31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its recommendations:
Therefore the Parliament has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial Report and its recommendations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cadman, Mr Connolly and Mr Les Johnson.
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.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred, Mr Burns and Mr Jarman.
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 item 6469 be not removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
That this item under which an estimated 49,145 contributors claimed in the 1976-77 financial year, covers a legal and medically approved procedure.
That the removal of this item from the schedule would destroy the concept of universal health insurance and would have the most serious repercussions for women and their health.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Dr Klugman and Mr Macphee.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the sales tax as applied to articles handmade by artisans is unfair.
An artisan is a handcraftsman, or a handcraftswoman, who excersises a non agricultural activity, revolving around the transformation of materials with his own handwork or that of his family.
On craft, above all, the accent must be on design, practicability and quality, where the craftsman must perforce pay highly for his raw materials and time must not be a conditioning factor in the making of an article. This petition seeks the objective examination of the existing sales tax acts in respect to persons seeking to earn their living by the labour of their hands alone.
Every day skilled artisans are being forced out of their livelihood not by competition of machine made goods, not by high prices of materials but by the injustice of antiquated sales tax laws. The artisan thus taxed out of his living will then go onto unemployment benefits or worse still to prostituting his craft by sacrificing his professional integrity by forcing him to lower his standards of workmanship in order to conform to existing laws.
We, therefore, request that a sales tax exemption be created immediately for all handcrafted articles.
We also request that the current exemption limit of $ 1 , 400 and $1,000, respectively referred to in items 100-(1) and 100-(2) of the Sales Tax (Exemption and Classifications) Act 1935-1967, be immediately raised to a realistic figure in line with current living standards and from then on to be periodically reviewed so as to keep pace with the Australian standard of living.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Bryant.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia, being students of the University of Western Australia, respectfully showeth that the Guidelines for Expenditure of the Tertiary Education Commission for the 1979-1981 triennium seriously erode the quality of education in this country.
Your petitioners express their grave concern at the possible implications for the University of Western Australia of pending cuts in services such as library facilities, which are an essential and indispensable part of the education process.
Your petitioners note that the Guidelines represent:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray: that the Government re-instate Education funding as a major priority to ensure increasing access to a sound and vibrant education for all members of the community, as a right not a privilege.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Dawkins.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House or 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 ever 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 Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. This humble petition of undersigned Christian citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Dr Jenkins.
To the Honorable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Australian Government should not take away benefits of the family allowance that were introduced in the 1975 Budget. Even with this, the Government has given with one hand and taken with the other, by cutting out tax deductions for dependent children. All parents know that the allowance doesn ‘t clothe or feed the child, but it does help.
We urge the Government not to procede with schemes to cut out the family allowance for the first child ($3.50 per week ), abolishing it for families earning over $ 1 50 per week (which is contrary to promise in the last election) and taxing working mothers ‘ allowance.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Dr Jenkins.
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:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Les Johnson.
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:
It would be a disgrace to the fine spirit of these heroes if we thought of saving their lives. ‘
Major Kamiya the prosecutor at the Japanese Court Martial who made the above comment went on to say, inter alia-
These heroes must have left Australia with sublime patriotism flowing in their breasts and with the confident expectation of all the Australian people on their shoulders.
As we respect them, so we feel our duty of glorifying their last moments as they deserve, and by doing so the names of these heroes will remain in the hearts of the British and Australian people for evermore.’
A specially commissioned March called ‘The Forgotten Heroes’ was played for the first time by the Band of the New South Wales Police Force.
Your Petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to approve the conferring of the medal on the men of ‘Jaywick’ and Rimau’ on behalf of the people of Australia to honour the memory of these gallant men so that future generations of Britain and Australia will know and admire what these men did and their memory will remain in the hearts of the British and Australian people for evermore.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrKillen.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned Citizens of Australia respectfully showeth.
We hereby express our gravest concern that the Government has chosen to transfer the burden of health costs onto the lower income earners and the chronically ill. We hereby suggest that an immediate halt be called to the destruction of the current Medibank legislation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Les McMahon.
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 30th June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all states) 12,060 12,606 single and 4,120 couples as at 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 Governments ‘ attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Les McMahon.
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 we object to the present flow of Asian immigrants.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a referendum be held on immigration policy.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Shack.
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 say that we are concerned about the discrimination which exists against the children of those parents who are in receipt of the Supporting Parents Benefit in comparison with children of Single Parents who receive the Widows Pension. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to ensure that this year’s budget allow for Lone Parents to be given the right to receive a pension with the same benefits as are given with the Widows Pension, and we also request that Parliament take immediate action to instigate one ( 1 ) category of Lone Parent Pension to eliminate the discrimination currently experienced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr West.
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. Did he say two weeks ago that if there were a Budget leak involving the prospect of someone making a profit he would apply the Westminster convention requiring the resignation of the Treasurer? Was accurate information about many new Budget policies published well before the Budget was presented to Parliament? Did some of this information facilitate tax avoidance and the making of speculative profit? What action will the Prime Minister be taking to restore the integrity of the office of Treasurer? Will a judicial inquiry be established, as occurred in Britain in 1936 in similar circumstances? Has consideration been given to asking the Treasurer for his resignation?
-The Treasurer has introduced a Budget which is coming to be very widely recognised as one ideally suited to Australia’s needs in 1978 and beyond. I expect the Treasurer to be introducing a large number of other Budgets in the years ahead. The honourable gentleman’s suggestion is utterly fanciful. If merely because there was a Budget leak- which I must say that I and the Treasurer regard as very serious- consequential action by the Treasurer was required, that would be a ludicrous situation and would not follow the Westminster system in any sense, shape or form.
Over a period of many years there have been three instances in which Ministers in the United Kingdom have resigned in these sorts of circumstances. These involved a Mr Mundella, a Mr Thomas, whose situation has been referred to, and Mr Hugh Dalton. In 1894 Mr Mundella was deeply implicated in suspicious affairs of a trading company which had crashed at the very moment when it lay on him, as President of the Board of Trade, to decide what proceedings should be taken against the company; and he resigned. In 1936 Mr Thomas, as Colonial Secretary and a Cabinet Minister, was suspected of having disclosed Budget proposals to unauthorised persons, as a result of which insurances were taken out with Lloyds. In 1947, while in the lobby Mr Hugh Dalton, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, inadvertently disclosed to a journalist facts about the Budget he was to present to the House later that afternoon, with the consequence that a London evening newspaper printed the news before the House received it. Mr Dalton openly admitted his fault and instantly resigned.
Both the Treasurer and I were concerned at some of the reports in the newspapers and we have jointly asked the Secretary to the Treasury and the Secretary to my Department to see what measures can be implemented to prevent a recurrence. Some of the news stories appear to have been better based than they should have been in relation to these matters, and I think all members of this House should be concerned about the situation. I would like to refer to the circumstances on another occasion, when another Treasurer suggested that he had not briefed anyone. I read from Hansard of 22 October 1975, when the Treasurer of the time said:
I am talking to honourable members in a very serious fashion. I resent these personal imputations. I have spoken with no one -
I ask honourable members to note those words. He continued:
It ought to be noted that on 28 October 1975 the same Treasurer said:
A briefing was given to the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions as such on the afternoon of Budget day between about 1 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. by an officer of my personal staff who had been involved in the preparation of the Budget Speech and documents and had been a member of the working party . . .
It ought to be noted that before the then Treasurer admitted that the President of the ACTU and Chairman of ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd had been briefed on secret Budget matters he had said that he had not briefed anyone, that the Prime Minister had not briefed anyone and that the Deputy Prime Minister had not briefed anyone. But he knew very well that his personal agent had briefed someone, and in any court of law his statement would have to be regarded as a lie.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether he is in a position to inform the House of the state of negotiations between the Australian Government and the Queensland Government in regard to the situation at Aurukun and Mornington Island, and what is the constitutional position regarding Commonwealth intervention?
– I can inform the honourable gentleman that discussions have been continuing with the Queensland Government for some time. Unfortunately, with due respect to my colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, at present there is some difficulty in getting through to Brisbane. Notwithstanding that, I have been in touch with representatives of the Uniting Church in Australia and have been endeavouring to maintain contact through officers with Aurukun and Mornington Island so that those communities might know the Commonwealth’s position. Through my officers -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. It is quite wrong for the Minister to blame the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. There is no telephone service to Aurukun.
– There is no point of order.
– With respect to the honourable gentleman, just a moment ago I was speaking about communications with Brisbane. As I was saying, contact is being maintained with the Queensland Government through my officers in Brisbane. Having regard to the fact that the two community councils, through their solicitor, Mr McMillan, obtained an injunction in the Supreme Court of Queensland yesterday, I hope that this period can be utilised usefully by both governments, the Uniting Church and the communities as something in the nature of a cooling ofT period; that it will enable us to get together to thrash out the present difficulties and to come up with a resolution which will allow the local government legislation to work effectively and properly and, through that vehicle, to obtain self management for both these communities. As the legal question of the constitutionality of the Commonwealth’s position would require a dissertation on matters of constitutional law, I think, with respect to my colleague, that it is better that I do not canvass it at Question Time.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that an assumption of a 7.5 per cent rise in average weekly earnings has been used in estimating payasyouearn taxation deductions for 1978-79? Further, is the rise in the average salary and allowances for public servants assumed to be only 3.85 per cent for 1978-79? Does this lower assumption for Public Service salaries result in a saving in total outlays and a deficit of the order of $ 100m? Does the Treasurer still stand by his statement made on last Tuesday’s AM program that this Budget was honestly framed?
-Yes, I stand by the statement that I made on AM that the Budget has been framed honestly. Statement No. 2 -
– His memory will be hazy.
– Not as hazy as the honourable member’s recollection when he gave those two conflicting answers to which the Prime Minister referred. The statement that I made on -
-Order! The Treasurer will resume his seat. The Treasurer has been asked a question by the honourable member for Sydney. The question was heard in silence and the answer also should be heard in silence. I ask honourable members on my left to cease interjecting.
– The statement to which the honourable member for Sydney referred concerning the assumption adopted for average weekly earnings is contained in Statement No. 2 of the Budget Papers. I do not accept that there is an inconsistency between the two statements to which he referred, both of which I think are found in Statement No. 2- perhaps the second one might be contained in another statementand I do not accept the implication in the honourable gentleman’s question that the figures to which he referred, regarding Public Service wage increases, constitute an inappropriate or dishonest statement.
-I direct a question to the Treasurer. On Tuesday evening the Treasurer, when presenting the Budget, outlined the adjustments which would be made to the age pension. Is it proposed that a means test will be applied to senior citizens who turn 70 years of age on or after 1 November next and that many of these citizens will not be eligible for any age pension? Will the Treasurer please explain to the House the precise position in which these citizens will be placed?
– It is regrettable if there has been any confusion regarding this matter. There was no lack of clarity so far as the statement made on Tuesday night was concerned. Any confusion perhaps can be attributed to attempts by some outside this place to construe unfairly what the Government has decided. Let me make it quite clear that the effect of the decision is to freeze the means test free pension- I repeat the words ‘means test free pension’- for persons over age 70. The means test in future will be applied only in respect of increases to that frozen means test entitlement, which has been frozen at present levels. That means that persons who are now over 70 years of age will continue on a means test free basis to receive their present entitlement and in addition any persons who subsequently tura 70 years of age likewise will be entitled to receive a means test free pension at current levels. The effect of the decision announced on Tuesday night is simply that additions to that means test free element will be subject in future to an income test in respect of both persons who are now aged over 70 and those who subsequently turn 70.
-I have pleasure in informing the House that present in the Gallery this morning is a delegation from the People’s Assembly of the Arab Republic of Egypt led by Dr El Sayed Ali El Sayed. On behalf of the House I extend to the visitors a warm welcome.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
– Does the Treasurer remember saying earlier this year that the Government adheres to the general view that retrospective legislation is normally against the public interest? If so, will he explain to the House why he now proposes to introduce retrospective income tax legislation which will tax in full a lump sum payment for accrued annual leave paid on retirement, which is presently subject to income tax on only 5 per cent of that lump sum payment? Will the Treasurer explain why he also proposes to back date the 1 Vi per cent income tax surcharge to 1 July 1978? Can the Treasurer reconcile his present actions with the statements he made earlier this year?
-I remember the statement I made earlier. I adhere to that statement. I do not accept the construction that the honourable member for Banks has placed upon the announcements that were made in the Budget
Speech. I do not accept that the decision the Government announced regarding the new basis for taxing unused annual or holiday pay is retrospective. The entitlement to receive the lump sum in lieu of having taken annual leave or holidays during a worker’s working time does not arise until termination of employment and the Budget announcement does not, of course, affect retirements and amounts received upon termination prior to Budget night itself. In case there is any doubt in the minds of members of this House in respect of the decision regarding long service leave I point out that the Government has decided that there will be a full phasing-in arrangement so that as far as long service leave is concerned, only five per cent lump sum payments for any long service leave which has notionally accrued prior to Budget night will, on a pro rata basis, continue to be taxed upon retirement and upon the lump sum being received.
So far as the method of collecting the full financial year effect of the 1 1 1/2 per cent increase in the standard rate of taxation is concerned, I point out to the honourable gentleman that the practice which is being followed on this occasion is similar to practices which have been followed in the past in respect of adjustments to the rate scale.
The honourable member will know, having been an employee of the Taxation Office, that the Commissioner of Taxation has the capacity to assess tax in respect of given financial years. If the Government makes a decision to increase the standard rate of tax for 1978-79 from 32c in the dollar to 33’^c in the dollar, obviously it must have a mechanism to ensure that the full amount of tax is collected through the pay-as-you-earn tax system for the entirety of that financial year. I also point out to the honourable gentleman, as he well knows, that company tax is payable in respect of the preceding year’s profit of a company. As I understand it, it has been the invariable practice since Federation that in the case of adjustments in respect of company tax increases or reductions, as the case may be, the rate of tax applies in respect of profits which a company has earned in the year preceding the year in which the adjustment occurs. I say to the honourable gentleman that the attempts by him and perhaps by sections of the media to construe these tax changes as being changes brought about by methods that have not been employed in the past and to impute into them elements of retrospectivity are both misleading and ill-founded.
-Can the Minister for Health give an indication of the likely considerable savings to families now covered by Medibank Standard consequent upon the announced changes in health insurance in the Budget?
– There will be considerable savings to most people in Australia as a result of the changes that will come into force on 1 November 1978, particularly for those people who are paying the maximum Medibank levy at the present time. As from 1 November, all those people paying the Medibank levy will no longer be required to pay the levy because it is being abolished from that date. The maximum amount of Medibank levy being paid by families at the present time is $300 per annum and the single rate is $ 1 50 per annum. Therefore, those people paying the levy will save as a result of its abolition. As from 1 November, all Australians will be eligible to receive a universal medical benefit set at 40 per cent of the schedule fee with a maximum payment by a patient of $20 for any service rendered by a doctor who charges the schedule fee. Of course, in some instances doctors charge more. Nonetheless, that will be the extent of the Commonwealth’s contribution.
Moreover, all Australians will be covered fully for standard hospital accommodation at no cost to them when treated by a doctor engaged by the hospital. Former levy payers will have the choice of taking out medical insurance with a private health fund, including Medibank Private, to insure themselves for the gap- that is, the gap between the 40 per cent and the $20 maximum payment and the 75 per cent and the $10 payment- or simply accept the universal medical benefits cover. The medical premium for medical insurance for a family clearly will be less than the $300 maximum which is paid at the present time. We are making special provisions- they have been announced already- in respect of bulk billing arrangements for pensioners with health benefit cards and for those people in the community who are socially disadvantaged. Generally, the scheme has received a very good reception. From the present time until 1 November the Government will make sure that adequate information is provided to each household to enable people to make the choice as to what suits them best. The one thing that people who receive the standard benefits from Medibank Standard need to understand is that if they do not take additional gap insurance they will be getting only the 40 per cent benefit. We will make sure that they understand that because I do not want people complaining after 1 November that they did not know that the benefit would be less than they now receive from Medibank Standard. But it may be the wish of many people to take a degree of risk themselves. Inherent in the scheme is an opportunity for people to engage voluntarily in an optional deductible.
-Did the Treasurer say yesterday at the National Press Club that the estimate for unemployment benefit payments was calculated on the basis of the number of unemployment benefit recipients increasing from 265,000 last year to 290,000 this year? If so, how does he account for the fact that the Department of Social Security estimates show that the allocation of funds for unemployment benefits this year is $9. 5m less than the amount spent on unemployment benefits last year?
– It is true that I did say that yesterday at the National Press Club. To put the figures in correct perspective, I indicated that 265,000 and 290,000 were the monthly average figures which had been calculated for the purpose of payment of unemployment benefits. The honourable gentleman asks me to reconcile that with a reduction of about $9m in funds allocated for unemployment benefits. I point out to the honourable gentleman that the Budget Speech contains a reference to increased staff allocations for the Department of Social Security which are designed, in part, to improve provision of services and also to tighten existing procedures. On the basis of advice and after consultation between the Department of Social Security, the Department of Finance and the Public Service Board- given the tightened procedures that are being adopted- an adjustment which produces the difference to which the honourable gentleman refers was felt to be both proper and sound.
– I ask the Minister for Transport whether he is aware of reports in the Northern Territory that the Ghan, the Alice Springs to Port Augusta 3 feet 6 inches railway line, is to be axed? I ask, especially in view of the progress being made on the construction of the new line, whether the Minister can clarify the situation to the House and allay the fears that Territorians naturally have of being denied vital supplies from southern States.
– I can allay any fears in respect of the future of the Ghan. The Ghan will not be closed until such time as the Alice SpringsTarcoola railway line is completed. The honourable member will have noticed that $27.2m is made available in the Budget for continuance of the construction of the Alice Springs-Tarcoola railway line. That is the level of funds required to allow Australian National Railways to keep to its time table for completion of that railway line. As I understand it, the rumour that the Ghan railway was to be closed came from the South Australian Minister for Transport who has been very prominent in issuing ridiculous statements about the situation in respect of the whole Australian National Railways system. The facts are that ANR will lose some $60m this year, and that is recorded in the Budget Papers. Some time ago I asked ANR for a 10-year plan for overcoming its loss situation. I think Mr Virgo has simply picked up a bit of scuttle-butt around the traps and has decided to go public and try to create as much mischief as he can. It is a pretty typical ploy that he uses quite often when he wants to create difficulty or embarrassment for anybody, particularly me. I would like to assure Mr Virgo that what he says does not worry me one bit. The only thing that does concern me is that he might be causing some concern to the people of the Northern Territory and the people of South Australia who live along the railway lines.
The South Australian section of the ANR complex is the most rundown railway system in Australia, barring the Tasmanian system. It is interesting to note that both States have had Labor governments and neither of them has ever put money into their railway systems. Of course, when the Whitlam Government fell for the three-card trick in taking over the South Australian railway system we had to pick up the bill. I think it is completely responsible for ANR to draw up a 10-year plan to try to overcome some of the deficiencies, particularly in the Southern Australian section which was neglected over the years by the South Australian Labor Government. When that plan comes to this Government we will consider it in a responsible fashion. ANR is facing up to the real difficulties created by the South Australian Government because of its failure to put money into the system over the years. I am hopeful that ultimately the South Australians will benefit considerably from an improved railway system throughout the State. To go back to the original question in respect of the Ghan, please assure the Northern Territorians that it is the wish of this Government to complete the Alice Springs-Tarcoola railway system as soon as possible so that they too can benefit from an improved railway system.
– I ask the Minister for Finance: Will he state whether any approach was made to him requesting that he write a letter referring to his recollection of a discussion in the Prime Minister’s office on 1 7 January this year?
-I answered a question from the Leader of the Opposition on this matter yesterday and I thought I made myself perfectly clear. If I did not, let me say today that at no time have I been put under any duress by any person on any matter pertaining to this Royal Commission. At no time have I been under any duress from any person on any matter.
-I ask the Prime Minister: Has he seen suggestions that the 12 te per cent additional customs duty on import quotas is being regarded as increased protection and is in conflict with his position taken at the Multilateral Trade Negotiations and representations to the European Economic Community?
– I have seen one or two reports that are, as I understand it, mildly critical of that decision. There are two matters I would like to mention. Firstly, it is quite clear that when there are quantitative restrictions, imports quotas, a varying degree of monopoly profit accrues to the holder of the import licence. The Government believes that the community should share in that degree of monopoly profit, a profit which is induced quite directly as a result of a government decision following an Industries Assistance Commission report and designed to protect the industry concerned. On that ground, I think the decision is fully sustainable, justified and indeed necessary. It is not for the European Economic Community or any element of it to criticise the openness of Australia’s market in comparison with its own. In comparison with European markets, Australia’s are amongst the most open in the world. When one looks at the non-tariff barriers that are pursued over a wide range of agriculture, there is nothing like that on the Australian scene.
Let me take examples from one other industry. When I had discussions with the French Minister for Industry he was slightly concerned about the degree of quotas for Renault. He argued that the Renault quota should be higher because the German quota, on an historical performance basis, had been higher. Europeans conveniently seek to forget that they are entitled to compete for up to 20 per cent of the automobile market in Australia but, so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, imports are restricted by voluntary restraint agreements, which are just as effective as import quotas because they are not really voluntary. They are negotiated on the basis that if you do not agree you run the risk of losing access to the market altogether. Insofar as Britain is concerned, imports comprise about 10 per cent or 12 per cent of the market as opposed to our 20 per cent. Insofar as France is concerned the figure is 3 per cent or 4 per cent compared with our 20 per cent. The figure for Italy is 0. 1 per cent. I think that again shows that in many aspects the European Economic Community is a thoroughly restrictive market. Even though it is in the industrial goods area, the motor manfacturing industries of those three major motor producing countries are vastly more protected than our own.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Finance. I refer the Minister to the article Robinson’s memory faces a test’ in the 22 August issue of the Bulletin. I ask: Is the article ‘s claim false that the Minister was requested to write to the Prime Minister about his recollection of events on 17 January? If so, in what respect?
- Mr Speaker, I answered a question from the Leader of the Opposition on this matter yesterday and I answered a question from him on this matter a few minutes ago. I have nothing further to add.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Is Australia’s trade with the five members of the Association of South East Asian Nations growing? Is the volume of that trade significant and is the balance of that trade in Australia’s favour?
-Trade with the ASEAN countries is significant and it is growing. It has grown in recent times quite specifically because of the encouragement from the Australian Government. Imports from ASEAN countries increased by 400 per cent from 1971-72 to $550m in 1977-78. Indeed, the ASEAN countries have had one of the fastest growth rates in the Australian market of any group of exporters to this country. It is an annual rate of increase of over 30 per cent, which is much more than the average rate of growth of imports into Australia. This reflects the liberal import policy of Australia whereby 86 per cent of ASEAN imports enter duty-free or under preference and only 3.6 per cent enter under any kind of quantitative restrictions. The trade balance is in our favour. In 1977-78 it was about $265m. But that reflects strong exports of wheat, sugar, dairy products, iron and steel, which are sold obviously on a fully commercial basis, Australia being the best and the cheapest supplier to ASEAN of these products.
I thought it was very odd when the Leader of the Opposition, during his recent trip to South East Asia, said that the trade balance with the ASEAN countries ought to be reversed. I think he said that our objective ought to be to crunch the situation as quickly as possible- to turn around that situation.
-Who said that?
-The Leader of the Opposition is alleged to have said that. Of course it is consistent with other views that he has expressed on trade matters over a significant period. But if our trade balance with ASEAN is to be turned around, I think we are entitled to ask how. Do we do it by restricting our exports and saying: ‘Even though you want these things from us and even though we are the cheapest exporters so far as you are concerned, we are not going to sell to you; we will make you go to a more expensive market further away’? I think that would be slightly ludicrous. It would assist neither ASEAN nor Australia’s industries, which would be significantly damaged as a result. The other way of doing it, of course, would be to enable even more imports into this country. Since most of the imports from ASEAN come in without restriction, the only other way of doing it would be to take off the quantitative restrictions on the small part of ASEAN ‘s trade which is subject to restriction because of the sensitive nature of employment in certain industries. It is worth noting that every major country has restrictions on these particular items produced in the textile, apparel and footwear industries. It ought to be noted that we purchase goods to the value of $3 per head whereas in the United States it is about 60c; in the European Economic Community it is 50c and in Japan it is about 25c. If the ASEAN countries had equivalent access to other markets as they do to ours, they would be exporting over $ 1 billion worth of goods in addition to those which they now export.
Since it is perfectly clear that the Leader of the Opposition believes that the only way to crunch around this situation is to encourage ASEAN imports further into the Australian market, he could do so only in that sensitive area because other areas are not subject to quantitative restrictions.
That would mean completely undermining the three-year term of protection and guarantees that we have given to the textile, apparel and footwear industries throughout Australia. Therefore, will he require the honourable member for Batman to tell the 600 employees at Julius Marlow Pty Ltd that they will be displaced by imports from ASEAN. Is the honourable member for Corio to tell the 700 employees of the Godfrey Hirst factory in the Corio electorate that the policy of crunching around the trade balance will result in them losing their jobs? Will the honourable member for Gellibrand tell that to the 650 people employed in the factory of George Kinnear and Sons Pty Ltd? Firms in the electorate of Melbourne and in Melbourne Ports, where Queensland Industries employ 400 people, and a large number of smaller manufacturers would go out of business under the policy of crunching around the trade balance with ASEAN. So it goes on. In the electorate of Chifley, Anthony Squires employs 240 people. In the electorate of Cunningham, the King Gee Clothing Co. Pty Ltd employs 250 people. The honourable member for Grayndler is not in the House but in his electorate there are a number of manufacturers of textiles, apparel and footwear. Are the members for Hunter and KingsfordSmith going to say–
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that this is not an answer to the question. Are we going to sit here and listen to a list of every manufacturer in Australia? The Prime Minister is trying to avoid the next question he must answer about the lies that have been told in this Parliament.
-There is no point of order.
-There are other electorates represented by members of the Australian Labor Party that would be affected by this situation. In the electorate of the honourable member for Newcastle, Rundles Pty Ltd employs 200 people and Bradmill Industries Ltd employs 400 people. In the electorate of the honourable member for Reid, Amco Pty Ltd employs 900 people. If honourable members opposite want to crunch around the trade balance with ASEAN there is only one way to do it and that is by lifting the protection on the textile, apparel and footwear industries in Australia and saying: ‘Let these industries be abolished.’ We know quite well that this policy is completely consistent with the philosophy of the Leader of the Opposition and the former Leader of the Opposition, both of whom are complete and open free traders- to the plaudits of some people in the community but not, I know, to the plaudits of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and one or two others who believe that Australian working men and women deserve some degree of protection. The Leader of the Opposition does not believe that. His policies would require the representatives of those electorates I have mentioned to go into those electorates and say: These factories are going to be destroyed. These factories are going to go out of business.’ That is not the end of it because there are many more factories that have not yet been named.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his answers in this House yesterday to my questions concerning an article in the current issue of the Bulletin magazine headed ‘Robinson’s memory faces a test’.
– God you ‘re a bore.
– I am in the process of boring a hole right through the Government. Does the Prime Minister recall his resignation from a previous government over a newspaper report concerning a former Prime Minister of which he stated that one sentence would have killed the report? I ask: Will he now take his own advice and make the one sentence denial that would kill this report in the Bulletin”)
– I have said all that needs to be said in relation to these matters. A statement has been made recounting the circumstances and from my own knowledge the statements of the Minister for Finance are completely and absolutely accurate.
– Is the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development aware of a Government committee recommendation in 1976 that consideration should be given to Commonwealth Government funding of sport and recreation, including the raising of revenue by means of a national lottery? Is the Minister aware of the recent lobbying by the Confederation of Australian Sport for the Commonwealth Government to establish a lottery? Is the Government able to comply with that request? If not, is the Government able to assist by encouraging each State government or the Confederation itself to establish such a lottery? Does the Minister agree that increased expenditure of Government funds will necessarily improve the excellence of sportsmen and women in international competition?
– I thank the honourable member for McMillan for his question. I am aware of the recommendations of the honourable member’s backbench committee which worked so well and effectively during 1976 and greatly assisted the Government in drawing up its highly successful policy on sport. If my memory serves me correctly, at the time the committee was considering the issue which the honourable member has raised today there was some Press publicity given to it, and some Premiers very quickly and very vocally expressed concern at the Commonwealth showing interest in a sports lottery. They pointed out, and I think probably rightly, that a lottery of this nature would be a State matter. I am aware of the lobbying being carried out at the present time by the Confederation of Australian Sport. My Department is discussing the issue with the Confederation and with relevant officers of State departments.
Turning to the last part of the question, I do not believe that the expenditure of money by governments is likely to result in a proportionate increase in the success of an international team or in the number of medals that might be won by a team competing in. international events. Our efforts at Edmonton support that suggestion. Our athletes, our sportsmen and women, performed most creditably in the recent Commonwealth Games. For example, only one competitor broke a world record and she was an Australian, Tracy Wickham. Australians won 84 medals, our second highest tally in the history of the Commonwealth Games. It was second only to the 105 medals we won in Perth in 1 962.
We won more medals this time than we did in New Zealand in 1974 although at those Games we had the highest tally of all the competing nations. One fact that might interest honourable members is that a comparison of medals won to team size shows that Australia with 0.44 medals per head came out ahead of Canada with 0.38 medals per head and England with 0.33 medals per head.
-I will call the honourable member for a personal explanation shortly.
– The Prime Minister is running out of the House. I think he ought to stay. He has told the House lies.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark.
-I seek the indulgence of the Chair to add to an answer I gave to a question asked by the honourable member for Hughes. When I was answering the question I forgot to inform the honourable gentleman that as well as the tightened procedures resulting from the review of procedures to which I referred, another reason for the increase between 1977-78 and 1978-79 being only $9.6m was the de-indexing of the unemployment benefit paid to recipients without dependants. The November payment of about $10m would have been one of the factors helping to keep down the increase.
– Pursuant to section 41 of the Export Development Grants Act 1974 I present the report of the Export Development Grants Board for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Schools Commission report for the triennium 1979-81, dated July 1978, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Education relating to the report.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report of the Industries Assistance Commission on brooms and brushes.
-(Braddon-Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development)- Pursuant to section 6 of the Environment (Financial Assistance) Art 1977 I present an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and South Australia made under the provisions of that Act.
-(Oxley-Leader of the Opposition)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. In the course of an answer to a question by a Government supporter the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) devoted considerable energy to completely misrepresenting views of mine -
-The honourable gentleman will state when that misrepresentation occurred.
-During Question Time the Prime Minister asserted that I had proposed certain policies when I was recently in ASEAN countries implying the development of a completely open market in Australia which would have consequential adverse effects on the Australian economy. So that I shall not be misrepresented again at least honestly- of course that would not guarantee that I will not be misrepresented again by the Prime Minister- let me say that when in the ASEAN countries I made clear my views, namely, that there is a need for more effective reciprocal trade development to occur, that the imbalance in Australia’s favour at this point is unfair, that there are difficulties in seeking to right this situation given the present state of the Australian economy, and that there would be political impediments if a government sought to do this unless it did it in a way which gathered Australian community confidence. I therefore recommended a program of social and economic development for this country. My views given in the ASEAN countries were well understood and applauded. I would have thought that to any intelligent man they would represent plain common sense. Of course, by definition, that means some problems for the Prime Minister.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the Queensland Hansard of 17 May last on page 941, Mr Hartwig is reported as having said:
Or Everingham said that we were exporting fresh, chilled and frozen meat to New Zealand. I challenge him to prove that we are exporting one kilogram . . . We are certainly exporting meat products . . .
My statement was based on information provided to me by the Leader in this Parliament of Mr Hartwig ‘s own party. In answer to Question on Notice No. 320 asked on 1 March 1978, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) said:
He then gave the following figures in kilograms of exports of unprocessed meat to New Zealand for the previous three financial years: Beef, seven; pigmeats, 733,409; sheep meats, 8,242; poultry, 108,506; others, excluding turkeys, kangaroo and rabbit, 19,299; and of this the greatest annual share, 553,805, occurred in the last year listed.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-If the honourable gentleman wishes to make a personal explanation, he may proceed.
– Yesterday it was suggested by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), as Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, in answer to a question from the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier), that my office facilities may have been used improperly. I am the sponsor and convenor of the Medibank Action Coalition, which includes people such as Councillor Healy, social workers from Collingwood and Fitzroy and my electorate secretary, Glenys Stradijot. The honourable member and the Minister should have been aware, or could easily have checked, that Councillor Healy is my research assistant employed full time in my office. As such I authorised Councillor Healy to contact local government bodies. I also authorised the correspondence. T ask the Minister and the honourable member for Bendigo to withdraw their reflections on me pursuant to Standing Order 76.
-The honourable gentleman refers me to Standing Order 76, which reads:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
At the time the question was asked I did ask for it to be withdrawn. It was a question seeking information. The honourable gentleman has now given an explanation. I do not propose to pursue the matter under Standing Order 76. There is an allegation and a refutation, and the facts can be judged by the House.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-If the honourable gentleman wishes to make a personal explanation, he may proceed.
– During the answer to a question the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that I would be responsible for dismissals and loss of job opportunities at Godfrey Hirst Australia Pty Ltd in my electorate if policies of the Opposition were pursued. The Prime Minister misled the House on that matter and made charges against me that I think I am entitled to refute. The facts are that Godfrey Hirst Australia Pty Ltd is the only wholly Australian manufacturer of carpets and does not import any carpets, In 1976 the company asked for a reference to the Temporary Assistance Authority which after 18 months was refused by the Government. It was seeking protection against the dumping of United States and New Zealand carpets, not carpets from ASEAN countries. The company has a major commercial process that it has developed without government assistance and it has been notably overlooked in any government assistance for the marketing of that process. Godfrey Hirst Australia Pty Ltd is extremely successful. It is improper for the Prime Minister to cast any doubts on its future success.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is entitled to speak on a misrepresentation only.
– I have nothing on my conscience that would require me to explain to the employees of Godfrey Hirst Australia Pty Ltd the policies of the Opposition, but their jobs have been repeatedly placed in jeopardy by the Prime Minister.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is proceeding beyond making a personal explanation, and I ask him to resume his seat.
Australian Government Engine Works- Civil Marriage Celebrants- Accommodation for Aged and Disabled Persons- Immigration Control Association Pamphlet- International Freight Rates- Price of Crude Oil- Answers to Questions Upon Notice- The Budget: Action by Trade Unions
That grievances be noted.
– I raise for the consideration of the Parliament, the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) the future of the Australian Government Engine Works at Port Melbourne. It is public knowledge that the Government has taken a decision virtually to close this engine works. First of all, I want quickly to inform those members of the House who might not be familiar with the history of this important structure that it was founded in 1 943 to build steam engines for corvettes and cargo vessels built in Australian shipyards. In 1949 it began producing Doxford slow speed diesel engines for coastal shipping, of which 16 were built. In 1961 the Australian Government Engine Works began production of Sulzer slow speed diesel engines. Of these, 13 have been built, the largest being one of 21,000 brake horsepower. The facilities at the Australian Government Engine Works for producing these engines include a test annexe capable of testing engines from 200 b.h.p. up to 24,000 b.h.p. which cost $470,000 between 1961-65. The workshop is unique in the Southern Hemisphere and would be impossible to move.
