31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 3.00 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to inform the House that it has been brought to my attention that last night there occurred the death of Sir Alan Carmody, a distinguished public servant.
- Mr Speaker, I was shocked to hear the very sad news of the death this morning of Sir Alan Carmody, Permanent Head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. I have decided to take the unusual step of mentioning this sad occasion in the House because Sir Alan was so well known to honourable members on both sides of the House.
Sir Alan served as Permanent Head under the last five governments. He was one of Australia’s most senior and most respected public servants. He carried a very heavy burden of office which he performed with singular distinction, energy and good humour.
I have extended my deepest sympathy to Lady Carmody and to her five children. I know that honourable members on both sides of the House would want me to join them in this expression of deepest regret at Sir Alan’s passing. We will all long remember him.
The Opposition joins the Government in expressing its deep regret at the sad and untimely passing of Sir Alan Carmody. He gave long, distinguished and most valuable service to Australian governments and to the Australian community. In Australia we are fortunate in the high quality of the people we have serving us in the Australian Public Service. Sir Alan Carmody was one of the finer men giving that service. The community is diminished by his departure in these unfortunate circumstances.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States
Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974/77, renewed for one year expiring on the 3 1 June 1978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30th June 1 977, 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 lowrental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $ 1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling.
Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman and Mr Simon.
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray.
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive and historic Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Citizens Military Force (Army Reserve) and Citizens Air Force. by Mr Lusher and Mr Macphee.
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:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. This petition of electors of Central Queensland respectfully sheweth:
We the undersigned request your Honourable House:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will undertake action to assist in this matter.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham.
I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House censures the Government for the Prime Minister’s misleading assurances to the Australian people that the grave unemployment problem is being remedied and that economic recovery is under way.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. What financial support does the Government propose to give to the Aboriginal communities of Mornington Island and Aurukun to remove their dependence on the Government of Queensland?
– When this matter was brought to the attention of the Government and the Government made decisions to ensure that selfmanagement was made available to these two communities, I made it quite clear in the statements I made that financial support would be provided to both communities so that they could achieve full and effective self-management. Under the agreement reached with the Queensland Government last night that commitment still stands. However, I said in previous statements I have made, and I repeat, that I would expect the Queensland Government to provide to the people of Mornington Island and Aurukun all the services that it provides to all other citizens of Queensland. That, of course, will carry for the Queensland Government its own financial commitment.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that just asked of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In view of the various meetings and discussions which took place here yesterday, will the Prime Minister assure members of this House that the interests of the Aboriginals at Aurukun and Mornington Island have been securely safeguarded in the agreement reached yesterday with the Queensland Government and its representatives who visited Canberra?
-The agreement and the position into which that agreement puts the Commonwealth make it quite certain that the rights and prerogatives of the Aboriginal people of those two communities can and will be safeguarded. That is a completely unequivocal assurance. I believe that the agreement provides Aboriginals with self-management in a significantly advanced form from that which might be practised in many other communities. Clearly much work remains to be done in relation to it. Much depends upon the precise nature of the legislation which has to be determined by agreement in discussions and consultations between the Commonwealth Minister and State Ministers and officials. Federal officials will be taking pan forthwith in that work under the agreement. The Minister also clearly will be involved.
The Government and the Minister also will be consulting under the terms of the special leases for Aurukun and Mornington Island which are designed to safeguard traditional occupancy and use and to provide the communities with security of tenure, which was so sorely needed and which is so important to the communities. There will be consultations with the communities on that matter also. I believe that the pattern of co-operation which is inherent in that document provides an opportunity for a model of self-management to emerge as a result of the agreement. I certainly hope that it is the avowed and joint objective of both governments, as I believe it to be, to establish in the future the circumstances in which people can look back on that agreement with a real degree of pride and say that it began a venture in self-management and self-development which has enhanced the people of both communities in a very significant fashion.
The Premier indicated that he was coming to Canberra in a spirit of co-operation. I must say that there was some extensive and, as the agreement notes, earnest and sometimes vigorous discussion in relation to it, but I believe that the nature of the agreement indicates that both governments approached the matter with cooperation foremost in their minds. If the interests of the communities are to be foremost in our minds as legislators and as governments we need to work in co-operation. There are services that any State government must supply to all its people. There are obligations that this Government and this Parliament have to all people. We have particular obligations to the Aboriginal people and, as part of them, to those two communities. Quite clearly those obligations can be best undertaken if governments are working in co-operation and are not warring and fighting about the objectives and the mechanisms of achieving proper objectives. I believe that the agreement gives us an opportunity to look forward to the future in that spirit. That is the basis on which my Government has welcomed the agreement. It is known, and the Minister has stated, that the Commonwealth has a power of acquisition. It has also been stated that if it is necessary at any time to use that power to safeguard the position of Aboriginals the Commonwealth will not flinch from using it. But at the same time we believe that the interests of the Aborigines can be best preserved through cooperation rather than by an act of acquisition which could, of itself -
– I raise a point of order. I think it would be more appropriate for the Prime Minister to make a statement on this important matter after Question Time. By misusing Question Time in this way he is avoiding being made answerable on what is a very important issue, and one in which we strongly believe, with the backing of Aboriginal people in the community, that the Government has fallen well short of its promises to the Aboriginal people.
-Order! There is no point of order.
-Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition for the second time running does not seem to know where he stands. I thought Question Time was one time when Ministers were answerable to questions put to them by honourable members. A question is being answered. How can the Leader of the Opposition turn around and say that I am avoiding answering questions when I am being questioned on responsibility in relation to this matter? Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition should go back -
-Order! I call on honourable members on my left to restrain their interjections.
– I have made it plain, and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has made it plain, that if it is necessary for the power to be used it will be used. But we earnestly hope that what is seen and hoped for and safeguarded in the terms of this agreement will be followed through by both governments in the spirit of that agreement. If that is done I have no doubt at all that the well-being of the people of Mornington Island and Aurukun will be much better advanced than by having two warring administrations fighting and arguing with each other, with Aborigines being pushed to the side.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether it is the intention of the
Government to introduce legislation to give the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island land rights in accordance with the principles already established for Aboriginals in the Northern Territory? If not, is this another sell-out of the Aboriginal people of Queensland? Finally, did any discussion take place on the land rights question during the recent meeting with the Premier of Queensland?
– This Parliament legislated to bring self-management to these and other communities which sought to take advantage of our legislation. The agreement reached with the Queensland Government sought to achieve these two basic aims: first, the self-management for those communities because their reserves had been abolished; and secondly, security of tenure for their continued use and occupancy of the land which they and their forebears had occupied for years and years. Both of those proposals were achieved by the agreement.
As the Prime Minister has just said, I will be working in the closest consultation and cooperation with the Queensland Government in working out the terms of the legislation to bring self-management within the local government framework of that State. Also, I will be working in the closest consultation and co-operation with the Queensland Government to see that the terms of that special lease adequately secure the tenure of the people in those two places for the rights of occupation and use which they previously enjoyed.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What is the Government’s attitude to United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 425 which provides, among other things, for the establishment of a United Nations interim force in South Lebanon? How does the Minister assess the prospects for UNIFIL? What steps will the Government take to help to overcome the hardship and suffering which the people of South Lebanon have had to endure over recent weeks?
-Honourable members will be aware that Resolution No. 425 of the Security Council referred to by the honourable member called for, among other things, strict respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognised boundaries. Of course, it called upon Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. I have previously issued statements following the attack in Israel on 1 1 March. I have had discussions relating to the Israeli attack in
Lebanon with the honourable member and representatives from his electorate, particularly those from the South Lebanese Association. I have indicated to him in those discussions, and would confirm now, that the Government regarded Resolution 425 as a worthwhile outcome of the Security Council’s debate on this very serious situation which had developed, and considered the establishment of UNIFIL, to which the honourable member referred, to be a positive step. UNIFIL ‘s task, of course, will be an extremely difficult one, but we nevertheless trust it will be able to pave the way for the early restoration in southern Lebanon of the authority of the Lebanese Government, and for the normality and security which the people of southern Lebanon have awaited for so long.
The Government is well aware that the problems of the people of southern Lebanon are now even greater than they were. The considerable number of casualties and the displacement of many thousands from their homes were particularly distressing. It was with these humanitarian problems in mind that I announced on 22 March that a shipment of canned meat that had already been sent to Lebanon for special welfare programs was being diverted to emergency programs established by the Lebanese Government to feed people who had fled from southern Lebanon. I announced also that I had authorised the expenditure of a further $200,000 to purchase more canned meat for shipment to Lebanon.
– What brand?
-The honourable member could ask our Charge d ‘Affaires because, as is the wont of our officials overseas, he witnessed the delivery of the meat itself. One may well ask, in view of the nature of the interjection, just how seriously the honourable member regards this distressing situation. The meat was requested, and we responded to the request. Over and above that response, the Government is giving sympathetic consideration to further emergency assistance being made available. It appears that only this side of the House shares that concern.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs: In view of the destructive impact of rnining developments on Aboriginal societies in other parts of Australia, such as Yirrkala, Groote and Weipa, will he give an assurance that, under the agreement signed with the Premier of Queensland, the Aurukun people are to be protected against the invasion of their land by mining companies? Does the agreement supersede Queensland’s mining laws? Does he agree that self-management without land rights is a mirage and that rnining is the greatest and most constant threat to their social stability?
– The honourable gentleman seems to forget the commitments that were made by this Government as early as 1976, when the mining of bauxite on the Aurukun Reserve first arose. Let me remind him of the commitments then made by the Government. Firstly, we sought to ensure that there was adequate consultation with the Aurukun community, where it was evident that there had not been that consultation before. Secondly, we reminded the Queensland Government of the control over exports that the Commonwealth had. Since that time, my Department has promoted discussions with the mining consortium, Aurukun Associates, the Queensland Government and the communities. In fact, Aurukun Associates is at the moment seeking an appointment with me but other things seem to have intruded and I have not been able to keep that appointment.
Let me also point out to the honourable gentleman that, through funding by the Commonwealth, the Aurukun community was able to litigate the question of the validity of the agreement entered into by the Queensland Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, as trustee of the reserved land. The community won before the Supreme Court of Queensland but was taken on appeal by the Queensland Government to the Privy Council. The Privy Council upheld the validity of that agreement which was ratified by the Queensland Parliament. I have said recently that the Commonwealth is not in a position to abrogate that agreement; we do not believe in abrogating existing interests; we cannot do it. However, I can assure the honourable gentleman, as I have assured the Aurukun people before, that we will continue to seek consultations with Aurukun Associates and the Queensland Government to see that they are fully satisfied with the agreement over mining, if mining should ever proceed. The relationship between the special lease and the rights to use and occupancy which that gives to the mining interests already established on the former reserve is, of course, a matter which the Commonwealth will keep under the closest consideration.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. I refer to continuing efforts to implement new measures to improve drainage and salinity problems in the Murray Valley. I ask: What progress has been made in bringing the States together in a concerted attack on the impairment of water quality and other social and economic implications of river pollution to the Murray basin? Has the Victorian Government indicated its commitment to priorities for proposed works, particularly tubewells in the Sunraysia for salt interception? Has the Federal Government guaranteed funds to Victoria from the water resources program for these works?
– The Government is aware of the problems faced by the Murray Valley in regard to salinity and drainage. I know that the honourable member for Mallee has a deep concern about this matter, as have other colleagues who, I note, made a contribution on this matter in a recent debate on the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill. In answer to the first part of the honourable member’s question I point out that last October my colleague the Deputy Prime Minister conferred with Ministers from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia who have a responsibility in this matter. They addressed themselves to the problem of adopting a national plan to combat these problems. I am pleased to say that they reached agreement. On 3 March I announced that a consultant would be appointed to recommend to those Governments what could be done. The consultant will be reporting urgently within three months on an interim basis to recommend those projects which will be undertaken immediately and will report finally after 12 months.
I know the Victorian Government has had the Sunraysia project, that is, the tubewells project, under consideration for some time but I am told that at this stage it has provided no money towards the project. I cannot give a commitment from the national water resources program at this stage, mainly because the consultant will be recommending on that project. Until we receive that recommendation I can make no commitment. I shall be visiting the Murray Valley on 20 and 2 1 April. I hope to visit centres such as Renmark, Mildura, Kerang, Wakool and Shepparton. I will be meeting local officers from the State of -
-Order! The honourable gentleman can inform the House of his program other than at Question Time.
- Mr Speaker, the honourable member asked a genuine question and I intend to give him an answer.
-I think the Minister has answered the question very adequately.
– I will be meeting local groups also. So I hope we will be doing something about the problem.
-I ask the Prime Minister a question about the letter which he sent to the Queensland Premier on 9 December 1976 giving assurances that the Federal Government would not meet any request for assistance from the North Queensland Land Council. Does the Government still maintain this attitude? How soon will he answer the three questions that I put on the Notice Paper six weeks ago about his earlier correspondence with the Premier on Aboriginal land rights.
– I will have a look at the Notice Paper and see if I can get a reply to the honourable gentleman as soon as possible on all the matters concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence who will be aware of a report in the Brisbane Courier-Mail expressing concern at the number of people serving in the citizens defence forces. Has there in fact been a wave of resignations from the reserve forces in recent months? If so, what is the Government doing to rectify the situation?
– The report is not based on fact. My attention was drawn to it. I had the report submitted to close examination. There is not, as the report argued, a wave of resignations. The claim made by the speaker at the political rallythat is a rather exuberant description to give of it- was completely in error. Recruiting for the Army Reserve at the moment is entirely satisfactory. Indeed, the figure is- I speak from memory and am subject to correction- approximately 2,000 in advance of the figure as it stood two years ago.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question following that which he sought to avoid from the honourable member for Werriwa. I ask him about the letter which he sent to the Queensland Premier on 9 December last giving assurances that the Federal Government would not meet any request for assistance from the North Queensland Land Council. Does the Government still maintain this attitude?
-The honourable member for Werriwa also drew attention to questions on the Notice Paper which he indicated had been there for about six weeks. In view of the number of questions on notice and the work often involved in answering them, I do not regard that as necessarily an excessively long time for them to be unanswered. But I also said that I would look at those questions and, answer them together with the question he asked today.
-Can the Minister for Health inform the House of the number of private medical services covered by benefits, the cost of those services in the last three financial years, and emphasise the trends in usage and cost?
-Before I call the Minister I point out that a question of this nature, calling for such detailed informaton over such a period, is beyond being what could be regarded as a reasonable question to ask of a Minister. However, if the Minister wishes to attempt to answer it without notice he may do so.
- Mr Speaker, I was a boy scout; I am always prepared. I am sure that the honourable member for Petrie will be pleased to know that the usage of medical services and the rate of increase in health costs have fallen considerably since the modifications to the health scheme were introduced on 1 October 1976. 1 think that is to the credit of the Fraser Government. Obviously the great explosion in health costs was causing a great deal of concern to the Australian community and was crowding out the opportunities for expenditures in other essential areas. Since the modifications were made we have seen the proportion of gross national product devoted to health care fall considerably. Just to give examples, in 1974-75 the total expenditure on health care was $4, 109m. In 1975-76 it had escalated to $5,224m which was 27. 1 per cent up on the figure for the previous year. In 1976-77 it had risen to $6, 254m, which was up by 19.1 per cent. Sure, the percentage increase was reduced but we are not complacent about it.
The amended preliminary statistical information that is available indicates that, in 1974-75, 66 million services were paid for, costing $4 1 7m. In 1975-76 there were 83 million services costing $777m. That amount was up by 86 per cent as a result of the introduction of Medibank. In 1976-77, 78.5 million services were paid for and they cost $846m. That was an increase in total cost of 9 per cent but the level of services was down by 5.3 per cent on the figure for the previous year. That was the first time for some years that there was a reduction in the level of services per head of population. I think it is heartening news to those who underwent a lot of attack when those modifications were made. I am sure that the public generally would appreciate that, in the public interest and in the interest of the community, we have started to grab hold of the very serious cost escalation that has been plaguing this country and most Western nations throughout the world.
-I ask the Minister for Defence: Has the office of Defence Ombudsman been vacant for some considerable time? Has any consideration been given to the appointment of a replacement for Mr Hay or is it intended to allow the office to remain unmanned? I also ask whether the Government has under consideration the restoration of the right of officers of the military forces to direct appeal to the GovernorGeneral not while making similar rights available to non-officer ranks.
– I shall answer first the second part of the question. A system known as the redress of wrongs and the redress of grievance has been in existence for many years and has been used by commissioned officers. In the Royal Australian Air Force it has been used by other ranks and the redress may be sought from as high an authority as the Chief of Air Staff. I am reminded that on one occasion about 30 years ago I embarked upon such a course myself when I felt aggrieved.
– How did you go?
– I failed. With respect to the first part of the question, that matter is currently under consideration. Since Mr Hay’s promotion to the position of Permanent Head, the office has not been filled permanently. It has been filled in an acting capacity. The honourable gentleman will appreciate and acknowledge that the filling of such posts is not directly a matter of ministerial responsibility as much as it is a matter of administrative responsibility.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the long disruption to live sheep exports from this country which came to a head yesterday. Whilst appreciating the resolve reached last night, will the Government give an assurance that it will not back away from the industrial legislation necessary to deal with critical situations such as the ban on live sheep exports, delays of wheat shipments and the like?
– I believe that any government would need to maintain the circumstance in which the produce from Australian factories, farms and mines can go to markets overseas without disturbance from industrial disruption. That has always been the position of this Government. It is a position that this Government would seek to maintain and enhance. The Government does not retract from the statements that have been made in the past in relation to recent events. However, at the same time, I believe that the efforts of those who are endeavouring to bring the various parties together into conference should be strongly supported. It seems to me that a proposition involving cessation of bans and inhibitions on trade-off for other actions also ceasing is a reasonable situation and one which all parties ought to support strongly in the interests of Australia.
There is not the slightest doubt that from a major confrontation on the Australian waterfront the total Australian community would be the loser. Jobs would be lost and people’s businesses would be damaged, whether in the towns or on the farms. I am quite certain that overwhelmingly Australians want significant industrial disputes to be resolved by conciliation and arbitration and by common sense, and not by open conflict and confrontation. I hope, therefore, that the initiatives that have been embarked upon in what was looking like an increasingly ugly and difficult situation will be successful.
-Did the Prime Minister give assurances to the National Aboriginal Conference in Canberra last week concerning the importance of consultation with the NAC about matters affecting the Aboriginal people? If so, in what way, if any, was the National Aboriginal Conference brought into the discussions with the Premier of Queensland last night? If it was not, why not?
– I suggest that the honourable gentleman read the speech that I made to the Conference. I commend it and its sentiments to him and hope that he finds himself able to agree with them. My colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will be holding the necessary consultations.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Does this morning’s announcement of the cessation of the dispute concerning the export of live sheep represent a permanent solution to the dispute? If not, what further actions are yet to be taken or what negotiations are yet to be entered into before a permanent solution will be achieved?
-The House will be aware that following long and detailed discussions the bans on the export of live sheep have been lifted. I understand that work is proceeding in a normal fashion. The sheep are being loaded by the use of waterfront labour. I have arranged tentatively for talks to be held next Wednesday with the parties involved to see what further steps need to be taken. I think it should be said that there is a gap in the industrial machinery to handle this sort of dispute, which is not an ordinary one in the industrial sense in that there is no clearly denned employer and employee relationship. No doubt that matter will come up for discussion in the talks which have been arranged. I sincerely hope that the interim arrangement which has been arrived at will continue so that the talks can take place in a calmer atmosphere. I hope also that from those talks a more permanent solution to this very difficult and nationally important type of industrial situation will emerge.
-I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the allegations made in this House of a criminal offence under section 22 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act having been committed by a Minister. I also remind the Prime Minister that during the IBMFacom affair he stated quite frequently that Mr Harragan may not have behaved improperly but that it was important to see whether justice appeared to have been done. I ask the Prime Minister: How does it appear that justice has been done when the Government has refused to conduct an open judicial inquiry in which immunity can be given to witnesses called and evidence can be subject to cross-examination? Is it not unprecedented that the first two law officers of the Commonwealth, whose responsibility it is to advise the Government on matters of law, should be required by the Government to hold an inquiry into allegations of matters of fact alone, those facts concerning a Cabinet Minister? Is it not also a fact that the report will be made to a Cabinet which will make a final judgment and which includes the Minister concerned as well as the Attorney-General who will be involved in the making of the report? In the interests of the public, will the Prime Minister seek the personal opinion of the Solicitor-General as to the merits of a judicial inquiry.
