31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– It is my sad task to inform the House of the death late yesterday of the former senator, Sir Denham Henty. I move:
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death on 9 May of the Honourable Sir Denham Henty, K.B.E., a Senator for Tasmania from 19S0 to 1968 and a Minister of the Crown from 19S6 to 1968; places on record its deep appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its sympathy to his family in their bereavement.
Sir Denham was a senator for Tasmania from 1950 to 1968. From 1956 to 1968 he was a Minister holding, in turn, the portfolios of Minister for Customs and Excise from 1956 to 1964, Minister for Civil Aviation from 1964 to 1966 and Minister for Supply from 1966 to 1968. During 1966 and 1967 Senator Henty was Leader of the Government in the Senate. Before his election to the Senate, Denham Henty had a long and distinguished service in local government, having been a Launceston alderman from 1943, and subsequently mayor of that city in 1948 and 1949. Thus, on his election to the Senate in 1949, Senator Henty was well equipped to represent his State, and particularly the northern part of it.
It is singularly appropriate that this senator from Tasmania bore the name of one of our great pioneering families and that as Minister he should have played such a significant and continuing role in the economic development of Australia.
In many cases his interests were much wider than would normally be expected out in the public domain. As Minister for Customs, for example, he took one of the first and most significant steps toward greater environmental protection of Australia’s fauna and flora in banning the export of Australian fauna, and especially of the bird trade that was flourishing and threatening many species in Australia at the time. That goes back a long time before environmental measures were the fashionable, popular issues that they are today. Senator Henty was a man well liked on all sides of this Parliament, well respected by all honourable senators and honourable members, and was one who had a particular interest in assisting and giving whatever advice and help he could to young or new members of this Parliament. He always enjoyed great popularity. Many of us who were members of the Parliament at the time will recall his kindliness and his ready friendship. I commend the motion to the House.
On behalf of the Opposition I join the Prime Minister and the Government in expressing sympathy to the family of the late Sir Denham Henty on his passing. He was known to me. I recall him as an energetic member of the Parliament, a Minister with long and distinguished service to the community, and one who made a most valuable contribution to it during the years of his service as Minister of the Crown in the Australian Government. I remember meeting him on many occasions socially and finding him an engaging, charming man. He was gracious, especially towards my wife on occasions when we met him socially. The community is the worse for his passing and the Opposition joins the Government in expressing its sympathy to the members of his family.
– I wish to associate the members of the National Country Party of Australia with the motion which has been moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) expressing condolence to the family of the late Sir Denham Henty. When I first became a Minister, Sir Denham sat in a seat adjacent to me in the Cabinet. I have known him both personally and publicly ever since I became involved in Federal politics. He was a kindly, generous man, who in his contribution to Australia, particularly to Tasmania, demonstrated himself to be a very worthy citizen and a quite outstanding parliamentarian. Perhaps his role and capacity were best demonstrated in the years when he was Leader of the Government in the Senate. The years of 1966 and 1967 in which he held that office were not easy years in the Senate. It was largely through his wit and wisdom and his sympathetic approach that many of the measures which the then Government had passed in this chamber were able to gain the support of the Senate. He will be missed in Tasmania as he will be here. On behalf of the members of my Party and on my own behalf I extend to his widow and others in his family deepest sympathy in their sad loss.
-Mr Speaker, I was associated with the late Sir Denham Henty during all the time that he was a member of Parliament, including his period as a member of the Ministry and a member of the
Cabinet. I remember him as a very pleasant person, always anxious to help. His vast commercial experience enabled him to give advice on what the market place was thinking and what ought to be done no matter what portfolio he was handling. He could always make a contribution on economic and financial affairs and, particularly, on matters related to aviation and retail sales. He was amazingly well informed on the retail trade and whenever we were dealing with the necessity to give a stimulus to the economy or to impose restrictions you could bet your life that he would give data which would make you better informed than if you relied on official sources.
Sir Denham was a practical man. His home in northern Tasmania- I cannot remember the name of the place and I could not ascertain it because I did not hear of his regrettable death until the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) spoke- was one of the loveliest homes that one could imagine. I hope that it will be retained by the Tasmanian Government for posterity. The honourable members in this House who did not know him as well as I did would nevertheless know of his many activities. I do not know whether you remember this, sir, but he did like to make his own strawberry brandy and on one occasion he thought it would be a personal compliment to me if one night he brought along three bottles of it- the strawberries were still in them- so that I and some of my colleagues, particularly those in the Ministry, would be able to taste it. I invited four or five of them along. I was absent for a little while and when I came back, so nice was the taste and so pleasant the reaction, none of it was left for me. He did replace one bottle, which I felt was not quite justice from him for the first time in his life. He was a charming man and his family was charming. He represented Australia well. I express through you, Mr Speaker, my sympathy to his wife and family. We regret his passing very much but he will always be remembered in the most favourable light by those who had the good fortune to be associated with him.
– I also join in the expressions of condolence to the family of the late Sir Denham Henty. Enough has been said about the part he played in the nation’s affairs and I endorse all that has been said in this chamber by the various leaders. I would like to say three other things: Firstly, I know that he will be missed in Launceston, his city. He played a very prominent part in that community and many will mourn his passing. On behalf of the other Tasmanian members in this place, I would like to say that the advice and the benefit of his experience that he offered very gladly and willingly to all of us has been appreciated. For myself, I will miss Sir Denham very much. I have had constant contact with him and the advice and encouragement he has given me will be missed.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable members standing in their places.
– by leave- In a tragic and senseless act of barbarism Mr Aldo Moro, a former Prime Minister of Italy, was murdered by terrorists. Italy has been deprived of one of its greatest political leaders, one who in recent times sought through the democratic processes to build a consensus which is fundamental to the maintenance of democracy. This is perhaps the most serious of the attacks on the very foundation of democracy we have yet experienced by terrorists. I am sure all honourable members will join me in extending to the Government and people of Italy and to the family of the late Aldo Moro our profound sympathy.
The plague of terrorism has claimed another victim. In the face of such a tragic and barbaric incident we can all resolve again that democracy can be protected and will finally prevail only by a firm defence against terrorists. Countries have a need to reinforce one another in the fight against terrorism and to take every measure to deny the terrorists the opportunity to perpetrate their monstrous acts.
by leave- The Opposition joins with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the expression of concern at the wicked and barbarous murder of the late Aldo Moro who at the time of his kidnapping was involved in political negotiations which were designed to try to achieve some political stability in Italy. As the Prime Minister has indicated, it is a matter of the greatest concern for all responsible citizens when incidents of this nature occur. These incidents seem to be the expression of the worst forms of alienation and dissidence within a society. What is of the greatest concern is that a society can become fragmented in such a way that these sorts of senseless acts can occur and that the lawful authorities responsible for seeking to locate and bring to trial the perpetrators receive so little support from people in the community.
I read with deep anxiety reports in various media to the effect that the police authorities, for instance, found it extremely difficult to obtain adequate public co-operation when they sought information on the kidnapping of the late Aldo Moro. All one can say is that it is a responsibility upon all of us, but especially upon those of us who are in this national Parliament with a great duty to the people of this country, to work as much as we can to hold society together, to maintain unity of purpose and a sense of commitment in society for a greater common good. They are very fine words; they are the sorts of objectives we ought to work towards. It is tragic, however, if we merely mouth words as slogans and do not commit ourselves by deed to seek to achieve those ends.
If there is any significant alienation of people in society- for instance if the young feel that there is not a position for them, that their prospects in the medium to the longer term are poor, that their aspirations are unlikely to be fulfilled, that there is a want of caring for them- it is likely that there is going to develop in such a society mounting alienation and with that can come unfortunate consequences. I say no more than that on this occasion except that I would feel concerned should such a possibility arise. I repeat that there is a responsibility upon all of us to work to try to avoid such a thing; not only in terms of what we say but also by deed, by the policies we apply in Government, for the greater good of the people.
It is undeniable that the Italian society is fragmented today, that there are deep divisions, that there is bitterness and that there is substantial alienation. It is not unique to that country. Accordingly we ought to observe that, learn the obvious lessons and do all we can to avoid such a development ever happening in this country.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Item 6469 of the standard Medical Benefits Table is the means by which payment is made for the slaughter of thousands of unborn babies every year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should ensure that Item 6469 is removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Baume, Mr Keith Johnson and Mr Roger Johnston.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30 June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30 June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $ 1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rate 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 Dr Klugman, Mr Morris and Mr Sainsbury.
To the Honourable the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we, citizens of the Commonwealth, earnestly request our Government to protect the interests of Australian grape growers by:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Giles.
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 showeth:
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 Jarman.
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 Sir William McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition from electors of the Division of New England and certain citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That there is grave concern among people regarding the liberal recommendations made in the Human Relationships Report concerning abortion, incest, encouragement in use of contraceptives even by minors, practicing homosexuals being invited to explain their condition even to school children and that teachers need not fear legal action for sexual intercourse with students over 16 years of age.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sinclair.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state’.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government initiate a national family policy and use the concept of family impact statements as a means highlighting family needs.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Why did the Prime Minister choose not to make public all of the documents prepared by the former Treasurer in respect of his family interests, as well as opinions provided by Irish, Young and Outhwaite, Mallesons and Stephen Charles, Q.C.? Is it a fact that these opinions provided by Mallesons and Stephen Charles, Q.C., were based only on documents provided to them on Mr Lynch ‘s behalf? Further can the Prime Minister assure the House that, as a result of the disclosure to him of their personal interests, no Minister, while a Minister, or any company in which he is involved by way of family trusts or otherwise has been involved in speculative land deals?
-On the first matter that the honourable gentleman mentioned, I have nothing to add. As to the second matter, I suggest that he await the outcome of the judicial inquiry now being undertaken.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether Australian beef exports to the United States will be harmed as a result of legislation recently passed by the Senate in the United States of America, which legislation is designed to limit overall beef imports into that country?
-Even though Australia does export substantial quantities of beef to the United States, those exports are still limited by quantitative restrictions. There have been moves within the United States for some time to reduce beef exports from Australia to the United States. This is a matter that the Australian Government has opposed at every opportunity and again most recently in discussions with the United States Vice-President.
I think it is worth noting that in the United States there is a very real conflict of interest between beef producers, who would like minimum imports and the highest possible prices, and United States consumers, who certainly have a vested interest in maintaining reasonable consumer prices and therefore maximum imports from countries such as Australia. That latter aspect becomes particularly important at the present time when inflation is moving up rather than down in the United States. For example, last month the United States wholesale price index for finished goods increased by 1.3 percent for the month. That is the highest increase in over three years. So I would expect the President’s commitment to bearing down on inflation in a continuing manner to be given reinforcement as a result of those figures.
The United States Administration’s determination to overcome inflation is one of the factors that have to be taken into account in making an assessment of what happens to the future of beef exports from Australia to the United States. We need to have in mind that United States cattle numbers are down 20 million as a result of drought and increased slaughtering. Our cattle numbers are down 4 million. Offerings on to the United States market over the next part of this year are likely to be substantially less than they could have been, for example, last year. Because of demand for beef in the United States we have been exporting to that country at a rate considerably higher than would be justified by the annual quota. That has led to some slowdown, as a result of Meat and Livestock Corporation activities, for the rest of this year. It will mean that unless the quota is in fact lifted the United States will be getting a smaller supply on to its own market over the last part of this year than it has had over the first part of the year. That, coupled with its own reduced offerings for slaughter, would have a very substantial impact on the United States price for beef unless the quotas are lifted. The Australian Government will be making the strongest possible representations that it is not only in the interests of Australia but certainly in the interests of the United States and in containing that country’s inflation to see the beef exports from Australia to the United States do increase.
In relation to the measure that passed through the United States of America Senate, we have been aware of it and we have expressed our views on it. It would reduce our exports by about 25 per cent. In other words, we would regard it as an utterly irresponsible measure, especially against the background I have just sketched. I understand there is a convention in the United States that at certain times major legislation does not pass. On this occasion major legislation was introduced at a time when normally it would not be introduced- I think late on a Friday. There were seven honourable senators present when the Bill was passed by the United States Senate. I question how much authority a piece of legislation passed in that manner could have. It has still to be passed by the United States House of Representatives. Further, it would have to receive Presidential approval. Even if it were passed through the House of Representatives it would certainly be a matter for President Carter, who would have the right of veto.
Against the total background I have sketched and against the background of representations that we made over the last day or two, it is the view of the Australian Government that that legislation will never become law. We have already made the strongest possible representations to the United States in an aide-memoire sent to the United States Administration in April. The matter was raised by the Minister for Special Trade Representations during his recent visit to the United States and by the Government over the last day or two with the Vice-President. Our views will be pressed again in view of the passage of the legislation in the United States Senate because it would be a most serious matter if the Bill became law.
There is one other matter that ought to be mentioned. This is the year in which trade is to be liberalised. It is the year in which, as the United States has told us on many occasions, it will not be content with progress in multinational trade negotiations on industrial goods alone; it wants progress in argicultural goods, particularly from the European Economic Community. Against that background and against the force of the United States moral leadership in these matters, I cannot see how that country would be able to explain its general position if it in turn were acting in a much more protectionist manner in relation to its beef imports. It would destroy the credibility of the United States’ approach to multinational trade negotiations and have very severe consequential effects for total trade negotiations throughout the course of this year.
– I see in the distinguished visitors ‘ gallery an old and highly respected parliamentary personality and former member of this House. On behalf of honourable members I extend to the Right Honourable Frank Forde a very warm welcome.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
– Honourable members will recall that the right honourable gentleman was a senior Minister in the turbulent years of World War II and was a Prime Minister of this country in 1945. We are pleased to see him still taking an interest in the proceedings of the House.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
Treasurer regarding his financial interests? Has the Prime Minister caused an independent examination to be made at the Victorian Titles Office and the Stamp Duties Office to check and provide an independent assessment of the material provided by the former Treasurer? If not, why not?
-Mr Stephen Charles, Q.C., as the honourable member would know, undertook that independent assessment and the result of that assessment is public.
-I direct to the Minister for Primary Industry a question which follows on the question asked earlier by the honourable member for Cook. As the Vice-President of the United States, Mr Mondale, who was recently in this country, is also the President of the United States Senate, did the Government receive any official warning from this source as to the possibility of the passing of the Bentsen countercyclical Bill which affects Australia’s cattle imports into the United States?
– During our discussions with the Vice-President the general implications of the counter-cyclical proposals that Senator Bentsen proposed were canvassed. However, the nature of the United States’ concern was a compound of the Vice- President himself having previously served on an agricultural committee of the United States Congress and hence having some understanding of the general pressures that exist within the United States to try to increase returns to cattlemen. That attitude of course is one with which we have some sympathy, but we were able to point out to him that at this stage the returns payable to United States cattlemen were anything up to four times higher than those paid to Australian cattlemen and that imports of Australian beef, contrary to the belief of some who are advocating the Bentsen-type proposals, are not directly competitive with production in the United States cattle industry and indeed are more in the interests of containing costs in the United States than contrary to the objective of lifting returns to the United States cattlemen.
The complementary character of Australia’s exports to the United States is one of the prime causes that we promoted in discussions on this matter with the United States Administration and indeed with the United States VicePresident the other day. The 90 per cent leantype beef, the hamburger type, which is exported is designed significantly to complement the excess fat trimmings that come from the more highly finished feed lot beef that is produced and consumed significantly in that country. One aspect that did come out of the discussions with the Vice-President- and this was referred to a moment ago by the Prime Minister- was the very significant price rises in the United States attributable largely to the price of beef. This year prices have risen by about 12 per cent.
I noticed in a recent publication of the United States Department of Agriculture that it suggested beef prices might now be reaching a plateau. I think it is interesting to note that prices as at the end of April have in fact reached the level which they last achieved in July 1975. In other words, prices in the United States have previously been as high as that and one would think that given the reaction that earlier administrations have had from housewives in the United States and from other consumers to very high prices for beef the Administration at least would be as concerned with consumer pressures to reduce food prices as it is with the objectives expressed by Senator Bentsen. Indeed, it would seem to us to be likely that contrary to this publication of the United States Department of Agriculture, domestic beef prices will continue to rise rather than farm incomes drop.
If the question of imports is taken into account, it is more likely that that price expectation would flow and therefore domestic prices within the United States would add further to inflationary pressures and to the problems of the United States Administration. It is in this climate that we expressed our concern to the Vice-President. It is in this climate that we are most concerned with the implications that flow from the passage of a measure- supported, as I understand it, by seven members of the United States Senate- dealing with customs matters pertaining to photographic equipment and in no way related to the substance of the proposal that so concerns Australia. The Australian Government certainly is pursuing every possible endeavour to highlight with the United States Administration our deep concern at the implication of the measures passed through the United States Senate by so few of its members last Friday night.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I refer the Minister to his statement of 1 5 December when he said that the sales of land by the joint venture were completed by 7 April 1976. How does the Minister reconcile his statement with the existence of a certificate of transfer which shows that Grosvenor Nominees, a firm acting on behalf of the
Lynch family trust, transferred its interest in three blocks of land to the Australian Equity Corporation for a consideration on 17 September 1976, many months after the Minister’s statement that payment had been received in full?
– I have to say to the House that it is great to be back, considering the questions which the Opposition has been raising today. I had the impression when I was abroad that matters of consequence were being considered in Australia. I thought that the Opposition would have been interested in the economic issues being considered, particularly some of the more significant issues which concern my ministerial jurisdiction. I am happy to say to the honourable gentleman and to others who may seek to continue to raise these issues that a detailed public statement has been made and I have no further comment whatever to add to the detailed public statement.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It follows a series of questions asked last week. Can he inform the House of the result of the inquiry into the purchase of land on the Gold Coast by the Australian Postal Commission?
– I rise to a point of order. I think you will find, Mr Speaker, that the Minister has made it clear to us that when the inquiry is completed a statement will be made to the House. We are still waiting for that statement to be made in the House. It should not be done in the form of an answer to a question.
-Order! There is no substance to the point of order. I call the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
– I have made it clear that I will make a full written answer available. I will do so in the normal way and I will do so very soon. I want to make it absolutely clear that a very careful examination of all the circumstances proved that the former Minister for Post and Telecommunications did not interfere in the negotiation process for the purchase of land for a mail centre on the Gold Coast. Any insinuations of this nature are entirely without foundation. To emphasise my point I say that the Managing Director of the Australian Postal Commission has told me that there was no suggestion by the Minister, either direct or implied, that the Commission should re-open negotiations, nor was there any indication that the Minister had any involvement or wish to intervene other than to respond helpfully to Mr McMaster ‘s inquiry to him.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I ask him whether at any time in the month preceding the election of 10 December 1977 he personally or a member of his family, either directly or by means of a family trust, nominee company or other legal device, was involved in the sale or purchase of land in Victoria?
– I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer which I provided to a question earlier today.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. What stage has been reached in the consultations with the States concerning their acceptance of the Commonwealth’s offer to provide $200m over live years for water conservation and quality control matters? If the States do accept the Commonwealth’s offer, will the Commonwealth insist that priority be given by the States to the allocation of funds to the arresting of declining water resources and associated quality problems in areas traditionally committed to irrigation rather than to creating new projects in non-irrigation areas?
-The position with the water resources program is that I have received bids from all States except Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. I do not know yet what the Queensland priorities are. I make it clear to the honourable member and to other honourable members that it is up to the States to determine their priorities under this program. The Commonwealth has laid down no requirements for the States in determining those priorities. That position is clear. However, the position of an irrigation area which required assistance would be looked at very carefully in a State in arranging priority. I would think that that would certainly be a factor for Queensland when it was finally providing the Commonwealth with its total priorities for the State.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the fact that cattle producers are receiving only about 12c per lb for their beef. Non-producers, such as those entitled to beef export entitlements, are selling those entitlements for about 50c per lb. Those buying the entitlements are selling the beef at over $1 per lb. Is it a fact that meat exporters are a select group and that 10 of them share 80 per cent of the market believed to be worth $200m? In view of the obvious failure of the export entitlement scheme can the Minister explain why the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation does not begin to export local produce pursuant to section 9 of the Act to ensure higher returns to the producers?
-I am delighted at the honourable member’s newfound interest in the circumstances of the beef industry. There are fundamental problems in trying to maximise returns to Australia’s beef exporters at a time when a number of major markets have tight constraints on the amount of product they will receive. The real problem we have in trying to get the maximum flow-on of benefits from higher prices in those markets lies in how to spread entitlement in the best way. Over the last few years the Australian Meat Board and now the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation devised various systems of restraint designed to try to spread the benefit.
It is true that at the moment entitlement is commanding a very high price. I wonder whether the honourable member knows just what entitlement is all about. In essence what it means is that where a very high price is payable for a product in one country the difference between that price and the similar price paid for the same product in another country is called the differential. It is true that these quotas are negotiable. The Department of Primary Industry has been very closely examining the circumstances of this difference over the past few months to ensure that no undue disadvantage flows to producers from it. However, the reason for the price differential is simply that, unfortunately, prices obtainable in most markets in the rest of the world other than in the United States of America and Japan are very depressed.
The sales negotiated recently in some other markets have demonstrated that there still seems to be a by-product of the surplus of beef available. In circumstances of over-supply it has not been possible to lift the price obtainable to the degree we would like. It is in part recognition of that that the Government has introduced the beef export incentive scheme which is designed to encourage sales to other countries to relieve the present high stock position which is so troubling in terms of beef exports and to spread markets obtainable so that producers can get a better price.
This Government is committed to trying to maximise the prices obtainable abroad for Australian producers. The position is not as simple as the honourable gentleman would suggest. It is difficult to see by what alternative way rationalised beef exports could be developed. For all that there is criticism of the way in which the entitlement scheme operates, nobody has yet presented a scheme which would be more equitable, which would guarantee a higher price to producers and which would maximise the prices obtainable in those restricted markets. The real answer is to ensure that we both remove those barriers to agricultural trade and maximise our sales to those markets where a high price is obtainable. It is for that reason that we are so much concerned at the Bentsen measures introduced into the United States; that we have pursued constantly with the Japanese Government arguments designed to lift the quota entitlement which now restricts Australian exports to that market; that we have emphasised the effect that high prices paid for beef have on domestic inflation in those consumer countries; and that we will continue to try to devise ways by which we can get a higher price for our beef exports in every export market.
– They cannot pay any more.
– The honourable member seems to have a belief that there is a way by which we can increase the prices paid in those other opportunity markets. Unfortunately at this stage our exporters have not been able to increase that price. We certainly want to pass on the maximum benefit to growers. It is a pity the honourable gentleman does not realise the way in which the system now operates.
– I address my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I preface it by welcoming him back to the chamber. In view of the Minister’s recent successful visit to China, can he advise the House which Australian industries, in his view, are able to get greatest access to the Chinese market?
– I am happy to say in response to the question posed by the honourable gentleman that my recent visit to China did open up substantial new trade opportunities for Australia in raw materials and industrial equipment as well as in technology and expertise. These opportunities derive directly from China’s new plans for economic modernisation and in addition reflect the strengthening of political and economic ties between our two countries.
In China I received top level assurance that as long as prices are competitive China will import considerably larger quantities of iron ore from Australia to underpin the very rapid expansion in steel output which is planned up to and including 1985. In general discussions with Chinese leaders I emphasised that apart from Australia’s natural resources we have technologies and equipment which are well suited to China’s needs. One example of course is the general field of agricultural machinery.
The response which I received in all my discussions with Chinese leaders and officials was, I think, extremely encouraging and has significantly enhanced Australia’s trade prospects with that country. Over the course of the next few weeks I shall be following up the matters which I canvassed during my visit to China with industry leaders in Australia and also with ministerial colleagues. There is a need for effective follow up from the Australian end and for a greater degree of co-ordination between government and industry in making sure that the prospects of this very significant export market, which is now number five to Australia, are in fact effectively tapped.
– I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: Is it a fact that the land finally purchased at Bundall was available for sale from March 1976 when held by Watkins Ltd but that the Postal Commission showed no interest in buying the land until approached by McMaster or Robinson following an approach by McMaster? Further, did the Minister inquire into McMaster ‘s financing arrangements when acquiring the land? How was McMaster able to move–
– Sleazy question.
-The member for Chrysler is trying to make a point.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will continue his question.
– I hope he can do it more successfully than he did last week. How was McMaster able to move with such speed and certainty to seal the deal with the Postal Commission in less than a month after acquiring the land and with a capital gain of $40,000?
– I thank the honourable member for anti-Chrysler for his question. I simply say that the answer to the first part of the question is no. I found it difficult to follow some of the other parts of the question. I have already said that full written answers will be made available. They will answer the matters that are implicit in the honourable member’s question.
-Order! Before I call another question, I would like to point out that if members use terms in relation to other members which do not refer to them by their office or the seat which they represent, it does lead to retaliation and will rob the House of the dignity it ought to be trying to achieve.
- Mr Speaker, I rise in support of what you have said, and observe that an even better remedy might be to control the constant interjections from the Government benches.
– I ask the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations whether, with the Prime Minister and other Ministers, he was involved last night in discussions with representatives of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation concerning the proposed retrenchments at Chrysler Australia Ltd works scheduled to occur over the next 18 months as part of that company’s rationalisation program, directed towards ensuring its long-term viability? If so, can the Minister advise the House of the outcome of those discussions?
– Yes, the Prime Minister and my colleagues -
Honourable members interjecting;
-Order! I take the point made by the Leader of the Opposition that interjections do not help the House in the conduct of its business, and I ask all honourable members to observe that fact.
– Yes, the Prime Minister and my colleagues, the Ministers for Industry and Commerce and for Business and Consumer Affairs, and I met last night senior representatives of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation, who put forward their detailed proposals in relation to the retrenchments which have been announced by the Chrysler company at the Tonsley Park plant in Adelaide. The Government shares the union’s concern that training and retraining facilities should be made available for those retrenched workers who could benefit from that form of assistance. As a result, senior officers of my Department will go before the end of this week to the plant for detailed discussions with both management and the unions involved, in an effort to see whether unused facilities at the plant could be used for training and retraining purposes. I look forward to receiving the report on that, which I should get in the very near future.
In the meantime, in the light of the announcement by Chrysler that it will go ahead with the retrenchments, I have taken steps to ensure that officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Adelaide are providing every possible assistance to the workers involved, particularly in ensuring that they are fully aware of the various schemes which may help them, such as the retraining and relocation assistance schemes.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, by saying that there will be widespread public support for the Government’s action in putting the pruning knife through the surplus senior public servants in the Public Service Board. Will the right honourable gentleman give an undertaking to this Parliament that he will not yield to the opposition that he can expect to be generated in the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association to the action to be taken? Will he give a further undertaking that he will now carefully examine all other departments and government agencies, instrumentalities, statutory authorities and the like to see what other divisions can be abolished or amalgamated, so that the enormous cost of maintaining highly-paid senior public servants in jobs that are unnecessary and could be done with greater economy, can be effected?
-Order! The honourable gentleman is arguing the issue.
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his unheralded but nevertheless friendly question. I would have to say that the Government cannot take all the credit for the actions that the Public Service Board has recently undertaken. In many senses it was a self-inflicted wound on the part of the Public Service Board as a result of an examination of its own activities. As a result of an earlier reorganisation of my Department there was a revised departmental structure for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and for the Department of Trade and Resources. In terms of looking at the higher echelons within those departments the Board was also looking at itself. As a result of that there was the reorganisation which the honourable gentleman has mentioned and which I am so glad that he applauds. A significant part of the task of the Public Service Board is to examine on a continuing basis the functions and operations of the Public Service to make sure that jobs to be filled are usefully filled and that, at whatever level they might be in the Public Service, the jobs which cease to have utility just disappear.
Under present circumstances I think it is all the more important to examine all aspects of the activities of all departments. There might have been a good rationale and purpose in a particular function 30 or 40 years ago or even less, but has somebody examined that function on purpose in relation to 1978 and beyond to see whether it is relevant to Australia’s circumstances? The Board will be pursuing these examinations. I have every confidence in the Board fulfilling this task. It is worth noting that as a result of a continuous scrutiny of the Public Service generally and of non-Public Service employment in the Commonwealth sphere the general staff ceiling level policy has been operated very firmly but with great effect, without diminishing services to the public but with enormous economy to the taxpayers of Australia. If the policies of certain predecessors in government had remained there would have been about 30,000 to 40,000 more public servants than there now are.
– I address a question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. It concerns the announcement by the Prime Minister in his policy speech that the Government would take action to reintroduce the petroleum freight subsidy scheme which operated from 1965 until it was abandoned by the Labor Government in 1974. When does the Minister anticipate this undertaking will be honoured. In particular, will he give an indication as to when the subsidy will be available to motorists in the remote areas of Australia?
– I thank not only the honourable member for Forrest for asking this question but also honourable members in the Government parties for the significant role they have played in bringing about the reintroduction of the petroleum freight subsidy scheme which applied from 1965 until it was terminated in 1974 by the predecessor of this Government. This scheme is designed to reduce the freight component of the price of petrol and other prescribed fuels throughout Australia. The fuels concerned are motor spirit, power kerosene, aviation fuels and automotive distillate. The scheme is designed initially to ensure that the freight component nowhere in Australia is more than 0.88c per litre or 4c per gallon.
The honourable member asked when this subsidy scheme will commence and when motorists, particularly those in the remote areas of Australia, will obtain the benefit of this scheme. I am happy to inform the honourable member that on 26 January of this year, Australia Day, the Prime Minister wrote to all State Premiers and the Minister for the Northern Territory seeking the co-operation of those administrations in ensuring the early implementation of the scheme. The scheme cannot be implemented without the co-operation of the States. Honourable members will be aware that the national legislation has passed through this Parliament and has received Royal Assent. The Northern Territory will be the first part of Australia to receive the benefit. I am pleased to announce that the benefit will be passed on in the Northern Territory as from and including 19 May. I believe that Western Australia will be in a position to pass on the subsidy in the very near future.
Regrettably some States have not moved as quickly as others and it will be later in the year before they are in a position to pass on the benefit to the motoring public. I regret this, but the Government has taken the view that it should not hold up the implementation of this scheme until all States are in a position to pass on the benefits. Therefore we now propose to implement the scheme as each State is in a position to pass the benefits on to the consuming public. The benefits are very real. In Alice Springs it amounts to 2.4c per litre; in Kalgoorlie 1.1c per litre and in Laverton 3.4c per litre. So the benefits are very significant to people who live in outlying areas of Australia. I am sure that the Government’s decision and the Government’s speed in fulfilling its election undertaking will be welcomed.
– My question, which I address to the Minister for Defence, relates to the Minister’s responsibility for the VIP fleet and the Government’s decision to embark on a $40m program to equip the fleet with new aircraft, commencing with the purchase of two Boeing 727 120-passenger aircraft. I ask the Minister: What is the precise nature of the modifications to be made to the aircraft, where are the modifications expected to be carried out, what is the estimated cost of the modifications proposed for each of the aircraft and will the total cost of the modifications be cheaper because two aircraft are to be modified rather than one?
– The honourable member’s question may be seen to better advantage if I inform him that $40m is a grossly inaccurate figure. The purchase of two secondhand aircraft is anticipated to cost in the vicinity of $ 18m, not $40m.
– I said ‘ program ‘.
– The honourable member, I hope, will appreciate that in the rationalisation of No. 34 Squadron there will be a disposal of other aircraft and as a consequence of that there will be offsetting. This will happen at some time in the future.
-The Leader of the Opposition who interjects knows perfectly well that both he and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have access to these aircraft under precisely the same circumstances as all other Ministers. I hope that the honourable gentleman would seek to give some leadership in securing a perspective to this problem. As to the modifications that will occur, no decision has been made regarding the configuration. When a decision has been made and the details are available I will provide those details to the honourable gentleman. The principal modification, however, that will take place to these aircraft will be to fit them with extra tanks to give them a longer range. That is the major modification. I am not in a position now to state precisely where that will be done.
– What about the cost?
– I will secure detailed costs for the honourable gentleman. There has been a great deal of scepticism by some honourable gentlemen in this House and by some observers outside as to the wisdom of purchasing these aircraft. A letter from two officials that I tabled in the House the other day made reference to a security report. Regrettably I cannot make that report public. However, I will gladly make it available to the Leader of the Opposition and to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for their consideration. Finally, let me say that of the 34 aircraft hijacked last year eight were hijacked for political purposes and 17 for personal reasons. I repeat to the House and, I trust, to the country that the security in the movement of the Prime Minister of this country, irrespective of his political allegiance, now is a very considerable undertaking by any airline company. It is against that background that the decision was made.
-I ask the Minister for Health: Is it a fact that the Government has received very many representations from members of the community expressing great concern at the cost of abortions being covered by medical benefit funds? Is it a fact that the Government has been giving careful consideration to these representations for several months? Has the Government yet reached a decision on this matter? If so, can the Minister inform the House as to the nature of the decision? If not, can he assure the House that a decision will be taken in the very near future?
- Mr Speaker -
– It is a no-win situation.
– Yes, the Government has received a great number of representations from people throughout the community who have been concerned about the increasing number of abortions that are being carried out in the community and, as a result, the high cost of benefits that are being paid for those procedures. But as an honourable member from the Opposition side pointed out, it is a very vexed and very complex problem in that we do have a situation where there are differing laws as between the States. We assume that when a procedure is carried out within those States, it is carried out in accordance with that law.
There is no way that I should like to see either the Health Insurance Commission or indeed the health insurance funds engage in a survey to ascertain which procedure was or was not carried out in accordance with the law. That of course would raise very serious questions of privacy and the rights of the individual. As I said, the Government has been concerned about the views of a great number of people and is currently giving consideration to a number of proposals. I should hope that, in the near future, the Government will be in a position to make an announcement on the issue.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
-Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, I ask you whether you are in a position to make a statement or to provide information to members of the House relating to accommodation within Parliament House. I raise this matter especially in view of Press and news reports today in which it is suggested that Cabinet has in fact issued directions to Mr President and to you relating to this matter, something which I hope is incorrect.
-I have received no information whatsoever from the Cabinet that there has been any discussion on this matter in the Cabinet, so I am unaware whether in fact the matter has been discussed. I am certainly not aware of any result. As to accommodation in this House, the President of the Senate and I have considered means whereby accommodation for members in Parliament House can be improved. We have been also concerned that accommodation for the staff of the five departments that service members and senators should also be to the best advantage of members, that is, that there is a balance between members occupying space in the House and those servicing them occupying space in the House. It is a very difficult balance to draw, but the President and I have proceeded to do so.
Honourable members will be aware that, for the first time in the history of the Parliament, every member of the House will have his own room. That, I think, is a great advance. The President and I are continuing to examine the requirements for accommodation. I have communicated to Government certain proposals that I have. I have been informed by the Executive Government that it has the matter under consideration. I have heard nothing other than that.
– With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I wish to speak on the same subject.
-No, I do not intend to exercise an indulgence on this subject.
– May I take a point of order then, Mr Speaker?
– I take a point of order on the basis that the matter to which you have just referred concerns all members of the Parliament. Can you give an undertaking that an opportunity will be made available for members of .this House and of the other place to express their views to you on this subject that has just been mentioned?
-I can permit all members to express their views to me outside the chamber, but I do not have control of the conduct of business in the chamber. That is in the hands of the majority and, in particular, in the hands of the Leader of the House.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to take a point of order. I wish to raise as well the matter of accommodation for the National Press in this House. But in view of your ruling, I do not think that I should pursue the matter now. It will have to come up for debate later in the terms of the motion that I have put down.
-Yes. I am not prepared to extend indulgence on this subject at this time. It is a matter for formal motion or for the other forms of the House.
-by leave-I present the report of the Australian delegation to the 64th Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference held at Sofia, between 21 and 30 September 1977.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– In making a statement on the report, I shall keep my remarks brief. However, it is not my belief that the House should deal with the report in this way. I believe that there should be quite a full debate on the matters contained in the report.
In recent years, there has been increased Australian participation in the affairs of the InterParliamentary Union. Honourable members will recall that the former honourable member for Kalgoorlie, Mr Collard, was a member of the executive of the IPU. Senator Harold Young has just completed the remainder of that term on the Executive.
– I was there between the terms of Collard and Young.
– I apologise to the honourable member for Bendigo. He was a member for a brief time until his other duties took him away. Another factor is that at least two of the delegatesone from each side of the Parliamentwill continue to be delegates for the life of the Parliament. This gives an opportunity for continuity of discussion with delegations from other countries. Australia has also been invited to have discussions with members of what is known as the Nine Plus, which represents the Western nations. There is a continuing dialogue there.
Further, in contrast to the past, the delegation now has a continuing adviser from the Department of Foreign Affairs, not just a Department of Foreign Affairs adviser who comes from one of the posts near to where the conference is held. For the last three or four years, we have had Dr Ron Howard from the Department of Foreign Affairs as the adviser to the delegation. Members of the delegation to the IPU Conference will confirm what a great help this has been not only from the point.of view of continuity, but from the point of view of the capabilities of the particular officer appointed to that post.
The fact of the matter is that at this conference, as at the meeting in Canberra early last year, the issues debated are those issues that parliamentarians from parliaments throughout the world believe are the important ones to debate. Yet we send our delegations to this conference, allow them to take part in the debate and then do not analyse the resulting resolutions that come out of that conference. At Sofia there was a general debate, a lot of which was devoted to disarmament, a subject with a great degree of importance this year because of the special session of the United Nations General Assembly to be held on that subject. There were debates on the developing economic order, law of the sea, water and disposal of wastes, which is important to so many developing countries, the behaviour of the Israeli authorities in the occupied Arab territories and on the situation in South Africa. Majority decisions were reached on all those subjects. As those majority decisions are reported in the report from the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference, this Parliament should recognise the context of an Inter-Parliamentary Union with representatives from parliaments throughout the world, and decide to debate those resolutions to see what attitude we should take.
In the conduct of the Australian delegation one finds that although members of all parties are present, away from the strutting and posturing of the parliamentary stage, fellow members of Parliament on the other side of the chamber who here appear to have horns and a tail, are able to discuss in a delegation matters on a rational basis. On two of the matters that were before the conference, that relating to the IsraelArab conflict and on the question of South Africa, the Australian delegation was divided. However, it was a division without heat. I pay tribute to the leadership Senator Harold Young gave to the delegation. He allowed all these matters to be discussed throughout the conference so that when Australia made its decision on how its votes would be cast on these issues it had been made after a rational discussion among the members, a full understanding of the nature of the different views and an acceptance of the right to differ. Because there was a difference perhaps on just those two items they should be the ones to which we should be directing our principal attention.
