31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House or Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its Recommendations
Therefore the Parliament has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial Report and its Recommendations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dobie, Dr Edwards, Mr Graham, Mr Hodges, Mr MacKellar, Mr Peacock and Mr Ruddock.
Broadcasting: Radio 3CR Melbourne
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That radio 3CR Melbourne, be made to adhere to the required standards of broadcasting, as laid down for all other radio stations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will enforce the required standard of broadcasting as laid down for all other stations, on community radio 3CR call on Federal Government to legislate against incitement to racial hatred and violence.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr N. A. Brown, Mr Macphee and Mr Shipton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully say that we are concerned about the discrimination which exists against the children of those parents who are in receipt of the Supporting Parents Benefit in comparison with children of Single Parents who receive the Widows Pension. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to ensure that this year’s budget allow for Lone Parents to be given the right to receive a pension with the same benefits as are given with the Widows Pension, and we also request that Parliament take immediate action to instigate one ( 1 ) category of Lone Parent Pension to eliminate the discrimination currently experienced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Neil and Mr Simon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because television and radio
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Government will amend the Broadcasting and Television Act, in relation to both national and commercial broadcasters, to legislate
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sinclair, Mr Carlton and Mr Ruddock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. This humble petition of undersigned Christian citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred and Mr Falconer.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the Petition 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 Falconer and Mr Shack.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned, members of the Sydney University Post Graduate Representative Association, and like people, respectfully showeth that the Government decision to tax Commonwealth Post Graduate Research Awards will result in:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reverse the decision to tax Commonwealth Postgraduate Research Awards and revert to the former policy of annual adjustments in line with the Consumer Price Index.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States
Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30th June 1978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30th June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $ 1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Edwards.
To the Honourable Speaker, House of Representatives Parliament House Canberra. ‘We the undersigned Australian voters humbly register protest at the Commonwealth TaxationDepartment in their moves to increase taxation of rental housing subsidies as applied to Queensland workers. We wish to bring to the notice of the taxation department and the Federal Government the widespread implications and economical chaos that this increased taxation could cause to the Queensland mining, power and sugar industries and public services. We humbly pray you will consider our contention that this taxation will have a serious deleterious effect on the welfare and further progression of our beautiful and wealthy State of Queensland ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth that certain members of the Ukrainian Army (UPA), the list of which is attached hereto, have been held in Soviet prisons and labour camps for a period of about 30 years, and that their rights as prisoners of war in accordance, specifically, with Articles 4 and 25, and Section V, of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of 12 August 1949, have been denied to them. In essence, they are treated inhumanely; they are in close confinement; personal belongings have been confiscated; they are denied freedom of religious belief and attendanceof church services.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will recommend that the government of Australia, being signatory to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 1929 and 1949, will express its concern about the treatment of the abovementioned prisoners of war of the Ukrainian Army (UPA) to the government of the USSR, and will seek relief of the said prisoners of war in accordance with the said Geneva Convention and with specific regard to (i) obtaining Red Cross assistance, (ii) ensuring medical services, (iii) ensuring the right of religious worship, (iv) obtaining recognised status as prisoners of war and not criminal prisoners, and (v) securing their long-overdue freedom.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrGillard.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we are totally opposed to any reduction to the Family Allowance now being paid to parents.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will request the Government to maintain the Family Allowance in its present form.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That as parents of children in government schools we maintain that it is the responsibility of governments to provide and maintain a public system of education of the highest standard open to all.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the members of this house assembled ensure that the Commonwealth Government maintain a broadly representative Australian Schools Commission to determine:
National priorities in education strategies and allocation of funds to ensure equality of educational opportunity for all children allocation of funds for the continued improvement of public systems of education through General Recurrent and Capital Grants to Government school systems and Special Purpose Programs.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howard.
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:
Television is the single most influential medium for the dissemination of information and for the recording and development of our national identity and culture;
Children are the most important section of the viewing public in that they are most likely to be affected by the impact of television;
Australian children, on average, spend more time watching television than in school;
And believing that:
The basic problem behind the lack of programs designed for children is the fundamental divergence of aims between those primarily interested in the welfare of children and the commercial interests of television licensees and their shareholders.
The creation of an Establishment to initiate, research, promote, co-ordinate, fund and produce material for children’s consumption through the medium of television, as recommended by Australian Children’s Television Action Committee in its submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and The Arts 1973; The Australian Broadcasting Control Boards Advisory Committee Report 1974 and the Television Industry Co-ordinating Committee 1975, as a positive step toward providing better quality television for Australian children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jacobi.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of pupils and teachers of Primary Schools at Peakhurst West and Sutherland respectfully showeth-
Our deep concern about the continued killing of whales which has led to the virtual extinction of many species. We are horrified that Australia remains the only nation in the English-speaking world still involved in this unnecessary slaughter, even though cheap alternative sources for all whale products are available.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the senseless slaughter of whales be immediately banned as a commercial enterprise in Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of we the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth-
That because this budget will further increase the number of persons unemployed, because it reduces the average worker’s spending power by $ 10 per week, because it will reduce the income of pensioners, because it is unfair in placing a greater burden on the poor rather than the rich, and because it is driving this country into a depression.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that
The Federal Government withdraws this budget and provides Australia, within this session of Parliament, with a revised budget that increases the level of economic activity in Australia, lowers unemployment, removes the burdens placed on the disadvantaged, and revives business and consumer confidence in the future of this potentially great country.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Martin.
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 Ian Robinson.
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 the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement ofabortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Ruddock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That ‘The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state ‘.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government initiate a national family policy and use the concept of family impact statements as a means highlighting family needs.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
- Mr Speaker, I inform the House that on Friday, 25 August, His Excellency the Governor-General accepted the resignation of Senator the Hon. Peter Durack, Q.C., as Minister for Administrative Services and was pleased to appoint Senator the Hon. F. M. Chaney as Minister for Administrative Services. In addition, some minor amendments have been made in relation to Ministers assisting and the representational arrangements as they affect the Senate. I ask for leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a list of the Ministry which includes those details.
The document read as follows-
– Honourable senators and members will be aware that because of an industrial dispute no services have been available from the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms since yesterday morning. This dispute had its origin on Thursday of last week when the Federated Liquor and Allied Industries Employees Union of Australia ascertained during a check of membership that a Mr Jacques Aper was working in the kitchen. On being asked to join the union this employee had refused to do so. Mr Aper is the same person who currently has an application before the Federal Court of Australia to secure exemption from joining any trade union on the ground that his conscientious beliefs do not allow him to do so. The hearing of this case is scheduled to be resumed on 18 September 1978.
On Friday last the staff had a stop-work meeting after which the union informed the management that it had been decided that there would be a further meeting on Monday morning, that is, yesterday, and if Mr Aper had not joined the union by that time industrial action would be taken. Yesterday the stop-work meeting was held at which the staff members resolved that they would remain on strike for Monday and Tuesday- that is, yesterday and today- of this week and would return to duty at the normal hour on Wednesday morning, that is, tomorrow morning, provided that the intervention of the Public Service Arbitrator had been sought. The Public Service Arbitrator’s intervention has been sought. The Arbitrator has been informed of the dispute and asked to arrange a statutory conference. This statutory conference has been called, and has been set down for Wednesday, 13 September, at 10.30 a.m.
-I give notice that at the next meeting I shall move:
That this House notes:
That the current Waterside Workers Federation strike had its origin in the strike by electricians and mechanical engineering fitters at Seatainer Terminals and Liner Services Ltd Melbourne.
Notes that the average annual earnings for the men concerned were $25,000 for a 35.8 hour week for rotating shifts last year.
Observes further that with overtime earnings rose to the order of $28,000 per year.
And while vigorously supporting the right to strike asserts that on any principle of comparative or social justice a strike for either extra emoluments or special annual leave in addition to the current average 5 weeks annual leave is unjustified and unfair to the bulk of the Australian work force.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House notes with horror reports of the deaths by starvation of tens of thousands of East Timorese and calls for the immediate admission of International Red Cross into East Timor along with such United Nations relief missions as are deemed appropriate to immediately alleviate the hardship, suffering and loss of life in East Timor.
– My question, which is addressed to the Treasurer, concerns the fact that Statement No. 4 in the Budget Papers shows that the increase in employment of wage and salary earners expected by the Government in 1978-79 is 0.5 per cent- in other words, about 24,000 to 25,000 people. Is the Treasurer aware of the fact that the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations in its submission to the Crawford Committee on Structural Adjustment has estimated that the work force is growing at the rate of 1 10,000? Even allowing for some growth in self-employed and contract labour, does he concede that on these figures his Budget has been framed on the expectation of an increase in unemployment of the order of 80,000?
– I am aware of the assumption contained in Statement No. 4 of the Budget Papers. I am also generally aware of the substance of certain submissions which have been made to the Crawford inquiry. To my knowledge, the submission of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations is not a public document. If the honourable gentleman’s question is directed towards achieving a points scoring victory based on a comparison of figures in respect of unemployment, I suggest to him that the time of this House would be better directed towards an analysis of the problems of unemployment. I made no secret in my Budget Speech of the fact that the prospects for a fall in unemployment in this country were not bright, particularly if further progress was not achieved in restoring a proper balance between real wages and profits. Obviously, all honourable members on both sides of the House share a concern about the level of unemployment. But I do not think that it profits any honourable member on the Opposition side to make predictions, such as the honourable member for Gellibrand and his Leader have made since the presentation of the Budget, of the tens of thousands by which they may be able to reduce the level of unemployment through the application of certain policies. I state in reply to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question that I believe the assumption made in Statement No. 4 was a responsible and appropriate assumption.
-Can the Prime Minister indicate to the House the financial contribution made by the Commonwealth Government to the recent New South Wales Budget?
-The Commonwealth Government, through its policies, has made very substantial contributions to the Budgets of all the States and has sought quite deliberately, over nearly three years, to put the States into a position in which they can determine their own priorities and make their own decisions to a greater extent than might have been formerly the case. We know quite well that under the previous Labor Administration funds went from the Commonwealth to the States ever increasingly in the form of tied grants for tied programs, thus committing the States and not giving them the sort of flexibility that they ought to want if they are to exercise their traditional role as responsible and responsive State governments. In nearly three years we have moved quite significantly to withdraw from the direction that was coming from Canberra on previous occasions and have given the States greater flexibility. Indeed, we have been making funds available to them so that that flexibility would be the reality in the determination of their own priorities.
For example, New South Wales’s estimated entitlement for this financial year was $1,45 7m, which is more than 10 per cent over the amount it received last year. When that increase is judged against the current level of inflation in Australia, which is running somewhere between 6 per cent and 7 per cent, but maybe nearer 6 per cent than 7 per cent, it indicates quite plainly that in this general untied area of grants the New South Wales Government is getting substantial additional resources from the Commonwealth on this occasion. Of course, that is consistent with what has happened in earlier years. In 1976-77 the States received $3,723m, nearly 20 per cent more than they received in the last year of the Whitlam formula. In 1977-78 they received $4,34 lm, an increase of nearly 17 per cent. This year an amount of $4,777m will be provided for all the States which represents an increase of about 10 per cent. I have already given the New South Wales portion of that amount. That indicates that over three years we have moved consistently to put the States in a position where they can better determine their own priorities.
The New South Wales Treasurer tried to suggest that Stage 1 of the federalism policy had failed. That is very far from the truth. Stage 1 has been a remarkable success. I would suggest that the successive New South Wales Budgets of the last three years have demonstrated that marked and notable success because on nearly every occasion, including this year- a year when we ourselves had to increase taxes to come out with a responsible Budget because of the generosity of the provision we had made for the State governments- the New South Wales Government has been able to bring down a Budget which does not increase taxes and which at the same time gives a considerable tax remission. It has basically done the same thing over the last three years- not put up taxes and given tax cuts in one form or another year after year. Under those circumstances it is very evident that the Commonwealth has been extraordinarily generous with the States and, in this instance, extraordinarily generous with New South Wales. They have been able to determine their own priorities.
When Mr Renshaw says that Stage 1 has failed he is just wanting to establish the circumstances in which the New South Wales Government, as it is presently constituted, would never pick up the additional responsibilities evident in Stage 2 of the federalism policy, which would allow a State government to offer a rebate, a reduced tax, to all its citizens. The last three years have demonstrated quite plainly that our arrangements have made it possible for the States to reduce taxes if they want to. They could reduce taxes in the general area if they wanted to instead of reducing them in specific areas- but that is their decision. Alternatively, they could increase taxes if they wanted to do so. The New South Wales Government has made it perfectly plain that it does not want that kind of responsibility and would want to get back to the sort of circumstances in which it could pretend to hide behind Canberra’s authority and Canberra’s decision-making. I do not believe that that is what State governments are all about. I think it is rather a pity that Mr Wran and Mr Renshaw clearly do not want to exercise the general responsibility that persons claiming to be responsible State Premiers and Treasurers, ought to have.
-I direct a question to the Treasurer. Will the decision to phase out the coal export levy benefit the Utah Development Company by $130m over the period 1976 to 1979? Why has the Government given such a large handout to Utah while at the same time raising taxes by $76m this financial year on the lump sum payments of workers?
-The decision to phase out the coal export levy was first announced about two or three years ago. What the honourable gentleman did not tell the House when he asked the question was that the Budget brought down three weeks ago announced a delay in the phasing out procedure. Unlike our opponents on the other side of the House, we do not believe in having a taxation regime in this country which discourages risk-taking. We make no apology for framing taxation decisions which ensure that no undue disincentive is put upon the investment of funds from both Australia and overseas in resource projects.
I point out to the honourable gentleman, if he is worried about the equity of taxation treatment of companies such as Utah, that there is currently before this House a Bill which will introduce a branch profits tax which, as the honourable gentleman well knows, will affect companies such as Utah which operate in Australia through a branch rather than a subsidiary. If the honourable gentleman really wants to establish whether there is equity in the taxation treatment of companies such as Utah, I suggest that he pay proper regard to the fact that they pay not only company tax but also large amounts in State royalties. If this country is to get the sort of development capital and the sort of development activity which will be appropriate to the future demands of the economy, it will not take any notice of the fanciful taxation proposals of the Leader of the Opposition, as enunciated in his alternative budget, which would have the effect of being a massive disincentive to investment in resource projects in Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Are Press reports correct that agreement has not yet been reached between the Government and the health insurance funds on the question of a service fee for processing claims for the payment of the Commonwealth benefit only to those people who choose not to insure privately?
– It is true that agreement has not yet been reached at the working party level. The working party consists of representatives of the Department of Health and of the health insurance funds. There have been at least two meetings of that working party and a lot of investigation and research has been undertaken to establish a reasonable agency fee for the dispensing of the universal Commonwealth benefit to those people who choose not to insure privately after 1 November.
The health insurance fund representatives have sought an agency fee far in excess of the agency fee presently being paid by the Health Insurance Commission to health insurance organisations. The present fee is $1.52 per claim or 61.3 cents per service. No approach has been made by the health insurance fund concerned to vary this fee or to cancel the agency. One would assume therefore that the agency fee being paid by the Health Insurance Commission is fair and reasonable. The Government has therefore offered a similar figure to the health insurance funds for acting as agents of the Commonwealth in dispensing the universal Commonwealth medical benefit which provides for a refund of 40 per cent of the schedule fee or for the patient to pay no more than $20 for a service where the doctor charges the schedule fee.
We need to finalise arrangements before the end of this week because we have to draft legislation and introduce it as soon as possible. Because the Government needs to settle the question of agency arrangements it has asked the funds to respond to this offer by noon on Friday. If this offer is not accepted by the funds the Government will proceed as a matter of urgency to make alternative arrangements. One would hope that the funds would take up the opportunity offered to them to provide this service to those people who will not be privately insured for medical benefits after 1 November. The Government recognises the important role of the health insurance funds and the contact they have with people at the grass roots level. Before taking any further decision in the matter I await their response. I understand that the working party will be meeting on Thursday and I will seek to talk with the health fund representatives on Thursday but I want an answer no later than noon on Friday.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that as a result of the Government’s crude oil pricing policy oil producers will receive a total pre-tax windfall profit of about $340m in 1978-79, an increase of $ 180m over last year’s total? Further, following the Budget announcement, will oil producers receive an additional $440m next year as windfall profit and will the revenue raised by the Government through the crude oil levy fall by about $ 100m?
– The question of tax paid by oil producers in this country has been answered before in a debate in this House. I made clear then the sort of tax that the producers pay. The question of the Government’s pricing policy is very important. It is true, as the Treasurer made clear, that it provides some extra revenue to the Government but it is far more important in the development of an energy policy in this country. It is an important decision because in a very short time this country will face very serious problems in the provision of its crude oil. By 1985, instead of producing 70 per cent of its oil requirements, it will be producing only about 40 per cent or 45 per cent. Further, by that time the world situation may well have turned around quite considerably and, instead of a surplus of oil being produced as it is now, demand could exceed supply. The country has to prepare for that period; it has to prepare by having conservation programs; it has to develop alternative energy sources, such as ethane and methane, and the use of electric cars. It has to continue to encourage exploration and oil development. Oil pricing is the key to all those programs. It is a key essential in developing an energy policy.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. He has often said that Australia’s trading performance will depend on its inflation rate relative to the inflation rates of its trading partners. Has he any recent information that he can relate to the House regarding the inflation rate in Australia compared with the rates of its trading partners?
– As it happens, I have some information that I can provide to the House. I think the House will- I know that honourable gentlemen on this side will- listen very carefully because it is very important information. Quite seriously, it indicates that this country is well and truly making the grade so far as a reduction in its inflation rate is concerned. The latest figures issued by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development- a body, incidentally, which the Leader of the Opposition was not loth to cite during the last election campaignindicate that for the six months ended 30 June 1 978 the average increase in consumer prices for OECD countries was 9.6, whereas those same figures indicate that the increase in Australia in consumer prices during that six-month period was only 6.9. In other words, in that period Australia out-performed the average recorded by the OECD, which of course is a representative group of countries with which legitimate comparisons can be made in relation to movements in consumer prices.
The same figures indicate that regrettably the inflation rates in a number of countries, including the United States of America, Canada, France and the United Kingdom, increased during that period. Notwithstanding the Government’s disappointment that inflation rates increased in those countries the interesting point is that the rate of inflation in Australia is on the way down. Those figures indicate that not only on a six-monthly basis but also on a 12-monthly basis, on which basis the average rate of inflation for the OECD countries was 8.1 as against 7.9 recorded by Australia, the rate of improvement in Australia’s inflation situation is one of acceleration and that we are getting towards a situation where our average rate of inflation is significantly better than the rates of inflation of our trading partners.
– Would it be better than in the 1930s?
– One of the assumptions which underlay many of the decisions taken by the Government in formulating the Budget was the belief that in a difficult trading world it was not just sufficient for Australia to hold its own but it was essential that we do better and outperform many of our trading partners. These latest figures are very concrete evidence that we are achieving that situation. They ought to be a matter of satisfaction to all members of the House and should not draw the sort of inane interjection that we have just had from the honourable member for Adelaide who exhorted us to think about 1930.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Is it a fact that industry’s understandable drive for increasing international competitiveness is being achieved by replacing people with machines and thus lengthening the dole queues? If the Government persists in using the investment allowance rather than other means, such as expanding the economy in order to achieve international competitiveness, when will it convert the allowance to one applicable only to that machinery which is substantially Australian made in order to substitute new employment for that which is being lost? Why was not the change made in the recent Budget?
– One of the most significant incentives which the Government has provided to the business community in recent years has, of course, been the investment allowance to which the honourable gentleman referred. That has given real encouragement to firms to improve their competitive position, to update their plant and machinery, and in so doing, of course, to improve their overall profitability. If the honourable gentleman thinks back just to the financial year ended last June, if I remember the figures correctly he will see that investment during that period, although allowing for a bunching towards the end of the period, showed a 19 per cent increase. If the honourable gentleman in fact wants to take a point of dialogue so far as the overall growth of technology is concerned, I think that he, knowing industry as I believe he does and being involved in discussions with industry advisory councils, would welcome the input of major technological advance in industry at the present time. Only if manufacturing industry continues to update its equipment from the best sources which are available both here and abroad will it have a capacity to continue to improve its performance and to employ those persons who are genuinely seeking work at the present time, quite apart from a recognition of the need by industry to take account of the increasing number of new jobs which will be required as a consequence of children leaving school during the years ahead.
As I mentioned in a speech to the Electrical Manufacturers Association last night, there can be no question that Australia has lagged very much behind many industrialised countries in the absorption of technology by industry, and that is a specific comment about the manufacturing sector of the Australian economy. The question of our absorption of that technology is not a question as to whether one accepts it; rather it is a question of the circumstances in which the technology is to be introduced. As I stressed in my speech last night, and as I reaffirm here to the honourable gentleman, technological advance and an upgrading of Australia’s research and development are the route to higher productivity which in turn is the only way in which higher wages can be secured without adding to inflation and unemployment. I believe the honourable gentleman and his colleagues on the other side of the House need to appreciate that technological advance and the increased research and development which has taken place because of the initiatives of my colleague the Minister for Productivity, quite apart from the investment allowance to which the honourable gentleman referred, have provided a manner in which Australia can maintain and develop a viable industrial base and the jobs that go with it.
Finally, if the honourable gentleman really is concerned about jobs in this country at the present time he might look at his own industrial policies. He might ask the question as to whether his continued pursuit of full wage indexation is in fact not the route to greater unemployment in this country. The suggestion made in a speech in this House recently by the Leader of the Opposition that the Opposition party would in fact abolish the investment allowance is a clear indication that the Opposition is anti-business and anti-jobs in this country, because that would in fact put more people at peril insofar as their present jobs are concerned.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Are allegedly spontaneous public demonstrations against the Budget which, for example, in South Australia have resulted in damage to the offices of several members of this House, causing the Government to have any second thoughts about its Budget strategy?
– I am glad that the honourable member referred to so-called spontaneous demonstrations because fundamentally the demonstrations had and have nothing whatsoever to do with the Budget. They were planned a long time before any of the Budget details were known and therefore they could not have had anything to do with the Budget. The Cassandra column of 27 August of this year states:
And on August 14, the night before the Budget was released, the ALP State Council received -
Which meant work had been done- and adopted a detailed report on the proposed campaign against the Budget.
– I raise a point of order. Just to put the record straight, the State Council in South Australia meets on Thursday nights.
– There is no point of order.
– We will come to that. I am reading what the Cassandra column says. It states:
The report recommended all those things that have come to light as bursts of spontaneous anger at the provisions of the Budget.
The council discussed the plan for the big anti-Budget rally at the Festival Plaza the following Saturday, including who would speak at it, the factory gate meetings, which began the Friday after the Budget, the production of leaflets and a special financial appeal for fighting funds.
That all happened before the Budget was brought down. It did not matter what was going to be in the Budget. We could have brought down the Leader of the Opposition’s Budget, an alternative Budget, and still the Labor Party would have demonstrated. In those circumstances it would have been demonstrating much more to the point than in the present circumstances.
The Labor Party has succumbed to the disease of ‘knocking’. It will politically die of that disease because the people of Australia will be fed up with it. The Leader of the Opposition has made it his life’s ambition to make Jeremiah look like an optimist. That is one of the few ambitions he will achieve. His motto is: ‘If it looks good, knock it’. Labor’s knocking is bad enough in itself but demonstrations which lead to violence and which, some would say, are designed to lead to violence, can also get out of hand, as they did at the Sydney Stock Exchange, as they did in Adelaide and, indeed, as they did at the same sort of demonstration that the honourable member for Capricornia promoted when the Northern Territory was given self-government a day or two ago. On that occasion the honourable member for Capricornia tuned up a meeting before the official opening. Then he took his place as one of the honoured guests during the opening and the people to whom he had been speaking came down with their communist flags and booed during the playing of the national anthem.
– Oh, come on!
-That happens to be the fact of the matter. The record will show that that is a fact. The Leader of the Opposition constantly protests about violence being referred to as a result of actions and meetings called by the Opposition. He tries to wash his hands of the forces that are unleashed but we know quite well that when the Labor Party is in Opposition and when it is desperate, it resorts to the politics of violence in one form or another- if not directly then by people who act on the Labor Party’s behalf.
I understand that there was one particular report that indicated that it was not 14 August, before the Budget, when these decisions were made but in fact it was the earlier date of 10 August. Whether the Labor Party wants to argue about the date- whether it was 10 August or 14 August- does not seem to matter very much to me. It is perfectly plain that the anti-Budget demonstrations were planned as a deliberate act of policy to try to develop a certain climate against the Budget. The people of Australia have a good deal more common sense than that. One of the great blessings in this country is that the members of the Australian Labor Party will stay in Opposition because they always underestimate the common sense and decency of the Australian people.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he recalls these words at pages 40 and 41 of statement No. 2 of the Budget Papers:
In circumstances such as the present, such deceleration . . .
That is, in wage movements- might be matched by a more or less equal slowing in price increases so that, on balance, the real wage level might be little affected; . . .
Does he also recall a statement contained in these pages indicating that this would ‘be conducive to stronger private domestic and net overseas demand ‘ and ‘would thereby produce more rapid growth in activity and strengthen the demand for labour”? Does he recognise that this technical statement prepared by the Treasury clearly indicates that it is not necessary, and in fact highly unlikely, for any further real reduction to take place in wages, and that it would be consistent, in the absence of a further reduction in real wages, for a strong recovery to take place in the economy? I ask the Treasurer: Does he recognise that this technical statement prepared by his Department is in direct conflict with the arguments being put forward by the Government on wages?
– I have to say to the honourable gentleman that in all candour I would have to read those two statements in Statement No. 2 in the Budget. I would have to read them in the context of the other statements that accompany them in that particular section. The honourable gentleman will understand that I do not have a photographic memory and I would want to read those statements in context. Leaving that aside, if the honourable gentleman is trying to allege that in some way Statement No. 2 runs counter to what I said in the Budget Speech and what the Government has been saying regarding the link between the level of real wages and unemployment or the balance between real wages and profits, or if he is suggesting that there is some conflict between the technical advice the Government receives and expressions of that technical advice at a departmental level, as represented by Statement No. 2, 1 most emphatically reject the charge made by him that there is a conflict between the thrust of Statement No. 2 so far as wages are concerned and what was said in the Budget Speech.
This Government believes that there is ample evidence, not only from the official advice tendered to it but also from the judgment of bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the experience of the Australian work force over the past few years and the experience, both statistical and anecdotal, of Australian employers over the past few years, to support the attitude that this Government takes towards the importance of the level of real wages in the community. It is that cumulative advice and that experience which led the Government to make the statements it made in the Budget. The Government stands completely by them and believes that the statements are not only supported but also fully buttressed by the official advice it receives.
-Can the Minister for Trade and Resources advise the House on the latest position concerning legislation proposed in the United States which would seriously affect Australia’s beef exports? What action is the Government taking to make the Americans aware of our concern?
-The latest information we have is that the United States House of Representatives is about to vote on what is known as the Poage Bill, which would restrict future exports of beef to the United States. This legislation is based on a counter-cyclical concept which would restrict Australia’s exports when the cattle numbers in the United States are high. It is a severely restrictive piece of legislation so far as the President’s authority is concerned. At the moment the President has authority to liberalise imports if he sees fit, that is, when demand is high. However, this will cut across that authority. The United States Senate has already approved the Bentsen Bill, which is slightly different in nature. Should the Poage Bill be accepted there would have to be a meeting between the two Houses- the House of Representatives and the Senate- to decide on legislation that is acceptable to both Houses.
The Government has been very concerned about this counter-cyclical legislation for some time. We made representations to Vice-President Mondale when he was out here and only the week before last I sent personal letters to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Special Trade Representative, Mr Strauss, expressing our great concern about this sort of legislation. Indeed, we believe that if this legislation is introduced it will cut across the multilateral trade negotiations which have been going on at Geneva, where we have been trying to get reciprocity for any trading concessions that we may be giving to the United States. It is in the area of beef and certain other agricultural commodities that we will be looking for certain balancing items. Should the United States move in this direction it would be going counter to what we have been aiming to achieve. The Minister for Special Trade Representations has been in Washington and has spoken with leading Senators and Congressmen about this matter. All told, the Government has acted in every way possible. We have been working closely with the Meat and Livestock Corporation to see that its attorneys in Washington are fully briefed and giving advice to and lobbying the various congressmen. If the legislation goes through, all I can say is that it will be very disappointing as far as Australia is concerned and we will continue to do all we can to see that it is further liberalised.
-I direct my question to the Prime Minister and refer to the McGregor Royal Commission, where it became known for the first time that political analyses of all State distribution proposals had been sent to all commissioners. In particular, I refer to the evidence of Robert Michael Seymour, a Queensland electoral commissioner, who said he felt uncomfortable with this piece of information, which he thought lay outside the Act. I ask the Prime Minister: What action has he taken to determine the justification for the unprecedented circulation of these political analyses? Will the Prime Minister seek advice from the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General to determine whether a criminal offence has been committed under section 22 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act?
-Senator Durack, when he was Minister for Administrative Services, indicated that this was a matter for examination. I know that that is also Senator Chaney ‘s viewpoint. Recommendations will be coming to the Government in due course and the Government will make a decision against that general background. Let me say only that it is my understanding that similar analyses were prepared during the time of the Labor Administration as a matter of course. Whether or not they were distributed to the electoral commissioners I do not know, but the analyses were prepared. The very fact that they were prepared and kept within the confines of the then Government and Ministers has some implications of itself. These questions will be under examination and the Government will make its decision accordingly. Obviously the decision will be reported.
-Is the Minister for Trade and Resources aware of suggestions that countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations might challenge in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade the Government’s recent decision to impose a 121/2 per cent revenue duty on a range of imports’? Has any ASEAN country lodged a complaint with Australia over the Government’s action in imposing this duty?
-The 121/2 per cent duty that is now applied, whether in relation to import licences or tariff quotas, is in no way in conflict with our obligations under GATT, nor have there been any formal protests regarding our action. Although I have noted some newspaper comment, and no doubt there may have been some inquiries regarding it, it does not in any way breach our obligations under GATT.
– I address my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. During the tramways dispute in Victoria he made a strong plea for Miss Biggs, who had no union membership, to be permitted to work. Would the Minister permit a shearer without membership of the appropriate union to be part of a shearing team on his property?
– The question of conscientious objection to unionism is one which I think is of concern to the whole Australian community as well as to the union-
- Mr Speaker, could I draw your attention to the actual form of the question? I asked: ‘Would the Minister permit a shearer-
-Order! The honourable member for Wills will resume his seat.
-The honourable member for Wills will get an answer to his question in due course. It is part of a wider question involving compulsory unionism and the concern of people in the general community about that, as well as the concern of the union movement. There has always been a provision- a very limited one until fairly recently- for conscientious objection to unionism in relation to those awards which have a preference clause in them.
– Does it apply around Lismore?
-Just a minute. I will come to that in a minute. It applied to objection only on religious grounds. Those were two very severe limitations. We encourage people to join unions and take an active part in the union to which they are entitled to belong, but we also believe that ultimately the decision whether to join should be one for the individual, and that there should be provision for those who have strong conscientious objections to joining. With that in view, we amended the Act last year to provide that conscientious objection could be claimed on other than religious grounds, basically on the same grounds which apply to conscientious objection to service in the armed forces. It could also apply to any federal award. As a result of that many certificates of conscientious objection have been issued.
– How many?
– I have not the exact number with me but I have in my memory about 1 50.I will check that later, but that is my memory. Holders of these certificates are working normally and in company with other unionists in many areas and in many fields of occupation. Therefore, I believe that it is a right that people should have. It is also worth remembering that getting a certificate of conscientious objection is neither automatic nor free. Whoever applies for one has to pay the equivalent of union fees to which he would have been liable before the certificate is issued, and he has to satisfy the Industrial Registrar of a genuine conscientious objection.
Finally, if somebody wanting to shear in my shed had satisfied those conditions relating to the payment of an equivalent amount of union dues which he would otherwise have had to pay and had satisfied the Industrial Registrar that he had a genuine conscientious objection to joining a union, I would be happy to have him in my shed.
MrGOODLUCK-Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to the statements attributed to Mr Batt, the President of the Australian Labor Party, calling the Callaghan report on Tasmania’s disabilities- I cannot use the word but ‘garbage’ will do- and also to a threat by the Premier of Tasmania to opt out of the 10-point plan for Tasmania’s rehabilitation now being examined by the joint CommonwealthState committee?
– Very good.
