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:
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 Bradfield, Mr Fry, Mr Graham, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Neil and Mr Stewart.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its recommendations:
Therefore the Parliament has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial Report and its recommendations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable house will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen and Mr Humphreys.
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 therefore humbly pray that the House will request the Government to abandon the proposed changes as stated above in favour of the proposal that the Health Insurance Commission retain the processing of all 40 per cent Commonwealth benefit claims and the processing of all assignment of benefit claims.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kevin Cairns.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Australian Government will reject any proposal to build an Omega Station on Australian soil.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howe.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of North-cote protest at the fact that while there are five hundred unemployed youth in this suburb, the Government intends to stop the local Youth Support Scheme ( Y.E.S.S. ) from: -helping unemployed find work. -helping unemployed learn job skills. -providing general welfare aid and activities. -allowing its local Committee, on behalf of the community, to make decisions on the needs of their young unemployed.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the honourable members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will recognize that a fundamentally new approach to the Youth Support Schemes is urgently needed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howe.
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 therefore humbly pray that the House will request the Fraser Government to abandon its present restrictive economic policies in favor of the expansionary alternative Budget outlined to the House of Representatives by Opposition Leader Bill Hayden on August 22, as this alternative Budget would reduce the cost of living, boost employment and generate strong economic growth.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Humphreys.
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 the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we are most strongly opposed to the taxing and or removal of any or all of the Child Endowment currently due to Mothers of Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned Citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We consider that the Commonwealth Government should intervene now on behalf of Aurukun and Mornington Island, with all its constitutional powers, to provide guaranteed tenure of land and real self-management. Further patience is refusal to accept responsibility.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Peacock.
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 Speaker of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members of the Long Distance Road Transport Association of Australia and other road transport operators respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia take such steps as are necessary to ensure that the effects of this increase insofar as they apply toDiesel distillate are rescinded.
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 petition of concerned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That there is criticism, confusion, and great concern especially amongst small companies and owner/operators at the present state of (he Road Transport Industry.
There is an urgent need for a national inquiry into the road transport industry.
A reduction in Sales Tax on new vehicles and spare parts would stimulate a deteriorating road transport industry.
The New South Wales Government places an unjustifiable and totally unacceptable burden on the road transport industry and the New South Wales taxpayer by railway freight that is subsidised by the overall transport deficit to a massive $4.98 per tonne.
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 the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive and historic Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Citizens Military Force (Army Reserve) and Citizens Air Force. by Mr Shipton.
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 Shipton.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, should take such measures to ensure that the Federal Government will ban from use in Australia, these chemical sprays (24D and 245T) and any others which may cause injury and/or damage to human, animal or plant life.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Thomson.
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 Thomson.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he is aware that the agreement between the Department of Defence and the University of New South Wales has broken down over the matter of academic appointments to the Faculty of Military Studies at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. Is it true that many appointments, including at least two Chairs, cannot be filled because of a breakdown in the original agreement, and that courses for 1979 may be disbanded because of the hiatus between the Department of Defence and the University of New South Wales? In view of this situation, can the Minister assure the Parliament that the Army can fulfil its future obligations in the training of commissioned officers?
– I certainly give the honourable member an assurance that there will be no breakdown in the academic training of those who, in the future, will become officers in the Army of this country. I must tell my honourable friend that I am not aware in particular of the allegations that he has made. I give him a clear undertaking that I will treat his question as on notice and supply him with an answer this day.
– My question is to the Treasurer, and concerns the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978. In order that the House will be able to follow the trend of the question that I am about to ask, I point out that it involves a novel method of additionally taxing Australian residents overseas who work for subsidiaries of Australian corporations, and also overseas subsidiaries of Australian corporations that are owned by Australian interests. I ask the Treasurer whether in view of the very great number of representations that have been made and the complicated nature of the Bill itself, as well as the prospects of endangering employment in Australia because so much of the products used are constructed here, just as importantly the probability of endangering our foreign relationship in South East Asia; and also prejudicing the viability of overseas subsidiary corporations if the changes are made, will he give an assurance to the House now, before he goes overseas, that he will give the most careful attention to all the representations and ensure that if necessary, the Act is amended in order to make it more presentable and acceptable to the Australian people?
– I should perhaps point out first to the right honourable gentlemen that the matter to which I think he is referring, which is the proposed foreign tax credit system, is not contained in a Bill now before the House. The second reading speech to the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill did contain a reference by me in which I foreshadowed the introduction of a foreign tax credit system; but there are no legislative provisions enshrining that system now before the House. I made that announcement for two reasons. Firstly it was intended to apply the new system in respect of the financial year commencing 1 July 1978 and it was proper, in accordance with matters which the right honourable gentlemen will understand, to give advance notice. Secondly, I wanted to elicit response from those in the community who might be affected by the proposal. I should say in that regard that I have received a number of very comprehensive representations from companies and also, in particular, from members of the taxation subcommittee of the Government parties treasury committee. I can inform those who have made representations to me that the Government will give very careful consideration to what has been put to it before a final decision is made on the form that legislation might take.
I should point out to the honourable gentlemen that the purpose of this legislation is to have a more equitable treatment of taxation liabilities in respect of various companies. The purpose of the legislation is not, as some have suggested, to discourage investment by Australian companies in other parts of the world. Indeed the foreign tax credit system which the Government has in mind is employed by a significant number of industrialised countries in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, I should say to the House that the volume and variety of the representations that have been received indicate that there is genuine concern about some of the possible consequences of this legislation. As the right honourable gentlemen will appreciate, it is not the intention of this Government to bring in legislation that has such consequences. We will give very careful weight to what has been put to us before we make a final decision on both the shape and the detail of the proposal.
– I refer the Minister for Defence to his Department’s reported issue of a certificate of expediency for the lease of the new IBM computer. Is it a fact that his Department had previously stated that it would call tenders for this new computer? Are competitive and compatible computers available from at least two companies other than IBM? Could the Minister explain why Treasury regulations on tenders were disregarded in this case?
