with the truth of the matter. I felt bound to do what I could do.
Happily I was aware that it was the intention of the Federal Government of the day to fund the acquisition of some houses in Maryborough in which these people might be accomodated. So my course of action was to endeavour to accelerate the funding of those houses so that these people might occupy them at the earliest possible time. It was not possible that afternoon to achieve that objective, but by dint of most impressive co-operation from citizens of Maryborough, particularly the trustees of the showground, we were able to take the people off the river bank and accommodate them in one of the buildings at the showground. The trustees consciously took some risk because, tragically, it is commonly known that whilst there are some impressive instances of Aboriginal assimilation there are many instances where the reverse is the case. Yet the trustees of the showground, on their individual judgment and without reference to those to whom they were responsible, exposed themselves and the property of the showground to the whim or the degree of responsibility of these people. In some few weeks they were accommodated in dwellings in Maryborough. That was in 1975.
The white neighbours in the immediate vicinity understandably were mildly apprehensive. But I say without any reservations whatsoever that the ambition of the neighbours of these newly settled Aboriginal people was laudable. They felt that it was their responsibility as Australian citizens to try to facilitate the assimilation of those Aboriginal people. They tried very hard. But the tragic fact of the matter is that for two and a half years the neighbours of the Aboriginal families in Sussex and Alice Streets, Maryborough, have been subjected to an experience that is grossly unfair. They have, in effect, borne the national guilt.
The nation has accepted, through both the present Government and the former Labor Government, that the Aborigine has been less than fairly treated and there is almost an excess of zeal in repairing the deficiencies and making amends. Whilst that enthusiasm is to be applauded, it is regrettable that this mass enthusiasm should be concentrated on a few Australians who are left to bear the burden of the national guilt. The tragedy of it is that, with $44,650 being made available in September 1975 to purchase three houses in that year, it could have worked well, but for two and a half years there has been an unending series of disruptive and disorderly incidents. I have approached the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) on a number of occasions. I have spoken to the Department on countless occasions. The stock answer is that these Aboriginal people are Australian citizens, they are residents of Maryborough and they are answerable to the laws, the ordinances and the norms, just as any other citizen might be. At first blush that seems to be a perfectly reasonable proposition, but it presupposes that those conditions will contain the position. That is not so.
The Minister says: ‘If there is disorderly behaviour, contact the police; if there is a health or congestion situation, contact the health officer’. All these things have been done to a point of absolute tedium. The police are tired of coming out. It is a situation of startling frequency, night after night, quite often. I have stood in neighbouring houses and listened for 15 or 20 minutes to the vile language and the disorderly, almost riotous, behaviour. I grieve for the small Aboriginal children with their beautiful, wide, innocent, brown eyes, knowing that they are growing up in an environment such as that. I have seen Aborigines themselves leaving the house to ring the police. This goes on time after time after time.
In a number of cases the neighbours are railway workers. They are required to take trains to Gladstone or some other considerable distance. They have to leave their homes, their wives and their children in a situation which is mildly explosive. The language is obscene. There is a latent threat in terms of human behaviour. Yet the Government says: ‘We can do nothing about it. We have entered into this arrangement. We have shut off the escape route. The Aborigines own the properties. They are required to eject people or to discipline themselves. Maybe that is a good idea if people within that group will discipline themselves, but it is difficult to identify who must be disciplined. There could be 1 8, 20 or 25 people in the house. They come and go. One is sympathetic to their particular problem. They have tribal or racial characteristics that make that sort of behaviour the norm.
But we cannot blind ourselves to the fact that some Austraiian citizens of Maryborough are now in a situation in which the values of their properties have been eroded, if not destroyed. They cannot be disposed of; they cannot be sold. These people live under the continuing irritation of a sense of threat. They are concerned for their families because of the violence, the disorderliness and all the other characteristics that turn an otherwise tranquil urban situation into one of high trauma. I mentioned earlier the excess of zeal under which we have expended hundreds of millions of dollars and yet have created a situation that not only transfers the national guilt to a few people but also undermines the prospect for assimilating the Aborigine because an inevitable consequence of this situation must be that if it were suggested that further homes be purchased in Maryborough, or the Maryboroughs of Australia, it would arouse an absolute storm of protest. So, this evening in this Address-in-Reply debate I speak for those people in Maryborough, Queensland, and for those people throughout our land who might be similarly situated and who are bearing the national guilt. I appeal to all those people who might have some contribution to make to remedying this situation to apply themselves with earnestness and diligence because presently it exists as a cancer in our society, harmful to those people who are innocent victims of it. It is certainly counter-productive to the ambitions for the advancement of the Aboriginal people.
In the few minutes remaining to me I would like to say that, whilst the Governor-General in his Speech felt free to state that Australians now look to the future with new found confidence, that confidence must be conditional. Whilst our nation’s prospects are limitless and by working together Australians can overcome the great challenges of unemployment and inflation and restore our nation’s economy to full vitality, it must be accepted that that state can be achieved only if we are realistic and meet the conditions of the market place. It is quite legitimate and proper for the work force to exploit the market place in terms of value for its labour and skills. It does not seem to me to be illogical that the work force is required to retreat within the market place if values diminish. Values must diminish if we price ourselves out of markets and destroy job opportunities.
I had the opportunity to visit Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore as a member of a parliamentary delegation. I was both impressed and concerned to see the extent of the off-shore establishment of Austraiian industries and to know that in fact that costs Australian jobs at home. On economic grounds those industries could not pursue their activities in Australia because it would be uneconomic. So we have exported those jobs. It must stand to reason that if we export jobs we reduce the prospects for Australian workers. Within the parameters of responsibility and proprietary, the work force must accept the fact that its labour and skills are worth only what the market will bring, and what the market can pay is conditioned by the trading arrangements and prospects that prevail. Conversely, private enterprise cannot expect to maintain or to maximise profits in a similar market situation. We have to be realistic enough to realise that all the theories and all the philosophies that are put forward will not feed people. We are born into a world in which we are not exempted from the requirement to toil and labour for our daily needs.
In the pursuit of that objective one can only hope that everybody involved will derive a fanshare of the national bounty. A ‘fair share ‘ is not to be confused with an equal share which pays no regard whatsoever to variations in energy, initiative and all those other qualities that distinguish one person from another. I put aside those people who are denied exploitation of opportunity by some misfortune which has left them physically or mentally handicapped. Whilst the Government quite admirably adheres to its resolve that inflation must first be arrested, we cannot ignore the fact that there is small reward in taking inflation completely under control if in the process we all wither on the vine. It would be a pyrrhic victory indeed. Certainly unless inflation is contained there is no prospect for us all. It requires a continuing balance between the requirements and the needs of all sectors of the community.
It is a folly indeed if the Australian people believe that they can persist in this extravagant style of living in what over recent years has become nothing more than a fool’s paradise. Australia has sufficient potential bounty to allow more than a fair reward to all Australians, more than the present population, but we must keep our feet on the ground and recognise that there must be incentive for people to work. There must be a fair reward for their endeavours. Unless we can bridge this gulf between the two philosophies and accept that the truth lies between the two poles, we can only stumble on into a future devoid of the light of optimism and hope.
-I rise to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) to the motion to adopt the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. I refer, in part, to section (5) of that amendment which states that this Speech: fails to provide immediate and long-term guidelines for industry . . .
I want to take a little time to mention the problems that the current water shortage in Perth is creating for industry, amongst other things. In metropolitan Perth we have experienced a drought which has now spanned two years. This has led to very serious problems with regard to the supply of water for the people of the metropolitan area. Not only has it put the citizens of Perth to great inconvenience; it has also raised very clearly the questions of Perth’s water needs and its capacity to supply those needs. I suppose I would normally be content to leave the matter of the development of Perth’s water supply to the Western Australian Government. It is clearly a State responsibility to provide water supplies for a major capital city but in this instance I think this problem has clear national implications.
We must recognise that it is the provision of adequate water supplies in Penh which largely will determine the rate of growth and the extent of economic development for the whole of Western Australia, particularly at this time when Western Australia and, perhaps, Queensland are providing a great impetus to the Australian economy as a whole. If there is a problem with the development of the Western Australian economy, this will also affect the economy of Australia as a whole. It is particularly important at this time that we take into account the fortunes of the Western Australian economy as they affect the nation as a whole. For instance, there has been some talk over many years now about the possibility, of establishing a jumbo steel mill somewhere in Australia. It has been considered, at least by the Premier of Western Australia, that the proper place for any jumbo steel mill is Western Australia. He takes the view that the major part of our available uncommitted local supplies of iron ore are in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and, therefore, any steel mill ought to be close to those supplies. The contrary argument has been put forward that because the main coal supplies which would be needed in any steel mill come from the eastern seaboard, the steel mill should perhaps be located there. There were the questions firstly of whether we should have a jumbo steel mill and, secondly, where it should be located if there is to be a steel mill. The point I want to make is that if Australia is to have a jumbo steel mill, whether or not it is located in Western Australia will be determined largely by the availability of water in that State. As all honourable members know, a steel mill is a massive consumer of fresh water.