There is a further matter that was raised at the Inter-Parliamentary Union to which we believe as a delegation the Parliament should pay more attention. That is the question of the violation of human rights of parliamentarians in other countries. Initially Australia took some initiative in having a committee set up on this matter. A former Argentinian member of Parliament, Senator Yrigoyen, was present at the conference as a direct result of the representations that had been made by the IPU on the violation of his human rights and his imprisonment. There are a number of other cases from a variety of countries and we, as Australian parliamentarians, should take note of the reports of that committee of the IPU and use our Parliament and our own Foreign Affairs Department to take action to assist in the correction of these violations of human rights. Some visits were associated with the IPU conference. Members of the delegation attended the Parliament of Europe. That provided a very fruitful discussion because we obtained information and knowledge of attitudes that we had not obtained before. As an Australian delegation we visited Yugoslavia. That visit was important because of the large number of new settlers from that country who are coming to Australia. It gave us an understanding of the social system that is developing in that country.
I thank my fellow members of the delegation for their company at this conference, for the intelligent discussion we were able to have and for the co-operative way in which they worked. I pay particular tribute to the leader of the delegation, Senator Young, and I express my thanks to Mr Alan Cumming-Thom from the Senate staff who ably performed the duties of assisting the delegation with support services.
– by leave- I would like to endorse the remarks made by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) and to congratulate him and Senator Young for the leadership they gave to our delegation. I would like also to congratulate Dr Howard and Mr Alan Cumming-Thom for the way they carried out their respective duties. They greatly assisted the delegation in performing its proper functions. This was the first occasion on which I have had the opportunity of attending an international conference of this kind. I would like to comment on some of my observations at the conference in Sofia. The first thing I noticed was the rather curious way in which countries with totalitarian regimes and with poor domestic records of respect for basic individual rights and freedoms always seemed to be most concerned about the preservation of human rights in other countries. I found the sanctimonious and pious comments in this regard of the Soviet Union, of many other communist countries, a number of Third World countries and some of the Arab countries to be totally hypocritical and therefore lacking in credibility.
My particular brief at this conference was the agenda item entitled ‘The Behaviour of the Israeli Authorities in Occupied Arab Territories’. A copy of the speeches of each member of our delegation is contained in the report. Basically, I stated that resolutions from international organisations regarding Israeli practices should be approached as Middle East rather than human rights issues. I think the recent terrorist attacks on innocent Israelis support that contention. This resolution should have been debated in that context at this conference. After all, a lot of emphasis was placed in this debate on the Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons In Time of War. But little was said about other international agreements. I did not hear much talk from most of the Arab States, the communist countries and the Third World countries about United Nations resolution 242. That resolution requires the Arab states to end their acts of aggression and recognise Israel’s right to exist in peace within secure boundaries- boundaries that were recognised by the United Nations 30 years ago- and free from threats or acts of force. The conference did not recognise that Israel has been under constant threat from its neighbours since its inception.
The conference did not recognise that the Palestine Liberation Organisation still rejects Israel’s right to exist and is committed to its destruction. Further, the conference did not recognise that the Jewish people are sceptical of such resolutions because they historically, have been the victims of broken international conventions and resolutions, and internationally accepted codes of behaviour. They have been the victims of these practices at immeasurable cost in terms of human suffering. So that was the approach which I adopted to this question at the conference.
My other approach to this subject was to criticise those who, at conferences such as this one, use double standards in treating this issue solely as a human rights issue. I made the point that countries like the Soviet Union should put thenown house in order before voting against Israel on human rights issues. They can have no credibility while they and other such regimes continue to violate basic human rights in their own countries. We heard very little in the debate on the plight of Soviet Jewry or of the Jewish persecution in the Middle East. Naturally my speech was not warmly applauded by delegates. The most enthusiastic applause at this conference was in response to the speeches of the delegates of the PLO who in my opinion should not be present at this conference or any other international forum.
– Who applauded them?
– Who applauded them loudest? It was the Soviet Union, the communist countries in general, the Third World countries and some of the Arab states. I claim that is a use of double standards. None of these countries can boast of supporting democratic freedoms or even the most basic human rights. Who claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on Israel last month, murdering women and children? It was the PLO of course, the champions of human rights at the IPU conference. And whose weapons did they use? They were Russian weapons. The PLO delegates also were supporters of human rights at this conference. I want to make this point because I understand that these kinds of standards are being used at other international conferences, and this concerns me greatly.
The final point I want to make is that at IPU conferences delegates do not represent their electorate, their party, their government or their parliament. They are meant to represent their own personal views as individual parliamentarians. I did this and, as the honourable member for Scullin said, we all did this during the course of the voting on the various agenda items. But the voting pattern on the Israeli practices issue revealed that in most countries represented at the conference an independent view was not taken. Our delegation did split on this vote. I supported Israel, as did the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher).
Some members abstained and some voted in favour of the resolution. At least the Australian delegation members were free to vote as they chose, but Israel lost the vote 605 to 73 with 106 abstentions. Every communist country, almost every Third World country, all Arab countries voted unanimously against Israel ostensibly on human rights grounds. It was totally predictable. It was totally inconsistent with their own standards and it was totally against the spirit of individual voting for which the IPU is meant to stand. I just hope that this kind of behaviour which contradicts and prevents the free flow of ideas, policies and philosophies at such conferences is not universal because I fear that if it is, these international meeting places may do more harm than good for the cause of human rights.
– As a member of the Australian delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference I did not intend to enter the debate but in view of the remarks of the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) I think I should restore a bit of balance into the story of what happened at the conference. Firstly, I endorse the remarks -
-Order! Firstly, the honourable member is not in his seat; secondly, he has not yet got leave to speak. I will allow him to return to his seat and then to seek leave.
– by leave- I endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). I express my appreciation of the hospitality that was extended to us during our visit to Sofia. I must deplore the lack of appreciation by some members of the delegation of the hospitality extended to us. I particularly deplore the honourable member for Perth re-opening the debate on a particular issue and talking about double standards because when I attempted to have placed on the agenda the question of human rights in Timor I was not backed up by the Government supporters of the delegation. The honourable member for Perth did not support me on a human rights issue that lies on our doorstep, but he is very concerned about human rights in Russia, Israel and other parts of the world.
Lest anybody thinks that delegate members can get up at an Inter-Parliamentary Union conference and debate any question at all, I state that this is nonsense. The Timor issue has never been on the agenda at IPU conferences. Even though the issue has been going on for three years it has never been on the agenda. When I tried to have it placed on the agenda I was supported by people from New Zealand, Portugal and some of the Scandinavian countries but Government supporters of the Australian delegation would not support me. So let us not have this nonsense about double standards. Honourable members opposite are the people who applied double standards to these issues.
When I wanted to have this matter placed on the agenda a few people supported the move, a few more voted against it but a larger number of people abstained. This is a vital issue right on our doorstep which Government supporters who were members of the delegation did not want to have anything to do with. So people should not think that delegates can get up and talk about these things at IPU conferences whenever they want to because this issue has never been on the agenda and it never will get on the agenda because it is an issue that is embarassing to the Government and our own Government supporters would not support such a move.
-by leave-I was also privileged to be a member of the Australian delegation to Sofia last September. The benefit to be gained from a visit behind the Iron Curtain to one of the Soviet satellites is immense. It gives the opportunity to compare and contrast at first hand the differences behind the two major economic systems- free enterprise and socialism. It provides an opportunity to observe the living standards prevailing in a communist country. It provides an opportunity to observe the functioning of the party hierarchical system which prevails in a Soviet satellite. I would like to say that the Bulgarians were excellent hosts and to the best of my knowledge life in Sofia carried on as normal during the meetings of the InterParliamentary Union.
I do not want to go into detail in the House but I simply would say that I was as interested an observer of the Bulgarian system as those from communist countries who visit the West would be interested in our system. The IPU meeting was a valuable experience and I was particularly interested to watch the workings of the different bloc groupings in the votes following debates. On one occasion an unexpected amendment was moved in the debate on the Middle East and the delegates of the Third World countries all rushed up to the Egyptian delegation to get their voting instructions. I imagine that there are other honourable members in the chamber who have experienced world forums at first hand and who have observed the way the blocs line up. To me it was a new experience. Unlike other delegations, as has been said by the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) and the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), the Australian group spoke and voted as individuals on two important votes, one on the behaviour of the Israeli authorities in occupied Arab territory, and the other on the situation in southern Africa. The Australian delegation split its 1 3 votes.
The overall situation was interesting. In the vote on the Middle East debate Israel was condemned 605 to 73 votes with 106 abstentions. The result was always predictable and the tragedy of the situation is that it seems debates on issues of this nature are superfluous because the power blocs have their preconceived attitudes. The Australian delegation allowed itself to be influenced by debate. For my own part, I listened with great interest to argument on both sides and I came down in favour of Israel. Others in our delegation came down against Israel. Similarly, in respect of the southern African situation the overall vote went in favour of the South West African People’s Organisation 625 to 32 votes with 100 abstentions. Again the result was always predictable.
The majority of nations are not persuaded by argument; they vote in line with their political or ideological bloc and they cannot afford to do otherwise. It may be of interest to the House to know that of the 68 nations which voted on the southern African situation only Australia, Canada, Denmark and the United States split their delegate votes between yes and no. Every other nation voted entirely yes or no or abstained in total. Only 13 countries exercised their right to split their delegate votes on the Israeli question. For my own part I contributed to the debate on the new international economic order, and in view of the attention given to this subject in the statement yesterday by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) I seek leave to incorporate my speech in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– I seek your indulgence, Mr Speaker. I do not wish to be unduly rude to the honourable member for Hume. He did ask me about this matter. I was not sure about the position. It seems to me that all honourable members who were a part of that delegation wish to speak now and perhaps they all will want their speeches incorporated. I understand that the speeches are in the report. I am not too sure that you, Mr Speaker, would be anxious to encourage the incorporation into our Hansard record of speeches which had been made at international forums. I am really seeking guidance from you as to how lenient we on this side of the House ought to be.
-By way of explanation, Mr Speaker, I point out that it was a speech of about 10 minutes.
-I respond to the point of order by saying that if leave is not granted a document cannot be incorporated into Hansard. Leave has not been granted in this case. The granting of leave has to be a positive act. To reply to the point raised by the honourable member for Port Adelaide, I do not encourage the incorporation of anything into the Hansard record other than things such as tables which need to be seen in visual form for comprehension. Otherwise, I believe that arguments should be put by the honourable member addressing the House. That is my response to that point of order. It is not relevant to the issue of whether leave is granted. Leave is not granted.
– I did not want to take up the time of the House by elaborating on points I made in that debate. I will not do that other than to say that the whole debate in Sofia on the question of the new international economic order is. like so many other questions, dominated by a Third World, Western World, East-West bloc situation. As the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) pointed out in relation to the Arab-Israeli situation, a great degree of hypocrisy is going on in the new international economic order debate.
The new international economic order is described as a way of redistributing wealth between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, and a way of raising the standards of living in the underdeveloped countries. The simple fact is that when one listens to the nations which are involved with the Third World and those which are supposed to benefit from this new international economic order, if it ever arrives one finds that they have qualms about our capitalistic system, our free enterprise system. They stand up and make speeches in no uncertain terms, putting the boot right into the capitalists, the colonialists, the neo-colonialists, the transnational and multi-national companies and so on, yet it is to those people and companies that they turn for support. The thrust of my speech there was that one has to accept the systems which apply in different countries. They have to accept the system which we have and they should not seek to change it; we have to accept the systems that they have and we should not seek to change them. There is no merit in and there is no point to be gained by continuing a debate which is centred on all sorts of hypocritical arguments based on whether trans-national companies are doing underdeveloped countries any good. The interesting point is that countries like Russia and the German Democratic Republic support the Third World and the underdeveloped world in this sort of argument.
Another point I wish to make in relation to the delegation’s visit to Yugoslavia is that many matters were discussed. One of the most important of these dealt with trade. It is interesting to note that Yugoslavia is interested in trading with Australia. It certainly is interested in redressing the imbalance that exists between Yugoslavia and Australia in relation to our bilateral trade. Yugoslavia is very keen on joint ventures, particularly joint ventures which will involve Australian and Yugoslavian activity that is directed towards a third market. That is something which I think Australian manufacturers, traders and exporters ought to look at. Another point is that Yugoslavia made it plain to the delegation that it was interested in barter trade. This is something in which Australia is not really involved. It is interesting to note that New Zealand, for instance, is involved in this type of trade. When we spoke to Yugoslavian officials about the trade in beef, for instance, we were told that Yugoslavia imports beef from New Zealand. When we inquired further into that, we discovered that the New Zealanders purchased back from Yugoslavia an equivalent money value in tractors. So there is literally a dollar for dollar exchange- beef from New Zealand on the one side and tractors from Yugoslavia on the other side. That may be something at which Australia needs to look if it wishes to get more involved in developing trade throughout the world. If New Zealand is prepared to do it and is getting business as a result of that action, perhaps Australia should be more willing to examine it.
I express my thanks to both Senator Young and the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) for the way in which they led the delegation. Complete and total harmony existed at all times and both gentlemen offered invaluable advice and assistance to the less experienced members of the delegation. I also place on record my gratitude for the untiring efforts of Mr Alan Cumming Thorn, Clerk Assistant of the Senate, who made sure that all went smoothly. I also thank Dr Ron Howard of the Department of Foreign Affairs, whose advice and assistance was always freely available and was first class in nature.
– I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to honour their expressed obligations to the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– Only five weeks ago the Aboriginal people of the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities were given great heart. Then the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) introduced the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Bill into this House. The
Minister said it was designed to provide for selfmanagement of the affairs of the people of those two communities. He indicated that it was a firm commitment of the Government to preserve the independent rights of the Aboriginal people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. More specifically, at the second reading stage of the consideration of that Bill he said:
The Commonwealth Government . . . decided that legislation should be prepared to ensure that the express wishes of the communities were not overridden.
Those were brave words. They fostered high hopes. But as far as the Aboriginal people are concerned they are all in tatters now. The performance has fallen far short of the promise. I remember pointing out in the course of the debate that the legislation was seriously defective is a number of respects. Not the least of those respects was that it would allow the Queensland Government to move as quickly as it wished to de-gazette Aboriginal reserves and to assert total control over those former reserve areas and the communities residing within them. Within less than a week- a matter of a few days- the Queensland Government had done exactly that. It had denied all the rights of the Aboriginal people. It sought a complete confrontation with the Federal Government. The facts are that where human rights are concerned, where fundamental respect of the civil liberties of people is at issue and where proper standards normally accepted by the community in these matters are concerned the Queensland Government cannot be trusted. The Queensland Government is more interested in mineral development and money than it is in people. People get a low importance score rating from the Queensland Government. If they are black people they go down even lower on that list.
The Queensland Government has introduced legislation which is supposed to be part of the combined arrangement between the Federal Government and the Queensland Government in response to the legislation introduced earlier in this Parliament. The Queensland Government has introduced the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill. That Bill is totally unacceptable and in no way conforms with the firm undertakings given by the Government. It is not a compromise on the part of the Queensland Government. It represents the throwing down of the gauntlet by the Queensland Government. It is clear from the contents of that Bill- the power which it proposes to put in the hands of the Queensland Government- that the Queensland Government neither repents nor retreats from its position of dogged opposition to the proposition that the rights of the Aboriginal people of those two communities, in common with the rights of Aboriginal people generally in that State, should be respected and should be enshrined firmly in legislation.
Furthermore, the Queensland Government in this legislation has clearly achieved its determined objective of kicking the Uniting Church out of the Mornington Island and Aurukun Aboriginal communities. The Aboriginal people are now disillusioned and disenchanted with the efforts of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. An informed leak as the Press Gallery described it, appeared in the Australian of 9 May. It referred to discussions which took place between some Aurukun councillors representing the people of Aurukun, the Prime Minister and, I presume, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and other Ministers on Thursday night of last week. It said:
Two-hour discussions between Aurukun councillors and the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, on Thursday night had also been very valuable.
I am informed that they were so helpful that in fact the Government representatives walked out of the meeting again leaving the Aboriginal people totally disenchanted with the attitude of the Austraiian Government. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has often said that the Government is firmly committed to defending the rights of these Aboriginal people. He has used brave words. He has encouraged fond hopes. But it is clear from the course of events in subsequent weeks that they are built on nothing but hot air. Let us consider what the Aboriginal people think of the behaviour and the manoeuvring of the Australian Government in its current dealings with the Queensland Government. I have a Press statement which has been released on behalf of the Aurukun Council and tribal elders. It is an open letter addressed to Mr Fraser. It states:
We came to you believing that we had your support and with our trust in you in the fight against the Queensland Government. We came away totally disillusioned with you, and your government, as an ally . . .
The Aboriginal people time and again put to you that they did not wish to be under a Queensland local government Act and a lease with the Queensland Government because THEY DO NOT TRUST THE QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT’ . . .
You and the Queensland Government are deciding what is best for Aboriginals. You repudiate the Aurukun Council’s wish that they do not wish to be involved with Queensland and its legislation. You are delivering the Aurukun people into the hands of the Queensland Government. You will not accept our view . . .
From being in the position of our friend you are now amongst those who are against us, together with your Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. We put our trust in you and it is with sorrow that we believe our trust has been wrongly placed.
The trust has been abused and dishonoured. There is no trust left among the Aurukun and Mornington Island people as a result of their experiences with the Australian Government. They expect the sort of treatment that they have been receiving from the Queensland Government. That is why they appealed to the national Government. Their hopes were fed. They were encouraged to believe that their interests would be firmly protected by the Australian Government. Nothing could have been more determined in its commitment than the statements made by both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs when they said that if necessary they would acquire land on behalf of the Aboriginal people of these two settlements. They said in the firmest terms imaginable that the rights of the Aboriginal people would be protected.
It is now the clear view of the Aboriginal people that the Australian Government is in the process of arriving at an arrangement, an accommodation, with the Queensland Government which falls far short of those promises and totally shatters the hopes which have been encouraged in the breasts of the Aboriginal people. Let us see what people who are involved very closely with Aboriginal welfare and the aspirations of the people of these two communities say. I refer to a letter sent out by John P. Brown, the General Secretary of the Uniting Church in Queensland to synod officers. Amongst other things it said:
The Queensland Government has now prepared its legislation- the ‘ Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill 1978’. The bill passed its first reading in the Parliament on Thursday and was tabled for two weeks. A group of us studied it carefully yesterday in Brisbane.
Our worst fears have been more than fulfilled. The legislation provided not for ‘self-management’, but for management and control by the Queensland Government … No less than 23 out of 34 clauses are totally unacceptable.
This is the sort of arrangement which has been proposed by the Queensland Government. It is the well-founded fear of the Aboriginal people of those two communities and of people who are committed to help them to protect their interests that the Australian Government is now in the process of arriving at an accommodation which, I repeat, falls far short of the promise firmly made. More than that, it is the processes which are associated with these matters which leave the Aboriginal people disconcerted. Their affairs are being arranged and they are being treated as outsiders. There is scant consultation with them and little attention is paid to their wishes in this matter.
I said earlier that the Queensland Government neither repents nor retreats. It certainly does not recant on its position. The evidence is that even this legislation which it has introduced, the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill 1978, as unacceptable as it is in this form, is not a response to pressures from the Australian Government. According to a Press statement which has been released in the name of Mr Mick Miller, the Chairman of the North Queensland Land Council, on 17 May 1977 the Queensland Cabinet considered this type of legislation on the oral submission of the Premier. The basic strategy was decided then. The Queensland Cabinet decision number was 26409. The Press statement made this interesting comment:
Subsequently, Mr P. J. Killoran, Director of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement was reassured by letter, that even though the plan involved a transfer of functions from his Department, he would remain the Government’s principal adviser on Aboriginal matters.
That is the last thing that the Aboriginal people anywhere in Queensland would desire if they had a choice in this matter. The Queensland Bill is totally unacceptable. It should be repudiated in no uncertain terms by the Government. This ought to be done publicly and forthwith. On 12 April 1978 on the program AM the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs said:
That step ought to be taken now. It is quite clear that there can be no parleying with a government as regressive, reactionary and insensitive to fundamental rights as the Queensland Government. On 4 May the Prime Minister, speaking to an Aurukun delegation said that money was not a consideration in this matter. He encouraged those people to believe that the Government would expeditiously take firm steps to protect their rights. Yet the evidence available to representatives of the Aboriginal people is that the Government is seeking to modify that course to come to terms with the Queensland Government in ways which exclude proper consultation with the Aboriginal people and which will result in a decision which the Aboriginal people firmly believe will be unacceptable to them.
This Bill is unacceptable. Under the Bill the Queensland Government can declare what is to be a local council area. It can amend that area as the whim takes it. It does not take much imagination to conjure up quickly the sort of responses that the Queensland Government would provide if a wealthy mineral organisation, particularly if it were foreign owned, were to apply pressure to it to undertake mineral development in parts of the Aboriginal local government areas of Mornington Island or Aurukun. It would be a matter of indifference to the Queensland Government if they were vitally important or sacred areas for the Aboriginal people. Money comes before people as far as the Queensland Government is concerned.
Furthermore, the Bill provides that part of the local government area may be reserved for public purposes. This only consolidates the authority available to the Government which I have just outlined. It means very simply that for any public purpose which occurs to the Queensland Government it can make a definition of an area within the local government area to be excluded from the control of the Aboriginal people. The local government council can be dissolved by the Queensland Minister. Certainly there is a token concession in the legislation that there has to be consultation with his counterpart in the Australian Government. But consultation means nothing more, in its finest and crudest terms, than telephoning the Commonwealth Minister and telling him that he intends to dissolve the council. No amount of protestations, no matter how well based, would dissuade the present Minister for Local Government we have in Queensland from undertaking that course of action. If a local government in either of these areas in Queensland were to seek to resist one way or another the blandishments of a wealthy mineral corporation I have no doubt that the appeals of the corporation to the Queensland Government in certain circumstances could easily lead to the dissolution of the local government. I put that as an extreme example of the sort of power that is available. There is provision for co-ordination and advisory councils. There will be three members; none of them Aboriginals, two of them Queensland Ministers, the third one the Australian Government Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. So even he is out-voted.
– Nominees of the Ministers.
– They are nominees of the Ministers, I am sorry. Furthermore, the Governor of Queensland is required to take into consideration, when he thinks it appropriate, the views of the co-ordinating and advisory committees for each of these areas when regulations are being promulgated. The Government of
Queensland also reserves to itself power over mineral search and rights in these areas. That succinctly indicates some of the shortcomings in the Bill. Clause 3 dennes the area of leases. An area to the south of Aurukun is excluded. This is tribal land belonging to the Aboriginal people.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-One of the worst aspects of this whole controversy is the way in which Aboriginal people have been used as pawns. I regret very much that in this debate the Opposition is taking an approach which clearly indicates that it wants to make political points rather than to pursue a course which will benefit the Aboriginal people. When I listen to the sort of speech that I have heard in this debate, when we were at a point where Aboriginals could be removed from being the pawns in a dispute between governments -
– By achieving a successful result rather than pursuing endless controversy! Honourable members opposite, as intelligent members of Her Majesty’s Opposition, ought to be able to perceive that if this matter is pursued with endless confrontation between governments the Aboriginal people will not find that there is a short and easy solution capable of immediate implementation. The fact of the matter is that we live in a country which has a written Constitution, in which there are States and in which there is a Commonwealth Government. Whilst the Constitution makes specific provisions for the welfare and benefit of Aboriginals to be the responsibility of the Commonwealth there are many matters of a constitutional nature which have not been determined and there are many aspects of this matter which, if pursued to the final point of confrontation, would end with us in litigation in the High Court of Australia from which there would be no solution and no worthwhile result for the Aboriginal people involved. They would continue to be the pawns.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) delivered a speech with some minor points based upon total misconception. I find the speech exceedingly disappointing and in terms of the benefit of the people whom he holds himself out to be supporting in this exercise. One of the points he made- it was so petty- was that at a meeting of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm
Fraser) with members of the Aboriginal communities the Aboriginal people were left. Presumably the Leader of the Opposition was saying that they were left in the Prime Minister’s office by the Prime Minister and those who came at his invitation. There is nothing further from the truth. All the people who were at that meeting, including the Prime Minister, stayed until the conclusion of it. Nobody walked out. Nobody left the Aboriginal people alone. The fact of the matter is- this may be where the Leader of the Opposition is completely ill-ii. formed- that there was a meeting earlier in the day with the Government Members Aboriginal Affairs Committee and at that meeting because there were quorums and divisions–
– Called by the Opposition.
-Called by the Opposition, some Government supporters- there were a significant number present- had to leave the meeting. If the Leader of the Opposition did not understand the forms and the procedures of this House which require us to be here and seeks to make a point out of that and say that we were being impolite or discourteous to the Aboriginal people- those actions occurred as a result of him and his members- I believe there is nothing in him that is worthy in the way in which he is trying to use this issue as a political issue for the benefit of his own Party and for making points which will not be helpful to the Aboriginal people whatsoever. There are many important matters- ( Quorum formed). I thank the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) who achieved the result of getting many Government supporters into the chamber but none of his own colleagues. The Leader of the Opposition went around his own benches here today and in a determined way solicited all of his members to leave this important debate and to ignore the important questions being raised. Perhaps it was because the Leader of the Opposition did not want to hear the points that were being made in rebuttal -
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I point out to the House that the Opposition, on numbers, cannot constitute a quorum in this House and therefore the remarks of the honourable member for Dundas are quite improper.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
-The point that I was making before I was interrupted by the calling of the quorum was that the Leader of the Opposition has misinformed the House in relation to matters that proceeded elsewhere and based his remarks on the way in which members of this House had to fulfil their duties to the Parliament and was suggesting -
– Oh, to the Parliament!
– Yes, in terms of being present at divisions and when quorums were called. If anybody in this Parliament ought to understand the responsibility of members of the Parliament to be here it is the Leader of the Opposition. He suggested that the local government legislation that had been introduced into the Queensland Parliament ought to be repudiated. Then he proceeded to examine in some detail specific clauses of the legislation. I say to all honourable members that the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, if carefully read, can be seen to justify totally the stand taken by the Government. He makes the point, quite properly, that there are matters on which there can be differences of points of view. There are some matters with which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in their discussions with the Government of Queensland, have taken issue. As he knows, from statements that have been made elsewhere, amending legislation will be introduced into the Queensland Parliament next week. That has resulted from discussions and negotiations that have taken place.
He suggested, quite properly, that there were matters that ought to be examined further by the Federal Government and taken up with the Government of Queensland. That is the approach that this Government has taken. It is not a question of repudiating the legislation. In fact, to do that would be quite unhelpful to the Aboriginal people of Australia, or to the Aboriginal people at Mornington Island and Aurukun.
I want briefly to emphasise what our pursuit is. It has been a single-minded pursuit that we have followed throughout the debates that have taken place in this House, in our discussions with the Government of Queensland, and in terms of our undertakings to the Aboriginal people. What we have sought to ensure is that in Mornington Island and Aurukun- and, through the legislation that has been passed, quite possibly in all other Aboriginal communities in Queensland as well- there will be genuine self-management. That is our objective. It is no wider than that at this point in time.
There are some who see the objective as not one of self-management, of the ability of people to make decisions for their own benefit and welfare, but rather of land rights. Whilst I would be quite prepared to admit- and our policy sets it out as a long-term objective- that land rights should be provided to Aboriginal people throughout Australia, it must be looked at in the context of what is achievable here and now. There can be no half-baked ideas that one could achieve it by wiping out the agreement with the Queensland Government at this point in time and having a confrontation. Our Constitution lays down that if we are to acquire for the benefit of Aboriginals, Aboriginal land in Queensland, the only basis upon which that may be done is that of just terms. If just terms are involved, the cost to the Government of acquiring that land will be hundreds of millions of dollars. Whilst other people might regard it as being rather simple to put up that issue, and ensure that the budget priorities of a government shall be totally distorted by having to acquire land in that form in one year, with all the pressures that it would create in terms of funding of Aboriginal programs generally, that would be putting forward a totally irresponsible course of action.
The fact is that if we had to acquire all of the relevant land in Queensland, and progressively move to acquire all of the land that we would genuinely regard as being suitable for Aboriginals throughout Australia, we would be involved immediately in an exercise of enormous proportions. It cannot be a short-term objective. If we had something like $250m or more to spend on Aboriginals in terms of housing, education and health, those programs would be subjected to enormous pressure and would probably be lost. The money would be spent in acquiring the land that was involved.
– Oh go on; it is worth only a dollar an acre.
-Whether the honourable member thinks it is worth a dollar an acre or not, I repeat, that will be determined not by the Parliament but by the High Court of Australia, which would have to set, if there were a confrontation, the amount of just compensation for the Queensland Government. Frankly, I do not regard it as satisfactory that money needed for programs for the benefit of Aboriginal people should be spent on other than providing for their benefit and welfare. It ought not to be spent on having to acquire land that ought to be available to them now. It is not a question of having to see that money is spent on acquiring, from the Queensland Government, land that ought properly to be available to them. That is the very purpose of the negotiations that we have entered into- to provide by leasehold a firm title, something that they have not had up until new- as we saw by the very action that the Queensland Government took in revoking the resources.
– That is dodging the issue.
– It is not dodging the issue in any way whatsoever. I repeat, at this point in time, when there are delicate negotiations taking place, when we can get a final solution to this problem without continuing confrontation, when we can achieve the objective that we have stated throughout, that of self-management for the people involved, apparently the Opposition does not regard such action as satisfactory. It does not so regard it because it wants to use this issue politically, for its own purposes. Opposition supporters should sit there and wait until the matter is resolved next week, when we achieve a solution arrived at through meaningful consultations and negotiations. The Minister has made it quite clear, as has the Government, that the objective of the Government is to achieve selfmanagement and genuine control by the Aboriginal people over their own affairs in those communities. That is our objective and we want to achieve it. We do not want to see a situation in which we have confrontation going on from year to year, as we fight the matter through forums, courts and other places, in which we might understand what is going on but the Aboriginal people would not. That would do us no service at all, it would do the Aboriginal people no service at all and the raising of this matter does the Opposition no service whatsoever.
Motion ( by Mr McLeay ) put:
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the pig levy payable by producers. The maximum research levy will be raised from 10c to 20c per head slaughtered and the promotion levy from 5c to 20c per head slaughtered. The increases in the maximum rates of levy have been requested of the Government by pig producers through the Australian Commercial Pig Producers Federation. The operative rates of levy, within the maximum provided in the Pig Slaughter Levy Act, are set by regulation. At present they are 8c per head for research and 5c per head for promotion. ‘Moneys raised through the research levy are used to finance a continuing high level of scientific and economic research in the pig industry. This research ensures that a steady stream of information is available to producers to enable them to improve their management practices and make better informed marketing decisions. The Government matches research funds raised from producers on a dollar for dollar basis.
Since 1975 a promotion levy has also been paid by the industry to ensure that the public is made aware of the range and qualities of the goods the industry has to offer. Conversely the funds are also used to ensure that the industry remains finely attuned to changes in customer requirements and tastes and that public reaction to new ventures can be tested and assessed. The Government does not supplement funds raised through the promotion levy. As honourable members will appreciate this legislation will allow any proposed changes to the operative rates to be handled by regulation. Proposals for amendments to the levy rates are made by the relevant industry committees, that is, the Pig Industry Research Committee and the Pigmeat Promotion Advisory Committee. Such requests are considered by the Minister before submission to the Governor-General.
I stress that this Bill provides for an increase in the maximum levels and not necessarily the operative levels. The operative levels will be determined by the process I have just outlined and that will be only on the request of the industry and after consultation with the Pig Industry Research Committee and the Pigmeat Promotion Advisory Committee. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
The purposes of the Bill are: First, to ensure that the procedures for, and principles governing, recruitment into, and promotion within, the Australian Public Service in the broad sense of that term are not subject to determination or alteration by the Public Service Arbitrator; secondly, to put beyond doubt that the Public Service Arbitrator and Deputy Arbitrators can make orders standing down officers and employees in the
Australian Public Service who come within the Arbitrator’s jurisdiction and to make provision for the consequences that are to attend standing down.
Exclusion of Recruitment from Arbitrator’s Jurisdiction
The amendments, designed to ensure that recruitment and promotion matters cannot be dealt with by the Arbitrator, are necessary because of events which arose out of a dispute involving the Commonwealth Employment Service in connection with appointments to CES positions from outside the Australian Public Service. Honourable members will recall that in 1976 the Government commissioned Mr J. D. Norgard to conduct an inquiry into the Commonwealth Employment Service. In his report Mr Norgard identified the need for more staff in the CES who have relevant experience in industry and commerce, either at an operative or managerial level. The Government accepted that view.. Accordingly, in November of last year, vacancies for Employment Officer (Class 4) positions in the CES were advertised both within the Public Service and in the Press. On 9 December 1977, the New South Wales Branch of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association imposed bans on the handling of applications from persons outside the Public Service until a right of appeal was granted against appointees from outside the Service to positions above the base grade. Bans were later extended to Victoria and similar action was taken in both States by the Australian Public Service Association.
When the matter came before a Deputy Arbitrator, he refused to deal with the central issue, that is, there should be a right of appeal against appointments to the Commonwealth Employment Service from outside the Public Service, on the ground that he did not have jurisdiction to do so because, in his view, the matter did not, as was required under the Public Service Arbitration Act, concern conditions of employment of officers or employees of the Public Service. What the Deputy Arbitrator did was to order both unions and their members to cease the imposition of the bans. He also made orders authorising the standing down without pay of any officer or employee in the offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service in New South Wales and Victoria who refused to perform the whole or any part of his or her duties. He directed that a period of stand down was to be regarded as leave of absence without pay for the purposes of any determination of the Arbitrator or the Public Service Act.
The unions took the matter to the High Court which held that the Deputy Arbitrator in fact had power to grant a right of appeal and that, as the other orders were made on the erroneous assumption that he lacked jurisdiction to deal with the unions’ claim, they could not be allowed to stand. The High Court’s decision has very serious implications for the management and continuing efficiency of the Public Service. It appears to mean that the whole area of recruitment into, and promotion within, the Public Service can be removed from the control of the Public Service Board and departmental management by the Public Service Arbitrator. It has traditionally been accepted that this is an area in which the Arbitrator’s determinations were not intended to, and should not, operate.
It is of paramount importance that the efficiency and standards of the Public Service be safeguarded. In order to achieve these objectives, the Parliament has enacted the Public Service Act in which are laid down the principles which govern the personnel policies of the Public Service, and has vested the principal responsibility for administering the Act in the Public Service Board which in turn delegates a number of its powers to the management of departmental authorities. The Parliament has clearly intended that the area of vital importance to the standing of the Service, recruitment, selection and promotion procedures, should be a matter for management decision. There is nothing unusual about this- it is the same principle which applies in the private sector where employers have the right to recruit the employees whom they choose. But in the Public Service there is a special need that it be the Parliament and the Board exercising the powers vested in it by Parliament which determines principles and procedures governing recruitment, selection and promotion. A duality of authority over these principles and procedures, namely, the Board on the one hand and the Arbitrator on the other, can lead only to a situation where the Board is in the intolerable position of being legislatively responsible for the efficiency of the Public Service and the maintenance of a career service, but is unable fully to achieve those objectives because of constraints imposed by an industrial tribunal.
The issue is not simply one of management prerogatives, though that is important. It is whether the efficiency of the Service might be allowed to be placed in jeopardy. The Government believes it has the responsibility to the public to state clearly and unambiguously that the responsibility for determining the procedures relating to recruitment, selection and promotion in the Public Service shall remain with the Public Service Board and the management of Commonwealth departments and authorities. The possibility of legislation being introduced to that effect was mentioned in the High Court proceedings and when the matter was resumed before the Deputy Arbitrator. I also indicated during discussions with representatives of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and the Australian Public Service Association that legislation would be introduced. The issue has since been discussed within the National Labour Consultative Council.
Power to Authorise Stand Downs
The other matter with which this Bill deals is the power of the Public Service Arbitrator or the Deputy Arbitrator to issue orders authorising the standing down of officers and employees and the consequences that are to attend standing down. Section 12D(1)(b) empowers the Public Service Arbitrator or a Deputy Arbitrator to make orders as he thinks necessary or desirable for putting an end to, or preventing the occurrence of, an industrial situation or preventing the occurrence of further industrial situations, or such other orders as he thinks necessary or desirable by reason of the existence or likely occurrence of the industrial situation. Sub-section (2) goes on to provide that the orders that may be made by the Public Service Arbitrator or deputy Arbitrator are orders relating to conditions of employment or directing the cessation of the industrial situation or prohibiting the industrial situation. It had been thought that this section empowered the Public Service Arbitrator or a Deputy Arbitrator to make orders authorising the standing down of officers and employees and it was on this view that the Deputy Arbitrator made orders standing down members of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and the Australian Public Service Association in the CES dispute.
However, during the High Court proceedings, some doubt was raised as to the capacity of the Public Service Arbitrator and the Deputy Arbitrator to make such orders. The Government believes that it is important to put this question beyond doubt. Accordingly, the amendments proposed by this Bill will make quite clear that the Public Service Arbitrator or a Deputy Arbitrator can make orders authorising the standing down of officers and employees- whether members of an organisation of not- who are concerned in, or affected by, or are likely to be concerned in, or affected by, an industrial situation. As a corollary to the power to make such an order, the proposed amendments also set out the consequences that flow from the implementation of a power to stand down authorised by an order of the Public Service Arbitrator or a Deputy Arbitrator. An officer or employee who is stood down will not be entitled to salary, wages or other remuneration and allowances in the nature of salary or wages in respect of a period for which he is stood down. Nor will the period of stand down count as service for the purposes of recreation leave, long service leave and sick leave. A period of stand down will not break an officer’s or employee’s continuity of employment for long service leave purposes. In addition, the Public Service Arbitrator or a Deputy Arbitrator will be able to give directions concerning other conditions of employment of stood down officers and employees. The general effect of these provisions is to equate stand down as closely as possible to that which obtains under awards of the Commission.