– Pursuant to the open tender procedures, in 1973 an IBM 168 computer was leased and installed in 1975 at the Defence research centre at Salisbury. It was a condition of that contract that the lease be renewed every 12 months. Pursuant to that condition, that is precisely what has taken place now. I assure the honourable gentleman that there is no intention on the part of the Department of Defence, nor indeed on the part of the Government, to resile from the undertaking given that a new computer processor to be installed at Salisbury will go to open tender. I will explain to the honourable gentleman what has taken place. The central computer processor, the 168, has been replaced by central computer processor 3033.
I acknowledge the claim made by some computer manufacturers that that central computer processor is compatible. But I would point out to the honourable gentleman that to go to open tender for that central computer processor would involve 12 to 18 months. In the meantime the specifications and the tender procedures for the supply of the entire computer processors, would be only a few months away. Finally, I assure the
House that the installation of the central computer processor 3033 is saving the nation approximately $250,000 a year. I would have thought that that would be a matter for congratulation and not for complaint.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the recent decision of the High Court on the constitutional role and powers of the Australian Wheat Board, can the Minister say when the Government is likely to consider the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on wheat stabilisation? Has the High Court’s decision in any way affected the value of the IAC’s findings and recommendations?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for his question because I know that there are many members in this House who represent wheat growers and who are worried about the nature of wheat stabilisation arrangements which are to ensue from 1 July next year. Let me say that there is no fear that the present arrangements will in any way be prejudiced by the decisions reached by the High Court; nor of course will they be prejudiced by the IAC recommendations for future stabilisation. Later this week I hope to meet with representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation when they will put to me their recommendations on the first advance that they will request for this wheat selling season. I will then take those recommendations to Government. The Government will consider them and make an announcement at an appropriate time.
The High Court decision, however, has certainly given to the wheat industry far greater certainty in the form of alternatives available in the regulation and stabilisation of wheat marketing in this country. There has been a considerable amount of across the border trading, largely in contravention certainly of the intent of the wheat stabilisation arrangements. The High Court decision means that the arrangements as they now apply can be enforced by the Australian Wheat Board and that private trading significantly therefore will be in contravention of present complementary Commonwealth-State legislation. I believe that the IAC report will need to be examined in a wider dimension than would otherwise have been the case. The decision certainly means that the sort of favourable stabilisation arrangements that existed prior to 1972 could possibly be applied to the industry. It means that if there is to be across the border trading it can only be done either through a change in the present arrangements or with the sanction of the Australian Wheat Board.
At the same time I think that the whole implications of the IAC report need to be assessed, considering the alternative points of view that there are in the wheat growing community. I hope that in conjunction with State Ministers I might be able to bring to the Federal Government recommendations so that the legislation for the new stabilisation period can come in in the autumn of 1979. I believe that the High Court decision may also have application to other primary industries where the circumstances are similar. Certainly it means that there is now a capacity through complementary legislation to introduce stabilisation arrangements with far greater certainty than previously applied.
Mr West proceeding to address a question to the Minister for Defence-
-Order! The question is out of order. I call the honourable member for Macquarie.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. Would you please give your reasons why the question of the honourable member for Cunningham is out of order?
– I suggest that if the honourable member reads the Standing Orders he will ascertain that for himself. I call the honourable member for Macquarie.
– I will continue my point of order, Mr Speaker. It has always been the practice of all previous Speakers to give their reasons for ruling a question out of order.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no point of order. I call the honourable member for Macquarie.
– Hitler is at work again.
– I did not hear the exact words used by the honourable member.
– I heard him.
-Just like the honourable member for Hindmarsh, the rest of the House will make its judgment on the honourable member for Chifley.
– Can the Prime Minister provide information for the House concerning the Special Youth Employment Training Program? Can he advise the House when the program was introduced and how many people have been assisted by it?
-The Special Youth Employment Training Program was introduced by the Commonwealth Government, in I think October 1976. It has proved to be remarkably successful. As the honourable gentleman would know, it has been modified, extended and widened in scope as a result of experience. All the training schemes conducted by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations are monitored very closely. In relation to the Special Youth Employment Training Program there has been I think quite a remarkable degree of success because over 60 per cent of those people placed in training on jobs keep permanent jobs at the end of their training. Obviously that is the objective of the scheme. I would not want to say that there will not be or should not be further modifications and improvements as time passes. I would expect there would be as experience with the initiative grows.
Overall the training schemes conducted by the Government have been remarkably successful. I think there are about 40,000 people in training under this scheme at the moment 40,000 people have been successfully trained and have gone through the scheme. Under all the training programs about 1 10,000 people are in training at any one time. The programs are so successful that some State governments are even claiming the programs as their own.
– Good heavens.
-State governments claim many things and odd things sometimes. I was interested to see an advertisement placed in New South Wales by Neville Wran and personally signed by him. There was a comment in Granny’s column in the Sydney Morning Herald about the halo that was around his head, as a result of the advertisement. In it he said:
As promised my Government has created another 500 job training opportunities for young people throughout New South Wales. The scheme will operate for six months under the State Government Youth Training Program.
Of course, that is not true.
– Why don’t you come into New South Wales and campaign in the next election?
– I will be in New South Wales, do not worry, my friend.
-The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The House will come to order. The honourable member for Robertson will remain silent.
-Unpalatable facts are never very well received by the Australian Labor Party. As far as it is concerned there are so many of those facts that it is in a state of perpetual turmoil. Let me repeat the false statement in Mr Wran’s personal letter which was a published advertisement and which was paid for by the taxpayers of New South Wales. It was paid for not by the Labor Party but presumably out of consolidated revenue. He said:
The scheme will operate for six months under the State Government Youth Training Program.
