31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the House that we have present in the gallery this morning a parliamentary delegation from New Zealand led by the Honourable H. R. Lapwood, M.P., Minister of Tourism. On behalf of the House I extend a very warm welcome to the members of the delegation.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Army Reserve (CMF) and the RAAF Citizens Air Force. by Mr Aldred, Mr Jarman and Mr Shipton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled.
The petition of certain teachers of NSW respectfully showeth:
Teaching is a mobile profession requiring teachers to move from school to school during their working lives. Country service is a requirement for permanent teachers. It is unreasonable and often impossible for teachers to provide their own accommodation in many areas of the State. Thus it is necessary for the employer to do so.
A country posting is often viewed as placing a teacher in a position of professional, economic and social disadvantage and inconvenience relative to his/her metropolitan counterpart. The provision of adequate housing, with some subsidy, provides some compensation.
In order that the Teaching Service may provide public education equally for all children in NSW many teachers are compelled, as a condition of employment, to dwell in such housing. Many other teachers are required to use such housing as there is no alternative housing available. Thus there is no freedom of choice.
The teaching profession as a whole recognises the disadvantages faced by country teachers and generally advocates a measure of compensation. Teachers and their representative organisations strongly advocate subsidised housing for their country colleagues.
The difficulties often encountered in adequately staffing country schools, especially very remote ones, are well known. Experienced and well qualified teachers are difficult to attract. Any disincentive such as taxation on subsidised housing, can only be to the detriment of country children.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable house amend the Income Tax Assessment Act to take into account such differential conditions when applying Section 26 (e) of the Act.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Baume.
To the Honorable 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 Donald Cameron.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House Of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Item 6469 of the standard Medical Benefits Table is the means by which payment is made for the slaughter of thousands of unborn babies every year.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should ensure that Item 6469 is removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dobie.
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.
We the undersigned residents of Greenvale would like to express our deep concern about the proposed application of the taxation act which applies to the taxation of citizens who receive ‘accommodation, goods or services free or at a reduced rate from their employer’.
We would protest most adamantly against the application of this here in Greenvale, primarily due to the fact that all subsidised items here are provided by Queensland Nickel as compensation for our isolation and disadvantaged situation. We also have a distinct lack of facilities which are usually provided for the population from the taxation that we already do pay. Examples being, lack of full postal and Telecom facilities, no dependable TV and radio reception, no resident doctor or hospital facilities, no public transport, no secondary school facilities. We also live without daily newspapers, bread, milk or fruit and vegetables.
In fact we have only one small shop catering for our necessities. All other shopping and business has to be done in our closest town, Charters Towers which is one hundred and forty miles away.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Katter.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of Australia request that:
The six dollar permissible income limit on Unemployment Benefits be raised to the income limits of old age and other pensions.
We feel that the present limit is a direct discouragement for unemployed who may be able to find casual work and so could lead to a lack of work orientation and a loss of job skills and self confidence.
The present income allowance for old age pensions of twenty dollars and then a reduction of fifty cents for every dollar earnt would be a much more realistic measure in today’s circumstances.
We, your humble petitioners therefore pray your attention to this anomaly within the social welfare system and look to this situation being rectified. by Mr Morris.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
We, the undersigned, the humble petition of Electors of the Division of St George respectfully showeth that we parents and citizens wish to register our alarm over, and strong disapproval of, the recommendations of the recent Royal Commission on Human Relationships. The few positive ideas put forward serve as a specious cover for a multitude of recommendations deliberately aimed at destroying the moral fibre of the Australian people. That the secular humanist attack being made in this report on all Christian standards of decency and wholesome family life, will most certainly destroy our nation if it is sanctioned by law.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that you use your influence to prevent these recommendations from coming before the House.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Neil.
To The Honourable the President, and members of the Senate, and the Honourable Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the Petitioning of the undersigned Citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your Petitioners strongly oppose the removal of No. 6469 from the Medical Rebate list and your Petitioners, in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Shack.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Ballarat respectfully showeth:
That we express concern and disgust at the pornography in our cinemas, on television and in the printed media. This pornography, through its encouragement of a permissive society, is leading to an increase in crimes of violence, including murder and rape.
That the Australian Broadcasting Commission should not be permitted to screen the television series Soap.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Short.
-I will give consideration to the matter.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House expresses its want of confidence in the Fraser Government because of the conspiracy by Ministers, including the Prime Minister, to mislead the Parliament, to mislead the McGregor Royal Commission and the Australian people with regard to the Queensland electoral distribution.
- Mr Speaker, I suggest that if the honourable gentleman has a motion to move he move it forthwith.
– There is a procedure whereby the matter can be taken forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of want of confidence of which he has given notice for the next sitting.
– I move:
That this House expresses its want of confidence in the Fraser Government because of the conspiracy by Ministers, including the Prime Minister, to mislead the Parliament, to mislead the McGregor Royal Commission and the Australian people with regard to the Queensland electoral distribution.
This Government is a government of sheep manipulated by an executive of dishonest and ruthless bullies concerned only with preserving themselves in office. Four and a half months ago, on 7 April, I told this House that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was involved in a conspiracy to mislead the Parliament and deceive the Australian people. I accused the Government of having something to hide and I said that the Prime Minister was deeply implicated. The Prime Minister did not respond. The Government did not respond. It gagged debate and scuttled for cover in the coward ‘s castle of saying nothing in its own defence.
Two months later, on 8 June, the Opposition again sought to bring this matter out into the full light of day. We moved to censure the Government, charging the Prime Minister and his senior Cabinet colleagues with conspiracy to prevent public disclosure of important matters bearing on last year’s electoral redistribution. For the fifth time in 2 1 sitting days the Government cut off parliamentary discussion of the charges. It took the coward’s way out yet again. On the same day, in seeking a ruling from you, Mr Speaker, on a matter of parliamentary privilege, I told the House:
The Prime Minister, in an unprecedented way, has crudely and consciously with premeditation sought to mislead the Parliament. Having set himself on that course, he persisted with it until he was forced, step by grudging step, to make decisions.
We were right in our accusations on 7 April. We were right again on 8 June. Every bumbling mistake, every fumbling admission since then, has served only to reinforce our conviction that we are still right today. The charge of conspiracy to mislead the Parliament is a grave one. It is not made lightly. In the light of the evidence and the information available to the Opposition, it is made quite deliberately. It is based on a chain of events extending over the past year, perhaps even longer, in which this Prime Minister sought to ensure a political advantage for his Government and then, as the execution of his manipulation started to fall apart, became enmeshed in a clumsy cover-up to preserve the illusion of his Administration’s integrity.
The very core of the conspiracy concerns the Prime Minister’s determination to have an early election last December. This was the political advantage the Prime Minister pursued. It was the motive for insisting that a redistribution of electoral boundaries had to be completed in time for an election before Christmas. Senator Withers candidly told the McGregor Royal Commission on 7 June:
It was decided that all the allegations would be ignored, and that the maps would be got through Parliament with the greatest expedition, so that the Government could have a December election option if it wished.
Later, under cross-examination- I quote again from the official transcript- Senator Withers said even more bluntly:
The whole position was that we were going to ignore everything that had happened, not start new hares running, say nothing, get the maps through, and have an option open. That was it.
The allegations of which the senator spoke were the criticisms already rife among Government back benchers that some electorates in Queensland were being improperly manipulated. Bear in mind that the allegations were raised and pressed home initially not by the Opposition, not by the media, but by respected members of the Governments benches. Senator Withers even named the precise election date. In evidence he said:
The maps- that is, the maps of the new boundaries- had to be put through the Parliament at least 6 weeks before 10 December.
So a December election was more than just an option for the Prime Minister. Clearly he had decided on 10 December as the election date and already had introduced an utterly dishonest Budget promising temporary tax cuts the following February as electoral bait. Now he wanted nothing to prevent the new electoral boundaries from coming into law in time to meet his election deadline. An election 12 months early was needed for the simple reason that the Government’s policies of economic attrition were not working. The Prime Minister had promised the electorate in 1975 that he would need a complete three-year term to honour his commitments on the economy. The deadline could not be met. The promise would have to be abandoned. The economy was in deep recession and getting worse. Unemployment was the highest in 40 years, and still climbing. It was clear that the Government’s electoral fortunes would decline rapidly if the election was delayed until its due time this year.
– Fraser would not hold one now.
-Certainly he would not. That is the whole evidence of the falsity of the arrangements in which he has involved himself. The alarming unemployment rate and the draconian Budget just handed down- about which Australians were told nothing during the election campaign- emphasise the political opportunism of holding an election last December. This was the underlying motive for the Government’s action in rushing through a redistribution. It was also the reason why Senator Withers, as the Minister responsible for ensuring that the Government’s instructions were carried out, took the convenient short cut of intervening directly in the name change of the proposed seat of Gold Coast. His phone call last September to the Chief Australian Electoral Officer, Mr Pearson, was a gross impropriety. Name changes are a matter for Parliament. They should not be fiddled by covert ministerial influence. I have been informed that the intent behind this phone call was to head off the perceived threat of a protracted wrangle in the Government party room. If the proposed name of Gold Coast had remained in the Electoral Commissioner’s final maps, any name change -
– I raise a point of order. I understood that the Leader of the Opposition said that the justice of the Royal Commission referred to a gross impropriety’. I do not think that the word gross’ was used and it should therefore be withdrawn.
– There is no point of order.
-If the proposed name of Gold Coast had remained in the Electoral Commissioner’s final maps -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask that the Leader of the Opposition withdraw the word ‘gross’ which does not appear in the findings of the Royal Commission.
– There is no point of order.
– If the proposed name of Gold Coast had remained in the Electoral Commissioner’s final maps, any name change would have had to be dealt with openly by the Government and endorsed by the Parliament. But first it would have needed to run the gauntlet of the party room. The then honourable member for Griffith and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) already were deeply suspicious about what was happening in the Queensland redistribution. The then honourable member for Griffith believed that his Liberal Party colleague, the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), was involved in moves to have his seat of Griffith abolished and his prospects of gaining party endorsement for the new seat on the Gold Coast made as difficult as possible. The Government could not afford any incident that might delay parliamentary approval of the new boundaries if the 10 December deadline was to be met. Senator Withers’ phone call to Mr Pearson reduced this risk considerably. That was the real political advantage involved in Senator Withers ‘intervention. That was the real extent of the impropriety that occurred. Yet Senator Withers was no more than the agent of the Government. He was a willing hatchet man in carrying out the Prime Minister’s instructions.
Mr Speaker, the exercise might well have worked without anyone ever being the wiser but for two factors. One was the integrity and the persistence of the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) and his colleague the honourable member for Lilley, both Liberal Party members of this Parliament. As the honourable member for Lilley told this House on 3 November last:
To put it bluntly, I believe that some cheating went on. I am convinced that the Chief Distribution Commissioner in Queensland, Mr Coleman, should be thoroughly ashamed of what went on in that redistribution.
Something occurred between the first publication of maps and the second publication of maps which was not even suggested in any objection or submission or proposition put to the Commissioners. They got a message from on high, perhaps by way of a telephone call.
Where the honourable member for Fadden went wrong was that in taking dead aim at the Minister for Finance he fatally wounded Senator Withers.
The other factor was Mr Pearson, the Chief Australian Electoral Officer. He let the cat out of the bag in his evidence to the Royal Commission on 15 May. Mr Pearson went on the public record for the first time with his testimony of Senator Withers’ telephoned advice on the name change for Gold Coast. That evidence drew the senator squarely into the sights of the Commission’s investigations and, eventually, the Prime Minister’s sacrificial retribution. Until Mr Pearson’s testimony, given some five months after the honourable member for Fadden first made public his allegations of boundary fiddling, the senator’s actions were known only to a small handful of senior Ministers, including the Prime Minister. No doubt it would have stayed like that if Mr Pearson had not been called before the Royal Commission.
The Minister for Finance admits he knew some of the details of Senator Withers ‘ intervention with the Commissioners as far back as October, a full seven months before the matter became public knowledge. His uncontested evidence to the Royal Commission makes it utterly clear that the Prime Minister was told on 17 January, irrespective of the humbug the Prime Minister now seeks to have the House swallow. I will quote directly from the Minister’s evidence, which, despite his word games, he insists he stands by. On pages 1685 and 1686 of the official transcript, the Minister says:
The first time I was aware precisely- and I repeat that word, precisely- of what Senator Withers had done was, in fact, when Senator Withers mentioned it to the Prime Minister. He had mentioned to me that he had spoken to Mr Pearson, and the first time I was aware of Mr Pearson speaking to the electoral commissioners was when Senator Withers mentioned it in the Prime Minister ’s office.
That conversation took place on 17 January. It is the one about which our forgetful Prime Minister professes ignorance because of convenient amnesia. Later, under cross-examination, the Minister for Finance recalled Senator Withers having told the Prime Minister on three separate occasions of his conversations with Mr Pearson. At one point, he said of the 17 January meeting with Senator Withers in the Prime Minister’s office:
That is, Senator Withers- informed the Prime Minister in my presence of his role in the change of name.
Nothing could be clearer or more precise. Not only did Senator Withers tell the Prime Minister of his telephoned advice to Mr Pearson on a name change, but also he told him that Mr Pearson had passed on the suggestion to the three Queensland electoral commissioners. Yet in spite of this specific and damning evidence the Prime Minister had the bare-faced gall, after five days of evasion and deception, of quarter-truths and empty gestures -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I do not know whether the high level of conversation on the Government side is intended to distract the Leader of the Opposition, but it is making it very difficult for me to hear what he is saying.
-There is no point of order.
– I was about to say that the Prime Minister had the bare-faced gall to issue a statement this week saying that the Minister for Finance now recollected that Senator Withers’ remarks to the Prime Minister on 17 January did not include the contents of his conversation with Mr Pearson- just the fact that a conversation had taken place. Either the Prime Minister is lying or the Minister for Finance is attempting the contortion of getting the Prime Minister off the hook without impaling himself. It will not work.
At least seven other Ministers learned of Senator Withers’ involvement over the three months between 17 January and 23 April during a series of meetings called by the Prime Minister to discuss what the senator described to the Royal Commission as ‘this whole vexed question’ of the allegations of the honourable member for Fadden and his refusal to accept anything less than a full judicial inquiry. The Prime Minister wanted no such inquiry. He determined to settle it quietly away from the embarrassing glare of publicity. The cover-up was in full swing. ‘
The entire thrust of the series of meetings that went on at The Lodge and in the Prime Minister’s office over the months between 17 January and 23 April was designed to suppress the truth, not uncover it It failed because the honourable member for Fadden refused to be intimidated, even though the Prime Minister retaliated by sacking him as Government Deputy Whip. On 7 April the honourable member for Fadden ended the months of intriguing and manoeuvring when he announced detailed allegations in this House. On the same day the Opposition called for a royal commission. Three days later the Government tabled its advice from the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) and the SolicitorGeneral dismissing the allegations- advice based on faulty information because nothing had been disclosed of Senator Withers’ role in the affair.
On 12 April the Prime Minister arrogantly rejected any suggestion of a royal commission or a judicial inquiry as ‘a nonsense suggestion’. Yet on 24 April, just over two weeks later, with the House not sitting and the Prime Minister safe from immediate parliamentary scrutiny, the Government reversed its stand and announced the setting up of a royal commission. Even then it was framed as a kangaroo court. The terms of reference were so restrictive as to deny any finding that would implicate anyone other than the Minister for Finance. When the terms of reference were finally extended on 30 May to include Senator Withers, or anyone else, the decision was announced on the eve of the Prime Minister’s departure for overseas. Again he avoided having to answer uncomfortable questions, this time for almost three months. It is a favourite tactic of the Prime Minister. He is always missing from this Parliament when his accountability and credibility are most seriously in doubt.
Yesterday he delivered another savage blow against that credibility. He said in the House:
What I said was that the terms of reference were wide enought to elicit all the facts in relation to the matter, but obviously not as to findings. There is a difference between facts and findings.
We do not disagree with that. In fact, that gives the game away. What the Prime Minister had defined in those terms of reference was so restrictive as to guarantee not only that the findings would be limited but also, as Mr Justice McGregor pointed out in his letter of 12 May, that the facts that could be explored would be limited. Mr Justice McGregor said in that letter of 12 May:
It would not be open to me fully or at all to probe any other matter which is not so set out or relevant thereto without proper and similar authority.
He went on to point out to the Government that if the Government wanted a more extensive inquiry it would have to extend the terms of reference. Very clearly, apart from refusing to carry out the hatchet work that the Government was seeking to incite him to undertake on its behalf, he was making it clear that the terms of reference as they then stood, initially and as amended on 10 May, were in fact so constrictive as to prevent him from exploring anything but those things limited by those terms of reference. In short, the Government was forced to face the fact, because of the rising clamour, publicly, in this Parliament and in its own party room, that the terms of reference would have to be extended, that in fact Senator Withers could not be preserved from his proper fate because of his improper involvement in this matter.
It should be borne in mind, Mr Speaker- this is central to the whole issue; not so much 17 January, although obviously there is a conspiracy there of a very special kind- that by 16 April, on the Prime Minister’s confession, he was aware of Senator Withers’ involvement in this matter; and in fact, so preoccupied was the Government with trying to fabricate a cover-up in relation to this matter that when Senator Withers sought to raise it he was told to forget about it. This, of course, was at a meeting of Ministers. He was told to forget about a crucial incident relevant to a royal commission of inquiry. The Prime Minister consciously sought to limit those terms of reference so that he could preserve not only Senator Withers and the Government but also his own hide from the proper censure that would have flowed from the findings of the royal commission of inquiry and from public debate on this matter. The Prime Minister is deeply implicated in this matter.
There is another aspect of this which needs explanation from the Prime Minister. Mr Toohey, whom I suspect is not the most favoured journalist in the Press Gallery so far as the Government is concerned, wrote an article in the Australian Financial Review in which he extracted direct quotes from comments made by Senator Withers at Press discussions- I presume they were off the record- he had after his sacking. What Mr Toohey wrote is quoted in the ‘Laurie Oakes Report ‘ of 1 4 August 1978. The report states:
Senator Withers asked Mr Fraser at the meeting how he would handle the evidence, given by Mr Robinson to the Royal Commission, that he had prior knowledge of the Senator’s intervention in the redistribution and had not considered it worthy of action earlier this year.
Mr Fraser initially replied that he would deny this.
Senator Withers then said that this would be tantamount to saying that Mr Robinson had perjured himself before the Royal Commission.
Mr Fraser then said that he would say he had no memory of this event.’
There is a substantial difference between saying that he would deny the event, that is, assert that it never happened, and qualifyingly dissociating himself from any knowledge of it by saying that he could not recall the event. Again, the evidence of the endeavour by the Prime Minister to fabricate a conspiracy in his seamy little exercise is further disclosed.
– No wonder Nixon is coming out to advise him.
– Guess whom he is going to call on first for advice. Since December last year the Government has conspired to cover up the central roles of the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers in this affair. Since 7 April the Prime Minister and his colleagues have sought to whitewash the conspiracy. Yet day by day, week by week, the Prime Minister has been drawn more and more into the spotlight. His explanation of the way in which he tried to fabricate and limit the terms of reference for a royal commission of inquiry has yet to be fully attended to by him. He may well be able to use his numbers in this House today to ensure that the censure motion is not carried: but his credibility will no longer stand, nor will public respect remain in any way intact as a result of the tawdry way he has thrown himself wholeheartedly into this cheap conspiracy. Ironically, he has achieved this as much by his efforts to avoid scrutiny as by his clumsy attempts to pin all the blame on to Senator Withers.
The central issue for the Parliament is not the conduct of Senator Withers but the conduct of the Prime Minister. His conduct has not been that of an honest man. Clearly, the events now under review go well back into the last year. Wherever doubts or questions are raised the trail leads inevitably to clear suggestions of heavyfooted pressure being applied from the most senior levels in government. For instance, one intriguing piece of evidence given to the Royal Commission concerned a conversation exactly 1 2 months ago. in August last year, between the Queensland Electoral Officer, Mr Coleman, and the Western Australian Electoral Officer. The evidence concerned an entry of the name Fadden1 in Mr Coleman’s diary on the dates of 22 August and 24 August. Asked what this might have represented, Mr Coleman told the Royal Commission that his Western Australian counterpart, Mr Bobbie Nicholls, had phoned him from Perth to say:
Frank. I don’t think much of your name of Gold Coast.
In his evidence Mr Coleman continued:
I am sure in my own mind that he continued on after that and said ‘ Fadden. Frank. Fadden ‘.
I remind the House that Mr Nicholls is based in Senator Withers’ home State and as an officer of the Australian Electoral Office would at the time have been directly responsible to the senator as Minister for Administrative Services. I also remind the House that it was only three weeks later- I ask honourable members, at least on the Government side, to pay some attention to this point- that Senator Withers made exactly the same suggestion in his phone call to Mr Pearson, who then passed it on to Mr Coleman. Where Mr Nicholls failed to influence the commissioners, the Minister, through the Chief Australian Electoral Officer, did not. Again I ask honourable members, Government members especially, to listen to this: There is another disquieting example of what can only have been seen as a none-too-subtle attempt to exert ministerial pressure on a public servant. Page 1745 of the official transcript includes a copy of a record of conversation between Senator Withers and the then Deputy Chief Australian Electoral Officer, Mr L. D. Emerton. The conversation took place on January 6 this year. According to the minute, drafted by Mr Emerton. Senator Withers voiced the opinion that Mr Cameron’s- the honourable member for Fadden- published allegations of boundary rigging were defamatory of the Minister for Finance and also of the Queensland Electoral Commissioners. Senator Withers felt the Minister’s position in the Government, ‘really precluded him from taking legal action against his party colleagues’. But listen to this: Senator Withers then asked Mr Emerton whether the Queensland Electoral Officer, Mr Coleman, had considered suing the honourable member for Fadden. When Mr Emerton said that he did not know, and pointed out that many public servants subject to such abuse ‘normally grin and bear it’, Senator Withers replied that he believed the matter was most serious and he was surprised that Mr Coleman and the other Commissioners had not acted.
The viciousness of the retribution of senior Ministers in the Government is clearly evidenced by this testimony before the Royal Commission. There were no limits to the ends to which they were prepared to go to try to snuff out the opposition and criticism of the honourable member for Fadden. He is the only man- with the honourable member for Lilley I should addwho comes out of this incident with a clean reputation, with his integrity intact. Did the Prime Minister ever seek to discourage the Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, from trying to destroy the political career of Mr Cameron in the way in which I have outlined, in the way in which it is outlined and can be verified in the transcript of the evidence before the Royal Commission? Nothing could be more shoddy. Where is the loyalty of the Prime Minister to his own members? He was prepared to destroy one of his own back benchers in his desperate effort to have him silenced so that he could get the electoral boundaries through as quickly as possible and rig an election which was unnecessary except for the fact that the Government was in economic trouble.
I would suggest, given the many other distasteful aspects of this affair, that this was an obvious and crude move by Senator Withers to attempt to silence the honourable member for Fadden by back-door methods. If Senator Withers’ suggestion had been adopted, clearly it would have solved the Government’s problem. The Prime Minister would not have needed to take any action at all on Mr Cameron’s allegations pending the outcome of the legal suit against him. That, quite literally, could have taken years. What. I wonder, might the Prime Minister’s role have been in setting up that piece of machiavellian behaviour against a member of the Prime Minister’s own party? I find it difficult to believe that Senator Withers would have acted on his own initiative on a matter so politically sensitive. Besides, it was only six weeks later, after the honourable member for Fadden refused to agree to a closed police inquiry, that the Prime Minister dismissed him as Deputy Whip.
Seven years ago a member of this Parliament stood in this House and said:
The Prime Minister, because of his unreasoned drive to get his own way. his obstinacy, impetuous and emotional reactions, has imposed strains upon the Liberal Party, the Government and the Public Service. I do not believe he is fit to hold the great office of Prime Minister . . .
That member, Mr Speaker, as you no doubt recall, was the right honourable member for Wannon, himself now the Prime Minister in this country. He made those remarks in a speech of resignation as Minister for Defence, a speech which 24 hours later was the catalyst for the removal of the former friend and party colleague, of the member for Wannon, Prime Minister John Gorton. Prime Minister Gorton was the first leader of his party stabbed in the back by the member for Wannon. As you well remember, Mr Speaker, he was not the last. The member for Wannon repeated the process four years later upon yourself in order to gain the leadership for himself.
On neither occasion did he pay the slightest regard for the loyalty of leadership and party unity which he invokes to save his own skin now that his own conduct and behaviour have been called into question. To borrow a phrase from seven years ago, I do not believe he is fit to hold the great office he usurped, both in his party and in this Parliament. I display nothing but contempt for him.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion, Mr Speaker. It is a motion of censure of the Government for reasons that are known to this Parliament. For the past fortnight -
-I interrupt the honourable gentleman for just a moment. Is it the intention of the honourable gentleman to continue with his speech?
– Yes, Mr Speaker.
-I should say that the Leader of the House has indicated to me that the motion has been accepted by the Government as a motion of want of confidence in the Government. Accordingly, the time limits for speeches set out under Standing Order 91 will be applied to this debate.
– The motion is one of censure, as you have said, Mr Speaker. It is the most serious motion that any government can face. It has not been moved lightly. For the past fortnight the Opposition has been asking the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and others to confirm or deny matters that are known to be true because of evidence given to the royal commission known as the McGregor Royal Commission. There is a report for the Parliament to see in the sense that the Royal Commissioner himself has reported on that evidence. There is also other valuable extraneous evidence, particularly the Press reports relating to background briefings by the sacked Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers. It is well known that a change in the name of an electoral division in Queensland is of major political significance. It has now been admitted- it has been admitted for some time- that the person involved in the change of name was Senator Withers, who was a Minister of the Fraser Government. He has been found guilty of impropriety because of his action and he has been sacked. However, the motion before the House seeks to prove that he is not the only guilty man. The Prime Minister is guilty of misconduct and improper conduct in this matter and, in our view, is not entitled to retain his office. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) is guilty of improper conduct and, again we submit, is not entitled to hold his office. The integrity of the Parliament must be maintained. The honesty of the Ministry must be guaranteed.
Let us look at what this debate is all about. As I have said, it is about a matter of major political significance. It is a known fact that if the electoral division now known as McPherson had been called Gold Coast the future of a Minister of this Government would have been in jeopardy. I refer to the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). The evidence is very clear. We were told before the evidence was given that the redistribution was dishonest. We knew of the misgivings of the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron). He made allegations which, he said, proved that the redistribution was dishonest. Evidence given before the Royal Commission clearly showed the significance of the change of name of the electoral division. It was on this basis that the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) said that Mr Robinson would be in danger if the name was changed. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) said that the change of name was of immense political significance. Sir Alan
Hulme said to Mr Robinson that he would have had a National Country Party candidate running against him if the name was not changed back to McPherson. The most significant evidence of all came from Mr Sparkes, the President of the National Party in Queensland, which is a party that could have been encouraged to run a candidate against Mr Robinson. Mr Sparkes said that members of his party were very incensed with Mr Robinson for his conduct in the past. He had won the seat from the National Party and they were incensed about the State Liberal Party running candidates against the National Party in Queensland State elections. Sir Bruce Small was defeated in a National Party seat. They say that he was defeated because there had been a threecornered contest. It is confirmed -
– Is this the same speech you made the other day?
-It is the truth and it is about time the Deputy Prime Minister admitted it. I am glad to hear such an interjection because the Deputy Prime Minister said that this whole matter was of no significance. On 9 August Mr Sparkes, the Leader of the National Party in Queensland, said on A.M. to the people of Australia:
There was intense pressure … to run a candidate against . . . Robinson, and had the seat been called Gold Coast … the pressure would have been very much greater and it could well have caused . . . the Party to decide to run a candidate against Mr Robinson.
That is the reason why the name was changed. On 9 August -
– Now read his evidence to the Royal Commission.
-The Deputy Prime Minister does not want to hear the truth. He should not try to avoid hearing it by interjecting. He should get up and talk later. This was the issue. Then we come to the Royal Commission. The significant part of the Royal Commission is Senator Withers’ evidence. What he said to the Royal Commission is very significant. Certainly the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General knew that he had acted to guarantee that that name would be changed. That is the impropriety- that is the reason for the man’s removal from the Ministry. But that was known.
If we examine the Royal Commission evidence we see that Senator Withers said that prior to 27 October, which was the date the redistribution had to go through this House, the allegations by Cameron had to be considered. But the Government- that is the evidence- decided that Cameron’s allegations were to be ignored.
The maps had to be rushed through the Parliament; there could not be any further delay; the election had to take place in December. The allegations had to be ignored; that was a Government decision. When asked this week whether that was true evidence, the Prime Minister said: No, it was not’. The only allegation he claims he ever heard of had something to do with the former honourable member for Lang. So, he denies the evidence of his Minister whom he has now sacked. Was Withers guilty of perjury when he said that? I submit that he was not. The issue is that the Prime Minister would have known that there had to be an election and there was going to be no interference with that sort of conduct.
Again, we have the situation of Mr Robinson giving very clear evidence that the first he knew that the Prime Minister knew of Withers’ conduct was on 17 January. But he did not limit his evidence to that. He said there were three occasions on which the Prime Minister heard of Withers’ conduct. We have this ridiculous situation dragged out in questions last week of Robinson being asked to sign a letter that he might have had a hazy recollection of the facts. The man would have been hounded out of public life if he had signed such a letter. It would have made him look a complete nincompoop if he had suddenly signed a letter saying that perhaps he was wrong and the only occasion he did certainly know of was on 23 April or, as he said in his draft letter, when it was mentioned by Mr Pearson in the witness box in May. I ask honourable members to bear in mind that his own evidence stated that there were three occasions, not one or two but three specific occasions, when he heard this matter mentioned in the Prime Minister’s presence.
The Minister for Finance made a statement in this House on 10 April in which he admitted that there were discussions in the Prime Minister’s office on 18 January. He again admitted that Senator Withers was there and that the Attorney-General also was there. So, there were frequent discussions. That brings me to another point. Senator Withers himself said in evidence in the box: ‘We were discussing this matter nearly every week. There were seven or eight meetings with Munsters when we argued about what we were going to do’. As my leader has said, we gained this information not from the Government but from a Press background briefing given by Senator Withers to indicate what the plan was. The plan was to sweep it under the carpet; not to let the public know the true position. ‘We are all guilty’, said Withers.
We all knew what I had done. We all knew that but the idea was to try to get terms of reference that related only to Eric Robinson’. That is the way the terms of reference were to be drawn because there was no evidence that Robinson would ever be found guilty. ‘I am the guilty one ‘, says Withers, ‘but if we can get the hearing on the basis that the Commissioner is confined only to findings against Robinson and there is no such evidence then this evidence cannot come out’.
– What is the next fairy tale?
-This is not a fairy tale because the problem we come to in this particular issue is the bona fides of what has happened in respect of the Attorney-General. This is the crux of the matter. Withers also gave a background briefing on how the terms of reference were drawn and who drew them. He made the incredible announcement- it came out in the National Times- that the terms of reference were discussed with the Prime Minister’s Department and senior members of the Liberal Party who were neither parliamentarians nor public servants. Is this the standard of conduct of a proper government? The terms of reference, of course, were aimed at Eric Robinson, aimed at the man that they felt would be able to get out because there was no evidence against him. But at that stage everybody knew of Withers’ involvement. Let us see where the first such admission is made. Withers himself wrote a letter to the AttorneyGeneral on 21 April saying: ‘I am involved’. He told the Attorney-General that. We must ask: Why is it then, if Withers said on 2 1 April that he was involved, that the terms of reference on 24 April made no reference to Withers at all?
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member use the correct title. He should refer to Senator Withers.
-I am using it in the transcript concept. Very well, Mr Speaker; the worthy Senator Withers wrote a letter to Senator Durack, the Attorney-General, saying that that was the position. On 2 1 April the terms of reference were released and they made no mention of the fact that Senator Withers could be involved. I say that the terms of reference were phoney and deliberately designed to mislead the Royal Commissioner and to mislead this Parliament. The evidence was clear.
Then the felony was compounded; but before I refer to that let me advert to a letter, containing an opinion, from the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General, addressed to the Prime Minister and dated 23 April, which was tabled here. The letter stated that they had received a letter from the honourable member for Fadden making allegations. The letter continued:
We have also been recently informed of the existence of further evidence which bears upon our previous report to you.
It is our view that further investigation is required. The investigation would need to establish the correctness of conflicting allegations and is therefore of a nature we are unable to undertake.
What were the conflicting allegations? They were the allegations by the honourable member for Fadden that the Minister for Finance had intervened improperly, and the admission by Withers two days before that he had intervened. There was the conflict. That was the reason why there had to be a royal commission.
Why were terms of reference not drawn up on the basis that the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General knew that there was a conflict and had suggested that there should be a royal commission? There was a complete cover-up operation. No Solicitor-General would have drawn up those terms of reference. They were drawn up behind his back. He could, in all honesty as a lawyer, fairly, properly and full of integrity, say that there was a conflict of evidence. What was the conflict? It was between the evidence of Withers and the evidence of the honourable member for Fadden. That is the crux of the matter. That is what the public ought to know. This was a known fact and was the reason for having the Royal Commission.
The matter was compounded further on 11 May. We must bear in mind that the terms of reference had been expanded on 10 May to include matters concerning uranium. On 1 1 May Senator Durack, as Attorney-General, wrote to Mr Justice McGregor. He made no reference to the expansion of the terms of reference; but, in the course of the letter, he stated:
The Government has not, however, been informed of the nature of these matters; no specific allegations having been made.
I say that that is a lie. The Attorney-General knew, on 11 May, that he had a letter from Senator Withers revealing his own involvement. That was a further allegation. The AttorneyGeneral did not tell the judge of it. The further allegations were not included in the terms of reference. What did the judge do? His Honour immediately wrote back to the Attorney-General. There was no hesitation on his part. His Honour is not as dull-witted as those involved might have thought. His Honour referred to the first letters patent dated 24 April and to the exension of the terms of reference on 10 May, a matter to which the Attorney-General did not refer. His Honour, on 12 May, firmly stated that it would not be open to him fully or at all to probe any other matter which was not within his authority. In other words, he was saying: ‘How can I possibly make any findings against anybody other than Robinson? If you want me to do that, the proper thing to do is to expand the terms of reference. That is for you to decide ‘.
The judge said in the letter that he would not proceed to deal with any matter which was outside the terms of reference. Any other approach, he said, would be improper. He said that he was not going to undertake a roving investigation; that he intended to avoid that. That was the position. Why is it then that the Government could not have said to His Honour: ‘You had better have a look at the allegations Withers has made’? That evidence was to be kept from the learned Royal Commissioner. It was not until Mr Pearson got into the witness box on 15 May and told the truth, which everybody knew- that there had been a contact between Senator Withers and the commissioners, indirectly, through him, to change the name- that the terms of reference were expanded.
Every day for the last fortnight we have been asking the Prime Minister why the terms of reference drawn up on 24 April did not include the allegations that obviously were to be made against Withers, he having admitted his action on 21 April. The answer the Prime Minister has given has been: ‘Oh well, we have always assumed that all the evidence could be given’. The letters show clearly that it could not have been given unless the terms of reference were expanded. There could not have been any finding. There was no new evidence. The evidence of the involvement of Senator Withers came out by admission on 2 1 April, and what Pearson said in the witness box was merely confirmation of it. What was the new evidence that was going to come out? All that happened in the Royal Commission was the confirmation of what Senator Withers had done, on his own admission to the Attorney-General on 2 1 April that he was involved. What new evidence was going to come out that would encourage the expansion of the terms of reference? It could not have happened.
This was a despicable action by the Prime Minister to try to deceive the Royal Commissioner. Without providing any new evidence, the Attorney-General had to limp meekly into the Senate and say: ‘I am going to have to expand the terms of reference again because the Royal Commissioner was restricted by the initial terms of reference to making findings only about the conduct of Mr Robinson. That is the real indictment of this Government. No Prime Minister is entitled to hold his position if he manipulates his Government in that way. The Prime Minister knew very well what the terms of reference of the Royal Commission were about. I do not know who drafted them but it is pretty clear that the Solicitor-General did not do it. I do not know whether Mr Eggleton had a hand in it but it is known to have been approached on a party political basis. Those terms of reference were drawn up by the Liberal Party, not on any basis of justice. That is the indictment of this Government.
The expanded terms of reference were eventually dragged out of the Government. As Senator Withers said in the background briefing: ‘We were going to sweep this matter under the carpet. The only person going to be involved was Eric Robinson. He had done nothing so he would get out of it. Of course I was involved, but we were not going to have that matter really debated.’ That is the indictment. Why is it that although the admission was made on 2 1 April the terms of reference drawn up on the 24th did not include the conduct of Senator Withers? Why is it that the Attorney-General attempted to deceive His Honour by saying that if His Honour found anything new perhaps he would like to suggest that the terms of reference be expanded? Of course, the idea was to let the Prime Minister off the hook. He would not have to be involved. But the Attorney-General knew on 2 1 April. We go back to the cardinal fact on which this position hinges, the opinion on 23 April by the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General that there was further evidence- it was not specified but it would be the admission of Senator Withers two days earlierwhich conflicted with statements by the honourable member for Fadden, and that there would need to be a judicial inquiry.
When the Government had that advice that there needed to be a full judicial inquiry why did it then draw up terms of reference which would prevent the Royal Commissioner from investigating the conduct of Senator Withers? That is the conspiracy; that is the deceit; that is the reason why no explanation can suffice. Everything that Senator Withers said in the background briefing was true, that the Prime Minister was going to have a hazy recollection and that things were going to be swept under the carpet. It was suggested that there would be new terms of reference but that the Liberal Party would look at the nature of them. That is the real position. The people of Australia are entitled to know that Senator Withers admitted his guilt in a letter of 21 April. That was known to the AttorneyGeneral at the time. It was known to the Prime Minister at the time. This House was deceived because it was not told about it. The basis of the terms of reference dragged in here was to prevent any finding- I make that point advisedlyfrom being made against anybody other than Mr Robinson. In other words we aimed at the wounded rabbit but we wound up shooting the pigeon in flight. We had no idea what was going to happen. The Government knew all the time that Eric Robinson had been suspended and perhaps he would get back.
Once the issue came out and once Mr Pearson said in the witness box that it had been known all the time, why did we have to expand the terms of reference then? What Mr Pearson said on 15 May was known to the Government months previously. It was known to the Attorney-General because he had seen the letter written on 21 April. It was known to the two chief law officersthe Attorney-General and the SolicitorGeneral on 23 April. That was the conflict of evidence on which they in their recommendation for an inquiry to resolve that conflict relied. Why then did the Attorney-General enter into correspondence with the Royal Commissioner and say that he knew of no other matters? That was a lie. Why did he go on to suggest that the Royal Commissioner himself might expand the terms of reference if he found anything, when the Attorney-General himself knew of one matter?
It is on that basis and for that reason that for a fortnight the Opposition quite genuinely has been probing this matter. It has been doing so on the basis of the integrity of this Government. It is not fit to administer the welfare of this country if it cannot be honest and open. If it sets out again to convict itself by conspiracy to deceive in the manner in which it has, surely there are Ministers with enough integrity to suggest that this should not be allowed to continue. Surely they can see what will happen to their Government if it continues on this basis. Surely Attorneys-General who conduct themselves in such a way are not entitled to remain as the first law officers of this land. Who will have respect for the Government’s integrity, its justice, its impartiality or its honesty if it allows this matter to continue? It is for that reason that the Government is guilty and that honourable members opposite ought to agree to the censure motion.
-Order ! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker, from the outset the only purpose of the Government in relation to these matters has been to see that any allegations that might have been made were pursued properly and vigorously so that the full course of the truth could be revealed. The charges of the Opposition are absurd. A government that wanted to cover up something in relation to these matters would not refer anything to the Attorney-General and to the Solicitor-General, an independent statutory officer appointed originally by a Labor administration and a man of great honour in this community. That was done not once but on a number of occasions. If there were any suggestion of a cover up this Government would not have a Royal Commission inquiring into these matters- a Royal Commission whose original terms of reference were drawn to make quite certain that all the facts would be elicited in relation to these matters, and whose terms of reference were later widened so that it could make findings in relation to any person, no matter who that particular person might be. In short compass, those facts show quite clearly that the Government’s purpose has been to make it quite plain that the truth will be revealed and that appropriate and proper actions will be taken. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) in these debates has been trying to make this Parliament his coward’s castle. He used this Parliament yesterday and on earlier days to suggest that a judge might be bought in relation to these matters. That stands uncorrected; that stands not withdrawn in the records of this Parliament.
- Mr Speaker -
-Here is the coward now, corning forward to seek to deny the record that stands quite plainly in the Parliament.
-The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– The Prime Minister is becoming somewhat frantic, frenetic -
-Order! If the honourable gentleman has a point of order he may raise it.
– May I raise a point of order? I have never suggested that a justice, least of all Mr Justice McGregor, might be bought. I would not doubt that the Prime Minister would try it with half an effort, but that is a different thing.
-There is no point of order. The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
-The Leader of the Opposition is recorded in Hansard of 15
August 1978, at the bottom of the first column of page 21, as saying:
If that is not an imputation against Mr Justice McGregor I do not know what is.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. There is misrepresentation again. I said that that was the view of the Government, and I suspect that it still is from what I have heard from Deep Throat on the other side.
-There is no point of order.
-The record stands. That is what the Leader of the Opposition said in relation to that matter. He also tried to suggest that one of the purposes of the Government was to make sure that there would be no delay in getting the redistribution through. Of course, nobody from the Opposition, from the Labor Party, suggested that, as to boundaries, the redistribution was not completely and absolutely fair. But so far as the name changes were concerned, Dawson was changed to Macquarie. That did not delay the passage of the maps at all. Altering any other name, had it been the Government’s intention or purpose to do that at that time, could not possibly have delayed the passage of the redistribution.
The Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) have sought to make much of the events of 23 April and the terms of reference of 24 April. How often do we have to make one or two simple points in relation to these matters? The original terms of reference were drawn in such a way that all the facts would be elicited in relation to the whole matter. The Attorney-General made quite certain that the letters of Senator Withers and Mr Pearson and the facts related to those conversations would be brought before the Royal Commissioner. That would not have been done if there was any suggestion of a cover-up. It was done to make quite certain that all the facts would be revealed and, because the allegations were focused on the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) and the electoral commissioners, it is not unnatural as to findings that, as originally drawn, the terms related to those persons. But as evidence was revealed in May by Mr Pearson and Senator Withers and, as I have said before in this place, as the purport of a statement on 4 November in the Senate and the substance of it came to be more fully relevant to the totality of what had occurred, later in May the terms of reference were widened as to findings. I think the relevance of that ought to be noted in relation to this evidence because the Minister for Finance has emphasised very fully that it is the totality of his evidence that needs to be taken into account and, to balance what has been put on page 1685 of the evidence let me read certain words. The Minister for Finance said:
I was only aware how the name came to be changed when Mr Pearson gave his evidence in the detail to the Royal Commission.
It was after that point that the terms of reference were widened as to findings.
The Leader of the Opposition says that the charge of misleading Parliament was not made lightly. He is right. It was made out of desperation by the Opposition because it has no attitudes, no purposes, no policies in relation to the main matters of concern to the Australian people- the working men and women whom the Labor Party once in the distant past used to represent but whom it no longer represents. After hearing the Leader of the Opposition’s antiBudget speech, is it any wonder that the Labor Party jumped at the chance to avoid talking about the Budget and to avoid questioning the Treasurer (Mr Howard) once again about the Budget, about inflation, about jobs and about growth. These are matters on which the Labor Party has no credible alternative to offer; only despair and desperation.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! A matter of very considerable parliamentary and national importance is before the House and continual interjections from my left do not do anything for the consideration of the matter or the dignity of the House or the national Parliament I ask honourable members to listen to the speech of the Prime Minister in silence.
– It is no wonder that Opposition members want to talk on topics on which they are the experts- cover-ups, conspiracies and misleading the Australian people, for which they have been condemned not once but twice by the totality of the Australian people. Let no one forget that the Labor Party is the party of incompetence and deceit; the party of the loans affair; the party dismissed from government for trying to rule without parliament; the party that tried by coercion in 1975 to take over the Australian people’s savings for its own use as a last desperate attempt to stay in power. The Leader of the Opposition, as we well know, was the architect of that illicit, illegal and improper move to force the trading banks of Australia to finance the affairs of government without the sanction of the Parliament or the people.