The National Labour Consultative Council has considered the proposals contained in this Bill. The representatives of the peak employee councils have indicated their opposition to the measures in this Bill, in particular the measures to prevent the Public Service Arbitrator dealing with recruitment, selection and promotion matters. The Government, however, is of the strong view that these measures must be pursued for the reasons that I have mentioned. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill, together with the companion Bill, Supply Bill (No. 2) 1978-79, seeks interim appropriations for the services of the Government for the period 1 July 1978 to 30 November 1978, by which date it is expected that the Appropriation Bills forming part of the 1978-79 Budget will have been enacted.
Supply Bill (No. 1) seeks appropriations totalling approximately $3,844m for the ordinary annual services of the Government. This is $332m, or 9 per cent, greater than the amounts provided in Supply Act (No. 1) 1977-78 and, taking both Bills together, the increase over last year is $ 1 79m or approximately 4 per cent.
I wish to emphasise that the Supply Bills are not to be interpreted as in any way anticipating what amounts might be included for any particular service in the 1978-79 Budget. The provisions in these Bills are based wholly on current expenditure levels and have no regard whatever to policy decisions to be taken in the context of next year’s Budget. When the Budget is passed the appropriations in the Bill will be subsumed by the appropriations in the Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1978-79. The Bill includes $100m for the Advance to the Minister for Finance, which is the same amount as the provision in the Supply Act (No. 1) 1977-78. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill seeks interim appropriations for capital works and services, payments to or for the States and certain other services totalling, in all, approximately $592m, for the period 1 July 1978 to 30 November 1978. The Bill includes $100m for the Advance to the Minister for Finance- the same amount as was provided in last year’s Supply Act.
As I emphasised when introducing Supply Bill (No. 1 ) 1978-79, the provisions in the Bill are not to be interpreted as in any way anticipating what amounts might be included in the 1978-79 Budget. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978 now before the House proposes amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. The Bill, which contains 34 schedules, is necessary to enact tariff changes made since April 1977. All the changes were incorporated in Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 1 1 to 32 (1977) and Nos. 1 to 12 (1978) which have been introduced into the Parliament at different times since April 1977.
In the main, the amendments give effect to decisions by the Government in respect of the following reports of the Industries Assistance Commission and the Temporary Assistance Authority:
Australian Olive Industry
Multilateral Trade Negotiations:
General Rates of Duty
Certain Paper and Paperboard:
Monochrome Television Receivers and Certain Electronic Components
Pharmaceutical and Veterinary Products
Plywood and Veneer (Thick Plywood)
Sacks, Bags and Certain Polyolefin Fabrics
Ceramic Floor and Wall Tiles
Review Enquiry No. 12: Clothing Children’s Knitted Tracksuits, Playsuits, Rompersuits and Like Garments: TariffQuotas
Batteries Part B: Primary Batteries
Pumps and Compressors
Electrical Control Apparatus and Insulating Fittings
Measuring, Checking, Precision Instruments and Apparatus, Etc.; Clocks and Watches, Etc.; Medical Apparatus, Lenses, Etc.; Cine Cameras, Projectors, Etc.
Tyre Cord Fabrics
Manually Operated Chain Hoists, Chain Pulley Tackle and Chain Winches
Brandy, Whisky, Gin and Vodka
Stranded Wire, Cables, Etc. of Copper- Insulated Electric Wire, Cable, Etc.
Rubber Tyres and Tyre Cases
Potatoes and Processed Potato Products
Certain Spun Yarns and Wool Textiles and Other Goods
Glucose and Glucose Syrups
Transformers and Inductors
Certain Internal Combustion Engines and Parts Therefor Further Short Term Assistance Arrangements for Textiles, Clothing and Footwear
Fork Lift Trucks- Not Battery Operated
Brandy and Whisky
Files and Rasps
Tyre Cord Fabric
Commercial Motor Vehicles, Parts and Accessories
Screws for Wood
Honourable members will recall that, when the Tariff Proposals were introduced into the House, a comprehensive summary in respect of each of the Proposals was circulated which set out the nature of the change in duty rates and the origin of each change. I have had a consolidation of those summaries prepared and copies may be obtained from the Table Office. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Groom, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill reflects the Government’s firm view that the housing of Australians is an issue of national concern. It conforms with our basic policy objectives to ensure that every household in Australia is able to obtain adequate housing within its capacity to pay; to encourage home ownership across the widest possible range of income groups, concentrating Federal assistance in areas of greatest need; to maintain and improve housing styles and seek the most effective use of the available housing stock; to encourage research and innovation and, in co-operation with the States, to develop imaginative housing programs for the underprivileged and disadvantaged; and to ensure that there are economic conditions within which a stable and adequate building industry can assist us to achieve our social goals.
The Bill authorises the Commonwealth to enter into a three year Agreement with the States to give low and moderate income earners increased opportunities for home ownership and to continue to advance the States low interest funds for rental assistance. It also provides for new pensioner housing arrangements which improve on the existing dwellings for pensioners scheme. Clearly the Commonwealth Government alone cannot guarantee the achievement of national housing goals. Accordingly I and my predecessor have met State Ministers on several occasions over the last two years to devise jointly the Agreement that is now before the House. The strong support which the principles of the Agreement have received throughout the community results from early and continuing discussion and co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. There has been widespread support for the extension of home ownership, for tailoring assistance to need, and for the flexibility which will allow the States to design programs to meet their own particular needs. These principles are detailed at the outset of the Agreement.
Clauses 8 to 13 provide for the Commonwealth to make advances at highly concessional rates of interest. Advances for the home purchase program will attract interest at 4.5 per cent per annum and for rental housing at 5 per cent per annum. In relation to the long-term bond rate this represents an effective subsidy of 4.7 per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively. All advances are repayable over 53 years as in the past. In the 1973-74 Agreement, the interest rate was 4.5 per cent per annum for home purchase and 4 per cent per annum for rental, compared to the longterm bond rate of 6 per cent when that Agreement came into effect. Compared to 1973 we have effectively more than doubled the interest concession for home ownership funds and nearly doubled the concession for rental funds.
As with the 1973-74 Agreement, the amount of advances to be made each year to each State will be determined by the Commonwealth following consideration of State requirements. The restriction on States that only 30 per cent of the funds provided can be used for home ownership is removed. By 1980 at least 40 per cent must go to home ownership and there is no maximum. Clauses 22 to 28 deal with home purchase assistance. Their implementation will result over time in substantial surpluses to be used for further home loans. To ensure that the maximum number of people can be assisted in the most sensitive way, these clauses allow the States great flexibility in determining the uses to which funds can be put and the agencies which will administer them. In marked contrast to the Commonwealth-imposed means test in the 1973 Agreement, each State will now be able to determine the conditions of eligibility for home purchase assistance. Loans are to made only to people unable to obtain or to afford mortgage finance in the open market. The individual circumstances such as family income, assets and standard of the home will be taken into account.
We are concerned to see that home owners have low repayments when their costs are highest, usually in the early years of the loan. Ar-
Clause 20 facilitates and encourages tenants of State housing authorities to purchase their houses. The new Agreement contains no limit on the number of dwellings which may be sold. The restriction on sale of dwellings provided under the 1973-74 Agreement of 30 per cent has been abolished. All sales are to be at market value or replacement cost and on the basis of a cash transaction to the housing authority. Purchasers of public housing will have access to loans from the home purchase program where they are unable to raise finance in the private market. These provisions will result in equal treatment between those purchasing privately and public housing tenants buying publicly-owned dwellings. Sales at market value or replacement cost will enable other houses to be provided to replace those which are sold.
Clauses 14 to 19 deal with rental assistance. As with the home ownership provisions, they allow the States great flexibility in determining the uses to which funds can be put and the agencies which administer them. Commonwealthimposed specific needs tests for rental housing are to be discontinued and States will be free to determine their own eligibility criteria provided assistance is directed to those in need. There is evidence to suggest that some people on high incomes pay subsidised rent. Such people would have needed assistance when they first entered public housing but are now able to pay their way. States have agreed to move towards relating ceiling rents to market rents. This agreement applies to all dwellings built under this or earlier arrangements. Rent rebate systems will continue to apply, so that those unable to meet the ceiling rent for their dwellings will pay a rent geared to their income and other family circumstances. Rent will be related to income unless and until the ceiling rent is reached. Any increase in rents will be gradual and State and Federal Government will work together to ensure that hardship does not result. This rental policy and the determination to avoid hardship flow from our concern that not all of the seriously disadvantaged are accommodated in public sector housing. There are many in need of assistance because of age, sickness, or some physical or mental disability. The Government provides these people with social, health and other services and it also looks to meet their housing needs.
Clauses 11 to 14 of the Bill introduce new arrangements for pensioner housing. These arrangements continue grants to the States, remove restrictions on how the funds may be used and make assistance available to more people. Groups who will be helped are listed in clause 1 1. They include persons in receipt of an age or invalid pension, a supporting parent’s benefit, a special benefit, a sheltered employment allowance, a training allowance in special circumstances, and some classes of service pensions. Unlike the previous legislation the Bill allows States to assist married as well as single pensioners.
The Agreement and the pensioner scheme introduced today will be welcomed as major additions to national housing policy and illustrate what can be achieved by governments working together to meet national objectives. The provision in clause 1 5 of the Bill for a comprehensive annual report on these programs will provide an opportunity for regular review of their effectiveness. The clear statement of agreed objectives to apply to the provision of housing assistance makes the 1978 Housing Agreement an important social document. I have no doubt that it will be seen as the best Agreement yet negotiated. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 9 May, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Willis had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘The Bill be withdrawn until such time as an alternative form of tax on capital is introduced ‘.
-When the debate was interrupted last night I was pointing out that a decision by a State to abolish what are called death duties does not bring a measurable economic benefit to that State on account of that move. This has to be pointed out as my own State of Queensland abolished death duties and there is a wide belief that because they were abolished the economic effects to Queensland were very great. It is not true. I believe that, having regard to the investment processes that are then involved, there was no attendant requirement for people who have qualified for the abolition of death duties to invest within a State. They merely have to establish their domicile or their home within that State. That was the net benefit.
As most of these people tended to be aged, the weight upon State social services and social services of all kinds is probably balanced because of the fact that homes were built for those people who ultimately established domicile within the State. So the net economic benefit to a State in terms of that kind of an arrangement, I think, is probably nil. Nevertheless it was done for reasons of equity.
In the time remaining for me in this debate I want to summarise the position. The Labor Party’s argument against this measure is mistakenly put on at least four counts. The Labor Party has considered the estate and gift duty legislation in terms of that legislation alone, not in terms of the whole of the taxation system. Ultimately in three years this legislation will involve over $90m a year. The total tax take within the Commonwealth is over $20,000m a year. So it is totally wrong of the Labor Party to consider gift and estate duty legislation in isolation. Secondly, in accusing the Government of a lack of fairness or equity Labor forgets its own position whereby last year, just six months ago, it proposed to take $700m out of the pockets of Australian wage earners and instead to put it into the board rooms of Australia’s largest companies. For example, the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd would have got $33m and Imperial Chemical Industries would have received $9m. I could cite many examples. So one has to reject the charge that this is not a matter of equity because the mote is in the eyes of Labor Party supporters.
The third proposition simply is that equity is an important principle in considering taxation but it is not the only one. Equity is unable to be considered unless firstly there is a decision to reduce taxation rates, otherwise where there is an equally unbearable tax burden upon each taxpayer there is total equity in that position but an unbearable total tax burden. That is the kind of proposition which the Opposition and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) forgot when they put forward their own case. They also forgot the fourth point; that is, that their own State colleagues, particularly in New South Wales, the State from which the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) comes, propose to abolish succession duties. Mr Wran has promised it. He proposes to take the first step towards that abolition in this year’s Budget. So this Opposition is in direct contradiction with its colleagues in the States.
I would pose one or two points in respect of gift duty. The abolition of the gift duty naturally backed up the abolition of estate duty and succession duty because it has always been a necessary accompaniment. It has been a very expensive tax to collect because each transaction has had to be examined in detail; that is why it is the most expensive of any tax in Australia to collect. I pose two questions to the Treasurer (Mr Howard), and I hope that he will consider them. On the abolition of gift duty what loss will there be of income tax from gifts now able to be passed from husband to wife or from one spouse to another, thus enabling a lower rate of total income tax to be levied upon those households? As there will be a loss of income tax I hope the Government would then consider its way clear to look at the proposal that income tax be halved as between husband and wife and households because we do know that in Australia the greatest burden lies upon one income households. The benefit to those households in being able to share income tax is already being compensated for by the loss which will occur in income tax upon the transfer of gift duty, and such a transfer would enable tax revenue to be collected at significantly less cost. The Bill deserves to be supported. I know that the Minister will take that suggestion on board and will examine it and I hope that over the next three years the Taxation Office and the Treasury will be invited to put forward estimates on the loss which will result if the transfer had not otherwise occurred.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think that nothing better indicates the fact that we are governed by intellectual pygmies in this country than the shabby way in which gift duty and death duty have been shuffled off in this legislation. If honourable members look at the second reading speeches of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on all four measures they will see they occupy less than 3V6 columns of Hansard- columns virtually devoid of argument and filled only with perfunctory technical details about the legislation. The only excuse that I can think of for the Treasurer’s attitude towards this House is that, of course, death and gift duties make only a minor contribution to the total Commonwealth taxation revenue. Less than one per cent of total taxation revenue for the Commonwealth comes from death and gift duty.
Yet I do not think that the Government can be permitted to escape all consideration of the symbolic significance of these duties. It cannot be permitted to ignore the principles involved in death duty. It cannot be permitted without argument to kill off the only significant tax on capital at the Commonwealth level, nor can it be permitted to shuffle off in so shabby a way a form of taxation which is near universal in both developed and developing societies with capitalist or mixed economies.
Let me just say something about those principles which I admit the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has endeavoured to discuss but which were not discussed at all by the Treasurer in his second reading speeches. Although death duties comprise a relatively small revenue yield they are highly symbolic, I think, for four major reasons, because of four principles which they embody. Firstly, death duties recognise that it is the State which makes possible, through its legal system and law enforcement agencies, the passing on of property after death. It is the state that makes that possible. Secondly, death duties clearly contribute to the principles of equity in the taxation system, and obviously we will have to say something more about equity. Thirdly, death duty and gift duty aim at a generational reduction in the inequalities which exist in our society, and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) yesterday illustrated very clearly the inequalities that exist in this society. Finally, there is a moral justification for taxing inherited wealth- wealth to which in general the person who has inherited has not contributed.
I want first of all to amplify each of these principles. Let me take in defence of the position that I am upholding today a figure of impeccable conservative credentials- Winston Churchill- and to make it even more attractive to Government supporters I will quote him in his liberal phase in 1909. Churchill said:
It has long been recognised that the state, which guarantees individuals the succession to their property, which secures them the peaceful entry upon the enjoyment of their property, has the right at the time of the death of the former occupant to levy a toll . . .
Churchill was making the point that the State has a right to charge a fee for facilitating the transfer of property from one generation to the next.
– You ought to look at Halsbury ‘s of 1852.
– I will come to that in a moment. It is a facility which of course very much favours the rich. But Churchill goes further than simply saying a state has a right to do this. I quote him again:
Taxes upon estates at death are necessary, legitimate and fair.
This brings us to the question of equity in taxation legislation.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the principles involved in death duties- principles almost completely ignored by the Treasurer in his second reading speeches on this legislation- and I was calling to my aid an impeccable conservative, Winston Churchill, who said that taxes upon estates at death are necessary, legitimate and fair. I have discussed why they are legitimate. I want now to look at why they are fair, which brings me to the principle of equity in regard to taxation legislation, which has been much talked about in this House in recent days.
Equity is not just a matter of lower taxes. We would all like to see lower taxes, but we would like to see them reduced in an equitable fashion. That means that considerations have to be given to the issue of taxable capacity, to the ability to pay of the taxpayer. Let me say that what has been going on in this country in recent times is that we have been buying inequity with regressive tax bribes. The February tax cuts were an effort to persuade people to support one party point of view. But, in terms of the way in which the cuts were made, they contributed to inequity in this society. The average man saved about $3 a week. The people on high incomes saved $20, $30 or more a week. I think people are beginning to realise now, as Medibank fees increase and as other costs increase, that they are in fact worse off by regressive tax cuts.
I think we all agree that in order for a tax system to be fair and equitable the best criterion to use is the ability to pay. Moreover, the overall equity of the tax system can be increased if, to income tax, we add the supplement of a wealth tax of some kind because by adding such a tax to income tax we make allowance for the taxable capacity which wealth confers on its possessor over and above the income, if any, which derives from that wealth. I do not believe that anyone can deny that this extra taxable capacity arises from the very real advantages of security and opportunity which the ownership of wealth brings. If this is so, the pursuit of equity which Government supporters vaunted the other day compels them to some forms of supplement in direct taxation to income tax- to a wealth tax of some sort- and in this case we are talking about death dudes.
Thirdly, death duties provide an encouragement to and, theoretically, a means of redistributing wealth generationally. So frail have our redistributive mechanisms in this society become that death duties, however limited they are in their task, should not be given away. We do not have very effective measures in this society for redistributing wealth. Let us not give away one of the few- admittedly weak in many ways- that we have. They make at least some contribution to redistribution in this society.
Finally one can morally justify particular taxes on inherited wealth for such wealth usually is unrelated to the effort of those who benefit from it. If honourable members opposite are not happy with my arguments or with those of Churchill, perhaps they might take some note of the report of the Taxation Review Committeethe Asprey Committee- which conducted the most comprehensive review of taxation at the national level that we have had since the Second World War. I shall quote what it had to say about death duties. The Asprey Committee stated:
Above all it believes that, though death taxes can never be simple taxes and though revenue from them will never be great compared with that from some other taxes, they have an essential role to play in the tax structure considered as a whole.
I emphasise the words ‘they have an essential role to play in the tax structure considered as a whole’. I remind the honourable member for Lilley that we have to consider the tax structure as a whole. It further stated:
A death tax serves two main purposes. It serves to support the progressivity of the tax structure by the indirect means of a progressive levy on wealth once a generation. It also directly limits the growth of large inherited fortunes, a trend that most people would agree has undesirable social consequences.
I sometimes wonder why people bother to write reports for this Government when so little notice is taken of them.
Regardless of whether honourable members opposite agree with the Asprey Committee, Churchill or me, we do present a fairly formidable case for death duties- a case that any honest Treasurer would endeavour to answer in his second reading speeches. But in the utterly thin and shabby statements of the Treasurer in his second reading speeches not a single argument is advanced for the abolition of death duties. Perhaps the Treasury disagreed with him and therefore, for once, he had to write his own speech. Perhaps I am not being quite fair to the Treasurer. One argument has been advanced. The only reason advanced in the second reading speeches for the abolition of death duties is ‘to give effect to the undertaking first given by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his policy speech on 21 December 1977’. I realise that obsequiousness has gone a long way with this Government but this must be the classic case. The only justification advanced in second reading speeches for contravening 80 years of history and the almost universal practice of civilised mankind on a major matter is an undertaking by the Prime Minister in his policy speech. The contempt for Parliament can scarcely go farther than the refusal by the Government to present in this forum arguments to support its case.
So off I went to the Prime Minister’s speech. I was not very hopeful because there is growing evidence that the Prime Minister clearly is losing his marbles. I noted that in his answer to a question last week about employment in the automobile industry he gave more time to the psephological problems of the Labor Party than he gave to answering the question about employment. All I found when I went to that policy speech, in the hope of finding something useful, was a single sentence, a sob story. It stated:
Estate duty has caused distress and hardship to thousands of Australian families, to small business, to farmers.
Let me say in fairness to the Treasurer that he at least did mention small business in his second reading speeches. I do not believe that this undocumented- there is no evidence for it in the Prime Minister’s speech- sob story is in any way sufficient justification, adequate reason or a convincing case for rejecting the claims of the States, for rejecting the principles of equity, for rejecting considerations of redistribution and for rejecting moral justifications in relation to death duties. Of course it may be a reason for reforming and amending the death duties that we have.
We of the Opposition would not deny that Commonwealth estate duties and gift duties- indeed, the total national duties in this field- are in need of a thorough overhaul. Firstly, the complexity of the dual system of death duties and gift duties in Australia makes it administratively costly, leads to excessive duplication and gives rise in a capricious fashion to inequities and anomalies. This duality is partly being solved, as the honourable member for Lilley pointed out, by the States withdrawing from this field. But their desertion from this tax is no argument for the Commonwealth deserting this tax. Indeed, there may very well be a good argument for the Commonwealth staying in this field. We could have a tax without all the duality which has led to many of the complexities of recent years. Secondly, there is a high degree of tax avoidance, partly occasioned by the very duality of the system. As usual, such tax avoidance favours the very wealthy as against the moderately wealthy. Any examination of the incidence of death duties establishes that point. Again, we need reform in that field. Furthermore, the rate structure, particularly the exemption levels, is not adequately adjusted for inflation. I think there is agreement on both sides of the House that reform is needed here. There are still injustices in the treatment of the surviving spouse. Finally, the alleged sectional impact of death duties on the rural community which has arisen, at least in the immediate past, partly from the overvaluation of rural land, requires attention. I admit that these problems with death duties present a fairly formidable indictment of the existing system. But surely the response should be reform, not abandonment. The Asprey committee was aware of all these difficulties and the hardships they caused but, in direct contradiction to the Prime Minister it said:
The Committee acknowledges the force of these criticisms -
The sorts of criticisms I have just presented to the House- but disagrees with the conclusion. It believes that the avoidance and hardship difficulties can largely be overcome, and that, in concert with the States, a system of Australian death taxes can be devised which would minimise costs of administration and compliance.
I want now to look at the question of death duties in an international, a comparative setting. Once this legislation is passed Australians will be practically the only country with no effective tax on capital. We have no capital gains tax and no wealth tax. We would thus become the only country among the 22 countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development without a tax on capital at the national level. It is true that a small capital gains tax applies under section 26 (a) and 2 6 AAA of the principal Act but for all practical purposes this country, unlike any other OECD country, will be without a tax on capital.
Death duties are a near universal feature of the tax systems of all OECD countries. In addition, most OECD countries have decided to supplement their death duties with either a capital gains tax or a wealth tax. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table prepared by the
Library staff. I have spoken about it to the Government.
The table read as follows-
-The table illustrates the payment of death duties, capital gains taxes and net wealth taxes in the OECD countries. It clearly shows the reactionary uniqueness which this country will possess at the national level once these measures have been passed. It will be the only advanced industrial society without a tax on capital.
In conclusion, I say to the Government and to the small wealthy segment in this society that the Labor Party will not tolerate this uniqueness. It will not tolerate this gross affront to the principles of equity and fair play in the taxation system. We say now to all middle and lower income earners that we will not tolerate a tax system which places an unfair burden on them because the Government, unlike every other government in advanced industrial society, does not impose a tax on capital. When the Labor Party returns to government in 1980 we will ensure that wealth, as in every European country, will bear its fair share of taxation. Whether this will be done through the re-imposition of death duty, the introduction of a wealth tax, by revamping capital gains taxation or a combination of all these actions is something which will be determined in the years ahead. But of two things I am certain. One is that a tax on capital will be imposed. The second is that the very rich in our society will live to regret the opening of this Pandora’s box through the abandonment of death duties.
– I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this cognate debate on the estate and gift duty Bills. The presence of these Bills before the House represents the unequivocal honouring by this Government of a specific election promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) during the last election campaign. The effects will be widely welcomed by the Australian community. On 2 1 November last year in his policy speech the Prime Minister said:
The Government will abolish forthwith estate and gift duties on possessions passing between spouses and between parents and their children . . .
This will be the first step in a program for the abolition of all estate and gift duties within the life of the next Parliament.
That means within the life of this Parliament. These Bills give effect to that promise. Because the debate has been adjourned on several occasions I think it is worth reminding the House what this effect will be. With the passing of these Bills, no estate duty will be payable by the estate of a person dying on or after 2 1 November last, in respect of property passing to the surviving spouse, child, grandchild, parent or grandparent of the deceased person. No gift duty will be payable on property given by a person on or after that date to relatives within those specific classes.
It is important to note that by including grandparents and grandchildren the actual provisions of the Bill exceed the terms of the election promise. That these classes of relationship have been included in the exemptions- I have great pleasure in informing the House of this- testifies to the importance and value of the back bench in assisting the Government in its deliberations. Much is said about the ineffectual nature of the back bench and private members. Yet this example gives lie to that interpretation. The back bench pointed out the serious anomalies which would exist if grandparents and grandchildren were not included. Full credit goes to the Government for acting so promptly and sensibly. In raising this point I pay a special tribute to the Government Members Taxation Sub-committee which was foremost in pointing out these anomalies.
Beyond the exemptions to date, the legislation also points the way to the future. Estate duty is to be abolished in relation to all property in the estates of persons who die on or after 1 July 1979. Similarly, gift duty will not apply in respect of any gifts of property made on or after that date. These Bills achieve what has been an important objective of the Government parties for many years. The previous Fraser Liberal-National Country Party Government considerably relaxed estate duty liabilities. Now they are largely abolished. They will soon be totally abolished. This move can be seen as part of a leading move throughout the country in the same direction by all States in respect of State estate and gift duty legislation. In my own State of Western Australia, since 1 July last year no duty has been payable on that part of the estate which goes to the surviving spouse. This has been the case in New South Wales since December 1976. It has been the case in South Australia since July 1976 and in Tasmania since November 1977. In Victoria it has been the case since October 1976 and in that State from 1 January this year this exemption has been extended to include that part of the estate which passes to children of the deceased. In Queensland, of course, all death duties and gift taxes were completely abolished from 1 January 1977.
Australia’s complicated estate and gift duty system is slowly being wound up in the Federal sphere and in all the States as I have exampled. I believe that this move is occurring with almost universal satisfaction and approval on the part of Australian taxpayers. Yet there is one group not in line with this progress. It is curiously out of step again- perhaps even still- with what the people want and with the demands of justice and fairness. Of course, I refer to the Federal Australian Labor Party Opposition which proposes that these Bills be withdrawn and estate duty and gift tax be therefore continued. Central to the Opposition thinking is that such a tax, or a similar tax, is essential because it is supposedly a tax on the rich. Perhaps the Opposition would like to go further and outlaw and abolish inheritance altogether. Again, I believe that the Opposition’s blind ideological contempt for and hatred of individual economic and financial success leads it to call for that success to be ground down and under and taxed into subservience. The Marxist blinkers have not let Opposition members see that far from affecting the wealthy few, these taxes have cruelly affected many middle income earners. It is on their behalf that I speak this afternoon.
It is not good enough, as the Opposition has done, to cite only the numbers of estates involved for the flow-on figure is much bigger than that. Not only is there a financial burden on a family but, as many in the community will know to their cost, the unexpected death of a small businessman can often mean that the business is severely disrupted. Sometimes it has to be sold and consequently the jobs of people in that business are put into jeopardy. The disruptive effects of death duties on family farms are also equally deplorable. Now it will no longer be necessary to sell off the property or to dispose of a business just to pay death duties. In the general family situation, that deprivation once caused by the loss of a breadwinner and heightened by the imposition of death duties on assets left for the support of children is now gone forever- at least while the Australian Labor Party Opposition remains where it is.
I should like to take up a number of points raised by the previous speaker and remind the House that the size of an estate has nothing to do with one’s capacity to pay. I refer to the recommendations of the Asprey Committee which stated that what was once an administrative advantage from the standpoint of taxation authorities has represented an administrative burden for the personal representatives of the deceased, holding up distribution of estates and creating more hardships and deprivations than were deserved. In the city and in rural areas alike there are few greater humanitarian or social measures which could be taken on behalf of that middle bracket of which I speak. To have the ALP knocking the measures is ridiculous. I have argued that the Federal Government move, despite Opposition ignorance of the problem and the hardships it has caused, will be of great relief to many Australians.
It is left for me to say that practical facts aside I totally reject the ALP Marxist derived ideological stance against inheritance with respect to that middle income bracket. At the root of the opposition of honourable members opposite is their failure to appreciate the importance of the family in society. Inheritance is nothing more than the passing down from parents to children of the rewards of their own hard work and endeavours in the desire to provide for them as best they can.
European migrants in our society have this strong motivation and we would do well to encourage it rather than tax it out of existence. Yet in this question lies the whole problem with the Labor Opposition thinking on taxation. By contrast, this Government is foremost in ensuring the equity of the tax system in the context of continually reducing the tax burden on all citizens. The Opposition, however, through its policies destroyed incentive- and would again. It has ignored the equity and fairness in being able to retain and pass on what one works hard for. It sees equity as reducing everyone to a base level, all subservient to a massive, inefficient, money gorging welfare bureaucracy.
The Opposition has raised alarm that Australia’s tax system is moving away from that of other Western countries. For example, this Government has already introduced full tax indexation to protect people from higher taxation through inflation. We have cut personal income tax for all taxpayers from 1 February this year and introduced a new three-tiered flat rate taxation system under which about 90 per cent of the taxpayers now pay only the standard marginal rate of 32c in the dollar. We have protected pensions from inflation by indexing them to ensure automatic increases every six months and we have greatly increased family allowance payments. On the other side of the coin, the Government has moved against contrived, artificial, immoral and outrageous tax avoidance schemes. Added to this list now can be the repeal of estate and gift duties, iniquitous and unfair taxes on the dead causing numerous cases of hardship and distress to those families who are left. If these moves in the tax area set us away from tax systems of other countries, in my view long may it be so and increase to be so.
When will the Opposition learn that progress as equated with socialism has long been discredited? If Australia is alone in its tax policies it is the case then that this country alone is moving towards the advancement of the individual citizen. That, in my view, is real progress. We are committed to lower taxation, putting more money back in the pockets of the mass of individual hard working people while at the same time recognising a government and community responsibility to provide for those less able to look after themselves. We are committed to a reduction of gross, bureaucratic elephantitis and to creating an environment in which free individual citizens can run their own lives for the benefit of themselves and their families in accordance with the good of the general community. The Labor Party, I believe, is still a party of high taxation. It still has not learned from its disastrous years in government. Individual freedom still means very little to it. Against this background I oppose the Opposition’s proposed amendment. There may indeed be a case for the introduction of a future measure the purpose of which would be to levy tax on large amounts of unearned capital held by the genuinely wealthy few, thereby recirculating it. However, on this measure, I join with the majority of the nation in applauding the abolition of estate and gift duty taxes.
-In that exposition of the Government’s case the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack) represented clearly the extent to which the Liberal Party of Australia has moved to the right. When people such as Churchill and Asprey of the Asprey Committee are described, at least as is implied in the honourable member’s speech, as being Marxist we can see just how far the Liberal Party is moving to the right.
The purpose of this legislation, as set out in the second reading speech, is to ‘implement the Government’s policy which is the abolition of estate and gift duty’. Presumably this intention arises from the fact that estate and gift duty have become unpopular taxes among some groupsparticularly property interests, rural and farming organisations- and because of the reluctance of the Government to carry out reforms to resolve some of the problems raised by critics. However, the Government’s decision appears to have been made basically for political reasons. It appears to have decided to abolish the taxes primarily because they are taxes that worry some of the friends of the Government; that is, those on moderate and high incomes who are, after all, the only people who are principally affected by the tax or certainly would be if it were properly reformed. Indeed, it is extraordinary that honourable members on the other side of the chamber should have gone through such an agonising process over the outlawing of the Curran scheme and simply avoided the problem of tax avoidance inherent in the current estate and gift duty tax by throwing the lot out the window. The reason for that no doubt is the fact that estate and gift duty represent, actually and perhaps even potentially, a small percentage of revenue collected at the Federal level- less than 1 per cent of Commonwealth taxes. In the case of the tax avoidance schemes debated earlier this week, the scale was obviously so great and the Government’s depression of the economy is now so extensive it simply could not afford to look after its friends in the taxation dodge business. Loyalty to property interests which is the basis of morality on the Government side had to be put to one side because the reputation of this Government as a successful economic manager in that case was at stake.
The Government is certainly not acting in response to the recommendations of any of the committees of inquiry that have been investigating taxation in recent years. The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations in its 1973 report on death duties supported a rationalisation of the tax between State and Commonwealth governments with the Commonwealth offering in this case to vacate the field in return for the States agreeing to co-operate in the enactment of uniform legislation. The Asprey Committee, appointed by the McMahon Government and reporting in early 1975 also argued, as has been suggested, for the retention of estate and gift duties believing that ‘while revenue will not be great from such taxes compared to other taxes they have an essential part to play in the tax structure as a whole’. According to the Asprey Committee a death tax serves two purposes: It serves to support the progressivity of” the tax structure by the indirect means of a progressive levy on wealth once a generation. It also directly limits the growth of large inherited fortunes, a trend that most people- but apparently not people on the other side of the chamberwould agree to have undesirable social consequences. The Asprey Committee might think this but this Government, which is led by a man who never tires of telling people how he is interested in their well-being, anxious to promote the wellbeing of all Australians, was anxious to pick up a few votes and so he promised to knock out this tax which the Asprey Committee, a conservative committee, believed contributed to the equity of the tax system. Unfortunately we have in power a government that is not interested in equity. This is unfortunate because equity and fairness are values which can easily be submerged when politicians talk, as politicians within the Government parties talk, the language of confrontation and fear.
Unfortunately, this Government has managed, hopefully temporarily, to banish notions of fairness and equity from this country’s political lexicon. We have become, as even the conservative Treasury recognises in its Paper No. 1 1 on Estate and Gift Duties, the odd nation out. The paper points out that the United States and all Western European countries other than Ireland have not only estate duties and income tax but also capital gains or net worth taxes, and in some cases both. The Treasury Paper concludes, and this point cannot, in the context of this debate, be repeated often enough:
If Australia had no death duties and did not impose any other capital gains tax, Australia would be in an exceptional position in this aspect of capacity to pay. It would be the only advanced Western country levying no other direct tax apart from income tax.
The Treasury Paper also points out that estate and gift duties are not peripheral, as some people would suggest, but basic to the tax system. They serve socio-economic objectives which include the desire to reduce inequalities in the distribution of wealth, progressive growth in such equalities and the possibility of a resulting distribution of income that provides for a reasonable approximation to equality, or equality of opportunity for individuals. These are objectives which are certainly held to be basic by the Labor Party and by this Opposition. One would have hoped they were values shared by every member of this House, but apparently that is not the case. The Government has a political debt to pay and that would appear to be its sole justification for the legislation which is currently before the House. We recognise that the tax has been subject to avoidance measures. It is difficult to determine the appropriate base on which to levy the tax. Particular people may need to be protected through exemptions and the legislation, as it has existed, has proved difficult and more costly to administer than other forms of taxation, for example, income tax.
All of these reasons have been examined by two committees of inquiry. That has not led either committee to conclude that there is any justification for the abolition of duties. It can be concluded only that the Government is more interested in having an efficient tax system than in having an equitable taxation system; that it is more interested in taking a popular course of action than in resisting pressures from the limited interests which stand to lose from the continued existence of this tax, particularly if it is reformed.
When one reflects on the performance that was put on before the House by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and Government supporters concerning income tax legislation the other day- the breast beating, the agonising over decisions to deal with people who, in one way or another, are endeavouring to cheat or beat the system, people who, via meaningless companies, are endeavouring to draw to themselves potentially vast amounts of wealth without any effort or even necessarily any product- one stands amazed at the coolness of the Government with respect to this legislation. The gains at the upper end of the property scale will be great and an opportunity will be lost to collect, over the next few years, what will amount to hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue, while the Government presses down on those people in the community who have no asset backing, no security and who for that reason live in fear of sickness and potential unemployment or any kind of major crisis.
There are problems in the administration of these duties, but there are solutions available to them. The Asprey Committee, for example, suggested means of widening the tax base to include: . . the right, in the form of an option, to acquire property or the right for a repayment of a loan or rights attendant on shares which the deceased had at the time of his death.
The Committee recommended measures further to integrate gift and death dudes to take away the incentive offered under the present laws to make gifts during one’s lifetime. The Committee recommended restructuring the rates so that the tax bite would increase with the scale of property interests held, and recommended exemptions to exclude the weight of the duty falling on the spouse and family firms. However, it must be emphasised that this is not a government interested in reform but rather a government which is primarily dedicated to reinforcing the divisions which exist between men of property and the rest of the community.
It cannot be too strongly emphasised that the abolition of this duty will affect only a tiny proportion of the Australian population. The number of people affected is small. According to my information only 12 per cent of all deaths were assessed for duty in 1976-77. Usually the people concerned were in the top 5 to 10 per cent of income earners only. The impression one has from examining the measure is that the Government is not interested in having an equitable taxation system; indeed that it is reinforcing the measures which we saw spelled out in the last Budget and in the February tax cuts. It was argued by the then Treasurer, a man with no small interest in capital gains, a man of property indeed, aspiring towards some wealth, that the restructured income tax scales would benefit all Australians. However, he did not spell it out quite the same way as other people saw it.
The Applied Economic and Social Research Institute at Melbourne University, for example, argued that there was a heavy bias in those reforms towards the upper end of the income spectrum. It estimated that 71.6 per cent of the taxpayers on incomes below $11,500 in the first quarter of 1978- that is, those people on or below average weekly earnings- accounted for some 5 1 per cent of net income, but received from these measures only 29 per cent of the tax relief; whereas the estimated 10 per cent of taxpayers on net incomes above $15,800 accounted for 24 per cent of net income and received 43 per cent of the total tax relief offered.
A number of Government supporters are from time to time quite capable of showing compassion, particularly as we saw the other day, for crooks. However, few tears are being shed by them for ordinary Australians on average incomes and below, who are being bled by this Government as it pushes policies designed to increase inequity and to expand inequalities in Australian society. The central argument that I have put before the House on this matter is related to notions of fairness and equity. However, in the Government’s terms there would appear to be good reason for examining the possibilities involved in, at the very least, taxes on estates and related taxes on gifts, as well as other forms of wealth tax. If the Government is serious- and the honourable member for Tangney sounded serious enough- about wanting to foster a society in which the primary emphasis is on incentives and encouraging people to work hard and to make their own way in the world, it is hard to see how this legislation fosters those objectives. There is no sense in which it might be argued that death taxes destroys incentives; indeed, quite the reverse. Their abolition, however, creates a situation where it is possible for wealth to be perpetuated over generations, irrespective of the commitments and the interests of succeeding generations. There is associated with the notion of inherited wealth a system of rewards which contradicts the basic idea of liberal philosophy; that is, that people ought to be rewarded within their own generation in terms of their contribution to society.