It is not the State Government youth training program. The scheme is paid for by the Commonwealth. It is part of the Commonwealth Youth Employment Training program. One of the things the Commonwealth sought to do in the introduction of these training programs was to get to the maximum extent possible the cooperation not only of Commonwealth departments and agencies but also of State departments and agencies because they are significant employers. I believe they all have a role to play in contributing to general training programs and in providing opportunities for young people. As a result therefore of Commonwealth initiatives and of wanting to involve the States, there was an initial allocation in New South Wales of 500 places. The Premier wrote to me and said that the initial allocation was being used up and that the training period was coming to completion, I think some time in September. He wanted to know what was the intention of the Commonwealth for the future.
He also indicated that the State would try- he only said try- to provide continuous employment for those in the initial 500 places. I would have thought that there would be an obligation on the State, as a good employer, to guarantee employment for those 500. 1 would like to know. Maybe my colleague could conduct an investigation into this matter to find out how many people have permanent employment in New South Wales as a result of the scheme. If not many people have permanent guaranteed employment as a result, it would be better to make the additional places available in private industry where there is a better than 60 per cent success rate for staying in private employment. I think this may be something that could be examined in relation to New South Wales and, maybe, other States. In any case, since the training period for the first 500 was coming to an end of course the Commonwealth wanted to continue to use New South Wales facilities, and funds were to be provided for an additional 500 places under the program with State Government departments and agencies, using State resources as an extension of the Commonwealth program. So it is very plain to everyone that this advertisement which appeared not only in the Sydney Morning Herald but also I understand, in all other papers is false in its thrust and in its content. I have not the slightest doubt that over the next few weeks we will see many more advertisements and claims of State Government goodwill to its citizens by announcing the disbursement of Commonwealth funds, paid for out of the Commonwealth Treasury.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to public accusations that he has been disloyal to his Joint Chiefs of Staff? What action has the Minister taken or what action does he intend to take about these most serious public allegations?
– I admit to having more than my fair share of weaknesses but to be disloyal to the Chiefs of Staff is not one of them. I repudiate the accusations in the most explicit of forms. If there should linger any doubt in the mind of the honourable gentleman- if he has any mind- I invite him to ask any of the Chiefs of Staff how they regard their present Minister. After his second attempt to write a question- of course, he traces it back to a journal published in the name of the Liberal Party- may I assure the honourable gentleman of this: I always regard it as one of the rescuing features of the doctrine of the Liberal philosophy that it is capable of tolerating criticism, even though it may come from those who are desperately misguided.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. No doubt he is aware of the comment in the Auditor-General’s report that $ 19.8m in social security benefits was overpaid during the past year. Is the Minister able to say what action the Minister responsible and the Department of Social Security will take to see that this waste of taxpayers ‘ funds is not repeated in the future?
– I know that the Minister for Social Security is most concerned about the overpayment of benefits to social welfare beneficiaries. I understand that action has been taken to overcome the problem identified. Inquiries are being carried out into other administrative arrangements that might be necessary. I am not completely aware of all the steps that have been taken. However, I will refer the question to the Minister. I am sure that she will provide the honourable member with a detailed answer in due course.
-I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce: Is it a fact that in the last weeks of 1975 a member of the staff of the Minister, who then occupied the office of Treasurer, telephoned a Treasury officer to tell him that the Minister had a particular interest in an application by the American Housing Corporation Ltd to buy a building in Brisbane from QBE Insurance Ltd? Did the Foreign Investment Review Board in Treasury approve the application? Is the departmental file relating to this matter now missing from the Treasury?
– The honourable gentleman has a dismal record as a failed politician in Victoria. He will not secure his resurrection in this House by questions of this type. This matter has been subject to a detailed response which, I recall, was given to the House some time ago by the present Treasurer. I ask the honourable gentleman to read that answer. He will find that it completely repudiates the suggestion that he seeks to make.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Resources whether he is able to tell the House what results have come from a recent visit to Australia of representatives of the China National Metals and Minerals Import and Export Corporation?
-During the past month a Chinese delegation known as ‘Minmetals mission’ has been in Australia. It is a mission that I invited to Australia to survey the situation regarding China’s requirements for iron ore and other metals and minerals. Its members have had the opportunity of travelling around Australia, of visiting various mines and industries and of having consultations and negotiations with various industry people. I am not in a position to disclose the details of negotiations that have taken place at this stage, although I will do so as soon as they have been cleared by the Chinese authorities and the companies concerned. I can say that very substantial sales have been made to China. They certainly will be record sales as far as metals and minerals are concerned. This is very much in accord with the
Government’s desire to build up our trading relationship with the People’s Republic of China. Since the new regime came to power a conscious effort has been made to seek technology and raw materials from other countries to help industrial development in China. I believe that Australia can play a very significant role in supplying China with a good deal of its raw materials. I want to say that the visit here has been a most successful one.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. Does Dillingham Constructions have a contract to erect a $14m building for the Department of Defence at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne? Is it a fact that this contract was let without going to tender? Further, were tenders called for a computer to be installed in the building? If so, what companies tendered and which company was the successful tenderer?
-The Minister for Defence has asked me to handle this question. Actually, I do not know whether I can say any more about it than he could. It is a fact that that building is being constructed. It is a fact that Dillingham Constructions has the contract. It is a fact that I have been through the building. It is also a fact that there are security connotations which prevent us from discussing the project in this place. I suggest that the question be treated as being on notice. I will provide the honourable gentleman with a full reply today.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to the AuditorGeneral’s report concerning the inadequacies of fire protection services at Air Force bases, particularly at Amberley where the F 1 1 1 aircraft are based? If so, what assessment has been made of the conclusions reached by the Auditor-General?