– I think the honourable gentleman misunderstands the situation.
– Ha, ha!
– I indicated on an earlier occasion that the Solicitor-General, is an independent statutory officer appointed by the previous Administration. Suggestions or noises from the Opposition which would seem to indicate that the Solicitor-General is not in an independent position are a great offence not only to the position itself but also to the person. If the honourable gentleman had looked at the -
-I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. At no stage has there been any suggestion of impropriety on the part of the Solicitor-General. The question asked whether the Prime Minister would seek his advice.
-There is no point of order.
– But it is a reflection on the Opposition, and on me in particular.
-There is no point of order.
-I shall seek leave later to make a personal explanation.
- Mr Speaker, I made a noise which was not in any way an imputation against the Solicitor-General. It clearly indicated, I thought, that the Prime Minister was dense in not being able to understand the question.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition is not making a point of order.
-The honourable gentleman is continuing the reputation he started to earn for himself at lunch. If we were to establish a circumstance whereby, because a politician inside or outside this Parliament makes an accusation, we forthwith have a police inquiry or a judicial inquiry or a royal commission, it would be an odd course indeed. I venture to say that if one looked at all the allegations that were made in this place from time to time and insisted on having a judicial inquiry into all of them we would soon run out of judges in Australia. So I think that what is proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is a nonsense suggestion. I suggest that it would be a good idea for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to look at what I said in that brief statement because I indicated that all the information that was made available should go to the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General, as it did on an earlier occasion when both advised- and signed the advice- that the information did not warrant any further action. On this occasion I have asked that the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General again examine any additional information which has been made available to this House or which could be made available by any honourable member from either side of the House and advise the Government on the proper course of action to pursue. I have indicated that when I have that advice I will advise the House accordingly. I suggest that that is an entirely proper procedure and one which preserves the nature of what ought to be done.
-Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs seen the three comments made by the first Australian Ambassador to China in his lectures and in his book, subsequent to his return to this country. Firstly, that we- that is, Australia- lack the mechanisms for consultation with China, or even fear China as a threat to our allegedly free enterprise system; secondly, that in spite of undertakings on trade we imposed import restrictions in a manner which ultimately damaged credibility; and, thirdly, that on at least two matters Australia is rudely offhand when ‘it comes to China’s major exports to Australia’? Did the former Ambassador discuss these grievances with the present Government and, if so, when? What was the Ambassador’s response to those discussions?
-Ministers have a healthy respect for questions without notice asked by the honourable member for Lilley. I have not seen the report to which he alludes. As a consequence, I will make investigations and look at the matters raised by him. If there is an implication that there is a problem in our relations with the People’s Republic of China, I reject it. I will go no further than saying that since this Government came to power the movement in relations with the People’s Republic of China has been most significant in regard both to the cultural agreements that we have discussed and to family reunion, consular agreements and other matters. The Prime Minister’s visit was a most significant event in carrying that relationship further. I will examine the matters referred to. Of course, the Ambassador referred to is, strictly, no longer in government service. I will be wanting Dr Fitzgerald to head up an Australia-China foundation- I have indicated that elsewhereand the Government will be giving consideration to the membership of that body. I will look at the remarks which have been made and reply to the honourable member in due course.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and refer him to the statement made jointly last night by the Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier on the future of the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities. Is it a fact that by-laws proposed by the Aboriginal local authorities will not become effective without the approval of the Queensland Minister for Local Government and the signature of the Governor-in-Council? If so, does this mean that the Queensland Government will still retain the final say over the administration of the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities, thus making a mockery of the concept of self-management? Is it a fact that the Queensland Government will reserve the power to dismiss any Aurukun or Mornington Island local authority, a power it has recently exercised against the Gold Coast City Council? Under these circumstances, will the Queensland Government be able to install its own administrator?
Finally, in view of these matters, is it not a fact that the Minister’s agreement with the Queensland Government has secured the power the Queensland Government originally sought over Aurukun and Mornington Island and would the Minister also agree, therefore, that he and the Prime Minister have either capitulated to the Queensland Premier or have been fooled by him once again?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not introduce argument.
-The joint statement of last night with regard to self-management made two basic points. The first was that self-management would be achieved within the framework of the local government laws of Queensland. Of course the honourable gentleman, being a resident of Queensland, would appreciate that any local government is, by its very name and nature, a self-governing or self-managing authority in respect of the area over which it has authority. The second fundamental point which the statement made was that the Community Council, as it is now known, in each case will be the Council for the purposes of the local government of those two authorities. The statement says that that Council will be the managing authority.
Obviously amendments have to be made to the Queensland local government laws in order to make proper and adequate provision for the fact that these are Aboriginal communities which are being given local government. Therefore, I should expect that, in the consultations that are taking place, the amendments will be tailored specifically to the fact that there are Aboriginal communities. Proper account will be taken of their special needs and requirements.
In the joint statement there is a reference to a co-ordinating and advisory authority. I should like to make quite clear to the House just what that is. It will not be a creature of statute; it will not have any executive authority or power to control the elected Community Council. It will be an advisory body, a liaising body comprising officers of those State departments and my own Department which have the responsibility of providing services to these communities. It is not unlike bodies of a similar kind which operate in other States for the purposes of rationalising and harmonising the delivery of services that are needed by the community.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. Is the Minister aware of a circular letter being sent to members of this House by the manager of Burton and Garran halls of residence at the Australian National University offering cheap accommodation and meals at these halls to members and tourists? Can the Minister inform the House where the ANU obtained funds to build these halls? Do the halls pay income tax, rates and payroll tax, or make allowances for depreciation of assets, or pay funds into a capital sinking fund or pay interest on the taxpayers’ funds advanced to them? Can the Minister assure the House that the Government will critically examine the future funding of the ANU to ensure that it does not set up further business enterprises masquerading as educational facilities?
– I thank the honourable member for his question about the goings-on in beds in the Australian National University. This is a change from the old days when all we heard about was ‘Reds’ in universities. I will ask the Minister for Education to investigate this matter to see what sort of unnatural advantages there are in beds in universities and what action ought to be taken if indeed there are the unnatural advantages in beds in universities to which the honourable member refers.
-This morning at 7.40 a.m. the thermal alarm system in Parliament House detected a fire in the area occupied by Library staff on the ground floor of Parliament House.
– Burning the books here, too?
– Especially biographies. The Canberra Fire Brigade was quickly on the scene. The Deputy Housekeeper, who was on duty, was the first to locate the fire and with a hand-held extinguisher was able to put it out. Minor damage was caused to the carpet and some library material. The cause of the fire is not known but inquiries to determine it are proceeding.
-Last Friday morning when the House was discussing a motion to authorise the publication of certain papers I was asked to give a ruling which amounted to a legal opinion on the scope of privilege attaching to certain papers tabled in Parliament. I said, as recorded at page 1215 of the Hansard report, that I had under request at that time a legal opinion from the Solicitor-General relating to matters of that kind. The Solicitor-General has contacted me and informed me that he has had no such request. There was an error on my part. I should have referred to the Secretary to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. To avoid any confusion, I have asked the Principal Parliamentary Reporter to make the correction in subsequent issues of Hansard for that date so that the words Solicitor-General’ will be excised and in their place will be put ‘Secretary, Attorney-General’s Department’.
-I seek your indulgence to comment on the first matter you mentioned, Mr Speaker.
-I call the honourable member for Shortland.
-Mr Speaker, as I understand the position, in 1974 you were conscious of the dangers and difficulties that might occur in the event of fire in the parliamentary building and you sought at that stage to have certain procedures and practice drills carried out and to ensure that the necessary facilities would be available in the event of fire. I request that further consideration be given to that matter. I understand that information on fire matters is available to staff within the building. No such information has been made available to honourable members, certainly not in my five years as a member of this chamber. No details of the location of fire exits, fire extinguishers and the necessary facilities have been given to me. Mr Speaker, will you also consider requesting staff within the building to undertake fire drill from time to time?
-I will certainly give consideration to the suggestion of the honourable member for Shortland. I think it is a valuable suggestion.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Notice No. 12, General Business, relating to the motion of want of confidence in the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry and Commerce being called on forthwith.
The issue raised in the motion is clear and simple. It asserts that the private business transactions of the former Treasurer and present Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) were transactions which this House is entitled to assume were carried out with the knowledge and the approval of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). We are entitled to that view as a result of the letter that was sent by the then Treasurer to the Prime Minister on the occasion of his resignation when he said:
I have at no time withheld from you the nature of my pecuniary interests. It has at all times been open to you to seek further information from me or to let me know that my statement of affairs was not consistent in your view with my ministerial duties.
So clearly, on the former Treasurer’s own statement, the Prime Minister knew or ought to have known or was in fact fully informed by the former Treasurer of the nature of that right honourable gentleman’s business transactions and dealings.
During the course of the election campaign what was promised by the former Treasurer and what was indicated to the people of Australia was that on the first available opportunity outside the heat of an election campaign a full statement on this matter, a full and detailed account, would be given to the people and by presumption to the Parliament. I ask the House to take careful note of the procedures which have been adopted in this case because those procedures in my view constitute a grave threat to the whole concept of parliamentary supremacy over the question of ministerial integrity. There has not been a single document tabled either by the Prime Minister or by the former Treasurer which would enable this House to make any independent assessment on its own behalf of the truth and the veracity of statements made to the Press by the former Treasurer. I would have hoped the course that would have commended itself to the former Treasurer and the Prime Minister, the honourable and proper course, would have been that on the first available opportunity in this House a statement would have been made and all the documents relevant to this matter, whether they were accountants’ opinions or Queens Counsel’s opinions, would have been laid on the table and then the matter could have received the independent and proper scrutiny of the House.
If, as has been suggested, the former Treasurer is innocent of any improper business transaction or his ministerial integrity is not in question the matter could have been resolved then and there. Over a period of weeks both the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Prime Minister have virtually said to the House: ‘We have made our own independent assessment, we have had judgments made by accountants, solicitors and a Queen’s Counsel and we accept what has been said’. What is more, they say that this House is bound to accept that, and that is the end of the matter. If any member of this House wanted to examine the propriety of this matter all that was available was a very carefully sanitised Press report put out by the Minister for Industry and Commerce which gave his account. It is to that statement that I am bound to turn in terms of asking the House to consider both its accuracy and its veracity.
The statement that was issued on behalf of the Treasurer, as he then was, on 15 December dealt with about three separate matters. The statement indicated that the former Treasurer had been involved in two private companies, that he was a director of those companies but that he had resigned on being appointed to Cabinet. It is an interesting statement because the implication was that the former Treasurer in the best traditions of Westminster resigned from the two positions as soon as he was appointed to Cabinet. Of course, if one looks at the matter accurately one can see that nothing of the sort happened. The Minister may have resigned when he was appointed to the Treasury portfolio but he continued to hold positions as consultant in two companies- in 1969 to 1971 while he was Minister for Immigration and the Minister Assisting the Treasurer and in 1971 while he was the Minister for Labour and National Service. I just pose to the House the question: If it is good enough for a Minister to be in receipt of a sum of $4,800 as a consultant’s fee while a Minister of the Crown, is that a standard which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) now says can apply to the present Minister for Immigration (Mr MacKellar) or to the present Minister for Defence (Mr Killen)? In the very opening lines of the former Treasurer’s statement, clearly there was a suggestion which was calculated to mislead.
Given the time available, I want to move very quickly to the substantial allegation which was made against the former Treasurer and which, on the insistence of the Prime Minister, led to his resignation. I am dealing with the land purchases at Stumpy Gully. On any objective analysis, this sanitised version by the former Treasurer -
– On a point of order The honourable member for Melbourne Ports is talking about land deals somewhere. Is he going to tell us about land deals of Hill estates, of which he is a director?
-The honourable gentleman does not raise a point of order.
– This is in a carefully prepared statement issued on behalf of the former Treasurer. It was said that this was a simple commercial transaction where a building developer entered a joint venture with the nominee trust company of the former Treasurer, because that developer was seeking finance. It is suggested that all the former Treasurer did was to refer that, as a simple business transaction, to his accountant; that from that point on, the decisions of the management were made by the accountants. That is the only proper conclusion that can be drawn from the former Treasurer’s Press release. I quote from the summary of events in the Treasurer’s own release. In brief, the joint venture agreement commenced on 14 September 1973. The purchases of land by the joint venture were made on or before 7 November 1975. They were paid for in full by 19 March 1 976. The sales of land by the joint venture were completed by 7 April 1 976 and payments in full were received by 1 July 1976.
Again I return to the point that in this prepared statement the people of Australia were told on behalf of the former Treasurer that this was a simple commercial transaction with his family trust company, and that he was not directly involved himself. It was entered into because the joint partner, Nandina Investments, was just seeking business finance. That statement does not hold any truth; it does not hold any accuracy. If one looks at the transactions as they took place, one finds that Nandina, the joint company which was in this association with the former Treasurer -
-There are three members who continually interject. I call upon them to cease. The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) likewise will not interject.
– The fact is that, within six weeks of buying this land, and before the joint venture agreement with Grosvenor Nominees and the Treasurer’s family trust, had been signed, nine of the blocks had been resold for $2,200 each, almost twice what had been paid for them. So the reality of the situation is that although we are told that Nandina, the company which was virtually managing the sale and was the moving force in terms of the acquisition of this land, invited the former Treasurer’s trustee company into the transaction for the purpose of getting finance, it had already sold so much of this land that it was not in need of any finance at all. That is supported by the documents.
Let me go further and say that there are two people who know the truth of this matter. They are the former Treasurer- and he has not said anything to the House- and the former Treasurer’s business partner in this venture, Mr Leake. Does Mr Leake say that the reason he got into this venture was that he was in need of finance and was seeking around Melbourne for it and just happened to come upon the former Treasurer? Not a part of it.
Let us deal with what Mr Leake himself says and compare that with the statements that have been publicly made on behalf of the former Treasurer. I am quoting from statements made by Mr Leake to the Press. He said that the former Treasurer, Mr Lynch, first considered investing in land deals to raise money so he could hire extra staff. What are the details? Mr Leake, having called a Press conference, said that Mr Lynch ‘s involvement in property investment had first been raised in a discussion in a hotel after a meeting with senior Liberals in the electorate of Flinders late in 1972. Mr Leake was then chairman of Mr Lynch ‘s electorate council. He says:
We had the view that Labor would win the election in December 1972 and Phil Lynch would become an Opposition back bencher. The point came up of how Phil was going to manage without a ministerial staff.
Mr Leake said he had asked Mr Lynch whether he had, or could borrow, $30,000; if Mr Lynch could raise this money it could be invested in land and the office and the profits used to employ research staff. According to Mr Leake in mid- 1973, Mr Cook, his partner, had heard of the Stumpy Gully land available at Balnarring. He had negotiated with Grosvenor Nominees to act as a financier, understanding it to be connected to the Lynch family in some way. Here is a situation- and I invite the House to recall the sudden lapse of memory of the then Treasurer when he was asked by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitiam) about his personal knowledge and his relationship with Mr Leake- where a man who is personally known to and is the campaign director of the then Treasurer, and who has organised an important land transaction in which large sums of money are involved, is clearly acting closely in concert with the then Treasurer. Mr Leake’s partner, Mr Colin Cook, said that Mr Lynch had never expressed any worries concerning the Stumpy Gully deal; that Mr Cook regularly told Mr Lynch and his wife, Mrs Leah Lynch, about how the sales were going. When the Treasurer, as he then was, was questioned about this in the Parliament, he had a sudden lapse of memory. Although he could find the money to get into this transaction, he could barely remember the details of his relationship with Mr Leake.
Let us deal with Mr Leake, because there is one other aspect of this transaction which, I believe, demands critical scrutiny by this House. Mr Leake not only was a prominent member of the Liberal Party in the former Treasurer’s electorate, he was appointed by the State Liberal Government to be chairman of the Westernport Regional Planning Authority. That was not a simple appointment. He was appointed when the parameters for development and initial planning guidelines were being established, and the nature of the role that he played in land development on the Mornington Peninsula in the two years in which he was chairman meant that Mr Leake was an active participant in all the relevant planning decisions in the Westernport area. What is involved? To answer that question one has to understand the nature of existing developments and what occurred in Hastings to very many old sub-divisions. If one were a developer one could not go easily into the area and simply buy some land. One could not say: ‘I can be certain that I can turn that over’ because the planning parameters were being redefined. The man who had the public responsibility for and the public knowledge of what was occurring was, of course, Mr Leake. Having determined those parameters and having occupied that position for two years, he then resigned from that position to become a property developer. He then proceeded, I suggest, to use knowledge acquired in a public capacity for the purposes of his personal business interests. That may be something which honourable members on the Government side of the House find commendable.
But I remind the House of the standards adopted by the Prime Minister in the Facom Aust. Ltd affair. In that situation a public servant was absolutely cleared of any involvement at all with making available information acquired in his public capacity which could have been used to the advantage of Facom. That did not stop the Prime Minister. On that occasion he intervened at the expense of Facom. Time and time again this House has heard that statement that the basis of the intervention by the Prime Minister was so that justice would not only be done but also would be seen to be done. The then Treasurer, through his family trust company, entered into speculative land deals with a company whose principal had inside knowledge of future planning policy. (Quorum formed). Clearly, what occurred was that the former Treasurer knowingly entered into a transaction aware that his business partner and close political colleague -
Motion (by Mr Young) put:
That the honourable member for Melbourne Ports be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-Yes, Mr Speaker. This is a government deep in crisis. It is a government split by deep and bitter division. It is a government which has forfeited its integrity and, I believe, its moral authority. It is a government that has failed to serve effectively this country’s national interests. It is a government led by a Prime Minister without respect for parliamentary democracy or the conventions of government. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), during the course of this controversy, has lost his credibility and his standing. He has chosen authority in favour of respect; he has chosen power instead of leadership; he has chosen vindictiveness instead of restraint and responsibility. In short, I believe this Prime Minister no longer has the respect of his colleagues or the nation at large.
This is a government in which the shadow of corruption hangs, or has hung, over six of its members. I shall nominate them. Firstly, the Minister for Veterans Affairs, Mr Garland, was charged with violation of the Commonwealth Electoral Act in circumstances never satisfactorily resolved. Secondly, the Minister for Finance, Mr Eric Robinson, was accused by Liberal backbenchers- the accusations are growing in number every day- of violations in connection with the Queensland electoral boundaries. Thirdly, the right honourable Leader of the House -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will remain relevant to the matter under discussion.
-Mr Speaker, this is a motion of censure involving the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch). It seems highly relevant to me to point out the moral climate in which this Government operates. The right honourable Minister for Primary Industry, the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair), was involved in a company which had a deficiency of $250,000.
-Order! The honourable member for Lalor will resume his seat. I call for silence on my right. I have ruled that the honourable gentleman must remain relevant to the matter under discussion which refers to the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Prime Minister.
-Mr Speaker, the only other Minister I was going to mention was the Minister for Transport -
-The honourable gentleman will not mention him or I shall require him to resume his seat.
-A11 right, I pass over any reference to the Minister’s involvement in the purchase of Omega land in his Gippsland electorate and go straight to the Prime Minister’s involvement in the Facom -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I shall give the honourable gentleman one more opportunity to remain relevant. If he strays from the matter under discussion I shall require him to cease speaking.
-As I said, Mr Speaker, I have dealt with the other four Ministers. I intended to speak only of the Prime Minister, whose involvement in the Facom- IBM fracas has been of great concern to the House, and the land dealings of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, which were ably dealt with by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). Members of Parliament and Ministers in particular are obliged to adopt more stringent standards of financial propriety than ordinary members of the public. It may well be that this stringency imposes severe restraints on the civil liberties of people in public life. There is a double standard and if we fall, we fall from a great height. But if we accept the responsiblility of entering public life we have to accept this additional burden. As the case of ex-president Richard Nixon demonstrates clearly, the forefeiture of office is not dependent on criminal conviction; it is enough if a person in public life loses the confidence of those around him through accusations of reprehensible conduct which are substantiated.