Without the problem of the extra complication of a steel mill, let us examine for a moment the likely growth in the consumption of water in Perth to the turn of the century. In 1972 the consumption of water in Perth was 155 million cubic metres. It has been estimated that by the turn of the century it will be something of the order of 619 million cubic metres. This will mean a substantial growth of approximately 460 million cubic metres to be met in that time. That is a very great amount. It is approximately three times the current consumption of water and must be found within slightly more than 20 years. If we consider no other problem in terms of industrial development in Western Australia we must at least cope with that particular problem. It must surely emphasise the problem of trying to create any further burden for the water supply in metropolitan Perth.
-Order! I have been in the Chair for three minutes and in that time I have not heard the honourable member for Fremantle tie in his remarks to the amendment which has been moved to the motion. The honourable member has 1 5 minutes to talk to the amendment. I would be very interested to hear the honourable member tie in his remarks to the amendment which has been moved.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, as I said in the first instance, the Opposition’s amendment shows that the Governor-General’s Speech fails to provide immediate and long term guidelines for industry. One of the long term guidelines which needs to be given to industry, particularly in metropolitan Perth, is the guarantee of a secure water supply from now at least until the turn of the century. I think there is a very clear connection between my remarks and the excellent amendment moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand. As well as the problem of future industrial development there could also be some constraints placed on the development of the mining industry close to Perth. Honourable members will be aware that a very large part of the catchment area which provides Perth’s water supply is leased to mining companies anxious to mine the bauxite deposits contained there. Whether or not those companies can continue or expand their bauxite mining operations will depend very largely on the impact of those activities on Perth’s water supply. At the moment approximately 80 per cent of Perth’s water supply comes form those catchment areas.
Very recently the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation estimated that if the bauxite development goes as planned, sometime after the turn of the century there will be an increase in the salinity in the South Dandalup dam from the current level of 184 milligrams of salt per litre to something like 270 milligrams of salt per litre. That is a very substantial increase and whilst it is below the recognised international standards for consumable water, it limits the options open to the Metropolitan Water Board in terms of using that very pure water for the purposes of diluting other less pure water from other sources. So we can see that the expansion of bauxite mining in the Darling Scarp will have an impact on Perth’s water supply. As all honourable members would, I think, acknowledge the interests of the population of Perth come before the interests of the bauxite miners. Therefore, if the water supply is at risk, constraints will have to be placed on the activities of those bauxite miners.
Even if we have unlimited access to the current catchment area there is still a very great shortfall to be made up in terms of the production of fresh water from now until the turn of the century. One extra source of water is the underground water supply. It is intended that within the next few years, at least until the turn of the century, approximately 90 million cubic metres of the 450 million cubic metres which is required before the year 2000 will be taken from underground supplies. It is to that point that I want to devote a small amount of attention because it raises national implications about the seriousness of the Perth water supply problems. The point is that Australia is a signatory to an international convention for the preservation of wetlands of international importance. If it is likely that the exploitation of underground water supplies will affect those wetlands it is clearly a problem which should exercise the mind of everybody in this House.
The result of taking out massive amounts of underground water is that it is likely to lead to a lowering of the water table. This fact is generally accepted- but it is not yet clear to what extent this will occur. The Metropolitan Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Board in Perth is prepared to admit that a reduction of half a metre has occurred in the last two years. However, it is anticipated that the extraction at that site where that measurement was observed will double in the next few years. So one really has no idea of the extent to which the water table is likely to be lowered. As well we know that there has been a great increase in the extraction of underground water supplies by private consumers, and the effect of that is similarly unknown.
Whilst we can only speculate on the extent to which the water table will be lowered, many scientists are prepared to predict dire consequences as a result of the permanent lowering of the water table. For instance, it will have serious consequences for the flora of the area. If the water table is lowered the existing species will be replaced by other species. As a contributor to a seminar held recently in Perth, Dr T. E. H. Aplin was moved to say:
Thus a judgment needs to be made, and made soon, as to whether the conservation of native vegetation, with its unique flora, together with the fauna, deserves a high status or not.
He was prepared to say that the lowering of the water table was likely to threaten the existence of the unique flora of the region. Turning to the fauna of the region, we find that it also is under substantial threat. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in an article published in January 1977, just over a year ago, was moved to say that as a result of pumping adjacent to the wetlands there will be a lowering or disappearance of those wetlands. The article went on to say:
Migratory birds, both from inland and overseas, depend upon these wetlands for their existence.
It is a very serious problem if, as a result of supplying water to Perth in this way, we threaten the habitat of both local birds and birds from overseas. Dr Riggert who carried out a survey in 1966 was able to say even at that time that nearly 50 per cent of all wetlands had been destroyed. If we are interested in maintaining the current water fowl populations it is necessary that we should preserve what is left of the wetlands on the coastal plains. The point is that the intention of the Western Australian State Government to provide for the shortfall in water supplies for metropolitan Perth involves at least the threatening of the wetlands to the north and south of the city of Perth. An important point for the Parliament to remember is that Australia is a signatory to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat. As a result of signing that Convention and that Convention coming into force this Government has the power to make regulations to give effect to the provisions of the Convention. Clause 1 of Article 4 of that Convention states:
Each Contracting Party shall promote the conservation of wetlands and waterfowl by establishing nature reserves on wetlands, whether they are included in the List or not, and provide adequately for their wardening
One of the problems in Australia in trying to give effect to that Convention is that the Commonwealth Government relies upon State governments to determine which wetlands in thenStates ought to be preserved in accordance with the Convention. It is high time that this Government decided to honour its international obligations and, regardless of the tardiness of the States, enforce the provisions of that Convention to which Australia is a signatory. A survey of wetlands was to be conducted throughout Australia but, unfortunately, through lack of financial support it has been either postponed or abandoned. It is very important that that survey should go ahead. If it is not carried out, this House should move to refer to the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation the question of the conservation and preservation of the wetlands of Western Australia.
-Before I call the honourable member for Cowper, I ask honourable members, if they are debating the amendment, to confine themselves to it. The honourable member for Fremantle most adroitly and very intelligently tied in his remarks as best he could but they were nevertheless tenuously linked with the amendment.
– I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech which His Excellency made at the opening of this Parliament. I refer particularly to the expressions of loyalty to the Sovereign and to the expressions of thanks to His Excellency for the address which he delivered to both Houses of Parliament. I extend congratulations to Mr Speaker and to the Chairman of Committees on their election to those offices. At the same time I pay tribute to the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) for the long and distinguished service which he gave as Chairman of Committees in this House. During that period many honourable members in this House now and many who are no longer in this House respected his capacity, admired his approach and followed many of the precepts and much of the advice which he offered as one who had occupied that office for a very long time and had come to know the Standing Orders, the procedures and the wisdom of an effective House of Representatives, which is always in the best interests of the nation. An effective House can come only through control of it by the Chair in a manner which upholds the dignity of the House, upholds the Standing Orders and preserves the traditions of the Parliament. I pay special tribute to the honourable member for Lyne for the great leadership that he has given in that direction.
The Address-in-Reply debate has presented an opportunity for many honourable members to make their maiden speeches and I congratulate all those honourable members who have acquitted themselves so well in that regard. Before I proceed to other references I pay tribute to two former members of my Party who are not in this Parliament. Mr Bob King, who was the member for the former division of Wimmera for so many years, was highly respected in this House for his contribution to the Parliament and highly respected throughout the nation as an expert in many fields of primary industry. He devoted himself to many matters which were debated in this chamber over the years that he served in it. I am sure that his loss to the Parliament is a loss to Australia. I also recall the excellent service given by Colonel Sullivan as the former member for Riverina during the period that he served in this House.
Election to this chamber is not a matter to be treated lightly. Because a very high tribute has been paid to a person who occupies a seat in this chamber, I believe that there is a responsibility on that person to make a contribution to supporting a worthwhile philosophy. The member belongs to a party, and that gives him a basic start in politics. It is then up to the member to show his calibre in the manner in which he contributes to the Parliament and in the manner in which he conducts himself in this chamber. We will observe with interest during this Parliament and possibly in later parliaments many honourable members whom we have heard speak in this debate. I am sure that the nation is richer for the decision of the electors on 10 December last and for the composition of this Parliament, and, in particular, the present composition of the House of Representatives. Since the Federal election an enormous amount of effort has been expended by the Government in preparing a record program of legislation covering economic issues, the drug problem and trade negotiations, which are so essential.
– We have yet to see it.
– The Government’s program also covers improvement in industrial relations, which is absolutely indispensable if we are to see an increase in productivity and the restoration of the economy in the interests of every citizen of this nation. It covers many other matters of the highest national priority. I listened to the honourable member who for approximately 15 minutes did not mention one word about his party’s amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
– I did, twice.