- Mr Speaker, I hope you will understand me when I say that I am almost overwhelmed by this burst of popularity. My attention has been drawn to the AuditorGeneral’s report. Some of the criticisms he has made are severe indeed. I have always believed that for a criticism to be acceptable it should meet two requirements- fairness and accuracy. In this instance the Auditor-General’s report does not meet either of those requirements. I take the principal criticism to which the honourable member for Petrie has referred. The report of the Auditor-General states:
At Amberley, alarm systems on the FI 1 1C maintenance hangar were isolated during normal working hours, leaving the building unprotected during critical periods.
I take it that what the Auditor-General means by the term ‘isolated’ is that the alarm systems were shut off. They are shut off during working hours for eminently good reasons. The systems are infra-red and smoke detector in character and they are extremely sensitive. For example, a revolving beacon on an aircraft or a man welding would set off the system and, peculiarly, FI 11 aircraft and airmen working on them do not like being overwhelmed by foam. That is the simple reason why the alarm systems are turned off. May I say that I have an unfeigned and very complete respect for the office of AuditorGeneral and for the present incumbent but I think that there is a responsibility on those who make critical reports at least to obtain access to proper advice.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the real cut in total funds for New South Wales of 4.15 per cent through the present Commonwealth Budget, as against allocations in the 1975-76 Budget, would require an increase of $ 150m to restore the real level of funding this year to the 1975-76 level?
– I have indicated that the States basically have received an 8 per cent or 9 per cent increase in total funding from the Commonwealth. That is plainly more than enough to cope with inflation as it stands at the moment and as it will be through the rest of this year. That means that from the Commonwealth the States are getting more in real resources than they did last year. Nothing can get away from that plain fact. Indeed, Mr Wran has recognised that and proved it, not only in relation to this year but also in relation to other years. There is no way in the world in which Mr Wran would have been able to go on with his programs of increased expenditure in certain areas and very significant tax cuts and tax remissions over three years, including this last year, had it not been for the generosity of the Commonwealth.
– I ask the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development whether his attention has been drawn to the announcement by the Queensland State Government Insurance Office Building Society of a reduction of one half of one per cent on interest rates for new homes. With the announcement in the Budget relating to the deferral of payments under the home savings grants scheme, will the Minister give consideration to the proposition that there should be a shorter waiting period for grants for the purchase of new homes than for the purchase of existing homes in order to provide a stimulus to the construction industry?
-I did see the report of the reduction in interest rates of one half of one per cent by the Queensland State Government Insurance Office for lending for homes. There is a problem in the suggestion put by the honourable member that the waiting period for the home savings grant might be reduced for new homes. It is important that proper support be given to the purchase of old homes because people often move from old homes into new homes. There is some importance in supporting both areas. The Government in its housing policies has recognised the significance of the home building industry to Australia. It is an important sector of the Australian economy and we recognise that. It has been going through a flat period, particularly during the early part of this year, but there are some very good signs around that the situation is improving for the home building industry. It is a pity that the Opposition has not recognised this fact because those who speak of gloom and doom for the home building industry are doing great harm. Confidence is important in this industry as it is in every industry, and I think that should be recognised.
– I refer the Minister for Trade and Resources to his answer to me during the last sitting period that he regarded the recent iron ore contract prices, to use his words, as being not fair and reasonable. I now ask the Minister: Why did he approve the Mount Newman contracts HG3 and HG9 knowing that the benchmark price of 22.5c per FE unit had been lowered by 2c to 20.5c and that this would wash off on the rest of the industry? Why did the Minister allow Amax Corporation, acting on behalf of the Mount Newman consortium, to recover its HG3 and HG9 losses by the premature upward revision of the HG1 contract knowing, as he must have known, that this action undermined his own Government’s 22.5c FE guideline and fixed a lower price, which the Japanese steel mills then used to club the other Australian producers into submission? Is the Minister aware that in approving this round of contracts he will cost other producers about $ 13m in lost income this financial year and all the producers, including Mount Newman, approximately $30m next financial year, as well as undermining many national interest considerations?
-There is really no need for me to answer the honourable member’s rather pedantic question. I answered exactly the same question from him when the House was last sitting. I said then that I was not happy with the contracts that had been signed and I explained why. I refer the honourable member to that answer.
-Mr Speaker, as you are the Presiding Officer of the House and the Chairman of two committees concerning procedure, may I put a question to you?
– You may proceed.
– Are you aware that the speech that you delivered to the Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers in Canberra last week and your address to the National Press Club concerning the proceedings of this House, Standing Orders and privilege as well as the accommodation provided for our national media have caused wide public interest? Can you now inform the House what changes your committees have recommended concerning procedure, privileges and other matters, when they will be implemented and what steps are being taken to introduce experimental television for the better broadcasting of our proceedings?
-I am very glad that any addresses that I have made have caused the widespread public interest to which the honourable member refers.
– It is a Dorothy Dix question.
-It is not really a Dorothy Dix question. I just happen to have some notes with me. I have heard that from so many Ministers that I thought it was appropriate for me to say it. The committees are doing work on the matters and I shall put forward concrete proposals. As the honourable gentleman has mentioned, there is need, I believe, to inquire as to the conduct of proceedings in the House so that we can test our proceedings against those of comparable parliaments. That is the purpose of Speakers’ meetings. When I have more material to put to the House and to the committees, I shall do so.
-I ask the Minister for Defence a question which is supplementary to that asked by my colleague the honourable member for Griffith. It relates to the certificate to lease an IBM computer for the Weapons Research Establishment without calling public tenders. In what circumstances have IBM personnel been working on location at the Weapons Research Establishment for the past 12 months? Is it a fact that no information was sought from other computer companies about the compatibility or price of their equipment? Is it a fact that the computer in question in fact has already been installed?