I have a fairly substantial file on this workshop. I would point out that the previous Government, concerned about the future of the workshop, began a series of investigations designed to involve and interest overseas companies in participating in the development and extension of the workshop, thereby increasing the variety of work it performs. The previous Government at all times envisaged that the Australian Government would maintain a continuing financial interest and involvement in the workshop because of the very specialised technology available there and its relevance to Australia’s future defence commitments. At the time negotiations were proceeding certainly one large overseas manufacturing group and possibly three groups, with real specialisation in the technology of low speed engines evinced interest, and one large Japanese firm was deeply involved by virtue of representations made by the Department of Productivity. Work was carried out on a proposal which would have assured the future of the workshop and, more importantly, would have extended its technology and capacity.
The present Government changed the guidelines which had formed the basis of the approach to overseas companies. In February 1976- and I think that this was probably the critical decision- the guidelines were changed. Overseas companies which had entered into these negotiations in good faith and were prepared to supply areas of technology and finance were suddenly told that the whole basis of the negotiations had changed and that the Government did not wish to retain or hold any equity in any organisation which may purchase or lease the factory. They were told that no special assistance could be presumed for presently unprotected industries and that the works would be sold or leased. This decision virtually meant that those overseas companies that had expressed interest in the future of the workshop immediately lost interest. It would be a brave and courageous overseas manufacturer which, having been involved in discussions with a previous government, decided to continue its plans after suddenly being told: ‘Look, you can do whatever you want to do in the future in respect of the workshop, but you cannot rely upon us because we have changed our policy and we will not put up one dollar or one brass razoo. As far as we are concerned we want to dispose of this facility. ‘
Admittedly the Government’s decision would have been influenced by the recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission that no special protection should be made available to manufacturers of low speed diesel engines. I think it is time that someone pointed out to the Government that IAC recommendations ought not to be treated by the Government as being sacrosanct. It is not like Moses handing down the Ten Commandments from the Mountain. They are merely recommendations. It is the Government’s responsibility to accept or reject those recommendations in view of alternative and other advice made available to it.
That brings me to the other aspect of this matter. According to a memorandum produced on behalf of the Government the Department of Defence- and note it is the Department of Defence and not the Minister for Defence, and I invite the Minister to consider this matter at some stage- without proffering any detailed reasons, indicated that as far as it was concerned the workshop has no significant defence potential. If that is the position, I find it extraordinary that we in this Parliament can accept a situation in which a workshop that has this very specialised capacity and which, in my view, has defence potential, can be summarily dismissed as a result of the contents of a departmental memorandum. In fact an all-party parliamentary committee which was specifically set up to examine such matters has made another recommendation. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence stated at page 191 of its October 1977 report:
The Committee recommends also that the possible retention of the Australian Government Engine Works at Port Melbourne should be included in the expert group’s field of examination and that in the meantime no disposal or leasing action should be taken that would jeopardise the ability of the AGEW facility to produce large diesel engines. The Committee regards retention of that ability to be just as important as maintenance of hull construction ability and would fully support any negotiated arrangement with an appropriate overseas firm that would ensure continued operation of the facility.
I believe that when a parliamentary committeeany parliamentary committee- is given by this Parliament the responsibility of examining in detail and at great public cost and expense a set of questions and such a committee makes a very specific finding, that finding should not be summarily dismissed as being of no importance and relevance. Who gives some public servant in the Department of Defence higher priority, in terms of the basis upon which the Government makes its decision than an all-party parliamentary committee? As I have said, the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence was made in October 1977.
– There were very good people on it.
– The Committee consisted of some very distinguished people. They did not have any doubt about what they wanted to say. They put forward a set of recommendations that in my view had to be very fully examined by the Minister and by the Government. If we are not going to give the findings of parliamentary committees any relevance let us say so and stop wasting public money. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in reality made a very strong, very firm and very positive recommendation on the future of the engine works and that recommendation has just been blithely ignored. At the same time the Government proceeds to involve itself further in quite considerable expenditure, in my view quite properly so, for extension of the facilities at the Williamstown Dockyards. One does not have to be a defence expert to realise that Australia is an island nation. The future of our shipbuilding industry, our capacity to service both our merchant and our naval requirements, is absolutely critical to our future defence capacities.
I support the view of the all-party parliamentary committee. I ask both the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Productivity to stay their hands. Once this very important facility is disposed of we have disposed of a facility, a technology and a working experience which was absolutely critical to the past defence needs of this nation. I believe it is a shortsighted policy for the Government simply to say: ‘Well, because this industry is giving us a few problems at the moment, we are going to throw the work force on the scrap heap. We are going to dismantle this facility. We are going to abandon this very important project. ‘
-The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Today I would like to take the opportunity of this Grievance Debate to mention to this Parliament the role assumed by civil marriage celebrants and to express some personal reservations that I have about the role that they have assumed, the manner in which they are appointed and the continued authorisation that they have which does not appeal to be subject to any reasonable review or scrutiny. My objective is to put it to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that this Parliament is of the view that there ought to be some qualification to the appointment of civil marriage celebrants, that there ought to be some more definite view of the role that they carry out in the community and the wider roles that they may assume for themselves, and that those persons appointed ought to be appointed only for a limited period rather than for life, as now appears to be the case. A civil marriage celebrant gains his power to marry people under section 39 of the Marriage Act. Section 39(2) and (3) states:
An authorization under the last preceding subsection
It appears that when some people receive that authorisation they enter into a new business venture. Very little public information is available about civil marriage celebrants, but some articles have been written about them. I wish to quote from an article which appeared in the Melbourne Age of Tuesday, 11 May 1976 and in particular from one paragraph which describes the civil marriage celebrants and their role. The article states:
Civil celebrants are a special and rare race. They started in 1973 when the Labor Government put into effect a longstanding legislation for the practice, and have established themselves as an alternative to church and registry ceremonies.
The article goes on to describe the way in which they carry out their work and states:
The celebrants are a mixed collection of people who are hardly in it for the money. The fixed fee is $30 a time, for an average of two services a week, which includes travelling expenses, pre-wedding consultations, and clothes.
They do it because they say they like meeting people and being involved with them in the most personal moment of getting married.
The article then deals briefly with the way in which civil marriages are being carried out. The only published information I have seen about the number of marriages that the civil marriage celebrants have been carrying out was supplied in answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). In question upon notice No. 634 of June 1976, the honourable member asked the then AttorneyGeneral how many marriage celebrants had been appointed in each State and Territory and how many marriages they had performed. He also asked about the criteria for appointment and what information was available regarding the level of fees charged. It became clear that at that point in time some people had not carried out any marriages although some considerable time had passed since their appointment and that other celebrants were carrying out marriages with a considerable degree of enthusiasm which would certainly put to rest the comment by Mr Parsons, the acting secretary of the Civil Celebrants Association of Victoria, that they were not in it for the money. For example, a Mr J. E. Fuller carried out 789 services between the period of his appointment on 2 August 1973 and the date on which the figures were compiled, 3 1 March 1976. There was also a gentleman -
– He may not have charged for them.
-He may not have charged for the services but if he had the amount involved would have approached $22,000 in a period of two years. Another gentleman by the name of Mr D. R. Messenger, who was appointed at a later date, conducted 736 civil marriages in a lesser period.
– What is your complaint?
-My complaint is about the people who gain statutory authorisation to conduct marriages, whose stated objective is that they are not in it for the money and who have turned this business into a corruption of our moral and spiritual values as represented through what I would regard as the legitimate forms- the churches of this country.
– The churches charge?
-Of course they charge.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member ibr Dundas will address the chair.
-The point I raise-I think that it is a very valid point- concerns the character of these people and what they are about. We now have a group of people who receive authorisation under an Act of Parliament to carry out a particular function and who are holding themselves out to perform a number of so-called services which are of a much wider nature and for which they are no doubt seeking funds, although in appropriate cases, as the honourable member has suggested in relation to marriages, they may not charge a fee. A document entitled Cultural Celebrations in Australia has been produced by Mr D. R. Messenger, who is the gentleman whom I said has carried out 736 marriages. He is a gentleman who, in my view, has set about to produce a series of pagan ceremonies to plagiarise what people regard as legitimate values in our community. For example, I refer to the name giving ceremony. What is a name giving ceremony if it is not meant to take up the christian ceremony of baptism, which has a special significance to those people who hold those very strong and personal beliefs?
– Aborigines have name giving ceremonies.
-Of course. What I am saying is that here we have a group of people who, by way of statutory endorsement for a particular civil function, are setting about to use the valid christian service as a basis for getting into a money making exercise for their own personal gain, not because there is any value in it. People would not place a value on a naming service of any sort if they did not believe in baptism and what it means.
I know that some people have no personal beliefs in relation to death. One has to imagine what significance such people would see in a funeral service. But these same celebrants now hold themselves out as being available to carry out a non-religious funeral service. I do not know what that is. Certainly, I recognise that people who do not have any strong beliefs, and maybe some who do would recognise that perhaps there is a non-religious role in a wake. But I do not see why, other than for the purpose of making money, a group of people should use their statutory endorsement to carry out marriages to get into the business venture of promoting themselves as an alternative to the churches. I do not regard that as being satisfactory. I do not regard it as being a proper use of the authorisation they receive to carry out marriages. I believe that those sorts of people who have evidence on the public record that they are in it purely for the purpose of making money through the sort of services that they are prepared to conduct, not for any of those values that they publicly expressed in the newspapers and articles that I have referred to, ought to be looked at more closely and that some limit ought to be put on the time of their appointment so that we can review the very nature of the sort of role they are carrying out in the community and the wider functions that they are taking onto themselves through the statutory authorisation they have received.
– I shall address myself to some real political issues. I refer to the present scandalous deficiency in accommodation for the aged and handicapped people of Australia. Honourable members will be aware that the Aged and Disabled Persons Homes Act of 1954, as amended in 1976, provides for the Department of Social Security to fund on a federal level, on a two to one basis, the capital costs of new nursing homes after applications are forwarded from religious, charitable or local government bodies. I outline some of the deficiencies and problems that arise from this program. Firstly, with regard to present day construction costs it is estimated that some $20,000 a bed is required to construct a nursing home. That means that some $2m would be required to construct a 100-bed nursing home. It means that religious, charitable and local government bodies have to raise a down payment in the nature of $650,000 for such a home. That is completely beyond the means of most of these bodies to which I have referred. The situation, however, is even worse. I refer to a submission from the Illawarra Retirement Trust- an organisation in my electorate and in the electorate of Hughes- that provides accommodation for the aged and handicapped. Its submission to the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, stated:
The average cost of building a nursing home bed is $20,000. The maximum Government subsidy is $1 1, 130 - leaving a balance of $9,000 to be raised locally by the voluntary organisation. That is barely a 1 for 1 subsidy. The cost of furnishings has to been met entirely by the organisation.
So in actual fact, because of today’s costs, it is not a $2 for $ 1 subsidy. It is really more like a $ 1 for $1 subsidy. The result of having to put down at least a one-third down payment ensures that the areas of greatest need are not necessarily the areas that receive the assistance. They are not necessarily the projects that receive, firstly, approval in principal from the Federal-State coordinating committee on the provision of nursing homes for the aged and, secondly, after approval is granted, funds from the Federal Department of Social Security. What is required as a matter of urgency is an amendment to the Aged Persons Homes Act to give the Federal-State committee the power to direct Federal funds on a full basis and according to need.
Further I draw the attention of the House to the real cuts in this area that have been implemented by the present Government. In 1975 $30m was allocated to this area. In the Budget last Tuesday night I noted that only $26. lm was allocated. That is a monetary cut of 15 per cent but when one takes into consideration inflation over the last few years, it is a real cut of almost 50 per cent. Why has the Government done this? Obviously it is completely obsessed with its monetarist economic policies. It is trying to cut back expenditure in the same way as it did with every other subject which was dealt with in the Budget, including welfare. Probably another reason is an unholy fear of recurrent expenditure. The House will be aware that the Commonwealth also has a responsibility to fund recurrent expenditure up to $19.65 a day for patients in approved homes. I also add that the patient has a responsibility too because funds are taken from his pension and the Act requires that only $7 be left for each patient after the balance is made up. If there were enough accommodation provided in Australia one could support that sort of proposition.
– It is more than you left them.
– What is that?
– That is more than you left them. Be honest.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Cunningham will address the Chair.
-I do not think that what the honourable member for Bendigo said is true. The point about it is that this Government’s fear of inducing recurring expenditure is inhibiting the honourable member for Bendigo and the Government from providing the needed capital expenditure in this area, as I have just proved. I inform the House about the sort of situation this creates in some of the needy areas, such as in the electorate that I represent. The estimate of the Health Commission of New South Wales is that 50 beds ought to be available for every 1,000 people over 65 years of age. I am informed by the Deputy Director-General of Social Security that currently in the Wollongong-Shellharbour area, 328 beds are available. This is 22 beds for each 1 ,000 people over 65 years of age. That is not even one-half of the number the Health Commission of New South Wales said was required. True, stage 3 of the Illawarra Retirement Trust project providing an extra 80 beds at Woonona will go ahead but that will increase the number of beds available in the area to only 27 beds a thousand.
I am informed that no further allocations for the present triennium have yet been made to my particular area which is a very large migrant and working class area. Currently, over 400 aged persons are being forced to go into homes outside this particular area. They are now residing in homes some 50, 200 or 300 miles away from their surviving spouses or families. Just imagine:
We will all become old one day. People who cannot afford to have themselves looked after in private hospitals which this Government is so keen to establish find themselves in this very nasty situation. That is what is happening not only in my electorate but also in many areas throughout Australia.
Let me give the House just one individual example: Only one week ago the relations of a 92 year-old blind woman came to me and said that she had been discharged from the Port Kembla Hospital on the advice of a doctor and had been taken home just two weeks before the relations consulted me. They asked whether I could help. My electorate secretary contacted not less than 1 8 nursing homes in the Illawarra, the tablelands and southern New South Wales areas. I shall quickly inform the House of the situation. At Chesalon, there were no beds and a long waiting list of two years; at Coniston, a wait of 6 months to one year; at Garrawarra- the only public home in the south west area- a considerable waiting period; at Mount Warrigal, a waiting period of five years; at Villa Maria, no possibility; at Olunda, a few months at the earliest; at Chesalon, Nowra, there was no hope; at the Nowra Rest Home, there were no beds; and so it goes on and on. That is the situation in New South Wales in this particularly vexing area. A great need exists for the provision of geriatric facilities and nursing homes in Australia. A great need also exists to stimulate the building industry which is in its biggest post World War II slump. Why should we not try–
– That is nonsense.
-I notice that the honourable member for Macarthur has been quite successful in soliciting funds in this area because I understand that his particular electorate has many more nursing homes per thousand people over 65 years of age than any other electorate in Australia.
– So you admit you lied about Nowra?
– I do not know whether that is a wrap up for the honourable member for Macarthur but it certainly is not a wrap up for this Government.
– So you are admitting that you were lying about Nowra?
-Order! The honourable member for Macarthur will not interject.
– I am not lying about anything. I am telling you that the Deputy Director-General of Social Security -
-Order! The honourable member for Cunningham will address the Chair.
-The Deputy Director-General of Social Security informed me that we have 22 beds per thousand in Wollongong and Shellharbour. I hope that the honourable member for Macarthur will support my efforts to rectify that situation. What we need in Wollongong, in the Cunningham electorate, is one major new geriatric hospital and one major new nursing home. That is the opinion of Dr Diment, the Regional Director of the Health Commission of New South Wales. But, of course, two factors are militating against that. Firstly, with regard to the geriatric hospitals, this Government has dropped the hospitals development program altogether which provided a $1 for $1 assistance to the States. Where does that leave us and our need for a geriatric hospital? Secondly, I again make the point with regard to nursing homes that applications are not considered by the Federal-State co-ordinating committee unless one-third of the capital cost is available either through private bodies or local council organisations. That is a disgraceful situation. As a matter of urgency, this Government must intervene and introduce amendments to the aged and handicapped persons legislation to allow Federal-State coordinating committees to waive this requirement.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I did not jump during the speech by the honourable member for Cunningham because I did not want to interrupt his time, but on two occasions during his speech the honourable member for Macarthur accused him of lying. Everybody in the House heard it and I was surprised that you did not ask the honourable member for Macarthur to withdraw. It was a most unparliamentary remark and I think the honourable member ought to apologise for making it.
-If the remark was made I can say only that over the noise of exchange the Chair did not hear the comment. If the honourable member for Macarthur admits to making that statement I would ask him to withdraw it.
– Yes, I regret that in the heat of the moment, being annoyed by the untruth, I did accuse the honourable member for Cunningham of lying. I apologise and withdraw.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I did not put any untruths during that speech and I would like a total withdrawal by the honourable member for Macarthur. He is still alleging that I told an untruth. If he thinks I did, I would like him to say where it was.
-There is no substance in the point of order. The offensive term was withdrawn.
– I wish to raise a grievance about a leaflet which is circulating in some areas and which is put out by the Immigration Control Association. On its cover appears the title ‘For Your Children’s Sake- The Asian Invasion Must Stop’. This is an inaccurate and crude attempt to promote racial hatred and community tension. The publication is almost so puerile that it is not worth commenting on, but I must resist the temptation to ignore it because its contents are reminiscent of the softening-up which was undertaken in Nazi Germany against the Jews before the holocaust took place. I think we must lay to rest a number of the inaccurate statements- one must think deliberately inaccurate statements- contained in this publication and a number of others put out by the Association. I quote the following statement from the leaflet as my first example:
Australian soldiers fought and died in New Guinea to keep the Asian invader from our shores, but these men -
There are arrows pointing to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar)- these men- these politicians- afraid of offending the United Nations are now breaking faith with those who died and suffered to keep Asian invaders out of Australia.
They are actually encouraging the new (peaceful) Asian invasion threatening to overwhelm us.
I think that is a travesty of what Australian servicemen fought and died for. They fought and died to keep Australia a free and democratic country, and part of that freedom and that democratic process is the right to decide what sort of immigration policy we should have and what sort of criteria should be administered.
– Most of our Asian neighbours were our allies in the last war.
– Indeed, that is quite true, as the honourable member for Robertson has pointed out. Most of our neighbouring countries in Asia were our allies during the last war. That is another inaccuracy in the statements in the leaflet. As far as the attitude of servicemen is concerned, I could take the author of this piece of paper along to Returned Services League clubs in my electorate where he would find very proud and very active members of the clubs who are themselves of Asian origin and are very well accepted in the RSL clubs.
Let me move on to something else in this publication. Reference is made to an intake of Asians of up to 30,000 a year taking the jobs of our 400,000 unemployed. Firstly, I would like to comment on the figure of 30,000 a year quoted in the publication. I have tried to do a little bit of research on it to find out on what it is based. I can assume only that the figure is based on a definition of non-Europeans in a very strict sense and that the 30,000 includes not only Asians but nonEuropeans such as Turks and Lebanese. I ask: Who could be more European in many senses than the Christian Lebanese who have been coming into Australia as a result of the upheavals in their country? The very basis of the figuring is highly suspect, to put it politely.
– What about the Papuans in North Queensland or the Torres Strait?
– I do not know whether the honourable member for Cunningham is supporting the Immigration Control Association. If that is his view, I would like to hear him state it. The publication states that these people are taking the jobs of our 400,000 unemployed. This is a typical tactic of using racial slurs to draw attention away from other problems or to find scapegoats for problems in Australia. It ignores, the fact that there are strict criteria for the entry of most migrants into Australia and that one of the strictest of those criteria relates to the occupational and training background which people must have before they are approved for permanent residence in this country. There are, of course, relaxed criteria relating to the intakes of refugees whom we accept from countries facing enormous internal upheavals which produce large numbers of stateless people, but those intakes are judged according to Australia’s ability to absorb the people involved. I do not believe that in the aggregate they produce any major problem, certainly with respect to the total unemployment problem in Australia. My experience of those people is that they are readily integrated into the work force and become very respected and valued employees.
The leaflet also makes some comparisons with other countries. I do not have the time to go through every line of this leaflet, but in one statement it is said that in South Africa there are a number of Asian people and that there are 750,000 unassimilable people who are causing immense problems. Of course they are unassimilable in that country because the laws prevent them from being assimilated in South Africa. I do not think it is reasonable therefore for the author of this leaflet to blame the people concerned for the laws of the country in which they are situated. But let me go on. The leaflet talks about the problems that have been experienced in Great Britain. Apart from the fact that I think the leaflet exaggerates the problems in Great Britain, I point out that Australia in the formulation of its immigration policies has always tried to learn from the experiences of other countries.
One of the aims of our pattern of immigration is to try to ensure that we do not have developing in particular areas under-privileged enclaves of people who form a problem in an area. For example, we have had Indo-Chinese refugees coming through the Eastbridge hostel in Nunawading and the people from that hostel have spread out into the rest of the community. It is an area which I previously represented, Mr Deputy Speaker, but which you now represent following the redistribution. I am sure you will be aware of the extent to which those people are accepted in the local community. One only has to speak to the staff of the Mitcham high school and the Nunawading South primary school to learn how well the Indo-Chinese refugees have been accepted by the staff and by the other children in the schools. One only has to speak to employers to understand how much value they place on the contribution made by refugees to their work force. One only has to speak to the local church organisations, particularly those associated with St John’s Catholic Church in Mitcham, which have had a great deal to do with the settlement of these people to know how well they have been accepted as friends and neighbours in that area. This leaflet completely misunderstands- one can only assume deliberately- the whole nature of the contribution these people are making to Australian society.
There is room for sensible debate about immigration policies in this country. Late last session the Minister released new guidelines which he firmly and fairly administers. There is always room for debate about the exact nature of those guidelines, and I know that I and other honourable members present continually make representations to the Minister about particular people in whom we have an interest and about aspects of the guidelines that we think could be changed. But to try to base an attitude towards immigration on the sort of puerile propaganda contained in this type of leaflet does not do any good for the Australian community. It will only serve to exacerbate any tensions that might be latent in any situation. It will only serve to use these people as a scapegoat for problems which we have in Australia and which we must face up to as Australians. I appeal to members of the House to make sure that the tactic of the ‘big lie’ involved in the content of this publication is not successful and has no impact on the Australian community.
– Australians are the victims of a ruthless shakedown over international freight rates. Freight rates for the Australia-Europe run are set by an organisation of London-based shippers called the Outward Continent/ Australia Conference. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) admitted in his answer to question on notice No. 1005, as set out in Hansard of 25 May 1978, that Australia has no say in the deliberations for determining inward freight rates for Australia, either through the Australian Shippers Council or the Commonwealth Government. The Conference has a vice-like grip upon freight rates into Australia. It gives a 10 per cent bounty to all freight forwarders who deal exclusively with Conference lines charging Conference rates. Forwarders who deal even in part with nonConference shippers are punished by being denied the benefit of the bounty. This has not led to a ‘mutiny on the bounty’, but it may lead to a difference between profits and losses for firms. It is very striking that only 2 per cent of imports and exports are carried currently by Australianowned ships.
As we know, in our trade figures there are things known as ‘invisibles’. In the accounts they are divided into three items: Ships’ stores, insurance and freight charges. Ships’ stores are relatively small and I will not deal here with insurance. However, freight charges ought to be a subject of concern as they vitally affect trade. They should therefore attract the attention of the Government and of the House. I would like to draw attention to the figures kindly provided by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in his answer to question No. 1007 on 25 May. The Treasurer points out that in 1976-77, the percentage of invisibles taken up by freight charges was 19.5- that is to say one-fifth of the whole. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the Australian balance of payments statistics and part (3) of the Treasurer’s answer to question No. 1007.
The documents read as follows-
-I thank the House. The Conference is a simple, old-fashioned cartel, practising the restriction of trade like a classic collusive oligopoly. One might ask why it is that our trade obsessed Government, so keen to lower wage rates for Australian workers in order to reduce domestic costs, sits by and watches the rip-offs imposed by the Outward Continent/Australia Conference which add significantly to the cost of all our imports. In 1973, for example, at the time of the international oil crisis, the Conference added a surcharge to all imports to Australia, claiming that this was due to the uncertainty of oil supplies. This surcharge is still being levied. Why? Again the House ought to know what the Fraser Government is doing about it. Further surcharges are being imposed to provide against currency variations.
The trend of these surcharges has yet to dwindle. As I said, in 1976-77 the percentage of invisibles taken up by freight charges was 19.5 per cent, or one-fifth. If the Government could take action to reduce this figure, even perhaps by one per cent, it would have significant domestic impact. The Minister for Transport implied in his answer to question No. 1005 given on 25 May that the Government acquiesed in this state of affairs and admitted little involvement in the setting of freight rates into Australia. I am afraid that his answer shows ignorance of the practices of the Conference in maintaining its exclusive control over the Europe-Australia trade. The Fraser Government, by training its guns on the Australian workers, ignores the assault on our economy by the City of London, which dominates the Conference.
With the advent of container transport, importers rightly expected that there would be a reduction in freight rates. Indeed, freight forwarders offer a full container load FCL discount. This discount should be applied to the cargo charge prior to the application of the currency and bunker, that is to say oil, surcharges. Yet many importers are given the discount after the application of the surcharges, adding to their freight costs, to their prices to Australian consumers and of course to Australia’s invisibles account. I think that the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), who is sitting at the table, will have some interest in this matter. Where the importer cannot take advantage of a full container load for his own consignment, the cargo is often consolidated with other cargoes that the continental forwarder has to send. Far from this providing an advantage for the importer, it now provides an excuse for the forwarder not to itemise the charges made so that the importer does not know whether the artificially inflated standard Conference charges have been calculated or even how, if they have been calculated. The Minister for Transport, in his answer to question No. 1004, showed that the Government has not even considered coming to grips with this problem. He said:
This is a substantial and now significant aspect of Australia’s trading relationship with the rest of the world. It is becoming a more important part of our balance of payments on current account. This in turn affects the strength of the Australian dollar and the economy. With the investment allowance attracting considerable imports, I wonder how much of the supposed- but in some respects doubtful- benefits of the allowance are eroded by the presently unquantified but undoubtedly substantial price being paid to an unquestioned overseas cartel and to unregulated freight forwarders. If freight forwarders charge less than the Conference rates or if importers make use of non-Conference ships, such as Russian ships, they may be declared black and frozen out. In this respect I would like to take up some specific cases with the responsible Ministers.
What can be done? I believe this is a matter of great importance, not only for Australian imports and the price we pay for them, but for the balance of the national current trading account and the protection of the national interest against gross exploitation by overseas monopolistic practices. I should point out that Australian shippers and the Australian Government are involved in determining outward freight rates. All I am saying is that that same procedure which obtains for outward freight rates should apply to inward freight rates because of their importance in determining the domestic price of goods. It seems to be an extraordinary anomaly that they operate on exports but not on imports. The Government should declare that this is a case of a serious monopoly practice and it ought to take up the matter immediately with the United Kingdom Government. This is a complex and tricky subject, not clearly understood sometimes even by importers themselves. It is rarely reported and basically ignored, I think, by politicians and financial journalists. Because it is a serious matter, because I think it does affect the value of the dollar and the amount of money we are paying out, and also because it is not fully understood and not fully scrutinised, I ask the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Transport to take it up, to investigate it and to report back to the Parliament.
– I wish to speak on petrol pricing as it affects the isolated areas of Australia. In the recent Budget, the raising of the price of crude oil to 1 00 per cent of the import parity price was the speeding up of a process which was commenced in last year’s Budget. Raising the price to 100 per cent of import parity has a number of advantages: First of all, it encourages exploration. Last year, after the commencement of this system, 27 new wells were drilled in Australia. I understand that 130 permits have been applied for for next year. Secondly, the increased price for crude oil will speed up the use of alternative energy sources. Many city industries use petroleum products when they could use alternative energy sources such as coal and gas. I hope that this present policy will encourage those industries to convert to alternative means of energy because we must preserve our very limited oil resources for users with no energy alternatives, such as primary producers, airlines and most of our shipping services.
I believe that the policy of raising the price of crude oil to import parity is in the national interest. I think that it was inevitable and that there was really no alternative for a responsible government, given the world energy crisis and our oil crisis. But, of course, there are disadvantages. The price of petrol will rise by 16c per gallon or 3tec per litre. That affects all Australians. But is affects most those Australians without alternative energy resources or alternative means of transport. In the cities and towns of Australia with electricity, gas, railways, buses and trams there are alternative energy resources and alternative means of transport.
I want to quote very briefly the situation in my own electorate, which is probably one of the most difficult and worst served electorates in Australia for transport of all forms. There are 400,000 square kilometres in the mainland part of my electorate, excluding the many islands. There are less than 500 kilometres of usable railway in that vast area. There is limited sea transport. We rely almost totally on road transport and petroleum products. Therefore, I submit that those who live in the electorate of Leichhardt in far northern Australia are much more disadvantaged by this Government’s policy, which I agree with, than any other people in Australia. I would like to quote some costs and distances. In the town of Burketown the price of petrol last week was 25c per litre. It is now 29c per litre or more. Burketown is 500 kilometres from Mount Isa and 1,000 kilometres from Cairns, which is its nearest port. There are no railways, only roads.
– It is ruined because of discounting, isn’t it?
-I note the point made by the honourable member for Franklin about discounting. He has made it in this House many times before and I agree with him. I wish I had time to deal with it. In the town of Coen, which is also in my electorate, petrol was 23c per litre. It is now 25c per litre. This town is 500 kilometres from Cairns and has practically no roads. Whilst our petrol is very expensive, it is cheaper than petrol in many other countries. I was informed yesterday that the price of petrol in France now is 60c per litre. In New Zealand it is 32c to 33c per litre, although the average income is about two-thirds of that in Australia. The honourable member for Franklin has often made the point about the discounted price of petrol in cities. This makes petrol more expensive for those in rural areas. I should like to think that the State governments would control the price of petrol. The Victorian Government did it with beer. Obviously it thinks that beer is more important than petrol. Perhaps it is. Because of the distance, isolation and lack of alternative energy sources, the people in isolated areas are specially disadvantaged. City transport is subsidised each year to about $500m by various State, Federal and local governments. Therefore I call on the Government to consider how it can best assist the people in isolated areas who are so very disadvantaged by this policy. Whilst it is in the national interest, it affects them very much indeed.
At present dieselene which is very much used in our transport system, is free of excise for primary producers and miners. I call for the same policy to be introduced for petrol. Petrol which is used exclusively on the farms and in the mines of the nation should be excise free. There are difficulties; but this is done in Canada. Canada has what is called purple petrol, which is excise free for primary producers and miners. The dye to turn it purple is added by the fuel depots and is a fairly simple system. It means, of course, that separate storage facilities are necessary in the mines and on the farms of Canada. If it can be done in Canada, which has much the same problems as exist on our continent, why can we not do it here? I call on the Government to consider very seriously the introduction of excise free petrol. We might not want to call it purple petrol. Pinkblue is probably a better description for us.
That is a short term solution to our energy problems in Australia as a whole and the farms and mines in the isolated areas of Australia in particular. We should be looking very much at alternative sources of energy and speeding up research on these matters. It is interesting that Brazil, which has a very serious energy crisis, has started adding ethanol, which is produced from sugar cane, to its petrol and is now approaching an addition rate of 20 per cent of ethanol to its petrol. It aims in the long term for 100 per cent of its fuel to be produced from sugar cane or cassava, which is a type of tapioca. Both sugar cane and cassava grow very well in northern Australia. Land is available for growing more sugar cane and large areas are available for growing cassava, which requires less fertile land than sugar cane. I notice that CSR Ltd presently produces ethanol from molasses, which is a sugar product, at about 28c per litre. It is not yet competitive but, of course, it is getting closer to being competitive as the price of petrol rises. If we put more research into the production of ethanol from sugar and cassava and the production of methanol from coal and the vegetable matter from which it can be produced, I believe that we could reduce the price gap between petroleum products and other products which can replace petroleum in areas where only petroleum products, such as ethanol and methanol, can be used.
– Like the oil heaters of Canberra.
-Why are the oil heaters of Canberra not run on gas or perhaps electricity produced from our immense coal reserves, instead of using our expensive and increasingly scarce oil resources? A new and large primary industry could be started in the far north to produce ethanol from sugar cane and cassava. That could be done right across Australia, not just in my electorate. In the Northern Territory and perhaps in northern Western Australia the same thing could apply.
– And in Tasmania.
-I doubt whether it could be done in Tasmania. I know that Tasmania looms very large in the mind of the honourable member for Franklin but the growing of sugar cane there is not possible. There are some things Tasmania cannot do. There are other sources which we should be investigating and on which we should be spending more money, such as liquid petroleum gas. The Government gave a lead last year by deciding that a proportion of the Commonwealth cars would be converted to LPG. We have vast reserves of LPG. It might be difficult to transport LPG from Bass Strait or the North West Shelf to far north Queensland, but if it were used in the rest of Australia it would release scarce petroleum resources for those areas without any alternatives. I think also that we should be doing increasing work on the production of fuel from shale oil. This work is proceeding. We have just signed an agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom on research into the production of fuel from coal.
– You should mention the Pritchard steam car, which is immensely important.
-The honourable member for Lalor has made an interesting point. The Pritchard steam car would use Queensland products. I call on the Government to do all it can to reduce the imbalance which its new pricing policy for crude oil has placed on those people living in the isolated areas of Australia.
– I want to raise an issue that I think is of general interest to all members of this House, that is, the inadequacy of certain ministerial answers to questions on notice. I want to do so with specific reference to an answer given to me by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). On 10 April I asked the following question:
I did not ask this question in order to provide employment for the bureaucracy. I asked it in the general context of the Government’s reaction to the tragic events that occurred at the Hilton Hotel on 1 3 February. I also asked it with specific reference to the remarks of the Prime Minister in the Sir Robert Menzies lecture in which he referred to 40 or more violent incidents involving the use of explosives which have occurred in Australia during the last 1 5 years.
Again, I did not ask the question for some explicit or implicit partisan reason but because I believe that this Parliament needs such hard facts in order to debate intelligently and sensibly the security options open to it and to this country. At the end of July I received a two-paragraph answer from the Prime Minister which appears on page 300 of Hansard of 15 August 1978. There is no need to read out that answer as it contains very little information of value. I do not mind waiting three months to get an answerone understands the inquiries that are necessary- but I do object to waiting three months and then getting an answer without any substance. If honourable members look at what the Prime Minister said they will find that the answer contains not one explicit response to the four questions I asked. The bulk of the answer is devoted to explaining why the Prime Minister used this reference in his Menzies lecture, but this was not the question I asked.