In 1975 there were repeated and savage, even merciless, attacks on several Ministers of the Whitlam Government leading to a widespread, but completely baseless, speculation of personal financial malpractice. There was never any specific documented or corroborated allegation that a Labor Minister received any financial advantage from his activities other than his salary as prescribed. There was never any allegation that any Labor Minister had sought such advantage or that benefits were either sought and received or offered without being sought. The fact that no specific allegations were ever laid against Labor Ministers did not prevent the most sustained, bitter and unyielding barrage of calumny in the history of Australian politics being directed against the Labor Government, leading to the contention by the then Leader of the Opposition, who is now Prime Minister, that unspecified charges surrounding the work of Rex Connor, for example, constituted the reprehensible circumstances which would justify the rejection of Supply and lead to the dismissal of the Whitlam Government on 1 1 November 1975.
Members of the Government parties cannot adopt a double standard. They cannot crucify a Minister and literally hound him to death without any corroborated charge of personal pecuniary advantage and expect the activities of their own Ministers to go unscathed. The obligations on a Treasurer to avoid even the remote possibility or appearance of conflict is more stringent than that on any other Minister. We have had a nauseating example in the last few years of a double standard being applied. We might say three things of Rex Connor. Firstly, he received no personal economic benefit from what he was doing. Secondly, he was offered no economic advantage because of his position. Thirdly, he did not exploit loopholes in the law. Nevertheless, he was stigmatised and destroyed.
I put it to the House, with some regret because I have known the right honourable member for Flinders for 25 years, that there has been a double standard. Mr Lynch took a very important role, a leading role, in the campaign against Rex Connor. I put it to the House that the three points raised against Mr Connor apply even more to the right honourable member for Flinders. He has received a personal benefit accruing because of his role as Treasurer, he has been offered economic advantages because of his position and he has exploited loopholes in the law. Just as it was the desertion of the right honourable member for Flinders that destroyed the leadership of the Liberal Party of the right honourable Sir Billy Snedden, as he is now, it is now quite clear that the Prime Minister feels that the right honourable member who helped to put him in the Liberal Party leadership has now outlived his usefulness. He has been squeezed and used up and is about to be thrown away. This censure motion may not be passed today but I suspect that few honourable members in this House believe that the right honourable member for Flinders will still be with us in the Budget session this year.
Let us consider what was said by the Prime Minister in the course of the election campaign last year. It will be recalled that the right honourable member for Flinders resigned as Treasurer on 1 1 November. In a reply to his letter of resignation, the Prime Minister said:
In a quieter non-election atmosphere I believe these mattersthat is, the accusation of financial impropriety- can be properly resolved to meet this objective in a manner satisfactory to me as Prime Minister and to my commitment to the Australian public and which will enable your return to the Ministry as Treasurer. I warmly look forward to that time.
Presumably, he is still looking forward warmly to that time. That warm time has never come. It is about time that the House asked formally- I hope we will find out the answer from succeeding speakers- why those requirements were never met
I point out that the motion is directed towards the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry and Commerce. It is those Ministers we want to hear. It will be yet one more disgraceful evasion if somebody other than those two Ministers answers in this debate. It is essential that the case be examined. We face two alternatives. Either the Prime Minister withdrew the terms of his letter of 18 November and decided that they were no longer appropriate or the right honourable member for Flinders failed to meet the Prime Minister’s test to resolve the issue in a manner satisfactory to him as Prime Minister. There is no other alternative. The Prime Minister has never taken the people of Australia into his confidence to explain why the right honourable member for Flinders has not been reinstated. I believe we need to know.
-Because of the unresolved inconsistencies which came out in the evidence put before the Gowans Royal Commission. I shall restate what Mr Peter Leake said. We can then compare it with what is said in the document entitled: ‘Statement of the Financial Interest of the Right Honourable Phillip R. Lynch, M.P.’- the sanitised account which was regarded as so unsatisfactory by the Australian Financial Review and which gave a partial explanation of what he had submitted to the Prime Minister. Honourable members should recall that the original was a 30-page statement with 20 pages of appendices. The right honourable member for Flinders indicated that he was happy to have the full statement released to the public. It has not been released to the public. We have had a condensed, sanitised version. These are the points Mr Leake made: Firstly, the question of organising land for Phillip Lynch was first raised in a hotel after a meeting of senior Liberals late in 1972 when defeat for the Liberal Party was just around the corner but when they were still not yet out of office. Secondly, Mr Leake was then Chairman of the Flinders Electorate Council of the Liberal Party. Thirdly, Mr Leake raised the issue of how Mr Lynch was going to manage without a ministerial staff. For the first time he would be brought down to the level of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and myself of being a humble back bench member of Parliament. Fourthly, Mr Leake said that he asked Mr Lynch whether he- that is, Mr Lynch- had or could borrow $30,000 so that money could be invested in land and the profits used to employ research staff. Fifthly, in mid- 1973 Mr Cooke, another associate of Mr Leake’s, had heard of the Stumpy Gully land available at Balnarring.
-Where is Mr Hill?
-On the other side of it. Sixthly, Mr Leake had negotiated with Grosvenor Nominees to act as a financier. He knew it was connected to Mr Lynch but he did not at that stage know the details. Seventhly, Mr Leake arranged the purchase of 61 Stumpy Gully blocks in three stages a year apart. To use his own words, he said:
Within months of buying the first lot of 21 they had been sold again for almost double what we paid.
Mr Leake went on to say that the resale took place so quickly that the agreement with Grosvenor Nominees had not even been signed. As he said, ‘within months of buying, the first lot of 21 blocks had been sold for almost double what we paid ‘. Mr Leake went on to say:
Nevertheless we were fair. We paid him half the profit.
Mr Leake was obviously referring to Mr Lynch.
– Tell us about your tax avoidance schemes.
-The question of tax avoidance schemes has come up. I thank the honourable member for his helpful interjection.
-Order! The honourable member will remain relevant to the motion, notwithstanding the invitation by way of interjection. The honourable member for Ballarat will cease interjecting.
-I believe that the question of tax evasion or tax avoidance in this case is absolutely relevant. It is clear that when a Minister is responsible, as the Treasurer was at that time, for raising revenue it is his duty to set an example.
– I raise a point of order. It might be appropriate, Mr Speaker, if you were to remind the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and the honourable member for Lalor that they are now in the Australian Parliament and not the Victorian Parliament.
-That is not a point of order.
-The Australian Financial Review stated:
The Lynch children certainly paid tax on the income they derived from the profits of the land deal mentioned above. Such tax would have been at a higher marginal rate if it had been paid through Mr Lynch ‘s own income flow . . .
Such income splitting arrangements are legal and are widespread among certain income groups.
But a Treasurer who engages in such tax avoidance exercises invites nothing but cynicism when he imposes further tax burdens on the rest of the community.
I believe that a double standard has been in operation.
Motion (by Mr Young) put:
That the honourable member for Lalor be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– One would be forgiven for thinking that members of the Opposition did not really have their hearts in the motion of censure before the House. To begin with, two of the most junior members of the Opposition have advanced a motion of censure of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia, the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), who is the third most senior member of this Government. The Opposition has had that motion of censure advanced by two back bench members who are among the most recent arrivals into this chamber. So much for the seriousness that it attaches to the whole event. If one felt that they treated it seriously one would have been relieved to hear the contribution made by both honourable members. Not only did they not present the facts in a manner and form which demonstrated that they had an understanding of the nature of the events in the days when their Party was in government, but also they said nothing until, perhaps, the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) said that really it was all a matter of revenge. Despite all the statements made during the debate it was more than anything a matter of deciding that what they really wanted to get at -
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misquoted and misrepresented. I made no reference to the word ‘revenge ‘.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
Government supporters interjecting.
-Order! I assure honourable members on my right that I do not need their assistance. The honourable member for Lalor will have an opportunity to make a personal explanation at a later time.
– The honourable gentleman ‘s point of order was about as accurate as some of the statements he made in this House today.
-Order! The Minister will not canvass the point of order.
– Nonetheless, in the course of the speech made by the honourable member for Lalor he scattered his shot fairly wide, and the allegations which he made were as inaccurate about the Minister for Industry and Commerce as he was about the Prime Minister, my colleague the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and me. I am afraid that their blooding in the dirty linen department has done no credit to either of them. Let me revert to the second matter, which obviously is the motivation for this debate, and that is the degree to which the Labor Party feels hurt about what it sees as the grievous errors in responsibility perpetrated by those who were Ministers of the Labor Government in terms of public financing during the days when they were in office.
– I rise to order. On a number of occasions, Mr Speaker, you asked speakers on this side of the House to make their comments relevant to the subject before the House. Previous Labor Ministers are not relevant to the subject before the House, and I ask that you apply to the Minister the same conditions as you applied to speakers from this side of the House.
-I required the honourable member for Lalor to make his comments relevant to the motion, as all speakers should, but particularly in relation to his reference to other Ministers. The honourable member for Lalor ought to know that the only way in which the character of a member of this House can be attacked is by substantive motion and there was no substantive motion relating to any other Minister. The honourable member for Lalor as the seconder of the motion, then introduced into the debate the issue of the behaviour of members of a former government, and it is in that context that I understand the Leader of the House to be responding. So at this point the matter raised by the honourable member for Port Adelaide is not a sustainable point of order although I acknowledge what he has said and call upon the Minister to respond only in that sense.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I felt that there was nothing whatever in the speech made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) that called for response. However, there were a couple of matters in the speech of the honourable member for Lalor and, as you have just suggested, I am dealing with the second of them. It is important that this Parliament should realise that the honourable gentleman indicated by the nature of all that he said that it was really a matter of revenge. He then made a general point in relation to his colleagues and mentioned specifically a number of them by name. They were his colleagues of party affiliation only at that time because he was not a member of the Parliament in those days.
Those to whom he referred were Ministers in the Labor days and were members of an organisation within the then Government which obviously and demonstrably- and the result of the public election indicated that it was not approved of by the people of Australia- acted irresponsibly in their public duties. This, I believe, was the significant cause for their defeat in the 1975 elections.
However, this motion relates to other matters and it is on those that I wish to say a few things. It is necessary that I make the point that parliamentary privilege is intended to enable the Parliament to protect the public from bad government. It is not a licence to slander, and I hope that members of the Opposition take those words to heart. Parliamentary privilege is a sacred right of this Parliament. It is not a right to be taken lightly. It carries a series of responsibilities which those in the Opposition sometimes exercise. Immediately after the election of this Government on 13 January 1976 the Prime Minister, in order to exercise the very responsibility which this motion suggests he has not exercised, wrote to each of the Ministers in the Government requesting them to put before him matters within their private interests that he believed might in some way conflict with their public duties. I do not intend to read that letter in detail, but because this motion suggest that in some way the Prime Minister has not accorded to this Parliament or to the people of Australia respect for that added measure of integrity that is necessary for members of the Government, I table the letter. It was a letter addressed to me on 13 January 1976 setting out in detail the requests by the Prime Minister relating to those matters which should be disclosed to the chamber.
It is then necessary that in accordance with the record of events, we look at the circumstances of late 1977. We all remember how in this chamber a series of questions was put to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. We also recall that he was admitted to the Peninsula Private Hospital at Frankston on 10 November 1977. He was discharged on 20 November 1977. He was then re-admitted on 21 November 1977 and discharged on 7 or 8 December, a couple of days before the Federal elections. I make those remarks because it is important that the people of Australia remember that throughout the whole of the deplorable exercise by members of the Opposition my colleague underwent and was recovering from a fairly serious operation. He was not able to defend himself against the charges made against him, and if there is any suggestion that there was a delay in his response to the allegations, quite obviously he was not in a physical state to respond. I believe that the statements which I will produce to the chamber shortly demonstrate that not only was there no undue delay but also there was no omission by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in his presentation of facts in order to maintain the integrity of himself and his family against the assertions made.
It is necessary that we should look then, having in mind the circumstances of his illness, at the correspondence between the then Treasurer, the present Minister for Industry and Commerce, and the Prime Minister dated 18 November. This is fully set out in the Commonwealth Record of 14 and 20 November 1977 on pages 1662 et seq. The only items within that correspondence to which I wish to refer are those which refer specifically to the Minister’s response to the Prime Minister’s request. I think it is necessary that we see his response. He mentions that he replied on 10 February 1976 to the Prime Minister’s letter which I have just tabled. He mentions that he subsequently replied to the Prime Minister’s further letter of 10 September asking him to update the information. So in no way can there be any suggestion that the Minister did not disclose to the fullest those matters in which he was involved. Finally, having had questions put to him in the House and having answered them, he asked the firm of accountants, Messrs Irish, Young and Outhwaite to examine his affairs and, in the course of his letter of 18 November, the Minister stated: . . Messrs Irish, Young and Outhwaite issued a statement in Melbourne. That statement said, inter aiia, that the partners were not aware of any transaction that, in their opinion, cast doubt on the integrity of myself, my wife, or any other members of my family.
The next part of the letter is important, because this motion suggests that in some way the Minister has not maintained the highest standards of integrity. He went on to say in his letter:
I now wish to inform you that, in the interests of my Party, and the colleagues with whom I have served over many years, I am prepared to stand aside as Treasurer, in the present Government.
Not only did he make a full disclosure, but also he was prepared to stand aside in order to ensure that there would be a full and adequate investigation of these matters. The Prime Minister replied to him:
I believe that the letter you have written comes from a person who is determined to act with that sense of integrity on which so much of our public system depends, but which the public so often does not find in people in public places. You have acted selflessly and honourably in offering to stand aside . . .
I accept the view that you have put to me that this matter must be resolved. I also accept your view with extreme sadness that the proper course is for you to stand aside but, in so doing, I want to reaffirm my confidence in you.
We then go to the circumstances following the election and the time when there was then a full examination of the affairs by the accountants, Messrs Irish, Young and Outhwaite. A further examination was presented to the Prime Minister by Stephen Charles, Q.C. On 16 November 1977 a public statement was issued by that firm of accountants and it said:
The partners are not aware of any transaction with which the abovementioned clients -
They were referring to my colleague and his family- have been associated that, in their opinion, casts doubt on the integrity of the Rt Hon. P. R. Lynch, his wife, or any other members of his family.
Mr Speaker, I table that statement by Messrs Irish, Young and Outhwaite so that if there is any doubt about its content is will be available for honourable members. There was also a letter dated 18 November 1977 from Messrs Mallesons, solicitors and notaries. Again it refers to the inquiry and it states:
The documentation and the explanations given to us by Messrs Irish, Young and Outhwaite do not in our opinion disclose anything which would contradict the statements made to you by the Treasurer or Messrs Irish, Young and Outhwaite concerning the subject matter of those documents namely the acquisition and sale of the Belnarring land and the acquisition and financing of the Queensland units. In particular the documents and correspondence do not disclose that the Treasurer or his family interests have been involved in any transaction which in our opinion is improper, reprehensible or illegal, nor that they obtained any advantage from the transactions, pecuniary or otherwise, which might not have been obtained by any private citizen in the management of his own affairs.
Mr Speaker, again I table that correspondence. Then we move to the public statement made by the Prime Minister on 15 December wherein he referred to the advice received by him from Mr Stephen Charles, Q.C, of the Melbourne Bar, and said: . . on the facts available to him from documents supplied and from information made available from Irish, Young and Outhwaite, and Mallesons, that nothing has been done by Mr Lynch or his family which was illegal, commercially improper or represented a conflict between his or their private interests and Mr Lynch ‘s public duties as a Minister of the Crown . . .
Mr Speaker, as time is running short, I think I should only table, as I intend to in a moment, that statement and the letter from my colleague, Mr Phillip Lynch, which re-affirms the information given by Mr Stephen Charles, Q.C, the advice given by Messrs Irish, Young and Outhwaite and Mallesons and a public statement made by my colleague immediately following that on 16 December. All of these documents demonstrate completely the integrity of the right honourable gentleman and the complete falsity of the charges made insofar as the propriety of the right honourable gentleman’s behaviour as a Minister and as a member of this House is concerned. I table those documents and I believe they answer totally the charges made.
But it is also important that we look at a statement made by the Prime Minister on 15 February. That statement sets down the public inquiry to be conducted by the Chief Judge of the Federal Court concerning public duty and private interests. It was referred to in the correspondence of the Prime Minister with my colleague, Mr Phillip Lynch, and it was again referred to by my colleague in his response. For that inquiry there is a term of reference which is designed to ensure that there will be no doubt about the integrity of the ministry or of the members of this place. Mr Speaker, I table that statement by the Prime Minister.
Honourable members may be interested to know where the matter proceeded from there. There have since been letters written by the chairman of the inquiry, Sir Nigel Bowen, who, as honourable members will recall, is to be joined in that inquiry by Sir Cecil Looker and Sir Edward Cain, C.B.E. The chairman of the inquiry wrote to each of the members of this place asking them for their views on the degree to which there might be some conflict between public duty and private interest. In the letter, he said: ‘I write to extend an invitation to make a written submission to it on matters covered by its terms of reference.’ Mr Speaker, I suggest that the proper outcome of this debate obviously there is no charge against the Prime Minister, no charge that is sustainable against my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and obviously there is no charge against the Governmentis for the Opposition to take up the invitation of the chairman of that committee and submit to him its own views on who should be included and in what way we can maintain the standards of integrity of this House. In my view, it is the standards of members of the Opposition which are in question and not those of the Ministers of this Government or of supporters of the Government. Mr Speaker, I believe there is absolutely no substance in the allegations and I move:
Mr Speaker, I table the letter of the committee of inquiry.
-The honourable gentleman cannot do that. He has already moved that the question be now put. He can table the document later.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Holding’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-Mr Speaker, I rise pursuant to Standing Order 66 and claim that the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) misquoted or misunderstood a material part of my speech. He said twice -
-It is 66the honourable member is thinking of something else. The Leader of the House said twice that I claimed to have raised the Fraser-Lynch affair as ‘a matter of revenge’. The point I made which he has clearly misunderstood was that there ought not be the application of a double standard. I said if it had been appropriate in 1975 to attack Labor Ministers even where no personal financial advantage had been gained or sought there could be no objection to a full investigation of circumstances which had led to personal financial advantage being gained by Ministers ex officio. This is not a matter of ‘revenge’, as the Leader of the House puts it; it is a demand that we do not employ a double standard in judging these matters.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. At Question Time today I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) whether he would seek an opinion from the SolicitorGeneral. In the course of his reply he said I was reflecting on the integrity of the SolicitorGeneral. I might also add that yesterday I asked whether the Cabinet in looking at a report from the AttorneyGeneral and the SolicitorGeneral would not be acting as a judge of itself. The Prime Minister said on that occasion that I was reflecting on the integrity of the SolicitorGeneral. I fail to see in what way I was reflecting on the SolicitorGeneral’s integrity. I never did that. The Prime Minister has misrepresented me in suggesting that. Obviously he was anxious to cast an aspersion on the Opposition because of the nature of the questions that were being asked. The SolicitorGeneral is a personal friend of mine and I have the utmost regard for his ability and integrity. I wish only that the Prime Minister would seek his advice.
-I also wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, although not necessarily consciously, Mr Speaker. I just wish to place the record straight. Yesterday during Question Time I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in essence whether he would take the same action against the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) as was taken against the then Minister for Post and Telecommunications early in 1976 when inquiries into allegations concerning that Minister were undertaken. The Prime Minister in his answer said:
The honourable gentleman -
He was referring to me- apparently is unable to remember what he said last night.
I, like many other honourable members, was a little confused by the Prime Minister who apparently hung his answer on a statement I made to the House the previous night which is reported on page 1307 of Hansard. I said:
If the honourable members who believe that undue influence was exerted on the Queensland electoral commissioners are proved correct the Minister, Mr Robinson, should resign immediately.
Mr Speaker, I wish to point out that what I said was meant to represent that I believed Mr Robinson should resign from the Parliament if the claims were proved and it had nothing at all to do with the belief held’ by honourable members on this side of the House that Mr Robinson should be subject to the same discipline as was Mr Garland.
– I table the letter dated 3 April 1978 to which I referred in my speech from the Chairman of the committee of inquiry concerned with public duty and private interest.