– He said that he did twice. He talked about some obscure matter and contributed very little for an honourable member who is here for his second term. Let me give him some advice. He would want to see his party increase its numbers in this chamber from the lowly number of 38 members. If I had suggested a few years ago that so few Labour members would be here people would have thought I was crazy.
– How many members has the Country Party?
-People would have found it very difficult to contemplate that the National Country Party would have half as many representatives in the Parliament as the Labor Party has. That is the situation today. If one looks at the total composition of the Parliament one finds that the socialists are down to that miserable number of 38, and we on this side of the House have the record numbers of 67 Liberals and 19 National Country Party members, a total of 86 Government members. That was an expression of the feeling of the people shown at the ballot box at a time when there was great criticism by the Australian Labor Party in so many directions. I think that the support accorded to that party equates with the real worth of the criticism its members offered in that election campaign. It is interesting to reflect that at the time of the election the media predictions were that the result would be close. We have seen how close it was. More importantly, however, is the decision of the electors in matters of principle, matters of policy and matters which they saw as being sound propositions put forward by the Government parties. Those sound propositions are the legislative program for this and subsequent sessions of the national Parliament as outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech at the opening of the Parliament.
Let me refer in particular to the recent national wage case hearings before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which were crucial to government policy and to the Government’s promises to the electors. In the most recent hearing the Government put forward the proposition for a reduction in the rate of inflation and for bringing down costs in a manner that would be effective in restoring growth and productivity. The low level of productivity, resulting in a low level of economic growth, is the root cause of our present high level of unemployment. The submissions which were put forward and the determination which was made were of the greatest significance. We find -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Giles)Order! I ask the honourable member to resume his seat. I do not wish to hear what the honourable member for Prospect is saying about money. I ask him to keep his voice down when he is talking to the Minister.
-We find once again that the philosophy of the socialist is to seek a higher proportion-
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Prospect once more to keep his voice down. I have no wish to hear what he is saying to the Minister. The job of the Chair is to listen to the honourable member for Cowper.
– The philosophy of the socialist is to seek a higher proportion of the cake in terms of the available resources. This was summed up very well recently by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) when he said that it should be acknowledged that unemployment was a matter of common concern in the community. He said that sustained progress could not be achieved in reducing unemployment until the distortion between real wages and productivity was removed so that employers could afford to take on more workers. That, I believe, sums up the present situation, and the Government’s policy is motivated in this direction. It will be reflected in the matters dealt with in this session of the Parliament.
Many matters relating to unemployment can engage all of us in debate and in effective work as parliamentarians. I am concerned that young people face great difficulty in presenting themselves for jobs that may be available and in equipping themselves with skills for those jobs. I am very concerned that there is a shortage of skilled workers in certain sections of industry and that, despite a level of unemployment of 7 per cent, the requirements of some sections of industry are still unable to be fulfilled. It is to the credit of the Metal Trades Industry Association that it has pinpointed the problem and has made suggestions regarding the kind of training that is necessary to overcome the very real imbalance between available trained workers and the numbers of people unemployed. These matters will engage the Government- particularly the members of the Government- during this session and during the Budget session. I hope that, as a consequence, there will be substantial changes in the way in which this problem is handled.
I believe that in many instances there is a very great need for specialist training and for counselling and social work to be undertaken. There is a need to recruit people specially trained in dealing with young people who have particular problems and who at the moment are not receiving the kind of help they need. They are in a dreadful dilemma. Many of them face the prospect of not being able to obtain unemployment benefit because of the present work test requirements. Yet if they are excluded they fall into a very difficult area in which there is not adequate provision for social worker assistance or advice on how to overcome their problems. Of course others are deliberately endeavouring to sustain themselves on unemployment benefit and are doing their utmost to dodge work. I have no sympathy whatever for those people. Many of them approach me in my electorate, and I have no compuction in advising them very precisely on how they should handle their problem. The advice I give is that they must at least show some real interest in seeking work and that they will never be of any use to themselves or to the rest of the community if they are slack and lax in that respect.
In the limited time available to me I want to refer to some matters of significance not only to my own electorate but also to the majority of the electorates throughout Australia. A very significant decision taken by the Government was the decision to remove estate duty. In recent weeks there has been some confusion as to where the Government actually stands in relation to that matter. I refer to a statement made by the Treasurer which I believe clears up the matter completely. The position currently is that the Government has announced that Federal estate and gift duties will be abolished. That is to be effective as from 21 November last. The first abolition of estate duty, which is on property passing to a widow, widower, children or parents of a deceased person, will apply to the estates of persons who died on or after 2 1 November last. Gifts made on or after 21 November last to a spouse, to children or to parents also will be exempt from gift duty.
The second stage of the promised abolition, which relates to all duties on estates of persons who died on or after 1 July 1979 and on gifts made on or after that date, also will be of very great significance to the Australians who have an interest and a desire in the field of private enterprise to sustain a business or to sustain a family enterprise of some kind which would otherwise face the strains and the dilemma of finding funds to keep it operative after a deathperhaps an unexpected death or that sort of thing. I believe that nothing can contribute more to confidence in the free enterprise system than the removal of that impost, which has caused so many people difficulty for so long.
In other fields, of course, it is a matter of trying to ensure the maintenance of the limited financial resources available in this economic climate in which we find ourselves. I refer to the consequences of the wild spending of the Labor Government from 1973 to 1975. 1 refer also to the wage escalations, and the cost increases which occurred and the consequent need to reduce the deficit, which is still very high and which impinges upon all of the plans and aspirations of those who want to see greater development at this time. While that is the situation, it is important to get right our priorities in terms of the expenditures that we are able to undertake.
One field which should be given support is that of local government. I wish to commend the action taken to increase further the proportion of revenue which will flow to local government. That action is designed particularly to help arrest costs and to even out the burden on the total community. When one hears the glib propositions so often expressed by the Opposition about the need to equalise wealth in this country, one feels a real despair about what would happen if it ever had the chance again to influence the economy of this country. When dealing with the matter of equalising wealth the question of priorities arises. I believe that the present Liberal-National Country Party Government has a far better assessment of what will achieve the balance. In other words, we need to preserve effective free enterprise but at the same time to remove all undue burdens from those sections of the community which need relief. If the Labor Government had followed that kind of philosophy at the beginning of 1973 it might still be occupying the Treasury bench. But because of its attitude of arbitrarily taking from one section to hand to another section it created a void in the economy with the consequence that it did not have the capacity to carry the extensive and lavish social welfare programs which were introduced. Nevertheless, we are able to hold our heads high and to show very clearly that we can sustain at least the levels of those essential social welfare programs which are indispensable in this period of high costs and at this time of uncertainty.
I conclude my remarks by referring briefly to the very great problems still confronting the rural community. I refer in particular to the problems facing particular sections of primary industrythe beef industry, the dairy industry, the sugar industry, and a number of others- which, because of the loss of overseas markets, the serious effect of high costs and the consequent low returns, are in a parlous state. The Government will continue its efforts to assist the people engaged in those industries. The beef producers in particular will be assisted by the subsidy scheme which is now in operation. Support will be provided for the dairy industry. I hope that stage 2 of the dairy industry marketing arrangements will be implemented at an early date. Consideration will be given to adjusting the domestic price of sugar. Many other matters need to receive urgent attention. Of course, the Government will be looking also at such matters as the national water resources program, which provides a means of providing assistance for water supply purposes and flood mitigation purposes and to many other essential projects throughout the nation. That program is to be underwritten to the extent of $200m over the next five years. It is anticipated that the States will co-operate and will also contribute to the program, which will be given effect to by the legislation which has already been introduced in this session of the Parliament.
The Australian scene is such that there is a great need to return to effective productivity and the restoration of economic growth and, as a consequence, to set aside the disaster area created by the Opposition during its period in government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I rise to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). Before I turn my attention to the amendment, I think that something needs to be said about the outrageous claims made by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson), who drew attention to the Opposition’s decimated numbers- its 38 members in the House. Let us look at the polling figures. No doubt they are well known in the chamber, but I think they are worth looking at anyhow. The Australian Labor Party polled 42 per cent of the vote and won 38 seats. The National Country Party, whose members want to crow about that Party’s great representation in the House, polled 10 per cent of the vote and won 18 seats. Expressing those percentages as numbers of people, 3,800,000 people voted for the Liberal-National Country Party coalition to give it 86 seats; 3, 170,000 people voted for the Labor Party to give it 38 seats. If that does not say a great volume about the voting system under which we operate, I do not know what does. In any case, I am very happy to be a representative of what honourable members opposite might consider to be a minority party but which in my mind happens to be the most honest and compassionate of all the political parties. I am very proud to be a representative of it.
I turn to the amendment. The unfortunate fact about the Governor-General’s Speech is the incompetence and the intransigence of the Fraser Government’s thinking on economic matters. The speech writers of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) placed into the mouth of the Governor-General these words:
My Government is determined to act as a government of the whole and not a government for the majority alone.