We have here a measure which can only be designed to distribute rewards or income in a way which bears no relation to people ‘s achievement or to their potential contribution to society. Even on the Government’s terms, this seems to be not merely a conservative but a reactionary move. It contradicts a basic tenet of Liberal philosophy. Australian society is not helped by the perpetuation of myths, and there is abroad a myth, fostered by successive Liberal governments, that this is a society that is not characterised by wide disparities between people in terms of relative wealth and property. That has always been a myth. It is a myth today and, if this Government continues in office, it will continue to be a myth that is a long way further from reality. There are immense disparities between the standard of living and the access to opportunities of different groups of Australians. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) pointed out earlier in this debate that at least one survey showed that the top 1 per cent of Australians control 20 per cent of the nation’s wealth. There are vast inequities and inequalities within the community and the measures before the House are designed to increase the distances between people.
It seems to me that it is a very dangerous thing for a democratic community to move in the direction in which this Government is taking us. It is a dangerous direction. Indeed, it takes our society out of step with many other comparable communities within the group of countries comprising the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. One of the things we hear often repeated, and we heard it repeated by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) in this debate, is that we are living in a society which, particularly over the past few years, has become far too heavily taxed. Just what represents too high a level of tax is very difficult to determine. It is clearly related to the quality of services that the community wants to see provided by governments; in other words the standards of community health, education and welfare. It could be argued that those countries within the OECD group that have higher percentages of their gross domestic product absorbed in taxation very often have higher standards of community and welfare services.
It is argued that somehow an enormous- the honourable member for Tangney might use the word ‘elephantine’- change occurred between 1972 and 1975. From my examination on a comparative basis of the figures supplied by the OECD, that, too, is a myth. Certainly it is true that the levels of taxation within Australia increased in that period along with inflation, but the same is true of many other countries within the OECD group. When the Labor Government came to power in Australia in 1972 the total taxes collected represented about 27 per cent of the gross national product, compared with an average of 3 1 per cent for all OECD countries. By 1975 the total taxes collected in Australia had risen by 3 per cent to 30 per cent of the gross national product but this was still below the average for all OECD countries. Other countries within the OECD group still have levels of taxation which are considerably higher than the levels of taxation which exist in Australia. It is arguable to talk about what the appropriate levels of taxation ought to be, but what is not arguable and what is to be challenged in relation to this legislation is the claim that taxation ought to be levied in a thoroughly equitable manner. If the consensus within the Australian community is that people want lower levels of taxation, for God’s sake let us achieve it in a way which protects the interests of the lower income earners.
That is exactly what this legislation does not do and it is exactly what the tax measures introduced last February did not do. What they did was shift the burden of community and welfare services in this community from the people who can damned well afford to pay for them to the backs of the people who cannot, to the people who need and ought to live in a community which is able to provide the full range and quality of services. That is not true of every community in Australia. We are living in a society which is heavily divided. As my Party recognised when in government, there are great differences between electorates and regions in this country. If those differences are to be reduced and if there is to be some equity between town and country, some equity between inner city and outer city and some equity between people in various occupations, taxation will continue to be important and it will be of basic importance that any restructuring or change in the taxation system be designed to protect the interest not of a few but of all in the community. That is what this Government says it is doing but that is exactly what it is not doing. This Government is essentially a government which is captive to a limited group of property interests. Ultimately it will be imprisoned by it and by its values. Over the last few years we have seen in Australia the way in which a small number of people have been able to amass huge fortunes through speculation in property, minerals and energy. We have seen divisions in the community widen and we now have a government which is committed to widening those divisions still further. That is unfortunate, regrettable and a bad thing for this country. The people in Australia who are concerned about those divisions will remember this legislation for a long time. It is a symbol of class government, of property government, and it ought not to be acceptable within a democratic community.
– We have just been subjected to the traditional socialistic tirade that flows from the mouths of members of the Opposition every time this Government does something which is progressive and constructive. This afternoon the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) spoke about this Government being interested in the propertied sections of the community and the entrenched sections of the community. He has not taken into account that this Government has brought about more taxation reform that any other government in the history of this nation. He has not taken into account the fact that in the last couple of years alone this Government has introduced a family allowance system and full indexation of taxation in Australia and that it brought about tax cuts as recently as last February. The pensioners have been taken care of by such means as the automatic consumer price index adjustment of pensions. This Government is collecting $2 billion less in revenue in a full financial year than it would have collected if those reforms had not been made. So how can the Opposition justify coming into this Parliament and talking about this Government legislating for the rich and for the propertied classes and doing nothing to assist those who are in the depressed or lower than average income sectors? This Government has done more for those people and has shown more concern for those people than any other government in the history of this country, particularly the government led by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam) between 1972 and 1975.
The National Country Party of Australia, of which I am a member, enthusiastically and wholeheartedly supports this legislation. We have been working for it for some years. During the four years I have been a member of this Parliament it has been a particular concern of mine and is something for which I have worked tirelessly. I am very pleased to see that it is now a reality. These Bills are designed to bring about a situation in which no estate duty will be payable by the estate of a person dying on or after 21 November 1977 in respect of property passing to the surviving spouse or a child, grandchild, parent or grandparent of the deceased. No gift duty will be payable on property given on or after that date by a person to relatives within those classes. From 1 July 1979- less than 14 months away- all gift and estate duties will be abolished by this Government. The honourable member for Batman interestingly argued that if Australia had no death duties and did not impose any other form of capital tax, Australia would be in an exceptional position in terms of the capacity to pay argument. He said it would be the only advanced Western country levying no other direct tax apart from income tax.
I think the other side of the argument ought to be considered. This country is leading the world in respect of taxation reform. It is showing the way to other countries as to how a responsible, responsive and concerned government can legislate in the area of taxation to bring about sensible reductions in the incidence of taxation. I believe that to be a most important thing. I think it is significant that Australia is the first of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries to eliminate this insidious form of taxation. It is about time it was done and I am very proud to be part of the Government that has done it.
Estate duty was first introduced in Australia in 1914, interestingly enough one year before Commonwealth income tax was levied. Estate duty was introduced essentially for revenue purposes. Apart from income tax, estate duty is the only direct tax with a general coverage levied on persons in Australia. As levied by the Australian Government, estate duty is or has been a tax based on the total size of an estate irrespective of the size of individual bequests. Gift duty is levied on the donor of a gift at a rate fixed by reference to the accumulated total of gifts made within a three-year period spanning the gift. In the Australian context death and gift duties are levied by both the Australian Government and by the States. State duties generally are higher than federal duties and the form of the tax varies between them.
In 1971-72 the combined collection of death, probate and gift duties in the six States was $144m which is equivalent to about 10 per cent of total State tax collections compared with $75m to $76m or about 1.6 per cent of total tax revenue collected by the Australian Government. It was estimated at that time by the Treasury that an increase in the rates of personal income tax of about 2y2 per cent would have been required to replace the present revenue from federal estate and gift duty. I think it important to reflect on the fact that this Government, unlike the suggestions being made by the honourable member for Batman and other Opposition speakers, is cutting its own cloth to fit the amount of revenue that is available to it. By depriving itself of revenue, which would otherwise have been available if certain reforms had not been introduced, this Government is reducing the amount of spending, the growth rate of the Public Service and the way in which governments provide and offer services to the Australian community. I think that is a healthy sign. I think it is a good policy.
We have had a very sorry experience in recent years where governments have gone through a period in which the taxation take from the Australian people and the expenditure undertaken by government doubled in a couple of years.
This Government is reducing the amount of revenue that would have been available to it had it not introduced extensive and far-reaching tax reforms. That is something for which this Government ought to be commended. This Government can proudly stand among the countries of the world for the initiatives it has taken in the areas of taxation, the reforms it has introduced and its willingness to reduce and curtail its spending in an effort to return to the people of Australia a greater share of the dollar they earn and to keep a minimal amount in the hands of government for its purposes.
The honourable member for Batman also argued- I think I am right in saying this-that about only 12 per cent of deaths were assessed for estate duty in Australia in recent years. That may well be so. What I say is that the majority of people who came into that 12 per cent category were people who owned farms and small businesses. Those people were being severely disadvantaged and, in many cases financially crippled, by this iniquitous tax- this tax which will raise $80m from estates and $ 13m from gifts according to estimates of receipts in the 1977-78 financial year. I understand that the Australian rural community represents about 6 per cent of the population in terms of taxpayers. Rural people pay about 6 per cent of the total amount of tax collected. They also pay about 36 per cent of the death duties collected by the Taxation Office. That is something which is entirely out of kilter and I will come to that a little later.
There is a relationship between estate duty and gift duty. Gift duty is designed to supplement estate duty by limiting the scope for the avoidance of tax through inter vivos transfers of wealth. The effectiveness of gift duty for that purpose depends on a consistency in both the form and the structure of the two forms of tax. Despite the application of the same rate schedule to gift duty and estate duty, present arrangements facilitate inter vivos transfers of wealth to avoid payments of estate duty at later dates. The role of gift duties must also be seen as one protecting income tax revenue and achieving equity in the treatment of recipients of wage and property income by reducing the purely tax incentives of inter vivos transfers of wealth. Gift duty must be seen as complementing the present Australian income tax as well as being the essential supplement to estate duty. These are the traditional sorts of arguments put up by the Treasury. I will come back to them a little later. They are the sorts of arguments that we, particularly members of the National Country Party who have been carrying on this fight for so long now, have been up against over the years. It is the sort of thing that we have had to contend with, that we have had to go out into our own electorates and communities and talk about and get increasing support for. Finally we were successful in bringing about a situation where the government of the day, under strong pressure, was prepared to accede to this request.
I want to go through some of the Treasury arguments. I want to make clear for the record the sorts of arguments that the National Country Party was up against. For instance the Treasury has used the following argument: Estate duties are, however, important and basic in the tax system. They serve socio-economic objectives which may include the desire, first, to reduce inequalities in the distribution of wealth, or progressive growth in such inequalities, and possibly in the resulting distribution of income; and, secondly, to provide a reasonable approximation to equality of opportunity for all individuals. These arguments might have all sorts of merits but when one gets out into the country areas and has to face up to the harsh realities of seasons and to the fact that a family must sell half its farm and finish up with an uneconomic unit because of the incidence of death duties and estate duties. These sorts of arguments do not go down. The same applies in small business communities. People spend their lifetime building up a business, an asset or a farm and when the principal dies that business farm or unit becomes uneconomic because of the disbursements that have to go out to meet those duties. It is interesting to note that in the Treasury arguments which were presented in 1974 consideration was given to the situation in relation to farms. I would like to go into some of those arguments. The Treasury said:
In discussions of the effects of estate duty, it is sometimes said that people who have been building up assets for years should not have their efforts undone by death duty, forcing the family to sell up the assets. This comment is heard most often, perhaps, in connection with farm properties; it is said that families may have devoted themselves for years to building up virtually only one asset which is land. Everything was sacrificed to retention of the homestead and the land around it, and when estate duty falls due it has to be sold and the family unit disturbed.
I might have used a stronger word than ‘disturbed’. It continues:
Much of the pressure for abolition of death duties rests on this line of argument
That is the sort of argument that the Treasury has been putting forward. The Treasury also said:
The attitude to this argument must depend very much on the view taken on the reasons . . . which are put forward in favour of the view that income tax needs to be supplemented by some form of tax on wealth if proper regard is to be taken of capacity to pay and other aspects of tax equity. The attitude expressed in the preceding paragraph appears to rest on the belief that income tax is enough, and that anything left after it is paid should not be subject to further imposts. If, however, it is considered that income tax alone is not enough, much of the ground is cut from under the argument of the preceding paragraph. Ultimately the attitude must be justified or rejected according to whether or not income tax is enough.
That is the argument that I have been putting and that other National Country Party members in general have been putting over the years which preceded this decision. We have not been able to convince Treasury or the government of the day that there was an alternative to this view; that there was another argument other than ultimately the attitude must be justified or rejected according to whether or not income tax is enough’.
So much of this argument has been based on the capacity to pay, equity and so on. What people have failed to understand and what I believe the Treasury-type arguments have failed to understand over the years has been that the capacity to pay and the equity arguments, when taken in the rural context, are different now from what they might have been in the wool boom years or what they might have been earlier on in the century at different times. For the best part of the last 10 or 15 years, there has been significant depression right throughout the rural economy. There has not been that fat that might have been there in previous times. People have not had the capacity to pay. People have not been able to meet death duty liabilities without going to extraordinary costs in terms of life insurance and things of that nature, which obviously is at the cost of other consumption or other asset improvement. They have not been able to meet these death duty payments without recourse to the sale of properties. A great number of farming people have been to see me in my office in my electorate of Hume in recent years and- I know that my National Country Party colleagues found this as well- were literally distraught at the prospect of having to break up their family holdings which they have had for years and which they know will finish up being uneconomic once those sales have been made in order to raise the revenue. This indicates the hardship of the policy which has been applied in relation to this tax over the years.
Another argument which has been put is this:
It is sometimes asserted that the incidence of death duties falls far too heavily on the farming community. It has been said, for example, that the percentage of duty obtained from rural estates is far in excess of the percentage of national income derived from farming.
I mentioned those arguments earlier:
Close scrutiny, however, shows that there is no extraordinary significance in the relationship between these variables. Estate duty is a tax on assets, and primary producers obviously have a lot of assets relative to their income- more, for example, than wage and salary earners. Furthermore, some income is produced by public authorities and public enterprises, which, in the nature of things, never pay estate duty on their assets. Given the nature of the economic system and the production processes in various industries there ought to be a large difference between the figures being compared.
We are faced with an industry wherein the average farmer is dead lucky if he can get a return of more than about 2 per cent on his asset. Certainly his asset is large; it has to be large. It has to grow larger year by year as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics points out in estimates the viability of farming units. This sort of problem is something which all the farming communities are up against. The BAE says that in my area, for instance, over the year or two at which we are looking, if a person does not get a property of around about 1,500 acres average size, it will not be economic. That is just not on. So a person has to keep increasing the size of his asset which in turn exacerbates the sort of problem which is contained in the traditional argument that has been put forward by Treasury over the years.
As I said earlier, the National Country Party enthusiastically supports this legislation. We have been fighting tor this for years; we have spearheaded the argument. It has been part of our platform for generations. We are exceedingly pleased and proud that we have been able to bring this about.
Before my time expires, I wish to make two other points. The first is that in New South Wales we have an incredible situation. The Wran Government is posturing about death duties in that State. It has said: ‘We will magnanimously lift the exemption level on primary producers’ estates to $350,000’. The headlines in the newspapers were to the effect that this was fantastic. People in the bush justifiably initially said: This is good. This Wran Government probably is not such a bad thing after all ‘. Then we saw the small print. That small print said that the $350,000 estate is exempt only if it goes directly to a beneficiary who is dependent upon that asset. So, take the situation of a person whose income is such that his children have to leave the farm and earn income somewhere else. When that person dies he cannot pass that estate on to his children free of duty because they are not dependent on that estate. We have put the State of New South Wales and the other States that have not yet legislated in this area on their mettle. We have put our cards on the table: No gift duties and estate duties on estates passing between families as from 21 November 1977 and no gift duties or estate duties on estates passing between anybody at all as from 1 July 1979. It is up to the States to follow suit and to bring about justice in the situation.
The Opposition wants to reject these Bills and introduce some sort of wealth tax. I reject that proposition and the Government rejects it. We want a situation in Australia where people can work, where they can build up an asset and live in the knowledge that that asset can be passed on to their children. There is the incentive there to build up that asset. If there were to be wealth taxes and death duty taxes, where would be the incentive? Why should people spend their working lives building up an asset when on their death it is handed over to the Government?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Treasurer (Mr Howard) has authorised me to say a few words on his behalf to close this debate. I should say, first of all, perhaps as a member of this House rather than as a Minister, that this debate and the previous debate on taxation measures, have been two of the most interesting debates to take place for quite some time. I think we do not get as much opportunity for constructive debate of difficult matters as we would like in this chamber. With a couple of exceptions, I feel the tone of the debate has been one of real comprehension of the difficulties in taxation matters. I do not wish, therefore, to be provocative in my remarks, although it did seem to me that a couple of the newer members of the Opposition forgot some of the moderation that was injected into the debate by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) regarding the difficulties involved in what he saw as the total taxation situation.
The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) asked the Treasurer three questions. The Treasurer has authorised me to comment on each of those questions. First, the honourable member for Lilley said that he should like the Treasurer to indicate the extent of the loss of income tax revenue that will result from gifts of property between husbands and wives by reason of the abolition of gift duty. Secondly, he asked whether the Treasurer would consider changing the income tax law so that husbands and wives will each bear tax on one-half of the combined income as a means of cutting down the potential losses of revenue. Thirdly, he asked whether the
Treasurer would arrange for the Treasury and Taxation Office to make an estimate over three years of the loss of income tax revenue resulting from the abolition of duty. The answer from the Treasurer is:
It is inevitable that there will be an increase in income tax revenue losses as a consequence of the abolition of gilt duty but the extent of the increase will be hard to gauge because there has been substantial tax minimisation in the incomesplitting category during the life of the gift duty law. It would be hard to distinguish cases of asset transfers resulting from the abolition of the duty from cases that would have occurred anyway.
The suggestion about combining incomes of husbands and wives and calling upon each for half of the tax is one of various forms of family unit taxation that have been canvassed from time to time. Observations by the Asprey Committee about family unit taxation is one aspect of its report that the Government has yet to consider. I will certainly arrange for the honourable member’s suggestion to be borne in mind in that context. A check will be made with the Treasury and the Tax Office to determine whether it would be practicable to implement monitoring arrangements to facilitate the suggested three year estimate.
That suggestion comes from the Treasurer as a result of the constructive contribution to this debate by the honourable member for Lilley.
I should like now to make some general comments. The honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack) referred today to some of the remarks of two of the Opposition speakers as suggesting that the Opposition was still a party of high taxation. He also made some observations which are relevant to the remarks of the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe), to the effect that the honourable member was concerned to relate the level of taxation to the level of expenditure. It was the contention of the honourable member for Batman that as a community we are not over taxed. Honourable members on the Government side of the House contended that as a community we are over taxed. Certainly the Government says that we are and the Opposition says that we are not. On that aspect, one is bound to say that one has to look at the Opposition’s total expenditure proposals. If the Opposition still maintains that it is to be a party of high expenditure then it has to be a party of high taxation. One must recall their endeavour to tax so-called unearned income and remember some of the ways in which the Opposition when in government had its fingers burnt when it attacked that method of tax collection.
A few other comments are in order with regard to the general suggestions of a so-called capital gains tax. First, reference was made to the Asprey Committee and to a possible wealth tax. In respect of a wealth tax the Asprey Committee said that an efficient annual levy upon wealth would involve administrative problems of insuperable difficulty and would be extremely costly to collect. The Asprey Committee made recommendations regarding a capital gains tax but these have not been finally evaluated. No doubt the Treasurer will take note of the remarks of all honourable members who took part in this debate, especially from the Opposition side of the House those of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). It should be recalled that in 1974 the Labor Government announced its intention to introduce a capital gains tax. In January 1975 it announced that it would not, after all, proceed with that proposal. There was no suggestion then that that was a temporary decision. If one listened to some of the debate this afternoon one would have thought that the instant the Labor Party came back into power it would not only re-introduce estate duty but also go ahead with a capital gains measure. If one looks at the Press release of the former Prime Minister it is quite evident why the former government decided not to proceed. That Press release implies that the introduction of a capital gains tax would in fact provide a further set back to business confidence. It is worth reminding the House that on 29 January 1975 the former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, said:
The Government has decided on an important measure to provide a further boost to business confidence, and to stimulate private investment.
Cabinet decided today that it would not proceed with the capital gains tax which was announced as part of the Budget measures on 17 September last year.
The decision follows consideration by Cabinet in the past two days of a general review of the economy.
Although the capital gains tax measure was announced in principle last September, no legislation has been introduced to implement it.
Thorough investigation of the proposal has shown that considerable difficulties are associated with such a measure at a time of inflation.
Although the Government is proud of its record in bringing down the rate of inflation, it is still not satisfied that compared with our major trading partners we are in a strongly placed position. The former Prime Minister’s Press statement continued:
The Government is also concerned at the downturn which has been evident in private investment, and it is aiming, with this decision, to provide the basis for a revival in investment.
Private investment is essential for the welfare of the economy and the maintenance of full employment. The Government considered that it was essential for the maintenance of full employment that it take steps to assure the private sector that it will receive adequate rates of return on investment.
My point in quoting that Press release is to indicate the discovery that the Labor Party made in government about the need for a healthy private sector, the need for investment and the need to remove tax disincentives to investment. Yet at least some Opposition members have indicated a complete ignorance of the lessons learned by the Labor Party when it was in power. One additional point that ought to be made relates to estate and gift duties. The Government is satisfied that the reasons for the abolition given in the Prime Minister’s policy speech are appropriate to justify this legislation. Both sides of Parliament when in government have found some aspects of estate duty unsatisfactory and both sides have eased the situation by legislation. The Labor Government did that in respect of matrimonial homes passing to surviving spouses. The Government believes that the amendment drawn was a clumsy one. The Government has since replaced it with a broader and more rational form of relief. However, there still remain some of the effects of this duty which the Government considers must go and which justify its eventual removal. In concluding these remarks one can ask only: Would the Opposition re-introduce estate duty and would it introduce a capital gains tax? If so, honourable members and the community are entitled to know in what form.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Macphee) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 13 April, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Macphee) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 13 April, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Macphee) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 13 April, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Macphee) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6 April, on motion by Mr Staley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate on this Bill resumes I suggest that it might suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Television Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill and the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill, as they are associated measures. Of course, questions will be put separately on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matters of the three Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the three measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Opposition does not oppose these Bills. They are machinery matters and obviously eminently sensible because they will rectify minor inadequacies in the initial drafting of the legislation. I wish to comment very briefly on only one of them, namely, the amendments that are being made to the Broadcasting and Television Act. The amendments will enable more rational programming, if you like, of the inquiries into the renewal of licences. I well recall when I was Minister for the Media and licence renewals came to me that I would be presented with a sheath of applications from perhaps 1 5 or 20 stations and I would be told that I had to go through them all as a decision was needed within about three days.
– Or less.
– Precisely. Apparently the Minister has been caught in the same way that I was caught. It was a mockery to suggest that the Minister was in a position in which he genuinely could review licence renewals. Under the legislation which the present Government introduced- we tried but we failed because of our inability to get our legislation through the Senate- it has changed the procedures by establishing the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and laying down methods by which it shall conduct hearings. As I said, the legislation before the House simply amends some minor deficiencies which did not cope with the difficulty of licences being renewed for part of the period and not for the full period so that the renewals could be spread out over the full period. The Minister, together with the Tribunal, would have a reasonable time in which to look at applications and if it was decided that hearings should be held it would in fact conduct those hearings.
The first comment I want to make relates to the process of public hearings into renewal applications. I do not question the intentions of the Government. I simply want the Minister carefully to examine the mechanics of the hearings. I do not know how many licences, if any, have been renewed since the new procedures have been operating. I do not know whether the new system has proved to be successful. Putting this another way, I have not noticed- maybe I do not read widely enough- public advertisements stating that a hearing was to be held into a particular licence renewal for a radio and television station and calling for interested people to put in submissions indicating whether or not they would be objecting.
– It is transitional.
– I realise that this is only transitional legislation, but what I am asking is whether the machinery is adequate to ensure that the ordinary citizens in the community are made aware of the intention to hold an inquiry and are given the opportunity to present their views. I am not getting at the commercial stations, which is the obvious retort that somebody on the other side of the House might make. That is not my intention at all. I genuinely believe, along with a considerable proportion of the Australian community, that the standards of all our radio and television stations- I include the Australian Broadcasting Commission in certain respects which I think tends to be better than the rest- are not as good as they ought to be and all will benefit from public scrutiny. Up till now there has been no such scrutiny. I point out that in the past scrutiny by the Minister was a mockery. That statement applies to Ministers from all parties because when this was my job I was no more successful than Liberal Ministers.
It is important if this public scrutiny is to be genuine and is to achieve anything that there is adequate publicity so that people who are interested- and perhaps there may not be many- will be given the chance by virtue of being informed of the option to present their views. That is the first point I wanted to make. I am not suggesting that it will require any amendment to the legislation. It may simply be that advertising provisions laid down in the legislation are in fact wide enough and will not require further amendment to ensure that the new procedures are made known throughout the community.
The next point I want to make is that in line with this feeling is that these public hearings should appear in the eyes of the community to be genuine inquiries into the adequacy or otherwise of the particular station managers or proprietors and that there is adequate justification for the renewal of licences. If the feeling is such that people think that the licensee has not fulfilled his obligations it should appear that that sort of view has had a genuine, adequate and open hearing and the Tribunal should respond in an appropriate fashion. I do not want to suggest that the Tribunal will not act appropriately but I point out that the composition of the Tribunal is loaded in such a way that if it decided against withdrawing a licence and there had been some public disagreement there could be criticism simply because of the composition of the Tribunal today.
Mr Gengell’s experience other than as a copy boy for the ABC has been in commercial television. Likewise Mr Oswin ‘s experience, apart from a short time as Secretary of the Department of the Media under the Labor Government, has been in commercial television. I am not now making a political point. One could argue that Mr Oswin must have been a lefty because we made him head of the Department of the Media, but that is not the point I am making. I am making a point about commercial interests and the commercial producers of programs and the interests of consumers. The experience of those two people has been on the side of the managers and the producers, not the consumers. Then there is Janet Strickland. I take it that she was a deputy Commonwealth film censor. I do not know her past. I am prepared to accept her as a representative of the consumers without any knowledge of her experience. She just does not have a record in commercial radio or television. Finally Mr Keith Moremon, director of GTV9, again has been involved in the commercial side of television and not the national network. I could disagree even with his representation.
The point I wish to emphasise is that there ought to be somebody representing and obviously appearing to represent the consumers’ interests. I will accept that maybe Janet Strickland does represent their interests. There is provision for a total of five members on the Tribunal. So there is one vacancy. I am not suggesting that the Minister should tip one of the present members off the Tribunal. I wish to urge the Minister to avail himself of the option open to him and appoint one more person very obviously from the non-commercial sector. At this stage I suggest that the person should be from the nonnational sector because I am more interested in having consumer representation than having on the Tribunal yet another facet of producer representation. That is not a criticism of this legislation. It is not a criticism of the present Minister.
I feel- and I hope that the Minister will understand the view I am expressing- that his predecessor was, if I may dare to suggest it, too biased in favour of the production side of radio and television and did not to my way of thinking manifest enough interest in the purpose of the existence of this facility which really is to provide entertainment, information, education and satisfaction to consumers. If they are not satisfied even the advertisers suffer and they may claim that they have certain rights because they are trying to sell goods. I leave the Minister with those suggestions. If he can avail himself of this opportunity I think it would be a wise precaution to have one more person appointed representing the non-production side of the industry.
-The three Bills we are debating cognately are of a routine nature. There is nothing within the proposed legislation that is contentious. They are the sorts of Bills that come before this House often which simply modify existing legislation or bring it up to date. The Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill and the Television Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill simply ensure that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal does not require the payment of more than one licence fee in any one 12-month period. That has become necessary since the amendments were made to the Broadcasting and Television Act late last year. Likewise the other Bill, the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill, again arises as a result of changes to the Broadcasting and Television Act last year which in turn instituted many of the major recommendations of the inquiry into the Australian broadcasting system undertaken by Mr Green. It provides a minor change to some of the transitional provisions of the Act.
The purpose of the legislation is to allow the Tribunal flexibility in renewing licences in the administrative changeover period. This is an example of the sort of legislation that often comes before this House. I do believe most sincerely that where that legislation is of a noncontentious nature this Parliament should not debate it unduly. I see no reason that individual members should under those circumstances speak for the full 20 minutes allowed for debate. Consequently, this Parliament may be able to deal with the business before it more effectively and in a shorter space of time than it appears to be doing at the moment.
Nevertheless, I should like to use this opportunity briefly to talk about two examples of the administration of licence renewal- one in the commercial broadcasting sector and one in the public broadcasting sector- concerning stations within my own electorate. The first relates to an application by a commercial broadcaster from my area for two major changes to be made to its licence. One is the relocation of the transmitting station and the other is for an increase in its power output. This caused some difficulties because an increase in power output would result in an overlap with other commercial stations in the area. That necessitated a change of frequency.
What happened was that the station in question, 2GZ in Orange, sought application on 23 September 1976 for the relocation of its transmitter. Agreement to the aerial pattern was given by the Department in August 1977, virtually a year later. At this point in time there is still no approval for that station to operate from its new transmitter or under new power output provisions. This is a ridiculous situation. It could well end up being two years before this station can undertake its new operating format. The difficulty is that a station in Victoria- 3 WM Horsham - is on the same frequency as the new frequency on which it is to operate. Despite the fact that the Department of Post and Telecommunications has said that the directional aerial pattern allowed for 2GZ will afford protection to 3WM Horsham and another station in Fiji, it is still not possible for 2GZ to go ahead with the proposal that it put forward almost two years ago. I should Uke to know whether this sort of delay is necessary. Quite frankly, the station concerned has had no communication from the Department of Post and Telecommunications for well over a year.
The second point I wish to raise relates to some of the difficulties encountered in regard to the licensing of public broadcasting stations. I refer, in particular, to station 2MCE-FM, which has been operating for some years from the Mitchell College of Advanced Education at Bathurst. The difficulties that have been encountered there again highlight some of the administrative frustrations that commercial broadcasters and public broadcasters have experienced with the Department. An advertisement was placed calling for applications for licences under the new Broadcasting and Television Act for the Bathurst area. The advertisement contained some errors of fact in relation to the local government areas within which the station was to broadcast. The power output of the station was reduced from 1.7 kilowatts to 1 kilowatt and it was indicated very strongly that the station would be licensed to operate only in the Bathurst area. This is in complete contradiction of the general principle that was applied in regard to the station’s previous licence, which was granted under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, in that it was to cover not only the Bathurst area but also the entire Bathurst-Orange growth centre, which contains not only those two cities but also the town of Blayney.
The very point in having a growth centre and having an amalgamation of centres surely should be that it is better served by one public broadcasting station rather than two or even three stations. The Department was not of the opinion that this should be so. It procrastinated as to whether it supported this idea in principle. It also said that it would not be possible for the applicants to make application for a translator licence, which was necessary to gain transmission into the Orange area. The physical features of the region were such that the translator was needed. Eventually, the Department agreed that there was no technical or philosophical objection to the granting of a translator licence. It agreed that the Bathurst-Orange area in totality should be served by the one station but it said that there were timing and technical difficulties and possibly legal difficulties that prevented it, at this stage, acceding to the applicants request that the hearing consider not only the original licence but also that for the translator.
I believe that departments in general- I do not necessarily pick out the Department of Post and Telecommunications- must be prepared to cooperate with organisations and the public rather than take an obstructive and ‘holier than thou’ attitude. If there are difficulties, let us hear them. Let us have them explained on paper. If the principle is okay, let us say so. Let us not go through a protracted period of delays, procrastinations and excuses which only lead to extreme frustration amongst the people who are applying for these licences and those who represent them. As I have said, the Bills before us are non-contentious. I support them. I believe that they are the forerunner to a number of measures that will be undertaken by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) to tidy up the many loose ends that are still in existence in the whole of the Australian broadcasting industry.
-As the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) said, the Bills before us are non-contentious and the Opposition does not intend to oppose them. As honourable members already have pointed out, they deal with the licensing of broadcasters. I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House, but as I have not had an opportunity to speak on the subject of broadcasting during my period in the Parliament I should like to make a few comments about it.
Licensing is an immensely important part of broadcasting because it is the major way in which the regulation of broadcasting can be maintained. Regulation is not only necessary to ensure the orderly use of the airwaves but also is vitally important to ensure that standards are maintained and that the needs of the community are satisfied. Of course, some people, particularly the commercial broadcasters, have maintained that it is not necessary to have regulation in order to ensure that the needs of the community are satisfied as the market forces of broadcasting ought to be able to ensure that. In this context, I think it is worth quoting briefly from the report of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal entitled Self-Regulation for Broadcasters’, which reads: . . the majority of the Tribunal do not believe that the broadcasting industry has shown itself, either through its past performances, or in its current submissions to us. capable of grasping the whole nettle of self-regulation at once. We do not believe they have convinced the public that they are yet willing to put the public interest above their selfinterest at all times. In other words, we are not persuaded that the broadcasters will always act in accordance with the concept of the ‘public good’ if, by so doing, they cut across their own interests and diminish their profits.
I think that is an important statement from the Tribunal. It clearly indicates that the Tribunal is not prepared to accept the argument that market forces alone are sufficient to ensure that broadcasters satisfy the needs of the community. I maintain that the way in which the needs of the community can best be satisfied, is via some form of public participation in broadcasting. I suppose that public participation can be attained in at least three ways. One would be by way of greater public ownership of the airwaves, that is, greater public participation in the ownership of licences. Secondly, there is the opportunity for members of the public to participate via the market place by registering their preferences as measured by ratings. Thirdly, there is the opportunity for public participation via the licensing and re-licensing procedures.
I should like to deal with those points one at a time. The Tribunal itself has pointed out that because broadcasting is in the hands of relatively few people, because broadcasting across the nation is concentrated in very few hands, this avenue is not available to most people. That is, via ownership we cannot have a greater participation in broadcasting by the public as a whole. The second avenue is via the market place. I maintain that this is a very inadequate way in which the public can participate. Theoretically, people should be able to express their preferences for radio or television stations through the rating procedures. But in the broadcasting system in this country there is strenuous competition amongst commercial broadcasters who are mainly trying to attract the listening or watching audiences who are the big spenders: that is, the people in whom advertisers are primarily interested. Therefore, there is a tendency towards overwhelming mediocrity in broadcasting as all the broadcasters try to get a slice of that one particular segment of the audience. As a consequence, minority interests are readily overlooked.
We have only to look at the recently tabled annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to see the way in which broadcasting has developed over recent years. In the period from 1963 to 1976-77 the proportion of broadcasting taken up by light and popular music has increased from 48.9 per cent in 1963 to 56.5 per cent in 1 976-77. At the same time, the proportion of broadcasting which goes to advertising has increased significantly from 12.6 per cent to 15.9 per cent. The proportion of time which goes to the broadcasting of news has, in fact, diminished over that period. The broadcasting of sport has increased marginally. There is a tendency towards less serious matter being broadcast in Australia. I do not think that this is in the best interests of the community as a whole. As a consequence of this tendency towards mediocrity and the tendency to compete for the same sort of market, the opportunities for audiences and the community as a whole to express their preferences via the rating system is a highly qualified option.
I come to the third way in which the public can participate in broadcasting to ensure that thenneeds are satisfied; that is via the licensing and re-licensing procedures. It is fundamentally important that the licensing and re-licensing procedures be as open as possible to allow for as much public participation as possible and for the public to have the greatest access to the procedures. It is only in this way that the holders of broadcasting licences can realistically come under the scrutiny of the community as a whole. The community might then be able to express its preferences to require some sort of change in the way in which broadcasters use their licences.
I suspect that with the development of public broadcasting there will be a tendency to relax our efforts to scrutinise commercial broadcasters. I welcome, of course, the developments recently announced by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) in public broadcasting policy but I sound this note of caution. Because the air waves are being opened up to the public by providing community, educational and special licences, it could be argued that this will take the pressure off the holders of existing licences to satisfy the total needs of the community. If minority and other interests have access to their own broadcasting facilities some people may say that the commercial stations can have their heads and continue simply to follow what the Tribunal describes as their self-interest rather than the public interest. Any tendency in that direction would be extremely regrettable. I do not think that the development of public broadcasting should in any way lead to a relaxation of our scrutiny of the commercial broadcasters or, indeed, any existing broadcaster. With those few remarks I support the Bills.
– It is true that the three Bills before the House today are virtually of a procedural nature. However, I congratulate the Government on finally implementing the right of appeal by the television and radio industry to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I noted that it caused a great deal of concern at one stage as to whether this right of appeal would be available especially in cases in which the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal had deemed that a licence may not be renewed for the full three years. The other two Bills concern the situation of licensing for broadcasting and television stations. There was a technical problem. These Bills have certainly overcome that problem. Last year, I think, licence fees were increased substantially. Since that time this particular area has been investigated by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. I was interested to read in its report a very salient point which it may be worth the Government bearing in mind in future years.
As we know, licence fees for radio and television stations were tied to the revenue earned by those stations. The Tribunal points out one fact. Obviously, because of the amount of revenue they receive, the major increases in those licence fees fell upon the large metropolitan stations. It was perhaps a false premise to increase those fees on the basis of revenue alone. The Tribunal, in its report, points out that many of the regional television stations especially are much more profitable concerns on a percentage basis than the metropolitan stations. Perhaps that matter could be looked at some time. Perhaps there could even be a case for indexing the fees paid by broadcasting and television stations. That is a minor point, I know, but it is one that was brought to my attention by the report of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.
The Tribunal seems to have settled in quite well and it is undertaking its procedures in the hearing and renewing of licences for radio and television stations. It has a number of briefs before it at the moment. Hopefully, it will have some answers on them soon. Something which has been of particular concern to me- we have heard nothing official on it yet- is the fact that on 1 July the number of Australian programs to be telecast by television stations has to be decided. As yet we have no real indication of when that will happen or whether the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal will be the body to recommend what percentage of Australian content should be played by the commercial television stations. I hope that we will see an announcement soon. I know that the Tribunal has done a good deal of research into this most important area of the production of quality- one would hope- Australian television programs. I would imagine that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) would make an announcement about this matter in the near future.
Another area which has already been mentioned in today’s debate and which is obviously of great concern to us all is the area of children’s television programs. I hope that some firm decisions will be made soon. A large section of the Tribunal’s report this year is dedicated to children’s television. In the last year or two we have gone no further along the road to coming up with some policy on which direction we should be taking with children’s television programs. This is a problem which extends right around the world. On my travels overseas from time to time I have looked at the situation of children’s television programs. Some very fine programs are produced but in most major countries, including Japan, Britain and the United States of America we hear the same old story that most people are not impressed with the types of programs offered for young people. This is a cry that is heard world wide. Perhaps it is an area in which Australia can lead the way.