– If Mr Batt, as President of the Australian Labor Party, has been correctly quoted it may be that this is just the first example of Mr Batt, as President of the
Australian Labor Party, selling out Tasmania’s interests in the light of what he perceives as a wider interest now that he is wearing two hats. If he has been correctly quoted- I think that we must all deplore the use of language which the honourable gentleman had the decency not to quote accurately in this House–
– He went to the same school as I did and I am ashamed of him.
-The honourable gentleman’s restraint in not being prepared to quote that language stands in marked contrast to the language used by Mr Batt which was certainly beneath any members in the House, certainly on this side if not on the other side. Such statements are not conducive to the co-operative approach which is necessary between the Commonwealth Government and any State government. One might say that particularly of Tasmania where there are very special problems to which this Government has devoted itself with an energy and vigour which has not at any time been matched by any previous Federal government.
I support fully the points made by the Minister for National Development who called upon Mr Lowe to repudiate the statements of his deputy, Mr Batt, the President of the Australian Labor Party. I certainly agree with the Minister for National Development that there is little point in continuing with the 10-point plan if Mr Lowe, as Premier, does not repudiate what Mr Batt said. Mr Lowe has to come clean. Does he support Mr Batt in the sort of language that he has used and the sort of view that has been expressed or does he believe that there is room for co-operation between Tasmania and the Commonwealth in seeking to alleviate or overcome the problems of Tasmania and in a positive fashion to promote the very real advantages and qualities of Tasmania, as this Government is seeking to do?
If Mr Batt’s statements were truthfully reported they reflect very badly on the character and sincerity of the Tasmanian Government and would seem to indicate that that Government has no wish to do anything other than play politics in these matters. That stands in marked contrast to the approach that this Government has adopted of sympathy and sincerity in relation to Tasmania’s problems. This includes the oftrepeated assistance to Mount Lyell, which is the kind of assistance which has not been granted in other pans of Australia, and the introduced and expanded trade equalisation scheme which is worth nearly $30m this year. Special assistance has been provided for the forestry industry. The
Commonwealth Government has contributed $6m towards the Launceston hospital, Sim for the construction of the Antarctic headquarters and $3. 3m for the establishment of an Australian Maritime College at Launceston. In addition, the Commonwealth Government is continuing to examine and to implement other aspects of the Callaghan report and would want to do so if it can achieve the necessary degree of co-operation from the Tasmanian Government. Meanwhile, the Tasmanian Government has not produced its State strategy plan and has thumbed its nose at the revolutionary ‘Tiger Line’ which might have been significant for the further development of Tasmania.
I believe that this Government has demonstrated that it is concerned for the special problems of Tasmania. We certainly have the best parliamentary representatives from Tasmania since Federation. In these circumstances I can guarantee that Tasmania will receive continued attention from this Government. But at the same time our task would be very much easier if we could be sure that there was a degree of cooperation from the State government which should have some interest in the welfare of its people.
-I present, pursuant to statute, the report of the Auditor-General accompanied by the Minister for Finance’s statement of receipts and expenditure for the year ended 1977-78.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Canned Fruits Export Marketing Act 1963, I present the annual report and accounts of the Australian Canned Fruits Board for 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Dairying Research Act 1972, I present the annual report of the Dairying Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
Pursuant to section 58 of the Trade Union Training Authority Act 1975, I present the report of the Australian Trade Union Training Authority for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
Mr HOWARD (BennelongTreasurer)Pursuant to section 18 of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1966-67, 1 present the annual report of the National Debt Commission for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– Pursuant to section 22 of the Public Service Act 1922, 1 present the annual report of the Public Service Board for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on:
Starting, regulating and control apparatus and other electrical equipment.
Certain welded steel pipe and tube (developing country preferences).
Short-term assistance to brandy.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Department of Education for 1977.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Has the honourable gentleman been misrepresented?
– He may proceed.
– During Question Time, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) referred to an anti-Budget demonstration in Darwin which he said I organised and which led to violence, the showing of communist flags and the booing of the national anthem. At the time, Mr Speaker, you will recall that I was seated behind you and you remarked to me: ‘We live in a democracy really, don’t we?’ At the Budget protest meeting which I attended before this demonstration, communist flags were not shown and there was no booing of any national anthem. There were no speeches made inciting anyone to violence or to disloyalty of any form. The speeches were confined to protests against the Budget. The venue of the meeting was several yards- a block or two away- from the site at which the demonstration occurred and where you and I were sitting. I did not organise either the demonstration or the Budget protest. I was invited, after arriving in Darwin, to address the Budget protest, which had been organised at a few days’ notice by the Trades and Labour Council of Darwin.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
International Monetary Agreements Amendment Bill 1978.
Diplomatic and Consular Missions Bill 1 978.
Fisheries Amendment Bill 1978.
Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Amendment Bill 1978.
Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 3 ) 1 978.
Commonwealth Employment Service Bill 1978.
Re-establishment and Employment Amendment Bill 1978.
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory (Remuneration and Allowances) Bill 1978. Australian Overseas Projects Corporation Bill 1 978. Loan Bill 1978.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s complete failure to deal with employment and job security as evidenced by the most recent unemployment figures.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-The latest unemployment figures are a disaster for Australia and Australians. This Government is playing the role of Pontius Pilate on the issue. It washes its hands in the hope that the blame and the responsibility for this massive unemployment in Australia and the threat to job security will be shifted elsewhere. What we are witnessing in Australia today is social madness carried out consciously and deliberately by this Government on a grand scale. The plight of those already unemployed or the anguish of those hundreds of thousands of Australians who are now feeling threatened in their employment continues to be ignored by this Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), both of whom are devoid of social conscience. The rhetoric of this Government is aimed solely at misleading the electorate. This Government is capable of saying anything in order to hide its own shameful lack of policy. ‘Only under the Liberals would there be work for all who want it ‘. Does that not have a familiar ring to it? It is the promise of the Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, in December 1975. In the past three years of Fraserism there has not been the slightest attempt to deal with the problems of the unemployed.
What is the real position? In August 1978, according to the most recent figures available from the Bureau of Statistics, 396,000 people were registered as actively seeking employment in Australia. In seasonally adjusted terms, in Australia at the end of August there were 418,000 people out of work-68,000 more than in July 1977, just prior to the last Federal election. There are 22 people out of work in this country for every vacancy. The August figures show that there was a growth of 7,400 in the number of young people looking for their first job, which means that parents and young people at school are prepared to sacrifice the completion of their education in the hope that they will be able to find employment before the rush comes at the end of this year. So education has gone up in the air as young people search for their first job.
The most recent statement on this issue by the Government was contained in the Budget. The Government told us that over the next yearfrom August 1978 to August 1979- it expected the growth in the work force to be something like 0.5 per cent or in the vicinity of 30,000 people, but that the growth in the labour force was going to be 2 per cent or 120,000 people. So, on the Government’s own admission, over the next year a further 90,000 people will have to be put out of work in this country. In the last 72 hours, the Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, has called for a national inquiry. He is not the first to do so and he will not be the last. Even the close colleagues of this Government in the States are becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of concern in this Parliament for the unemployed and the threat to those who already have jobs. Day by day Mr Hamer comes closer to an election in his own State. He is feeling the thrust of the Government’s policies- not just in the Budget but also at the last Premiers Conference.
In the last financial year, the South Australian Government spent $26m putting people to work on special State unemployment relief schemes. As a result of the last Premiers Conference, the South Australian Government will have to trim the amount to something like $5m for 1978-79. Hundreds of people in South Australia have been thrown into unemployment because this Government refuses to co-operate with any State government that does anything for the unemployed. The Federal Government will not even subsidise relief schemes on a dollar-for-dollar basis, in spite of the fact that those people who are put to work on unemployment relief schemes within the States must pay taxes to the Federal Government. The Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, is feeling the pinch. The South Australian Government has said already that, as a result of the last Premiers Conference, there will be more and more unemployment in South Australia. That is happening because this Government is not prepared to do anything at all about this question.
Let us analyse the statement of the Prime Minister of December of last year that from February of this year the level of unemployment would fall and would continue to fall. The August figures which I have just cited have already given lie to that claim. There are more unemployed today than there were in February of this year. Some people might be attracted to the argument by saying: ‘Well, Mr Fraser was almost right. The unemployment in August was almost the same as it was in February of this year’. That was record unemployment. Let us look at the facts on unemployment. This Government is pushing people permanently out of the work force. Between February 1978 and June 1978 the total labour work force fell by 25,000 people, that is, from 61.7 per cent to 61 per cent of the civilian population aged 1 5 years and over. The number of people at work in June of this year was less than the number of people at work in February of this year. In February 1977, the labour force was 62.5 per cent of the population aged 15 years or over. A return to that figure of 1977 would add 157,000 people to the work force today. So 157,000 should be added to the unemployment figures just over the last 20 months.
We on this side of the House believe that it is our duty to inform people outside this House that although they may feel that it is absolutely hopeless to try to find employment, whether they be young persons leaving educational institutions, married women returning to the home or persons approaching retirement, they should continue to register for employment, in spite of the fact that they may not be entitled to any of the benefits under the present means test. Everybody in Australia should continue to register for employment. That is his entitlement as a citizen. If all the people registered for employment between February 1977 and June 1978 had continued to be registered, to actively seek employment in this country, the August unemployment figure would not be 396,000; it would be 540,000.
Let us look at some of the things that are occurring. People say that the level of unemployment amongst the young is dwindling. Unemployment amongst the young did decline from February 1 978. At ages 1 5 to 1 9 years it dropped from 175,400 or 21,2 per cent in February to 124,900 or 16 per cent in May and to 1 19,900 in June. At ages 20 to 24 years it declined from 93,500 or 9.8 per cent in February to 79,600 or 8.5 per cent in May, but rose to 82,200 in June. These declines were not matched by increases in employment. Between February and June the number of 15 to 24-year-olds in jobs fell by 3,900. The one great thing that this Government will not tell the people is that it is forcing people out of the work force. It is forcing people into believing that it is absolutely hopeless to continue to look for employment. The reason we have 396,000 registered unemployed instead of 540,000 registered unemployed is that people believe it is hopeless to continue to look for employment. In the period I mentioned there was a withdrawal of young people from the labour force. There was a disappearance of 50,100 people aged between 15 and 19 from the work force. This represents a drop in participation for that group of from 65.2 per cent to 6 1 . 1 per cent. There were 18,200 fewer people aged from 20 to 24 in the work force. The participation rate for that group is down from 81.1 per cent to 79. 1 per cent. The decline in unemployment for the young is illusory. It has been achieved by their withdrawal from the labour force. Indeed, the only way in which the Prime Minister can say that he has some grasp on the unemployment situation in Australia is found in the fact that people are not registering for employment. In one union in South Australia, the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, over the last two years, 300 young people registered with that union have had their apprenticeships broken as industry closed down. Three hundred people who signed their indentures to start apprenticeships have had them stopped under the policies of this Government.
Thousands of women who were in the work force, because they cannot claim unemployment benefit, do not continue to register for employment. All these things add up to the fact that unemployment in this country is far worse than the Government is prepared to admit. All the information on unemployment which one has is available to the Government. The Telecom Australia dispute acted like a hydrogen bomb as far as the community was concerned, in awakening it to the threat of technology, what it means and how it has to be handled. But what does the Government do? The Prime Minister came into the Parliament and in trying to handle the dispute gave a very good impression of a Nareen bull. It does not take that sort of activity for people to understand that we have a government that is not concerned at all about the massive unemployment problem in this country.
Technology is a massive threat and it ought to be dealt with by the Parliament. In the absence of parliamentary sittings over the last two weeks and in the light of the experience of people in the Telecom dispute the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) moved to set up an interdepartmental committee. He completely ignored the Parliament, and completely opted out of the responsibility of doing what ought to be done. He completely opted out of the appointment of a national inquiry into the imposition of new technology on this country. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is not represented on the committee nor are the educational authorities. The interdepartmental committee will come to absolutely nothing. People have questions about the jobs that will be lost in the years ahead.
This Government is building an army of unemployed with which it is prepared to continue to live. The future under Fraser is black with a capital B. On the latest population projectionsallowing for an immigration target of 70,000 persons annually and assuming that we return to the participation rates of February 1 978 which were much lower than those for 1977 or 1976- the work force can be expected to rise from 6,384,200 in 1978 to 7,000,000 in 1981. That represents a 9.6 per cent increase in three years or 3.2 per cent per annum. To return to the unemployment rate of 1.5 per cent, the number of jobs will have to be increased by 5 per cent in each of those three years. The Prime Minister is ignoring the challenge that lies ahead for this country. He is deliberately building up an army of unemployed. Areas like the western suburbs of Sydney are foreign to him and, as such, are the pivot of his hatred for wage and salary earners. In the Liverpool area 50 per cent of those people who are unemployed are under 24 years of age.
In the Western world, with which the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has just asked us to compare ourselves, next to Italy we have the highest unemployment rate among people under 24 years of age. It would be much higher if all people under 24 years of age who could not find employment would go to the local Commonwealth Employment Service office and register for work. I urge them all to do that. Anybody who is out of work but who would like to go to work should register as quickly as possible so that we can emphasise to the Government the real position with unemployment in this country. The Prime Minister late last year promised that no one in manufacturing industry would lose his job. Would he like to compare his statements with the realistic statements made by the Australian Labor Party about the impact of the subsidy which is being paid by the Government to buy new machinery. From June 1977 to June 1978 33,000 jobs were lost in manufacturing industry. From June 1976 to June 1978, a period of Liberal-National Country Party Government, 73,700 jobs were lost in manufacturing industry. So much for the promise of the Prime Minister to maintain jobs in that area.
In the construction industry 18,500 jobs are gone. Who is next to go under the hammer? It will be the Government’s own employees, the public servants. They have been told in the Budget that there will be a further slashing of 2,800 jobs in the Public Service on top of the 12,000 jobs that have disappeared since this Government came to office. Over the last couple of years under this Government private employment has dropped by 70,000. There are 70,000 fewer people working in private industry today- it is the God of this Government- than there were when the Government came to power. Something drastic must be done about this unemployment situation and about the social scar that it is leaving. It is no good the Liberal Party in New South Wales running scare advertisements about people taking drugs. Part of the responsibility for young people taking drugs in this country today can be aimed fairly and squarely at this Government which is doing nothing about unemployment.
– I have always found it strange that the Opposition should actually choose to talk about the unemployment situation because it was under an Australian Labor Party Government that the policy of full employment was destroyed. Just let the facts speak for themselves. It was under the Labor Party that 190,000 Australians lost their jobs in one year alone. It was under the Labor Party that youth unemployment, to which the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) paid considerable attention, doubled. During its period in government the number of young people under 19 years of age out of work doubled. When it came to government something like 138,000 people registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service. When it left government in the same month three years later- the same time of the year- 328,000 Australians were registered for employment. There is no doubt whatever where the blame lies for the destruction of the long held concept of full employment in Australia. The disastrous economic miscalculations of the Labor Government during those years were responsible for throwing that policy of full employment out the window. Not only did the Labor Party in those days condone totally irresponsible wage demands but also it actually encouraged them. It actually encouraged some Australians to throw others out of work. In that one respect it was successful. About the only legacy of success that the Labor Party Government left this country was its success in persuading some Australians to get more money so that fewer Australians could be employed.
The speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) in reply to the Budget proves beyond any doubt that the Labor Party would do it all over again if it had the chance. To do the honourable member for Port Adelaide credit, at least he did not peddle the irresponsible policies of his leader. He said nothing at all about policies. He knows, as anybody with any sense knows, that the policies which the Leader of the Opposition put forward in his reply to the Budget will have the same result as did the policies he had when the Labor Party was in government. Recent experience shows without any doubt that we can spend our way into unemployment. That is exactly what the Labor Party did when it was in government. It spent Australia’s way into unemployment. But recent experience shows that we cannot spend our way out of unemployment. That is exactly what it proposed to do. Having spent its way into unemployment, it then tried to spend its way out of it, with even more disastrous results. Labor has not learned a thing; it would try to do it all again. It just refuses to accept the simple facts. Everybody else recognises these facts; not only people in Australia but people overseas as well.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has supported our policies. Only in the last week or so the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade has endorsed our policies as well. But no, the Australian Labor Party will not do so. In respect to this problem it is like an ostrich. It sticks its head in the sand and refuses to face the facts. It refuses to acknowledge that its policy of full wage indexation is quite disastrous for employment prospects. It refuses to acknowledge the findings of the recent conference of economists which was held in Canberra and which overwhelmingly came to the conclusion that wage restraint is absolutely essential. In fact, at that conference a view was put that a wage freeze would be better. We know what the Labor Party did when that move was proposed some time ago. The ALP would have none of it at all. There is no doubt whatever that having got Australia into the employment troubles that it is in, if it had the chance it would make sure that the problems were perpetuated. Experience all over the world shows that the economic strategy that we are pursuing by reducing inflation and improving our balance of trade through increased competitiveness of our industries, not only through the ability to compete on the overseas market but also through the ability to compete at home against imports, is an absolute pre-requisite for an improvement in the employment situation in Australia. As recently as a couple of months ago the OECD stated: . . it would be inappropriate for all countries to play an equiproportionate part in a general expansion. Where inflation is an overriding constraint, countries should avoid action to stimulate domestic demand, and in a few cases might be well advised to reduce it. Where an overriding constraint is the current balance position, countries should avoid taking stimulating action . . .
Sustained improvement in employment can be achieved only by creating the economic circumstances under which real and not artificial opportunities can be opened up. It may be true that governments can spend their way into a temporary improvement in the employment situation but that will be only at the cost of building up a bigger problem, a longer lasting problem, in the future. That is what the Labor Party is proposing to do. In contrast, I would like to point out some of the positive steps that the Government has been able to achieve. Of course, pre-eminent in all of this has been a dramatic reduction in the rate of inflation. I refer to the answer given by the Treasurer to a question asked in this House earlier this afternoon in which he pointed out that the latest figures show that Australia’s relative position in the inflation table published by the OECD has improved very substantially. We are now doing better than most countries. It is only as a result of doing better that we will be able to increase our competitiveness and increase Australia ‘s attraction as a country in which to invest, not only for overseas investors but also for existing domestic industry to expand with confidence.
The profit share of gross domestic product, which is represented by company profits, is improving, but it is improving very slowly. It is still below the historic average; it is still below the rate at which companies should be earning in order to invest in their own future and in the future job opportunities for Australians. There has been quite a substantial improvement in business investment. Of course, that is as a direct result of the policies pursued by this Government. People have more confidence in the future and therefore they have, to a very considerable extent, improved business investment. That is in direct contrast to what happened under the Labor Government when private capital investment fell to disastrous levels because, quite rightly, companies had no confidence in the Government which was then in power. For the results of this investment to be fully reflected in increased employment opportunities, wage increases must be kept to an absolute minimum. I have gone over the recent experiences with regard to that matter, including the conference which was held in Canberra in the last few weeks.
It is clear that wages are still too high following the 1973-74 wages explosion, even though this Government consistently has argued before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission with some success for wage increases to be kept below the full flow-on of the consumer price index. In contrast, of course, the Opposition’s policy still is to go for full reflection of the CPI in increased wages. The Opposition’s line in keeping wages at least equal to the CPI in itself is a clear indication of its willingness to encourage those people who are lucky enough to have jobs to go for wage increases which will make it inevitably more difficult for those people without jobs to get employment. If it gets more money for people in employment in Australia today, it will make it more difficult for those people who do not have a job. The first man to recognise that fact and to put it in words that were much the same in content, although they might have been different in detail, was a Labor Treasurer, Mr Frank Crean. He said:
The stage has been reached where an increase in one man ‘s pay packet costs another man his job.
He said it and I agree with it, but the Labor Party still follows the old lines. Some unions irresponsibly go outside the wage indexation guidelines to use their industrial muscle to get wage increases, which will ensure that unemployment in Australia remains a problem, even though those people with secure jobs may feel that they can go outside the wage indexation guidelines to get more money. What does the Opposition say about that? There has been no condemnation of union action which will guarantee that fewer people in Australia will get a job. We realise that the only responsible course is to pursue and continue the present policy. Within the limits that we have set ourselves of getting the Budget deficit down, getting inflation down and getting interest rates down, we have done a great deal in the employment market.
We have upgraded the Commonwealth Employment Service considerably. In the three years of Labor Government, not one thing did it do about the Commonwealth Employment Service. Of course we have instituted the recommendations of the Norgard inquiry and, as a result, the CES is now operating better and it is filling vacancies more quickly and more effectively. The expansion of the National Employment and Training scheme has been nothing short of dramatic. Numbers of people in training at the end of June 1978 were six times higher than the level in December 1975 when the Labor Government went out of office. The Budget allocation this year- one of the few increases, but a huge onehas been increased by 44 per cent to $179m for the training programs during the current financial year. As a result, about 1 10,000 people are expected to be able to gain a new skill which they previously did not have. In the 12 months to June 1978 the numbers in the Special Youth Employment Training Program increased by 348 per cent to over 33,000 people. That scheme, of course, was introduced by this Government. We have increased support for the Commonwealth apprenticeship program, the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training. We have introduced the Community Youth Support scheme which has had about 570 projects in operation since its inception a couple of years ago and nearly 45,000 young people have been helped. We introduced the Relocation Assistance Scheme to help unemployed people with their relocation expenses when they moved to a place where they were offered permanent employment. We have increased the money available for that scheme.
The only real long term solution is to encourage business stability. That is the only way in which new jobs will be created. We will continue to pursue our economic policies because they are the only ones which will lead to a permanent as distinct from an illusiory increase in employment. Artificial job creation schemes are not the answer to full time permanent employment. At the meeting in Brisbane last Friday of Ministers who have responsibility for employment and industrial relations matters- these meetings normally are held twice a year- it was agreed that more attention needed to be paid to the employment problem. As a result we are holding a special meeting at the end of November by which time we hope that the interdepartmental committee report on technical change, the Williams report on the connection between education and work and the report of the Crawford group which is looking into the structure of Australian industry will have been presented. That Ministers’ meeting will have the advantage of having those reports before it. We believe that that meeting will provide a proper and the most effective forum for the detailed discussion of the employment problem.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-This Government is the most heartless, corrupt, dishonourable and dishonest government that this country has ever seen. How hollow today is the promise of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in 1975 to the people of Australia that there would be jobs for everyone who wants to work. That was his promise then, but look at the action that this Government has taken ever since, action deliberately designed to increase the level of unemployment in this country. It is quite obvious from the speech just made by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), who is sitting at the table, that the Minister does not understand that there is such a thing as a man’s and woman’s inherent right to work. What we are concerned with is the very important and fundamental issue of the maintenance of the dignity of man and woman.
I come, of course, from the western suburbs of Sydney. In terms of unemployment this area is suffering more than most other parts of Australia, if not any other part of Australia. This area is suffering particularly from the policies of this Government. I would like to give a few figures. At the end of last month 6,693 people were registered as unemployed at the Commonwealth Employment Services Offices of Mount Druitt and Blacktown. Of that number, 2,99 1 were what are termed young people. In August 1977 there were 5.3 per cent of the work force unemployed, according to the figures of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and 333,978 people were unemployed, according to the figures of the CES. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which is a government body, the number had increased from 5.3 per cent to 6.2 per cent in August of this year, which was an increase of 90,000. I would like honourable members to note the discrepancy between those figures and the figures released by the Commonwealth Employment Service. According to the CES, 337,391 people were unemployed in July of last year and 393,378 people were unemployed in July this year, which is an increase of 55,987. In other words, the CES says that the level of unemployment has gone up by only 55,000, whereas the Bureau of Statistics says it has gone up by 90,000. As the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) said, the reason for the discrepancy is that people are dropping out. They are losing heart, they are giving it away and they are no longer registering. In particular, the women who are unemployed are no longer registering. If we adjust the unemployment figure for the outer western suburbs of Sydney by using the ratio of 1.6, that being the difference between the Bureau of Statistics figures and the CES figures, we find that the level of unemployment in that area would be not 6,693 but 10,720. In other words, the real unemployment figure in that area, which is made up of just two major suburbs of western Sydney, is in excess of 10,000. Also, about half of those people are young people under the age of 21 years. This is a disgraceful state of affairs which cannot possibly be allowed to continue.
The policies of this Government are contributing towards the unemployment situation. The Government has just announced that it will introduce word processing machines into the Commonwealth Public Service. These machines will take the jobs of stenographers. I know of a local government council which has introduced word processing machines, with the result that a staff of 30 stenographers has been reduced to three. This is the dramatic effect that such changes can have. As I have said, the Federal Government is proposing to introduce such equipment. However has the Government carried out any inquiry into the impact that such a proposal will have in terms of redundancy within the Public Service? Has it carried out an inquiry into the impact it will have on young people, particularly young females, entering the Public Service? Of course it has not. The Government says: ‘Oh, here is a new technique; we will embrace it; it will cut back our pay bill’. However, no consideration whatsoever is given to the impact that such a change will have on young people seeking employment.
The Government has tried to introduce other changes which will have an effect on employment. It took the Telecom dispute to make the Government realise that there was such a thing as new technology and computerisation. The Government has now decided to set up an interdepartmental committee to report on this matter. The Minister just said that the Government will have the report in November. However, the trade union movement for years has been pointing out what would happen. In 1 967 the Telecom people warned what would happen. However, the Government has done nothing. The Telecom dispute has done one good thing for this country- it has drawn people’s attention to the fact that new technology is entering this country; that it is not just around the corner but is already here, and that it will result in further massive unemployment. It looks as though new technology will be responsible for the unemployment of about one million people by 1981-82. This Government is not facing up to the issue.
When Labor was in office the western suburbs of Sydney received the benefits of the urban development scheme and the Regional Employment Development scheme. We also had the children services program, but today virtually no money is available for the program. All of these schemes provided finance. They provided much needed facilities for the area. At least of equal importance, they also provided jobs. We know that the RED scheme had its teething pains. It is well and truly time that this Government woke up to the facts.
– Why did you cancel the RED scheme?
– It is time that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, who is sitting at the table, woke up to the fact that the Government should introduce an unemployment relief scheme that will give people work. They have an inherent right to work. I say quite explicitly that it is well and truly time that the Minister realised how massive this problem is. It is not an issue which can just be swept under the carpet. It is not an issue which can be overcome by cosmetic activities, such as a few of the schemes implemented by the Minister. I ask honourable members to have a look at what has been done to the Special Youth Employment
Training Program. In the recent Budget, assistance under that scheme was cut from $65 to $44. An employer gets $44 a week if he employs a youth who has been unemployed for a period of four months. But what happens, of course, is that as soon as the time expires for that benefit to be paid that person is sacked.
– That is wrong.
– It is not wrong. I ask the Minister to come into the western suburbs to see it.
– It is wrong.
– I invite the Minister to come to the western suburbs to talk to officers of his own Department. I am quite happy to have him there and we will show him what is happening.
– It is militating against the young.
– The scheme is militating against employing young people who have been unemployed for less than four months. I have had complaints at my office from mothers who are very deeply concerned. Their boy or girl has gone along for a job and has been told: ‘Sorry, you cannot have a job. You have not been unemployed for four months yet. When you have been unemployed for four months I will employ you and collect the $44 a week handout from the Government’. That, Mr Minister, is occurring. The Minister is sitting in his little citadel down here in Canberra. I ask him to come to the western suburbs and to Wollongong in the electorate of Cunningham. He will see what is really happening. The Minister should get his head out of the sand.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I am absolutely appalled at the hypocrisy of members of the Labor Party in coming into this House and raising this matter of unemployment for discussion. It is absolute and total hypocrisy. We have heard sanctimonious dissertations by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) who told us what this Government should be doing about unemployment but their own leader is putting up policies to this House that would have the effect of increasing unemployment. The Opposition has not learnt one lesson from its period in government but I can assure honourable members opposite that the Australian public has learnt. What did honourable members opposite do when they were in government? What are they proposing now? They are putting forward policies, as the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) said in his speech, aimed at trying to spend our way out of trouble. That policy has been proven to be a disaster but still the Labor Party puts it forward.
What happened in the period of the Labor Government? It put forward policies to increase government spending and what did that do? That pushed up inflation, pushed up interest rates and deprived private industries of profit. The net result was that in the latter half of 1974 there were 200,000 people added to the unemployed list. Yet honourable members opposite have still not learnt that gross overspending by the government sector is the root cause of unemployment. What they seem to have forgotten also is that 75 per cent of the Australian work force is employed in the private sector. The private sector can employ people only while it continues to make a profit. People on the other side of this chamber who support the Labor movement seem to think that profit is a dirty word but unless industries are profitable and prosperous they cannot employ people.
What has this Government done since it came to office in 1975? During the 1975 election campaign we put forward the proposition that we had to regenerate profit into industries so that they would be more capable of employing more people. This Government has consistently and persistently pursued that policy. Now we are starting to see the results of that policy, much to the consternation of our friends opposite. What have we done? Before coming into office we said that in order to get profitability and spending back into the private sector so that private industries could employ people we had, first of all, to reduce government spending. We said that we had to restrict the rate of government spending in order to reduce inflation and to reduce interest rates so that industry could spend money and could employ people.
We said also that if we were to get private industry to employ people and to become profitable and prosperous there had to be some curbing in the wage explosion that the Labor government purposely pursued during 1 973 and 1974. Again, this Government persistently has argued before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that we cannot have one sector of the economy- those people who happen to be in the most powerful or dictatorial unionsdemanding more and more wages while other people are continually deprived of jobs. There is a correlation between high wages and unemployment which our friends on the opposite side of this chamber do not seem to acknowledge; nor do their friends in the trade union movement acknowledge it.
I am not sure whether trade unions are purposely ignorant of the correlation between high wages and unemployment or whether they are just too flaming greedy to acknowledge that what they are doing is pushing more and more people on to the dole queue. That is the effect of wage increases.
What do we see in the work force? What is happening at the moment? More and more unions are demanding more and more money. The workers employed by the Utah Development Company demand an increase of $95 a week. What did they say? They said: ‘If we do not get $95 a week we will tie you up and drive the company broke’. That is the sort of irresponsibility with which this Government has to contend. But what happens? We hear sanctimonious speeches by members of the Opposition who come in here and say: ‘This Government should do something’. I strongly advise members of the Opposition to use their good offices with their friends in the trade union movement to bring some responsibility into those organisations and then they will be far more prosperous and they will be of far more value to the Australian community at large. But this sort of thing has not stopped. The trade unions have not learnt their lesson, nor have the members of the Opposition in this chamber. Through greed, through ignorance or perhaps through political motivation, they are still persistently pursuing the policy of higher and higher wages. They are purposely trying to undermine the private enterprise nature of this economy and, as a result, purposely pushing more and more people on to the unemployed list.
This Government has had an enormous effect on bringing down the rate of inflation. Interest rates are starting to fall. Businesses are starting to become more confident. They are starting to invest. We can feel it in the community and I am darned certain that members of the Opposition feel that same confidence. They know darned well that Australian business houses and private industries are looking to this Government and to the future with much more confidence. Perhaps, politically, it does not suit the Labor Party’s particular end that this situation should persist. I am quite certain that the Australian public at large recognises the effect of the policies of this Government and is quite confident that sticking with those policies will produce a long-term remedy for the problems that were caused by the Labor Government, particularly in 1973 and 1974.
When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) presented his so-called shadow Budget to this House he still had not learnt the lesson about high government spending which pushes up interest rates and inflation and forces more and more people on to the unemployed list. While this Government has persistently pursued a policy of bringing down the Budget deficit, the Leader of the Opposition had the temerity to come into this House and propose that there should be a Budget deficit of some $3, 650m in this financial year. All that would do is to force more and more people on to the unemployed list. Yet we have the hypocrisy of honourable members opposite coming in here and saying sanctimoniously that this Government should be more conscious of the unemployed. The Australian people should be aware that if, following the next election, through some misfortune honourable members opposite were again on the treasury bench it would have the disastrous effect of simply pushing more and more people onto the list of unemployed. Honourable members opposite certainly do not have an answer to these problems and they certainly would not be the guardian angels and the saviours of the unemployed that they try to put themselves forward in this House to be.