The answer contained only one new fact, a fact previously unknown to members of this Parliament, and that is that there is a confidential Commonwealth Police Force publication entitled ‘Politically Motivated Violence and Vandalism in Australia 1963-1978’. Apart from that single fact, I, and I believe any other member of this House, could have written that answer on the night the question was asked. I do not believe that is good enough for this Parliament. The Parliament needs information on the nature and extent of the terrorist threat in this country and the success or otherwise of existing forces in coping with these problems.
Let me give some good reasons why this Parliament needs the information requested in question No. 900. First, this Parliament will soon be faced with proposals to create an Australian Federal police force. There was a joint announcement on 28 July by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) and the late Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) concerning the Government’s intention to legislate in this matter. Moreover, in that statement the planned creation of the Australian Federal police force was said to be in part due to ‘the considerable increase in the number of crimes against the Commonwealth and the number of crimes of violence of a political nature ‘. For this Parliament to assess that justification and the adequacy of the proposals suggested we need the facts requested in question No. 900. What is the real extent of the problem in our society? What is the hard information? What is the record of existing police forces in coping with the problem? These are some of the reasons why we need the information sought.
Another reason is that we will be required in the months ahead to assess some of the other recommendations made in the report by Sir Robert Mark. For instance, one recommendation is that State forces should take over the policing of Federal territories and airports. Again, we need the kind of information asked for to make assessments about that recommendation. Moreover, it is interesting to note that Sir Robert Mark himself indicated clearly that in Britain the very information I requested is made publicly available so that there can be an informed discussion in the Parliament and in the community. In a television interview Sir Robert Mark said:
We had, I think, a total of 302 devices in my time as Commissioner. That was from 1973 until 1976 and we had 57 people killed and of course several hundred injured. But we arrested- in the whole country- we arrested about 148 people and charged them with terrorism.
Well so far as London is concerned, the clean up rate of all terrorist incidents is about 68 per cent to 70 per cent.
Again, that kind of information which is available in England and which is recognised as necessary for parliamentary consideration of these issues is the same kind of information I requested in question No. 900. Further, Parliament will be required to evaluate the Hope review on protective security. There was a whole range of issues which Mr Justice Hope was required to look at in that review and to adequately assess his review this Parliament will need information on the extent and location of acts of political violence in this society and the success or otherwise of existing forces and, perhaps, the judicial system in coping with these acts.
Therefore, I would like to request that the Prime Minister either provides a precise response to the queries raised in question No. 900- that is, a set of answers -
– Send it to the Attorney-General.
– I raised it with the Prime Minister simply because he had referred to the issue in his Menzies Lecture and I believed it fell within his responsibility. I would like him to provide either a precise response to the question raised- and I believe from his answer that the information requested is available- or to release the police report ‘Politically Motivated Violence and Vandalism in Australia 1963-78*. I recognise that it is a confidential report and that in these delicate and difficult matters there may be elements of the report that could not be released to the Parliament. I would be perfectly happy if we had an edited version which gave the facts required. I can see, however, that it may not be possible to release the report as a whole because of necessarily confidential information. I would be happy if specific answers to the four questions I raised were given or the report or sufficient parts of it were provided so as to inform this Parliament effectively.
– I would like to refer the House to the irresponsible action that has been proposed and taken by a number of trade unions in response to the Budget brought down earlier this week by the Government. The thrust of the Budget was to reduce costs, to reduce inflation and to reduce interest rates so as to allow private industry to invest in this country, to go ahead with new projects and, as a consequence, to create new jobs. We read in this morning’s Press where the Managing Director of Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd, Sir Brian Inglis, has predicted that there will be 15,000 jobs created in the motor vehicle industry as a result of this Government’s decision to reduce sales tax. We have seen considerable interest stimulated overseas through the share markets and among other investors. Overseas investors are now looking to Australia as a profitable and stable country in which to invest and so promote new projects and create new jobs. This will be the basis for the recovery of our economy. There is now this prospect as a result of the responsible Budget that the Government brought down.
However, what do we see in response to that responsible Budget, a Budget that is being given much credence throughout the business world. The unions say: ‘We are not going to accept that Budget’. The union movement, and particularly those unions that are communist-dominated, already have started a process of rolling strikes to subvert the Government’s policy, to prevent a recovery being brought about by this Budget and to disrupt economic recovery in Australia. The waterside workers in the ports of Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide have gone on strike and this is costing shippers Sim a day. I believe that this is only the start of what we can expect to see from an irresponsible trade union movement. The Government has made the point that if we are to see the return of a stable economy providing sound economic growth and prospects for future development, the burden must be shared by all sections of the community. We cannot have a responsible government working with the business sector to bring about an economic recovery while there is another significant section of the community determined to subvert that recovery. If we are to see the economy run along lines that all Australians want, the trade union movement will have to take to heart its role and its responsibilities to the nation.
Perhaps I should make a distinction here because I do not believe that subversion and disruption to industry is the response from all trade unions. If we look at the trade unions in which these actions are being brought about we note with monotonous regularity that their administrations are dominated by people who are associated with various factions of the Communist Party. I am quite sure that the honourable member for Port Melbourne would agree with that assessment. I am not saying that the trade union movement as a whole is irresponsible but I do claim that those unions that have communist dominated leadership are purposely setting out to subvert the economy of Australia. They do not want to see a sound economy based on private enterprise and they do not want to see the economy prosper. They are determined for political reasons to undermine the structure of our economy and so bring down the political and economic structure of this country.
It is a great shame for these people that the people of Australia are perceptive enough to identify what they are all about and were perceptive enough last December to see that these communist dominated left wing unions are purposely subverting Australia, as a result of which the Government parties were returned with their majority in this House. I believe that the people of Australia will be equally perceptive and will identify that the thrust of this Budget is purposefully to bring about economic recovery in this country and that those people who purposely engage in strike action, bans and limitations to subvert the Budget are doing so for purely political reasons, to undermine the structure and the basis of the economy of Australia.
– They have a march in Hobart.
– What the honourable member for Franklin has said is quite right. I am quite sure that the honourable member for Port Melbourne can identify where the trouble is coming from in this country and the reasons -
Opposition members interjecting-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! I ask honourable members to address their remarks to the Chair, and the honourable member for Wilmot should have referred to the honourable member for Port Adelaide, not Port Melbourne.
– I am sorry; I offer my apologies to the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). I am quite sure that the honourable member for Port Adelaide is not out to disrupt the system- he wants to see economic recovery and the creation of jobs in this country just as much as every member on this side of the chamber does- but I would be surprised if the honourable member and his colleagues do not recognise that the subversion that is coming from the trade union movement is not general and that it is engaged in by political activists within the trade union movement who are determined to subvert not only this Government but also the economic structure of Australia. I remind the honourable member that they are determined also to subvert his party. These people are political activists who, if they put their names on a ballot paper, would lose their deposits at every election. It is only the weaknesses of the structure of the Labor movement and the Australian Labor Party that have enabled these people to gain any power and influence. I would hope that the honourable member would be able to influence his party to change its structure and the structure of the Labor movement so as to exclude these irresponsible communist activists from having the influence they have been able to have on the Australian nation.
We in this country are set now for an economic recovery. I believe that the majority of the people in Australia are determined to have that economic recovery and I do not believe that the people of Australia will tolerate these communist activists having the unreasonable influence they have been able to have in past years.
-As there are no other speakers, in accordance with Standing Order 106 1 put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to fulfil its promises to acquire land rights for the Aboriginal people of Mornington Island and Aurukun in the event of measures adopted by the Queensland Government proving unsatisfactory.
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-
– Four months ago the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) told the National Aboriginal Conference:
These communities have turned to us. We will not fail them.
He said that they wanted self-management, they were ready for it and they would get it. The appalling behaviour of the Premier of Queensland in the past week demonstrates that he is interested only in subjecting the two communities to the absolute control of his Government.
He removed, by the threat of police force, a Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs official and the Aurukun Council’s legal adviser from a meeting with that Council last Friday.
The Government of this country must acquire compulsorily the land at Aurukun and Mornington Island as for months and repeatedly in the last week the people have asked them to do. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) promised such an outcome if the State legislation governing both communities did not measure up. Nobody can doubt that that assessment applies to the present position. That legislation does not measure up. About four months ago the Minister introduced a Bill to indicate the Government’s intentions, and in his second reading speech he said:
This Bill will guarantee the right of . . . communities on Aboriginal and Island reserves in Queensland to manage their own affairs . . . ensuring that, if the communities have chosen not to be administered by . . . the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, they will not have official management foisted upon them. If communities now . . . controlled by government officials consider that they are ready for self-government . . . they may apply to have the legislation cover their reserves.
He said later in his second reading speech: . . the establishment of the National Aboriginal Conference expresses the Government’s commitment to involving Aboriginals in setting goals and objectives which government should pursue … in evaluating programs, formulating new programs . . . and help Aboriginal people … to take full responsibility for decisionmaking in the management of community affairs.
There is a world-wide trend to allow indigenous peoples to make decisions to take over the management of their affairs at all levels. But on that occasion deliberations and consultations proceeded, and have proceeded since, primarily with the Queensland Government and secondarily with the people on the reserves. Initially, outstandingly and overwhelmingly the concern of the Australian Government has been that we should not rock the boat, that there should not be confrontation with the Queensland Government and that, as the Minister said at Question Time this week, we must not bring in emotional issues. The Government’s attitude is that we should sit down and talk rationally. For about 200 years people have been saying: ‘Do not get emotional; be rational about the demands of Aboriginal people to determine their own affairs’. The net effect of that has been the continuing decimation of Aborigines and, in latter times, the cultural genocide we see progressing at an accelerating rate, if anything, under the present Administration in Queensland. In the same speech the Minister said:
In Western Australia … the legislation provides . . for the establishment of an Aboriginal land trust . . .
Despite all the moves of the Western Australian Government to curtail the functions of such a land trust we have seen no definitive action or commitment by this Australian Government to put the interests of the Aboriginal communities ahead of those of the Western Australian Government which for some months has been preparing the erosion of the right of Aboriginals to determine the use of their land in that State. We have seen no sign of any recognition, of, let alone any action to support, the unofficial land council which is active in northern Queensland and which speaks for the people at Aurukun and Mornington Island. Later in his speech the Minister said:
This Bill is designed to deal with a fundamental aspect of the Queensland legislation: Management of reserve communities by departmental officials. I believe it does this fully and effectively. It meets … the widespread and increasing desire of Aboriginal and Islander communities for self-management.
The Bill, does none of those things; it has moved to achieve none of them. The Minister continued:
The Government will watch the situation in these two reserves closely. If further action is necessary it will be taken . . .
The Government would expect that good sense and a spirit of goodwill is shown by the Queensland Government . . .
That expectation has been present from the beginning of time. But it is not borne out by the facts. The actions of the Australian Government do not measure up to its attitudes and policies as expressed and repeated from time to time. We warned the Government. I approached the Minister and offered to discuss the matter with him before it was debated in the House. The amendments proposed by the Opposition would have prevented this whole sorry chapter of delay, deception and deterioration of relationships between the parties concerned. But he said that there would be no point in having this discussion with members of the Opposition. The Opposition moved:
That the Bill make provision for acquisition of reserves existing at 3 1 March 1 97S.
That amendment was defeated in both Houses. A Queensland senator, Senator Kathy Martin, later said that in retrospect perhaps the Government should have looked at some of the Opposition’s amendments. I suggest that now might be a good time to insert into the Act those five simple words:
What we feared, what I expressed to the Minister, what the Northern Land Council told him, what the Aboriginal communities, their legal advisers and the Uniting Church in Australia told him could happen, did in fact happen. A week later on 6 April the reserves were degazetted. The Bill that had been introduced with such a flourish and fanfare to meet all the contingencies claimed by the Minister in his second reading speech was null and void; it had no effect on those communities. The Premier of Queensland laughed at the discomfiture that he created for the communities and for the Federal Government. On 17 May the Minister issued a media release about the Queensland Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill. He stated:
The Commonwealth will be watching very closely the implementation of the new legislation and will take up with the Queensland Government any problems immediately they arise.
That may have happened. If so, the Government has been very quiet about it. The only time that I have seen any evidence of the Government taking up any of these problems is when there is a public outcry. It seems that the initiative must always be taken by the deprived people before the Government will make any public statement about any action it is taking to see that the Queensland Government carries out its obligations, particularly to bring forward a lease agreement with the Aurukun and Mornington Island shires at the earliest practicable time. I know that governments, bureaucrats, courts and legal people have a habit of using words such as practicable’ in such a way that the powerful people can benefit but the weak people are continually pushed to the wall. How long does it take to draft a lease?
These people will be given only 50 years’ access to their land under the terms of the lease. But how long does it take before the Government will spell out with goodwill on both sidesabout which I have no doubt the Minister is genuine- the terms of the lease? The legal advisers of these people at Aurukun and Mornington Island have not sighted the lease. Those people do not have a clue what the terms of the lease will be or even where the 500 hectares that the State Government will reserve in each of these shires will be situated. It might be land on which somebody wants to locate some facilities for mining bauxite. It might be located where somebody wants to take out a prospecting lease for copper, manganese or uranium. We do not know what land is to be excised by the Government from these territories. The people do not know the terms of the lease. They are working in limbo and then are being condemned for not being able to manage. To jog the Government’s memory on this matter of course we continually have to ask questions and raise this matter in public. On 14 March the interviewer on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program PM played a recording of what the Premier had said as far back as 30 June 1 977. At that time he said:
No, I don ‘t want to take over the reserve as such . . .
Those two little words ‘as such’ are very significant. He continued:
We want the people to be free, to come and go- like Queenslanders. I never want any of these people to stay there if they don’t want to, or control or regulate them in any shape or form.
He is the same Premier who told the legal adviser of the councils when he met with the councils recently at Aurukun: ‘Get out of here- I am the Premier of this State- or we will arrest you. ‘ The charge was not mentioned but if anyone doubts that Queensland is a police State, they should see the Premier when he comes face to face with powerless people out of the range of the media. On the same PM program Mr Charles Porter said:
I will be greatly surprised, if after a few months of the Government assuming control and providing effective management, the peoples of Aurukun aren’t extremely happy with the change that will have taken place.
A few months have gone by and there is no sign of those people being any more pleased about it. In fact they have gone to the extreme of saying: We do not even want any State money here’. I believe that those people can survive without State officials, State buildings, State money or State help of any kind. They are demonstrating that by moving to outstations. They are moving back to the homelands where they are regaining their own dignity, becoming healthier and setting up their own educational services without any pay. The children are far more interested in that. This homeland movement is taking place throughout Australia. Mr Porter said that this is an intrigue by subversives. On the same PM program the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs said: . . it is a matter in which if the Queensland Government chose to act on its own it could … I am disappointed that they didn’t get in touch with me to let me know what was happening.
He is still being disappointed; he will be disappointed for much longer if he thinks sweet reason will do anything for the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island while the Queensland Government has the whip hand. The legal adviser to the Aborigines, who was not named for ethical reasons, referred to allegations about the takeover making access to the bauxite deposits easier. These allegations having been denied by the State Government, he said:
From a legal sense no, but … as the managers of the reserve they would have greater access constantly to the people on the reserve.
That is where the rub is. The Queensland Government wants to be able to lean on people as it has leaned on people throughout Queensland for so long, to intimidate them and deprive them of services or to bribe and threaten them and to use police action in improper ways. Information about such matters I have documented to the Minister even this week. It has concerned other Queensland settlements. The Minister said that representatives of the Uniting Church said:
That position has never changed. It has always been the case. The Minister was asked whether the Commonwealth would intervene. He answered:
He is still doing that. He does not report to the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island; he does not report to the public; he reports to the Government and the Government then tells him what he can say. In fact I do not know whether he was even able to give an answer two days ago to the chairmen of the Aurukun and Mornington Island councils when he was asked whether he would assist them to come down here to see the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I think the Minister replied that he would consider the request very closely.
Because of the limits of time I cannot go into the whole history of this business but, as the Government pointed out in April and May, it has power under the Constitution to take over this land. It is what the Aborigines want. The Prime Minister has committed himself to do that if it is necessary. It will never be more necessary. The necessity will never get any less. Mr Purcell who was at one stage a legal adviser to the communities, when interviewed on AM on 8 May 1978, said: . . they’ve told us quite plainly that that won’t do.
He was referring to the Federal Government’s undertaking. He continued:
Mr Fraser and Mr Viner, we spent two hours with them the other night and they told us quite plainly that they are not prepared to respect our wishes as against the Queensland Government’s wishes.
Mr Purcell is not a left.wing stirring radical. He stood recently as a Liberal Party candidate for the Victorian seat of Lalor. So the sorry tale goes on.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I welcome the opportunity to answer the statements made by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), the shadow minister for Aboriginal Affairs, in the debate on this matter of public importance. Right at the outset I would like to refer to the transcript of an interview that I gave to the Press on the night of 1 1 April at the conclusion of the discussions between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments which led to the agreement of that date to have the Queensland Parliament pass special local government legislation for the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities. With respect to the question of acquisition, I said:
Now there will be consultation on both the legislation and the terms of the special lease and that the Commonwealth position is quite clear, that if those terms of legislation and lease are not acceptable then the Commonwealth will exercise its constitutional powers of acquisition.
It will be seen immediately that the statement related to the adequacy of the legislation and the acceptability of the 50-year lease which it had been agreed would be given to each of those communities in place of the reserves which had been abolished. That passage, of course, is very loosely used by the Opposition to assert that the Commonwealth has said that it would acquire the land virtually at the drop of a hat. That is simply not correct. It is true that we have always reserved to the Commonwealth the possibility of acquisition, as I said the other night, in the nature of the ultimate sanction if the scheme of legislation to bring about self-management should so fail that it becomes necessary for the Commonwealth to act. The Commonwealth made that agreement with Queensland on 1 1 April in good faith and it will not repudiate it without good cause.
Since that time I and my counterpart Mr Russell Hinze, and officers of our respective departments, have put in a tremendous amount of work. We have not been going to the Press every day and reporting what has been done. However, I can tell the House that both of us have been in constant contact and our officers have been working assiduously to set in train this legislation so that it can properly and effectively be a vehicle for self-management for these two communities. We have had our difficulties- of that there is no doubt. I will not go into a long catalogue of all the events that have taken place, of all the work that has been done and of the frustrations that have been experienced since 1 1 April. It may be that at another time and on another occasion I will need to do that.
There were perhaps three critical areas of difficulty in getting the legislation off the ground. The first was the appointment of a shire clerk; the second was funding the shire councils which were established by virtue of the legislation; and the third was establishing and putting into operation the co-ordinating and advisory committees established by that legislation. Of course, it is easy for the Opposition to call for the acquisition of the land by the Commonwealth. It lives in the luxury of opposition because it does not bear the responsibility of government. With that responsibility on my shoulders I am not going to thrust the communities of Aurukun and Mornington Island into a state of political warfare between two governments within the federal system of Australia. Like the battlefields portrayed in Gone with the Wind’, the injured, the maimed and the hurt, not in a physical sense but in a psychological sense, will be the Aboriginal people of Aurukun and Mornington Island.
I consider that I have a responsibility to bend every effort that I have at my disposal personally and through my officers to see that this legislation does work, and does work for the benefit of the people of those two communities. I know these people- I know them well. I have had the privilege of going into their communities and I have enjoyed seeing some of their cultural and social life. I know that these people deserve better than either government has been able to give them up to now. I simply do not believe some of the things that have been said about those people because I know them and I know the communities. For example it is simply not true that there is a reign of terror at either Aurukun or Mornington Island.
– There is when Joh is responsible.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Corio must realise that he is not entided to interject at ailcertainly not from a place which has not been properly allocated to him.
-Almost since the day of the agreement of 11 April I have had officers stationed at both Aurukun and Mornington Island. I have received regular reports from them so I know what has been happening there. I have even gone to the lengths of having messages flown in, such are the difficulties of communication with Mornington Island in particular but also with Aurukun because the lines of communication are public rather than private. What these people need above all is a period in which they can regain their equilibrium. Both governments at this moment have a heavy responsibility to see that those people can regain that status and the kind of composure that they have had in the past. I have had sufficient confidence in those people, for example, to appoint Mr Larry Lanley, the Chairman of the Mornington Shire Council, a member of the Council for Aboriginal Development, which is a national body to advise the National Government. I know Donald Peinkinna, the Chairman of the Aurukun Council. I know how he has led his people with great fortitude during a time of considerable pain and sickness for him. I know the stresses under which these people are living at the moment. As we are working to try to get this legislation going I wonder at times just what the two governments are fighting over, what we are fighting for. I know what the people want. They have the simple, human aspiration to lead their own lives and to manage their own affairs. People who live in shires, cities or municipalities know that good local government will allow a community to do just that.
I must speak here also of the role of the church and of people like Reverend Rollie Busch, the Moderator of the Uniting- Church in Queensland, the Reverend Davis McCaughey, the Moderator of the Uniting Church in Australia and Mr Bill McMillan, the solicitor to both communities. I know how they have bent their efforts constantly in personal discussion with Mr Hinze, with other Queensland Ministers and with the communities to make this legislation work. I know that there have been other so-called advisers at work such as Mr Frank Purcell, Mr Michael Anderson who happens to work out of the office of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and Mr Mick Millar who represents himself as being a representative of the people. But I make this statement unequivocally and clearly: The people who are representing and working effectively for the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island are those people of the Church whom I have named. There are others whom I have not named.
The Commonwealth has stood firm in its determination to see that this legislation is given a real chance and a real opportunity to work. It is a good vehicle for achieving self-management. Regrettably, at every step, just when we seem to have reached the point where the administrative difficulties have been overcome, something happens to frustrate it. I mention but one example at this point, namely, the notices to quit that were issued at Aurukun. Right at the heart of the problem was funding and departmental responsibility. The Commonwealth said that funding should be the responsibility of the Department of Local Government and the Minister for Local Government because it was local government legislation within the umbrella of the general local government legislation applying in Queensland. We said that that funding should be made direct from the Department to the shire councils so that they could be truly autonomous, operating under their legislation, applying their funds in the way they saw fit and employing the people whom they saw as necessary to do the work in these communities. When on 7 August the Queensland Cabinet made critical decisions to the effect that local government functions in the two communities should be funded through the Department of Local Government, that health functions should be funded and be the responsibility of the Department of Health, that education likewise should be the responsibility of the Department of Education and that welfare should be the responsibility of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, it appeared that at last these difficulties had been overcome. It appeared that at last what the coordinating and advisory committee had recommended to Mr Hinze had come to pass.
Unfortunately, following the visit of the Queensland Premier, Mr Hinze and Mr Porter to both communities last Friday, we now are confronted with a situation in which the Queensland Government has decided to dissolve both councils and to appoint an administrator. Under section 16 of the legislation, I in my capacity as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs must be consulted before the councils can be dissolved and an administrator appointed. Having had some discussions with Mr Hinze over last weekend, following the visit of the Premier to both those places, I sent this telex on 15 August. I will read part of it into Hansard and seek leave to have the balance incorporated in Hansard. The telex was sent at 11 o’clock on Tuesday, 15 August 1978 and reads:
I refer to our recent telephone conversations about the situation at Aurukun and Mornington Island following your visit there with the Premier and Mr Porter last Friday.
As I have indicated, I believe that it is absolutely vital that our two Governments should make a further effort to ensure that the local government arrangements are given a chance to work at both communities. 1 believe that action to dissolve the councils and appoint an administrator would be precipitate and that it should still be possible to persuade the councils that self-management is possible under the local government arrangements if early action is taken to implement the decisions your Government took last Monday about payments to the councils.
Dissolving the councils now would undermine all our efforts to implement the legislation, and create major political problems for both Governments. I believe it would further compound the difficulties of resolving the situation at the two communities satisfactorily.
Might I remind you of the provision of section 16 of the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands ) Act requiring consultation with me before the councils can be dissolved? I do not regard your intimation by telephone as fulfilling the statutory requirement for consultation, but would expect a formal communication in writing.
The councils have asked that initial grants should be paid without further delay and 1 think that if this is done and if the co-ordinating and advisory committee visits the communities to help frame budgets and establish arrangements for employing staff, a sound basis for persuading the councils to rescind their decisions not to co-operate would have been established.
I seek leave to have the balance of the telex incorporated in Hansard.
The telex read as follows-
The Commonwealth Government reviewed the situation yesterday, as I told you, and has suggested that it would be useful to involve officers of the Premier’s Department and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, as well as members of the co-ordinating and advisory committees in working out arrangements with the two councils and communities. It would also be useful to post the acting shire clerk to the communities for the time being. I agree that police should be posted to the communities as soon as possible, in consultation with the councils, which asked you to arrange this.
I would be glad to have your comments on these proposals.
– That was my position on Tuesday morning. It is the position of the Government today. We believe that by sensible discussion around the table, involving both Governments, the Church and the two communities, good sense can prevail and this legislation can be made to work.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-The Premier of Queensland must have been terrified when he received that telex. What has the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) said in the last 15 minutes? He has said nothing. What will he do? He will do nothing. He tells us about a catalogue of difficulties, arrangements, visits, consultations, legislation and so on involving the Queensland Government. Every time an agreement is reached, the Queensland Government changes it, puts Commonwealth officials off the land, bans them from the land, dissolves the councils and takes new actions. Yet the Minister and the Government still believe that they can get some sense and co-operation out of the Queensland Government and they will rely on legislation passed by the Queensland Parliament. Nobody with any sense of duty to the people of Australia in this matter would do that. Will the Minister never learn? He says that there have been more consultations and terms that are not acceptable, that the Commonwealth will not acquire the land but will make some arrangements about it. We have had so many positive statements from him when he does nothing, how can we rely upon anything when he has to make qualified undertakings?
I suppose that the pure political issue is this: How long is the Country Party tail going to wag the Liberal Party poodle in respect of this matter? There is only one thing that can be done in respect of the land. It has to be acquired for the Aboriginal people and vested in them in perpetuity. One of the great–
– To which party does Mr Porter belong?
-One of the more gratifying facts of the whole situation is that the people of Australia -
– Talk about turtles; you know more about them.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder!
-One of the more gratifying facts of the whole situation is that the people of Australia are on the side of the people of Aurukun. The most gratifying features of the situation is the resolution of the people of Aurukun themselves who are standing up to both the Queensland Government and to the present inactive Commonwealth Government. I believe that there is only one action we can take- that is to acquire the land in accordance with our constitutional authority under the Commonwealth Lands Acquisition Act and to deed it to the people in perpetuity.
We are speaking this afternoon about this Government’s most miserable performance in any field of governmental activity. And that is saying something. Over the last two and a half years we have discussed land rights and the formation of Aboriginal councils. We told the Government earlier in the year when we discussed this matter that the Queensland Government could change the situation over night by a simple regulation which would change the status of the reserves. That is what the Queensland
Government did. The matter has been discussed in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. We have had Press releases, visits, conferences and then even more of the same. I heard the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) barking from over there on my left somewhere about things about which he knows nothing. He might at least pay some heed to what has been going on. The initiatives taken on the whol.e question of the Queensland reserves have been going on for five and a half years.
I have before me a newspaper article of 25 February 1973. At that time we had a Federal Minister who knew what he was about and who got on with the job. The headline above the article reads: ‘State-Federal row looming over land’. The Labor Government put the proposition to the Government of Queensland that it transfer the reserves to the Aboriginal people. The Premier of Queensland did not answer. The present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is receiving the same treatment. But we put out feet along the road towards establishing substantial control over the land for the people of Aurukun and elsewhere in Queensland. Every white community has had a miserable record in this regard. It is 215 years since the proclamation in respect of the Indian lands in Canada stated what ought to be done. It was decided that the Indians ought to have their rights in the land preserved. This was implied in the instruction to Governor Phillip. It has been part of the running sore of Australian history. While governments and people might make whishtful sounds about this matter, nobody has been able to do anything effective about it.
What is the situation? In 1967, the people of Australia said to the Commonwealth: ‘It is your duty to ensure that the Aboriginal people of Australia get their fair place in the sun in this continent’. That would include land rights and all manner of things. The constitutional position is quite clear. That is fortified, of course, by the Commonwealth Lands Acquisition Act. How do we go about that? If this afternoon the Minister were to issue, through the appropriate Commonwealth authority, notice to acquire that land it would become a Commonwealth land from then and the Commonwealth writ would run. That is what ought to be done. There are no difficulties about it. We do it to citizens throughout the country. We do it to people here and there if we want to build a freeway, an aerodrome or anything of that sort.
Why are we afraid of the Queensland Government? If there is any government in this country that is without any credibility outside its own rigged electoral boundary system it is the Government of Queensland. The Premier of Queensland can only do himself and his party political good by taking this action. Action ought to be taken by the Commonwealth. The process is clear, the constitutional position is clear, the need is imperative and it is urgent. The Minister might argue, as the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock), who was previously the honourable member for Parramatta, argued in another debate, that this would cost an enormous amount of money. Of course it would not. There is no precedent for assuming that the Government would have to pay for the assumed bauxite reserves. The Commonwealth Lands Acquisition Act has something to say about it. When we acquired the Lanyon property in the Australian Capital Territory only three or four years ago the proposition was put to us by its owner that we should pay for the future usage of the land, which was urban land development. He wanted $35m. I think we offered him something like $2m. Eventually, after a High Court judgment, between $3m and $4m was paid for it. That was a reasonable sum in view of the rise in prices and everything else at that time.
There are no difficulties in taking this course of action. There is only hesitancy on the part of the Government to do what ought to be done. The Queensland Government’s powers will remain, no matter what sort of legislation is passed. It has the power through its Parliament to change legislation in a moment at the Premier’s whim or anyone else ‘s whim. How can the Government introduce legislation which will overcome the Queensland mining Acts and the other Acts which empower various authorities such as the forestry and fisheries authorities to do what they wish with the land. We have had more failures than victories in this regard. The whole battle in this Parliament for land rights for the Aboriginal people has been accepted by both sides of the Parliament. It has been accepted by all the parties here. We would not have passed the Northern Territory land rights legislation if that were not so. We would not have established select and standing committees on land rights. We would not have appointed and supported the land councils in the Northern Territory if that was not what it was all about. I cannot understand- and the people of Australia to whom one speaks cannot understand- the hesitancy of the Government in this regard. I can only put it down to political cowardice- a failure to face up to the fact that the Government has a formidable political opponent in the Premier of Queensland. He must be shackled in this regard.
There is no future for the Aboriginal people on those reserves unless we take this action. The Queensland Government ‘s record is miserable. I hope that the House will take heed of what we are discussing this afternoon.
Aurukun occupies an area of about 1.7 million acres. I suppose that if one examined the documents in the Parliamentary Library and the advertisements for the sale of land at Cape York and so on one would find that $1.50 or thereabouts is being paid for an acre of land there. Aurukun is worth perhaps $3m as a piece of real estate. There are, of course, many improvements on it. The Queensland Government has placed improvements upon it in the form of schools and so on but, if I remember correctly, it has done so mostly with Commonwealth money. A good deal of the improvements were made with Commonwealth money. On the other hand, Mornington Island is much smaller. It is about 250 000 acres in size and is worth perhaps $400,000. If we are talking of money and if we have to buy off the Premier of Queensland, we are speaking of an amount of less than $3. 5m.
How long is this dispute to continue? I have visited the area, as has the Minister, my colleague the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) and other honourable members. The people there have developed a self-reliance and a resolution which fortifies my resolution in this regard. It is now over 20 years since this Parliament started to debate the issue. It is now 1 5 years since we took up the question of the position of the people of Yirrkala in the Northern Territory. The debate goes on and on. Occasionally, a resolution is reached which is to the advantage of the Aboriginal people but mostly from honourable members opposite, particularly from this Minister, we get the miserable pussy-footing performance that we saw this afternoon. There is no evidence that anything will be done. There is no point in sending telexes to the Premier of Queensland. There is no point in communicating further with him. When will honourable members opposite learn? Unless we act now we will be betraying the duty cast upon us by the people of Australia some 1 1 years ago- in 1967- and expected of us since. If it had not been for the interference of a previous Governor-General we would have achieved the desired result long ago. I am quite certain that if previous Ministers of the political persuasion of those who sit on the other side of the House- the former honourable member for Mackellar or the former honourable member for Higgins, when
Prime Minister- had been faced with this proposition they would have dealt with the Premier of Queensland with some resolution.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I am sure that all who heard the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) speak in this debate this afternoon will acknowledge that, once again, he has spoken from the heart but not with his mind. Clearly, when one listens to the speeches that have been made in this place today by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) and the honourable member for Wills and to the speeches that were made yesterday in another place, whose proceedings fortuitously were broadcast, as are the proceedings of this place today, one realises that the issue being pressed by the Opposition is regarded by it as being the principal issue warranting discussion as a matter of public importance. The Opposition put a great deal of emphasis upon the action that this Government ought to take and spoke at great length about the problems with which the Aboriginal people are faced and about the confusion in their minds. I think the debate can be brought down to that very narrow compass. Really only two propositions were put forward by the Opposition. Members of the Opposition said that there is confusion in the minds of Aborigines, that they are concerned about their future, that they do not know where they are going and that there are real problems besetting the Aborigines. The Opposition said that there is one answer to that, that is, the immediate acquisition by the Commonwealth of the land that the Aborigines are occupying in order that we may assert what all of us would acknowledge is in fact a responsibility that we have and perhaps a privilege that we have under the Constitution. But that would not solve the problem. The problem would not disappear; it would not go away. It would be there tomorrow if we acted in that way. The honourable member for Capricornia, by the very fact that he acknowledged my contribution to a previous debate, acknowledged the validity of the point that I made then that there are real consequences that we would have to recognise if we moved in this direction at this time and if we moved in a precipitant way.
– That will be the day.
-Admittedly, because we think with our minds. Whilst we have the same feeling in our hearts as the honourable member for Wills, we have to do what is right and what will be for the long term benefit of the Aboriginal people. The fact of the matter is that there would be consequences if we acted in that way and they ought to be acknowledged. There would be a continuing confrontation between governments. For all that honourable members opposite have said about our colleagues in the Queensland Parliament, they have pointed up with the utmost clarity that if we acted the matter would not be finished. Our Queensland colleagues would not lie down and say: ‘Scratch our tummies. Everything is all right’. The fight would go on. It would go on in the courts of this land; it would go on in the media. What we have seen to date would not be the end; it would be only the beginning. I do not think our Aboriginal people ought to be fought over in that way. I believe that there is not a case for increasing the distrust and the dislike that some people of different racial origin have for each other. We should bring people together and get greater confidence, co-operation and willingness to work together. In the areas of Queensland where the Aboriginal and nonAboriginal people live together we cannot encourage distrust and dislike of each other. They have to live with each other cheek by jowel.
Of course, there are other problems of cost which cannot be wiped away. The honourable member for Wills has suggested that bauxite is irrelevant; yet if he reads the speech made yesterday by his colleague in another place, Senator Gietzelt, he will realise that Senator Gietzelt sees it as a central issue. He would not be happy if we simply acquired the land at Mornington Island and Aurukun at $ 1 an acre. He would be happy only if the mineral rights, whatever they are, also were acquired and taken away from the State Government. The whole concept of the valuation of land acquired by the Crown, in right of the Commonwealth, in this country is that the mineral rights are left in the hands of the States. If they did not remain in the hands of the States a whole new element of compensation would be involved, and that has not been taken into account. That would be not only in regard to this place -
– What is the precedent for that?