– I cannot add any more to what I said in reply to the honourable member for Griffith. What is in my view quite wrongly called a certificate of inexpediency- I think it is a mutilation of the English language to call it a certificate of inexpediency; it is a certificate of expediency- was issued for the reasons I have stated. I will make inquiries to find out whether there is any further information that I can make available to the honourable gentleman. If there is, I shall certainly do so.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. The Treasurer has advised that a review under section 26E of the Income Tax Assessment Act has been undertaken by the Australian Taxation Office. Will the Treasurer advise whether the interest of those taxpayers who are paying tax on subsidised rentals for the year ended 30 June 1978 will be protected if the review makes major or any variations in the method of applying section 26E? Will he ensure that equity is maintained for those taxpayers with others who have been given a complete reprieve until the review is completed?
-A review of section 26E is being carried out by the Government, and in the course of that naturally we will be taking advice from the Commissioner of Taxation. I can tell the honourable gentleman that in the course of that review I will take into account what has been put to me in the question as to the position of persons and companies which presumably have received assessments of tax recently based on revised rental values. I think that the honourable gentleman will appreciate that whenever changes of either a minor or major degree occur in revenue laws there is always a cut-off point of some description, and some receive and some do not receive the alleged benefit of the change. I cannot give the honourable gentleman any assurance beyond a firm assurance that I will keep in mind during the course of the review what he has put to me in the question.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. It follows a question I asked him previously. Is it not a fact that the Budget deflator for this year will be of the order of 7 per cent? Is it not a fact that the total payments in the Budget to the State of New South Wales this year as against last year increased by 5.75 per cent? Is it not clear, therefore, that there will be a substantial real reduction in allocations through the Budget to the State of New South Wales? Why does he find it necessary to be so compulsively dishonest on this as on so many other matters?
-I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw that statement.
– I will withdraw the statement and say ‘compulsively misleading’.
-I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw the imputation of dishonesty that was involved in the first statement and the second statement.
- Mr Speaker, of course I will withdraw, without prejudice to my views.
– You are not doing too well.
– He makes Ananias ‘s performance seem like amateur hour.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition knows that as an Officer of the Parliament he bears responsibility to give example. I ask him to withdraw that statement.
– Yes, I will withdraw that, too.
-I call the Treasurer.
-The Government has not concealed in any way or sought to misrepresent the level of financial support given to the States at the recent Premiers Conference. The amount allocated to New South Wales- in fact, the amount allocated to all the States- represented an increase of slightly over 5. 1 per cent.
Opposition members- Ah!
-‘ Ah!’, they say. The amount allocated represents a total increase of slightly over 5. 1 per cent. That was contained in a speech that I delivered to the Premiers Conference on 23 June. If the Leader of the Opposition thinks that he has lighted upon some new reality so far as Commonwealth-State relations are concerned, perhaps the honourable gentleman will also acknowledge that in the two previous years, under the new federalism arrangements, there had been very significant real increases in financial support made available to the States. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition can acknowledge that the new federalism policies of this Government have given not only to New South Wales but also -
- Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order. Is it acceptable for the Treasurer to be misleading the House? In two of the last three budgets New South Wales has had to fall back on the Whitlam formula and all States will have to fall back on the Whitlam formula this year.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. No point of order arises. I call the Treasurer.
– I can understand the sensitivity of the Leader of the Opposition because like his -
– How can we trust the Government? No one will speak the truth.
-Order! The question was asked. The Treasurer is entitled to give his answer and be heard in silence.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a very serious point of order. The credibility of the Government is in tatters and, quite frankly, this House cannot operate if we cannot trust the Government. We cannot trust patently dishonest answers when the facts are verifiable.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. My recollection is that all Leaders of the Opposition have behaved in -
-Mr Speaker -
-Order! The Treasurer will resume his seat. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to behave in a manner befitting his office. I call the Treasurer.
– I repeat that I can understand the sensitivity of the Leader of the Opposition when it comes to a discussion of financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, particularly financial relations between New South Wales and the Commonwealth. He knows that he participated with the then Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales in 1976- that is, the present Premier of New South Wales- in perpetrating the most misleading statement ever made in politics in Australia about the effect of the new federalism arrangements under the present Government. He described the effect of those arrangements as the imposition of double taxation on the citizens of New South Wales. The truth of the matter is that the new federalism arrangements have given to all State governments, including the New South Wales Government, not only greater policy flexibility but also greater fiscal flexibility. By and large they have enabled State governments to budget for significant surpluses as opposed to deficits. They have enabled State governments to give significant revenue concessions. They have enabled State governments to hold a large number of their charges at the levels that existed in 1976. So, if there is a record of misleading or deception in the financial area of Commonwealth-State relations, it does not rest on this side of the House.
– Can the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations inform the House of any recent developments, subject to his attempts to obtain negotiation between the parties, as to what has happened so far as the maintenance workers and waterside workers strikes are concerned?
– I have been informed that the few maintenance workers who were the original cause of this strike have agreed to put their claims to arbitration, and on a resumption of work. I have only heard this information in the last few minutes, so I do not have the precise details. I certainly hope, as I would imagine the whole Australian community hopes, that this unnecessary and crippling strike has ended. It has caused great hardship to thousands of individuals and untold damage to business. It has advantaged no one. It is a tragic example of the worst kind of industrial irresponsibility.
-Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance on a matter of procedure. Is a remedy available to a member of the House to deal with a Minister who has left questions unanswered for inordinate lengths of time? I refer to the fact that the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) has had several questions on notice directed to him for over six months. Most of the first SO questions still on the Notice Paper are directed to him.
-The honourable gentleman will have to consult the Standing Orders.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) Mr Speaker, last evening the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in making a speech on the Budget, found time to refer to me in terms which I think were deliberately intended to do me damage. Accordingly, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-The right honourable gentleman, in making his speech last evening, said that I had endeavoured to hide the facts as to my family assets and that I had told a lie in the process. You will recall, Mr Speaker, that the same allegations were made in a cowardly fashion on 24 August and were then withdrawn by the right honourable gentleman. He returned to the situation again last evening.