The Labor Party is a party whose notions of propriety and integrity were such that it was prepared to mortgage itself to Iraqi benefactors. It is the party whose former President, Mr Hawke, when he was asked on television what was the most notable achievement of his career as President of the Australian Labor Party, said: ‘Oh, to smooth down that party; to save Gough from that particular breakfast’. What a wonderful time it must have been if that was the only achievement that Mr Hawke could remember of his presidency of the Australian Labor Party. I suppose that in some years time Mr Batt will have no better achievement. We all need to understand that the Labor Party is condemned by its own attitudes and its own approach to politics and life in this Parliament. There was never any public inquiry about the loans affair, nor was there a public inquiry about the Iraqi money affair, which would have mortgaged the future of the Labor Party and put it to ransom to people from overseas. The Labor Party dealt with those issues in the only way it knew how- by burying them, by misleading Australians, by pretending they never happened and by covering up, which was its style of government from start to finish.
What a contrast that makes with the way in which this Government has behaved on this issue! It has behaved with utter and complete propriety from start to finish- propriety which the Labor Party, through deliberate distortion and propaganda, has sought to exploit. It is strange to Labor Party members when people behave openly and honestly in relation to these matters. It is strange to them when a Royal Commission is established to inquire into matters so that this Parliament and the people can know the truth of them.
Let us look at this Government’s actions. Allegations about the McPherson redistribution were promptly examined by the law officers and then by a Royal Commission. The matters have been referred to the law officers not once but on a number of occasions. That is an action of a government that is open in its affairs and is prepared to have them scrutinised by the people of Australia and by this Parliament. The Commission’s terms of reference initially focused on the Minister for Finance and the electoral commissioners, as I have indicated, for reasons that the Attorney-General has advised this House on many occasions. The allegations had related solely to the Minister for Finance. If there was to be a cover-up in relation to this matter the terms of reference themselves would have had to be drawn in a way that would prevent the facts coming out. In contrast to that, the terms of reference were very deliberately drawn in a way that would make quite certain that the facts would come out. The Attorney-General took deliberate and direct action to make certain that all the facts relating to Senator Withers and the telephone calls would be revealed. Nothing that the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition may say can ever overcome that plain and simple truth.
Before the hearing started the AttorneyGeneral informed the Royal Commissioner of the Withers-Pearson conversation so that it would be fully aired. The terms of reference, as we know, were widened sufficiently to encompass findings in respect of any Minister or public servant- any person. That is not the action of a government or administration which is seeking to cover up any aspect of its administration or affairs. The inevitable consequences flowing from the Royal Commissioner’s findings were accepted by the Government, the Government took the required steps and a full statement was made in this Parliament. These acts should have satisfied any responsible fair-minded Opposition. They do not satisfy the Labor Party- the party which judges the actions of everyone by the methods which the Labor Party uses itself and which are inherent in the whole attitude and philosophy of Labor. The Labor Party knows that if such allegations had been made when it was in government it would have dealt with them very promptly. It would have dealt with them by covering up. Now Labor Party members are again trying to recreate the fettered environment which is their natural habitat, where any innocent act can be distorted by slur and by baseless innuendo and deceit into a grotesque caricature of what really happened. The Labor Party is unable to fault the Government’s impeccable behaviour. So its members took up an article which maliciously distorted private and confidential discussions between Ministers. That article, as we have seen, is utterly untrue. The substance of it was immediately denied by the Minister for Finance, and by me, in this Parliament. Mr Speaker himself ruled last Wednesday that the Minister for Finance, by his answers, had denied the basis of the article’s allegations. The Labor Party chose to ignore those clear denials, exploiting the Government’s reluctance to disclose confidential conversations between Ministers. Of course, in the Labor Government’s time there never were confidential discussions between Ministers. Labor Party members cynically hoped to whip up a climate of mistrust in the Australian community.
The posturings of the Leader of the Opposition would have been laughable but for the fact that, by constant smear and innuendo, they left me no alternative but, with great regret, to disclose precise details of confidential ministerial discussions. They demonstrate beyond any doubt that the allegations of the Leader of the Opposition, as parroted over recent days, arc without foundation and that whatever was put to the Minister for Finance a week ago or so was entirely unobjectionable. Indeed, the fact that the Australian Labor Party now has tried to switch its attack from that to what happened on 23 April- what happened then in the widening of the terms of reference- indicates that its members also accept that whatever happened in relation to that over the last week or two was in fact unobjectionable. But the Leader of the Opposition keeps going. He keeps trying to hide the fact that, in relation to the Budget, the Labor Party has nothing to offer to the mainstream concerns of the Australian people. He hopes that his verbal cliches can hide the fact that he has nothing of substance and nothing of meaning to say about the great issues before the Australian people.
This Parliament has been given the facts in relation to 1 7 January. It has been given the facts in relation to 23 April. It has been given the facts in relation to the letters written to Mr Justice McGregor and by Mr Justice McGregor to the Attorney-General in relation to the broadening of the terms of reference, and the fact that that letter related to various allegations that had been made, in not specific terms but about that time, in relation to uranium. Because the Government wished the matters to be fully probed if they were revealed before the Royal Commission, that letter was written by the Attorney-General. The fact that the letter was written is further evidence that the Government wanted the truth of these matters to be revealed in their entirety for the scrutiny of this Parliament and the Australian people. The Opposition seeks to try to pervert that simple truth into something which bears no relationship to the truth whatsoever.
The phrases expressed by the Leader of the Opposition are the rattles of an empty man leading a defeat-ridden Party- a party which is in decline and which over the last two elections has suffered the greatest defeats in its history. That record will continue while it remains on this path. It is a party which is in decline and which is dedicated only to fostering fear and frustration. The Labor Party, headed by its Leader, has decided to emphasise despair and disruption as its tool. It wants to reduce Australia’s hopes and aspirations to ashes so that it can rise phoenix-like from them. It should remember that phoenix was only a myth. The Labor Party’s strategy is only an illusion, but there is no doubt that that is the strategy it holds. When he was in India the Leader of the Opposition disclosed that strategy and indicated that he was anticipating a situation in which there would be strong political resentment. The Labor Party was hoping to capitalise on that to its own advantage. This is cynicism at its most base, especially when the Leader of the Opposition plays internal domestic politics from a public platform overseas. But the Leader of the Opposition did that time after time during his recent visit. It is something that should be deplored.
His latest outburst has probably transformed bellyache Bill’ into ‘Hayden the hypocrite’, the man who actually promotes confusion and despair in Australia because he wants some personal political gain. The Leader of the Opposition has nothing positive to contribute. He has adopted a strategy of denigration and despair. The Leader of the Opposition is a nothing posing as a negative. He has systematically sought to destabilise the Australian economy. Over the last 18 months he has attacked the balance of payments. He has sought to frustrate efforts to get interest rates down. He has sought to deny that inflation is coming down. He has done everything he possibly could to prevent recovery in this country. He does not have any success because the results of our policies are evident; they are accepted. This Government, with its economic policies, will take Australia forward into a new era of development and progress of which all Australians will be proud.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. The debate this morning is about the reprehensible conduct of the Prime Minister; it is not about the economic policies of the Leader of the Opposition. I ask that you rule accordingly and direct the Prime Minister, to answer the serious charges that have been made this morning by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, namely, the Prime Minister’s reprehensible conduct.
– There is no point of order.
-The relevance of the Labor Party’s policies in this matter is the fact that it has no policies. Therefore it has to pursue these matters. It has nothing constructive to offer about the government and the future of Australia. Any charges that might have been made this morning have been clearly, fully and openly answered. They can be answered in short compass- as indeed they have been. The answers are plain and they are clear. The Labor Party knows very well that this is the end of the road for this particular issue.
I think that what the Leader of the Opposition is doing in relation to these matters is very clear. What did he have to say about the rally in Sydney which he inspired to violence? First of all, it served a very important purpose.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that the Prime Minister has a congenital problem but it does not justify him in constantly misrepresenting my position, my behaviour or what I have done. Yesterday there was an unfortunate contretemps because of something I said which really was justified on the basis of his behaviour the day before which you did not restrain. I suggest, Mr Speaker, that you ought to restrain that assertion and -
-Order! The honourable gentlemen will make his point. What is the point?
– The point is that he is accusing me of having inspired violence. It was his Budget that inspired the distress in the community. If you are going to allow that, Mr Speaker, you must expect that there will be an effort by the Opposition to achieve retribution. I am suggesting that in our mutual interests we ought to have -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that he has moved a censure motion against the Prime Minister. In response to that censure motion the Prime Minister is defending himself. On that basis I am prepared to allow what the right honourable gentleman says to go forward. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that many of the remarks which he made against the Prime Minister in moving the censure motion would not have been permitted except on the substantive motion which he moved. In that environment I permit the right honourable gentleman to defend himself.
-The Leader of the Opposition likes to try to protect himself but he cannot take it. He knows quite well that at that meeting in Sydney he inspired violence. He also knows quite well that the target of the violencethe Sydney Stock Exchange- was quite deliberately and cold bloodedly chosen because it was thought that that target would get the greatest publicity overseas. That again is just a typical example of the Leader of the Opposition seeking to frustrate Australia’s progress and development. He will not be successful in doing that because everyone understands that there is no need to take account of what the Leader of the Opposition says and does or what are the policies of the Australian Labor Party because that party will have no opportunity to apply its policies to this nation for at least 20 years or until it can get a little more sense than it has shown over recent times. The Labor Party’s policies certainly will fail.
The Leader of the Opposition has made a grave and fundamental error in his tactics because he has underestimated the Australian working men and women, the people who put members into this Parliament. I do not include those who caused the riots and formed the rabble in Sydney and who jump when the Leader of the Opposition says jump. The people have long realised that the Labor Party, the party of the trade union hierarchy, is no longer representative of their interests. The Labor Party has abandoned them in the past and it would discard them again now in favour of those who tend to pursue violence and to seek their objectives by violence. The Labor Party has moved away from the real needs of the working people of Australia by pursuing peripheral issues such as this one when it knows quite well that the rest of the nation is utterly bored with it.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is candid about the situation. He has admitted that in 1975 the workers did not vote for the Labor Party- and they have not done so since. They will not start voting for the Australian Labor Party on the basis of the performance of the Leader of the Opposition. There are not too many members left like the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) who was a genuine representative of the working people of this country. As the days pass and as the years go on, members like the honourable member for Hindmarsh and their ilk -
– What have I done to you? What have I done to deserve that?
– It was that friendly letter which the honourable member wrote to me yesterday seeking certain information about past events that made me see him in a kindly light. I thank him for that letter. I hope that a proper answer to it can be expedited so that his book can be assisted. I am sure that the information that will be provided will assist him in the purpose underlying the book.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was candid. He admitted that in 1975 the workers did not vote for the Labor Party. They have not done so since, and they are not going to do so. Since then the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a statement in an interview which was an unusually candid one for him. In that interview he admitted that he had a family trust and was involved in real estate development deals while he was a Minister. I think that is of some notenot the fact that he has a trust but something else in relation to it. I think we ought to note this because it identifies in very plain terms the double standards, the hypocrisy, the lies and the deceit of the Australian Labor Party. The trust has been involved in a number of projects- buying, building and selling- over the years. Real estate projects in which he is involved at the moment through the family trust include a shopping centre at Mount Gravatt in Queensland, a housing development on the New South Wales coast, a number of houses in Sydney suburbs and land. Seven or eight of his children have property holdings. Well into land deals is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. One of the troubles with people who become honest on some occasions is that we remember their dishonesty on earlier occasions.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman is not entitled to attack the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, except on a substantive motion. I ask him to cease.
-Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The inference by the Prime Minister is that I have engaged in something improper. I ask that it be withdrawn. I have disclosed my total assets to the community. I invite him to do the same. He has maligned the members of my family in his accusation. There is nothing improper in what they have done. 1 have eight children. They pay their taxes. They have not evaded any tax. The Prime Minister is trying to get out of his deceit and lies. I ask for a withdrawal.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has indicated that he is offended by the reference. I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has mistaken the reference.
Opposition members- Withdraw!
-Order! The House will come to order. I have requested the Prime Minister to withdraw. This is a very similar situation to yesterday, when I requested the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw. I will not press the right honourable gentleman to withdraw. I put the matter to him with a request that he withdraw.
- Mr Speaker, if you are putting it to me that you would demand that any other member of the Parliament withdraw the reference, obviously I withdraw it. I do not want to have a special rule applied to me as the Leader of the Opposition does in relation to these matters. Therefore I withdraw it because I believe that the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister should not be in a separate position. But I have to make it perfectly plain that I am not attacking the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has a trust; I am not attacking the land deals of the trust. I am attacking the fact that on 3 December 1977 in the National Times he denied that he had a family trust. That is the hypocrisy.
-Mr Speaker. I take a point of order. I have gone on record as saying that the report in the National Times was not accurate. I have no family trust. I told the National Times that I have trusts for my children. That is completely different. I know that it is difficult for honourable members to understand. Some of my children have a trustee. I do not have a family trust company. All this was disclosed to the National Times. It only printed my answer to its question as ‘No’. I invite the National Times to print the whole answer that I gave at the time. There is no deception.
– I think we can pass on from that matter.
-I think that would be very desirable.
-This Government has responded to the needs of Australia by getting the underlying factors of the economy right, reducing inflation and interest rates and introducing family allowances, the greatest social reform in history.
-Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I draw you attention to Standing Orders 67, 71, 72 and 81. all of which deal with relevance. There is a specific motion before the House and it deals with all aspects of the Royal Commission. The Prime Minister is not dealing with the Royal Commission. He is dealing with matters which are not relevant to it in order to try to hide his own dishonesty and culpability.
-The honourable gentleman ought to be aware that a motion of no confidence in the Fraser Government was moved. The motion was adopted by the Leader of the House as a motion of want of confidence in the Government. All the issues are therefore before the
House. What the Prime Minister is saying is relevant to the motion of no confidence in the Government.
-Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The House has been told that the Prime Minister will take to the coward’s castle and gag this debate immediately he sits down. He has made serious charges. Can the Government give an undertaking that it will allow the matter to be debated?
– There is no point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-The honourable member for Corio is doing what he and other members of the Opposition often do in these debates. They make allegations and claims through points of order which they know are false and hypocritical, and they continue with them. They are just showing themselves in their true light, as they have throughout the whole debate..
The matters that were raised in the Parliament and in other places in relation to the electoral redistribution of Queensland have been exhaustively answered and pursued by the Royal Commission. Opposition members have produced no evidence about anything else. They cannot. They can only try to besmirch, twist and distort the truth to serve their own purposes. They want to do that because they are terrified of the economic progress of this Government. They know now that there is a light on the hill. They know that inflation and interest rates are coming down. They wish to divert the people of Australia from that knowledge. They know quite well that Australians contrast what the Government has done with the policies of the Australian Labor Party. They know, therefore, that the only hope for the Australian Labor Party is to get into the atmosphere in which they excel.
The electoral redistribution in Queensland has been fair. Nobody has ever suggested that the boundaries would not be fair. Only today there was a suggestion about rigging the boundaries. The Royal Commission has examined these matters exhaustively. It had the capacity to bring in findings in relation to any person. It did this in a proper way. I suggest that the people of Australia are now bored with the Australian Labor Party.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman ‘s time has expired.
-The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) lacks integrity. He squirms and resorts to smears and irrelevancies in order to defend himself. What a pathetic and tragic defence it was. He spoke of
Iraqi breakfasts, the 1975 Budget and Budget rallies. He was down in the gutter with deceptions and lies about the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). He said nothing to defend himself against the serious charge laid against him that he was the root cause of a massive Government deception, a conspiracy to deceive the Parliament of the nation and a royal commission established by the Parliament to inquire into allegations about electoral changes in Queensland.
This matter goes right to the core of the Government. One of its senior Ministers would not now be present in this House had the name of his electorate been changed. There would have been a National Country Party attack upon him which would have been successful. The Government moved corporately to defend him. Senator Withers was called in to do the dirty work. What was a Western Australian senator, even if he was in charge administratively of the Australian Electoral Office, doing by meddling in the change of name of a Queensland electorate? Did he know about all the domestic politics of Queensland and the wranglings between the National Country Party and the Liberal Party? Of course he did not. He was given the mail by Ministers opposite, with the Prime Minister’s concurrence, to put his hand into the redistribution processes and to tell the Distribution Commission that they wanted the name changed. That is the central issue involved in this debate.
There was a conscious attempt by the Government, with the Prime Minister’s knowledge, to pervert a redistribution for clear political purposes. The Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) knew about it. The Prime Minister knew about it. There was a cover-up which was succeeding until the Prime Minister clumsily dismissed the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) as the Deputy Government Whip. Understandably, the honourable member for Fadden took umbrage at that. The Government had tried to take his seat from him some months before and was now pushing him from the position he had achieved in the Parliament. Understandably he exposed the Government, and its contrived cover-up, its conspiracy of silence and its plan to mislead Parliament came unstuck. The Government then tried to bury the issue in a royal commission with limited terms of reference. That is the issue here.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out earlier, the terms of reference were established when Parliament was not in session. They were established when they realised that the issue would not go away. They thought, ‘At least we can have a limited inquiry where real exposure will not happen, where the real subterfuge of the senior Minister, in the person of Senator Withers, will not be exposed as having had Government concurrence in involvement in this shady electoral practice’.
So we see the terms of reference establishedlimited, of course, to an investigation of the role of the Minister for Finance, Mr Eric Robinson, in the question of the naming of the electorate of Gold Coast. But what happened? Senator Withers, in the course of his ministerial responsibilities, was asked to appear before the Commission. Not being a terribly bright witness, he put his foot right in it and started to expose himself. Upon questions being asked in Parliament it was clear that there was an involvement improperly by him in the processes of the electoral redistribution. It was only at that time that the pressure came on to extend the terms of reference, to inquire into the matter of the involvement of Senator Withers.
The Government, of course, in trying to slide out of the issue, wrote to the Royal Commissioner suggesting that he could extend the terms of reference so that he could inquire into any other person, but the Royal Commissioner promptly wrote back and said that he could probe no other matter which was not set out. The issue is not 1 7 January- although we on this side of the chamber believe, and have proven that the Prime Minister knew of the issue then- not October last year when the conspiracy started, when the initial telephone call was made to the Commissioners, but that on 2 1 April the Prime Minister was apprised by letter, in writing, by Senator Withers through the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), that in fact he had been involved improperly in the procedure. The Prime Minister knew of it, the Attorney-General knew of it, yet the terms of reference cast three days later, on 24 April, did not of course in any way allude to the involvement of Senator Withers, and did not extend the charter of the Royal Commission to inquire into any involvement of Senator Withers.
So the Government, rather than jettison Senator Withers at its own hand, tried then to extend the terms of reference by having Mr Justice McGregor do their dirty work for it. Quick as a flash the Royal Commissioner, Mr Justice McGregor, replied that he would have no part of it, that he would not inquire into any matter which was not set out. Of course, the Royal Commissioner knew that the terms of reference were inadequate; that he could not embark upon an inquisition, but he also realised where the principal intervention came from. Of course, it came from Senator Withers, with the Government’s concurrence. So what do we find then- a discussion in the Government parties. Mayhem broke out and the Prime Minister decided that he would expose and jettison Senator Withers to save his own skin. So we see the terms of reference extended on 30 May to permit findings on persons other than Mr Eric Robinson. The Prime Minister knew, Senator Durack knew, and the Government knew that with any competence whatsoever, the Royal Commission was bound to expose Senator Withers, and that then the Prime Minister in his usual fashion would knife and jettison him to save himself. That is precisely what has happened. The terms of reference were extended on 30 May. The Commission started its investigation of this matter and in the report which was finally produced and handed to the Prime Minister, Senator Withers was impugned as acting, in the judgment of the Royal Commission, improperly.
When Senator Withers, at the Sydney Cabinet meetings, raised this matter, what was the response from the Prime Minister? We have the documented facts, as written by Mr Toohey from the Australian Financial Review, from Senator Withers’ background briefing, which said that Mr Fraser initially replied that he would deny this and that when Senator Withers said that this was tantamount to indicating perjury from Mr Eric Robinson before the Royal Commission, Mr Fraser said he would say he had no memory of this event. Of course, that is what has happened. Everything that Senator Withers predicted has come true. The Prime Minister’s only defence has been that he knew nothing of it. But yesterday, when he was pinned down by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition around the April date and asked, in the clearest possible terms, why he approved terms of reference which would not permit any findings- and the Deputy Leader emphasised the word ‘findings’- about the conduct of Senator Withers, the Prime Minister said- and listen to this for a glib reply:
So the terms of the Royal Commission were never widened, and never needed to be widened in relation to the eliciting of facts.
He went on to say:
Against that total background it was then believed that the terms of reference of the Royal Commission should be widened to enable the Royal Commission to bring in findings in relation to any person. . . . However, let me emphasise again that the terms of reference, as originally drawn were drawn in such a way that all the facts would be elicited.
Drawn so as to elicit facts but not drawn so as to bring in findings. What a piece of pathetic semantics that is. What a miserable, hopeless defence. The Prime Minister smiles on the front bench. He knows that he has been exposed in front of his Ministers, his back bench, the Parliament of the nation and the public of Australia as a man who has deceived this Parliament, who has tried to deceive a Royal Commission, and who has clearly and plainly been found out. He comes in here talking about Iraqi breakfasts. That was two elections ago. He talks about the 1975 Budget and about Budget rallies. He would not defend himself because he knew he could not. He drew the terms of reference- his Attorney drew the terms of reference- knowing clearly that those terms of reference would not allow the Commision to bring in findings against Senator Withers.
So, of course, in the final analysis, Withers had to go. The man who perpetrated the refusal of Supply, the man who facilitated this appalling, this unprincipled climb to the Prime Ministership of Australia, the principal architect, the principal lieutenant of the Prime Minister in his rise to power in 1975, is knifed in the back so as to save the great man, to enable him to continue his destiny. So we find that Senator Withers is pushed out, yet the sheep on the back bench of the Government would not take the Prime Minister on because they well knew that there was nobody within their ranks to replace him. He hangs there on that simple propositon: That he is crook but there is no one else to replace him, so he will survive the experience. They will come in today and vote against the motion.
There were attacks upon Prime Minister Whitlam and he acted with integrity. Our Ministers went. Our Government was put up for grabs, in terms of political disintegration, because Ministers were required to observe standards. Yet this Minister, who is the Prime Minister of Australia, lacks any integrity and will observe no standards whatsoever. How he can sit in a Parliament in the Westminster system when he is found out so clearly in a debate like this is, of course, beyond me. He has a hide as thick as an elephant. It is impossible to prick this man’s conscience, to offend him or to elicit any sense of shame for him whatsoever. So all we have seen is just a cover up, a conspiracy to deceive the Parliament, a conspiracy to deceive the Royal Commission.
What was the one card that brought the whole thing down? What opened up Australia’s Watergate? It was the sacking, the clumsy, stupid sacking of Don Cameron as Deputy Government
Whip. Why would he not sack him? I hear that Don Cameron said to the Prime Minister after the election: ‘What about considering me for a position in the Ministry?’ The reply from the Prime Minister was not the reply of a man with the gumption to say: ‘I do not think you are up to it’ or ‘I do not think you are good enough’. The reply was: ‘Eric Robinson told me you were not up to it’. Why would not Don Cameron, the honourable member for Fadden, take umbrage at the fact that, first, they tried to wipe him and his seat out; secondly he was refused a position in the Ministry; and, thirdly, of course, he was dismissed as Deputy Government Whip? On those three factors rests the exposure of the Prime Minister’s complicity and duplicity in the most eleborate cover up, the most perfect conspiracy to deceive the Parliament that we have ever evidenced in this country.
Now everthing hangs upon the denial, the denial of 17 January: How can he explain himself away there? As if 17 January mattered. We think it mattered on the basis that he knew about it, but even given that, 2 1 April is clear. There is a letter which was handed to the Attorney-General by Senator Withers giving information about his involvement in the affairs of the redistribution in Queensland. So at least on 21 April the Prime Minister knew but the terms of reference were drawn so as to include only an investigation of Mr Eric Robinson. But when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pinned down the Prime Minister yesterday the Prime Minister said that they were drawn to elicit facts but not findings. What a defence for a man who claims to be an honourable man!
We have seen recently in this country perhaps the most appalling set of political circumstances that we have ever seen. We have seen a denial, a resort to hazy memory and now, of course, a shabby attack upon the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, a shabby attack upon the Leader of the Oppositon and false charges about incitement to riot and the rest at Budget rallies. No defence whatsoever has come from a man whom we on this side of the House believe is unfit to be Prime Minister, a man who lacks any integrity whatsoever and a man who should not enjoy the confidence of his own Party let alone the confidence of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– The motion before the Parliament is a pathetic motion. It demonstrates the complete incompetence and the futility of the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). Today an attempt has been made to try to dent the high standing and integrity of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). That attempt has failed miserably. No. new evidence whatsoever has been brought up. It has been an exercise in tedious repetition of speeches that we heard last week and of reports in the newspapers. This is a desperate effort by the Leader of the Opposition to try to reinstate himself in the eyes of the public after what has been a rather disastrous week for him.
Those honourable members who listened to the electronic media last weekend must have been utterly bored with the hysteria of the Leader of the Opposition in saying that there was a major political crisis, that the Prime Minister’s integrity was under challenge, that the Prime Minister had been misleading the Parliament, that this week he was going to bring down the Prime Minister and that the Government was at risk. This was repeated ad nauseum. But what happened? We came here on Tuesday expecting a censure motion to be moved. Nothing of that sort came forward. A few insipid sorts of questions were asked, the same sorts of questions as the Press had been writing about over the weekend. The day went by. On Wednesday no censure motion was moved. Today, the last day of sitting before the Parliament will be in recess for two weeks, a censure motion has been moved. The Opposition realised the desperate situation it was in and that it would be made to look a fool in the eyes of the electorate if it did not move such a motion. So it came forward with this motion in an attempt to justify the hysteria of its leader during the week.
What a week it has been for the Leader of the Opposition. We heard his reply to the Budget. Goodness me! The Prime Minister exposed just how inane the Leader of the Opposition is when he is trying to put forward an alternative proposal for running this country. The Leader of” the Opposition’s alternative proposal was a collapse, an utter failure. Of course, after the news reports of his disgraceful behaviour in Sydney where he tried to incite members of the public to go out and to misbehave- they certainly did so- the Australian people reacted. They realised that there is not a man in the Opposition who is an alternative Prime Minister. So in desperation the Leader of the Opposition has come forward today with a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister. This debate has been a failure as far as the Opposition is concerned. The Prime Minister’s standing today and his integrity are higher than ever because the allegations have been proved false. The Australian people have had time to examine, to analyse and to realise that he is a man of great standing. That will be demonstrated time and time again. I know that it is something that the Opposition finds very hard to understand.
Let us look at what has happened during this debate today. The Leader of the Opposition came forward with his motion. Really, with due regard to him, the other two speakers from the Opposition were far more preferable to listen to. The Leader of the Opposition really did not have his heart in it. He was battling up hill. He realised that he had to do something after his week of failure. So he came forward with this motion. There are probably half a dozen honourable members in the ranks of the Australian Labor Party who could have done better than he did. Certainly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) put on a better performance. I found him more interesting to listen to. No doubt the members of the media will say that the Leader of the Opposition certainly was not what they were hoping he would be after all the publicity they had given him during the week.
I must confess that I do have a certain amount of sympathy for the Leader of the Opposition in this regard. He served his ministerial apprenticeship between 1972 and 1975. He grew up as a member of a government which was surrounded by the continuous smell of scandal. He was a Minister in a government whose stock in trade was deception, a government whose Ministers one by one were sacked for dishonesty or for misleading the Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition was a member of a government which had little regard for standards, ethics or integrity. So it is little wonder that he has a suspicion of other people. He has been a Minister in such a government that it is very hard for him to believe that there are people who live and work by high standards, as members of this Government have done. Because of his experience in government he cannot believe that we now have a Prime Minister of integrity, a Prime Minister who demands from his ministerial colleagues the highest of standards.
I think it is fair to say that a comment made in an article in the Australian this week had a lot more truth to it and was a lot more significant than the author probably realised. The report stated that the Prime Minister claimed that he was concerned about breaching the confidentiality of ministerial discussions. It also, stated that this was unlikely to cut any ice at all with the Prime Minister’s political opponents. Of course it does not matter what we say on this issue as it will not cut any ice with Opposition members.
They are just going to continue to repeat their accusations. Their philosophy is that if they do enough character assassination and keep repeating their allegations for long enough something will ultimately stick. That seems to be the philosophy of the present Leader of the Opposition, who is conducting a personal vendetta campaign. He feels that the only way in which he can make any ground with the Australian electorate is by prying into people’s personal affairs. Let him try to do that. Let him follow that course.
We saw how the Australian public reacted in the last general election when the private affairs of the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) were brought to the attention of the Australian public. Frightful allegations were made against him, but what was the result? The Australian people, for the second time, returned this Government with an overwhelming majority and turned their backs on the Opposition, which they did not feel was worthy of any consideration at all. While the Opposition continues this course of action that is the way it will be treated by decent Australians. Millions and millions of decent Australians- the majority of the Australian people- want to see this Government get on with the job of running the country, of trying to overcome some of the enormous problems we face, rather than see this penny-pinching attitude of the Opposition of splitting straws and bringing forward the issues it has brought forward. Goodness me, there were issues for debate in its day! They were issues which could really crumble great pillars. But today what is the Opposition trying to do? It is trying to undermine by sniping away continuously. It has failed and it has failed dismally. During the week we saw another personal attack emanating. We heard the Leader of the Opposition turn to the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) and say: ‘You’re the next in. We’re going to get you’. Somebody else reinforced those remarks. I think I should note in passing that it is quite obvious that the Leader of the Opposition has private and confidential information concerning an inquiry into the affairs of the Leader of the House that has been carried out by the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission. That inquiry has been carried out by Mr Finnane, who is a prominent and leading member of the Australian Labor Party. I think that the fact that such a man is appointed immediately raises the question: How genuine is this inquiry?
It is certainly quite obvious that the Leader of the Opposition has been put on notice that here are grounds for yet another personal attack on a leading member of this Government. This indicates the style of the Labor Party. It seems to me that the Opposition’s first plan is to attack the person and not to worry about policies and principles. Opposition members think that if they attack and denigrate people they have much more chance of succeeding. Serious allegations were made regarding the redistribution of boundaries in Queensland. After serious consideration of this matter the Prime Minister decided that the best way of handling and resolving it was to appoint a royal commission. There can be no higher authority in this country than a royal commission. There was no cover up. Any information that the Government felt it could give before that royal commission was given immediately. When there was a need to expand the hearings of that royal commission, when allegations were made regarding uranium share dealings, they were expanded. When it was necessary to expand the terms of reference of the Royal Commission to incorporate anybody who might have been involved in the matter, that was done. How can anyone make the allegation- an attack on this Government- that we have tried to cover up or that there has been a conspiracy? What a lot of rot.
If one looks at the newspaper reports of this week one will find that the Prime Minister very reluctantly had brought forward what had happened in private conversations between Ministers. Heaven forbid if this is going to be a practice of government. How can governments act in the best interests of this nation unless Ministers are able to put all their points of view about people and about situations. Goodness me, the Opposition is virtually asking us what we are thinking about; and if we are thinking about something we are committing a major breach of parliamentary rules. The Prime Minister, however, realising that the issue had grown to this magnitude, did answer the challenge. If honourable members opposite like to read the Age or the Australian Financial Review they will find that those newspapers said that the Prime Minister had completely and absolutely absolved himself of any charges made. Yet these people opposite have the audacity to try to resurrect this issue time and time again. I think I can speak on behalf of the members of this Parliament when I say that we are bored. I am sure that the Australian people are utterly and completely bored with what has been going on- this pinpricking attitude of the Opposition.
The Government of which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) was a member left many questions unanswered. The Opposition talks about us not answering questions. I can remember the way we worked day after day, month after month, trying to prise out of the Labor Government why Senator Murphy carried out the raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. That question has not yet been answered for the Australian people. What was the basis for the raid? There were many other questions raised. We were never told the details of the loan scandal affair. That was a matter of great principle. The Australian nation was being sold out to people of dubious character who were prepared to lend not a few million dollars but thousands of millions of dollars so that the Labor Government could carry out its nationalisation program for industries in this country. Yet these questions were never answered. Of course, we had the sacking of Clyde Cameron. Even Clyde Cameron cannot tell us why he was sacked. Goodness me; it was an horrific period. Honourable members might recall the Iraqi breakfast money affair. That undoubtedly would be the greatest political scandal of this country- indeed, of any country. A political party was prepared to sell itself out to some overseas power, some foreign power.
Goodness me, do not let anybody say they entertain the thought that this Opposition is an alternative government of Australia. To come in here the way Opposition members do and try to ferret out every line and every sentence of a royal commission inquiry, to rely on newspaper reports and innuendoes, to try to say that the integrity of this Government is not sound, and to try to make out that there is a conspiracy is absolute futility. What this whole exercise has demonstrated today is that the Opposition is not competent to be the alternative government of this country. This matter has been resolved, and it has been resolved clearly, fairly and honestly. I believe it has been accepted by the Australian people.
It is about time the Opposition now got on with the job which it is expected to do as an opposition- that is to provide analytical criticism of the Government’s economic policies and performances and to put up alternatives. The Opposition seems to be running away from those issues. Either it does not have the competence to deal with them or it does not want to do that. The Opposition would rather keep ferreting out these personal issues. Well, it can do so. The Australian people will judge it accordingly. But if the Opposition thinks that it will get any discontent or division within the ranks of the Government it will be completely dissatisfied. Honourable members opposite will sit as shadow Ministers fighting shadows for years and years. That is all this exercise has been- a shadowing exercise. Honourable members opposite have been chasing suspicions in their own twisted minds. That is the sort of government they operated. We do not have that sort of government running Australia today. The Opposition’s exercise today has failed. The Australian people will have no time for honourable members opposite while they continue this course of action.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– You have no integrity and no guts.
-Order! The house will come to order. The honourable member for Corio will remain silent.
– I apologise.
– You are not a dingo.
– Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will remain silent. He is making a scene of himself.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put-
That the motion (Mr Hayden’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I ask that questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the Advisory Council for Inter-Government Relations Act 1976 1 present the Advisory Council’s first report entitled ‘Short-Term Interchanges of Staff’.
– For the information of honourable members I present details of special flights by the Royal Australian Air Force for the period 1 January 1978 to 30 June 1978. Copies of this report are available from the Table Office.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-The honourable gentleman wishes to make a personal explanation. He may proceed.
-This morning the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) claimed that in the parliamentary debate record it was recorded that I said:
The correct attribution is:
There would be sympathy for Senator Withers later from the Prime Minister -
I was talking about an effort to have Mr Justice McGregor expand the terms of reference- but as for now his attitude would be: ‘Stiff luck old boy, you cannot trust those judges. They do not know when to stay bought. He extended the terms of reference on you ‘.
Clearly I did not assert, as the Prime Minister suggested, that you cannot trust those judges; they do not know when to stay bought. Rather, I indicated what the Prime Minister’s attitude would be. It is a shame that he has to forge evidence so compulsively in this House.
-The honourable gentleman has made his explanation.
– That just shows what a dishonest Prime Minister he is.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will withdraw that remark. I remind the House that a censure motion has been debated and immediately resolved. I will not permit interjections of that kind without a substantive motion. The honourable member for Newcastle will withdraw.
– Seeing there has been a substantive motion moved and defeated I will withdraw it.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I withdraw it.
– I hereby present:
I seek leave to make a statement.
– The agreements which I have tabled represent important steps in the establishment of a network of bilateral agreements between Australia and countries wishing to import Australian uranium. The purpose of these agreements is to ensure that when Australia supplies uranium for peaceful purposes it will not be diverted to non-peaceful or explosive uses. To this end the agreements incorporate stringent safeguards and controls on the use of uranium we supply to other countries for peaceful purposes.
Agreement with Finland
The agreement with Finland incorporates all the Government’s safeguards requirements as announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 24 May last year. These are:
The agreement itself establishes the safeguards obligations which Finland and Australia have accepted; the accompanying letter concerns the practical implementation of these obligations. It does not change or dilute the agreement itself. Finland is dependent on other countries for processing services such as enrichment and fuel fabrication and for disposal of spent fuel after use. It wished to have some indication from Australia of how, in practice, we would see the safeguards agreement affecting its plans. What Australia is saying in the letter is basically that our concern is with non-proliferation and it is not our wish to impose on Finland practical problems unrelated to this.
Far from constituting any ‘watering down’ of the Government’s announced safeguards policy, the Agreement includes provisions not explicitly foreshadowed in the policy statements but which add to the effectiveness of the Agreement. These are: A right for Australia to have access to relevant conclusions of the IAEA on its inspections in Finland; an article on sanctions which will apply if a recipient breaches the agreement or does not comply with IAEA safeguards; and an article providing for arbitral procedures to resolve any disputes over implementation of the agreement. We do not, of course, start from the assumption that countries with which we make nuclear safeguards agreements will seek to breach them, or their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or their obligations under safeguards agreements with the IAEA. On the contrary, we will make such agreements only with countries which we expect to faithfully abide by their safeguards obligations. But the sanctions envisaged are serious ones and their acceptance in the Agreement is an earnest of the seriousness of the commitment which the Agreement represents. The prospect of an interruption of supply is a very serious deterrent and sanction for a country dependent on outside supplies of fuel for its nuclear power industry and reliant on nuclear power for an important portion of its electric power.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), when he learnt the terms of the Agreement, said that it would not be acceptable to an Australian Labor Party Government. In international affairs, treaties are binding undertakings between nations, not trval matters to be upset at the whim of a government of the day. A government which repudiated its international treaties would be regarded internationally as irresponsible and untrustworthy. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has claimed that, if there were a dispute over the Agreement, the arbitration provision would take control out of Australia’s hands. This is not so. Australia is not required to wait for an arbitrator’s decision before taking action. The arbitration clause is a normal one in international treaties and it provides an impartial mechanism for dealing with any dispute that might arise in the implementation of the Agreement. The inclusion of the arbitration clause protects Australia as well as Finland. It does not strengthen the hand of one party against the other. The Australian Labor Party has hitherto had a policy of support for the peaceful settlement of international disputes through arbitration and judicial settlement. In the absence of an arbitration clause, a dispute arising in relation to the Agreement would have been subject to the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice- as a result of action taken by Australia during the term of office of the Labor Government. Arbitration was preferred because it is likely to be more expeditious, simpler and less costly, and involves procedures whereby parties to a dispute agree on the terms in which it is to be submitted to the tribunal.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has also criticised the Agreement by saying that it contains no prohibition on stockpiling ‘weapons usable’ material by Finland. The Prime Minister’s statement on 24 May last year did not say that there would be a prohibition on stockpiling of weapons usable material. There was no need for such a provision in our policy because the point is covered by other provisions of the policy. The production of weapons usable material requires, as a first step, high enrichment or reprocessing. For this reason, the statement of the Prime Minister on 24 May 1977 required, and the Agreement provides, that Australian material can be enriched over 20 per cent or reprocessed only if Australia were satisfied at the appropriate time as to the conditions and arrangements. We would, of course, not be satisfied with arrangements which posed a proliferation risk; this is explicit in the Agreement. We would not, of course, agree to high enrichment or reprocessing for other than peaceful purposes.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been quoted in the press as saying that in the Agreement ‘there is an explicit endorsement of reprocessing to produce material for long term storage, which material would be usable for weapons’. There is no such endorsement. Australia has reserved its position on reprocessing while this is under study internationally, notably in International Fuel Cycle Evaluation. The Agreement fully protects this position. As the Prime Minister said on 25 August last year, one of the points on which we would need to be satisfied, before agreeing to reprocessing would be ‘that there is not excessive stock-piling of plutonium in a way that could pose future proliferation dangers’. The Agreement itself specifies nuclear non-proliferation considerations, as well as Finland’s energy requirements and need for efficient and proper waste management, as factors which would have to be taken into account by Australia in considering any request for approval to reprocess.
I want to make it clear that the Government has never said that it intends to prohibit the reprocessing of Australian uranium. The Government has never portrayed its policy as a veto’ policy. It should be understood that the Government, in seeking consent or discretionary provisions on reprocessing in bilateral safeguards agreements, is reserving the right to decide the conditions under which the reprocessing of Australian supplied material might take place. Obviously we would not permit reprocessing of Australian supplied material if the conditions and arrangements were not fully satisfactory from the point of view of nuclear nonproliferation. I might add that, contrary to assertions by critics, there is now widespread international acceptance that suppliers have a legitimate interest in ensuring that reprocessing takes place only under conditions which are considered to be satisfactory from a nonproliferation point of view. This is inherent in the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group which were published in February 1978. All of Australia ‘s major potential customers in Western Europe, and Japan, have accepted these guidelines.
Agreement with the Philippines
The Agreement with Finland is to be the first of many. The Agreement with the Philippines similarly incorporates all the safeguards requirements announced in our policy statement of 24 May 1977. The texts of the two agreements are, of course, not identical, as they reflect a different negotiating history and different concerns on the part of the Philippines and Finland. Nevertheless, honourable members will see that both are equally effective in meeting the requirements of Australia’s nuclear safeguards policy. The letter accompanying the Philippines Agreement, which is an integral part of the Agreement, covers different ground from the letter accompanying the Agreement with Finland because it responds to particular questions raised by the Philippines. In terms of the Government’s nuclear safeguards policy, the important point to note is that the accompanying letter in no way detracts from the obligations accepted by the Philippines towards Australia. I might mention in particular the physical protection provisions in the Agreement with the Philippines, as I gather the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has raised a technical question about the standards they present. In technical terms, this provision derives from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s document INFCIRC/254, which in turn generalises INFCIRC/225 Rev. 1. In layman’s terms, and at the practical level of implementation, what matters is that the standards of physical protection required are in substance the same. Moreover they are the standards set out in the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Agreement with the United States
The Interim Agreement with the United States is a document of a different sort. It has two essential purposes. In the first place it signifies the decision by the two governments to renegotiate their existing nuclear co-operation agreement of 1956 with a view to bringing the safeguards therein up to the standard required by their current policies. In the case of the United States, that is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978. In the case of Australia, it is the Prime Minister’s statement of 24 May last year.
The second main purpose of the Interim Agreement is to provide a means for the administration of the discretionary clauses in the two countries’ present and future safeguards agreements. The effect of this arrangement, in essence, is that, should a third country importing Australian uranium so desire, the United States could act as its agent in seeking Australia’s approval for a particular transaction or industrial operation. As honourable members will readily appreciate, this arrangement involves no surrender of Australian control, nor any weakening of the obligations of importing countries towards Australia under our safeguards agreements. It is merely a matter of their administrative convenience. Honourable members may recall that a similar interim agreement between Canada and the United States in November last year opened the way for the successful conclusion of Canada’s negotiations with Japan on nuclear safeguards.
The Interim Agreement also demonstrates conclusively that suggestions that Australian policy is at odds with that of the United States are groundless. In the Agreement, the United States spontaneously pays tribute to ‘Australia’s leadership role in preventing nuclear proliferation’. It also remains the case that the United States and other countries attach importance to Australian uranium being available to the rest of the world. This is because the availability of Australian uranium will of itself make technologies based on reprocessing and the use of plutonium less attractive and help to avoid a premature movement in this direction. Further safeguards agreements will follow. A draft agreement with Iran has been negotiated at the level of officials and is to be considered shortly by the two governments. Negotiations are also well advanced with several other countries. Each agreement will be made public as it is signed. The Government’s nuclear safeguards policy is not only a highly responsible policy for the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons; it is also an eminently practical and internationally workable policy which is already demonstrating that it is successful.
Motion (by Mr Eric Robinson) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) made a statement to the House relating to model safeguards agreements which the Government has entered into with Finland and the Philippines and the exchange of letters constituting the interim agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States. Let me make it clear that the Opposition’s policy on uranium is to oppose the export of any of it at the present time. We do not deviate from that policy. It should not be implied from our participation in this discussion on the terms of these agreements and our criticism of them that if they were to be rectified in any way we would accede to the proposal to export uranium. The difficulty which always occurs in a debate of this type about whether an agreement is strong enough or otherwise is the question of whether the Opposition would be prepared to allow uranium to be exported if the agreement were strengthened in the way in which the Opposition would like it to be strengthened.
Let me deal with the issues involved. For the first time, the agreements have been presented to this Parliament. That in itself has been a matter of concern to the Opposition. For some time now the Opposition has been saying that the Parliament, as the representative of the people of Australia, should have a chance to look at and discuss the types of agreements that have been circulated throughout the world on behalf of this Parliament. I am advised that as early as last November, Australia had no less than 15 potential buyers for its uranium. There is no need for me to enumerate all the countries involved. All of them had copies of our model agreement, but when we asked the worthy Minister for Foreign Affairs whether we could have a look at it he said that there was no way that he was going to discuss it with us, that it was a confidential matter. Despite all our questions, we got nowhere. We had to rely on the Sydney Morning Herald, a reputable newspaper, to tell us on 23 June what might be our approach to a model safeguards agreement. This is not good enough.