Why will honourable members opposite not try to talk some sense into their friends in the trade union movement? Why will they not come forward and admit, quite openly and honestly, that there is a correlation between high and rising wages and the numbers on the unemployed lists? Is it that they simply want to guard and protect those people who have the most, those greedy people in the trade unions who want more and more and who are not the least bit concerned about the numbers of unemployed? What do we see at the moment? We see a most disastrous strike on the Melbourne waterfront that has now spread throughout all ports in Australia. What is the root cause of that problem? It has been caused by the fact that 38-1 remind honourable members opposite that the number is 38- maintenance employees at Seatainer Terminals Ltd in Melbourne are demanding more wages, but the plain fact is that they are now averaging $25,000 a year each. They are prepared to close down every port in Australia and throw thousands of people out of work because they are greedy enough to demand more and more wages. Yet we still will not see people on the opposite side of the chamber having the honesty to admit that correlation and trying to bring some common sense to their friends in the trade union movement. I urge the honourable member for Port Adelaide and his colleagues behind him to use their good offices to convince their friends in the trade union movement that if we are to have a sustained economic recovery that will create permanent jobs it must be done in conjunction with a responsible trade union movement that will allow private industry to regain its profitability and employ more people on a permanent basis.
-The discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
On 29 April 1976, as Minister Assisting the Treasurer, I introduced a Bill to amend the Audit Act 1901. That Bill received honourable members’ approval and was subsequently introduced in the Senate but it was not debated there and was lost when the Parliament was prorogued early in 1977. The reason why that Bill was not proceeded with was that the Government wished to give further consideration to certain of its provisions. That has now been done and the changes decided upon are reflected in the Bill now before the House.
The Audit Act of 1 90 1 has been amended on a number of occasions since it was first enacted. It has an important place in the statutes because it not only provides for the audit of the Government’s accounts but also sets down important controls which are fundamental to the accounting for receipts and payments under the control of the parliamentary departments and the departments of State. It conferred important powers and responsibilities on the Treasurer for financial management across the entire departmental spectrum- power which, following the transfer of the administration of the Act to my portfolio, became the responsibility- with one important exception, that is, section 70b -of the Minister for Finance. Historically, the Act was drawn from the audit Acts of the States in force at the time of Federation, but its origins can be traced to the British Exchequer and Audit Departments Act of 1 866.
Because of the important part the Audit Act plays in the regulation of accounting for receipts and expenditure of public moneys, all governments have approached the question of its amendment with appropriate caution. Substantial amendments were last made in 1969 and many of the proposals embodied in the current Bill have been under examination since then. It is, important however, that the audit legislation be responsive to growth in the volume and variety of transactions and, more particularly, to changes in accounting and auditing methodologies, while maintaining in an appropriate way proper elements of control and accountability which Parliament would expect to be applied to the management of the Government’s financial affairs. In the past 10 to15 years there have been significant changes in accounting methods and procedures. Many of the accounts payment systems now in use, particularly those which process repetitive payments such as pensions, are fully automated, that is to say, the calculations are performed by computers which also prepare the accounting documents and write the cheques. My own Department makes extensive use of computers in maintaining the accounting records of the Government- use which commenced as long ago as 1964. In fact, most of the Government’s millions of individual transactions are recorded, analysed and summarised in accounting records that are processed by computers. The benefits of modern computer technology have been well and truly realised in this field of government administration.
I want to emphasise that it is not enough to have modern equipment and up-to-date systems unless the legislation under which departments must operate is sufficiently flexible to allow vast numbers of accounts to be processed quickly yet accurately without the need for unwarranted clerical effort. This Bill will amend the Audit Act in a way which will provide that flexibility without destroying the principles of control which are necessary, and have been necessary since 1901, to ensure that moneys are paid out only when it is clear that there is proper authority for the transaction and that the supply or service has been performed.
As I said in relation to the 1976 Bill, many of the amendments are of a technical nature and I do not propose to explain or even to refer to all of them in this speech. Some have been decided upon, following legal advice, to rectify defects in the present law and thus to validate existing procedures. All of them have the full support of the Auditor-General, who has been closely associated with the preparation of the Bill. The proposals have, with certain exceptions, been explained to the eight, ninth, eleventh and twelfth Joint Committees of Public Accounts. I now mention some of the principal changes which are proposed.
Clause 5 makes it abundantly clear that the permanent head of a department is responsible for making appropriate arrangements for implementing the provisions of the Act, the regulations and directions in relation to his department. The existing legislation makes no reference to the responsibilities of a permanent head in relation to the financial management of his department and the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration felt that some clarification was needed, although in practice this responsibility was accepted and exercised by permanent heads. Not only does the Government consider it desirable to put the matter beyond all doubt but also the amendment will be followed up by the transfer to permanent heads of responsibility for certain management decisions which have, up to now, been under the control of the Minister for Finance.
Clause 20 amends section 32 of the principal Act in order to remedy a defect in the present wording which was raised by the previous Auditor-General. In certain Acts which contain standing appropriations, the payment of moneys is expressed to be conditional upon some event occurring or some action being carried out, and legal advice is that until that event occurs or that action is taken there is no available appropriation. The proposed changes to this section will make it clear that an appropriation is available for expenditure subject to the occurrence of the contingency or condition expressed in relation to the appropriation. This does no more than give proper legal backing to procedures which have been followed for many years, probably since Federation. This and other amendments to this section do not imply any change in procedures or any reduction in control and they do not vary the long-standing requirement for the Minister to seek a Governor-General’s warrant to cover the amounts he expects to be disbursed, and the Auditor-General to certify, before the warrant is submitted to the Governor-General, that Parliament has provided an appropriation which will authorise the disbursement of those amounts.
The steps relating to the payment of accounts set out in the present section 34 are to be amended by clause 24 to provide a framework of control within which the processes governing computer-based and other payment systems may be developed and prescribed. Such processes depend upon control points built into computer programs and officers whose duty it is to certify as to the correctness of the accounts cannot certify as to the correctness of individual calculations other than by reliance on the execution of the programs and the observance of appropriate checks and controls as designed for the system. Under the proposed amendment it is this latter aspect- that of full observance of appropriate checks and controls- that becomes the central responsibility of the certifying officer.
Clause 25 introduces a new section 34a in place of section 34(4). The new section spells out more clearly the Minister’s power to approve act of grace payments and will authorise him to delegate this power. Provision is also made for a committee of officials to advise the Minister on the merits of requests for substantial act of grace payments- those exceeding $25,000 or $5,000 per annum in the case of continuing payments. The total number of act of grace payments and the aggregate amounts thereof made by each department will be reported to Parliament as part of the statement prepared in pursuance of section 50 of the principal Act- see clause 42.
Clause 27 inserts a new section to deal with the considerable administrative difficulties which currently arise with appropriations and appointments when the administrative arrangements are changed resulting in the abolition of departments or existing functions being transferred to another department or departments. This provision will authorise the Minister to issue moneys, already appropriated for the discharge of functions in one department, to another department for the purpose of corresponding functions which have been transferred to it by order of the Governor-General. The Minister would not, however, be authorised to issue funds beyond the limit of appropriations already made by the Parliament.
Section 42 (2) of the principal Act contains what is known as the surcharge power. Clause 36 of the Bill will repeal that provision. Over the years that the surcharge provision has been in existence the Auditor-General’s Office has experienced almost insurmountable difficulties in establishing default or neglect and the section has therefore been virtually non-operative. Moreover, it is no longer considered appropriate that the Auditor-General have the responsibility of deciding that recovery should be made in a particular case and without there being a requirement for proof of guilt or for a defence by the person at fault. Clause 57 replaces these unworkable and, indeed, unjust provisions with more equitable procedures for the recovery of the loss of public moneys or stores where the loss was caused by the gross negligence or misconduct of an officer. The proposed provisions will require a permanent head to take action to effect recovery in respect of such a loss; they include a right of appeal by the officer to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or at his option to have his liability determined by a court. The Government expects these provisions to provide a more effective and satisfactory means by which losses caused by the gross negligence or misconduct of its officers can be pursued and appropriate recompense made.
Clause 40 will give effect to the Government’s decision that the Auditor-General should be empowered to undertake efficiency audits of departments, statutory authorities and government-owned companies. Honourable members will recall that this decision followed a very strong recommendation from the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration and that it was the subject of a statement in the House on 7 November 1977 by the Honourable A. A. Street as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters. The proposed definition of efficiency audits is contained in section 2 (4) and the proposed ambit of the efficiency audit powers is dealt with in the new section 48c while sections 48f and 48G set out the requirements for reporting the results of efficiency audits. Subject to exceptions outlined in the Bill, these reports will be transmitted to the Parliament. The proposed sections 48j to 48p make provision for the appointment of an independent auditor to carry out both financial and efficiency audits of the AuditorGeneral’s Office.
Clause 41 amends section 49 of the principal Act to require the Minister to publish a monthly statement of the receipts and expenditures of public moneys in a form determined by the Minister. Lest honourable members think that this would give the Minister power to publish the statement in a form which contained no useful information, I draw attention to the provision for disallowance of the Minister’s determination in the same way as for regulations. When this amendment is enacted I intend making a determination which will set out the form of the statement as currently known to members. An important change to the form of the Minister’s annual statement of receipts and expenditure under section 50 of the principal Act is proposed by clause 42 of the Bill. I refer, of course, to the statement which the Auditor-General is currently required to report upon and explain.
It is proposed that, with effect from 1978-79, the annual statements of the Minister for
Finance will comprise statements for each department grouping all departmental receipts and expenditure together with summaries of those statements and other relevant information. Each permanent head will be required to provide, for inclusion in the statements, information as to act of grace payments; waivers of amounts due to be received; amounts written off under section 70C of the Act; particulars of action taken by him under Part XIIA of the Act during the year and information relating to and explanations of the financial transactions of his Department. The Minister for Finance may include such further explanations as he deems desirable in the statements transmitted to the Auditor-General. This change will emphasise the responsibility of individual permanent heads for reporting upon the use of appropriations under their control and on other financial transactions. The Government believes that this new format will be greatly welcomed by the Parliament because it will enable information on each year’s transactions to be reported more clearly and concisely without any loss of the information now published.
As a consequence of the significant changes to be effected by clause 42 of the Bill, Clause 43 will amend section 5 1 of the Act to omit the requirement that the Auditor-General explain the statement in full. Instead, he will be authorized to add what further information and explanations of the statements that he thinks appropriate. This will have the desirable effect of allowing the AuditorGeneral to make more effective use of his professional staff resources. Clause 54 inserts a new Part XI to make provision for the audit by the Auditor-General of certain authorities established under an Act or an ordinance; the inclusion of standard accounting and audit provisions of the kind normally included in public authority legislation; the making of arrangements for the audit of other bodies, and the payment of audit fees. The standard provisions were proposed by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to simplify the task of drafting future public authority legislation. The purpose of Division 4 is to provide proper authority for the Auditor-General to undertake ‘by arrangement’ and other audits including audits of certain companies in which the Commonwealth has an interest.
Two further amendments of particular interest to honourable members are contained in clause 58 of the Bill. The first is the repeal of existing section 70B of the principal Act under which the Treasurer may guarantee loans made by specified banks for the purposes of the Commonwealth. The Government has taken the view that such guarantees ought, in future, to be given only upon the authority of the Parliament. This is provided for in the new section 70B. The second is a provision to enable the Auditor-General to authorise an officer to sign for him reports in respect of particular bodies nominated in regulations. The Auditor-General will, of course, still have the general responsibility for the audit of the accounts of those bodies. The purpose of the amendment is to relieve the Auditor-General of some of his personal work load which has increased over the years.
Clause 59 will authorise the Minister for Finance to waive the recovery of amounts of moneys which are legally recoverable but which, for good reason, ought not to be recovered, under similar procedures as those proposed for act of grace payments. Clause 60 inserts a new section to provide for the exemption of certain parts of the accounts of prescribed departments and organisations from inspection, examination and audit by the Auditor-General and introduces processes for reporting to Parliament in respect of expenditure from such exempt accounts. Under the Act as it stands at present there is no provision to exempt any part of the public accounts from such examination and audit but the Government is satisfied that provision should be made to allow the exemption of certain parts of the accounts of the security and intelligence organisations relating to highly confidential expenditure so that there could be no risk that the operations of the organisations might be prejudiced in any way. The Government is concerned to see that the principle of accountability for the moneys appropriated by the Parliament is preserved and believes that the procedure required to be followed will ensure that accountability.
Honourable members will appreciate from what I have said that this Bill contains some farreaching changes which are directed towards the more efficient regulation of our public accounts and the efficient use of resources by departments and other bodies. The need for many of the changes has been forcefully drawn to our attention in the reports of the Auditor-General and of the previous Auditor-General extending back for many years. The Government has recognised that need. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 24 August, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Mr Speaker, budgets are always political documents. But it has been decades since this country has seen such a blatantly political budget as the 1978-79 Fraser Budget. The political nature of the Budget is blatant and it is extremely aggressive. In the last few years in Australia we have seen some extremely aggressive acts on the part of the conservative elite against the working people of this country. We have seen the deliberate destabilisation of the elected Labor Government. We have seen the autocratic elite go after the trade union movement with repressive legislation and coordinated campaigns to weaken organised labour- politically and economically- at a time of great economic upheaval. We have seen an aggressive attack on the wages and living standards of the working people of this country.
This Government, flushed with success and cock-sure because it has been able so blatantly to attack the working people of this country without any significant mass reaction, has produced a Budget that attacks the people on all fronts. This Budget significantly reduces the social wage by hacking away at public expenditure on health, education, housing, transport, urban and regional affairs and other public services. These public services form part of the total services used by the people. The people have a right to these services. They rely on these services because the private sector is unable or unwilling to provide them on a just and equitable basis. By cutting these services the Government is reducing the standard of living of the Australian people. In this way it is aggravating the deterioration in living standards that has already occurred as a result of its direct cuts in the real takehome wage of the Australian working people.
This Budget also engages in the dangerous tactics of cutting expenditure on welfare and pennypinching in its expenditure on socially disadvantaged groups. These expenditures serve to soften the blow that capitalism- particularly capitalism in crisis- exerts on the people. Unemployment benefits, sickness benefits and expenditure to Aboriginal communities are the price that capitalism must pay to legitimise itself. It is the price that capitalism pays, through the Government, to alleviate a little of the dreadful human cost it is exerting on a growing proportion of the Australian community. Yet this Government is so arrogant and so cock-sure that it is prepared to slash the size and the cover of the insurance policy for the survival of the system. In doing so it is playing a very dangerous game indeed. I want to stress that aspect.
This Budget also challenges the broad mass of the Australian people by so blatantly taking from the majority- by that I mean the poor up to those earning around the average wage, which group makes up 75 per cent to 80 per cent of the community- to make resources available to the rich, the wealthy and also the corporate sector. Even the capitalist Press has reacted to the gross inequalities in this Budget and condemns the Government for its measures.
The indirect tax increases on beer, cigarettes and petrol are highly regressive. The increase in petrol charges, much of which flows to the corporate sector, is highly inflationary and the rise in income tax, despite the fact that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) said that it was an equitable 1.5 per cent for everyone, is highly unequal. For the people in the lowest tax bracket the 1.5 per cent increase means that their marginal tax rate rises by 4.7 per cent. For the people in the highest tax bracket their tax rate rises by only 2.5 per cent. What is equitable about that?
Why was the additional revenue necessary? That is what the House has to ask. That is what the Australian people have to ask. It was necessary because of the revenue forgone and because of the money handed back to the company sector in general and the large corporate sector in particular.
With this Budget the Government is trying to court international monopoly capital and to pander to its interest. It is doing so at the vast expense of the working people of this country and to the detriment of many of its traditional supporters amongst the small and average-size business and farming sectors. This Government’s strategy, as reflected in the Budget, has a consistent and basic plan which is to make Australia attractive to and safe for the large corporations, many of which are transnational corporations, that now control production, distribution, marketing and finance on a global scale. To make Australia attractive and safe for monopoly capital it has demonstrated its ability and willingness to make labour- that is, the broad section of the Australian people- do all the adjusting and pay all the costs as the big corporations re-organise the system to increase their profits and their powers. It has to demonstrate its willingness to downgrade the role of the other sectors of the capitalist class here in Australia. It has to demonstrate its ability to do all this and to control the inevitable reaction and opposition of the Australian people.
Clearly the Government has demonstrated that it is prepared to serve the interests of international monopoly capital. But it has not had a very sophisticated approach; far from it. Rather the Government has gone overboard in its aggressive stance against the Australian people. It is moving so harshly and so quickly to bring about such a massive shift in resources from the people to the corporate sector that it is posing a very serious threat to the stability of the Australian society and, therefore, to the stability of the Australian economic environment. Foreign investors know this and they are not making significant long-term investments in new risk ventures in Australia. Such private capital inflow that is occurring in this country is going mainly into portfolio investment.
Nowhere is this Government’s eagerness to advance the interests of big interests more blatant and more contemptuous of the interests and wishes of the Australian people than in its attempts to fix up things for the mining companies and the energy monopolies with the commitment of Australia’s uranium deposits to the world nuclear fuel cycle. In this year of fiscal stringency the Government can find $20m to start the Ranger uranium mine and it is sending the Australian Atomic Energy Commission off onto the private capital market to borrow another $28m.
In its rush to override the wishes of the Aboriginal people and to sweep aside the large and growing opposition in the Australian community to uranium mining and export, the Government is desperately trying to lock Australia into the world nuclear fuel cycle. It thinks that it can get new mines open, sink significant amounts of taxpayers ‘ money into the uranium industry, get new contracts and overseas loans and thereby try to make it extremely difficult for the next Labor Government to implement its policy of keeping uranium in the ground until all the unresolved problems have been solved. But international capital and international markets are not as unsophisticated as this Government. Potential lenders know- they have been warned by Labor’s policy and by mass demonstrations of the Australian people- that they will be undertaking a very risky venture if they provide finance for uranium mining in Australia. They have been given clear warning by the people and by Labor’s policy which states that the Australian Labor Party will repudiate any commitment of a non-Labor government to open new uranium mines in Australia until all the unresolved problems have been solved.
It takes more than a pandering, servile government to induce a foreign investment financed mining boom. Despite this Government’s efforts to implement such a strategy, it is incapable of bringing it about. It is not only the working people who are disadvantaged. Large sections of the capitalist class in this country are also disadvantaged by the dominated line of thinking in the Fraser-Anthony Government. Many of the Government’s traditional supporters in the small to average business and rural sectors are used to the conservative parties protecting their interests. Now they find that they have been abandoned as the Government brings about what it called in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech ‘a tougher and more competitive Australian economy’ and as it panders to the interests and wishes of international monopoly capitalism by, to quote from the Budget Speech again, ‘improving overseas perceptions of the Australian economy and its management’. These sections of the capitalist class see their interests threatened by the Government. Many of the more enlightened in their ranks see the dangers that this Government poses to the fabric of Australian society by its harsh attacks on the weaker sections of the community.
Many people in the business sector now realise that the causes of unemployment are more complex than the simple crass explanation that the Government gives, namely, that real wages are too high. They know that they are being forced to ‘get big or get out’. If they decide to ‘get big’ they take advantage of the investment allowance and all the permanent tax concessions that encourage them to replace labour with machines. Alternatively, they decide to go with the strength and join the transnational corporations as they set up shop in low wage industrial estates in selected Third World countries. If these people in the business sector decide to ‘get out’ they know that it is not the working people of Australia who have put them out of business. It is the changing global business environment and the increasing dominance of monopoly capital that defeats the small competitive capitalist.
Many sections of Australian capital are becoming increasingly concerned at the actions of this Government in opposing the interests of its traditional supporters and conducting such a savage attack on the ordinary Australians who are its workers and its consumers. This is the basis of the very widespread reaction against the 1978-79 Budget. This will be the basis of the defeat of this Government and its strategy.
In the time remaining to me, let me deal quickly with the disastrous Budget measures in the area of housing and urban and regional affairs. The Government’s mentality and priority in relation to welfare housing demonstrate clearly that it has set out not only to create great problems within the housing sector but also to aggravate severely the enormous suffering and social problems within the Australian community. Already nearly 100,000 families are listed on the State housing commissions’ waiting lists. Half a million Australians are housed inadequately and the resources to relieve this unacceptable situation are standing idle while this Government engages in crass and futile efforts to court international capital.
This Government has sought out the housing industry in a deliberate attempt to dampen down the Australian economy. Its attack is so brutal that it can be understood only by examining the amount of expenditure on welfare housing as a percentage of all Government outlays. In the 1974-75 Budget $385m was spent on welfare housing, or 2.16 per cent of Government outlays. This year, $330m will be spent on welfare housing, representing 1.1 per cent of Government outlays. But it is not only the expenditure on this section of housing which has been cut. An attack has been made also on the home loans interest tax deductibility scheme. The Government has ended the housing allowance expenditure scheme. The biggest farce of all is the hypocrisy of this Government’s proposal to make more money available for housing through the cut in the prescribed assets ratio held by savings banks from 45 per cent to 40 per cent. To give honourable members an understanding of the extent of this hypocrisy, I seek permisison to have a table I have prepared incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. The table sets out clearly that the Government has made no move to make more money available for housing in this financial year through the savings banks. It indicates the Government’s total disregard for the urban living environment of the majority of Australians. But, then, little consideration ever is given to the people by this Government. People are not high on the Government ‘s priority list.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the Budget introduced by the Government on 15 August 1978. I wish to say one or two things about some of the comments that were made by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) who has just resumed his seat. He is a doctrinaire socialist and is well-known in this House for his many speeches dealing with what he describes as monopoly capital, clandestine global marketing conspiracies and big corporations which control world markets. Phrases of this kind abound in his remarks. Most people in this country think that statements of this nature are grossly exaggerated and that they constitute, from the socialist point of view, the constant criticism of the capitalist economies. We are familiar with the honourable member’s attitude towards uranium mining and the export of uranium ore and the large opposition, which he said is growing within Australia, to this mining and export. It seems to me to be extraordinary for the honourable member to be upset about the socialisation of the means of distribution, exchange and marketing to which he has referred. He is doing all that he can to prevent Australia developing a nuclear industry. Yet he has made no criticism of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the People ‘s Republic of China.
It seems to me that if there are two classic illustrations of the great socialist state, they would be the USSR and the People’s Republic of China. Those countries seem to be moving as fast as they can towards the development of nuclear industries and they do not seem to be very concerned about the welfare of their citizens during that process. One might be led to the conviction that their analyses and their studies have brought them to the conclusion that they ought not to worry. When those people who would prevent the development of this industry in Australia consider these matters, they might realise that they are open to the charge of trying to assist countries which are developing their own uranium industries at the expense of their people. One wonders whether the real motives of people seeking to prevent the development of a nuclear industry in Australia can be given the closest scrutiny.
During the 23 years from 1949 to 1972, the Australian economy experienced years of prosperity without comparison during any similar period in the history of the nation. Looking as far back in history as the years of the World Depression it is fair to remind Australians, particularly members of the Labor Party, that in 1937, when unemployment levels were higher than 10 per cent of the work force, the trade unions sought a prosperity loading from the arbitration court of the day. I point out that a study of Australian political and economic history over the last 50 years is a worthwhile experience for those people who are trying to make an objection assessment of the present economic environment in this country.
In 1972, the Labor Party won the treasury bench of this House with the slogan- a manifestation at the highest intellectual level- ‘It’s Time’. The Labor Party sought the sympathy of the nation after nine consecutive defeats, and it sought that sympathy successfully. When we came back to this place in 1973, Mr Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister and his Government had a majority of nine members. I can recall the newspapers talking about a massive landslide to the Labor Party. The processes which have led to the economic malaise in Australia with which we are all familiar today were started in 1973. Throughout 1973 and 1974, the great achievements of Sir William McMahon were undermined by the policies of the Labor Government. The enormous increases in government expenditure and the deliberate policy of pacesetting with the Commonwealth Public Service led to the wage explosion which led to the tragic economic circumstances of 1975, with levels of unemployment in terms of percentages of the work force unknown since July 1949. Honourable members opposite may or may not like to remember that that is when the then Prime Minister, Mr Chifley, had to put the army into the New South Wales coal mines to keep power available to industry in New South Wales. In my view, the policies of the Labor Party were based upon sincerely held convictions in 1972 and 1973. It is only fair to acknowledge that the decisions of the oil producing and exporting nations had very serious effects throughout the Western world and, of course, in Japan. These problems had their effect upon the Australian economy just at the time when the profligate policies of the Labor Government were responsible for the symptoms of inflation and economic tragedy with which we are all so familiar today. Frankly, I suspect that the Labor Government’s ministerial decisions were taken from time to time in circumstances of conflict because, apart from the professionals in the civil service, it had surrounded itself with academics who were anxious to try policies that had never been put through the crucible of the commercial world.
Let me turn to some of the criticisms that have been levelled at the Budget. It has been said that the income tax surcharge of 1.5 per cent, which is for 1978 and 1979 only, has cancelled out most of the benefit conferred by tax indexation and the rate changes introduced by the Fraser Government in recent years. This criticism is quite invalid and untrue. The truth is that revenue from income tax will be more than $3,000m less than it would have been at the rates introduced in August 1975 by the then Labor Government’s Treasurer, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who is now the Leader of the Opposition in this place.
I have noted with great interest in recent times some of the letters to the editor in the newspapers. I shall quote from a letter by one who was previously recognised as being associated with the Australian Labor Party during the 1950s and 1960s. I refer to a distinguished professor in Canberra, Professor H. W. Arndt. He had this to say:
Even the Labor Government had become aware of the very serious problem of cost and abuse presented by Medibank in its original form and would certainly have introduced drastic changes had it stayed in power.
The new version may well be debatable because, costs having been reduced, it will be possible for some people to avoid joining one of the health funds, to avoid insuring their own health, to avoid insuring against the possibilities of sickness as they would rather spend their money on something else. This will leave those people in a position where an absolute minimum level of protection will be provided for them but they will be able to avoid further expenditure. Professor Arndt continued:
The new version is debatable, but may well prove an improvement on the previous experiments.
Finally, social service payments: Most of the changes in the last two years, especially the move from dependants’ allowances under income tax to child endowment-
That is, the family allowance- have shifted the major benefit from middle-class beneficiaries to the really needy poor. No wonder there are so many complaints from the trendy middle class.
Labor Governments have to buy middle-class votes; they do not need to spend money on the poor since the poor can be expected to vote for them anyhow. Conservative governments are not in that position.
That is an interesting comment indeed from a distinguished academic.
In the last few minutes available to me I want to make some comments about alterations that the Government has made to repatriation legislation for veterans who have been cured of tuberculosis. I want it to be clearly understood by all who can hear me that people who are suffering from active pulmonary tuberculosis, irrespective of whether they are servicemen, are got out of the community and put away because they represent a public health risk. So I am not referring to someone in that category. I am not referring to former prisoners of war. They are all out of it. I am also not referring to the World War I ex-servicemen, all of whom are quite elderly people. The latest figures available- that is, for 1976- show that there are 798 tuberculosis pensioners from the First World War, 6,124 from the Second World War and 20 1 from the KoreaMalaya Vietnam war and that there are 387 exservicewomen who are tuberculosis pensioners. It is interesting to note that these women, representing the three armed services, were placed in circumstances during the period of the great wars whereby they could be subject to the threat of this dreadful disease. The important thing is that the Government in its wisdom or in the wisdom of someone who has decided for the Government- one can never be too sure of these things, and in this world and in this place it is often not the wisest thing to translate most statements without taking them with a grain of salthas decided to review these cases.
Where the automatic decisions have been eliminated we must make certain that in every case there will be an assessment appeal tribunal. It is vital that every aspect of the individual exserviceman’s background be reviewed whether or not he has been cured for 25 years, is earning $30,000 a year at present and is unencumbered by any form of misery or necessity to have any medical treatment. He must have an opportunity to have his entire background reviewed and an assessment appeal tribunal must be appointed to look into each case. If this is done then we can be quite sure that there will be no riding roughshod over these people, denying to them their rights. It is fair and appropriate that this should be said. I hope it will be understood by all in the Parliament. I hope that everyone will agree that each individual review should be carried out by an assessment appeal tribunal.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order. The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I want to deal this afternoon with two aspects of the Fraser Budget. Firstly, I shall deal with the general thought- or thoughtlessness- behind the Government’s ruinous economic policy. Secondly, I shall concern myself with the specific implications of the Fraser Budget for the electors of Griffith. The Budget seems to me to represent the most sustained and concentrated attempt by this Government to inflict on the country the shallow conviction of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that life is not meant to be easy. The Treasurer (Mr Howard), who has that characteristic of blind child-like and obsessive devotion to his master, which is so noticeable in a loyal servant, seems to be deliberately running Australia into the ground in order to prove the Prime Minister’s point. In this country we have a government of time-serving politicians who crawl, grovel, fawn, kowtow and pander to their lord and master in order to secure his patronage. His thoughts become their thoughts, his tastes their tastes, his policies their policies and his obsessions become their obsessions.
Australia has an isolationist government. It is isolating itself from the cold and unpalatable facts. It is trying to isolate itself from reality and from the people it is supposed to govern. Those people are entitled to know why this deceitful Government which, in the words of its Prime Minister, was committed to retaining Medibank, has now abolished it. Why has this hypocritical Government which boasted of the family allowance plan which in the words of the Prime Minister was the greatest social reform in recent history, attempted to emasculate the family allowance even to the point of plundering pocket money from paper boys and baby sitters? Why has this Government which, in the words of the Prime Minister before the last election, was pledged to give us all a fistful of fivers, is now just giving us the fist? In fact it has imposed a retrospective tax surcharge. How does the honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon), given the depth of his feelings on retrospectivity, feel about that?
The people of Australia are entitled to know why this callous and indifferent Governmentthe Prime Minister, also before the last election, promised that we would see a steady and sustained drop in unemployment this year- is presently presiding over record unemployment and making not the slightest gesture of relief or even sympathy for the unemployed. Instead it is actively engaged in a vicious tactical campaign to convince the rest of the working electorate that the unemployed are out of work of their own accord and deserve no sympathy. Where is that famous Fraser Presbyterian charity and sense of compassion which so moved the Fraser clan during the Depression that they would travel far and wide in their limousines around Melbourne’s parks and gardens distributing arrowroot biscuits to the unemployed? Now there is not even an arrowroot for the unemployed.
This is a Budget of shattered dreams and broken promises. It is the product of a mean, spiteful and malicious mind. The cynicalrationale on which this whole blatant exercise in vindictiveness rests is the Prime Minister’s abiding belief in the short memory of the Australian electorate. The cry from the Liberal and National Country parties last year was for three more years. That cry now rings like a death knell in the ears of the unemployed, the aged, the infirm, the handicapped, migrants and other disadvantaged groups in our society. The Prime Minister is gambling with the Government’s bloated stock of marginal seats on his theory that the electorate, if delivered a solid blow early in a government ‘s term will either recover or be unconscious by the end of the Government’s term.
Give people hell now and before the next election throw them a scrap- some more breakable promises- and they will think that they have never had it so good. That is the Government’s modus operandi. It is crude Liberal politics.
I make this point: It is well known that this is the Prime Minister’s Budget with only the Treasurer’s signature to it. The Prime Minister, whose Oxford education was bought rather than earned disdains talent. He likes to keep all competition at hatchet’s length. It is the Prime Minister’s Budget from ignominious start to inglorious finish. The sins of this Budget are as much sins of omission as of commission.
Despite the fact that there is a Treasury projection for growth in unemployment there is absolutely no measure to relieve it. If the unemployed seek reassurance that their plight will not go unnoticed, then I suggest that they look at the alternative Budget proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). They will find no comfort in the words of the Prime Minister, for it has been proven that on the rare occasions when he expresses optimism about the unemployment conditions he speaks with a forked tongue.
Yet another omission in this sinful Budget is the failure of the Prime Minister to take account of the potentially most critical issue facing the Australian economy and Australian society, namely, computerisation. This country has begun to witness the sort of industrial action that will be taken to protect jobs from automation and computerisation. There is already grave disquiet in the newspaper industry as the spectre of computerisation looms with the introduction of visual display terminals. Computerisation is not new and we should not respond to it by adopting the attitude of the ostrich with its head buried deep in the sand.
The Prime Minister will not be able to say to every union which reacts as did the Australian Telecommunication Employees Association to computerisation: ‘You must not win; you cannot win’. The Prime Minister might pride himself on being a strong man- a Samson- but he might well remember that Samson brought down the temple and he vanished with it. He can ride roughshod over his Cabinet, his Party, his Government and the people of his country for only so long. None of us can afford to insulate ourselves from the chilling prospect of redundancy through computerisation. It is commendable that the Government should, although somewhat belatedly, take up Bob Hawke ‘s suggestion for an inquiry into the effects of computer technology advances. They portend a real social and economic revolution of the same or greater proportions than the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century.