The utter hypocrisy of that claim is astounding, coming from the Party which has constantly imperilled the economic and political interests of this country. How can the man who almost destroyed the system of constitutional government in 1975, the man who so divided this country, claim to govern for the benefit of the whole of the people? Mr Geoffrey Fairbairn, a distinguished scholar and a conservative who is known to honourable members opposite, made some interesting comments in a letter he wrote recently to the Sydney Morning Herald. He said:
It is surely time that what has been elegantly described as the armpit of the southern hemisphere ‘ took stock of itself. If the present Prime Minister cannot recognise that something very squalid has taken place- if he remains impervious to the decencies and niceties of the constitutional democracy- then we are in for a very rough time indeed.
We are in for a very rough time indeed under this Government. Greed of party advantage has determined this Prime Minister’s strategy ever since he stabbed the previous leader of his party in the back. The Government was determined that there would be an early election in 1977 for one reason alone: It believed that it could win, and it feared the people’s verdict once the disastrous consequence of its economic strategy became apparent to all Australians.
Let us look at the appalling economic record of this Government. Unemployment is skyrocketing; the deficit will be the highest in Australia’s history; the exchange rate is in peril and business confidence has been destroyed. I bring to the notice of this House one important social statistic: 4,5 10 people are registered as unemployed in the Parramatta area in my electorate. No more devastating indictment can be brought against this incompetent Government than the reciting of this terrible fact.
– How many unemployed were there when your party left office?
-Half that number. Yet in keeping with the mentality of this Government, we now discover that the Government will be attempting to cover up the true situation about the level of unemployment. The unemployment figures for February have been suppressed, despite the fact that they have been known to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) for almost a week. The Government is too embarrassed to release these statistics, too embarrassed to hear the damning conclusion that must be reached about its economic strategy. The official reason for the delay in the publication of these unemployment statistics is that the estimates compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, based on random samples of households, are regarded as more accurate than the information provided by the Commonwealth Employment Service. But there is no reason why one set of figures should be regarded as so superior to the other. The reason behind this Government’s change of tune about the accuracy of unemployment statistics is that it believes that the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures will be lower than the Commonwealth Employment Service figures. It is as simple as that. No consideration is given to the proposition that estimates based on random samples are hardly the method by which to measure social facts accurately. No, the Government is punting on the ABS figures being lower than the CES figures, such is the rancid mentality of the cover-up exponents on the Government benches.
Almost daily in this House we have the odd spectacle of Government supporters espousing the wisdom of their lunatic theories of economic management and claiming a complete monopoly on sound business expertise and general intelligence. In fact, when one examines the policies of the Government, it is obvious that its policies are as shallow as the shallow men and women who formulate them. My good friend Senator James McClelland summed up the wishful strategy of the Government’s economic thinking when he said of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech:
The philosophy of the Speech was that in the fullness of time and with a little help from on high things will right themselves.
Fancy Australia in 1978 needing a little help from on high to put it in order. We have a Government that is paid to do that but it is making no inroads into the problems that it has created. Perhaps one should not expect too much from an administration that doggedly believes that the least government is the best government. But one should expect something better in terms of economic expertise and honesty from the men who represent this conservative philosophy. This Government’s standard excuse for the mishandling of the economy is that it was left with a mess created by its Labor predecessors. But the Labor Government was in office almost three years ago.
This is this Government’s second term in office and it is still blaming us.
Government supporters accuse us of having the hide to enter into a debate about the economy. Talking about hide, what about the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume), with all the impertinence and front in the world, becoming a spokesman for the Government on the economy. Fresh from his disastrous sorties into the world of big business, he comes here as a failed entrepreneur in his own right, freely giving us the value of his business wisdom. Even if free, his advice is excessively priced. What arrogance that one of the architects of the Patrick Partners debacle should be parading himself in this House as an economic expert. With such intelligence at the helm, no wonder the ship of State is foundering.
Of course there was a time when the Prime Minister, when in Opposition, had as one of his economic advisers a certain Keith Compton Gale. This gentleman managed to get his fingers caught in the till while steering his company, Gollin Holdings Ltd, into one of the biggest company crashes in Australia’s history. But strangely, the one person who seemed capable of making a profit on his own behalf- the exTreasurer, the now Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch)- was sacked. Apparently the capacity for some business skills is no criterion for advancement in this Government’s financial think-tank. In fact I read in the newspaper the other day that the present Treasurer (Mr Howard) failed mathematics in his Leaving. I think that is probably a fairly good criterion for advancement to Treasurer.
The Government’s decision not to proceed with the building of the proposed community centre in Parramatta is in line with the type of financial thinking I have just mentioned. The facts are that this proposed project could not be argued against on an economic basis. The All Party Committee of 1975, chaired by my learned friend the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), came up with some startling facts. The cost of the tower to house 4,500 public servants in 1975 would have been approximately $36. 5m. The saving by leasing accommodation for those people would be nearly $3m annually. This $3m saving compounded at 9Vi per cent interest would have amortised the cost of the building over 10 years. In 1975, the cost of housing in Sydney alone for the Commonwealth Public Service was around $13m, almost all of this being for space privately leased.
Surely the Parramatta project would have been a step in the right direction towards halting this ridiculous contribution to private developers, the Mainlines et cetera of this country. Never will the Government get a better chance than this to show some sound understanding of good business principles. Yet because of the Government’s paranoia about a 10 per cent deficit, it refuses to go on with something that could not be argued against on any financial basis.
One of the amendments moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand states that the Government’s legislative program: neglects to provide firm guarantees for the protection of civil liberties by legislative enactment within the powers of the Australian Government.
In my belief, one of the great social liberties and one of the great social justices in Australia- this was proved under a Labor reign- was that everybody in this country, no matter what his social or economic background, should have equal opportunities in health care. The Medibank scheme as espoused by the Labor Government and as introduced by the Labor Government gave the people of Australia, no matter what their background, equal access to health care. This Government’s respect for civil liberties and social justice is such that it is dismantling Medibank before our very eyes. It is not honestly doing so by any legislative process, but by a series of omissions, by a sinister process of letting the thing wind down. The levels of staffing are so low that the people in my electorate of Parramatta have to queue up for an hour to have their Medibank claims processed. This means that there is a queue out into the street. The consequent disillusionment of the system is driving those people back into the health funds. This is what Government supporters are all about. We know that there was some sort of revolt in their Party room last week and that the young Turks want the Executive to dismantle Medibank completely, to remove any sort of socialism. The people of Australia recognise and appreciate what Medibank did for them. It meant that those living in a part of my electorate, in the Western suburbs, were able to get an equal opportunity for health care with the people who live in the more salubrious areas. For the first time in their lives they had access to specialists without queueing up in a waiting room at a hospital to see the out-patients specialists. But all the advantages they received under Medibank have been decimated before their eyes. If the Government had the honesty to come out and say, ‘Yes, we are going to hit Medibank on the head’, that would probably be more appreciated. But it has adopted this sinister approach, winding the scheme down and causing disillusionment, all the while helped by the doctors.
I do not think anybody has explained fully the real crime of doctors who knock Medibank off. About three months ago, I think, there was a survey in the National Times which revealed that general practitioners admitted to an average income of $72,000 annually. Yet we see the sorry spectacle of doctors being paraded before the courts week in, week out, having knocked Medibank off for $100,000, $200,000 or $300,000.I do not think anybody has yet investigated the real evil of this crime. It is not so much that doctors have become part of corporate crime in knocking public moneys off as they have done, but that they have destroyed the system that was set up to advantage so many people who needed help. This sort of doctor should not be fined: He should be de-registered and not allowed to practise again unless he does so on a salaried system in order to contribute something to the community for what he took away. I see that the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) who was a Minister for Health in the Labor Government is nodding his head in agreement. I know that this would certainly be his sentiment.
I urge honourable members to think of the evil of it. Doctors who are not satisfied with $72,000 a year average income have ratted on the Medibank system, have put in spurious claims and are therefore guilty of knocking-off huge amounts like $100,000. What sort of people are they? Yet they are the sorts of people that the Government is supporting. It granted them a 7.5 per cent increase in their fee scale. Yet they are the very people who are helping the Government dismantle one of the great social achievements in Australia in this century- the great system of Medibank. The people in my electorate will not forget it and the number of people in Australia who voted for the Labor Party in 1977-42 per cent- will surely increase in 1980, at which time Government supporters will be back in opposition, we will be back in government, Medibank will be flourishing again, and everything in the world will be lovely.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Prime Minister- Parliamentary Library Research Service- Taxation- Middle East- Commonwealth PoliceIntergenerational EquityAborigines Brisbane Airport
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I call the honourable member for- I think it is Grayndler. The honourable gentleman has been a member of this place for a number of years. I think this is the third seat that he has represented. It is difficult for me to keep up.