– I seek leave of the House to move a motion to enable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) to move forthwith the motion of censure of the Government of which he has given notice for the next sitting.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of censure of the Government of which he has given notice for the next sitting.
– After nearly two and a half years in office the Government’s management of the economy is no more credible than the promises of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). One remains as barren and as empty as the other. We cannot trust the Government’s economic policies any more than we can believe the Prime Minister’s promises. Both have been given a fair trial. Both have failed the Austraiian people. What we are left with is a stubborn Prime Minister pursuing a destructive formula for more recession, even higher unemployment and increasing business failure. The economy is not recovering, and no amount of distortion and misrepresentation by the Prime Minister and his compliant Treasurer (Mr Howard) can obscure this basic truth. The promises, the false optimism, have to end. The policies of failure have to change.
This country and its army of unemployed cannot withstand the insidious erosion of confidence and hope that both continue to generate in the community. The Government has been far too rigid in its approach to the complexity of the economy’s illness. It remains too rigid. There must be a clear and obvious change in strategy. There must be direct government intervention to stimulate economic activity and revive confidence. It should be a matter of the most urgent priority. Yet the reality is that nothing is likely to change- nothing except the depth of the recession and the extent of the Government’s misrepresentation. All that we can really expect from this Government is more of the same optimistic pap the Prime Minister has been peddling for the last 30 months, that prosperity for everyone is just around the corner. It is always just around the corner. In the 1975 elections the Prime Minister said:
We have a comprehensive strategy to restore prosperity.
Six months later he said:
There is now growing evidence that the economy is moving forward.
Another 16 months later he said:
Australia today is back on the road to economic health.
In his policy speech for last year’s election, the Prime Minister excelled himself. He said:
Our nation is on the move. We are ready to stride into a new era of prosperity.
Prosperity for whom? Two months after the Prime Minister pronounced that bald-faced lie the number of people in this country officially registered as being out of work reached the highest level in 40 years. Despite this, the Prime
Minister, in his weekly nonsense broadcast to his electorate, said as recently as last month:
This year promises significant progress in the Australian economy.
Again more promises. Always the Prime Minister is promising something. Promises are his stock-in-trade. Always the promise, rarely the fulfilment. Where is the alleged growing evidence that the economy is moving forward? Where is this new era of prosperity that the Prime Minister sees us striding into? And if the nation is on the move, in which direction is it moving? The Prime Minister condemns his Government’s economic management out of his own mouth. Latest unemployment and national accounts figures speak more eloquently and a good deal more persuasively as to the real state of this country’s economic health. They put the lie to most of what the Prime Minister asserts is either happening or going to happen. They stand public examination far better than do the business and political activities of some of the Prime Minister’s ministerial colleagues. Indeed, this Government’s view of proper economic management parallels its view of proper ministerial conduct. Both leave much to be desired. Both demand scrutiny by the Parliament.
A censure motion is the most serious measure open to an Opposition to emphasise its concern with Government policy. It is to be hoped the Prime Minister does not treat this one as lightly as he did the 23 urgency debates on the economy that the Opposition has initiated since the Government came to office. As the Speaker will recall, the Prime Minister did not speak in any of these debates. On every occasion, he ignored the opportunity to defend his administration and explain his policies. Apparently, the Prime Minister prefers to pronounce on the economy not to the Parliament but in his weekly pre-recorded broadcasts, in which he is safe from immediate challenge. It is a secure, if cowardly, tactic and today we saw a further demonstration of that security by the cowardly tactic in the Prime Minister’s leaving the House, with all of his Ministers, and ensuring that most of the back benchers of the Government would be empty in the course of this debate. The Government’s integrity and its ability generally have today been challenged seriously in this Parliament- not for the first, but for the umpteenth time in a few weeks. On this occasion the Prime Minister has sought, in the cowardly way in which he has so often in the past, not to answer the challenges to his Administration, to his capacity to handle the affairs of this nation, but rather to desert the Parliament and go elsewhere, by refusing to make a defence for the mess in economic management for which he and his Government are responsible.
In moving this censure motion, the Opposition seeks to jolt the Government into developing for 1978-79 a Budget which may well represent for some time Australia’s last opportunity to obtain a broad community consensus on both the economic goals that are reasonably obtainable, and the policies by which those goals are to be achieved. We on this side of the House believe that the Government’s current strategy, if continued, can only lead Australia into disaster next year. The apparent view of the Government is that the economy can be viewed in terms of certain statistical objectives, and that the social cost of pursuing these objectives can be largely discounted. This view is reflected in Cabinet’s massive disregard for the social and human costs of its bias towards the policy trilogy of ‘reducing the deficit’, ‘reducing inflation’ and ‘improving business profitability’. Yet what this Government sees as objectives are, in fact, economic policy options available to be balanced in their application to achieve the broader social objectives of the entire community.
Pre-eminent amongst these broader objectives must be the restoration of full, productive employment- both for the more than 400,000 people officially out of work- depending on what set of statistics is used- and the tens of thousands of persons who are substantially underemployed. This latter group is still being counted by the Bureau of Statistics as fully employed when often it is earning less than the rate of unemployment benefits. The social and economic costs of unemployment are being compounded by the natural growth, of about 2 per cent a year, of the workforce. To reduce unemployment from current high levels to the still unacceptable level of 3 per cent, or 200,000 by 1981 will require a growth in gross domestic product of an average of 6 per cent a year for the next three years. That simply cannot be achieved by this Government’s policies.
The Government has failed repeatedly to adopt measures to increase employment. In fact, it has taken measures which have directly created unemployment. It has handed out to industry more than $650m in tax concessions to replace men with machines, while firms which employ extra workers are penalised through a payroll tax which adds $450 to $500 for every additional worker employed. For a small establishment of about 100 employees, the additional penalty borne by an employer for employing his work force is of the order of $50,000 a year, on top of all of the other costs which he has to bear. This is a clear disadvantage to the employment of labour.
The Government should be considering a modest and responsible stimulus in the next Budget. The stimulus should be directed at job creation. Spending on public works will, have an immediate impact on employment in the building and construction industry. It is equally important that spending on job subsidy schemes should be increased. It is far better to subsidise wages than it is to pay unemployment benefits. Job subsidy should not be seen only as a shortterm measure. It can play a powerful role in reducing structural unemployment in the longer term, especially if it is directed at helping teenagers acquire skills needed in the future.
Mr Deputy Speaker, after two years of incessant propaganda by the Prime Minister on the supposed dangers of national governments incurring a deficit, regardless of how normal this procedure is in virtually every country around the world, we are now faced with an impending government deficit of $6 billion- almost twice as large as any deficit that was incurred when Labor was in office. Of course, a deficit of this magnitude will not eventually appear in next August’s Budget. However, under the Prime Minister’s ‘new Federalism’ policy he has already indicated, both by his Government’s restriction of funds to the States and his recent reply to the Tasmanian Treasurer, that any growth in the national deficit will be ‘translated’ into reductions in funds to the States, and ultimately into either a reduction in State government services or higher charges for those services. What Fraser Federalism means is simply that there will be a greater total tax burden for all taxpayers in this community; that the smaller States, population-wise, will bear a great cost burden and, accordingly, a greater economic disadvantage. Every income earner also will experience the impact of the savage increase in health care costs- probably up to $4 to $5 a week for a large proportion of people- that will occur in the August Budget. The Prime Minister may consider this translation of a national government problem into a State government and people’s problem as a tidy solution. It is, however, the worst possible budgetary policy for an economy in which the average wage earner has already experienced a decline in his family spending power over the last 2’A years of $12 a week. These increases in living costs will not be offset by wage increases under the Arbitration Commission’s current operating criteria. Because these costs cannot be avoided they will further reduce the real spending power of the average income earner. The net effect of this Government’s socalled economic policies will be to accentuate the already desperate trading conditions in the retailing and consumer goods manufacturing sectors. Apart from food retailers, who are already operating at rock bottom profit-to-sales ratios, retailers have all incurred disastrous slumps in profitability. One can reasonably expect that they will seek to further reduce their stocks-to-sales ratios and their staff levels, particularly as the winter downturn approaches.
In the manufacturing sector production of motor vehicles, white goods, television receivers and electrical goods have experienced sales declines ranging up to 50 per cent over the past 2 Vi years. The Government has engaged in a thimble and pea trick with manufacturers, generating a stream of propaganda against the Labor Party on its policies for assistance to industry, as it provides ever-increasing levels of assistance to those industries that obtain Mr Fraser ‘s personal attention, while driving those same companies into bankruptcy through economic mismanagement.
This year will see the introduction of structural change of the worst possible kind. Instead of a program of industrial development in conjunction with a phased rationalisation of less efficient companies in specific industries we will see their uncontrolled collapse. Instead of government programs of retraining and relocation assistance to employees involved in a restructuring of industry we will see them forced into unemployment. Instead of a substantive and urgent program of government financing and market development for exports of manufactured goods and food products we are witnessing a Blue Hills story of the attempts of the Department of Special Trade Representations to sell butter, beef and steel to the European Economic Community when warehouses in those countries are already full of these products.
Unless this Government adopts policies that will meet the challenge of the changing structure of our industries- primary, secondary and tertiaryinto a basis that is both world competitive and reflective of our educational standards and the aspirations of our workforce, then we must expect that the prevailing recession will continue to deepen and that real declines in our living standards will continue to occur at every level. In the manufacturing sector the Jackson Committee report has amply described the effects of encouraging indiscriminate development in virtually every Australian industry. By encouraging the growth of industries dependent on high tariffs, lacking the scale of production and technological base necessary to compete against import competition, Australia is now faced with only a series of difficult policy options, and has a Government that is determined to avoid all of them by simply blaming the unions and their members for literally every problem that this country is facing.
As for the rural sector, it is now not just in recession. It has entered a genuine depression with real farm income at its lowest level in 30 years. Forty per cent of farmers now have incomes of less than $ 100 a week. They have difficulty moving off their farms because unemployment in rural areas is running at twice the national average. One would think from listening to the Prime Minister’s statements that, if interest rates could be reduced by one per cent or 2 per cent, if inflation would stay down in single digit figures, if the business sector could be beguiled into investing a little more, then Australia would progressively return to those halcyon years of the 1950s and the 1960s and that somehow, this Government should be able to turn back the clock. The fact is that the Australian economy will get a lot worse, before it gets any better.
After two and a half years of Fraser Government I submit that the current and future state of the Austraiian economy is exclusively of its own making. I shall canvass just three issues that will have a major impact on Australians over the next two years. Firstly, let us consider the future level of unemployment in Australia. At the moment there are fewer than 20,000 job vacancies in Australia. Over 600,000 people would take up employment if it were available, and of this number 410,000 have actually registered for work. The number of people in the workforce has shown no growth over the last year. In fact, in the private sector it declined by 50,000.
The point I am making is that once a country slips into unemployment levels greater than that resulting from normal transitional movements in the economy, then a particular vigorous effort must be made to ensure that a high level of unemployment does not become institutionalised as has happened overseas. Under this Government however it is apparent that high levels of unemployment are now accepted as a convenient political tool, as an excuse for not developing a workable industrial relations and manpower planning policy, and as a means of seeking political advantage by creating and emphasising division within the Australian community. While this Government’s policies continue unemployment will reach 9 to 10 per cent next year. The annual cost to the Federal Budget of unemployment benefits would then be around $1.5 billion.
The loss of productive wealth to this nation would then be around $5 billion to $6 billion per annum. Unemployment is not a free option to be casually adopted by any government. The impact of this demand for unemployment and related social service benefits will have severe budgetary restrictions. One could reasonably expect in these circumstances some transfer of social welfare costs back to the public as a direct responsibility, as this Government is now doing.
Secondly, Australia is entering into an incipient balance of payments problem which is brought about by declining income from minerals exports, through reduced international demand and the competition from new Third World supply sources. Thirdly, the real purchasing power of most consumers is being substantially reduced through the continuation of only partial wage indexation, coupled with no indexation of important price increases because of the progressive devaluation of the Australian dollar and increases in fuel oil costs. Also a reduction in welfare provisions will throw an added cost burden back onto the average wage earner. The industrial relations situation in Australia will, no doubt, worsen as the unions react to substantial declines in real wage levels. The Government’s response will be equally obvious. Highlypublicised confrontations with the union movement and the use of penal powers, fines and suspensions, will be the order of the day.
The Government has no credibility in its management of the economic affairs of this country. There is despair in the Australian community and confusion overseas- despair at the mounting unemployment and the implications of this for our young people and confusion at policy switches which fluctuate between massive devaluation to massive foreign borrowings. It is no good the Prime Minister whinging that the Opposition is talking down the economy. Merely because he refuses to face the reality of his Government’s maladministration is no reason at all to shield the Australian people from an unpalatable series of truths. The Prime Minister will have to seek a scapegoat for the nation’s problems other than on this side of the House. If he would open the shutters on the fool ‘s paradise in which his Cabinet lives, he would find he does not have far to look.
The behaviour of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and his colleagues in the Parliament in the course of this debate is a clear insight into the seriousness with which they regard their responsibilities for economic management. That behaviour is clear evidence of the regard they have for the problems of business and of the unemployed.
At this time by an arrangement on the part of the Government Whip and Deputy Whip four back bench members are present on the Government side of the House, and two junior Ministers who may have had a past but who certainly have no future. All of this was arranged by the Prime Minister through the Whip and the Deputy Whip. As soon as this debate started both the Whip and the Deputy Whip went about the Government benches ensuring that everyone, except the barest minimum number of honourable members, withdrew from the Government side of the chamber. This is an appalling commentary on the seriousness with which the Government regards this matter.
The latest monthly figures available show that there is at present the highest level of unemployment that this country has suffered at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The evidence from the national accounts figures is that there is no economic growth in the Australian economy. That means, very simply, that there is no economic growth and no productivity. Any number of persons added to the work force, which is about 2 per cent a year, goes straight into the unemployment figures, increasing that number in the course of the year. It is accordingly quite clear that in early 1979 unemployment will peak, as things stand now, at between 9 per cent and 10 per cent of the work force. Unemployment of that order is a measure of the social distress affecting those people who have registered and of the tens of thousands of others who have not bothered to register because of their total alienation from the shortcomings of government administration. Also that unemployment is a measure of the deficiency in economic activity in the business sector of the economy. It means simply, and taken in conjunction with production output indexes, that many private businesses in Australia are on the verge of bankruptcy and that unless there is a dramatic change in economic management in Australia a great number of businesses will be bankrupted over the next 12 months.
That in itself is serious enough. Accordingly, it is irritating to find that not one senior Government Minister finds it necessary to be in the House at this time to discuss this matter. Of course it is an effort on the part of the Government to display contempt not for the Opposition but for the issue presented, and accordingly the people of Australia.
But a more important matter is to be considered. The economic conditions in Australia, in the absence of a change of economic management, have the most worrying implications in terms of mounting unemployment, an increasing number of bankruptcies and a deepening recession, which by now must fairly be described as a depression. Impinging upon this at an increasingly rapid rate and with greater force is a decline in international economic trade activity directly affecting the Australian economy. The substantial cutbacks in orders for Australian minerals mean simply that the weak balance of payments from which we are suffering will become weaker.
It is disturbing that the latest balance of trade figures show that although we are still in surplus on our balance of trade the level of that surplus- by whatever measure one wants to take; month by month comparable with previous years or the 12-monthly period to the latest month comparable with a similar period in earlier years- is at a much lower level than has applied in earlier years. Connect that with the fact that there is a growing outflow of capital from Australia, with a weakening balance on current account, and we have an overall picture of a rapidly deteriorating balance of payments for Australia.
This will be weakened by an increasingly feeble trading situation for Australia. Cuts in our mineral exports- which have been mentioned in reports in reliable and sober financial commentary in our more responsible Press- indicate that Australia will be losing between at least $400m to $500m in export income, about 4 per cent to 5 per cent of her export income. We frankly cannot afford that. It appears to me by the way in which Government supporters have sought to absent themselves from the chamber today in this debate in such obvious, organised large numbers that they either do not understand the serious and disturbing implications of reduced export income on the Australian economy and the very worrying effects it will have on business and the welfare of people or- I believe this is the more likely explanation- they find themselves totally ill-equipped to present a defence to the way in which they are handling the economy in the light of this development, reinforcing the general decline in the level of economic activity in Australia.
What does a rapidly deteriorating balance of payments situation represent in this country? It represents obviously a serious weakening in the Australian dollar. I do not want to discuss that any more. But in turn it also means that in the absence of appropriate policies this Government, given its conservative bent, when it resorts to a change in economic measures will resort to even more intensification of the contractionary economic management measures it has used so far. I repeat- it bears stressing many times- that we are now looking at a situation, putting to one side the external effects on the Australian economy, in which in 1979 unemployment will peak at between 9 per cent and 10 per cent of the work force, the worst level since the Great Depression of nearly half a century ago. Businesses in great numbers will be becoming bankrupt and general economic activity will be lower than it is now. The economy will be going into a deeper recession. I repeat, that is worrying enough, but in the total absence of any sensible, credible and practical Government response to the external forces that are now starting to impinge so disastrously on the Australian economy, one can only feel alarm at the lack of interest that the Government displays today.
This censure motion is moved against the Government and is directed against the Prime Minister. It is directed against the Prime Minister because he believes that if he indulges in enough cliches, while adopting an empty posture and misleading the Australian people, somehow or other he will manage to get by the great economic problems facing Australia. It is the Prime Minister who has failed the Australian people. The Australian people are unable to communicate with the Prime Minister unless, of course, they have the good fortune of being about to instal a computer and have a suitable American connection through IBM. The Government stands condemned for the way it has handled the economy, for its indifference to the implications of a continuation of present economic policies and for its total neglect of the external forces now working to the disadvantage of the domestic economy. It most of all stands condemned for the way in which it has displayed contempt for the Parliament and the Australian people today by ensuring that the barest minimum of Government supporters and the two most junior Ministers would be in the House for the debate.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Does the honourable member intend to address himself to the motion or to reserve his right to speak?
– I intend to speak to the motion next.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
– The disinterest of Government supporters in this motion of censure of the Government for its inability to run the economy properly and for the misleading statements by its leaders, particularly the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in trying to convince the Australian people that the economy is in fact, in good shape indicates their uneasiness at the state of the economy and their refusal to listen to the very detailed and strong arguments that can be put forward to show just how badly the economy is being run at the present time. Just about everyone in Australia must realise by now that this Government’s economic policies are demonstrably disastrous.
One has only to look at the level of unemployment to realise that this is the case. The rate of unemployment is now 7 per cent. For teenagers the rate of unemployment is over 20 per cent, which is an incredibly high level. Yet honourable members opposite do not even bother to come into this chamber to listen to the debate. The Government apparently will not even bother to send in a Minister to reply to the debate. It will put up one of its back bench supporters to reply to the debate for it. The Ministers are too scared to come into the chamber and debate these issues and to listen to the arguments that we have to place before them. They realise that their economic policies have been disastrous and are afraid to argue them out with us.
We will concede immediately that there are substantial difficulties in controlling the economy in any country in the Western world at this time. There have been for a number of years. Because of international inflation and recession a process of stagflation is taking place in almost every developed country in the Western world. The factors which have operated to cause that also created enormous problems for the Labor Government prior to this Government’s seizing office.
– I take a point of order. I have waited a few minutes to enable the proceedings of the House to get under way but there is still no Minister present in the House. I raise this point because there is case history of Presiding Officers refusing to allow the proceeding of the House to continue while no Minister was present in the chamber.
-I noticed that myself. I have just asked the Deputy Government Whip to fetch a Minister. If the House would give me 60 seconds or so to enable him to return the debate could proceed.
– Do not take it out of my time.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide has a valid point of order, but I would prefer not to act on it.
– What about the time of the honourable member for Gellibrand?
-I suggest that the honourable member for Gellibrand should continue with his speech. No such issue would then arise. If you will allow me some time to get a Minister into the chamber that is the best the Chair can do.
– If you were to allow the honourable member for Gellibrand to continue you would be saying, in fact, that it is all right for the chamber to continue this debate without a Minister being present.
-I call the honourable member for Gellibrand.