Twenty thousand people in my electorate- 30 per cent of the number of voters in Griffith- are receiving age, wives, invalid, supporting parents and widows pensions. That figure represents the highest number of pensioners in any Federal electorate in Queensland. Griffith alone has 15,000 age pensioners. I know from their calls to my office that they feel cheated with this Budget. Once-yearly adjustments to pensions and benefits mean 16 months delays in catching up with the cost of living. It is criminal negligence. A means test has been re-introduced for pensioners over 70. Politics has been brought back to pensions. The associations for handicapped people are enraged by the Government’s attempts to tax those people to the point where their disabilities or afflictions are secondary to their financial burdens. The figures on unemployment in the general area of the Griffith electorate are of enormous proportions- intolerable proportions. A whole generation is growing up uncertain of finding work once it has completed its schooling and studies. Those people who are lucky enough to find a job are unable to look to the future for the hope of security of employment. Any reduction in the unemployment figures has been achieved by the savage pruning of employment and despite, not because of, government policy.
I accuse the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations of covering up the real incidence of unemployment. The August figures for unemployment mean only that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) is wielding the axe in her Department in order to ease the embarrassment of the disastrous record of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the Fraser Government generally. Constant personal contact in my electorate with cases of discrimination, abuse and obstruction by the Department in issuing unemployment benefit payments leads me to conclude that this callous departmental attitude is government policy. This Department has introduced deliberately narrow requirements for identification of those people seeking social security benefits. I am sure that no honourable member who keeps in touch with his electorate office would deny that problems related to petty bureaucratic nit-picking in the Department of Social Security emerge frequently in the daily routine of electorate staff as they help to untangle bureaucratic tape and humbug. Every obstacle, every trick, which can be used to restrict the number of people receiving benefits is tried. No matter how much the Government attempts to obfuscate or dissemble, the real social implications of its disastrous and callous-minded policies will not go away.
In my electorate almost two out of every 10 school leavers are out of work. In many cases they have been out of work for over a year. In the Brisbane metropolitan area unemployment has increased by 35 per cent on the figure for last year. There is a high concentration of migrant groups in the Griffith electorate and figures indicate that they are particularly disadvantaged. Over 20 per cent of the sons and daughters of these migrants cannot find work. The Treasurer has admitted that the sectors of the economy most responsible for generating employment are also the most reliant on public sector stimulation. For instance, this is the case with the housing and building industry. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has proposed a scheme for stimulation which would boost Australian home building by 33,000 units to 125,000 units over the next 12 months. Like so many proposals suggested by the Opposition, which are readily available to the Government, it is simply effected. Half of the scheme’s costing could be obtained by reducing the percentage of assets which savings banks are required to hold with the Reserve Bank from 7.5 per cent to 5 per cent, thereby releasing some $3 50m. A national housing program is in no way a handout. Every cent invested in such a housing program is eventually returned in full and at a reasonable rate of interest.
In closing, I might return to the economic and philosophical foundations of the Fraser Budget. I might, that is, if I could find any economic or philosophical foundations for this Budget. All that underlies the heinous course on which this Government has set Australia is a narrow minded, class conscious cynicism, a completely ignorant and obsessive commitment to eighteenth century beliefs and a fatal underestimation of the Australian public that they will be willing to cop it. This Budget really represents the death of a lucky country. As well, it is my belief that it may also represent an end to this Government which is now in control of the treasury bench.
-When the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) spoke earlier and launched into one of his familiar tirades about international monopoly capitalism, I could not help reflecting on the kind of trap which he laid for himself. As soon as he made the case that Australia was in the forces of international monopoly capitalism and that what was happening here was totally inevitable, he might have ceased uttering more words or giving the proposition here. One needs to hear it for only one second before one realises that there is nothing in that proposition as to what Australia can do that can have any effect whatsoever on its people. The honourable member ought to change the language and some of the reasoning behind the propositions that he thinks are appropriate for presenting to some of the meetings that he attends, and for which he gets cheers, when he comes into this place because they are not appropriate here.
Three and a half years ago a very famous professor, Professor Sidney Weintraub, came to Australia. He had a world-wide reputation. He had spent many years of his life characterising the various economies of the world into their different types. They included growth economies, stationary state economies, growth economies with inflation at the same time, stationary state economies with inflation or where prices were going down. He described slumpflation.
– How would he describe our present one?
-I have only a few minutes for my speech so I cannot take too much time to deal with interjections, if the honourable member does not mind. The professor said that there were economies with negative growth and price rises. He described stagflation, recession and depression. He listed nine types of economies. They characterised every country in the world, but Australia beat him. He had never been anywhere else where there was what is known as negflation. We had negative growth, negative productivity and high and rising rates of inflation. So Professor Sidney Weintraub came here and Australia beat him. At that time the Labor Government was in control. I hope it will never be forgotten.
Quite clearly we are aiming for two objectives. We want to have an economy with full employment without inflation. That is our aim, but let it be quite clear that on the path to achieving it certain methods are totally unacceptable. The Australian community would not accept in the achievement of that aim the proposition of a higher rate of taxation. I have great respect for a number of members of the Opposition who speak on economic matters. So I was distressed and disturbed when, for example, the shadow Treasurer outlined what he thinks is the path to Australia having high rates of growth without inflation but with full employment. He spoke at the Labor economists’ conference held in Brisbane in June this year, which was sponsored by the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party. It was a very valuable conference too. Some of my friends in the Opposition were there. I was distressed when the shadow Treasurer gave his solution to Australia’s economic problems at that conference. He said:.
If Labor does not gain office next election then by 1983, when we could next hope to gain office, we would face a mammoth task in rebuilding the public sector- and maybe an equally mammoth task in convincing the electorate that it should pay a higher level of tax to enable us to do so.
That is the proposition of the shadow Treasurer. In other words, he proposed not a random, onceayear tax rise but a permanently higher rate of taxation as part of the economic program.
– He didn’t say that.
-It is in his speech; he actually said it; it has never been denied. I was actually distressed that he should say it because I do not believe that that is appropriate or ought to be adopted. Whatever one says, it will not be acceptable to the Australian community that, in order to get on to an equilibrium path of development without inflation and with full employment, there should be policies which will promote either higher inflation or permanently higher rates of taxation. They are not acceptable and, whatever is to be put forward to the Australian people, that proposition will be neglected. I do not deny for one moment that the Government has been looking at the influence of rates of change in unemployment and that these have an effect on the rate of inflation. They certainly do and they certainly have. But what may be missed at the moment is that, as a result of the last loan which was issued by the Commonwealth Government, inflationary expectations in Australia have declined very dramatically and very rapidly. I believe that an opportunity exists because those expectations have clearly declined.
I suggest that long sight may be an eye affliction for many Australians but there is some evidence right before our noses which can be grasped and turned to the benefit of the Australian community. In this process various things are important- the rates of taxation, the size of the deficit, the non-inflationary funding of that deficit, as well as wages policy. It is nonsense to say that wages policy has no effect whatsoever. Not by any means does it have the total effect, but it has a significant effect. Unless wages policy and salaries policy are part of the economic program one will not have the kind of development which we want. Let me illustrate what I mean. Unless the benefits of particularly high rates of production and productivity within the Australian economy are distributed over the whole we will never get full employment again.
I become distressed when an orderly wages program is departed from. Let me give two illustrations of what I mean because this is important. First I refer to the Utah strike which was settled some weeks ago. It is important that the House notes that some of the bonus benefits gained by the men as a result of the strike cut in at between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of normal levels of production. Unless the benefits of very high productivity which that industry is able to pursue are spread over the whole community full employment opportunities will not operate again around Australia. Secondly, I am distressed, as I indicated earlier today, by events surrounding the current strike involving the Waterside Workers Federation and the two Melbourne firms Seatainer Terminals Ltd and Liner Services Pty Ltd. The electricians and maintenance engineers employed by these firms want an increase in pay. They also want their annual average leave increased from five weeks to six weeks. The salaries received by all these men are in excess of $20,000 per person per year.
– These are the facts of life. Unless we face that fact we will never get full employment again. I am not going to say, as others have said and as was first said by a Labor Party Treasurer, that one man’s wage rise is another man’s job. That is too simple and too trite a statement. But the benefits of production and productivity have to be spread over the whole community. Unless this is done we will not have full employment. What I have just said simply means this: Whilst inflationary expectations have decreased very significantly in Australia, full employment will be obtainable by co-operation at various levels. Some responsibility has to be acknowledged in board rooms. Some responsibility has to be exercised as well at the level of the disputes committees of the various trades and labour councils. Some responsibility has to be exercised also in terms of the pattern of expenditure that occurs in Australia as between expenditures by government on current goods and services and expenditure on capital works. These two factors are important. Let me illustrate what I mean. The simple fact is that there needs to be a turn-around in the demand for labour. It is very doubtful that we will ever get down to a one per cent level of unemployment in the work force, as was the position when the McMahon Government went out of power in
December 1972. But there has to be a turnaround in the demand for labour and that turnaround, no matter how tenuous, cannot occur without high rates of growth of the Australian economy. That is the great confidence that is needed in the Australian community. Australia led the world in this respect until the 1973-74-75 period.
As Professor Gruen has so well pointed out, up until that period a 5 per cent change in capacity utilisation of the Australian economy caused a 0.3 per cent increase in unemployment. Turned around, what that statement means is this: Reasonable rates of growth were reflected very quickly in increased demand for labour. Australia, with West Germany, was among the leading countries in this respect. This relationship applied until the period I have just mentioned. The honourable member for Reid, who I see has a sagacious look, would know that. Then we departed from our long term experience. As a result the rates of growth of the economy and their reflection in demand for labour are much more tenuous, much more fragile and much more difficult to engineer than has been the case in the past. This is just the fact of life. That relationship has altered and we ought to alter it back. I believe that a great way in which to alter it back is in terms of capital works. If there is to be an increased deficit in Australia that deficit has to be funded in a non-inflationary way.
I would like to spend time to deal with the interjections that are being made but the time available in which to speak on this year’s Budget is shorter than it ought to be. I believe the opportunity now exists in Australia to look at what are known as indexed bonds. If indexed bonds were floated and the deficit made of an appropriate size so that it could be funded by indexed bonds there would be no increase in the money supply, there would be a non-inflationary funding of the deficit and the money could be used for valuable and specific capital works. We know that money spent on capital works has a 30 per cent greater effect in terms of developing national income, and hence a demand for labour, than has money spent on current goods and services and cash benefits.
The last loan illustrates two points that need to be borne in mind. This loan, which raised over $700m, was a reflection of the fact that inflationary expectations have receded remarkably in this country. Compared with a year earlier an extra 14 per cent of those loan contributions came from the non-bank sector- they did not come from the captive market- and the contribution to the bonds of 5-year, 10-year and 18-year maturities was secured by offering no hike in the interest rate. It was gained by applying the same interest rate. What that quite clearly means is that insofar as policies are related to inflationary expectations, those expectations are receding very quickly and I believe the opportunity is there for an indexed bonds- funded deficit to be used for precise clear capital works in Australia.
The mistake made by the Opposition in terms of the deficit is this: It pays no attention- it has never paid attention- to the way in which the deficit is to be funded. One is left with the impression that the Opposition’s policy is to have a larger deficit but to pay no attention to the way in which it is to be funded. It does not worry about non-inflationary funding of the deficit. The Opposition’s policy with respect to wages is extremely uncertain. I am left with the impression that a permanently higher rate of tax is the Opposition’s ultimate solution to the problems of the Australian economy.
– It is yours.
-Such policies are not acceptable and they will not be acceptable to the Australian community. I am talking about the Labor Party’s long term policy in respect of a permanently higher rate of taxation. This is the policy which has been projected into the future. I might say, standing on the shoulders of those who were in the Labor Government three or four years ago, that it was the policy which Labor actually put into operation.
– We have just heard a speech from the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). He would use the word ‘disaster’ in respect of the Queensland distribution. The same word could be used to describe this Budget; it has some relevance to the situation. The election which normally would have been held some time this year was held 12 months ago. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), for some reason best known to him, wanted an early election. It appears very clear now that the early election was directly related to the economic management of the Government. This is the third year in which this Government has been in office. It happens to be the first year following an election. What an exercise in cynicism we have seen. In the previous Budget the Government promised tax reductions to the people of Australia but once it was re-elected it removed all those benefits in one fell swoop. The Government is dishonest. That statement does not apply only to electoral redistributions. It applies also to the type of people who always want to say that they are born to rule.
We believe that the Prime Minister has brought in one of the harshest Budgets in postwar Australia. He would be the only man who would be prepared to break every promise and to increase every tax, either openly or covertly and then declare that no Australian would pay more tax. On 20 August, in his Sunday night radio program, the Prime Minister said:.
I have spoken to many Australians over the last few daysalmost without exception they said we had produced a good Budget.
Demonstrations have been held throughout this country on the basis of what people think of this Budget. We saw an example of this again today. We saw people with their trucks outside Parliament House complaining about how the Budget will reduce their standards of living. We also saw outside Parliament House a demonstration by researchers who have been given award scholarships in universities. They will be taxed for the first time and their living standards will be reduced. That sort of comment by the Prime Minister would get a laugh of derision in 90 per cent of Australian homes. At the present time, polls show that the Government’s popularity is in the low thirties- and that is where it will remain.
Last week, on what we might call ‘Radio Wannon’, the Prime Minister said that his Government had striven to give everybody a fair go. We understand that the Prime Minister is going to the electorate of Werriwa this Thursday night. We will see what sort of reception he gets there. That will be the litmus test of this Government. On 23 September there will be a bielection and the people will go to the ballot boxes. We will find dear old Malcolm out in the sticks of Werriwa on Thursday night trying to indicate to the people that he has given everybody a fair go. How could he give everybody a fair go?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition should refer to the Prime Minister by his title.
-I called him ‘dear old Malcolm ‘; I thought that was friendly. I will refer to him as the honourable the Prime Minister. The point is that it is the philosophy of a hard nosed ideologist that only a select few can rule this country. There are 2,000 wealthy people on the top of the money heap and the Prime Minister represents them. Unfortunately, there are Vh million people on the bottom of that money heap and nobody on the Government side is able to talk for them. It is the Opposition’s duty to indicate clearly that the wealthiest 10 per cent of people in Australia have 220 times the wealth of the poorest 10 per cent. The Prime Minister is determined to make sure that it stays that way. The tax cuts that were promised in February were a confidence trick played on millions of Australians. The Prime Minister specifically promised a $6 tax cut for the average wage earner. In fact, it was a mere $2.80 a week. I note that at the same time the Prime Minister gave himself a tax cut of $63 a week. But what has happened now? A surcharge of 1.5 per cent has been placed on everybody’s tax which means that 55 per cent of wage earners entirely lose their February benefit. The Prime Minister, of course, chalks up a net gain of $39 a week. The problem is that it is not a 1.5 per cent increase at all levels. It is an increase of 1 .5 per cent irrespective of whether the tax payable is 32c in the dollar, 46c in the dollar or 60c in the dollar. That increase has to be paid over eight months instead of 12 months. This represents an 8 per cent increase in taxable terms for 90 per cent of taxpayers.
We talk about how buoyant the economy ought to be. Today the trade figures were released. They indicate that we have a trade deficit for the month of $ 83m, a current account deficit of $4 14m. If we examine the situation of trade we find that we are in the weakest situation we have been in for years. The Government talks about a buoyant economy and about an economy which is improving. The Government thinks it can say with confidence that it has a commitment to sound economic management. The figures belie the truth of the statement that the Government is trying to make. I make the point that the excess of exports over imports is minus $84m. We are running into deficits which, despite the question of borrowing money overseas and even with the influx of that money, are as high as $106m from the point of view of net official monetary movements. That is the problem.
The target of the Budget is the wage earner, the average Australian. It is all his fault. In this statement it is indicated that if public servants dare to seek a wage increase and get it in the normal course through arbitration then the Government will reduce the number of public servants. That is the idea of the man who was bom to rule and who is running this country. He does not understand that for most Australians only a weekly wage makes the difference between security and poverty. That is the problem. But what about profits? Do we ever look at profits? Do we ever see how big business is faring in this country? I refer to a recent report by P.A. Consulting Services Pty Ltd on Australian business profitability from 1976 to 1977, for companies with assets exceeding $5m or profits exceeding $500,000. It is very interesting. The report shows that profit levels measured against total assets declined steadily from 1963 to 1972. Since 1972, those profit levels have risen to the highest level for 20 years. Returns on shareholders’ funds have shown precisely the same trend.
It is the mentality of big business and the Prime Minister that profits must be protected but the wage earner has to pay more. There have been increases in taxation, both direct and indirect. It is mere tokenism to say that this is a temporary tax measure. There was a very temporary tax relief to get votes at the last election. Now, it looks as though it will remain a permanent indictment of sound economic management so far as this Government is concerned. The Treasury talks about economic models that it is releasing for public consumption and indicates that the best way out of our situation is a wage freeze. We suggest that it also look at the word profit’ because that is the big issue in this Budget. We reach the point where we have to ask what are we doing to our fellow Australians.
Let us examine this Budget from the point of view of world parity for Australian oil. It was no surprise to find that the shares of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd rose by 50c following the Budget. The people in Australia who have that sort of investment are doing very well. If one looks at the statistics one will find that the shares have increased by $3 this year. Why? They have increased because governments of the ilk of the present Government are prepared to give handouts of taxpayers’ money. People who work hard for their living are taxed and that money is given to Esso-BHP. The statistics in this Budget clearly show that by going to world parity price for oil, as has happened in this Budget, the handout to Esso-BHP in a mere four years is $ 1,300m. That is a windfall profit of $ 1,300m. Yet, on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s program AM, the Prime Minister said:
Now in relation to Bass Strait oil; it was never a question of a resources tax or no tax; it was a question of a resources tax or levy and it is the community that gets the benefit of the levy, not the companies.
So, you know, I think I regard the resources tax issue largely as a non-issue.
That is what one could call ‘Fraser double speak’. The facts are that last year 10 per cent of locally produced crude oil was brought into line with world parity prices. This year, 20 per cent of locally produced oil is priced on that basis. So, the companies get the benefit of that percentage of production at world parity prices and do not pay any levy on it. Next year, the world parity content will rise to 35 per cent and the following year to 50 per cent. There will be a gradual rise. Honourable members can see what has happened. Esso-BHP will enjoy a continual larger proportion of the parity price and will not pay any tax on it. The Government will have the problem of trying to get $6 76m, as it did this year, on an ever-reducing residue. That is the position. What alternative action can the Government take if it wants to maintain the same tax income? It will again have to increase taxes imposed on the motorist and the consumer. Diesel truck operators are asking how they can keep going because of this type of tax levy. Its effects will flow right through the consumer price index. I heard the Prime Minister say on Monday Conference that he was going to argue in front of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that no such flow-on should be allowed. It should be borne in mind that this levy will increase the cost of living of every Australian in regard to the transport of goods and passengers, whether by bus or diesel locomotive. Everybody will have to pay for the increase. Yet the Prime Minister says that it should not be passed on. An amount of $ 1,300m will be handed out and there will be no clawback from that situation. If we look at the position of well-meaning research establishments, such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and its research into solar energy, we find that it will receive only a measly $2m for research and will be unable to employ the same sort of staff on research as it had in previous years.
The priorities of this Government leave much to be desired. We have been left behind in world markets and we have no hope of solving the problems of the energy crisis unless this Government gives motivation and incentive to the people who are able to do the work and not hand-outs to the people who have shares in BHP. I should think that many Government members would know people who have that son of shareholding. It is the taxpayers ‘ money that the Government is taking. The Government is reneging on the whole issue when it says that it is committed to sound economic management. Again, the point that we want to make is: What about the question of alternative tax measures? What about the fact that many Australians have a lot of wealth and do not pay any tax on it but many people who are earning money are paying heavy taxes, both directly and indirectly? It would be worthwhile investigating the implementation of a capital gains tax. It certainly would be worthwhile investigating the implementation of a net worth tax, with certain exemptions, on the basis that the tax from this sort of wealth would be distributed throughout the rest of Australia and would reduce the level of income tax. It is pretty clear that if the Government were to impose even a small segment of tax on net worth and give it back to the wage earners it could virtually reduce income tax by one-third without too much trouble from the point of view of the people who have the wealth. It has been done in countries such as West Germany, Denmark and Norway, but when it comes to submissions by our own Treasury it is too difficult.
It can easily be done. The point we want to make is that this Goverment is not facing up to its responsibilities. By all means reduce income tax across the board. The Government can do it. It can collect as much as it likes by way of a wealth tax. It is not administratively impossible to do so, desite what the Treasury says. I invite honourable members to look again at this Budget and the miscalculation of last year. Last year the Budget was out by SO per cent or an amount of $1 billion. As the then Treasurer said: ‘The figures were a bit rubbery’. It now appears that they were just an invention. They had no relation to the facts of life. Again we have a situation where there has not been sound economic management. It has been a question of: ‘Put a line in the Budget. We hope it will not come out as a large deficit. Really it cannot if we look at all the things we are doing from the point of outlays and receipts but it does not matter. The people will not know until the end of the year’. What responsible government can say that it has a sound commitment to economic management and be so far out in its Budget deficit? This situation is likely to occur on any occasion when we have an irresponsible government that is not looking at what is happening to Australia.
We should be developing new industries. We should have an indicative proposal by way of an economic plan whereby we can develop and support industry in Australia. The level of unemployment has virtually doubled from the time this Government took office. We have the problem of social disaster in families because families are unable to remain as sound economic units. All sorts of additional taxes are now being levied on people who can ill-afford to pay them. Who are they? The tubercular patients, the accident victims, the post-graduate university students and the pensioners are all suffering increased burdens of taxation. Can the Government say that it has shown sound economic management? Of course it cannot. We need humane planning. We need to be able to take Australia into the 1980s on the basis that we have a thriving economy and are interested in Australia and not that we are mixed up with an outdated ideology. The real issue is that Australians should indict the Fraser Government. They will be able to do it in a by-election. They will also be able to do it in forthcoming State elections. They will do it whenever the Prime Minister says that the economic situation is sound because the facts of life, as borne out by the figures available today, show clearly that we are heading for another devaluation and all the problems of inability to trade.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is normally a great privilege to follow the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) because he normally is a sound and reasoned speaker. He normally is a moderate speaker and he normally puts forward the views of the traditional right wing of his Party. It is very sad to see that in latter days he appears to have been wooed, to have been got at, by the trendy lefties of the other side of the House, such as the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). We have heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition a very disappointing speech that was filled with socialist mouthings. He really did not have his heart in it. Quite frankly, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is realist enough to know that he has a very difficult job to do to attack a Budget which basically will assist to get this country back on its feet economically.
Before dealing with the Budget in detail may I presume to put forward three proposals for consideration with regard to future Budgets to be brought down in this Parliament. I ask the question rhetorically whether Australia is now mature enough, whether we have sufficient forward thinkers in government and the community, to bring down two-year Budgets. It is my belief that there is a lot to be said for the proposition that the Australian community should know for a period of two years in advance what is the planning of government. I would go a step further, as a corollary to that proposition, to say that there should be a condition precedent that a Budget commenced in an election year will be completed in order that there shall not be disruption to the forward planning which has already taken place.
I know that some people will say that in effect we are budgeting for the next 1 8 months. I can understand the argument behind that. But I wonder whether we in Australia have reached such a point of maturity today. I believe we should face up to the challenge and plan not just to the tip of our nose 12 months hence but to budget two years in advance and give the community, particularly the business community which shapes the economy of this country and its dynamic forward drive, a clear idea of where government is going. It is basic that if this proposition were to be accepted there should be no retrospective amendment and no taking away of any entitlement or benefit which has been granted during that two-year Budget period. Honourable members would be aware of my views with reference to retrospective legislation. It goes without stating, but I do state it for completeness, that there should be no reimposition in that two-year budget period of tax remissions which have been granted. In other words, my view is that once the entitlement has been granted, once business has planned on the basis of that entitlement, there should not be a reimposition, albeit on a temporary basis or surcharge basis.
The third proposition concerns whether we ought to give very serious consideration to the introduction of either zero base accounting, as is being applied in the United States of America, or a notional 10 per cent reduction in departmental estimates at the completion of each financial year, as is the custom in New Zealand. Regardless of whether we apply one or the other, the basis is that a department is called upon to justify every cent of the taxpayers’ money which it intends to spend in the forthcoming 12 months. I do not really think that we have to go to the actual base and make the department build up from ground level but I understand that the position in New Zealand is that at the end of each financial year there is a notional 10 per cent reduction of the estimates of each department and the Ministers and departmental officers have to get around a table and justify the amount they are seeking for the forthcoming financial year.
I am told that in previous years it was the practice for some to go along, having spent all the moneys which had been allocated to them in the previous year, and simply seek an increase coequal with the rate of inflation for the preceding 12 months. In other words, they would simply keep their heads above water. That is all right if the department is in fact justifying its expenditure. It is all right if the department is spending the taxpayers’ money wisely. I commend these proposals to the Government and its advisers. I think they probably come more in the area of the
Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) and, knowing his forward thinking ideas, I put forward these three propositions for his consideration: The feasibility of two-year Budgets; a clear undertaking that there will not be the reimposition or taking away of benefits under a twoyear Budget and the possibility of zero base accounting or a notional 10 per cent reduction in the estimates of each department at the end of each financial year.
I have finished my first five minutes and I now wish to turn to the impact of the Budget upon the States. I say quite categorically, as one who makes no apology for the fact that he stands in this Parliament as an unashamed States’ righter, that the States of the Commonwealth of Australia have never had it as good as they are having it at the present moment under our new federalism. One of the things that I want to draw to the attention of the people of New South Wales, if I may, is that the generous and benevolent Wran Budget which was introduced into the New South Wales Parliament last week is being financed through the generosity of the Fraser Government in Canberra. When Mr Wran goes to the people of New South Wales in the next few weeks and says ‘Look what a good boy I am’, he should be reminded that he could not have brought down such a Budget if the Whitlam Government had still been in office, if we had still been operating under the old Whitlam centralist theories. Mr Wran has been able to bring down a generous Budget and make a generous fellow of himself because New South Wales, along with all the other States, has done better under this Government’s federalism than ever before in the history of the Commonwealth.
– That is why we could not be generous.
-That is quite so. I have just received today news of the Tasmanian Budget. Despite the huffing and puffing of Mr Batt and others who have been knocking Canberra and saying what terrible people we are, it turns out that the Budget deficit in Tasmania was $6. 4m, that is to say, $3.5m above the forecast $2.9m. The major reason advanced for that deficit is a shortfall in State taxation revenues where the yield did not reach its target by $5. 3m. In other words, it was caused by a shortfall in State revenue, not in any way, shape or form by a shortfall in Federal revenue. For the sake of the record, I want to read into Hansard the treatment of Tasmania by the Fraser Government since it came to power. In the last year of Labor, in the 1975-76 Budget- the Hayden horror Budget- Tasmania received a miserable $156,816,000. In the first year of the new Federalism the amount went to $186,294,000. In 1977-78, in the second Lynch Budget, it went to $214,150,000, and this year it has reached a record $240,200,000. Indeed, the total treatment of Tasmania comes out something like this: From Canberra this year Tasmania will be receiving $501,894,000, which on a per capita basis works out at something like $1,100 for every man, woman and child in Tasmania. That compares with about $650 in New South Wales and $700 in Victoria, yet still Mr Batt complains and whinges and makes political statements which are contrary to the interests of Tasmania.
I want now to compare the Loan Fund figures. This year following the Loan Council the Labor Premiers said what a wicked place Canberra was. Tasmania got an increase of 12.2 percent in loan funds, and Mr Batt came out screaming. Mr Wran in New South Wales got an increase of 9.8 per cent and he said: ‘There is no point in complaining. Let us get on with the job of” putting Australia back on its feet’. If we look at the total appropriation in respect of loan funds we find that Tasmania as a percentage of the six-State total received 7. 1 per cent. That is not bad for a State which has 3.5 per cent of Australia’s population. Need I go on, Mr Deputy Speaker? The fact of the matter is that Tasmania has never had it so good, the States have never had it so good, as they have under new Federalism. I say that as one who has not been ashamed or reticent in the past to be critical either of my Prime Minister, the Ministers of the Government or government policy.
As to the Budget’s thrust, it is only to be expected that the Opposition once again will try to play politics with unemployment. I deplore that, and I say that sooner or later the Opposition will realise that there are no votes to be won by playing politics with unemployment, particularly youth unemployment. What the Opposition members ought to do is what we have done in Tasmania, and it has been done in other parts of Australia. They should get involved in the Community Youth Support scheme, get the Special Youth Employment Training Program going, get on radio and promote apprentice training. They should look at all the resources that are available and open the doors of their offices to help get kids into employment. I ring Mr Lewis, the manager of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Hobart, every day, and my colleagues the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr), indeed all the Tasmanians, keep in touch with the CES. We take pride and pleasure in getting a message that somebody who was in one of our offices yesterday is in a job today. I am sick and tired of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and all honourable members opposite trying all the time to knock instead of being constructive.
The overall thrust of the Budget is to get this country back on its feet. There are no short-term solutions. We must kill inflation; we have already cut it by more than half. We must reduce interest rates- they have already started to come down- and we must reduce income taxation. I believe that in those three measures we will see a real return to prosperity. I see a real opportunity for Australia in the 1980s, a confident and dynamic Australia, not the sort of whingeing, carping attitude we have heard from the other side. I again commend the Minister for Finance for saying at the weekend: ‘What about a bit of confidence in Australia? What about a bit of get up and go?’ Honourable members on the other side of the House are tired and lazy. We on this side of the House are the young men of the 1980s and 1990s and our Government will lead Australia into the 2 1st century.
– What has happened to housing under Ray Groom?
-The honourable member for Wills has still got the Depression in his mind. It would do him a lot of good to talk to the young people, the new generation that is moving and going ahead. I have said all the good things I have to say, and I do support the thrust of the Budget. Contrary to speculation, I will not be voting against the Budget. However, there are three aspects to which I wish to refer because they are matters of considerable concern. I believe that when a pledge is given it should be kept. I want to say quite seriously that, having worked for the benefit of pensioners in my constituency for over 12 years, both in the State Parliament and now in the Federal Parliament, I find it very hard to accept that for a miserable $ 15m we should decide to index pensions annually. I do not believe that that is automatic, I do not believe it is instant, and I appeal to the Government, even at this stage, to look at it again. I frankly do not think it is worth breaking a promise to nearly one million pensioners for the sake of $ 15m. I cannot support it. If we are going to look at that again I hope we might spare a thought for the over 70-year-olds. It seems to me quite wrong that we should freeze their increases on a means test basis.
I have to say these things to get them off my chest. I cannot support them. I find it very difficult to accept them in the same way that I found it difficult to accept retrospective legislation earlier this year. I would find it hard to accept in the current Budget. I am deeply indebted to the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) for the manner in which he has approached the question of tubercular exservicemen and women, and I intend to follow his lead. I hope that the current entitlements will continue until each and every such person in Australia has been subjected to the findings of a full assessment tribunal as to his or her disability. I think that that would be the correct way to do it, not to take away the benefit and then make some poor devil wait for 12 months or so until he or she can be tested. These are important matters and I hope it is not thought petty in this debate that I raise them. I believe they are matters of concern.
– You are perfectly entitled to raise them.
– I am obliged to the honourable member for Franklin for giving me not only the permission but also the encouragement to speak honestly and frankly in this debate. I simply must say these things. I want to say also that I am looking with considerable care at the question of the treatment of those who are in receipt of pensions and other entitlements as a result of disabilities, whatever they might be. Last but not least, on the question of post-graduate research grants, I simply say that where a course that has already been commenced is affected it may be that there should be room for discretion. There are genuine cases of people who have started a course and are between one horse and the other. If we put them in a situation of dramatic change considerable hardship could and will occur.
In all, the thrust of the Budget is to get this country back on to its feet. I believe it will achieve that objective. There are in this Budget, as undoubtedly there are in every Budget, small pinpricking points which hopefully will be the subject of review. But overall I support the Budget. On this side of the House there appears to be more determination to get this country back on its feet than on the other side of the House which is negative, nit-picking and, with the greatest of respect, not constructive. I ask members of the Opposition to join with us in getting Australia back on its feet rather than to take a negative and critical approach, as they invariably do.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– With the indulgence of the House I would like to add to an answer I gave to a question at Question Time. In answer to a question from the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) at Question Time I referred to the number of certificates of conscientious objection to unionism which have been issued. I said that I thought that the number was about ISO. In fact I am advised that 151 certificates are current, of which 149 have been issued under the new section 144A enacted by this Government.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
-Firstly, I want to make a few points about the way in which we conduct this Budget Debate. In doing so, Mr Speaker, I do not make any reflection upon your management of the House. We are not having a debate upon a Budget although it is a most significant political, social and economic document. Each honourable member has only 15 minutes in which to speak and all we can do is conduct what might be called a skirmish with a little sniping here and there. Honourable members can mention some of those issues that they feel ought to be dealt with and hope that at some stage the Parliament will design some machinery for getting around to dealing with them. Of course, the general view of the Budget is that it will have a disastrous impact upon the Australian community. Large numbers of people who look to this Government and the Budget for assistance and for raising their lot above the poverty line will do so in vain.