I have said in this House before- I do not think it is a bad sort of principle- that rather than doing telephone surveys and surveys such as those undertaken by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal perhaps it is about time that we as a nation- the Government, the industry and the general public- put our teeth to the bullet and decided just what we were to do, whether we are to be fair dinkum about children’s television programs. I have already put up a concept, which I think has some merit, to establish a children’s television foundation of some type that could be financed by the Government and the television industry. It could have some public participation too. I do not think that children’s television is an area of difficulty that will be solved overnight. Obviously it is something that has to have a great deal of research and I believe also would probably need a great deal of trial and error before we come up with what is right. We have seen formulas on children’s programs introduced over the years with points allocated for certain aspects. The plain fact was that all those programs that were prescribed pulled very little audience, if any audience at all, according to the surveys. There is not much sense in pouring money into children’s television programs that children just will not watch. One can understand the networks being a little hesitant about making some of these programs as have been prescribed if they are not going to get an audience.
The idea of a children’s television foundation funded in this way and supported by the Government in purely experimental television could have some merit. Obviously there would have to be a great deal of co-operation in the industry, especially by members of the commercial television industry for this type of project to get off the ground. There would not be a situation, of course, of out and out competition. The industry must be prepared to put its full effort and production technique, knowledge and facilities into operation to come up with some ideas, suggestions and pilot programs on just what the children’s area should be. It would be interesting to see the results of that and to see whether we can get an acceptance of children ‘s quality programs that are made in Australia.
I believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has a lot to answer for in the area of children’s programs. It should also be a participant in this aspect. Sure, the ABC provides some good programs. Sesame Street is one program that scores quite an impressive rating. I think it has some merit. But we must ask ourselves whether we are trying to bring up a race of young North Americans. The program was designed originally, I think, by Canadians. One sees children running around the streets talking about Zees’ and the rest of it. Obviously the children are picking up a great deal of value from Sesame Street but it is not really aimed at an Australian audience. I would not think that Sesame Street would be a terribly expensive program to produce. Perhaps this is one area where such a foundation could start off to see whether we could get something along this line that may be acceptable to the audience of young children and to the stations themselves. Obviously the ratings of Sesame Street on the ABC show that it is a program that has been accepted and one which we could adapt quite well. It is the old story, of course. If we are going to pour many thousands of dollars into producing episodes of children’s television programs obviously all the stationscommercial and the ABC- would want to see some result from their effort. It is no good just throwing money down the drain.
Another area aligned to that is an area that is mentioned in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. It is one that has made me think a great deal indeed. I refer to advertising in children’s television programs. The general consensus on the quota aspect seems to be that there should not be any advertising between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. or 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. when the majority of the children’s television programs are screened. This may be well and good, but it is interesting to go through the McNair audience survey and look at the number of children who are watching television- indeed there are great numbers who watch between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.- and to see that the highest percentage of children watching television are watching the box between 7.30 and 8.30 at night. If we were to rule out completely the idea of advertising in the children’s viewing times we would defeat our purpose when we know that there is a bigger audience of young people watching in this adult or semi-adult time than are watching in their own earlier time. If the commercial stations are expected to pour a great deal of money into the area of the afternoon children’s programs, perhaps they might have some right to look at drawing some revenue from it, provided the type of advertising that is being screened in those times is acceptable for young people- if there can be drawn up a definition of that- and is not of the style of some of the ads that are seen currently.
Indeed, in the Tribunal report once again special mention is made of the nature of advertising and station promotions that are being used by some commercial television stations during those children’s hours- 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and at weekends. I think the Tribunal probably has a job there to look at the nature of some of the promotions, especially those that are being played by some of the commercial television stations to promote their night time program. Even though they are not using moving pictures apparently they can get by with still pictures. Incidents of violence and other unsavoury aspects can come across equally strongly to young people by the display of stills and graphics rather than moving pictures. I think there is some merit in looking at the aspect of a children’s television foundation.
The other area that was mentioned by the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie) in his fine speech was the area of licensing for frequency modulation stations. I have mentioned this briefly in the House before. It is something that is worrying me. Certainly there is a great deal of interest in the community at large in the forthcoming issuing of licences in the field of public broadcasting. I am not sure what is the attitude of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications towards this aspect but I can say that the Tribunal will be virtually overwhelmed when the go-ahead is finally given to the licensing of stations. I wonder whether it might be opportune not only to appoint an extra member of the Broadcasting Tribunal but also to have a look at the proposition of getting some part-time members of the Broadcasting Tribunal. In Brisbane at the moment there are literally dozens of groups running around talking about setting up public radio stations. I can see that the whole situation could come to a terrible halt if we are not careful. Perhaps we can get round this problem by appointing some part-time Tribunal members who could go round to get the public broadcasting stations off the ground.
I do have some fears in the area of public broadcasting. I trust that the members of the Broadcasting Tribunal will look carefully at the qualifications and the nature of those people in the community who are looking to operate a licence. I should hate to think that thousands of dollars of the public’s funds might literally go down the drain when some of these stations collapse; and obviously there will be some collapses. I hope that one of the factors that will be taken into account by the members of the Tribunal during their hearings into the issuing of these public station licences will be the competence, managerial skills and background in broadcasting of the people who apply for licences. The three Bills that are before the House are non-contentious. I have no hesitation whatsoever in supporting them.
-As the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) remarked, these are essentially three noncontentious machinery Bills. Nevertheless, they give the House the opportunity to discuss some aspects of the radio and television industry- that is to say, the commercial industry- which depends on licensing. The whole concept of licensing involves regulation by a licensing authority. Self-regulation, which some in the industry have argued for, could apply only in the absence of a licensing procedure; that is, if the ability to transmit was determined only by market forces.
There are two basis premises underlying the Government regulation of commercial television. The major premise is that the Government has the right to grant commercial media licences which confer economic privileges on licence holders and forbid non-licensees from transmitting alternative programs and seeking advertising revenue. The minor premise is that the granting of licences in order to limit competition imposes duties on the licence holders and that the licensing authority must have the right to regulate the performance of licensees and to withdraw licences if performance is judged to be unsatisfactory. Commercial television and radio accept the major premise- that is, that licensees are protected from competition from nonlicensees but they reject the minor premise. I believe that the minor premise is an inevitable consequence of the major premise that licensing must involve regulation and the setting of minimum standards just as licensing car drivers necessarily involves regulation of their performance. If we were to accept self-regulation, that is, the regulating of commercial television and radio by market forces alone, it would follow logically that there should be no government protection of licensees by forbidding non-licensees to set up their own channels. Commercial television and radio cannot have it both ways. If they do not accept the minor premise then the major premise ought to have been abolished, giving the opportunity for political parties, trade unions, churches, ethnic minorities, universities and commercial interests to set up their own low-cost television and radio channels and aim at a particular segment of the potential audience. This is the logical extension of self-regulation, as applied to the major premise.
I have thought for a long time that there was a strong case in Australia for a root and branch approach to licensing, that we ought to get away from the present system, with which the Bills before the House merely tinker, and set up a different kind of licensing procedure. I have always been attracted to the British idea of an independent broadcasting authority. I would like to see our Broadcasting and Television Act amended to provide for an independent broadcasting authority along the lines of the United Kingdom Independent Broadcasting Authority. Such an IBA, after providing financial compensation on just terms to the previous owners, would acquire the licences, transmitting plant and equipment of already existing commercial radio and television stations. It would then operate commercial radio and television stations so as to increase the possibility of a greater range of audience choices, instead of merely as a profitable mode of exploitation. The problem, is illustrated where six or seven commercial radio stations are essentially aiming for a share of the same market. Pop music fanatics are themselves short-changed because, instead of having the complete range of commercial radio aimed at the pop market available, they really have to play roulette with their tuning dial, switching from one station to the other to find out what is being offered.
As we all know, there is not much rationalisationfor example in Sydney and Melbourneabout the presentation of news. Instead of, for instance, news programs being co-ordinated so that those programs are staggered in some way, if one wants to have a choice of channel 7 or 9 news one has to play a kind of roulette, twisting the dial from one channel to another. That is an unsatisfactory situation, where channels are competing for exactly the same market at the same time and the person who is an avid news fan will miss a good deal.
An Australian IBA would not in my view, provide programs itself. It would invite program contractors, who could well include the present radio and television managements, as well as independent packagers such as Crawfords, and recording or film distributors, to submit competitive tenders for the right to supply programs as required. The IBA would then pay for the programs supplied from advertising revenue, supplemented where necessary, in order to raise standards, from Consolidated Revenue. The IBA would, subject to existing legislation, sell advertising time to advertisers. There would be spot advertising rather than sponsored programs.
The reason I suggest this is that that system would then break the nexus between advertisers, station management and program content. This is precisely the point that was raised by the honourable member for Bowman. Station management says: ‘Why put on programs for children? The ratings will not merit it. ‘ The ratings, of course, are what determine whether advertisers will be attracted or not. Unfortunately, very often commercial radio and television have not really been concerned with development or with stimulation. They have been much preoccupied with market considerations. If the likely immediate return from the market is seen as low, managements are not interested in providing programs in that area. It would, in fact, end the domination of television of radio and television programming policies by ratings, which has led commercial television and radio to provide similar programs at the same time in order to compete for ratings, advertising revenue and potential profitability. News services and sporting events, instead of being staggered, have tended to be on at the same time. The buying price of programs should be related to quality and the actual production cost, rather than the direct economic value of the program to advertisers.
An independent broadcasting authority would help to stimulate innovation and experimentation, which commercial radio and television have signally failed to do. Also it would help to provide quality services in neglected areas such as children’s and educational programs, because managements would not all the time have to be looking over their shoulders at advertising revenue and saying: ‘We dare not put on quality programs because the advertisers would punish us.’ Having an IBA would permit specialisation of television channels or radio stations, as required, in order to serve the needs of sections of the audience- information services, education services and entertainment services. This point has been taken up in part, of course, by the recent ministerial statement on public broadcasting. There ought to be a national debate in which we would try to resolve the conflict between profitability and responsibility in media control. An IBA would provide far greater flexibility and creative potential for people working in commercial television and radio, even at management level, because it would permit diversity and long-range planning without being limited by fears about rating and economic profitability.
To summarise, the introduction of an independent broadcasting authority would have three major effects: Firstly, it would end the domination by ratings, which make commercial television and radio apprehensive about experimentation, because they fear losing habitual viewers to more conventional commercial programs on other channels. It would end competition for programs between channels, which forces up the purchasing price. Secondly, it would relieve commercial managements of the problems of trying to maximise profits at the same time as they attempt to meet the program requirements laid down by the Government. One might say that an IBA solution would save them a great deal of that anxiety of which the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations tells us so often, about resolving a problem which they have found impossible to deal with in the past 22 years. I know the sympathy of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) goes out to them as well. Thirdly, it would restore the idea that television and radio, whether commercial or government, represent guaranteed access to an irreplaceable resource, the people’s time. This right of access should be seen not just as an opportunity for commercial exploitation, but as a form of trusteeship. Where the maximisation of profit is the primary goal, the potential audience is inevitably equated with the market. If that is so, as FACTS very reasonably points out, commercial television must respond to market forces. But that seems more likely to lead to a media version of Gresham’s Law, whereby bad programs drive out the good. We ought to think of the audience as being equivalent with the community and recognise that every majority is made up of groups which are themselves minoritiesyoung women, old women, girls, young men, old men, boys, Anglicans, Catholics, agnostics, rich, middle income, poor, under-educated and over-educated.
– Now you are talking about yourself.
-The collective IQ of the Parliament has just sagged several points by the honourable member’s entry. If we assume that an independent broadcasting authority is not to be established, that the conventional form of licensing radio and commercial television channels is to continue, I believe that the issuing or reissuing of licences should depend on adherence to a performance contract. Since 1956 commercial television licences have been regarded as an inalienable capital asset. The tribunal, formerly the old Broadcasting Control Board, seemed to operate on the principle once a licensee always a licensee, but I believe that television and radio licences should not be regarded as a form of Spanish marriage- incapable of being changed.
Previously the Board always took the indulgent view that the undertakings given by successful licence applicants, in 1956 for example, were always unrealistically high and that they should not be held to account for their failure to meet the specifications that they volunteered to undertake. Licensees ought to sign a performance contract when licences are re-issued, and if changing circumstances make adherence to the contract too difficult they should apply to the licensing authority for a variation.
The concentration of media control in Australia is grossly excessive. In the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Europe, Press, television and radio are natural enemies. They are rivals in the highly competitive media field. That is a healthier situation. Each medium is only too happy to expose the inadequacies of the other. However, in Australia commercial television and radio are virtually free of serious or sustained newspaper criticism and there is very little critical input from outside. There are no serious Australian television or radio journals, such as The Listener in the United Kingdom or the excellent The Listener in New Zealand. Magazines such as TV Week and TV Times are essentially promotional ‘ fan mags ‘.
As many politicians could testify, news reportage seems to involve ‘selective trivialisation’ in which major policies are often ignored and minor matters are sometimes given extensive coverage. Media proprietors in thos country have been able to exercise an enormous influence without serious accountability to anyone. This can have particularly serious political consequences. I can think of two examples of this occurring recently. One concerned Sir John Gorton’s deposition from the Prime Ministership in March 1971. There was a short, highly concentrated and effectively co-ordinated series of television programs, editorials and feature articles leading up to the day of the Liberal Party meeting which led to Gorton’s defenestration. John Gorton was refused time to reply in his own defence. The Australian Broadcasting Commission also refused him time on the ground that giving him time would mean an abandonment of neutrality on its part. The Australian Prime Minister of the day was literally silenced. I regard that as absolutely appalling.
Another example concerns the view taken by the media proprietors in October and November 1975 that the Khemlani affair and the dismissal of Mr Rex Connor from the Whitlam Ministry constituted the reprehensible circumstances which the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said would be the sole justification for using his Senate majority to reject Supply. In the 1960s there were several examples within my own experience of influence or pressure from proprietors and /or management to delete television material. This suggests that such pressure was fairly common at that time and may still be. We ought to be facing up to the need to work towards severance of the ownership of Press, radio and television to put our media on exactly the same footing as the media in the United Kingdom and the United States.
One reason management is apprehensive about experimenting in programming is that the cost of programming is too high. I can make a constructive suggestion here which I hope the Minister for Post and Telecommunications will adopt with bulging squeals. The competitive bidding for overseas programs results in individual stations forcing up the price of these programs far beyond what would appear to be a fair and reasonable cost. The directing of funds towards purchasing overseas programs has meant that commercial investment in local productions has been restricted to some degree. Governments should assist local production by subsidy where appropriate and by enabling foreign products to be obtained more cheaply.
I believe that a ‘single buying agency’ should be set up, as was recommended in the 1973 report of the Tariff Board concerning motion picture films and television programs, with the exclusive authority to buy exhibition rights for British and foreign films, series and specials for Australian television. The proposal is not unlike the buying ring system which once operated in commercial television but which broke down about 1962. Commercial channels and the Australian Broadcasting Commission would nominate to the ‘single buying agency’ the programs for the season that they were interested in buying for the season. The ‘single buying agency’ would then acquire such programs from the distributors. Once the programs had been bought overseas the ‘single buying agency’ would then conduct a domestic auction in Australia and the highest bidder would acquire the Australian domestic rights from the agency. The margin between the domestic auction price and the price paid by the ‘single buying agency’, plus reasonable expenses, would be paid to a trust fund administered by, for example, the Australian Film Commission which would assist in financing Australian productions.
Evidence given before the Tariff Board indicated that Australia was paying virtually as much for U.S. television programs as the United Kingdom and Canada, which are both far bigger markets. In West Germany, I concede, the problems of dubbing and sub-titling must add to the costs. But my recollection of the 1973 Tariff Board inquiry was that the enormous West German television market, which is probably the third or fourth biggest and richest market in the world, was paying no more for a half-hour program than we were paying in Australia. The reason why we are paying so much is that channel X is competing against channels A, B and C and forcing up the price. If we had a ‘single buying agency’ to acquire the programs and then sell them here by domestic auction, the amount received at auction over the initial purchase price could go into a domestic production fund. The commercial channels would be paying no more than they would be paying in New York or London, but it would mean that the extra money they were prepared to pay for the program abroad would not be leaving Australia. They would still have competition, if competition was what they were really looking for.
I believe that there has been a failure of nerve in much of Australian commercial television and radio management. In particular, there has been a preference to choose sedative programs rather than stimulating programs. Much of the commercial media control seems to have worked on the premise that successful programming depends on rejecting the unknown and adventurous and reinforcing the known and predictable, especially in a series. Compared with the programs of the United States and the United Kingdom, Austraiian series such as Homicide, Number 96 and the never to be forgotten PickaBox have had excessively long runs. Commercial managements believe that programming should be competitive rather than complementary: as a result three commercial channels compete with each other commercially for the same audience rather than attempting to serve particular sections of the audience more effectively.
Children are the key to family viewing. If the children can be secured for a particular program -for example, Blankety Blanks on Channel 0 rather than the ABC news- this may set a family’s viewing pattern all night unless the parents are very strong willed. Children’s television has been equated with the children’s market rather than with the emotional and intellectual stimulation or enlargement of children. Many Australians feel uneasy about asserting their national identity except in a self-mocking way, which is sometimes called the ‘ocker image’. We are conscious of our minority position in the Englishspeaking world and that our population of 14 million is only four per cent of that of the richest film and television market in the world. The Minister has a position of enormous power and influence. I believe that he ought to use that influence and try to effect a root and crop reform of Australian commercial media control.
-It is bad enough that the proceedings of this chamber are not televised, but it is even worse that they are not being broadcast today, particularly when some of the people who formerly were involved allegedly in entertaining people through the media are performing concussively rather than consecutively. If either of those sections of the media had been present, I think its ratings would have been abysmal. Those remarks relate to the previous speech. I hope that the present one will attract greater support. Judging by the volume of people listening to the debate in the House, the ratings would not be particularly great anyway.
I would like to raise a couple of matters about these Bills, which relate to licence fees and amendments to various Acts. The first matter is one which particularly concerns my electorate. Whilst the paying of licence fees is a matter of interest to all licence holders, the actual granting of the licences and the traumas involved in that are also matters of some moment. Very reasonable amendments were made to these Acts last year enabling translator and repeater stations to be brought into areas that required them. I am concerned that the administration of these amendments may well involve and run the serious risk of involving a requirement to hold more public hearings. I do not object to public hearings into the granting of licences. What concerns me is the extent to which a radio station which makes an application for a licence to operate a translator or repeater station which will give that station better access to an area already granted to it should be subject to further inquiry and great expense. In particular radio station 2ST in Nowra- I have mentioned this matter to the Minister- over a year ago applied for a translator in order to get its signal into the Bowral and Moss Vale areas of its granted licence field. The Board -
– Yes, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal has been looking at this matter for quite some time. But different answers are always seen to be given as to why the radio station cannot operate this facility, the latest being that the Tribunal is not certain whether the radio station is actually entitled to that full area. I believe that every government has the right to scrutinise applications for the use of the public’s air waves. All I ask the Minister to do is to take a very reasonable view, as I know he will, of matters requiring massive expense by licensees to ensure that they retain their originally granted licence areas. Stations should be able to make proper use of translator or repeater stations in order to get their signal effectively into areas already granted to them. I raise this matter because I understand there is some pressure within the bureaucracy to require hearings into applications by radio stations for the extension of a decent signal into areas already granted, particularly where this signal will in fact extend perhaps by good fortune into some neighbouring areas. I hope that the excessive involvement of the bureaucracy that I believe this would involve into the proper activities of radio stations should be inhibited by the Minister in a friendly way.
I would also like to raise another matter which affects my electorate. I refer to a recognisable need for two improvements to the radio and television situation in the Illawarra region. First, there is clearly a need for the Illawarra region to have access to FM broadcasts. At the moment the people of the region cannot pick up effectively these broadcasts although it would be an easy matter for these broadcasts to be transmitted into this area. I understand that this could be done by adding some equipment to the television tower that already exists at Knights Hill which is not very far from my house. From the volume of correspondence that I have had from constituents I certainly believe that the excellent Australian Broadcasting Commission FM programs would receive a very wide listening public in the Illawarra region.
I am also under the impression from a large volume of correspondence that I have received from people in my electorate that there is scope for an extended ABC television coverage in the Wollongong area. I know that the Minister will consider very seriously the matters I have raised.
I point out that the amendments contained in this Bill are evidence of the continuing and substantial input that back bench committees have made on the legislative process of this House. Last year the original legislation received very close scrutiny from back bench committees. I hope that the Government will continue to be as receptive to the many matters that have been raised as it has been in the past. I hope in particular that the matters I have raised will be dealt with in a receptive manner.
-I will delay the House for about only one minute. I want to raise with the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) a matter that has been before him for some considerable time; namely an application by a Geelong group for commercial FM operations. The group has asked for a test licence in order to carry out tests on FM broadcasting in that area. It has received a number of replies, all of which tend to refer to the situation of the eventual issue of permanent licences. I think the Minister will remember that prior to the introduction of television considerable test broadcasts were carried out in order to test equipment and for other purposes. What is required in this case is permission to conduct tests in order to see whether there is a future for that type of broadcasting operation in the area. To go into a permanent licence situation under these circumstances would appear to be too big a step. Is the Minister in a position to indicate whether such applications for test licences are considered and will he consider the application to which I have referred?
– in reply- I will take a brief moment to reply to what the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) said and also to the other comments that were made during the debate. I certainly believe that tests are very useful. I acknowledge that tests were closed last year. However, I have under consideration a proposal to reopen testing in respect of people such as those referred to by the honourable member. I cannot say when a final decision will be made but I am sympathetic to the general proposition in terms of the specific case. I will have a look at the matter and let the honourable member know. I would like to thank honourable members who have made a contribution to this debate. Some very interesting points have been raised and I will certainly consider them very closely.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Staley) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 6 April, on motion by Mr Staley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Staley) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 11 April, on motion by Mr Staley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Staley) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12 April, on motion by Mr Staley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate on this Bill is resumed, I should like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1978 as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-I find myself in the rather unusual position of leading for the Opposition on these Bills but perhaps that will be explained when I indicate at the outset that neither the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill nor the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill will be opposed by the Opposition. But, in so saying, this does not indicate the Opposition’s approval of either the Government’s budgetary policy or its attitudes to education generally. However, we accept that the Government has put forward its policy and that these Bills follow the precedent that has been followed in the last few years in making adjustments for cost increases, in this case, to December 1977 and to increase the grants for 1 978 which will be subject to further adjustment later. So, even with these adjustments, it is the same basic government education program.
Having said that we do not oppose these Bills, I suppose that in many ways in this debate we are letting the Government off by not looking at its present performance. I think this debate will give us the opportunity to project what the educational needs are and what course will be followed. I shall concentrate most of my remarks on the schools area. The Bills do illustrate the high degree of involvement of the Australian Government in education funding. Funding to schools in 1977 was $602.8m. The present commitment for 1978 is $626. 7m. In the ternary education area the amounts are greater. In 1977 the amount of funding was $561. 8m for universities, $439.5m for colleges of advanced education and $85.4m for technical and further education. The commitment for 1978 is $620.2m for universities, $460. 8m for colleges of advanced education and $10 1.2m for technical and further education. If we look at this degree of involvement, relative to the options open to an Australian government in the education field, it is obvious that one of the options open to the Government is certainly not withdrawal from education financing. Indeed it would be doubtful whether holding the amounts expended at the present level would be acceptable to the Australian electorate as a whole.
I do not need to dwell on the fact that this heavy commitment for education spending has developed since 1973 and was based on the initiatives of the then Labor Government. The development of the various commissions evolved from those initiatives. But education, in itself, is pretty lively and changeable. It is a matter that requires constant review and examination, not just on the basis of the funds that are to go to it, but on the basis of a changing society. This type of examination is an appropriate function for the various commissions to carry out. But, in doing so, there must be some responsibility by the commissions to Parliament and to government. Along with this, there goes the responsibility of government not to impose unreal limits on the examinations carried out by the commissions. Regrettably, with the types of guidelines that have been laid down, we believe that the present Government has set some unreal limits on the commissions.
Honourable members will recall that one of the concepts given to the original Interim Schools Commission was that of needs. We recall how well that commission moved to identify and categorise those needs. I am prepared to accept that an examination of this concept of need is necessary from time to time, in the light of experience with the programs. If we are to preserve this concept of need, the Government itself must take heed of the Schools Commission. The Schools Commission referred to this point in its report of April of this year. I invite honourable members to look at paragraph 10.3 of that report which reads:
The Commission does not believe ‘need’ is a concept separate from the social and economic context in which Australia’s schools operate: need has therefore to be judged in the light of the general capacity of Australia to provide adequate resources for its schools. On the other hand need does not vary with each year’s budget difficulties. A position must be found which while respecting short-term budgetary difficulties does allow some progress to be made towards meeting needs which the Commission believes to be within the capacity of the Government to finance if it so wishes.
The Opposition sees this sort of expression as at least a minimum requirement. We believe that the Government should take the advice of its expert body and at least satisfy its suggested minimum. If we examine the main areas in the Commission’s report, we find under the heading General recurrent: government’, the Commission recommends that an essential course of action is ‘to fix government general funds at a constant proportion of the target standard costs’. At the moment this proportion is 7.5 per cent. If that is to be maintained, there is generated a need for funds of the following order $ 183.02m in 1979, $183.53m in 1980, and $182.76m in 1981. As honourable members are aware, under the heading ‘General recurrent: nongovernment’, the Commission suggested a modified subsidy scheme. It has varied the categorisation of the schools and the type of subsidy that is to be paid.
It is not my intention in this debate to refer to the concept of this modified subsidy scheme but I do wish to look of what that modified subsidy scheme produces if projected increases are necessary. The cost in 1978 is predicted to be $ 186.8m. Under the new scheme, the costs are estimated to be: $202.90m in 1979, $214.10m in 1980, and $224.20m in 1981. Accepting the argument about modified subsidy, we see that substantial increases are required in that area. It appears that the need is greatest in the capital grant area. Indeed, the Commission was moved to report that the total needs in the capital grant for government schools were far in excess of what could be reasonably expected for the triennium. When the Commission examined the capital funding for non-government schools it found the position just as acute.
There are a number of factors that lead to the need for capital funding. We know that our community is in a constant state of movement. We see development in various rural and urban areas. Although the need for recurrent grants might be less in some of the older areas, there is the constant pull for capital grants in other areas. For the Government area the Commission has recommended that a 4 per cent per annum increase is necessary. In the second category, that of the non-government schools, it has recommended a 5 per cent increase. Table 10.1 of the report shows the proposed financial allocations for the 1979-81 triennium compared with actual allocations for this year. Rather than detail these allocations I seek leave to incorporate the table in Hansard.
-The Government has imposed guidelines which, if applied in the same way, will lead to a substantial shortfall in these categories. Rather than read to the House the guidelines I seek leave to incorporate them in Hansard m the form of table 10.2 from the Commission’s report.
The table read as follows:
-The two tables help to illustrate the problem that we have. As I mentioned previously, the growth rates were recommended. In the final analysis the Commission recommended a growth rate of 5 per cent in 1 979, 4 per cent in 1980 and 3.3 per cent in 1981 in funds allocated to government programs for the financing of government and non-government schools in the 1 979-8 1 triennium. That arises out of the total concept illustrated in those tables. This may appear repetitive as it is already contained in the Commission’s report. However, honourable members will recall that at the time the guidelines were laid down, claims and complaints were made by the Opposition that these guidelines would restrict and even cause loss of the initiatives in education, and that progress would grind to a halt. I think it fair to say, not on the basis of figures or arguments produced by the Opposition but on the figures of an independent commission, that these claims are proved.
The Government just cannot pigeonhole this report and make no comment until the Budget. It must indicate now what its attitude will be in the education field. Will it allow the expenditure just to run along with no satisfaction of the outstanding needs? If it does so, how will it equate the ultimate loss and cost to the community because of this program in future years with the savings in expenditure now? Earlier I referred to the question of a continuing examination of educational needs in the light of changing society. Yesterday in another debate I directed attention to this by referring to the following statement by a social worker:
There is nothing in our education system about how to survive in an unemployment society: or how to live and relate to adults in such a society, . . .
I referred further to the fact that the stimuli being given to capital intensive areas- and even technological advances- were worsening this particular aspect. This is the kind of societal change that contributes to the need for continuing review. Many other factors contribute to this need. The patterns of migration into this country over recent years have brought about many changes in our society. Of course, they have added many other tasks to our education system. I represent an electorate with a very high migrant concentration. It is not uncommon to have as many as three-quarters of the number of children attending the schools who have come from non-English speaking countries. One has the problem of language and multiple language difficulties.
There are real problems of providing extra attention and procedures to be able to handle the problems that come from this language block.
In trying to solve the problem we do not want to lose sight of the desirable effect of retaining the multi-lingual facility for such children. There is further social change in that we find families with two working parents. Also there is an increase in the number of single parent homes. The changing complexion of the news media which was discussed in the previous debate, has brought with it educational problems. These arise because of the types of values and points of view it imposes. So with these changing values and attitudes there is a constant challenge to the nature of the curriculum and teaching and to the very organisation of our education system. The answers to these problems are by no means easy and absolute. There are a variety of ways in which solutions can be sought. The special projects program affords an opportunity to provide some answers. This is recognised as one of the programs for which a reasonably substantial increase in expenditure in the next triennium is recommended. I have watched with interest the effects of this program along with other disadvantaged schools’ programs in the schools in my electorate. The benefit they obtain is immeasurable. However, once these programs are started it is essential that there be a certainty that funds will be available for a follow-through to some degree of completion.
The feedback I get on the ground on these sorts of programs is that under the guidelines set by this Government and the attitude it takes there is a lack of confidence within the community and within the educational field itself that this continuance will occur.
I have heard honourable members on the other side of the House often say that the Opposition believes in a society where everyone is equal and you are all levelled down to the one mould. This, of course, is a completely false proposition. What we are talking about is a society which gives equality of opportunity to each individual- equality of opportunity to develop one’s talents and to compete with one’s fellows. Basically if we do not have this equality of opportunity in the educational field we fall down very badly indeed.
This special projects program takes a very small part of the funds spent on education, yet the program covers quite a wide variety of projects. I can do no better than to quote from the report on the type of programs that are carried out. It reads:
Their main focus is on more effective learning in basic curriculum areas, but they also include organisational changes in schools, radical departures from traditional learning patterns such as cross age tutoring, the extension of the learning environment through outdoor education, field stations and work experience, improved community/school liaison and adventurous extensions of the drama, music, dance and art experience of students. Educational improvement depends not just on attempts to change all in uniform ways, but on local adaptation, on ‘lighthouse’ developments which extend the vision of others, and on individual initiative.
So there is a great variety of steps that can be taken and a good deal of testing that can be done for changes in society. Sometimes I wonder when I have a look at these changes whether some of the local initiatives should not include some of the old traditional teaching methods, particularly in the three Rs, because these are areas in which there seems to be a great failing. Children completing secondary school cannot do simple sums. Often they complete secondary school without proper reading capabilities and even graduate from university without being able to write proper essays as far as spelling, English and so on are concerned. One wonders whether the abandonment completely of some of the old traditional alphabetical and mathematical training has not been the cause of this state of affairs. Perhaps we will see a special projects program running at a primary school in the concept of the teaching method that was used 30 or 40 years ago.
Along with the special projects program there has been the disadvantaged schools project. It has been important to be able to identify disadvantaged schools as was -done at a very early stage of the Commission’s operations. These initiatives were in education, but once again we face the problem of a commitment by government to continue this program to get schools up to acceptable levels. By and large it must be a long term project. It is not a program that can survive in an atmosphere of uncertain continued funding and it is not a program that cannot be allowed to take on new institutions in order to raise the standard. I think all these matters and many others have been put in the Schools Commission report.
As I said at the commencement of my remarks on these Bills, we are not opposed to them. We feel that there is more value at the moment in looking forward to the discussions of the needs of the schools system than in criticising what has happened in the last few years. We believe there are grave problems. We believe that the guidelines have been too stringent. We believe that the difficulties of education have been exacerbated by what is happening in the economic circumstances of Australia generally. That is why we say the Government should make an early commitment to or give an early indication of its proposals in education. We on this side of the House would be very suspicious whether those indications and those attitudes would be satisfactory.
It is not my intention to deal with the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill. It is another area in which I believe there must be a good deal of examination and a good deal of reassessment of values and our ideas. There is no doubt that at the moment the greater concentration should be on technical and further education. One wonders whether the formal university education has not been pushed to its very limit in the numbers that are admitted, and I believe that we should examine the balance that is there. But at the moment it is a matter of forward looking in both areas because unless firm decisions are made, initiatives are taken and there is some willingness on the part of the Government to increase public expenditure we will be paying a very high cost in a few years to come.
– I would like to talk to the House for a few moments about the tertiary education grants which we are discussing in the legislation now before the House. Those of us who have worked on the Government member’s education committee have taken a good deal of trouble to try to find out whether tertiary education in the country is relevant to the needs of the country and to our future. Sir Robert Menzies asked me, and I am sure many other honourable members, to read the report of the former Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. That address alone has opened up a good deal of discussion on what is and what is not relevant and what courses are and are not relevant to the Australia of tomorrow. Honourable members on that committee have seen in Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Victoria very impressive buildings indeed. The total capital input in buildings is something of which this nation can be exceptionally proud. Compared with other tertiary institutions, whether in the United Kingdom, Europe or in the United States, it can be seen that there is no need for us to have any anxiety about the quality and the quantity of buildings available for university education.
What has caused us some anxiety is the duplication of institutions. I will not follow up what the former honourable member for Fremantle pointed out in a debate in his position as Minister lor Education, but we have become anxious about the number of tertiary colleges and places of learning which appear to be a duplication or which appear to be in competition with one another, particularly in Western Australia and Victoria. I do not want to take up much of the time of the House but I do want to say that I am glad to note that in the heavy industrial areas in the district from which I come, the city of Dandenong and the electorate of Holt, the Government has made a major move to give technical education a priority. The amount of $9. 1 m that has been spent in the reconstruction and improvement of the Dandenong Technical College is a fine example of the Government’s attitude.
I have had discussions with the principal of that college and I have been impressed by the general desire of those who are involved in technical education to make certain that the courses they offer are not confined to apprentices and the young people who undertake normal training and who attend normal classes but are available to all people in the community. I am impressed with the general concept that these places should be regarded not as being open only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and being run by staff who, at 5 p.m., start their cars and go home but as places of learning that are open for the convenience of the majority of citizens. I am also impressed by the fact that the principal of this college and all those in the area who are connected with technical training are anxious to assist the young school leaver who left school under pressure from his or her parents and the boy or girl who has said: ‘ I am not making any progress; I am not doing well; I have simply got to go out and get a job ‘, and who leave school at the Form 3 or Form 4 level. I call those people the disaster group. They comprise a group about which so many reports are now being written. These people are the subject of inquiries by Senate committees examining alcohol and drug abuse and other problems. These people are young at 16 years of age and wrecks at 2 1 years of age.
This nation cannot afford this sort of thing. Our population growth is declining. I am a member of the Government parties’ immigration and ethnic affairs committee and I know that we have a serious problem with our population growth. In any case, how do we intend to defend the north of Australia if we do not have an increase in our population? We cannot afford to lose these young people. I should like to give one or two examples of what I am talking about. I do not wish to cause any offence, but a group of young people involved in a Community Youth Support Scheme were given an ordinary spelling test involving ordinary words that they would be required to use if they went out to get a job anywhere. Most of these young people received a score of 3 out of 20. How does a person get a job when his spelling ability is 3 out of 20?
I congratulate the technical colleges in the area of my electorate for their dedication. I congratulate the Government for putting money into these colleges and for its increasing concern about technical colleges. These colleges have offered to take back into their ranks the young people who urgently need a chance to get the level of education that they lost the opportunity to obtain or unfortunately abandoned at the ages of 14, 15 or 16 years when they did not really comprehend the importance of education. From speaking to the education institutions in my electorate and everywhere I have travelled in Australia I must admit that I feel very proud of what the Government has done in relation to technical education. We look forward to receiving the Williams and Partridge reports.
I have absolute confidence in the Government’s ability to work with the Australian Schools Commission and to provide a level of education which is relevant for the children of this country for the years ahead. I ask the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman), who is sitting at the table, to be kind enough to convey the feelings of the House to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) who is a member of another place. We are grateful always for the careful attention the Minister for Education pays to almost every question we put to him and every letter we write to him and we thank him for his continuing interest in education in our electorates, which he has demonstrated by the number of times that he has been to visit our electorates personally to talk to those in charge of education, to children in the schools and to those in the teaching profession. He is an admirable Minister for Education.
-I want to speak briefly to these Bills. I do not wish to follow the Une taken by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates). At present, there are serious problems in the field of tertiary, secondary and technical education. These problems are not being assisted by the politicising of the situation. In Victoria, which is the State from which the honourable member for Holt comes and from which all honourable members who have spoken in this debate and all honourable members who are listed to speak in this debate come, a very serious problem exists which I think is the result of a flow-on from what I consider to be political decisions by the Victorian Government with regard to degree conferring institutions. Victoria has about half the degree conferring institutions in Australia. It certainly has a number of institutionsI do not wish to name any of them- whose future viability must be in serious doubt. This has led to a high degree of political activity in recent months. Unfortunately, even the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has entered into this issue on behalf of the Warrnambool institute. Institutions are trying to tear each other down in order to bring about their own survival.
If legislation which was introduced recently in the Victorian Parliament, and which was not considered to be legislation on an education basis as it had nothing to do with the report from which it arose, becomes law- I feel that it will not become law because more rational second thoughts will take place or have taken place- it would place that State in the position in which it could censure and override decisions of the councils of universities and colleges of advanced education on educational and staffing matters directly relevant to their academic functions rather than their financial or other commitments. It would also place them in a position in which they would not be able to make direct application to the Commonwealth organisations responsible for education without first obtaining the approval of a Victorian body which was to be set up.