-Order! Before the honourable gentleman proceeds, I should point out to him that he is proceeding on the basis that he has been misrepresented and therefore wishes to make a personal explanation. In those circumstances, as it is being done by indulgence, I ask him to withdraw the use of the word ‘cowardly’.
-I withdraw the word, Mr Speaker. But it is the second time that the Prime Minister has referred to me in terms of being a liar or one who is prepared to hide his pecuniary interests. In explanation, I say again that I am on record as having disclosed the interests of all my family, including my income tax return. The right honourable gentleman has never done that.
Furthermore, when I explained to the House on 24 August last that the National Times did not quote in full the answer I had given it, I went on to say that that newspaper would do so. That newspaper was honourable and straight-forward enough to publish the answer I did give it last year. It was published in full in the National Times of 26 August. So the right honourable gentleman would have known that I had hidden nothing when I answered the question. I do not need to go over it again because it is on record in the National Times. So, Mr Speaker, the position is that I have not hidden anything, I have not lied on any occasion and none of my family has avoided or evaded tax. They have always paid the full tax on any income they have earned. There is no question of my seeking to deceive this House or trying to hide the facts as to my assets.
– I wish to make a point of clarification, Mr Speaker. During the election campaign the National Times asked the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Lionel Bowen, and many other people the following questions: ‘Do you have family trusts?’ and ‘Do you have private companies?’. On 3 December 1977 the National Times gave Mr Bowen ‘s answer to both questions as no. Mr Bowen made no attempt to alter that answer on subsequent occasions until last month when the matter was raised. On 27 August, at Mr Bowen ‘s request, the National Times printed the full answer to the original question. It read:
The answer to your questions is ‘no’. I don’t have a family trust company but I do have a family of eight children. They have different assets including shares and there is a personal individual trustee for some of these assets.
I only wish to say that, as I understood Mr Oakes ‘s article, Mr Oakes, having seen the income tax return, indicated that it demonstrated that there was something called the ‘Bowen family trust’. If the Bowen family trust is not a family trust so be it, but there seem to be certain inconsistencies in the honourable gentleman’s statement. The only thing about which I want to make a point is this: I make no criticism of the honourable gentleman for having a family trust. I think it is a perfectly legitimate means for looking after the interests of his children. But in the original article the answer printed was ‘No’- I haven’t got a trust and I haven’t got a private company. That is what was published. The honourable gentleman seems to misunderstand my point of criticism of him; not for having a family trust because many people have a family trust. Even though the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) thinks they are immoral, illegal and terrible and he is on record as having said so, I would not make that charge against the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for one moment because I do not hold that view. I think there are many legitimate reasons why a family trust can be quite proper. The only point of criticism that I make of the honourable gentleman is that in the original National Times article he said that he did not have a family trust, but all of the subsequent evidence would seem to be that he has. He might not have one family trust but he might have separate family trusts for each of his eight children. That might be a different matter but it does not worry me either. Let me get the point straight. If his children have a trustee as opposed to a family trust company, that makes no difference in law and in the benefits available under the various Acts relating to trustees. Again if he is saying that he has a trustee for each of his children, I do not see anything wrong with that. It is only the fact that he indicated -
– What about Fraser Properties and Nareen Pastoral Company?
-My friend, I have never hidden the fact that I have family trusts. It is the fact that this honourable gentleman has indicated that he did not have a family trust or trusts or family trustees for his children when in fact he did. That is the only point of criticism that
I make in relation to it. I do not really see why he needs to be so thoroughly sensitive about the matter.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) wants to know why I appear to be sensitive. Last evening he said that I had deceived everybody by hiding the matter and he said that I was a liar. Now he wants to know why I am sensitive about it. Can I get it through his head that the answer that I gave to the National Times was not just ‘No’? As he knows, the National Times, by way of an addendum and erratum, stated that it had failed to publish my answer in full. So I hid nothing. When my answer was printed for the first time within the Prime Minister’s knowledge, he made no reference to it until now. But he knew last evening that I had hidden nothing. The question I was asked was:
Do you have family trusts . . .
My answer was:
I don’t have a family trust company but I do have a family of eight children. They have different assets including . . a . . . trustee for some of these assets.
The big issue here of course is that there could be some question of tax evasion or avoidance. My children have a specific personal trustee, not a family trust company. Some of my children are minors and they have a trustee for their assets. I do not get any benefit by way of tax. In fact, because some of my children were not beneficially entitled, they paid tax at the rate of 50c in the dollar, which is well above average. The whole point of the attack on me last evening was that I was doing something that would embarrass my party. I am fully in accordance with the principles of my party and do not seek tax evasion and avoidance by splitting income which has been earned by adults and giving it to children in order to avoid or evade tax. My children have never done that. The asset concerned is a residential property which in fact they helped to build and have held for six or seven years. The only income that they get is as a result of a capital outlay. There is a distinction between that situation and family trust companies, of which the Prime Minister is well aware. One of his Ministers got involved in family trust companies in order to make a quick gain and to distribute it amongst his children.
-Order! The honourable gentleman ought to confine his remarks to the issue.
-I want to make a point about the real issue here. The Prime Minister does not seem to object to what I have done and I appreciate that fact, but for the second occasion he has accused me of being a liar and one who is prepared to hide from the facts. I have not done that. There is no Bowen family trust company and there never has been. Some of my children have a trustee, and this is another factor which I think the Prime Minister now understands. But the most important point is that I have disclosed my personal income tax return and the Prime Minister has never done that.
- Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) among many things he said accused me of having said that -
-Is the honourable member asking for indulgence to make a personal explanation?
-He may proceed.
– He accused me of having said that all family trusts were immoral and dishonest. What I have said is that any tax avoidance measures, including those measures, where family trusts are used for this purpose, are immoral and dishonest. Whether I said or did not say it in the past I certainly endorse the view they are immoral and dishonest. By definition that excludes the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) but by definition it includes the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. So that this whole matter can be fully clarified in the interests of public probity, could you request the Prime Minister to table all papers relating to Fraser Properties Pty Ltd, the Nareen Pastoral Co. and his own tax return.