-There are no precedents for it because it has not been done. The fact of the matter is that if we acted in one place in Queensland under the Act that we have already passed every one of the other 1 4 Aboriginal communities would be in like a shot. We would not be acquiring two places; we would be acquiring the lot. What does that mean in money terms? It means that an enormous amount of land throughout the whole of Queensland would have to be acquired. There are other problems involving schools that presently are run by the Queensland authorities, hospitals that are run and funded through the State Health Department, and other services provided by the State. Does the Opposition say that they should go out and Commonwealth people should be put in to run those sorts of facilities? Is it assumed that we can bring in government authorities from the Northern Territory to offer the same support and services as are offered in that place? What of the application of the general law which under Commonwealth statute we provide even on Commonwealth land? Even if it were handed over to the Aboriginals, this land would have become Commonwealth land. The general Queensland law would apply.
How are those sorts of arrangements to be worked out? The confusion would be there, the fighting would go on and the Aboriginal people would be merely pawns. For members of the Opposition, quite irresponsibly in my view, to use the Aboriginals as pawns in their political arguments is quite unlike them in many respects. I do not believe that they would want to see the consequences of their action if it were taken in that precipitate way. Of course, it would not be the Opposition that would be taking the responsibility; it would be us as the Government of the day. These problems have to be overcome and we have to act in the interests of the Aboriginal people. We have to look to encouraging good will on the part of all those involved. I acknowledge that good will appears to have been lacking on the part of the Queenslanders, certainly in respect of the notices to quit that were served upon some of the people living in premises at Mornington Island and Aurukun. In my view, that did not exhibit good will and certainly did not encourage a co-operative attitude by the Aboriginal people towards the local government legislation.
However, one has to look also at some of the other people who are there, whether they are supporters of the Government parties, supporters of the Opposition party, or legal advisers. One has to ask whether they are encouraging good will or encouraging ultimately a breakdown in relationships between two governments that have to work together in order to bring about the result that the Opposition has advocated as being an end result in itself. I suspect that some of those people have been so determined to ensure that this legislation does not work that in those situations they have been offering advice to the Aboriginal people that they ought not to co-operate. If that is the case, and I suspect that it is, then the difficulties that have developed to date are being exacerbated not by Queensland alone but by parties professing an interest in both groups of people. I believe that we need good will from the Queensland Government, we need good will from the Aboriginal people, and we need good will from all those people who advise them. Some of these selfappointed advisers from Victoria, such as Mr Purcell, have to encourage this sort of involvement if they are to uphold their responsibility and their interest in Aboriginals. That is my view.
I believe that the legislation in Queensland must be given an opportunity to work, and the Minister’s statement sets out the basis for that. He has made it clear that if it is to work there are still some responsibilities that the Queensland Government must accept. The question of funding has to be clarified. Permanent and full time shire clerks need to be appointed immediately to operate in both places. The co-ordinating committees ought to meet on the settlements and the lease documents need to be finalised and issued. If that sort of good will is offered by the Queensland Government the position of these communities can be secured. If it is not, then I think the end result may well be that we will have to act in the way that the Minister in his statement on 1 1 April indicated might be necessary.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
– I move:
Honourable members will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced on 2 1 June the Government’s intention of moving that determinations 1978/6 and 1978/7 of the Remuneration Tribunal be disapproved. The determinations cover special and travel allowances payable to Ministers and additional salaries and allowances payable to office holders of the Parliament. In reaching its decision, the Government felt strongly that it should set an example of restraint to the community. It had stressed to the Remuneration Tribunal that it considered that there should be no salary increases for those within the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. This was consistent with an overall commitment to wage restraint which formed the basis of the Government’s submission to national wage indexation hearings. Regrettably, the Tribunal did not accept the thrust of the Government ‘s argument.
I should also mention to honourable members that the Government does not intend to proceed with the implementation of the Tribunal’s report 1978/1 which proposes increases in ministerial salaries. The Tribunal’s recommendations in respect of judges, however, have been accepted and the Government does not intend to take action to disapprove the other findings of the Tribunal, including those relating to senators and members. In the light of the Tribunal’s findings, it is the Government’s view that these people should not be denied increases which reflect salary adjustments enjoyed by the great majority of Australian wage and salary earners as a result of national wage case decisions. They have already contributed substantially to restraint through the considerable lags involved in the adjustment of their salaries. I have moved for disapproval of determinations Nos 6 and 7, in accordance with the Government’s decision reached after examining the Remuneration Tribunal’s report, so that the disapproval may be effective from this date.
– This is a motion for the disallowance of the Remuneration Tribunal’s decisions Nos 6 and 7. The Opposition has no objection to the Government deciding to disallow in respect of its own Ministers an increase that has been awarded by the Tribunal. In the context of the Ministers agreeing not to take the increase, that is fair enough. But when it is put in the context of being an example by which the rest of the community is expected to abide, the Opposition strongly objects to it. Other people in the community do not have the income that Ministers have both from their present salary as Ministers of the Crown and from independent sources. Ministers could well have very substantial income from other sources. It is wrong in principle to suggest to the rest of the Australian community that because the higher echelons of government, namely the Ministers, are prepared to forgo their increases the rest of the community should make a sacrifice. It is wrong in principle for reasons that I will mention.
We are in the throes of discussing a horror Budget in terms of tax increases. People on low wages will be paying very substantial tax increases indeed. In fact such increases could be as high as 8 per cent for millions of Australian income earners. The Government is trying to suggest that because its select group of Ministers are going to forgo some token increase, the rest of the Australian community should follow suit. In the Budget Speech there is some very strong condemnation of what the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has been doing in the past in allowing workers to get a quarterly wage adjustment. In every case, the advocates for the Australian Council of Trade Unions have had to produce evidence to show the Bench that there were -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. What I have done is move for the disapproval of determinations 6 and 7 of the Remuneration Tribunal’s report. I suggest that the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are not directed to those determinations.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to speak to the point of order. I am surprised to learn that the Minister is so sensitive. However, it was indicated in the Press at the time by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that Ministers would set an example by not taking their increase. Today is the first time the Government has taken overt action to indicate that its Ministers will not take the increase and that the Government will disallow the determination. The Government will have to give reasons for its disallowing the determination. I suggest that the reason is as given by the Prime Minister and as published in the Press- so that the rest of the Australian community will follow this example and not seek wage increases. This was said at the time, lt is also quite pertinent to the point that we as an Opposition should try to indicate to the Australian public the Government’s motivation for bringing this motion to disallow a portion of a report before the House today. The Government is putting forward a valid motion, but we are entitled to suggest criticism as to the motivation behind it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not suggesting that. I am suggesting that the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are irrelevant.
-I take the Minister’s point, but I cannot satisfy myself that the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are not pertinent to the motion.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The position is of interest to the whole community. I put the matter in the context that the Government has a reason for disallowing the determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal, and that reason is the setting of an example. The Government is not interested in just its own select group of Ministers forgoing a few miserable dollars; it is trying to provide an example to the rest of Australia. That is confirmed in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) wherein he implies criticism of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for granting wage increases to wage earners in the past. I am making the point that the Government is trying to shelter behind this token gesture as a means of setting an example. I also make the point that it is not doing so. Looking at the income that Government members and Ministers get- and they could well have other substantial income- they could well be doing a lot better than the rest of the people in Australia who are now going to have to pay increased taxes. I am criticising the Government’s action. I do not object to the Government disallowing a determination which provides increases in the allowances of its own Ministers, but I make the point that the motivation behind it is not valid. To set an example is not a valid reason for disallowing the determination. I have made the point that it has been put before the Australian people in the Press by the Prime Minister that Government Ministers will set this example. There is no need to set such an example for the present large number of taxpayers in the community who will suffer hardship from the increased taxes. I quote what I said- and that is not always a good idea- as far back as 22 June when I commented on what the Prime Minister had announced:
Mr Fraser would use a decision to give up ministerial salary allowances to iustify a horror Budget.
I think I was reasonably accurate in what I said on 22 June last. That was the position at the time because members of the Press and the media generally wanted to know the Opposition’s attitude to the fact that the Prime Minister, apparently without consulting anybody, had indicated to the Press that the Ministers would not be taking the increase. That was one of the determinations and one on which we made our position clear.
But let us come back to what it is all about. Let us look at what has happened to decisions made by the Remuneration Tribunal in the past. There have been previous disallowances. They were made on the spurious grounds that such disallowances would set an example. In fact a case for such a disallowance was made in the Senate by a distinguished senator who, at the same time, was never asked to disclose his other sources of income- and they were deemed to be substantial. Nevertheless, he argued for the disallowance on the basis that he was setting an example to the Australian people. He wrote to the Remuneration Tribunal at the time and said that every Australian entering public life should set such an example. But nobody ever bothered to cross-examine him on his other sources of income- and, as I said, they were very substantial. In fact it was suggested that they were earned while he was a member of parliament and drawing a salary. The point is that the Government should not be following the bad precedent of trying to set an example in this case. If the Remuneration Tribunal or any tribunal dealing with wage determinations takes evidence and then gives a ruling, the Government should accept that ruling. The Government gave evidence that it did not seek an increase but it lost the case. So why does it object so much to the Tribunal’s determination? Why do we see this token measure being applied to indicate that the Government expects the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to use the same sort of approach in dealing with wage increase hearings? The Government is completely out of kilter. For that reason we object to the tokenism of the Government’s approach. We have no objection to the fact that Ministers wish to forgo the increase. Again, it would be far more open, if Ministers were to reveal whatever other sources of income they might have.
There is another factor involved. Determination No. 7, the disallowance of which relates to officers and office holders, applies to a number of people including members of the Opposition. We have no objection to the determination relating to our increases being disallowed; let us put that on the record. We never sought increases so we can hardly object if the determination relating to them is disallowed. But we want to make it clear that a number of people who are in a lower category of remuneration will really suffer if a determination providing for relatively small amounts is disallowed. They do worthwhile additional work in this Parliament for which they ought to get additional remuneration. To disallow that determination because Ministers decide that they want to forgo their increase, I think, is an unnecessary hardship on those people. Again, it belittles the Remuneration Tribunal because the Government is taking segments of the Tribunal’s determination and saying that the Tribunal was obviously wrong in its findings. Let me make it clear: Anybody in Australia can make representations to this Tribunal. The Press, the editors and the newspaper proprietors can all go in and give evidence as to what they think members of parliament ought to receive by way of remuneration. It is a public hearing. We do not want to have re-trials of it in this chamber. It ought to be made clear that once the Remuneration Tribunal makes its decision that decision is basically binding. Let us have none of this grandstanding- people trying to attain notoriety on the basis that the Tribunal did not know what it was about and that even when it makes its finding, the Government will disallow it. We object to that completely.
The other point that has to be made is quite pertinent to the Opposition. At present our entitlement to Opposition staff, that is, leaders’ staff, is 34. When the present Government was in opposition, the Labor Government allowed it an entitlement of 38 staff. Our staff numbers have been reduced by four. We were disappointed to receive correspondence from the Prime Minister saying that he does not want to give us the additional staff that the Remuneration Tribunal has now allowed us. I draw the attention of honourable members to clause 27 on page 19 of the review of the Remuneration Tribunal. The Tribunal states, in relation to additional staff:
We are in no doubt, however, that an additional member of staff should be made available to shadow ministers, and so determine. We further determine that this staff member be employed under the terms and conditions which apply to electorate assistants. The number of shadow Ministers to whom this entitlement shall apply shall not exceed the number of Ministers of State from time to time.
There are 27 Ministers of State and there are only 20 shadow Ministers so, in fact, we would be entitled to have 27 shadow Ministers and, in accordance with this determination, an additional staff member. We have never used our full entitlement in that regard. This determination, which I submit cannot be disallowed, now is being interpreted by the Prime Minister as allowing us another 10 staff members. If that is the position, it is contrary to this determination. The correspondence we have received from the Prime Minister is to the effect that he does not regard this as a determination; he regards it merely as a recommendation. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the tribunal itself said:
We . . . so determine.
Under the legislation, that is, the Remuneration Tribunal Act, when a matter is determined it stands unless disallowed. I note that there is no question of disallowing it by way of a motion here. Arrangements existed as to what staff should be available to the leaders of the Opposition. I remind you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that when the present Government was in Opposition, 38 was the entitlement for the leaders of the Opposition. I have a statistical table which I can show my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) which shows that we have 34 so we do not exceed that figure. We have now received advice that there will be only an additional 10 staff allowed by the Prime Minister pursuant to this determination. Shadow Ministers are placed in the position of forgoing their entitlement. If they take their entitlement, the leaders of the Opposition will be obliged to reduce their staff by 10. That is wrong in principle from every aspect of the matter. Leadership of the Opposition requires a fair amount of skill and a lot of work to try to match the resources of the Government. At the present time we note that the staff of Government Ministers outnumbers the staff of the leaders of the Opposition by six to one. If honourable members look at the personal staff of Ministers and the entitlement of the leaders of the Opposition, they will find that we are outnumbered by six to one. To have that number reduced, by implication, by a further 10 is outrageous and unfair. That is what the Prime Minister’s correspondence means.
I welcome the fact that the determination is allowed to stand but I strongly urge the Minister to go back to the Prime Minister and say: ‘Have another look at the correspondence you are writing to the Leader of the Opposition and make it clear to him that if you say that this is not a determination and that you are only going to allow 10 instead of 20 you are, in fact, going to deny the Opposition leadership its full entitlement and in fact reduce the number of 34 by 10 ‘. He should remind the Prime Minister that we never had the numbers that were allowed to the Opposition when we were in government. I make those points because it is very important, when discussing matters relating to the facilities of this House and the Opposition itself, that points be put in the proper context. An Opposition is entitled to function within the democratic process. It should have as much expertise as possible, within the limitations of finance and as deemed reasonable by the Government. It is completely unreasonable now, when the Tribunal determination has made a finding in respect of submissions made to it, for the Prime Minister to intervene and say two things that are completely wrong- firstly, that the recommendation is not a determination but only a recommendation. It is a determination -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
-As I understand the motion before the House, it is to terminate the effect of determinations 1978/6 and 1978/7. 1 wish to refer- I will do so very briefly and on a low key because I do not regard it as of very great importance- to determination 1978/9 which alters postage as it affects members and senators. The paragraphs to which I refer are 8.3 and 8.4. 1 am quite prepared to be found out of order but I am referring to a comparison between the determinations we are seeking to terminate and their effect on determination 1978/9. Determination 1978/9 of the Tribunal made three main changes. The first was in the area of the number of pre-paid envelopes that may be obtained and posted, under the old determination, at Parliament House and that now can be posted in the electorate. This is to save cartage by members who may well compile documents back in their electoral offices. Now and then they had to cart rather massive documents in suitcases to Canberra for postage.
-Order! The honourable member for Wakefield will resume his seat. The question before the House is that the motion be agreed to. The motion relates to determinations 1978/6 and 1978/7. As the honourable member will appreciate, the motion does not require debate by the House if it is accepted. In this instance determinations 1978/6 and 1978/7 are before the House and therefore the honourable member may not proceed to discuss matters beyond those two determinations.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I will certainly abide by your instructions on this matter. I have said already that my comments are not of great importance but I wish to put them on record. The point I was making was that I regard determination 1978/9 as being an alteration of the determinations that are under debate. As such, I should have thought that that did fall within the field of debate on the motion to terminate determinations 1978/6 and 1978/7.
-The Chair adheres to its former ruling. The honourable member is free to speak to determinations 1978/6 and 1978/7 if he so desires.
– I will try to do so. The motion before the House affects determinations that have been altered under the current situation applying to members of Parliament as regards postage. If that is not challenged, I would think that I could proceed. I had reached the stage where I described the difficulty that members and senators faced in the past, under old determinations, in carrying bulk postage franked envelopes in their suitcases from their electoral offices to be posted in Canberra. I was pointing to the change -
-The honourable member for Wakefield persists with his original line of debate which I have ruled out of order. If he has nothing to say in respect of determinations 1978/6 and 1978/7 I request him to resume his seat.
– I wish to go on record as saying that any changes to the determinations that I think affect this motion have some disadvantages for honourable members. I am prepared to leave it at that.
-In supporting the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), who is the representative of an electorate, as we all are, I want to draw attention to the fact that what he is doing, perhaps inadvertently, is reducing the differentials between members of this Parliament. By reducing the amount of money paid to Ministers he is keeping parliamentary salaries and other matters closer to one another, which I think is as it ought to be. One of the weaknesses of the report of the Remuneration Tribunal is the fact that there are increasing differentials between members of Parliament. Ministers are at the top of the list of people with resources at their disposal. They have much bigger salaries than everyone else and much greater resources to do their jobs. That is necessary. If one goes far enough down the list, say to the seat of Wills, one finds that at the bottom of the list are the people who represent some of the most populous electorates. I ask the House, when next it faces the Remuneration Tribunal, to consider this question of the differentials that are developing between us. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) pointed out this differential in regard to staff. I do not think that we can divorce just one determination from all the rest of them in this document. The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles) referred to just one also.
Most honourable members would agree with me that, in respect of the duties imposed upon us, the member for Wills has the same responsibilities, duties and rights to carry into legislation the aspirations of his constituents as the Right honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street). I have 124 000 people in my electorate and the honourable member for Corangamite has 99 000. He gets an extra electoral allowance because of the size of his electorate and gets other facilities as well. I am not now talking about those he gets as a Minister. Under this determination extra staff is to be given to members on this side of the House but only to some members. We should support the granting of extra staff to members. Ministers should be adequately staffed but, just as they have to compete with great resources and forces in the community, so do the rest of us.
Mr Deputy Speaker, accepting your ruling that this is not to be a general debate, though I wish it were, I hope that honourable members will apply themselves to what might be called the new feudalism, starting at the top with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and going down to the serfs at the bottom, the people like the honourable member for Wills who happens to represent people and not tussocks, sandhills or iguanas. I make that comment to you in your capacity as the honourable member for Wide Bay. This is a most depressing feature of this document, good as it is in some other ways. I cannot understand how a body of people led by a distinguished and eminent judicial figure such as the man who chairs the Tribunal, and does so very well, a man who has applied himself well to the problem, could make the decision it did about postage.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) raised a point which needs to be answered. He referred to a letter from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) indicating that the recommendations of the Remuneration Tribunal in relation to the staff of the Opposition have not been fully agreed to. It has been longestablished practice, accepted and adhered to by the previous Labor Government as it is by this Government, that staffing for Opposition parties is the responsibility of the government of the day and is not a proper matter for determination by the Tribunal whose comments on the matter, therefore, the Government regards as being of a recommendatory nature. Given the Government’s current commitment to strict control over public sector expenditure and employment, I put it to the House that the provision of 10 additional staff, making a total of 44, to assist the Opposition can be regarded in these circumstances as generous.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Peacock, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise a contribution by Australia of an amount up to $A96.82m towards the second replenishment of the resources of the Asian Development Fund. Honourable members will know that Australia has been and continues to be a strong and active supporter of the Asian Development Bank which is highly regarded as an efficient and effective mechanism for channelling aid to developing countries in our own geographic region. The prime role of the Bank, which was established in 1966, is to assist in the economic development of its developing member countries and to foster economic and social growth and co-operation in the Asian and Pacific regions. It does this by lending funds, promoting investment and providing technical assistance on a scale that developed countries could not achieve bilaterally.
Since its establishment the Bank has lent about $US4 billion for projects covering all the major sectors of economic development with emphasis on the development of infrastructure facilities in the transport and communications, industry and electric power sectors as well as projects for agriculture, education, water supply and urban development. The Bank’s lending activities are divided into ordinary and special operations. Ordinary operations are financed on the basis of the Bank’s capital resources and its borrowings on the international capital market at commercial or near commercial terms. Special operations involve loans made on highly concessional terms to the Bank’s poorest and least developed member countries and are funded from the Asian Development Fund.
The Asian Development Fund was established in 1974 to provide for the systematic mobilisation of resources for concessional lending to the Bank’s poorest and least developed countries. In this respect the Asian Development Fund can be likened to the World Bank Group ‘s soft lending affiliate, the International Development Association, although the obvious distinction is that the latter extends development assistance on a global basis while the activities of the Asian Development Fund are concentrated in the Asian and Pacific regions.
Australia played a leading and positive role in the establishment and subsequent growth of the Asian Development Fund. Australia contributed the equivalent of $A18m, or about 5 per cent, towards the mobilisation of the initial resources of the Fund totalling some $US500m. Under the first replenishment of the Fund’s resources Australia maintained the level of its percentage share by contributing $A30.7m of the total replenishment amount of $US809m for concessional lending operations during the three calendar year period 1 976-78. It is expected that funds available to the Bank under the first replenishment of the Asian Development Fund will be fully committed by the end of 1 978.
During the past 12 months a series of meetings were held by donor member countries of the Bank to consider a proposal by Bank management for a second replenishment target of $US2. 1 5 billion for the four year period 1 979-82. The Bank’s case, for such a substantial increase which was supported by a number of donors including Australia, was based primarily on the following grounds:
Firstly, if the Bank were to provide mean ingful assistance to its poorer and less developed member countries, a substantially larger concessional lending program would be required in the next few years than in the past; secondly, a significant expansion was jus tified by the particular responsibility which, as a regional bank, the Bank owed to its developing member countries; thirdly, the need for the Bank to increase the size of its concessional lending program
through the Fund relative to its ordinary lending program; and finally, the Bank submitted that a four year lending program in lieu of the previous three year cycle would be appropriate as it would assist in forward planning by donor countries and the Bank while reducing some of the problems of implementation experienced in the past.
At a final meeting of donor member countries in Vienna during April 1978, these principles were generally accepted and agreement was reached on a basic target of SUS2.0 billion against which Australia’s 5.14 per cent basic share will be $A90.1m. In addition, a number of donor countries have pledged supplementary contributions and Australia has undertaken to contribute 5.14 per cent of these contributions up to a maximum total contribution of 5. 1 4 per cent of SUS2.15 billion, i.e., $A96.82m. Specific amounts to be contributed by the various donor member countries are set out in the attachment which specifies the basic contributions and supplementary contributions in Tables I and II, respectively. I ask leave of the House to have the attachment incorporated in Hansard.
The tables read as follows-
-Honourable members will see from the tables that Australia’s overall commitment at this stage is $A93,394,073. However, in accordance with our pledge, any further additional supplementary contributions to the second replenishment that may be made by other donors will increase the amount of Australia’s supplementary contribution. For this reason, the Bill provides for payment by Australia of an amount up to the maximum of $A96,8 19,695. This amount will not be subject to future adjustments in exchange rates. In accordance with past practice with respect to similar contributions to the Fund and the International Development Association, it is intended to exercise the option to lodge non-negotiable, non-interest bearing promissory notes encashable on demand as and when funds are actually required for loan disbursements. This will limit the impact on the Budget in the next year or so, as encashment of these notes will not begin before 1979-80.
The Bank has a most important role to play in continuing to foster economic and social development in the region of immediate interest to Australia. It is Government policy to give high priority to the Asian and Pacific region in its foreign policies and to co-operate fully with multilateral agencies in the region, such as the Asian Development Bank. Continued Australian support for the Asian Development Fund is therefore clearly in Australia’s national interest. This Bill provides an opportunity for honourable members once again to demonstrate their bipartisan support for the Asian Development Bank and its Asian Development Fund as an effective and efficient development finance institution and our willingness to provide the poorest developing countries in our region with highly concessional assistance through this organisation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6 April, on motion by Mr Fife:
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 Bounty (Books) 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.
-(Mr Ian Robinson) - Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both Bills? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The House is discussing not only the Bounty (Agricultural Tractors) Amendment Bill 1978 but also the Bounty (Books) Amendment Bill 1 978. 1 give notice to those who are paying attention to the debate on these Bills that they do not rivet the attention to any great extent and are not likely to bring down the Government, particularly as the Opposition does not oppose either of them.
I shall deal first with the Bounty (Books) Amendment Bill. It is so long since it was introduced into this House- indeed, it was before the recess- that its purpose is worth repeating; that is, to give effect to the Government’s decision to continue to give assistance by way of a bounty to producers of books in Australia for a further period of 12 months. That period of 12 months is the calendar year 1979. It is right and proper that the Government should give advance notice of its being prepared to continue to pay this bounty for the calendar year 1979 because many of the orders which would come under the provisions of this Bill and which are placed by publishers and others who get printing done are being placed now, although the printing may not be carried out until the next calendar year. So it is important that advance notice be given so that the necessary planning can take place.
The Opposition welcomes the introduction of this measure. We know that it is an interim measure while the Government gives consideration to an Industries Assistance Commission report on the longer term future of the printing industry as it relates to books and the material which attract a bounty under the provisions of the Bill now before us. I understand that that report from the Industries Assistance Commission was delivered to the Government on 1 August and that the Government is now considering its position in relation to the report. It would be helpful to me and to others who take an interest in Australian industry, in particular the printing industry, if the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) would be good enough when he is replying in this debate to give the House an indication of when the Government might make a decision on that IAC report.
I look upon it as a privilege to represent the Opposition on various industry advisory councils. One of those councils is the Printing Industry Advisory Council. I am sure it would be of enormous help if at its meeting on 3 1 August of this year that Council could have some indication of what the Industries Assistance Commission has recommended to the Government and what the Government’s attitude might be. Alternatively, if we learned only what the IAC’s recommendations are the Printing Industry Advisory Council may give the Government some helpful advice in relation to what its attitude to the IAC report should be.
The Bill that should take up more of our time in this debate is the Bounty (Agricultural Tractors) Amendment Bill 1978 because it is not just an interim measure. It provides for some time to come for bounty on the manufacture of larger tractors. The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the Government’s decision to provide assistance for the manufacturing in Australia of agricultural tractors with an engine output exceeding 105 kilowatts. The Government has accepted the advice on this matter that is contained in the Industries Assistance Commission’s report of 18 August 1977. This follows the Government’s earlier decision to pay a bounty on tractors with an engine output of up to 105 kilowatts. The decision is to afford assistance by providing for the payment of a bounty which takes into account both the degree of local content- the minimum amount of local content allowed in a tractor for it to attract this bounty being 55 per cent- and the degree of tractor power. That is why we see the reference to 105 kilowatts.
Provision is made for the amount of the bounty to be adjusted quarterly and to reflect import price movements as measured by the Reserve Bank. It is just as well that the Reserve Bank makes available these measurements. I take the opportunity of saying how valuable it is for decision-makers to have such statistics. There are many other statistics which we are not now receiving because of the Government ‘s staff ceilings and its general attitude to Government spending and which we should be receiving from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to help decision-making in this and related economic areas. When people in our community mindlessly join tax revolts they ought to remember that one of the results of such revolts is that this country is more badly governed because we do not have satisfactory statistics on which to base proper decisions.
I come back to the bounty on tractors. The maximum amount payable in terms of March 1976 import prices is mentioned in the Bill. It is $3,480 for every tractor with 100 per cent local content and a take-off of 150 kilowatts. No indication is given of the extent to which tractor prices will fall as a result of the bounty scheme, but of course we must accept that the IAC has done its homework and that this is the amount that is necessary to enable tractors made in Australia to be competitive with imported tractors. The IAC report stated:
Information on the value of tractor sales is not available.
The industry producing these large tractors at present comprises three small firms building a limited number of tractors. One firm is in Western Australia, another is in New South Wales and the third is in Victoria. A couple of months ago when I looked at this subject I could say with confidence that each of these producers manufactured tractors with a local content of less than 55 per cent and therefore would not be eligible for the bounty; but I understand that one of these small companies, the company in Victoria, now may be manufacturing tractors with more than 55 per cent local content and therefore under the provisions of this Bill may be eligible to receive the bounty. The IAC reported:
However, I believe that the manufacturer in Victoria now will be glad that it is receiving a benefit in spite of the fact that it did not put in a submission. When I first looked at this question I could say with confidence that requests for assistance were received from only two potentialthey were large- manufacturers of smaller tractors, Chamberlain John Deere Pty Ltd and International Harvester Australia Ltd. The Chamberlain company informed the IAC that it was then engaged in feasibility studies but it was unable to provide the Commission with any details. International Harvester informed the IAC, with respect to large tractors:
No consideration has been given, oris likely to be given, in the next three years at least, to local production . . .
Nevertheless more recent information shows that both of those companies may soon, if they have not already, enter into the production of tractors which would attract the bounty which is the subject of the Bill before the House this afternoon. The market for these large tractors has grown rapidly in recent years. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, as a representative of a country electorate, would know that. With the economies of scale that have been brought about of necessity, resulting in the amalgamation of properties into larger units, larger tractors are now being used, whereas in earlier years the smaller tractor was more prevalent.
In 1975-76. sales of the larger tractor totalled 1,374 units. The trend towards larger tractors is projected to continue, with a doubling of the number sold in 1975-76, that is, 1,374 units, by 1983-84 which is the last year for which projections have been made. Virtually all such tractors were imported, with the Chamberlain and International Harvester companies accounting for more than 50 per cent of imports. The IAC did not recommend assistance for manufacturers of larger tractors at the previous inquiry into tractors because at that time it had no knowledge of local production of larger tractors. In its report the IAC stated:
The decision not to recommend assistance . . . was considered unlikely to have adverse equity or resource allocation effects.
The IAC admitted:
Established manufacturers … did not seek assistance . . . potential manufacturers were unable to promote any detailed information concerning possible future production.
Yet the Commission argued that developments in the tractor market and industry made it desirable to resolve the question of assistance for larger tractors so as to avoid undesirable longer term consequences, such as distortions of commercial judgment concerning future production patterns of tractors above or below 105 kilowatts. We all will understand that when people are making decisions about tractor manufactures, even in the smaller range below 105 kilowatts, it is important that they should know all the facts about what they would receive by way of bounty if tractors above 105 kilowatts were manufactured. These developments include the trend towards larger tractors and the potential entry into local production of the principal importers. These are all factors which must be taken into consideration in the longer term planning in this area of manufacturing tractors. Again the IAC report stated:
The Commission considers that assistance to tractor production should be uniform across the actual and potential range of production.
Assistance to smaller’ tractor manufacturers is currently being phased down over a period to 1 January 1982, to a lower long term rate of assistance estimated to be equivalent to an effective rate of assistance of about 25 per cent. What we are saying is that if the assistance being given for the manufacture of smaller tractors by way of bounty were analysed, one would find that the tariff equivalent would be about 25 per cent.
I am sure the Minister would agree that as we look at Australian industry we tend to divide it into areas related to tariff or tariff equivalent. The area receiving 25 per cent tariff and below is a relatively low tariff rate area and one to which we should encourage resources to be applied if we are to maximise the use of those resources and therefore to increase our standard of living. I would say that the area receiving between 25 per cent and 50 per cent tariff is medium ground. I think the Government looks upon the medium ground as being the area receiving between 25 per cent and 35 per cent tariff, although it has not spelt that out. In that area we should mark time and keep what we have without perhaps putting a lot of resources into increasing production and increasing the application of resources. In my case, the area receiving above 50 per cent tariff, or, in the Government’s case, the area attracting above 35 per cent tariff is one which we have to treat with great sensitivity, particularly where there is a high labour content, but one in which we would not altogether encourage new activity and new resources to be applied because that would not be the best use of those resources in order to maximise the standard of living.
I mention that because it seems that if there is an effective tariff rate of about 25 per cent on tractors that comes into that lower range and is something which we should encourage. Our intuitive judgment would tell us that, as a country which, in large part, is based on rural production has a lot of ability to apply research and development in a mechanical area such as this and has such a large market for rural production to the north, and as a tractor is heavy to transport and therefore would have a natural protection, perhaps the manufacture of tractors is an area into which we should be applying resources and seeing that employment is created.
In summary, the bounty scheme recommended is merely an extension to tractors of up to 150 kilowatts of the bounty which has been operating for tractors below 105 kilowatts and which we know from an earlier report and an earlier Bill which is now an Act will continue to be applied until 1 January 1982. These are the facts. I have given some attitudes of the Opposition on those facts inasmuch as I have stated that we are not in any way opposing the Bill and inasmuch as I have stated that with an effective tariff rate of 25 per cent this is an area which should be encouraged.
I would like to make a few more comments on this sort of legislation. We of the Opposition welcome the increased use of bounties by the Government as a means of protecting industry. However, it would seem that the Government is considering the life of bounties in only a relatively narrow range of specific circumstances, circumstances which are evident in this case of tractors. We want bounties, of course, because they help to keep the cost of the particular product to the consumer lower. This is particularly important where they are the initial product in a long line of processes which end up with the consumer.
Let me just identify the factors which apply in this case. First, the local industry is capable of supplying only a small share of the market at the present time. So there is scope for a greater use of local industry to supply a larger share of the existing market. Secondly, it is an industry which could become export oriented. I mentioned a little earlier that this product could be exported in particular to our Asian neighbours to the north of us. A third factor which is evident about tractors and which is worth mentioning in the general context is that the producer provides a very early but substantial input in the production and distribution chain in this area. Tractors are used for many purposes. They are used at an early stage of the production and distribution chain. If we can keep the costs low at the beginning of the production and distribution chain the product is much less likely to end up with all the mark-ups that are added further along the production chain. It is more likely that there will be a greater beneficial effect if one can apply the bounty at the first stage.
– Very succinct.
– In other words, the costs of the end product are kept a lot lower. I am very glad that the honourable member of Wakefield approves of the way in which I am putting this across. The Opposition hopes that there will be a much greater potential for bounties than seems to apply at present. However, we will not get this while we have an attitude to government spending which relates to unpopular things such as inefficiency and so on. I think it behoves all of us on both sides of the House to point out to the people, particularly when there is a campaign such as the present one, that things such as bounties which reduce the cost of a product to the consumer also come under the heading of government spending.
The Opposition believes that the Government needs to look more closely at the possibilities of using bounties rather than tariffs. Of course, this tendency would have a twofold impact upon the Government’s budgetary management. There would be a cost to revenue of paying out the bounty and there would also, of course, be a loss to revenue by not receiving the tariff. But really it is necessary for us all to give consideration to schemes to finance bounty payments because they are so much better than applying the tariff.
Perhaps consideration might be given to profit limitations on bounty payments to provide a safeguard against unreasonably high profits being earned by producers in receipt of assistance. We want manufacturers to be helped in this way if it creates rewarding jobs but not if the bounty is going only towards providing larger excess profits. I am not making the charge that there is any evidence that excess profits are being made in this way but probably we would find that there are cases in which the payment of bounties is leading to excess profits. Therefore I believe the Government’s object should be to establish machinery to see that this does not happen.