Anyone who has spoken to people in the United States who are interested in nuclear technology, non-proliferation and safeguards will know that the United States Congress itself solemnly debated in advance the type of safeguards agreement which it would approve. Nobody in the United States would dare suggest that that Government would enter into arrangements without having the approval of its Congress and without having public debate and information as to the types of agreements that were being offered to potential buyers.
In the statement today the Minister said that Australia will enter into agreements with countries which we expect will faithfully abide by their obligations. There will have to be a good deal of hope in respect of what other countries might be expected to do. Governments change and issues change. To expect new governments to abide by their predecessors ‘ obligations is to put far too much credence upon what other countries may do. For example, there was a problem with the nuclear explosion in India, which was unexpected. That was certainly disappointing from Canada’s point of view in terms of what it thought were the arrangements it had entered into with India. We are saying that in the process of selling uranium this Government cannot guarantee that the uranium will not be used for other purposes or for weapons. How can this Government give such a guarantee when it loses physical control of the uranium.
The statement made by the Minister talks about how effective these agreements will be. Let me advert to some of the matters that we raised before. We said that the Philippines agreement incorporates weaknesses. We said that those weaknesses had been apparent in the Finnish agreement. We went further and said that Article V of the Philippines agreement- in other words, Article IV of the model and Finland agreementremoves from the agreement any explicit reference to the need for non-proliferation treaty safeguards to be in place. Article VII of the Philippines agreement- that is, Article VI of the model and Finland texts- weakens the physical security provisions by taking away the requirements of earlier texts for review and updating. In other words, a government could look at those details in the agreements and see in them how it, as the seller, has lost the control that it would need in terms of giving adequate safeguards to the world, particularly to Australia.
Once the uranium is used it creates a disposal hazard. In the process of that disposal or reprocessing a further hazard is created in the creation of plutonium and the weapons grade material issue. This is the point that has been put to me on behalf of the Opposition. It has been said that the draft agreement- that is not this one but any one- is seriously defective in the terms of what we know it to be, as published in the Sydney Morning Herald, in the way that it lays down the circumstances under which fuel reprocessing can be permitted, namely, that it can be permitted on taking into account ‘the relationship of the request to legitimate energy needs, the applicable controls and safeguards and the need to avoid stockpiling of strategic nuclear material in a way that could increase the risk of proliferating nuclear explosive capabilities’. That is the point. The agreement with Finland is weakened in this sense: I am advised that the letter between the ambassadors makes it clear that Australia will not necessarily require that a bilateral safeguards agreement with Australia must be in operation with any country upgrading Australian uranium- that is, conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication from Finland. It is clear that no guarantees can be given that Finland will actually end up with the uranium which left Australia on contract for Finland. I am told that the Finns buy a fair bit of their power from Leningrad. That is a normal arrangement, but that is where they get it. Leningrad has a nuclear capacity. These are some of the factors that should have been made known to the Australian people when we were discussing these matters.
Both the letter and the preamble to the agreement point out that this agreement, especially inrelation to reprocessing, is conditional upon the outcome of International Fuel Cycle Evaluation studies plus unspecified new international arrangements and institutions- for example, the nuclear non-proliferation review. The danger is that the agreement sets a precedent with regard to reprocessing. If these studies are regarded as so important, why pre-empt them? These changes weaken the conditions and add a loophole. Finland will be able to use the argument that reprocessed fuel is easier to store or dispose of in order to justify procuring a stockpile of plutonium. The major constraint to reprocessingthat is, restrictions on stockpiling plutonium- is removed. This completely reverses the emphasis in the draft, and is a major back-down.
The parties are no longer obliged to supply each other with copies of reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency on its verification activities but only the overall conclusions of the most recent report by the IAEA. Given that the IAEA special safeguards implementation report of 1977 describes the inadequacies as being in material control and accounting procedures and the concern of the United States National Radiation Advisory Committee that insufficient country by country information is available, this change is a significant relinquishing of vital knowledge and power by Australia. The effect of the arbitration procedures in the event of a dispute is to remove the final interpretation from Australian control. In other words, we agree to be bound by the decision of the arbiter. It is of no use saying that we have not weakened the position once we have agreed to arbitration. We have agreed to be bound. In the event of a dispute we will lose physical control of the situation.
– Didn’t you notice the point about the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice?
-The point I want to make is that in our view there is no guarantee that the export of our uranium will not mean the proliferation of nuclear material. There is no adequate guarantee. There is no way of guaranteeing it. This Government is relying on expectation, hope and confidence. There is no other way of doing it. This is the great danger. The Australian Government is relying on other governments. In our view they cannot be relied on because we will have no control over what happens to that material. Once the uranium is used the next step is enrichment. Many countries do not have enrichment facilities. The uranium is sent elsewhere for enrichment. The Australian Government will have no idea whether Australian material will be mixed with other materials. There is no identification of it. The next step is waste disposal and reprocessing. The Australian Government will have lost control completely. It will be relying on safeguards to which other countries might adhere. This is the big problem.
We notice, for example, that the Government has been anxious to do business with France. In all honesty the Government would have to admit that the Australian people must have some misgivings about the attitude of France to nuclear explosions. We are sending representatives to Europe to negotiate with those countries to take some of our beef if we sell them some of our uranium. That is not the way in which to transact business. However, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) has been in this sort of situation. He said that he did not hear of the recent underground nuclear explosion in the Pacific. I do not think he meant that in a physical sense; I think he meant that he had not read about it. But we are attempting to negotiate with France the sale of our uranium. With the greatest respect to the French, they could not care less about the Australian public when it comes to nuclear safeguards. They are more interested in what they think is in the best interests of France. As far as they are concerned, it is not in their best interests to cany out nuclear tests anywhere near French territory. They have no objection at all to carrying out such tests in the Pacific. When we were in government we had untold trouble in trying to get the International Court of Justice to guarantee that France did something about this matter. France has never signed the non-proliferation treaty and it does not agree to be bound by it.
So why are we venturing into this area? Why are we just trying to make a quick buck, as we might say, by means of trade? That is not the way to handle the situation. Although the Minister for Foreign Affairs is usually pretty vocal about these matters, I notice that he did not have much to say, if he said anything at all, about the French nuclear explosion of recent weeks. I think that is a pity because Australia should be indicating clearly what it thinks about the behaviour of France. France is one of the countries that is actively involved in the fast breeder reactor development. That is the view it takes. Associated with that activity we get all the hazards that the Carter Administration is trying to avoid. I give top marks to the Carter Administration for trying to promote non-proliferation. I give my full support to our not getting into the area of developing fast breeder reactors. The President himself said that he would not pursue that type of development in the United States. He obviously is pursuing the policy that he might be able to prevent the development of fast breeder reactors by guaranteeing some supply.
The policy of the Australian Labor Party is even better than that. We take the view that there is no real need for our uranium. Countries which are buying it now probably intend to stockpile it anyway as an economic resource. What will happen to the world if people start to use our uranium to manufacture nuclear weapons? What will happen in relation to the disposal of the waste? That problem has not been solved. No constituents in any electorate in Australia represented by members of the Government parties would be prepared to take back the nuclear waste. So we are dealing with a moral issue. We are prepared to sell something to somebody else and let them make the best arrangements they can for the disposal of the waste. Very clearly that encourages them to talk about re-processing. We are put in the situation of saying: ‘Of course, we have to take into consideration their views, their energy needs, the controls and the safeguards’. That is a negotiable issue.
I repeat that our criticism in relation to safeguards is that this Government is most anxious to sell our uranium at any price on any terms. As far as we are concerned, that is not good enough. I understand that the situation in the Philippines is still acute. Continual discussions have been taking place in Congress about whether the ground on which the reactor is to be located is safe. In other words, continual discussions are taking place about what we are all about. So the criticism coming forward has been about these very issues. Such criticisms have been expressed in the media about us. We have to rely on what we read in the newspapers. Today we have been told for the first time that the Government thinks that the sale of uranium is a worthwhile proposition; that all the safeguards are there; and that we should not worry too much about the arbitral procedures because that is the normal son of thing that we ought to expect.
The fact is that there has been a great proliferation of nuclear weapons. It is endangering humanity. It is endangering mankind. The big powers in the world are still engaged in the strategic arms limitation talks. They are trying to determine how they can diffuse the issue up to a point. Everybody is worried that if other people get hold of the material they will create a bomb. This is the problem. Once this fuel is sold and it goes into the reactor, that in itself creates the plutonium which is the material used in the weapon. That is the problem. There is no such thing as a non-explosive nuclear material; it is explosive. There is no such thing as a peaceful weapon. There is no such thing as a peaceful explosion carried out in the way of testing. That is what the French want to make out. With a few kilograms of this material one can create a massive explosive force. It is for that reason that we are objecting to the Government’s single-minded obsession with the sale of uranium. It does nothing for future energy needs. In many cases our own Minister for Foreign Affairs is exposed as a political neuter. That is the problem. The actions taken by the Government in the uranium field in the past three months have contributed nothing to nuclear non-proliferation.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Roger Johnston) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– Before we agree to that, can we get some agreement on when this debate will be brought forward in order to discuss this important document?
– The honourable member knows that that is a matter for the leaders of the House on both sides.
-Order! That is not a pertinent question for the honourable member for Reid to address to the Chair. It is a matter to be determined by the Leader of the House.
– Why is this debate being gagged at this stage?
-The Chair is not gagging the debate.
– We are adjourning it; we are not gagging it.
-Order! The question before the House is: ‘That the debate be now adjourned and that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- I will be making a statement on planned defence expenditure to the House during the Estimates debate. However, there are three matters of detailed decision made by the Government on which I wish to inform the House. I state them now as they impinge on conditions of service in the Defence Force. They concern rations and quarters charges, the reengagement bounty, and postal concessions.
It has been decided that reviews of charges for members of the Defence Force who are required to contribute towards costs of the provision of rations and quarters will be conducted twice yearly instead of once yearly as at present. The next review will be conducted early in 1979.
The Government has decided that the reengagement bounty should be discontinued for future enlistments into the Defence Force. The Government has decided to discontinue the bounty because it is satisfied that the payments do not assist recruitment and the retention of members in the Defence Force. I stress that all who have signed on whilst the provision existed will be paid the bounty, provided they fulfil the stipulations associated with its payment. The measure will apply to those who join after cancellation of the relevant regulation.
The Government has reviewed the need for concessional rates of postage on postal matter sent to and by members of the Defence Force serving in Malaysia, Singapore, Ismailia and on board Royal Australian Navy ships deployed in connection with the five power defence arrangements. As most of these rates were applicable to members serving in special overseas service areas, and as there are now no areas so designated, the Government has decided to abolish the concession. The reciprocal arrangement whereby United Kingdom forces stationed in Australia receive concessional rates for mail posted back to their homeland will also be withdrawn. The Department of Defence has been reimbursing Australia Post the difference between the concession rate and the normal overseas rate out of the Defence vote. It is estimated that an annual saving of $208,000 will result from the abolition of the concession rates. The actual timing for the cessation of the concession will be announced at a later date. I present the following paper:
Defence Force Personnel Entitlements- Ministerial Statement, 24 August 1978.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-I am somewhat at a loss to know why the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) felt the necessity to make a statement on these three points concerning the Government’s general policy decisions in relation to conditions of service and defence matters. One of the notable points about this statement is that the Government has decided to assess the cost of rations and quarters twice annually instead of annually. The Government stated in its Budget Speech a few nights ago that because of the change in the inflation rate and the consequent greater stability, it is reasonable that people on age pensions and other sorts of pensions ought to wait and have their incomes adjusted annually. In other words, the Government is using the double standard which it has used over a considerable period of time. When Government expenditure is involved it considers that one standard should be adopted. For instance, it considers that a period of 12 months between adjustments of the incomes of pensioners and other people whose incomes depend on Government assessments is satisfactory and that six-monthly adjustments are no longer necessary. But when income may accrue to the Government- according to the estimates of the Department of Defence the amount anticipated to be saved this year by more frequent adjustments is $21 1,000- the Government changes the period between adjustments from 12 months to six months. When it makes money, more frequent adjustments are necessary. When someone who can ill alford it pays, less frequent adjustments become necessary.
The dropping of the recruitment allowance is a consequence of the Government’s success in creating large scale unemployment and thereby providing a significant pool of people to select for recruiting. I am not sure that this is a good policy. I have to rely on the Minister’s statement that the allowance does not significantly encourage recruiting. It was introduced during the period of the Labor Government in order to assist recruiting in difficult times by holding those people who were already in the armed Services. I make one point, however: If the reenlistment bonus has any significant effect- I would like to see the evidence that it has not- in retaining persons who have already completed a period of service and therefore are trained for the jobs which they are expected to do in the defence forces, it is a saving for the Government, not a loss.
The cost of training any person for any of the complex tasks within the defence Services is extremely high. An amount of $1,000 paid three times in the economic lifetime of a serviceman is not a very great amount compared with the cost of training a new recruit for the same job possibly every six years or even more frequently. It is not possible to work out the economics of this measure unless some realistic and thorough assessment of reasons for signing on can be made and unless it is known whether the incentive adds to the numbers who sign on. Whilst recruiting may be easier than it was two years ago, one of the factors of which the House might take note is that recently a very extensive advertising campaign to obtain trainee military pilots was largely unsuccessful. I understand that only five suitable recruits were obtained in six months.
The third measure outlined in the statement is the withdrawal from servicemen serving outside Australia of a relatively minor benefit in relation to postage; that is, communication with Australia. Again, the amount concerned is about $200,000. That amount is almost exactly the same as the amount allocated in the Budget for increased costs in the reintroduction- as it is described in the Estimates- of the schools cadet system. I do not know that either measure has any additional effect on defence. One is one of a number of withdrawals of service conditions for servicemen that have taken place in recent years. It should be remembered that last year the Government decided to extend from three years to six years the qualifying period for defence service homes loans.
In this year’s Budget, despite a statement made in May by the Minister for Construction and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence (Mr McLeay) that an inquiry was being undertaken into whether the defence housing system would be continued, the Government has withdrawn $15m from the provision for defence housing. Again, it may be that the Government is taking advantage of depressed economic circumstances which Government policies have created. In the areas of defence establishments where houses are not to be provided or are to be disposed of if the report of the Expenditure Committee is carried through to its conclusion, it will create competition for rental accommodation which is in very short supply in most cities of Australia. It will thus force up rentals not only for Service personnel who may gain some subsidy through other schemes within the defence system, but also for civilians in the same areas, and thus add to their costs.
This is a minor statement by the Minister. I think he has made it now to soften the blow, but it represents a continuing deterioration of the conditions of service of Service personnel and a Government attempt to cash in on the employment and economic difficulties in the community by reducing the standards of those persons who are employed in government service. The Opposition is concerned by the statement. It is more concerned with the general implication which arises from it, namely, that in periods of difficulty the Government is prepared to discontinue services which at other times it would maintain.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, 1 present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 12 September next at 2. 1 5 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an alternative day or hour of meeting
– I move:
That, unless otherwise ordered, in lieu of the time limits specified in standing order 9 1 for speeches on the ‘ Main Appropriation Bill for year-‘, the following time limits shall operate during the remainder of the second reading debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1978-79 (the Budget debate):
Any other member….. 15 minutes ‘.
The reason for this motion essentially is that, whilst Government members have one opportunity to speak in the Budget debate, because the Opposition can move an amendment Opposition members have two opportunities. Therefore, they do not lose time. In order to give the maximum number of individual members on our side of the House the opportunity to speak we feel that there is an advantage in reducing the time limit from 20 minutes to 15 minutes. I commend this proposal to the House. The purpose of the motion is only to give more members on our side of the chamber the chance to make a contribution in the main Budget debate.
-The Opposition is opposed to the restriction of the speaking time on this Budget. It is certainly the most controversial Budget the Parliament has had before it in the life of most people who are now serving in the Parliament. There is no justification whatsoever for this motion, other than the very sinister one that there ought to be restriction on speech about the Budget both here and in the party rooms. We do not for one instant agree with the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) who said that it is merely to give members more time. The Parliament could sit for longer if it were necessary to give everybody the opportunity to speak. We have been sitting now for two weeks and are adjourning for two weeks. According to all the rumours, the Government is likely to try to get the Parliament up quickly so that there will be as little controversy over this Budget as is possible. This morning’s newspaper reports tell us that there is even a total ban on the discussion of the Budget in the Government party room, that now the Treasurer (Mr Howard) is a political ombudsman for all back benchers. They have to line up at the Treasurer’s room and go to confession with him, and he then buzzes the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on his little machine and tells him what they have to do. They are not allowed to discuss, as the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) found out in the party room yesterday, the sort of burden that the Government has placed on the pensioners of Australia. The
Government is not prepared to discuss it in the party room but now it wants to restrict everyone in the Parliament.
We do not intend for one instant to become a party to that sort of arrangement. If the Government is sincere about the number of people it wishes to speak on the Government side, let the Parliament sit a little longer. We are not opposed to that idea. Perhaps, if the Government would do that, everybody would have an opportunity. What the Leader of the House says is nonsense. By the time everybody on this side has spoken the Government will have stopped debate on the Budget anyhow. It is not a Budget debate that they are going to allow to go on for weeks and weeks. We have already seen, on Tuesday of this week, how the Government has fallen at the first hurdle- the incomes test on children has already gone. Other measures will go, as there are rallies around Australia and support is given to those who are speaking out against this Budget. Back benchers going home this weekend, unlike the Prime Minister who has not yet spoken to anybody who finds the Budget unsavoury, might find that in their electorates there are a lot of people who are opposed to it. Why honourable members on the other side of the chamber sit there and accept having their time restricted on this most important economic document is beyond me. Certainly, we on this side of the chamber do not accept that proposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
From 1971 to June 1978, pay-roll tax on wages related to both the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory was collected by the Commonwealth under the terms of the Pay-Roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Act 1971. Honourable members will recall that amending legislation was enacted in June to render that Act inoperative in relation to Northern Territory wages payable after 30 June 1978 so that the way would be open for the new Northern Territory Government to collect its own pay-roll tax on such wages. However, barriers remain in the way of Northern Territory pay-roll tax collections from certain Commonwealth authorities not generally immune from pay-roll tax.
The Acts by which the authorities were established contain provisions which, if left to apply according to their terms, would keep the authorities free from liabilities they might otherwise face under the pay-roll tax law of the Northern Territory that has operated since 1 July 1978. Among the Commonwealth authorities so protected are authorities which were paying Northern Territory wages when that law came into operation and had, until then, been liable for Commonwealth pay-roll tax on those wages. The immediate purpose of this Bill is to override the protecting provisions in the constituent Acts of these authorities so that the Northern Territory Government may collect its pay-roll tax on Northern Territory wages that it has paid, and will pay, after 30 June 1978. The authorities were advised of the intention to introduce legislation having that effect.
The Bill will also open the way for the Northern Territory Government to collect payroll tax from any Commonwealth authority that commences to pay Northern Territory wages after 30 June 1978 if the wages that it had paid up to that date were subject to State pay-roll tax or, as Australian Capital Territory wages, to Commonwealth pay-roll tax. Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in an explanatory memorandum being made available to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Everingham) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr MacKellar, and read a first time.
– I move:
In the present tight budgetary situation it has been necessary for the Government to consider avenues for raising additional revenue. The tax on departures will make a useful contribution in this regard. Many countries have taxes similar to the departure tax proposed for Australia. Overseas visitors to this country, and many Australians travelling abroad, will have had experience with payments of this kind. The level and form of the departure tax have been designed to have a minimal effect on the Australian tourist industry and on overseas travel by Australians.
The tax is not expected to have any impact on the number of persons visiting Australia or on the number of Australians travelling abroad.
I can assure honourable members that the Government is fully aware of the need to ensure that the imposition and collection of this tax does not cause difficulties to the transport and the travel industries. To ensure that the introduction of this tax is a smooth and co-operative exercise, my Department will meet representatives of the international transport and travel industries in this country. This will be done in the near future. These discussions will develop arrangements to avoid inconvenience to travellers leaving Australia after introduction of the tax.
The objective of the Departure Tax Bill is to give effect to the Government’s decision, as announced by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in the Budget Speech on 15 August, to introduce a departure tax in respect of persons departing from Australia and to establish mechanisms for the collection of that tax. The Departure Tax Bill imposes a tax in respect of the departure of persons from Australia and fixes the rate at $10. 1 commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Everingham) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr MacKellar, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Departure Tax Collection Bill provides for the collection of the tax to be imposed by the Departure Tax Bill 1978, which I have just introduced. This Bill provides that the Act will come into operation on the day on which the departure tax comes into operation. This is a date to be fixed by proclamation. I would expect that to be within a short time after the passage of the legislation. The travel industry and travellers will be given adequate notice of the date upon which the legislation comes into operation. It is intended to develop arrangements for payment of the tax which will not unduly inconvenience travellers. I will announce details of the method of collection after discussions with the travel industry.
The Departure Tax Collection Bill provides for the exemption of certain limited categories of persons from paying the tax. The specified categories are children under the age of 1 8 years; crew members; accredited diplomats; persons who arrive in Australia but are deemed under the Migration Act 1958 not to have entered Australia, that is, persons who remain at the airport and persons who do not disembark from a ship; persons covered by the Status of Forces Agreements with the United States and Papua New Guinea; and persons being deported or extradited from Australia. Clause 6 also provides that the Governor-General may by regulation exempt additional persons or classes of persons.
The Bill provides that the departure tax is to be paid before a person leaves Australia. A person, unless exempt, who does not pay the tax is guilty of an offence punishable on conviction by a penalty of up to $100. Where a person is convicted of an offence against sub-section 7 (2), a court may also order a person to pay the tax. Clause 13 provides that a statement or averment of the prosecutor or plaintiff that the tax has not been paid is to be prima facie evidence of the matter stated.
Under the Bill I may appoint as authorised officers, officers of my Department, or officers under the Customs Act or members of the police force of the Commonwealth or a State or Territory. Clause 8 empowers authorised officers to undertake inquiries to establish whether the departure tax has been paid. This clause also empowers authorised officers to prevent the departure from Australia of persons where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the tax payable has not been paid. The Bill provides for offences and specifies penalties in respect of persons who refuse to co-operate with authorised officers in establishing whether any tax payable has been paid. The offences relate to refusal to answer questions or produce documents, false or misleading statements or documents, obstructing or hindering authorised officers and assaulting or threatening authorised officers.
The Bill provides for refunds in the following circumstances: Where the departure in respect of which tax was paid did not take place; Where the person who paid the tax departed from Australia and returned without entering another country; Where an exempt person has paid the tax in respect of a departure; and where a person is entitled to a refund under the regulations. People who obtain refunds by false pretences will be guilty of an offence and a penalty of $500 has been provided.
The Bill provides for the Minister to make an arrangement for the payment of the departure tax. It would enable the payment of the tax other than by persons individually at the point and time of departure. The Governor-General is empowered in the legislation to make regulations prescribing matters required or permitted by the Act and, in particular, making provision for refunds and prescribing penalties for offences under the regulations. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Macphee, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill represents a major initiative by the Government in developing the Australian industrial property system to enable that system more adequately to fulfil its basic function as a machanism for encouraging and assisting industrial development and commercial activity. The specific area of industrial property with which the Bill is concerned is trade marks and the purpose of the Bill is to amend the Trade Marks Act 1955 to extend the business and commercial activities within which trade marks may be used in order to qualify for the statutory protection provided by registration under that Act.
Currently, the Trade Marks Act is limited to the registration of marks which are used or intended to be used in the course of trade for the purpose of identifying the goods of a person entitled to use a particular mark and distinguishing those goods from the corresponding goods of competitors. This Bill will extend the scope of the protection provided by that Act by permitting the registration of marks which are used in the course of trade to identify and distinguish the services supplied by a particular business. In providing for the registration of marks used in connection with services, the Bill will remove an undesirable gap in Australian trade mark legislation which has seriously disadvantaged an important segment of Australian business.
As honourable members will appreciate, trade marks have become an important factor in restricting unfair trading and encouraging trade expansion through competition. In this context, mark’ is used in a generic sense and includes not only such things as symbols but also names, words, letters and numerals. The provision of statutory protection for trade marks used in respect of goods has assisted the traders involved by providing sufficiently easily enforceable proprietorial rights to discourage unfair trading. Similarly, the exclusion from such protection of trade marks which are incapable of distinguishing the goods of a particular trader or which are likely to deceive or cause confusion has assisted consumers by discouraging consumer deception.
Commercial activities, however, are not confined to trade in goods. The provision of business and professional services, such as transportation, repair, banking, insurance and entertainment constitutes an important segment of modern commerce and the individual businesses engaged in such services have the same needs as other businesses in identifying and distinguishing their services. On 26 January 1978, I announced the Government’s proposal to introduce statutory protection for trade marks used in relation to services. That announcement received unqualified approval by service industries and industry organisations. The present Bill is intended to implement the Government’s proposal in this matter.
Prior to this Bill, successive Australian trade marks Acts have recognised as trade marks only marks used, or proposed to be used, in relation to goods. This restriction was a legacy of British trade mark legislation and initially reflected the relative insignificance of business and industrial services at the date of the transfer to the Commonwealth of the power to legislate in this field. The limitation of the concept of registrable trade marks to marks used in relation to goods has been a continuing feature of British trade mark legislation which has been reflected in the corresponding Australian legislation. The limitation, however, has disadvantaged those businesses offering services and using a mark to distinguish their particular service from the corresponding services of competitors. In the absence of statutory protection, such businesses have been forced to rely on their common law rights based on the reputation achieved by their marks.
The question of the introduction in Great Britain of statutory protection for marks used in relation to services was considered by a departmental committee on British trade mark law and practice which was established in 1972 and reported in 1973. That committee received evidence from all the main organisations representing industry, trade, commerce and the professions, all of which were uniformly in favour of extending the British Trade Marks Act to provide for the registration of marks used for distinguishing services. The committee recommended inter alia, that the British Trade Marks Act should be amended to permit the registration of marks used, or proposed to be used, for distinguishing services offered in the course of trade or business and that the provisions relating to goods should apply so far as feasible to marks for services.
Extension of the trade marks recognised by statute to include marks used in relation to services has already been effected in the trade marks legislation of a substantial number of countries. In the United States of America, the Lanham Trademark Act of 1946 included service marks as entitled to statutory protection under that Act. In addition to the United States, 42 other countries including major industrial countries, such as France, Italy, Sweden, Canada and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and neighbouring countries, such as the Philippines, Taiwan and Korea, had by the end of 1970 introduced legislation providing statutory protection for marks for services. In this respect therefore Australia lags behind many of the countries with which it maintains extensive trade relations.
The absence in Australia of statutory protection for marks for services has significant consequences for Australian businesses operating services in overseas countries. Under the legislation of a number of countries, the entitlement of foreign businesses to statutory protection for marks used in relation to services is conditional upon the provision of corresponding statutory protection in the country of” origin of those businesses. Accordingly, the absence of statutory protection in Australia for marks for services constitutes a basis in a number of countries for refusing Australian owners of marks for services entitlement to register their marks in those countries. Australian businesses can thus be significantly disadvantaged in relation to those competitors able to obtain statutory protection for their trade marks.
Until recently, it has been generally accepted that the Commonwealth constitutional power to legislate in respect of trade marks did not extend to marks used in relation to services. An early judgment of the High Court, in the Union Label case in 1908, concluded that the Commonwealth legislative powers in respect of trade marks did not extend to marks applied to goods to identify the source of labour employed by the manufacturers of those goods. On the basis of that judgment, it has since been accepted that the Commonwealth was not empowered to legislate in respect of marks used in connection with the provision of services. The Government, however, has recently been informed by its legal advisers that that conclusion is not consistent with interpretations of the Constitution by the High Court of Australia subsequent to the Union Label case and that the trade marks provision of section 51 (xviii) of the Constitution does, in fact, empower the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of marks used to identify and distinguish services. This Bill therefore will implement that power by including trade marks used in relation to services as registrable trade marks under the Trade Marks Act.
The main purpose of the Bill is achieved, firstly, by the extension of the definition of a trade mark’ in section 6 of the principal Act to include marks used, or proposed to be used, in connection with services as marks constituting trade marks under the Act. Trade marks for services therefore are intended to be treated on an equal footing with trade marks for goods. Secondly, the Bill extends the provisions of the principal Act to trade marks for services by amending where appropriate the references to ‘goods’ to include ‘goods or services’.
The Bill also recognises the corresponding potential for conflict between substantially identical or deceptively similar marks used by different proprietors in relation to services or services and goods as is recognised in the present Act in respect of trade marks used in relation to goods. The Bill avoids such conflict by extending the present prohibition against the registration of substantially identical or deceptively similar trade marks in respect of goods to services and introducing a prohibition against the registration of such marks in respect of goods and closely related services, and vice versa.
Finally, under the principal international industrial property agreement to which Australia is a party, this country is required to undertake to protect service marks. Although that obligation does not extend to a commitment to provide for the registration of service marks, there has been a long established trend by the other countries subscribing to that agreement to provide statutory protection for service marks. This Bill is therefore consistent with international trends in the protection of marks used in relation to services. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 15 August, on motion by Mr Fife:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill is not the principal piece of Budget legislation that will establish the additional excise on crude oil to bring the price to import parity. The Excise Tariff Proposals No. 3 ( 1978) will be debated at a later stage. This Bill is to provide for the allowing of rebates on crude oil which is currently priced at import parity- that is, oil where the import parity price is paid to oil producers, not paid as an excise.
The Opposition does not support the scheme of this legislation and will oppose both measures. It does so for good and cogent reasons. The principal objection of the Opposition is that the shift to immediate import parity for indigenous crude oil is a needless cost imposition on the Australian community. It is an inflationary measure which has been imposed as a revenue raising device to permit the Government to hold down its Budget deficit. The excise duty or levy of $ 10.26 a barrel will net the Government approximately $676m in a full year. It is the Government’s ideological obsession with the Budget deficit which is the motivation for this initiative, not any commitment to a long-term energy policy or energy strategy. We on this side of the House do believe that a gradual increase in the price of ‘old oil’, that is, oil produced from existing fields, towards import parity is appropriate for proper resource allocation, conservation and exploration. But we also believe that even gradual increments in price towards import parity should be permitted only when a secondary taxing mechanism has been established to divide the windfall revenues between the producers and the community.
As the Government’s policy presently exists, dramatic windfalls are accruing to Australia’s oil producers with liability only for company tax, with no guarantees that the additional funds will be spent on new oil search and development work. Heavy imposts on the public for higher priced petroleum products should not be borne simply to bloat dividends. Yet the Government’s scheme will increase the revenues to oil producing companies in Australia as import parity is paid in full by 1981 as though it were in some way a cost of production, which, of course, it is not. Some previously discovered pools of oil of course, will be expensive to develop and will require a higher crude price. But this could be accommodated if crude oil prices were to increase and the final earnings to be subject to a secondary tax.
What the Government has in mind is that the new levy or excise will be whittled away slowly in additional revenues to the oil producers as the price of their products gradually climb towards import parity. So, while the Government’s take of $676m in 1978-79 is substantial now, this amount will diminish gradually as the revenues are transferred to the oil producers, especially Esso-BHP in Bass Strait.
The new levy should not be applied. It will increase the cost of petrol by approximatley 16c a gallon and substantially increase the cost of living of most Australians, especially those in the country and on the land. The annual additional fuel costs for an average wheat or sugar farm will be about $1,000 and about $650 for an average wheat and sheep farm.
If it were part of a planned energy strategy one could at least rationalise the Government’s motivation. But it is not. It is simply a grab for revenue, so the Prime Minister (Malcolm Fraser) can hold down the Government’s deficit and keep a fanatical grip on the money supply. One could at least understand the Government if it were to collect the revenue of the levy and then hand back to the producers sufficient funds to cover the development of sub-economic pools of oil. But this is not its intention. The purpose of this Bill is to rebate to the oil producing companies the full amount of the levy on oil which will fix prices at import parity. That is, the only levy that will then apply will be the $3 a barrel which is paid by the refiners on nonimport parity oil and the $3 a barrel levy paid by producers on import parity oil and passed on to the public.
With this policy the Government gets the best of both worlds: A massive fillip to Government revenue in the short term and a continued transference of enormous volumes of money to the oil producers, particularly Esso-BHP, over a long term. While most segments of the community are hard hit by the Budget, the Government’s corporate friends are dispensed largesse on a massive scale. The 1977-78 Budget provided a windfall revenue to producers as follows:
Last year’s Budget also provided that further increases in the percentage of Gippsland crude oil which would attract import parity less the $3 a barrel levy would be paid to the producers in 1979-80 and 1980-81. As a result Esso-BHP would gain approximately an additional $100m in 1980-81. This year’s Budget indicates that these transfers or additional gains to producers will still continue at the expense of the receipts from the Government’s new import parity levy. The absence of a secondary or resource tax on these windfalls is not in any way offset by the new levy as the Prime Minister suggested on the radio program AM last week.
We on this side of the House are not resentful of the earnings of oil producing companies in Australia. Quite the contrary. We want to see them more successful. The less we pay for oil imports, the better it is for Australia particularly in relation to the balance of payments. Obviously companies cannot find new oil and develop reserves without funds- mainly a high proportion of retained earnings. These earnings should at least be generous from existing ventures. But that can be the case without resort to Government favour, free of any liability except company tax.
It is obvious to the Opposition that companies will not search for oil in Australia with the prospect of SA2.33 a barrel for their produce when they can earn $A13 a barrel in other countries nearby. Obviously the price must rise, not only for this reason but for reasons of conservation. A finite and scarce resource should not be indiscriminately priced so as to encourage its profligate consumption. Energy resources should be realistically priced. But if the public is to carry the burden of a rational energy pricing policy, then the public also should reap some of the benefits of their sacrifice. This, however, is not the Government’s intention and it is for the reasons that I have outlined that the Opposition feels compelled to oppose this rebate measure as it will oppose the levy measure when we debate the Excise Tariffproposals No. 3 ( 1 978 ).
– I listened with interest to the concise speech of the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). I thought that his case was not a strong one and that, as the junior Minister in the last Labor Government, he of all people would realise the economic problems that the Government and the country faced at that time and therefore would excuse any attempt to raise revenues, if that was the sole reason for this legislation. I maintain that it is not. The honourable member mentioned in his speech that the action by the Government would increase the possibility of non-economic oil discoveries being harnessed for future use as an offset against the outflows of big amounts of currency which are necessary and which in fact are already apparent on the Australian economic scene. Obviously it will be to the benefit of our balance of payments position if more and more discoveries of oil are harnessed from Australian sources and brought into production. I expect that the honourable member for Blaxland understands that fully. One could go a stage further and say that the action by the Government certainly will help to stimulate new discoveries if the resources are there. I see no reason why that should not prove to be so.
Probably another important strategy behind the Government’s action is that it will hasten research into alternative forms of energy. One matter that interests the Government Parties Rural Committee is the use of ethanol- a source of power alcohol- as an additive to petrol. I think it is perfectly obvious that the higher the world parity price for fuel becomes- obviously we cannot dismiss lightly the action taken over the years by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries- the more important it will be to mount proper research to see what additives can be used in the average Australian car. There is no question that the action which the Government is currently taking will stimulate this sort of research activity.
I understand that ethanol is the opposite of methanol, which is a derivative of coal and timber. Ethanol has its source in wheat, sugarcane, sugarbeet, cassava, grapes- a wide variety of horticultural lines of production. It does not take a lot of imagination to realise that in time to come sources of ethanol which may be used as an additive could come from areas of rural production where surpluses currently exist. I think immediately of the huge surplus of grapes that exists in Australia at present. As cyclical movements occur under the roughly free enterprise system which dictates the demand for rural products, it might well be that in time to come we will see the use of plants for the production of power alcohol. I can think of one at Walleroo in my electorate that was built during the war to produce power alcohol if the need arose for its use. That need did not arise.
Given the huge potential for price increases in all sorts of fields of energy, it would not be beyond the bounds of possibility, in years to comethis could be promoted by the research that will flow from this action by the Government- to think seriously once again of using additives to the petrol that currently powers a wide variety of vehicles. At this stage a lot of doubt exists as to the percentage of additives which could be used. Fifteen per cent seems to be a quite safe margin.
Other experts hold the view that up to 20 per cent will be quite suitable, without any major reconstruction of the engine or carburettor system being needed. For all we know at this stage that could lead eventually to refashioned engines and the complete use of power alcohol as a source of motivation. That is the sort of thing I have in mind in regard to the Government ‘s action.
Contrary to what the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said the other day, the honourable member for Blaxland pinpointed the major area of difficulty. I refer to freight costs in highly non-labour intensive industries such as the wheat industry in Australia. These industries are experiencing a real problem which flows from the days of the Whitlam Government- a huge increase in costs. This causes trouble in being competitive and in meeting the world price for wheat. The wheat industry, in particular, by increasing its own productivity and its own machinery input has been able to achieve the competitiveness that is so necessary. Unquestionably, this measure, which will increase the cost of petrol to primary producers and the freight component of their ultimate output, will be a source of difficulty for them.
I think it is proper, therefore, that we have a look at the announcements made on freight subsidies or grants to the States for that purpose. I note, for instance, that 12 years ago a LiberalCountry Party Government said that it would make sure that no one in Australia paid more than 3.3c a gallon more than the capital city prices. That Government did just that. Four years ago the Whitlam Government raised the price of petrol for country people. A year later it abolished the subsidy scheme altogether, just as it abolished so many things on the advice contained in the Coomb’s report.
The current Government has acted already to ensure that nobody in Australia- the Government was thinking especially of those in the remote areas- pays more than 4c a gallon above the normal wholesale city price. The freight component has been subsidised to make sure that that price applies. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) have said that within the life of this Government the margin will be reduced until it is no more than 2c a gallon above the wholesale city price. Primary producer organisations and the farming community, particularly those whose output is closely allied to export markets, will be looking to see that the Government honours that promise in as short a time as possible. I think all rural producers will realiseprobably more so than any other people in the community- that this will depend on the revenue position of the Government.
This brings me back to one of the aims of this Bill. Increased revenue of $600m-plus in one year seems to me to be making a real contribution to the Government’s attempt to get the deficit down and to get some order into the affairs of the nation once again.
– How long will the income remain at$670m?
– I do not think that would worry me as much as it would worry some of my socialist friends. What concerns me is whether the input will lead to further development of petroleum products and resources for the benefit of the nation. I follow the honourable member’s point of view. The matter does not perturb me in the way it perturbs him.
I suppose it is proper, therefore, that we look at the attitude of some rural organisations, in view of the statements I have made over the last two or three minutes. For instance, Don Eckersley of the Australian Farmers Federation comments very favourably on the general thrust of the Budget but, quite properly, representing rural people, he draws attention to the matters to which I have been referring in the last few minutes. The Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council adopts roughly the same attitude, saying that the biggest burden for farmers arising from the Budget is the decision to move immediately to import parity pricing for crude oil, resulting in an increase of 3!£c per litre in the price of petrol. I am not quite certain whether it will amount to that total, judging by the evidence given to various State price fixing authorities. The AWGC further says that already farmers face enormous fuel costs, and whilst the eventual inevitability of the move is generally recognised, the rapid rise will be difficult to adjust to. It says that the decision underscores the need for the fuel freight subsidy scheme, as I have just mentioned, particularly for people in remote areas. Overall, it believes that the Budget is appropriate to the conditions and that the Government is to be commended on its determination to continue to fight inflation first.
What is a little more difficult for me to deal with this afternoon is the matter of spirits generally, and the wine and brandy industry in particular. As moves have to be made to meet market prices, producers also must move further into mechanisation with a consequent increase in costs flowing from the increases in the price of fuel. Mr Deputy Speaker, you are looking a little anxious about my remarks. The inexorable move to mechanisation touches those primary producers as much as it touches many others. Honourable members will not be surprised to learn that the Government will not be introducing a Bill touching on any other form of spirits until later in the year. So I thought that I would grab the opportunity to say that when the Excise Amendment Bill (No. 2) is introduced I will not be supporting it. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not sure how far you will allow me to go in this direction but I am grateful to you for having allowed me to make that statement.
I am relating my remarks on fuel costs to the general position of some industries, particularly the brandy industry. I point out that I will not rest until I have convinced governments of all political persuasions that the family farm, which is the life investment of the small farmer, is a totally different ball game from industries that have their source of raw material in an annual crop. Somebody must point out to the Government that there is a difference and that this industry must be looked on as an Australian industry which contributes $29.5m to government revenue. Until I can make a breakthrough and show that the status quo of the excise generally, as set down by the Whitlam Government, is not inviolate, is not to be taken as gospel truth and that no movement away from that situation can be made, I will not feel that I have done my job. Having said that, I am quite prepared to bring my remarks to a halt because it is my intention to release the rest of my remarks to the media outside this House when I resume my seat. I am grateful for the opportunity to point that out.
I think it is time that Treasurers and Ministers distinguish between the vertically integrated Australian industries paying huge sums of money into general revenue and those that are merely a marketing exercise using as a raw material an annual crop. I hope that when the Excise Amendment Bill (No. 2) comes before the House I will be given the opportunity to vote against it. It may come forward in a form which precludes me from doing so. I hope that that would be the last time on which I would have to do so. Sooner or later somebody from either side of the House will have to make the points that I have made in relation to the future of the brandy industry. I have transgressed the rules by referring to that sort of spirit instead of to the sort of spirit that is the subject of this Bill today. By and large, with the small reservation I have outlined in relation to freight costs and costs to primary producers in the substance of this Bill, I support the Government’s move. I believe that all sorts of good research and capacities will come from it. All sections of the community will have to trim their sails in some way or other because of the budgetary difficulties we have inherited from other administrations. I support the Bill.
-This Bill, which rebates finance from the so called 1977 import parity scheme for Australian crude oil to the oil companies minus the inadequate $3 per barrel federal levy, is a most important Bill, if for no other reason than that it exposes the complete inadequacy of the Government’s crude oil policy. Even more important will be the legislation to be introduced later in this session to give effect to the Government’s latest guidelines- that is, the move to full import parity in one fell swoop with the excess income over and above the 1 977 crude oil policies accruing to the Government. Australia has resources of four main fossil fuelspetroleum, natural gas, black coal and brown coal. Of these precious non-renewable resources it is most certain that petroleum will be the first to be exhausted. Whilst our resources of black and brown coal are virtually proven and we are certain that Australia possesses vast reserves of natural gas, it is most doubtful whether adequate reserves of crude oil will be discovered to service Australia’s long term petroleum needs.
At present, Australia’s estimated crude oil resources are a meagre 0.2 per cent of world crude oil reserves. The Middle East and Persian Gulf countries, of course, hold the major portion of these reserves at 56 per cent of total world crude oil reserves. North Sea oil, at present shared by the United Kingdom and Norway, is 4.5 per cent of world crude oil reserves. Oil comes in at only 0.9 per cent of Australia’s total fossil fuel reserves. I point out that the 96.8 per cent of Australia ‘s fossil fuel reserves is provided by coal deposits. In this situation, it is unbelievable that this Australian Government is handing out vast sums to Esso-BHP and other oil companies without any firm guarantees that adequate exploration will be undertaken or maintained on a rationalised government-directed basis.
The fact is that this Government has no clear policies designed to rationalise exports of energy resources in line with our own future domestic needs here in Australia. It has no policies to ensure oil exploration and government dissemination of information, and most damning of all it has no long term guarantees that an adequate return to the public purse will be forthcoming from the usage of our precious resources. This Government is revolving in circles on oil policy and is contradicting itself from year to year. Its policy is confused, inflationary, and one can say that only the oil companies are satisfied. Let me examine this situation. In the 1977-78 Budget we were informed that the proportion of oil per field to be sold at import parity prices would be 10 per cent of production for 1977, rising to 20 per cent in 1978, 35 per cent in 1979 and 50 per cent in 1980. In 1977-78 the Government collected approximately $ 180m from its $3 per barrel levy but directed a straight handout of $340m to the oil companies.
Now the Government has shocked the Parliament, the nation, the motorists and perhaps even the companies themselves by announcing that full import parity prices will now be paid by refineries for all Australian crude oil with the extra income over and above that derived from the 1977 Budget- I know the policy is confusing but bear with me for a moment- accruing to the Government. It expects to gain $676m in extra revenue directly paid by the Australian consumers, as petrol will rise by 2 lc a gallon. I know that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) said in his Budget Speech the rise will be 16c a gallon, but honourable members will be aware that the latest information is that the price hike in petrol prices will be 21c a gallon. I might add that this comes on top of the 1 lc a gallon increase in the 1977-78 Budget. That makes a savage increase of over 32c a gallon in the price of petrol in the past 12 months.
– Who gave you that information?
– That is what happened as a result of the last Budget. The price of petrol has been increased by at least 1 lc a gallon in the past 12 months and now the Government is going to put it up by another 2 lc.
– Who said 2 lc?