-There is no point of order.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the edition of the Sydney Daily Mirror on Thursday, 7 September, it was claimed by Mr Rex Jory, a Canberra correspondent, that I, as chairman of the Government’s communications committee, had indicated that a particular scheme was under examination by the Government which involved the metering of local phone calls over and above six minutes. Furthermore, the writer claimed that the Government’s committee was examining this as an option and that the committee would be reporting to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) on that specific issue.
When questioned on this matter over the phone by Mr Jory I denied that the Government was considering this. I also informed him that the committee had not considered it specifically and that the committee was not compiling a report on that subject for the Minister’s consideration. I was completely mis-reported in those sections of the story.
The story arose from questions placed on notice by me and the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) in relation to the costs of installing the equipment necessary to meter local phone calls over six minutes duration and the expected revenue gained therefrom. The rest of the reporting was accurate and reflected my own personal views.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Amendment Bill 1978.
Bounty (Agricultural Tractors) Amendment Bill 1978.
Bounty (Books) Amendment Bill 1978.
– by leave- For the information of honourable members I present copies of minutes from the Chief Electoral Officer to the then Minister for Administrative Services in respect of the preliminary analyses for Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania; a copy of a memorandum sent to the Australian Electoral Officer for Tasmania, 29 July 1977; a copy of compliments slips sent to the Australian Electoral Officer for Queensland, 12 August 1977, and to the Australian Electoral Officer for South Australia, 1 7 August 1 977; and a copy of a memorandum from the Chief Australian Electoral Officer to the Australian electoral officers in all States, 24 March 1977.
In the House on 23 August 1978 the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) asked whether, in addition to the analyses of the electoral distribution proposals in respect of the six States which had already been tabled, copies of the communications between the Electoral Office and the then Minister and the Electoral Office and the States in respect of those analyses could also be tabled. The covering minutes are not part of the analyses but the Government is happy to make them available. I have been informed that in respect of New South
Wales and Victoria the analyses were sent to the Minister with no covering note.
As for the communications with the State branches of the Electoral Office, I am informed that the sending of the analyses to them was regarded as a matter of routine dispatch under compliments slips. Only in the case of Tasmania was there a covering memorandum which dealt with an additional subject matter. Covering compliments slips are on file only in the case of Queensland and South Australia. Photocopies of these have been obtained from the States. I will have copies of all papers provided to honourable members. The method of circulation of the analyses underlines that it was done as part of the normal administrative processes of the Electoral Office.
In this context I believe it would also be relevant to table a copy of a memorandum dated 24 March 1977 from the Chief Austraiian Electoral Officer to the Australian electoral officers in all States. This memorandum, which was an exhibit at the Royal Commission, outlines the procedure instituted by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer of providing to his State offices papers produced by the Research, Legislation and Projects Section of the Central Office of the Australian Electoral Office. It was in accordance with this procedure- and this was recognised by the Royal Commission- that the analyses were sent to the States. For the record I also retable a copy of the Victorian analysis, one page of statistics from attachment ‘A’ of which was inadvertently omitted from the copy tabled on 22 August. The copies provided to honourable members, however, were complete.
When the research analyses were tabled in the Senate, questions were asked concerning the development of guidelines which might govern the distribution of analyses in the future. The then Minister for Administrative Services expressed his personal concern about the matter and indicated his intention to give it serious consideration and to make a recommendation to the Government. For the information of honourable members I can say that the present Minister agrees that the matter requires serious consideration and, once he has had an opportunity to consider it fully, he will make a statement in relation to it.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) by leave- The Opposition is not satisfied with the statement of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). It leaves questions unanswered. Firstly, what occurred last year in respect of electoral redistributions was unprecedented in every way. The election was held a year before its time, and for the first time ever the reasons of the Governor-General have never been published. Secondly, the interference by Senator Withers in the electoral name change was unprecedented. Thirdly, for the first time ever, political analyses of the effect of the distribution proposals were sent from the Electoral Office to the electoral commissioners in each State. Yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that he did not know whether such analyses were distributed to the electoral commissioners in the time of the Labor Government. I am able to tell him it never happened, and I suggest that he knew that. He would know that Mr Daly, the former Minister for Services and Property, was insistent that analyses should not be sent to the Distribution Commissioners.
The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations also said that the distribution of the analyses was done as part of the normal process of the Electoral Office. That is not true. I repeat that this circulation was unprecedented. Reference is made to Mr Pearson’s letter of 24 March 1977. But really Mr Pearson was just indicating to his own officers that some information would be published at a later date. The question here, the serious matter here, the suggestion of a criminal offence here, is that the information about which we are now talking was not sent to just officers; it was sent to the electoral commissioners. The Electoral Act prevents anyone from doing anything by way of an overt or covert act which suggests that that person might in any way be seeking to influence the commissioners. So we cannot put the blame on Mr Pearson who is a very honourable public servant. What he said on 24 March 1977 in no way relates to what in fact happened- that is, the commissioners themselves being given a political analysis. We say the Government did this and therefore there is a need for a further inquiry.
The manner of Australian redistributions is made clear by the Electoral Act. Under section 18 of the Act suggestions can be made to the distribution commissioners in response to an advertisement by the commissioners. Comments can be made on the initial suggestions and after publication of the maps there may be further suggestions or objections. Section 19 makes it clear that matters which the commissioners are to consider are virtually community of interest, population changes, et cetera. They do not have to consider the matter of political repercussions which is the whole tenor of the analyses submitted. By no stretch of the imagination could we suggest that, when we are talking about an analysis on this basis, we are in any way within the ambit of section 19. For example, I refer to the analysis for Tasmania. It states:
An analysis of the initial proposals of distribution commissioners.