– I am pleased to see that at least one Minister has managed to make his way into the chamber some two minutes after the start of proceedings. As I was saying, there are substantial difficulties for any government in the Western capitalist world to run the economy at present. We concede that. It has been a difficulty for some years. It is acknowledged by us now. It was never acknowledged by the Opposition parties while the Labor Government was in office. They made out that it was the fault of the Labor Government that there were the particular difficulties which arose at that time and which have been accentuated enormously since the Labor Government was thrown out of office.
The Fraser Government has undoubtedly made the economic conditions in this country far worse than the international factors made inevitable. Its economic performance deteriorated sharply as its policies took hold. One has only to look at the key statistics for the economy to see that the situation is rapidly getting worse. As this Government’s policies are brought to bear more and more on the economy, the situation gets worse and worse. I refer to economic growth. In the period from December 1975 to December 1976 real gross domestic product rose by 3. 1 per cent. That was in the first year of the Fraser Government and occurred while the policy of the previous Labor Government still had some sway. However, in the calendar year 1977 real GDP rose by only 0.6 per cent. In other words, it rose by less than the rate of increase in the population. The output per head actually decreased in the second year of the Fraser Government.
Similarly, in the Fraser Government’s first year of office, 1976, real gross non-farm product, which is often taken as the best indicator of how the Government is running the country, increased by 4.8 per cent. In its second year of office, 1977, it was 1.5 per cent. There was a drastic deterioration in the rate of growth. It was barely enough to keep pace with the rate of increase in the population. Employment is also a very important indicator of how the economy is going. We were told in 1975 that there would be jobs for all who wanted to work. What is the reality? In 1 976 the Government created the miserable number of only 2,700 jobs for wage and salary earners in civilian employment. That was an increase of 0.05 per cent. The work force should have been increasing by approximately 2 per cent or well over 100,000 a year. The Government created 2,700 jobs in that time. In the next year the situation was even worse. In 1977 the Government added 2,200 people to the total number of wage and salary earners. That was an increase of 0.04 per cent. It was a miserable and pathetic performance. In private enterprise, where the lights were to be turned on and everything was going to be beaut, the number of wage and salary earners in 1976 fell by 14,100. In 1977 it fell by 43,900. As the Government’s policies have taken hold and had full effect the loss of jobs has rapidly increased.
It is obvious from those key indicators of economic growth and employment that the situation is rapidly deteriorating under this Government. Nothing has happened in this calendar year which would indicate any change in that trend. The deterioration of economic performance has been so sharp that the Budget strategy is now shot to pieces. That is an unchallengeable statement. There is no chance of the Budget forecasts, modest as they were, being achieved. Taking economic growth as a basic forecast in a Budget, the Government forecast that gross non-farm product would rise by more than 4 per cent in this financial year, that is, from June 1977 to June 1978. 1 shall quote from Statement No. 2 of the Budget Papers. The Government said: . . from June quarter 1977 to June quarter 1978 nonfarm product is expected to grow by over 4 per cent, compared with one per cent from June quarter 1976 to June quarter 1977.
The Government then made a very important statement in the Budget. It said:
It is of course the rate of growth over the course of the year which influences the prospective trend from now on in such other elements in the outlook as employment and unemployment.
That is largely true. The rate of growth is a major determinant of what happens to employment and unemployment. If the rate of growth falters there will be many more difficulties in relation to unemployment. That is what has in fact happened. During this financial year- we have the figures for half of the year, that is, from June to December- there has been no economic growth whatever. There has been no sign of an increase of 4 per cent in gross non-farm product. In fact, there has been a reduction in the real level of gross non-farm product. In that six months period, on a seasonally adjusted basis, it has declined by 0.6 per cent. In the December quarter we saw a decline of 1.3 per cent. Even given that these figures are preliminary and are subject to some alteration later it is quite clear that there has been little or no increase- probably a negative increase- in the first half of this financial year. The increase of 4 per cent which was forecast in the Budget is totally unachievable. There is no way that that increase will now be achieved.
One must compare that sort of performance with the statement by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in his speech to the luncheon of the Australian Financial Review on 20 March. He said:
Real non-farm product rose by 1 .2 per cent in the September quarter and it would appear that the Budget projection for this aggregate may prove to have been on the conservative side.
I emphasise the words ‘on the conservative side’. That has been shown to be an absolutely absurd statement. Two days after he made that states ment to the Australian Financial Review luncheon the December quarter national account figures came out and showed that there had been a 1.3 per cent decline in the December quarter and that, as I mentioned before, there had been a decline of 0.6 per cent in the period from June to December. The statement by the Treasurer as recently as 20 March that the gross non-farm product would be better than forecast in the Budget has been shown to be absolutely absurd. It is a totally false claim. In respect of employment, the Budget forecast that employment growth from June 1977 to June 1978 would be something approaching two per cent. That means that for the total work force we should have had an increase of something in the order of 120,000 people in the work force. But what in fact has happened?
In the period from May, which is the period to which the latest figures we can get refer, to the beginning of the financial year- to Februarythe employed labour force in fact declined by 100,000 or 1.7 per cent. So there is no possible way in which we will have anything like a two per cent increase in the employed labour force, as the Budget forecast for that period. In fact, we will be very lucky if we can maintain the figures we had previously. All the indicators now are that there will be a very substantial decline in the level of employment in this financial year. Indeed, the latest forecast from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, which comes out every six months, in respect of the manufacturing industry, is extraordinarily pessimistic. It says that over the next 12 to 18 months we can expect only a further decline in the level of employment. So that Department does not see anything to be enthusiastic about either.
One indicator which has something going for it as far as the Government is concerned is private capital investment. That is the only growth indicator which the Government can point to. It is the only statistic on which it can pin any hopes whatever. The reason for that, of course, is simple. It is because of the investment allowance, which is an extraordinarily generous one of 40 per cent. But that investment allowance will be cut back to 20 per cent in the middle of this year. Every incentive is given to those who wish to undertake some investment in the foreseeable future to do it now while the 40 per cent investment allowance is available. Why would not a person do that?
– They are forced into that by industrial unrest.
-I have mentioned that. Why would not a person take the 40 per cent now? Although there are no prospects of increases in demand in sight, such a person could still invest and get the 40 per cent investment allowance. Of course, what they would be doing is not investing in what we might term capital-widening investment which creates more jobs but in capitaldeepening investment- in capital equipmentwhich destroys jobs. It makes industry more capital intensive- in other words, less labour intensive- and takes away employment. That is what is happening hand over fist. The Government has said as much. The Government has said that in the national wage case. I shall read to the House the statement made by counsel for the Commonwealth Government in the national wage case held in February. He said:
While the incentive afforded by the investment allowance on non-farm plant and equipment has played a role in the pick-up in investment stated in the past year, the fact is that this investment has been largely channelled into labour saving devices.
So the Commonwealth Government’s own counsel in the national wage case has said that the increase in investment is occurring mainly in relation to labour saving devices. In other words, it is destroying jobs. So do not tell us that private capital investment is being expanded and that that is something about which we should be joyful. It means that the Australian economy is becoming far more capital intensive at the expense of employment right now. The Government has taken absolutely no notice of a statement to which I have referred previously. It is the statement made by the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in March of last year at a meeting in Paris of experts on structural determinants of employment and unemployment. Mr Van Lennep said:
Of the various structural explanations of unemployment, a theme that has been getting increased attention by policy makers in some of our Member countries . . . deals with the possibility of overly capital-intensive production methods in the private sector, at the expense of employment.
He went on to say:
What we may perhaps agree is that where governments wish to encourage private investment to sustain economic growth it is important that the incentives chosen should support a wholesome balance between capital-deepening and capital-widening (i.e., between labour saving and job creation) and that the tax system should avoid any bias against the use of labour.
The tax system should avoid any bias against the use of labour, but let us have a look at the tax system in this country. We have a massive incentive for industry to become more capital intensive and therefore to wipe out jobs through the investment allowance; we have a massive disincentive to employ labour through a five per cent payroll tax operating throughout the country. So the situation is against employment on both sides. There is a positive tax disincentive to the employment of labour and a positive tax incentive for industry to become more capital intensive. It is no wonder that jobs are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate. The Budget forecasts in relation to employment growth are just so much hogwash. So the Government has totally disregarded the warnings that have been given. It is pursuing a policy which is destroying jobs hand over fist.
The Government’s reaction to this appalling economic situation is just to retreat totally from reality. Government spokesmen continually assert that all is well and that a great future is about to unfold. That is either self delusion or an attempt at deception of the Austraiian people, or perhaps both. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has referred to some statements in that regard made by the Prime Minister. Let me mention a few other statements made by other prominent spokesmen. The Treasurer has said a number of times that the Government rejects the notion that there is any kind of recession in Australia. Does anyone really believe him when he says that? Is not a 7 per cent unemployment level an indicator of a recession, if not a depression? Does not the fact that demand is stagnant, that the only thing that is moving is capital investment which is wiping out jobs, indicate that there is some sort of a recession in this country? Do Government supporters think that the employers do not think there is a recession? They have been saying it left, right and centre, but the Government keeps trying to say that there is no recession. Maybe it believes it but if it does it is a classic exercise in self delusion. I really do not think it could believe it, in which case it is just trying to deceive the Australian people.
The Treasurer said at the Australian Financial Review luncheon to which I referred earlier: ‘Our basic economic performance is steadily improving. ‘ What an absurd statement to make. There is just no basis on which that can be maintained, as I have already demonstrated. The Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) said in a speech to the Metal Trades Industry Association at the end of February that the Australian economy has been recovering from recession for the past two years. What an incredible statement to make. The figures I have produced show that the economy has been getting deeper and deeper into recession. Indeed, at the very time the Minister made that statement, the Metal Trades Industry Association had made a submission to the Crawford Committee in which it expressed its extraordinary concern at the degree of recession in this country and in which it implored the Government to do something about it. So clearly it did not believe the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
The Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) has said that the Budget estimates will be largely achieved. What absolute nonsense. Not one Budget estimate in respect of economic growth, employment or the deficit can possibly be achieved. They are all out the window by now. So we see that these spokesmen for the Government in respect of the economy are indulging in statements which in reality just have no basis whatever. The Government’s next reaction is to blame wages. When it conceded that maybe things were not as good as they should be, it blamed the wage levels. It says that wages policy is at the basis of all of it. It repeatedly argued that unemployment and the slowness of recovery were due to the excessive level of real wages. It therefore argues that the supposed imbalance between real wage growth and productivity needs to be abolished and the profits share of income accordingly increased at the expense of wages before recovery is achievable. In pursuit of that policy the Government has gone into national wage case after national wage case breaking its promise of 1975 to the people to support wage indexation. It has asked for much less. It has developed in the national wage cases a concept of the real wage overhang which, it says, is simply the measure by which real wages have exceeded the increase in the rate of growth of productivity. It says that that represents something like a ten per cent real wage overhang. That figure is highly dubious.
Various objections have been raised to the methods used by the Commonwealth Government in calculating it. Included amongst those methods is one which takes into account payroll tax and workers compensation insurance payments. If payroll tax and workers compensation insurance payments are to be included, how in the name of goodness can it be said that that means that real wages are too high? Those payments have nothing to do with wage earners but with other things. Using other more justifiable methods of calculation other people have reduced that ten per cent real wage overhang to five per cent in the case of the Flinders Institute, three per cent in the case of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, and a three per cent underhang in the case of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Those bodies have used figures which are just as justifiable as those used by the Commonwealth Government.
Even if one were to concede that there is some overhang, the Government’s argument that real wages should be cut involves various assumptions which are highly challengeable. Firstly, it assumes that no increase in labour’s share of income above some long term average of the past years is possible or permissible. We totally reject that. There is no immutable economic law which says that labour’s share should never increase over any particular period of time. The mere fact that it has increased somewhat in the last few years does not necessarily mean that it is an economic destroyer. Secondly, the Government says that the cost of equal pay for females, which is a significant factor in the real wage overhang calculation, should be borne solely by male wage earners and not by the employers at all. Equal pay for females was something which was socially justifiable, something which the whole of the economy should pay for and not just the male wage earners. In our view, employers are up for paying just as much of that as are male wage earners. It is not something which should be attributable solely to the male wage earning sector of the community.
Then honourable members opposite say that the way in which to eradicate the real wage overhang is to cut real wages. However, there is another way, which they totally ignore, and that is to increase productivity by stimulating economic activity. Surely that is the most sensible way in which to overcome any real wage overhangthat is, of course, if one concedes that it existsbecause when productivity rises rapidly on the economic upswing it would eliminate any real wage overhang and reduce the unit cost. The absolute insincerity of honourable members opposite in regard to the real wage overhang and to wages, which they claim to be the destroyer of the economy, is shown in respect of payroll tax. At the last election we presented a proposal which would have wiped out any real wage overhang through the abolition of payroll tax and the Government would not have a bar of it. If it wants to wipe out real wage overhang it can do so by abolishing payroll tax, as we suggested. But it says: ‘No, that is not on. We want to attack real wages’. It wants to do that because it is ideologically committed to it.
-Order The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The House is debating a motion of censure of the Government which was moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). The Leader of the Opposition in his speech made reference -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The honourable member for Casey will resume his seat. The House will come to order immediately. I ask honourable members to try to behave in a manner befitting members of this House.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I will begin my remarks again. The House is debating a motion of censure of the Government which was moved by the Leader of the Opposition -
Opposition members interjecting-
Motion (by Mr Young) proposed:
That the honourable member for Casey be not further heard.
-Order! The honourable member for Casey will resume his seat. The performance of honourable members has been quite disgraceful but above it I managed to hear a motion moved that the honourable member for Casey be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the negative.
The speech by the Leader of the Opposition in support of his motion was no more engaging or inspiring than his address during the parliamentary luncheon today. I understand that a book entitled The Wit of Whitlam has recently been published. We can be assured that no book entitled The Wit of Hayden will be published. Perhaps several volumes of The Huffing of Hayden will be published, but that is as much as we can expect.
It is amazing that the Leader of the Opposition acknowledged neither the root causes of the economic problems of this country nor the very real steps being taken by this Government to overcome the problems. An enormous amount of long-term damage was done to the Australian economy and to ordinary Australian workers by the actions of the government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member. The destruction of the competitiveness of Australian industry came about as a result of forces unleashed by the Whitlam Government.
Let me refer to something that the Leader of the Opposition said in his speech. He said: ‘This Government has taken measures to penalise employment’. What gall coming from a Labor Party Leader! During the Whitlam years there was, for example, the across-the-board tariff cut of 25 per cent- a precipitate action which caught industry by surprise and totally destroyed the planning ability of many companies. Mr Fred Daly, in his recent book, expressed dismay that a Labor government could take such actions and according to his account, the honourable member for Hindmarsh Mr Clyde Cameron) was similarly dismayed by the actions of his own government.
There was, of course, in that period cost-push inflation promoted by an active policy of using the Public Service for pace-setting in the wages and salaries area and in other conditions of employment. As a result, many Australian industries found themselves in the ludicrous situation of having a wages structure even higher than that of their United States counterparts. Australian companies were already at a disadvantage. They are at a disadvantage because they are serving a smaller market. They do not have the economies of scale of United States companies. Therefore, with the degree of cost-push inflation to which they were subjected, they suffered a double disadvantage in terms of their competitiveness, both abroad and on the home market. It is no wonder that many companies went offshore and decided to invest in countries that had lower wage costs. Having made that decision to invest elsewhere, it will be many years indeed before they are in a position to make new investment decisions and to re-establish their operations in Australia.
Furthermore, during those Whitlam years, there was a massive increase in many areas of government expenditure. I suppose that to politicians many items on which there was expenditure in those days might have been attractive and electorally appealing at the time, but what a burden they were to taxpayers and to the private individuals who had to carry the cost of government activities.
Other price indicators also point to considerable moderation of inflation in the second half of 1 977. For instance, the main implicit price deflators derived from the national accounts show increases of less than 10 per cent over the course of 1977. For the second half of 1977, the increases were at annual rates of around 8 per cent. Moreover, price indexes for articles produced by manufacturing industry and for materials used in building show increases of less than 2 per cent for the latest three-monthly periods. This is good news indeed for the building industry, long crippled by sky-rocketing costs. Wage inflation has also moderated because of the responsible wages policy pursued by this Government. This policy has not been assisted by the irresponsible acquiescence of the Opposition to every extremist union demand and its failure to condemn economically disruptive industrial activities.
The latest national accounts estimates show that real domestic final demand, both private and government, increased at a solid annual rate of 3.6 per cent in the second half of 1 977. Also, exports strengthened markedly and imports fell sharply, signalling a diversion of demand to domestic sources. It was only as a result of the sharp stock run-down, a phenomenon which, by its very nature, must only be temporary and which in any case was partly associated with the Victorian power dispute, that real product fell in the December quarter. New capital expenditure by private enterprises, seasonally adjusted and in current price terms, is expected to be 15 per cent higher in the first half of 1 978 than actual expenditure in the second half of 1977. Expenditure is expected to be 55 per cent higher in mining, 20 per cent higher in manufacturing and 4 per cent higher in other industries. The index of consumer confidence included in the consumer surveys carried out by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has surged in recent months. In February it was at a level equal to the previous record registered in early 1973.
In general then, the trend to lower inflation, rising demand and a strengthening trade account has been at least as strong as anticipated in the 1977-78 Budget Papers. These fundamental improvements will be reflected in rising production as the temporarily off-setting effects of the stock cycle recede. It was also distressing to note in the speeches of Opposition members that there was no acknowledgment of the gradual but steady fall in interest rates which has taken place under this Government.
Let me turn now to the steps being taken to restore balance to the Australian work force. It must first be stated that unemployment in this country is too high. More needs to be done to open up employment opportunities, particularly for school leavers. But let us look again at the root causes of the problem. The largest annual increase in unemployment took place in 1974- an increase of 117,863 or 161 per cent over that of the previous year. Subsequently the previous Government camouflaged the real level of unemployment by the Regional Employment Development scheme, which artificially took people off the unemployment list but did not give them any lasting form of employment in productive work.
The expansion of certain categories of tertiary education and the nature of many of the longer training courses encouraged through the National Employment and Training scheme, as it then was, have produced a surplus of graduates for some categories of jobs. We have taken steps to deal with this imbalance in the labour market. We have made important amendments to the NEAT scheme. We have placed a new emphasis on vocationally oriented training and onthejob experience, which equips people for productive jobs in the economy- jobs which actually produce something and which provide a prospect of long term employment. In a further extension of the NEAT scheme, the Government has implemented the Special Youth Employment Training Program, which is designed to provide employers with a subsidy to enable them to take on new young employees who would otherwise be unemployed and to train them for productive work in the economy. A further innovation has been the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training scheme.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the honourable member for Casey be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr A. W. Jarman)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
If one major criticism can be levelled against this Government it is that it did not perceive at an early stage the real extent and long term nature of the damage wreaked on the Australian economy by the Whitlam Government. Confidence does not return overnight. Investment decisions often take years to emerge. Jobs cannot be artificially created. They must be based on real demand, on solidly based increases in standards of living and on rising exports.
It must be noted that every attempt by the Government to increase confidence and encourage real growth has been met with carping criticism from the Opposition. An uncharitable person might conclude that members of the Opposition were trying to destroy confidence and talk down the economy. Let us have some constructive comment from the Leader of the Opposition. Let him outline some new policies instead of the tired old policies which have now twice been rejected by the Australian people, in 1 975 and 1 977. Let us have some statement from members of the Opposition relating to the Victorian power dispute, to the problems and disruption caused to our economic growth by black bans and boycotts which affect the loading of coal and wheat into ships and the recent dispute which involved the loading of live sheep on ships for a very lucrative Middle East market.
I suggest that the motion of censure moved by the Leader of the Opposition is both inaccurate and hypocritical. The Government rejects it completely because the Opposition has failed to bring forward any constructive suggestions of its own. It has failed to acknowledge the real steps taken by this Government to reduce the rate of inflation. The Government has been remarkably successful in this respect. It has failed to acknowledge the measures introduced by this Government to provide wider and more extensive training systems. It has failed to acknowledge a great many things. In particular it has failed to acknowledge its own shortcomings both in government and now in Opposition. We on this side of the House with confidence reject the Opposition’s no-confidence motion.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the highlight of this debate has been the failure of the Government to debate the economy.