The basis of this move was again for political decision-making purposes, not for decisionmaking on the basis of education content. It was in fact designed to ensure that applications met political needs rather than the education needs of the State. That is a serious matter. Serious problems exist within the tertiary education system in Victoria. Those problems will be solved only if rational debate takes place on them and only if they are tackled as educational problems, not political problems. I believe it would be better for Victoria and the educational institutions concerned if the inquiries which were to deal with the matter were to be extra-curricula rather than internal to that State because there are pressures in the State which will totally prevent any real appraisal taking place.
I want to raise one other matter which I believe is important. In 1975, following the presentation of a report and agreement with being obtained of the Victorian Government, which passed the necessary legislation, this Parliament established in Geelong the Deakin University, which is mainly in the electorate of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) although some parts of it are in my electorate as the capital required for the actual building of the necessary structures has not been made available because of changes in government policy and changes in patterns. In fact, the Deakin, Murdoch and Griffith universities and, I think, one other of the newer universities have had their development cut off at the socks. Because of their development situation they have not been given any additional funds over and above those which were made to the existing universities for expansion. Now their situations are totally different. They are new institutions which require certain basic buildings and structures which already exist in other institutions.
Deakin University is located in various parts of Geelong from Waurn Ponds, which is 7 to 9 miles to the south, to North Geelong which is about 5 miles to the north of Geelong. Courses are taken at different locations during periods of the same day without any form of transport being available for students. It is extremely difficult to travel from one place to another without any form of transport, public or otherwise. In fact, students use hitch hiking posts which are sometimes successful and sometimes not. There are specific problems. I make these points today because the Deakin University is to be officially opened tomorrow. That is an important step even though some people in Victoria were asking that it be closed yesterday.
The conditions under which young people attend tertiary institutions, especially when they are undertaking vocational courses, should be reexamined. It is possible under the existing arrangements for young persons to be placed in an extremely difficult position because they do not live in the metropolitan area in close proximity to an institution. They may have to travel long distances. They do not necessarily have to live outside the capital city to travel long distances. If they lived in Dandenong, in the electorate of the honourable member for Holt, and they were attending an institution in the centre or to the north or west of the city where the course they wished to study was available- of course, there is a rationalisation of courses- they could be involved in much greater expense and more difficulty than other students who are in exactly the same position financially and in other respects. I make that point because the conditions under which tertiary allowances are made available- that is not the subject of this Bill- are too bland. They do not take into consideration different circumstances. They certainly do not take into consideration the circumstances in which some students find themselves.
It is unfortunate that the present problems which are besetting Victoria especially have reached the stage they have. It is even more unfortunate that local political representatives who may feel impelled to do so but who most likely are aggravating rather than assisting the situation, have turned what was a mistake and what is now almost a disaster area for some of the institutions into a political dogfight rather than an educational problem.
– 1 do not wish to delay the House long in speaking to these Bills. They are important Bills even though they are purely mechanical. I associate my Party, the National Country Party, with them. We believe that the Schools Commission is an important independent authority essential for effective government action. I wish to make some general observations in relation to the Bills, the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Bill and the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill. The additional amounts appropriated in these Bills are provided to maintain the real level of grants approved by the Government in the light of variations of 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.
For the purposes of schools and educational institutions in my electorate, I wish to mention briefly the amounts of supplementation we are making. In the tertiary education sector we are providing an additional $5m for universities, $4. 2m for colleges and $0.4m for technical and further education. These supplementations for the 1977 program will bring the total figure for universities in 1977 to $56 1.8m and $439.5m for colleges of advanced education and $85.4m for technical and further education. Additional amounts provided for 1978 are $28m for universities, $18m for colleges of advanced education and $3. 6m for technical and further education. The Bill provides an additional appropriation for schools of $5.6m for 1977 and $ 15.8m for 1978. These two amounts bring the 1977 and 1978 grants programs for schools in the States to $602. 8m and $626. 7m respectively.
If there is one thing that these Bills show- I have spoken to similar Bills in earlier years- it is the enormous impact our Government’s policies have had on inflation. In similar Bills two and three years ago the amounts of appropriations necessary to complete the annual programs were often in the vicinity of 20 per cent to 25 per cent in some areas of school activity. The amounts appropriated in these Bills suggest very much that the policies our Government is undertaking in the economic area are proving to be of great advantage in the effective spending of public and taxpayers’ money for education.
From the recent Schools’ Commission Report the impact of two factors is fairly obvious; firstly, the importance of the initiatives undertaken by the Labor Government in its term of office and, secondly, the reduction in the growth of student population which has allowed the situation to be reached in which, generally speaking, the majority of government schools today are moving to a resources level which is as adequate as that recommended by the Karmel report. However, in the non-government schools area, particularly in the major section of that area, where 90 per cent of schools are in the Catholic system, resources are still well below an adequate level. The Schools Commission in its report has recognised this and has therefore recommended a 4 per cent increase in funding for government schools and an increase of S per cent in the nongovernment area. This was brought about mainly by two factors. I acknowledge the work of the Labor Government and particularly the work of perhaps its best Minister while in office, the Honourable Kim Beazley. His services were recognised by that Party by his banishment to the back bench in his later days in Parliament.
We must recognise, as the Schools Commission report says, that the growth in student population in Government schools is now not as pressing as in previous years. The primary enrolment will decrease by about 1 .2 per cent during the triennium. Secondary enrolment will decline by about 1 per cent, resulting in an overall decline in enrolments of about 27,000 students. On the other side of the scale, needs are being generated by changes in our educational policies and demands. The report states:
Educational policy changes in various States in recent years have had important implications for capital facilities, additional to those created by population growth and improvements in student-teacher ratios.
I shall list the changes that have affected the needs of our educational system. Reduced class sizes in all States have generated more classes in each school. There has been a lowering in the age of school attendance. Most children in the States are starting earlier and also remaining longer at school. There is a vital community use of schools. In most of our States and Territories it is now the policy to encourage the use of school facilities by community groups. I am sure that this trend will continue. A very important change in relation to the needs of our schools is the demands of changing approaches to curriculum and teaching. New curriculum demands especially at primary school level today require facilities for arts, music, drama, languages, et cetera. Specialist teachers are also being provided.
I must say that many schools, notably at primary level, lack the necessary buildings and equipment. Of course in the light of our present economic situation and particularly the unemployment difficulties, it is essential that career education and pre-vocational courses continue and expand within our schools. This of course creates an additional emphasis on the provision of facilities for pre-vocational courses and career guidance. The honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) mentioned that our Government is today placing important emphasis and a priority on spending in technical education. Of course as a result of this it is only natural that the expansion that has taken place over many years in the higher tertiary areas- in the universities and the colleges of advanced education- will come under some pressure, particularly in the area of capital facilities.
I must mention one or two other aspects that I see as tremendous improvements in education, particularly as they apply to country areas. One problem that I see developing that is disadvantaging country students who wish, and have to go away for, tertiary education is in relation to the payment of the tertiary allowance. I do not think any person would dispute the need to have a means test applied to the tertiary allowance. But country students who in almost all situations have to leave their homes for tertiary education are finding that they are severely disadvantaged by the fact that a living away from home allowance is not available for their courses. This of course is tied to the tertiary education allowance and the loss of that allowance automatically means the loss of the living away from home allowance. This is proving to be an acute problem for country students.
I must make mention of the special program that was started by our Government last year for disadvantage particularly as it applies to disadvantaged country schools. An amount of $4.24m was allocated specifically to allow country schools to involve themselves in community programs that would in some way advantage the immediate needs of their areas. I am well aware that a program in my area known as the Mallee track, operating in an area containing Ouyen, Murrayville, Sea Lake and Patchewollock, is proving to be of enormous benefit both to the immediate education programs of those students and through the innovation that it will bring about throughout the total education system in Australia. It has involved parents and teachers and the community outside the school as they have never been involved in education and it is proving, as I said, a great program. I believe it will be one that can be applied to many country areas throughout Australia. I am pleased that the Schools Commission has recommended in its report that the country disadvantaged program allocation be almost doubled to an amount of $8.48m which will mean an extension of this program throughout other country areas in Australia. The economic policies of our Government are today allowing the money that is spent in education to be effectively used to the benefit of students, their parents and ultimately to the benefit of our community. I know that my Party totally supports these two Bills.
– I am fairly certain that the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) is sensitive to what education is all about but is in danger of becoming complacent under the barrage of propaganda which is supporting the Government’s failure to do anything effective in the community. What exactly does the Government mean when it talks about annual programs in the education programs of this Government. There are no education programs. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his principal Ministers over the period during which we were in government and in the subsequent two years spent their time denouncing the extravagance of the Australian Labor Party’s programs. They have done everything possible to reduce in absolute terms and in relative terms the effort that goes into education. They also are taking up some of those areas in which we took new initiatives and claiming them as their own. For instance, from the way the honourable member for Mallee spoke one would have thought that the idea of making grants and special efforts for disadvantaged schools was the Government’s idea. Of course it was not; it was part of the programs initiated and pressed on by the Labor Government.
As I see the situation, the facts are that the Government’s approach to education has disadvantaged the whole education system of Australia. It has been of less disadvantage of course to the non-government schools than to the government schools. It is not facing up to the facts of life as they are developing in this community. The honourable member for Mallee had certain views to express on the Government’s economic policies. Of course the Government’s economic policies are producing a whole generation of young people who see no future for themselves in the work force. That is having a great impact upon the way in which they look at the relevance of the education system. This will be one of the most socially destructive factors in the future. We on this side would be the last to say that it is not a difficult social and economic question, but the last thing we ought to do is to speak about it with any complacency. We have to resolve this question. What is to be done in the schools to allow people to face their future in a different and changing society? Is any of this legislation preparing people for that? I regret that it is not, not because such technical and financial Bills as these would normally contain such provisions within their structure but because we have to make funds available elsewhere for special areas for other people to get on with the job.
Ever since I became interested in national policies in education I have been astonished that people are surprised at changes of the growth rate of the student body in the school system of Australia. I recall that not long after I was elected to this Parliament great pressures had already developed in the primary schools system. One needed only to be able to do arithmetic to see that that had happened. As I recall the figures were something like this: There had been, say, 100,000 children born in the years 1943, 1944 and 1945. About three-quarters of a million people returned from the Services and were scattered throughout Australia and commenced families at a much later time than would have been the case, but for the war. A couple of hundred thousand children were born. As a result, in 1953, 1954 and 1955 there were enormous pressures on the primary schools and the people in the education system of Australia were surprised. But one would have thought that even people running the country at that time could have performed the simple arithmetic necessary to foresee that result. These people were equally surprised when six years later- 12 or 13 years after the great increase in the birth rate- the pressures were on the secondary schools. They were just as astonished some 18, 19 or 20 years later in 1967 to 1 970 at the pressures on the universities. Now we are apparently surprised that there has been a diminution of the pressure in some of the secondary areas, despite the fact that one has only to look up the Year Book to work it out.
Of course educational demands do not come simply from population growth and changes; they come from a big increase in the aspirations of people for their children and the aspirations of the children for themselves, and an increasing number of adults who have aspirations for themselves too. When I started through the school system in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, there were no difficulties about what the aspirations were. A handful of people proceeded through the secondary school system. One knew what one had to teach them. One had to give them reasonable competence in literacy, numeracy and so on. Then they went in to the work force. I think it would have been a good idea if we had kept that system going. I would also say that those remarks apply to the Australian education system of the generations of my grandparents and greatgrandparents and those of my friend from Mallee and most other colleagues here whom I see sitting in the chamber. There is a notable lack of attendance from the people opposite but I have my friends the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) and the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) here interested in the subject.
The generation of the last couple of decades of last century set to work to produce a literate population with a universal school system available to it. Between the 1870s and 1900 the education system turned a 60 per cent literate population into a 100 per cent one. I do not suppose any population is ever 100 per cent literate but the last census before 1900 indicated that the figure was close to that, according to the census takers, anyhow.
Secondary education was of no real moment other than occasionally in the late twenties and thirties- its development was interrupted by World War II- until the postwar period. Subsequent to achieving the initial impact of secondary education growth, in the course of carrying on the primary school system for another few years we have done nothing to consider what secondary education ought to be about. One of the great problems we face at the moment is what we are to do with those people who find, at the age of 15, 16 or 17, the education system unsatisfactory. There is no place for them in the work force, nor do I think that there ought to be. There ought to be something inside the education system which gives them satisfaction and is relevant to the needs of the community. This seems to me to be an area which can be tackled with any great profit only by the Commonwealth.
I remind honourable members that some 20 years ago or thereabouts, I believe in May 1958, a debate was initiated on the role of the Commonwealth on education. The question was really whether it ought to be involved. There is now no doubt that it should be. What then are to be its principal functions, in the face of the fact that a century-old education system exists in each of the States? I think that its principal function is to ensure equality for all Australians in regard to access to education, in the quality of education available to them, and in ensuring that there is an increasing relevance in the quality and function of the education that they receive. The problem areas of Australian education, it seems to me, especially in the last two years, have remained largely untouched. One of the objectives of the education program of the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975 was to remove the inequalities in Australia’s education system. They are still pretty apparent. First, there is the inequality that still exists between the States. Some States have put more effort than have others into education over the century or so since the advent of what used to be called free, compulsory secular education. That has produced differing results in regard to access to universities, in the quality of the schools and in the general quality of the population’s understanding of the world in which they live. So there is a geographical base to the inequality in Australian education. That is one of” the areas to which the Commonwealth should attend.
I rather suspect, in fact I am fairly certain, that the figures that one reads in the schedules of Bills such as the one we have before us, based as they are principally on per capita expenditure, do nothing to iron out those differentials; but the geographical disabilities or inequalities in Australia are not simply restricted to the question of States. I am sympathetic to the point made by my friend from Mallee, that there is no doubt that, despite the rather extraordinary efforts during the last century to create a universal system across Australia, with equal access to quality education from one end of the country to the other, the people in his electorate are probably often disadvantaged by distance and other factors compared with, say, even the people in my own electorate. There are other factors that disadvantage people in electorates such as that of Wills, composed as it is of the suburbs of Brunswick and Coburg in Melbourne.
A very high quality of education started to develop in part of the electorate of the honourable member for Mallee when I began to teach there in 1939. The war interrupted that. It is relevant at this time to remember that in the township to which I was posted, Mittyack, the best building in the district was in fact the school. That was symbolic of the effort that was put into education by an earlier generation. When we look at other places around Australia we find that a large number of the schools built in the last century were the most significant buildings in their area.
We find that to be so even in some of the working class suburbs of Melbourne. There are still disabilities imposed upon people in education arising, for instance, from sex: There are more chances for young men than there are for young women. There are more chances for people who are of Australian-born white parentage than for those who are of Australian-born Aboriginal parentage. There are more chances for those who are Australian-born than for those who were not born in Australia and came here as migrants.
Having due regard to the apparent wish of the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) to speak, I will make only one or two other points. We should be applying ourselves now to the general question of ironing out those inequalities, finding new forms of school management, and providing greater access to the Australian Government.
– Could the honourable member permit me a few minutes in which to speak before dinner?
– Government supporters have in the past displayed little regard for my desire to speak in this chamber. It demonstrates the difference between the socialist attitude to people’s rights and the attitude of private enterprise. Eventually, and in the not too distant future, I want to see the schedules to this legislation include direct grants to individual schools. In many parts of Australia- and I suspect this applies also in Victoria- we will only get results, particularly in respect of capital works for schools, if we define the school and make a direct grant to the State on the proviso that the money is to be devoted to it. We ought also to look at other ways of financing schools- the guaranteeing of loans, for instance.
It seems to me to be rather a piquant commentary on Australian society that we have found an easy way for the Commonwealth to support private schools and no easy way to support government schools. We support the loans system for private schools. There is no reason why we should not create an individual authority for every government school, allowing it to do some of the building and borrowing- supported by grants or guarantees by the Commonwealth- on its own account. There are two areas to which we should apply ourselves: First, we should exert continuing pressure to create an equal access system throughout Australia and raise the quality of education. The other is that of examining the management of Australia’s school system and making sure that it is more appropriate for the communities in which schools are found. On the understanding that the next time I stand up to speak the honourable member for Hume will not vote for the gag, I propose to conclude my remarks. I will await his observations with fervent interest.
– I appreciate the courtesy extended to me by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and by honourable members generally. I want to amplify briefly the effect that the wages explosion between 1974 and the present has had on the education problem. Everybody is aware of the significant amount of funding that goes into education budgets, both Commonwealth and State and, as well, from the pockets of private school parents who must pay a great deal towards the cost of education. One of the most significant features of the whole education process is the amount that has to be devoted to wages and salaries of teachers and others involved in our institutions and schools.
It might be of interest to the House to know that in December 1977 a professor on the academic staff of an Australian university was in receipt of a wage of $31,248, as compared with $19,614 as at June 1974. Within a period of Vh years there had been an increase of 59.3 per cent in the cost of providing a professor at an Australian university. Similarly, for an associate professor in June 1974 the wage was $16,389. By December 1977 it had risen to $26,365, or an increase of 60.9 per cent. A senior lecturer was receiving in June 1974 $14,724. By December 1977 his salary had increased to $23,299, an increase of 58.2 per cent. I shall not go right through the list, but I think I have given an indication of the sorts of increases that have been taking place.
It might be of interest to note that in New South Wales high school principals, who in June 1974 were receiving $14,632, were by December 1977 receiving $22,597, an increase of 54.4 per cent.
– Is that the New South Wales figure?
– That is the New South Wales figure. The increase for that period was 54.4 per cent. The honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie) and I have an intense interest in education and in applying the Commonwealth’s contribution to education as sensibly as possible. It is obviously of great concern to us as it is to all honourable members and to the community to know the amount of funds going into the salaries vote as pan of the whole education process. I have to spend a couple of minutes of the time of the House this afternoon emphasising some of those figures and putting the argument into perspective so that people will be aware of the significance of the wages content of the total education vote.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, could I take up the rest of the time allowed for my earlier speech to answer those remarks?
-The honourable member for Wills has already spoken in this debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Newman) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12 April 1978, on motion by Mr Staley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I will be brief. Recently in a debate in this Parliament a question was raised about the high cost of salaries in the tertiary education area. There is no doubt that tertiary education is one of the most important functions in our society. It is the area from which we produce the professional people, the highly trained scientists and so on, and I would not want it to go unnoticed that this was an attack upon what I think are the necessary standards of salaries paid to people in this part of the work force. In recent years a great change has taken place in Australian salaries. The salaries of the public service have risen in line with the rest of the community, and so they should. The salaries of people in the academic area have risen in line with other salaries, and so they should. The salaries of the people in the teaching service also have risen and in many instances they should have risen more. I do not think there is any profit in regarding the matter in that way. It will be the case for all time that education is one of the real labour intensive service industries. It demands from people as much dedication as anything else. In many instances it demands higher qualifications and longer training than any other field of endeavour. We in this House want to be careful, even though we may place what might be called arithmetical facts before it, that we place this matter in its proper social context. We should place the same values upon the work of federal members of Parliament, if it comes to that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Newman) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 4 May, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Wool Tax Amendment Bills (Nos. 1 to 5) as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the six Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the six measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The purpose of the five Wool Tax Amendment Bills and the Wool Industry Amendment Bill is to allow the Australian Government to continue to impose the 5 per cent levy for the maintenance of the market support fund and the 3 per cent levy for the financing of wool research and promotion as well as the administration and marketing functions of the Australian Wool Corporation. The market support fund is part of the arrangements introduced by the Labor Government for the creation of the fixed floor price scheme and the establishment of the mechanism to meet any losses which might arise out of the operation of the floor price scheme. It is pertinent to remind the Government that the scheme for which it takes so much credit was introduced by the Australian Labor Party when in government. It was a vast improvement on the reserve price scheme which had operated prior to 1972 but it has failed to place an effective minimum floor in the market.
In spite of the frequent protests about how the National Country Party supports the wool industry neither the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) nor his leader, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), have the courage to proceed with the request from the Australian Wool Industry Conference and woolgrowers generally to introduce the fixed floor price. It is also interesting that the Minister is again holding out the prospect of establishing a revolving fund for payments made into the market support fund but in his traditional form he will give no firm commitment. Thus there will be years of procrastination as there has been with the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation and the Australian Primary Industry Bank. If the Minister is running to form, any new legislation will be introduced in the dying days of a session after the primary industry organisations have had to flog him into accession.
Even after this process the Government rarely fulfils its promises in this area. For instance, how many woolgrowers and others are waiting for the commencement of the Australian Primary Industry Bank, a bank dominated by the trading banks? We recall the words of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) during the last election campaign. He said:
The new Australian rural bank for which legislation was passed in the last Parliament will be established without delay.
He also said:
It will provide, in conjunction with the banks and other lenders long term credit to viable borrowers for up to 30 years at concessional rates of interest.
Six months have passed since this Government was elected and the bank still has not commenced operation. There has to be another Bill before this Parliament to make sure it has the correct name. The Minister still has not revealed the name of the members of the bank board because he knows that producers will be aghast that it is stacked with members of the Australian Bankers Association, the very organisation which producers claimed was not providing loans on the right terms and conditions in the first place. This is the sort of example upon which woolgrowers should judge the Minister’s bona fides in respect of the interests of the wool industry.
Naturally the Opposition does not oppose the Wool Tax Amendment Bill and the Wool Industry Amendment Bill. However, it does wish to see some positive action taken on the proposal emanating principally from the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation but supported by the Australian Wool Industry Conference that growers’ contributions to the market support fund should be repaid to the growers once the fund reaches a certain level. It is for this reason that the Opposition proposes to move an amendment. This amendment should pose neither philosophical nor practical difficulties for the Minister. In the very brief remarks he made about the wool industry in his opening address to the National Agricultural Outlook Conference on 24 January this year he said:
Shortly I will be having talks with the wool industry on ways by which a revolving fund might become a practical feature of wool marketing.
As usual the Minister seems to mean by ‘shortly’, time periods of no less than 12 months. However, he went on to state:
I have asked the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to initially develop three papers evaluating the overall marketing systems for the main export products; wool, meat and grains. This work is to be undertaken in consultation with the marketing authorities and is expected to take some 12 months.
In the process of making this examination the Bureau of Agricultural Economics would no doubt be examining proposals such as the revolving fund and without a great deal of trouble I suggest that the Minister could arrange for the work to be completed in time for a paper to be tabled early in the Budget session- that is about the middle of August. If the Minister cannot agree to this proposal real doubts will be created about his intentions to consider seriously the revolving fund proposal.
The Opposition believes it important that there should be an independent authoritative document on the financing of the wool industry, particularly when that financing has budgetary implications because of the Federal Government’s involvement. As demonstrated recently, the present Government has used the funds provided to the Australian Wool Corporation to do some cosmetic surgery to the Budget deficit. Prior to the last Budget pressure was exerted on the Corporation to repay funds so as to reduce the size of the deficit and the recent transfer of the Corporation’s debt of $50m from the Government to private overseas lenders shows that the Government will do the same again. With the Australian Wool Corporation holding over one million bales in stock, with 5 per cent of gross sale proceeds being collected to finance the market support fund and 3 per cent being collected for wool promotion and research, the sums involved are quite large.
If the forecasts of the Australian Wool Corporation and the Government about wool prices in this world of economic uncertainty and growing trade restrictions prove wrong and the Corporation is forced to buy in substantial quantities of wool, the Government could face a substantial financial commitment. There is not necessarily any objection to that but the overall economic implications cannot be ignored. When the fixed floor price was established both the Liberal and National Country Parties and the Australian Labor Party agreed that the functions of the Australian Wool Corporation must be strictly commercial. If there are to be any social welfare measures for the wool industry they cannot be introduced through the back door of the Corporation. That stricture still applies and it would be unfortunate if any grower organisation saw movements in the floor or reserve prices as being a means of making up lost income due to seasonal variations or failures in other commodity prices or the general effects of the current economic recession.
The wool industry relies heavily upon keeping a flow of wool onto the world market at prices that will not permit any further inroads to be made by synthetic fibre manufacturers. Thus the Corporation in setting prices must recognise the commercial reality of the simple fact that if prices move beyond real levels synthetics will make further inroads into the wool market. If the Government believes that the on-farm incomes received from wool are not high enough a separate set of measures must be taken by the Commonwealth and the State governments to remedy that position.
I am well aware that there is growing concern from within sections of the wool growing industry and elsewhere about aspects of the operations of the Australian Wool Corporation and the International Wool Secretariat. I have heard complaints from a number of growers about the growing bureaucracy within the Corporation and its increasing remoteness from them as wool growers. This impression is heightened by a recent report in a primary industry publicationPrimary Industry Newsletter- which is well known in the industry. It quotes certain criticisms of the Australian Wool Corporation by the International Wool Secretariat. This is an important matter because both the growers and the Government are providing substantial funds in this area. The publication, dated 3 May, states:
The International Wool Secretariat, 64 per cent financed by Australia is desperately worried that its message and knowledge of the job it is doing is not getting through to Australian wool growers.
Apparently the IWS sees the Australian Wool Corporation as: . . a stumbling block or a barrier in any effort to communicate effectively, especially as the relationship of the IWS with its owners in the grower countries forced it to use the AWC as an intermediary in most efforts to talk to Australian woolgrowers.
Most significantly, Dr Gerald Laxer, the general manager of the IWS, is quoted as saying that ‘he was not satisfied that both the IWS and the AWC were pulling their weight in telling the IWS story to Australian growers’. If these criticisms are correct, the Minister should quickly clarify the position both to this House and to the wool growers as it could mean that the 3 per cent contribution which this Parliament is now authorising to be collected is not being spent as well as it could be. The Minister may well be aware of the Industries Assistance Commission report on the question of financing rural product promotion.
There is one other aspect which also gives ground for general policy concern. It is my understanding that the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) have given undertakings to the shipping conferences operating out of Australia that, in order to maintain a satisfactory balance of cargoes and freight rates, wool will be shipped under the existing conference arrangements. If wool is removed from these conferences, the rates charged for meat, dairy products, apples and pears and a wide range of other commodities will have to rise substantially. I understand that the Australian Wool Corporation has arranged to have substantial quantities of wool shipped from Albany in Western Australia and east coast ports for storage at Tacoma on the West Coast of the United States. Apparently the terminal to terminal freight rates are 10c and 8c a kilogram respectively. The rates are substantially lower than quoted rates for the same service. Mr Jim Young, one of the senior management of the Corporation, has been quoted as saying that, while the wool is intended for the United States of America, it could be shipped to Asia. If this is correct, it has tremendous implications for our transport arrangements with Japan and other Asian countries. If wool is shipped to Asia via the United States of America, it will reduce substantially the cargo on the Australian Northbound Conference and thus worsen the present position where there is substantially more cargo coming from Asia than there is going to it. The beef industry in particular has to be concerned with the implications of such a move and what it will do to freight rates in that particular conference position.
The Opposition is keen that wool growers should receive the best possible price for their commodity and that all organisations involved with the marketing of wool should involve themselves aggressively. However, there are times when the interests of other primary producers have to be taken into account, as do the relationships with our Japanese partners. At some stage the Opposition would like a detailed clarification of the Australian Wool Corporation’s current marketing policies and the likely costs and benefits of them. I am certain that the wool growers outside the Australian Wool Industry Conference would like to receive similar details.
The Opposition is concerned that, because of the problems in the beef cattle industry and other primary industries, some of the longer term aspects of the developments and changes in the structure of the wool industry, which continues to earn Australia about $600m in export income, have not received more public discussion and debate. The industry sustains large numbers of people in remote areas of Australia and guarantees the employment of people in a wide range of industries. The aspects which are covered by these Bills deserve the closest attention and scrutiny of the industry. For these reasons, on behalf of the Opposition, I move:
We see this amendment as a test of the bona fides of the Minister for Primary Industry in his announcements to the Agricultural Outlook Conference earlier in the year. We hope that the Government can see fit to support the Opposition’s amendment.
-Is the amendment seconded?
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) (8.15)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I second the amendment. I support the Wool Industry Amendment Bill and the Wool Tax Amendment Bills (Nos 1 to 5) because there are many good reasons why we should extend the statutory accounting provisions in respect of the floor price scheme for wool to include the 1978-79 wool season. I believe that it was the intention of the Government at the time when the Wool Industry Bill was first introduced that this should be a continuing provision. I cannot understand the statement of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in his second reading speech, wherein he said that the floor price arrangement introduced in 1974 was designed to operate for the 1974-75 season only. I do not believe that this was the intention. It was the intention of the Government at that time that this would be a continuing scheme.
Of course, the finance and accounting position had to be restricted to one season because of the fixed floor price and the amount of levy necessary to cover the floor price at that time. But it was anticipated that the floor price would have to be increased as the inflationary spiral took place. Therefore, that provision was included in the Bill. But it was never intended that the scheme itself should continue for only one year. I remember representatives of the wool industry saying on that occasion that the scheme, as introduced by the Labor Government, was a milestone in the history of the wool industry. Of course that is what history has proved it to be: A milestone along the road of security for wool producers. In spite of the knockers at that time, no one in his right mind would want to go back to that position. As a matter of fact, Mr Van Bibra who had some respect and some authority in the wool industry at the time was right when he said:
The floor price scheme represents a milestone in the history of the wool industry. After very many years of dissension and debate within the industry and within the government we now have a commercially viable marketing proposal which can overcome the crippling uncertainty that has been evident in recent times in the wool market. That in itself will be of enormous relief to wool producers and wool users around the world.
I certainly think that there was every justification for such remarks because, after many years of dissension and debate, a Labor government gave to the industry some kind of security, by setting up a scheme that guaranteed a floor price which was completely justified on commercial terms, and one which offered the growers of this country a reasonable level of income when the going was tough. Of course it did not represent a revolutionary change in wool marketing: It represented simply an insurance to keep prices at a certain level.
Whatever criticism was made in the intervening years, I have never heard anybody either in this House or outside it say that they wanted to go back to the previous scheme of deficiency payments whereby the government came to the party when prices dropped below 36c a lb. Of course they would be very foolish if they did want such a situation. The Wool Tax Acts were amended to impose a 5 per cent levy on the sale of wool by growers in 1974-75. It was to provide a reserve for meeting any losses that might arise out of the floor price arrangement. Of course what has not been mentioned here tonight is that the Government at that time had to guarantee $150m to start the scheme as the Wool Industry Act had to be amended to provide for the establishment of a market support fund. Now that the market support fund is in a healthy financial position it should become a revolving fund operating, say, over a period of seven years whereby those who entered in the first year would have their money refunded. New members would come in in the seventh year and so the fund would revolve and the money would always be there. I believe that this is in line with the amendment moved by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) and it is supported by the Wool Industry Conference. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) mentioned this in his second-reading speech when he said:
I shall be discussing the proposals with representatives of the Conference at an early date in the context of broader discussions on a range of wool marketing issues. If these discussions lead to the development of a suitable scheme under which repayments could be made to growers on an agreed basis, detailed records of levy payments will be required for the operation of the scheme. It is likely that any legislation to implement a repayments arrangement would contain compulsory provisions requiring wool-selling brokers and other wool traders to maintain and make available records of levy payments made by individual growers. All brokers and wool merchants therefore would be very wise to maintain records of wool levy payments. I understand that most already do so.
It seems very unusual that the Minister should use this as a basis for delaying payments to woolgrowers of money that is rightly theirs. Whatever scheme of repayment is adopted, there is no justification for locking up this money. The growers have every right to claim it. They took some risk in the first instance. If the scheme had not worked they could have sacrificed the levy they had paid, but now that the scheme has justified their confidence and has come good there is no justification for not paying back the money. They should not have been asked to set up the scheme in the first instance and to contribute towards it if in the future their money is to go to anyone who enters the scheme later. It is a very flimsy statement for the Minister to say that some of the wool brokers or wool merchants may not have kept proper records. Surely if it is a worthwhile scheme they would have been keeping proper records. I do not believe that they have not kept proper records. If the scheme had been policed by the Government in the way that it should have been proper records would have been kept and the growers would be in a position now to obtain a refund of the money they have contributed to it. Regardless of that, I support the further statement of the Minister for Primary Industry when he said:
There is no doubt that that confidence has been more than justified in the overall tenor of the wool industry, which has improved so significantly since the days of the late 1960s when the competitiveness of synthetic fibres began to erode the price position of wool in the fibre market.
There can be no argument with that statement. Everyone would recognise that fact. The Minister later in his second-reading speech once again spoilt this statement with more double talk when he spoke about the level of the floor price. The Minister seems to claim credit for the fact that the price is not to be reduced to less than the present level of 284c per kilogram clean. It must be remembered that during that period there has been a big inflationary spiral and devaluation of the dollar, which was the main reason why the price was adjusted to 284c. The Government is treating the wool industry in a pretty mean manner. When the floor price was set at 250c a kilogram in 1974 there were all kinds of protests from Liberal and Country Party members. However, when in government they have found a way to reduce effectively the level, when one takes into account the value of real money, inflation and the devaluation of the dollar.
The five Wool Tax Bills simply extend the operation of the special 5 per cent levy until 30 June 1978. I do not believe that anyone could complain about that provision. There can be no doubt that the floor price scheme has done much to assist woolgrowers. However, there are many other things apart from the market price that are detrimental to the woolgrowers’ welfare. One matter is interest rates. Woolgrowers inform me that their overdraft interest has been increased from 8 per cent in 1971 to 10.5 per cent in 1977. Many woolgrowers have been forced to borrow money during the drought. The price they have to pay for this money over a period has brought many farmers to their knees. Because they make up a very small part of the total demand for borrowing money they have little influence on the price that they have to pay for it. It is often claimed that the forces of supply and demand work freely. We all know that they do not. The money market is subject to many forms of imperfection.
I ask the question: How can a farmer with an investment return of 6 per cent borrow money at 10 per cent interest and survive? Everyone knows that to do so would be financial suicide. For this reason the Government should give serious consideration to paying back the money that the growers have paid into this levy. At a time of severe conditions why should they be forced to borrow money at much higher interest rates when already they have money tied up with the Government which should be refunded to them. Some woolgrowers have considerable amounts tied up in the market support fund. It is unjust that they should be allowed to go bankrupt when money that rightly belongs to them is held through lack of government concern or through the failure of wool brokers or wool traders to maintain records of payments made by woolgrowers in the form of levies, as indicated by the Minister for Primary Industry. Because of the importance of the wool industry to the Australian economy there is an urgent need for the Commonwealth to tackle the serious economic problems of the industry with the object of formulating constructive action to enable the industry to regain its former viable position. I ask the Minister to consider the matters that I have put before the House.
-The purpose of the Wool Industry Amendment Bill 1978 is to amend the statutory accounting provisions with respect to the floor price scheme for wool to include the 1978-79 season. When the floor price scheme was originally introduced it was designed to operate for the 1974-75 season only. The accounting arrangements made in the legislation for the scheme were restricted to operations for that period. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick) said that he cannot understand why this was so. It was the former Government’s legislation and the Government has to introduce this legislation every year. If it were designed in such a way as not to require this, then other than for the accounting provisions there would be no need to extend the provisions of the Bill.
There is a necessity to bring these matters forward each year. Obviously a scheme of this sort has to be financed if it is to be brought forward. It cannot operate without finance. The subsequent extensions of the scheme to include the 1975-76, the 1976-77 and the 1977-78 wool seasons required corresponding legislative amendments to the accounting provisions. You must have those accounting provisions to make the legislation work.
Consequent upon the Government’s decision to extend the scheme further to include the 1978-79 wool season it is necessary to extend the coverage of the accounting arrangements to include wool purchased under the scheme in that year. Separate amendments to the Wool Tax Acts will continue the growers’ contribution to the market support fund during 1978-79. My friend the honourable member for Riverina suggested that the money put in by the woolgrowers should be paid back to them. If that suggestion were adopted what sort of a fund would we have and where would the money come from to operate it? It is the growers who contribute the funds, and this has always been the case. The honourable member did not suggest in what other way this scheme could be financed. We have extended this scheme and we will continue to do just that. The Opposition has moved the following amendment.
Apparently the Labor Party proposes under its amendment that woolgrowers will continue to contribute funds. How does the Labor Party propose to return funds to the woolgrowers if this fund is to be maintained? All that is going to be returned to the woolgrowers is the money over and above that amount which is required to operate the fund to support the wool price scheme. So far as I am concerned I do not want the Parliament or the industry to present a paper to me on the advisability on establishing a revolving market support fund. I believe that the whole idea of a revolving fund is to enable contributions over and above the amount required to operate the fund to be returned to the contributors. Obviously if this scheme is to continue funds have to flow into and flow out of the fund.
I agree with the honourable member for Riverina that it is desirable to put into the pockets of primary producers generally, including woolgrowers, amounts of money that we can make available to them. In the second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said that it was desirable to keep records of the levy paid by growers so that there would be a basis to formulate the operation of the revolving fund. There has to be a record of the amounts paid into the fund to enable an equitable return of funds to the growers. If there are no records no one will know how much it is due to be returned to the growers according to the amounts they have contributed to the fund. That is what it all boils down to. I firmly believe that a revolving fund should be established. It is a matter of deciding the actual amount that should be retained in the fund to ensure that there is sufficient money available to back up the floor price scheme at the level which is decided on from time to time.
Criticism has been made of the Government’s decision to set a floor price of not less than 284c per kilogram clean. The honourable member for Riverina also referred to this aspect. The Government has given a clear indication that the price will not be less than 284c per kilogram. There is nothing to prevent a higher floor price from being established if market conditions justify a higher floor price being established, which is what I hope will eventuate. In the meantime, the woolgrowers know what the minimum price will be. They have been given an assurance that they will get at least 284c per kilogram clean for the whole of the chp average. It also is true, as the Minister has said, that the Government has given an undertaking that floor price levels will be set for two years in advance in order to ensure a continuity of stability in the marketing of the Australian wool chp, and that is another important factor in respect of stability in primary production marketing systems. There is a very great need for some security in all avenues of primary industry.
One of the great difficulties that confront the beef industry today is the fact that there is great uncertainty about prices. The beef industry is a very difficult industry to provide with the security that has been given to the wool industry and indeed to other industries because of the peculiarities of the beef industry such as the storage of a perishable product compared with say wool, wheat or sugar for that matter. The problem of providing price security in the beef industry is one which has caused very great concern, but I am pleased that the wool industry has received the benefits that this scheme provides with a guaranteed floor price as has been mentioned tonight.