– This is only the second seat, Mr Speaker, but I intend to hold this one for 25 years, the same period as I held the other one. I appreciate very much that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has been a very busy man since the last election. Even during that election campaign we found that his time was somewhat taken up in investigating family trusts. Then he had the need to decide that the then Treasurer could no longer be Treasurer and that a young protege should take over. After the election he then spent a good deal of his time in finding a sinecure for his ex-friend, the ex-Governor-General of Australia. After finding that sinecure he then found it necessary, because of the public criticism, to apply pressures to that gentleman in order to get him not to take up his appointment.
Then came the unfortunate bomb blast at the Sydney Hilton Hotel and the Prime Minister assumed the Chief of Staffs role over the Australian Defence Force, the Commonwealth police, the New South Wales police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation for the rest of the time that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting was being held in Australia. Recently- this perhaps above all has taken up a good deal of his time- there has been his intrusion into the granting of a lucrative contract for the supply of computers. That contract went to the wrong company. The Prime Minister then blamed his ‘stupid’ advisers on the Australian Government Stores Supply and Tender Board and on a specially selected permanent heads interdepartmental committee. For the last few weeks the Prime Minister has been spending his time in trying to explain away the action taken by him in cancelling the contract. There is no doubt that this has proved again to the Prime Minister that if you want a job done properly, or more appropriately, improperly, do it yourself. But his activities as a one-man government do not release him from his responsibilities to answer promptly and courteously representations made by members of this House on behalf of respected and long established community organisations.
Many members of this House have received representations from the State branches and the various sub-branches of the Returned Services League of Australia complaining of the downgrading of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs by this Government. I have received a number of individual representations from the New South Wales State branch and also from various sub-branches within my electorate. I have forwarded each of those to the Prime Minister with a personally signed covering letter asking for his comment on the complaint made by this organisation that is used by the Government at every election in order to vilify the Australian Labor Party policies. I have sent these representations to the Prime Minister because this, as I have said, long standing and respected organisation had made these complaints. I received a reply dated 27 February and signed by the Prime Minister. This is what it says in part- this is what I like, the way in which this Government butters up the RSL and other ex-service organisations:
I have decided that, for the time being, Mr Garland will continue to be Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs as well as Minister for Special Trade Representations.
This decision does not mean, of course, any diminution in the Government’s interest in the welfare of those who made sacrifices in the defence of our country.
But there is now no Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. What happened to the person who was to have been appointed as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs is well known. I am now receiving from the Prime Minister replies to my correspondence. They state:
By now you will have received my reply to your similar representations on behalf of the Belmore Sub-branch of the Returned Services League of Australia. There is nothing further that I can add to that reply.
With that acknowledgment there is not a copy of the original reply of 27 February.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to raise something which arose from a speech made on the opening day of the Thirty-first Parliament and which caused me some concern. In a speech on the nominations for the position of Speaker the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) is reported in the House of Representatives Hansard at page 5 of 2 1 February this year to have said:
I might mention that if the right honourable member for Bruce is to protect the rights of individual members of this House he should cease making the very heavy imposition that he has made on the research services of the Parliamentary Library, especially the legal research service. The result has been that private members of parliament have not been able to obtain the sort of service to which they are entitled.
In a letter which I subsequently wrote to you, Mr Speaker, I said:
I am not concerned with the accuracy or otherwise of the allegation as far as the imposition by you on the research service is concerned. As one who also uses the research service, however, I am concerned at the implication of a breach of confidentiality by that service. I understand that officers of the service are bound not to reveal any information about the work they have done for individual members of Parliament.
I would be grateful if you would ascertain the source of Mr Hayden ‘s disturbing remark.
I was therefore very interested when you, Mr Speaker, forwarded to me a copy of the minute which was prepared after inquiries that you made of the Parliamentary Librarian, Mr A. L. Moore. Mr Moore deals with two matters. Firstly, he deals with the matter of your use of the Parliamentary Library Research Service. Then he goes on to the question of confidentiality. So, just to correct any mistaken impression which the Leader of the Opposition might have left in terms of your own use of the Research Service, I will quote directly from this minute from the Parliamentary Librarian. As to your use of the Service, he says:
You made 22 requests of the Research Service in 1 976 and 23 in 1977. The figures in the two years for the Law and Government Group -
The Group in question- were five and six respectively. There are many other clients who make very much greater use of the Research Service as a whole or of the Law and Government Group in particular. Moreover, I am satisfied that it is quite wrong to say that your requests for help from the Research Service are a heavy imposition on it, or any part of it.
So let that put the record straight for a start. Then the Librarian went on to deal in the minute with the question of confidentiality and he made the suggestion that may be there was some misunderstanding in some circles about the origin of the Bills digest program, copies of which we receive from time to time from the Parliamentary Library. Apparently the Bills digest program resulted from a suggestion which you, Mr Speaker, made in October 1976. Accordingly, some people in the Library apparently are still under the impression that the work they are doing on the Bills digest is being done in your name. Mr Moore in his minute went on to say:
From the beginning of the 1977 Parliamentary year the digests have been offered to all Senators and Members and have met with an enthusiastic response. By the end of 1977 we had about 1 SO senators and members as clients. The service was commended by Senate Estimates Committee A in September 1977.
I, of course, take full responsibility for the present character of the Bills digest program and for including it in our Research Service activities. I am convinced that it is basic to a Legislative Research Service; and I am satisfied that the time spent on it is well justified as it meets a need for such a large proportion of senators and members.
He concluded by saying:
From discussions I have had with staff during the last week it seems to me likely from dme to time a member of my staff has said that work on an individual request would have to wait till a Bills digest had been written. This would be perfectly proper but it would be quite improper for any member of my staff to imply, or for any senator or member to infer, that you were responsible for any delay in dealing with a request from anyone else.
I think the Leader of the Opposition therefore should answer for the inaccurate information which he has given to this Parliament. One of two things must be the case. Either someone in the Library has been indiscreet in information or opinions which he or she has passed on to a member requesting Research Service work, or the Leader of the Opposition has completely misrepresented the comments that were made to him by the member of the Library.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to place before the House the problems of some 85 of my constituents who are ex-employees of a defunct company, Ali Castings Pty Ltd. Naturally I am concerned with the problems of these employees. I also think that the problems raise general issues of interest to all members of this House and indeed to all thinking Australians.
On 5 April 1977 Ah Castings was placed in the hands of a receiver. Two days later, on 7 April, the factory closed, and the employees were informed that no wages were forthcoming. The collapse of this company, after full investigation, was clearly not due in any sense to the fault of the workers themselves. There were good industrial relations within the company. There was a high level of productivity, and there were good quality products. Investigations have clearly revealed that overwhelmingly the failure of Ali Castings was due to faulty financial management. To put it delicately, the administration was, at best, incompetent. Yet the burden of that managerial incompetence is borne by the 85 employees cast out of work without their due wages, through no fault of their own. Nearly a year later the wages of those 85 employees are still forthcoming. The 85 workers, according to the receiver, are owed approximately $50,000 which consists of unpaid wages, unpaid annual leave, in some cases accrued long service leave and- possibly this is more debatable- wages in heu of notice.
The funds are available to pay all or most of these overdue wages, but it is subject to the prior claim of the Commonwealth Taxation Office for $40,000 for unpaid group tax. I think one should note the double unfairness. The 85 workers have had their tax instalments deducted from their wages by the company. Because of imprudent, incompetent and improvident management, the company made no adequate provision for the tax it had collected. Thus the 85 workers, having already paid their tax, are to be denied their unpaid wages so the tax Bill can be met.
I do not believe that honourable members opposite, however sympathetic they may be to the economic system under which we live, believe that such an outcome is fair, just or tolerable. We in the Labor Party are committed to the ending of this type of situation which in cases of bankruptcy or liquidation gives priority to taxation over the wages of workers. In our platform we are committed ‘to give employees claims for wages, leave and other entitlements absolute priority over all other creditors including the Australian and various State governments and, if necessary, to establish a national fidelity fund for this purpose’. One does not expect the present Government to be capable of so sweeping and radical a reform which would give preference to the ordinary wage earners over the taxation authorities, but I think one might hope in this case for a generous response to this claim- a response which would place wages before taxes.
I recognise that under the present taxation provisions priority is given to the claims of the Taxation office. However, I believe the Treasurer has a discretion. I would have thought that in the case of the employees of Ali Castings there is a powerful case for the exercise of this discretion. I am grateful that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) is present tonight. I urge him to exercise his discretion in this case and thus serve the interests of justice, equity and fair play.
-The problems of the Middle East represent the greatest threat to world peace. These problems have a lower but nonetheless very significant level of impact directly on Australia and in particular on the electorate of St George. In the electorate of St George there are thousands of persons who have come from the southern areas of Lebanon. The headquarters of the South Lebanon Association of Australia is at Arncliffe in the St George electorate. Many persons have arrived within the last two years following the disturbances and the severe violence in Lebanon during those years. The tragic events of the last few days have caused great concern to, I suppose, hundreds and perhaps thousands of persons from the south Lebanon area, as well as to persons of Jewish origin. There can be no excuse whatsoever for the despicable terrorist attack in Israel over the last few days. I do not want to make any comment on what is happening now in southern Lebanon because the situation is not fully clear.