Motion ( by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr A. W. Jarman)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Hayden’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr A. W. Jarman’
Question so resolved in the negative.
by leave- On 2 June 1977 the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure presented the Committee’s report on Australia’s overseas representation. In accordance with the operational guidelines tabled by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 8 April 1976 I am now able to announce the Government’s responses to the various recommendations of the Standing Committee. The Government regards the report as a valuable contribution to the development of improved management and control of Australia’s representation in foreign countries. As the report clearly indicates, there has, over the years, been a growth in overseas representation beyond that which is essential to meet Australia’s needs. While other initiatives in recent years have reversed that growth, to the point where overseas staffing is now substantially in line with essential workloads, without unacceptable detriment to departmental operations, the report of the Standing Committee has led to Government acceptance of arrangements which will better enable the Government to scrutinise our overseas representation regularly and in detail.
In considering the specific recommendations of the Standing Committee, the Government has been mindful that Australia needs a competent and properly positioned diplomatic and consular service; that it needs to take positive action to locate outlets for trade; that it needs to develop sound economic and financial relations with other countries; and that its defence requirements include a substantial degree of involvement and therefore contact with other countries. There are also our needs in relation to migration. In addition, Australia, as an active member of the international community, has with a number of individual foreign countries and institutions particular shared interests which can require specialised representation. These factors are necessarily influential in determining the number of overseas posts which Australia requires. The Government has endorsed the Standing Committee’s view that we should examine on a continuing basis the range and extent of functions and services provided at overseas posts, the systems applying in posts, and the associated staffing levels. Central to this examination is the submission of a biennial report by the Public Service Board on reviews conducted by departments. In advance of the first biennial review of overseas posts the Government has acted on recommendation 32 of the Standing Committee that the Government set a limit on locally-engaged staffing in London at 500 and instruct departments to arrange priorities within that number.
In considering this recommendation, the Government requested the Public Service Board and the Department of Foreign Affairs to conduct a joint review, in consultation with relevant departments, of services, functions and staffing in London with a view to identifying those reductions that would be required to achieve a locallyengaged staffing level of no more than 500. That review has now been completed and a report made to the Government. As a result of the review, it has been found possible to achieve the recommended level of staffing by rearrangement of services and functions in the High Commission, London, and by the return to Australia of a small number of minor functions which can be performed as readily from Australia as from London. Action is being taken to reduce locallyengaged staffing in London to 525. The Public Service Board and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, in consultation with other relevant departments, are reviewing further staffing reductions which would achieve and maintain a locally-engaged staffing level of not more than 500. For the information of honourable members, I table a summary of the Standing Committee’s recommendations and of the Government’s responses to them.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) by leave- I note the Minister assisting the Prime Minister (Mr Viner) says that this statement is the Government’s response to a report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure on Australia ‘s overseas representation which was tabled in the Parliament as far back as June last year. The Committee was appointed by resolution of the House in April 1976. As the Committee itself says, ‘the central thrust of its inquiry has been towards determining what value the Australian public was receiving for its money and what improvements might be made’. The Committee has not questioned the Government’s broad foreign, trade and other policies but rather how they are being implemented and administered’. For the want of a summary I shall call it the Garland Committee because Mr Garland, now the Minister for Special Trade Representations, was the Chairman. I am aware of the fact that the Committee did not leave Australian shores. The Committee said that is was not possible for it to examine individually all the 4,029 positions overseas.
However, I make these points: Efficiency review of public administration is important and there is no reason why it should apply more to overseas representation than to domestic departments. The Committee has done a very quick and, we would say, easy job. Some of the points it made are sound and some are superficial. It is important to get beyond the hopeless start that the Government made with the recommendations of what is called the Bland Committee. The most notable disaster in relation to that Committee was the closing of the Los Angeles office. That has lost us millions of dollars in trade. In fact, the New South Wales Government has gone to the trouble of establishing its own Los Angeles office. The Premier of New South Wales is confident that he will improve the trading position of that State as a result of that perception. All this discussion can be pretty academic. The real issue, in our view, is that the present Government ‘s foreign policy is that of only one person, namely, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- and that has its limitations.
Let us turn to the particulars. The Committee has hit at the big objects, starting with London. It is laudable to get the staffing in London down to 500 people but that raises the question of the value and effectiveness of staff ceilings, which can produce distortions rather than economies and effectiveness. It is the cost that counts. In our major embassies it is possible to work out what it costs to support what is known as a policy officer. For example, Washington has 100 policy officers among 300 staff. The total cost is over $10m a year. That is, it is $ 100,000 per policy officer. It is important that the Committee should have approached this subject on a more understanding basis than simply lopping off a few numbers. The ceiling approach can lead to the wrong staff being laid off and to damage to interest. We can wind up with a lot of chiefs and very few Indians if we adopt this sort of policy. It does not guarantee effectiveness or economy.
The report states only that defence personnel will not be increased. That means that again the Department of Defence was successful in snowing the Committee in the usual tradition. The Committee ran up against the most complicated system with massive overseas staffing and has not been able to analyse it. I understand it will be analysed this year. Well over half our staff in London and Washington are defence people or people providing services for defence staff.
The report admirably recommends that the Department of Foreign Affairs be opened up. It has been a ‘closed shop’ for a long time and has acquired, especially under the strictures and staff cuts of the Government, a depressive ‘closed shop’ mentality. Of course this is likely to be the case while foreign policy is not made in the Department of Foreign Affairs but, in our view, in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as well as the Treasury. Even so, item 14 of the attachment to the Minister’s statement indicates that the proposal has not been fully accepted.
Secondments out of the Department of Foreign Affairs are not the point; it is time Foreign Affairs opened its doors and accepted people from outside on a wider scale and made service elsewhere in the Government a prerequisite for higher appointment The foreign service labours in shallow water without full appreciation of national interest, as is found elsewhere in government. Of course the same could be said of a number of other departments, including Treasury.
We welcome the proposals to improve the Trade Commissioner Service. This is overdue. Trade Commissioners are important in finding trade opportunities. I have doubts, however, about the effectiveness of recommendations to improve and revitalise the Service. The Government has not accepted the proposal to repeal the Trade Commissioners Act. That decision reflects pressure, not improvement. We await advice from the Government as to what it will do instead.
We note that the Government is giving consideration to charging Australians for services they obtain from Austraiian embassies abroad. It is to be hoped that the Government will do this with some sense of proportion. Many of the services provided to travelling Australians are essential and humanitarian in nature. Any of us who have been overseas are aware of that fact and know that Australians travelling overseas are not necessarily well endowed. It is wrong to start from the premise that all Australians who travel are rich. It is desirable for Australians to continue to be able to expect, when they suffer injury or sickness or other misfortune while they are abroad, that the Government’s representatives will provide them with reasonable assistance.
It is essential for Australia to be well represented and effectively represented. We are too far from the rest of the world and too dependant on trading relations with distant countries, and relations in various other spheres, for our representation to be dispensable.
We must also recognise that people sent abroad on extended duties do so at some cost to themselves, as well as some benefit. They must not only be respected and recompensed but also provided with an opportunity to re-establish themselves in Australia. What is the use of having staff representing Australia who have spent most of their adult lives outside Australia? The same problem relates to the location of most of our Public Service advisers. They spend most of their lives in Canberra- a splendid city but one that is pretty remote from most of Australia ‘s social and economic problems.
– Hear, hear!
-Thank you. I welcome the report and the proposals to act on it. We also welcome the proposals for a broader cost benefit review of overseas representation. However, let us not focus our attention on that area to the exclusion of the broader problems in the Public Service.
– by leave- Honourable members will recall that Darwin was virtually destroyed by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day 1974. The destruction it caused was the worst suffered by an Australian city. It was turned into a ruin without essential services such as power, sewerage and water. Its survivors mostly lacked even basic shelter. The majority of the population had to be evacuated and the life of the city was completely disrupted. Between 50 and 60 per cent of its 1 1,000 or so houses and flats were damaged beyond repair with only a few hundred left more or less intact. Before the cyclone, Darwin was a vigorous, growing city with a population of nearly 50,000. After evacuation, the population was reduced to 10,000. The then Labor Government- with the full support of the Parliament- immediately established the Darwin Reconstruction Commission which came into existence on 28 February 1 975. At the time it was thought that it would take five years to rebuild the city.
Due to the energy and initiative of the Commission, the building contractors and the local people, and the splendid support of the Australian community as a whole, the rebuilding of
Darwin has been mostly completed in just over three years. As honourable members will appreciate, the difficulties involved in rebuilding a city as remote as Darwin were formidable. The logistics involved in securing adequate labor and materials were daunting and it is to the credit of all concerned that these were overcome in such a relatively short period of time.
Over this period the Darwin Reconstruction Commission spent in excess of $300m. On housing alone, it spent $ 130m. It produced 1850 new and 800 rebuilt houses and 144 new and 128 rebuilt flats- a total of almost 3000 new units. This works out at almost 2.5 houses completed for every day since the cyclone. In addition, the Home Finance Trustee also provided special Commonwealth funds on concessional terms to private individuals so that their homes could be reconstructed without unnecessary hardship. These loans totalled over $38.5m.
In addition to housing, the Commission undertook massive expenditures in the areas of education and health. Over $2 5 m was spent on the completion of new pre-schools and primary schools at Wanguri, Tiwi, Anula and Wulagi as well as the restoration of existing schools. A new high school at Dripstone costing $6m is about to be built. Some $54m was expended on the provision of health facilities including the reconstruction of the Darwin Hospital, community health centres, dental clinics and the construction of the new Casuarina hospital complex. Other major services such as electricity and sewerage restoration, the reconstruction of various office buildings, airport facilities, water supply and the provision of other essential services accounted fora further $9 lm.
Over the past three years the population has progressively returned until today Darwin is in substantially the same position as it was before that tragic Christmas Day of 1974. Its population has returned to normal and it is once again a healthy and growing city. This could not have been achieved without the dedication and hard work of all those associated with the Commission. I pay tribute to the successive chairmen of the Commission, particularly Mr Clem Jones who has occupied this position since November 1975 and who has made a most significant contribution to the work of the Commission. The members and staff of the DRC are to be commended for their untiring efforts over the past three years. I can say little more than that I am proud to have been associated with this organisation, which formally ceases to exist today. On behalf of the citizens of Darwin and the
Northern Territory generally, I would like to express my deep appreciation for the contribution made by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission and all those people, men and women alike, who have been associated with it. I am sure all members of this Parliament share my appreciation for the work of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission.
-by leave- I wish to place on record the Opposition’s support of the appreciation expressed by the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) for the work of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, the people of Darwin and all those concerned with the very creditable record of restoration. I particularly thank the Minister for his praise of Mr Clem Jones. He was appointed by the Minister’s predecessor, Dr Rex Patterson.
I wish to recall one or two incidents of the memorable occasion of the Darwin cyclone. Dr Patterson informed me that he was the first Minister to go into the area. He was on the first aeroplane which landed in the dying phase of the cyclone. It was wet and dark and the landing was extremely hazardous. It was made possible only by the fact that a pilot trained in ‘blind’ landing was in Australia at the time. Dr Patterson recalled how a few seconds before touchdown this pilot, using very specialised equipment that was available in only two aeroplanes, said: ‘If you do not see the landing lights within so many seconds we have missed it’. Fortunately they made it.
I also refer to the situation at the Darwin hospital. I was in the second batch of Ministers to go to Darwin in the midst of the turmoil of the mass evacuation. Perhaps it was the biggest airlift of people in the world’s history. I pay tribute to Dr Gurdh, who was then in charge of preparations at Darwin hospital. He had had experience of cyclones in Fiji. He had the foresight to make preparations which ensured that there was very little damage to the hospital and that the hospital kept going. In fact, one of the nursing staff delivered a baby at the height of the cyclone. She did so in the nursery because the roof of the labour ward was leaking.
There are many stories of courage, dedication and long hours of, in many cases, thankless and unrecognised work by police and all manner of people in the Public Service and elsewhere. Of course there were stories of tragedy. One woman lost her husband. He was an architect who had gone to Darwin to demonstrate methods of construction which would resist cyclones. He had constructed such a house and was negotiating with the authorities to have his techniques recognised. The house he had constructed survived the cyclone. The one he had his family lived in did not. He died and his wife was left paralysed from the neck down. Her two children were injured. There are many such stories. Some tell of narrow escapes and some are more tragic.
Once again I thank the Minister for his kind remarks. The Opposition joins with the Government in thanking all those concerned in this achievement of reconstruction. We hope that such an event will never happen again and that the guidelines for anti-cyclone construction will safeguard Darwin at least from another such tragedy.
Mr SINCLAIR (New England-Leader of the
House) ( 10.35)- I move:
That paragraph (4) of the Order of the House of 1 6 March 1978, relating to the adjournment of the House on the last sitting day of each sitting week, shall not apply to the sitting of the House on Thursday, 13 April 1978.
I indicated to the House yesterday that it is intended to have the sitting of the House continue beyond the suspension for dinner tomorrow- Thursday, 13 April. As tomorrow is the last sitting day of the sitting week, paragraph (4) of the Sessional Order agreed to by the House on 16 March would require the interruption of proceedings at 4.30 p.m., the question of the adjournment of the House being then proposed. By agreeing to the motion I have just moved, the automatic adjournment at 4.30 p.m. would not take place and Standing Order 48a, which provides for the automatic adjournment motion at 10.30 p.m., would operate as usual.
I feel honourable members generally want to get back to their electorates on Friday. As a result of this motion they will be able to leave Canberra first thing on Friday morning. I suggest to most honourable members that, given the difficulties that often ensue late in the day on a short sitting day, this will mean that we will all know that we will be here tomorrow night. At least we will be clear to catch the first aeroplanes out on Friday morning. I commend the motion on that basis.
-The Opposition does not oppose this motion. At least it clarifies the situation and saves the sorts of hassles which can occur late in the afternoon. However, I suggest to the House that it may well be that the experiments with the sitting times are not successful. This experiment has been carried out on three occasions since I have been a member of the Parliament. On each occasion it has proved to be less than satisfactory to the House. It appears to arise each time there is an influx of new members. I think it was the former honourable member for Mackellar who fought for this reform. One Prime Minister who agreed to it suffered an untimely fate because of a sitting on a Friday. It may have been accidental. Nevertheless there has been a long history of sittings that finish early on a Friday not being very successful.
It may be appropriate if, in determining sitting times and arrangements and before other experiments are carried out, either the Standing Orders Committee or an ad hoc committee of this House or of both Houses were to examine the various possibilities. I think that a return to the practice of sitting for three weeks on three days of each week is the most satisfactory arrangement. It was devised over a long period of time. Many propositions look attractive on paper but some of them are unattractive in practice. Previous experience ought to be a factor in determining these arrangements. Both the Government and the Opposition should seek to reach agreement on this type of change when it takes place. I am sorry that the arrangement of sitting for two weeks and having two weeks off did not work.
– Why do you not let us get down to Government Business?
-If some of the honourable members who enthusiastically supported this proposition in the first place and modified the original proposal had not done so the Government may have been a lot further advanced with Government Business than it is now. I am suggesting that any future experiments ought to be examined on a non-party basis or by both parties well before their introduction so that the problems which might arise can be resolved, if possible.
-I can understand the dilemma of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair), because we have this hotchpotch arrangement under which we get bottlenecks of legislation followed by gushes through the Parliament every now and then as a result of a very inadequately planned parliamentary program. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) spoke about the ad hoc manner in which matters are dealt with, and there has been ad hockery in this situation. The last consideration of the present Leader of the House in this Parliament is for the well-being of -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put. ( Quorum formed).
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Prime Minister to lay down appropriate standards of ministerial conduct.
– On behalf of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, I seek leave to withdraw that matter of public importance.
– I seek leave of the House to move a motion to suspend Standing Order 48a, Adjournment of the House, and Standing Order 103, 1 1 o ‘clock rule, for this sitting.
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the House moving a motion which would suspend Standing Order 48a, (Adjournment of the House) and Standing Order 103, 1 1 o ‘clock rule, for this sitting.
-The Opposition is not in favour of this late move proposed by the Government. The way in which the Parliament is being used is completely unacceptable to the Opposition. We will not have a bar of it and we will not co-operate with this sort of proposition.
– I move:
That the honourable member for Port Adelaide be not further heard.
-The question is: ‘That the honourable member for Port Adelaide be not further heard’. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
– The noes have it.
-Is a division required?
– Ring the Bells.
The doors having been ordered to be locked and the bells continuing to ring-
A Government supporter- The Opposition doors are unlocked and honourable members are entering the chamber.
-Order! The House will come to order. There are apparently some doubts in relation to whether the sand was running in the glass. I called for the doors to be locked when I saw that the top of the glass was empty. I suggest that we allow the bells to be rung for an extra minute to correct the situation. The doors may be re-opened for that period.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Dr H. A. Jenkins)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-With the passing of the motion which will be moved for the suspension of the 1 1 o ‘clock rule, a lot of new members in the Government ranks are about to find out what legislation by attrition is all about. Almost without fail, for three years this House has risen at 1 1 p.m. Even during the period of the Labor Government, the House rose at 1 1 p.m., and the disruption which the Government claims has taken place today is kindergarten stuff compared with the disruption which the present Government parties caused then. Honourable members who sought and had introduced the new sitting hours because they felt that they needed more time in their electorates and civilised sitting times for the Parliament are now voting to get rid of the conditions which have existed in the Parliament for more than three years. Many of them, because they were not here then, have not experienced the manner in which this Parliament was operated prior to 1972 by a conservative government. I point out to those honourable members who are so glibly accepting the suspension of the 1 1 o’clock rule that during one week the House sat till 1.45 one morning, 4.45 the next morning and 6.45 the following morning, only to start again at 10 o’clock the same morning. On that occasion the staff of the House refused to serve the House after midnight on the second day, Hansard was unable to man the House and the people who sit at the table and for whom no one has any consideration had time only to go home for a shower and then come back to continue their duties. Members on the Government side were counted in divisions sleeping in the aisles because they could not be woken. That was the situation then.
– That used to happen when you were in government, too. You were asleep all the time.
-Not once. The only person who was asleep was the honourable member for
Bendigo who continually slept because there was no one to wake him up. He was not gagged because he never said a word for three years. Members of the Government parties should think seriously before they agree to support this motion because once this House adopts this motion it will involve us again in all night sittings and the conduct of the business of the Australian Parliament will deteriorate. It has been pretty shabbily treated today by the Government which has refused to debate the most significant matter in the political arena in Australia today, the handling and future management of the Australian economy. We now have developing a situation where in order to facilitate the type of conduct about which I have spoken the Government is going to move the House into an all night sitting. There is no question that that is what is intended. We are now in the process of suspending the 11 o’clock rule although on the Notice Paper there are Bills of major importance which will not be adequately debated if this process is adopted. The Bills relating to airline equipment and the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill are matters of national importance which should receive serious and proper consideration in this Parliament. By ‘proper’ I do not mean -
– You have made your point.
– I would have made my point if honourable members opposite had refrained from interjecting. They should realise how stupid they are in supporting the motion for the suspension of the 1 1 o’clock rule. By suspending the 1 1 o’clock rule we are moving towards legislation by attrition, returning to the bad old days of 1970 and 1971. I will exclude 1972 because I think it is true to say that by that time the present Government parties had accepted the relatively civilised sitting times as being the order of the day. In fact, we used to go home at midnight then. Fred Daly later moved the adjournment forward another hour. The legislation which has yet to be considered if the 1 1 o’clock rule is suspended includes the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill which concerns one of the most significant problems in the urban areas of this nation. It is a Bill which has consequences for the rest of this century and it is proper that this Parliament should have the opportunity to consider fully the measures proposed to be introduced and the means by which this Government intends to deal with the problem.
The most retrograde step that this Parliament could take would be to agree to the motion currently before the Chair thus clearing the way for the suspension of the 1 1 o’clock rule and returning this Parliament to the dark ages of the 1960s and 1970s when honourable members stood in this chamber at 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock in the morning putting forward points of view on behalf of the people they represented. I remember one night when 10 Country Party members felt it was important to discuss a wheat Bill and they spoke from 4.30 a.m. to 6.30 a.m. They felt that they had to speak and the Parliament kept sitting. But was that a reasonable time to discuss a matter which they considered to be of national importance? Is such conduct fair to the people who work in the Parliament? Is it fair to the Parliament itself? More importantly, members might ask themselves this: Is it fair to the nation that they should desert the national Parliament?