Those people who are prepared to live, as the honourable member for Riverina would know, in remote areas where many of the advantages other people have by way of medical assistance, educational advantages and cultural entertainment are not readily available to them, are deserving of this sort of benefit. They live in remote areas under very difficult conditions. If it is possible for any government to provide benefits to that section of the community it should do so because these people justly deserve help. The sympathy of Labor Party supporters in relation to the problems of people who live in remote areas was very adequately demonstrated when they completely abolished the petrol price equalisation scheme that the members who sit in the National Country Party corner of this House and my friends in the Liberal Party so earnestly strove to introduce. It was a matter of very great concern and it is the time that we have seen a reintroduction of that very great benefit to the people in remote areas about whom we have heard so much talk in regard to putting money back into their pockets.
– Will you vote for our amendment?
-You would not know the first thing about it. You would not know the A-B-C of the industry. So if you want to help us convince the people of Australia that we are the people behind the wool industry, continue interjecting because you will help me very much. However, I do not need your help. It is really not of any advantage to me. I do not want to see your party disadvantaged any more than it is at the present time because I am a very generous son of a person. The fact is that there are problems confronting the wool industry but they are not as great as the problems facing some other industries. There are common problems that confront the people in outlying areas and it is necessary that we should do all that we can to assist those people.
The establishment of a revolving fund will be one of those things which will bring about some of the advantages that we are trying to give them by returning to them some of their contributions, and that is the angle that I want to emphasise in relation to these Bills. If we are to have decentralisation we must assist those people who live in outlying areas. It is vitally important that we should assist them. I hope that if the Labor Party is as anxious as we are in trying to assist these people by bringing in such things as the fuel equalisation scheme it will not, if this country ever has the misfortune to have another Labor Government, abolish the scheme as soon as it gets into office. I hope that the people who are engaged in the wool industry will remember that too.
It was not my intention to talk quite as long as I have because I felt that these were only machinery Bills, but I have been encouraged to draw attention to certain aspects because of some of the remarks made by honourable members opposite. I agree that the floor price scheme for wool was criticised by many people, but that was only because it was felt by some that the taxpayers of Australia might have to make some contribution to it. That illustrates just how little regard is given sometimes to those people living in the outlying areas who carry the national responsibility of utilising every area of productive capacity in this nation. When it comes to implementing a scheme such as this, we hear a lot of whingeing on the part of people in metropolitan areas who do not understand the difficulties faced by people in outlying areas and who do not understand, recognise or admit the great advantage offered to this nation by having those people in those outlying areas.
A lot of criticism was made of the scheme initially but when it was found that the taxpayers would not be disadvantaged those who criticised the scheme initially withdrew their opposition to it. When it was shown at the very beginning that a reasonable profit could be made as a result of the implementation of the reserve price plan the criticism died away. Those people who criticised it initially were not prepared to make a contribution. They were prepared to let the industry help itself and that is as far as they were prepared to go. That is as far as many people who oppose primary industry generally are prepared to go today, much to their discredit. The reserve price plan has done a great deal of good right from the beginning. It has put confidence into the wool market and thereby enabled relative prices to be maintained in the various categories of wool over the years, offsetting the demand for different categories at different times. It has been of great advantage to the wool industry because it has enabled the levelling off of prices when there has been a falling off in some categories of wool, which does happen. The reserve price plan has evened that out. It has been of real advantage without being of any cost. The degree of stability that has resulted from the introduction of the floor price plan and, before that, the reserve price plan has been of great importance not only in the area of levelling out prices but also because by having a floor price established the buyers have gained confidence, knowing that their competitors will have to pay at least the floor price for wool. That has also made a contribution to the general improvement in wool prices.
The continuation of this scheme by the introduction of these Bills is another example of the keen desire of the Government to endeavour to provide, as far as possible, a reasonable return to primary producers. I will not take second place to anyone in my desire to ensure that the Government implements these benefits and provides all the advantages it can for primary producers. In common with all other products which depend on world prices, the price received for wool in the world market depends on the law of supply and demand. We have to look at that. Even though we have a floor price, it is important that we promote the sale of wool because if it falls below the floor price and we have to level it out with the funds that are available we will again hear the criticisms that we have heard before. The floor price that is operating now has done a good deal towards effectively maintaining the price of wool in the world market because of the confidence it has engendered.
It has been a pleasure for me to rise tonight to support the people in outlying areas, who, as I have said previously, face many disadvantages. As time goes by, the disparity between the advantages of living in the metropolitan areas and of living in those areas- I refer particularly to the cost of education and the difficulty of getting to places where specialist medical attention is available- is something that we will have to consider further. The high cost of communications also is something that we will have to consider. I hope that every member of this Parliament will be prepared to lend his support to some consideration being given in every field to the people in those outlying areas. The enormously high cost of telephonic communications, including the cost of installing telephones, is but one of the matters that have to be considered if we are to attain the decentralisation which we are all so fond of talking about but which we are very reluctant to support with the finance that is necessary to bring it to fruition.
– The amendment is not accepted. The Government is not opposed in principle to establishing the fund on a revolving basis. The feasibility of establishing a revolving market support fund already is under study and will be the subject of discussions between the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the Australian Wool Industry Conference in the near future. At this stage, no detailed proposal has been developed and the concept has been advanced by the industry on a broad outline only.
A number of detailed aspects will have to be examined. For example, which portion of the fund, if any, can in fact be revolved? What balance of the fund would be necessary to be available before repayments could start? What is the continuing level of the fund needed to fulfil its purpose? At the moment, of course, the entire balance in the fund is invested in wool stocks and is not available for return to growers or for other use. The Government is hopeful that the level of wool in the Wool Corporation’s stockpile will be reduced significantly during the coming year and thus contribute to easing the present burdens on wool growers in supporting the wool market. The Government does not accept the amendment.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Keating’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Adermann) read a third time.
(Nos 1 to 5) 1978
Consideration resumed from 4 May, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time.
Leave granted for third readings to be moved forthwith.
Bills (on motion by Mr Adermann) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4 May, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate on this Bill is resumed I should like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Commonwealth Grants Commission Amendment Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions, will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Bills before the House do three basic things. Firstly, they establish the States’ tax sharing entitlement for the year 1977-78 in money terms. Secondly, they prescribe for the States in future years to receive a fixed proportion of the previous year’s personal income tax collections. Thirdly, they provide for periodic reviews of the relative proportion of the total State share of the income tax revenue to be paid to each State. All this is part of the so-called new federalism which is an absurdly grand tide for what is in reality a rather shabby restructuring of Federal-State financial relationships. Fraser federalism is a facade. Launched as a means of reducing the FederalState financial conflict, it is clear now that it is one of the methods which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) adopted for his doctrinaire attack on the public sector. The new federalism is a gigantic confidence trick. Rather than guaranteeing the States a steady and assured income, it guarantees access only to an uncertain and variable source for less than half the total funds the States receive. This income falls short of the amount they would have received in 1976-77 under the Whitlam formula. It is expected to fall short again in 1979-80.
There is no provision in the legislation which we are debating for re-negotiation of the income tax sharing arrangements in the light of changes to the income tax rates or other taxation arrangements in the way the Commonwealth originally promised. Furthermore, real levels of Commonwealth funding for the States are being reduced despite the fact that their governmental responsibilities are being increased by the transfer to them of functions previously held by the Commonwealth Government. I shall describe these points more fully. The new arrangements, if anything, have tended to increase the Commonwealth Government’s power and to reduce the bargaining capacity of the States.
The States tax sharing entitlements for future years are to be 39.87 per cent of the preceding year’s net personal income tax collections. For 1977-78 this entitles them to $4,336m. However, these general purpose revenue funds are only about 40 per cent of Commonwealth payments to State governments. The remaining 60 per cent of those payments is made up of specific purpose payments and Loan Council allocations over which the Commonwealth has control. Therefore, though the arrangements contained in this Bill guarantee the States a fixed share of the previous year’s income tax collections they do not in any sense guarantee their income from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth can choose at will to reduce or to increase its specific purpose payments. In fact what it has done over the previous two and a half years of course is to reduce it specific purpose payments. As well, the States income tax sharing receipts will be changed whenever the Commonwealth changes taxation policy. The States are already well aware of this through the effects of the introduction of tax indexation.
The Government is reported to be considering introducing a further health insurance levy of 1 per cent to reduce the cost to the Government of the provision of hospital and medical services. Though this would be simply a one per cent increase in taxation, it would not be an increase under the Commonwealth definition of tax receipts and the States would not be eligible for a share of it. Similarly, if the Commonwealth chose to increase tax revenue by raising indirect taxes the importance of personal income tax receipts as a proportion of total tax revenue could be significantly reduced without the States receiving an offsetting increase in their proportion of personal income tax. Professor Russell Mathews, the Director of the Australian National University Centre for Research on Federal Financial Relations, said of the new arrangements in the 1 975 report of his Centre:
The Commonwealth is still in a position to control the total amount of revenue which will be made available to the States and local authorities and in some ways its position has even been enhanced. After the ititial period the States will bear the risks of fluctuating revenue yields.
The States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill makes immutable the States’ share of 39.87 per cent of the previous year’s personal income tax receipts. This is despite the fact that the Commonwealth agreed that stage one of the personal income tax sharing arrangements would include provision for a review of the arrangements whenever there were changes in the Commonwealth tax legislation which have significant effects on the States ‘ entitlements. That point was made at 9 (b) of the 35 points of understanding in regard to personal income tax sharing which were agreed between the Commonwealth and the States in 1976.
Why then, in the light of that agreement, is there no provision for this review in this legislation? What is the point of including a fixed share of personal income tax receipts in the legislation unless the Commonwealth expects to be able to maintain this figure for several years? If the figure were to last for only one year this could be stated. This inflexibility may well contribute to worsening the States’ position. The problem is well illustrated by what happened in 1976-77. In that year the States’ entitlement under the tax sharing arrangements was less than it would have been if the Whitlam formula had been applied.
– That is not right.
– It is right. Fortunately for the States the Commonwealth had agreed to guarantee that their entitlements would not fall below the level they would have received if that formula were still in operation. This may well occur again in 1979-80, the last year in which the guarantee applying to the formula for general revenue grants still applies. This possibility arises due to the fall-off in personal income tax receipts as a result of the continued recession, the introduction of partial tax indexation and the tax cuts which will be fully operative next financial year. It illustrates well the inadequacy of the new stage one arrangements.
The most important criticism which must be made of the new federalism proposals is that they are simply a cloak for reducing total funds allocated to the States, which have increased from $8,555m for 1975-76 to $ 10,207m in 1977-78. This is a 19.3 per cent increase. However, over the two years, March 1976 to March 1978, prices have increased by 23 per cent as measured by the consumer price index. In other words there has been an increase of almost 4 per cent above the increase in the money amounts allocated to the States. So there has been a real reduction on that basis. However, the CPI is not the ideal deflator to use in assessing real levels of government expenditure but up to date deflators of government expenditure are not available. However, if the deflator for government capital expenditure and current expenditure published with the national accounts for the two years December 1975 to December 1977, is used and the figures are increased by 19.7 per cent and 21.9 per cent respectively for that two-year period, the real level of Commonwealth allocation is again shown to have fallen. So, whether one uses the CPI or the implicit price deflators for government capital expenditure or current expenditure the result is the same in every case; there is a real decline in the total amount of funds allocated to the States.
– No, that is not right.
– There is no need for the honourable member for La Trobe to be wobbling his head around. The figures speak for themselves. They are the facts.
– You have used the wrong figures.
– I could hear him doing it from here. They are the facts and whatever basis one uses for deflating for prices it is clear that there has been a real reduction in the level of funding to the States. That is the basic fact which the Government cannot avoid. Furthermore, this estimate assumes that the total Budget allocation for 1977-78 is actually paid. In our view this is unlikely to happen, though the extent of the underpayment will not be clear until the end of the financial year. However, in the Appropriation Bills which we debated in this chamber earlier this week some small cuts in allocations to the States were already listed. Therefore, the fall in real Commonwealth allocations for the States will be somewhat greater than that suggested by the Budget Estimates.
On this matter I think it is important also to look at previous statements which have been made by the Government. In 1976, in answer to a question in the Senate on 27 April, Senator Carrick, the Minister responsible for FederalState financial relations, said that total payments to the States under new federalism would increase by over 58 per cent in real terms in the first three years of the Fraser Government. Here we are in the middle of the third year and we find that in fact there has been in the first two years a reduction in real terms. Instead of this so-called 58 per cent increase in real terms over a threeyear period that the Government promised there has been no real increase at all over the first two years.
Another statement was made by a Government Minister in relation to this matter. The then Treasurer, Mr Lynch, released a Press statement on 18 July 1976 which stated:
Over the five years to 1 975-76 the annual growth in State Budget expenditures had averaged over 20 per cent. It had exceeded the growth in Commonwealth Budget expenditures, excluding payments to States, over the same period. At the same time payments by the Commonwealth to the States had grown much faster than other Commonwealth outlays. In 1975-76 payments to the States increased by over 30 per cent compared with an increase of about 1 7 per cent in other Commonwealth Budget outlays.
The Press statement then stated:
There had to be a slowing down in the rate of growth of Commonwealth payments to the States.
The then Treasurer was talking about the Government’s plans for payments to the States in mid- 1976. It is clear that the objective of new federalism was to reduce payments to the States. It is there in the words from the mouth of the then Treasurer and the reality of what has occurred since then bears out that the Government has indeed carried out its intention. What is happening is that, although the Government is maintaining general revenue funds, specific purpose payments for recurrent and capital spending are being reduced. As Professor Mathews noted in his 1976 report of the Centre for Research on Federal and Financial Relations, the Commonwealth:
For example, there has been a sharp reduction in Commonwealth payments to the States for housing, urban and regional development, culture and recreation, development of water supply and electricity services and even for industry assistance and development.
Fortunately for Australia, many of the State governments have been prepared to find alternative ways of funding increased expenditure, using for example moneys accumulated in trust funds. The result has been growth in State government employment at a time when Commonwealth Government and national employment have been falling.
– What is good about that?
-The member for Eden-Monaro asks, ‘What is good about that?’ I hope that the people who work for State Government bodies in his electorate are aware of his statement that he thinks an increase in State Government employment is a bad thing.
– They know what I think.
-They will be interested to hear that that is his attitude. He might be interested to learn that if the States had not increased their total employment the level of national unemployment would have been considerably higher. For example, during 1977 State government employment increased by 40,000, while Commonwealth and local government employment was static. Without these extra 40,000 jobs provided by the State governments, there would have been at least 40,000 more people unemployed. That would suit the honourable member for Eden-Monaro right down to the ground, because he objects to the States increasing their levels of employment. There would have been another 40,000 people out of jobs. I hope that the Australian people are aware that that is his attitude.
In summary, what I have been saying about the personal income tax sharing arrangements is that they offer the States no improvement in the distribution of responsibility for determining the allocation of personal tax revenue, for the Commonwealth retains the power to set the total amount of the States’ share. There is no effective responsibility sharing, and the position is essentially the same as before, with arguments about the tax share replacing arguments about escalation of the financial assistance grants formula. Even worse, the specific purpose grants to the States are being cut back. So the States are worse off than they were before, with less power, less money and more responsibility.
Turning briefly to the Commonwealth Grants Commission amendment, the Opposition does not oppose this Bill. The Bill is the result of a long process of negotiation with the States, resulting in a measure with which they now apparently agree. The advantage for the Commonwealth Government of this arrangement is that it will give to the Grants Commission the responsibility for determining the distribution of the States’ allocation. The effect will be to increase the disputes amongst the States, rather than between the States and the Commonwealth, a development no doubt very welcome to the Government. The guideline on which the Grants Commission is to operate, as set out in Budget Paper No. 7, Payments to and for the States, is as follows:
The review should be on the basis of the principle that each State should be able to provide State Government services of a recurrent kind to the same standard as other States without imposing high rates of taxes or charges; differences in revenue raising capacities and the relative costs of providing comparable government services should be taken into account.
That principle is quite admirable, but rather vague. It is confused by the fact that there are two other types of equalisation provision, the applications for special grants from the four smaller States to the Grants Commission; and the equalisation of the surcharges which any of the four smaller States would be entitled to under stage 2 of the tax sharing arrangements. This is not a criticism of the intent of the provision but rather a comment on the complexity of the task that the Government is giving to the Grants Commission.
One tends to suspect that one of the Government’s intentions in establishing the new arrangements is to remove the benefit of the railways agreements which South Australia and Tasmania negotiated with the Labor Government. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has sought ways to reverse these agreements, but has so far not been able to find one. Perhaps he hopes that the effect of the equalisation arrangements will be to remove the benefit that these States have received. The arrangements for appointment of associate members to the Grants Commission are unclear in our view. It seems quite possible that there will be substantial conflict between the four smaller States in appointing their two members. It seems to us that the Premier of Queensland would be highly likely to demand that at least one of these members came from his State. Furthermore, it is not clear from the Bill what procedure will be used if they reach an impasse and are not able to decide on their two appointments. Perhaps there should be provision for the Commonwealth, if the States cannot agree on one among themselves, to make a nomination on their behalf. Therefore, in respect of the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill, I move:
Before concluding I would like to say a few words about stage 2. So far we have been discussing the Bill which relates to stage 1 of the socalled new federalism, but it seems appropriate to say a word or two about stage 2 development also. The Government has so far not produced legislation in relation to stage 2, although for some time we have been told that it would be operative for the financial year 1977-86 which is fast moving up on us. Stage 2, of course, has as its central feature the provision that the States will be able to levy an income tax surcharge or provide for a rebate if they see fit. The fact is that the States, one after the other, are expressing their opposition to it. The State of New South Wales has made it quite clear that it is opposed to levying such an income tax. Furthermore, the State of Victoria has -
– Is it opposed to a rebate?
-They will be opposed to a rebate, I imagine, also because under stage 1 they will be starved for funds, as I have explained, and will be in no position to provide tax rebates. Not only has the State of New South Wales expressed its opposition to the idea of the States being able to impose a surcharge, but so too has the Premier of Victoria. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) who comes from Victoria might be interested to learn that his State Premier has come out quite strongly against stage 2. In the Melbourne Age of 1 8 April the following report appears:
The Premier, Mr Hamer, yesterday ruled out any chance of Victoria introducing State income tax.
It is still our policy that we would not be prepared to impose any additional burden by way of income tax on the citizens of Victoria.’ Mr Hamer said.
It is quite clear that the States are very worried about stage 2. The Premier of Western Australia also said, a year ago, that in the current economic circumstances he thought that an income tax surcharge should not be imposed by the States.
– The Government in Victoria is not a high tax party. Have you read the Bill? You represent a high tax party.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! First, the honourable member for La Trobe is out of his seat. Secondly, even it he were not, he would still not be entitled to interject.
– Thirdly, he does not have any idea what he is talking about.
– The honourable member has not read the Bill. It gives them an option to have a rebate.
– There have been public statements against any income tax surcharge being levied by the States. The Government, in passing stage 2, clearly will be giving the States that power and saying to them when they come seeking further financial assistance: ‘You have got the power to levy an income tax surcharge; why don’t you go off and do it?’ That is what it is mainly in here for. It is another lever to squeeze the States. Politically, it will be dynamite for them. They will be unable to levy a surcharge but the Commonwealth Government will have that lever with which to put more pressure on the States and say, ‘There is nothing doing. Until you exercise your rights under the legislation, don’t come to us crying poor mouth.’ That is another way in which this Government is going to squeeze the States. The proviso that they will be able to have a rebate instead of a surcharge is utterly irrelevant because the States are being squeezed so much that the idea of conceding a rebate and therefore taking a substantial further cutback on their share of income tax receipts is simply not going to be on.
-Order! There is too much interjecting. It does little for the dignity of Parliament.
– The speech has no dignity.
-I notice that the name of the honourable member for EdenMonaro is not listed as one of those who wish to speak in the debate. Rather than waste time interjecting, I suggest that he put his name down.
– He would not have anything to say. As well as the practical difficulties, there are also administrative difficulties which I understand are considerable and are greatly concerning the Government. So there are very substantial reasons why the Government will have a lot of trouble with stage 2, which we strongly oppose. When that legislation is brought forward we will oppose it with all the might that we can command.
– I second the amendment and reserve the right to speak.
-The attitude of the Australian Labor Party to this legislation is as predictable as it is disappointing. It has become increasingly clear in recent months that the Australian Labor Party has become quite paranoic about our new federalism policy because it sees that policy as a distinct threat, indeed a bulwark, to its centralist ambitions. Similarly, the Labor Party sees it as a policy which will lead to lower taxation throughout this nation, whereas it stands condemned not only by its performance between 1972 and 1975 but also more recently by statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) that indicate that the Labor Party is the party of high taxation. Let nobody in this House or in the nation forget that when the Labor Party gets hold of the treasury bench inevitably high taxation follows.
The Labor Party has two basic objectives. One is to centralise power in Canberra because it believes that Canberra is the font of all wisdom and that what is decided in Canberra is good for the whole of Australia. The other is that it wants to see a system whereby it can tax without any restriction or inhibition. The Labor Party can get away with that only if it creates a situation in which the States become so weak, so mendicant, so powerless and so subservient that they can do nothing about it. From 1972 to 1975 we saw a major attempt by the Labor Party not only to impose its socialist policies in this country but also to centralise power in Canberra. It was stated in a document released before the 1975 Federal election that one of the first objectives of the Liberal Party was to restore federalism to this country and we are well on the way to achieving that objective. The passage of these two Bills tonight will effectively complete Stage I of the federalism policy and will leave the way clear for an implementation of Stage 2.
Before dealing with some of the wilder statements of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) I say that it disappoints me that an honourable member of considerable ability who can speak in this Parliament rationally and calmly and who can speak with authority should have uttered some of the statements which the honourable member uttered tonight. They were statements which had no relation to the truth and no relation to the facts. Frankly, they were disappointing coming from the honourable member. The Labor Party will not like my doing this, but I take it back to a document which was prepared and circulated throughout Australia in September 1975 and which had a very distinct effect on the vote in the States of Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland because it said in clear and unequivocal terms what we believed about federalism and what we would do if elected to power. In the federalism policy statement that was issued in September 1975- at that time one could not have foreseen the eventuality of 1 1 November 1975- we said to the people of Australia that in our federalism policy we would lay down a structure, a program, whereby it would restore true federalism to Australia and give back to the States and give to local government their proper right and entitlement to perform in accordance with the original functions that were designed for them at the time of the implementation of the Constitution. I shall simply read from the platform as it was published in September 1 975. It is important to remind ourselves of these statements and then to relate them to what we have done since we have come to power. The document states:
The Liberal and National Country Parties view as the main objective of government the creation of a society and an environment in which individuals may best fulfil themselves. If this is to be achieved individuals must be free to participate fully in government and the forms of government must be decentralised to permit maximum response and involvement. Government must be brought as close as possible to the people.
It went on to say:
Federalism therefore is not a structural concept. Its principal justification is a philosophical one. It aims to prevent dangerous concentration of power in a few hands. In so doing it provides a guarantee of political and individual freedom.
That spells out very clearly the distinction between the philosophy and objectives of the Government parties and the philosophy of the socialist centralists who were at that time occupying the treasury bench in Canberra. We went on to state in detail in that document the sort of things we would do if elected. In paragraph 4 (2) we said quite clearly that under the new federalism policy it was absolutely essential that the States be given access to a fair tax sharing program. In paragraph 5 we said that whilst income tax virtually selected itself as the obvious tax from which to give the States a share it did not mean that at some future time some other form of tax might not be considered. Finally, I need refer only to the details of the revenue sharing proposals, which occupied over one and a half pages in that policy statement. I refer now to Stage 2 of the federalism policy because it is relevant in view of the comments made by the honourable member for Gellibrand. In paragraph 7(2) this comment is made:
In order to increase the budgetary independence, responsibility and flexibility of the States it is proposed that as soon as possible each State government -
I emphasise these words- will have discretion to impose a surcharge or allow a rebate on the total personal income tax of that State.
That has been our policy since September 1975. It galls me to hear State Premiers making the son of statements they have been making recently which, quite frankly, are totally untrue and have no substance to them. In my humble opinion the New South Wales Government gained office on false pretences. It masqueraded to the people in the last New South Wales election that our federalism policy involved double taxation. That was a he. The people of New South Wales now realise how they were conned by Mr Wran and the Labor Party. Mr Wran, by parading as a paragon of virtue a few weeks ago and saying, ‘We will not have a bar of Stage 2 because the Commonwealth will not force us to impose a State income tax’, indicates that he either does not understand the federalism policy or is deliberately misleading the people.
– He is deliberately misleading the people.
– I think that the honourable member puts it very bluntly and very frankly. I have come to the conclusion that Mr Wran and, I regret to say, a man who is now the Acting Premier of Tasmania, Mr Batt, have deliberately misled the people. It is significant that the Deputy Premier of South Australia, for whom I have a high personal regard, has not made the same statements as Mr Wran and Mr Batt. Mr Wran and Mr Batt have lied in that they have said to the people that Stage 2 involves a second income tax or double taxation. The fact of the matter is that Stage 2 gives to the States the right–
– I rise to order. I submit that there is a standard of decorum in parliamentary language and that when alluding to statements by Premiers of the States or by other members it is an offence under the Standing Orders to use the word ‘lied’ or the word ‘lie’. I ask that the word be withdrawn.
-I do not think it is an offence under the Standing Orders.
– Let me say, to add weight to the point I have made, that to my knowledge neither Mr Wran nor Mr Batt has pointed to the fact that under Stage 2 of the federalism policy they have the right to reduce the incidence of taxation by granting a rebate. What they have done is parade. The honourable member for
Gellibrand tonight became their accomplice when he said, and I think I can quote him almost verbatim, that the present Fraser Government is trying to get the States into such a situation of poverty that they will have to impose their own tax surcharge. What a lot of nonsense! I refer the honourable member for Gellibrand, for whom I have great respect, to page 15 of the Budget Speech. The factual situation is that rather than there being a state of poverty, which he endeavoured to indicate was the case, the Budget Speech reveals a different situation. The following statement appears on page 1 5 of that Speech:
In line with the offer made by the Prime Minister at the Premiers’ Conference in July, provision has been made for the States to receive $4,336. lm under the tax sharing arrangements in respect of 1 977-78.
I note that this is over $90m more than the estimate of what the States would have been entitled to under iiic tax sharing legislation.
A little later the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), who was then the Treasurer, said:
The Commonwealth ‘s offer represents a net increase -
Not a gross increase- of $62 lm, or 16.8 per cent, in States’ tax sharing payments in 1977-78.
Unlike the honourable member for Gellibrand I was in a State House during the reign of the Gorton Government and the McMahon Government and part of the reign of the Whitlam Government. I simply want to say that people who stand up today and say that the States are being bled dry by the Commonwealth are talking through their hats. The States have never been better off financially. The honourable member, no matter how experienced he is in the art of sophistry, cannot conceal the fact that last financial year every State government in Australia finished with a Budget surplus. That in simple terms means thai they could not spend the money they received from Canberra.
– Ha, ha!
– It is all very well for the honourable member to laugh. Let me remind him that in the early part of last year the Wran Labor Government in New South Wales was in such a situation that I still cannot understand how it was able to spend the money it had in the Treasury coffers as at March 1977. As I said, every State finished with a Budget surplus. I du not know how the honourable member for Gellibrand and other members of the Australian Labor Party can cry poverty. My respectful submission to them is that if the States cannot spend what money they have already they do not have much of a case to ask for more. The other thins: the honourable member for Gellibrand completely ignored is that both of these Bills come to this Parliament as a result of an agreement reached at no less than four separate Premiers Conferences. I refer to the Premiers Conferences held in April and June of 1976 and the Premiers Conferences held in July and October of 1977. There was unanimity in respect of these two Bills.
-Yes. Yet Premiers in 1978 jump up and down in the one spot and say: ‘We do not agree with it’. I want to ask what was wrong with the Premiers in April and June of 1976 and what was wrong with them in July and October of 1977? Were they deaf? Did they not understand what they were agreeing to? Did they lose their tongues? Mr Dunstan had little difficulty in stepping straight out of every one of these Premiers Conferences in front of a bevy of television cameras and speaking glibly and with great panache to an audience of millions. Are we to believe that he was mute when he sat in the Premiers Conference? The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) who will be speaking later in the debate will no doubt refer to this matter. I cannot believe that Mr Dunstan did not understand what was going on.
There have been changes of Premiers in that time. It is interesting if one looks back- the honourable member for Gellibrand did not do this- to find that the original agreement reached in April 1976 was made by six State Premiers, one of whom was Sir Eric Willis. But at the next Premiers Conference which was held in June 1976 there was a new New South Wales Premier- Mr Wran. If one likes to check the transcript one will find that not only did Mr Wran not ask for any of the agreements of April 1976 to be altered but also he expressed his concurrence with the deal that had been made for New South Wales by Sir Eric Willis.
– He has not done so now.
– It is a case of the shutting of the stable door after the horse has bolted. Premier Wran cannot claim inexperience. He cannot say, with all due respect, that he came down in the last shower. He has attended five Premiers Conferences since he has been the Premier of New South Wales and never once has he squeaked. I will make a prediction: If we look at the transcript of the Premiers Conference which is to be held at the end of June this year I am prepared to put good money down that Mr Wran will not have the gall to say the son of nonsensical things he said publicly a few weeks ago. The real politicians know- and I only need remind the House of the reply of Sir Charles Court- that Mr Wran was playing to the gallery. The real politicians know very well that Mr Wran is doing quite nicely thank you.
– Like a bullfighter.
– Exactly. He is playing to the gallery like a bullfighter, and a pretty amateurish one at that. Whatever he is doing in California he could not do worse than he did in Australia two months’ ago when he came out and made statements which, quite frankly, were childish. Why is the Labor Party objecting to the fact that this Government is giving $4.3 billion to the States this financial year? The honourable member for Gellibrand seems to be riding two horses. On one hand he seems to be saying: ‘We are not giving the States enough’, and on the other hand in his incredible amendment he rejects the principle of new federalism on which the Bill is based. In his amendment he goes on to say: . . notes the failure of the 1976 formula for determining the level of financial assistance to the States and directs attention to the likely failure of the new formula.
What a Jeremiah! He did not make the point that included in our federalism policy is a golden guarantee that the States will not receive one cent less than they would have received under the discredited Whitlam formula.
– For three years.
– They will not receive one cent less than they would have received under the Whitlam formula. The honourable member for Gellibrand is in a very difficult position because he cannot say to the States: ‘You are really worse off than you ought to be ‘. The best he can say is: ‘Looking at it as pessimistically as I can, I can tell you that you will not get any more from Fraser than you would have got from Whitlam ‘. Really that is an argument that will not go down very well with the State Premiers who received a 16.8 per cent increase in the last Budget. It will not go down well with State Treasurers who in each State in Australia had a Budget surplus last financial year. I do not mind the honourable member for Gellibrand for leaving the chamber but the point is valid.
In the time remaining to me I would like to direct my remarks to one or two other matters. One thing that the Labor Party did not praise- I can understand why it would not- was the Commonwealth Grants Commission Amendment Bill which seeks to extend the size of the Commission for the purpose of carrying out the 1 98 1 relativity review. In that Bill the Government provides for an extension in the size of the Grants Commission to give true recognition to its federalism commitment. The Government proposes to appoint three associate commissioners. Unlike the Labor Party, which would appoint all commissioners from Canberra, the government intends to appoint three commissioners, one of whom will be selected by New South Wales and Victoria and the other two will be selected by the four smaller States. That must really hurt the centralists in this Parliament. It must absolutely make them writhe in agony to know that the four smaller States will get two associate commissioners on the extended Grants Commission for the purpose of a relativity review.
-Only until 1 980.
– The honourable member for Gellibrand in speaking against the spirit of this Bill and in moving his amendment is damning the smaller States of Australia because no State has done better under our new federalism than has Tasmania which I have the honour to represent. The situation, quite frankly, is that despite the outbursts of Mr Lowe and Mr Batt, Tasmania last year received $25 8m in direct financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government. This was an amount far bigger than the State could ever have expected to receive under the Whitlam regime. In fact the State finished up with a Budget surplus. It finished up with a surplus in capital funds. It could not spend the money it had been given. Quite frankly, for members of the State Government to come along six months later and say ‘Oh, we are not going so well’ is the height of hypocrisy.
I repeat the challenge I made in Tasmania to the Labor Party in that State: If members of the State Government seriously contend it is not getting a fair share, go to the Commonwealth Grants Commission and put a case before it. Is it not incredible that although the Commonwealth Grants Commission was basically set up to look after Tasmania and Western Australia, we find that in 1978 Tasmania and Western Australia are not claimant States, nor are South Australia, New South Wales or Victoria. But what do you know, Queensland bobs up as a claimant State and gets $20m. It is just like going to a piggybank. I repeat that if Tasmania, or any other State, contends it has been robbed under the federalism policy the acid test is to go to the Grants Commission and to put the books on the table. The Treasurer of Tasmania would not be game to put the Tasmanian books on the table under independent scrutiny because, I repeat, we have never been better off financially.
– You have good members here.
– I thank the honourable member for his interjection. Tasmania is so well off that the State Labor Government with all its economic incompetence has been unable to spend the money it has received from Canberra.
– What did it do with it?
– I would like to speak on that subject but I would need several hours to do so. The honourable member for La Trobe is patient but I am not sure that the patience of the House would extend to such an exercise. I congratulate the Government on pursuing Stage 1 to its conclusion with the introduction of these two Bills and for entering upon Stage 2. There is nothing in either of these Bills to compel any State Government to impose a tax surcharge or to grant a tax rebate. It is nothing but cant, hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty for Mr Wran, Mr Lowe and Mr Batt to claim that in some way Canberra is going to wave a big stick at them if they do not impose a surcharge. I support the Bills and I condemn the Labor Party for its absolute blatant hypocrisy on this issue.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I support the amendment. In fact as I indicated earlier, I second the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) which is:
That all words after ‘that’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the passage of the Bill, the House (a) rejects the new federalism on which the Bill is based and ( b ) notes the failure of the 1 976 formula for determining the level of financial assistance to the States and directs attention to the likely failure of the new formula ‘.
I was rather staggered, to say the very least, to hear the speech of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). I know it has been rumoured around the lobbies that he still talks whilst swimming under water across Bass Strait, but his speeches are not noted for their wisdom or the conclusions which they draw. Tonight we had the spectacle of him opposing the attitude of the honourable member for Gellibrand which did not oppose the Bill but which drew attention to the shortcomings of the new federalism policy. In so doing, the honourable member for Denison, like it or not, is in effect arguing against his own State of Tasmania.
– What rubbish!
– He is arguing against Tasmania because under the propositions I shall outline later, under the terms enunciated by the Australian Labor Party and which in fact were carried out by the Australian Labor Party in government, in real money terms Tasmania would receive more funds from the Commonwealth. Yet we have the honourable member for Denison standing up in this chamber as a socalled upholder of the rights of Tasmania and in effect arguing against his own State. He knows what the facts are. He is really well aware of them, but he has probably been cowered by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) into supporting this legislation. When the honourable member for Denison speaks of the funds that are being allocated to the various States under this legislation, he is well aware that they represent only 40 per cent of the total funds allocated by the Commonwealth to the States.
-It is a complete misrepresentation.
– It is not only a complete misrepresentation, it goes much further than that: It is fraud. We have heard a lot recently about frauds such as those involving family trusts, tax dodging by Prime Ministers and former Treasurers and so on. But the fact is that in this particular case it is a complete fraud. What the honourable member omits to tell the people of Tasmania and the people of Australia is the very simple fact that all the other funds allocated- loan funds and special purpose grants- have been cut right across the board.
– The honourable member for Mitchell says ‘No’. He ought to know the facts. What about the massive cuts in real money terms to the funds allocated to the child care area? These funds have not been updated against inflation. Consequently, how many new projects are getting approved these days in the child care area?
– The honourable member for Sydney says ‘None’. Compared with what happened in those glorious days of the Whitlam regime, virtually none are being approved. During the Whitlam days we of course did obtain large scale grants, particularly capital grants for child care and children’s services.
– You are the best example of the need for increasing child care expenditure I have ever seen.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! The honourable member for Denison has had his opportunity to speak. I call the honourable member for Chifley.
– Thank you for protecting me like that, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I can assure you that the honourable member for Denison is no real threat at all, in fact I like him. These cuts have been made not only in the child care area but in the areas of transport, housing and so on. When we are speaking of funds allocated under this so-called new federalism legislation we are speaking of only 40 per cent of the total funds allocated by the Commonwealth. As I said, the remaining 60 per cent is coming from special purpose grants and loan funds which have not been indexed against inflation over the years. The result is that in real money terms, the States are worse off now than they were previously. One can understand then why I say that, in reality, the honourable member for Denison is speaking against his own State of Tasmania which had everything to gain from the policies which Labor proposed.
Whilst speaking on this Bill, I wish to deal with the general question of the so-called new federalism policy. If ever there were a thimble and pea trick, this is it. It is a thimble and pea trick for the simple reason that it is an attempt by the Prime Minister to hand over the responsibilities of the Commonwealth as regards income tax to the States and to try to force the States into the position of imposing a double tax.
– They can lower taxes if they want to.
– Government supporters may not like those words but the facts are that this is a double tax. The very immature young honourable member for Hume has just suggested that the States should increase taxes.
– I did not. I said that they could decrease them.
– He also said that they could decrease taxes if they were levying income tax.
– Rubbish! You do not understand the proposition.
-Order! The honourable member for Hume will cease interjecting. The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat. The honourable member for Hume will cease interjecting and the honourable member for Chifley will not respond to interjections. Everyone will cease interjecting.
– There has been provocation, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Order! The honourable member for Hume will cease interjecting.
– You must admit, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I am being sorely provoked.
-The honourable member for Chifley is seeking the provocation.
– Do you know what Bill you are speaking to?
– I was dealing with the new federalism policy. As I have said, under this policy the Prime Minister is trying to force the States to take over taxing powers. He has said to the States that they will get X amount at this stage. I am talking now of the second stage of his new federalism policy which, as the honourable member for Gellibrand said, we will oppose at every possible opportunity.