I commend the Government for the position that it has taken in relation to the very difficult question of foreign policy and for its refugee policy over the last two years. I draw the attention of the House to the difficulties of residents in the St George electorate and other parts of Australia when they know that their families are caught in the midst of a war. They are civilian people. Many villages in the southern parts of Lebanon contain Christian and Muslim residents. The villages, according to best reports, are now being fought over. The Israelis are seeking to exact retribution from some of the Palestinians.
It is worth remembering that Lebanon was one of the few countries that accepted, with charitable approach, Palestinians, contrary to the approach of some other countries. Because of that charitable approach the situation got out of hand a few years ago and violence developed. Lebanon had a proud history of peace for many years. Christians and Muslims were living side by side; they had an accommodation. In broad terms the political Left and the political Right had an accommodation. Since that time the position has developed into real tragedy. I hope that the present actions there are limited, that civilian persons are not in any way prejudiced and that their safety is maintained.
Some time ago I wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) asking him to communicate with the Israeli Government in respect of a village called Yaroun in southern Lebanon which, about four weeks ago, was occupied by Israeli forces. It is probable that other villages will be occupied. I am confident that the Israeli forces will treat all civilians properly. I hope that the Australian Government will make further representations to the appropriate authorities or other governments to ensure that civilians and other persons living in the area who are not concerned with these matters, and who, through no fault of their own, are drawn into this fighting are properly cared for and treated. I expect that the Australian Government would prepare itself to provide a refugee policy if one should be necessary. I hope such a policy is not necessary. I hope that the problem will be contained and that it will not be necessary to bring refugees to Australia from that portion of Lebanon. The Government must be prepared to relax the criteria for admission to Australia, in much the same way as it did a year or more ago, if the situation deteriorates.
I am sure that all members of the House are deeply concerned about what is occurring. As I have said, I do not have sufficient knowledge of what is occurring at present. I suppose that other members of the House are in the same position. All I know is that a potential and possibly an actual serious problem is being caused to relatives of Australian citizens. I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to take the appropriate steps that would enable him and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) to be aware of the potential need for a refugee policy and ask them to meet delegations of members of the relevant associations in Australia and delegations of members of the relevant Lebanese Press and assure them of the Australian Government’s policy so that it may be disseminated to residents in Australia. No doubt they may wish to do the same with respect to people from other countries in the region who are resident in Australia.
-Tonight I wish to raise a matter which involves a constituent of mine and the Commonwealth Police. At face value it is quite disturbing. I should like it brought to the attention of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers), who is, of course, resident in the Senate. The constituent is a Mrs Maria Master, a 59-year-old widow who is an Australian resident borne in Australia of Indian parents and who is a nursing educator at Bankstown Hospital, which is in my electorate. She arrived at Sydney Airport on 4 March last from India on Alitalia flight 760. She sought messages from the Alitalia staff, who told her that no messages were there for her. She was then forced to ring people and ask them to pick her up at the airport. They indicated that messages had been left.
My constituent then went back to a member of the Alitalia staff on duty and asked her to take her to the manager, whereupon the girl led her along a corridor to a room and said to the people in the room: ‘This woman is harassing me’. Unknown to my constituent the room contained Commonwealth Police in plain clothes. Someone from the room said to my constituent: ‘You come with me’. When my constituent was not persuaded by that invitation the person said to her.
Do you want to stay in the country?’ The Commonwealth Police then physically manoeuvred her into a room and she was then abused and questioned. In the course of this she said to the Commonwealth policewoman and policemen on duty: ‘Do you realise that such treatment constitutes an assault?’ In the course of being managed into the room she fell over and damaged her back. She already has disc lesions and has undergone major cancer surgery. Of course, this occurrence has had an upsetting effect upon her because she is 59 years of age.
Without establishing the nature of her complaint or dealing with her courteously, her passport was taken from her, her personal effects were demanded, her cosmetics case was confiscated and the articles were spread on the floor. She was then questioned about notations in her dairy, where she obtained her money, place names she had noted in her diary, the people mentioned and her place of work. When she objected to the course of questioning the Commonwealth policewoman referred to her as a bitch. At another stage in the proceedings- I have obtained this information from the constituent; it needs to be checked out and I think it ought to be- her handbag was wrenched from her shoulder and the contents were thrown on to the floor.
When the police got down to the detail of the case and realised that she was an Australian resident and not an immigrant they telephoned her friends in Punchbowl and her supervisor at Bankstown Hospital, Sister Taplin. My constituent said that she was embarrassed by this because the matron is not her keeper, though she is her employer. My constituent was half-way through a period of long service leave and virtually had to account to her employer at Bankstown Hospital for this procedure at Mascot Airport and her involvement with the Commonwealth Police. She has since contacted the Commonwealth Police and Inspector Burrows- I think that is his name- tried to explain to her that the police were trying to help her and eventually got her home. She said that that was the kind of help she could have done without. She has been a cancer patient and has had cause to have major cancer surgery. In a letter to me, which I can give the Minister, her doctor wrote:
I have no doubt of the physical and mental stress to which she was subjected. May I point out to anyone who may be unaware of the fact that physical and mental stress in a cancer patient is well known to lead to a renewed spread of cancer and if this lady, as a result of her mishandling, develops either of these symptoms those responsible for her ill treatment are going to be gravely responsible.
That was written to me by Dr Peter Reay- Young from The Prince of Wales Hospital in New South Wales. At face value this is a disturbing case. It should be investigated by the Minister or by the appropriate authority in the Commonwealth Police. I should like to see a proper investigation, not a whitewash, by an officer of the Commonwealth Police to see that this kind of thing never happens again. The Commonwealth could be held liable for any damages which may have been caused to my constituent as a result of this incident and the continuing stress and anguish which, of course, is natural in a woman of her age being so brutally and callously treated upon arrival back in her own country.
-I was astounded and staggered by a report in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald of the denial by the Lebanese Consul-General, Mr Freijy, that he expressed the sympathy of the Lebanese people for the Israeli victims of the weekend terrorist attack to a delegation from demonstrators he received in Sydney on Monday. I was one of the speakers at the demonstration, which was called to denounce, to decry and to deplore this crime against humanity and at the same time to bring to the notice of the Australian people the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Christian Lebanese at the hands of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. I was invited to join the delegation which, apart from myself, consisted of Rabbi Alony of the Central Synagogue, at Bondi Junction, Dr Schneeweiss, President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and Mr Michael Marx, President of the Australian Union of Jewish Students. The delegation was in consultation with the Consul-General at the Lebanese Consulate in Sydney for approximately half an hour. During the course of the interview he frankly expressed the sympathy of the Lebanese people for the Israeli victims and this expression of sympathy was most heartening to the delegation.
Not only is the headquarters of the PLO set-up unmolested in Beirut but it is also and has been a haven from which it has launched its maniacal expeditions, and a place to retreat to after the finalisation of its missions of death and destruction. Whilst the Lebanese Government harbours these butchers of humanity it can only expect retaliatory action by the Israelis, as we have witnessed today. Although directed towards the PLO, inevitably many others will be accidentally killed and death and destruction within Lebanon must always be the end result. I hasten to add that the PLO has listening posts in Australia. I can only come to the conclusion that it has brought tremendous pressure to bear on the Lebanese Government to instruct the ConsulGeneral to do a complete about-face. The weekend attack on the Haifa road brings all nations to the grim reality that the PLO’s politics of blood must be condemned forever, that its observer status at the United Nations must be forthwith revoked and that there must be an agreement by all Arab states that the PLO is not, and never has been, the legitimate representative of the Palestinians.
As a prerequisite to all this the Lebanese Government must come out loud and clear to the effect that the PLO is no longer welcome in Lebanon. It should immediately put the PLO’s guns on the backs of its members and run them out of the country. Israel’s right to survive as a free and independent nation is paramount. The courage of its great people will never be cowered by these butchers of humanity and will be applauded by all men of peace and goodwill.
-I wish to draw the attention of the House to a new concept which may be unfamiliar to many honourable members but which deserves to be understood. I refer to the concept of intergenerational equity. ‘Intergenerational equity’ means that in adopting patterns of resource use we ought to strike a balance or to act equitably between the needs of this generation and the needs of generations yet to come. ‘Intergenerational equity’ was the subject of several articles in the October 1977 issue of the periodical Futures and I commend it to honourable members. Professor David Pearce of Aberdeen University, in his article ‘Accounting for the Future’, makes the following points:
Mankind has already entered into a ‘Faustian bargain’ with Nature, trading evident and desirable increases in material standards of living for unknown and unforeseen costs. That life itself is a risky event no one would question. Why then should there be any special concern now about the nature of this bargain?
He explains later in the article: . . while man’s capability for understanding the future effects of his actions grows, there must be a considerable doubt as to whether his capability for controlling the technologies that may generate those effects will grow at the same pace, and whether institutions will exist to deal with the problems.