I would like to start my speech by mentioning some matters that my colleagues opposite spoke about during the afternoon. For instance, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) suggested that we should look at the restructuring of the Budget system and that we should have a Budget presented every two years instead of each year. I believe that there is something in that suggestion. The general structure of the Budget is inadequate for adequate discussion of the situation. I believe that we should change the whole structure- the way in which we draw up the Estimates, the structure of the actual Budget itself and the way it is set out in these documents. The right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) said that he could not understand it, that they might as well produce the next one in Mandarin. I defy any honourable member in this House to find out exactly how much of that $2 8,000m which is dealt with in this document is to be expended, for instance, on capital works- what we might call the continuing assets of our society. There are questions, such as the financing of public works and utilities, that have not been answered in any way.
The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) had a few things to say also about the way in which the Budget was structured. He said that full employment without inflation is not acceptable. I believe that inflation is not the principal evil. I think that unemployment is the principal evil. I do not believe that it is necessary to have inflation in order to have full employment. During most of the 1950s and a good deal of the 1 960s there was full employment without a great deal of inflation. Back in the 1930s there was very high unemployment and very little inflation. There seems to me to be no rationale for the way in which we approach most of these problems. The honourable member also said, in talking about the deficit, which I think is a false word to use in relation to the actual funding that goes through this Budget system, that we ought to start to turn to such things as special bonds. In other words, we must find some way of tapping the immense savings in the Austraiian community.
There are all manners of techniques for doing this. At the moment in Canberra, the Canberra Commercial Development Authority is under attack. It has developed a very large shopping complex out in Belconnen which is called the Belconnen Mall. I suggest to honourable members that they should see how this was financed. In fact, the Government put in $ lm as equity capital to start with and the rest of the money was raised by loans from the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. It is a publicly owned enterprise and hardly any call upon the Budget has been made. The honourable member for Lilley also said that the Australian people would not find a higher level of taxation acceptable. I am not sure about that. We live in a mature, common sense, self-reliant society in which people will front up and pay up when they see that the things that the money is being spent on are things which deserve expenditure. I come from Victoria where there is an archaic system in the local government field for paying for the construction of private streets. The land owners whose land abuts the street pay all the cost of the construction of the street. It can involve expenditure of anything up to $50 a foot. I remember that at one previous home in which we lived we paid, I think, $3,600 within a few–
– That was Nell Street, Greensborough.
– Yes, that was Nell Street, Greensborough. The citizens there, within a few hundred yards of our household, put in nearly half a million dollars- in effect it was taxationbecause they could see it going into some constructive work. The Liberal Party of Australia, of course, has avoided all the discussion about the weaknesses in our economy. What are some of them? First of all, I believe that there is a totally unenterprising approach to rural trade. There is no possibility of selling most of our rural products, whether they be beef or butter, in large quantities to Europe. A protective system has developed in the United States of America and in Japan. Tonight, one million people in the world will go to bed hungry and perhaps cold. They will be deprived in all sorts of ways. If we can invent a new technique to supply them with the materials we produce- that should not be all that difficult in a world that has developed all sorts of commercial trading techniques- it would be to our advantage and certainly would help to ameliorate the plight of mankind. One of the most serious deficiencies of our economic system at the moment is the heavy deficit in invisibles. I refer to the overseas ownership of some of our most profitable industries, of which the Utah Development Corporation- the friend of honourable members opposite- is probably the principal example. Such overseas companies are milking the Australian community of the profits and wealth that belong rightly to Australia. We have an unrealistic approach to manufacturing industry. We have not determined the role that we think manufacturing industry should play in this country. It is a very important social exercise, apart from being of very great importance as an economic exercise.
– What about fishing?
– Yes, we have not done much in that area, either. There is a lack of appreciation of the Government’s role in industry. One of the most disheartening facts in the whole economic debate is our failure to get down to what I might call fundamentals. We should ask ourselves these basic questions: How are we to distribute and develop Australia ‘s basic wealth, which per capita is probably about the highest in the world? What kind of society are we trying to develop? Economic indicators flow day by day in immense quantities from banks, from publications like Syntec and the Australian Financial
Review and in the Press announcements issued by the Treasurer (Mr Howard). They are based upon a buying and selling society. Will they be the answers for the future? I do not think that they will be. What kind of society do we really want? First of all, we on this side of the House want equality where we can get it. We want equity across the board. We want security.
– Yes, and I think responsibility from each person in this community to all the rest of the community. We want security above all else. Over the last 30 years the people of Australia have become accustomed to job security. But over the last four or five years that has vanished. There is nothing so disheartening to the community and nothing so divisive to the community as what is happening to the young people of Australia and those people who work in some of the threatened manufacturing industries. We have not answered the question of how far we ought to go on the road to self-sufficiency and how much overseas investment we should tolerate. Our friends opposite talk about overseas investment as if it had some particular quality which was superior, say, to investment by Australians in industry. I do not think that that is right. I do not think that we can have a democratic society if major social decisions and major economic decisions are made by people who do not live in Australia and who do not answer to us in any way. This Budget does not face up to any of those questions.
One of the things that dismays me is the intellectual sterility of the economic debate. If the right honourable Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is to grace this debate with his presence and participation tonight I hope that he will take a close look at some of the assertions upon which the Government is basing its actions. We live in a time of great social and economic change. This is a totally different political, economic and social climate from what existed even 10 years ago. Certainly, over the last 300 years there has been a total change in the way that society works and the way that society develops. Let me take one of the continuing assertions. I hope that tonight the right honourable Prime Minister will not make this sort of statement which has to do with wages. The right honourable gentleman, his right honourable colleagues, his honourable colleagues and those serfs on the back benches who do not have any of those titles, continue to assert that high wages in Australia are part of the threat to the continuance of our economic security.
They talk with some assumption of reduced wages increasing the economic health of the community. What are the facts based on observations of the position in other countries? Japan is a high wage country. I have here a document prepared by my colleague, the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), as a result of his recent visit to Japan. He has issued figures regarding the Matshushita electrical industry company which pays an average monthly wage of $US750 plus a $US375 monthly bonus-a total of $US1,125 or over $A1,000 a month. That is an average income of over $A250 a week. As I have said, Japan is a high wage country. In some areas, its wages are higher than those of Australia. Yet, as I understand it, its unemployment level is lower than that of Australia and its inflation rate is lower than that of Australia. The assertion is that if we reduced wages we would have a lower inflation rate and we would have a lower unemployment rate. Let me turn to some examples which might appeal to honourable members opposite. Spain is a low wage country compared with Australia. Ireland is a low wage country compared with Australia. Greece is a low wage country compared with Australia. Turkey is a low wage country compared with Australia. They all have lower wages and higher unemployment. Honourable members opposite also say that low wages and high technology ought to produce high levels of employment, but it does not. What is the situation in Thailand, Taiwan and Korea? We are in a situation in which the historic mythology flows on regardless. No matter what is the situation in the economy we have the same answers.
I wanted to feel rather contemporary with my colleagues opposite so I went back to the Budget speeches of 1932 and 1933. The solution the then government had was a reduction of the deficit involving substantial reductions in expenditure. The right honourable gentleman who produced this document talked about a reduction in wages and the need to keep wages down. In 1954-55 we were in a totally different economic situation, but we had the same solutions. In view of the distinguished presence in the House of the Prime Minister, I should have thought that honourable members opposite would have listened in silence to the private conservations that the Prime Minister is holding throughout the House. In 1954-55 we had a totally different economic climate from that of the 1 930s, but we got the same answers: Keep down inflation by keeping wages down and reduce public expenditure. In 1960-61 we were in a different economic climate again but we got the same answers: Reduce wages, reduce public expenditure and get the deficit under control. In 1978 we are back to something like the 1931 economic climate and we are again using the same answers. So, no matter what the problems are in this country, we are looking at them with the same historic mythology, and it will not work.
I suggest that we take a close look at the assertions which honourable gentlemen opposite are making continually. Is the money supply a factor which creates inflation or does not create inflation? The right honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) talks about the money supply as if it were an objective force over which no human being could possibly exercise some control.
– What does that mean?
– I will explain to the honourable member afterwards. In fact it is the creation of subjective decisions of people in banks and the Treasury. We talk about wages being a major factor in the creation of Australian problems. But, as I have pointed out, it does not make much difference what is the wage structure of a country because other countries are facing the same problems. Government expenditure is now at the stage where it is regarded as an evil thing. One of the great disappointments to me is the inability of honourable members opposite and the economic commentators in this country to realise how important government expenditure and government utilities are to the industrial base of this country. By that I mean a great deal of the banking, a great deal of the insurance, most of the transport, the supply of all the ancillary services such as roads, wharves, et cetera and the great Australian communications system. Honourable members have seen exactly how rapidly the telecommunications system can bring this nation to a halt if it does not work effectively. I am hoping that in the next few days, as this debate continues, honourable members opposite will throw away the jargon and the cliches and start to turn their minds to examining the assertions-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leaveproposed:
That so much of the sessional and Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the right honourable the Prime Minister speaking for a period not exceeding 45 minutes.
-Mr Speaker, I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm
Fraser), who came into the chamber and interrupted the debate in a most unmannerly way, will at least take the care and the time to try to answer some of the questions I have placed before him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) might well have put his case with a little more conviction if he had had more than six of his colleagues in the House supporting him.
– How many have you got?
-A little more than that, my friend. The fact that there are six members of the Australian Labor Party in the Parliament tonight is typical of the attitude which the Labor Party has adopted to this Budget from the outset. The Labor Party has ignored it; it has tried to debate other issues. It has not had an alternative that is worth mentioning. All one or two of its members can do, and they are very good at it, is make noise when they do not want to listen to an argument.
The Budget that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has brought down is a Budget of responsibility and a Budget of vision to meet the needs of the people of Australia. It is a Budget which has accepted the need to take difficult decisions because this Government recognises that failing to take these decisions would squander our hard won gains in reducing inflation and interest rates and end the progress towards economic recovery. This is a Budget in which the long term interests of Australians have been placed above any consideration of short term political advantage. The strategy that guides it is the one which this Government has consistently pursued since being elected: A strategy to revive the private sector and to put Australia firmly on the path to long-lasting and real growth. It is a strategy to make our industries competitive and tough enough to compete successfully in world markets and a strategy to achieve low inflation and high prosperity.
The only path to lasting economic growth lies in achieving the essential pre-conditions for growth. The maintenance of fiscal and monetary stability and a responsible approach to wages will bring about lower inflation, lower interest rates and increasing confidence by investors, both local and overseas. Essential to the achievement of all of these objectives was a lower deficit. We therefore had to continue our restraint of government expenditure and make sure that Australia’s taxpayers would receive full value for their tax dollars. By rigorously scrutinising every program, we held down the rate of growth in government spending to 7.7 per cent, the lowest rate of growth for a decade. But beyond this, the low deficit demanded by economic responsibility required an increase in indirect taxes and the introduction of a temporary increase in income tax. We took that course because we were determined to act responsibly in the long term interests of this country and because we did so this Budget will strengthen the confidence of investors, employers and consumers. They know that this Budget will drive inflation down further. Inflation at an annual rate of 5 per cent is within our reach by mid- 1979. This means that we will have brought our inflation rate down much faster than most Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, as the Treasurer (Mr Howard) pointed out during Question Time today.
Current OECD figures show inflation for the six months to July 1978 was, for the United States of America 10.5 per cent and rising, for Canada 12. 1 per cent and rising, for France 1 1.9 per cent and rising and for the United Kingdom 9.3 per cent and rising. We take no pleasure in those figures because world trade, the world economy and world markets would be in a much healthier position and would be growing much faster if inflation in all those countries were significantly lower and, in fact, falling. So it gives us no pleasure to say that our position is, at the moment, much better than theirs. Indeed, the average OECD rate for the six months to July 1978 is 9.6 per cent and, unfortunately, rising. In Australia, on the OECD figures inflation is 6.9 per cent which is much lower than the other figures and, over recent times, as we all know, it has been falling. It will go on falling under the policies of this Government. Inflation in Australia is going downwards, that is in the right direction.
Inflation in many OECD countries is going the wrong way and we are determined to keep on the right path to lower inflation further. In a world in which competition for private capital and overseas investment is intense and international trade is weak, it is essential that Australia stand out as one of the few strong economies in the world. This means that we must have low inflation. We must extinguish for good the fires of inflationary expectations. Only in these ways can we earn a growing share of world trade and attract increased investment capital from overseas leading to increased employment. The Government ‘s approach was wholeheartedly endorsed last week by the secretariat of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in its annual report. The report states:
The inescapable conclusion is that the industrial countries can only move-
That is the significant part. There is no other way according to GATT- towards increased growth and employment . . . and towards sustainable payments positions and more stable exchange rates, by reducing their inflation rates to the levels experienced until the mid- 1 960s.
With lower inflation our industries will get a larger share of the domestic markets and an increasing share of export markets, as a few venturesome people in secondary industries are now beginning to demonstrate and prove. Domestic and overseas investors will both be encouraged and with the increasing competitiveness of Australian goods and increased investment we will have more economic activity and more employment in this country. Our policies are based on a real concern for the unemployed, unlike those policies put forward by the Australian Labor Party which tries to use the unemployment issue for its political advantage, promising fraudulent, illusory cures for political gain. We know that there is no quick or easy solution. But we have the courage to stick to policies that will lead to lasting increases in employment. They are the only policies that will result in that situation. I repeat the view of GATT:
The inescapable conclusion is that the industrial countries can only move towards increased growth and employment … by reducing their inflation rates to the levels experienced until the mid-1960s.
What GATT is saying is that employment can only be improved if” countries follow the kinds of policies adopted and pursued rigorously by this Government. Some people have called for the fiscal stimulus of much higher Government spending. Today this is not a realistic option. It would simply result in an acceleration of inflation and the speedy withdrawal of overseas investors. Instead of taking this path of false stimulus what we are doing is reinforcing the recovery process in the private sector by lowering inflation and hence lowering interest rates. The Budget aims at providing a substantial sustained stimulus to the private sector in the form of further reduction in interest rates. Home buyers, farmers, businessmen, builders, consumers and investors will all benefit from this policy.
Let me demonstrate the advantage to home buyers. On a home loan of $25,000 being repaid over 25 years, each one per cent reduction in interest rates means a saving of the order of $ 1 7 a month or $5,000 over the period of the loan.
The half per cent reduction already achieved means a saving of $9 a month or $2,500 over the period of the loan. That is a very significant advantage. I am confident that it will not be too long before further savings are available. In the case of industrial companies raising debenture capital the reduction in interest rates on new issues over the last year have been up to *IV** per cent, thereby helping to contain costs and to stimulate investment. The overwhelmingly favourable response on the Australian financial markets to the Government’s Budget strategy should be clear to everyone. It is seen in the very large subscription of $780m to the August loan- an all-time record- much the greater part of which has come from non-bank sources. This has set us well on the way to financing the Budget deficit in a non-inflationary manner. It is a further clear sign of market expectations of falling interest rates.
The Budget has also renewed the confidence of the overseas business community in the Australian economy. It has put the seal on the progress made over the last two years. Overseas investors now know that we have the runs on the board. They know our inflation is coming down. They know that it is under the average of the OECD countries and that in most cases under that of their own particular country. People come into my office and say there are not many places around the world in which they want to invest because of overseas economic conditions but then they go on to say that there is Germany and Australia. That is putting us in respectable company, where Australia belongs. It is putting us in the kind of company that will enable this economy and this country to move forward into the 1980s with the kind of confidence that we have not seen since the 1 950s and the 1 960s.
On 21 August at the notorious Sydney rally which dissolved into violence- violence for which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) tries to disclaim any responsibility- Mr Hayden said that under this Budget business conditions would be much tougher. Well, let us hear what the Australian Chamber of Commerce had to say about the Budget. It is a rather more reliable source for estimating the Budget’s effects on business than is Mr Hayden ‘s mob which attacked the stock exchange. The Chamber stated:
Business accepts the argument underlying the Budget, namely that inflation remains Australia’s No. 1 economic problem, and that the way to improve the employment situation is to reduce Government deficit financing and to give encouragement to private enterprise to expand . . . The smaller than expected deficit should ease the pressures on the money market, and help clear the way to lower interest rates . . . This should help stimulate demand for capital for housing and business.
It is clear that the Leader of the Opposition is wrong in his statement about the Budget’s impact on the business community. That, amongst other things, involves tens of thousands of small investors throughout this country who have their savings invested on the stock market and who can see those savings grow as a result of this Budget. Those in real need certainly will not find this a harsh Budget. Expenditure on key programs for the aged, the handicapped and children, have recorded many significant increases. I think it is one of the remarkable things of this Government over nearly three years that during periods of real financial stringency we have shown our real concern for those in need and made sure that even though other areas of expenditure have had to be restrained to the utmost extent, areas of real need have been met by increasing expenditures, as demonstrated. Expenditure on subsidised pensioner housing is up 40 per cent over the last year. Assistance to organisations providing facilities for handicapped persons will rise by 37 per cent to $52m.
Increased funds are provided for the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service and the handicapped child’s allowance is extended to students aged 16 to 25 who do not receive an invalid pension. There is a sharp increase in funds as a result of the Galbally report to meet areas of need in post-arrival services for migrant communities. In home care for the aged, even though the subsidy rate has been varied to meet greatly increased demand, total spending is up and many new services have in fact been approved in recent days. That makes a rise of 83 per cent in home care for the aged in the last three Budgets. During a period of financial stringency that is a solid record together with other social reforms of concern for the less well off in the Australian community.
– Yes, real concern!
-Yes, real concern of the kind which the Labor Party never understood because it scattered dollars around like chaff and spent so much money that even Professor Henderson had to say that the Labor Party’s programs had done more harm than good to the people they were designed to help. They caused inflation, put up prices and destroyed the capacity of the poor to look after themselves. The great and fraudulent thing about the Australian Labor Party is that it would continue to try to deceive the Australian people into believing that it only had to print money to solve a social problem.
-Deceive! Listen to you. Why don ‘t you tell that to Reg Withers?
-Here we have this new come boy from the Victorian Parliament, who will remain on the back benches until he ends his time in this Parliament.
– He is a back bench retread.
-He is a back bench retread and that is all he is good for. I might add that he is a back bench retread in need of a rebore. I have said that all taxpayers will be required to pay a temporary increase in income tax this year. Despite this temporary income tax increase, let me emphasise and demonstrate why this Government is and will remain a low tax government. This financial year taxpayers will be paying over $3,000m less in personal income tax than they would have paid if the 1975 Hayden scales had still applied. We all know quite well that under the expenditure demands of Labor governments and Labor Ministers there never would have been any opportunity to lower taxes because their capacity to spend was insatiable and uncontrollable. The total personal income tax savings to taxpayers over the three financial years to this year will be $6,400m.
Let us take the example for 1978-79 of a man on estimated average weekly earnings, with a dependant wife and two children. Compared with the old Hayden days, he would be better off by $13 a week- $6 a week less tax plus $7 a week because the family allowance is so much more than the old child endowment. That shows very plainly that the record of tax reform remains; the record of tax reform will be continued and improved as the years pass. Indeed the fact that there had to be a temporary increase this year is an example of tax indexation that worked because we said that we wanted to end for all time the deceit of a tax system which, through the process of inflation, brought larger and larger funds to the coffers of government. We said that if governments wanted more funds they should tax for them openly and plainly.
Obviously if there had not been tax indexation we would not have had to have this temporary increase. It is an example of tax indexation that worked. I would sooner have to defend that method than to be taking more and more money from the people of Australia by the hidden process of inflation and trying to pretend that taxes had not in fact been increased. The disposable income of the average family is substantially greater because of our reform of the tax rates, our introduction of indexation and our enlightened policy towards the Australian family. Even with the temporary income tax increase, the growth in personal income tax collections in 1978-79 will be significantly less- 6.7 per centthan in 1977-78 when it was 9.7 per cent. In both years tax collections will have risen more slowly than personal incomes, thus reversing the trend towards a rising tax burden, which had persisted for so many years before our policies were introduced and passed into law.
In addition to these tax cuts large tax reductions have been made available to companies and businesses. For example, this financial year the investment allowance, which the Leader of the Opposition would do away with retrospectively, and stock valuation adjustment, which he must have forgotten because he would have done away with that too, I imagine, if he had thought of it, will have been a cost to revenue of over $700m. In the light of these figures the temporary income tax increase in this year’s Budget is relatively small. No one can doubt that this Government has a powerful commitment to lower tax and to responsible taxation policies. This is a Budget of responsibility; a Budget in stark contrast to the document to which the Leader of the Opposition pretentiously referred as the ‘alternative Budget’. Indeed, never has an Opposition shown so clearly that there is no responsible alternative to the course being pursued by this Government. The Opposition cannot even be said to have learned nothing from the past. It is now trying to rewrite history.
The Leader of the Opposition, in his reply to the Budget, said with a straight face that 1974 was a buoyant year and that he would love to get back to it. And he is right. All sorts of key indicators were floating through the roof in 1974. Inflation was up to 16 per cent or 17 per cent. Unemployment was up from 103,000 in December 1973 to 267,000-the greatest increase of all time over a given period. Average weekly earnings were up by 28 per cent, contributing very greatly to that increase in unemployment. Commonwealth spending was up by a massive 46 per cent, demonstrating for all time that increased government spending at the wrong time and in the wrong way does not add to employment but in fact reduces employment. Pay-as-you-earn receipts were up 43 per cent, showing the tax rip-off of those days. The overdraft rate went up to much higher levels than previously. Now the Leader of the Opposition looks back with yearning to those balmy days of 1974 when Labor was in government and the economy was utterly out of control. Who said that nostalgia is not what it used to be.
But still we should not complain too much about the alternative Budget. We have been waiting all year to find out what policies Labor was coming up with. We need not have wondered. They have not changed. Labor still has not learned. The alternative Budget is a rehash of the same old recipe for economic disaster that Labor cooked up in its three years in office; that is, more public spending, bigger deficits and the imposition of penal and retrospective taxes on the business community. The Leader of the Opposition, through his usual advanced arithmetic, purported to show that the Budget that he would have brought down would have had a deficit of $3.6 billion. A deficit as large as that would be irresponsible, but his revenue proposals would raise only a fraction of the $ 1.490m that he claimed. So in fact Labor’s deficit for this year would not be $3.6 billion but would be over $4.5 billion. With 20 or 30 Labor Ministers around the table demanding more funds for expenditure, they would probably have got another $1 billion or $2 billion from the Treasurer of the day and therefore the deficit would have been even greater. That means of course that inflation would accelerate, interest rates would go up and not down, the prospects for sustained growth would be undermined and the confidence of domestic and overseas investors in the Australian economy would be destroyed as it has been destroyed in other places.
The Leader of the Opposition wants to raise an additional $400m by abolishing the investment allowance and have the money to spend on programs this year. The investment allowance in 1978-79 relates almost entirely to expenditure incurred by taxpayers in good faith in earlier years. No money whatsoever could be raised in this financial year from the abolition of the allowance, unless of course the Leader of the Opposition intended to make a retrospective adjustment penalising plant and equipment already installed and in use. It is time that he came clean and said that he did not mean to raise money this year or that he meant to abolish it for expenditure incurred in past years. He should tell us whether he intends to make it retrospective, whether his figures are wrong, or wheter he simply does not know what he is talking about.
– Hear, hear!
-That is the kindest interpretation. The Leader of the Opposition wants to raise an additional $340m- I use his precise words- from ‘a levy on windfall profits flowing to oil companies because of the Government’s policy of crude oil pricing’. I pointed out that his figures were crook. He has now attempted a further explanation of his proposal and has said:
We have not suggested taxing them- which would produce a lag- we propose a levy.
There is a very clear distinction here. He proposes to strip revenue off oil producing companies in Australia, regardless of their profitability. He says that he cannot wait. He must divert oil producers’ revenue back into government coffers immediately. He now says that he would not do this through the tax system which would, of course, involve a lag and get no money this year, which he did not realise when he made his speech on the Budget, but by an arbitrary change that would take no account of the costs of exploration and development expenditure already undertaken or already committed. In brief, the Leader of the Opposition would not bother with the question of whether oil producing companies were or were not making a profit. We are informed that the estimated after tax profits of oil producers from crude oil production probably will not even amount to $300m in 1978-79. Labor wants to rip $340m from companies whose after tax profitability is only $300m. To me that would seem to be a pretty difficult thing to do. In short, a $340m slug against these major businesses in Australia would be a brutal assault. It would be guaranteed to put paid once again to oil search in this country. Perhaps we should expect one of the architects of the previous attack on these companies to dream of having another go. But he will never get a chance to do more than dream.
Then the Leader of the Opposition says that he wants to raise $300m by imposing a capital gains tax and get the money immediately. The Leader of the Opposition may recall that the Government of which he was a Minister announced that it would introduce a capital gains tax in 1 974. Mr Crean could not say how much it would raise. He gave no estimate of the possible revenue yield and admitted that its introduction would be delayed because ‘There are many complex technicalities involved and extensive anit-avoidance provisions will be required’. Eventually the whole misconceived idea was abandoned. Now, apparently, there are no complex technicalities, no difficulty in introducing immediate legislation, no problems in realising immediate large gains to revenue.
The Leader of the Opposition blurted out that Labor would have tried to introduce the capital gains tax at the time of the last general election. Well, Labor certainly did not tell the people of Australia that during the election campaign. Not that, of course, I doubt for a moment that Labor had the covert intention to impose such a tax the moment the polls were declared. But even with the worst will in the world, Labor could not have introduced it immediately. There are a great many questions raised by a capital gains tax. Would the tax apply only to realised gains? Would allowance be made for inflation which creates fictional but not real gains? Would the tax fall only on gains accruing after the announcement? Would capital losses be deductible against capital gains? The Leader of the Opposition in a stroke of genius has cut through all these fundamental questions. Given his economic audacity, these basic questions must seem to be mere quibbles. Now he says he wants to have a provisional gains tax on individuals to get the money in immediately. But two things are clear. It would simply not be possible to raise revenue from a capital gains tax in 1978-79, even given the Australian Labor Party’s rapacity. It is also clear that under the alternative Budget, no one would be making capital gains for long.
Next, the Leader of the Opposition wants to raise $150m this year from a so-called resources rental tax. It is not clear how a tax of this sort could have been introduced in this Budget to yield as much as $150m this financial year. The Leader of the Opposition seems to have no conception of the difficulty of developing a complex measure of this type, enacting it, and setting up the necessary administrative machinery. He also appears to have a distorted view of what could be raised, particularly as he has also proposed separately to impose a tax on the ‘windfall profits ‘ of the oil producers.
The Leader of the Opposition wants to impose a penal tax on family trusts to raise $100m this year. This Government, unlike the last, has already moved to close loopholes in the abuse of such trust arrangements and in many other tax avoidance processes. I suggest that over the last year this Government has done more in this way than any other government for a very long while. So what does the Leader of the Opposition now propose? When parents die, they often leave their assets in trust for their children until they reach adult age. Is this to be subjected to a penal tax rate? Parents or grandparents sometimes put funds in trust to meet the expenses of their children ‘s or grandchildren’s education. Is that to be taxed at a penal rate? A married couple who have been unable to have children of their own may invest money in trust to help meet the cost of the upkeep of their nephews, nieces or godchildren. Is that to be penalised too? The Leader of the Opposition needs to tell us what he would do with trusts- whether the family trusts or trusts for children of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) would be caught in the penalty taxes that he would want to put on trusts.
– Tell us about your own trusts.
– I never tried to hide my trusts, my friend. It was the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said he did not have any family trusts when in fact he did that was the point at issue. It is not a criticism of the fact that he has a trust but a criticism of the fact that he hid it and must have told a lie in the process.
The Leader of the Opposition says that he would raise $200m by increasing the taxes of the top 2 per cent to 3 per cent of income earners. Taxes on all incomes over $25,000 would be substantially increased. The highest marginal rate under Labor would be 72c in the dollar. Even Mr Whitlam never suggested that. Mr Whitlam had to leave some idiocies to his successors to suggest.
The whole weight of responsible professional opinion, both in Australia and abroad, is against the imposition of penal rates on tax on high incomes. The Asprey Committee suggested that an appropriate long term target would be to reduce the highest rate to 50 per cent. The Mathews Committee concluded that ‘rising marginal tax rates encouraged tax avoidance and evasion, and may lead to substantial economic waste because tax avoidance becomes a basis of investment and employment decisions’. The Jackson Committee, of which Mr Hawke was a notable member, warned that a society ‘neglects at its peril rewards for skill and responsibility’. Professor Henderson, in his major report to the previous Government, proposed a guaranteed income scheme under which the highest marginal rate of income tax would be no more than 60 per cent.
The Leader of the Opposition has sought to deceive the Australian people by overstating the additional revenue he could raise by all these means this year by $1 billion or substantially more than $ 1 billion. His deficit would turn out to be at least $4Vi billion and with expenditure increases, which would be inevitable with a Labor Budget and with Labor paranoia, obviously much more than that. There would be an explosion of government spending that no Labor Treasurer would be able to withstand. The Leader of the Opposition’s proposals gave us an insight into the depth of his expertise- and for that I suppose we are grateful- and economic knowledge. They gave us an insight into his financial naivety and incompetence, his failure to think through his own policies. Even the operation of a simple pocket calculator would probably be beyond him. No wonder he was Mr Whitlam ‘s favourite Treasurer. A deficit of such a magnitude would be utterly disastrous for jobs, for confidence, for inflation and for interest rates. But what is even more disturbing about Labor’s alternative proposals is the basic philosophy which lies behind them. Labor believes that if you knock profits, destroy business incentive, and shatter confidence in private enterprise you can still increase money wages and still have jobs for people to work at. This demonstrable fallacy was the real tragedy of the Labor years. The tragedy is made worse by the fact that it is perfectly plain that nothing has been learned from those years.
The Government’s Budget is dedicated to the growth and development of Australia. It reduces the deficit to a responsible level. For the second year running, tax collections are to rise more slowly than personal incomes. It achieves the lowest increase in government spending for 10 years. It provides simple and equitable health financing arrangements which protect everyone against serious illness and those most in need against all medical and hospital expenses. It provides increased assistance in real terms for the aged, for the handicapped, for migrants, and for families.
This Budget plays an essential part in our long term strategy to create a tougher and more competitive economy with special incentives to industry to get a larger share of our own markets and to capture a greater and increasing share of export opportunities. We were not prepared to squander our hard won gains against inflation and our progress towards full economic recovery. By bringing down a sound and responsible budget, by taking the tough decisions which were essential to the long term interests of this nation, we have taken another step towards restoring long lasting growth and prosperity to Australia. With the inflation rate down to 5 per cent at the end of this financial year, or in Treasury’s terms, earlier than that, with interest rates coming down, with increasing confidence among investors here and overseas, and with an encouraging inflow of private capital, the Australian economy is now well on the way to overcoming the damage caused by the three dark years of Labor. We are now out-performing many industrialised nations in reducing the rate of inflation. We have already, over the past three years, instituted fundamental social reforms which have served the interests of families and of those in need. Australia is the country of opportunity, of natural wealth, of enterprise. The opportunity is now within our grasp to create a society of growth and development, of prosperity and enlightenment, of stability and security. Our aim is nothing less than to establish in Australia an unequalled quality of freedom and opportunity for individual Australians, of compassion and effective help for those in need, a country which meets the fundamental needs and aspirations of all Australians.
When the Government made decisions in relation to the Budget it knew full well that some of the decisions would not meet with full approval from all sections of this community. But it also believed, because of a deep and abiding faith in the common sense of the Australian people, that the Australian people would overwhelmingly believe and recognise that the Budget, even if they do not like particular aspects of it, is a responsible document and one that is necessary to take Australia forward to the 1980s and beyond with confidence as a vital and vigorous nation. All Australians can share and take pride in building a nation which can be an example to the world.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the sessional Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Gellibrand speaking for a period not exceeding 33 minutes.