– Stop your weeping.
-Well, the Leader of the National Country Party -
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will ignore the interjection and continue with his address.
-Those who would deny the Parliament its role in the nation are the loudest to condemn those who would seek to support it, and the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) is one of the former. No member of the Government was even prepared to stand in this place to discuss national issues today and now they propose discussing them in the dead of night. Like thieves in the night they will discuss national issues when no one is able to conduct himself properly and the word ‘thieves’ is well put.
The Opposition opposes this motion. It opposes the manner in which the Parliament has been treated today. It is a disgrace to the national Parliament and to those who propose it. Members on the Government side now intend to make the final decision. They are going to send themselves to the wall for all night sittings, to give up the right of the national Parliament to consider legislation in a civilised and sane manner. Mr Speaker, this motion should be thrown out just to show what it is worth. It is an attrition motion designed to blackmail the Parliament into conducting itself in a manner which does not befit the Parliament and does not befit the members of it.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order with you because I think there is a principle involved in this matter. For the last vote the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) was in the chair and I do not believe that should have been allowed to have happened. It deprived the Opposition of a vote. We have not yet got to a situation where there is that degree of neutrality in the Chair and I really believe, sir, that this should not be allowed to happen again.
– I disagree totally with the point of order raised. I appoint Deputy Chairmen of Committees to sit in the chair and their sitting times are programmed by the Chairman of Committees. I believe that we can count upon the integrity of every one of those members in conducting the business of the House. I know however, that is not the point that the honourable member for Lyne makes. The point that the honourable member for Lyne makes is that the Opposition would be deprived of a vote. I welcome the fact that members of the Opposition are prepared to serve as Chairmen of Committees. When they do serve in that position they know that on occasions it will mean that they will not have a vote. This is something which is natural in the order of things. I am sure that the honourable member for Scullin would conduct himself properly at all times and I am sure that the Opposition would accept the loss of a vote.
-Mr Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Order of the Day No. 1- Privileges Committee- report relating to an editorial published in the Sunday Observer.
– The Standing Orders were suspended, according to my motion, so that I could move the subsequent motion that Standing Order 48a, which relates to the adjournment of the House, and Standing Order 103, which relates to the 11 o’clock rule be suspended for this sitting.
-The motion that I put to the House and for which the House voted overwhelmingly was that Standing Order 48a, which relates to the adjournment of the House, and Standing Order 103, which relates to the 1 1 o’clock rule, be suspended for this sitting.
- Mr Speaker, that was not the way I moved it.
-What was the right honourable gentleman’s motion?
– I moved that Standing Orders be suspended to enable me to move that motion.
-I accept what the right honourable gentleman has said. I call the Leader of the House.
That Standing Order 48a (Adjournment of House) and Standing Order 103, 1 1 o’clock rule, be suspended for this sitting.
-The question is: ‘That the motion be agreed to ‘. Those of that opinion -
-Mr Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Sinclair’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That consideration of Order of the Day No. 1- Privileges Committee- report relating to an editorial published in the Sunday Observer, 26 February 1978 be postponed until 5 May 1978.
-The question is that the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
- Mr Speaker, I did rise in my place.
-The question is that the order of the day be postponed. Does the honourable gentleman wish to speak to the motion for postponement?
– Yes. I wished only to ask, as a member of the Committee on Privileges -
– No, you can ‘t ask anything.
– I am sorry. If the Minister for Defence wants to put that to me, I am going to reject it. As a member of the Committee I would like to know why this matter is being adjourned and why these people are going to have to wait until 5 May to learn the judgment of the House. It is a very simple question.
-The honourable member for Denison indicated to me that he had stood. I did not see him before I put the question. He has been called and, in speaking to the motion for postponement, has asked a question. Perhaps the Leader of the House would answer it.
– As the honourable gentleman would have known had he attended the joint parties meeting the other day, this whole matter is one which we believe needs to be considered adequately and which will be presented before the next meeting of the joint parties. We thought also that the members of the Labor Caucus might like to consider it before it was deliberated in this chamber. It will therefore be dealt with in this House after those two party meetings have had an opportunity to determine their attitude towards it.
-I call the honourable member for Denison, as a matter of indulgence, having called him earlier formally.
– I rise to a point of order. There has be.en a degree of controversy in this House this evening about how long the House is to sit, dealing with legislation.
-There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– What is going on with the business of the House?
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Denison.
– I shall not detain the House. With the greatest respect to the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair), I am entitled to ask a question as to why two citizens of this country have to wait until 5 May to receive judgment from this House. I want to say as a matter of record that justice delayed is justice denied. The report of the Committee on Privileges was presented by the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) last Friday and, for my own part, even if I am the only member of the Parliament who expresses the view, I do not think it right that people should have a matter as serious as this hanging over their heads until 5 May.
– On a point of order, I seek your guidance, Mr Speaker. I was concerned about a statement by the Leader of the House that the matter of privilege would be dealt with by a joint party meeting and, he suggested, also by a Labor party meeting. The question I ask you, Mr Speaker, is: When does a matter of privilege become a party matter? I thought a matter of privilege belonged to the Parliament, not to a party. That is the thing I am concerned about.
-Order! I have no knowledge, nor can I have knowledge, of what the parties do.
– The statement has been made by the Leader of the House and recorded by Hansard that a matter of privilege has been discussed within the party room. It has been suggested also that it should be discussed within our party room. I say that it belongs to the Parliament itself; that it is not a matter of party. Therefore, I have no axe to grind on the issue. I have not seen or studied the facts, but I am concerned about the procedure, and certainly about the procedure that is being followed by the Leader of the House.
-The honourable member for Reid has made a point, but it is not a point of order. It is a point of argument.
– I support what the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) has said as a member of the Privileges Committee and, to some extent, I back up what the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has said. The Committee’s report has been tabled and the honourable members know what is in it. It recommends that in certain cases we indicate to the Parliament the privileges which the Parliament itself felt had been impugned or affected.
-I interrupt the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I hesitate to intrude into a debate but I think it is important for the House to remember that the nature of the report of the Privileges Committee not only deals with a specific item of privilege and the Committee’s examination of it, but also it raises a question of whether there should be a reference from Parliament to the Committee for an examination of privilege in its present form. My understanding is, and I do not want to argue the case of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair), that the matter which is to be considered by the extramural organisation- that is, by honourable members in the party room or Caucus- is whether there should be a reference from this House to the Privileges Committee for that ongoing examination. I only intervene to make that point.
-I was going to make the same point in the context of what has been said by the honourable member for Reid. The question of the privileges of this House should obviously be a matter, if any, which should go to a party meeting. But the valid point made by the honourable member for Denison is that two citizens have been arraigned before us and dealt with in relation to whether there has been a breach of privilege. Without canvassing the matter at all, Mr Speaker, you will find, as the honourable member for Denison has correctly said, that we have made recommendations in respect of both those citizens. I would think that the Opposition -
– It is completely wrong for the Committee to do so. You find either there has been a breach of privilege or there has not.
-I make it clear that we have made recommendations on both those matters on the basis that there has been a breach of privilege in each case. Surely the Minister for Defence has read the report. He does not want to interject without knowing the recommendations.
We went to the trouble and the difficulty of having these people come from interstate so that we could take evidence from them. The evidence is there, the findings are there and the recommendations are there. Now we are told this evening that the matter is to be postponed until 5 May. As citizens they have their rights. Is the matter to be left on the basis that they will not know how they will be dealt with or what the recommendations of the House are? Surely the Government can deal with that matter alone. There are specific recommendations in respect of two individuals which the House can either accept or reject. The other matter, of course, can be postponed or deferred according to the Government’s wishes. Surely the other members of the Privileges Committee, irrespective of party, will agree that the matter can be dealt with now.
– I hesitate to intervene in the matter but I am surprised and somewhat dismayed at my honourable friend ‘s heat in relation to this question. As I understand the whole matter -
– The heat was generated by your interjection.
– I ask for my honourable friend’s hearing. As I understand the whole question of privilege of the Parliament- I do not speak of any other Parliament- the obligation placed upon a committee of privilege is to report to the Parliament on whether there has been, in fact, a breach of privilege.
– That is the report.
– I ask the honourable member to hear me out. It is not imposed on the Privileges Committee to make any recommendation as to whether a penalty should be imposed.
-Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. On what basis does the Minister for Defence say it is not imposed on us to make any recommendations at all? I submit that if the Minister look at Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice he will see what the procedure -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is arguing the issue. It is not a point of order.
-I shall not argue. On what basis does the Minister make the assertion that we are not entitled to make a recommendation?
-That is not a point of order. It is a matter of argument.
-A11 I say is that if that is the conclusion reached by the honourable gentleman, then it is a most impoverished report.
– You have not read the report.
– I have read the report. I say to the honourable gentleman that there is no basis whatever -
-Order! I am not willing to allow shouting across the chamber, especially on a matter of privilege. The Minister for Defence will address his remarks through the Chair.
– My understanding- it may not be shared by other honourable members- is that the responsibility of a committee of privilege is to make a finding on whether there has been a breach of privilege. If the Committee finds that there has been a breach of privilege it is the responsibility of this House, and of no other body, to determine whether any penalty should be imposed. The House may wish to consult its own dignity. I may well argue that case, not as a Minister but as a private member of parliament. The question of privilege, when it comes to this consideration, concerns members of the Parliament and not Ministers of the Crown. That is the view I take. To reduce the point to absurdity I ask: What if the Privileges Committee suggested that the person charged, on being found guilty of a breach of privilege, should be fined? I raise this matter hypothetically. The Privileges Committee has no capability to make such a recommendation. It is either one thing or the other. It is either the censure by the House or the penalty, such as imprisonment, imposed by the House. I simply say to the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and to my friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) that no excruciating penalty is imposed upon the people who are involved in the Committee’s report by this matter being held over for two weeks.
– I yield not one inch to my honourable friend in the matter of any burden being placed upon any private individual. The duty of the Privileges Committee is to make a finding of whether there has been a breach of privilege. The question of penalty is for this House and not for the Privileges Committee.
-At the top of today’s Notice Paper under the heading ‘To take precedence ‘ the consideration of the report of the Privileges Committee which we received five days ago is mentioned. The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) now moves that this consideration should be postponed, not for two weeks, but in fact, for over three weeks. I gather that what is sought to be done in that three weeks or more adjournment period is for consideration to be given to what action should be recommended or moved in the House on the Committee’s strong recommendation that the whole question of parliamentary privilege be referred to it for investigation and report to the House. Incidentally, apparently we are being asked now to adjourn the very matter on which the Privileges Committee has made a report.
The Committee has made a finding; it has made recommendations. The finding is that on the part of a publisher and or editor there was a contempt. Now, the House can, if it sees fit, reject that finding. As the matter stands, a statement has been made by a bipartisan committee of the House that two persons committed contempt of the House. That is a serious finding and the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) says, in my view indisputably correctly, that that should be endorsed or rejected without delay. Matters of privilege have to be raised in the House when they first come to the notice of any honourable member. The Committee on Privileges traditionally acts very quickly on any reference and under the Standing Orders the finding of the Committee is at the top of the Notice Paper. We should not just lightly disregard this finding. Speaking for myself, I am not disposed to disagree with the finding, but surely it is quite unfair to the two persons whom the Committee has found to be guilty of contempt that we should think our dignity so negligible, that the finding of the Committee is a matter of so little importance and that the reputation of these people is of so little importance, that the whole of” the matter can be put over ibr three weeks or more.
Assume that we endorse the finding. We then come to the recommendation. The recommendation is that no further action be taken. It is possible that some members of the House believe that this is not a negligible matter; that in fact some penalties should be imposed. The general opinion is that in Australia the only penalty that can be imposed is that of imprisonment. This is a possibility; 1 do not say it is a probability. But in the meantime we are to say to these people: ‘You are guilty of contempt. You stew for another three weeks wondering how we will make up our minds’. The Leader of the House, with exquisite delicacy, has said that the matter has been mentioned in the Government party rooms and that we can make up our minds during the recess on whether we will commit these people to prison.
In the practice of this House penalties are not determined on party lines. I believe that the only imprisonment that has ever been imposed by this House for contempt was not determined on party lines. People from all parties voted each way. The honourable member for Denison, when he makes a deliberate intervention as distinct from his constant interjections, I think is entitled to be heard on this matter. He is a member of the Committee and I believe that what he has said has been spot on. The House said that this matter should go to the Committee. The Committee dealt with it promptly. It has made a serious finding that there was a contempt. It has recommended that no action be taken. On this matter on which the Committee was asked to report we should promptly say whether we endorse the finding or reject it. We should not delay. If we endorse it we should promptly decide either to take no action or to take some specific action. It is not good enough that this matter should be left for another three weeks, that it should be dealt with when we come back after a couple of weeks of recess.
– I shall not delay the House long. I think it should be made clear that the responsibility of the Committee on Privileges is to hear matters referred to it by the House and to advise the House of its findings on those matters. The practice has been, with all the Committee reports that have been presented during the period in which I have been a member of this House- and there have been a number- that the Committee recommends to the House what action the House should take. It is the prerogative of the House to take such action as it wishes. I suggest to the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) that he obtain copies of Privileges Committee reports that have been presented to the House in the last two or three Parliaments. He will see in each case that a finding was made and that the Committee also recommended a course of action to the House apart from that finding.
I think the question at issue here is the question of privilege itself as opposed to the specific case. It may suit the House to consider the matters separately. But I agree with the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). The House should determine its final attitude to the case referred to it as expeditiously as possible. It may be that the House will wish to hear the people concerned or wish to impose some other penalty. They are possibilities within the power of the House. I think they are not likely but if this is so then the House should move to that situation as speedily as possible.
The question of whether the whole matter of privilege is referred to the Privileges Committee or whether some other course of action should be taken, such as setting up of a joint committee of the two Houses to study it- I understand that that has been suggested and it may well be a more appropriate vehicle- may require further consideration. But this is a fairly straightforward case unless complications arise. That, as I said, is possible. I do not think any member of this House will stand up and say that we should imprison the people. Certainly I refute the suggestion that the Privileges Committee would make a recommendation to the House which is outside the power of the House to carry out. The Privileges Committee is properly advised by the Clerk of the House on the question before it and is also properly advised of what actions it can take within the framework of privilege as it exists under the Constitution of this Commonwealth.
Two questions are involved and I think they ought to be divorced when they are considered by the House. The first one is the specific matter of privilege referred to the House by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) on which a finding has been made and a course of action has been recommended in the Committee’s report. The other recommendation is a general one relating to the inadequacy of privilege. It is a serious problem in any case heard by the Privileges Committee and I think that ought to be dealt with separately.
– As chairman of the Committee on Privileges my words will be brief. I share the view that in the course of justice it would be far better if Mr Armsden and Mr Isaacson had their cases dealt with separately from the further question of the reconsideration by the Committee of the whole question of parliamentary privilege. I ask the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) to consider this suggestion which has been put forward by others and to implement it if he sees a way of doing so. I frankly cannot see any difficulties which would confront him in disposing of the first part of the matter in this manner. I simply leave it with the Minister, reminding him that the Committee is a committee of the Parliament and that there is no political overtone or undertone in any way whatsoever in regard to this matter.
-As a member of the Committee on Privileges I share the same views as my fellow committee members. The Committee, as it has done traditionally, has dealt with this reference quickly. We took evidence from the people involved. We considered their submissions. We have now made a report to this chamber. The House has to make a judgment on the Committee’s recommendations. I shall not delay the House but I think it is wrong, it is deplorable, that a judgment upon the two people should be held in abeyance for a period of three weeks. I suggest to the House and the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) that the second question, the issue of the inadequacies of the privileges of this Parliament, is surely a separate one. It could be dealt with separately by the chamber at a later date. I strongly suggest to the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) that on this occasion we ought to act as promptly as the Committee has done. These people are entitled to know what is the judgment of the House. It ought to be determined tonight.
– in reply- I respect the depth of feeling that honourable members have on a recommendation of the Committee of Privileges, as they should have.
– It is the people concerned, not the feelings of honourable members.
– The first concern of this Parliament must be the responsibility of the Parliament. The second is to concern itself with the people whose allegations, assertions or acts have been the subject of the Committee’s deliberations. My own view happens to be in sympathy with the recommendations contained in the Committee’s submission to us. I think it is important for honourable members to realise that it is now 1 1 p.m. Recommendations have been made with respect to two individuals. I believe that it is essential that those individuals in this chamber who wish to speak in respect of the recommendations or the people charged should have an adequate opportunity to do so.
The matter with which we are dealing is not a light matter. Equally, I draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that normally in the processes of the law, as you would know so well, Mr Speaker, quite often a matter that has been adjudicated before a court of law is adjourned before a sentence is imposed. We are not in fact accepting the recommendation; nor are we rejecting it. What we are doing is ensuring that there will be proper and adequate time for every honourable member to consider the recommendations of a very significant report of the Committee of Privileges. The matter should be considered in a proper way.
I regard the recommendations which relate to privilege in general as most significant. On a number of occasions this Parliament has had matters pertaining to privilege before it. Matters before a magistrate’s court in Queanbeyan which related to present and former members of this chamber have been before the Parliament. This is not a matter which can be dealt with lightly. I suggest that within each party there are views which might not be identical with the majority view of the party. I do not think that at 1 1 o’clock at night the Parliament can deal adequately with a matter of such moment and seriousness as this matter. It is for that reason that the Government decided it would be better for the matter to be deferred so that we can consider it adequately.
For that reason I moved the motion standing in my name. I believe that the two persons concerned are in no way disadvantaged. No judgment has been made upon them at this stage. The Committee has made recommendations. It is for this Chamber and no other body to consider whether it will accept those recommendations and, as the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) has said, to determine what action should then be pursued. It would be tempting to divide the recommendations and consider the question of privilege in general separately. I do not believe that we can adequately deal with recommendation No. 18 and recommendation No. 19 in the time that is available. For that reason I persist with the motion I have moved. I suggest that we are not disadvantaging the gentlemen whose names are mentioned in this report. We are treating a matter of such significance with the sort of seriousness we should give it, given the hour of the day and the business still before the chamber.
- Mr Speaker -
-I cannot call the honourable member for Hindmarsh. No other honourable member stood when the Leader of the House rose to speak. He moved the motion and has therefore closed the debate.
– May I move that the honourable member for Hindmarsh be heard?
-No, the honourable gentleman does not have that facility. If the honourable gentleman wishes to take any action he could only move for the suspension of Standing Orders. I am not suggesting that he take that action. If he seeks my indulgence I may be prepared to grant it.
-I seek your indulgence, Mr Speaker. As a member of the Committee of Privileges, I wish to quote from Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice on the priority which reports by committees of privileges must be given over all other matters. At page 353 it states:
In view of the requirement that a matter of privilege should be raised at the earliest opportunity it is generally brought on without notice. But provided there has been no undue delay, the claim to priority of such a matter is not prejudiced merely on the ground that it has been possible to place a motion dealing with it upon the Notice Paper.
The same treatment is accorded to a matter of privilege if, through the adjournment of the debate on the motion in which it is embodied, it becomes an order of the day. The priority of a notice of motion or order of the day relating to a matter of privilege is not prejudiced by the fact that the day on which it is to be raised is a day on which, under an order of the House, government business has precedence.
I pause to make this point: It is noted that May says that even Government Business cannot take precedence over a report of a committee of privileges. But when the committee has its report ready to present to the Parliament and does so the consideration of the report takes precedence over all other matters before the Parliament. Even Government Business has no precedence over it. May’s Parliamentary Practice continues:
A motion that the report of a committee on a matter of privilege be now taken into consideration or a substantive motion expressing the agreement or disagreement of the House with the report has been accorded the priority assigned to a matter of privilege unless there has been undue delay in bringing it forward; such a motion is either placed at the head of the Paper immediately after any ‘notices of motions at the commencement of public business’, or if placed lower in the list, may be taken as if it stood first. A Member was not held to have delayed unduly if he waited until the report of, and the minutes of the evidence taken before, the Committee had been printed and circulated. When a report has been appointed for consideration on a future day, it will be given priority as a matter of privilege on the day so appointed.