However, he states:
Professor Pearce says:
Where costs and benefits are reversible, little problem arises. If we believe that future generations will value motorways -
Or, as we in Australia would say, freeways- then their future valuation is properly included in any present assessment of motorways (which immediately raises questions about the efficacy of discounting). Moreover, such an inclusion is legitimate if we judge that, with existing technology, future generations can reverse the investment if they do not like motorways- i.e. if we make a mistake in judging their views. To be cautious, we need make no assumptions about future technology: We can judge technical reversibility on the basis of whether current technology can or cannot reverse any effects of the decision or investment.
Of course, as members of Parliament, we represent the present generation; but we ought also to act as trustees on behalf of generations not yet born who will want to use this planet after we have finished using it. I have always felt an obligation to represent constituents who are not yet living. This concept of intergenerational equity ought to be taken into account in many areas. For example, if we could secure abundant cheap fuel for 20 years now but only at the cost of depriving children and grandchildren of any reasonable access to fuel, would we do it? I suspect that many supporters of this Government would. The same principle of concern applies very much to subjects such as whaling, uranium mining and export, freeway construction and the excessive use of polluting chemicals. As I said the other night, I think the views of the Government are expressed in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged by the dreadful motto of the leading character which is shown in capitals in the book:
I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
I remind honourable members that that is the favourite book of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He has said that that book has influenced him more than any other. Clearly it rejects the whole concept of intergenerational equity. I think it is essential that this House begin to think about the subject and to think about it urgently.
-Of course, I am much attracted to what the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) has just said about intergenerational equity. In fact, I was so attracted to that concept that I feel obliged to speak about it. Whilst I agree with him on many of those points, I am rather attracted to talk about something about which the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) spoke a little while ago when he told a story about a tax problem facing some of his constituents. In my hard conservative heart I feel some sympathy for them. I must say that his speech was refreshing after all the dreary speeches we heard from the Opposition during the Address-in-Reply debate. They ranged from failed election rhetoric to the unproven aspirations of the socialists’ dream. Nevertheless, in this case the honourable member, for Bonython has a point. Of course, he should remember that the present Government is the only government in the history of this country to have taken bold initiatives in the whole area of income tax reform. So it is not too much to expect that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) might feel constrained also to look at the problem of wages before taxes, as espoused by the honourable member.
I am also pleased, as he was that the Treasurer is in the House because I shall refer to the Treasurer another tax problem which currently is rearing its rather ugly head in many areas of north Queensland. Indeed, it has ramifications for all of the more remote areas of Australia. At the present time the Taxation Office is carrying out certain investigations. Investigators are operating at the moment throughout the northern part of my electorate, looking at the rental value of dwellings provided for employees at little or no rental. This problem is not new. But there will be a considerable lift in the values placed on those sorts of dwellings for income tax purposes. No doubt the valuers are just doing their job- I do not criticise them for that- but I suggest that the guidelines laid down for establishing rental value need to be considered and reformed, because they are not operating fairly.
Honourable members might know that in the more remote areas of Australia- in the northern part of Australia- it is much more difficult to attract people to work in those environments than it is in the city areas. It is also a fact that the proportion of housing provided for employees is higher in those environments than it is in the built-up metropolitan areas. Many people are in this situation when they live in the country. Housing is provided for many of them at little or no rental. It is one of the incentives provided for them to live there, and so to contribute to the economy and the health and wealth of this nation. It seems to me that where the valuers are going wrong is that under present guidelines they are not entitled to take into account certain factors that ought to be taken into account.
The first factor is that rental values in country areas are not the same as those in some of the city areas. For example, the rental values in Ingham or Tully are not the same as those in Townsville. That should be taken into account, and it is not sufficiently taken into account. Secondly, little account is taken of the fact that many of the people for whom housing is provided have to entertain in those houses. In other words, the houses are an extension of their business operations on behalf of their company or employer. That should be taken into account. Thirdly, some of these houses are not in the same condition as houses in city areas. The houses provided by the mills in Tully or Ingham do not have the same luxuries, comforts and features as the houses in which honourable members from metropolitan areas live. Fourthly, those houses are very close to the work of the people concerned. They are virtually right next door. That means that these people are on 24-hour call. It means that they really cannot escape from their work environment. It means that they are virtually living at work all the time, and that must have a depreciating effect on the rental value. It seems to me that, as part of its continuing income tax reform efforts, this Government would do well to look at the methods of assessing the true rental value of dwellings provided for employees.
-Whilst the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Dean) might not show a great deal of political perception, at least when he speaks about bold initiatives associated with this Government he shows a vivid imagination. I want to speak about something which might be called contemporary generational equity, that is, the situation of the Aboriginal people of Australia and the lands to which they ought to be heir. I congratulate the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) and the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) for the humanity which they are demonstrating to people overseas, to refugees and to the people of Israel. But it is time we started also to remember that there are people in this community who are being seriously disadvantaged by the continuing failures of this Government to take up the challenge of the plight of the Aboriginal people of Australia. Nothing demonstrates that better than the situation of the people of Aurukun and the people of Mornington Island. I watched the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) on television tonight. It is one of the things I suffer for the benefit of my further education. I am filled with despair at the complacency with which he approaches his task.
I remind the House of some of the history of this matter. It is now 2 1 years since members of this House presented petitions urging that something be done about the Aboriginal people of Australia and moved urgency motions dealing with their continual deprivation. It is 11 years since a referendum was passed in which 90 per cent of the people of Australia voted yes and said that we should get on with the job. It is five years since the Labor Government appointed a Royal Commissioner to look into land rights. That has since been universally accepted in Australia as a matter of public and governmental concern. What is this Government doing about it? It is doing almost nothing. Some of my colleagues on this side of the House think that because the Minister said tonight that he would think about legislation- and he will take his time about iteventually he will do something about it. I remind honourable members of the fate of the land rights legislation which was passed by this House and which was then sent to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. If Government supporters think that acting after 21 years or 1 1 years or five years is acting too quickly, they might turn to the prescriptions of George III- not a notable revolutionary- who set out in 1763 the rights of the Indian people to the lands of Northern Canada.
What is the situation? The Commonwealth unreservedly has the power to act on behalf of the people of Aurukun and the people of Mornington Island in the face of the mischief making and malevolence of the Queensland Government. It has two things going for it in this regard. First of all there is the 1967 amendment to the Constitution which removed the disabilities imposed upon the Government in making laws for the Aboriginal people of Australia. Then there is placitum (xxxi.) to section 5 1 of the Constitution of Australia which gives the Government the power to acquire the property of a State or of a person on just terms or anything for which the Commonwealth may make laws. There is no excuse for dalliance or delay. Let us get on with it. What is the problem? The Minister is afraid of Mr Bjelke-Petersen. He is afraid of the National Country Party because the House is infested with them. We know that they affect the Cabinet and the deliberations of this country. The Minister is afraid of the mining companies, as are all Government supporters. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) talks about Australia. He is trying to get rid of it as quickly as he can at about sixpence a ton.
– I have a third of it, too.
-That is right. You are turning the place into a quarry. The Minister is afraid of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). When we speak of Aboriginal affairs we are full of platitudes and it is time to get on with the job. The situation of the Aboriginal people of Australia remains a continuing disgrace. The Labor Government did as much as it could and it had support from people from all sides of the Parliament and from all around the country. Unfortunately the restraints that this Government has applied to public expenditure have had a serious effect upon Aboriginal advancement. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) is here tonight. I hope he will -
– A good Treasurer, too.
-He might be good, he might be a Treasurer, but he is certainly not a good Treasurer. The problem, of course, is that he does not have the intellectual nerve to challenge the situation in which we find ourselves. He is living in the past as are all Government supporters. The Aboriginal people are the victims of 190 years of the past misbehaviour and malevolence of people such as honourable members on the other side of the House. I ask those members who are interested in the Timor situation, the refugees from South East Asia and the people of the Middle East to remember that in this country there is a job still to be done. Let us get on with it. There are a number of members who have spent a good deal of time travelling around the country looking at this problem. I can only say that as I see it all I become filled with indignation. As I hear the Minister speaking in pious terms I am filled with despair. I can only appeal to this House to help us to get on with the job.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to refer to one of the most farsighted proposals ever put forward by a government in this House. I refer to the proposal for the development of Brisbane Airport. On 22 November 1977 the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), following the promise of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the evening before, indicated that the 1972 plan for the development of Brisbane Airport would proceed in three stages. He indicated first that the 02 right runway, together with ancillary areas, including terminal areas, would be constructed. He indicated that this would be followed by a cross runway and then followed by the third stage consisting of the 02 left runway.
He indicated also that work on the airport would commence within several months.