-That is the figure that has been generally circulated. I hope that it will not be 2 lc a gallon but that is the figure that the media is disseminating- not 16c a gallon. It will be interesting to note what the final figure is. But even if it is only 16c a gallon it will mean that in just 13 months the Government has raised petrol prices by 27c a gallon. The point is that as the 1 977 import parity policy still stands as an essential part of the new policy, there will be an annually decreasing percentage of extra revenue accruing to the Government. If the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles) is not concerned about that I can assure him that we on this side of the House are concerned about it. An increasing share will be accruing to the oil companies; that is, windfall profits of approximately $575m to Esso-BHP in 1978-79, a figure which will expand to $700m or more in 1980 when 50 per cent import parity is achieved under the 1977 policy. Of course, it will go up to an as yet unguessed at figure when the proportion of oil in the total production of import parity prices accrues fully to the oil companies less the pitful $3 per barrel Federal levy.
The purpose of this legislation and the legislation still to come to legalise this year’s Budget decisions can be said to have two motives: The first is to force Australian motorists to pay inflationary petrol prices as a means of satisfying Government obsessions with reducing the overall Budget deficit. The Government forgets that it is taking $676m out of the pockets of Australian consumers, money that should have gone toward increasing consumer demand for housing and hard durables to aid economic recovery. Perhaps there could be an argument even for this action if the Government expanded its expenditure on job creation projects such as housing construction by State housing commissions or regeneration of industries such as shipbuilding to ease the burden of the drain on the balance of payments or to develop an Australian petrochemicals industry to produce petrochemicals such as methanol and ultimately petrol from natural gas. Perhaps a program of coal liquefaction would have been in order but no- this money has been used to satisfy the bureaucratic single-minded obsession of reducing the paper deficit. The other motive behind this legislation, of course, is to return the maximum possible amount to the Government’s friends, the oil companies.
Let me just digress briefly to deal with the possibilities in this field. I understand that the Government of South Australia is now seeking loans to satisfy the infrastructure required for a new petrochemicals plant at Redcliff in South Australia, finance to produce housing, gas pipelines and rail links- a massive project that might employ some 5,000 people when it peaks in 1981, and provide 1,500 permanent jobs. That is the sort of thing that we should be doing with income derived from oil, not letting it accrue as windfall profits to the oil companies.
This mishmash of non-policy should be replaced by a general resources tax. Such a tax could be implemented in a number of ways but it should apply to the usage for export and domestic purposes of all our non-renewable energy resources. It should apply to oil, coal and natural gas. The resources rent tax could be considered on a differential basis- industry by industry, company by company and perhaps even regarding oil on a well to well basis. But the important thing is that such a tax should replace the present unsatisfactory combination of levies and handouts. For instance, it could apply to Esso-BHP at an appropriate threshhold level as a percentage of total investment and then at an appropriate percentage thereafter. It could apply in the case of coal to the Utah Development Company. It should replace the coal export levy. On 1977-78 company figures, a resources tax imposed at a 1 5 per cent threshhold level and 100 per cent thereafter would have accrued $158m in government revenue and Utah would still have retained some $80m in profit. Compare this against the return in 1977 from the coal levy on Utah which amounted to only $79m. Australia is one of the few countries which allow their natural energy assets to be ripped ofT so completely by private exploitation.
Even such a taxation policy as I have outlined is considered inadequate by all of the major oil producing countries. The Middle East nations have policies ranging from complete state ownership under national oil corporations to participation arrangements either directly or through a state oil company. The United Kingdom Government in January 1976 set up the British Oil Corporation to participate in the development of North Sea oil resources. The British National Oil Corporation currently participates in the development of five oil wells in the North Sea and in the Viking natural gas field. It is considered by the United Kingdom Government that that is just a start. The official British Information Service bulletin entitled ‘British Industry Today- Energy ‘ states:
The Government considers that majority State participation in licences for commercial oil-fields provides the best means for the nation to share fully in the benefits of offshore oil. Majority participation through the BNOC–
That is, the British National Oil Corporation- in existing commercial oil-fields is being achieved by negotiations with the licencees; by late 1977 participation agreements had been concluded with 19 companies and outline agreements with 22 others. State corporations have a majority share in licences awarded in 1 977 under the fifth round of off-shore petroleum production licensing.
So it goes on. The situation in Norway, the other nation involved in the development of the North Sea oil resources, is that in October 1976 the Norwegian Government proposed to establish a state dominated marketing company. The new state marketing company will supply 24 per cent of Norway’s market for oil products and own more than 30 per cent of the country’s gasoline stations. It will be owned 7 1 per cent by the Norwegian state, 15 per cent by Statoil, 6.7 per cent by Norsk Hydro, 5.2 per cent by Saga, and so on. Such is the situation in Norway. It is not considered to be a true socialist country, simply a Western European democratic socialist state. Similarly, in Kuwait- hardly the most socialist inclined of the Middle East countries- the situation is that the Kuwait Government acquired a 60 per cent interest in the Kuwait Oil Company. In November 1975 the Kuwait Government took over the remaining 40 per cent.
I digress slightly to discuss alternative possibilities to oil production in Australia. It is possible- certainly it is likely- that we will not find adequate oil reserves for our needs in the near future. It may be that we will have to examine very closely the possibility of establishing petrochemical plants. There is a possibility that new production techniques will enable the production from natural gas of a substance called methanol which may ultimately satisfy 15 per cent to 25 per cent of Australia’s petroleum needs, either as an additive to petrol refined from crude oil or by ultimate conversion from natural gas to methanol and then to petrol. This is the type of project to which we ought to be diverting some of the massive amount of finance that will be generated towards the Government this year as a result of the new oil policies outlined in the Budget. This is the type of project on which we ought to be spending the money that could be generated by imposing a resource tax on, say, the Utah Development Company. What could be more suitable than that? If we are to continue exporting coal- true we should export coal to satisfy the needs of some of our trading partners such as Japan- the major percentage of the returns from the export of coal should be diverted as part of an overall Australian fuel and energy policy towards investigation and exploration of the means of satisfying our own future needs in the way I have just outlined.
The overseas experience is that oil companies must accept that the State has a major role to play in fuel exploration. The majority world view now is that non-renewable energy resources are national property. Furthermore, they are a capital asset. In regard to natural gas, coal and oil resources, there is really no shortage of money for capital development purposes. The resource itself is the guarantee. There is a real and overriding need to look at the whole of our industrial, manufacturing, minerals and energy situation in a general perspective. The weaknesses in Australian manufacturing are interrelated with our potential strengths in minerals and energy. Australian governments must create a mechanism whereby the earnings from our strengths are invested in new Australian industries, are used to revitalise existing Australian industries and are used to provide finance for future mineral and energy developments in accordance with an established, accepted and well understood national energy policy.
In short, Australia’s resources must serve Australia. Under this Government they are not serving Australia’s interests in full. This Government will not ensure that there will be a situation in which they will serve Australia’s interests in full. I believe that only the next Australian Labor Party government will ensure such a situation.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr Ian Robinson)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fife) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 August, on motion by Mr Hunt:
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 Homeless Persons Assistance Amendment Bill 1978 as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore that you permit the subject matter of the two Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the two measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Opposition does not oppose the Homeless Persons Assistance Amendment Bill 1 978 but it does oppose the States Grants (Home Care) Amendment Bill 1978.I shall deal briefly with the amendments to the Homeless Persons Assistance Act. The Act was introduced in 1974 and was to run for three years. It was proposed by the then Minister for Social Security, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), that $14m would be spent in the first three years. In fact, nothing like that amount of money has been spent as yet. The Act was extended on 10 November 1977 to cover the following four years, and now it is being extended to run for five years. Generally speaking, we would support that sort of extension if it meant that more assistance would be given to homeless persons. However, all that is happening is that the same amount of money- in fact, it is a smaller amount of money- is being eked out over five years instead of three years. Whilst I do not want to go into great detail on that piece of legislation, I recommend that honourable members look at the report which was tabled in this House last week, I think, and in the Senate in June. It is headed: ‘A Place of Dignity’. It deals with the problems facing homeless persons.
The States Grants (Home Care) Amendment Bill is a much more vicious piece of legislation. Under the Act States and local government receive support for three different kinds of services: Firstly, for approved home care services. Support for those services was on a two for one basis but it is now to be provided on a one for one basis. The second category of support, which again was on a two for one basis, is given to local government to pay the salaries of welfare officers at senior citizens centres. That support is being reduced from a two for one basis to a one for one basis. The Bill does not intend any amendment in relation to the construction of senior citizens centres, presumably because approvals have been given in advance.
Everybody- from the Council of the Aging, to Professor Henderson, to pensioners federations- has criticised these proposed amendments. They have come under attack from all kinds of groups, especially those in Victoria but also in New South Wales and in other States, which realise how many people will be affected. The Government’s decision to cut subsidies for these services to elderly people lacks sense and compassion. These services prevent elderly people from being admitted to or having to remain in institutional care at considerably greater community cost. It is therefore ridiculous for the Government to put pressure on the States to reduce bed utilisation in hospitals if care cannot be provided for the patients sent home. That is part of the same problem which is occurring with the community health services: There is a cutting back on the provision of those services. We all agree that we have to try to keep people out of institutions if for no other reason- I think there are lots of other reasons- than to save money. Yet the Government will not put more money into these alternative services although smaller amounts would be required than would be required for hospitals. If it did so it would reduce the utilisation of more expensive services.
Every government report, including those commissioned by the Fraser Government, has recommended increasing these services. Old people should be assisted to remain in their own homes and communities if that is what they wish. It saves the massive construction of houses and nursing homes for the aged. These programs have been cut by the Government in the expectation that we can keep people out of those homes. The welfare officers employed by local government under the grants play an important role in preventive medicine by assisting the elderly to remain socially active and in touch with community health facilities. No new grants have been given in the time of the Fraser Government. The present cuts mean that local government councils will have to find several hundred thousand dollars or sack their welfare officers. I emphasise that there was no consultation with the States, local government or voluntary organisations. So much for the new federalism and cooperation with those groups.
– We tried.
-The Government tried, but it could not get them on the telephone.
– Could you get them today?
-That is the sort of thing the Government would do. It would try to get them today. That is a relevant point. The Government probably would try to consult those bodies today, having introduced the legislation last week and having told the Premiers about it at the beginning of June at the Premiers Conference.
Let us look at the second reading speech of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) who represents the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in this House. There is another quite depressing point which shows that the Government again is being dishonest. At page 383 of Hansard the Minister incorporated a table suggesting that expenditure for home care services and welfare officers has been increased significantly this year. We all know that the whole point of this legislation is to reduce the subsidy from a $2 for $ 1 basis to a dollar for dollar basis. Yet the Government claims that it expects an increase of 12.3 per cent in the expenditure this financial year. I will ignore the 12.3 per cent. I accept that as the inflation rate for the coming year. If the Government really expects that there will be the same amount of expenditure this year as there was last year, yet the basis of the subsidy has been changed, it means that State governments and local government would have to double their contributions.
– Your arithmetic is wrong.
– It is not wrong. I shall refer to the total amount spent as 100 units. At present the Federal Government pays 66 units and the States and local government pay 33 units. The Federal Government claims that it will continue to pay 66 units. For the Government to put in 66 units on a dollar for dollar basis, State governments and local government would also have to put in 66 units. Last year they put in 33 units.
– You overlook one point: There was a freeze introduced by you people up to now. So we are not talking about the same thing. We are talking about a wider program.
– It is not a wider program. That is the point I am making. There will not be a wider program unless State and local governments double their contributions. I do not think for one minute that State and local governments can afford to double their contributions.
The amendments to the States Grants (Home Care) Act are, to my mind, another example of the Government employing what I would call negative economies. The cuts in Federal subsidies to these valuable home care services epitomise the meanness and shortsightedness which characterises the Budget. Even newspapers which normally support the Government and which I quoted last night when speaking on the Budget have all agreed on the meanness of this Budget. Subsidies to welfare and home care workers have been reduced by one-third. As a result, the old will be forced out of their family homes and the taxpayer eventually will be forced to pay for every person institutionalised because of inability to cope at home. This is apart from the immeasurable human hardship caused to those forced out of their homes and into institutions. This is a measure by a Government that not only claims to support the institution of the family but also continually complains of the high cost of institutional care.
The claim of the Government that it intends to maintain services in areas of need is clearly false. Why has this valuable preventive and supportive service been picked upon to make a petty political point? For the old as well as the Australian taxpayer who will foot the bill for expensive institutional care, it will be an expensive political point. The point obviously is to teach local government and State governments a lesson. It will teach them that once they get involved in welfare work with the Federal Government, when the Federal Government originally finances something quite significantly, perhaps to the extent of 90 per cent, its contribution will drop to 75 per cent and finally to 50 per cent. No doubt if it keeps going it will drop its contribution to 10 per cent or nil so that local people will have to contribute all.
It is unfair for local government to have to contribute on a dollar for dollar basis. There are many areas which cannot contribute on that basis. The whole point of having a Federal government and a progressive system of taxation- inasmuch as it remains progressive- is for help to be given to those in need. This Government often pays lip service to the proposition that a government should not help everybody; it should help only those in need. Yet it is obviously much easier for some councils to contribute on a dollar for dollar basis than it is for the councils which most need these institutions. Under this Bill funds for home care and welfare workers will be cut by one-third even though in many cases local council budgets have been planned on the assumption that the Commonwealth would not renege on its obligations.
To give an example, Caulfield Council, having the highest percentage of elderly people in Victoria, made a commitment to increase the city’s home help services before the subsidy cut was announced. That is only one district in which many old people will be forced into institutions. Without knowing much about Victoria, I suppose that Fitzroy Council, which is also involved in much of this work and is probably a much poorer council, will be in the same position. These cuts are inhuman and petty. They can only lengthen the queue for expensive nursing home accommodation, and lengthening the period of stay in hospital for the old will mean higher costs for all Australians. How can the States possibly reduce costly bed utilisation now?
The Minister for Health has already given the States instructions that for the first time long term geriatric patients will have to pay seveneighths of their pensions towards the cost of a bed in a public hospital; that is approximately $45 a week. When I complained about this two months ago he told me that this would not apply to people who were not obviously nursing home patients. I have now seen the instructions that have gone to the States. They are that a person will be considered to be a prima facie nursing home patient in a public hospital if he has been in hospital for 60 days. After 60 days in hospital a person is declared a nursing home patient unless he can get special certification that at that stage he is still suffering from some acute illness. If he gets that certification the same automatic classification will take place 30 days later.
For the first time in Australian history pensioners relying completely on their pension, with no outside income, will have to pay for hospitalisation. As far as I know, this is the first time that pensioners have had to contribute in any State. It will be interesting to see whether the Premier of Queensland, who kicked up such a fuss about Medibank and was so proud of the fact that there is no means test on or payment by people in public hospitals in Queensland, will raise his voice. I have not heard it so far. As I said earlier, I think it is morally indefensible as far as individuals are concerned. I think it is just as indefensible from the point of view of the long term cost to the community. If people are prevented from being treated cheaply or relatively cheaply at home, they are obviously forced into institutions.
In commenting on this decision by the Federal Government, Professor Henderson, who is well known to members of this House, said that the Government had been leading local councils up the garden path by offering subsidies for welfare services and then not continuing their level of funding once these services were operating to the obvious benefit of their recipients. Local governments are tired of the Government’s catch cry claiming to support direct local government funding. They are tired of being left holding the baby without the funds to feed it. Valuable services for the most vulnerable of our community will inevitably suffer. It is all very well to maintain that State and local governments are well placed to assume greater responsibility for locally based programs, but where are the extra funds to come from? Perhaps it will only be the old forced out of their homes who will understand the exact meaning of this much vaunted new federalism we have been hearing so much about.
In repeating the fact that the Opposition is opposing this Bill, the first of the two cognate measures, I reiterate that the Government is not only attacking the weakest members of our community but is also, from a purely financial point of view, going about it the wrong way. The longterm costs will be greater. I challenge the Government to produce any committee reports that would suggest otherwise. If any expert or interdepartmental committee has suggested that by cutting back on those services one can save money in the long run I would be very interested indeed to read its report.
-The two Bills being debated are under the administration of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and her Department. They relate to homeless persons and home care. They are concerned primarily with the aged and in the provision of services rather than cash payments for them. They also provide assistance in areas which are served to a certain extent by the Federal Department of Health. The Bills raise several wider policy issues, but there are two principal ones. The first is the desirability of assisting the aged, handicapped and chronically ill to remain in their own homes rather than be placed in institutions. I believe that general principle is accepted by honourable members on both sides of the chamber.
The second is to the level of government and/or voluntary body or agency that is best equipped to provide, administer and financially support these services. Generally the Federal Government, prodded by voluntary organisations, has provided the major initiating capital necessary for these programs to begin, and the majority of the initial recurring expenditure. However, inevitably this leads to unnecessary duplication and confusion between, on the one hand, two departments at the federal level and, on the other, the different levels of government, State and local, as well as the agencies. It is generally considered that in the application of this policy on a day-to-day basis local groups, whether governmental or voluntary, can best assist these disadvantaged groups; but if the Federal Government provides open-ended financial support to these other levels of government it brings with it the problem of accountability, cost benefit and overall cost control. Because of this, the Federal Government is developing the policy that we see before us today. It is also acknowledged as part of the Government’s federalism policy. It believes that capital grants and cash payments are appropriate for the Federal Government but that the provision of services, for reasons indicated earlier, is best undertaken by other levels of government. With the adoption of these amendments I think we will see greater overall cost control, accountability and efficiency in the provision of these services.
The Homeless Persons Bill was one of the small but valuable initiatives taken by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) when he was the Minister for Social Security in the former Labor Government. At that time there were several disastrous fires in some of the homeless persons homes in the capital cities, and this caused critical shortage of beds for homeless men. He introduced initially a three-year program. That is now being extended, by this legislation, into its fifth year. There has been a review as to the program’s future operation.
The Department of Health is also involved, through the community health program and women’s refuges, in the provision of temporary accommodation. This year $3m will be spent on women’s refuges and, with Queensland at last coming into the program, over 80 womens’ refuges will be financed. In this way another government department provides a similar type of service. Not only is a temporary home provided in the 106 centres under the homeless persons legislation, but half of the money for the 37 social workers as well as meal subsidies for those temporary inhabitants, are provided. There is very much a provision of services as well as of capital, whether in the sense of renting the premises or buying them. The homeless persons legislation controls a very worthwhile program. From time to time I question whether there should be two separate programs, by two different departments, for the provision of temporary home facilities. When the review, involving discussions with the States, is completed, I would hope that the Commonwealth would continue to be involved in this program, especially in the provision of capital for the purchase of the temporary home facilities; also, that over a period some of the rents that are now provided in respect of these homes for temporary inhabitants will be changed to grants. I acknowledge and understand that a centre should over a period substantiate the needs of homeless persons, rather than just ask for money; and automatically be given a grant- only to find out later that perhaps the money was spent unnecessarily.
There are quite a number of homeless persons committees, at least in Victoria, and I think it is true throughout Australia, in respect of which payments have been continued on a yeartoyear, rental basis, despite the fact that they have justified something more permanent being done, in the sense of a grant being provided for the purchase of a particular property. I hope that we can move more and more towards this where the need is demonstrated. I believe that that is true of a number of these centres.
The second of the two Bills relates to home care grants. When this became public- and I do not know why it took so long for it to catch the attention of the media; it was announced after the Premiers Conference- a tremendous number of malicious and deliberately incorrect statements were made about it. A great amount of unnecessary harm and unhappiness has been created as a result. Some of these people did not even bother to check out the different Acts which are grouped in the relevant section and concern the provision of services for the aged, in one form or another, at the Federal level. For example, the Meals on Wheels service has not been touched; it is to continue as before, but the malicious statement was made that provision for it was to be reduced.
Capital grants for senior citizens continue at the $2 Federal for $1 State and /or local level. Could I make the point that, contrary to the general cries that the Federal Government is being restrictive, when one looks at the situation in Victoria in regard to grants to senior citizens centres one finds that the Victorian Government, for a number of years, has been very mean. It has had a low ceiling on the amount that it would provide for capital for senior citizen centres. Whilst on the one hand the Victorian Government is always blaming the Commonwealth for assigning additional cost to local government, in this case having to do with senior citizens, it is Victoria that is adding to the costs of local government and/or voluntary bodies in the provision of the necessary one-third of capital required after the Commonwealth grant is made.
Again, paramedical services for the aged have not been touched. This series of innovative home care services for the aged was introduced by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government in 1969. Just as earlier I commended the previous Labor Government on what I thought was a good innovation, I believe that this was a worthwhile innovation by our Government. That was the first introduced on a dollar for dollar basis. I ask honourable members to remember that fact. In 1973 the Labor Government changed it to a $2 for $ 1 basis. I remind the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), who has not bothered to remain in the House to listen to the debate -
– Is it any wonder.
– He might learn a bit if he waited. Because of the increasing costs to the Labor Government of that time, the 1975 Budget of that Government froze the number of welfare officers who could be employed under this Act. At that time there were 112 welfare officers employed around Australia. I understand that there are 67 outstanding applications for additional welfare officers. Before anybody starts pointing the finger at anybody else in this debate they should remember that point. It also explains more accurately the reason why the present Budget provides for an increase of 12 per cent in total expenditure on these services.
By going back to a $ 1 for a $ 1 basis, which applied prior to 1973, we have done one other thing, that is, we have lifted the freeze on the employment of welfare officers under this Act. That means that we have opened up the possibility for all these organisations with outstanding applications, and possibly some others as well, to employ welfare and home care officers. That in itself is quite an open-ended commitment by the Commonwealth. I believe that it is also more equitable. When the Opposition was in government it froze the employment of welfare officers. I challenge its members to say which they believe is more equitable: To continue the freeze on a $2 for $ 1 basis with, as the honourable member for Prospect made the point, the 1 12 welfare officers already employed being placed perhaps in the more fortunate middle class type local government areas and not in any of the other 67 areas to be serviced, or to give everybody who is prepared to do something in the provision of these welfare services and who believes that they are necessary the chance to take advantage of the scheme. I believe strongly in the latter alternative. I would like to hear from the Opposition on that.
The Home Care Grants Amendment Bill causes me concern on three points. Firstly, I accept that State governments are better able than local government to support financially the part of the service, whatever it might be, which is in addition to what we are supporting financially. I hope that the Commonwealth, in its general discussions with the States on the provision of services in the future, will be able to obtain agreement from the States that they will carry their share of the responsibility more effectively than they have in the past in some areas rather than pass it on to local government, as is the case at present.
The second point of concern to me is that it would be unfortunate if the change to the Act did reduce the provision of home care services. If it did it would work against what I believe is the best policy, namely, the provision of domiciliary services rather than institutional care. I believe this is so particularly at a time when we are at least starting to make progress with the rationalisation and more efficient utilisation of the very expensive hospital beds for acute patients. I believe that this will not happen. I believe that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has done her homework on the figures she has given for the Budget, which indicate that she believes that there will be an increased allocation of 12 per cent this year. But if the latter were to be the case, I should hope that we would review the situation.
The third matter of concern is that part of the election policy of this Government which was to extend and improve the domiciliary care benefit scheme which, once again, is administered federally by the Department of Health and which provides domiciliary services in this area. At that time we stated that we would remove the present restriction regarding those people of 65 years and over and that we would change the criteria so that there was purely a medical criteria requiring the existence of some form of chronic incapacity. We said also that we would update the existing $2 a day allowance to something like $3 or $3.50 a day. If we are to develop a better domiciliary servicing arrangement in which the Commonwealth plays its part- not necessarily providing all the money, because I believe very much in cost sharing- I hope that we will go ahead and implement that part of our policy as soon as possible.
-The two pieces of legislation which are before the House today are not entirely unrelated. I think that one could quite justifiably argue insofar as government cutbacks in those support services that enable people to live within the home unit and to remain within the community are concerned that those people are not by any definition homeless and that if a government were to reduce the level of support it provides to people to enable them to live in their own homes perhaps those people who receive a pension and have what is necessary will be able to obtain institutional care. But in a real sense one might argue that some of the people on the lower end of the income scale might well be forced to join the homeless persons population.
Perhaps that is an extreme statement, but I think that when one looks at government policy in this area one has to begin to relate the position of the destitute people to that of the poor people. This Government is a government which, if it continues to pursue the policies contained in this year’s Budget, is going to make a lot of poor people destitute. It is going to make a lot of people who until now have been able to make it and to survive within the community a part of what has been referred to historically as Skid Row, both in this country and throughout the world. These are people who in a real sense are not able to support themselves and who require support from the community.
We are looking at two pieces of legislation. In the first instance I want to speak about the States
Grants (Home Care) Amendment Bill. The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) has argued that what we see as a chop back in the subsidy- the change from a $2 for $ 1 basis to a $1 for $1 basis- represents not so much a genuine cut back but a rearrangement of the funding processes. He argued that it cannot be seen in any real sense as an attack on, for example, the aged people in the community. That is not the way that Professor Henderson sees it. Professor Henderson knows a great deal about the aged and, more importantly, he knows a great deal about the aged poor. He knows that the survival of people who are poor and aged is very much related to the way in which they are housed and that if we take people out of a domestic setting and place them in an institutional setting it has an enormous effect on costs. Professor Henderson is reported as having said:
The Government’s decision to cut its contribution towards home-help services and the salaries of welfare officers employed by local councils would not save money. It would cost the Government $10,000 a year for every old age pensioner who was institutionalised because they could not alone cope at home.
The article from which I am reading continues:
Professor Henderson said it would also cost an immeasurable amount in human hardship, family breakdown and psychological stress . . . Professor Henderson said that the States, already in a difficult position, were more likely to cut their own contribution to the program than make up the difference.
Professor Henderson’s judgment was that the States would not make up the difference and make that contribution. The honourable member for Murray can hope as much as he likes, but we should remember the scornful terms in which this Government, when it came to power, described the relationship of the Labor Government with the States. What do we find is the situation on a simple matter such as the subsidy for home care? It has been demonstrated that the Commonwealth has not been able to reach any agreement with the States on a program which costs just a few million dollars a year. Yet it is a program which is critically important to aged people within communities throughout Australia. Aged people in the various electorates throughout Australia- certainly aged people in my electorate, which embraces the city of Northcote and which has one of the highest proportions of aged people in the population of any municipality within Australia- are very angry about this Government. They are protesting and writing letters and they will have influence within the community. They know damned well that the Northcote City Council, with all the demands that are placed on it, servicing as it does a very low income community, will find it extremely difficult to pick up the matching money that will be required. What is Mr Hamer going to do for the Northcote City Council with the kind of Budget he is going to bring down? He is not going to do very much. Professor Henderson is reported also as having said:
There is a real danger that staff will be cut back and services will be cut back.
The article from which I am reading continues:
Professor Henderson accused the Government of leading local councils ‘up the garden path’ by offering subsidies for welfare schemes and then not continuing to pay for them once they were operating . . . ‘Local government is going to stop providing welfare services because it has become fed up being left holding the baby’, he said. Scores of frail old people will be forced into institutions because of the decision . . . Many of the people would die without seeing their homes again.
That is what Professor Henderson said. He was appointed by a Liberal Government to carry out the most comprehensive inquiry into poverty in Australia. His report focused on people who are outside the work force, particularly on the aged poor. That is what Professor Henderson said. Let us take another institution that ought to know something about the ageing, not only in the electorates of Murray or Batman but right across Australia. Let us hear what the Australian Council on the Ageing had to say about this progressive move, as the honourable member for Murray describes it. It stated:
While State Governments and non-government organisations do much, support from the Federal Government is essential. The Federal Government is reducing its contribution by one-third. There is a body of expert opinion which states that older people should be assisted to remain in their own homes whenever possible rather than in institutional care . . .
That is what this Government is on about. It has already increased the health budget after bleating about health costs for 12 months. What is it going to do? It will increase the health budget by forcing people out of their homes and into institutional accommodation. That is what the Australian Council on the Ageing has said. This legislation represents economic nonsense and social nonsense. It represents economic nonsense in the sense that it will increase costs for care; it represents social nonsense in the sense that the elderly people prefer to live within their own communities. They prefer to live in their own homes and they prefer to live in a situation they know and in which they are known. The force and the effect of this Government’s moves in this area is to go in the reverse direction. It will increase costs and it will move people towards institutionalisation.
One has to look at it in an even broader context than that. This particular move- a move which strikes at the aged across Australia- is part of a program of legislation flowing from this Budget, associated with this Budget, which is designed particularly to attack the aged and the low income groups across the country. The Budget which is before the House at the present time, along with these particular measures which cut out services, represents an attack on people ‘s income. There is a movement towards indirect forms of taxation. Indirect forms of taxation bear down hardest on the lower income groups and pensioner groups. The aged people whom I have just been discussing are not only being attacked in terms of the reduction of services but they also are being attacked through income measures which the Government has introduced. These measures, in a sense, single out these kinds of people and have a most savage effect on them.
The other legislation with which we are dealing is the Homeless Persons Assistance Amendment Bill 1978. The Government is continuing this Act for a further year. There are some points that I want to make about this legislation. In the first place, much was said by the honourable member for Murray about trying to sort out this difficult relationship between various levels of government. Honourable members will recall the confidence, the stridency, of the Opposition in 1975. It knew how to sort out these complex inter-relationships between the various States. Members of the then Opposition were going to fix it up. Money was not going to be thrown away; it was going to be rationalised within highly co-ordinated programs in which functions would be sorted out between the various levels of government. One would have to agree with much of that rhetoric. One would have to say that we are a country which, particularly in the welfare area, has developed highly complicated and complex structures. One would hope for some simplification in this area. One would hope that powers between the various States could be sorted out.
I think that the honourable member for Murray suggested that one could make a distinction between responsibilities of the Government in relation to income and capital works and the responsibility of the States for the delivery of services. On the face of it, that seems like a sensible distinction, a sensible decision to make. But we know that in this specific area, the co-ordination of welfare services, it is very difficult, for example, to define a homeless population. What have we had? We have had a report known as the Bailey report which, I think, was completed last year. It has been available to the Government certainly for many months, if not years. I am not sure exactly where Mr Bailey is. I am not sure whether he is any longer in a position to implement that report, if the Government had any interest in it. I should like to refer to a document entitled ‘A place of dignity’ which, I think, is a first class document. I suspect that the faceless author has been involved with homeless people for a very long time and knows a great deal about his subject. On page 3 these words appear:
The Minister explained to Parliament that ‘the Government is in favour of making the Act more effective in meeting the needs of a wider range of homeless people (but) has not yet reached a decision on the proposals of the Task Force on co-ordination in welfare and health, one of which is that is that the homeless persons assistance program should become part of a wider ‘sheltered accommodation program’, administration of which might be devolved to the State governments’.
That is a very interesting proposition. But first of all let us consider the context. What is the Government doing about the Bailey report? What is it doing overall? How do the amendments we have seen in relation to the home savings grants scheme relate to that report? I do not think it relates at all because I do not think that the Government has a policy in this whole area. But more seriously, if one thinks for a moment about devolving back to the State governments the responsibility for homelessness, one realises that the homeless persons program has been directed almost exclusively to the destitute. It has been directed to the traditional Skid Row homeless populations of Australian cities. It has been directed to a group of people who, in the history of this country, have been the most neglected, the most stigmatised, the most isolated, and have been denied their rights time and time again. They have never been given a guaranteed income and have been the least understood of any group of people within the Australian community.
The Government wants to hand over that responsibility to the States. Let us think about that. It took 75 years for the Commonwealth to introduce legislation which simply re-enforced the voluntary traditional agencies, with all their paternalism, with all their charity. It enabled those agencies to begin to do a better job. The Government is going to hand this responsibility back to the States whose record in this area is abominable. One can say that State governments have, from time to time, given handouts to homeless people. From time to time they have made grants such as in the case of Gordon House in Melbourne. But for the most part they have not developed anything like the kind of services that are required for homeless person’s accommodation. I see no sign that the States have the will to do it. To hand back this particular program to the States would require an enormous amount of discussion. I certainly require to be convinced that there has been a great change of heart.
That is the first point I want to mention. The second point is that one has to remember that despite what has been done- I take the report’s suggestion that considerable progress has been made over the four years of the program’s existence- nowhere near as much money has been spent as should have been. The original amount of money allocated has not been spent; nor has the amount of money that had been estimated for each year been spent. One has to take with a certain cynicism the amount allocated for this year. One can expect, on past performances, that the total amount allocated will not be spent. I would like the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman), who is sitting at the table, to indicate why this has happened. Repeatedly the amount for the program has been underspent. Despite that, a considerable amount of good work has been done, particularly in upgrading accommodation and basic services for homeless people.
If one looks at the report ‘A Place of Dignity’, one finds that the average cost for a person in institutional accommodation is an extraordinary figure. In this report it has been calculated at about $12 a week. What does that say about the type of accommodation in which people are living? It says that most people who are living in the night shelters in the great cities of this country are living in dormitories which, in any other circumstances, would be regarded as sub-standard accommodation. The fact that subsidies are available and in certain selected cases superior accommodation is starting to be provided ought not to blind one to the fact that the standard of accommodation for homeless people in the various cities of this country, with few exceptions, is a disgrace. The amount of money that has been spent in this area might improve the accommodation. But a great deal of the accommodation does not need to be improved; it needs to be replaced.
Given time, I could raise many other things about the whole question of homelessness, which interests me a great deal. When one talks glibly about bringing programs together under a service head, such as all the programs that are providing shelter, it sounds good; but when we talk about the particular characteristics of the various homeless populations and the conjunction, for example, as was suggested at one stage, of the women’s refuge program with the traditional program for social derelicts, we are talking about very different populations. The term ‘homelessness’ can mean all sorts of different things. It can relate to very different groups of people. I think one needs to be well aware of that.
I think a lot more thought needs to be given to denning the needs of homeless people. It is suggested in the report ‘A Place of Dignity’ that homeless people’s needs are not much different from anyone else’s. We know that 87 per cent of people going to court on vagrancy charges in New South Wales are convicted. That means that a homeless person, a vagrant type of person or someone who appears in court looking like he is not the average citizen has a much poorer chance of getting justice in the court system than anyone else. We can look at the area of health services, which is an important area for homeless people. Health services have discriminated time and again against the destitute population within this country. One could, if one had time, cite particular examples to show that homeless people are not getting the same kind of deal from health services as the rest of the community. I think it is important that this legislation be continued. It is important that the Commonwealth Government continue to play role in the area of homelessness. Considerable progress has been achieved; a great deal more could be done.
-I welcome the opportunity to enter this debate. At the outset I say that I am very surprised at some of the comments of the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) who spoke very loudly and indignantly about the Government’s proposals in the States Grants (Home Care) Amendment Bill. I think that he generated rather more heat than light. He said that we were cutting back the Commonwealth Government’s contribution in this area and taking ourselves away from our responsibilities. He should realise that, for the home care services component of this program, there has been an 83.5 per cent increase in estimated expenditure this year over that for the financial year 1975-76 when we took office. I draw the attention of the honourable member to that fact. In addition, for the coming year the Federal Government will increase by 14 per cent its contributions in the home care services component of the program. That represents a real increase. There will be a 57 per cent increase in the coming year for subsidies for welfare officers. I do not see that as absolving ourselves of our responsibilities in this area. I point out to the honourable gentleman that, as I recall it, the Council on the Aging was not too happy when the Labor Government froze the funds available for subsidies to welfare officers. I will come back to that matter a little later.
I intend to spend most of my time talking about the Homeless Persons Assistance Amendment Bill. I welcome the Government’s decision to extend again the provisions of the Homeless Persons Assistance Act for a further 12 months. This is the second time that such an extension has been given. I hope that this time something definitive will come from the review which this extension is designed to accommodate. The problem of Australia’s chronically homeless and destitute people characterises all large population centres in Australia and therefore is of very special concern to those of us in this Parliament who represent capital city seats. Of course it is a problem with which all of us should be concerned.
As one who has taken some interest in this matter, I will, firstly, make some comments about the extent and the geography of homelessness as I have come to see the situation, and then comment on the Government’s response to it so far and on the aspects of the problem which will require further attention in the future. Regarding the extent of the problem, two rather amazing facts emerge. One is that no specific Federal legislation was directed to this problem until 1974. 1 congratulate the then Government on its initiative in this area. This occurred despite the fact that organisations such as the Salvation Army have long recognised the problem and have been directing their attention to it in Perth since before 1910.
The other surprising fact is that a census of homeless people has never been undertaken in Australia. I know that difficulties are involved in such a census. The report of the working party on homeless men and women estimated that in 1973 approximately 25,000 people in Australia were homeless. The report on the survey conducted recently by the Department of Social Security- I refer to the booklet entitled ‘A Place of Dignity’ which is the report on a survey of homeless people and homeless persons assistance centres- opened with the comment that an estimated 10,000 homeless men and women in Australia were being assisted by welfare agencies. In view of the discrepancy between those figures- I know that the population is constantly changing- I suggest that we need a clearer indication of the extent of the problem in this country. We know that it is a growing problem; that is certainly the case in Perth. The problem is essentially one for capital cities and large regional centres. For example, in Western
Australia 95 per cent of the people receiving assistance under this Act live in the vicinity of Perth, and the remainder live in Fremantle. This fact has important implications for the way in which the program should be delivered through the various levels of government.
The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) stated in his second reading speech that the program is now sufficiently well established to warrant discussions with State governments on their views about the sharing of responsibilities in this area. I would like to make some comments about that. The Commonwealth Government’s response since 1974 has been very positive. Under this Act, to date, capital grants totalling $9. 8m have been approved. Expenditure on rental and salary subsidies to June of this year totalled over $640,000. A further $285,000 has been committed for the coming financial year. Meal and accommodation subsidies to date have totalled $2. 6m. A further $lm has been committed for the coming year. This has been a solid response from Commonwealth governments, whether they be Labor or Liberal. In my view, however, this kind of community problem also requires a response from more localised levels of government. I have a more optimistic view of the possible response from those levels of government than has the Opposition.
I notice that the recent report entitled ‘A Place of Dignity’ stated that surveys revealed that State governments should not have the chief responsibility for providing funds for this program. That does not mean that they should not play a more substantial role than they have in the past. The report showed that, in the case of the 33 homeless persons centres surveyed regarding their financial resources, grants from State governments represented only 4 per cent of their total income. I think that that performance could be improved and I am pleased that the Government is at present examining the possibility of widening the ambit of the Act. Let me say to the honourable member for Batman that, to my knowledge, the Government is giving consideration to the recommendations of the Bailey report to incorporate the program into a broader sheltered accommodation program to enable a greater participation by relevant State government agencies. That is my understanding of the present situation and I hope that the Government moves in this direction.
Also in this context, it is interesting to note that only one local government authority in Australia has received funds under this Act to this stage. I think that this is something that the capital city councils cold have a good look at, not necessarily with a view to administering the programs but with a view to encouraging local charitable organisations under their jurisdiction to involve themselves in this area of welfare. But most important of all, due to the very nature of the problem of homelessness, this program needs to be administered predominantly by church and charitable organisations. The booklet entitled ‘A Place of Dignity’ stated that surveys showed that organisations currently in the field are the best friends and allies that homeless people could have’. In Western Australia that would apply to organisations such as the Salvation Army, the Jesus People, the Uniting Church and, of course, the St Vincent de Paul Society, which throughout Australia plays a key role in administering this program.
To understand why these organisations are so important one needs to understand the very nature of the problem. A detailed study was undertaken by the Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty in Australia, and its findings in this area are contained in its third report. It outlines the social dimension of the problem of homelessness and the health status of these people. Some of these findings, which were based on a significant sample of some 356 homeless men in Sydney, were as follows: These men experienced a disrupted and discontinuous process of care in the formative and vulnerable years of their childhood. A high proportion never attended school. There was a history of family alcoholism and a strong relationship existed between parental alcoholism and drinking problems early in their lives. For many there was a significant childhood experience in corrective institutions. As to social contact there was a high usage of church or welfare shelters and a virtual absence of family ties. More than half were exservicemen and most of these had served in the Second World War. One in four had been homeless for more than 10 years. For most, the incidence of previous illnesses was far higher than for the general population and, as a group, homeless men appeared to be prematurely aged.
Other surveys have shown that the percentage of epilepsy and venereal diseases was ten times as high as that for the community at large. The incidence of tuberculosis was four times as high. Mental problems and breakdowns were four times as common, and so it goes on. The most recent survey conducted by the Department of Social Security, as set out in this booklet entitled A Place of Dignity’, also found that there was a high rate of illness and disability amongst the homeless persons surveyed. In the jargon of the report of the Henderson Commission of inquiry, it is stated that these people are severely handicapped as a group by social disability and health impairment. It goes on to say:
The roots of this level of dysfunction are to be found in childhood, promoted by self-destructive behaviour extending into adulthood and accelerated by poverty. Homelessness is a disability that operates against restoration of function and leads to further deterioration. It is a sickness of the society and the individual in that society.
That is pretty sophisticated and fancy language but it is interesting to note that the most recent survey undertaken by the Department of Social Security states that these structural kinds of causes were not advanced as being of any significance. It seems to me that further inquiries should be made as to the very nature of this problem, because that is a very serious difference of opinion between professional people working in the field.
Some things remain clear regarding the chronically homeless people. Firstly, in the great majority of cases they never had a chance. Secondly, governments and responsible organisations need to mount a salvaging campaign. What does this comment on the nature of the problem mean in terms of the appropriate response from the community and from governments? The nature of the problem, as outlined in this report, requires a compassionate response from the community at large, quite apart from the official governmental response I referred to earlier. Clearly it is unacceptable for the public, as often happens, unfortunately, to make pious, sanctimonious and vindictive comments as to the casual relationship between the kind of life these people have led and the circumstances in which they now find themselves. Such a response, in the light of what we know about this problem, is not only unhelpful and irrelevant but is also very wrong in its imputation. Also, the community, through its elected representatives, should accept that governments must pursue welfare policies directed towards areas of real need, such as homeless persons. It seems ridiculous to me that governments should succumb to the political temptation to adopt concepts of universal welfare benefits for egalitarian reasons rather than to use selectivity as the proper basis for welfare expenditure. Unless governments come to grips with this issue, newly emerging areas of government support for the needy, such as homeless persons, will not receive the assistance they require. This ‘needs’ approach to welfare is supported by the Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty in Australia, and the Government has indicated its support of this concept. What is needed, of course, is the courage of government to implement this concept in all of its welfare programs.
Also what is needed is not solely a monolithic governmental presence in the administration of this program. As I have said, we need to encourage a participation by voluntary agencies in this area. This Government is committed by its own platform to administering welfare programs in a decentralised, dignified, unobtrusive and sympathetic manner rather than through impersonal bureaucratic agencies. This in turn imposes an obligation on government to fund these organisations to an extent which will ensure that they stay in the field. There is no question in my mind that the subsidies available under this Act, whilst they may have been adequate in 1974, are now greatly in need of adjustment to take account of subsequent inflation levels, if the continued involvement of voluntary agencies is to be possible. At present some of these groups are themselves meeting a great burden of all the necessary recurrent expenses, and this is causing them some considerable concern and difficulty. The Government must ensure that they are not forced to leave this area of welfare.
The question of salary subsidies is also important. The present level of subsidy, 50 per cent, imposes a great burden on a number of these organisations. In some of the larger centres, such as the Tanderra Hostel in Perth which looks after more than 100 homeless persons, supervisory or administrative staff are required. If the purpose of these centres also is to provide some scope for rehabilitation rather than just mounting a salvaging operation, additional suitably trained staff, quite apart from welfare officers, may be required. But this requires a prior determination as to the proper function of these homeless persons centres.
Finally, in supporting the Bill, I hope that the Government will use the review period to look at some of the matters I have raised, such as the definition and extent of homelessness, the inherent nature of the problem, the responsibilities of the various levels of government, the proper and potential functions of homeless persons centres, and the adequacy of present subsidy arrangements with eligible organisations. This Bill deals with a growing and very tragic problem in Australian society which has to be resolved very quickly.
I will refer briefly to the other Bill which is before the House and which is the subject of this cognate debate, that is, the States Grants (Home Care) Amendment Bill. I must say that I was concerned when I first heard that the subsidy arrangements set out in the section of the Act dealing with home care services were to be changed. This concern was shared by many organisations, including the Council for the Aging in Western Australia, and by many individuals. This Government had often stated that its intention was to provide Commonwealth financial assistance for those requiring support services, to enable them to continue to live independently in their own homes. In recent years the Government has not only greatly expanded its home care services- I mentioned earlier an increase in services of some 83.5 per cent- but also provided increased financial support for other services, such as Meals on Wheels, and domiciliary nursing care programs which are administered under separate legislation. For these reasons I was surprised when the subsidy arrangements were changed with respect to home care services and the salaries of approved welfare officers. Of course, the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) voiced their protest about this change. This protest ignores a very important factor. Subsequently, when the full story came out, we realised on a closer inspection of both these areas that it is clear that the financial commitment of this Government will increase substantially- by 14 per cent with regard to home care services and by 57 per cent with regard to subsidies for welfare officers. These changes represent increases in real terms. Of course, the subsidy for the capital costs of senior citizen centres will be continued on the same basis as previously. Obviously, therefore, the Government is expecting a much greater contribution from other levels of government. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), in his second reading speech, stated: . . the new arrangements Tor the program were announced at the time of the Premiers Conference in June, and of course are fully in line with the Government’s policy of federalism, which recognises that States and local governments are well placed to assume greater responsibility for locally-based programs of this nature.