Whilst not opposing this Bill there are some considerations which require more thought before we rush into across-the-board bounty payments too enthusiastically. I hope that I have canvassed some of the issues. I would like to make a couple of other points. The recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission was based upon the view that the level of assistance should be neutral across all sections of the agricultural tractor industry. Thus a bounty is recommended even before any significant production of larger tractors has been attempted in Australia. This assumes that the long run level of assistance to smaller tractors- that is the 25 per cent effective rate of assistance- is the optimum one relative to other activities, both in the manufacturing sector and beyond. It is extremely difficult to accept that this is necessarily the case given the present ‘Indian file’ series of end-on tariff reviews. Certainty on this issue would be likely only if variations in rates of assistance reverted to large scale integrated reviews. I have said before- the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs is probably tired of hearing it from me- that I hope that the Government will be able soon to give the IAC more resources for bench mark longer term work which I believe is not being done with the necessary speed if it is being done at all at present. It is unsatisfactory to have reports for small sectors coming through Indian file’, one after another, when what we really want to do is to look at the larger sector because so often one particular small sector of industry relates to another sector.
It is intriguing that we are providing a bounty for the manufacture of products which are not at the moment being manufactured in this country, and I do not oppose this in any way. I have suggested that maybe in this country we should specialise in the manufacture of tractors. However, I repeat the Opposition’s attitude that there is no medium and long term economic planning in this country to which we can make any reference. We have only short term ad hoc planning going from one year to another. We believe that we ought to emulate what is being done in most other countries and build up the mechanisms to enable us to engage in medium and long term planning- the setting of targets. We could do this through an economic council made up of representatives from business, the trade unions and the national and State governments. In this way we could start to determine on what areas we should be concentrating. Intuitively we feel that tractors manufacture may be one of these areas.
However, we do not really know because we have not had such medium and long term planning carried out in this country. Such a concept is not revolutionary. Japan, for instance, which hardly could be called a socialist society, has had its economic planning agency for years. The French, who do not have what could be called a socialist government, have a planning mechanism. We should have such a mechanism in Australia. We should have a mechanism under which medium and long term planning is worked out on a consensus basis with input from the private sector as well as the public sector and from the State governments as well as the national government. Until we have that sort of planning we cannot say with certainty that the manufacture of tractors is one of the areas in which we should put our resources. We have to work on intuition; we have to work by the seat of our pants. In the meantime the Opposition comes to the conclusion that perhaps the manufacture of tractors is one of these areas. Certainly we have to go along with supporting a bounty measure like this which will give some employment, and give it in a way that will not add to costs. There is, of course, the possibility that the tractor industry will grow into a large industry in this country. I hope so. I would have liked this decision to have been made in the context of a proper planning mechanism. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Opposition does not oppose either of these two bounty Bills. In fact it welcomes this form of assistance to the manufacturing industry of this country.
– I rise to support the Bounty (Agricultural Tractors) Amendment Bill. Recent and planned amendments to bounty rates mean an increase in the bounties for larger tractors and a reduction in the bounties for smaller tractors. These changes were recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission to bring about a more uniform rate of effective assistance of approximately 25 per cent as from 1982. The Bill currently before the House provides for a substantial increase in money terms in bounties on upper heavyweight tractors above 105 kilowatt power, none of which are wholly manufactured in Australia as yet. The bounty available from 1973 to 1976 on all tractors above 67 kilowatt was $1,560. This Bill increases this amount for example, to $2,465 for a 106 kilowatt tractor and $3,019 for a 130 kilowatt tractor.
The extent of this increase in real terms depends upon whether we compare the new bounties with real levels prevailing in 1973 or 1976. The bounty in money terms remained unchanged in that period but inflation of costs and prices accelerated the import price index issued by the Reserve Bank of Australia in respect of machinery, except the electric group, between the March quarter of 1973 and the March quarter of 1977. The index rose by 91 per cent between those March quarters. This is the index that the Government intends to us to adjust the new bounty levies from time to time. Hence, if we compare the new bounties with the bounties the Government originally provided in the March quarter of 1973, we see that the new levels are actually lower in real terms for tractors up to about 130 kilowatts in power, with a slight increase for those tractors above that power, after allowing for inflation between 1973 and 1977. For example, the bounty available for a 1 10 kilowatt tractor is 15 per cent lower. Taking into account the inflation between 1977 and 1 978. the fall in real terms would be larger.
For small tractors, the situation is complicated by the new larger bounties being phased in in three States between 1977 and 1982 under the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Amendment Bill 1977. In the initial stage, 1977 to 1979, the bounties are lower than the level set in the period from 1973 to 1976 for tractors up to 34 kilowatts. The bounties are higher for those above that power. However, by the time the last stage is reached, 1982 to 1984, the bounties will have been phased down so that they are lower than the 1973 to 1976 levels for tractors up to 66 kilowatts but still higher for those above that power range.
The total sale of wheeled tractors fell from 21,158 units in 1975-76 to 20,667 units in 1976-77. However, sales of tractors over the 105 kilowatt level rose from 1,374 units in 1975-76, or 6.5 per cent of the total tractor sales, to 1,499 units in 1976-79, or 7 per cent of the total sales. Of course, this was due to the great increase in wheat acreages planted in this country. Huge areas of countryside were planted with wheat and this required tractors with greater horsepower.
Nearly all big tractors were imported, with Chamberlain-John Deere Pty Ltd and International Harvester Australia Ltd accounting for nearly 50 per cent of the imports. In 1975-76, the imports accounted for only half of the Chamberlain sales but two-thirds of the company’s profits. It should be remembered that the Chamberlain company was manufacturing tractors on its own account at Welshpool in Western Australia. The company then received great assistance from the American John Deere organisation which joined it to form a joint company in Australia called Chamberlain- John Deere Pty Ltd. More than 10 firms supply the market with tractors over 155 kilowatts, offering 40 models of widely different power and design. Some foreign distributors have come into Australia to sell their own tractors. For instance, the United States-made Steiger tractor is one of the biggest horsepower tractors operating in our grain belts. Steiger marketed its tractors through John Shearer Ltd, an Australia firm in Adelaide. But when Shearer sold some 78 tractors in seven months, the Steiger company decided to come to Australia and set up its own operations.
The same thing has happened in respect of other types of tractors. For instance, the Versatile tractor is a very big horsepower tractor. The company appointed a farm agent in the Moree district of New South Wales who was a very successful operator. The American company was so impressed with the marketing operations in this country that it established itself in Australia to sell these big machines. Despite the competing sellers, mark ups can be high. There were cases of tractors being imported into this country for a landed cost of $30,000. They were being sold to farmers for $60,000 and $70,000. Some tractor companies have been competing in ways other than price. For example, they have been offering farmers and their families free trips overseas with an associated income tax advantage for those farmers who buy machines under this policy.
Australia’s farm machinery industries generally have been in recession. Recently they have been retrenching staff and have been offering big inducements to buyers of their machines. One of the problems with this business in Australia is that we have fluctuating seasons with the result that these companies cannot get an even flow year by year. Their operations are subject to fluctuations. This has stopped other machinery firms from manufacturing these bigger horsepower tractors in Australia. For instance, quite a few companies in the United States of America indicated some 18 months ago that they were prepared to manufacture tractors in Australia. However, they were frightened off by the variable seasons that we experience in this country and they have not taken advantage of a possible bounty to manufacture in Australia. Several small local firms have found it profitable to assemble tractors over 105 kilowatts in power in Australia and to undercut the import price by some $ 10,000 to $20,000.
The local firms operating in Australia, as mentioned by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), are Phillips at Merredin in Western Australia, Upton Engineering in New South Wales and James Nagorka in Victoria. The companies import most of the components, nearly all duty free. They are only small fish in the market. Nevertheless, they are assembling these machines in Australia. The machines are of the large horsepower type and are reasonably well accepted. The main local content in these instances is the chassis and the labour for assembly which represents only about 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the total cost. As these machines are below the 55 per cent local content, these firms currently would not be eligible for any bounty under section 6 of the Act. To achieve 60 per cent to 65 per cent local content would require manufacturing in Australia the major drive line components which is apparently not viable at the present time. The various bounties that are made available in respect of tractor manufacture in Australia are set out very clearly on pages 2 and 3 of the current Act. The bounties that are payable for the various grades and types of horsepower, starting right from the bottom to the high horsepower or high kilowatt machines, are shown in the Act.
The major farm organisations have been pressing the Government recently to shift the means of protection for the Australian farm machinery manufacturers from tariffs to bounty so as to reduce the cost to the farmers. The Government is hesitant about doing this in the foreseeable future as the large budgetary costs would then have to be borne by the Government rather than by the end user. It is good to see that the Government is prepared at all times to provide a bounty for the manufacture of farm tractors in Australia because it is important that this nation be independent in relation to farm machinery. It is also very important from an employment point of view. The International Harvester company and Chamberlain-John Deere Pty Ltd provide employment for thousands of Australians at their plants and service organisations provide these companies with tyres, batteries, generators and other accessories which are made in Australia by Australian labour.
It is pleasing indeed to take part in the debate on this Bill, which of course the honourable member for Adelaide has indicated is not being opposed by the Opposition. The Opposition realises that for the good of Australia we should have a viable tractor manufacturing industry. It is interesting to note that the large horsepower tractors coming into Australia come in duty free. This is one of the reasons why the bounty on the large horsepower tractors manufactured in
Australia has been increased by the Government. I am delighted to note that the Government is keeping up with the situation. It is hoped that the Australian manufacturers will provide a bigger percentage of the large horsepower tractor market in this country. I support the Bill.
– I support these two Bills but wish to speak particularly to the Bounty (Agricultural Tractors) Amendment Bill 1978. I recall that when we discussed the tractor bounty last year the former honourable member for Wakefield, who was more commonly known as the ‘modest farmer’, expressed very strong support and put forward very strong arguments for the principle of bounty support rather than other forms of subsidy. I am always pleased to support those views and, like him, I think it is a philosophy that we do not make enough use of in our rural industries. I would like to see it extended further. It is an open system. We can see what is going on. It is subject to parliamentary review every year and the subsidy goes where it is intended, that is, to the manufacturer. It is not passed on to the user of the implement and, subsequently, to the consumer. Quite often the user- the primary producer- is not in a position to pass on his costs to the domestic consumer or to the export market. So this is a counter, in a way, to the undesirable effects of devaluation on primary industry. It is something which I support very strongly.
Another aspect of the system which I think is most desirable is that it is a flexible system which can be amended from year to year as conditions within the industry change. Of course, this is precisely what has happened in this case. The Government is not locked into a form of subsidy that becomes irrelevant to the conditions or the environment prevailing in the industry. I think it also speaks well for the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on the tractor industry, which is a well balanced report, that the Government has seen fit to adopt the recommendations of the report. I noted the remarks of my colleague the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) about the lack of long term planning in these areas. I think we can see in the IAC a vehicle for long term planning. There is certainly an element of long term planning even in looking at a particular aspect of rural industry, such as the market for large tractors. Of course, I would like to see the role of the IAC expanded to embrace a much wider look at these problems and I would like to see a much closer working relationship developed with the Treasury and the Department of Finance. There is an element of long term planning in the IAC’s reports. I would like to see much more notice taken of them and the Government being more prepared to adopt the IAC’s recommendations much quicker.
The need for this amendment has come about because there have been changes in the industry, notably in the growth in the demand for large tractors. The figures show that it has increased from 6.5 per cent to 14 per cent in the past few years, which is quite a substantial increase. This change shows the flexibility of the system in that we are able to amend the Bill to embrace this change. It is a very important change, particularly in relation to what is called timeliness in agricultural operations. When I refer to ‘timeliness’ the people on the land will know that I am talking about the very important time factor of when one ploughs, when one seeds and when one harvests one’s crops. We know that there is a very precise time in the agricultural calendar when conditions are ideal to plough large areas of land. The trouble is, of course, that after three or four days one may find that these ideal conditions have passed. The land may start to dry out because of drying winds or there may be too much rain. As we move to a more sophisticated type of agriculture there is much greater scope for large tractors to be able to get in and do the job at the precise time that conditions are most favourable. This is extremely important, of course, in relation to harvesting. One could have a crop one day and it could be completely destroyed by a hail storm the next day. Sowing seed at the right time and ploughing and cultivating at precisely the right time can mean a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars in regard to the income from a wheat crop, an oilseeds crop or any other large acreage crop. Of course, a large tractor enables the operator to be precisely spot on.
I think we should be suporting local production in principle. Although we import many of the tractors we use there are quite a few features of those tractors which are not suitable for local conditions. Locally made tractors tend to be tailor-made to suit our conditions in a much better way. They are often much more rugged than imported tractors and last longer. It is often easier to service and to buy spare parts for locally produced tractors. Other elements that are often overlooked in imported tractors are safety precautions and the comfort of a tractor. We tend to make enclosed cabins and those sorts of things separately and to put them on the tractor later. I think we should be encouraging local production to build these amenities into the tractors in the first place but, overall, to produce a tractor that is able to operate in our particularly difficult climatic conditions and over wide areas and rough terrain at a reasonable degree of comfort for the operator and that can do the job in as short a time as possible.
I think our tractor production tends to be more labour intensive than the production in other countries because of the scale of operation. I think that justifies this form of subsidy by way of a bounty. There is a very good future for the production of large tractors in Australia and a modest investment in that area at this stage undoubtedly will pay off in the future. I do not think that the market is confined to Australia. I think opportunities exist for expanding our export market. It is only small at the moment, but it is surprising how often one runs into Australian machinery and Australian technology in underdeveloped countries in Africa and the Middle East. I was told by one of my colleagues recently that a big agricultural production scheme in Libya is backed up almost entirely by Australian technology and Australian machinery.
There is great scope for this industry. I think that it is something that our trade commissioners are well aware of and that they are attempting to develop those markets. Unfortunately, there is a propensity for people in all countries to keep clear of wild buffaloes. I think the sort of wild buffalo diplomacy in which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and, in some cases, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) have indulged overseas has tended to undermine the good work of our trade commissioners in trying to sell Australian products overseas. It tends to produce an anti-Australian sentiment in those countries, which is most unfortunate. I hope that we will not have further examples of that because it makes the job of our trade commissioners much more difficult. One of the big problems of our trade commissioners is that sometimes they think they are selling Australian machinery and the recipient country thinks they are buying Australian machinery but if it happens to be made by a multi-national organisation the orders are sometimes redirected to another country which that organisation thinks can supply the machinery more cheaply. This is most unfortunate because quite often the purchasing country is buying in response to aid given by this country and price is not the only basis on which it makes a decision. For particular reasons it wants to buy an Australian product, and it is most unfortunate that it is not always able to do so because of the operations of the multi-nationals.
We have some reservations about this subsidy and about the fact that it is possible that, by helping a couple of multi-nationals to manufacture large tractors in Australia, over time we may be forcing some small manufacturers out of the trade altogether. Here again, I think the bounty is flexible enough for the Parliament to be able to watch for this and to remedy the situation if it develops. We know the problem of the multinationals repatriating their profits and the lack of control over them in many ways. But, if by subsidising through bounties we can create jobs in Australia and manufacture more large tractors, I believe that that risk is well worth taking as long as we keep the matter under review and are prepared to make adjustments from time to time as the need arises.
Generally, the Opposition commends the legislation. It confirms that a bounty is a type of subsidy which can be amended. It is flexible and can be tailored to fit particular situations. We think it should be used much more frequently. I personally feel that there is a very good future in Australia, both for domestic use and for export, for the larger types of tractors. Our machinery is much more adaptable to the needs of the developing countries and the Middle East countries than is machinery from many other areas because we are accustomed to dry farming, which is the situation in many of those countries. We should explore this to the full in a positive and aggressive way. Although it may cost the public something in the short term, in the long term it will pay off. The cost of the bounty does not fall on a particular sector of the community. The money comes from government and the population at large contributes to it. The producer or the user does not have to pay the cost of the subsidy. For that reason we support the principle very strongly and we support the Bill.
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 Macphee) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 12 April, on motion by Mr Fife:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
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 Macphee) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 August, on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation Bill is to establish an Overseas Projects Corporation to assist Australian organisations to compete for overseas development projects in order to encourage the export of Australian goods and services. Such projects represent a large and rapidly expanding component of world trade. They are facilitated, of course, by the indigenous demand of many countries and by world aid programs such as those of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. In addition, the availability of capital from oil producing countries is giving rise to a demand for very large scale projects in those countries. Further, as the oil producing countries lay off the proceeds of their oil sales in the form of loans to developing countries to ensure a return for the future, the developing countries are using that Arab oil money, if you like, for project purposes.
This Bill represents the belated honouring of an election commitment made in 1977 by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). In the face of Australia’s deteriorating trade, the Government has introduced a five-pronged package proposal designed to stimulate export sales. This export development package is to cost an estimated $100m, and of course it is long overdue. We are faced with a critical trade situation in Australia. In addition to this proposal- this one-nth component of the package, the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation component- there are four other matters to which I will refer briefly. The package includes changes to the export market development grants scheme. Exporters are to be given incentives of up to 15c in the dollar, up to a maximum of some $66m, in order to stimulate trade. The next component is the strengthening of the Trade Commissioner Service, especially in the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific area and Latin America. Thirdly, there is to be an export promotion drive which will involve the use of displays, trade missions, trade fairs and publicity. Fourthly, there will be additional support for the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, known as EFIC. The fifth component is the one which is the subject of this debate.
The Opposition does not discourage this package deal at all. As I have said, it is belated. Industry has been looking for Government interest and activity in relation to the problems being encountered in the efforts of industry to bolster world trade. The Opposition agrees that strong Government initiatives are urgently needed to stimulate exports. We also believe that a properly run Overseas Projects Corporation could make a useful contribution. But we are not at all satisfied that the proposals before the House represent the desirable concept, the kind of concept that will make this Corporation successful. We note that funds for the export incentives scheme have died off in recent years, and the Government must accept responsibility for this. We note that the entire package of proposals relates to a report on export incentives which the Government commissioned and received from the Industries Assistance Commission. We are wondering why this report is still being withheld from the Parliament, from the Opposition and from the people. We feel that we could make a far more useful contribution to this debate if the Government were not so secretive about these things and if we knew of the real crisis confronting Australia’s manufacturing industries.
The fact of the matter is that there are no worthwhile manpower policies prevailing in Australia at present. Not so long ago I saw a list of some 1 70 industry categories. In consultation with a senior public servant, members of the Committee on which I was engaged and I were advised that none of those 170 industries were regarded by the Government as worthy of government backing and support. Which industries have that imprimatur from the Government- ‘deserving of government assistance’? Which ones are goers? Because of the inadequacies of and indeed absences of relevant trade and manufacturing policies, we are certainly at a loss to know. I see the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland ) sitting at the table. I am pleased to see him making an occasional visit to Australia.
– He has got a good suit on, too.
-Well, he is here in Australia. He is back from beating his fists on the closed doors of the European Economic Community. He was not making much of a noise so the Prime Minister had to join him. Regrettably, to this stage, the response has been extremely disappointing. What we find is a vacuum in intelligent interest and application by this Government to the trade opportunities in our own region- the Pacific and Asian region- that are staring us in the face. Hopefully this Bill might assist us in that connection because many great projects are to be built in the Pacific and Asian region. But we need this orientation. We need to realise that times have changed and the European Economic Community countries will not dance the tune just when our Prime Minister chooses to clap his hands. We need an overseas trading corporation as well as the project that is currently before the House for debate. Regrettably, when the Labor Government put the trading corporation idea before the Parliament it was rejected. Those who presently prevail in government must accept responsibility for the problems that have resulted from our not having an effective trading corporation in Australia.
We have to face the realities of life. Only yesterday I think it was I heard the Prime Minister answer a question in the House in respect of one of our trading partners- a country from which I have only recently returned- the Soviet Union. The Prime Minister could not be disparaging enough about the Soviet Union. He had no consideration of the fact that there is a great imbalance of trade between Australia and the Soviet Union- an imbalance which is greatly in Australia’s favour. I think it is to the tune of $400m exports to the Soviet Union and about $4m imports from the Soviet Union. Also, many job opportunities are involved in this consideration. This in turn affects the well being of Australians. But for the sake of miserable political advantage we see the Prime Minister and, I think, occasionally the Minister for Special Trade Representations playing politics about trade and the employment of Australian people. Let us have a cursory look at the trade situation which will be affected in a positive way, we hope, by this Australian Overseas Projects Corporation. Our exports for the 12 months to June 1978 grew, I think, by about 6 per cent while our imports increased by about 8 per cent. That is not a good situation. The downward trend continued into the month of July, the last month for which figures are available. Imports in that month increased in real terms by 2.5 per cent, but our exports fell by 8.3 per cent. As a result of this trend, our balance of payments is in a very precarious condition. The deficit on current account for 1977-78 was $2,410m-a figure revealed at page 22 of the Budget Speech. This is the result of a decline in trade surplus. This year it will hit a deficit level probably in excess of $3,000m. To meet this critical and rapidly deteriorating situation, the Government is looking hopefully to private capital inflow and no doubt to further overseas borrowing. In passing, I make the point about the Government’s dependence on foreign investment, which is a poor substitute for internal capital accumulation and investment. I took out some figures recently to this effect: The total net inflow of identified foreign investment in Australia in 1976-77 was a record $ 1,931m- more than double the level of 1975-76. That is very short-sighted indeed. The income paid overseas last financial year was a record $ 1,653m. This shows how little long-term benefit the Australian economy receives from uncontrolled foreign investment. This tendency to solve our problems by allowing people to buy up Australia at a cheap rate following the 17 ‘A per cent devaluation, in the long term has disastrous consequences for Australia. This is also the case when we are repatriating dividends overseas. The products of our manufacturing efforts go to benefit people in other parts of the world.
For a long time there has been an overdependence on mineral exports to keep pace with our import requirements. Previously we relied on wool. We used to say that Australia rode on the sheep’s back. Fortunately, for over a decade mining has been expanding and now represents some 30 per cent of our exports. But mining is low labour-intensive. Of course when we send our products of the mining industry overseas, this in turn generates an impact on our balance of payments. Australia is then faced with the dilemma of having to buy manufactured goods from the countries to which it has sold the products of our mines. When we sell a million dollars worth of bauxite to Japan we probably buy a million dollars worth of motor cars or footwear or textiles in return. So it is important that we minimise this dependency on our mining industry. After all, over half our mining exports go to Japan and the rate of that country’s economic growth is now slowing down. As a result of that slowing down, already we have witnessed a decline in Japan’s demand for raw materials for steel making. Our iron ore and coal exports have fallen as a result. The fact is that diversification of exports is essential. I suppose that consideration of that fact has prompted the Government to introduce this legislation. Internally our economy is so depressed as a result of government mismanagement that enormous areas of expertise and technological competence have been left unutilised. There are many statistics to substantiate that contention.
It is significant that our Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) now considers it necessary to prop up the private sector with the creation of this new instrumentality. He has not always taken that view. Hitherto his attitude has been that government interference would be disastrous. Back in September 1 975, the Minister, as the then Opposition spokesman on trade, had different ideas. As the Hansard shows, on 4 September 1975, the present Minister, when speaking on the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation Bill, said:
The second aim of the Corporation would be to assist small Australian manufacturers and processors to enter into overseas markets. The Opposition cannot see how the proposed Corporation would assist that aim.
The Minister has this prejudice against government involvement. He continued:
We believe that if the Government wants to help small manufacturers enter the export trade it should restore the export incentive scheme. . . .
When referring to countries with centrally planned economies, he said:
Australia does not possess very much technology which these countries are seeking.
But strangely he now has a Bill before the House which is designed to export that technology which allegedly is in short supply. In another vein in the same speech he said:
It is unrealistic for small firms to rely on a government trading corporation to write their contracts for them. It is equally naive for a government to imagine that it can create a corporation which fulfils that function.
Yet we find that that is the very purpose and nature of the legislation now before the House. In many respects the Minister has been forced to change his tune; he has had to eat his words, to eat humble pie because of the deteriorating state of our manufacturing industries. He admitted in his second reading speech that the private sector had called for Government support. He said:
The Government has received a number of requests from Australian firms for support, assistance or direct participation in various development projects.
He has had to admit that our companies are small and uncompetitive by world standards, that in a number of fields certain elements of essential expertise are located only in Government instrumentalities and that Government intervention and support is essential if Australian interests are to be able to compete on an equal footing with overseas competitors.
I am concerned with clauses 11,12 and 13 of this Bill which relate to the management of this proposed Corporation. Five of the eight directors, including the Chairman, must come from the private sector. In fact it is possible under the legislation that all the directors could come from the private sector. In my view this denies the important and significant input and role of the public sector. It denies the significance of governmental capitalisation of the project, the investment of $2m of public money and the backup for contingent liabilities of $50m. For that matter, without the imprimatur of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the good will which has flowed from our aid program, Australian enterprises would not get to first base overseas in competition for these projects.
We have the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for which I was once ministerially responsible and for which I think the Parliament has a great deal of respect. I fail to understand why that body is not given a substantial role in the Corporation. Why is it not to have representation on the board? It was established in 1970 and has a staff of 51 1 people, 148 of whom are overseas. Its pre-tax profit for the year 1976-77 was $ 1.87m and since its establishment the overall total dividend to the Government stands at 12.5 per cent on average capital. Why are we to have the extravagance of two overseas project agencies when we have the SMEC already in existence? It is associated with many projects for the Australian Development Assistance Agency. It is operating in 24 assignment locations and is expert on hydro-electric projects of the type it is building in Ghana. It is associated with ground water development projects, land settlement schemes, irrigation, highways, agricultural schemes and many other great projects around the world. It has operated successfully in about 23 countries and most of the States of Australia. Why is it not to have an effective role in this new Corporation, the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation? Why is it ignored?
Why is the Bill drawn to make it possible for all eight directors to come from the private sector? Why is the Australian community or the public sector to be denied representation on the board of this great Corporation? After all, that organisation can exist only if it is government capitalised or government created. Its functions are to be financed from the public purse and initial capital of $2m is involved with $50m stacked up for contingent liabilities. Why is this public enterprise to play second fiddle to every comparable body in the country, unable to compete, only permitted to charge fees but not to make a profit? Why is the Corporation to be unable to carry out its own project works and to be required instead to have its works carried out by private organisations? Why is the Corporation to be prevented from engaging in general overseas trading? Why is the Department of Construction disregarded and why is that great instrumentality, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, of which all Australians are proud, treated with such studied indifference, and, indeed, with such studied insult?
This Corporation is off to a bad start because the Government has such an uncompromising antipathy to public enterprise. Under this Bill overseas owned, dominated and influenced firms can be assisted to make profits by a Corporation masquerading as a public instrumentality. The Australian Overseas Projects Corporation should be made respectable and acceptable to the countries with which it wants to trade by becoming a genuine public instrumentality. I support the amendments to that effect which have been foreshadowed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), amendments which will soon be the subject of debate when the Committee stage of the debate is reached.
-The real merit of this legislation is that it will make the skills of particular Australians available overseas. The Australian Overseas Projects Corporation Bill deserves to be supported for that reason, if for no other. There would be nobody in this House who would disagree with the view that skill, knowledge, merit and ability ought to be boundless in their operation. This Corporation will enable those qualities to be boundless in their operation irrespective of national boundaries and in so doing will help the people themselves and help Australia. I will give an example of what I mean. The purpose of this Bill is to make the knowledge of engineers, of some economists and of some agriculturalists- and these have been the most successful people- available overseas. It will give them a chance to operate against international competitors. I invite honourable members to compare that with the export of other commodities which occurs in Australia. Normally we export our commodities. There are always vested interests in company commodities. For example, if coal is exported there is a vested interest on the part of coal operators in the export business. There is an overseas coal exporters’ association operating. If iron is found and is exported there is a vested interest which exports and is directly related to something material. The same applies with respect to wool, nickel, copper and so on.
This Bill is quite different in its application and infinitely more human. There are people with eminent skill available in this nation. There are engineers with pre-eminent skill. This Bill will ensure that they can operate in a world where their skills are desired on at least an equal basis with engineers and economists from competing nations. There is something intensely human about this and something of which Australia ought to be very proud. This is also a magnificent economic investment. Commodities are often found and exported as a result of the application of luck. That has certainly applied in respect of iron ore exports. There is no luck whatsoever in having these skills available for use throughout the world, lt will help the recipient countries and it will help individuals. Therefore, I must differ somewhat with the first sentence of the first paragraph of the second reading speech of the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), in which he referred to: . . an Australian Overseas Projects Corporation to assist Australian private organisations to compete for overseas development projects so as to encourage the export of Australian goods and services.
Overwhelmingly this Bill is to enable the export of skilled Australians. That is a world of difference. I am delighted above all that the engineering profession is to be the profession that will be helped as a result of the operation of this Corporation. I am delighted that the engineering profession, which is going through very difficult times in this nation, has already been successful in applying its skills overseas. If we refer to the survey of consultancy services conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics we see that there are some very interesting details and information available. The number of contracts earned overseas by Australian consultants in 1976-77 was three times that of the previous year. If we look at the net result of the consultancies which have found application overseas, there has been a net result from those activities in favour of Australia. For example, net earnings in 1975-76 were over $3m and in the subsequent year over $5m. I presume that they have increased far more since then. Having mentioned those figures, we ask ourselves: Who are the people and what are the professions which have been successful? This same data indicates that engineering and mining between them were responsible for 72 per cent of that success. Agricultural workers, forestry workers and economists were responsible for most of the rest.
Why should I say that I am delighted that this legislation will be of particular use to the engineering profession? Of all the professions in Australia I believe that the most disadvantaged over a long period has been the engineering profession. It has been the most disadvantaged because it has been the casualty in every recession that has occurred in this nation. In every recession governments have cut expenditure, and I do not argue with that. However, the part of public expenditure that has been cut overwhelmingly has always been capital expenditure. The plain fact is that a casualty of that kind of cut in expenditure, ipso facto, must be and always has been the engineering profession. Nevertheless, the figures I have mentioned demonstrate that the engineering profession has skills which have earned money for this country overseas.
I have mentioned the sum of $5m. It might be said that that is only a small amount of money and that it is not significant in the total. In the total it is immensely significant. Looking at Australia’s record overseas we see that the current account deficit for this year will be something over $2.5 billion. That deficit will occur in spite of the fact that there have been positive balance of trade effects. However, the engineering profession and the other professions which will benefit as a result of the work of the Corporation have not been in deficit; they have been in positive balance. Even though the organisation of capital in Australia makes it very difficult for these professions to function in a stable manner they have earned resources for this country overseas. Therefore, I am delighted that this Corporation will be able to help such people, and help them in their private capacity too. The Opposition has made an enormous amount of the fact that the ultimate test of the value of this organisation is that it is to be attuned to the requirements of or is to make its organising ability available to private organisations. Insofar as it makes available to private organisations those organising skills and information we ought to regard this part of its activities as a positive boon. As I demonstrated a few moments ago, one of the great professions in Australia whose technology will be exported overseas has been vulnerable in the past because it has relied overwhelmingly on public capital. So, we ought to applaud the fact that the Corporation will be able to operate in the private market.
The summary of my argument is this: The great problem this country faces is its current account deficit. In a sense it is the narrow part of the Venturi tube through which we will have to fit all the aspirations of the Australian economy and we must deal with this task. How much we can get past that constriction will determine the future development of this country and enable an expanded Australian economy to work on current account surpluses and not on current account deficits. The people who have already enabled part of that problem to be overcome will be assisted by this legislation. I am reminded that Sir George Turner, our first Treasurer, in presenting one of his first Budgets was moved to remark that it had always been found easiest when cutting public expenditure to cut capital works. It speaks for itself. This Bill will deal with some of the problems created when this is done.
I turn now to the Bill itself but will refer to only three parts of it- clauses 6, 8 and 14. 1 think there was some misunderstanding about clause 6 in the debate last night. Clause 6 will enable information to be made available through the Corporation. The Corporation will be able to assist Australian private organisations to negotiate with overseas organisations. It will give positive assistance. It will assist Australia private organisations to carry out developments overseas. If private organisations are not required or do not want to do the work on their own or to participate in it, the Corporation can do that work as a principal agent. That is how I understand clause 6 ( 1) (d) of the Bill
I deal now with clause 8 because one or two of its provisions worry me. I am sure that the Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Garland) can put some of my worries to rest. Clause 8 makes it quite clear that the Corporation is not to compete against Australian private organisations, nor should it compete against them. Sub-clause (2) makes it clear that when an Australian private organisation becomes aware that the Corporation is either negotiating with a view to the formation of an Australian consortium or is negotiating with an overseas government it can protest and, according to the nature of that protest, the responsible Minister may direct the Corporation to cease its operations or negotiations. I am concerned about the circumstances in which a private organisation might learn that negotiations are proceeding overseas or are being held between the Corporation and some overseas agent and then decides to protest. I hope that the rules of procedure which will be determined by the Minister will not allow the Corporation to be undercut or underwritten to this extent or made vulnerable to organisations that might decide, after events have been set in train, to try to get in on them in spite of the work that has been done previously by the Corporation. Rules of procedure will have to be set and in this respect they should be workable rules.
I turn to the other provisions relating to protection of private organisations. In clause 14 it is quite clear that the Board shall keep the Minister informed of its decisions with respect to matters of policy. If matters of policy are not acceptable to the Minister he can either recommend that they be altered or overrule them. I am pleased to note that approval for specific projects to be undertaken by the Corporation or the Board will not be affected by this provision in the Bill. I am delighted with the application of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation Bill. It will serve a very valuable and useful purpose in several ways. Not only will it assist relations between Australia and the rest of the world but it also will assist some professions operating within this country to market their skills overseas and make them available to the rest of the world without disadvantage. Not the least effect of that will be that in so doing it will make a positive contribution to the solution of Australia’s greatest and most persistent economic problem, that is, the current account deficit.
I hope that the Government is not bluffing in regard to the proposed operation of this legislation. I presume that it is not and that it is quite sincere. There is an old French proverb in respect of those who bluff that at the moment I have difficulty in recalling. Nevertheless, I hope that the Government is not bluffing and that in operating the proposed Corporation in the way it ought to be operated it will be able to nudge the international market to the benefit of not only those people in Australia who can benefit from it but also the country.
– I want to remind those who have taken an interest in the debate of the purpose of the Bill and to respond to one or two of the questions that have been put and the comments that have been made. This is an important Bill. The whole purpose of the proposed Australian Overseas Projects Corporation is to assist Australian private enterprise organisations to seek and obtain large scale contracts for projects overseas. This would open a new area of opportunity for Australian industry as many projects are beyond the capacity of individual firms. The task of the Corporation will be to bring together the skills that are readily available in Australia to present viable and competitive Australian bids for particular projects.
The Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), in his second reading speech, referred to the objectives of the Corporation and to the way in which the Government envisages that it will carry out its functions. It will assist in the formation of consortiums to bid for particular projects. If requested, and with the approval of the Minister, it could take the role of prime contractor. The concept of the Corporation is to assist Australian private enterprise, not to compete with it. Deliberately included in the Bill are safeguards that will protect the position of Australian private enterprise groups in the event that they find themselves in competition with the Corporation.