My purpose in speaking tonight is to explore the timetable for the development of that airport and to relate that development to some of the very significant capital works that have occurred in Australia. A little research indicates that a reasonable time for the development of an airport is not all that great. I am informed, for example, that the design stage to the completion stage of Tullamarine Airport took from 1 962 to 1 969. 1 can recollect it being opened on the eve of the 1969 election. I recollect also that construction time of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was from 1925 to 1932. I am informed also- the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) would know this-that the great Nullarbor Plain railway proposal of the first World War was commenced in 1912 and completed in 1917. In all these proposals there is a measurable and reasonable length of time during which the proposal was commenced and completed. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) would understand that I hesitate to suggest that the construction of the Brisbane Airport should in any way be related to the Eastern Suburbs Railway. The other day I was looking at a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald dated 13 May 1916. The construction of that railway commenced on 13 May 1916. It is still continuing in 1978. On the same page as the story about the Eastern Suburbs Railway there was a story concerning the seige of Petrograd. Petrograd went out of existence in the Russian revolution but the Eastern Suburbs Railway has continued for another 60 years. On the same page we saw that Sir Roger Casement was undergoing trial. They have buried Sir Roger Casement twice since that date, but the Eastern Suburbs Railway continues.
I merely put forward to the Government and to the Minister for Transport the proposition that some concern is developing that a construction time for the development of the Airport should be announced. It is nearly four months since the election. It is within a day or so of being four months since the announcement was made. The people in my State and many members from my State- I include the honourable member for Herbert in Northern Queensland and the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore)- are becoming agitated about this matter. I was delighted, therefore, to learn that in any proposals he has for a terminal at Brisbane Airport Sir Reginald Ansett proposes that the construction of that terminal shall be for two to three years. He emphasised this to me over and over again on the telephone the other day. In other words, any proposal concerning that terminal will work in over a reasonable time with the construction of the Airport. For example, the extensions of Sydney Airport were completed within four to five years. The proposals I put to the House are these. I hope that within a short period of time the Government will indicate its timetable for the construction of stage one. I hope it will indicate also the beginning of procedures that will show that construction can begin. I hope also that both will occur within a reasonable period of time. Australia needs capital works programs. That will have to be something -
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. Does the Treasurer require the debate to be continued?
-The debate may be continued until 1 1.10 p.m..
– I take the opportunity afforded to me now to reply to the remarks made by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Dean) about the operation of section 26E of the Income Tax Assessment Act. I do so not only because I appreciate the reasons for which the honourable member raised it but also because this matter has been the subject of queries by a number of other honourable members on both sides of the House. Section 26e of the Act has been in operation for a number of years, and in essence it requires that there shall be included in the assessable income of taxpayers the value to the taxpayer of all allowances or benefits granted in relation to his employment. As the honourable gentleman knows, that includes the rental value of accommodation provided in conjunction with employment.
The first thing that ought to be understood, and understood clearly, is that strictly speaking, as with all other assessable income or allowances which are deemed to be income, it is the obligation of the taxpayer to include the value of the accommodation in question in his taxation return. Often where a large number of employees are grouped in a particular area and enjoy like benefits in terms of accommodation from the one employer, for practical purposes it is more expedient for the Commissioner of Taxation through a system of valuation to fix the rental value of the accommodation and to notify his determination of that rental value to the individual employees. However, I stress that in those circumstances the rental value determined by the Commissioner of Taxation need not be the final word on the subject because the employee, if he so elects, can take the matter to a board of review or ultimately to a court. In no way can the fixing of that rental value override the proper interpretation that ought to be given to the operation of the section.
The other point that is worth mentioning in relation to this matter is that in response to representations made by other honourable members, including the honourable member for Herbert, I have been informed by the Commissioner of Taxation who, as the honourable member for Herbert well knows, is responsible for the administration of this legislation, that due allowance is made where appropriate for things such as a lack of choice available to the employee, onerous conditions attaching to his occupancy such as an obligation to be available for duty at irregular hours, and accommodation that is below the standard which would normally be expected or which is in uncongenial surroundings. Provision for these matters would be reflected in the determined value. If an employee is charged rent for accommodation provided, as is evidently the position with some school teachers, only the excess, if any, of the value of the premises over the rent paid is assessable.
I do not want to weary the House with a detailed explanation of the operation of the section but I think that the threshold point ought to be understood: Although it is not income in the commonly understood sense, for the purposes of the Act it is a benefit which ought to be included by the taxpayer in his return. The practice of the Commissioner determining values is done as a matter of administrative convenience where there is a group of employees. It is fair to say that in many cases, including the particular case that has been brought to my attention, the period between successive determinations of value has been as much as 10 years, which indicates that the Commissioner is hardly aggressive in rapidly revaluing and therefore determining more economic market rentals. Without being confident that I am speaking in respect of every case, I suggest that the criteria that are now applied under the section make allowance for the differential between city and country -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The Minister’s time has expired. If no other Minister seeks the call the Treasurer may speak for another five minutes if he wishes.
-I will not speak for another five minutes; only for another one minute. Whilst I appreciate very much the honourable member’s concern, it is a valuation which is intended to take into account the matters that he has raised. I cannot categorically assure him that it takes into account all of them. It is intended to be a market rental determination, and the opportunity is available to the individual taxpayer to protest against the determination, just as it is available to the taxpayer to protest against any other determination. In any event it is still a matter of fact and of law under the Income Tax Assessment Act that the taxpayer has both the opportunity and the obligation to include in his assessment, of his own volition, the rental value that he determines to be the appropriate one for the premises.
-The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) 6 November 1977.
The United States fully paid its assessed contribution for 1976 and its 1977 contribution assessed up to the date of its withdrawal.
Currently, the Australian Government representative on the ILO Governing Body is a senior officer of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations who, as the Minister (Special Labour Adviser), is attached to the Australian Mission in Geneva.
am asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
Now that the Australian Bureau of Statistics in its publication Foreign Control of Finance Companies, 1976 has brought up to 1 976 the statistics which it had published in Foreign Ownership and Control of Finance Companies, 1 973, what steps has it taken to bring up to date the statistics which it published in Foreign Control in Manufacturing Industry 1972-73 and Foreign Ownership and Control of Life Insurance Business, 1973.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Bureau of Statistics is currently conducting a study for the year 1975-76 which will update the statistics published in Foreign Control in Manufacturing IndustryStudy of Large Enterprise Groups, 1972-73 (5315-0, previously Reference No. 12.35). It is expected that results of the 1975-76 study will be published about July 1978. It is planned to conduct a study covering all manufacturing establishments for the year 1 977-78, the results of which would be published in 1980. A study of foreign control of life insurance business in 1976 has been completed and results are expected to be published later this month.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 23 February 1978:
What is the estimated cost for a full year of providing age pensions for (a) females and (b) males aged 60 to 65 years.
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
asked the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 28 February 1 978:
When can it be anticipated that the contributors to the former Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme will receive their share of the surplus existing at the time of the changeover to the new scheme.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Payments are expected to be made during December 1 97 S to those contributors who elect to take, in cash, a part or all of the supplementary contributions allocated as part of their equity in the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund on thentransfer to the new superannuation scheme on 1 July 1976. Payments due to pensioners are expected to be made in September next.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 1 March, 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is:
(a) A copy of the guidelines is available to members in the Parliamentary Library.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Dr J. Donovan (Chairman) representing the Commonwealth Department of Health
Dr M. Lugg (Deputy Chairman) representing the WA Department of Public Health
Dr A. Adams representing the Health Commission of NSW
Dr D. Race representing the Victorian Hospitals and Charities Commission
Dr O. Powell representing the Queensland Department of Health
Dr Z. Seglenieks representing the SA Department of Public Health
Dr J. Curran representing the Tasmanian Department of Health Services
Dr A. Cumming Thom representing the Capital Territory Health Commission
Dr P. Gross representing the Hospital and Health Services Commission
Mr M. Giles representing the Australian Bureau of Statistics
Professor M. Hobbs, Mr R. Glenn, Miss J. Young nominated by the Hospital and Allied Services Advisory Council.
The terms of reference of the committee are:
The committee was set up by the Australian Health Ministers ‘ Conference following a recommendation by the Conference on the Rationalisation of Health Data Collection Activities held in February 1 976 attended by representatives of Commonwealth and State Government Departments and non-government organisations.
Cargo Carried by Australian Flag Vessels (Question No. 337)
am asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
What percentage of (a) import cargoes and (b) export cargoes were lifted by Australian flag vessels in (i) 197S-76 and (ii) 1976-77.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Movement of cargo by sea is recorded in terms of either weight or volume, depending on the basis on which freight is charged. Cargo figures for weight and volume are sometimes added to obtain a ‘freight tonnes’ figure for total cargo. On this basis the estimated percentage of total overseas shipping cargo carried by Australian flag vessels is:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
How many persons were in receipt of (a) an invalid pension, (b) sickness benefits and (c) unemployment benefits as at (i) 30 June 1975, (ii) 31 December 1975 (iii) 30 June 1976, (iv) 31 December 1976, (v) 30 June 1977 and (vi) 31 December 1977.
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following table in answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice, on 7 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Government Offices: Tea Making and Distribution (Question No. SOO)
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780315_reps_31_hor108/>.