The two previous speakers in the debate from the other side of the House failed to mention the greater financial capacity of these other levels of government to respond positively to these new responsibilities. In view of this statement I support the increased commitment by the Commonwealth Government, but I would like the Minister, in his concluding remarks to the House, to say whether the Commonwealth Government in arriving at the new subsidy arrangements received any assurance from the States that they would expand their commitments in this area. I also point out to those honourable members who seem to think that the Government should stay in every area of welfare for all time that the very title of this Bill is the States Grants (Home Care) Amendment Bill 1978. 1 am very pleased to support both Bills which are before the House in this cognate debate.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, after listening to the last speaker from the Government side, the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean), I think I can say that we agree with each other on many of the issues which have been discussed in relation to the two Bills, the Homeless Persons Assistance Amendment Bill and the States Grants (Home Care) Amendment Bill. We differ only in regard to the financial side of the matter. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) spoke on the issue on which I will speak tonight, that is, the need for more finance. I think that the honourable member for Perth summed up his speech in his last few words when he said that the States should take more cognisance of the troubles associated with these two Bills. The point is that the States do not have the money. That is the injustice that is occurring under this Government. These programs were initiated by the Labor Government, but there has been a tendency on the part of the Fraser Liberal and National Country Party coalition Government to take away the benefits that have been provided for the needy. It has left this one, but it is putting responsibility for it back into the hands of the States.
The Homeless Persons Assistance Amendment Bill seeks to amend section 3 of the principal Act to allow the program to run over five years. The original Act specified a period of three years. The Act was amended on 10 November 1977 to extend the period to four years. Between 1976 and 1978 the Government spent $3.2m on this program, and $3. 9m has been allocated for 1978- 79. Grants totalling $6.4m have been approved. No new grants have been approved, nor will they be approved. So finance will not be provided for the remainder of the approvals until 1979- 80. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, expected that in the three years between 1974 and 1977 a Labor government would spend $ 14m on this program. At this stage the three year period has passed and nowhere near that amount of money has been spent.
I wish to speak for a few moments about the Homeless Persons Assistance Act and how it came to being. Last year a Government member revealed that some destitute men in Brisbane were living under what were classed as ‘slave camp’ conditions. Such cases have highlighted the need for urgent decisions on the future of the homeless persons assistance program. I am pleased that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), who is now in this chamber, have agreed to keep that program alive. Further information on the health of homeless men has been given in a recently released Poverty Commission research report entitled ‘Health Study of Collective Disadvantaged Groups’. An earlier account of vagrancy and drunkenness convictions has been recorded in the Poverty Commission research report entitled ‘Homeless Men and the Law’. The homeless persons assistance program is a three year program. It was an initiative of the Whitlam Government, but it has suffered the same fate as the three-year Australian Assistance Plan and the area improvement program. I thought that the homeless persons assistance program might have been axed but I am pleased to say that it is still alive although, as I said earlier, responsibility for it will be put back into the hands of the State governments. It will be up to them to see what they can do to keep it up to the standard at which it has operated over the last few years.
Following a working party on homeless men and women set up in February 1973 by the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Bill Hayden, which reported later in the year on the feasibility of the program to assist them, legislation was foreshadowed by the then Prime Minister in the 1974 election campaign and was introduced by Bill Hayden in November 1974. Grants were available to organisations for existing and improved hostels, day attendance centres, detoxification clinics and work centres. They covered rent, furnishing and equipment, with subsidies for welfare staff members and a subsidised meal allowance. In his second reading speech the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bill Hayden, said:
The measures proposed within the Bill are based on a compassionate understanding of the needs and very real problems of homeless men and women and of their alienation, their loneliness and their despair . . . Our Government is determined to end such areas of neglect.
It received enthusiastic approval from the then Opposition spokesman on social security, now Senator Chipp. He said:
At least he has made a start. We did not for 23 years … I commend the Government for this humanitarian piece of legislation
I hope that Senator Chipp will support our thoughts on this matter when it reaches the Senate. In an internal Department of Social Security report it is stated:
The trouble with homeless people, regarded as a group, is not that they are defective or homeless, but that they are poor, sick, defenceless and lacking in self-esteem.
I might say that the average age of homeless men is about 46 years. That was mentioned in the same report. But because of the unemployment situation these people are becoming younger. I will refer to that later in my speech. Their level of schooling is lower than average and the portion of the sample investigated by the Poverty Commission who never attended school is almost three times as great as the corresponding portion of the male population in New South Wales. One in five has been homeless for more than 10 years and almost one in ten has been homeless for more than 15 years. They have a far higher rate of diagnosed illnesses. The point is that we must think of the older people. The former honourable member for Werriwa asked the Prime Minister a question concerning the number, location and value of applications awaiting approval under the 1977 Act. I wish to deal with the organisations in my electorate that were seeking approval. The Churches of Christ in Surry Hills required approval for a project to the value of $50,000. The Salvation Army in Surry Hills required approval for one project for $198,016 and another for $130,000. The St Vincent de Paul Society required approcal for a $3. 5m project in Woolloomooloo. The applications in New South Wales invoved $4m. The sum for Victoria was $2.3m; Queensland, $475,000; South Australia, $203,000; Western Australia, $80,000; Tasmania, $382,000. The total amount of money involved as at June 1977 was $7,554,080. As I said before, only a small amount of money has been set aside for expenditure in this area of social welfare. The stage has now been reached where many of these projects will not be completed.
In this regard I refer to an article in the National Times for the week ending 5 August concerning an appeal launched by the St Vincent de Paul Society for $3m to finance extensive additions to its Matthew Talbot Hostel in Sydney. A reporter, Michael Cordell, went to Woolloomooloo to take a close look at one of Sydney’s major centres for homeless and destitute men. The position there at this stage is that approval involving an amount of $3.5m has not been given. The Society is taking up collections. It is looking at ways and means of saving the hostel and methods by which it can make the hostel a better place for people to live. Michael Cordell began the article he wrote as follows:
A drunk lay unconscious just down from Sydney’s Matthew Talbot Hostel for homeless men. Beside him was an empty bottle of the standard booze- Brown Muscat, Royal Reserve. Unless he got into the hostel shelter, 20 yards away, he’d be picked up by the police before midnight. It was now 7 p.m., cold and dark. He would still be there when it rained at 10 p.m.
The hostel is hidden down the unseen side of Kings Cross, where the street lights are dim . . .
Many people go to this area because they need a home. According to a survey approximately one in four of the women in the Sydney electorate are in need of someone to look after them. They have to depend for their welfare on charity from organisations such as the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Salvation Army, the Uniting Church in Australia and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. I again refer to the article in the National Times. It indicates that these homeless people sleep in a dormitory which has approximately 400 beds. Those beds are usually all filled on wet nights. During winter some people sleep in the dining room on extra mattresses. The article reads:
The Federal Government funds 75 cents per person, per night. If they stay for a single meal it drops to 25 cents.
About 80 per cent of labour employed at the hostel is voluntary, but, despite this, last year’s running costs totalled about $333,000. The management expects this year’s figure to reach $400,000.
Total grants towards last year’s running costs were $67,895 from the Federal Government, $6,000 from the New South Wales Government and $25,000 from the St Vincent de Paul Society Conference.
The remaining $234, 105 came from public contributions.
About 200 men were downstairs watching television and talking. There were more upstairs who had gone to bed early. Most were either pensioners or unemployed.
The article talks about three men at this hostel who are 24 years of age. The average age of the people at this hostel is thirty-eight years. More money is needed by this hostel. The onus for helping these people is being placed more and more on the volunteers- all classes of people, including teenagers and grandparents- who go out into the streets at night to help these needy people. I hope that the Minister for Health will convey my remarks to the Minister for Social Security. The Government should provide more money to assist these people who need help. This sort of welfare assistance should be above politics, if possible. The Prime Minister has been saying right through that more money is going to the States and that the States will have to accept more responsibility. The States would have to put up their taxes to do so, but the people cannot afford to pay higher taxes. However, I do say that we should try to help these needy people.
Under the States Grants (Home Care) Act there are three forms of assistance. The amending Bill which we are now debating seeks to alter the method of funding in two areas of assistance. The proposed amendment to section 6 of the Act reduces the amount of money payable to the States in connection with an approved home care service scheme from two-thirds to one-half. The amendment to section 10 of the Act reduces the amount of money payable to the States for the salary of a welfare officer of a senior citizens centre from two-thirds to one-half. There is no amendment to section 8, which refers to senior citizens centres. Two-thirds of the cost of construction of these centres is still being paid by government, presumably because approvals have been given in advance on this basis. An amount of $15. 5m has been allocated for spending under this legislation in 1978-79 but because of the reduced allocation it is not certain that the State governments will match the grants. The Australian Council of the Aging, the Pensioners Federation, Professor Henderson and all the local government bodies are protesting.
The Government’s decision to cut the subsidies for services to the elderly people lacks sense and compassion. Under the States Grants (Home Care) Act, State and local governments will now receive half instead of two-thirds of the cost of providing home help to the sick and aged. This service is one which prevents such people being admitted to or having to remain in institutional care, at considerably greater community cost. It is ridiculous for the Government to force the States into reducing bed utilisation in hospitals if care cannot be provided for the patients sent home. Every government report, including those reports commissioned by the Fraser Government, has recommended increasing these services. Aged people should be assisted to remain in their own homes and community if they wish. It saves massive construction of housing for the aged and nursing homes- programs already severely cut by the Government. Welfare officers employed by local government under these grants play an important role in preventive medicine by assisting the elderly to remain socially active and in touch with community health facilities. No new grants have been given in the time of the Fraser Government and the present cuts mean that local government bodies will have to find several hundred thousand dollars, sack their welfare officers or put up their rates. There was no consultation with the States, local government or voluntary organisations. It was yet another ill-considered and petty act of a government that is prepared to give $600m in tax concessions to the top 10 per cent in the country while cheese paring on the elderly poor to save at best $lm. Honourable members may have read in the last couple of weeks an article in the Sydney Sun headed ‘Pensioners Hit’, which reads:
Thousands of old age pensioners in NSW will be forced into institutions because of Federal Government spending cuts, says the man who conducted the inquiry into poverty in Australia.
The claim was made by Professor Ronald Henderson, commenting on a Government decision to reduce spending on the home-care services.
Local councils throughout your State have been put in the position of having to find the money and they simply can ‘t, ‘ he said.
The Government has cut the subsidy from a $2 to $ 1 subsidy to a $ 1 for $ 1 subsidy.
The money was channelled from the Commonwealth through the State Grants (Home Care) Act.
Professor Henderson also criticised the cut as ‘negative economics ‘.
It will cost the Government $ 10,000 a year for every old age pensioner who is institutionalised, ‘ he said.
The Government expects to save $3. 8m through the cuts.
A spokesman for the Combined Pensioners Association of NSW said the cuts would be ‘a tragedy’.
What amazes me about Government cuts is that they seem to be taking money from the poor,’ said Mr Jim Sharrock, State Secretary of the association.
That is the theme which appeared in the newspapers day after day. On 9 August 1978 the Melbourne Age carried an article headed: 4 T tution no place for the aged: expert’. The editorial in the Age of 8 August 1 978 was headed: A mean way to save money’. The honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) is not in the House at the moment but it might be a good way to conclude my speech by reading some comments he made which were reported in the Age of 2 August 1978. The article is headed: ‘Homehelp: Lib MP attacks cuts by Canberra’. The article states:
Federal Liberal MP Mr Roger Shipton last night criticised the Federal Government’s halving of a subsidy for special home-help services to the aged.
Mr Shipton said he believed the cuts, which may leave thousands of elderly and disadvantaged families without the service, were slipped past the Government by the Public Service.
The bureaucrats always tend to hit at consumer services rather than cut the fat from the public service, ‘ he said.
I’m concerned that this is directed at the people who are least able to cope. It stops a service that helps people help themselves. ‘
The cuts will force scores of aged and frail people into institutions which are already over-taxed.
The Premier, Mr Hamer, yesterday said the State Government would not increase its subsidy to maintain the service.
One State government is now saying that it will not help. As I said at the commencement of my remarks, we will be in trouble from now on because the State governments do not have the money. I might say also that I am very pleased that a Liberal back bencher came out and criticised the Government.
– A few of them are honest.
– Yes, that is right, a few of them are honest. I read in this morning’s newspapers that they are saying that they have been gagged in their own Caucus, so they have to go to the media to say a few words. I am pleased that they have enough stomach to come out with the truth and that they agree with what I am saying. Another article, which appeared in the Age on 1 August 1978, is headed: ‘Cash cuts to hit frail aged ‘. The article states:
Scores of frail old people will be forced into institutions because of a Federal Government decision to halve the subsidy for home-care services.
Many of the people would die without seeing their homes again .
This is the theme that runs right through the newspapers in Australia. I hope that the Minister for Health, who is at the table, will convey these thoughts to the Minister for Social Security, in the other place. I hope that in the future we can work as a team in looking after the needy. As I said before, very many people in my own electorate need the money. Many people are in the position of needing to be looked after. One never knows when some politician might end up on Skid Row.
– One would assume, from listening to the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) who preceded me in the debate, that the Liberal Government had in fact depleted the amount of money being made available for these various programs. I draw to his attention the fact that in this financial year the amount of money being made available for these programs is being increased by 12.28 per cent. So, in reality, the amount of money is not being cut back. Some $5m was made available for home care services in 1975-76, and in 1978-79 the estimate is that $ 10.5m will be made available. Far from the Liberal Government cutting back the amount of money being made available, it is in fact continuing with its pattern of increasing the allocation. Even though the Commonwealth’s contribution is being reduced from a two-for-one basis to a one-for-one basis, the overall situation is that if the States are prepared to match the Commonwealth grants services will be able to be extended by virtue of the increase in the amount of money that the Commonwealth is making available.
In the few moments available to me to speak tonight prior to the resumption of the debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ), I wish to make reference to that section of this Act which relates to senior citizens centres. In my electorate of Fadden we have currently under way a project which has been made possible by the generosity of the Albert Shire Council and as a result of the hard work of volunteers. An application has been made to the State Government for approval to erect a senior citizens centre in the Woodridge district. I suggest to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that although I agree completely with the view that matters of this nature are better determined at a State government level by virtue of its proximity to the scene, I would very much like to see the Commonwealth having some say, or exercising a larger interest than may have happened in the past in determining whether these projects are needed.
I do not mean any reflection on the State Government of Queensland, of course- this comment could apply equally to all States- but I often wonder, in cases where State governments have the total say in allocating such a large Commonwealth contribution, such as in this case where we are providing $2 for every $1 provided by the State, whether or not politics might sometimes enter into the determination. I wonder whether in, say, South Australia or New South Wales, which are both Labor States, the Labor Premier or a Labor member might sometimes go to the responsible Minister and say: ‘I would rather have the project located in my electorate. How about putting it up the line and giving it a higher priority’.
The Woodridge project is to be located on the edge of an electorate represented by a Liberal MLA and, by a matter of yards, just outside an electorate represented by a Labor MLA. Here we are in the middle. I simply hope that the No. 6 position which that project holds in Queensland at the moment is in no way affected by any decision taken out of the ordinary. I hope that its No. 6 position is retained. In fact, it should be placed further up the list because this is an area of great need. I ask the Minister to take back to the Minister for Social Security, and perhaps even to Cabinet, the suggestion that, since the Commonwealth is paying out $2 for every $ 1 put up by the State Government, this is a matter in relation to which the Commonwealth should say: We recognise your greater ability to exercise discretion because of your closeness to the scene but we like to ensure that, in cases where need is real and great, because of our contribution, projects concerned with areas of need will be given some priority over projects in areas which may not have such a demand or need ‘.
Debate (on motion by Mr Goodluck) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 23 August, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-When the debate was interrupted last night I was saying that this Government was prepared to forgo $62 lm, including $3 16m as a result of the abolition of the Medibank standard levy, in its misguided changes to the Australian health insurance and health system. It has done this merely to reduce the consumer price index for the next year, not to improve the health services available to the Australian people.
I charge and my party charges that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and the Government have been very devious about their changes to the health insurance system. They have pitched the 40 per cent subsidy payable to people who choose not to be insured and to all people who join private insurance funds just high enough to tempt the unwary person, the family man who may rue the day when he fell for the Minister’s blandishments. Many families in Australia may not insure themselves. They may accept the Government’s pledges that they will be paid 40 per cent of their medical bills, with a $20 limit on what they have to pay, and then suffer the catastrophe of sudden and serious illness themselves or in their families. Where will they be then? Worse still, it will create two groups in the public with regard to health insurance. The first group will consist of those who opt out of the systemthe young, the healthy, those who gravitate to the 40 per cent system. The second group will consist of families, the sick and middle-aged people who, of course, will not take the gamble on their future good health. They will have to join a private health insurance fund. That will create a situation which is actuarily unsound with regard to insurance principles. The Minister for
Health knows that and the Government knows it.
Amazingly, the medical bills of people who have been identified by their doctors as socially disadvantaged will be bulk-billed direct. Their doctors will be paid 75 per cent for all services, regardless of cost. That is the pledge of the Minister. What that really means is that the Government is asking doctors to be unpaid social security agents of the Government. They are asked to be the sole judges of those in need. Is the Government really serious about this? Is it offering any criteria? Will the Minister for Health, who I see is now in the chamber, offer some guidelines to the Government? It seems to me that the doctors of some so-called needy people will receive 75 per cent of the bill and will accept that as full payment; and those people who do not get the doctor’s pat will receive 40 per cent of the bill from the Government and pay the other 60 per cent themselves. If there are 30,000 doctors in Australia, it is possible that there might be 30,000 different guidelines with regard to the needs criteria. I think the Minister should make an announcement about that and clarify the situation.
Further, it is interesting to note that the sum that the Government has forgone as a result of its health changes is approximately equal to the $570m that it hopes to gain as a result of its changes to the tax system.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I enter this debate to support the Budget and the economic strategy contained within it. As a result of it, higher levels of economic activity will be achieved and more job opportunities will be created. In his speech the Treasurer (Mr Howard) acknowledged that the persistence of high unemployment was one of the many problems that remain. But high unemployment will continue to be a problem even after higher levels of economic activity have been achieved and a great number of job opportunities have been created as a result.
Over the past 30 years fundamental changes have occurred in the size and composition of the labour force in Australia. Over that period there has been a gradual increase in the proportion of the population in jobs, or looking for jobs. There are now more two-income households than there are single-income ones. Social attitudes to work have changed. A marked result of this has been the flow of married women into the work force.
For a time the impact of this employment did not significantly affect the measured rate of unemployment. This was not only because the demand for labour was growing but also because an increasing number of people were staying at school for longer and a rising proportion were going on to universities and colleges of advanced education. It was also due to the fact that few of these women are counted as members of the work force until they have a job. While merely on the lookout for work they are not classified as being unemployed. Due to excessive wage rates and the availability of modern technology, the demand for labour is now falling. Machine and computer power is replacing man and woman power. At the same time, educational institutions have ceased absorbing an increasing proportion of our young people.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the rate of unemployment in Australia in June this year was 6. 1 per cent. That percentage tells part of the story, but only part. The preoccupation of politicians, public servants, the media and statisticians with these unemployment figures has obscured two fundamental questions:
Firstly, the extent to which people are moving in and out of the work force in response to changing social and economic conditions; and secondly, the declining usefulness of the tests currently being used to determine whether a person is in the work force or not.
Largely as a result of the size of the flow of married women into the work force, the supply of labour during the last 5 years has been growing faster than the demand for labour. Between May 1977 and May 1978 the supply of labour as defined by the ABS increased by 16,000, whereas the demand for labour fell by 25,500, with a resulting increase of 41,500 in the number of unemployed. This increase would have been greater but for the fact that the number of persons classified as not in the labour force rose by a massive and disproportionately high 187,500. In those sections of Budget Paper No. 2 dealing with the labour market, the Treasury points out that a decline in the rate at which those aged 1 5 years and over took part in the work force during 1977-78 cushioned the effects of total employment. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the relevant portions of that statement.
The document read as follows-
. over the past three years growth in product has not been accompanied by sustained expansion in employment. Rather, most of it has been reflected in increasing product per worker; over the whole period, employment has increased at an annual rate of about 1 percent.
The full-year figures for 1 977-78 in Table 3 indicate that, despite a slight apparent fall in the labour force participation rate, the increase in the labour force outran growth in the number of employed persons, which showed little change from 1976-77, and unemployment rose substantially.
Tracking’ of labour market trends within 1977-78 was even more difficult than in other recent years. In addition to the problems with seasonal adjustment of unemployment statistics (which led the Statistician, from November 1977, to suspend publication of adjusted unemployment estimates based on the labour force survey), there were substantial changes in the design of the labour force survey, and in the December quarter the Victorian power dispute had marked effects on some series.
New estimation benchmarks derived from the 1976 population census were introduced into the labour force survey during 1 977-78; there was also a new sample and questionnaire and, with the changeover to a monthly survey from February 1 978, a different timing basis. While attempts have been made to iron out resulting irregularities and inconsistencies with earlier survey estimates, discontinuity of surveybased series during 1977-78 may remain. This possibility is underlined by the inexplicable movements in some of the key series in November and February- the months in which the above-mentioned changes were effected. Thus, while the direction of trends during 1977-78 seems clear enough, not much weight should be accorded the precise magnitudes of estimated movements.
The recorded figures point to a decline in the participation rate during 1977-78. This cushioned the effects on total unemployment of the slight decline in employment during the course of the year; none the less, unemployment in the second half was still substantially higher than twelve months earlier. In the closing months of the year unemployment appeared to stabilise; movements in the CES series were similar to the seasonal pattern, and were consistent with the ABS monthly labour force survey.
The fall in the participation rate in the past two years represents the first sustained decline since 1971-72. On earlier occasions declines in the participation rate have occurred more or less concurrently with the down-turn in economic activity and rising unemployment; on this occasion the apparent fall has appeared well after the onset of high unemployment in 1974. One possible explanation for at least part of this phenomenon is the attraction which much higher real wages (and, perhaps, much higher real unemployment benefits) may for a time have had in holding up participation rates and thereby nullifying the normal ‘discouraged worker’ effect of a weak labour market. Another factor may have been the different composition of unemployment in this recession; increased job opportunities for women led to a rise in female participation rates while the greater relative decline in the manufacturing sector, in particular, led to a rise in the level of male unemployed, the latter being less likely to leave the labour force.
Several other important aspects of labour market experience in 1977-78 deserve mention. First, part-time employment continued to grow and the survey-based estimate of unemployment among the part-time labour force actually declined over the course of the year. Secondly, female employment was again stronger than male employment. Thirdly, among industry groupings, manufacturing and community services recorded the major changes over the year, the former declining and the latter increasing. Fourthly, government employment continued to rise (but showed some flattening in the second half), while private employment continued to fall. Finally, in marked contrast to earlier years, junior unemployment rates rose by relatively less than adult rates. The Special Youth Employment Training Program would seem to have been an important factor in this development, in effect resulting in some substitution of youth employment for employment of other members of the work force.
With no immediate end in sight to the continuing cost disincentive to the demand for labour, employment gains in 1978-79 are likely to be moderate. On the evidence of the past few years, growth in product per unit of non-farm employment over the course of 1978-79 could be expected to be at least 2 per cent. As a result of a steady shift towards selfemployment and contract labour- much of it parttimetotal wage and salary earner employment appears to have shown little growth over the past three years. After allowance for some slowing in the compositional drift in 1978-79, wage and salary earner employment might increase slightly over the course of the year.
The projected growth in total non-farm employment is lower than the underlying trend rate of growth in the supply of labour. With the present rates of natural population growth and the likely net intake of migrants, the labour force could be expected to grow by at least 1 Vi per cent and possibly as much as 2 percent over the course of 1978-79.
The precise outcome depends on the labour force participation rate. As discussed in Part I, while there is some doubt as to the reliability of recent recorded movements in the labour force data, there has been a slight underlying fall in the participation rate over recent times. If that trend were to continue, growth in the labour force would be toward the lower end of the range mentioned above, in which case recorded unemployment would show little change in underlying terms over the course of the year. An unchanged participation rate or re-emergence of an upward trend in the rate would be accompanied by a further rise in unemployment.
A situation of persistent under-utilisation of available labour resources is, on mounting evidence, a seemingly inescapable consequence if the cost of labour, and particularly some categories thereof, continues to be excessive (see Part II). Only with a break-through by way of a reduction of the rate of money wage increases could a significantly brighter outlook for unemployment in 1 978-79 be expected.
-In it the Treasury also acknowledges that there has been a sustained decline in the participation rate and points out that, contrary to past experience, the decline occurred well after the onset of high unemployment in 1974. It claims that the normal discouraged worker effect of a weak labour market was nullified by the attraction of higher real wages and higher unemployment benefits, but only passing reference is made to the significant change which has occurred and is still occurring in the size and composition of what might be described as the potential work force. I hope that next year we will find in this Treasury paper an analysis of the implications of these changes. This year’s statement fails to analyse correctly the impact of female employment. It also appears to express regret that, unlike women, men do not leave the labour force when they lose their jobs.
In looking to the year ahead the Treasury estimates that the labour force will grow by Vi per cent to 2 per cent, but it goes on to say that the precise outcome will depend on the participation rate. It concludes:
An unchanged participation rate or re-emergence of an upward trend in the rate would be accompanied by a further rise in unemployment.
It appears to assume that unemployment can be brought down not only by placing the unemployed in jobs but also by moving them out of the work force as defined by the ABS. The unemployment problem now facing us will not be solved quickly. It certainly will not be overcome by hiding those who wants jobs in the non work force. The number looking for work is far greater than the estimate made by the ABS. As a consequence, the increase in the demand for labour will not result in an accompanying reduction in the number now classified as unemployed. A large proportion of any increase in the demand for labour will be satisfied by people who are not considered by the ABS as unemployed because they are not actively looking for work. They are not included in other estimates of the unemployed as they do not qualify for unemployment benefits and many who are looking for jobs just do not register with the CES. We let them drop out of sight. They are the discouraged workers and the hidden unemployed.
Until we face the fact that the number of people looking for work is probably double the number included in the unemployment statistics, we will fail to appreciate the nature of the problem confronting us. If the work force were redefined to include all who would like a job we would find that for every seven people in a job there is another who would like one.
The Australian people must be given the true facts about the extent and nature of the problem. They are now denied them because the methods used to measure the extent of unemployment are outmoded and unsuited to present conditions. The formulae used to determine the extent of unemployment were devised on the assumption that the single-income family household was the norm. They were also devised at a time of economic growth, full employment and relatively stable patterns of work force participation.
What, then, are these methods used to measure unemployment? The number in receipt of unemployment benefits is not, for a number of reasons, regarded as an adequate measure. Nor is the true picture given by the number of persons who register with the CES, although until recently we relied upon these figures. We now give most weight to the figures derived by the ABS from what is now a monthly survey of the labour force. According to the Norgard report, these figures provide more reliable information about the labour market. I do not believe that this is so. It is my opinion that the estimates made from these surveys as to the number of people who are unemployed are as unreliable as the estimates made from the numbers of people who register with the CES for employment and from the numbers who receive unemployment benefits.
The ABS, in its labour force statistics, divides the population into three categories: Those not in the labour force; those who are employed; and those it describes as unemployed. As a result of the May survey this year, the Bureau estimated that of the civilian population of 10.4 million ( 100 per cent) aged 15 years and over, 4 million (39 per cent) were not in the labour force, 6 million (57 per cent) were employed and 400,000, or 4 per cent, were unemployed. It is the employed and the unemployed who make up the work force. By expressing this total as a percentage of 10.4 million it arrives at a work force participation rate. By expressing the number unemployed as a percentage of the work force it arrives at the rate of unemployment. The precision and value of these estimates depends upon the appropriateness of the dividing line between the three categories. The inadequacy of the Bureau’s figures stems from its inability to establish clear-cut and sensible boundaries between them. The definitions used are not appropriate to present circumstances and it is time that the ABS stopped blindly defending their continued use.
In a recent speech, the Australian Statistician, Mr Cameron, discussed the extent and incidence of unemployment. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard what he had to say.
The document read as follows-
At any time the population of Australia covers a broad spectrum in respect of its attachment to and participation in the labour force. At one end are those working continuously at full-time jobs, while at the other are those who have no desire whatsoever to get a job. In between there are casual and part-time workers, persons actively looking for a job and those who would look for a job if the circumstances prevailing at the time were different.
In providing labour force statistics it is customary to divide this spectrum into three segments or categories- those not in the labour force, the employed and the unemployed. To put it simply, those not in the labour force comprise people who do not have a job or business and are not looking for one. Typically they are housewives, retired people, young children or students. Those in the labour force can be said (again in simple terms) to comprise people with a job or business (the employed) and those looking for a job (the unemployed).
Information about the labour force is collected by the ABS every month by means of the population survey. From the latest survey (May 1978) it is estimated that, of the civilian population of 10.4 million aged IS years and over, 4 million were not in the labour force, 6 million were employed and almost 400,000 were unemployed; that is, of the civilian population aged IS years and over, 39 per cent were not in the labour force, 57 per cent were employed and 4 per cent were unemployed.
However, defining these different categories is not a simple task and a great many problems arise in trying to establish clear-cut boundaries between them. In this paper I shall be concentrating on unemployment statistics which, following the significant increase in unemployment during 1974, have been the subject of much closer scrutiny and a great deal more discussion by governments, labour market analysts and the media than at any time since the depression of the 1930s. Many questions are now being asked, such as: What is being measured? What should be measured? Are the definitions appropriate to the present situation? How accurate are the data?
As a possible aid to such discussions I propose in this paper to examine the various measures of unemployment and the range of unemployment-related data that is available.
ABS sources of unemployment data
Questions on labour force activity are included in the population census and as a result very detailed information about unemployed persons is available from this source. However, because the collection is undertaken only once every five years and takes time to process, the census can provide only historical statistics of unemployment. Further, because of the problems of defining unemployment and the difficulty of framing a sufficient number of questions within the compass of a self-enumeration questionnaire, the unemployment figures obtained from population censuses generally differ, sometimes substantially, from those obtained from other sources.
The ABS has conducted a population survey since November 1960 as a means of collecting information on the labour force and other characteristics of the population. In the early years it was confined to the State capital cities, but has been conducted Australia-wide since February 1964. Until November 1977 it was a quarterly survey, but since February 1978 has been conducted each month.
The survey is based on a multi-stage area sample of dwellings and in total covers about two-thirds of one per cent of the population. The information is obtained from the occupants of selected dwellings by carefully chosen and specially trained interviewers, and relates to the week before the interview (referred to as the survey week).
The survey asks certain labour force oriented questions, the answers to which enable estimates to be made of the numbers and characteristics of persons employed, or unemployed or not in the labour force. Demographic information is collected in order that cross-classifications with the labour force data can be made. The labour force questions form the basic, relatively fixed part of the population survey. In addition, from time to time various other questions are asked on particular aspects of labour force experience or on other topics. These additional inquiries are referred to as supplementary surveys.
As regards unemployment data, the population survey provides estimates of the number of unemployed persons, their demographic characteristics, whether they are looking for full-time or part-time work, duration of unemployment and the occupation and industry of their last full-time job. Persons looking for work have been the subject of a number of supplementary surveys which have provided information on their family status, main difficulty in finding work, educational attainment, mobility, steps taken to find work, and gross pay for their most recent job. Information was also collected in respect of families in which there was some unemployment. In addition, from time to time supplementary surveys have examined the labour force experience of the population over a whole year, and have given new insights into the incidence of unemployment in the community.
In short, a lot of information on unemployed persons is available. However, a statistical measure cannot be better than the underlying concepts and definitions on which it is based. I turn therefore to examine the definition of unemployment used in the labour force survey.
The labour force survey was introduced in 1960 because it was recognised that understanding of the workings of the labour market was limited at the time by the paucity of information being collected. Initially attention was given to the concepts, definitions and methods that had been adopted by the USA in its current population survey, but subsequently Australia developed its own concepts and definitions. However, these conform very closely to those recommended by the International Labour Organisation. As I have already mentioned, establishing acceptable, clear-cut boundaries between the employed, the unemployed and those not in the labour force can present a statistician with numerous problems. In each set of differing circumstances, it is necessary to provide an answer to the question:
What constitutes an unemployed person?
Does it include everyone who would like a job, if one exactly suiting them were offering, or only those who took active steps to obtain a job in the period immediately before the interview? So as not to keep you in suspense, the answer given by the ABS definition is- those who took active steps.
Should unemployment be measured in terms of man hours lost or numbers of persons? The ABS answer is in terms of numbers of persons.
Does it include people who:
Have found part-time work but are looking for a fulltime job? The ABS answer is that they are employed.
Have given up looking for work because they believe no work is available? The ABS answer is- not in the labour force.
Are looking for only a few hours work per week? The ABS answer is- unemployed.
Are unemployable but continue looking for work? The ABS answer is again- unemployed.
Obviously a concept must be selected having regard to the ways in which the information will be used and to what is likely to be generally understood by users. The concept has to be operationally feasible, should correspond to objectively measurable phenomena and should depend as little as possible on personal opinion or subjective attitudes. If persons answering the population survey questions were invited to express beliefs or opinions as to whether or not they should be regarded as unemployed, it would be hard to aggregate the answers and the resulting figures would be difficult to interpret, since little could be known about the basis of those beliefs or opinions. Changes in the data over time might reflect as much a change in attitudes as a change in economic conditions. The ABS regards it as important to eliminate as far as possible elements of subjective judgment on the part of those being interviewed, or on the pan of the interviewers.
The concept of unemployment used in the survey can be described as follows:
Unemployed persons are those aged 15 years and over who were not employed during the survey week, and
Had actively looked for full-time or part-time work at any time in the four weeks up to the end of the survey week and;
Were waiting to be called back to a full-time or parttime job from which they had been stood down without pay for less than four weeks up to the end of the survey week (including the whole of the survey week ) for reasons other than bad weather or plant breakdown’.
This definition makes the classification of a person as unemployed depend primarily on the overt act of having looked for work during the recent past, and it is therefore based on a fairly broad but objective concept, namely, that a person has taken some specific steps to find work. The definition thus provides an indication of the number of people who want a job for whatever reason, have recently done something about getting one and are currently available to start work.
The one group not actively looking for work who are included as unemployed are those waiting to be called back to a job from which they had been stood down without pay for less than four weeks up to the end of the survey week, for reasons other than bad weather or plant breakdown. The four week cut-off is used as a means of distinguishing between temporary and indefinite stand-downs. Persons stood down without pay for four weeks or more and not in a job are classified as unemployed or as not in the labour force, depending on whether or not they had actively looked for work in the four weeks before the interview week and were available to start work in the survey week.
The unemployment definition has been criticised because of its ‘omnibus’ character, in that it represents a mixture of family heads, persons who are normally full-year full-time workers, persons seeking part-time or casual work, students looking for jobs (even as baby-sitters), unemployables, and so on. It has been argued that the unemployment figure should represent a narrower group- for example, only those with family responsibilities.
Of course, in the great variety of circumstances that exist, there are difficulties in fitting people into one and only one of the three labour force categories. But users of statistics, or some of them, become impatient if statisticians do not give straightforward answers to what the users regard as a straightforward question. The ABS therefore attempts:
First, to set up three mutually exclusive but comprehensive categories and explain precisely the basis of the classification;
Second, to provide information on the numbers in subcategories, such as those in full-time and part-time jobs, the number working part-time who are seeking a full-time job and so on;
Third, to provide cross-classifications according to such characteristics as age, sex, marital status, family responsibilities.
Many of these different classifications are included to cater for particular interests of particular users.
The definition of unemployment used in the labour force survey has also been criticised for being too restrictive rather than too broad. Some people feel that ‘discouraged jobseekers’ should be included in the total of unemployed, since they are potential workers who are not looking for work because they believe that no jobs are available. While recognising that knowledge of the extent of such a group can be of importance in manpower policies and planning, the ABS does not count them as unemployed, because of the subjective nature of informants’ ‘beliefs’ about the unavailability of work.
However, the ABS does provide information from time to time on their numbers and characteristics, by means of supplementary surveys. For example, in May 1977 there were an estimated 65,000 discouraged jobseekers in Australia, of whom 48,000 were married women.
Persons who have worked in the survey period are classified as employed, even though they may also have been looking for work in that week. This concept is being questioned in some countries, notably the United States. It is argued, for example, that persons who are looking for fulltime work ought not to be excluded from the category of unemployed merely because they have found a short-term fill-in’ job, perhaps for only a few hours, during the survey period. The ABS approach is to classify such people as employed and to publish separate figures for persons working part-time who had taken active steps to find a full-time job.
After this discussion of definitions, I should like now to mention a few of the figures that can be found in the labour force survey publications. Among other things, the figures illustrate the proposition that the unemployed as defined for the labour force survey are very far from being a homogeneous group.
In this section I shall be looking not only at the characteristics of the unemployed but also at the different incidence of unemployment on various segments of the population. In doing so I shall be using data from the ABS labour force survey conducted in May 1978 and from a supplementary survey on persons looking for work, carried out in May 1977.
The labour force survey provides a large number of unemployment rates for difierent groups of people. In calculating these rates the number of unemployed in a particular group is expressed as a percentage of the labour force (i.e. employed plus unemployed) in the same group. Thus the full-time unemployment rate compares the number of unemployed persons looking for full-time work with the total of the number in full time employment plus the number of unemployed looking for full time employment.
In May 1978 the total unemployment rate was 6.2 per cent, but there was a wide range of rates for different groups among the unemployed. For example, the rate for males was 5. 1 per cent while that for females was 8.0. For teenagers the rate was 16.0 per cent; for persons aged 20 and over it was 4.8.
Generally speaking unemployment rates are lower for married people. In May 1978 the unemployment rate for married males was approximately one-quarter and for married females one-half of the corresponding rates for the not married. However, that statement, on its own, tells only part of the story; unemployment rates are usually the result of the interaction of several factors. In this case, it is not only marital status as such that is relevant, but also the fact that most married persons are not teenagers. It is the latter group who ha ve the greatest difficulty in finding a job.
Unemployment rates also vary according to country of birth. In May 1978 the total rate for persons born in Australia was 6.0 per cent, while for those born outside Australia the rate was 6.8 per cent. For persons born outside Australia the rates were higher for both males and females and for all age groups. The greatest disparity was for females aged 35 years and over 6.7 per cent for the overseas born and 3.2 per cent for those born in Australia. Again, however, one needs to look behind the figures. The total rates for the overseas-born are higher because of the difficulty that recent arrivals have in finding work. For those who arrived in Australia before 1971, the rates are in fact little different from those for persons born in Australia. But as in other questions of incidence, only a more detailed analysis, extending at least to the age distribution, the education level and the occupational distribution of the two groups, could provide the full story.
In May 1978 there were 395,300 unemployed persons of whom 53 per cent were males. For both males and females the age distribution was skewed heavily towards the lower age groups, with about half of the unemployed aged 1 5 to 24 years. As already indicated, the age distribution is reflected in the marital status of the unemployed- in May 1978, 38 per cent of unemployed males and 45 per cent of unemployed females were married, compared with 71 per cent and 64 per cent for employed males and females. Thirty per cent of the unemployed had been born outside Australia, but only 18 per cent of them were aged 15 to 19 years, compared with 37 per cent for those born in Australia.
In May 1978 most unemployed persons were looking for full-time work, but the proportions were markedly different for males and females: 93 per cent of the unemployed males were looking for a full-time job, compared with 74 per cent of the females. Looking at the same phenomena in other terms, males comprised 59 per cent of unemployed persons looking for full-time work but only 23 per cent of those looking for part-time work.
The labour force survey provides some insight into the previous occupation and industry of the unemployed. Details are collected each month about the occupation and industry of each unemployed person ‘s most recent full-time job, (provided that it was in the last two years) in order to provide data that reflect the ‘ real ‘ occupation and industry of the unemployed person (rather than those relating to some intervening, temporary job).
In May 1978, 17 per cent of unemployed persons had never worked in a full-time job for two weeks or more and 1 6 per cent had done so but not within the last two years. Of the remaining 67 per cent, nearly one half were in the occupation group ‘Tradesmen, production-process workers and labourers, nec’. Other important occupation groups were clerical workers, sales workers, and service, sport and recreation workers. Amongst the industry groups, unemployment was highest in manufacturing and wholesale and retail trade, which accounted for about one-half of the total for whom an industry was recorded.
In May 1977 there were 223,900 families in which at least one person was unemployed. In 30 per cent of these families two or more other members of the family were employed and in 43 per cent one other member was employed. In the remaining 27 per cent no family member was employed. There were 49,200 married couple families in which the husband was unemployed, and 32,600 of these families had dependent children present. In 22,900 married couple families with dependent children present, no member of the family was employed.
In May 1977 it was found that approximately 16 percent of unemployed persons were husbands, 18 per cent were wives, 4.5 per cent were heads of families but not married, 42 per cent were children of family heads, 3 per cent were other relatives of the family head and 1 7 per cent were living by themselves or were not related to any other member of the household in which they were living. The unemployment rates for these groups were widely different ranging from only 1 .9 per cent for husbands to 1 1 .7 per cent for children of family heads. (0 Other data
Unemployed persons were also asked a question about the problems they were having in finding work. Thirty per cent replied that their main difficulty was that there were no vacancies at all and a further 16 per cent said that there were no vacancies in their line of work. Ten per cent reported insufficient work experience and another 10 per cent said that their age was the main difficulty- employers thought them either too young or too old.
Information was also obtained on the educational attainment of unemployed persons. A small number were still at school, either staying on until they could get a full-time job or looking for part-time work. Almost three-quarters of the unemployed persons who had left school had not completed final year secondary, and only 14 per cent of them had obtained some post-school qualifications. Of the 215,000 who had not completed secondary school, 68 percent had left school at 1 5 years of age or under.
To what extent has the increase in the number of unemployed in recent years affected the incidence of unemployment and the composition of the unemployed? To illustrate the kinds of answers to this question that the labour force survey can provide I have used data from the surveys conducted in May 1976 and May 1978- a period in which unemployment increased from 275,900 to 395,300, i.e. from 4.4 per cent to 6.2 per cent of the labour force. The May 1976 figures have been adjusted to put them on a basis comparable with those for May. 1 978.
The rise in the unemployment rate was greater for males than for females- increases of 46 per cent and 33 per cent respectively. The increases were relatively greater for the older age groups. For example, in the 1 5 to 1 9 years group the unemployment rates for males and females increased by 29 and 15 per cent respectively; for those aged 20 years and o’ er the increases were 52 and 44 per cent respectively.
The increase was relatively greater for those born outside Australia. For males and females born in Australia the unemployment rates increased by 43 per cent and 27 per cent respectively. For those born outside Australia the corresponding increases were 60 per cent and 49 per cent.
I have been speaking about unemployment rates and how they vary as between different demographic groups, but it should not be thought that these rates in themselves necessarily indicate whether an employed person in the one group is more likely to lose his job than an employed person in another group. For example, unemployment rates may be very different for new entrants to the labour force, those who have been out of the labour force for a substantial period and those until recently in employment. It would be useful to have information on what are called gross flows, measuring monthly movements of people between the three categories, employed, unemployed and not in the labour force. The ABS is at present investigating the problems that would be involved in obtaining gross flow data.
One important aspect of unemployment that is not revealed by the kinds of figures that I have been quoting is that the extent to which unemployment is experienced by the community as a whole. Because of the continual movement of people into and out of the various labour force categories, the number of persons who experience unemployment during a period of a year is greater than the number at any one time. In 1976 for example, when unemployment was averaging about 300,000, it was found that during the year more than 800,000 persons had experienced one or more periods of unemployment lasting at least a week, and 167,000 of them had had two or more such spells of unemployment.
Other measures of unemployment
The labour force survey is, of course, not the only indicator of unemployment. Since 1 946 monthly figures have been available of the number of persons registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service at the Friday nearest the end of the month, who claimed when registering that they were not employed and were seeking full-time employment. I would like to emphasise the full-time. The CES figures do not include unemployed persons who are looking for parttime work, whereas the labour force survey estimates of total numbers unemployed include those looking for part-time work.
There are several reasons why labour force survey estimates of persons looking for full-time work may differ from the CES figures.
It should be noted that the CES unemployment rates represent CES registered unemployed seeking full-time work as a proportion of the latest available estimate of the total labour force. They are therefore not on the same basis as the ABS figures.