The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, which has been referred to several times, has established an international reputation as an engineering consultancy corporation with a high degree of in-house expertise in a number of specific engineering fields. The incorporation of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation’s functions into those of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation could result in a loss of opportunities for private enterprise consultants. Also the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation is empowered to contract in its own right in the engineering field. The Australian Overseas Projects Corporation will not have the power or the resources to contract on its own behalf.
The Opposition seems to envisage that there will be some serious overlapping in the functions of these two corporations. In fact, the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation will be able to contract only as a member of a consortium or as a prime contractor on behalf of Australian firms, whereas the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation could be a member of a consortium which requests the proposed Corporation to act. As can be clearly seen and as has been spelt out clearly, the Bill specifically prohibits the proposed Corporation acting as a principal or agent in trading transactions and it will not be empowered to displace Australian traders and statutory authorities in their normal activities. The supply of goods required for a particular project would be the responsibility of the firms associated with it.
The Australian Overseas Projects Corporation will be required to act in accordance with sound commercial principles and will seek to obtain sufficient revenue to cover the costs of its operations and to pay a reasonable rate of return to the Government. Similar requirements are placed on the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. The major objective is to assist in securing the profitability and viability of Australian private enterprise through the creation of new market opportunities. As has been said, the
Trade Commissioner Service will be briefed to provide information on projects to the Corporation so that it will be in a position to inform industry of opportunities at an early stage. The Trade Commissioner Service will continue to service requests from individual Australian firms for intelligence on specific projects.
A number of the comments that were made in the course of the debate seemed to indicate that the terms of the second reading speech have not been fully understood. I cannot understand why that would be the case because they are clear. Many of the criticisms that have been levelled by the Opposition obviously run counter to what the Minister for Trade and Resources clearly set out. Early in his speech he talked about the need for the proposed Corporation, the examination that the Government did and the reasons for it. That part of the speech was faithfully represented at the beginning of the speech by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). He mentioned clearly- I hope I recapitulated this in my earlier remarks- what the Government sees as the objective.
In leading for the Opposition, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) seemed to believe that the Government was trying to indicate that the Corporation is to be set up for different purposes, but I really do not think that proposition can be sustained when one reads what has been said. In fact it is not the Government’s belief that it should have the power to buy and sell and to trade. It is clear from the amendment that it proposes to move that that is the view of the Opposition, but that is not the Government’s view. Of course, that proposed amendment cannot be accepted. In this House in years gone by we have had vigorous debates about how this type of corporation might be used. We do not agree with the Opposition ‘s views about that. The honourable member for Hughes suggested that it was wrong for the Government parties when they were in opposition to disagree; but, of course, they made the reasons for that disagreement very clear. The honourable member may not accept them, but we hold the view very firmly that the Government should not set up another- it would be another- competing trading corporation. When one reads the terms of the Bill in relation to this matter which was before the House a few years ago one will find that the powers of the corporation proposed in that Bill were so wide that it would have been permitted- and we were fearful that it would in fact- to engage in widespread trading practices.
– You do not like the people ‘s instrumentalities making profits.
– The honourable member said that I do not like the people’s instrumentalities making profits. That is the core of the matter and I thank him for that interjection. The previously proposed corporation would not have been an instrumentality for making profits for the people. It would have been a government instrumentality that was influenced very directly by a government which had a socialist attitude and a socialist objective clearly in its platform. There is a deep difference between us. The objective that the honourable member and his party have had for many years is the fundamental difference between us. I am obliged to the honourable member for bringing it out so clearly. We have been over that argument many times and I believe that that attitude, which of course goes beyond simply establishing an overseas trading corporation, is a part of the different ways in which the public views our two sides of politics. Its point of view has been expressed at recent elections. So I will not go over that argument again in any detail. I think it has been made clear enough for those people who are interested. Let me come back to the Bill before us. At one stage I actually wrote down the words of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. He said: ‘I think it is worthwhile, perhaps’. I put the word ‘perhaps’ in brackets. He goes along with the Bill to some degree, but he says that it does not have enough muscle. Presumably he proposes to put some muscle into it by way of the three amendments which he foreshadowed he would move and which have been circulated. I suppose that the major amendment concerns the matter which we have just been discussing. The amendment proposes to insert the following words:
The Corporation may engage either as principal or agent in the buying and selling of goods overseas but not so as to compete with any Australian organisation.
For my part I find it very difficult to envisage how that caveat would work in practice. Clearly, in talking about not competing, the honourable member is trying to retreat from the situation of the Bill which was introduced by the Labor Party in about 1974 and which would have provided for competition. In fact the two situations mentioned in the amendment are impossible to separate. For the reasons I have mentioned and those set out so clearly by the Minister in his second reading speech, we cannot accept that amendment. In fact it would go right against our intention in introducing this Bill.
The honourable member referred to various clauses in the Bill. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), who made a useful analysis of the Bill in his contribution to this debate, pointed out the misunderstanding which seemed to exist in the mind of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith in respect of clause 6. Clause 7 points out the prohibition of buying and selling, which we have been discussing and which of course is the basis of the setting up of this Corporation; not some other proposal. It is fundamental to what is suggested. We do not want the Corporation to be open ended; we do not want it to compete; we do not want it to trade; we want it to achieve the other objectives to which we have referred. The clear policy of the Government which has been stated publicly many times is not to see an expansion of the public sector, particularly in our present situation. The Opposition for its part ideologically, and I think in practice, takes every opportunity to recommend and to achieve public sector expansion. That matter represents a deep division between the two sides. If the Labor Party could have the first amendment inserted in the Bill, that would go some way towards achieving its objective. In speaking of the amendments, I must say that the Government cannot agree to them. I have dealt with the first amendment, which aims to give the Corporation more power.
The second amendment proposes that there be inserted in the Bill a requirement that the Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary to the Department of Trade and Resources, the Manager of the Commonwealth Development Bank and the Director of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation or their delegates be appointed to the board of directors. That would be obligatory. The honourable member for Hughes dealt with this matter in some detail and suggested that the way it was worded could and, I think he went on to imply, would result in directors coming from only the private sector. I think he really has exaggerated the situation considerably. Decisions in respect of appointments have not been made. After all, the Bill has not yet passed through the Parliament and is not yet an Act. However, some thought naturally has been given to this matter. Without in any way pre-empting what will be decided by Cabinet, I think it is fairly clear that what is intended here is to achieve a balance and not to provide for appointments wholly from the private sector.
Equally, we would not accept this proposed amendment because it in turn would make fixed appointments where some greater balance may well be achieved by looking at a wider number of categories. I understand what honourable members opposite are putting forward when they suggest a variety of expertise and connections and I would hope that would be achieved, but I do not believe that the appointments should come from the suggested areas. I do not believe that it would be wise to insert in a Bill an amendment to make something so fixed because, with the pressure of legislation, it is not easy to reintroduce a Bill in order to make an amendment. I am not quite sure that I followed the argument of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. I think he talked about some judicial decision making. With respect I must say that, coming from a lawyer, that rather puzzled me.
– Balance. I accept that and I think I have already indicated my sympathy with that view. I do not think that one should also jump to the conclusion, as did the honourable member for Hughes, that there is any exclusion of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation or the Department of Construction. Those are areas that need to be considered. I hope that I have drawn some distinction between the operations of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation and the proposed Australian Overseas Projects Corporation. If we were to accept the Opposition’s suggestion, in fact we would have a real overlap, which we do not want. The corporations have different objectives and I think they can pursue them very well. I would not agree with the honourable member that the Government has introduced this Bill belatedly. He knows very well the pressure of introducing legislation into this House. Every year more legislation is required. This Bill was included in a three-year program at the end of last year and has been introduced into this House in August of this year, so I think the honourable member must have spoken tongue in cheek.
He talked a great deal about trade opportunities. I do not propose to comment on every point he made. I must say that I found it all a bit difficult to follow. I would like him to elaborate some time on how the position of the balance of trade with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, if redressed, would create further job opportunities, presumably in Australia, because I found that point a bit obscure.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartiniOrder! From the tenor of the Minister’s speech, he is really adverting to matters which probably would be better discussed in the Committee stage. I understand that the Bill will be discussed in the Committee stage.
– It is all right. The Minister is closing the debate.
-No; I am afraid that the Minister is not closing the debate.
– We cannot have two Ministers speaking in the one debate, surely.
-It is my intention, after the Minister has finished speaking, to call the honourable member for Paterson.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: I was trying to help the Minister because everything he has said has been in reply to points raised by members. The Minister is not adding any new matter. Clearly he is giving either an affirmative or a negative answer to what has been said in the debate. I thought he was entitled to continue on that basis because, in my view, the debate is finished.
-I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that it was not the Minister for Special Trade Representations who moved the motion for the second reading of the Bill; it was the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Resources. Standing Order 68 states:
In all cases the reply or the mover of the original question closes the debate.
This debate would have to be closed by the Deputy Prime Minister, who moved the motion for the second reading. Although the Minister for Special Trade Representations is a Minister, in fact he is speaking in the debate as an ordinary member. Maybe he thought he was closing the debate, but he is not. It is for that reason that it is my intention to call the honourable member for Paterson when the Minister finishes his speech.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Can you clarify whether the Minister for Special Trade Representations is in fact presuming to speak for the Minister for Trade and Resources? Is the Minister for Special Trade Representations deputising for him? It seems to me that in effect the Minister has been answering on behalf of the Government and to that extent it would seem to me that he is fulfilling the role of the Minister who introduced the legislation.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, might I say that I am designated the Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Resources. I was under the impression that no one else wished to speak and I was replying to what had been said in the debate. I might say with respect that I am sure that your interpretation of the Standing Orders is correct. I do not propose to make any further contribution. Might I also add that I understand it is proposed to deal with the amendments together and therefore there will probably not be a debate at the Committee stage. With that in mind I was also covering items that could be dealt with at the Committee stage.
-I would like to give my decision. On a strict interpretation of the Standing Orders the Minister, even though he is the Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Resources, cannot close the debate. The honourable member for Paterson has indicated that he would like to speak. However, the conduct of the business of the House is in the hands not of the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker but of the Government. Under the Standing Orders I would be required to call the honourable member for Paterson if he were to rise. It is in the hands of the Government to refuse the honourable member the right to speak. Until such time as that action is taken I am bound by the Standing Orders to call the honourable member for Paterson if he rises. The Government then has the prerogative to decide whether it wants to hear him.
In respect of the other matter, in view of what went on before I will allow the Minister to continue in the same vein if there is to be no discussion at the Committee stage.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. There will not be any discussion. To conclude, I was dealing with some to the points which had been raised -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. I was wondering what your attitude is to the fact that the clock indicates that the Minister does not have any speaking time left.
-In view of the fact that the Minister’s time has expired I call the honourable member for Paterson.
– I am sorry that I have caused this little problem. I was of the opinion that a member of the Opposition would speak before I made my speech. When that did not happen the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) jumped to his feet and received the call. I apologise for what happened and I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to take part in this debate.
The purpose of this Bill is to establish an Australian Overseas Projects Corporation to assist
Australian firms to compete for overseas development projects. The Bill was formulated as a result of the growing commercial interests in overseas projects. The Government received a number of requests from Australian firms for support, assistance or direct participation in various development projects. At the same time several of the major sector industry organisations made representations to the Government requesting the establishment of a greater degree of co-operation between the Government and industry in the overseas projects area. It became apparent to the Government that the present ad hoc arrangements for considering each request on a case by case basis was not a satisfactory way of providing continuing government support to Australian exporters in this field. So during 1976 and 1977 the Government undertook a thorough study of the overseas projects market. Submissions were sought from private enterprise groups and the Trade Development Council. Therefore the proposals contained in this Bill have been thoroughly researched by the Government over quite a considerable time.
Following this study possible approaches to the problem were discussed with representatives of industry organisations and the Trade Development Council. As a result of this consideration the Government was convinced that if Australian interests were to be able to compete on an equal footing with overseas competitors an overseas projects corporation would need to be established to facilitate direct co-operation between industry and government in this field. Therefore the Government undertook to establish such a corporation during 1978 as part of its policy, and of course this undertaking was outlined very considerably in November 1977 during the last Federal election campaign.
A great amount of investment in large developmental projects in developing countries has taken place during the past 10 years. This has been most notable in the Middle East where oil prices have been at a very high level. The investment has enabled these oil producing countries to embark on huge development programs of a continuing nature. In addition, financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are providing large amounts of development funds to developing countries to enable them to improve their food production capacity and so on. There is great competition among overseas countries to gain a share of the large contracts for development projects. Contracts are being let for projects such as port facilities, railways, dams and hospitals. Countries such as the United States of America, the United
Kingdom, France, Canada, Korea and Japan are competing for these contracts. Organisations from these countries are being helped by their own governments to gain the contracts. Australian companies must have the backing of this Government if they are to be able to compete successfully.
The Corporation will be concerned only with development projects overseas and it will be prohibited from engaging in general trading. It will provide information on opportunities for Australian involvement in overseas development projects. It will assist Australian private organisations to negotiate or carry out overseas development projects by providing technical advice or, on request, joining into a consortium with private organisations provided it is requested to do so. It can agree to carry out the whole or part of an overseas development project with a view to arranging for the work to be done by Australian private organisations.
There are huge contracting firms in this country that are capable and able to undertake projects of the type envisaged in the Bill. They have the engineering expertise as well as the necessary expertise in other fields. The Corporation will act only as a private contractor if no capable Australian private organisation is willing to do so. Parts III and IV of the Bill relate to the establishment of an Australian overseas projects corporation board, the appointment of a managing director and the engagement of the staff of the corporation. The board will consist of a full-time managing director and seven parttime directors, four of whom will be drawn from the private sector and one of whom will have experience in rural industry. No doubt this part of the Bill has been very well researched by the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) and the Government. I cannot see why the Opposition has raised such a fuss about the personnel of the board who will look after the Corporation.
Part V of the Bill sets down the financial and accounting policies and responsibilities of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation. It is to operate commercially and charge a fee for its services. An initial working capital of $2m is to be provided and the Corporation will be empowered to enter into contingent liabilities up to an initial limit of $50m. The legislation will assist Australian companies to gain access to overseas markets which are at present available to progressive firms and traders. From an economic point of view, first Australia must develop its overseas trade. This Bill certainly will give an opportunity to progressive firms and interested organisations to take part in the great development that is occurring in neighbouring countries and other countries generally. We have in Australia the contracting companies and the engineering companies with the expertise and the know-how to undertake these contracts. I fully support the Bill. I think that it will be of great assistance to our overseas trade and will develop new markets of great advantage to Australia.
– I move:
It is necessary for me to move this procedural motion because of events of this week. The Parliament remains completely unconvinced by the responses of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to questions which go right to his integrity in his role as Prime Minister of this country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Before the Leader of the Opposition proceeds, I require the motion in writing.
The Leader of the Opposition having submitted his motion in writing-
– It is reported in an article in The Bulletin of 22 August, under the heading Robinson’s memory faces a test’, that the Prime Minister had asked the Minister for Finance -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Is the motion seconded?
-Mr Deputy Speaker, unless the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) comes into this House to deny this story he is finished.
- Mr Speaker-
– Unless he comes into this House to deny the story printed in the Bulletin on Wednesday of this week he will need more than the numbers to protect him. It will not be any good moving the gag on people who want to speak in this Parliament. The Prime Minister will be finished.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Government Whip has been on his feet trying to attract your attention since the honourable gentleman rose.
-Is the motion seconded?
- Mr Speaker, as I have said-
-Is the motion seconded?
-Yes, I second it. If the Prime Minister does not come into this Parliament to deny this story he is finished and all honourable members opposite know that.
– I move-
That the honourable member for Port Adelaide be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member well knows that.
– … to suppress free speech and the rights of members of this place?
-Order! The honourable member will not persist with that point of order.
- Mr Speaker, on the point of order, there are procedures within this Parliament and if the Leader of the Opposition had given formal notice it would have been quite different, but if he is unable to follow the procedures of the Parliament I do not believe that we should bend the rules in order to accommodate him.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-The question now is that the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders be agreed to.
– The integrity of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is at stake in this motion.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. ( Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That Standing Orders be suspended (Mr Hayden’s motion).
The House divided. (MrSpeaker- Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
– I present the report and financial statements of the Reserve Bank of Australia for the year 1977-78, together with the Auditor-General’s reports thereon. This action is required of me pursuant to the Reserve Bank Act. Copies are being released to the media by the Bank.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– I seek leave to move three amendments to clauses 7 and 1 3 which read, in part:
) The Corporation may-
1 ) The Board shall consist of-
In clause 7, omit sub-clause ( 1 ), substitute the following sub-clause:
In clause 13, sub-clause ( I ), after paragraph (d ) add the following paragraphs:
In clause 13, at the end of the clause add the following sub-clause:
The Australian Overseas Projects Corporation Bill 1978 has been the subject of continual debate for two days. The matters now before the Committee are the amendments moved by the Opposition to clauses 7 and 13. As honourable members will understand from what has taken place already, the Opposition feels that whilst the concept of this Bill is admirable, legislation of this type will not be of assistance to overseas projects generally. Honourable members will notice that the Bill places very severe restrictions and limitations on what the proposed Corporation can do. Its powers and functions are to be directly subservient to any private organisation. We of the Opposition recognise that we want to expand industry and we are not trying to suggest any socialistic measure; but we have always said that it would be far better to do so by way of an overseas trading corporation or, in the context of previous deliberations in the second reading debate, by using the technique of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. That body has quite extensive powers and only a slight legislative amendment would be required to enable it to act in this same area of overseas projects.
Honourable members will notice, as we have said, that the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation is doing very well. It has experience overseas and it has the ability to encourage further work for Australia. According to its last report it was making a handsome profit. It paid substantial income tax and gave back $650,000 to the Australian taxpayer. This represented a 25 per cent return on capital. That shows the expertise that it has.
The Australian Overseas Projects Corporation, even before it comes into being, is to be prevented from engaging, either as principal or agent, in the buying or selling of goods. Our first amendment is to the effect that we should enable this Corporation to act as a principal or agent. It will not do any harm to any private organisation. It is said in the Bill that the Corporation will be able to assist, inform and generally guarantee that Australian enterprises will be encouraged to enter the overseas area. The point has been put to me by the private sector that the restraints incorporated in the Bill reduce the chances of Australia securing overseas projects. The qualifications stated in the Bill could mean that inadvertently the Corporation could be delayed in acting speedily or that private organisations could miss out on securing overseas contracts because of the possible delays caused. The Corporation must wait until the moves by private organisations are known, and while private organisations may be working out whether they should tender direct or otherwise there will be further delay and we could well miss the potential.
The Bill is designed to provide for a fair degree of procrastination and uncertainty, all for the sake of maintaining the appearance that private enterprise at all times has not only priority of tendering but also the right of objection should the Corporation move at a faster rate. Despite what was said in reply by the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland), honourable members will notice that the Corporation is not to act as a prime contractor. Those limitations will cause concern to the Corporation. The Bill indicates clearly that the Corporation should be involved in large scale projects, not just simple ones. It is reasonable to query why the Government has decided to develop a brand new type of enterprise in an area in which Australia has only limited experience rather than to foster the operations of an organisation geared to medium sized contracts. We get those particular problems. Time is limited and I do not want to delay the Committee, but if we could embellish this legislation by guaranteeing that the Corporation could act as principal or agent in this capacity it would assist the private sector.
I refer now to clause 13. Despite what was said in reply by the Minister, clause 1 3 states clearly that the board is to consist of eight members, of whom at least five must come from the private sector. That is mandatory. It is no good saying that there will be a balance. Five out of eight is a majority. We suggest that if the Government is to become involved with overseas projects it should listen to the expert advice it receives from the Department of Foreign Affairs or the advice it receives on the overseas trading resources of this nation by way of overseas trade representatives. It should look also at the intelligence available from the Commonwealth Development Bank and communicate with the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. By all means have a board but it should have that sort of expertise which immediately gives the Corporation an overseas connection. The board should not have eight members of whom five must come from the private sector. It is no good saying that there is a balance in that. Surely nobody would suggest that it would be a socialistic enterprise if we have on the board people who are already beholden to the Government in an important number of fields, namely representatives of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Resources, the Commonwealth Development Bank and the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. Such people could do nothing but add to the expertise and ability of the Corporation to get new projects and to give advice as to the type of projects that are considered. The Bill should not be left as it has been drawn up- that there can be a board, five members of which must come from the private sector, with possibly eight coming from the private sector. By all means have the board but there should be a guarantee of that sort of representation. Our amendment is on that basis.
Finally, because the board would be taking people from the private sector who would need to be experienced in this type of overseas project development, it must be facing a conflict of interest. While it has been put to me that the Government has provided a safeguard in another part of the Bill, I do not know whether it has. The apparent safeguard we are asked to consider as being acceptable is contained in clause 18. Our amendment to clause 13 states that no director shall, as a member of the Board, consider any matter in which he has a direct or indirect interest. It is a complete prohibition which must be maintained in the public interest.
The Government has invited us to accept that there is no need to go ahead with this amendment because the Bill already provides for the case of a director who happens to be a member, but not a director, of another corporation comprising more than 25 persons. I do not think that is strong enough. We are dealing with matters of considerable import and I do not think we should weaken the legislation with that sort of provision. It will not go over at all well with people who hold the view that there should be no conflict of interest at all. The protective device in the Bill requires a director to advise the board that he has a conflict of interest and therefore will not take any part in the board’s decision. What we in the Opposition are saying is clearly shown in the second part of our amendment which states that no director shall consider any such matter. In other words, there is an immediate prohibition and no equivocation on that position is possible.
The Government has said that there is a gap in our present capacity to undertake the work envisaged for the Corporation and that there is a need for something to be done about it. The Opposition supports this view but queries whether this legislation provides the right approach in view of all the dreadful limitations it places on the Corporation. If it is to be a corporation run by the private sector why must we limit it in this way? We would have no objection if the Government were to say that the Corporation could do what it wanted to do as a principal or agent. However, the Bill provides that any private organisation can object to the Corporation’s activities and that the Corporation cannot act as a prime contractor. We do not think that is a sensible way to approach the problem and accordingly have moved the amendments.
– I would like to reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) and speak to the amendments he has moved. I accept that these amendments have been brought forward in good faith to improve the legislation. However, I believe that they are unnecessary because the Bill has been drafted to meet certain requirements. The amendment to clause 7 seeks to enable the Corporation to act as a principal or agent in the buying or selling of goods overseas but not so as to compete with Australian organisations. That is not acceptable to the Government. The Government believes that it is not tight enough to guarantee that there will not be unfair .competition with existing trading organisations in Australia. I suppose one might think that this is a rather rigid attitude to take but it is an attitude which was formed following the legislation that the Labor Government brought down when it was in office and wanted to establish an overseas trading corporation whose activities would have conflicted greatly with those of many of our export and trading organisations. That legislation threw great fear into the minds of those organisations that they were going to be supplanted by a national organisation.
In discussing this legislation with industry representatives- it is Government policy to discuss legislation with industries which might be involved or affected- they were adamant that there be no latitude for activities under this legislation to be expanded to the point where, by subterfuge, this Corporation could be used as a trading organisation. Therefore we have kept the legislation relatively tight. I cannot accept this amendment because it would open up the legislation in a manner that we would not like to see. We do not believe that there ought to be any doubts left in people’s minds about the creation of another body like the one proposed by the Labor Government which threw great fears into the commercial sector of the Australian economy.
In its second amendment the Opposition is suggesting that the board should have a broader or more balanced representation than is proposed. The Opposition considers a balanced board to be one having an equal number of public servants and people from the private sector. In looking at the structure of the board we felt that three Government representatives could adequately provide the expertise and knowledge necessary and that it was really from the private sector that we need the most expertise because then a wide range of commercial interests could be covered. As the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) mentioned there will be banking interests represented. Also there will be architects, consultants, engineers, construction companies and supply companies represented. All these groups have a vested interest in having some representation on the Board so that their points of view may be registered and acted upon.
The honourable member mentioned that on the board there perhaps should be representatives from the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. I do not deny that, I think there is probably good reason for considering representation from the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation because it has a very good performance record in overseas contracts and no doubt has developed much expertise. I assure the honourable gentleman that when looking for the personnel to be on the board I hope I will be able to look at some names submitted by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. However, I think the board, as envisaged in this Bill, is well balanced and equipped to enter into commercial competition for overseas projects. That is what we are basically looking for- a board which has a great deal of knowledge and experience in these sorts of operations. As most of the projects that we envisage Australian companies being involved in will come from the private sector, I think it is only right that the private sector should have majority representation on the board. I therefore cannot accept the amendments. I suppose if we looked at all the different areas that could be represented on such a board we probably would have a board of 20 people. We all know that that would be cumbersome and not in the best interests of an efficient, close-working organisation.
The last amendment which the honourable gentleman moved provides that no director shall be involved in the consideration of or shall vote upon any matter in which he has a direct or indirect interest. I have no quarrel with the intent of this amendment but I believe that the Bill already covers this situation adequately. The conflict of interest by directors is handled by clause 18 sub-clause (3). This provision was put in specifically so that any director who does have a vested interest would not be able to use his position on the board to further his own ends or those of his company. I consider that the existing provisions adequately cover the situation.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) has moved amendments which represent the essence of the Opposition ‘s attitude to this Bill. I am glad that the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) has responded at this stage because he was unavailable to respond during the second reading debate. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment to clause 7 of the Bill to the effect that the proposed Corporation should be able to engage either as principal or agent in the buying and selling of goods. I support him in that contention. I find the attitude of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), who is in charge of this Bill, to be without any reason or rationale except an oldfashioned prejudice to the effect that anything public is undesirable and anything private is good.
The Deputy Prime Minister resorted to a defence that is related to a discussion on legislation that was put to the Parliament at the time of the Whitlam Government about the establishment of a similar authority. He said that when that Bill was before the Parliament there was a reaction from the private sector because it had a great fear. One can understand that fear but the important thing is to have regard for the well-being of the people of this country. It so happens that not only the public sector but also the private sector of our economy are disadvantaged by the fact that we lack the capacity, the machinery and the organisation to deal with those countries, such as the communist countries, which have central economies and with which it is necessary to deal on a government to government basis.
It is very important to ensure that, where necessary, this proposed trading corporation should be able to act and to engage in the buying and selling of goods. I think that the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, to which the Minister has referred, is a first class example. It is a pathfinding organisation. It gets its imprimatur from the fact that it is of Australian derivation and is indigenous to Australia. It is associated with the development of the Snowy
Mountains scheme. The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, though fairly minor by world standards in the engineering consultancy area, is highly respected and in its wake it brings the resources and the business involvement of many elements of the private sector.
Of course, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation has the power to engage in the buying and selling of goods, as the Minister would well know. This public instrumentality, which in the main is the servant of the Department of Foreign Affairs and our aid organisation, gives effect to our aid objectives, but it has also the capacity and the teeth to do something practical where necessary. As the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) has pointed out, its prowess is such that it is able to obtain business in the face of world competition and can hold its own to a very respectable extent. It is probably engaged in work in 23 countries, especially in the Asian and Pacific areas, and as a by-product of and a sensible appendage to its work it can engage in the buying and selling of goods. It does not just charge a service fee. Its profit is the product of many things, including the service fee on the one hand and the buying and selling of goods and services on the other.
Why is it so important for the Minister to reduce the power and prowess of this proposed public instrumentality to enter the field in a competitive way? Does he really believe in competition? Why is he so adverse to a public instrumentality of the type that many countries have in large measure, working effectively in the name of the people of this country and making for them profits that can be used to offset the cost of social services and many other things? What he is seeking to do, and the reason why he is opposing the amendments moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is to put the private sector into a preferential position and he is denying the people of this country, represented by this new Corporation, which is his creation, of the chance to gain great windfalls. That is a very unfortunate situation and I hope the Minister will reconsider it.
He said that the only argument against this public instrumentality being equipped to make money and to deal with these activities, including the buying and selling of goods, is that the private sector does not like it. The people outside are not obsessed with the idea that it is a top priority of this Government to safeguard companies that are dominated from overseas and want to come to this country to wax fat and to repatriate their dividends to other parts of the world, as they are doing at this time in greater measure than has been done previously. The people would like to feel that if there are profitable activities in which this new Corporation can engage they might benefit, that taxation might be reduced and that health services might be more readily available. This is a very fundamental principle. I do not want to develop it, as one could so easily, but we are sick and tired of this Government’s deference to the great business corporation instead of being primarily concerned with the welfare of the people of Australia. In this respect the Minister is entirely remiss.
Another matter to which the Minister referred was an argument against the case put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that there should be Government representatives on the board of this new Corporation. Why not? I put to the Minister, if I may, that the Corporation could not exist but for the financial backing that comes from the public sector, that is, the money that is voted as initial capital and the $50m to deal with eventualities. I remind the Minister that he has a second chance to speak in this debate and that there is nothing to prevent him speaking when I have finished. I challenge him to study the clauses of this Bill and to demonstrate that what I am saying is wrong. I contend that nothing at all in clause 1 3 prevents every member of this Board being a representative of the private sector. It contains no requirement to ensure that any of these instrumentalities, these custodians of the public interest, to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has referred are represented. Of the eight members the Chairman has to be nominated by the Government, as, I think, must the Deputy Chairman. It will comprise five people from the private sector and it may be that the other three can come from the private sector also because there is nothing to say that they shall be representatives of the public sector.
We put to the Minister that taxpayers’ money is involved here. This entire concept is designed simply to provide a masquerade for an organisation which is supposed to appear to be public and which will trade in the name of Australia. For God ‘s sake give the Australian people some representation through Australian instrumentalities. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has proposed that the Board should consist of representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Trade and Resources, the Commonwealth Development Bank or the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, which is the most experienced body in this field in Australia. I invite the Minister to show me why that is not possible and to explain why everybody who will be running this show will come from the private sector and why the people of this country will be denied a voice in the running of this new Corporation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ciles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In reply to the reasons given by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) for not accepting our proposed amendments I want to make the point that he seems to have given ground to some extent on the basis that he indicated that he would consider the appointment of a representative of the Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation. As my colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) has said, why not express that in the clause? I hope that the Minister will give these matters serious consideration because, as my colleague has said, the clause suggests that the board would comprise people who may not have the sort of expertise that we are trying to put into this Corporation. Let me emphasise this point: Four of the directors are to come from the private sector and are to have experience in matters related to development projects. As has been said, they could well have the problem of their experience being limited to development projects in Australia and they may not have the ability to find out what is going on overseas. A fifth director from private industry is to have experience in matters related to rural industry. We were encouraging the Government to consider a representative of the Department of Trade and Resources because he would have knowledge of overseas trade.
The Deputy Prime Minister will not mind me reminding him that we on this side of the chamber say that it was his attitude that prevented an overseas trading corporation from being set up in 1975, although that was not a socialist measure. I think he is frozen on the point that we must not have an overseas trading corporation. We could well have an overseas trading corporation with a board consisting of representatives of private enterprise. I ask him to look at the Western Australian Lamb Marketing Board. It is not really a socialist body, but it is trading brilliantly in the Middle East and giving the primary producer maximum returns. Nevertheless it is acquiring all the lambs in Western Australia.
It is about time we woke up to the fact that in trade we are dealing on a government to government basis. The private sector has a very important role to play, but it cannot do it on its own because we are dealing with foreign governments.
It is the responsibility of governments in this country to assist the private sector. I ask the Minister to get away from this theory that we must contract as a government and we must let somebody else do it. The world into which the Minister is trying to venture- the European Economic Community- is a closed shop and the Japanese rural scene has definite protective barriers, but other markets exist for our primary products. We are amongst the most efficient food producers in the world but we are about the most inefficient food sellers. It is in that area that we have a role to play. I invite the Minister to cast aside all those preconceived ideas about socialism, which he thinks seem to come in because a law is passed. The real issue- what we are saying hereinvolves the functions of this Corporation. Let us give it its own capacity. He seems to be worried again, in rejecting the amendment to clause 7, that it might introduce more competition into the private sector. That could not be so.
The Corporation ‘s sole charter- it has no other function- is to inform and assist the private sector. It has no role on its own. It can operate only within the charter of this legislation to inform, assist and guarantee the carrying out of the work by the private sector. So how can the Minister say that we would create competition for the private sector by allowing this Corporation to have some sort of muscle in what it is to do, that is, to be able to buy and sell goods from the private sector for and on behalf of the private sector? That is the real issue involved in the amendments. We are disappointed to think that the Minister cannot see through the concept he had in 1975. That concept has done untold damage to our primary industry; it has limited Australia as a nation.
All the smaller States have now set up overseas corporations and are starting to bid against each other as fellow Australians, making us look so fragmented that we are lowering our national identity. We are talking in this national Parliament about a corporation that can act on behalf of all Australians, with all the powers to enable it to help the whole private sector in Australia. Everybody is here to help Australia as a whole. The Government has a role to play. If the private sector is dealing with Europe, the Middle East or Japan, it is dealing with governments. Our poor unfortunate private sector is cut to ribbons in overseas markets because the various parts of it are bidding against each other. All of our embassies admit that. We are picked off one by one and we pay the price, as the Minister well knows, particularly with regard to the price we receive for our minerals exported to Japan. This is a national Parliament and the Corporation is a national concept. We want to get the best possible results for Australia. Our amendments were motivated on that basis. I seriously ask the Minister to consider the spirit in which they have been moved.
– Tonight I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to some points regarding the subject which has just been mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) and also by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). Let me emphasise this basic point: There is no fundamental reason why the creation of this Australian Overseas Projects Corporation will conflict with the interests of the Snowy Mountains scheme or any other project of that type. What the honourable member obviously does not know or has not bothered to try to find out is that through the process of government regulation and the existing procedures of interdepartmental consultation, it is already an on-going fact that the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, which is a similar body, works very closely indeed with departments such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Trade and Resources, the Commonwealth Development Bank and other instrumentalities.
The same principle can be applied to the Australian Industry Development Corporation. When the Opposition was in government it had its chance to make amendments to the AIDC legislation, and it did so. But I do not recall, and I doubt that anyone else who was here in this chamber at that time would recall, that this problem was given any thought. Quite the contrary. As I remember, in those days the whole concept to strengthen the AIDC was to limit the capacity of the private sector. Suddenly we find the Opposition wearing a different hat and we are told that this instrumentality somehow will damage the private sector. Only one governmental organisation is involved in this field overseas and that is, as the Opposition members so rightly pointed out, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. It has done splendid work in countries such a Thailand. But most of the work it has done has been associated with the Asian Development Bank, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or other organisations with an aid instrument concept.
What we are looking for in terms of overseas projects is not just aid but commercial projects, and we are particularly interested in developing projects in the Middle East. Regrettably, I am aware of a number of cases where, because of the indisposition and the slowness of departments to act, we have lost opportunities. In fact we almost lost a major contract in Saudi Arabia a matter of a few days ago. We were saved at the last bell. We hope that the Saudi Arabians will give us the contract. We cannot play around with other nations, and certainly not with other government instrumentalities. The great advantage we will have from establishing this Corporation is that at last we will have a body which can bring together the disparate interests through the Australian economy- the fiscal world, the development world, production in terms of machinery, and so forth- so that we can bring our capacities together and be in a position to sell a project, that is, a turn key operation, a total deal. That is something that we have never been able to do before. Time after time Australian aid funds given to these organisations in fact have been spent on other people’s contracts and projects because we have not had the capacity to bid for them and to win them in our own right.