The Standing Orders, until altered by this Parliament, are virtually a part of the Commonwealth Constitution. The Constitution provides that the Standing Orders of the House of Commons shall continue to operate in this Parliament until such time as the Parliament itself determines to alter them.
-Order! I have given the honourable member for Hindmarsh my indulgence for a considerable period. I ask him to conclude his remarks.
That the motion (Mr Sinclair’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to seek the approval of the Parliament for the establishment of an Australian Overseas Projects Corporation to assist Australian private organisations to compete for overseas development projects so as to encourage the export of Australian goods and services. Honourable members will be aware that there has been a massive expansion in investment in large-scale development projects in developing countries during the current decade. Following the rise in international oil prices, developingcountry oil producers in the Middle East and elsewhere have embarked on huge and continuing development programs. In addition, international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are providing large funds for development projects in developing countries to improve basic infrastructure, increase food-producing capacity and establish new industrial capacity. As a result, development projects now make a significant and growing contribution to world trade. lt is well known that there is strong international competition for overseas development projects, particularly in view of depressed domestic demand in the industrialised countries. As a result, overseas governments, including those of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and the Republic of Korea, are actively involved in various ways in supporting their industries to gain contracts for large projects. Moreover the governments of several developing countries, in view of their limited domestic expertise in project development, have a requirement or preference for some form of official government backing or involvement in tender bids submitted by overseas suppliers. By their very nature, most of these development projects encompass a range of activities from initial design through to actual construction and purchase of equipment. Many of the projects are awarded to groups of specialist private firms organised into consortia to undertake the whole project. (Quorum formed). Australian private organisations involved in consulting, contracting and equipment supply have the necessary technical capability and expertise to enable them to undertake the whole or substantial elements of projects in a range of fields. However, in a number of fields of particular interest to Australia, certain elements of essential expertise are located only in government instrumentalities.
A further limiting factor is that many of Australia’s most progressive companies in these fields are relatively small by world standards, while the size and complexity of most overseas development projects are usually very large. As a result of the growing commercial interest in overseas projects, the Government has received a number of requests from Australian firms for support, assistance or direct participation in various development projects. At the same time, several of the major private sector industry organisations have made representations to the Government requesting the establishment of a greater degree of co-operation between the Government and industry in the overseas projects area. It became apparent to the Government that the present ad hoc arrangement for considering each request on a case-by-case basis was not a satisfactory way of providing continuing government support to Australian exporters in this field.
The Government, accordingly, undertook a thorough study of the overseas projects market during 1976 and 1977. Submissions were sought from private enterprise groups and the Trade Development Council. Following this study, I discussed the possible approaches to the problem with representatives of industry organisations and the Trade Development Council. As a result of this consideration, the Government was convinced that if Australian interests were to be able to compete on an equal footing with overseas competitors, an overseas projects corporation would need to be established to facilitate direct co-operation between industry and Government in this field. The Government undertook to establish such a corporation during 1978 as pan of its policy outlined at the last election.
We have moved speedily to implement that commitment. The Bill now before the House provides for the establishment of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation as a statutory corporation which would undertake the following functions: It will make available to Australian private organisations information on opportunities for Australian involvement in overseas projects. It will assist Australian private organisations to negotiate with overseas governments or organisations for the carrying out of overseas development projects. It will assist Australian private organisations to carry out overseas development projects by providing special expertise available within the Government. Finally, it will be able to carry out the whole or part of an overseas development project at the request of Australian private organisations. The actual work in relation to such a project would be carried out, on behalf of the Corporation, by Austraiian private organisations.
The Corporation will be controlled by a board of directors, the majority of which shall be appointed from private industry and shall have had experience related to development projects. At least one director shall have had experience in matters related to rural industry. The day-to-day operations of the Corporation will be directed by a managing director. The Government intends that the managing director will be an executive of high calibre who has proven experience in matters relating to development projects. The Corporation will be provided with capital of $2m with an initial instalment of $lm being provided to enable it to commence operations in 1978-79. In addition, the Corporation will be empowered to enter into total contingent liabilities up to $50m initially in respect of its participation in all projects. I am pleased to be able to inform honourable members that this Bill has the support of the private-sector organisations that have made representations to me on this matter.
The Australian Overseas Projects Corporation will meet a pressing need for government support for Australian exporters in the particular field of overseas development projects. Unlike the Overseas Trading Corporation proposals which were advanced by the Whitlam Government, this Corporation has adequate safeguards written into the Bill to ensure that its operations will concentrate on the important task that needs to be done. In particular, there are provisions to ensure that the Corporation does not engage in general overseas trading. (Quorum formed).
As I mentioned earlier, the Corporation will act at the request of Australian private organisations. Additional safeguards are provided to ensure that the Corporation does npt compete against competent Australian organisations for the same project in normal circumstances. The Corporation will not undertake the prime role in carrying out the whole or part of a project unless the Minister is satisfied that there is no competent Australian private organisation willing to undertake the project.
The Corporation will be expected to conduct its business in accordance with sound commercial principles and to charge proper fees for the provision of its services. The financial statements of the Corporation will be subject to examination by the Auditor-General. The Corporation will submit an annual report to the Parliament on its operations.
Acting in co-operation with the Department of Trade and Resources and, in particular, the Trade Commissioner Service, the Corporation will provide strong backing to consultants, contractors and equipment suppliers in their efforts to extend Australian participation in overseas development projects. The establishment of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation is the first of several new initiatives being introduced by the Government to encourage a strong export effort by Australia in the future. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Killen, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for the establishment and incorporation of an institution which will be both a university and a Defence Force Academy. The basic aim is to replace, with a single institution, those activities of the three Service colleges at Duntroon, Point Cook, and Jervis Bay which involve study for academic degrees. The new institution will provide a balanced and liberal university education concurrently with a program of military education and training.
The concept has had bipartisan support over the years. It was first envisaged under a previous coalition government following the report of a committee set up under Sir Leslie Martin by the then Minister for Defence, Mr Fairhall, now Sir Allen Fairhall. It was endorsed by the Labor Government in 1974 when Mr Barnard announced plans to establish a Defence Force Academy. In October 1976, 1 announced that the present Government had decided that the institution would be established to provide a university education in a military environment for selected members of the Defence Force. I informed the House yesterday that the institution would bear the name Casey University. This title recalls the achievements of Baron Casey of Berwick, who was as able in the highest levels of administration as he was gallant in battle. Casey University will aim to achieve, in its products, that same amalgam of intellectual and military qualities.
The full title- Casey University- Australian Defence Force Academy- spells out that the new institution will be both a university and a military academy. In its academic function the Academy will be an independent university in its own right, so staffed and managed as to sustain the scholarship and research which are the hallmarks of a university. As a military academy it will be required to sustain an environment appropriate to the induction of cadets into the discipline and values of the profession of arms, and give them their first training before they go out to their chosen arm of the Defence Force for specialised training in that service.
The Academy will have two chief executive officers of equal status, a commandant and a vice-chancellor. Each will be separately responsible to the Council for his own defined sphere of responsibilities. They will be jointly responsible to the Council for other matters relating to the administration of the Academy. The Academy Council will be responsible for maintenance of an appropriate military environment at the Academy, and for military education and training conducted there to meet the requirements of the Chief of Defence Force Staff. The commandant will be the chief executive officer responsible to the Council for the functions and activities of the institution as a military academy. He will command the members of the Defence Force, both staff and students, posted to the Academy and in exercising the command function he will be responsible to the Chief of Defence Force Staff.
As far as the academic functions and activities of the Academy are concerned, the Council will have the same kind of authority and responsibilities as does the council, or for that matter the senate of any other university. The Vice-Chancellor will be the chief executive officer responsible to the Council for academic functions and activities.
The Minister for Defence will be responsible for administering the Act, and funds for the operation and maintenance of the academy will be appropriated from the defence vote. I observe that it will be a vote which will be in a division all on its own. The Academy will have its own budget which will concompass both academic and military activities and will separately identify the costs of each. By arrangement with my colleague, the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), I will be seeking the advice of the Tertiary Education Commission on the level of funding appropriate to the university function and activities of the Academy. Advice on the funding of the military functions and activities of the Academy will be provided by the Department of Defence. Arrangements will be made to ensure that these sources of advice co-ordinate their activities so that the Minister for Defence is provided with integrated advice to accompany the presentation by the Council of its decisions and recommendations.
In initiating this Bill to establish the Defence Force Academy, I should record my particular gratitude to three universities which, to serve a national purpose, have made special arrangements over the years to provide university education to a significant proportion of officer cadets of all three Services, and which have agreed to continue to do so until the Academy opens. These Services are indebted to the universities for these arrangements and would have been the poorer without them.
The University of Melbourne has, since 1961, maintained a group of staff from its faculty of science at the Royal Australian Air Force Academy, Point Cook, to teach cadets studying for the University’s science degree. For many years, the University of Sydney has made special arrangements for RAAF officer cadets studying for engineering degrees.
In 1967 the University of New South Wales undertook to assist the Army by establishing a faculty of military studies of the University to provide university courses at the Royal Military College. It was planned that an independent institution would take over this role within 10 years. This arrangement with the Government has been extended, on the clear understanding that the University will be relieved of its responsibilities as soon as possible. Many naval cadets, having studied for one year at the Royal Australian Naval College, under the auspices of the University of New South Wales, complete their courses at the University.
Whilst acknowledging the co-operation and the scholastic standard which has been maintained by these three universities in the academic teaching of cadet officers, some disabilities have been unavoidable. Groups of students and of highly qualified teachers are isolated from each other. The concept of the three Services forming the one Defence Force is not assimilated early.
Student numbers are small, and therefore faculty costs per student are high; courses available to students are necessarily restricted in subjects. I am glad to acknowledge the initiative and vision of Mr Lance Barnard who, as Minister for Defence in 1974, did much to crystallise the concept of one academy to serve the needs of all three Services. I inform the House and in particular the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), that today I sent a cable to Mr Barnard informing him that it gave me immense pleasure to put in my second reading speech this day an acknowledgement of the interest in and service to this concept of our former colleague.
I conclude by saying that the Bill does more than provide an apparatus for education and training. Its intention is to create, in one location, a new national institution of learning which will educate a significant proportion of the officers of the Defence Force in the years to come. Eminence in the profession of arms requires qualities of leadership; it also involves participation in the highest levels of defence management, and the provision of policy advice to government. It calls for good minds, educated in technological fields and in humanities. It is essential that our Defence Force is intellectually equipped to meet the challenges of the future to the security of this nation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Staley, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972, the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1976 and the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1977 to adjust grants to the States for government and nongovernment schools in respect of cost increases. The Bill involves an additional appropriation of $5.6m in respect of 1977 and $15.8m in respect of 1978, increasing the Commonwealth’s allocations for the 1977 and 1978 grants programs for schools in the States to $602. 8m and $626.7m respectively.
The amendments will finalise the adjustment of 1977 grants in respect of cost increases to December 1977. The grants for 1978 will be further adjusted during the Budget sittings in accordance with the Government’s announced policy. The number of non-government schools which met the criteria specified in the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1976 for short term emergency assistance grants was insufficient to warrant the full distribution of the 1977 allocation, which has been reduced accordingly. The components of the non-government general recurrent grants program are not increased in this Bill as appropriate adjustments were effected in previous legislation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Staley, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill adjusts the approved programs of grants to the States for tertiary education for the years 1977 and 1978 by amending the States Grants (Universities Assistance) Act 1976, the States Grants (Advanced Education Assistance) Act 1976, the States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Act 1976 and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Act 1977. The additional amounts provided by the Bill maintain the real level of grants approved by the Government in the light of variations in costs since adjustments were made in the Budget sittings of 1977 by providing the necessary supplementation for movements in costs between June 1977 and December 1977.
Amounts provided by the adjustments to legislation for 1977 for each of the tertiary education sectors are $5m for universities, $4.2m for colleges of advanced education and $0.4m for technical and further education. These adjustments, which represent the final supplementation to the 1977 programs, bring the total amounts provided to the States for tertiary education in respect of 1977 to $56 1.8m for universities, $439.5m for colleges of advanced education and $85. 4m for technical and further education. Additional amounts provided for 1978 by adjustments to the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Act 1977 are $28m for universities, $18m for colleges of advanced education and $3.6m for technical and further education. These amounts bring the total grants for 1978 to $620.2m for universities, $460. 8m for colleges of advanced education and $10 1.2m for technical and further education. The grants for 1978 will be further adjusted during the Budget sittings in accordance with the Government’s announced policy. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to give effect to the Government’s decision to continue assistance by way of a bounty to producers of books in Australia for a further period of 12 months. The extension of the bounty assistance is being made as an interim measure pending implementation of a decision on longer term assistance to the Australian printing industry, which includes book manufacture. The question of long term assistance is currently being reviewed by the Industries Assistance Commission and the Commission’s report in this regard is expected by 31 July 1978. Because the Australian book manufacturing industry is already being asked to quote for work in 1979 the Government has, in making this decision, been mindful of the advice from the Commission that the future of the industry would be seriously affected unless the operation of the book bounty scheme is extended. Clause 8 of the Bill continues the Government’s policy of expanding, wherever possible, the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to administrative decisions which affect the rights or entitlements of persons under Commonwealth legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to enact the excise tariff alteration moved in the House on 22 February 1978 by Excise Tariff Proposal No. 1. The alteration, which has effect from 18 November 1977, restructures Item 17b of the Excise Tariff to clarify the duty liability in relation to condensate included in the Government’s crude oil absorption scheme. Prior to the alteration, some producers of condensate in remote locations had interpreted the Excise Tariff as excluding such condensate from duty under Item 17b. This interpretation is contrary to the Government’s policy in relation to the absorption of indigenous crude oil and condensate and the resultant liability for excise duty.
The overall effect of the alteration, and of the crude oil absorption policy in relation to condensate, is beneficial to producers of the condensate and to small inland refineries which process the condensate. Producers receive import parity price for their product and refiners can obtain feedstock at the average Australian price for indigenous crude oil. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to establish the Australian Maritime College at Launceston as a corporate body. The Bill stipulates in detail the functions, and powers of the College and provides for a council to govern the College and to administer its affairs. As a college of advanced education it will be subject to general oversight by the Tertiary Education Commission. The College will be concerned with the education and training of maritime and fishing industries personnel and is the only college in Australia established solely for this purpose. Since the College is being established to serve Australia-wide needs, the Government intends that it will develop standards of education and training which will be acceptable at international level. The Bill provides the necessary framework within which the College can achieve this aim under the guidance of its governing Council which will be appointed and announced as soon as possible after the passage of this legislation.
The Bill provides for a Council with a minimum membership of 14 and a maximum of 23, including provision for the Council itself to appoint up to seven members. This structure will enable the Council to operate with about the same number of members as the present Interim Council and will enable membership to be built up as the need for additional expertise and representation is recognised. Substantial progress has already been made towards the development of the College. The Maritime College Act 1976 authorised the appointment of an Interim Council to enable the preliminary planning for the College to commence.
The functions of the Interim Council as prescribed by the 1 976 Act have been efficiently and conscientiously discharged and the legislation now presented will enable the development of the College to continue under permanent arrangements. I wish to place on record the Government’s appreciation of the invaluable contribution which the Interim Council has made.
Conditions for the transfer of land for the site of the College at Newnham from the State of Tasmania to the Commonwealth have been agreed upon. This will enable the detailed planning for Stage 1 construction of the College to commence. Land and property have also been acquired at Beauty Point, some 45 kilometres north of Launceston near the mouth of the Tamar for the development of a practical seamanship and fisheries training centre. The detailed planning for this centre which will cost some $1.5m is well advanced and construction work is expected to be completed by about the end of 1979.
Captain D. M. Waters has been appointed as Principal of the College under interim arrangements and will be appointed under the provisions of the Act as soon as it comes into effect. Senior academic positions at the College have been advertised widely both within Australia and overseas to attract applicants of a very high calibre. This will facilitate the early appointment to the College of senior academic staff who can then participate in the development of the College.
A series of short tanker safety courses were held in 1977 and further courses of this type are being held in 1978. Planning for the commencement of full-time courses at the College is proceeding on the basis that courses ranging from two year associate diploma and certificate of technology courses to three year degree and diploma courses will begin in 1980. When courses are fully operational, annual full-time enrolments are expected to reach 500 students mainly comprising trainee deck, engineer and radio officers as well as persons engaged in the fishing industry. Another major area of the College’s activities which will involve substantially greater numbers of students will be the provision of short specialised courses for serving officers.
The Bill confirms Launceston as the location of the College and there will be unique opportunities for co-operation between the College and its neighbouring educational institution, the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. In fact a sound basis of co-operation has already been established and I look forward to a situation where many educational facilities will be used by both institutions to prevent the unnecessary duplication of resources. There will also be liaison, as appropriate, with the Launceston Technical College. It must be remembered too, that the College will represent a new industry for Launceston and for Tasmania. Apart from employment opportunities the College’s building program will create, there will be significant benefits to the retail, service and related industries as staff and students take up residence in Tasmania. It is expected that this will provide significant stimulation to the local economy in terms of employment opportunities and business confidence.
I am confident that the College will play a vital role in the development of Australia’s maritime industries. It will provide opportunities for more Australians to be employed in the Australian merchant service and help correct the imbalance noted in the Summers’ Report where more than 50 per cent of deck officers and about 30 per cent of engineer officers received their basic training overseas. It will provide a centre in Australia for the co-ordination of professional maritime education and training which at present are fragmented and deficient in many respects. It will also play an important role in the development of Australia’s fishing industry which will need more highly skilled men to handle the sophisticated equipment required for distant water fishing as the proposed 200 mile off-shore limit becomes operative and as we take advantage of the vast resources of the Antarctic.
I regard this Bill as a most important step not only in the development of the Australian Maritime College but also in the further development of the Australian maritime and fishing industires I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
What foreign loans have been raised by Australian Government statutory bodies since 10 December 1975.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following table provides details of foreign loans raised by Australian Government statutory bodies since 10 December 1975.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following table gives details of foreign loans raised by the Australian Government since 10 December 1975 and includes (a) rates of interest and (b) terms of repayment for each of the loans.
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 22 February 1978: movement on the possibility of providing a unified and coherent legislative basis for the National and State Employment Discrimination Committees established pursuant to International Labour Organisation Convention No. Ill Discrimination (Employment and Occupation), 1958, which Australia ratified in 1973 (Hansard, 23 February 1977, page 406 and 20 October 1977, page 2289).
What has been the outcome of discussions with the States, national employers’ organisations and the trade union
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As my first step in examining the possibility of providing a legislative basis for the National and State Employment Discrimination Committees, I am arranging for consultations, in the near future, with the employers and trade unions, through the National Labour Consultative Council.
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
What are the current forecasts for (a) the financial year 1977-78 and (b) calendar year 1978 for (i) the level of unemployment, (ii) the rate of inflation and (iii) the rate of economic growth.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In keeping with the practice of previous Treasurers, from both sides of this House, I am not prepared to supply the honourable member with the forecasts he has requested. The Government last provided a detailed assessment of the economic outlook in Statement No. 2 attached to the 1977-78 Budget Speech. In that regard, I remind the honourable member of the statement by the Prime Minister, on 7 November last, pointing to the prospect of more favourable inflation and growth performance than had been foreshadowed in the Budget paper.
asked the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 7 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:-
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 7 March 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Termination of Unemployment Benefits (Question No. 409) (replacement)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 7 March 1978:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science the following question, upon notice, on 8 March 1978.
-The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I refer the honourable member to the reply given by the Prime Minister to question on notice No. 468 (Hansard, 4 April 1978).
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
What is the cost of underwriting support for the dairy industry for each product by (a) the Commonwealth and (b) each State Government in each of the years (i) 1 975-76 and (ii) 1976-77 and what is the estimated cost for 1977-78.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 9 March 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
Is he giving consideration to the Horton Report on Public Libraries and Information Services presented to the Parliament in April 1976; if so, when will the Government announce its attitude concerning the recommendations of the Report.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government has not yet made any decisions on the wide range of recommendations of the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries. The matter, however, remains under consideration and an appropriate statement will be made as soon as this is possible.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 April 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780412_reps_31_hor108/>.