In an attempt to give users a better understanding of the relationship between the survey estimates and CES data, the ABS in 1963, 1974 and 1977 conducted sample surveys of persons registered with the CES as unemployed. These surveys were designed mainly to find out how many registrants in the metropolitan statistical division of each State would have been classified as unemployed according to the definitions used in the ABS labour force survey. It was estimated that in March 1977, of the persons on the CES registers who were respondents in the survey, 1 7. 1 per cent had been fulltime workers (and 5 per cent part-time workers) during the survey week. Corresponding figures in September 1 974 were 23.2 per cent and 3.7 per cent, and in March 1963, 28 per cent and 4.4 per cent. ABS interviewers were unable to obtain information on the labour force status of 29. 1 per cent of persons registered, compared with 34. 1 per cent in 1 974 and 29.3 per cent in 1963. Although the survey was of a two per cent sample of registrants and was confined to metropolitan areas, the findings suggest additional reasons for differences between CES figures and labour force estimates of numbers unemployed.
In short, CES registrants and those who are unemployed in terms of the ABS definition are overlapping, but by no means identical, groups of the population.
The results of the 1963 survey of CES registrants were referred to by the Hancock Advisory Committee on Commonwealth Employment Service Statistics, which in 1973 examined the relative advantages and disadvantages of CES figures compared with those originating from the labour force survey. The Advisory Committee concluded that, notwithstanding limitations which were for the most part unavoidable, the sample survey was the better measure of unemployment for many purposes.
In June 1977 Mr J. D. Norgard in his review of the Commonwealth Employment Service recommended that:
The Australian Bureau of Statistics should, as a matter of highest priority, introduce a monthly labour force survey to provide government policy makers with more reliable labour market information’.
It was against this background that the Government decided that the labour force survey should be conducted monthly, beginning in February 1978, with the intention of encouraging its use as the primary source of information on unemployment. Four main advantages were stated by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street:
A more accurate measure of the level of unemployment than that provided by CES figures;
An unemployment figure which is independent of the effects of CES administrative procedures and changes to them;
A measure of unemployment which closely conforms to the internationally accepted definition; and
More frequent information to assist in analysis of the labour market.
At the same time it was recognised that the labour force survey, using a small sample of the population, could not yield estimates in respect of small geographical areas, comparable with the regions covered by district employment offices.
In the period from 1964 to 1973 the two series were fairly close together in total, with the survey figures usually a little higher. Beginning in 1973 but much more strongly during 1974 and up to February 197S the CES figures increased much more than the survey figures did. Since then there appears to have been a return to fairly stable relationship, but different from that of earlier years, with the CES figures about 20 per cent higher than those from the survey.
In May 1 978 there was a difference of 1 8 per cent in total. For males the CES figure (261,755) was 34 per cent above the survey figure (194,800) while the figures for females were fairly close ( 130,408 and 136,800 respectively). Clearly the offsetting factors mentioned earlier differ in their importance as between males and females.
Information on the number of persons receiving unemployment benefits is provided each month by the Department of Social Security and published by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations at the same time as the CES figures. The number of males and females in receipt of benefits are published for each employment district in each State. Further information, by age, marital status, occupation and duration of benefit, is collected each quarter. To interpret the level of and movements in the series of course requires a detailed knowledge of eligibility conditions specified in legislation and of the administrative procedures of the Department of Social Security.
While measures of unemployment that are a by-product of an administrative process have drawbacks of the kind just outlined, labour force survey data also have their limitations. The chief of these is that they are estimates based on information obtained from occupants of a sample of dwellings and are therefore subject to sampling error; that is, they may differ from the figures that would have been produced if information had been obtained from occupants of all dwellings. One measure of the likely difference is given by the standard error. Publication of the estimates nowadays is accompanied by information on the size of the standard errors of the estimates and of the month-to-month movements.
Sample size places a restriction on the amount of detail that can be provided by the survey, since disaggregation should not proceed past the point where the sampling variability makes the figures useless for most practical purposes. For this reason some of the requests by users for statistics relating to relatively small groups of the population, for example those in local government areas, or for fine occupational classifications, cannot be met. The extent to which disaggregation of an estimate can usefully be taken depends partly on the size of the total estimate, so that larger estimates can be dissected and cross-classified more extensively than smaller ones. Consequently more information can be provided about different categories of the unemployed when the level of unemployment is historically high than when it is low.
Sampling variability also limits the capacity of the survey to measure small month-to-month changes in unemployment. In months other than those of pronounced seasonal variation in unemployment, movements may be small and, in circumstances where there had not been movement in one direction for several months, it might not be possible to state with a high degree of confidence that the movement was up or down.
In addition to the imprecision due to sampling variability, inaccuracies may also occur as a result of imperfections in reporting by interviewers and in the answers given by respondents. Inaccuracies of this kind are referred to as nonsampling errors and may occur in any collection, whether it be a full count or a sample. There are circumstances in which the results of a sample survey are preferred to those of a full enumeration, because the individual attention to a sample of respondents may reduce non-sampling error to such an extent as to outweigh the uncertainty stemming from sampling error.
In the labour force survey every effort is made to reduce the non-sampling error to a minimum by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of interviewers, and efficient operating procedures.
The regular peak in the number of persons unemployed early in each calendar year is a persistent feature of unemployment, mainly because of school leavers entering the labour market and also because of the seasonal nature of employment in some rural industries. Many other factors affect month-to-month changes in unemployment, and even before the introduction of monthly labour force surveys the quarterly figures were not showing a pattern of within-year fluctuation sufficiently stable to enable a seasonally adjusted series to be published.
Several years of monthly figures will be needed before seasonal adjustment of them will be possible. The change in the period of interviewing made necessary by the change from quarterly to monthly surveys may reduce the usefulness of the previous series in estimating a normal seasonal variation.
In this paper I have attempted to explain what the labour force survey is attempting to measure and why it uses the particular concept it does. I have pointed out that no single measure will answer all questions about unemployment and that for this reason the survey provides a good deal more than just a single count of the numbers unemployed.
I have given illustrations of the range of detailed information available on the characteristics of the unemployed, in recognition of the widespread interest in knowing which sections of the community are particularly affected.
In addition to the regular detail on unemployment collected every month, information on particular aspects is collected from time to time by means of supplementary surveys.
It is the aim of the Bureau to collect the information to which those engaged in close analyses of the labour market attach most importance. If some among you would prefer more detail on some aspects and less on others, or more frequent collection on some aspects and less frequent on others, please let us know. The limitations on our ability to respond will be:
the total amount of information it is practicable to collect in the space of a year or so, given the limitations on the resources available to the Bureau, and the limitations on the fund of patience and goodwill of those we interview.
Australian Bureau of Statistics
– In his speech Mr Cameron claimed that the aim of the Bureau was ‘to collect information to which those engaged in close analysis of the labour market attach most significance’. Mr Cameron said that we should let him know when we wanted more details and more frequent collection of information. There is, Mr Cameron, I believe, an urgent need for both more information and more frequent information about the labour force. It is also urgent that the underlying concepts and definitions be reviewed. Mr Cameron acknowledged that ‘a statistical measure cannot be better than the underlying concepts and definitions on which it is based’. Of course, the concepts used should depend as little as possible on personal opinion or subjective attitudes. But contrary to its claims, the definition of an unemployed person currently being used by the ABS does involve a subjective judgment as to what constitutes a sufficient search for work. The Bureau counts as unemployed only those who, not being employed in the week of a survey, have ‘actively looked’ for work in the four preceding weeks. What is the difference between looking and actively looking? I am sure that those who sit for driving tests actively look in the rear vision mirror; experienced drivers just look. Those who want unemployment benefits actively look for work otherwise they fail to qualify. But those not eligible for other reasons just look for it. Today the number of people just looking is greater than those who are actively looking.
It was misleading of Mr Cameron to suggest that those that the ABS classified as unemployed could be simply described as those looking for a job when the Bureau counts only those who are actively looking. It is equally wrong of the Treasury, in the August 1978 Roundup of Economic Statistics to include in its labour force survey estimates under the heading of people looking for work only those who were actively looking. It is also misleading of Mr Cameron to claim that the definition being used by the Bureau conforms very closely to that recommended by the International Labour Organisation. The Bureau definition makes classification of a person as unemployed depend primarily on the overt act of having looked for a job. By contrast, the ILO definition requires only that a person available for work be seeking it. The ILO does not narrow its definition by requiring active search. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the Bureau’s definition of unemployed persons and the ILO definition of unemployment.
The document read as follows-
Source: A.B.S. Bulletin No. 6202
The Labour Force ‘
Unemployed persons are those aged 1 5 years and over who were not employed during the survey week, and
had actively looked for full-time or part-time work at any time in the four weeks up to the end of the survey week and:
were available for work in the survey week, or would have been available except for temporary illness (i.e. lasting for less than four weeks to the end of the survey week); or
were waiting to start a new job within four weeks from the end of the survey week and would have started in the survey week if the job had been available then; or
were waiting to be called back to a full-time or parttime job from which they had been stood down without pay for less than four weeks up to the end of the survey week (including the whole of the survey week) for reasons other than bad weather or plant breakdown.
Unemployed persons looking for first job are those who have never worked for two weeks or more in a full-time job.
The unemployment rate for any group is the number unemployed expressed as a percentage of the labour force (i.e. plus unemployed ) in the same group.
ILO recommendation which was set out at the 8th International Conference of Labour Statistics in 1 954.
Definition of unemployment
Persons in unemployment consist of persons above a specified age, on the specified day or for a specified week, were in the following categories:
Workers available for employment whose contract for employment had been terminated or temporarily suspended and who were without a job and seeking work for pay or profit.
Persons who were available for work (except for minor illness) during the specified period and were seeking work for pay or profit, who were never previously employed or whose most recent status was other than that of employee (i.e. former employers et cetera), or who had been in retirement.
Persons without a job and are currently available for work who had made arrangements to start a new job at a date subsequent to the specified period.
Persons on temporary or indefinite lay off without pay.
The following categories of persons are not considered to be unemployed.
Persons intending to establish their own business or farm, but who have not yet arranged to do so, but were not seeking work for pay or profit.
Former unpaid family workers not at work and not seeking work for pay or profit.
-In 1975, and again in 1977, the ABS conducted a survey of those not in the labour force- as defined by it. It is urgent that these surveys be conducted monthly along with the labour force survey and the survey of job vacancies. Only in this way will we in this Parliament obtain the information that we need. By failing to account for those who would like a job, the work force in Australia today is understated by 4.5 per cent of the civilian population aged 15 years and over. The proportion of that population looking for work is nearer 8 per cent than the 4 per cent now estimated as unemployed under current definitions.
However it was encouraging to hear from Mr Cameron that the ABS does acknowledge the importance of providing more information about the cross-flows between the categories employed, unemployed, and not in the work force. The need for this data too is urgent. So also is a review of the categories of themselves. The last survey of those not in the work force, was conducted as long ago as May 1977. It revealed that there are large numbers of people who would like a job, but who are not now regarded as being in the unemployed component of the work force. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an exercise, based on this survey, which shows that in May this year there were 856,000 who would have liked a job, that is 12.5 per cent of what could be described as the potential labour force.
The document read as follows-
The aim of this exercise is to estimate major components of the Civilian Labour Force (aged 15 years and over) at May 1978 by the inclusion of those people not in the labour force who have expressed a desire for work, i.e. discouraged job seekers.
The basic method has been to extrapolate, from the results of a survey of persons not in the labour force in May 1 977, the proportion of discouraged job seekers at May 1978, and include them in estimates of the number of unemployed and the labour force in May 1978, as published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The Australian Bureau of Statistics definition of unemployment includes only those people who took active steps to find a job, excluded are those who ‘would and might have liked a job’ but who for one reason or another did not actively seek work.
The following table shows selected major components of the civilian population aged 15 years and over at May 1977. The estimates are contained in Australian Bureau of Statistics publications entitled: The Labour Force, May 1977, and Persons Not in the Labour Force, May 1977. It should be noted that full-time students aged 15-20 years who would and might have liked a job’ have been excluded from the labour force. No account has been taken of full-time students aged 20 years and over who ‘would and might have liked a job’ (i.e. included in labour force) because of the lack of data as to their number.
Compiled at request by the Statistics Group of the Legislative Research Service from issues of The Labour Force and Persons Not In the Labour Force, May 1977, published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
-We must face the fact that too many people are chasing too few jobs. Generally speaking, the more able, more articulate and more affluent two-income families are catching them. The unemployment we are now looking at is quantitatively and qualitatively different from the unemployment we have experienced in the past. Because of this it is also important that the ABS produce regular monthly statistics as to the effect of unemployment on families and households. The experience of other industrialised countries points to unemployment being a permanent feature of the economic landscape. The problem of the 1980s is going to be sharing the work around.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– If this Government were a public company, its directors would now be in gaol, after having been charged and found guilty of the most monstrous fraud in Australia’s history. Just nine months ago, the Liberal-Country Party coalition spent a fortune in the election campaign to tell the Australian voters how the Labor Party would take away the tax cuts they had promised would operate early in 1978. The Australian Labor Party had asked the Australian people to forego these tax cuts so that payroll tax could be abolished, job creation schemes could be initiated and the economy stimulated.
The coalition’s campaign was dishonest enough, with advertisments showing a hand holding a fist full of dollars, deliberately attempting to mislead the average worker into believing that if he voted Liberal there would be a vast increase in his pay packet. Undoubtedly these lying advertisements and the campaign waged by the present Government had a great deal to do with this Government’s return with such a large majority. However, within six months of the tax cuts being introduced the same Government, in the greatest turn around in history, has increased personal income tax so that every worker earning between $1 14 and $238 a week has lost every cent that he gained in February.
The feeling of disillusionment and disenchantment with the Liberal and National Country party coalition has, since the presentation of the Budget, given way to feelings of deep bitterness and anger. The basis of this infamous document, laughingly referred to as a Budget, is that inflation has to be reduced further by containing the deficit and reducing the amount of money available for people to spend. The fault lies, we are told, with the grasping worker who, despite repeated assaults upon wage indexation, is still being too highly paid for what he is producing. Let me quote what the Treasurer (Mr Howard) said:
Real wages are still too high and this remains a major cause of the unacceptable levels of unemployment.
The inescapable truth which cannot be too heavily emphasised is the real cost of labour continues to be out of time with productivity.
Until this is put right, growth in jobs will be held back and unemployment will be difficult to reduce.
Let us examine this ‘inescapable truth’ because undoubtedly this is the linchpin of the Government’s policy. I have just returned from a twoweek study tour of Japan. Together with my colleagues the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) and the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), I visited a number of Japanese manufacturersNippon Steel, Nikon, Facom, National
Panasonic and Toyota. Together these five industrial giants would represent a cross section of those industries that have placed Japan among the countries with the most successful economies in the world and have made it the envy of every industrialised nation.
In the area of steel, cameras, computers, radio, television and automobiles Japan leads the world. It goes without saying that we were enormously impressed with the size and efficiency of the operation, particularly the degree to which the manufacturing process was automated. We knew also before we went of the very harmonious industrial relations that have been a feature of Japanese life in the post-war period of economic expansion. However, the surprise came when we started asking questions about the wages and conditions of Japanese workers. It is still to a large degree part of the Australian mythology that the reason for Japan’s success is the low level of wages paid to Japanese workers. We knew before we went there that wages had risen in recent years but we had no idea to what extent.
It has to be understood also that most Japanese companies of this size include a number of benefits in the total wage package. They include free health cover, transportation to and from work, subsidised meals at canteens, 20 working days holiday a year, 12 to 1 3 weeks paid maternity leave, subsidised housing and subsidised holidays at their holiday resorts. Although the base salary is not much higher than Australian wage levels, Japanese companies provide a twice-yearly bonus equal to approximately six months of the workers’ wages. In the five companies we visited the total package was worth between $325 and $375 a week. In the shipbuilding industry it was worth a great deal more. In many cases the workers there receive double what the average Australian worker is receiving. On average they would receive at least 50 per cent more than Australian workers.
I make the point also that the companies provide fantastic recreational and sporting facilities for their work forces and, in many instances, for the whole community. The sporting complex of the Toyota organisation has to be seen to be believed. To say that it is large enough and magnificent enough for the Commonwealth Games to have been held there would be an understatement. The companies also maintain a superb range of company owned holiday resorts which the workers can enjoy at a very low tariff.
– And the wages have risen without a great deal of inflation.
– I accept that comment.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the different conditions for Japanese and Australian workers. The obvious question that has to be asked is this: If the most successful Japanese companies can pay their workers salaries of this dimension and provide working conditions of the quality I have described, why are we in Australia constantly told by this Government, by Australian businessmen, by the media and by every reactionary force in Australia today that the reason for Australia’s present economic malaise is the fact that Australians are overpaid? The sensible answer, of course, is that it is not true that Australians are overpaid. The answer did not come from us but from the top management of the Japanese businessmen to whom I referred earlier.
We had long discussions with the top men of all these companies, including Mr Toyota himself. It would be fair to say that a consensus of these views was that the reasons for Australia’s lack of competitiveness was, firstly, that at the top level of management Australia was a long way behind. Australian management, the Japanese felt, was inefficient. Secondly, Australia was attempting to make every single item in Australia and this was extremely inefficient. Speaking of the automobile industry, they felt that with our vast array of natural resources, iron ore in particular, we should concentrate on processing those resources and on manufacturing those parts of the automobile that use substantial amounts of steel. It could be argued that Japanese companies would hardly be giving Australia advice that would strengthen our manufacturing industry at the possible expense of their own industry. Nevertheless, the case they argued seemed to us to make sense. In view of the dire straits that the Australian automobile manufacturing sector has been in in recent years and in view of the constant aid and assistance it has sought and obtained from governments, culminating in the latest sales tax reduction, I think the least we can do is to look seriously at what they suggested.
Given the right government guidance and incentive in the early stages, the companies involved in this area of manufacturing could develop the economies of scale required to become a net exporter of these products. Obviously, economies of scale are vital to produce many items at competitive world prices but it seems to me to be impractical to imagine that Australia can opt to manufacture every single component part of the automobile. We have hundreds of component parts manufacturers trying to eke out a living by making a few thousand items a week when their Japanese counterparts are producing the same item by the hundreds of thousands. Clearly, decisions have to be made and should be made by government in consultation with business and the trade union movement to concentrate our productions in the areas in which we have the resources, the energy, the manpower and the technology to produce them in large numbers so that we can compete internationally. We should then gradually phase out those areas in which we are unable to compete and where countries like Japan, Germany and the United States can provide us with parts far cheaper than we can make them. A small country like Australia cannot manufacture everything without massive protection. Let me make it clear that I am not advocating the removal of all tariffs. On the contrary, in some areas where a decision is made to concentrate our efforts, it may be necessary to increase tariffs for a while to gain the benefits of economies of scale.
Productivity is a word that is bandied around a great deal in debate about Australian manufacturing industry and it usually ends up with businessmen abusing the unions, the Australian workers, about their lack of productivity. However, productivity is not something that depends solely on the skill or enthusiasm of the work force. It is bound up in a number of factors, including the economies of scale to which I have just referred, industrial relations, the skill and quality of the work force, management and the technology being used. Clearly, the industrial relations of the Japanese- I am referring to the companies to which we spoke- are something that Australia could envy and should envy. It was argued by some people that it simply is not feasible to compare the industrial relations of the two countries because of the vast differences in cultures and in the traditionally close, almost feudal, relationship that has existed for generations between Japanese employers and employees. I am not denying the different historical and cultural differences that make comparisons difficult. However, if one looks at those features of Japanese industrial life that seem to be the major factors in creating industrial harmony and the resultant high level of productivity, one can find all those features that progressive people have been arguing for years should be incorporated in the industrial relations system in Australia.
For example, if a Japanese company decides that it wants to introduce new technology into its factory it immediately has one big advantage over its Australian counterpart. Guaranteed life long employment is and has been a feature of Japanese life for generations. Japanese workers do not see new technology as a threat to their livelihood for the simple reason that they know that, short of murdering the general manager, they have security of employment until they retire. The Japanese simply do not sack people. New technology is seen by the Japanese worker as a means of lightening his work load, ensuring the profitability of the company that employs him and thus increasing his wages and improving his conditions. If new technology is introduced it is done after long periods of consultation with the union and the workers themselves. We were told that at one factory the discussions on new changes had been going on for eight months. I ask honourable members to contrast this attitude with the sort of thing that is happening in the present Telecom dispute. It makes it easy to understand why there has not been a strike at Toyota for 27 years. There is also a genuine attempt to bring workers into the decision-making process. At National Panasonic and Toyota some 420,000 suggestions are received per annum. That is an average of 10 suggestions for each employee each year. Those people who put forward suggestions that were adopted were rewarded handsomely.
One obvious advantage in Japanese industrial relations over Australian industrial relations lies in the smaller but stronger number of unions. This issue has been canvassed in this Parliament for many years. We are all aware of the role of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as Opposition spokesman on labour during the period of the Whitlam Government. When the present honourable member for Hindmarsh was Minister for Labour and Immigration legislation was introduced to facilitate the amalgamation of unions. Despite the overwhelming view of all those who have studied the problems of demarcation disputes in Australia that there was a need for fewer unions, the Liberal-National Country parties blocked that legislation in the Senate. They were more concerned with the political value of maintaining divisions in the union movement than in minimising industrial disputation. The Japanese, who like the West Germans, have unions based on industries rather than crafts, are bemused by our union system.
We asked the Japanese for a frank view of the Australian workers’ ability. Whilst they stated that they thought the Japanese worker was marginally better than his Australian counterpart, they constantly reiterated that in their view this was not a major factor in the difference in the productivity of the two nations, just as they constantly stressed that wage levels had nothing to do with the different competitive positions of each nation. Because of better industrial relations, wages, conditions, security of employment and so on, Japanese workers stay with the company. At one company, Toyota, the turnover of staff was only 1 1 per cent per annum, caused by retirement, death, illness and so on. The honourable member for Hindmarsh informed me that at General Motors-Holden’s Ltd in Australia the turnover of staff is 186 per cent per annum. This, the Japanese believed, was one of the major reasons for the slightly higher skills of Japanese workers.
In all our discussions one fact came through clearly. Australia’s inability to compete with Japan in those industries to which I have just referred- steel, cars, computers, radio, television sets, cameras, ship building, and I suspect many more industries- has little or nothing to do with the wage levels of Australian workers. Nor can it be attributed to any lack of skills or ability of Australian workers. If the Japanese businessmen to whom we spoke are to be believed, the fault lies with Australian management and with the Australian Government which refuses to take steps to rationalise Australian manufacturing industry and our industrial relations.
The Japanese culture and traditional relations between employer and employee may be vastly different from Australia’s but if one examines the specific features of Japanese industrial relations- consultations, security of employment, good wages and conditions- and the Japanese solutions to problems, one can realise that Japanese workers have reacted favourably to being treated as human beings, not just as factory fodder. In my view, Australian workers would react in exactly the same way, just as West German workers have, if they were treated in the same way. This matter has little to do with different cultures. It has a lot to do with different human relations. If this Government had any real desire to pick Australia up off its present economic slide, it would stop abusing Australian workers, trade unions, the Labor Party and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and start on the long but rewarding job of modernising and rationalising Australian manufacturing industry and industrial relations. The whole basis of this monstrous Budget is wrong. It is aimed at continuing to depress the wage levels of Australian workers when it ought to be based on improving the productivity of Australian industry.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Short) adjourned.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister making a ministerial statement forthwith.
-The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) jumped to his feet to seek leave to make a statement -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– . . . which the Opposition has not had for more than three minutes.
-The question now is: ‘That the question be now put’. The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat.
– This statement was given to the Opposition at seven minutes past eight. This is what the Prime Minister is always doing.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Sinclair’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative with an absolute majority.
– This morning the discussion between Telecom and the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association before Commissioner Clarkson broke down. Commissioner Clarkson had been working on a compromise proposal to settle the Telecom dispute. Telecom had accepted this proposal as indeed it had accepted his earlier proposals. The union executive has rejected the proposals. The proposal was reasonable and fair and would have protected the interests of all parties. It would have allowed a review of ATEA classifications. It would have provided adequate and proper consultation on the development of new technology necessary to protect the interests of the Australian consumers. It would have provided for a trial of new equipment. It would have provided an independent assessment of new equipment. In relation to those points there are some who might well have said that Telecom had gone too far in accepting those provisions but it did so because it recognised its responsibility to the wider Australian community and its responsibility to contribute to the settlement of what has become a most damaging industrial dispute -
– I take a point of order. The conventions of this House are that the Opposition be given a copy of the statement. He is not making the statement that has been given to the Opposition.
-There is no point of order involved.
-The honourable gentleman should not blame too much his incapacity to read, because I am adding at one or two points something to the statement, a copy of which he has in part.
– Why were you frightened to give it to us beforehand, in accordance with tradition? You lack courage in parliamentary debate.
– He has no guts.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I remind the House that, by an absolute majority, the House has suspended Standing Orders to enable the Prime Minister to make a statement. I ask honourable members on my left to listen in silence to the Prime Minister.
– -There arc some who might have thought that Telecom had gone a little too far in accepting those two aspects of Commissioner Clarkson ‘s proposals- the trial of new equipment and an independent assessment of new equipment- but Telecom did just that because it believes that it has a national responsibility to contribute to the settlement of what has become a most damaging dispute, a dispute that is harming business right throughout Australia, causing great harm to individuals, great harm and inconvenience to families and at the same time is damaging Australia’s international reputation. The dispute which has been going on for the best part of a month is now entering a most serious stage. On Monday and Tuesday union officials will be seeking endorsement of their rejection of Commissioner Clarkson ‘s proposals. It is time for the Government to state its own position in this dispute clearly and unequivocally.
The continued industrial action by the ATEA is causing great inconvenience and harm to tens of thousands of people throughout this nation, gravely disrupting business right throughout Australia. While the dispute continues communications are bound to deteriorate further, causing more hardship to individuals, more damage to business and to Australia’s reputation overseas. The Government fully supports the decisions taken by Telecom. It supports the compromise proposals put forward by Commissioner Clarkson. It believes that Telecom has been responsible and reasonable in a very difficult situation. Telecom has fully supported Commissioner Clarkson ‘s proposals for settlement and there have been others before the ones rejected by the union executive this day. The Government fully supports Telecom’s policy of no work, no pay. Over 3,000 employees are already off pay because they refuse to do the work they are normally paid to do, and the number will inevitably increase very significantly from this point.
Wages are now being lost at the rate of $ 1 .6m a fortnight, and so the hardship on ATEA members alone is considerable and is bound to increase. When pursuing this course they might think of the hardship they are causing to their families and children as a result of this particular problem. Let me say in the most clear and unequivocal terms that it is the view of Telecom and it is the strongest view of the Government that pay lost in these circumstances will not be regained, will not be repaid, as one of the elements in the settlement of the dispute. So pay lost is pay that will stay lost. That needs to be understood. The Government also endorses the decision oi ; thereof u> commence deregistration proceedings forthwith against the ATEA. The union has resolutely rejected not just one but three sets of proposals by Commissioner Clarkson.
The members of the ATEA have a responsibility to Australia and I hope that on Monday and Tuesday they will recognise it. They are in a service industry which is essential to this nation. It is plain that Australia needs them but it also ought to be plain to them and to Australia that they need Telecom for their jobs, for their security. They are unlikely to find other jobs as well paid, for which they are qualified and for which many of them have been specially trained. So if they believe that they have a strong point that Australia needs then to fill this task let it also be understood that they need Telecom if they are to have the jobs they are paid for, the jobs they are qualified for and for which they will receive a higher remuneration than for other jobs that may be available to them. I suspect that the public is not aware that Telecom has given a ten-year guarantee to ATEA members against any retrenchment whatsoever as a result of technological change. What other industry, what other employer, has achieved that in terms of security for its own employees? We should put that ten-year guarantee alongside the terms of Commissioner Clarkson ‘s compromise proposals, terms which would have involved a trial period of new equipment, adequate consultation in relation to new equipment and new technology and independent assessment. There surely was the basis of proposals that all sides could honourably and properly accept in the principle of arbitration. But no, not being prepared to accept that, the executive of the union is prepared to make this nation and tens- indeed hundreds- of thousands of people right throughout Australia pay and go on paying because it is not concerned about the increasing hardship that it is putting upon this nation.
Against this background it is necessary for me to be even more specific. The Government supports Telecom. It will continue to do so because in supporting Telecom it is supporting the interests of all Australians. We have a longstanding tradition of arbitration in this nation. The union officials are now seeking to throw that tradition aside. The umpire has been plainly and demonstrably fair. If the spirit of arbitration is to prevail- arbitration, a principle that has protected Australian working men and women through the generations, through the decadesthen it ought to be accepted in this case as it is in others. But one of the tragedies of more recent years is that senior union leaders have taken the view that they will accept arbitration while it gives them what they want, but if it does not give them what they want, they will go outside arbitration and use industrial action, thereby inconveniencing the people of this nation, in order to achieve a settlement more to their liking, more in accord with their own decision. They refuse to accept the umpire’s verdict. Commissioner Clarkson said that he was bitterly disappointed at the lack of leadership shown by union officials. They are saying: ‘It must be our decision and on our terms’. That is the view of union officials. That view is not acceptable to the Australian community; it is not acceptable to this Government.
Let me say in the plainest and bluntest terms that the ATEA and its executive cannot win, and they will not win. The Australian community interest must be and will be protected. That is the Government’s responsibility; it is Telecom’s responsibility. Both the Government and Telecom will pursue it. Mr Speaker, it needs to be understood by all people in this country that there is much that the Commonwealth can do. If the decision of ATEA on Monday and Tuesday is to reinforce and endorse its executive’s decision, then the Commonwealth will be compelled to go down a certain path. But while there are many powers available to this Government, we cannot compel an early return to work; we cannot compel an early resumption of services. So I have to put this nation on notice that if it is necessary, the deterioration of the network will continue not just for a day or two. It may be for a week; it may be longer. It may be for two weeks; it may be for a month; it may be longer than that.
I say quite deliberately and with the full force of the Government behind me that we know quite well that the cost to Australia in pursuing that path would be great. We know quite well that the harm to businesses would be great. We know quite well that the problems for many individuals and for many families who need and want to maintain communication would be great. But the cost to Australia would be greater still if a small minority in one union were allowed to blackmail this nation, to destroy arbitration and to determine what they do and what they want and say that that must prevail. We will support arbitration and we will make certain that arbitration, justice and the interests of all Australians prevail. Mr Speaker, the Commonwealth has a range of legal powers available to it. It will not hesitate to use those powers if members of this union do not accept their responsibility to the total Australian community. The longer this dispute continues the more the families of ATEA members themselves will suffer because the more wages they will have lost; the more difficulties there will be for their own people.
Commissioner Clarkson expressed the hope that ATEA members will be given the opportunity to consider his recommendations and to see the sense of them. That is the urgent hope and belief of this Government and of all those who support it. The members of the union will have that opportunity on Monday and Tuesday of this coming week. I ask them to reflect upon these matters, to assess their position, to consider what is really in their own interests, what is really in the interests of their own families and what is in the interests of this nation. I present the following paper:
Telecom Dispute- Ministerial Statement, 24 August 1 978.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-First of all, I would like to object to the very crude manner in which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has treated this Parliament. It is a convention of this Parliament that the Opposition is given two hours’ notice of any statement to be made by a Minister, including a Prime Minister. On occasions we have bent that rule because we realise that in relation to some of the statements that have to be made there has not necessarily been the time available to give the Opposition two hours’ notice. We were informed tonight at 6.15 that a statement would be made by the Prime Minister, after the dinner break, at five past eight and that the statement would be given to us at 7 o’clock. We received that statement exactly two minutes before the Prime Minister came into this chamber. It is not the statement which has been made to the Parliament. Honourable members on the Government benches can accept the very crude fashion in which the Prime Minister treats this Parliament but the people of Australia ought to know the way in which he is doing it. We object to it most strongly.
This is an extremely important issue. Of course, as is always the case with conservative political parties, the Government parties are delighted to be able to engulf themselves in an industrial dispute. They are delighted when they think that there is some political advantage in involving themselves in getting stuck into a trade union. So the Government embarks on a threat, or an offer which it says the union cannot refuse. It says that on Monday and Tuesday the rank and file members of the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association must vote for a return to work. What a very stupid proposition the Prime Minister of this country has made in this House tonight. He has put the union members on notice that on Monday and Tuesday they must vote to return to work and consequently allow the Prime Minister to say that he has had a great victory. Already one can predict with all the certainty in the world that on Monday and Tuesday, because of the stupidity of the Prime Minister tonight, the men will vote to stay out. He has left them with no alternative- I repeat, no alternative. Why does not the Minister responsible for Telecom -
– What utter rot.
-Order! There is far too much interjection from my right. I ask honourable gentlemen to listen to the speech in silence.
-They do not want to listen, Mr Speaker, because they know that the Prime Minister has made a very crude error in bringing on this debate tonight, when the negotiations are at a very sensitive stage and when the men will meet on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the sixpoint proposal put by Commissioner Clarkson and to decide what ought to be done. What everybody ought to know is that Telecom Australia, like the back bench supporters of the Government, is merely the lackey of this Prime Minister. Telecom has been carrying out the directions of this Government ever since the dispute started. How else can the Government submerge the Withers issue and the Budget? It needs something to get those two issues off the front page of the newspapers. Telecom is lined up like the back benchers to meet the Prime Minister to see how it can overcome its problems.
No effort at all has been made by this Government to look seriously at the prime mover of the problem that is now being confronted by Telecom and by the employees of Telecom. Telecom itself has admitted that at the root of the problem is the technological change which is to be introduced into Telecom over the next few years. There is a dispute about how the men in the industry will be de-skilled. There is a dispute over the number of positions that will be lost in
Telecom over the next seven years. It is not as though Australia has a shortage of a work force. Due to the actions of this Government, there are at the moment 500,000 people who are ready to go to work. We should be looking at the problems and ramifications of the introduction of new technologies into our industries. We have to have running parallel with the introduction of new technologies into all our industries, especially the public utilities, areas of policy that deal with the problems of manpower. This Government has no such policies. When this dispute arose the Government could have moved to have a parliamentary committee look at the introduction of this technology and discuss with the union and Telecom itself what action ought to be undertaken to try to solve this dispute. But not at all. The role of the Government has been to agitate for a deepening of the problem and to provoke the members of the union to stay on strike.
The Prime Minister said that the members of the ATEA have already lost $ 1 .6m in wages. One would think that he himself would realise that the workers who have been prepared to sacrifice $1.6m in wages up to tonight- that figure is not correct; indeed the figure he gave on the number of people who have been laid off is also incorrect- are making that sort of sacrifice because they view the problem very seriously. They are prepared to continue to be stood down in an effort to have the people of the community, especially the Government of this country, look at the problems concerning the introduction of this new technology. It is not confined to Telecom. It is a threat that hangs over the job security of people who work in banks and insurance companies- in fact, the white collar industry right throughout Australia. This Government shows the same degree of concern for this new problem facing the white collar workers as it has shown for the problems of the blue collar worker. If in a couple of years there happen to be 200,000 or 300,000 people being put out of work in those areas the Prime Minister would be delighted, as he is delighted tonight to have the Telecom dispute take over from the Withers affair and the Budget issues.
The ATEA has put together a list of the problems that confront the industry. Honourable members opposite would do well to read some of them. The problems inherent in this dispute have been on show for honourable members to understand for some years. The number of people taken on by Telecom at the apprenticeship level has dropped alarmingly in the last three or four years. Only a fraction of the number of people who were being taken on by Telecom five years ago is being taken on today. It is all right for the Government to say that we have to push ahead with technology as quickly as possible, but what is going to happen to the people who are affected by these decisions? The threat to jobs cannot be overcome simply by the Prime Minister saying: We guarantee those who are there that for 10 years they will not lose their jobs ‘.
The members of the ATEA have taken up a fight on behalf of a good many people in this country. This is the first time that the Government has brought about discussion of the matter of technological change. The Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee), the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) and the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) have not made one statement to this House in 2V4 years about the difficulties facing the work force because of technological change. Everybody knows that the pace we have been setting since the war is only a fraction of the pace at which we will have to go between now and 1990. We will have to find tens of thousands of jobs if we are to be able to place everybody in work, otherwise we will have to follow the philosophy of the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party of good luck to those who have jobs and the dole for those who have not. We on this side of the House say to the Prime Minister and to the Government that the people of the ATEA are taking up a very important fight and Telecom ought to look at it far more seriously than it has to date. The fact that the Prime Minister now wants to involve himself so as to deepen the dispute is an example of how stupidly he is treating this matter.
Let us look at what the ATEA says in its summary of the effects on employment in the industry as a result of the introduction of this new technology. It says that Telecom ‘s plans to introduce computer-controlled telephone exchange equipment will have a major impact on employment opportunities in the exchange maintenance and installation areas of Telecom operators. There will be a subsequent impact on employment opportunities in most other areas, such as clerical, engineering, administration and support staff. The overall reduction in job opportunities planned by Telecom over the next 10 years is of a very significant level when compared with the rate of growth in the industry and the level of unemployment existing in Australia. There will also be a subsequent impact on employment levels in the private manufacturing sector of the telecommunications industry. If processes existed to provide a more public evaluation of Telecom’s plan, which is a very important aspect and a responsibility which the Parliament itself ought to take up so as to enable it to evaluate the decision of Telecom, the impact on employment opportunities could be significant enough to weigh heavily against the computerisation of the network at this time. The immense number of job opportunities in Telecom lost to the community by the introduction of new technology in telecommunications should be the cause of national concern. The union demands that an examination be conducted of, firstly, the rate of introduction of new technology and, secondly, the ability of the economy to create alternative employment opportunities, which is the point which I made earlier.
– I take a point of order. Throughout this very important debate, which concerns a matter of very great national significance, particularly to the workers in the telecommunications industry, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, who is sitting at the table, has been giggling like a little girl and playing up in the House. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to make him treat this matter seriously.
-There is no point of order.
– As I was saying, the union says that one of the most important aspects of this dispute is the ability of the economy to create alternative employment opportunities. We on this side of the House know, as do people throughout Australia, that we cannot hold back the introduction of new technology in the fields that have been important to Australia since the war. It was very important for us at a time when manpower was short to introduce technology as quickly as possible. The great fear that we on this side of the House have always had is that Australia is technologically derivative. We have been relying almost entirely upon the multinationals which operate in this country to give us the level of technology which they themselves see Australia fit to have. We have never had the technology to compete with their parent companies outside Australia and we have never had a government that is prepared to commit itself to building up the work force in this country to develop the technology that Australian industries may have. We accept willy-nilly that this is going to occur. We have reached the crossroads as far as technology is concerned. We have reached the crossroads as far as putting people into poverty is concerned. We have also reached the crossroads as far as the growing employment is concerned.
Why on earth does the Government not take seriously the solving of this dispute by setting up a parliamentary committee to look at the impact on Telecom and at the impact on the work force of the introduction of this technology? Why does it not let the Parliament understand better the fundamental changes that will take place so that the Parliament itself can get some grasp of what is likely to occur in this white collar area throughout Australia? For a long time people have believed that technology cannot affect the work opportunities. It has been said in Australia that, as the manufacturing industry and the rural industry take up less and less of the labour force in this country, the service industries- the tertiary industries- will take up those who become available for employment. But now the transfer is not quite so easy. We cannot transfer people overnight from the manufacturing industry to the tertiary industry. It is not possible to transfer the thousands of people who have left manufacturing industry because of technological change to areas that cannot take on the additional work force. We now have the problem that the white collar area- the tertiary area itself- is building into its framework a technology as a result of which it will need a smaller and smaller work force. We will have a work force of about 7 million people in a few years time and jobs for about 5.5 million people.
The Government ought to be taking this problem seriously because there is an enormous threat to the jobs of people who work in these areas. It is wrong of the Government to try to provoke or stand over the members of the union who are to meet on Monday and Tuesday by saying: ‘If you do not do so and so- vote to go back to work- we will deregister you’. I challenge any honourable member opposite to walk out of this chamber tonight and ring Laurie Short of the Federated Ironworkers Association, Norm Gallagher of the Builders ‘ Labourers Federation, Pat Clancy from the Building Workers Industrial Union or any of the secretaries of the unions which have been deregistered and ask him what deregistering a union proves. Ask them what on earth is achieved by deregistering a union. It achieves absolutely nothing. A situation of confrontation in which the communications of this country come to a standstill will be reached because of the stupidity of the Prime Minister tonight.
Instead of taking the bull by the horns in terms of looking at the problem now faced by ATEA members- that problem is soon to be faced by thousands of other people working in these areas, including members of the Public Service, the employees of this Government- the Government refuses to recognise the inherent problem in technological change. It says: ‘Where there is a dispute between an employer and union members, we are always on the side of the employer. The employer is always right’. That is the infallible gospel of a Liberal conservative government. It does not worry about the 27,000 members of a union. It does not concern itself with the fact that they are prepared to sacrifice $1.6m in wages. It says: ‘That is just not significant. The men are wrong’. I suggest to the Prime Minister that this problem goes far deeper than just the Telecom dispute. The matter has been handled very badly by Telecom. It has been handled even worse by the Government of the day and far worse by the Prime Minister. He deserves the condemnation of every person who works in an area like Telecom and who in the next few years will suffer the very same fate and the very same problem that members of the ATEA are facing today.
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) invited us to telephone some union leaders tonight. Thanks to the members of the Austraiian Telecommunications Employees Association, we cannot telephone union leaders tonight. My colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) cannot, even in an emergency situation, dial the phone numbers of members of the National Labour Consultative Council in order to arrange an urgent meeting on this crisis facing telecommunications in this country. Some of us cannot even dial a prayer.
If the honourable member for Port Adelaide is serious about getting the Budget back on the front pages of the newspapers- that is something he seems to desire- then I invite him to encourage the members of the ATEA to accept Commissioner Clarkson ‘s proposals. Then, happily, the Budget will be back on the front pages of the newspapers. We would support him in that sort of invitation to members of the ATEA.
The Opposition today is failing to face up to the real issues facing the Australian people. It is behaving in precisely the same way in which it behaved when it was in government and when, in the pursuit of its program, it failed to face up to the real issues which faced the Australian people. Let me give the House an illustration from the remarks of the honourable member for Port Adelaide of the way in which the Opposition, even tonight, is failing to face the real issues in this situation of crisis facing telecommunications in Australia. The honourable member for Port Adelaide said that negotiations are at a very difficult stage. The fact is that today the executive of the ATEA refused to negotiate. Today it refused to go to arbitration.
I do not propose to waste time on members of the Opposition. The matters facing the Government and facing Australia today are too serious for us to waste time on speeches such as that just made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide. Everyone in Australia today is being seriously inconvenienced by the action of the ATEA. We face what is potentially a disastrous situation. Business and ordinary residential telephone subscribers are having great difficulty making calls through the network. For instance, it has been almost impossible to telephone Sydney from Canberra, Melbourne from Sydney, and so on and so forth. Whilst most people are able to use the local telephone service, great delays are being experienced in the use of the trunk services throughout the whole of the country. Because of the black bans, as late as this afternoon the main trunk exchange at Adelaide was closed down completely. This afternoon large numbers of international circuits were out of order in our main cable to South East Asia.
The cause of this serious situation lies directly with the irresponsible action taken by the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association. This union has been engaged in industrial action for at least a month. Quite specifically, the issues involved for the ATEA are, firstly, resistance to the introduction of new technology and, secondly, easier promotion for its members without normal and proper qualifications to higher positions and thus, of course, higher pay. No matter how the union tries to disguise this issue, its real motive is clearly set out on page 121 of the July 1978 edition of the union’s own journal Teletechnician. It reads:
The objective in regard to this matter is to raise the maximum rate of pay for the tradesman to the same rate as the maximum rate of pay for the technician and that both classifications be permitted to perform the same work in the field.
This would necessitate a salary increase of approximately $1,000 per annum for 3,000 tradesmen, most of whom would never be required to perform the higher functions of a technician.
Let us consider the new technology. Telecom Australia has a statutory obligation under the Telecommunications Act to provide telecommunications services for the Australian public. Amongst other things, it is required specifically to have regard to the desirability of improving and extending its telecommunications services in the light of developments in the field of communications. Obviously it is essential that new technology be used if charges to Telecom’s customers are to be kept as low as possible. The new equipment which is currently under dispute is being introduced simply because it provides the most efficient and most economical method of updating the switching system. It also will provide many new additional services which will meet the special needs of customers. It will be cheaper to buy, install and maintain this new equipment than to develop the existing network in the old way. In fact, costs by the 1980s will be $50m less with the new equipment. It also will achieve greater reliability, lower maintenance and better facilities. The real costs of providing and maintaining telephone services will be reduced, more people will be able to have a telephone service, and employment will be generated within Telecom and within the Australian telecommunications industry.