There have been all sorts of problems, not the least of which of course is the question of insurance, our capacity to guarantee that the work will be completed satisfactorily, and so forth. But amendments which the Government has passed in recent months and amendments which are intended to be passed in the next few days in respect of the EFIC legislation, for example, will go a long way towards solving those problems. The Government’s projects in the last 12 months in terms of foreign trade show that if we are to improve our balance of trade, our current account position in particular, we will have to work together as a nation in developing overseas markets and making sure that we can win the contracts which are available and are so lucrative if only we will take up the challenge and try. Now we are going to do this, and suddenly the Opposition is chanting ‘Foul; this is not quite good enough’. The Opposition suggested that the Corporation may engage either as principal or agent in the buying and selling of goods overseas but not so as to compete with any Australian organisation. The whole purpose of the amendment proposed by the Opposition is to limit competition. However, the purpose of this legislation is to make sure that the available resources in Australia may be pooled and that we can present a united face to other countries.
I have no reason to believe as the Opposition suggests that the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation will have any difficulty with this legislation. I have not heard from any person of authority that any problem with this legislation is anticipated. Let me put the situation into context. With the co-operation of the private sector and the support of the Government through this instrumentality we will be able to trade our technology and expertise in areas where we have failed in the past. We have failed because governments in this country, unlike the European Economic Community, the Koreans and America have not, given full co-operation and support to the private sector. Now this is being given let us make sure that we win and hold contracts overseas.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-The question is: ‘That the amendments be agreed to’. All those in favour say ‘aye’ -
- Mr Deputy Chairman, is not the Minister going to answer my challenge?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN -Order! That is no business of the Chair. The honourable member will resume his seat.
That the amendments (Mr Lionel Bowen’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman-Mr G. O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Anthony)- by leaveread a third time.
-Mr Speaker has received a message from the Senate transmitting a resolution concerning the proposed appointment of a joint select committee to inquire into and report on the provisions and the operation of the Family Law Act 1975 and requesting that the House of Representatives concur and take action accordingly.
Motion ( by Mr Ellicott) agreed to:
That the message be taken into consideration at the next sitting.
Debate resumed from 10 May, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I thought that we would never debate the Pig Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill. It was introduced in May and here we are talking about it tonight in August. I suppose that the Bill is more important now, given the prolific nature of pigs. The pig population has probably doubled in that time. The Opposition supports the Bill. I guess that only the pigs do not support it.
The effect of the Bill is to increase the maximum rate of the levy payable by the pig industry for each pig slaughtered for human consumption. It should be stressed that the operative rate of the levy is determined by regulation. At present the levy rates are 8c per head for research and 5c per head for promotion. Should this Bill be carried, the maximum research levy will be raised from 10c per head to 20c per head for each pig slaughtered and the promotion levy will be increased from 5c per head to 20c per head for each pig slaughtered.
The Opposition will support any move to enhance the financing and promotion of pig products; so it supports the BUI. But there are several areas in which the performance of the Government and, in particular, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in regard to the pig industry warrants criticism. It is interesting to reflect on the effect office has had on the views of the Minister for Primary Industry concerning this matter. Two and a half years ago- in April 1975, to be precise- the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) made some carping criticisms of the then Government’s proposals when similar Bills were debated in the House. On that occasion, Mr Sinclair stated his opposition to the principle of the Government collecting a levy for promotion purposes from pig producers without the Government contributing an equal amount. The honourable member said:
When we are re-elected to office we, unlike the Government, will sympathetically consider propositions advanced by industry groups and ensure that if they enter into such proposals they will not be left to carry the burden of the responsibility for research and promotion.
This proposal went against the recommendation of the president of the Australian Commercial Pig Producers Federation, Mr Campbell, who said at the time that he believed that the pig industry should provide its own funds for promotion. But that did not stop the present Minister for Primary Industry from attacking the Labor Government over this issue. The fact is that although matching funds are usually provided for research, it has not been a general principle of governments, including this one, to match funds for promotion purposes. As we know from reading the Bills under discussion and the silence of the Minister about his proposal expressed two years ago, there are no moves by the Government to change past practice. Obviously, there is one rule in government and one in Opposition. Another criticism offered of the Pigmeat Promotion Advisory Committee by the honourable member for New England during the debate I have referred to was as follows:
I personally find it dashed hard to understand why there should be a government representative if the Government is not going to provide money to this Committee. Indeed, the Committee which is being constituted to carry on promotion will be administering funds being provided by the industry. Yet apparently it is to be so constituted that the Government will be in a position, through its exercise of power on the Committee, to direct to a degree where that money is to be spent. If the Government is going to take that sort of stance. I think it has a responsibility to contribute too.
They were the words of the present Minister in 1975. Yet we still find that a Government representative from the Department of Primary Industry is a member, in fact the chairman, of the Pigmeat Promotion Advisory Committee. The other members are a marketing specialist and two members of the Australian Commercial Pig Producers Federation. Obviously, the Minister has changed his mind and yet again eaten his words on the issue.
Of course, there is a good reason for a skilled public servant advising and assisting the management of this Committee which, after all, has been set up and funded by means of a levy collected by the Government. But such logic completely escaped the Minister for Primary Industry during the debate in April 1975. However, there was one aspect of the speech delivered by the honourable member for New England which I found striking and useful. There is a need for serious rethinking about the role of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation and its endeavours to promote sales overseas. Prior to the setting up of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, pork was never considered to be meat. It was always considered as a dairy product and did not come under the aegis of the Australian Meat Board. Rather than pig producers competing for overseas sales with the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, they could more profitably fall under the umbrella of the Corporation itself. I concur with what the honourble member for New England said in this sentence:
Far more is to be gained by having a total promotion campaign financed jointly, and advocating the different types of meat that can be provided from Australia.
I am suggesting that the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, when it is promoting the Australian meat industry overseas, should be promoting not only beef and lamb but also pork. That would be a much more efficient way for the industry to run itself. The major problem for the pig industry is the lack of sales abroad. Japan has sometimes purchased pig meat but only when there has been a shortfall in its own market. Apart from Japan, which has a thriving pig industry already, I can think of few possible overseas markets for pig meat. Hence, sales are almost exclusively confined to the domestic market. But the domestic market, so it would seem, is not about to expand to any great extent. More is the pity. Perhaps this explains the small expenditure on promotion by the Pigmeat Promotion
Advisory Committee over the past two years. Revenue collected in 1976-77, including penalty payments and interest on investments, amounted to $288,000, whereas expenditure amounted to only $34,000. The financial year of 1975-76 yielded $134,000 in receipts and payments amounted to $23,000. In other words a little over $58,000 or 15 per cent of the total revenue collected had been spent on promotion in those years.
Unfortunately, there are strong grounds for criticising the second annual report of the Pigmeat Promotion Advisory Committee for the reason that it does not state in detail how its money has been spent. There is a brief, unsatisfactory reference in the Committee’s report concerning the so-called superporker and the potential of new pork cuts from this size or type of pig. But it is difficult to assess what is meant by this or how successful those new pork cuts are retailing in butcher’s shops because it is not described well or in detail. It is stated on page 4 of the report:
In co-operation with several supermarket chains, the Committee conducted a small piece of research in April 1977 on housewives’ attitudes to the wider variety of pork cuts from the bigger pig and found a relatively high degree of satisfaction compared with declared attitudes to traditional pork cuts in earlier findings.
Yet nothing appears in this report about the specific results that were provided by the survey work. The size of the survey sample is not even stated. What is meant by ‘a relatively high degree of satisfaction’ in this context is completely unclear in the absence of any precise information concerning the survey. In my opinion, the Committee’s report should have provided more detail and, therefore, would have been far more interesting.
By way of contrast, the sixth annual report of the Australian Pig Industry Research Committee, which is for the year ended 30 June 1977, is well produced and contains a wealth of information. A precis of scientific projects and the details of the financial payments provided for each research project is stated in the report. Having read this report, however, I am querulous about the merits of the research provided through the auspices of the Australian Pig Industry Research Committee. Research ranges from an evaluation of Australian feedstuffs for pigs, which is important because nutrition affects the colour and flavour of the meat, to a study of leptospirosis in swine. Studies presently are being researched in regard to various diseases contracted by pigs, measures to dispose of and utilise effluent from a piggery as fertiliser, the digestive system of pigs and so on. The total spent in the last financial year was $519,000, which included $159,000 spent on new projects.
However, the amount of research money being spent on the real problems affecting the pig industry is unjustifiably small. Only about $4,000 is devoted this year to research into polyarthritis, which is the real bane of the pig industry. Condemnations at the slaughter point, either partial or full, due to the incidence of this disease cost the industry millions of dollars annually. In 1973, according to some figures supplied by the postgraduate committee of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Sydney University, 2 per cent of the pigs slaughtered in New South Wales were condemned either partially or fully in that year. The bulk of these condemnations were directly attributable to poly-arthritis. The cost of this loss in 1978 values- the percentage of casualties has remained constant since- can be expressed in millions of dollars.
The research being undertaken, whilst admirable in its own way, is not, unfortunately, directed to the main areas of need. The whole problem with the research program is the ad hoc arrangements for disbursing the available funds. The pig producers’ councils in each State arrange the research to be undertaken in concert with the various academics and departmental officers who make up the Committee. It is interesting to read the make-up of the Committee. The Committee is made up of 11 members, namely, a chairman appointed by the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry, six members representing Australian pig producers, two members representing the Australian Agricultural Council and one member each representing the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Australian universities. The producer representatives are nominated by the Australian Commercial Pig Producers Federation and the others by the respective organisations.
It would appear to me that the real problem is that the producer members of those organisations are thoroughly snowed by the academics. Every academic has his own pet research project in mind. The academics seem always to have been able to get funds to research their particular pet projects. My studies of the industry over the 20 years in which I have been involved in it leads me to think that no real pattern has been evolved for the use of research money. The sum of $6m has been spent on it in the last decade or even less. I find it hard to see a definite pattern emerging whereby one research project leads to another in a continuing chain at an intelligent level. I think that too much money has been spent in an ad hoc fashion without leading to a definite result. Much of the research undertaken has been financed by way of people taking higher degrees. The papers they have produced probably have been of inestimable value to the industry but they have usually languished on a shelf in a university library and been used only by someone working on a thesis. They are very rarely used in the way of profitable advice to the pig farmers.
While this has been going on, the Australian pig industry has really kicked on. I would suggest that the type of pig that the Australian pig industry is producing now is the equivalent of any pig in the world. For a long time I have been very interested in the Homebush saleyards, where almost 3,000 pigs are yarded every Tuesday. One would find it hard anywhere in the world to match the quality of the pigs that are available at the Homebush saleyards. That speaks volumes for the industry. I feel that the industry has laboured from the unavailability of a real national pig policy. I think it is time that the Minister for Primary Industry took stock of this fact and decided that the pig industry is big enough and important enough to become a real national issue.
– The Prime Minister is setting an example.
-That is a different sort of pig. He is an MCP. I could give the House some good examples of how the pig industry has laboured in a haphazard fashion without any real national policy. The pig producers’ councils which help to disburse the research funds- the research funds are quite considerable; at least $500,000 a year- are composed only of producers. But producers are only a very small part of the pig industry. In the long run somebody has to turn that pig into money. One would find it very difficult to go to a bank and deposit 10 porkers. The banker wants money. So someone else has to turn the pigs into cash. Certain people in New South Wales are trying to get away from the old-fashioned idea of having pig producers’ councils and have formed what they call the New South Wales Pork and Bacon Council. I had the honour to be the original vice-president of that organisation. The original president was Peter Budd, the brother-in-law of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). So I am in accord with the Budd family. That organisation got away from the idea of having just producer influence. That body is composed of producers, stud people, stock feed manufacturers, veterinary organisations, wholesale butchers, retail butchers, processors and a whole range of people who are taking pan in the pig industry. I think we have been able to come up with views that are much better oriented than the views solely of producers. Hundreds of thousands of people depend on the pig industry for a living. So it cannot be left in the hands only of producers to make the decisions. I suggest to the Government that organisations like that one should be set up in all States. They should be set up not only in the pig industry but also in the other primary industry areas. The pattern is there to do it in the pig industry. I think that these organisations, in concert with the Department and the academics, could come up with a much more rational way of spending the research money so that the whole industry will prosper from it.
I mentioned poly-arthritis earlier. Polyarthritis has been responsible for the loss of millions of dollars in the pig industry over the last few years, yet the amount of money to be spent on it out of the $500,000 allocated to research this year is only a lousy $4,000. 1 know of a very big piggery in New South Wales where the condemnation rate for poly-arthritis three or four years ago was 15 per cent of the pigs produced. That was the condemnation rate from one disease- poly-arthritis. A young man in Sydney who is a veterinarian did his thesis on polyarthritis, at great pains to himself. He and his wife and two children struggled along on his resources with a little help from Mayfair’s piggery at Menangle and some help from the New South Wales veterinary school at Narellan. The man to whom I am referring is Gary Cross. He has done wonderful research into poly-arthritis. He reached the stage of producing a vaccine which would be a wonderful help to the pig industry generally. I was at that piggery last week. It is using Gary Cross’ privately produced vaccine. The amount of poly-arthritis in the piggery has been reduced to a remarkable degree. That is an example of a man who is battling to solve a major problem in the pig industry without any support from the great amount of research funds that are available. This Bill is asking us to double the amount. As a former wholesale butcher who is still active to some extent I am now being asked to pay double the research levy on pigs. I do not mind and the industry does not mind. The people I know in the industry do not mind because they know that it will benefit the industry generally. But we want to see that money spent in a more rational and sensible way.
Another problem that piggeries face, particularly those in the area that the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick) represents, is hydatids. One of the failings of not having a national policy is that hydatids is a dreadful disease.
– What about the State policy.
-The State policy on hydatids is bad anyhow. Once a farmer is discovered to have hydatids on his property the State Department of Agriculture does not have the legislative power to go into the piggery and close it down to isolate it. The Department can tell the man that he has hydatids on his property but it does not have any power to do anything about it.
-Because the legislative power just is not there.
– Does that cause amnesia? If it does, it is spreading into the Cabinet.
-No, that is not what causes amnesia. It is a different disease that causes amnesia in the Cabinet. Fortunately, given the rigid inspection service that we have in abattoirs, hydatids is not going to be transferred to humans, but the fact that it is on farms is a vital and difficult problem. Usually it is occasioned by dirty farm premises, by dogs being fed hot offal. It would be a very simple matter to get rid of hydatids if we had the power to get the veterinarians in to do it. I think that is a very good reason for having a national policy, for having the pig industry taken over on a national basis by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. It is a huge industry that now is not being run properly, and I think it should be.
Turning to promotion, not much happened until 1977; but in the last year the Pig Promotion Council has employed a man called John Creagh, who is an advertising expert. He has spent a good deal of the Promotion Council’s money in the last 12 months on the promotion of the superporker, with some beneficial effects. There has just been a very big advertising campaign in Adelaide, with full page colour advertisements in the newspapers, which succeeded to the extent that the amount of pork sold in a week increased by 400 per cent- something that the Country Party people as well as the producers should be pleased about. I am certainly pleased about it.
– Not if you have sheep.
-Not if you have sheep. If we are promoting the eating of meat in Australia, that is to the good of the industry generally. I do not think people in Australia realise how cheap and how good their meat is. They would be astounded if they compared it with meat in overseas countries. Whilst there are plenty of complaints about how dear meat is, people should consider how little the price of meat has increased since the war. Newspapers are always telling us how dear meat is, but a simple graph shows that newspapers cost 2c in 1948 and now cost 15c, which is a 650 per cent increase, whereas the increase in meat prices in that period has probably been of the order of 1 50 per cent. So we have a pretty good case to put up on behalf of the meat industry.
Let me get back to the Australian Labor Party’s view. We do not object to the Bill. What we do object to is the way the money is being spent. We support the fact that the levy is being doubled. We are happy to support the Government in its objective, but I would like the Minister and the Government to take heed of the things I have said. I think they are fairly reasonable and rational. There is a need for a national policy for the pig industry. It is a very big industry and many people are getting their living from it. I believe that the Australian pig industry can hold its head high. The quality of product being produced and the efficiency being displayed by the industry are of world standard. We do not object to the levy being doubled, but we do object to the way the money is being spent.
– I compliment the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) not only for showing his expertise and knowledge of the industry but also for doing his homework on the particular points of this legislation. It is a pleasure to hear a member of the Opposition speaking with the knowledge and expertise that the honourable member has shown. The purpose of this Bill is quite simple. It is to increase the maximum research levy possible from 10c to 20c a head. The present level is 8c a head. It also seeks to increase the promotion levy from 5c to a maximum of 20c. The present level is 5c. Research is funded on a dollar for dollar basis with the Commonwealth Government, and that has been the case since 1971. The research levy was increased only this year from 5c to 8c, and I understand that there is no desire to increase it in the immediate future beyond the present 8c a head. As the honourable member for Parramatta has pointed out, promotion is not supported on a dollar for dollar basis with the Government. It commenced in 1975, following a request from the industry through the Australian Commercial Pig Producers Federation for this promotion. I understand that that body has agreed recently to lift the levy for promotion to 13c a head, and the passage of this legislation is necessary for that to happen.
That deals with the legislation, but the real interest in these amendments lies in the reason for the request by the pig industry and the state of the industry at the present time. Government and industry backed pig research and industry backed promotion research is quite new for the pig industry in this country. It commenced in the early 1970s. I think that reflects the low level of pig meat consumption in this country. It also indicates that until recently the pig industry was not accepted as a separate and distinct industry. The consumption in Australia- 13 kilograms a head- is low by world standards; the total consumption is 190,000 tonnes. Victoria and New South Wales are the major producing States. The Cohuna Shire in my electorate is one of the major pig production areas in Australia, and in addition to the concentration in that area and in other areas in the electorate there are a number of large specialist pig producers, including a neighbour of mine, Mr Noel Maughan, who is one of the up and coming leaders of the industry.
I understand that once the promotion levy is lifted to 13c a head it will still be low by Western standards as a level of promotion, but it will be a very substantial increase on the current level of promotion. One can understand in relation to promotion that there is always a problem with the development of themes, the employment of personnel and the general development of expertise. I can understand that some people in the pig industry at the present time are concerned by the lack of clarity and accountability of people employed on promotion. At this stage they cannot be employed directly by the Pig Meat Promotion Advisory Committee. However, I have been advised that the Government is considering amendments to the Pig Meat Promotion Act to correct that situation, and I hope that when it happens it will improve the accountability and the general employment relationship between the Pig Meat Promotion Advisory Committee and the pig industry generally. For several years there have been fairly depressed pig prices, at least from the producers’ point of view, and this is reflected in the fall in pig numbers from 2,505,000 in 1 974 to 2,22 1 ,000 last year.
One can appreciate, with not actually a boom situation in the pig industry, the reluctance of some people in the industry to agree to such a substantial rise in the levy, particularly for promotion. One can also understand, as the honourable member for Parramatta pointed out, that the major part of that promotion is in the introduction and selling of the superporker concept, a new method of cutting and retailing pig meat based on a heavier pig. I understand that the Superporker is also being developed and promoted in New Zealand at the present time. As with any new concept, there are delays between the expenditure of money and the achievement of results. With regard to research in the pig industry, one can say immediately that the industry is well ahead of the beef and sheep meat industries in the development of an objective measurement and carcass appraisal system. This is being tested in a number of abattoirs at the present time. I understand also that the pig industry has made a more serious attempt than some of the other agricultural industries to advise those in the industry of what happens in the research that is undertaken on their behalf from time to time.
There are lessons for other primary industries in what the pig industry is doing, reflected in the legislation before us. The pig industry decided that something had to be done and initiated the action to do it instead of just demanding that the Government do something. What is more, it has shown that it is prepared to pay for that action. Pig meat is being more actively promoted at the present time. I understand that there has been a superporker promotion in Melbourne in addition to those mentioned by the previous speaker. More promotion is being done now for pig meat than for any other form of meat in Australia. In regard to marketing, the pig industry is well ahead of the beef and sheep meat industries, not just in the sense of objective measurement and carcass appraisal systems, but in the development of new selling systems which will be more stable and will more accurately reflect to the producer the value of the product. Once again, the industry has done this without loudly demanding that the Government should do something and pay for it. I support the legislation.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) (9.20)-The honourable member for Parramatta. (Mr John Brown) is to be congratulated on the contribution he made to this debate this evening. It is quite obvious that he has had a close connection with the industry and that he has made an indepth study of the problems. This evening he has put forward much information and has raised many questions. He has also given us plenty of suggestions. I believe that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) should answer some of the points put forward by the honourable member for Parramatta. It was very surprising to learn of the extent of poly-arthritis and the small amount of money that has been spent on research in that area. I was also surprised to learn that a good deal of the money from those funds goes to the pet research projects . of various academics.
But I notice that the honourable member for Parramatta was critical of some of the achievements of this research. Indeed I believe that the honourable member had every right to be critical of some of the achievements. If one were to examine the amendments proposed to this Pig Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill, one would find one fact that is pretty obvious, and that is that the authorities are determined to make sure that their incomes match the inflationary spiral. The maximum levy for research per head of pigs slaughtered will be raised from 10c to 20c, that is, a 100 per cent increase. The maximum levy for promotion per head of pigs slaughtered will rise from 5c to 20c- a 300 per cent increase. As the honourable member for Parramatta said, if the increases in the levy are justified, we do not complain about them. I would say that the Parliament has some reason to be grateful that there is some form of self-help in an industry. Therefore we should feel some urge for Commonwealth assistance which of course has been rendered by way of the Commonwealth matching the levy on a dollar for dollar basis.
However, as the honourable member for Parramatta has pointed out, the Parliament is entitled to more information. There should be some justification for this big increase in the maximum levy before honourable members are called upon to vote on the Bill. I can remember when the Pig Slaughter Levy Bill was introduced in 1971. On that occasion we were told that the value of slaughtered pig meat was $100m. I notice from statistics provided by the Bureau of Statistics that the value of pig meat now is $197,442,000. It is estimated that in 1978-79 the value will be $22 5m. So this is some indication that although there has been a slight increase in the price of pig meat, the number of pig slaughters has not fallen off. In 1971 those of us who had rural electorates knew that the pig industry was facing many problems, especially with regard to marketing and production. This extended through to disease control, nutrition, breeding and management. When considering the Bill which was before us on that occasion it was reasonable to suppose that this carefully planned program would materially assist in determining solutions. But at present we do not have the information before us- and in particular it is not in the Minister’s second reading speech- in order to enable us to make that judgment.
We all know that much of the adjustment that is necessary in rural industries occurs naturally or automatically. We also know that market forces, if left to themselves, undermine producers’ confidence. Market forces often lead to misinformation and sometimes incorrect measures to correct the situation. But for the reasons I have outlined, the Opposition is not opposed to the increases in these promotion and research levies. But I point out again that we believe that there is not enough information on how successful the previous research levy was. However, it is some satisfaction to hear the Minister, in his second reading speech, inform us that the industry requested these increases. He told us that the request for the increases had been made through the Australian Commercial Pig Producers Federation. If that is correct, I must say that it is very comforting.
I refer again to 1 97 1 when the original Bill was first debated. I can remember on that occasion a delegation from the farmers union meeting the Opposition and asking us for a referendum before legislation for a compulsory levy was passed. The farmers union claimed that there was a significant difference of opinion among pig producers. The Minister, in his second reading speech, told us that the research levy would finance a continuing higher level of scientific and economic research and would ensure that a steady stream of information was available to improve management policies and make betterinformed marketing decisions. If this is so, there is every reason for the Government to match the levy on a dollar for dollar basis. As the honourable member for Parramatta has pointed out already, no one would complain about the increases in the levy if they could be proved to be necessary. It is a well known fact that successive Australian governments have provided a range of measures to assist and expedite the process of structural change to changing economic circumstances. Of course the pig industry is entitled to this assistance the same as any other industry. But if we already have a high level of scientific and economic research, which is currently costing 8c per head with a maximum of 10c per head, why is it necessary to increase the research levy to 20c per head? These are the things we want to know because we believe that there is nothing more divisive than withholding information, and nothing causes more suspicion. There should be a dissemination of information before this Parliament and before the producers. Producers are entitled to know what facilities are available to them as a result of these levies.
The honourable member for Parramatta has already informed the House of some of the shortfalls in the way in which the levy is paid out. I have not had the experience the honourable member for Parramatta has had on these research committees, but I have received some information on this matter from pig breeders in my electorate. I know how lack of information is restricting the welfare of these producers. One pig producer in my electorate has informed me about the problems he has encountered with his intense pig production farm. He also used the wastage from the pigs to grow his vegetables. He claimed that he ran into trouble because of bad seasons. He was referred to the Rural Reconstruction Board with his problem.
When he went to borrow money it warned him that he should concentrate on pig breeding. So early in the season he went to borrow money so that he could buy grain from producers before it was distributed through retail outlets but he could not get the money. This cost him many thousands of dollars. There are areas which are badly affected by salvation jane, sometimes known as paterson’s curse, and many pigs have been lost in parts of my electorate because of this plant. We know that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is to release imported insects to control those plants biologically. However, there has been a holdup because the bee keepers have claimed that it will affect their bee hives. There is also a problem with the quantity and the quality of water and it was very gratifying to hear the Minister tell us today that there is a grant in the Budget for the treatment of this problem in the Murray River. In addition to these problems we have had a drought in my electorate.
Many pig producers in my area have drawn my attention to a newspaper article which referred to comments made by the New South Wales Minister for Conservation and Water Resources. They said that they would appreciate some more direct assistance from Federal members along these lines. The article is headed: Farm Water Subsidies Help Fight Drought.’ It goes on to say:
Recent drought conditions in New South Wales-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Riverina is bringing to the attention of the House matters of considerable interest but I am having difficulty relating them to the Bill.
– You might be, Mr Deputy Speaker, but if you were a pig breeder and did not have any water you would be in trouble.
– I request the honourable member to direct his remarks to the Bill.
-Research money should go to help the pig breeder. I want to quote briefly from the article. It said:
Mr Lin Gordon, said that the subsidy scheme can render vital assistance in aiding landholders to plan against the effects of lengthy dry spells.
This is what the pig farmers want. I seek leave to have that article incorporated in Hansard.
The article read as follows-
Farm Water Subsidies Help Fight Drought
Recent drought conditions in New South Wales have highlighted the value of State Government subsidies which are available for the water storage component of soil conservation works.
The Minister for Conservation and Water Resources, Mr Lin Gordon, said that the subsidy scheme can render vital assistance in aiding landholders to plan against the effects of lengthy dry spells.
Mr Gordon said that in the first six months of the current financial year 1,133 applications for the subsidy were received for work estimated to cost $ 1½m.
I would remind landholders’, Mr Gordon said, ‘that under the Farm water Storages and Bores Subsidies Act, that they are eligible for a 25 per cent subsidy on the cost of constructing approved works, with a maximum of $ 1 , 000 to any one holding’.
The Soil Conservation Service of New South Wales designs and supervises the construction of approved works.
Landholders may have the works carried out by the Service, by private contractor, or they may use their own plant.
The Minister said it was important that landholders realise that the State Government subsidy is also available for costs incurred in desilting farm dams or gully control dams.
Landholders who take advantage of drought conditions to undertake desilting and similar renovations to existing water storage structures to restore their original capacity should lodge applications for the subsidy prior to commencing the work ‘, Mr Gordon said.
– The pig producers have asked why they cannot get some direct statement from Federal members along these lines. Mr Deputy Speaker, if you think that I am overemphasising the lack of information in this area I want to draw your attention to the Industries Assistance Commission report and to what it had to say on this point. On page 53 of the report entitled ‘Financing Rural Research’ dated 25 June 1976, the Commission said:
Whilst it is obvious that the returns from research are relevant in determining the optimum level of research, it is not often realised that a clear distinction must be drawn between average returns and marginal returns. The fact that average return per dollar of existing expenditure is high does not necessarily mean that the return per dollar of additional expenditure will also be high.
This highlights my point that if we increase the levy and spend more money it will not automatically mean that we will get a higher return. The Industries Assistance Commission has pointed that out. The report further states:
Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the Commission received a number of suggestions to the effect that more money should be spent on rural research in certain areas. What was surprising was that a number of witnesses were not well informed of the assistance currently available, of the channels through which assistance should be sought and of the nature and scope of current research in the same field. In certain cases, financial requests were only peripheral to rural research.
Here again the Commission is pointing out that we should have more information. Further on in the report the Commission states:
Government could use compulsion -
This is a compulsory levy- by imposing increased research levies on producers. It would also require that the magnitude of direct benefits to farmers be clearly established as being in excess of the research costs imposed on farmers and some estimate would be needed of external benefits. It may be that a long run increase in research levies will be in the national interest and in the interest of farmers.
Having regard to the facts put before this House by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) and in the IAC report it is clear that not enough information has been given to this House in the past. We should have available some comparison between the industry output and input, and information on what happens to these funds. The Opposition is not opposed to the increased levies if the increases are justified. We on this side have taken notice of the reports of the IAC and this House should take notice of them also. If we set up commissions the Parliament should take notice of their reports and be guided by them, and that is the basis of our objection tonight. These levies may be in order but the Parliament should know why it is necessary to increase the levies. Producers and other involved in the industry also should know what these funds provide for them.
This debate has certainly been most worth while and constructive. On behalf of the pig industry I would like to congratulate the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and the two speakers from the Opposition. On many occasions I have had the opportunity and privilege of following the honourable member for Riverina (Mr FitzPatrick) in debates and once again he has given a sound practical display of his knowledge of rural industry. It is good to see.
– He is a good member.
– We do not doubt that. It is good to see that the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) has taken a leaf out of the book of the honourable member for Riverina. He would be very well advised to follow his example rather than the example of some of his other colleagues. It is appropriate to say that the Research and Promotion Committee would be very grateful for the suggestions made by the three previous speakers, the relevant questions they raised and the points of view they expressed. It certainly was a balanced contribution to the debate.
We are very proud of this legislation. It shows the co-operation and partnership between the Government and the industry and above all it indicates that the industry is prepared to help itself. The research program is subsidised by the Government on a dollar for dollar basis but, having considered that there is a real need for promotion, the industry is prepared to pick up the tab for that part of this legislation. It is good that we have this partnership and not an industry that forever is adopting the attitude of a fox terrier, yapping behind the Government and saying: ‘Give us a handout’. We of the National Country Party applaud partnership and cooperation.
I believe that the pig industry is a very important industry in Australia. There are approximately 24,000 farmers engaged in it. It is to be regretted that there is a tendency towards very large units with the smaller type piggeries running 20 or 30 sows disappearing from the scene. It is interesting to note that the total number of sows in Australia- 300,000 last year- produced for killing in the year in excess of 3.5 million pigs. Those are interesting statistics when we realise that last year each sow produced 11 pigs for slaughter. As the honourable member for Riverina (Mr FitzPatrick) said, that represented a total value of $200m at the farm gate.
Whilst appreciating the comments that were made by those members of the Opposition who have contributed to this debate, I want to offer a few comments to bring about a balanced approach to the efforts of the Pig Industry Research Committee. The Opposition pointed out what it believes to be shortcomings. Quite rightly, it indicated where it believes more money should be spent, better results should be achieved and more information should get back to the field. It appears to me that from the Pig Industry Research Committee there has been a significant gain which cannot possibly be itemised in dollars because the emphasis has been put on overcoming the problem of costs. Whilst other speakers quite rightly brought out the problems of effluent discharge control and disease control, it must be remembered that the pig industry is based on the input of feed which account for 75 per cent to 80 per cent of the total costs of the industry.
Therefore, it would be wrong if we did not pay due tribute to the Committee for its achievements in regard to what we might term better feeding. I shall give two instances. As a result of the partnership of six primary producers, out of the total of 1 1 members of the Pig Industry Research Committee, with people with academic qualifications, great emphasis has been given to a quicker turn around and faster growth. We must bear in mind that along with the English and Danish pig farmers the Australian pig producers are recognised as being very efficient. We have found from the results of research that synthetic lysine, a protein, used in the correct quantities brings about a response with regard to growth and the correct formation of bacon or pork. Additionally, we find that the experiments of the Committee in the area of trace elements brought about great savings to the pig producer. Four or five years ago it was his habit to feed varying amounts of different trace elements. Now we find that vitamins A and D3 need to be added whereas other elements that are added bring about no significant change in the overall growth and quality pattern. I wanted to refer to those two achievements of the Pig Industry Research Committee because they are related to the cost of feeding pigs. I believe that it is appropriate to give credit to the Committee for those achievements.
The honourable member for Riverina asked for a report to Parliament of the cost benefit of the research program, and it is difficult really to nail this down to dollars and cents. But it would be fair to say that the costs associated with the research program have been minimal compared with the overall benefits. Opposition speakers have asked why more money would be required. That is a very responsible question. I put forward the proposition that the reason more money is required is that there is a need for on-going programs and to attract the best possible researcher. We must realise also that top class programs cost more than a variety of smaller short term programs. I subscribe to the proposition that the cheapest program is not always the best.
The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) gave details of the relatively small amounts of pork and bacon that are consumed in Australia. From memory I think that he quoted 13 kilograms per head per year which is not a great amount by overall standards. Bearing in mind that the Pigmeat Promotion Advisor)’ Committee uses solely pig producers’ money, it has seen fit to promote pork as pork rather than to promote the total produce of the pig in the form of bacon and pork. I want to come back later to the promotion of bacon products. The honourable member for Murray also told the House of the exciting program with regard to super pork in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania and of the results achieved as far as supermarkets are concerned. We all know that in today’s highly competitive market where we are competing for the appetites of the Australian people one has to put out not only an attractive package but also a quality package at a reasonable price. With the concept of the super porker involving the production of a bigger pig at lower cost, having regard to the fact that inherent in the cost of producing pork or bacon is the cost of feeding the sow, we find that the end product is cheaper with more cuts and appeal.
At this stage I want to pay tribute to the Victorian Department of Agriculture for making available to the Pigmeat Promotion Advisory Committee the services of Mr Richard Baker who is a product of the William Angliss butchery school in Melbourne. He has designed a special method of cutting the super porker into such things as spare ribs- I understand that spare ribs are loved not only by children but also by their mums and dads- steaks and cutlets. Even the rind is sold separately. That indicates that people involved in research and promotion are alive to the modern needs and demands of the housewife. It will be interesting to see how this super porker concept turns out in the final analysis.
One ought to pay tribute to private enterprise for the promotion it has done over the years with regard to bacon. The people involved have adopted a philosophy of promoting their own products. They have been aware that bacon and eggs are still much desired by the Australian family and they have promoted such products as KR Darling Downs ham, a product of my own area. Wherever one goes in Australia one will see KR Darling Downs products for sale.