-For the past 35 minutes the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has attempted to persuade the nation that the Budget brought down in this House three weeks ago was a responsible and a good Budget, one which would assist the Australian people and one which should be supported by them. Of course, the Prime Minister is already aware that the opinion polls show that the people of Australia are horrified by this Budget. They have rejected it overwhelmingly, according to the public information available. He is now desperate to try to convince the Australian people that there is something worthwhile in this Budget. He does not have the fundamental elements needed for persuading the people of that. Two elements are needed if one is to sell something successfully to anyone. Firstly, one has to be a credible salesman and, secondly, one has to have an acceptable product. In this case, neither of those elements apply. The Prime Minister of this country is not a credible spokesman on the economy, or, indeed, on most other things. Secondly, this Budget is not an acceptable product to the Australian people.
The fact is that the credibility of the Prime Minister is proceeding rapidly towards zero. This simply stems from the fact that he has broken so many promises. He has made many promises but has not upheld them. The Australian people by now must be seeing that when he says something the true interpretation of that is not what it seems to be on the face of it but is, in fact, the opposite.
There are many of these broken promises but I should like to mention some of them. Firstly, I mention tax cuts. If there is any promise that the Australian people recall at the last election it was that a Fraser government, if re-elected, would introduce substantial tax cuts. We all remember dial-a-tax cut’ that was set up in each of the capital cities and about a quarter of a million people dialled that number to see what their tax cut would be. It was certainly an issue at the election. The people of this country voted for a government which promised them tax cuts and they only had the tax cuts for a few months before they were taken away. If this Government had any credibility or honesty it would at least tell the people what their tax rises will be now by setting up ‘dial-a-tax rise’ in each of the capital cities so that people can find out the extent to which this promise has been broken in their particular case. This was the most obvious of the many broken promises which reduced the credibility of the Prime Minister towards zero.
There are many other broken promises and I will mention some of them. This Prime Minister promised jobs for all who want to work. He promised to be generous to those who genuinely want to work but who cannot find work. He promised to support wage indexation, to retain Medibank, to abolish the means test, to maintain an expanded child-care program and to maintain present levels of assistance to Aborigines. All of those promises have been broken- and there are many more. They are all very important promises which were made to the Australian people by this Prime Minister and all of them were broken after the 1975 and 1977 elections. When this Prime Minister says he will be generous to those who cannot find jobs, the true interpretation of that is that he will not be generous to them, he will give them no increase in unemployment benefits. When he says that he will provide jobs for all who want to work, the true interpretation of that is that many people who currently have work will no longer have it later on. When he says he will abolish the means test, it means he will introduce an income test on pensions. When he says he will support wage indexation it means he will oppose wage indexation for all he is worth, and so on. How can we believe anything that a person like this says to the nation? I suggest to the people who are listening that the Prime Minister’s comments tonight in respect of the Budget should be interpreted in that light. We cannot believe him. He has no credibility because he has told so many lies to the Australian people in the past.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw the statement, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has made many promises to the Australian people in the past to which he has not adhered. As I mentioned, this Budget is not an acceptable product to the Australian people because they have realised the disastrous nature of it. It will plunge the economy deeper into recession. It will greatly increase unemployment and it will put many more people below the poverty line. It will accentuate the poverty of those already below the poverty line. It will reduce the living standards of the great bulk of the Australian people. It will massively increase the profits of oil producing companies and it will greatly increase the inequity of income distribution in this country. In short, this Budget is disastrous. It is also dishonest, inequitable and inhumane.
I turn now to a consideration of the context in which this brutal Budget has been introduced. It comes after 2% years of the Fraser Government in which various economic strategies which we were assured would turn on the lights have failed abysmally. The end result of almost three years of this Government’s hacking away at the public sector and simultaneously attempting to stimulate the private sector by administering such aphrodisiacs as investment incentives, exchange rate of adjustments and income tax cuts has been to plunge the economy much deeper into recession. Such a result is undeniable.
The number of registered unemployed has increased by 140,000, or 56 per cent, above the level of unemployment three years ago. But those figures understate the full extent of this disaster. The number of persons employed in Australia now is the lowest since late 1973. 1 repeat: The number of people in jobs is the lowest since late 1973. Private sector employment is at its lowest for over six years. Employment in the building industry is at its lowest level for 15 years. Employment in manufacturing industry is at its lowest level for 16 years. Furthermore, an increasing proportion of those who are employed are only employed part-time, thus further reducing the effective rate of employment. On the face of the calculations of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations of the rate of growth of the work force of 1 10,000 per annum, the full extent of the disaster begins to become apparent.
Clearly, each year tens of thousands of people who would like a job but find it impossible to get one are simply dropping out of the work force altogether and so becoming disguised unemployed. That this is so is demonstrated by the decline in the work force participation rate. In July this year it was 60.9 per cent compared to 62.7 per cent in November 1975 when the Liberal and National Country parties seized office. The reduction in the work force participation rate is accounted for mainly by people dropping out of the work force as they realise the impossibility of getting a job. If the November 1975 rate still applied, the work force would be 190,000 higher than at present. This figure provides a reasonable estimate of the number of disguised unemployed. This then is the context in which this year’s Budget has been introduced- a Budget which abandons such stimulatory strategies as investment-led or consumer-led recoveries and plumps instead for the doomsday strategy of the depression-led recovery.
This Budget represents the Government’s ultimate acceptance of the ‘things must get worse before they can get better’ syndrome. Thus, it blithely accepts greatly increased unemployment as a necessary element of its recovery strategy. Despite the obfuscation regarding employment prospects in Statement No. 2 of the Budget Papers, it is clear from Statement No. 4 that the Government only anticipates a rise in total wage and salary earner employment of 0.5 per cent in this financial year- that is, a rise of about 24,000. If this were achieved, which is highly doubtful, it would still fall woefully short of the 1 10,000 work force increase, even allowing for some growth among self-employed and contract labour. It is clear that this Budget is framed in the expectation of a further rise in the rate of unemployment, both official and disguised, of about 80,000. That, in itself, should be enough to condemn the Budget and the Government which produced it. What sort of twisted minds are they that not only show no concern for the current unemployed but also knowingly implement policies to consign tens of thousands more of our young people to the bitter frustration and disillusionment of the dole queues and then describe such a Budget as fair?
Furthermore, the growth in unemployment most likely will be even higher than that which stems from the Government’s figures. This is simply because the Budget is so contractionary that its assumption of 4 per cent real growth of gross non-farm product in 1978-79 has been greeted with widespread scepticism in business and economic circles- and rightly so. Real gross non-farm product increased by only 1.8 per cent last year and the employment level fell so what are the factors that will double our rate of growth and reverse the downward employment trend? Certainly the Budget will not. The direct impact of the Budget is to reduce growth by increasing income tax and various indirect taxes. Professor Neville of the University of New South Wales, who is a foremost fiscal analyst, has assessed the impact of the income tax surcharge and other income tax increases as being likely to reduce gross non-farm product by 0.6 per cent below what was otherwise achieveable. Furthermore, the rise in direct taxes will, he calculates, depress gross non-farm product by a further 1.5 per cent. Even allowing for the counteracting stimulus of the abolition of the Medibank levy, he still assesses the combined impact of those tax measures as depressing gross non-farm product by nearly 2 per cent.
This substantial depressive effect is in no way offset by increased government spending. The Budget provides for a level of government spending which barely keeps up with inflation. Importantly those areas of expenditure with the biggest multiplier effects- that is, capital works and housing- have been significantly reduced in real terms. Thus the direct impact of the Budget is clearly quite contractionary. Where, then, is the growth of output and employment to come from? The Government’s answer, as spelt out in Statement No. 2, is that other areas of demand, particularly private consumption expenditure, will grow strongly and provide the necessary growth, but such reasoning hangs on extremely dubious assumptions. In regard to private consumption expenditure the Government assumes, firstly, that it will not be adversely affected by the various tax increases. It says in Statement No. 2 that the income tax surcharge will not affect real consumption growth more than marginally and, in respect of indirect taxes, says only that the increases will lead to some reduction in the level of consumption of those items, thus implying that the consumption of other items will not be affected. Such assumptions seem very doubtful indeed. From 1 November 55 per cent of all taxpayers- those earning between $114 and $238 a week- will lose all of the benefit of the 1 February tax cut and be worse off than they were before the tax cuts were implemented. All other taxpayers will lose a large portion of their tax cut; thus real disposable household incomes must be notably reduced. For a person on average weekly earnings the loss will be approximately $3.70 a week.
Furthermore, the indirect tax increase will also substantially reduce the real disposable incomes, especially as they apply to commodities for which demand is highly inelastic, which means that expenditure on them is therefore likely to be substantially maintained in real terms. Assuming only moderate consumption of these items- for instance, four beers a day, one packet of cigarettes a day and 40 litres of petrol a weekthe additional cost to the taxpayer will be over $3 a week. The combined effect of these tax rises will therefore be to reduce the average taxpayer’s disposable income by $6 to $7 a week. It is patently absurd to argue, as the Government does, that such substantial reductions in real disposable income will not significantly affect consumption. Additionally, real disposable incomes of wage and salary earners may well be further reduced by the Government’s policy of reducing the real value of wages and salaries. To the extent that that policy is successful there will be even less scope for increased private consumption.
Another tremendously important assumption made by the Government is that private consumption will grow through a decline in the savings ratio, that is, that consumers will spend a higher proportion of their real disposable incomes. That assumption rests on the belief that as inflation falls consumers will be less inhibited by rising prices. But it is by no means certain that that will be the case. Indeed, recent experience would seem to indicate quite the opposite. In 1977-78, when the inflation rate clearly fell, the rate of increase in consumer spending also declined. Real private consumption expenditure rose by only 2.3 per cent in 1977-78 compared with 2.9 per cent in 1976-77 despite the fact that the inflation rate fell from 13.4 per cent in 1976- 77 to 7.9 per cent in 1977-78. This puts the Government’s assumption in grave doubt. Furthermore, as Table 1 of Statement No. 2 shows, the savings ratio increased in the second half of 1977- 78 despite the fall in inflation. The savings ratio for the June quarter of 1978 was higher than that for the June quarter of 1976, despite the marked fall in inflation over those two years. The Government’s assumption that a major element of economic growth will come through increased consumption as a consequence of reduced inflation is therefore highly suspect.
The Budget Papers make no mention of other factors that could be influencing consumers not to spend more, such as unemployment or the desire by consumers to rebuild the real value of liquid assets. On the evidence of the last year it would seem that these factors are more than offsetting the increased expenditure effect of lower inflation. The most recent evidence gives added weight to that view. The index of consumer sentiment published by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research fell sharply in July and the latest statistics of savings bank deposits show a strong rise of 10.7 per cent over the last year to July, which hardly indicates an increased propensity to spend. Thus this extremely important assumption that private consumption expenditure will rise strongly as a result of a further fall in inflation appears highly dubious, even allowing that inflation does in fact fall to 5 per cent by May 1979, as the Government claims will be the case. That assumption, in turn, is highly questionable as a result of the substantial price rises introduced in the Budget and, in our estimate, understated by the Government. Given that private consumption expenditure accounts for some 60 per cent of the total demand, the likely failure of real private consumer expenditure to grow more than marginally means that the Government’s estimated 4 per cent growth of gross non-farm product in 1978-79 is sheer fantasy. This is especially so when one considers that private investment is also likely to be sluggish. Government claims of a recovery of private investment in dwellings in 1978-79 contrast vividly with recent reports of the number of approvals being at the lowest level for 15 years. The non-residential building and construction industry is a disaster area whose prospects will be further decreased by Budget cuts in capital works allocations. So investment in that area seems most unlikely. Substantial excess capacity, sluggish demand and reduction of the investment allowance will also make it most unlikely that investment in plant and equipment will provide any major source of stimulus.
Professor Whitehead of La Trobe University, the senior adviser to the Government’s committee on structural adjustment, has concluded that total growth of gross non-farm product in 1 978-79 is more likely to be one per cent than the Government’s estimate of 4 per cent. That, of course, has enormous employment implications. It would imply a further fall in employment this year with unemployment rising by a further 2 per cent to 8 per cent this time next year. If we took into account the existing discouraged workers to whom I referred earlier we would be looking at real unemployment of approximately 1 1 per cent by this time next year. It is extraordinary that any government could pursue policies that could bring about such a result but no more extraordinary than the refusal of that government to accept that its policies have been responsible for this appalling development. This Government has virtually washed its hands of all responsibility for unemployment. Page 49 of Statement No. 2 of the Budget Papers states:
The one front on which little early progress is currently in sight is the labour market, an area where improvement depends importantly on participants other than the Government.
This is a quite incredible statement. The Government is simply abdicating responsibility for what should be a basic objective of government, that is, to provide full employment. It is doing that on the basis of assumptions about wages that are rejected by many experts in the area. The Government’s basic contention that economic recovery and increased employment cannot occur until the supposed real wage overhang is eliminated is highly contentious. The very existence of a real wage overhang, that is, an excess growth of real wages above productivity, has been denied by such economic authorities as the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research and the Flinders Institute of Labour. Even those who accept its existence can see that it has fallen over recent years, yet the growth in unemployment is accelerating. If this is the causal determinant of unemployment, one would expect the rate of growth of unemployment to fall as the overhang fell, but such has not been the case.
Further in this respect, we have the absurdity of the Government’s argument that it is necessary at this time to reduce the share of wages and increase the share of profits to some long-term average figure. The Government entirely neglects the fact that at this time of absolute abnormality of economic activity when we have a very substantial economic recession it is inevitable that labour’s share would be higher than in more normal times and profits’ share would be lower because that is what has happened in the course of the trade cycle. When the economy is recessed the profits’ share falls and labour’s share increases. When the economy is booming the reverse occurs. Profits’ share increases and labour’s share falls. That comes about principally through the allocation of fixed costs over fewer items in recessions and over many more items in times of economic boom, thus reducing the unit cost of output and enabling business to be more profitable by expansion of profit margins. But the Government entirely ignores that and says that at this time of economic abnormality, of very substantial recession, it is basic and important to restore labour’s share to what it was in some long-term average period in the past. That is an absolutely absurd policy which would mean if it were carried out and if by some miracle we returned to more normal times that profits’ share would go through the roof. It would soar to all-time high levels. That is what this Government’s policy involves, and it is absolute economic absurdity to argue, as the Government does, for restoration of the normal share of factor incomes at this time of abnormally low economic activity.
A further point in this regard which is entirely neglected by the Government is that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which has been so vilified by this Government for not accepting its wages policy in full, has in fact studied the real wage overhang arguments much more fully than any member of the Government. Having studied those real wage overhang arguments in case after case after case in wage indexation hearings the Commission has concluded that it is not convinced by the argument. The members of the Commission are not fools. They listen to the arguments put by highly paid counsel on behalf of the Government and supported by the employers. They listen to the arguments of the various State governments and the unions. Having done all that and having looked at all the expert advice that is tendered by the various parties, the Commission has concluded that it is not convinced by the arguments. But the Government carries on as though it is obvious, axiomatic, that real wages must be reduced and that there is a real wage overhang which is preventing economic recovery. It is not axiomatic at all. In fact, as I mentioned previously, the absolute existence of the real wage overhang is indeed very much in doubt.
So this centrepiece, this absolutely basic element of the Government’s economic policy, is itself a highly dubious assumption. The Government is using that assumption, of course. Politically it is extremely advantageous for a government to be able to say: ‘We cannot do anything about unemployment. It is the fault of the unions and the Arbitration Commission. ‘ That is a very convenient political outlet for the Government but it is one that is not soundly based in economic theory or economic fact. Many economists will argue that the Government is totally wrong in the wages policy it is pursuing in this country, but that is an argument I will have to pursue in more depth at another time.
Similarly, the Government’s assumption that by concentrating on reducing the deficit, inflation and interest rates and real wages it will create the conditions in which real growth and revovery will be possible is hotly disputed by many economists. As a number of Melbourne economists have pointed out in calling for an alternative strategy to be adopted, the policy of deficit reduction at high levels of unemployment involving tax increases and government expenditure cuts simply accentuates the recession. Indeed, it pushes the economy into a vicious cycle of deflation marked by tight fiscal and monetary policies, increasing unemployment, deficit blowouts through shortfalls of revenue as a result of reduced economic activity, and a consequent further tightening of fiscal policy to reduce the deficit, which in turn plunges the economy deeper into recession. When will this Government realise that at low levels of economic activity the deficit automatically grows through lost revenue and increased expenditure on unemployment benefits? The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has estimated that the revenue lost through the economy operating so far below full employment, as it is at the moment, is approximately $3, 000m per annum. In addition, last year unemployment benefits cost $790m. Clearly, the best way to reduce the deficit is to get the economy moving again, which process will automatically increase revenue and reduce unemployment benefit payouts.
On this issue of the deficit, it should also be noted that the Government’s simplistic adoption of the notion that a reduced deficit is necessary to reduce inflation simply does not accord with the facts. Over the last financial year the Budget deficit increased by $600m but inflation fell from 13.3 per cent in 1976-77 to 7.9 per cent in 1977-78. Apart from anything else, the composition of the tax and expenditure measures can also have an important influence on inflation, and in this respect the alternative Budget announced three weeks ago by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) would do much more to reduce inflation than the Government’s Budget by forgoing the inflationary indirect tax increases and indeed reducing indirect taxes even further. Furthermore, important as it is to reduce inflation and interest rates, that alone is most unlikely to generate economic recovery. It did not do so in the early 1930s when inflation was negative and interest rates were very low. It has not done so in Germany or Japan, where both governments are now taking stimulatory action to try to get their economic growth rate up again, despite the fact that inflation and interest rates are low. In fact, both those countries are now increasing public expenditure and their deficits to increase economic growth. I refer to an article in The Economist of 5 August relating to the recent decision of the German Cabinet to adopt a stimulatory fiscal package after the Bonn economic summit meeting in July. The article states:
A DM12’/4 billion ($6 billion) estimated packageequivalent to very nearly 1 per cent of gnp- has now emerged from the West German cabinet . . .
In fact, halfway through the second year in which growth is falling far below brave government predictions, it is an admission that the public sector needs, in a most ungermanic way, to lead the economy up the growth trail.
The article is referring to the composition of the package. It continues:
For two years, the West German government consensus has been that (a) growth would recover when West German businessmen were reassured that the disease of inflation had been eradicated; (b) this kind of spontaneous growth would be good growth, while fiscally-boosted expansion would be abortive and inflationary;
That is a very familiar line, in view of what we heard tonight from the Prime Minister. The article goes on:
The article then deals with the fact that the previous policy of the West German Cabinet had been deflationary. Talking about the new package, the article states:
So the post-Bonn package is, in effect, an admission that the public sector needs to keep its foot continuously pressed on the accelerator to spark growth. Even the Bundesbank has not lowered its target for money expansion this year, despite the drop in inflation, and says it will tolerate monetary growth higher than its 8 per cent target if the excess is caused by dollar inflows.
It can be seen from those quotations from The Economist relating to the West German Government’s stimulatory package that they are saying they need to increase the deficit, they need to increase public expenditure, they need to stimulate the economy in this way if they are going to get the economy moving again. Just reducing inflation is not enough, and we are paying an extraordinary price for that reduction in inflationwitness the enormous growth in unemployment that has already occurred and will occur in the future- and that is not going to be enough to create economic growth. We should be trying simultaneously to reduce inflation. The Opposition wants to reduce inflation, but we also say that the policy of the Government must be directed at the same time to stimulating the economy and generating economic growth. Eventually if we do not do that we will finish up with a low rate of inflation, certainly, but with massive unemployment and a tremendously recessed economy. Then we will have to start undertaking those very policies which the Government said earlier that it would not undertake. Of course, we have lost all that production and have the tremendous social and economic costs of that increased unemployment totally unnecessarily.
It is also worth noticing, while talking about that West German package, that an important element of it was to abolish payroll tax. Of course, that is something that the present Government says is not an important thing to do, but I think that it is important to note that other governments are moving to abolish it. The West German Government is abolishing payroll tax and the Swedish Government is going to abolish payroll tax. This Government, if it is concerned about restoring full employment, should be looking at the means of abolishing payroll tax as well, because a tax on employment, making employment more costly when there is high unemployment, is clearly a tax against employment and should be done away with if at all possible.
I ask the House to note also in respect of that West German package that the monetary policy of the West German Government is to maintain an 8 per cent rate of growth of the money supply, although the inflation rate is increasing by only 2 per cent or 3 per cent. Compare that with what is happening in this country. We have inflation estimates for gross non-farm product and gross domestic product, according to the Budget Papers, of 7 per cent or more in the current financial year. But the money supply rate of growth target is 6 per cent to 8 per cent. That would barely cover the rate of inflation. At the bottom end it will not cover the rate of inflation. If we do not have a money supply rate of growth which is greater than the rate of inflation how are we to get any economic growth? Just how is it going to occur? By increased velocity of the money supply perhaps to some degree, but is it going to be very much? It is not normally very marked and yet the Government is saying to the Australian people in this Budget that with the money supply rate of growth of 6 per cent to 8 per cent we can have 4 per cent economic real growth with the inflation rate at 7 per cent. That is just not on.
What the Government’s money supply policy is doing is squeezing the economy down further and making it even more unlikely that we are going to get anything like that 4 per cent. The fiscal package itself will stop that but the money supply targets reinforce it and ensure that the economy is headed deeper and deeper into recession. The contrast with the kind of monetary policies being followed by, for instance, the relatively successful West Germans is indeed startling. Also with respect to interest rates, I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that, despite what the Prime Minister says, interest rates have not fallen markedly over the last year. The Prime Minister promised a 2 per cent reduction in interest rates in this calendar year. We have seen so far a reduction in the home loan rates of one half of one per cent but most interest rates have not fallen. Certainly the overdraft rate has not fallen and other important rates have not fallen. There has been no reduction in them whatever. Of course, the tight monetary policy that he has pursued and is continuing to pursue will ensure that further reductions in interest rates are indeed limited. So there is a tremendous contrast between this policy of reducing interest rates and the monetary policy which makes it extremely difficult to achieve.
In the time that is left to me I would like briefly to mention the fact that this Budget is also a very dishonest Budget. It is dishonest, as I have mentioned, in respect of the various broken promises which it encompasses but also it is dishonest in respect of the very figures that are used in it and the way in which it has been doctored to ensure that the deficit that is finally brought out is lower than would really be the case if the Government were more honest. Nowhere is this more clear than in respect of unemployment benefit estimates where the unemployment benefit estimate has been reduced by almost $10m despite the fact that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) admitted the day after the Budget Speech that the unemployment benefit estimates had been made on the assumption of an increase in the number of persons on unemployment benefit on average this year of 25,000. How can there be an additional 25,000 unemployment benefit recipients on average this year and $10m less for unemployment benefits? But that is what is in this Budget. The two previous Budgets of the Government have massively understated unemployment benefits. This one has done the same thing.
On the other hand, of course, we have an overstatement of the revenue which this Government will obtain through pay-as-you-earn income tax by jacking up the average weekly earnings figure. The average weekly earnings figure that has been used is Vh per cent but that figure seems very much out of kilter with the 6 per cent increase in the consumer price index which the
Government says will be achieved only this year. How is it that average weekly earnings are going to increase by 7½ per cent if consumer prices increase by only 6 per cent and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is giving only about 70 per cent of wage indexation? Just how is that going to occur? The whole thing just does not hang together at all. So those estimates seem to be very dubious to say the least, particularly when put against the Government ‘s estimates for its wage expenditure which estimates an increase in Public Service wage rates of only 3.9 per cent.
In addition- and I am sorry that I have not time to go into this- as well as being dishonest this Budget is also a highly inequitable and inhumane Budget. The welfare cuts, the tax changes and the Government expenditure cuts all have as a basic element a redistribution of income from those who are not well off to those who are. That is a fundamental element of every aspect of this Budget and it is no more amply demonstrated than in respect of the Government’s petrol pricing policy which involves a massive increase in the profitability of Esso-BHP not only this year but also in future years when, if this policy is continued, in several years’ time that pricing policy will be giving Esso-BHP something like $1 billion a year in additional profits paid for by the Australian people. Yet the Prime Minister says that there is no need for a resources tax.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I wish to devote the time available to me this evening to speak of something which is of particular concern in a section of my electorate. It relates to the flooding of the Mumimbidgee River which at this point of time is likely to happen again. The situation with the Mumimbidgee River is that above Gundagai there are two major sources of water which feed the river system. One is water from the Blowering Dam, which is part of the Snowy system, and the other is the Burrinjuck Dam which is on the Mumimbidgee River.
What concerns me is the fact that there has been a significant number of floods in this river system, that there are management procedures which appear to be available to those who manage the releases of water and which are not being taken advantage of and that we have a situation which is developing far too often for my liking and certainly for those who are affected by the river system whereby floods are occurring far too regularly.
It may not be known to the House that since 193 1 there have been 52 floods on the Mumimbidgee River at Gundagai. Of those 52 floods four occurred in 1950, five occurred in 1952, nine occurred in 1956, then there was a significant gap until 1974 when there were five floods and then in 1975 there were four. So 27 major floods out of the total of 52 floods have occurred in five of the last 47 years. So when they come, they really come. This is a matter of concern to residents of the Mumimbidgee Valley, particularly to those below Burrinjuck and more so perhaps to those below the junction of the Mumimbidgee and the Tumut, which is where the flows from the Blowering Dam come into the system. Gundagai, of course, has been flooded far too often, as I have said, in recent years, and Wagga is in a similar situation.
The effects are felt further down the river in Hay, Narrandera, Balranald and other towns. But the critical areas are Gundagai and Wagga. I have been in Gundagai when the flood waters have been within 50 yards of the main street, in areas where normally one would not expect flood waters. Rescue boats have been carrying people backwards and forwards and performing the tasks that the civil defence people perform so ably in these times of emergency. Only yesterday I had an opportunity to go to Wagga. As I drove into the town, I passed between the levy banks. If those levy banks had not been erected it would not have been possible for traffic to pass along the main road from Junee to Wagga, and for that matter from Wagga out to Junee, Coolamon and other areas. Although the recent rain in the river catchment area has not yet caused a major flood in these towns, it certainly has led to a significant rise in the river level. Even in that non-serious flood situation it has been necessary to erect levy banks.
I think it is worth informing those honourable members who may not be aware of the situation that the agitation of residents has been sufficient to cause a degree of action to be taken by the Water Resources Commission in New South Wales. The Water Resources Commission engaged consultants by the name of Sinclair Knight and Partners Pty Ltd to prepare a study on the Mumimbidgee River and the flood problems that exist there. The Commission itself undertook a study into the flood problems of the Mumimbidgee system and took into account matters relating to the management of the Burrinjuck Dam. The problem is simply this: The Burrinjuck Dam and the Blowering Dam are both regarded as water conservation dams. They are not flood mitigation dams. Both dams were constructed for the benefit of people who live in the irrigation areas, particularly the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area, further down the Mumimbidgee River, who need water, particularly in the summer, for the cultivation of crops and for other activities of a pastoral nature.
The Blowering Dam is closely integrated with the Snowy River hydro-electric scheme. The water that flows into Blowering Dam comes through the hydro-electric power generating plants. It is a very interesting situation. The water that flows into the Blowering Dam belongs to the Commonwealth, if I can put it that way, until such time as it passes through the power station. Then it becomes State water and comes under State management. The State decides what should be done with the water, how the releases should be handled and how to meet the demands that are made by people further down the river in the MIA.
My constituents are concerned to see that a degree of reason is attached to the management of both these dams and that the Water Resources Commission of New South Wales, which has the responsiblity for managing the way in which water is released from the dams, takes into account the fact that there can be a reduction in the incidence of flooding in the Mumimbidgee River system if the water releases from the Burrinjuck Dam, and perhaps from the Blowering Dam as well, are handled more effectively. That basically is what I want to speak about in the Parliament tonight and to draw to the attention of the Government.
It has been suggested that the water level in Burrinjuck Dam should be kept 30 per cent below its capacity so that some additional storage is available. Thus, when significant rain falls in the catchment area of the Burrinjuck Dam there will not be an immediate effect further down the river such as would be felt if the dam were full. It is a matter of record that in each of the floods that have occurred since 1968 when the Blowering Dam was completed the Blowering and Burrinjuck Dams have not spilled over on the same occasions. However, it seems to me that it is only a matter of time before that happens. When that does happen, it seems to me to be obvious that Wagga, if not Gundagai, will be seriously flooded. If we look at the way in which the New South Wales Government has reacted to these problems when representations have been made to it, when delegations have been down to see Ministers, when petitions have been presented and when resolutions have been passed by concerned citizens of the area that is affected by these floods, it is obvious that Wagga,
Gundagai, or some other significant population conglomerate on the river system will need to be wiped out before the New South Wales Government will be prepared to do something realistic about the problem that we are facing. The problem needs to be faced.
One of the propositions which has been put forward and which affects the Commonwealth Government is that Tantangara Dam, which is also on this Snowy-Murrumbidgee rivers system, should be used in conjunction with Burrinjuck Dam to see that there is an effective management system available for Burrinjuck Dam. My constituents have put to the Federal Government, at meetings which I have attended, the proposition that Burrinjuck Dam should be maintained at a maximum capacity of two-thirds full, one-third empty, and that should there be a water shortage as a result of seasonal factors, or because there has been a low thaw from the snowfields, Tantangara Dam could be used to top up Burrinjuck Dam which in turn could be used to provide the water for people who require it in the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area and other irrigation areas.
The argument has been put by people in authority in the Snowy Mountains Council and the Department of National Development, as it now is, that this water is urgently required or is important to the overall policy for the management of the hydro-electricity generation system. They say that they cannot put that water at risk for use in Burrinjuck Dam and for the water users in the MIA further down the River because that would jeopardise the capacity that is available for people who need electricity supply. That may be a valid argument. Once the water leaves Tantangara Dam and flows down into Burrinjuck Dam it is not retrievable for the purpose of the Snowy Mountains Council. That is another matter.
What needs to be understood is that there have been 52 floods at Gundagai since 1931. I want to give some figures in relation to those 52 floods which I think the House may be interested to hear. Of the 52 floods, there were 19 which would have been absolutely unavoidable in any circumstances even if Burrinjuck Dam had been empty. It would have filled and there would have been a flood in any event. But on 20 occasions the flood level could have been reduced to below danger height if there had been 30 per cent storage space available in Burrinjuck Dam. The danger height at Gundagai happens to be 6.1 metres. A further four floods could have been reduced to below the critical height which at Gundagai is 7.2 metres. This is still above the danger height of 6.1 metres. Nine floods could have been reduced in severity but would still have been above the critical height of 7.2 metres.
I think it is important for honourable members to understand that of those 52 floods that have taken place at Gundagai since 1931, 20 could have been effectively eliminated and a further four significantly reduced if there had been 30 per cent storage space available in Burrinjuck Dam. It is fair comment to say that about half the flooding that occurred in the river system, and particularly at Gundagai which is the area that concerns me because it is in my electorate, was unnecessary. What was needed was for the New South Wales Government, through its Water Resources Commission, to say, ‘O.K., keep the water level in that dam 30 per cent below the top and thus reduce the problem ‘.
Obviously, there is an effect on the people who live further down the river and who require the water for irrigation. Their needs must be taken into account also. The findings of the reports which I mentioned point to the fact that there have been shortages already in 15 irrigation seasons over this period about which I am speaking. Not very much could have been done about that anyway. If there had been a 30 per cent storage space available in Burrinjuck Dam, in four of those 15 seasons the shortage of water would have been aggravated. There would have been a greater problem. In two additional seasons, there would have been water availability problems.
So we have a situation in which there have been 15 irrigation seasons in which there have been shortages and if we had kept that 30 per cent off the top in Burrinjuck Dam we would have aggravated the situation- it would have been marginally worse in four of those 1 5 yearsand we would have extended the 15 years to 17 years because of the policy being operated. It seems to me that somebody needs to look long and hard at the trade-off between these two situations. We are looking at a situation in which, in historical circumstances, we would have created two additional seasons of water shortage problems in the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area and for those other people who depend on water in the irrigation areas but we would have reduced by half the number of floods which occurred in the Mumimbidgee River system and which caused incredible amounts of damage right down the Mumimbidgee River system but particularly in that area between Gundagai and the Burrinjuck Dam itself, and of course between Gundagai and Wagga and further down again.
I simply say to this Government and to the Government of New South Wales: Let us have some common sense about this particular problem. Let us not just say in the sort of uncompromising fashion that has been put to us over the years that the Burrinjuck Dam or the Blowering Dam was built and established for water purposes and is not to be used as a mitigation dam. Let us say that the relevant legislation can be amended, if that is what is required, and sensible management can be applied to both of these dams to see that a reasonable balance is taken between those v/ho need the water in the MIA and the other irrigation areas and those who live on the Mumimbidgee River system so that they will not be flooded out with the monotonous regularity that has been the case over the years. I believe that if governments take a sensible approach to this matter the problem can be solved.