The ATEA, which represents only about one quarter of Telecom ‘s employees, has complained that it is concerned about the employment situation for its members. This clearly is a smokescreen. Not one of its members will be sacked; not one of its members will lose any salary. The firmest guarantees have been given in the arbitration system by Telecom in relation to these matters. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) pointed out, there are few workers in this country who have their jobs guaranteed for 10 years. Members of the ATEA are in the privileged class of Australia’s workers. I might add that they enjoy a 36% hour working week and 9 days a fortnight.
Let us look into the future. Whilst the number of ATEA members engaged in switching equipment maintenance will be reduced, there will be a slight growth in the technical work force over the next five years. One manufacturer of this equipment is fully under way in its production. The equipment will be produced within Australia, thus providing many jobs for Australian workers in the telecommunications industry. The bans which have been applied by the ATEA are now interfering seriously with business, as I have said, and they also are threatening the jobs of many Australian workers. The loss of revenue which Telecom is suffering will seriously threaten the jobs of many Australian workers. Currently Telecom’s revenue is being reduced by $lm a day. So far about $20m has been lost by Telecom. Quite clearly, the reductions in Telecom revenues will seriously threaten the jobs of many workers. They could well lead to long delays in the provision of essential Telecom equipment and services in country and metropolitan areas which are included m the current works program.
With the full support and encouragement of the Government, Telecom announced that in November this year there would be quite substantial reductions in trunk line charges. These were possible only because of the proper use of new technology. In the current situation these concessions are clearly threatened as a result of the union’s action. Planned reductions in longdistance off-peak rates represent a 60 per cent reduction on the day rate. Intermediate distance rates were to be reduced by 10 per cent and 20 per cent during the day. The reductions in rates would reduce costs to the consumer by a total of $30m a year. These reductions are now in peril. New technology has also enabled basic charges to be held, even in times of inflation. Costs to the consumer have been steadily reducing in real terms. Significant improvements in rural areas are being planned, such as extensions to local service areas which will be of enormous benefit to rural people. There is also the introduction within about 10 years of automatic exchanges covering almost every Australian. In the metropolitan area there will be the introduction of modifications to the extended local service areas alongside the great capital cities. The timing of these modifications might also be in peril because of the actions of the ATEA.
Numerous attempts have been made to settle the dispute. There can be no question that I and other members of the Government, in constant discussion with Telecom, have created circumstances in which Telecom has offered the maximum concessions to Commissioner Clarkson and, therefore, to the ATEA. But, in the face of a total acceptance by Telecom of Commissioner Clarkson ‘s recommendations, the ATEA has rejected them. It is obvious that the specific recommendations which have been made by Commissioner Clarkson are not merely minor concessions. They are substantial concessions on the part of Telecom. The first three related to the staff structure. They included, for instance, the recommendation that the classifications of tradesman and technician be restructured and retitled. The second recommendation was that the salaries of the restructured classifications would be the subject of arbitration which would take into account any changes in the value of the work. The third recommendation was that the question of promotion and standards required for promotion be arbitrated.
Telecom is prepared to look at the whole issue and to have it arbitrated. Clearly, Telecom’s total acceptance of Commissioner Clarkson ‘s proposal, which was supported by the Government after discussion with Telecom, indicates its preparedness to have the crisis in telecommunications in Australia resolved promptly and properly. Further, Telecom agreed to trials of its new maintenance equipment with independent assessment. This demonstrates the reasonable attitude of Telecom. In addition, on the issue of new technology Telecom has adopted a forward looking policy. Telecom has a consultative council comprising 10 representatives of the unions and seven representatives of management.
The Telecom consultative council in September last year appointed a new technology sub-committee. The sub-committee’s task is to review existing arrangements for the introduction of new technology in Telecom and to recommend new procedures which have regard to the interests of the staff affected and staff relations generally, as well as Telecom’s customer and community responsibilities. This subcommittee on new technology includes representatives of the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union, the Australian Telephonists and Phonogram Operators Association, the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association, the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, the Australian Public Service Association, the Professional Officers Association and the Australian Professional Engineers Association. Between them these organisations cover 74,000 of Telecom’s 87,500 employees. The seriousness with which Telecom regards this new technology sub-committee is underlined by the fact that it is chaired by Telecom’s Deputy Chief General Manager. The sub-committee has now reached the stage where draft detailed procedures and conditions of service for the introduction of new technology are being considered by the staff side and a union position paper is being considered by management.
The public’s patience is at an end. The Government will not waver from its determination that Telecom Australia must be able to fulfil its responsibility to provide the Australian people with services which are as efficient and economical as possible. Telecom must be able to do this in the light of development in the field of communications.
-We have heard for the first time in the whole dispute the individual who ought to have carried most of the responsibility; that is the Minister at the table, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). He has not done so. He is the phantom of the opera. All we have heard from the very beginning of this dispute is the angry ant and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) blasting the union at every course. One would think that this dispute started in the last two or three months. Anybody who has followed the developments in the field of technological change, whether in the telecommunications industry or any other industry, would readily know that the development of techniques in the postal and telecommunications area has been going on since 1970. There have been dramatic changes. The organisations which represent the unionists in this industry have, in fact, complied with many requests and joined in objective negotiations in order to facilitate the introduction and development of new techniques and to adapt themselves to handling the new equipment.
Further to that, these organisations have never rejected new technology. On the contrary, they have met in consultation. They have developed training programs to meet the requirements of changing technology. At the end of the trail their reward will be redundancy. Their jobs either will simply disappear -
– You have not been listening.
– The honourable member is not capable of listening. He is too thick in the head. If he listens he might understand clearly what the dispute is all about. These people will lose their jobs either because the jobs will disappear or, alternatively, because of the introduction of a sophisticated type of equipment that threatens the civil liberties of people in this country. Individuals who condemn the union do not understand clearly the ramifications of this equipment in the hands of certain people.
Let us hark back to the reasons for the mad desire to introduce this equipment. I repeat that Telecom organisations have co-operated. This has been readily accepted by the Telecom commissioners, who have agreed with me in consultations I have had with them. The pressure started in 1 976 when the Government of the day, the present Government, forced Telecom out on to the open market to obtain loans to capitalise the industry. That being the case, the end result is that the industry must become more capitalintensive. In that process, this equipment is being rushed into service. In effect it has not been, as it ought to be, submitted to the scrutiny of public debate. It should not simply be a matter of Telecom’s determining, with the assistance and the endorsement of the Government, that it will introduce equipment which has such wide ramifications. Telecom made that decision itself.
What goes to the very heart of this dispute is not all this poppycock that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Post and Telecommunications have been going on about. It is people struggling for survival. Instead of the Minister and the Prime Minister proceeding to describe everything that the union has done as bad, and everything that Telecom has done as good, they ought to have a look inward, at themselves. Right from the commencement of the latter part of the dispute, Mr Justice Gaudron and Commissioner Clarkson have taken the Government to task for standing over, for deliberately goading, the telecommunications commissioners into action that has been inflammatory and has driven these individuals, concerned as they are about their employment, into taking the action that they have. A conciliatory attitude was never taken by the Government. The co-ordinating committee has been at the back of every move that has been made. Commissioner Clarkson indicated this. Is the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, who has just re-entered the House, calling him a liar? If that is what he believes, why does he not say so? The Minister has a responsibility too. I wonder whether he has read the Act itself? He has a responsibility if he is going to direct the commissioners to do certain things.
– No one has directed the commissioners.
– Of course not: The Minister has directed them through the co-ordinating committee. He did not have the courage to come out and do so himself. He has uttered not one word throughout this dispute. He has stood there like little Sir Echo and minded his own business. Now the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) stands up here and blasphemes the organisations, gets stuck into the unions, and pushes them into the position in which they find themselves today. Despite the facade put up by the Prime Minister in stating the reasons for this dispute what the unions are arguing about is the need for development upwards from the lower grades, by being given the opportunity to obtain the necessary training, and to progress through the structure in the Department itself. That is primarily the reason why this series of negotiations went before the Commissioner. He urged Telecom to negotiate around those questions. There is also the fact that the changes in classification, to Telecom technician and Telecom technical officer, eliminated the possibility of anyone who was a tradesman proceeding past that point.
– This is to be arbitrated.
– It is not a question of its being arbitrated. In the early stages these matters were referred to the parties by Commissioner Clarkson, but they have never got off the ground. Telecom demanded that the threshhold question be that within the structure itself limitations should be placed on these individuals who had served their entire working life in the organisation.
-The structure has to be considered.
-So far as the structure is concerned, it is a threshhold question that the organisation should be assured that people will move through the structure. That threshhold question has never been answered, yet the Minister talks about arbitration. The basic dispute is the concern for the thousands of jobs of which I have made mention- the skills of the people concerned and their future. It is not only their jobs that they are concerned about. They will be deskilled. They will be placed in a situation in which 90 per cent of the positions, in that area of Telecom operations, will disappear.
It is all right for the telecommunications commissioners to say: ‘But nobody is going to get the sack; nobody is going to be put off. You can eke your working life out dusting the resistors or the relays’. At the end of the track 90 per cent of those jobs will have disappeared. In fact, at present it takes about 1.3 man hours per line per year to maintain the telephone service. On completion of the first stage that requirement will be reduced to 0.6 man hours. By the end of stage two, the figure will be 0.1 man hours. That is a devastating reduction. Those figures are most disturbing to the work force. It is not just a question of putting their whole faith in arbitration. It goes a lot further than that. The Government, the organised industrial movement and the Minister are the people involved in ensuring that jobs are available. The figure quoted by the Minister for Sports and Recreation in Victoria, Mr Brian Dixon, supported by figures that I have quoted over the last two years in this Parliament, show that by the end of 1 984 in the vicinity of 2 million jobs will have to be found. That is a horrifying concept for young people coming out of schools, or tradesmen who have trained themselves to a peak within the electronic industry or in a similar calling- to find that they may never be given an opportunity to work. And that is just the beginning of it. If we extend our examination to the proposed satellite system we see that the whole job outlook for the future becomes devastating. One has only to consider the future of data processing, what might happen in communications and the broadcasting system in general, and the way in which computerised data can be transmitted by satellite. That involves getting rid of people, in their thousands, in the clerical arena. I have in mind such things as employment in banks. This whole question goes to the point of job protection. Whichever way the Government twists and turns, all the penal clauses in the world, all the back-of-the-axe philosophy by the Government, will not resolve this dispute.
The general secretary of the organisation, to his credit, said: ‘If you gaol all the union officials in the ATEA, that is too bad. You might get away with it for a few of the individuals, but you are not going to hide yourself away from the principles involved in this dispute’. There are two sides to every dispute, but right from the outset we have had the silence of the Minister and the impetuosity of the Government in forcing penal legislation on to Telecom itself, calling on it to introduce a bans clause, which was rejected by Mr Justice Gaudron, who described it as inflammatory.
The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations could not care less whether 100,000, 200,000 or half a million people are unemployed. Just the single exercise of trying to disguise the level of the Budget in 1976 forced Telecom, in the first instance, to do this. Publications that have been circulated by that organisation spell out the various areas under investigation. If the Government were doing the right thing it would be taking the initiative with the industrial centres of authority in this country, through the Commission, with the ATEA and other interested organisations, to sit down and see what will be the ramifications of the introduction of computerisation. But it is not interested in that; it is interested in destroying the power of the organisation that stands in its way and refuses to do its bidding in the telecommunications industry. That is what it is all about and it does not start in the telecommunications industry.
To my way of thinking this is the most important industrial dispute we have had in this country for decades. More power to the arm of union members if they are going to defend their jobs. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, who is sitting at the table, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He will never be in trouble financially; nor will the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. But their deathly silence -
– I would be if I was without a job, so there.
– The honourable member ought to be without a job. He made the grade only by default. This dispute is really about job availability. The unions have been more than tolerant. Since 1970 they have gone to great lengths to try to work out a formula. They are not modern day Luddites. They welcome the introduction of technology. But they object to the fact that instead of the tradesmen who over a period have been trained for the purpose of repairing and maintaining these areas there will be one individual at a point in a central area who will go along and change a card, brush a relay or do some such menial task to put the equipment back into operation. What has been introduced so far as the organisation is concerned? Any backoftheaxe philosophy would achieve the same result. We will not stand by and allow the Government to get away with this hypocrisy. It forced Telecom into a situation and is now going to use Telecom as a political weapon against the workers in the trade union movement.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– My purpose in entering this debate is to put the industrial relations implications of this dispute into context. To do that it will be necessary for me to refer to some very recent history. Before I do so I want to make one thing quite clear. I wish to answer the allegations made by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) to the effect that the Government has directed the Australian Telecommunications Commission. I make a categorical denial of that. At no time has the Government directed Telecom. The Government has maintained close co-operation with Telecom and supports it.
– Why don’t you tell us what the coordinating committee told the Telecommunications Commission?
-I shall come to that in a minute. But the Government has not directed Telecom; nor has the co-ordinating committee been involved in any way, The honourable member for Melbourne ought to check his facts for a change.
– You are a liar.
– What was that?
– I said: ‘You are a liar’.
Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Stand up to speak.
– Drop dead.
-Order! In all fairness, the honourable member for Melbourne was heard in relative silence. Certainly no comments of that nature were made in the chamber.
-The honourable member ought to check his facts for a change. I suppose that would be too much of a change to expect of him. To get to the recent history of the dispute, on 30 June the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association- ATEA- imposed work bans in three States in an attempt to press its demands for the promotion of some of its members without the necessary qualifications required for that promotion through the internal staff structure of the Commission. In effect, it meant a claim for $20 a week for promotion to a higher grade without the qualifications that that grade required. For Telecom to have agreed to those demands would have meant abandoning the necessary qualifications standards. That dispute was the subject of proceedings before Commissioner Clarkson on 10, 1 8, 25 and 28 July, before being adjourned indefinitely at that stage. The reason why those proceedings were adjourned indefinitely- came to an abrupt haltwas that the ATEA refused to accept a working document prepared by all parties as a basis for examining the classification structure for technical staff. Instead of attempting to settle the dispute the union’s federal executive directed that work bans and industrial disruption be widened. At the time of the union action- I quote from the transcript of the proceedings of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission- Commissioner Clarkson said to the union:
It seems to me that if you persist with the action which your members are now engaged in that you are inviting a comfrontation . . . while you have got bans in you are closing the doors, nobody else is, and the simplest and most effective way of getting this dispute fixed is to lift the bans.
The Commissioner concluded:
All in all, the situation is a mess, the quickest and easiest way of cleaning up the mess is to lift bans.
On 10 August, Commissioner Clarkson proposed a 2 1-day cooling off period. Telecom indicated to the union its acceptance in general. However, whilst the federal executive of the union had the opportunity to accept the recommendation, it chose not to do so. In addition to the repeated attempts to settle the dispute through negotiation, officials of Telecom have assured the union that no member of the ATEA will lose his job as a result of the installation of this new equipment. I remind the honourable member for Melbourne that Telecom has also told the union and the Commissioner that it will help to train Telecom technicians to gain higher qualifications.
Telecom has at all times acted responsibly and has sought to have this dispute settled by negotiation and through the proper process of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. On the other hand, the union has rejected any attempt to negotiate and has chosen instead to revert to strike action designed to impair the effective operation of the nation’s telephone network, resulting in major disruption and inconvenience to the public. I reiterate that the Government supports Telecom in the action it has taken as it has followed the accepted and proper way to resolve industrial disputes. The responsibility for this dispute and the inconvenience being caused to the community rests fairly and squarely on the federal executive of the ATEA, as Commissioner Clarkson has pointed out.
Following compulsory private conferences before the Commissioner on 2 1, 22 and 23 August, the Commissioner put forward a six-point proposal aimed at settling the dispute. Telecom has notified its acceptance in principle of Commissioner Clarkson ‘s proposals. The ATEA was to announce its decision at 10.30 a.m. today, 24 August. The federal executive of the ATEA announced that it rejected the proposals of Commissioner Clarkson. The Commission has now proposed three separate settlements to this dispute. Telecom has accepted each of these proposals in principle. The union has blocked every attempt to negotiate a settlement of this dipute There must be serious doubts now whether the union is interested in ending this dispute at all without total capitulation to its demands. If the union persists in its actions there could be a complete breakdown in Australia’s communication facilities. That would be the union’s responsibility and no one else’s responsibility.
I reiterate something I said earlier. It is worth remembering that one of the initial claims that led to this dispute was for an increase of $20 a week for people without the qualifications which would entitle them to that increase; in other words, promotion without qualification. As I said earlier, Telecom has offered to give people the opportunity to train for the necessary qualifications. It has guaranteed job security- no retrenchments for 10 years. In answer to the claims of the honourable member for Melbourne, let us look at what Commissioner Clarkson ‘s proposals, which were accepted by Telecom but rejected by the ATEA, were in relation to the technical structure of the organisation. Honourable members should listen to these proposals. They read:
That the exchange maintenance centres be given a trial period of operation during which they be the subject of an investigation and report by two independent experts nominated- one by Telecom and one by the unions who are represented on the Consultative Council. The report or reports be given to the Arbitration Commission and debated at open hearing. That the nominated exchange maintenance centres should be installed (3 New South Wales, 2 Victoria, 1 Queensland, 2 South Australia, 1 Western Australia). That in Tasmania there should be a trial of an exchange support centre (an ATEA proposal), the operation of which should be investigated and reported on by the nominated experts. The concept of having trials is that if better methods are found then they will be implemented- indeed the Telecom Act requires Telecom to do this.
The sixth proposal by Commissioner Clarkson reads:
That with the introduction of future technology the parties or in the event the parties cannot agree within the Arbitration Commission, set up a programme for adequate prior discussion of problems with provision that the matter be referred to the Arbitration Commission if the parties cannot reach agreement. On this aspect it is noted that the Telecom Consultative Council -
Of course, the union is represented on that body- is considering this question and in due course the results will be reported to the Arbitration Commission.
It is quite clear that all the objections raised by the honourable member for Melbourne have been answered.
The position now reached is one of the greatest seriousness. The responsibility of government employees is the provision of a wide range of services essential to the well-being of a modern day community. If government employees do not fulfil these responsibilities, the effect reaches into the very fabric of our society. The Austraiian community is being subjected to major inconvenience and hardship through the industrial actions of a relatively small group of government employees and their union. The community is being deprived of services to which it is entitled. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said, the Government is not prepared to tolerate this type of situation. To do so would be to shirk its duty to protect the public interest. Commissioner Clarkson expressed his dismay this morning at the lack of leadership demonstrated by officials. As the Prime Minister said, he expressed the hope that the rank and file members of the ATEA will have an opportunity to consider his proposals and to see the sense of them.
The Government has a range of legal powers available for use in any disruption such as this. It will not hesitate to use these powers if the ATEA does not see sense. It is idle to suggest, as the union has done, that this disruption is not aimed at the general public. Ordinary subscribers are being gravely affected. Ordinary needs of the community are not being met and this is touching all elements of the community and all business affairs.
In matters of major industrial concern, I see it as my responsibility to acquaint the employers and union leaders in the community of the approaches that the Government is contemplating. This Government established the National Labour Consultative Council to provide a forum for discussing industrial relations matters of national concern. At a time such as this I want to convene the Council to tell it of the gravity of the situation facing the nation and to tell it why the Government sits poised to take legislative action in respect of the severe industrial unrest we face. My very ability to carry out this function- that is, to convene a meeting of the Council- has been gravely impeded because of the critical deterioration in the national communications network. I have been able to contact a couple of members of the NLCC. I am hopeful of arranging an emergency meeting of that body at a very early date, over the weekend if necessary. This Government, acting as it has always done in difficult industrial situations, will do everything possible to ensure a fair and equitable solution to the problem. But it will not hesitate to take what action is required to ensure that industrial blackmail by a minority does not succeed against the Australian community.
-The Opposition views this dispute with concern, of course, because the people of Australia are being inconvenienced by the rundown of the telecommunications system in this country. But the attitude of the Government in relation to this dispute is not in any way guaranteed to solve it. Indeed, the most likely result of the Government’s action tonight is an accentuation of the dispute. The action tonight follows a pattern which has developed over previous years while this Government has been in office. Once a dispute reaches a fairly serious stage, the Government rushes into the House with an inflammatory statement, gives the Opposition little notice, if any, of that statement, and then brings on a debate in which it tubthumps, criticises and blames the unions entirely.
As in all industrial relations matters, the blame is not entirely on one side. There are two parties to the dispute. The Government, in its arguments in this case, has done the same as it has in previous cases; it has ignored entirely the reasons for the dispute. The fact is that this dispute has a very serious basis and that is the rapid automation of the telecommunication service- the computerisation of that service at the enormous cost of $2 billion. I submit that the automation program has not been well planned in terms of its overall effects on employment and industrial relations in this country. But before I develop that argument I should like to make a couple of other points.
Firstly, the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) tonight politicises the dispute. Telecom Australia is a semi-government authority which supposedly operates independently of the Government in respect of its industrial relations. But what happened tonight? We had the Prime Minister making an inflammatory statement with the manager of industrial relations for Telecom sitting in the adviser’s box. If that is not politicising a dispute, I do not know what is, because Telecom was directly identified with the Government. The union finds that it is not just in an ordinary industrial relations situation; quite clearly the Government is announcing that it is taking the union on. The Government is doing this blatantly and openly, not just through the words of the Prime Minister. The Government has openly identified itself with Telecom. So, clearly, Telecom is in no way independent of the Government any more. It is being told what to do by the Government. Clearly, the Government intends to drum up this dispute as much as it can in order to take the mind of the electorate off other issues which are embarrassing to it. This politicisation of the dispute is typical of this Government. It does not help in any way to resolve the dispute. Indeed, it will make its settlement far more difficult. One would think that it was the Government’s intention to exacerbate the dispute. I submit that that really is a factor which is in the Government’s mind at the present time.
Secondly, the proposal to resort to deregistration, which apparently is in the air and is implied in the Prime Minister’s statement, will not solve a single issue in this dispute. Deregistration of a union does no more than take the union out of the dispute-settling machinery. Once a union is deregistered the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has no power in respect of it. The union cannot be brought before the Commission because it is no longer a registered body. How then will the Government solve the problem? It still will have a dispute on its hands; it still will have a strike on its hands. How will it solve the problem? It will not even be able to use the Arbitration Commission to solve it. Deregistration is no solution. It simply is an act of bravado by the Government which will get nowhere in terms of solving the dispute.
Thirdly, this dispute exemplifies governmental hypocrisy in this area of industrial relations. We have been told by the Prime Minister that the unions should accept arbitration; that we have this tradition of arbitration in this country and that we should all abide by arbitration, accept the umpire’s decision and so on. But in fact what does the Government do in respect of arbitration in other areas? When it does not like arbitration it does not hesitate to say so. It has not hesitated to tell the umpire that it thinks it was totally wrong in various national wage cases over the last couple of years. The Government has condemned the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission time after time when it has made decisions in various wage indexation cases which have been opposite to those which this Government wanted. Where was the Government’s support for arbitration then? Clearly, it just was not there at all. The Government simply is being utterly hypocritical in its call for the unions to accept arbitration. This Government says that unions should accept arbitration when it sees that as being a desirable process for it, the Government; but when it does not suit the Government it says that the arbitration system is not doing its job and denounces it for all it is worth.
In fact the Government did that in this House as recently as the night of the Budget Speech. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) made it quite clear that if the arbitration system produced wage increases which were more than the Government thought was acceptable, the Government would show its resentment and objection by sacking some employees of the Government and by cutting Government expenditure. Is that acceptance of arbitration? Is that acceptance of this traditional system which we have for solving industrial disputes in this country? Of course it is not. This is a thoroughly hypocritical Government in the area of industrial relations and arbitration.
As I said earlier, the Government has totally ignored the cause of this dispute. The basis of this dispute is a tremendously important matter. It is not just a matter of a group of bloodyminded trade unionists seeking to disrupt the country and inconvenience the public. There are tremendously important issues at stake in this dispute. What is at stake is the way in which we develop this community in the future- not just in respect of Telecom but in respect of our whole approach to the economy in the future, particularly in regard to the importance we place on efficiency as compared with employment. In its Act, Telecom has an instruction that it should have regard to the efficiency of its operations. I submit that that is not the only factor to which Telecom should have regard.
Telecom is the largest employer in the country. It has a staff of 88,000. Some 2 per cent of all wage and salary earners work for Telecom. It is a very significant employer in this country; in fact, it is the largest. Telecom will not expand its employment any more in the future if the program of computerisation of the telecommunications system goes through. Telecom staff growth will be virtually nil over the next decade or so. That means that the largest employer in the country will not be expanding its employment more than fractionally over the next decade or so, at a time when we know that we will be hit by almost a holocaust of technology in private industry. That is something we know; it is not something that we will find happening without our being aware of it. We know it will happen. We have been told from other countries that it will happen.
Surveys in France have shown that the banking and insurance industry will lose 30 per cent of its existing staff in the next 10 years. That sort of automation, which is the basic cause of that staff loss, will occur in this country too. The fight that is presently occurring in the telecommunications industry will take place in the banking and insurance industry all over again. There will be a massive loss of jobs. Even though jobs are being guaranteed to the people who are working in the area at present, what does this mean to the young people who are coming on to the labour market and will want a job in the future? What of the young people who would like to be technicians, tradesmen or telephonists for Telecom? No jobs will be available for the young people coming on to the labour market.
If a government is really concerned about employment it does not just tell a major employer like Telecom to go off and become super efficient. It should think about the employment consequences, and they are enormous. This Government has not given a damn thought to that. It is about time it did. All it has done is to tell Telecom to go off and become super efficient with equipment costing $2 billion which will be mainly imported. The Government does not give a damn about the employment effects.
– It was your Act.
– That is what will happen, and the Minister knows it will happen. He is doing absolutely nothing about it. It is about time the Minister got off his behind and did something about the employment effect instead of just sitting here condemning the unions and being sanctimonious about the whole matter.
What will happen in respect of Telecom is that we will have an advancement of technology in two stages. The first stage will be ARE 1 1 and the second stage AXE. I do not know exactly what AXE stands for, but in the area of jobs it stands for the axe. That is certain. As the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) said earlier, a tremendous increase in productivity will occur. There is no doubt about that. Over the next 10 years there will be about a 70 per cent increase in technology but virtually a zero increase in employment. Sure, increased productivity is good, but it is not the only thing that is good; employment is good too. We need to be thinking about jobs. Sometimes we will have to balance off productivity and efficiency against employment. This Government is just not even thinking in those terms. If it does not think in those terms, the holocaust of technological advancement will wipe out thousands and thousands of jobs in this country and the predictions of other Liberal Ministers, such as the Minister for Youth, Sport and Recreation in Victoria about a 30 per cent unemployment rate by 1990, will come true. As I have said, Telecom is Australia’s largest employer. It is incumbent upon the Government to be concerned about the employment effects in the Telecom area. It is the first major area in which we will see the explosion of technology destroying jobs; but there will be other areas.
To re-emphasise the point, I draw attention to a Government publication which has been made available to me and which is called ‘Structural Change in the Labour Market’. It is a study by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. It was submitted to the Crawford committee on structural adjustment. It is not public yet but I have copies and will make one available to anyone who would like one. The study shows that this Government will find it tremendously hard to create jobs. It looks at the various sectors of the economy and asks: Where will the job growth be? It just cannot find job growth in many areas. The study finishes up by saying that we will have to resort to increasing employment in the public sector if we are to create jobs. That is totally against the thrust of this Government’s actions in respect of both its macro-economic policy and its micro policy for bodies like Telecom. The Government just cannot go on destroying jobs when the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations- the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) preceded me in this debatehas said to the Crawford committee that there is a tremendous problem about the creation of jobs in this country. That is what this dispute is about. We should have no doubt about that.
If we are to create jobs we have to be concerned, as I said, to balance off efficiency against employment. We should bear those two things in mind. It is not just a matter of job loss either. In this dispute a guarantee has been given to those who already have jobs. We have been told that ad nauseam. But, as I say, that does nothing for the young people coming on to the labour market. There will be a need for very substantial retraining for those people who do have jobs. Other problems will occur, such as loss of promotion or advancement, increased drudgery of work and reclassification of employees. All of those issues create industrial relations tensions.
The Government should not go on introducing technology, knowing that all these tensions will develop, and then expect the unions to cop it. Clearly the unions will be very upset by a massive change in the organisation for which their members work. That has to be taken into account. I do not think it has been taken into account by this Government in the way it should have been. It is not enough simply to condemn the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association for being pigheaded and not accepting arbitration. That is hypocritical, as I have already mentioned. We must understand the very fundamental factors which lie behind this dispute. This is the first of many fights that will occur in the future because of the effect of computers on employment in this country. It will happen in area after area unless governments start to think about the problem and to be concerned to promote policies which plan for the introduction of increased technology. We are not Luddites. We are not saying that we do not want increased technology. Of course we do. We want increased technology to advance the welfare of the whole of the country, but we have to plan for its introduction. We need economic planning to introduce it. We need, in particular, micro planning in areas such as Telecom so that we can mesh in that advanced technology with stability in industrial relations and the attainment of full employment.
Does the Government have any policy in respect of spreading work by reduced hours or anything like that? We hear nothing like that from this Government. It has no policies. It has given no thought whatever to the employment implications of increased technology. What is obviously needed if the Government is at all concerned about the matter is for it to sit down with the unions and to discuss the whole problem as it applies to Telecom and as it applies nationally. It should discuss the whole problem of technology, its introduction and the attainment of full employment. If it does not do that and if the Government remains in power- I do not think it will do so for more than another 2V4 years- it will find enormous industrial relations problems occurring in the future because there is no way the Government can go on letting computerisation wipe out jobs and expect to have stability in industrial relations in this country.
-I am delighted to have this opportunity not only to welcome but also to support the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on this very important dispute which affects this nation at present. The dispute is very important because the nation is entirely dependent, more so than most other countries, on effective, reliable and stable communication services. This places us in a unique position in the world. We require such communication services not only for our everyday personal use but also for business, enterprise and emergency uses. Thank goodness I can say that no major emergency has arisen during this dispute. We also require effective communication services within Australia and between ourselves and other countries to ensure our position in the world and to enable us to operate effectively as a major trading nation on the world scene. All those functions are being severely jeopardised at this time because of this unnecessary and irrational dispute.
The Australian Telecommunications Commission is an efficient organisation. It is the largest business in Australia. It is not subsidised by the taxpayer, unlike most other communication networks in the world. It makes a very substantial profit. We should recall that that profit is used entirely for its capital program. That is what this debate is about. Part of that capital program is bringing in new technology to improve the services that are provided already by Telecom- services such as the upgrading of manual exchanges throughout Australia and reductions in trunk line charges. This is one of the few areas in the world where trunk line charges or subscriber trunk dialling charges, as we know them, are being reduced. The reductions are quite significant, not only for the areas close by the major metropolitan centres- reductions up to 20 per cent and 10 per cent respectively in daytime rates for the 85-kilometre radial and the 165 kilometre radial- but also very significant reductions for people who live in the very remote and isolated areas of Australia. For example, up to the 645 -kilometre radial there is a reduction of 20 per cent, and over the 645-kilometre radial there is a reduction of 25 per cent. This is an unusual situation in the world scenario, with a communications network making every effort not only to improve its services but also to reduce its charges. Of course, it is dependent on technological innovation.
What is the Opposition trying to do? Is it prepared to throw away the opportunity to get better and cheaper services for all of Australia? Is it showing no concern for the inconvenience that is being perpetrated on families and businesses and the employment opportunities that are being jeopardised, not just by the ATEA members about whom the Opposition seems to be so concerned but also by other workers right throughout Australia who will inevitably have to be put off if this dispute continues to keep our telecommunications services at their present level. Australia has been beset by minority groups exercising their political muscle to make every Australian suffer. What side does the ALP take? Is the ALP really worried about wages lost by workers? Is it worried about the inconvenience that has been perpetrated on all Australians through this dispute? The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) showed a sham of concern in that he was prepared to support these minorities, making the whole of Australia suffer. The ATEA has refused to negotiate. It has ignored three proposals for settlement put forward by Commissioner Clarkson. It has refused to accept a cooling off period that has been proposed. I think it is time that every Australian had the opportunity to stand up and say that he is not prepared to be blackmailed. It is time the Government intervened as positively and effectively as it has done.
I suggest that, if necessary, we go without telephones for weeks or even months in order to assert that community interests will be protected, to protect our livelihood and our freedom to do what we want to do, to conduct our businesses without the fear of a complete closedown in our communications systems. What is wrong with the principle of no work, no pay? It applies throughout most of private industry. Why does it not apply throughout the Public Service? I think it is about time that it was said as clearly as it was said tonight by both the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). I believe that Telecom has been more than reasonable in attempting to settle this dispute and in attempting to abide by the requests and proposals put to it by Commissioner Clarkson. Yet we see the union concerned, a union that does not represent the large majority of the employees of Telecom -
– Yes, as my honourable friend says, one quarter. It is prepared to jeopardise the pay of its members. It is prepared to see $1.6m a fortnight being lost. It is prepared to see 3,000 of its members currently not employed and more to come. In spite of this there was an assurance that there would be no jobs lost through technological innovation, that jobs would be guaranteed, in some cases for 10 years, that there would be no pay loss. This is in an industry where we see very good working conditions, a 9-day fortnight and a 36%-hour week. What I am particularly concerned about is that Telecom was at the stage of making some very significant concessions and reductions in charges. We are aware that the subscriber trunk dialling charges would have been brought into effect from 26 November next. It would have meant a loss of revenue of some $30m. Yet we see that this strike so far has cost Telecom $20m and is currently running at the figure of $ 1 m per day. It is quite likely that the Commission will not be able to introduce some of these benefits and cost savings to the general public as a result of this loss of revenue. The effect in particular on country people and country industries will be very serious indeed.
Further improvements were in the pipeline. As honourable members will know, the Commission is in the process of considering measures to increase local service areas, to extend the radial limits over which local call charges apply. We know that the Commission has made a very definite undertaking to upgrade every manual exchange in Australia in the next nine or 10 years. We know also that the Commission has recognised the plight of the people in very remote and isolated areas of Australia. The Minister himself well appreciates the great difficulties that people have where they cannot even have a local phone call to their local business centre. Some families have to pay 40c, 50c or 60c every time they get on the phone to their local business centre. The Commission was also looking at alleviating the hardship for people in that situation. But that has been put at risk and placed in jeopardy because of this dispute. I suggest that if this dispute does result in these concessions not being able to be applied, we might consider endorsing every telephone account on the next issue to show that the charges would have been lower but for this dispute and the consequent loss of revenue, so that every subscriber will realise the monetary effect of this dispute and the effects it has had on his hip pocket and on the account that he has to pay.
The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) went further in our committee meeting and suggested that we should apply the lower charges at the next telephone accounting period and then add a surcharge to show how much the strike has cost individual subscribers. The only trouble is, as my honourable friend mentioned, that most people would not pay that surcharge. They would send it straight back to Telecom and say that it should make the ATEA members pay. The Opposition is in quite a bind. Does it support the vast mass of people who are suffering in this dispute? Does it support those people who have had a gutful of militant unionism in Australia? Does it support the families of the ATEA members who have suffered in this dispute and who in many cases have been dragged unwillingly into it? Or does it support this dispute as an irrational, unjustified, militant unionmotivated exercise, an exercise in which no member will lose his job or lose his salary? The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) said that people were struggling for survival in that particular union. I put it to him that Australia is struggling for survival against militant unionism such as this.
The ALP has chosen to support the old line of supporting the strikers, with all the irrelevant rhetoric that it can muster about the poor oppressed workers who have never been better off than they are now. As long as the ALP supports the minority radicals, I suggest that it will receive support only from the minority radicals. I say: ‘Keep it up, keep it going, because that philosophy will keep the ALP in the political wilderness for decades’. This Government will back Telecom to the hilt. It will protect the interests of all Australians and Australia’s reputation overseas. I fully support the Prime Minister and I know that the vast majority of Australians will welcome the Government’s stand. Moreover, I believe that the vast majority of Australians will say that we have to have it out sometime or other and this might as well be the opportunity as it has now presented itself. We are prepared to go without for a little longer so that we can make it quite clear to the minorities, the militants and the ALP that we are not prepared to let them run over us yet again.
In conclusion, it would be remiss of me and other speakers not to pay some credit to some of the people who have been involved in trying to ameliorate the effects of this dispute. Some members of the staff at Telecom have been under tremendous pressure. Certainly those at the executive level of Telecom have been doing everything in their power to keep services going and to keep the services open. There is one group that we have overlooked. I would like to pay special credit to the girls on the switchboards right throughout Australia. They are the people who are collecting a lot of abuse. They have had no involvement in the strike and yet, in the face of much abuse from naturally irate subscribers, they have been able to ensure as far as possible that services can be utilised and, particularly in the case of emergency, that services can be kept going. Therefore I believe that it is of great importance that this Parliament should make it quite clear that we are prepared to support the Australian Telecommunications Commission and that we are not prepared to bow down at this stage. I commend the Prime Minister’s statement and the speeches made in this House by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations.
-The post industrial chickens are coming home to roost. The Government’s catastrophic blunder is that it attempts to deal with the Telecom dispute in complete isolation. It cannot deal with, nor does it understand, the wider context. With aU the finesse of a mad bull in a glassworks the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has blundered into what must surely be the first of a long series of industrial disputes based on the new technology. The Government is determined to have an industrial showdown, and the words of the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie), who has just resumed his seat, confirm that. It has shown a complete incapacity to grasp that this is only the first of a long series of inevitable disputes about the new technology and job displacement. The situation is totally new to Australia and it cannot be dealt with by employing the formulas which have been used in past industrial disputes. Union bashing should be firmly rejected. We need to follow the advice of IBM- the Prime Minister has been very susceptible to IBM-‘Think’.
The Telecom dispute is only the tip of the iceberg. It is only a matter of months, not years, before we will have a long series of disputes in areas where the new technology will displace jobs. Banking is an obvious example. I mentioned in this House the other night that in Massachusetts one computer is doing all the retrieving and recording work for all banks. That means that white collar jobs in that area will go, and they will go with dramatic suddenness. Unless we work out a comprehensive work force policy, what is the Telecom dispute today will be the dispute in the banks tomorrow- not just in the Commonwealth Bank but in the private banks as well. Broadly speaking the same is true in the insurance industry where it is possible for tens of thousands of transactions to be carried out not by the use of a whole army in the work force but by just a handful of people operating computers. Similarly in the Public Service the use of the Mandata system will result in a very substantial reduction in the number of people in employment at a very time when we need to generate new employment, not discourage it.
Similarly in retailing, many honourable members will have noticed the recent introduction of the striped Universal Product CodeUPC. That is the first step in the displacement of tens of thousands of employees in retailing. It is possible for computers to compute the exact size of everybody’s grocery bill much more quickly, much more economically and much more precisely than the human being who will be displaced. Similarly, typesetting in newspaper production is another area where there Will be a very dramatic falling off in the number of people who need to be employed. In the United States of America it is possible, through the use of computer technology, to typeset newspapers in 30 States from a single linotype.
-‘ Good ‘, says the honourable member for Holt. I do not disagree. Let it be good, providing that the people can be replaced somewhere else, that they can find other more agreeable things to do with their lives. That is fine. If the new technology is an instrument of liberation, enabling them to do other things, to fill their life span more usefully, that is splendid. But if on the other hand the tendency is just to throw them out of work, to put them on the scrap heap, then it is something to be feared and something that we need to work out very carefully. We have never rejected the new technology. What we say is that we have to have hand-in-hand with it a comprehensive labour force policy. Teaching is another area which is threatened by the new technology. It will be very easy to have lessons taught and material dealt with and processed centrally so that students can have individually programmed lessons. By doing that, if we want to do it, we can bypass the very large labour force that makes up the teaching profession at the moment.
– It might be better.
-The honourable member for Calare says that it might be better. He may well be right. But we have to understand the consequences of doing it. If we understand what the consequences are, let us go ahead, but let us not go planning the new technology first and then say, as Telecom has: ‘We have committed ourselves to $2 billion in the new technology but we did not think of the job displacement implications’. What is needed is a national work force policy to be worked out at the highest level in consultation with the trade union movement, commerce and industry, and the Australian Labor Party, and with a leading part taken by the Government. The Government must be the great initiator. It can be worked out only on a cooperative basis. It cannot be worked out on the basis of Indian wrestling where the side which has the most muscle wins the contest. Unless we have a national work force policy this country can have its guts ripped out by industrial confrontation. We have to recognise the price that we may have to pay for the new technology. People take some time to grasp new ideas. Sometimes a lead time of some years is needed.
I first began talking about the problems of the post-industrial society six years ago in the Victorian Parliament, but I suspect that many people who heard me then did not have a very clear understanding of what I was talking about. Even in this Parliament I suspect that there are some members- like the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier)- who still do not have the very faintest idea and do not begin to grasp the implications of post-industrialism. The Telecom dispute illustrates very clearly that postindustrialism is right with us. We need to work out appropriate policies to enable us to make the best, not the worst, of the new technology. The telecommunications industry has always been a pacesetter in technological change. It is estimated that if innovations such as automatic switching services and now computerised operations had not been introduced, by the year 1978 the growth of telephone services would have absorbed the entire Australian female population between the ages of 18 years and 45 years to run the system. It is very easy for the Prime
Minister- he is ably abetted by some of his cohorts on the back benches- to secure cheap headlines by declaring war on an isolated section of the work force, saying that Telecom workers are the enemy and all the rest of the community is being disadvantaged by what is happening in Telecom.
I point out that every majority is made up of a coalition of minorities. I marvel at the temerity of a member of the National Country Party to say that minorities should not exert an influence out of proportion to their size. That is an extraordinary thing to come from the National Country Party. It was extraordinary to hear the tribute made to the telephone girls and to hear what a good job they were doing. It is the very job of the telephone girls that is threatened. That is what it is all about. It is important that we do not try to bring about this sense of confrontation by inviting the whole community to gang up against the minority. Telecom is just the first cab off the rank. Where the Telecom workers are today the bank officers will be tomorrow and the insurance workers will be the day after.
Indeed, this very Parliament is a perfect example of an institution which could be computerised in the interests of cost efficiency. We do not really need to have those 80 or so Government members trooping in here. All the Minister at the table needs to do is to produce a pocket computer, hold it up and say: ‘It is all right; I have the numbers here’. We do not really need those members trooping in here. Some day, somebody will come along and say: ‘All those politicians have to be fed, they have to travel long distances and they have to be paid salaries. Would it not be better in the interests of cost efficiency to computerise the whole operation?’ I suspect that a few members of the Government would welcome it but I suspect that there are many who would not like to have Malcolm Fraser ‘s finger on the button. It is the old Roman technique of divide and rule. The Prime Minister isolates Telecom’s employees and invites employees in all other industries to side against them. ‘If your business falls off’, he tells us, ‘it is the Telecom workers who are to blame’. But if in 12 months it is the bank employees who are on strike we will hear the same speech. The Government will say: ‘We know who is to blame for the industrial upheaval at the moment. It is the bank workers’. It could be the insurance workers, the teachers or the people involved in retailing- all of whom could be threatened by this change. Cheap headlines may help the Prime Minister to secure a cheap victory but will only delay the need to face up to the necessity for a national work force policy.
None of us have easy solutions. All of us have a responsibility to understand the nature of the problem first and then to start to work out in consultation, not in confrontation, appropriate policy. Post-industrialism means that things can never be the same again. One cannot go back to the formulas of the 1960s and find some magic form of words that will resolve the problem. It is not an issue where there is a monopoly of wisdom on one side. We are all in degrees of comparative ignorance because we are dealing with a situation that we have never had to face before. The trade union movement and even- I blush to say- my own party to some extent have failed in some measure to grasp all the implications of post-industrial change. Things have overtaken us. But we are in a better position than the Government. The Government has never understood this change and the Government has never wanted to understand it. I first talked about this problem to the present Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) about eight years ago. I remember grabbing him at an airport and suggesting that he read a number of books that I recommended on the subject. In his speech tonight there was no suggestion that he had read the books. If he had read them he certainly did not understand them.
– He read them recently.
-I think the Minister for Post and Telecommunications has some record as a student. I am prepared to give him the same list. He may read the books. But no one on the Government side who has spoken tonight could be accused of taking the long view in this matter, and this is something on which we have to take the long view. Earlier this evening the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) spoke about his visit to Japan. I was also in Japan in July and I was very struck by the extent to which the Japanese have recognised and acknowledged the significance of post-industrial change in the electronics industry. The honourable member for Robertson, some other honourable members and I went to National Electronics. We noted there that the Japanese had adopted the new technology but they had considered the human factors as well. For example, some people who, frankly, were described as ‘window gazers’ were working for National and many other firms. The Japanese had simply said: ‘We recognise that these people cannot be employed because the new technology is cheaper and displaces them but we do not mind keeping them on the payroll because we are concerned that if they are put on the scrap heap and unemployment grows enormously there will be a falling off in demand and that will be more serious in its implications to the economy than keeping them on the payroll as window gazers’. I suspect, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you may have some views about this matter.