– An excellent product.
– You see them all over the world.
– I am reminded by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) that they are excellent products and my colleague, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) says that one sees these products all over the world. It is a fitting tribute to a good product and the effort of a private co-operative consisting of farmers as directors in marketing their own products. We want to pay tribute to those people who have marketed their own product as bacon.
– It is one of the few cooperatives that didn’t go broke.
– As the co-operative is well directed and managed by the best farmers in the world, Darling Downs farmers, quite obviously it would not go broke. There are also smaller butcheries. I know of three such butcheries in my electorate- Ryan’s Butchery at Laidley, Mahon’s Butchery at Grantham and Carey Brothers Butchery at Yangan- which have also spent considerable sums of money in promoting their bacon products. This promotion has paid dividends. Therefore we believe that an increase in the promotion levy, which was requested by the industry, is quite appropriate.
The Federal Government has also played a notable part and has made a big input in the area of marketing and promotion as far as carcass classification is concerned. That is very important. The Federal Government has given $250,000 for the overall promotion of carcass classification. Three programs are running in parallel at present. They are at Samcor in South Australia, Gilbertson in Victoria and Casino in New South Wales. All of these programs will have great results as far as the quality of pork and bacon is concerned.
I conclude with a word for the pig producer. Too often he is looked upon as being of little importance and when a problem arises his interests tend to be downgraded. Recently we had the bluetongue scare in northern areas of Australia. Of course it concerned a matter of great importance. But, because of the tremendous demands placed on the various virological laboratories, the requests of the pig producers to have their various tests undertaken were given second place. I want to protest therefore on behalf of the pig producers. Whilst admitting the seriousness of bluetongue, I believe it is appropriate to remind everyone that if a cattle herd on a property is wiped out income losses occur and the same situation arises if a pig producer loses all his pigs and he has no other income. So it is of equal importance to him that he has access to the various testing facilities as other sections of the community. These are matters of State Government responsibility but it is worth reminding people that the Commonwealth Government has offered considerable sums to the State governments to update their virological laboratories. It has given $36,000 to the Queensland Government, $25,000 to the Western Australian
Government and $50,000 to the Northern Territory. I make the point that the pig producer must never have his situation downgraded in relation to any other section of primary industry. It is important to him that he has access to all types of modern science consistent with his responsibilities and dignity as a person.
There is a need for research and there is a need for promotion. We are delighted that the Opposition has seen fit to support this legislation. On behalf of the pig producers I pay tribute to Opposition members for their constructive suggestions. I hope that the suggestions that they have offered, along with the suggestions that have been offered by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), will be taken on board by both the research committee and the promotion committee because pig production is of importance. It is labour intensive, it uses grain and, above all, it fulfils and satisfies the appetites of many Australian families and families from overseas.
– Four speakers have spoken in this debate- the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick) for the Opposition and the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) for the Government. I followed the discussion closely, firstly from my office and then in the chamber. I would like to thank all those honourable members for the very high standard of their contributions. It is not often that we hear in this House such constructive and well researched contributions as we have heard tonight. They have shown a very intimate knowledge of the industry and an understanding of and a sympathy with the industry and its particular needs. I felt that it was proper for me as Minister Assisting the Minister for Primary Industry to express appreciation for their contributions. I am delighted and I know that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) will be delighted with the standard of contribution that we have experienced in this debate.
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.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Consideration of Senate ‘s amendment.
In sub-clause ( 1 ), after ‘may’, insert ‘, for the purposes of this Act,’.
– I move:
In Committee in the Senate the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) accepted an amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to clause 6 of the Bill. The amendment reads:
Insert after the words ‘the Minister may’ the words ‘for the purposes of this Act’.
I understand that this amendment was proposed in the Senate by the Opposition. It was accepted in that place by the Government and the Government has no objection to the amendment as proposed.
– We welcome this acceptance of the amendment by the Government. It was moved by the Opposition in the House of Representatives on 6 June last. At that time it was negatived. The Government has reviewed the situation and has accepted the amendment. Accordingly we have no objection.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Fisheries Amendment Bill 1978.
Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Amendment Bill 1978.
Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1978.
Debate resumed from 25 May, on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Defence Service Homes Scheme is one of the longest standing programs dealt with in this Parliament. The Scheme originated form legislation passed in 1918, some 60 years ago. Since the inception of the Scheme approximately 340,000 people have been assisted to own their own homes. The Scheme has been a very fine one and it certainly has been well administered by the authorities over the years. More than 1 80,000 of the loans granted are still being repaid. In fact, about $69m of the $79m that is being made available this year in the current Budget really came from either principal or interest repayments. The gross outlays on assistance since the inception of the Scheme have exceeded $2,000m.
The principal purpose of this Bill is to amend the Defence Services Homes Act 1918 to implement decisions taken by the Government in the context of its deliberations on the 1977-78 Budget. I stress that the legislation is based on decisions made in relation to the 1977-78 Budget; that is the Budget of last year. The Government is now taking some action on those decisions. Later in my speech I will deal with the necessity to regard the defence service homes area as a part of the overall housing industry. I believe that we cannot divorce any section of the housing industry from the whole at this important stage of our development.
Let me deal with the amendments proposed by the Government in this legislation. The first matter to which I refer is the qualifying period that a member of the Regular Defence Force has to serve before he is eligible for a defence service home loan. One of the decisions announced at the time of the 1977-78 Budget-I stress again that this was the Budget delivered a year ago, not the Budget we heard presented last Tuesday night- was the intention to extend the qualifying period to be served by members of the Regular Defence Force in order to be eligible for a defence service home loan. Persons who commenced full time service in the Defence Force on or after 17 August 1977 will become eligible for a loan on the completion of six years continuous full time service, subject to a commitment to render further full time service. I stress.the words ‘on the completion of six years continuous full time service’. The new eligibility conditions may be applied to those who begin their service on or after 17 August 1977. They do not affect the eligibility conditions that apply to those who were serving before 17 August 1977. We are quite aware, and we concede, that those people who were serving before that date are still eligible to receive a loan after a qualifying period of only three years continuous full time service. This provision, which was introduced by the Labor Government, is to be watered down, and I will deal with this point in greater detail later in my speech.
Let me now turn to the second proposal. By the proposed insertion of a new section 27b in the principal Act the Bill will permit the Defence Service Homes Corporation to give a measure of preference in the allocation of loans to those whose eligibility is based on war service. I know that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) will plead that the Government has made a statement about that. I will deal with that matter later in my contribution.
The third proposal in the Bill is to charge a fee on loan, applications. This is the first time in the history of the Defence Service Homes Scheme, or the War Service Homes Scheme as it was known for many years, that a fee has been charged on an application. I think it will cost a applicant $75 just to make an application. I now turn to the fourth proposal. Since the commencement of the scheme in 1919 insurance cover has been provided under the Act in respect of dwellings in which the Corporation has an interest. The terms and conditions of the cover are contained in the Defence Service Homes Act and Regulations, with the result that amending legislation is required before even a minor change can be made. The Bill amends the Act to authorise the Corporation to provide insurance cover under the terms set out in the statement of conditions.
The fifth proposal is the recognition for the purposes of the Defence Service Homes Act of de facto relationships. This will bring the Act into line with other Commonwealth legislation and the practice of lending institutions. Consistent with the requirements of other Commonwealth legislation to ensure that there is a substantial degree of permanency in the relationship before benefits are granted, the Bill requires the de facto association to have been in existence for a continuous period of not less than three years before it will be recognised. The amendment will place a de facto spouse or widow of an eligible person in the same position as a de jure spouse or widow. It will enable a de facto spouse to be joined with the eligible person in the security, make a de facto widow eligible for a loan in her own right and enable certain de facto widows to be granted relief in respect of commitments on their property under the same conditions as those applicable to de jure widows. I am glad to see that the Minister in particular is coming out of the dark ages and that the legislation is being brought into line with other Commonwealth legislation and practice. I do not commend the Government very often, but I am pleased that it has made this humane decision in what has been a very difficult situation for a number of people. As I have said, I commend the Government on this aspect of the legislation.
The sixth proposal concerns clause 9. This amendment is intended to overcome a problem whereby the Corporation, in the absence of a court order, is unable to distribute the balance of proceeds arising from the sale of a property as mortgagee in possession in joint tenancy cases where the joint tenancy has not been severed and one or more of the joint tenants cannot be located. You will note, Mr Deputy Speaker, that we are not opposing some aspects of the legislation. We realise that some proposals in the legislation are necessary because of the need to satisfy administrative arrangements. But there are strong reasons why we should oppose some of the other provisions in the legislation. For example, paragraph (e) of our amendment states: because increased funds should be made available to restore the decline of SO per cent, in real terms, over the last 3 years ‘.
Such a decline is appalling. This Government encourages a ‘wear our badge with pride’ mentality. This Government says that it will stand loyally by our ex-servicemen and women. Yet it is this Government which for the first time in our history will tax repatriation pensions in the same way as any other income. It is this Government which we have seen decrease in real terms by over 50 per cent in the last three years the amount of money made available for defence service homes. In 1975-76, $122m was made available for defence service homes. In the year before, 1974-75, $130m was made available. At that time the men and the material were available- as they are now- to enable homes to be constructed. Under a Labor Administration we made sure that the men and the material were available. That did not add to inflationary pressures. Honourable members opposite know that to be the case because at that time such action was needed to stimulate the economy, as it is now.
What is the situation now? Expenditure on defence service homes has dropped to $7 9m this year compared with an expenditure of $90m last year. Not only does this decision represent a cutting back in expenditure of about $10m; it also adds to the waiting time for ex-servicemen and other people who are eligible for defence service homes. It extends the waiting period from 11 months to 14 months. In addition, in many cases the building of new homes will be deferred. If these homes were built it would help to stimulate the economy and get people into employment. We want to emphasise quite clearly that we are totally opposed to the expenditure cuts and to the hypocrisy of the Government as a whole when it states that it is a government which supports those people who served this country in time of war. As I have said, this Government supports and encourages the ‘wear our badge with pride’ mentality. It is about time the Government showed by its action what it will do for exservicemen and not cut back expenditure in this area in the way that it has.
There are two other aspects of the matter that I want to mention. I refer particularly to proposed new section 4AAA (1) (a) (ii) which requires a regular serviceman to serve six years’ continuous full time service, with a commitment to render further service. Proposed new section 4 AAA ( 1 ) (c) requires an officer to be appointed for a period of continuous full time service of notless than six years. For the first time, the legislation will discriminate between an officer who accepts a career appointment and who may resign at any time and other ranks on the basis of service for eligibility for a defence service home loan. Moreover, the legislation will discriminate between the Services because they have different terms of enlistment. It also discriminates- I want to emphasise that word strongly to honourable members opposite because this is a discriminating Government- between men and women who have different terms of enlistment. For example, an officer who has served six years and one day may be eligible for a defence service home loan. On the other hand, an Army bloke may have to serve nine years to obtain that eligibility. The position for Navy personnel is different again. They need serve only in excess of six years to be released from the Service. Quite clearly, not only is this an act of discrimination; the legislation also waters down the conditions of the serviceman. After all, the servicemen have a role to play. It seems to me that if conditions are taken away from any trade unionist, whether he be working in the blue collar field or in the Public Service, that is a regressive action or a backward action. This action is so regressive that Service personnel who enlisted prior to 17 August 1977 need serve for only three years in order to be eligible for a loan. But those people who join the Services after that date and make an application for loan must serve for at least six years to be eligible. But Army personnel- those men and women who comprise the great mass of the Services- serve for six years in the first case and then they must re-enlist. It is a ‘putting a carrot in front of a donkey’ mentality. Servicemen and women are being told, in effect, that if they want their home loan they must re-enlist and extend their period of service. That seems to me to be a pretty crook proposal. So far as I am concerned, it is typical of this Government.
The other aspect of the legislation I want to deal with concerns proposed new section 26B of the Act. Clause 6 of the Bill proposes the introduction of a preference system for those servicemen and women who have war service and also provides for the first time specific authority for imposing a waiting period. The question to ask at this point is: How is the preference system to work? I wish to stress that point. I must say that in respect of preference- whether or not a person with war service should receive preference over anyone else- that the Minister will find himself performing a very difficult role. The Minister stated in a Press release dated 15 August under the heading of ‘No war-service preference yet for loans ‘:
Mr Adermann also said that the Government had decided not to proceed with a plan, previously announced, to grant a measure of preference in the allocation of Defence Service Homes loans to applicants who qualified because of war service.
In the absence of additional funds for the Scheme, preference could have been introduced only through a substantial increase in the waiting period applying to applicants whose eligibility was based solely on peacetime service.
He said the Government hoped it may be possible at some future date to give preference to those with war service without imposing a penalty on other applicants.
Of course, that is excluding the 14-month waiting period which exists at present. If that preference is applied, it will add a further waiting time. The Opposition is proceeding with its amendment because the Government is persisting with that provision in the Act. It seems to me that it would be sensible not to insert such a provision into the Act. Quite frankly, under this Administration I would hate to see such a provision put into effect. I have at least another 10 years to serve in this Parliament. I bet that during that time, unless there is a change of government, this provision will remain in the Act but it will not be implemented because the Government will not provide the necessary funds. Of course, the Australian Labor Party has committed itself on the matter and has stated that it will not discriminate in such a way. This Government starves the people of funds. It makes false promises.
Let me give an example. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) will follow me in this debate. As you well know, Mr Deputy Speaker, he has been eulogising the Government in respect of the flood mitigation proposal for Toongabbie Creek near Parramatta. What is the situation? The Government has said that it will make available $200m for flood mitigation over a period of five years. In this Budget, the Government has made available $5m. On that basis, I ask honourable members to estimate how long it will take this Government to meet that commitment. This is a government of complete hypocrisy. Again, this legislation contains window dressing proposals. It is my conviction that the commitment will never be met unless there is a change of government. It is a bad principle and, therefore, we intend to express our attitude on it.
In the few minutes I have left in which to speak in this debate I want to deal with defence service homes as part of the overall housing industry. The Australian Government has direct responsibility for 10 per cent of housing in this country. The Australian Government has direct responsibility for the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement under which welfare houses are built as well as for defence service homes. In the mid-1950s there was a time when the Commonwealth Government made sufficient money available to the States in order to allow them to build 22 per cent of all houses in the community. In other words, more than one house in five was funded by the Commonwealth Government. The position now is that the Government directly supports the construction of only one house in 10. The Australian Government, and this Parliament, has direct responsibility for the whole housing industry. This Government is responsible also for ensuring a ready flow of finance at reasonable terms so that the average citizen can build or buy a home. That is a basic right.
The housing sector has been hit severely by this Government’s restrictive fiscal and monetary policies. Its policy on defence service homes is no exception. For example, as I said earlier, in 1975-76, the last year of the Labor administration, $122m was allocated for defence service homes. In the 1978-79 Budget only $78m has been allocated. That is $10m less than last year. As I said earlier, that is a 50 per cent cut in real terms on the amount of money made available to defence service homes in 1 975-76.
Defence service homes is not the only area of housing that is under attack by this Government. This Government has ended the home loan interest tax deductibility scheme. That is a scheme under which people on low incomes could claim as a tax deduction the amount of interest they paid on their housing loans. This Government also ended the housing allowance experimental scheme under which house rentals in several parts of Australia were subsidised. That scheme has been done away with. It has slashed the money available for the homes saving grants scheme from $34m last year to $20rh this year. What does that really mean? When a person has qualified for the home savings grant by saving the requisite amount of money and he seeks the housing grant he will be told -
– I raise a point of order. I hesitate to rise on a point of order when my colleague is speaking but he is not dealing with the subject before us which is defence service homes. He has drifted into an area dealing with homes in general and the building and construction industry. His remarks are not relevant to the Bill. I hesitated to rise but he is drifting away from the subject.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)The honourable member for Reid knows that he should confine his remarks to the contents of the Bill.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I was dealing with the inter-relationship between defence service homes and housing in general. Defence service homes are part of the overall policy of the Government. I was indicating that the Government is as consistent in its policy on the home savings grant as it is in its policy on defence service homes. The Government has failed to meet its commitments. The Government was aware of its commitment this year to the home savings grant scheme. A person who attempts to take advantage of the home savings grant scheme will be told that he will not be able to get money until 1 July 1979. The home savings grant scheme, the war service homes scheme and other housing proposals are inter-related. This is an indication of the inconsistency and the deceit of this Government. The deceit of this Government is revealed by the fact that at least six months ago it knew, as a result of a Cabinet submission, that it would need $76m this year for the home savings grant scheme alone. But what did it do? It made only $20m available. That is the truth. If the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), who is sitting on the front bench, cares to read it I will give him a copy of a submission made to Cabinet by his predecessor, now the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman).
– What are you talking about?
-I am talking about a copy of a Cabinet submission.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I raised this point of order earlier and I do not like to raise it again. The subject under debate is the Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill. The honourable member for Reid has drifted away from the subject under discussion on a couple of occasions. I think we have been tolerant. I think he should come back to the matter under discussion.
-I call on the honourable member for Reid to confine his remarks to the Bill.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I said I was dealing with the Bill in detail. I wanted to indicate the relationship between the defence service homes scheme and the overall pattern of the Government’s consistency in its policy towards housing. Not only has the Government failed in the area of defence service homes; it has failed in respect of the tax deductibility scheme. It has failed in respect of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. It has reduced the amount of money available through the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement for welfare housing from $3 90m last year to $3 30m this year. What does that mean? It means that there has been a 27 per cent reduction in the last three years alone. The Government has failed.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not want to interrupt my colleague but if there is any relationship between his remarks and the Bill it is so tenuous I cannot see it. His remarks do not relate to the Bill.
-I uphold the point of order. I require the honourable member for Reid to speak to the Bill in more specific terms.
-I know that I have hurt the Government in my discussion tonight. I am aware of the inconsistency of this Government. 1 know that Government members are disturbed a great deal about the enormous cuts which have been made by the Government. I am aware of the seriousness of the problem. I am aware of the panic which exists within Government supporters about the destruction its policies are causing in the housing sector. I know the views of the Housing Industry Association. In a publication released today the Housing Industry Association points to the difficulties that exist within this community. I will leave my remarks at that because I want to give the seconder of my amendment the opportunity to speak before the House adjourns tonight. I ask the House to support the amendment.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes. I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. This afternoon the House may remember -
-Order! I thought the honourable member for Wills was taking a point of order.
– I do not do things like that.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Wills to resume his seat. The original question was that this Bill be now read a second time. To this, the honourable member for Reid has moved as an amendment that all words after ‘that’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The clock shows that there is half a minute to go before the adjournment motion is moved. Is that not the case?
-Is the honourable member for Hughes seeking the call?
-As no speaker is rising from the Government benches, the honourable member is entitled to seek the call.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I draw your attention to the time.
-The honourable member for Corio anticipated my next action. It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– What a disgraceful thing it is that the Government has no second speaker on the Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
– Can I be assured that I can continue the debate on behalf of the Opposition?
-The debate will continue. It is a matter for the Government to regulate the business of the House. The Chair just administers the Standing Orders.
– You did not actually finalise the question relating to the Bill?
– No, the question has not been put. The question now before the Chair is that the House do now adjourn.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented. You will remember that during the debate this afternoon on the Aurukun situation the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) interjected and I raised with you the matter of that interjection by the honourable member. You will remember that at the time I said to you that I would like the opportunity to explain the situation. I did not think that the exchange would be recorded in Hansard but I find that it has been. The honourable member for Murray referred to the turtle project in the Torres Strait, implying that it was my responsibility. I want to make it clear in this House for the 4,532nd time that that project was not initiated by the Labor Government; it was initiated by the previous Government. Some $400,000 had been committed to it and we put a lot of work into trying to sort it out. It still remains as one of the difficult problems of the time. The Torres Strait Island people, the turtles themselves and our Government were the inheritors of a rather serious mess perpetrated by our predecessors.
– The reason I rise tonight, and this has been done in this House on more than one occasion, is to pay tribute to the person who until recently was the honourable member for Werriwa. The Honourable E. G. Whitlam has moved out of this place without due homage being paid to him by both sides of the chamber. There are a number of circumstances in which fairly kind words are said about people in this chamber. I have been here long enough to know that when a Parliament is drawing to a close and it is known that a member of it is leaving, tributes are paid to him. I well remember a former honourable member for Murray, the Rt Honourable Sir John McEwen, leaving this chamber, and very kind words were said about that gentleman. All of those words were deserved by the honourable gentleman who was retiring.
We have here a very unusual set of circumstances relating to a man who led this country to the greatest extremes of its development in the years from 1972 to 1975. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), who is at the table, seems to think that this is some sort of joke, but if he lives long enough, and I trust that he will, to read the views of historians who will write about this time then he will know the impact that this gentleman had on our country, a country of which I am terribly proud. Even if no other member of this chamber is proud of our country, I am very proud of it. I want to express my pride in this gentleman, the Honourable E. G. Whitlam, who took no pretence upon himself and who ignored all of the pretences taken by preceeding and succeeding Ministers in accepting foreign obligations. In my own humble way, and everybody in this chamber knows how humble I am when I pay homage to somebody, I want to say that I believe the honourable member for Werriwa, as he then was- Gough Whitlam; I will use no other expression than that- strode across this chamber as a man who is 10 feet tall.
– A giant.
-A giant among political pygmies. He came into this chamber, learned how the Parliament worked, and then used the procedures available to him to make sure that this country had the best government it had ever had during the years from 1972 to 1975. There are more people in this House today than there were in 1972 who would say that that is not true, but history will judge those people also. For sheer mean political advantage they have taken a position that in my view is contrary to the constant and continuing development of our great nation. The man Whitlam came into this chamber at an earlier time, I think 1959 -
– It was 1952.
-It was 1952; I am corrected. He strode across this chamber like a colossus. He showed the people of Australia the way ahead. Unfortunately, he was frustrated by a person named Fraser. I refuse to use the word man’, being a male chauvinist. He was destroyed by a person named Fraser, who has taken this country on a road that will lead it to destruction. I come back to the man Whitlam. No homage can be paid in this chamber that is too great for that man who led this country, as the historians will tell us, even though some of those who sit here now do not understand, along a road that would have led us to salvation. If there is a messiah, and perhaps I do not believe in that, then the man Whitlam was a messiah. Never was it understood -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In this House earlier this year I revealed a union extortion racket that was being carried on at the Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne. This week standholders are completing preparations for the Herald-Sun Home Show. I regret to inform the House that, to quote an informant today, ‘the bludgers are at it again’. The racket is still going on. At this critical time before the show opens, officials from the Operative Painters and Decorators Union, the Building Workers Industrial Union and the Carpenters Union are circulating throughout the buildings, threatening workers and standholders that if they do not join a union their part of the show will not go on.
These bully gangs of officials circulate in groups of three or more and intimidate decent Australians wanting to get on with the job. One trick is to threaten to cut off power to those stands not built by union labour. On one stand where a small amount of wallpaper was being put on a wall a man doing the job was told: ‘The power will be cut off if you do not employ a union paperhanger’. Families are not allowed to work on the family business stand and small businesses are being attacked. Another informant today said to me: ‘Wholesale standover tactics are being used ‘. I have heard of one businessman who some time ago was forced to join a union at the Exhibition Buildings in these circumstances. When he tried to exercise his rights and go to a union meeting he was denied entry.
These few officials bring the whole union movement into disgrace. They want to have their cake and eat it too. I say tonight to all standholders, businessmen and workmen at the
Exhibition Buildings who are preparing for the Melbourne Home Show: ‘Do not give in to these union bullies. When they approach you, ask them their names and addresses and then contact the Industrial Relations Bureau’. The community demands that these illegal and improper practices stop.
-I raise a matter which was mentioned today by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) during Question Time. At that time, the Prime Minister indicated that members of the Opposition would be responsible for substantial losses of employment in Australian industries if they asked the Government to explain legislation which was before this House last night. That particular legislation was so complex that it warranted 1 ‘A minutes in a second reading speech from the Government and no explanation at all as to how the system would work. However, I do not want to debate that particular question because that piece of legislation has been passed.
This morning the Prime Minister made a number of charges relating to firms in the electorates of various members. I know the situation of the firms in my electorate and I know the problems that those firms have had with the present Government. I think that before the Prime Minister, who uses beautifully prepared throw-away lines which are totally meaningless as far as the firms are concerned, starts using those sorts of gimmicks, he ought to be prepared to accept the sorts of responsibilities that the Parliament and the nation are entitled to expect from a person who seeks and attains the high office of Prime Minister. The firm in my electorate mentioned by the Prime Minister- Godfrey Hirst (Australia) Pty Ltd- is the only carpet manufacturing firm in Australia which as a result of a policy decision makes all its carpets in Australia. Until recently, like all the rest of the carpet firms, it was a partial importer of carpet.
Throughout 1 976 the company sought to have a reference against dumping referred to the Temporary Assistance Authority for hearing in order to protect its manufacture in Australia against dumped carpets from overseas, especially the United States- not the Association of South East Asian Nations countries, as the Prime Minister inferred. That reference was not granted because the Government was not prepared to stand up to the importers who objected to this measure and who, in a number of cases, were also Australian manufacturers of carpet who were in a better position by importing than manufacturing. That report was sought for over 12 months in order to protect the jobs of Australian workers. But the Government refused to take any action at all. It took the side of the importers.
Subsequently there was a full hearing on the matter and that hearing has now been completed- in 1978. But the firm is still awaiting the determinations of the Government on the report of the Industries Assistance Commission. It took until 1978 to complete a report which was started in 1976. Yet the Prime Minister comes into the chamber and talks about the threat to jobs. If that is the speed of action of the Government on a matter as important as this, and the Prime Minister places the importance on it, then God help any Australian firm that is in desperate trouble and in urgent need of assistance. Prior to the 1975 general election, the Prime Minister came to Geelong and told the car workers how he would protect their jobs. One thousand of those workers who were employed then are now collecting unemployment benefit. If they do not happen to be married, the rate of their unemployment benefit is frozen for another 18 months- under the policies of the Prime Minister.
The firm about which I rose to speakGodfrey Hirst (Australia) Pty Ltd- has developed one of the most modern techniques in the world for the dyeing of carpets. It is accepted internationally. The sort of assistance this Government has given it is to recommend it for a design award. It is not giving the firm any substantial or significant assistance to market Australian technology when that technology is marketable and capable of being an important source of revenue to this country. It is unfortunate that on a matter as serious as the question which gave rise to the question asked of the Prime Minister today, the Parliament -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Tonight I rise more in sorrow than in anger. I am glad that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) is in the chamber and I am glad that you are in the chair, Mr Deputy Speaker, because what I have to say concerns a place within your electorate. I am talking about Fraser Island. I am sad that our Government has not yet seen fit- that is how it seems to me anyway- to handle properly the application by Dillingham-Murphyores for reasonable compensation for the closing down of its operation. On 10 November 1976 our Government announced that the export approval for DM Minerals would be revoked, effective from 31 December 1976, and that no further permits would be issued. The stated purpose of the revocation was the halting of the DillinghamMurphyores mining operations on Fraser Island and the creation of a wilderness area on that island.
The action of our Government unfortunately constituted a taking of private property for public use, for which just compensation ought to be paid. Since that taking our Government has announced that it would consider an ex gratia payment to DM Minerals based on 1977 profits and within that context would consider a claim submitted by DM Minerals. On 31 March 1977 DM Minerals submitted a claim to the Government which documents a going concern value of approximately $23m. As I understand it, so far all that we have offered the company is something like $4m. This to me does not seem fair. Even if the Minister does not have the information readily available at the moment I hope that at a later date he will be able to come back and say something to us, because this seems to’ me to be inequitable.
The business was set up as a proper going concern, with all of the proper approvals, to export sand. If the Government decided to submit to the enormous pressures of groups of conservationists in the interests of giving the Australian people this wilderness area that they thought was so important, I believe that the Government has an honest duty to give adequate compensation. If the people feel that they want a wilderness area, obviously we must all be prepared to pay for it. It seems to me that to offer $4m for a going concern valued at $23m is not equitable. I hope that at a future time the Minister will tell us that the Government is reconsidering the whole matter and is prepared to offer something more reasonable to this particular undertaking than what I consider to be the paltry sum of $4m.
-During the last week the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin), and tonight the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) have eulogised the recently retired honourable member for Werriwa. I wish to join them tonight and take the opportunity to make a special announcement in respect of his retirement. On 1 September in the Bowman Hall of the Blacktown Civic Centre, which I have dubbed the Temple of Victories, there will be a dinner attended by some 800 people to pay their respects to and to show their appreciation of the former Prime
Also present at this function will be artists who are great names in this country. They will be giving their time free out of appreciation for what Gough Whitlam, as Prime Minister of this country, did for their profession. I think that it shows the great respect, although it goes much deeper than that, that people have for this man. I am pleased to have been associated with Gough Whitlam, having met him when he first entered this Parliament. At that time I was not a parliamentarian; I was a member of the State Executive of the Australian Labor Party. Right throughout that period, during the period that I was Assistant General Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party and during the period leading up to when he bacame the Leader of the Party, I was very closely associated with him, proud to be associated with him and proud to fight to see him become the leader. For that reason I am proud to be the person associated with the organisation of this very important dinner for him so that people can express their thanks to a man who did so much for this country and who was such a great Labor leader.
He has received criticism, but he had a glorious wit. Sometimes it was misunderstood. Sometimes his gloriously facetious remarks were deliberately misinterpreted to make him appear vain, but I know from my association with the man how humble he could be. I believe, as the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) has stated, though I think in different words, that when history is written Gough Whitlam will go down as the great reformer, the man who set out to reform this country and whose ideas and ideals will be something the people of Australia will always appreciate. For i7 August 1978 REPRESENTA J. IVES 515
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Over the recent parliamentary recess the taxing of rental subsidies received national Press coverage. I do not wish tonight to canvass the justice or otherwise of section 26e of the Income Tax Assessment Act except to say that if income is earned by any taxpayer in Australia, whatever its nature, that income or benefit should naturally be covered by the Act. I wish instead to draw to the attention of this House certain repercussions from the implementation of section 26e of the Act. Income can be put into two categories. The first covers benefits which are often used as a substitute for actual salaries or wages, just as is a fictitious travelling or entertainment allowance. These are normal salaries in a substituted form. The second category covers housing which must be provided by an employer to encourage people to take up employment in an industry, encouragement being needed because of the nature of the industry, the isolation of its location or the unfavourable climate of the location. Put simply, if housing were not provided no person would offer his services and labour. There would be no industries. We could write off most of our rural and mining industries as no amount of salary subject to taxation would substitute for services provided in an effort to normalise living conditions in isolated areas.
In order to rectify this situation, I firmly believe that in the second category either some exemption should be granted from the implications of section 26 (e) or, alternatively, that a special decentralisation allowance similar to or combined with the zone allowance should be granted as a rebate to compensate not only for the higher cost of living in these areas but also to offset the tax payable on the subsidised rentals. Town people do not appreciate the difficulties and the higher costs suffered and paid by people pioneering in outback Australia. The cost of fuel, freight, food, services, clothing and housing are all greater than in capital and provincial cities. Often people in those areas have no telephone services, no television and suffer further from uncertain standards of transport services. Therefore equity demands that justice be granted in either of the forms I have suggested.
Out of the present situation arises a further inequity. While some employees have been granted a reprieve from tax while a review of the Income Tax Assessment Act is carried out by the Taxation Office, other employees in other industries are being forced to include subsidised rentals on housing, which are equally available to those currently exempted pending the review, for assessment as income for the 1977-78 year. I mention in particular sugar mill workers and employees who have paid tax consistently for decades but then on a token rental. From 1 July 1977, the values, reassessed by the Taxation Office have increased tenfold. I have even heard of a station manager whose income has been reassessed over the past five years on his subsidised rents on a station in New South Wales. This is discriminatory. It is inequitable.
I believe this action to be unconstitutional under section 5 1 (ii) of the Australian Constitution. I ask that a full deferment be available to all employees, wherever they are, whatever job they do, until the review has been completed by the Taxation Office. I ask also that the concessions which I previously mentioned be fully evaluated to ensure that pioneering and decentralising industries are not disadvantaged further in comparison with the rest of Australia. Also, if values are to be assessed, I ask particularly that they be applied properly, taking into account all aspects of the rental values in isolated areas which naturally would depreciate more than would be the case in a capital or a provincial city. I know that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has enumerated how such values should be fairly assessed and the conditions which would apply, but the opinion I have formed from what I have seen is that the valuers are not taking these aspects into account to the extent that they should. As a consequence, the values I have seen have been too high in relation to all the circumstances. I ask for justice in this respect also.
– I wish to devote the couple of minutes remaining to the honour and the memory of Mr Gough Whitlam who was one of the greatest Prime Ministers that this House has ever seen. I say this with sincerity: Gough Whitlam will go down in history as one of the greatest Prime Ministers who ever stepped into this House and who passed from it gracefully. Whilst I know that honourable members opposite fought very hard to get rid of Gough Whitlam, I can assure them that they were not responsible for getting rid of him; that was the doing of some Press barons. We all know who the Press barons are. We will not name them tonight. What they did to Gough Whitlam was criminal. It was tantamount to character assassination. We all well know that Gough Whitlam achieved for Australia and for Australians some of the greatest social security benefits ever known in Australia.
– That is not what Clyde tells us.
– In all seriousness, I feel that it is a shame that nobody from the other side of the House has taken the opportunity to honour Gough Whitlam.
– You cut me out.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order!
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have only a few seconds left to speak. I would have appreciated it if somebody from the other side had risen to his feet and honoured Gough Whitlam, because Government members know, as we on this side of the House do, that he was the greatest -
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2. 15 p.m. on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In this regard, the Royal Commission on Petroleum carried out wide ranging investigations into the operations of the petroleum industry in Australia and six reports were prepared. The first three reports were presented during the period of the Labor Government.
The Government’s decision on the Fourth Report was announced by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs on 3 1 May 1 977; and the decision on the Fifth Report was announced in a statement I released to the press on the Petroleum Refining Industry’ on 1 June 1978.
The Government has not yet made a decision in respect of the Sixth Report of the Royal Commission.
In regard to future security of supplies of oil, the Government’s policy is to actively revive exploration in Australia. This is having effect as is borne out with the increasing level of drilling and seismic survey activity. At the same time in the context of its energy policy, the Government is giving increasing attention to conservation and alternative source of energy through such bodies as the National Energy Advisory Committee and the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 6 June 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 May 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 June 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
This definition applies to Australian aircraft wherever they may be and to foreign aircraft operating in or over Australian territory.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 June 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 8 June 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The excise on crude was introduced with effect from 1 September 1975 so that the crude oil production subject to the excise in 1975-76 was 12 1.74 million barrels.
Western Australia- information published in calendar year only:
Queensland- information published in calendar year only for petroleum including natural gas:
No revenue estimates are available from 1977-78 onwards.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 August 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780817_reps_31_hor110/>.