-The Liberal-National Country Party Government has again failed to recognise and relieve the social and human problems existing in Australia. I quote the Australian newspaper’s editorial of the morning after the Budget, that is, Wednesday, 15 August:
We wanted a go-forward and we got a whoa-back Budget. At a time when we needed to take a giant step forward, out of the rut of recession, we have been given a Budget, which takes us, if it takes us anywhere, back to square one . . .
This Budget smacks of elitism. It is mean-spirited and full of broken election promises while safeguarding a few sacred cows of the establishment forces. One example of this is that there has been no increase in company tax. In reality this Budget serves to penalise the poor, the sick, the aged, the young and the family man. Tonight in this House the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) again showed his contempt for people by sacrificing Australians. There are more than 400,000 unemployed today in a work force of approximately 6 million people. As there are only 14 million people in Australia, the unemployment figure is a thorough disgrace.
I would like to take issue with some of the short-sighted policies that this regressive Government has decided to implement. I say, as other honourable members from both sides of this House have said, that the cut by the Government in the time of an honourable member’s speech on the Budget from 20 minutes to 15 minutes is a retrograde step. I turn now to the subject of health. The last comprehensive Budget measure was a complete change in the national health scheme. In effect, it is a ‘hello-goodbye’ to health care. It was only three months ago that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) announced a change to the health system which confused everyone, including the Minister. With the new announcement there is renewed chaos and we have the Government running around in circles.
There are major problems with this new scheme. Let us look at some of them. The Government may have introduced a 40 per cent rebate system but the Minister has given no guarantee that the 40 per cent rebate of the doctor’s fee will be continued beyond June of next year. The scheme can be criticised in that those making levy payments will be better off, those at the lower end of the scale will be marginally better off, while those at the higher end of the scale will benefit greatly. Furthermore, the Government may have underestimated the number of Australians who may gamble and make do with the universal health scheme. As such, government funding will be well below the Government’s expectations. Also, the Minister has admitted that no legislation can be introduced which defines the term ‘socially disadvantaged’. If that is so, why give this responsibility of deciding who is socially disadvantaged and who is not to the doctors? By doing so, it will also fall on the doctors to decide who is to receive bulk-billing services. It is a matter for curiosity that the Government has so decided when the Australian Medical Association has been diametrically opposed to the system of bulk-billing ever since the Hayden Medibank scheme was introduced.
Further, there is an argument between the doctors themselves as to whether there should be a fee freeze. However, there is a catch to this in that the AMA can only apply a fee freeze subject to an inquiry into fees. I ask: Why have an inquiry only into fees; why not have a full inquiry into the medical profession as a whole? Fee structuring is only one facet of the profession. I say to the Minister for Health that someone has to be strong enough to take on the AMA. As we know, the AMA is the strongest union in Australia. I ask the Minister to show his strength and take it on.
The question of motive also arises. It is quite clear that the motive was to smash the Medibank system and to fiddle with the consumer price index- nothing more. Funding the health scheme out of general revenue, will supposedly reduce the consumer price index. At the most it will be reduced by only 0.5 per cent. The estimated cost to the new scheme will be well over $62 lm in a full year. According to the Australian Financial Review of 8 September:
The health funds are threatening an unexpected cost burden to the Government as it thrashes out the practical details . . .
The funds are demanding a commission for handling claims for the new Commonwealth medical benefit way above what the Health Depanment expected.
The development casts further doubt on the cost estimates of the new scheme . . .
In addition, the Government is to spend some $400,000 on an advertising campaign to explain to the Australian people what the new health scheme means. Little thought has gone into the administration of the scheme and to the cost. No doubt we will have another revised health scheme in three months’ time. This entire scheme is a mess. The Prime Minister’s undertaking on behalf of his Government to ‘maintain Medibank and ensure that the standard of health care does not die’ is another broken promise. It is another lie and another major blunder by the Government.
I turn now to social security and in particular to the age pensioner 70 years and over. Those persons over 70 years of age who are receiving a pension free of the means test will have their pensions frozen at the present level unless they qualify under the new means test to be applied. Also, instead of receiving an increase by way of a twice-yearly adjustment to their pension in line with the consumer price index, their increases have been cut to once a year, that is, each 1 November. This will mean at least a 16-month lag behind the cost of living rises for these pensioners. It is a fact that the Government knows that there is inequality in the current pension scheme, but it is also a fact that it is a move designed to lull pensioners into thinking that the Government is fair-minded and that the Government is trying to rid the system of the anomalies by reintroducing the means test for those over 70 years. It is a false and irresponsible confidence trick for the Government to mislead the Australian public. Nothing can be further from the mark. Australians, including the pensioners, are wide awake to this. If any pensioners over 70 years are in the wealthy category they will be paying a high tax irrespective of that; so the reintroduction of a means test is a mockery of the Government’s attempt to show that it is aware of the imbalance of the pension system. Also there is an undertone in that future increases could be linked to August Budget pronouncements. This is quite unsavoury.
Whilst the Government may think that it has treated these pensioners justly, the people on the dole will think differently. From 1 November no increases will be granted to those on the dole. The only people on unemployment benefit who will be entitled to any increase will be those with dependants. Honourable members may well ask who these people are. They include the family man who has been sacked or retrenched, the man who is the sole breadwinner of the family, and the man or the woman of the house who has to pay rent, who has to clothe the children and themselves as well. It also includes the lone mother or lone father who is struggling to meet commitments and who has been placed in the situation of being on the dole. It is these people who could fall into the poverty category. Does this sound like the great Australia that we know of? It is repulsive to think that Australians can penalise fellow Australians to this extent and can cause untold suffering and hardship, all for the sake of a 0.5 per cent drop in the inflation rate.
It is interesting to note that the Budget provides for an increase of only $9.6m in the estimates for unemployment benefit. This would cover no more than the next indexed increase in the benefit rate, now to be restricted to those with dependants, and makes absolutely no concession to the looming possibilities of increasing unemployment. I wish to comment on the crucial matter of unemployment. The Government is continuing to refuse to acknowledge the worsening unemployment situation. Even in the Budget Speech the Government admitted that unemployment would increase by Vh per cent. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) indicated in his Estimates that unemployment would increase by at least 100,000 during 1978-79.
In reality, the figure is more likely to be over 200,000 as school leavers will again be entering the job market during December 1978 and January 1979. Few of these school leavers will survive the first round of job-hunting. Many will end up on the proverbial social scrap-heap for this year and for many years to come. The prospects of a half a million people unemployed by Christmas this year is depressing to say the least. The figure cited is based on the current official estimates of 400,000 unemployed. However, with the conflict of information being issued by the Bureau of Statistics and the Commonwealth Employment Service the unemployment figures are questionable. Indeed the number of unemployed could be much higher than we are led to believe; maybe 600,000 by Christmas. At present over 20 people are applying for each job vacancy. In addition there is concern that the frustrated unemployed may actually leave the labour force in view of the adverse employment prospects. There is this variable, that the drop-out rate of labour may have a decided effect on the number of registered unemployed. It is in this area of drop-outs that there is major concern, as there appears to be an apparent under-estimation of the number of unemployed according to the unemployment statistics.
The Government’s election promise that unemployment would keep falling is another broken promise. The Government has embarked on a deliberate unemployment policy to force a recession on Australia. Whilst the Government has shown its obsession with a reduction in the deficit it has not shown the same magnificent obsession for the unemployment problem. In addition, for the Government to state that the wages spiral is the only cause for the unemployment problem clearly demonstrates that it is living in a cocoon. Further, for the Government to implicitly threaten the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in its industrial function as a national wage fixing body, that is that the Government, as an employer, would lay off staff if the Commission did not toe the line and become an economic oracle, gives cause for alarm. By this action, the Government adopts a policy of threat rather than inspires confidence in itself as an employer. It is a fragile basis for optimism. There are so many variables in the Government’s policies that it would be ludicrous to hope for any improvement in the unemployment situation. This is another broken promise to add to the growing list of broken promises.
I turn now to the housing industry. What a shemozzle. The home savings grant scheme is a mess. It is extraordinary that the Government has illustrated a complete lack of forethought. Again it has failed to recognise the needs of Australians for home ownership. For 1978-79 $20m was provided, which, in itself, is $ 14.9m less than the amount provided in the previous financial year. Does the Government really think that the desire for home ownership has slackened to such an extent that it considered a $ 14.9m drop in the home savings grant justifiable. The Government’s continual claim that it is concerned for Australians to be able to buy their own homes has been shattered by its own short-sighted policies. The Government has been caught in that it has found it necessary to allocate money from this year’s amount of $20m to clear up the backlog of applicants for the grant from the previous year. The result is that there is only $5m in the kitty for allocation for this year’s grants. The initial assertion by the Government that it could only entail a nine-month wait is incorrect. Those applicants who applied prior to 27 July 1978 may be lucky enough to receive their grant. However, applications made after that date will have a long wait until after the 1979-80 Budget is brought down. This is a waiting period of at least 12 months. Why should Australians be forced to wait one year before they are entitled to receive this home savings grant?
In addition, the gamble by the Government that interest rates will be reduced is a remote possibility. Unfortunately, the housing industry and the building industry generally is subject to various monetary changes in policy, both to the availability of money and to interest rates. The high interest rate has forced potential home buyers back into the rental market, which is creating a strain on the rental market and, in turn, creating a long waiting list for those potential buyers who are also depending on building society finance. Further, the elimination of the home loan interest tax deductibility scheme will make it more difficult for families on low and moderate incomes to afford mortgage repayments. For example, the man on $175 a week buying his home on mortgage was getting a big help from the deduction off the top of his income of a substantial part of his interest payments. A $4 a week reduction was worthwhile to some families and now it is gone. To a man on $300 a week or more it did not really matter as he did not get the housing concession anyway as his income was too high for him to receive this tax concession.
In reference to taxation I point out that less than a year ago the Prime Minister boasted: ‘We have reduced taxes and the Government will bring taxes down further, not increase them’. Yet personal income tax is now to be increased from 1 November 1 978. This 1 .5 per cent surcharge on personal income tax will effectively strip the pockets of 55 per cent of Australians, thus wiping out any benefits they had received from the February tax cuts. The effect of the tax increase will be felt by the lower and middle income earner. For example, those earning $250 a week will be penalised 8 per cent and those earning $1,500 a week will be penalised less than 5 per cent. For the Government to state that there is a corresponding increase for all income earners is nonsense. Furthermore, the income tax increase is to be back dated to 1 July this year. This means that the benefits of the tax cuts will have applied for only five months, but the collection of this new tax will be done in eight months. That is, it will take eight months to collect a full year’s tax. Perhaps the wealthy supporters of the Government can afford to pay less tax than anyone else but the poor, the low income earners and the middle income earners will certainly not be able to afford to have up to $3.88 slashed from their weekly budget. Or does the Government really think that life is easy for all Australians? The
Government that was committed to lightening the burden of taxation has been grossly inconsistent and has widened the gap between the wealthy and the poor. It is a joke that the Treasurer can give a guarantee that the surcharge will be applicable only for this year. Irrespective of that, it is a year too much for the Australian people.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have a crisis, an energy crisis. The crisis is with us now. It may not be obvious because we do not have at this moment blackouts and petrol rationing, but the crisis is very real. We- that includes the whole world- cannot continue to use our present energy resources as we are now. This Government, in its Budget, has taken this energy crisis into consideration. Coal supplies 41 per cent of Australia’s energy needs yet it makes up 95 per cent of our reserves, excluding uranium. Natural gas consumption, at 9 per cent, is more in Une with its share of reserves at 4 per cent. Fifty per cent, a half of our energy, is derived from coal while oil reserves represent only one per cent of our total fossil fuels. Again I exclude uranium from these calculations. Of this 50 per cent of energy derived from coal, 53 per cent or a quarter of the whole goes into transportation.
Australia ranks highly in terms of potential energy sources with higher reserves of coal and uranium per head of population than any other country. Our gas reserves per head, are second only to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Middle East. Our oil is scarce and we are almost as badly off as the United States of America. Again I say we cannot just look at Australia. We live in this total world. This Government has moved with its Budget in line with its energy policy. Let us briefly look at our energy policy and at the future of energy, starting with the long term situation. The power, the energy, of the future will come from sea water. Very recent experiments in the United States of America have verified that the power of the hydrogen bomb can be harnassed in controlled fusion. This process still requires an immense amount of experimental work and years of development. Our Government, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, will be keeping an eye on progress in this field. For this purpose the Commission continues to be funded.
In the medium time scale we will be using the nuclear power of uranium and thorium and
Australia will probably, and unfortunately, be using its coal. I hope that there will be more appreciation that burning coal for power, or even converting it to oil, is removing forever the most valuable source of hydrocarbons, a source that is necessary for so many vital aspects of everyday living. This Government appreciates that nuclear power is a necessity, especially for energy poor countries. This is why we are exporting uranium; this is why we have our uranium export policy and have signed sales agreements; and this is why we should be looking very seriously at uranium enrichment.
We also should have nuclear power stations covering all future increases in mainline power and replacing oil, gas and coal burning stations as soon as possible. Newport power station in Melbourne should be a clean, non-polluting nuclear station. Then we would not have those arguments about smog which costs Victorians a fortune. I hope that this Government will encourage both private enterprise and the instrumentalities to look to having all future power stations nuclear. Also in the medium term we will use solar power. Again let me remind honourable members that solar energy in all its forms- tide, biomass, wind, et cetera- is strictly limited. Even the wildest estimates allow that solar energy can supply only 5 per cent to 7 per cent of the world’s needs. Of course this is important and this Government has continued to fund research in this field.
In the short term of energy requirements- here we are talking of the next 12 years or so to 1990- we have our crisis. This Government is moving in appreciation of this crisis which shows up in Australia as a liquid fuel crisis. Four positive approaches have been taken by this Government. Firstly, we have oil pricing. As we heard in the Budget Speech, we are moving to world parity. This will hopefully conserve oil and make Australians aware that the era of cheap fuel is over. We will be looking at conservation. The Budget allows $50,000 for this program through which we hope to reduce oil consumption by 15 per cent to 20 per cent in five years. This might sound optimistic but there are examples where it has been done. The next approach is to look at alternatives and this requires money for research and development. This Government has allowed $ 15m in 1978-79 for a major expansion of energy research and development- a significant increase. We must also remember that another $ 15m or so will be spent by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and other Commonwealth authorities on energy research and development. The areas where most of this money will be spent are liquefied petroleum gas, ethane and methane and electric cars.
The further approach to alleviate the liquid fuel crisis is of course exploration. Here the Government’s previous incentives in pricing and taxation have been large and the oil exploration companies have responded, as shown by the big increase in wells being drilled. So far in 1978 there are 27 exploration wells, which is more than in either 1976 or 1977, and of course is far above the almost zero activity of the years 1973, 1974 and 1975. There are also 60 off-shore and 70 on-shore exploration permits, due to this Government’s appreciation of our crisis. This will result in at least $500m being spent.
Let us look in a little more detail at the first approach; that is, oil pricing. Australians were paying less than half the world price for our own crude oil. In this financial year, with 70 per cent of our crude coming from Australian wells, we would be subsidising the users by $800m. The new policy, as outlined in the Budget Speech, announced that all Australian produced crude oil would cost refiners the import price, the world price. However the Australian driver, whether he pays 20c or 25c a litre, will still be far better off than most drivers in the world. For example, Italians pay 49c a litre and Frenchmen and Japanese pay 44c a litre. In the United States of America President Carter has seen the problem of his country’s price of about 18c or 20c a hire, but cannot seem to be able to do anything about it. This move to world parity will be achieved by an increase to the production levy which, in the case of Bass Strait non-parity oil, will amount to an increase of $45.63 a kilolitre or 2Vi times the existing levy.
However the policy for producers as compared to refiners remains the same as last year. That is, old oil or oil produced from fields discovered before 14 September 1975 will be sold at import parity less the levy of $18.90 a kilolitre for an increasing proportion of production until 1981, and soon after that this proportion becomes 100 per cent. The levy on import parity oil remains the same, as does the six million barrels a day size of field attracting full world price. As I mentioned earlier, one of the main reasons for this new pricing of crude oil was to discourage the wasteful use of the vital hydrocarbons and to encourage more energy efficient processes and technologies. In terms of efficiency of energy use, Australia ranks slightly higher than the world average and is far better than the United States, though that is hardly high praise. However Japan and Western Europe lead the field and Australia has a long way to bridge the gap. Again we must remember that we are part of this world and not an island unto ourselves.
While the crude oil price is a starting point of energy conservation, it is not enough by itself. So the Government, with the States, has agreed to a co-ordinated national energy conservation program. For its part the Federal Government has allowed in its Budget $50,000 for preliminary planning for a publicity campaign, the first stage of the national program. Other people have seen the need for energy conservation. Yesterday I opened a special energy conservation program at Melbourne University where a killer, Mr Killerwatt, is roaming the campus. The initial objective is to save on the huge power bill, but it is also wonderful to see this great university as a community leader in what is a national campaign. Companies and other groups could well follow its example.
The pattern of industrial usage, resulting from the artificially low crude oil price, caused some large fuel users to change from furnace oil to industrial diesel oil. This is an abuse of high grade, costly diesel oil and cannot be tolerated. Also we have seen less use of natural gas than should be expected as we have burnt off our valuable crude oil. Let me just quickly run through some of the other aspects of the energy crisis, areas which will require government initiatives and action. Australia has LPG in quantities far exceeding current or reasonable projections for future local demands. How do we dispose of this in the best interests of the nation as a whole? Pricing, as with crude oil, will be important. Replacing crude oil based products is a necessity, perhaps requiring a whole new distribution system and a redesign of automobiles and/or trucks. While on the subject of transport, we will need further initiatives. Some areas being investigated are reducing speed limits; removing some traffic lights because stopping and starting of course doubles fuel consumption, or at least co-ordinating these lights; doing away with emission controls except perhaps in the centres of Melbourne and Sydney; increasing octane ratings of petrol, especially with higher lead levels and removing the lead if necessary from the exhaust; smaller cars and more streamlining; more diesel cars and a whole host of other possibilities.
At this stage we should pay tribute to the Victorian Government and the Premier, Mr Hamer, who, in appreciation of the energy crisis, has personally arranged vast experimental work in conjunction with overseas experts to convert Victoria’s huge brown coal reserves to liquid fuels in order to tide us over this crisis. On the other hand, Premier Wran of New South Wales has no appreciation of the crisis. He has refused to allow coalmining under water though this is being done all around the world. Also, by his refusal to install a coal loader at Botany Bay he is incurring great waste by transporting coals to Newcastle. Such policies will lead to blackouts and petrol rationing.
In conclusion I remind honourable members that we have an energy crisis now. This Government has appreciated the crisis and in the Budget has moved to overcome it. This will become more obvious to the people of Australia, as the program to conserve energy is developed and each and every Australian plays his part to ensure a better Australia for all Australians.
-The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Roger Johnston) who has just spoken and those honourable members from the Government side who preceded him, particularly the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), highlighted the difference in philosophy between the Government and the Opposition. The speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who is the shadow Treasurer, have put to rest the arguments of the Government in this deceitful Budget. All the election promises referred to by my colleagues in this Budget debate have torn asunder the hypocrisy with which the Government fought the last election campaign. I will not spend a great deal of time pursuing each of the issues dealt with by the honourable member for Gellibrand and the Leader of the Opposition.
The real summation of this Budget has been recorded outside this House. Despite what the Prime Minister says, the workers, the unionists and the unemployed of this country are protesting in the streets, and will continue to do so. While they are protesting the share prices on national and international stock markets are rocketing. This is indicative of the treatment that business has received at the hands of this Government. That is what this Budget is all about. It is the most blatantly pro-business Budget in my memory and certainly the most insensitive. The poorest, the neediest, the most deprived sections of this community have been the hardest hit. Perhaps the most cynical move, although there are several outstanding contenders for this award, was that at a time of record unemployment and in a Budget deliberately designed to increase unemployment- the Treasurer admitted that at Question Time this afternoon- the only Public Service staff ceiling increase was in the Department of Social Security. More inspectors are needed to seek out the so-called ‘dole bludgers ‘.
The Budget’s other major contribution to the existing unemployed was to freeze the unemployment benefit at its miserable inadequate level and to offer not one job creation scheme. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has come into this House time and again and talked all the rubbish about the place in respect of teaching young people under the Community Youth Support scheme, which is referred to as CYSS. He says that schemes such as this one are doing something for the young unemployed. What these schemes are doing is to train more adequately people for jobs that are not there. The Government has continued to offer a few training schemes, primarily aimed at the youth, as its contribution to the major crisis facing our people and our economic and social structure. However, the Government differentiates between two levels of the youth. It offers employers a subsidy to employ a certain section of the youth. However, people in the age bracket of 18 years to 21 years or 22 years are not being employed by employers because it is more economic to employ younger people who are being subsidised and then to put them off after six months and put on someone else. Providing a few funds for amateurs to train inadequately a handful of unemployed youth to be slightly more adequately equipped unemployed is just simply no answer. A cursory calculation of these schemes in my electorate of Melbourne indicates they are reaching 0.7 per cent of the youth unemployed and that only 0. 1 per cent of youth unemployed are finding jobs after attending these schemes.
One only has to go to the courts in Melbourne on any day to see the effect that unemployment is having on our youth. I attended the court to give some evidence on behalf of an Aboriginal lad who had been unemployed. This lad was so frustrated and so embarrassed about bludging off his pensioner mother that he resorted to getting the money for himself. In doing so he bought a oneway ticket to the penitentiary. His fate is the fate of a number of other young people in my electorate. I have referred before to young girls who have to sell themselves on the streets of Melbourne in order to get enough money to put a roof over their heads. The blame for this rests on the head of the Prime Minister and every individual who sits on the Government side of the House.
Because of the difficulty in gathering absolutely accurate figures I would not like to be held to the absolute accuracy of the calculations made in respect of employment training schemes. However, the difference would be marginal. Even if the calculations are out by a full percentage point their impact is devastating and is a sad indictment of this Government’s sole contribution to the unemployed.
I would like to concentrate for a few minutes on another group of unemployed and potential unemployed who rated little more than an indirect mention in the statements attached to the Budget Speech, and not one word in the Budget itself Despite the Government’s failure to recognise them in the Budget, the Telecom technicians recently in conflict with the Australian Telecommunications Commission are involved in the most important industrial dispute in Australian history. AH we have heard from the Government is a lot of mumbo-jumbo. The Prime Minister has paid lip service to this matter. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations came into the House on the Thursday of the last sitting week and said that the Telecom technicians would not win. He said that they could not win, despite the fact that they had an answerable case that showed that they were engaged in a life and death struggle for their future employment. He said that they would be battered into submission. Like all the prophecies made by the Government this one went down the drain. The dispute was all over bar the shouting after reasonable men got together on the Sunday and talked out their problems. The only way in which industrial disputes will be resolved is when the issues are thoughtfully analysed. All that the Government could do about that dispute was to pour oil on troubled waters. However, it turned out to be petrol which ignited and inflamed the situation to such an extent that Deputy President Justice Gaudron and Commissioner Clarkson took the Government to task because of its attitude.
What is required in these matters? The Government should not come in with a big axe when there is a dispute in which people are struggling to preserve the future of their jobs. The President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has called for a national meeting of all parties concerned- the employers, the unions and the Government, for what it is worth- for the purpose of setting guidelines. We do not want a bureaucratic hassle between the leaders of the few departments involved in a interdepartmental inquiry because the relevant information to which I will refer in a few moments would not be available to such an inquiry. The Government has decided to do away with certain statistics that were being gathered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This information would have provided the base for a proper and intelligent analysis of the situation. All the Government has done has been to set up a interdepartmental inquiry. I asked the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott), when he was sitting at the table, for permission to incorporate in Hansard an article by Julianne Schultz entitled ‘Dearth of statistics hampers technological changes survey’ which appeared in the Australian Financial Review of 6 September 1978. The article sets out clearly just where the dearth of information lies. The article states:
The 1971 census was the first time since 1947 that work force information was collected, and although further information was sought in the 1 976 census, this information is unlikely to be processed and released until some time next year, three years later.
Yet we are referring the question of technological change to some interdepartmental inquiry. What will this inquiry do? The members of the inquiry will sit down, drink cups of tea and exchange pleasantries over a period and come up with precisely nothing. That is not the only area in which statistics have been buried or discontinued. The foreign ownership and control of Australian industry series has been terminated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The job vacancy surveys by the Austraiian Bureau of Statistics have been terminated. The only job vacancy statistics available from the Government are in the Commonwealth Employment Service series on registered vacancies which the Government itself concedes is inadequate for many purposes. If we refer to the Senate Hansard of 22 August 1978, at pages 227 and 228, to the question asked and the answer given by two knowledgeable senators, Senator Missen and Senator Carrick, it will be revealed that that is a fact of life.
We are now having to pay for the Government’s idiotic decision- this was referred to in the article by Julianne Schultz- not to proceed, for economic reasons, with the processing of work force information from the 1976 census. There is no greater economic reason than that the people who are unemployed are looking to the Government for a lead as to what will happen in the future. The youth of this country who are coming out of school are looking to their futures and to where they will be situated in the jumble for jobs that are not there. Even though the census cost millions of dollars to conduct, the Government’s failure to process the statistics means that the census is rapidly acquiring the status of being of historical interest only and of no practical use. The Government’s money has simply gone down the drain. This Government is behaving like the rulers of any banana republic. It is parading the information which shows it up in a good light and it is burying the rest. This continues day after day. We have heard the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) kidding himself. He says that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That is beautiful but the unemployed, who find themselves in dire straits because of the Government’s policy, cannot eat a light at the end of a tunnel.
I should like to refer briefly to some of the specific matters involved in the Telecom dispute. Despite the Government’s failure to recognise it in the Budget, the Telecom technicians recently indicated quite clearly in conflict with the Australian Telecommunications Commission- I pointed this out earlier- that they were involved in the most important industrial dispute of this decade. They have probably set the pattern for people in the future. They represent hundreds of thousands of workers whose jobs and futures are in jeopardy through computerisation and technological development. Another stage is being developed. I am referring to the satellite communication system. Mr Kerry Packer put pressure on the Government and what did the Government do? It jumped to attention and set up a task force to collect all the phoney information about the place. It was only because of the pressure brought to bear by the Opposition that the Government extended the life of that task force to enable it to carry out inquiries. That report, as I said the other evening, is in the hands of the Minister. God knows when it will hit the light of day, if it does hit the light of day. Will it suffer the same fate as the Green report? Will the workers, in consultation with their employersthe masters who dominate them- come out and set in train the policies that will flow from a satellite being controlled by private enterprise in this country? One transponder in a satellite can communicate in a matter of seconds some 64 million pieces of data. That is what one transponder can reflect. What about the jobs of individuals who are involved in the data processing?
This is not a figment of my imagination. It is absolute fact. It ill behoves the Government to try to bury such a report. The only way in which we can really come to grips with the problems associated with involvement in technological change is to set up such an inquiry. We should not set up such an inquiry in such a way that only departmental chiefs are involved. I do not know whether such people would be capable in this field. I am not reflecting on their capacities as individuals but if they do not have the wherewithal they will not be able to produce the necessary result. It has to be a government inquiry. People should be able to work on it full time, for 12 months if necessary, to accumulate the statistical information that will guide this Parliament and other organisations when making decisions so that such decisions are in the best interests of the work force in the future.
I should like to refer to another aspect of the Telecom dispute which, once again, reflects on the policies of the Government. I am sorry that the Minister for Home Affairs has left the table but perhaps I will have a chance on Thursday to deal with that particular subject. One issue I should like to raise is that the Budget made no mention of the fact that two years ago Telecom was allowed $2 15m as an interest bearing advance from the Budget. This in itself was a decline on advances of previous years. The point I am making is that Telecom was forced out into the open market, as were a number of other government instrumentalities. One such instrumentality in the Australian Capital Territory was placed in this position. The end result of that, of course, is that the interest has to be repaid. The industry has to become more capital intensive. Telecom’s processes and its plans for the future had to take a dramatic turn. I put it to the House that the future of technology has to be examined in an intelligent way. The statistics relevant to each of the areas to which I have made reference have to be examined. Unfortunately, my time has expired. A Budget of deception and deceit has been revealed and the answers rest in our hands.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Falconer) adjourned.
– I crave the indulgence of the House. I sought leave to have an article by Julianne Schultz incorporated in Hansard but the question was not put to the House. I referred the matter to the Minister. I now ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard the article to which I have referred.
The interdepartmental committee to assess the implications of technological change on the workforce will be severely hamstrung by a dearth of any current or comparative workforce statistics.
In view of an abysmal shortage of statistical information, it is understood the committee, which is to include representatives from the Departments of Employment and Industrial Relations, Industry and Commerce, Science, Post and Telecommunications, Productivity and the Public Service Board, will concentrate on drawing up guidelines for future investigation.
It is also understood that the committee will concentrate on the industrial relations implications of the new technology.
An officer of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations said yesterday that because of the lack of research capacity and the shortage of statistical information, the committee would be quite limited in its scope.
Although the Manpower Bureau of the department publishes short-term employment prospects by industry and occupation, it is reluctant to engage in long-term manpower forecasting because of the unreliability of such studies and because of its lack of resources.
The 1971 census was the first time since 1947 that workforce information was collected, and although further information was sought in the 1976 census, this information is unlikely to be processed and released until some time next year, three years later.
This means that current predictions are being done on the basis of significantly outdated information.
I expect that this will mean the IDC members will sit around looking at each other, because they won’t have anything to work from ‘, a senior officer said yesterday.
On Monday the National Training Council, the foremost advisory body to the Government on training, called for an industry-by-industry review of the impact of new technology on manpower requirements and training.
In 1 972-73 the Manpower Planning Bureau did a series of studies on the effect of new technology on specific industries but this has not been continued.
Budget cuts have affected things like the technology study, because they are seen as easily given up, but the long term implications of this sort of policy are staggering.
It would be laughable if it wasn’t so pitiful’, a departmental officer said yesterday.
In a loosely veiled attack on the proposed IDC, chairman of the National Training Council, Mr Peter Derham, said that any reviews of the impact of new technology on the workforce would best be done by industry training committees which included representatives of management, employees, governments and educational authorities.
Mr Derham said: ‘Statistics currently available are quite inadequate for manpower planning and for wider studies of the full social and economic implications of computer age technology.
What we need are industry-wide projections of skill requirements in the short, medium and long term.
Studies of this kind are already being carried out by some industry training committees, but these may need to be expanded and accelerated.
Obviously, some of the figures will be highly speculative, but they could be a lot more comprehensive than the broad estimates available now’.
An indication of the poor statistics overview of the workforce is evidenced by lack of information on the NEAT (National Employment And Training program ) and SYEPT (Special Youth Employment Training Program) schemes.
In recent weeks the National Training Council has been at pains to stress that these schemes are essentially job training, not job creation, schemes, and as such must be related to the longer term requirements of the workforce, in addition to providing people with general job related skills.
However, the Depanment of Employment and Industrial Relations is unable to provide breakdowns of the industries in which most of those being trained under the schemes are employed, because of a two-year delay on installing a computer.
Concern has been expressed, however, that the bulk of the training afforded under these schemes is not in areas with long term workforce relevance.
It is known, for example, that most young women in the SYEPT scheme are being trained as assistance cashiers, clerks, typists and receptionists, all areas with a limited life span due to the introduction of word processors and the like.
As such, Mr Derham said, any review of the workforce must also involve a general recognition by the community as a whole that initial job training after leaving school would probably not be adequate for a complete working life.
Now we have a serious problem’, he said, ‘both with school leavers being denied entry to the workforce and older people being displaced because they lack relevant skills, while at the same time some employers are complaining about the shortage of workers with particular skills.
Obviously, an industry-by-industry review of manpower needs and training opportunities is essential, but it will involve substantially more SUppOrt from management, trade unions and national and State Governments than has been forthcoming to date’.
Compulsory Unionism -Mr Steve Biko-Education of the Blind-East Timor
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I want to raise the problems which have been confronted, I suppose in a social sense, by this House over the last 24 hours by the operation of section 144a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I do not want to develop the particular local dispute that is in the hands of an arbitrator. I simply want to say that the dispute that took place in my home town of Melbourne over a week ago was far more serious. It indicated what can occur as a result of the operation of a section of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which has not been fully thought through. Industrial relations is a sensitive area. I believe that unless this section is subject to fairly early amendment it will create far more problems than it will solve.