The Prime Minister also seemed to suggest that people such as the Premier of New South Wales supported these double taxation proposals. Far to the contrary, it was one of the major issues upon which Mr Wran fought the New South Wales State election. It was one of the major issues that assisted the return to power of the Labor Government in New South Wales. Mr Wran made it quite clear that he was opposed to this double taxation which the Fraser Government advocated and that he would not agree to any such proposal which would force him into that situation. The Prime Minister is now trying to foist that situation not only upon the States, but the people of Australia. The facts are that if the Prime Minister continues to fail to up date the total revenue grants to the States, and I am including here not only the grants under this legislation, that is, the personal income tax grants but also the special purpose grants and loan funds- the other 60 per cent of the total funds allocated to the States, Anally the States will reach the situation where they will be forced into increasing charges. That is what the Prime Minister wants to do. He wants them to force the States into a position where they have to levy a second tax, a double tax, an income tax. Honourable members opposite agreed to the proposal.
– That is absolute rubbish and you know it.
– They agreed to the proposal. They support a proposal Uke this. It is a shocking thing that they support a double tax on the people of this country. We must look also at the impact that would have upon the question of future economic planning. Australia has less long-term economic planning than probably any other country. Countries such as Japan, West Germany and the United States leave us for dead when it comes to economic planning. One of the essentials when it comes to planning the future of the economy is that the national government should have power over the raising of a levy. Without that power the national government must lose control of the reins so far as the economic future of the country is concerned. If you are going to hand over the right to levy tax or raise revenue, move more and more to hand that over to the States where six different systems operate in the six States, it is more difficult for a national government adequately to control the future destiny of this nation. This is one of the basic reasons that we oppose the new federalism proposals of this Government. We oppose them simply because we believe that the national government should be the major revenue raising organisation in this country. It is a tragedy that the Fraser Liberal-Country Party Government has decided to go backwards, to hand back those revenue raising powers to the States for the sole purpose of avoiding its own responsibility- in other words, for political gain so that it will not be seen to be increasing taxation or not reducing it adequately. For that basic purpose it is handing back these powers to the States. From an economic planning point of view this is a very great tragedy.
I refer also to local government. It would appear that local government is receiving a very fine share of revenue through the Grants Commissions of the various States. What local government forgets is that when Labor was in office- do not forget that it was the Whitlam Labor Government that first gave financial assistance to local government in this way- we gave financial assistance to local government, firstly through Grants Commission by way of untied funds, and secondly, for the areas of mass development, such as in my own area in the outer western suburbs of Sydney. These areas were neglected completely year by year by consecutive conservative governments with the result that they were completely without the necessary community facilities to protect and uplift the quality of life in those regions.
– Of course you would expect a North Shore-ite to think it is funny. It is not funny for the people of the western suburbs of Sydney. It may be all right for people like the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) who lives in areas which have always received the best because of consecutive conservative governments. I refer to the North Shore-ites and all that crowd. When it comes to the outer western suburbs of Sydney it is essential that they receive Federal Government assistance to overcome the backlag in community facilities brought about as a result of continuous conservative governments refusing to give us that assistance. But it was given under the Labor Government. It gave that assistance, firstly, as I said, by way of grants under the Grants Commission direct to local government. They were untied grants for topping up purposes so far as finance was concerned. Secondly, finance was provided under the urban development programs, which meant millions of dollars to my electorate alone.
-What else? What were the other programs?
– I make the point that under the RED scheme alone we received $3m. For example, the Blacktown Municipal Council received in a period of three years over $ 13m in all in non-interest bearing non-repayable grants, with the result that today its financial position has been restored. Within the area of that municipality we now have the ovals- and keep in mind that I represent an electorate which has more young children in it than any other electorate in the whole of Australia. It has often been said that I have the most fertile electorate in Australia. Accordingly the need was there. The need was seen and the need was met. In that way we were able to go ahead and provide very much needed facilities. Those funds are not coming these days.
– The States are getting them.
– All you are getting now are direct united grants through the tax sharing arrangements under the State Capital Grants Commissions.
– What about the States?
– There is a great need in that area. We are getting practically nothing at all. Added to that we are not getting other funds -
– $2m for Blacktown.
– Yes, $2m for Blacktown compared with $13m in three years. Up-date that against inflation and you will soon see why we say we are not getting enough. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) knows that is right. He did better out of the Labor Government than he has ever done under the Liberal Government. For these reasons I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). I say that it is very important indeed that the second stage of the so-called new federalism policies should not be implemented. We do not oppose this Bill, but in our amendment we make the point that while not opposing the passage of the Bill we reject the new federalism on which the Bill is based. As stated by the honourable member for Gellibrand, when that comes forward it will be opposed through every means at our disposal.
-The amendment which has been moved by the Opposition to these two Bills now being debated is very significant because it exposes the fact that the Hayden led Labor Party has the same attitudes to the structure of government within this nation as the Whitlam led Labor Party. There is on the record the statement by the honourable member for Werriwa, Mr E. G. Whitlam, in the Chifley Oration where he expressed the view that in this country he believed there were two few States and too many local government bodies. In their place he wished to see a structure of regional administrative organisations with the totality of legislative power centralised in Canberra. We on this side of the House believe that a centralised government with all legislative power based in the hands of that one government centred here in Canberra is dangerous for Australia, dangerous for its people, dangerous to their freedom and dangerous for their democracy.
Therefore, having seen what the Labor Party attempted to do when it was in office, we have set about introducing a federalism policy that is designed to underpin the federal system to ensure that there is a distribution of power, to ensure that those legislative bodies- the State local governments- have adequate resources to enable them to fulfil their obligations in terms of their legislative responsibilities. In our policy statement we identified the fact that federalism is not merely a structural concept. Its principal justification is a philosophical one. It aims to prevent dangerous concentration of power in a few hands. In so doing it provides a guarantee of political and individual freedom. As an aspect of that belief we hold the view that it is important for the governments in Australia that they be effective. To be effective they must be accountable for their actions, and in being accountable for their actions they should raise the moneys which they spend.
How often do we hear State Premiers and Ministers in State governments indicate that they have a project of the highest priority? How often do those six star projects of the highest priority remain on that list with that priority only on the basis that another government will fund the project? I come from South Australia as you would know, Mr Deputy Speaker, and often I hear
Ministers of the Labor Government in that State putting forward projects that fall into that category. I only wish at times that they would be more accountable for their actions. I wish they would look to see that they are using the resources they are receiving in the most effective fashion. I can understand that they may wish to maintain a level of employment within their Public Service and within their Public Service agencies, but what I question is whether or not they are using those people they employ in the most effective way. For example, Adelaide is in need of a water filtration system. How effectively is the Deputy Premier, the Minister of Works, using the work force of the Engineering and Water Supply Department, because he uses the opportunity of saying that projects of that department have high priority if funded by Canberra? He blinds himself to the important need of being accountable for the actions of his own department.
Having outlined that general basis upon which this legislation is founded I want to come to the aspects of the Bill. The States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill is designed to change the present arrangements so that the tax to be received by the States is calculated as a percentage of the income tax collections of the preceding year instead of the current year. Under the arrangements in the first instance the States are to receive $4,336m for the year ended 30 June 1978. Next year they will receive 39.87 per cent of the income tax collections received in the preceding year. The amount is now predictable. The States can do their Budget planning far more effectively than was the case when the figures were based upon the current year’s income tax collections.
The Bill also puts the arrangement on a similar basis to that under which local government operates. It means that when each of us as taxpayers receive tax assessments we can see that out of the total of 100 per cent of tax collections we will be able to identify the fact that 1.25 per cent at the present time of those taxes goes to local government, that 39.87 per cent goes to the States and the balance is retained by the Commonwealth for the fulfilment of the Commonwealth’s direct responsibility. It also is important that the House should recognise the fact that under this legislation a new division of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is to be set up. That fact shows how the present Fraser Government is willing to discuss matters with the States and to reach agreement with them. That new division of the Commission will include representatives of the two more populous States, two representatives from the four less populous States and three commissioners appointed by the Commonwealth, including the Chairman.
The role of that division will be to determine the appropriateness of the relativities of the distribution of the funds available to the States. The circumstances of the States change from time to time and it is important that an expert objective body should make a proper and adequate assessment of the manner in which those funds should be distributed in order that the equalisation principles can be fulfilled. In that way each of the States is enabled to provide, without imposing taxes and charges at levels appreciably different from levels of taxes and charges imposed by other States, government services at standards not appreciably different from the standards of the government services provided in other States. In other words, it is to enable the States to provide somewhat similar services on the basis that they collect somewhat similar amounts of taxes from their own people and as the changes do occur within the economies of the various States it is important that there be this adjustment in the manner in which the sums available are distributed between the States.
As time goes on and we look not only at the appropriateness of the total amount that is distributed to the States I hope that the States, being given through enabling legislation- which I hope will soon be introduced- the right to impose a surcharge or grant a rebate thereby will be given a good deal of flexibility. In receiving that flexibility the less populous States, those which are less advantaged than others, will receive a very beneficial arrangement because there is a special equalisation arrangement relating to those surcharges which gives to the less affluent States the right to have the amount of the taxes they collect on a per capita basis built up to the amounts that would have been collected if the same surcharge had been imposed in the States of Victoria and New South Wales.
I want to make one other point before I sit down. I will sit down before my time in this debate is up because it is the desire that this legislation should be put through the House this evening and I know that there is one other honourable member on the Opposition side who wishes to speak. I think he should have the opportunity to do so. I just want to draw to the attention of the House the important aspect in the legislation that relates to the Northern Territory. The Grants Commission is to be given authority and to be charged with the responsibility of determining the appropriate amount of revenue to be made available to the Northern Territory as it gains self-government so that it receives out of the income tax shared an amount similar in type to the amount of resources received by the States.
I hope it will not be long before legislation is introduced to include in this income tax sharing legislation a percentage, in addition to the 39.87 per cent, of income tax that is to go to the government of the Northern Territory. I should point out also that the Northern Territory, like all the less populous States, will have the right, if it feels that it has been inadequately dealt with, to seek special assistance from the Grants Commission. In that way the Northern Territory is being put in a position similar to the position in which the States find themselves. I think this legislation is a very important element of the implementation of the Government’s federalism policy. The fact that the Opposition has chosen to criticise the legislation on the basis that it rejects the new federalism policy is clear proof that it still adheres to its centralist aspirations of bringing all legislative power to Canberra and putting at risk the freedoms of the Australian people and the very democracy which provides us with those freedoms.
– I welcome this opportunity to participate in a debate on the continuing and contentious issue of Commonwealth-State relations. I find the debate fascinating because it presents me with two dilemmas. The first is that politicians, in particular, seem to carry on as though there are two quite distinct electorates- one which elects State governments and another which elects Federal governments. So we find that, regardless of whether a person is a Federal or State politician, he pretends apparently to be appealing to quite different electorates. Either that is the case or there is one electorate which is experiencing a very advanced state of schizophrenia. There is a tendency for the States-righters at least to pretend that they can use their electorates to outweigh or overcome the influences of those people whom they call centralists. In fact, the most vigorous of the States-righters, far from having an electorate of their own which is distinct from the electorate which elects honourable members to this House, are in fact elected by exactly the same people, but under a much less democratic system.
In Queensland and Western Australia we have some of the most outspoken so-called Statesrighters, yet they are elected under the most outrageously undemocratic malapportionment of electorates. They will do anything to cling to power. Their penchant for bashing the Australian Government is just one of the weapons in their armoury.
I am not opposed to Premiers being made to be accountable for the money they spend. In fact, I think all of us in this place are entitled to become a little annoyed at being exposed to odium for raising revenue simply to hand it over to the State Premiers for them to indulge in their fantasies and obsessions. Therefore, I support the notion that the governments which raise revenue ought to be the ones which spend it. I recall very vividly that during the previous period that I was a member of this Parliament the Federal Labor Government made available funds for particular projects, but when I went back to Western Australia I found the Western Australian Liberal-Country Party Government claiming credit for making available those funds. At the same time, of course, it was vigorously supporting further tax cuts.
The problem with the legislation which is before us- particularly Stage 2 of the new federalism policy, which will supplant it later- is that it leads to a situation where the national Government is going to lose entirely its ability to influence total demand in the economy. A very important way of influencing total demand, as everybody knows, is by raising and lowering income tax. If we hand over the final decision as to the level of income tax we will hand over the ability to influence directly total demand in the economy. That will have very serious consequences for economic policy in general. It will make the economy all that much more difficult to manage as far as the whole nation is concerned.
That brings me to the second of the dilemmas with which the Commonwealth-State financial relations debate presents me. The divisions between State and Federal members of the Liberal Party are so serious that I do not know any more who anybody is. I shall give an example by quoting certain remarks by two Liberals- one a State member and the other a Federal member- from the State of Western Australia. I refer firstly to a speech made recently by the Premier of Western Australia when he said:
Even in Australia, with abundant natural wealth, we pursue a grim, grey economic policy which, like so many others, could well continue to lead us through still more grim, grey years.
He stated further:
Current economic policy is inflicting demand starvation and perpetuating recession.
He also stated:
The present world recession will continue indefinitely, if present policies are giving us a programmed recession.
I should like to compare that with a recent speech made in this chamber by the honourable member for Penh (Mr McLean), who is a Federal Liberal. During the course of a speech he said:
I urge the Government, in particular the Treasurer … to hold firm in the direction of the present economic strategy.
He also said:
Any resort to short term expediency at this stage would constitute a grave threat to long term employment revival.
He stated further.
The political temptation to respond to short term pressure is very strong but it ignores the long term economic realities faced by Australia.
I want to counter those quite different points of view of two members of the Liberal Party in the same State. Referring again to the remarks of the Premier of Western Australia, he stated:
Inflation will not be controlled by controlling demand: Every nation has enormous spare capacity waiting to be used.
There we see two distinctly different policies. On the one hand we have the honourable member for Perth, presumably supporting this Governments policy, urging continued demand management and on the other we have the Premier of Western Australia talking about the need for expansion in the economy. The Premier went on to advocate increased government capital expenditure in much the same way as the Labor Party was advocating it before the last Federal election. He is quick to point out, of course, that he is not interested in expanding the role of government. I should like to refer to a quaint paragraph from his speech. He stated:
I believe you will also agree that it would be unwise to create demand by expanding the size of government- putting more bottoms on soft seats- because this would simply inject one of the causes of inflation.
That is a particularly curious statement for the Premier to make when one considers the recent history in Western Australia in regard to government employment. If one looks at the figures for the last three years- January 1976, January 1977 and January 1978- one will find that whilst private employment in Western Australia actually fell by 0.7 per cent, government employment in the same period increased by 20 per cent. So if there had not been that expansion in government employment in Western Australia we would have seen about 22,000 more people added to the unemployment situation in Western Australia, which at the moment numbers well over 30,000 people. The whole reason why the total civilian employment in Western Australia has increased by 5 per cent over that period is due solely to the increase which has taken place in the government sector.
I should like to compare those figures with what has happened nationally. Nationally, government employment has increased by 4.6 per cent. This has to be compared with the increase of 20 per cent in Western Australia. So it is quite curious that the Premier of Western Australia in particular should be talking about his opposition to increasing the size of the government work force. Of course, I do not want to condemn everything the Premier said. As I said, I am able to welcome the Premier’s conversion, belated as it is, to Keynesian economics. In fact, I also welcome his conversion to the economic policies of the Australian Labor Party. I suppose one could say that he goes further than the Australian Labor Party because in another part of his speech he said:
It makes sense to move now- without any delay at allinto something like a five-year plan to improve the working assets of our nation . . .
I would like to see the first five-year plan roll on into a longer term program that could roll on into the 1 990s.
That statement seems to be shades of centrally planned economies, particularly of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In many respects the Premier goes further than the Labor Party in his advocacy of centrally planning the economy. However, the problems presented by the statements of the Premier are two-fold. Firstly, as a result of new federalism and of increasing the ability of the States to determine their own expenditure, particularly their own capital expenditure, we are likely to see Premiers such as the Western Australian Premier indulge themselves in white elephants such as the Ord River Dam. In fact, he mentioned in his speech that water resources would be one of the investments he would undertake. I point out that it is the Premier’s stated intention to expand the investment on the Ord River to establish a sugar growing industry, the sugar from which would cost about $300 a tonne to produce. Presumably, it would then be placed on the world market at a price of approximately $160 a tonne. Whilst the Premier may be in favour of selective public capital expenditure, he does not always make the right decisions about what that expenditure should be m ado r r.
The second point is that his statemen’s highlight the divergence of views between ti,. -:ate and Federal governments. Even though i might be able to support some of the ideas of the State Premier this points up the fact that in Western Australia a Liberal Premier wants to pursue a different economic policy to a national Liberal
Government. Leaving aside the fact that both governments are Liberal, the point is that it is very important under those circumstances for the national economic policy to prevail. It seems to me to be inherent in the new federalism and in the proposals of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to increase the ability of the State governments to raise and spend money that a danger also exists for a Federal governent, whether it be Labor or Liberal, to lose control entirely of the direction of economic policy. If that were to happen it could work to the great disadvantage of the country as a whole.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Willis’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being past 10.30 p.m. I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 4 May, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I certainly do.
– He may proceed.
– In the course of the last debate, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) claimed that the Premier of Western Australia and I had a fundamental disagreement on a matter of principle regarding the state of the Australian economy. He said that I was, in effect, advocating a recessionary demand management policy and the Premier of Western Australia was advocating an expansionary policy. I congratulate the honourable member for Fremantle for reading my speeches in this House, but I wish that when he does so he would read them totally.
-Order! The honourable member will not debate the matter; he will indicate where he has been misrepresented.
– I have been misrepresented in the way that I have outlined. I said last night in the debate on the Appropriation Bills the following matter which I think supports my case that I have been misrepresented.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, this is not a personal explanation. The honourable member is trying to raise the debate. We will take him on if he likes.
-Order! The honourable member for Wills will resume his seat. The honourable member for Perth will quickly come to the manner on which he has been misrepresented.
– I stated last night that it was possible for this Government to follow a responsible policy of fiscal leverage within the context of expenditure restraint and restraint of the deficit by placing some emphasis on a transfer of resources from a consumption expenditure to investment expenditure in the Budget.
Youth unemployment- Australia-China Foundation- Immigration- Uranium
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-The unemployment situation in Australia, especially for the younger generation, is at rock bottom. We hear on radio, television and read in the newspapers heartbreaking stories of people looking for employment. I also read that executivetype men and women from 40 to 60 years of age have been retrenched. A recent survey by a Sydney consultant states that these employees were earning $10,000 to $20,000 a year and are now unemployed. It was stated that from 37 per cent to 48 per cent of those retrenched cannot find employment in their own profession. Now we have two brackets which are unemployable; those from 16 to 25 years old and the 45 to 60 years age group. Both sexes are feeling this injustice all around Australia in this cancerous unemployment situation. Migrants are feeling the buffeting of unemployment. It is of concern to all of us. The language barrier and cultural difference add to the other problems in my electorate which are suffered in many other electorates in Australia.
The Government has not been successful in the schemes under the National Employment and Training program. I have personally assisted the scheme. Employers have been subsidised and the unemployed have been helped. But this is not full employment. Such schemes have not been wholly supported by the majority of the people in many areas. In an article headed ‘Job Market’ in the Sydney Morning Herald last Monday, it is stated that there are 400 offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service around Australia. The article mentions the National Employment and Training scheme, the relocation assistance scheme, the Special Youth Employment Training program, the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprenticeship Full-Time Training, the CRAFT technical education rebate, the CRAFT off the job training rebate, the CRAFT partial apprenticeship scheme and the Educational Program for Unemployed Youth. As the average Australian is saying, these schemes have not been goers. In the last week the Australian Financial Review published an article headed ‘Low Apprentice Ratio in Building Trades ‘. It states:
The ratio of apprentices in training to qualified tradesmen in the building industry is among the lowest of any industry group in Australia, according to a recent survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The number of apprentices training is only 22 per cent of the total number of qualified tradesmen.
That is, one in five tradesmen has an apprentice. In the Bulletin of 9 May an article headed ‘ We face a drastic tradesman shortage ‘ states:
The number of skilled workers in the NSW building industry fell by SO per cent between June 1 972 and September 1977. The number of carpenters fell from 17,480 to 9,715. The number of bricklayers fell from 7,330 to 3,826.
This was stated by the President of the Master Builders Association, Ray Rocher. The point is that youths are crying out to be apprentices and there are no takers. Employers have no confidence in the Government. The Government apparently has had 29 months to start the engine of prosperity. Did the Government not promise that in 1975? It now claims that approximately 93 per cent of those available for employment are in employment. This is the sort of propaganda that is going on all over Australia. We have sacrificed Australia’s young people not only through the continuing unemployment situation but also by paying them unemployment benefits of $36 a week. There has been no increase for over three years for 16 year old to 18 year old people. These youths are receiving now approximately $5.01 a day from which they have to pay their board or rent, their food, their clothes and their fares. The Minister and the Government should be ashamed. I know personally of cases of hardship in which parents cannot afford to help their children. They are unemployed, have other children or are sick and themselves need help. Many youths come from the country seeking employment in the city but finish up in crime and trouble. That applies to both males and females.
The Minister explained yesterday in answer to a question that I asked that there are no worries; that the point is that the Federal Government considers the present level of unemployment benefit for young people under 18 years of age to be appropriate. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for February showed a level of unemployment of 7 per cent and that the number of juniors aged 15 to 19 was 147,000. This represents a third of the jobless table. They receive, I repeat, $5.01 per day. If they received approximately $10 a day on top of that the cost would amount to $ 1 .5m. The Government is reported in the Press today as stating that it is saving millions of dollars in the future; that the way the LiberalCountry Party Government is carrying out its task of sacrificing our youth is proving a success. We have in the Mirror that statement by Mr Fraser and Senator Guilfoyle. They should both resign forthwith.
Continued Press reports in recent times have indicated that Dr Stephen Fitzgerald has been touted as the first chairman of the AustraliaChina Foundation. It has been widely reported in the Press that he has powerful friends in the Government and that he is a friend of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Notwithstanding that, I ask one simple, straightforward question: Is Dr Fitzgerald suitable to hold such a position?
Opposition members- Yes.
-Is he sufficiently informed to hold such a position?
Opposition members- Yes.
-Is he sufficiently balanced to hold such a position?
Opposition members- Yes.
-Is his judgment adequate to hold such a position?
Opposition members- Yes.
-I am sorry to hear the repeated chorus from the Opposition, because I am of the undoubted point of view that he is not. I am of the view that he is not suited to hold the first appointment as Chairman of the AustraliaChina Foundation, for five reasons, not the least important of which is that he has come desperately close in his own views not only to saying that Australians should understand the Chinese view of the world but also that Australia should support the Chinese view of the world. From the time of the Han dynasty there has been the tradition of the kow-tow in respect of other nations’ rulers who go to China. The modern version of that has been that China has regarded both super powers as being equally objectionable. That would leave China as the leader of the Third World. That has always been her proposition. I am disturbed to find that Dr FitzGerald comes desperately close to supporting that view over and over again both in his public broadcasts and in his writings. The most notable statement whereby he comes close to supporting the Chinese view of the world as his own view is found at page 18 of his book China and the World. It is interesting that he writes:
But it is interesting that the Chinese direct their criticism at both Super Powers, whose societies we tend to regard as political opposites, and in both cases their argument is about the record of external behaviour- and is not without foundation.
I do not support the proposition that the chairman of an Australia-China Foundation should equate the United States of America with Soviet Russia in terms of the reprehensibility of their external behaviour and I hope that nobody on this side of the chamber would do so. The second point is very important. He makes errors of fact. He repeats, in terms of American relations with China, the proposition that America for 1 7 years refused to have such relations. What he forgets is that from 1950 to 1954 it was impossible to have relations with China on her own term. From 1955 there was an agreement between the United States and China in terms of the repatriation of persons, which China did not uphold. The only period during the 1 7 years in which it was possible to have the relations which Dr Fitzgerald proposes, in accordance with China’s point of” view, was from 1956 to 1957, after which there was an anti-rightist coup which was in fact promoted by Mao Tse-tung. These are mistakes of fact and of history.
He also, in referring to the Shanghai communique of 1972, states the interpretation of that communique which has been continually propounded by Peking, but not the adumbration of that communique which was made perfectly clear by Dr Kissinger. He made it clear that in relations between America and Taiwan the defence treaty was not to be abrogated. The fourth point in which he is found to be in error, in terms not only of historical fact but also of interpretation, is that he comes desperately close to proposing as valid the absurd proposition of Peking that government-to-government relations shall not interfere with party-to-party relations, in Peking’s relations with other countries in the world. Under present circumstances, that has operated merely as a cover for China to promote her own revolutionary movements in Malaysia, in Thailand and, in particular, in Burma. Dr Fitzgerald recognises this and gives his own support for them.
In respect of the fifth point, I refer to page 105 of his book, in which he casts serious doubt on whether a private enterprise system such as that of Australia can by its very nature negotiate trade with China. There are some rather undergraduatish comments upon the nature of our system, but under those circumstances I say without hesitation or reservation that Dr Fitzgerald has insufficient judgment, insufficient understanding and insufficient balance to fill this most important position- one of very great prestigeas the first chairman, recommended by the Government, of the Australia-China Foundation. It would do Australia no good and it would certainly give China a misunderstanding of what Australia’s point of view of the world ought to be.
– I want to raise the issue of Australia’s immigration policy. It is rumoured that there is currently before Cabinet a submission which would effectively raise the level of net immigration from the current levels of 50,000 a year to 70,000 a year for each year until 1981. It is also understood that this policy would be accompanied by greater emphasis on the ‘occupational eligible category ‘ which would be more flexibly defined to avoid the restrictions currently imposed, which insist that migrants coming to Australia should be able to fit a category of employment listed by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations as occupations matching vacancies somewhere in Australia.
It would seem most important that further debate should take place in the Parliament, and in Australia, before any decision is taken to change the rate of migration to Australia or the definition of categories of immigrants. It is also to be hoped that the Government will make no decision before the promised White Paper on immigration policy is published and ample time is allowed for public discussion and debate. It is unfortunate that the report of the recent meeting of Federal and State Ministers on 2 1 April was not more expansive; but it would seem that at this meeting there was agreement about continuing support for migration, that programs should extend over longer periods rather than that there should be an annual intake approach; that more emphasis should be placed on the English language as a criterion for entry; that there should be greater assistance to enable skilled workers to travel to Australia, and that restrictions should continue to be placed on people entering under the family reunion category, as well as the monitoring of people- whatever that means- of differing ethnic background, and limitation of the inflow of refugees.
In my view there is no clear basis on which to announce major changes in Australia’s immigration policy. Indeed, there are a number of concerns which should be taken seriously and resolved before a large-scale immigration program is resumed, on the lines of programs adopted in the 1950s and 1960s. There is, first and foremost, the issue of unemployment amongst Australian workers and recently arrived migrants. There is some evidence to suggest that rates of unemployment among recently arrived migrants are considerably higher, perhaps double that of the work force as a whole. Further, unless there is a rapid improvement in annual rates of job creation, unemployment is likely to worsen each year through into the early 1 980s. This problem would be compounded still further if increased rates of immigration were adopted.
Secondly, Australia in the present situation is becoming necessarily, perhaps increasingly, selective about the occupational categories required. The reality is that it will become increasingly difficult to attract skilled migrants, given the economic situation in Australia and the morality of doing so from countries that are themselves short of skilled workers is questionable. Thirdly, the Australian Government needs to face the problems associated with, on the one hand allowing family reunion policies to operate in a way which allows the consolidation of existing ethnic family structures, and on the other hand allowing a proper response to the humanitarian needs of an increasing number of refugees wishing to come to Australia. These humanitarian considerations have been neglected in the past. It may be more difficult to avoid such questions in the immediate future.
Fouthly, a recent article in the Australian of 2 May 1978 headed ‘Migrant shortage could doom North West Shelf suggested that industry groups, that is, mining companies and the Western Australian Government, want to import at least 30,000 more migrants a year until 1980. This suggests that the Government’s manpower planning, job relocation and retraining schemes have been written off by the mining companies and the Western Australian Government. It is hard to believe that there are not enough workers in Australia to fill these jobs or to be retrained to work on this development and that we have to emphasise the need to expand the nation’s immigration policy.
Finally, does Australia have an obligation to migrants already in Australia which it should be fulfilling rather than speaking in terms of expanded migration targets? What will happen to the 1,100 workers who will be displaced at the Chrysler factory in South Australia? Many of these people must be recently arrived migrants with limited skills. Clearly considerable resources need to be devoted now to sorting out such a situation. One does not have to be critical of the concept of immigration to be most concerned about current developments in Australia. It would seem that nothing has been learned from past experience and that we are getting into more of a muddle. It is hoped that the Government will break with tradition in this area and allow and encourage a wide-scale debate. The failure to do so could result in a new element of divisiveness entering Australian society.
-As is well known in the electorate of La Trobe, I am always very pleased to listen to residents of that electorate who come to me and discuss matters of either personal or public importance. In this context I want to discuss tonight an incident which occurred in my electorate office a week or so ago. I made an appointment with a Mr Stephen Hall, whom, I understand, is an office bearer of the Knox-Sherbrooke Movement Against Uranium Mining. It was agreed that he would come to my office and we would discuss some matters regarding the rnining and sale of Australian uranium for peaceful purposes and that I would endeavour to explain to him the Government’s policy, answer any questions and deal with any worries that he had.
At the time he made the appointment he was asked whether he would be coming alone or whether other representatives of the local Movement Against Uranium Mining would be attending at the same time. This question was asked simply because it was necessary to make arrangements within the office to accommodate the number of people likely to come. Mr Hall stated unequivocally that he would be coming alone. So the appointment was duly set for 9 o’clock one Monday morning. When the discussion started it became evident to me that Mr Hall wanted to put to me certain criticisms regarding the legislation concerning environmental controls and other matters that had been introduced into the Parliament in recent weeks.
– Perfectly reasonable.
– As the honourable member for Batman said, that was perfectly reasonable and I was pleased to make the appointment. As the conversation progressed it became evident to me that Mr Hall had not read the Bills that had been introduced. He really did not have any knowledge of them but apparently found himself in a position to criticise them. I offered to provide him with copies of the Bill so that he could inform himself. That is something that I would be prepared to do for anybody who wanted to ask me such questions and whom I believed was keen to study the matter and take an informed position on it. However, after I had been discussing the matter with him for a quarter of an hour or a little more it came to my notice that a disturbance was taking place outside my office. I chose to ignore it in the short term and to finish the conversation with Mr Hall, but events overtook that course. A rather small but unruly mob of MAUM demonstrators forced their way into my office.
– You mean the group?
– Urban guerrillas.
– The honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) laughs. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) calls them urban guerrillas. He can call them what he likes. The fact is that an unruly mob of MAUM demonstrators forced their way into my office, manhandled my staff out of the way, forced the door open and broke into the room where I was having a meeting. They then proceeded to unwrap a rather ungainly looking container which they informed me contained a material which could not be cleaned up. This, of course, aroused my suspicions and I, not unreasonably, took action to reduce the likelihood of any of the material being spilt in my office. I managed to take the container from the demonstrators and proceeded to tip it out of the open window whereupon, as honourable members can imagine with the odds at live or six to one, somewhat of a fracas developed, during which some of the material contained in the cylinder was spilt all over the office. Honourable members opposite may think that that is funny. They may think it funny when demonstrators go to the trouble of getting the Press out and embarrass the Press in such a set-up. It was a very unseemly and untidy affair and, as honourable members who take a responsible view of these matters would realise, it did nothing to further the cause of those genuinely concerned about uranium mining. The fact is that this was a bunch of local secondary school teachers who should have been at work at that time of the day. They were people who should have been setting an example as to how to conduct oneself to the young people over whom they have influence. It was a disgraceful exhibition.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to reply seriously to the comments made tonight by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) about Stephen Fitzgerald. Stephen Fitzgerald is a very great Austraiian. In the interests of this country he performed a great service as Australia’s first Ambassador to China. It was Stephen Fitzgerald who brought about greater understanding between the two nations.
– Based on greater knowledge, too.
– As the honourable member for Hunter said, it was based on greater knowledge. At the time the Labor Government, in accordance with its policy, initiated the action which brought about the exchange of diplomatic representation between Australia and China there was no man in Australia with such a great depth of knowledge of China. For this reason he was chosen as Australia’s first Ambassador from outside the Public Service. That was a rather unusual action but, after all, an unusual action had to be taken in respect of this most historic move. Unfortunately there are still a few, not many, in the community and on the Government benches who apparently do not accept the reality of that step. The vast majority of honourable members do. The extraordinary change of heart that has occurred within the Government since those days when we first took action to exchange diplomatic representatives is surprising.
The facts are these: China has 25 per cent of the world ‘s population. It is ridiculous to suggest that China should be kept in isolation from the rest of the world and not be brought into the councils of the world. It is ridiculous for anyone to oppose the idea that China should get to understand the attitudes of other countries and that other countries, including Australia, should get to understand the attitudes of China. It is important in the interests of world peace that there be this exchange and this friendship between the two countries, and it is most important to realise that it was Stephen Fitzgerald, together with the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam), and this will probably be remembered in history as one of” his greatest actions, who went out into these new fields and brought about so much understanding between the two nations. That understanding now has been accepted by the present Government. It was not accepted at the time by the Government parties but it is today and I am glad that they have accepted it. For those reasons, I submit that Stephen Fitzgerald is a great Australian.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Tollas is the pen-name of Mr Tibor Kecskesi and he visited Australia in 1977 at the invitation of the TransylvaniaHungarian Association. Mr Kecskesi does not purport to represent any government and therefore no basis exists for refusing him entry on such grounds.
am asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
What laws and practices in Australia’s overseas territories do not yet comply with the requirements of International Labour Organisation Convention No. 65 -Penal Sanctions (Indigenous Workers), 1939.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed that Convention No. 65 has not been ratified by Australia and that no laws in the overseas Territories with resident populations conflict with the requirements of the Convention.
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
Which States and Territories have given statutory force to the Code of Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores prepared by his Department in 1 975.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
None at present.
The Ranger Inquiry recommended that the Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores should be made mandatory by legislation. The Government has decided to accept this recommendation but to go further and together with the States to establish by legislation uniform national codes which cover all aspects of mining and milling and transport of uranium as well as any future nuclear activities.
The Government introduced the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978 in Parliament on 10 April 1978 which will provide means whereby the Code can be incorporated in Commonwealth legislation. Commonwealth legislation in this area while providing a framework for the development of codes is not intended to replace existing State legislation, nor will it prevent the introduction of new legislation by the States. It is for the States to initiate their own legislation to implement the codes. Commonwealth Regulations will be made only when a State fails to adopt a code and then only for such a time as is necessary until State legislation is in place.
The Department of the Northern Territory has drafted amendments to the Regulations under the Mines Ordinance to incorporate aspects of the code and these will be presented to the Administrator-in-Council shortly.
am asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
In the light of the answers which the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in the Arts gave to questions Nos 1274 and 1293 (Hansard, 4 November 1977, pages 2925-6) will he state (a) the amount and source of other subsidies which Quadrant received and (b) the amount and proportion of its advertising revenue which were personally appropriated by its editor, Mr Peter Coleman, M.L.A. (Hansard, 5 June 1 975, page 3547).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 7 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The requirements at the Plant Quarantine Research Station for technical staff to provide back up services to professional officers have since been reviewed and a position of Technical Officer Grade 2 has been allocated for this purpose. Arrangements are being made to fill this position.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
What sum was paid by his Department, or by Departments formerly encompassing the functions now performed by his Department, to each airline for air travel within Australia during 1976-77.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Payments in 1976-77 as shown in the accounting records still held by my Department were:
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:
Which Australian medical faculties teach students about the basic economics of medical care, for example the cost of alternative methods of treatment and the relative costs of in and out-patient treatment.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is only in recent years that Australian medical schools have introduced into their curricula consideration of the economics of health care. While the coverage needs to be improved, all medical schools now provide students with some exposure to the area.
It is pleasing to note that the present deficiencies have been recognised and that increasing prominence is being given in undergraduate medical education to the economic implications of health care with particular emphasis on the issues associated with medical services.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:
-The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s questions:
With the approval of the members of the Committee, the report has been referred:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Section 19 (b) of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act 1961 provides that if the Minister so determines CSL shall:
Section 38 of the Act in effect provides that any trading profits of the Commission shall in the first instance be devoted to financing section 19(b) activities. The Commission can be reimbursed by the Commonwealth for costs of section 19(b) activities only if trading profits are insufficient to cover the full costs of those activities.
Since the formation of the Commission in 1961 the Minister has issued determinations each financial year to support research and related section 19 (b) activities undertaken in the national interest. These activities of necessity are structured and organised basically as ongoing activities.
Formal requests for section 19 (b) determinations in 1976-77 were forwarded to my Department by the CSL in June/July 1976 and were subject to discussion and further clarification with my Department before being submitted for my consideration.
Section 19(b) determinations issued in 1 975-76 lapsed on 30 June 1976. During the period between 1 July 1976 and the signing of the ministerial determinations after the bringing down of the 1976-77 Budget, expenditure of approximately $4 1 6,000 was incurred by CSL on research and other continuing public health activities. The expenditure of the $4 1 6,000 in question was wholly financed by CSL.
In the Commission’s Annual Report for 1976-77, the actual costs of section 19(b) activities totalled $2,090,250, but as the Commission made a trading profit of $1,486,153, only $606,097 was reimbursed to the Commission by the
Commonwealth under section 38 of the Act. The amount reimbursed did not, of course, include the $416,000 referred to above as this was not covered by ministerial determinations and the determinations, when issued, could not be applied retrospectively.
The determinations covering all section 19 (b) activities for the current financial year (1977-78) were issued before the close of the previous financial year. The practice of issuing determinations for one year prior to the close of the previous year is to be continued where applicable.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 7 April 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Management strategies to apply when the station is operational are being developed.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 1 1 April 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The majority of those who were conducting and monitoring the tests at Maralinga were UK. personnel. Any follow-up studies on those persons would be a matter for the UK Government to decide upon.
Because of the stringent monitoring procedures undertaken at the time and the fact that they were not exposed to dangerous radiation, there is no proposal to institute studies on Australians who were in support of the UK activities at Maralinga from the rear areas.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 May 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780510_reps_31_hor109/>.