– What do they do?
-They are there in a sense as emergency workers in case anything goes wrong. There is retirement at 55 years of age. The most complex tasks are computerised and automated and the tasks being done by people are in fact the less complex tasks. The Japanese could reduce employment in the major firms overnight if they wanted to but they do not do it. Fred Emery of the Australian National University has suggested that if industry in Australia really wanted to go flat out and computerise it could reduce the work force in the manufacturing industry by two-thirds. The cost-benefit merchants on the other side of the House would probably say: ‘Go ahead and do it. That is a wonderful idea’. But we have to think of the human problem. We have to think about the two-thirds who are displaced. We know that that is intolerable, that it is unthinkable. What I am saying is that we have to think about this matter. Do not rush into cheap, facile, apparent solutions. Think of the implications of what is happening. Think of the implications of postindustrialism and do not rush into something which will be the first of a long series of irreversible confrontations that could rip the guts out of this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned form the Senate without amendments.
Debate resumed from 23 August, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Budget brought down by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in the House last week was a courageous Budget, a responsible Budget and an economically sound Budget. It was a Budget which was designed to help deal with the problems which Australia is still facing- problems which will not be overcome in any sustainable way without a good deal of effort and some short term sacrifices by all Australians. The Treasurer said quite clearly in his Budget Speech that difficult and unpopular decisions had had to be taken in framing this year’s Budget. He laid that clearly on the line. He also pointed out equally clearly that the Government itself had been severely disappointed at one or more of the decisions it had had to take; in particular, the decision to impose a temporaryone year- small surcharge on existing tax scales even though the increase in the tax payments resulting from this temporary measure will still be nowhere near as large as the tax reductions which have benefited all taxpayers this year as a result of the Government’s restructuring of tax scales on 1 February this year and the latest tax indexation adjustments applying from last month.
Despite the fact that some difficult, unpopular and disappointing decisions have been necessary on this occasion, the Australian community generally has accepted these decisions as necessary. The people of Australia are much more responsible than they are sometimes given credit for, particularly by honourable members opposite. The people know that one cannot get a quart out of a pint pot. They know that the road ahead is not an easy one. They know that the Government, if it is to act responsibly, cannot always act popularly. They want their government to act responsibly and they know that this Government has acted responsibly in this Budget, that it has acted equitably, that it has tried to share the burdens fairly.
The demonstrations in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne this week have not been an accurate reflection of the attitude of the Australian people towards the Budget. The demonstrations were carefully contrived, organised and inspired by the Labor Party. To describe them, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) did, as a spontaneous feeling of disaffection within the community is sheer nonsense. No demonstrations as carefully organised, as politically motivated as this week’s demonstrations could conceivably be regarded as spontaneous. The Labor Party is trying to take government in Australia onto the streets. It appears almost as if it is deliberately attempting to wreck our most cherished possessions- democratic government and the very institution of parliament. The Labor Party must not be allowed to succeed. But what have the protests been about? To hear the Leader of the Opposition speak one would have the impression that the Budget was brutally contractionary. The Leader of the Opposition ignores completely the fact that this year the Government will spend $2, 800m more than it will raise in taxes and charges. The Leader of the Opposition says that the Budget is inappropriate to the needs of Australia today; but he has, either consciously or unconsciously, taken an each-way bet in his alternative proposals. It is these proposals that I want mainly to deal with this evening.
If the Opposition ‘s arithmetic in the costing of its proposals is not correct, the inflationary consequences of the proposals are horrifying. If, on the other hand, its arithmetic is correctwhich, as I hope to show later, it is not- the changes proposed do not in their totality add up to as major a change in the overall Budget strategy as the Opposition suggests, except that it would make it all the more difficult for the strategy to be achieved. There would be, however, one major change in direction. That is that Labor’s proposals would viciously attack the business sector at the very time when that sector is in need of real encouragement if it is to generate income and to create jobs for all Australians. Let there be no doubt about it; the more closely one looks at Labor’s alternative Budget proposals the more apparent it becomes that they are designed to return Australia to the big government, big spending, multinational bashing era of the Whitlam Government.
Let me turn to some of the specific proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday evening. Labor has attempted to generate great rage about what it sees as the dismantling of Medibank standard. Yet the Leader of the Opposition said on Tuesday evening that his argument in relation to the changes is not on doctrine but merely on the practical mechanisms that might make the new arrangements work. Having accepted the changes in concept, he then called them a fraud. Having called them a fraud, he then announced that Labor would retain the changes. What nonsense is that? The simple fact is that the changes to the health fund arrangements will benefit every person in the community who has been paying contributions or the levy in recent years. The levy has been abolished. Private fund schedules will show major decreases in contribution rates when they are published next month. People now paying $ 10 or $ 1 1 a week are likely to see this figure fall by several dollars a week, in the same way that present levy payers will experience a reduction in the amount they pay.
The Opposition would remove the temporary one-year surcharge on personal income tax and replace it with a permanent tax on resources and a permanent capital gains tax. The proposed resources tax would be totally confiscatory if it raised the revenue which the Leader of the Opposition claimed it would. The same situation applies to the Oppostition’s proposal to tax the profits made by oil companies as a result of the changes made last year in oil pricing policy. There would be a total confiscation of these profits- profits which were designed to encourage further exploration for oil in Australia and thereby to reduce our increasing reliance on imported oil. Labor would completely wipe out this encouragement. Labor professes to be concerned about our energy problems. This particular proposal by Labor would greatly increase those problems.
There is another aspect of the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition which I find very confusing in this respect. He spoke about a resources tax but he also spoke about an oil levy. If it is proposed by means of a levy to cream off or to collect- this is what his arithmetic would mean- all that the oil producers have gained from last year’s pricing policy, the money cannot also be collected by means of a resources tax. So the Leader of the Opposition, in his arithmetic, has double counted. Significantly more than the $340m which is the gross gain to the companies would be collected in Commonwealth tax and in Commonwealth-State royalties without the imposition of a levy of the kind proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
Labor would not provide any of the Government’s committed contribution to the Ranger uranium development. This is not a budgetary decision by the Opposition; it is a decision motivated entirely by its unwillingness to see any development of Australia’s uranium deposits- a development which will greatly strengthen our balance of payments, which will provide energy for peaceful purposes to energy starved countries, and which will give us an opportunity to exercise our influence in those councils of the world grappling with the problems of nuclear proliferation and safeguards. The decision by Labor not to permit the development of Australia’s uranium deposits is a blow against world peace and a blow against the living standards of those hundreds of millions of people in other countries less fortunate than our own- people living in poverty and in deprivation.
Labor would make the task of economic management that much more difficult by abolishing the excise increases on spirits, beer and cigarettes. In its bleating about these increases it ignores the fact that these are the first such increases since the present Government came to office nearly three years ago. It also conveniently omits to mention that these charges went up enormously while it was in government.
Labor claims that the measures proposed in the Budget will take $ 12 a week from the typical worker earning $200 a week. That simply is not true. Firstly, the estimate seems much too high if it is based on some of the items which have been increased. But what is even more important, and even more misleading, Labor completely ignores the savings to workers in the form of considerably lower health fund contributions and the availability of cheaper motor cars. Thirdly, it completely ignores the benefits that will accrue to all Australians in the course of the next 12 months as the rate of inflation falls further and as it is accompanied by a further fall in interest rates.
Although Labor says that it would abolish the temporary income tax surcharge, it has said nothing at all about what it would do in relation to tax indexation. The House will recall that it was the present Government which introduced tax indexation for the first time in our history. Tax indexation protects all taxpayers from inflation-induced tax rip-offs. It is abundantly clear from the Labor Party’s omission of any mention of tax indexation that this major beneficial feature would be in great jeopardy if it were ever to return to office.
Another major initiative of the present Government was its introduction of a generous investment allowance. This allowance has had a significant effect in stimulating new investment activity since its introduction. Labor has said that it would immediately abolish the allowance because it claims that it is simply a handout to big business. The Opposition is wrong in that regard. The investment allowance has benefited business of all sizes- small, medium and large. Labor’s proposal is merely another indication of its whole anti-business philosophy. It simply appears not to be able to stand the private sector. At every turn it seeks to frustrate the private sector but at the same time it laments the lack of additional job opportunities in the private sector. I submit that Labor cannot have it both ways, even though it may try to do so.
The Leader of the Opposition was wrong on Tuesday evening not merely in relation to the investment allowance. There were many other inaccuracies in his speech. There were so many in fact that they must have been deliberate. One of the most blatant was his statement that the Budget aims to tax lump sum retirement payments. That is simply not true, as the Leader of the Opposition well knows. The Budget Speech stated quite unequivocally:
There will be no change to the existing situation where superannuation and other retirement benefits are taxable as to only 5 per cent of the amount of the lump sum benefit.
I want to emphasise this point because the Leader of the Opposition’s deliberately untrue statement has caused a great deal of unnecessary concern to many thousands of working people. However, where the Leader of the Opposition was most seriously and dangerously wrong in his speech was in relation to the economic assessment of his proposals. The Leader of the Opposition asserted bluntly that the net effect of his revenue and expenditure proposals -
– They are rubbery.
-They are more than rubbery. He said that his proposal would increase the Government’s Budget deficit this year by $840m. The deficit, on Labor’s arithmetic, would be $3,650m. That is incorrect. In particular, the Leader of the Opposition said that he would raise additional revenue totalling $950m. Of that amount $150m would be raised by means of a resources tax, $300m by means of a capital gains tax, $100m by means of taxing family trusts, and $400m by means of the abolition of the investment allowance. The truth is that even if Labor introduced all these proposals overnight it would raise virtually not one dollar of additional revenue in this financial year. In other words, Labor’s proposals would not increase the deficit by $840m in 1978-79; the increase would be $ 1,790m, making a total deficit for the year of $4,600m. The consequences of such a deficit would be horrendous for this nation. Of central importance to the future wellbeing of this nation is the Budget deficit, and the financial requirements in terms of financing that deficit. In that regard, I wish to read a short passage from the report of the Reserve Bank of Australia which was released last week.
– Is Mr Hawke a member of its Board?
– Yes, Mr Hawke is a member of the Board of the Reserve Bank, and that makes these comments all the more important. The report states:
In present circumstances, achieving an appropriately restraining overall domestic policy environment without putting stress on the balance of payments, and on domestic interest rates, requires a balanced mix of policy in which the budget deficit is held under tight rein.
The report also states:
The situation calls for a continuation of the firm and steady approach to these matters -
That approach has been evident in the past two or three years. . . this is consistent with continuation of the adjustments which are necessary if the Australian economy is to move further along the path of sustainable recovery in 1978-79.
I submit that the Budget as presented by the Treasurer last week is fully in accord with the aspirations and the requirements of the Australian economy. That could not be so under the Labor proposals.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Electoral Redistribution Inquiry- Taxation: Zone Allowances- Tasmanian Railways -Medical Benefits: Payments through Post Offices -Torres Strait Islanders- Petroleum Industry -National Communications Satellite System
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I pose the following questions to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser): Is it a fact that on 1 5 May 1 978 Mr Pearson, the Chief Australian Electoral Officer, gave evidence before the Royal Commission of Inquiry of a phone call from Senator Withers to himself in September 1 977 in regard to the change of name of the proposed division of Gold Coast to that of McPherson? On what date was this evidence of Mr Pearson drawn to the Prime Minister’s attention? Why did the Prime Minister delay until 30 May 1978 before bringing this evidence and other material facts within his knowledge to the attention of Cabinet? Is it a fact that on 30 May 1978 Cabinet decided to have widened the terms of reference of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the electoral redistribution of Queensland in 1977 so that the Royal Commission could make a finding on whether any breach of the law of the Commonwealth or any impropriety had occurred on the part of any person in the course of the division of McPherson redistribution?
Is it a fact that the Prime Minister departed from Australia on 31 May 1978-1 think in the morning- and, if not, on what date did he depart from Australia? Is it a fact that the Royal Commission of Inquiry completed the taking of evidence on 7 June 1978 and, if not, on what date did the Royal Commission of Inquiry complete the taking of evidence? Is it a fact that the Prime Minister returned to Australia on 19 June 1978 and, if not, on what date did he return? Is there any significance in the fact that the Cabinet decision to widen the terms of reference of the Royal Commission of Inquiry was made on 30 May 1978, which was the day before the Prime Minister departed from Australia- I think in the morning- and was this decision delayed so that the Prime Minister could be absent from Australia during the taking of vital evidence pertaining to the further widened terms of reference?
On what date was the Prime Minister made aware of the fact that Mr Justice McGregor had completed the taking of evidence? Is there any significance in the fact that the Prime Minister returned to Australia after Mr Justice McGregor had completed the taking of evidence? Did the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) inform the Prime Minister on 16 April 1978 of the telephone conversations between Senator Withers and Mr Pearson and between Mr Pearson and Mr Coleman, who was one of the electoral commissioners? Did the Prime Minister give any consideration to the possibility that he might be called to give evidence before the Royal Commission of Inquiry? In view of his knowledge on 1 6 April 1 978 that there had been telephone conversations between Senator Withers and Mr Pearson and between Mr Pearson and Mr Coleman, did the Prime Minister give consideration at any stage to the point that he had a duty to give evidence in regard to this matter to the Royal Commission of Inquiry? If the answer to the previous question is ‘no’, what were his reasons for not wishing to give evidence to the Royal Commission of Inquiry? Is it also a fact that the Prime Minister was the only person present at the meeting in his room on 17 January 1978 who was not called to give evidence before the Royal Commission?
I pose these questions to the Prime Minister and also announce my intention to place them on notice so that I shall get a reply from him. I realise that if I had merely asked these questions in the House in the adjournment debate the Prime Minister could have chosen not to answer them if he so desired. I think that he does desire not to answer them. The only way in which I can get an answer to each of these specific questions is to raise them in the House, thereby putting the Prime Minister on notice that it is my intention to put them on the Notice Paper. The Prime Minister then will have to reply to them. There has been a tremendous amount of hesitation, if I may use that word, in the answers which he has given to the Parliament in respect of certain matters.
– He is evading the issue.
– As the honourable member for Parramatta said, on occasions he appears to be evading the issue. The only way in which a member of the Parliament can get specific answers to specific questions is to put them on notice. That is the only avenue we have. We cannot demand an answer to a question merely by asking it as a question without notice. This is a grave matter. The Prime Minister has a responsibility to this country to answer the questions which I have posed tonight and which I intend to place on the Notice Paper so that he is forced to reply.
– I raise a matter that concerns many people in remote areas of Australia. It involves the taxation zone allowances or rebates. We are well aware that zone allowances have not been changed substantially since 1957 or 1958, although the allowance was changed to a rebate in 1975 under the Hayden Budget. Since then people have been disadvantaged by the low level of rebate which is allowed in remote areas of Australia. More importantly, the rebates no longer apply realistically to most of the very remote areas. There has been substantial modern development in some areas that are included in Zone A; whereas some areas which are included in Zone B or not zoned at present are far more disadvantaged. I am very pleased to note that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) is at the table tonight, purely by coincidence. I have written to him today outlining some of the problems, as I see them, in various electorates.
I submit to the House and to the Treasurer that zone rebates as we know them today are no longer realistic either in their levels or in their application in geographic areas. The geographic boundaries as we know them today ought to be done away with completely. The concept of geographic boundaries ought to be dispensed with and a new system of disadvantage rebates implemented, not with the specific object in mind of costing the Government any money -
– Only in Kalgoorlie.
-This should not be done with the object of giving an advantage to the electorate of Kalgoorlie or any other particular area. I believe that a more equitable system of rebates should apply. It is obvious that Opposition members who are interjecting do not represent areas of disadvantage. They do not represent people who live in remote areas, the people who have to put up with the very real hardships of living in the remote areas of Western Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory and other places.
I put the point of view that we ought to do away with geographic boundaries entirely and establish a system of disadvantage rebates. This would apply equally to, say, eastern Gippsland, the west coast of Tasmania or the more remote parts of Western Australia and Queensland. I propose that a list of disadvantages, perhaps 12 in number, should be included on taxation return forms. Rebates at three levels ought to be allowed. At least four items of disadvantage would have to be scored to get the first level of disadvantage rebate. Eligibility for the second level would require the establishment of eight areas of disadvantage. We should look at such things as isolation, the high cost of living, remoteness, lack of communications, lack of suitable roads and all the other things that are taken into consideration when making up the present zone rebate.
This would have a distinct advantage for people living in remote areas. They and the Government would very soon identify the disadvantages those people suffer. The Government would be able to verify them quite quickly because the same pattern of disadvantage would emerge throughout a particular area. The Government could then make a conscious decision on whether to spend money in those areas to overcome the disadvantages and so collect normal taxation or to reimburse people for those disadvantages and allow a disadvantage rebate. I believe that the present system is completely inequitable. Some people collect Zone A or Zone B allowances when living in areas which are graced with modern supermarkets and all the amenities under the sun. People living in far more remote and disadvantaged areas are penalised by not being able to claim any rebate whatsoever.
I believe that initially the rebates ought to be pitched at such a level that, in fact, there would be no substantial loss of income to the Government; that a system ought to be established that would be equitable that would benefit, and be available to, people all over Australia. I believe quite firmly that this would overcome the problem, if there be one, of the constitutional validity of this taxation zone rebate as we see it today. The people are entitled to a more equitable and even handling of zone, and disadvantaged rebates.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-At a time when this nation is being held to blackmail by Telecom it is indeed incredible to pick up the Hobart Mercury and see attributed to the Tasmanian Minister for Transport a report that in some obscure way the Commonwealth Government is holding Tasmania to ransom over the upgrading of the State’s rail system. In a fit of temporary insanity Mr Baldock went on to say:
The Federal Government is using the Tasmanian Government as a stone with which to belt the railways.
It would seem that Mr Baldock is suffering from amnesia. He has forgotten that it was the Reece and Neilson Governments which sold out the Tasmanian railways to the Whitlam Government in 1975, in one of the most disgraceful agreements ever initiated between a State of the Commonwealth and the then Commonwealth Government. It was the Neilson and Reece Governments which killed the Hobart suburban rail service. They sold out the best railway service in the State and we have today what the Minister for Transport in this Parliament (Mr Nixon) has described as the worst railway system in Australia.
The Federal Government, far from using blackmail tactics, has said to the State Government: ‘We will provide the funds. We will provide untold millions of dollars to upgrade the Tasmanian railway system, provided you do one thing- legislate to ensure that the railways get a fair go under the State transport system in Tasmania’. That Government has not faced up to its responsibility to protect the livelihood of railway workers.
We had in Canberra today the State secretary of the Australian Railways Union, Mr Rex Neil, who spoke to Liberal members. He knows that we understand the railways; that we have shown a commitment to the Tasmanian railway system. The Labor Party, of course, delights in kicking the railways. It is extraordinary that in our State the railwaymen, almost to a man, support the Liberal Party. They know that we are genuine in our concern for the railways, and they will not have a bar of the Labor Party which, over many years, has been killing the State railway system.
I have the honour to inform the Parliament tonight that the Minister for Transport has now made the position as regards Tasmania quite clear. I will read to honourable members three paragraphs from a letter that he has written which clarifies the matter beyond any shadow of a doubt. I call on Mr Baldock and the State Labor Government in Tasmania to indicate whether they are fair dinkum about assisting the
Tasmanian railway system. The Minister for Transport in his letter to me said- and I will leave out the niceties -
The Tasmanian road regulatory system is of course the responsibility of the State Government. It would therefore be up to the State to decide what changes should be made to that system. All that the Commonwealth has sought in connection with the operation of the Tasmanian railways is to ensure that expenditure that would be involved in rail rehabilitation be justified in terms of the future tasks to be performed by the railways.
The Joy Report on the Tasmanian railways stated that the long term future of the Tasmanian railways depends on the availability of bulk traffics at reasonable rates. The report also stated that the regulation of road movements of smalls and other non-bulk traffics could be eased, with benefit to the Tasmanian economy and to the ultimate efficiency of the Tasmanian railways. The Commonwealth Government accepted the Joy Report in principle.
The Commonwealth has for some time been seeking arrangements from the State in respect of rail carriage of bulk traffics. I have only recently received some information on Mr Baldock ‘s latest proposal in respect of this matter and this is presently under consideration. You may wish to emphasise to the Federation-
That is the Federation of Tasmanian Chambers of Commerce- that the arrangements sought by the Commonwealth relate only to the imposition of road transport charges in respect of bulk items.
I believe that attitude, as indicated by the Minister for Transport in his letter of 2 1 August, is reasonable and should be responded to by the State Labor Government. It is completely unfair to the railway men, and indeed the railway women, of Tasmania that their fate should be up in the air while a State Labor Government dilly dallies for month after month and will not indicate whether it is prepared to bring in legislation to protect the State railways system. The Commonwealth has millions of dollars to pour into Tasmania’s railway system, to upgrade and rehabilitate it. All it asks is for a fair deal; for the State Government to give the railways the protection to which they are justly entitled.
In this debate on railways it is, for a change, the Liberals who are standing up and supporting the railwaymen of Tasmania. Once again it is the Labor Party which has betrayed them, which has back-stabbed them, which has let them down at every turn along the way, standing by idly without any concern for the future of Tasmanian railways. I ask the Treasurer (Mr Howard), to convey to the Prime Minster (Mr Malcolm Fraser) my support for what he has done on this most important matter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am not quite certain from what the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) is suffering. It does not seem to be amnesia. It seems to be hallucination. Is he actually saying in the presence of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) that the Commonwealth has millions of dollars to put into some useful project? Some 30-odd, very odd, people in the last 2Vi years have gone into the Ministry. If any one of them is here, I would ask: What useful project has he put on the books as a result of his admission to the Ministry? What I want to take up is a question that is within the responsibility of the Minister for Health or non-health (Mr Hunt). How will the Government pay out the benefits that are to come from it as a result of the recent changes in Medibank? As I understand the proposition, as part of the general proposition of supporting private enterprise and getting away from public enterprise that seems to be the fetish of this Government, it will employ the private funds to do this. What is wrong with using the post offices? The post offices have been traditionally paying agents for the Commonwealth for all sorts of pensions and benefits. They used to be its agent for the payment of child endowment. They still are, in many parts of Australia, the agents of the Commonwealth Bank. I suggest that if the Government has commissions to pay and wants to use the most ubiquitous service available in Australia it should use the post offices. I hope that the Treasurer will take up that suggestion with our friend the Minister for Health who, because of the way in which the Government has tinkered with health generally, will need a lot of help in performing the job that he has on his hands.
In my younger days my family conducted a non-official post office. We used to pay war pensions, invalid pensions, aged pensions, child endowment- the lot. It would gladden the heart of the Treasurer to know that in those days we were paid about 30s a week for handling for about 15 hours a day ten or 12 subscribers to the telephone, for supplying the building concerned, for handling the mail and so on.
The other point about which I want to remind the House is the situation in the Torres Strait. This Parliament probably has in it some of the most notable travellers in the world. Many of the people I see around me tonight have been all over the world. They have been to Moscow, Peking, Paris, Montevideo and all the rest. Name it and they have been there- unless it is one of the more remote parts of Australia. I suggest that they begin to include Torres Strait on their agenda.
The Torres Strait island people represent a separate ethnic group. They are not Papuans. They are not Australian Aboriginals. They occupy a piece of sea space about 80 or 90 miles from north to south and 130 or 140 miles from east to west. They live on little dots of land. For instance, York Island is about 400 acres, or a little less than a square mile. It has something like 400 or 500 inhabitants. It is a delightful piece of real estate, but the real estate of these people is the sea. The problem we face, and that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) faces, is that it is very difficult for us landlubbers to realise that the sea is their ‘land ‘. Unless we see that we will, in the arrangements that we make with Papua New Guinea, do them a great disservice.
As I read the projected agreement, a fair amount of sea space will be surrendered to Papua New Guinea for commercial fishing. As I understand it, this would prevent the Torres Strait islanders from ever developing a viable commercial base. They are sea people and have over the years lived at a subsistence level based on the sea; but if they are ever to have anything at all going for them in a commercial sense all of the fisheries of the Torres Strait area must be preserved for them- not for the Australian fishing industry or the Papua New Guinea fishing industry but for them alone. I suggest that honourable members should go there and talk to the people. It is a totally different scene there. Honourable members should see and hear these people in their own environment. I suggest tonight that honourable members should apply themselves to this matter. I appeal in particular to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), whom I know is a compassionate gentleman at heart, to consider this matter in a totally different intellectual arena from that of negotiations with other nations.
– When I first became a member of this Parliament about Vh years ago a royal commission was held into the petroleum industry and I have spoken about it several times since then.
– I seem to recall that.
-I think the Treasurer does recall it.
– You spoke very well, too.
-I thank the Treasurer. I said at one time that one of the recommendations of the royal commission should have been applied. Now that I think back, I realise that the oil industry changes very rapidly and it is very hard to keep up with those changes. I am pleased to see the honourable member for
Griffith (Mr Humphreys) present tonight because he will know exactly what I am going to say. He will probably agree with me because he has been involved in the industry. He knows that there are 16,000 service station proprietors in Australia. At the moment many of them are fighting for their very existence. I am afraid this is because the oil companies have used and abused them and have directed them in a way that can only be described as absolutely shameful.
About three months ago I mentioned in this House that I thought that the Government was being used by the oil industry, particularly the oil companies, in that the Government was going to introduce a scheme which it called a fuel subsidy scheme. I said at the time that it would be very difficult to introduce such a scheme because of the relevant city prices, which varied so much from State to State. I said that it would be all right for some but not for others. I drew attention to the fact that in Tasmania in general and Hobart in particular -
– Do you come from Tasmania?
– Yes, I do. I am proud of it, too. I said at the time that the price of petrol in Hobart and on average throughout Tasmania was approximately 22.9 cents per litre. I said that this price was far too high compared with the prices in some of the other capital cities in Australia. The Prices Justification Tribunal fixes a maximum wholesale price. I often wonder what would be the minimum wholesale price. I spoke several times on that subject. Over a period of about three months since then the price of petrol in certain parts of Hobart has come down to 1 5.2 cents per litre
– Well done.
-No, I take no credit for that, not a bit.
– You are modest.
-I am very modest, but I cannot take any credit as many unfortunate service station proprietors were driven to the wall because the oil companies were using the excuse, firstly, of rationalisation and, secondly, of being after volume sales. But they forgot that Tasmania has a population of only 400,000. The market place was controlled. Tasmania had a system of rostering whereby everybody got a fair opportunity. I might say that the businesses were relatively lucrative if people were prepared to work.
– You did well.
-I did. I worked extremely hard for 16 years. Like the honourable member for Griffith, I was very proud to wear a pair of overalls and to serve people. When I went home at night I had that sense of achievement that I was working, earning money and providing for my family. Surely that is what life is all about. But the service station proprietors needed certain protection.
– You sold petrol?
-Yes, I did.
– That is good.
– I thank the honourable member. The proprietors needed protection. In the course of the progress of the oil companies towards rationalisation and volume sales some of the proprietors were down the drain in that the oil companies said to them: ‘You have to discount to compete with somebody across the road. I am sorry, but we cannot subsidise you’. The oil companies allowed some of the proprietors to be thrown to the wind.
– The oil companies have been standing over them for years.
-As the honourable member for Griffith said, the oil companies have been standing over them for years. The Government has some very fine Ministers. I know that the Treasurer (Mr Howard), who is sitting at the table, realises that what I am saying is perfectly true. We are now looking at the oil industry. The latest increase took the price of oil to world parity. It is important that we go to world parity. We need to look after our reserves of oil for the 1 980s. We also need to know that the oil industry is going to be a viable industry. We are dependent -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The matter I would like to raise this evening relates to the national communications satellite system. I raise this matter because in Opposition we have learned to expect inquiries that are initiated by the Government to go on and on. Such an inquiry is generally initiated by an individual who has a vested interest in the matter. A committee or task force is generally set up for the purpose of achieving a particular objective or making a particular decision. When the report on the inquiry is prepared it is sometimes used by the Government, after consultation with people in the industry concerned, to predetermine what will happen as a result of the presentation of the report. That was the case with the Green report on broadcasting. I think that the task force that was set up on 22 September of last year by the then Minister for Post and Telecommunications, who is presently the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) -
– A Liberal Minister.
– Yes, he is a Liberal Minister. He set up a task force to inquire into broadcasting. I feel that the same fate awaits the report of the task force that was set up at the behest of Mr K. Packer, the Managing Director of Television Corporation Ltd and the owner of TCN9-GTV9 television network. The task force was set up to advise the Government as to whether a national communications satellite system was a viable proposition and how such a system could be controlled if it were introduced and what would be the area of its operation as well as who should control the satellite. In effect, it involved not only whether the system should be introduced but also whether the Australian Telecommunications Commission should be the lone carrier or whether the submission made by Packer should be supported by the Government, as they are traditionally, to ensure that as much as possible is handed over to private enterprise.
– You have been watching too much night cricket.
– Mike the Mouth keeps nattering away. The honourable member for Denison has a penchant for opening his mouth and letting the wind blow his tongue about. It has got him in trouble with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). If the honourable member wants to know anything about the satellite system he should settle down and listen. The report of this inquiry is in the hands of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). The complaint I raise is that it is going to be there for another four weeks. The task force was to have reported in May of this year. It was set up in haste. It was duchessed all over America by the RCA organisation, which initiated the first submission, through Packer, for the setting up of the system so that Packer could then become the lone operator or controller of that system.
This evening we had a great debate about telecommunications technicians. This satellite system should not be introduced without a general debate on the implications of it- not the profit motive exclusively, but also the social implications of unemployment and the incursion into civil liberties by individuals who, in the event of the introduction of the new Telecom system plus the satellite, will be able to sit in a room in
Australia and listen to any telephone conversation in this country. It seems to me that other judgments and values have to be applied in the event of the introduction of systems such as that. It is not good enough for the Minister to sit on the report for four weeks. It should be presented to this House for debate. It should not be used solely for the purpose of enabling the Government to present legislation to support the people who control it. I refer to the Murdocks and the other people who control the Government. That is not good enough. That report should be the subject of discussion and debate in this Parliament. Honourable members on both sides of the House should be ensuring that that situation prevails in the final analysis.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted, the House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 12 September next, at 2.15 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House fix an alternative day or hour of meeting.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 23 February 1978:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Most hose couplings in Australia are of the screwed type but, because of the various thread forms used, there is no interchangeability.
Two quick action type hose couplings are in use to a lesser, but increasing, extent. They are:
British Instantaneous Coupling (BIC)
STORZ hermaphrodite coupling.
Screwed coupling (2 threads per inch)
New South Wales
Screwed couplings (5 1/5 threads per inch), and Storz Coupling
Victoria- Melbourne and Metropolitan Fire Brigade Area
Screwed coupling (5 threads per inch), and Storz Coupling
Victoria- Country Fire Authority
Screwed coupling (3 threads per inch)
Screwed coupling (5 threads per inch )
Screwed coupling (2 threads per inch)
British Instantaneous Coupling.
Within Commonwealth departments the installed equipment is generally to the standard used by the local fire brigade but mobile fire appliances used by the Services and Airport Fire Services are fitted with British Instantaneous Couplings (adaptors are carried).
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 15 March 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The largest single component is the approximately 1,500 personnel (mostly Air Force) posted in Malaysia and Singapore pursuant to the Five Power Arrangements.
About 400 personnel are normally on posting in connection with Australian defence co-operation programs in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji and Tonga. The large majority of these personnel are in Papua New Guinea. A further 60 personnel (approx.) occupy postings with UN Forces in Kashmir and the Middle East.
The remainder comprise mainly:
Nurses in the Australian Capital Territory (Question No. 845)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am advised that records available to the Capital Territory Health Commission show the nursing work force for the last five years to have been:
I am not able to provide information about the private nursing workforce whose employers would include private medical practitioners, private enterprise, institutions of learning etc
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 2 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Rule 69 provides that a Branch Executive shall decide upon the date when ballots for the election of Branch officers shall commence. The rules do not require elections in all Branches to be conducted simultaneously.
So far as Branch offices are concerned, rule 68 fixes a minimum period of 28 days for which nominations are to remain open. Thus, although no precise opening date is given, nominations for a Branch office must open not later than 25 May in the year in which the ballot for the office concerned would be conducted.
The rules do not indicate an opening date for nominations for Federal offices.
On my reading of the rules, in particular rules 58a and 68, it would appear to be the responsibility of the Branch Returning Officer to fix the opening date for nominations for Branch offices.
Nominations for Branch offices must be called for, under rule 68, in the Union journal. On the other hand, no such requirement exists in respect of the Federal offices of President, General Secretary and Vice-Presidents.
I am informed that for some time elections in the union for Federal and Branch offices have been conducted by the Australian Electoral Office and that at the last election for the Federal offices of President, General Secretary and VicePresidents, the opening and closing dates for nominations were advertised by the Returning Officer in the union journal,’The Worker’ of 29 April 1977.
Rule 69 provides that ballots for Branch offices are to close between 1 December and 18 December. Further provision is made fixing a minimum period of at least twelve weeks for which a ballot is to be open. Consequently, the latest date on which a ballot for a Branch office may be opened is not later than 25 September. Since under rule 47 ballots for Federal offices are to be conducted at the same time and places and in the same manner as the ballots for the elections of Branch offices, then these dates are also applicable to ballots for Federal offices.
On this point it is relevant to mention that regulations 136a to 136E of the Conciliation and Arbitration Regulations which came into operation on 2 1 March 1977 require the regular filing of returns by each registered organisation with the Industrial Registrar, giving details concerning the offices for which nominations might be called or made in the following year, and the time and date of the commencement and closing of the relevant nomination periods. The information is published by the Industrial Registrar by notice in the newspaper or newspapers most likely to bring the notice to the attention of the members of the relevant organisation. I am informed that the Australian Workers’ Union is complying with these requirements.
Where such rules do not comply with these requirements of section 133, the Industrial Registrar is empowered under the section, after inviting the organisation concerned to consult with him, to determine such alterations of the rules as will, in his opinion, bring them into conformity with those requirements.
The Industrial Registrar may also be required to determine alterations of an organisation’s rules where a declaration is made by the Federal Court, on the application of a member of the organisation pursuant to section 140 of the Act, that a rule or rules are in contravention of that section.
asked the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 4 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is:
In a recent inquiry into the gemstone industry, which was part of a wider reference on ‘Jewellery and Other Precious Metal Ware’, the Industries Assistance Commission heard evidence from miners and gem merchants in regard to synthetic opals. In its draft report the Commission concluded that the evidence showed that synthetic opal was still only a potential threat and will not have substantial market acceptability until faults such as cracking are eliminated. The final report of the Commission in connection with this inquiry has been received and is under consideration.
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 10 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 26 May 1978:
– The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question:
1975- 76- $101,679.28
1975- 76-28,413 hours 1976- 77-37,685 hours 1977- 78-39,334 hours.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 26 May 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Use of Motor Car near Parliament House (Question No. 1292)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 26 May 1978:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Statutory Authorities responsible to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Question No. 1354)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 29 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I. ( 1 ) Australia/Japan Foundation. Under the revised Administrative Arrangements issued in December 1977, the administration of the Australia/Japan Foundation was transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
(i) 1975-76 $100,000; (ii) 1976-77 $150,000; (iii) 1977-78 $500,000.
b) One line appropriation. Funds made available do not include administrative expenses which are provided under the Department’s administrative items.
3 ) The Auditor-General.
Australia/Japan Foundation Act 1976.
The Foundation, under Section 25 of its Act, must furnish to the Minister a report of its operations together with financial statements at the close of each financial year. A report was tabled on 24 May 1977.
II. (1) The Australian Development Assistance Agency which came into existence on 9 December 1974 and was abolished by Act of Parliament (No. 24 of 1977) with effect from 1 July 1977. Its functions were taken over by the Australian Development Assistance Bureau of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
(i) 1975-76 $391,306,700; (ii) 1976-77 $390,297,600; (iii) 1977-78 not applicable.
Broken up into Divisions.
3 ) The Auditor-General.
The Australian Development Assistance Agency Act 1974.
No review or inquiry into the Agency was carried out during its existence. Its abolition resulted from a change in government policy.
( 1) Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS).
to (5) See the Prime Minister’s statement to the House of 25 October 1977 on the Report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security.
Statutory Authorities responsible to the Minister for Productivity (Question No. 1367)
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 29 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board.
The Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Advisory Committee
The Board of Examiners of Patent Attorneys.
There are no corporations in the area of my responsibility. However under the Supply and Development Act 1939 undertakings’ include Government munitions and aircraft factories.
The Government munitions and aircraft factories obtain finance to carry out operations from:
appropriations to the Department for specific purposes such as Maintenance of Production Capacity and for items of a capital nature such as plant and equipment.
The Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board and the Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Advisory Committee were both established in 1976 by the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Act 1976.
The Board of Examiners of Patent Attorneys was established in 1 9 12 by the Regulations to the Patents Act.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 3 1 May 1978:
Do the present plant quarantine regulations exclude all plants and varieties other than those specifically allowed into Australia, or do they allow in all plants unless specifically excluded.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In this reply, the term ‘plants’ means living plant material capable of propagation by vegetative means and includes rooted plants, scions, cuttings, budwood, tubers, bulbs or offsets.
Plant quarantine legislation prohibits the import of certain species of plants, particularly from countries where serious diseases affecting these plants are present. Normally these plants may not be imported except for scientific or other special reasons and under rigid conditions.
The quarantine legislation also prohibits the importation of a number of specified plants except where the permission of the Director of Quarantine has been obtained. That permission may be expressed to be subject to certain conditions. Many of the commercial fruit crops covering more than 20 distinct genera as well as proclaimed weeds and a number of cactus genera fall within this category.
All other plants not specifically covered by quarantine legislation are admitted under the general provisions of the plant quarantine regulations. These regulations require a permit to be issued prior to import. Generally, these plants undergo a period of quarantine and are then released provided they are free of pests and disease.
A separate set of quarantine conditions applies to the importation of seed.
asked the Minister for Abor iginal Affairs, upon notice, on 3 1 May 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 3 1 May 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 3 1 May 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 2 June 1978:
-The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question:
Waste ferrous metals from the Canberra College of Technical and Further Education are collected by a private contractor for recycling. More valuable waste metals, such as lead, copper and brass, are collected for re-sale by the Department of Administrative Services.
Government schools in the Australian Capital Territory ensure that the best possible use is made of waste materials of all kinds. The Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority, which places great importance on environmental matters, is to set up a task force of teachers and students to examine further the recycling and re-use of suitable waste.
In the Northern Territory, both the Education Division of my Department and the Darwin Community College re-use waste paper as far as possible, although there are no current arrangements for recycling. The College re-uses the bulk of the scrap metal generated to the point of no commercial value.
Services to Primary Producers in Isolated Areas (Question No. 1514)
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Since late in 1977 the Government has implemented a number of measures designed to reduce the cost of services available to isolated producers and to increase producers’ access to them. These have included:
The free line entitlement for connections to automatic exchanges has been extended from 1 2 to 1 6 km.
Telecom has announced alternative arrangements for persons subscribing to a new service on an automatic exchange, or whose existing manual service is converted to automatic. Instead of paying the considerable capital costs previously required, often as high as $ 1 5,000 to $20,000, a subscriber can now opt to pay an annual rental of $500 as an alternative.
A new VHF concentrator radio-telephone system has been on trial at Longreach. Overall, results indicate that this service will be of great assistance to potential subscribers in very remote areas who will also have the same option of the $500 per annum rental alternative.
Concessional charges for off-peak trunk calls are to be extended for subscribers connected to noncontinuous exchanges as from 1 September 1978.
Substantial reductions in STD and trunk call charges are to be introduced in November 1978 including:
For day-time STD calls a 20 per cent reduction in the 50-85 km range and a 10 per cent reduction in the 85-165 km range. Sunday rates in these ranges will also be reduced.
Between 6.00 p.m. and 9.00 p.m. the present night rate for distances up to 485 kms will apply. For longer distances the rate will be 20-25 per cent lower than the present night rate.
A new ‘Economy STD’ rate for STD calls between 9.00 p.m. and 8.00 a.m.
In essence the Sunday rates will be 20 per cent cheaper than the ordinary day rate; the night rate about 50 per cent cheaper than the ordinary day rate; and the economy service approximately 60 per cent below the day rate.
The new rates will also apply to operatorconnected calls where subscribers do not have access to STD.
Telecom Australia, at the Government’s request, is presently examining the extension of local call access facilities. One of the options being given close study would give isolated rural subscribers access to a greater number of subscribers at local call rates including access to a centre providing a reasonable range of goods and essential services.
Australia Post has agreed to maintain existing services unless reductions become absolutely unavoidable. It is also reviewing rural operations with a view to providing as many country people as possible with at least bi-weekly services.
The Government has recently announced a threeyear capital works program for the extension of television services to many remote areas throughout Australia.
Legislation has been passed to establish an Isolated Patients Travel and Assistance Scheme to cost $7m in a full year. This scheme, which is expected to commence in September 1978, will subsidise the costs incurred by patients living away from major population centres who are required to travel long distances for specialist medical treatment. Patients will pay a maximum of $20 for fares, including air fares where necessary on medical grounds, and will receive a maximum of $ 1 5 per night for commercial accommodation. Young or very ill patients will be able to be accompanied by an escort or a professional attendant, or in certain cases, both.
The Government has eased the means test requirements for the special supplementary allowance under this scheme.
A special non-means tested grant has been introduced for children of beneficiaries living in tax zones A and B who qualify for either the Boarding Allowance or the Second Home Allowance. The grant is $ 1 00 for each child who qualifies for the Boarding Allowance or $ 100 per family qualifying for the Second Home Allowance.
Allowances which used to be regarded as separate net income for the student and thereby affected the parents’ entitlements for zone allowance rebates are now regarded as a contribution by the Government toward the student’s educational expenses. As such these allowances no longer affect parents’ entitlements to zone allowance rebates.
Medical Facilities at Airport Terminals (Question No. 1519)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 7 June 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
What percentage of Australian homes contained (a) a refrigerator, (b) a freezer, (c) a black and white television, (d) a colour television, (e) a vacuum cleaner, (f) a washing machine, (g) a stove, (h) a kettle, (i) an air conditioner, (j) a space heater, (k) a dishwasher, (l) a clothes dryer and (m) a water heater in each of the years (i) 1950, (ii) 1955, (iii) 1960, (iv) 1965, (v) 1970, (vi) 1973 and(vii) 1975.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Information is not available for all the specified items or for all the dates requested. The following statistics are available from the Household Expenditure Surveys of 1974-75 and 1975-76:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
What was the contribution to the increase in the Consumer Price Index from 1974 to March quarter 1978 attributable to:
What contribution did increased petroleum fuel costs make to the Consumer Price Index in the December quarter 1977 and how much of this increase was acounted for by higher excise taxes.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Statistician has not made analyses of price movements reflected in the Consumer Price Index which would enable part 1 (a) of the question to be answered. Any estimates of the effects on the CPI of changes in indirect taxes would be dependent on a number of assumptions and assessments and this type of analysis is not generally regarded as part of the Statistician ‘s function.
With regard to part 1 (b) of the question, some relevant information has been published by the Statistician. This shows that between 1974 (average for calendar year) and March quarter 1978, price movements in the health services component of theCPI accounted for 2.1 per cent out of the total increase of53.5 per cent in the CPI All Groups Index (weighed average of six State capital cities). The health services component of the CPI comprises hospital and medical fund contributions; health insurance levy contributions; net (‘out-of-pocket’) medical expenses; and dental services.
With regard to part 1 (c) of the question, the Statistician has provided estimates for use in recent National Wages Cases concerning the effect on the CPI of changes in prices of wholly or substantially imported goods. The estimates have been made only for the last five quarters and some of the information that would be required to make estimates for earlier periods is not available to the Statistician. The estimated effects between December quarter 1976 and March quarter 1 978 amounted to 1 . 3 1 per cent out of a total increase in the CPI of 10.7 per cent. For the purposes of these estimates, items produced partly from imported materials such as cigarettes, clothing and drapery (excluding sheets) and petrol, have not been included in the category ‘substantially imported’.
Concerning pan 2 of the question, the Statistician has estimated that changes in prices of petroleum products contributed 0.35 per cent out of the total increase of 2.3 per cent in the CPI between September quarter 1977 and December quarter 1977. Any estimate of the proportion of this increase due to changes in excise taxes would be dependent on assumptions about the extent to which the increased taxes had been passed on at the retail level and the Statistician has not attempted such an estimate.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Abor iginal Affairs, upon notice, on 1 5 August 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 1 6 August 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 1 6 August 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 17 August 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In the interim the Uniting Church, with its own funds and funds provided by the Commonwealth until the Church is reimbursed by Queensland, has supported the municipal functions of the communities.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 17 August 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 August 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780824_reps_31_hor110/>.