What occurred in my home town was that a Miss Biggs, who was an applicant for employment by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, sought and was granted an exemption from joining the relevant union. If one looks at the history of the Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees Association, one finds that it has been operating on the basis that all employees of the Tramways Board are members of the union. That is known to the Board, it is known to the union and it is known to any person who is an applicant for a job with the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board. Indeed, less than 18 months ago there was a major industrial confrontation on this very same issue and it led to a prolonged industrial stoppage. It was as a result of that dispute and the decision made in that case that I think the Government acted somewhat precipitately in introducing section 144a into the Act.
What that section does has to be understood. It says that the Industrial Registrar is given no option but to grant an exemption from membership of a union if requested on conscientious grounds. The trade union movement has been long used to living with genuine grounds of conscientious objection. There is nothing new in that. But the grounds now are so wide and the Registrar’s discretion is so limited that someone who goes along and simply says: ‘I do not want to join a union’, can create a situation in which the options of the Registrar are very limited. There is no real test of the conscientious character of the objection claimed. There is no competing, alternative argument put up by the union or the employer. There is no capacity for cross-examination. There is no appeal and the Registrar is not obliged to state reasons. Let us look at what occurred in Melbourne. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board did not seek to create this problem. It cost the Board $137,000 a day. The tramways union certainly did not want this problem to occur. All its members lost a week ‘s wages as a result of it. The Government of Victoria also did not want this problem to occur. Within 24 hours of the exemption being granted it offered Miss Biggs another job. We had a situation in which a major sector of the public transport of a city the size of Melbourne was paralysed because of the stupidity of the Federal Government and the way in which it has gone about producing this section of the Act.
What does Miss Biggs herself say about this matter? It is interesting to note how the operations of the Act are seen not by me or any of the protagonists but from the point of view of Miss
Biggs. She said that when she applied for a certificate three weeks ago she told the Industrial Registrar that her specific objection was to those unions which used strikes to disrupt vital industries. If she had been subject to any crossexamination of that statement in respect of the tramways union, there is no way in which that objection could have been sustained. Miss Biggs went on to say that it was made clear to her that a certificate would not be issued unless she opposed all unions. She then said:
I was virtually forced to say what I didn’t really believethat all unions, and the concept of unionism, are bad.
This statement was made by the young lady when she was contemplating joining another union. I believe that at the present time there are enough problems in the industrial relations area facing employers, unions and the Government without creating ground for this sort of industrial confrontation. In the Biggs case the evidence was such that she probably would not have received exemption if she had been subject to any proper examination.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-On 12 September 1977 the 30-year-old founder of the Black Consciousness movement in South Africa, Steve Biko, died in a Pretorian prison. Steve Biko died as a result of security police inflicted head injuries which then led to massive brain damage and kidney failure. The South African Justice Minister, Mr James Kruger, issued misleading official statements to the effect that Biko had died in part as a result of a hunger strike. The death of this young black African leader once again concentrated international concern on the practices of the security police in the state which created apartheid. I believe that it is appropriate that this House note the anniversary of Steve Biko’s death. I believe that we must continue in our condemnation of the practice of racial politics to the detriment of the overwhelming majority of black South Africans. Donald Woods, the friend of Steve Biko and former editor of the East London newspaper, has published a biography called simply ‘Biko’. In it he lists the names of 45 political detainees who have died at the hands of the Nationalist Government’s security policy. I seek the leave of the House to incorporate that list in Hansard.
The document read asfollows-
The following South Africans are known to have died in detention in the hands of the Nationalist government’s Security Police. All were imprisoned without trial, charge, prosecution or evidence. All were denied legal representation and access to friends or relatives. The causes of death alleged by the Security Police are given in brackets.
Ngudle died in Pretoria on 5 September 1963 (suicide by hanging)
Merhope died in Worcester on 19 September 1963 (causes undisclosed)
Tyitya died in Port Elizabeth on 24 January 1964 (suicide by hanging)
Saloojie died in Johannesburg on 9 September 1 964 (fell seven floors during interrogation)
Gaga died in Transkei on 7 May1965 (natural causes)
Hoye died in Transkei on 8 May1965 (natural causes)
Hamakwayo died in Pretoria in 1966 (suicide by hanging)
Shonyeka died in Pretoria on 9 October 1966 (suicide)
Leong Pin died in Pretoria on 19 November 1966 (suicide by hanging)
Ah Yan died in Pretoria on 5 January 1967 (suicide by hanging)
Madiba died in an undisclosed prison on 9 September 1 967 (suicide by hanging)
Tubakwe died in Pretoria on 11 September 1967 (suicide by hanging)
An Unnamed Person died on an unkown day in 1 968 (death disclosed under questioning in Parliament on 28 January 1969)
Kgoathe died in Pretoria on 4 February 1969 (slipped in shower)
Modipane died in prison on 28 February 1969 (slipped in shower)
Lenkoe died in Pretoria on 10 March 1969 (suicide by hanging)
Mayekiso died in Port Elizabeth on 17 June 1969 (suicide)
Monakgotla died in Pretoria on 10 September 1969 (thrombosis)
Imam A. Haron died in Cape Town on 27 September 1969 (fell downstairs)
Cuthsela died in undisclosed prison on 2 1 January 1971 (natural causes)
Timol died in Johannesburg on 27 October 1971 ( leapt from tenth-floor window during interrogation )
Mdluli died in Durban on 1 9 March 1 976 ( fell against chair during scuffle)
Mohapi died in Kei Road on 5 August 1976 (suicide by hanging)
Mazwembe died in Cape Town on 2 September 1 976 (suicide by hanging)
Mbatha died in undisclosed prison on 25 September 1976 (suicide by hanging)
Mzolo died in Johannesburg on 1 October 1976 (no details given)
Tshwane died on 1 4 October 1 976 ( no details given ) E. Mamasila died on 18 November 1976 (no details given)
Mosala died in Butterworth on 26 November 1976 (no details given)
Tshazibane died on 1 1 December 1976 (no details given)
Botha died in Port Elizabeth on 14 December 1976 (fell down stairwell)
Dr N. Ntshuntsha died on 9 January 1977 (no details given)
Dr H. Haffejee died in Durban on 3 August 1977 (no details given)
– It is interesting to note that in every case the 45 detainees who died were denied legal representation and access to friends or relatives. It is also interesting to note that about 20 of them are alleged to have died as a result of suicide. In 1977, Amnesty International made a statement to the Centre Against Apartheid under the auspices of the United Nations. In the statement it made the comment that in the course of 1976-77 several hundred people were known to have been detained without charge under the provisions of the Terrorism Act. Details of those detentions are not accurately plotted by Amnesty International but it is possible to get some idea of the conditions under which the detainees were held in the course of 1977. I mention just a couple of examples. In March 1977 it was reported that Tembani Phantsi had been released after being detained in solitary confinement for a continuous period of 513 days. The same month Tankdisizwe Mazibuko, Thomas Manthata and George Wauchope were released uncharged after having been detained for periods of 238, 253 and 279 days respectively. I think that honourable members are well aware that one could go on with many more examples of the periods of detention without trial and without even being charged that occur in South Africa.
In April 1978 some further information was given by the Justice Minister, Mr Kruger. He told the South African Parliament that 250 South frican policemen were convicted of assault, manslaughter or murder in 1977. Of those, four were convicted of murder, 22 of manslaughter, 34 of grievous assault and 190 of common assault. Of those, 22 were discharged from the force. In answer to a question of an Opposition member of Parliament, Mrs Helen Suzman, the Justice Minister advised that in 1977, 128 people died in detention under non-security laws. Of those, 2 1 died of wounds during arrest or while trying to escape and 28 were suicides.
I end with a plea to the Nationalist Government of South Africa to realise the inevitable consequences of its racial policies. South African leaders must be encouraged to examine the inhuman consequences of the many manifestations of apartheid. My cry is for peaceful, not a violent, change. Biko’s death must not be forgotten. The cause in which he believed and for which he worked will one day be realised. It must be sooner than later.
– I take this opportunity to make a simple plea- a plea for a better deal for Australia’s blind people. A recent poster portrayed two people, one sighted and the other non-sighted, standing in front of a country landscape. Before one were trees, fields and a river and sky overhead; before the other was nothing but a big black square. I assure honourable members that a big black square does not represent all the sensations of place and all the sensitivities of the inner eye of imagination and memory that are so great a part of the blind person’s awareness. While such misrepresentation may plunge the hand of pity deeper into the pockets of donors, it is destructive to the dignity and independence of the blind person, and dangerous to the state of mind of any person who subsequently finds himself confronted with the loss or impairment of his own sight. Blind people have a high work ethic. They are painstaking in study and training because it is essential to their dignity as well as to their ability to hold a job. They are stable, not itinerant, workers. Yet, where there is equal job training, there is often not equal job interview opportunity. Because they do not respond to our smile, our gesture or to words written down or printed, and because their faces do not easily show their thoughts and feelings, they may present something of an enigma to those who come in contact with them.
It is their first lesson in self-help that they must initiate sound and touch as terms of communication. I emphasise the word ‘touch ‘ because this is what my plea for the blind people in Australia is all about. A guidance officer attached to the Narbethong School for Visually Handicapped Children and the Queensland Training and Placement Centre for the Blind has made representations to me on behalf of many blind persons at his centre. The people are very anxious to have the Optacon placed on the list of goods for use by blind persons as set out under item 123 on page 45 of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1973. The Optaconoptical, tactile conversion- is looked upon by Queensland educators of the totally blind as having such potential and value to the independence and practical lifestyle of the blind individual that, along with Braille reading, it has become an essential part of the schooling of every totally blind child with the manipulative ability to use it. Recently the Queensland Education Department has seen fit to run courses for the training of blind adults. The courses consist of 60-plus hours of intensive training on a one to one teacher-pupil basis. I have the relevant literature explaining not only the mechanics of the Optacon machine but also the many uses to which it can be put. I seek leave of the House to have the two pages of literature incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
SALISBURY & CHURCHILL STS
BURANDA 4102 QUEENSLAND
PRINCIPAL: Mr E. B. Searle
Com. A.Ed., A.A.U.Q.,
School for Visually Handicapped Children
Optacon- Tactile reading machine for blind people
The Optacon is a portable reading device which blind people may be trained to use to read directly from the printed page. The machine weighs approximately two kilograms and is the size of a portable tape recorder. The device contains a camera which is the size of a pocket knife and which can be moved along the printed page with the aid of rollers underneath. This camera has a magnification lens which can decrease or increase the size of the print underneath it. The basic principle of the Optacon is fairly simple. One hundred and forty-four ( 144) photoelectric cells in the retina’ of the camera transmit impulses to one hundred and forty-four (144) piezo electric reeds in the tactile array- a grid which is housed in the Optacon and upon which the Optacon reader rests his index reading finger.
When the image underneath the camera is focused onto the retina the cells which ‘see’ part of the letter shape signal their corresponding reeds of ‘pins’ to vibrate. Thus the Optacon reader feels a vibrating image on the tactile array which corresponds exactly to the shape of the letter underneath the camera. The shape felt has nothing whatsoever to do with Braille. Thus, some blind persons can be trained to read print with this device. The machine can cope with a variety of print sizes and styles; however, extremely large print or ornate styles are difficult to recognise. However, most sizes and styles used in normal reading situations are easily read with the Optacon.
In addition, the machine, which costs approximately $U.S.3,000, has several accessories which can be purchased to aid blind persons in job situations. A computer lens module can be attached to the retina and will enable the blind user to read the print on cathode ray tube displays such as those used by computer programmers. A magnifier lens module can be used to read extremely small print such as is used in telephone books, or dictionaries or in legal documents. A typewriter lens module can be used by blind typists to proof-read letters or fill in forms while the paper is still in the typewriter, and a calculator lens module can be used to read the print on pocket calculators.
Optacons are used in many ways by blind individuals. Personal correspondence, bills, bank statements, etc. can be read with the Optacon, making a blind person’s life more private. Students can use the Optacon for material not available in Braille-professional journals, new textbooks, ‘handouts’, etc. Housewives can read recipes, lables on cans, directions on packaged mixes etc. The accessories mentioned aid in job-related activities. Although invented only six (6) years ago, the number of users in the United States now totals well over 1 , 000 and more and more users are being found for the machine by the blind people who have been trained to read with it.
Reading speeds up to 90 words a minute have been reached, but the average reading speed is around 40 words a minute. To most blind users, reading speed is the least important consideration. What is important to them is the amount of printed material which was once closed to them and is now available.
In order to use the Optacon, blind people must be trained on a one-to-one basis by a trained Optacon teacher.
Prior to training, it is essential that an assessment of the person seeking training be undertaken. Such assessment should include motivation to learn, tactile skills, possibility of obtaining an Optacon and purposes for which the Optacon can be used. Not all blind people will want to or will be able to learn to use the Optacon.
The training programme extends for fifty (SO) hours. Such programmes are conducted in Queensland free of charge at Narbethong, School for Visually Handicapped Children, Churchill and Salisbury Streets, Buranda, 4102 and the Queensland Training and Placement Centre for the Blind, Gowrie Street, Annerley. Following successful completion of a course, a certificate is awarded. It is not possible for a blind person to use the machine without having been first trained as described above.
Some seven (7) blind people in Queensland are certified as trained to use the Optacon while others are currently undertaking training courses.
– I doubt that I could explain any more clearly than the literature the kind of freedom, which you and I take so much for granted, that the Optacon gives to the blind person. The literature explains the machine’s usefulness and the significance that educators of the blind put upon the machine. As well, it refers to the machine’s expense and the time being put into the training of so many individuals who hope eventually to purchase their own equipment. The price of the Optacon is approximately $2,800 and the sales tax of 15 per cent means about $400 to a blind person for an already extremely expensive piece of equipment that he has to purchase. This imposition on the blind people of Australia is heartless and mean. However, it is typical of the callous indifference of this Government that no favourable consideration was given in the pre-Budget deliberations of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to tax exemption of the Optacon for blind people. How can we expect the
Treasurer or the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to show compassion and understanding to the blind when they are busy plundering the piggy banks of paper boys, when they are exploring new and devious ways of squeezing State governments dry, harassing the sick and indigent, dumping the unemployed, milking the pensioners, or generally making life hell for all Australians- or at least not making life easy. In answering my question on notice No. 1308 the Treasurer said:
The question of exempting the Optacon will be considered … in the course of the Government’s preBudget deliberations.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure that if the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) had given more thought to his remarks this evening he would not have said what he did. Indeed, he would not have made those remarks if he had given more consideration to the basic issue in the dispute about compulsory unionism. The first thing that should be said with respect to this issue, at least in relation to the case of Miss Biggs in Melbourne which the honourable member raised, is that what he said was a gross reflection on the capacity of the Industrial Registrar. It will be recalled that the honourable member said, as is the case, that the grant of a certificate of conscientious objection is made after an examination is conducted by the Industrial Registrar. The honourable member more or less said that the certificate should not have been granted because it was granted on improper material and the evidence of Miss Biggs was not subject to cross-examination. Surely to heavens one can accept that the Industrial Registrar conducted his inquiries properly. As I have said, it is a gross reflection on his capacity and ability to say that when he granted a certificate to Miss Biggs he did so improperly. So far as I am concerned, I am prepared to accept the decision of the Industrial Registrar in that matter and to accept that the certificate was properly given.
The second point to be made about this issue is that the argument advanced by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, by Mr Hawke and by those in the union movement who advocate compulsory unionism is along these lines. They say to people: ‘You do not want to join the union but you are prepared to take the advantages of the work of the union. You are prepared to take the benefit of wage increases, improvements in conditions and all the other benefits that are obtained by the trade union movement’. In some cases that may well be true, but the point about it is that if Miss Biggs wanted to work under conditions less favourable than those in the award who would be opposing it? It would not be the Tramway Board, not the employer. It would be the union itself which would say: ‘No, you are not going to take benefits less than those prescribed by the award’. If the employer was given an opportunity to pay less than the award he would probably agree to it but he would be prevented from doing so. That is the basic answer to the objection. It is the union itself which prevents people such as Miss Biggs from not taking the advantages which the union maintains it secured. In any event, the whole argument that was advanced is quite absurd because, with indexation, it is the benefits granted by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission under indexation and not any great achievements of the union which are passed on to the employee.
At the root of the whole argument is a basic issue which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports seems to fail to understand, and that is whether in our society persons should be compelled to join organisations which they do not want to join. That is what is at the basis of the whole argument.
– Can you practise as a barrister without signing the Bar roll?
– Yes. There are many in Melbourne who do. The honourable member, who is a lawyer himself, does not know that basic proposition that one does not need to sign the Bar roll to practise as a barrister in Melbourne. The basic point, as I say, is that in a free society in which people are entitled to join organisations that they wish they should likewise be allowed to go their own way as individuals if they so wish provided they do not do harm to other individuals. That is the base of our society. That is what is the base of this whole dispute. The fact that the Opposition does not understand this and the fact that some of its supporters outside the Parliament do not understand it, in my view, is one of the great evils in our society which sooner or later we will have to face and to resolve. So long as we fail to resolve that basic issue we will not be a complete society in which individuals are entitled to lead the lives of full, free and independent human beings.
– I wish to comment on some of the remarks just made about this matter of compulsory unionism. I do not want to enter into the argument about whether or not Miss Biggs was adequately investigated because I do not know enough about the matter. However, from the comments that I have read, I do not accept the proposition that she genuinely does have conscientious objections to trade unionism as such. She objects to particular unions. However, I do not know what the registrar may have heard.
I want to discuss the argument put by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) that a person who does not want to join a union and who says that he or she would be prepared to accept the lesser conditions would not be allowed to do so not because the boss would object but because the trade unionists would object. The honourable member feels that this is a dreadful situation; that really people ought to be allowed, in essence, to work under any conditions they like and under which they are prepared to work. The honourable member is really suggesting that we return to the law of the jungle under which those people who are less aware or less well educated and who are feeling an economic need will submit to any conditions- we have often seen that happen- in order simply to survive. If enough people can be found who are prepared to do that, that is one very good and easy way to break down conditions for everybody.
Let us consider the situation when it is thought that some business enterprise unfairly undercuts its competitors. The business community itself will soon seek to draw into line any member who steps outside certain broad guidelines and whose actions, if pursued, may diminish the conditions under which business flourishes. We all seek to do things like that. While the honourable member may be right in the point he makes about a legally trained person being entitled to practise without signing whatever it was he referred to, the fact is that even if people do not sign what is required they abide by the conditions usually accepted by those who do sign it. In other words, people in all walks of life tend to agree to and to stick to certain conditions pertaining to the way in which they will behave. That is all trade unionists are seeking to do. The problem for them is that they are in a particularly vulnerable position since by and large they are offering only their personal toil. They do not have much in the way of other resources. Oftenparticularly these days- there are more of them than are needed to do the jobs that are available so that they are forced to compete with one another.
If people do not have something like trade unionism and the uniform conditions that trade unionism wins for them, in the competition between each other to get the jobs that are available the whole work force would soon be reduced to intolerable conditions. Trade unionism has evolved not because it was forced on the community but because gradually ordinary working people recognised that it was necessary. If the honourable member is honest with himself he will admit surely that much of the progress in modern, Western industrial society, which has led ultimately to advances for all of us, including those who own the means of production, has resulted from the action of trade unionists working in concert to improve their conditions which have in turn flowed on to the rest of the community.
– That is why people join voluntarily.
– That is a simple way of putting it, but the fact still remains that in conditions such as obtain today when there are too many people and too few jobs there would be many people on the other side of the fence amongst employers who would take advantage of the situation, and the honourable member knows that.
– You are talking about a case where conscientious objection is being used deliberately to destroy trade unionism.
– I am talking about the general proposition that was put that people should be free to do what they like. I am not objecting to genuine conscientious objection being taken although I question whether Miss Biggs was such a person. I was dealing with the honourable member’s general proposition about people being completely free to do anything without any serious objections. I suggest that that would lead to a rapid deterioration in many conditions and that it has been only because of trade unionism that we have developed the way we have in this society.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-On 26 July 1977 on behalf of myself and other members of the House of Representatives I wrote to the Ambassador of Indonesia here in Canberra seeking visas to enable a parliamentary delegation to visit East Timor. The letter is a lengthy one of 4 pages, but on page 2 at paragraph 4 1 set out one of the reasons that the visit was proposed. I read it at this point of time:
Claims that humanitarian aid has not reached those for whom it was intended and that there is widespread hunger, deprivation, malnutrition and a shortage of medical supplies in East Timor must surely be impartially investigated and either confirmed or positively refuted.
There was a period then of protracted delay in obtaining an answer from the Indonesian Embassy as to whether visas would be granted. On 8 August, following a visit to Darwin on 6 August in which I had discussions with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), I asked the Indonesian Embassy to give a decision one way or the other on the question of visas by 10 August. Having been in Darwin on 7 August both I and Senator Kilgariff had taken certain action involving discussions not only with East Timorese refugees but also with the Bishop of Darwin whom we had seen on that day. When there was no response from the Indonesian Government no fewer than 82 members of this Parliament from both sides of the House and in the Senate and representing all political parties signed a protest note, protesting against the refusal of the Government of the Republic of Indonesia to indicate whether visas would be issued to permit a delegation of members of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia to visit East Timor on a fact-finding mission.
Following that, a deputation comprising six members of the Federal Parliament- myself, the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), Senator Missen, Senator Bonner and Senator Kilgariff- called on the Indonesian Embassy and spoke with the Ambassador on 25 August. The upshot of it was that visas were refused. In a letter dated 29 August 1977, the Indonesian Embassy advised as follows:
After the integration of East Timor according to the wishes of the people in that particular area, we consider any fact finding mission in East Timor as an intervention in our internal affairs.
God alone knows how many lives might have been saved if that Australian parliamentary delegation had gained access to East Timor 12 months ago. I cannot remain silent in this place within literally days of hearing reports of the deaths of up to 30,000 or 40,000 East Timorese as a direct result of starvation clearly caused by the use of defoliants and napalm earlier this year in East Timor in destroying the crops upon which a substantial proportion of the East Timorese population was to survive.
I simply say that either the Indonesian Government lied to Australia and lied to the world when it claimed that there had been a happy and successful integration in 1 976 or the Indonesian Government is guilty of the greatest cover-up of atrocities that have been committed on this earth since World War II with the discovery of the Nazi concentration camps. The Indonesian Government must accept responsibility one way or the other for what has occurred.
Now, a point has been reached at which we should immediately insist that the International Red Cross be immediately admitted into East Timor. That organisation has been locked out for three years. According to evidence given before the United States congressional committee, over 100,000 deaths have occurred. According to the figures of International Red Cross, over 80,000 deaths have occurred in East Timor. This matter is not going to go away. In concluding my brief remarks tonight, with the consent of the Opposition I seek tohave incorporated in Hansard a copy of a letter dated 26 July 1977, the Darwin Declaration of 7 August 1977, the protest note of 18 August 1977 signed by 82 members and senators and, finally, the eventual reply from the Indonesian Embassy dated 29 August 1 977.
The documents read as follows-
PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA
House of Representatives
Commonwealth Parliament Offices 5th Floor, Marine Board Building 1 Franklin Wharf
Hobart,Tas. 7000 (G.P.O. Box 32a, Hobart, Tas. 700 1 )
Tel. National (002) 34 5255
International 6 1 02 34 5255 26 July, 1977
Office of Michael Hodgman, M.P.
Federal Member for Denison
His Excellency, Mr Nurmathias,
Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, 8 Darwin Ave.,
Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
As mentioned to your Migration Officer, Mrs SJAFTARI yesterday, I am writing to enquire about the possibility of visas being granted to enable a three-man deputation of House of Representatives backbenchers to visit East Timor on a fact-finding mission.
The proposed deputation would not in any way be an official delegation representing either the Australian Government or the Australian Parliament. It would simply consist of a group of backbenchers who are anxious to ascertain the true facts. In view of the withdrawal of Mr D. M. Connolly, M.P. (Bradfield), I will probably lead the delegation which would consist of one Government backbencher and a backbench member fo the Opposition. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (The Hon. Andrew Peacock) has advised me that the view of the Government is that it neither supports nor opposes the proposed visit ‘.
As I have never previously applied for a visa to visit Indonesia, let alone East Timor, I feel I should frankly tell you the reasons for the request, which I now make, and the conditions under which I would hope my request would be acceptable to the President and Government of the Republic of Indonesia: (1)I, and other backbenchers in the Australian Parliament, are sincerely and genuinely concerned to ascertain the true facts of what happened in East Timor in 197S. You will no doubt be aware of press reports alleging the slaughtering of innocent civilians and of atrocities having been allegedly committed, whether by Government troops, Fretilin supporters, or other groups. In conscience, we believe that the true facts of what occurred should be ascertained and publicly revealed. I do not seek to prejudge the issues one way or the other, and I feel you should know that I have informed Mr C. Santos that if our delegation does get to East Timor, we would most certainly investigate allegations of atrocities said to have been committed by Fretilin supporters. Mr Santos advised me recently that Fretilin would have no objection whatsoever to allegations against it being investigated by a Parliamentary Select Committee, an international inquiry, an official or unofficial Parliamentary delegation, or indeed, the news media of the world. I feel sure that the Government of the Republic of Indonesia would welcome an opportunity to refute allegations of improprieties allegedly committed in East Timor by military authorities and others officially acting on its behalf. (2)I, and many other backbenchers of the Federal Parliament, are gravely concerned that the true facts surrounding the deaths of the five Australian newsmen at Balibo have not been, to date, precisely and accurately ascertained. I am sure you will appreciate our feelings of concern that five innocent Australians could meettheirdeaths in circumstances which have not only never been satisfactorily explained, but also where the culprits have apparently escaped scot free and have never been brought to justice.
I repeat, I do not pre-judge any of these issues- I merely say that as a concerned Australian, I believe I have now a moral duty to do everything in my power to ascertain the true facts and to publicly reveal them. To simply ignore these matters and to pretend that they did not exist would constitute and act of moral cowardice in the extreme.
I am well aware of the recent visit to Indonesia and East Timor by members of the United States Congress. I have also been informed that approval has been given for newsmen Gerald Stone and Richard Carleton to visit East Timor. I do not believe that the Government of the Republic of Indonesia would be unsympathetic to my request that members of the Australian Parliament also be permitted to enter East Timor. I am, of course, aware of the recent visit to East Timor by two members of the staff of the Australian Embassy in Djakarta, and I have had an opportunity of reading portions of their report following their visit to East Timor. You will be aware that portion of the report appeared in ‘Backgrounder’ for the week ending June 24, and that they visited Dili, Viqueque, Los Palos, Fatumaca, Caucau,
Same, Maliana, Balibo, Bobonaro and Liquica. I assume because of the unavailability of commercial air transport in that area that the Government of the Republic of Indonesia provided the necessary facilities for the officials ‘ visit.
As I mentioned earlier in this submission, the Australian Government ‘neither supports nor opposes the proposed visit.’ The delegation would, therefore, have to (a) obtain the necessary visas from the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, and (b) raise the finance to enable us to travel from Australia to Indonesia. I believe we will be able to raise the necessary finance to travel from Australia to Djakarta. This then leaves the question of granting of visas as the paramount matter to be resolved. As I informed MrsSjaftari yesterday, it would be hoped that our proposed visit could eventuate as quickly as possible, and certainly before the end of August, 1977 (the Federal Parliament is due to resume for the Budget session on August 16). It will be appreciated, therefore, that the matter is one of considerable urgency.
Two further questions would obviously require urgent attention:
Whilst appreciating, as MrsSjaftari pointed out, that the decision on this submission will have to be made in Djakarta, I would be extremely grateful if the matter could be looked at expeditiously because of the time factor. In view of Mrs Sjaftari’s suggestion that I should also communicate with the Australian Embassy in Djakarta, I am forwarding the Embassy a copy of this letter and out of courtsy,Iam also forwarding a copy of this letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (The Hon. Andrew Peacock).
Canberra, ACT 2600
We, the undersigned members of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, protest against the refusal to date of the Government of the Republic of Indonesia to indicate whether or not visas will be issued to permit a delegation of members of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia to visit East Timor on a fact finding mission. ( This document included 82 signatures. )
I, MICHAEL HODGMAN, Member for Denison in the House of Representatives, do this day solemnly and sincerely declare:. (1) That notwithstanding the failure, to date, of the Government of the Republic of Indonesia to grant visas to permit a delegation of members of the Australian Parliament to visit East Timor on a fact-finding mission, we will continue undeterred in our efforts to ascertain the truth of what occurred in East Timor in 1975.
SWORN before me at Darwin this 7th day of August, 1977
With reference to your letter of 26 July 1977 which was addressed to the Ambassador and the meeting you had with him on 25 August 1977, referring also to our several phone conversations, I have the pleasure to advise the following:
As repeatedly has been conveyed through the telephone, your request was passed on to the authorities in Jakarta for their consideration. This is in line with the existing standard procedure in relation to applications for visa to visit East Timor. The Ambassador has explained the matter and we are pleased to know that with regard to the matter in question a clear understanding was reached.
The Ambassador has also explained that at the present moment the Government of Indonesia is concentrating all efforts to the implementation of development programs, the normalisation of administration after integration of East Timor, in line with the administrative set up of the other provinces of Indonesia. In the meantime, despite all those tremendous efforts, as you have also noticed, Indonesia had in the past provided ample opportunities to friendly countries, through their respective representatives in Jakarta, to visit East Timor. This ostensibly includes also representatives from Australia. You may furthermore be aware that similar visits of foreign, including Australian, journalists and television crews were arranged. Consequently, we may assume that reports of these representatives and journalists have been submitted to their governments, parliaments and widely circulated in the media.
After the integration of East Timor according to the wishes of the people in that particular area, we consider any fact finding mission in East Timor as an intervention in our internal affairs. Furthermore the fact that on more than one occasion to Australian officials and a representative of the press the opportunities were provided to visit East Timor, we regret to advise that we failed in obtaining the approval in respect to your request.
Through the possibility of similar visits in the future cannot be ruled out, we appreciate your understanding with regard to this decision and deplore the inconveniences which may arise out of it.
– I thank the Opposition for its co-operation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! Does the documentation include the signatures of honourable members and honourable senators?
– It does, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– I point out to the honourable member that leave has been granted for the incorporation of these documents subject to the capacity of Hansard to reproduce them.
– I appreciate that point, sir. It was raised by a clerk at the table and I recognise it.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In the couple of minutes that are available to me, I participate in the discussion that has taken place tonight about the rights of people to join and not to join unions. I think that all unions recognise that there are people in the community who hold very deep religious beliefs about not joining trade unions. But it is astounding that Government members spend a lot of time talking about one or two people who are glorying in publicity for not joining a trade union but never mention the millions of people who are members of trade unions. One of the reasons this present fiasco will not continue is that the employers will not let it continue. The cost to industry of allowing this sort of problem to continue and of allowing people to be attracted to the idea that they can get some cheap publicity easily by merely saying that they are conscientious objectors is great. Something has to be done about it. A mechanism has to be found.
Last year when the Government amended the Conciliation and Arbitration Act we told it that what it was doing in widening the sections of the Act so that the Registrar virtually had to grant exemption was going to lead to trouble. So it has. But it seems to me that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act ought to provide for the appropriate trade union to be involved in the granting of exemption, as well as perhaps the appropriate employer and the Registrar. The Government is sadly lacking in an understanding of the relationship that exists between employers and employees in Australia today if it thinks it is going to allow this sort of argument to interfere with a relationship that might have gone on for many years.
Substantial industries in this country are described by both employers and employees as closed shops’. It suits the employer as much as it suits the employee that a person who is going to work in one of these industries is a member of an organisation that is covered by the award in the establishment before that person commences work. But the conscientious objection can be recognised within the confines of that industrial relations that exist at the plant. If the Government thinks it is continually going to be able to push these people who have in the widest terms an objection to joining a trade union in order to break down what has been the relationship established over many years it is going to find that that sort of action just will not work.
-Order! It being 1 1 o’clock, the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2. 15 p.m. tomorrow.
The following notice was given:
Construction of National Acoustics Laboratory and Ultrasonics Institute, Chatswood, N.S.W.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 March 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It was estimated that if supplies of Middle East oil to Australia were interrupted for more than three months Australia would suffer an additional half a million unemployed. In the more conceivable event of a partial reduction in heavy oil supplies (as suffered by some countries in 1973) the estimate of extra unemployment would be reduced (from 500,000 persons) in proportion to the cuts in Australia ‘s allocation. ‘
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 September 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780912_reps_31_hor110/>.