An appendix is attached indicating how the distribution would affect voting and the electoral results, with a further attachment on the effects of proposed subdivision alterations on support for the Liberal Party in each division. There is no reference to any other party. This is no way to carry out the laws of this land. There is a complete prohibition against this practice. I remind the House of the opinion given by both the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) and the SolicitorGeneral which was tabled in this House. They referred to what they thought was the position applying under this Act. They said:
Although it may be difficult to say the defence creating provisions such as section 1 70 apply to section 22 of the Act-
Section 22 of the Act is a prohibition against seeking to influence the commissioners- we do not doubt that a breach of this section is likely to give rise to criminal liability.
That is the point we made in this case. In other words, section 22 makes it an offence to write or to speak to the distribution commissioners seeking to influence them in the performance of their duties under the Act. A further point made by the SolicitorGeneral and the AttorneyGeneral was:
Section 22 is not directed to the commissioners. Matter given in response to an inquiry or requests from them even though it might influence their determination and even though given outside the statutory procedures would not, we think, be prohibited but the section does prevent the unsolicited tender outside the procedures of matters designed to influence their determination.
The evidence given before the McGregor Royal Commission also shows that one of the distribution commissioners in Queensland, Mr Seymour, was very unhappy about these analyses.
The analyses were sent to the Minister either before or on the same day as they were sent to the commissioners.
Yet, we are asked to believe that the Ministers and the Government knew nothing about them being sent to the commissioners. That is beyond credibility. The analyses themselves were looked at entirely from the point of view of the Government, that is from the point of view of the political interests of the Liberal Party and of the National Country Party of Australia. We are not satisfied with the statement which states that guidelines might be issued which will govern the distribution of analyses in the future. We say that a criminal act has been committed and that it should be properly investigated. In a democracy redistributions must be honest. The Electoral Office was used in 1977 as an agent for the Liberal Party. Evidence is there. Accordingly we are asking that further investigations be made as to who were really the culpable people in the Government. The commissioner himself said: 1 consider that the questions of advantage or disadvantage to political parties are alien to the proper subjects for their consideration.
It is not possible to argue that this is a fair and reasonable statement that has been made. It is improper to suggest that it was made in the past. It was never made in the past. The real issue here which we have had to drag out of the Government is that there has been a blatant attempt by it, through its Ministers and others, to seek to influence the commissioners in all States by giving to them a political analysis virtually indicating what would be in the best interests of the Liberal and National Country parties. For that reason we seek a further inquiry as to whether criminal acts have occurred and, if they have, we say that appropriate legal proceedings should be instituted.
– I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to arrest the serious and worsening recession in the home building industry.
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 House building industry in Australia is in a stricken condition. It is the victim of sustained, deep and crippling recession. That, in turn, is the product of the excessive harshness, indeed brutality, of Government economic measures. The current Budget intensifies the recession. It is clear on the basis of evidence available that Government policies discourage home ownership, display great and increasing neglect of areas of greatest need and impose economic conditions detrimental to the development of a stable and adequate building industry. It is most unfortunate that the building industry should be so severely set back by Government policies because not only does the building industry suffer but so too does the economy. only to look at some aspects of what the Government has been doing to get a clear indication of the way in which the brakes have been applied rather brutally to the industry. As a direct consequence of Government measures the defence service homes program now involves a waiting time of something like 14 months before an application for a loan is satisfied. The home savings grant scheme involves a delay extending beyond 1 1 months. The consequence of that situation is that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) has circulated a letter to the unfortunate applicants who have been advised of the delay, suggesting that they could make arrangements with banks to use their letter of advice to get bridging finance.
I ask the Minister: What legal basis would such a letter have since there is no parliamentary authority to cover the payment of the grant next financial year? Further, is the interest rate on bridging finance from savings banks of the order of 15 per cent? Will such interest charges add to the financial burdens on those people purchasing a home? This is some deal for the aspiring home owner in this country! There is one other aspect of this matter which I would like to mention before I move on to look at some of the Government’s proposals which are supposed to be a response to this problem. I mention the importance of the building industry to the economy, especially to employment, and I seek leave to have a table incorporated in Hansard which deals with this aspect in some detail.
The table read as follows-
The building industry has important multiplying effects within the economy. It also makes valuable social contributions to our community. I will now measure some of those contributions. The value of direct production in the home building industry is of the order of $4,000m in a year in a situation where there is a healthier level of activity. Socially the building industry contributes accommodation for about 140,000 family units each year in a healthier situation. It provides employment for more than one out of five members of the work force. I now give evidence of the downturn in the industry. The number of dwelling approvals in the month of July was the lowest monthly figure since February 1966. There was a slight pick-up in the number of commencements in the June quarter over the March quarter but the March quarter was the lowest since the March quarter 1967. The number of completions for the June quarter was the lowest since the June quarter 1967. In the area of construction, the June quarter is up by only one per cent on the March quarter but the March quarter was the lowest since March 1968. So, in summary, the industry is operating at its lowest point for ten years.
This Budget reduces Commonwealth allocations for housing or building in various areas by one-third in real terms compared with last year’s allocation. In real terms, Commonwealth allocations in support of the home building industry in this country are down by more than $200m. That means about 5,700 fewer houses are being transacted commercially in the course of the year or some 3,700 new houses. We have
-Briefly this table shows that between July 1977 and July 1978 there was a 5 1.25 per cent increase in unemployment among skilled building and construction workers. Among semi-skilled building labourers the increase was of the order of 6 per cent. The total number of unemployed increased by 36.5 per cent. That position must be compared with an increase of 16 per cent for all registered unemployed over the same period. Accordingly, the building industry is being particularly severely set back because of the savagery of Government economic policies.
What is the Government proposing to do to offset the severely contractionary effects of its budgetary measures as they affect the building industry? The Treasurer (Mr Howard) announced that the ratio of assets which the savings banks are required to hold in government securities is to be reduced from the statutory requirement of 45 per cent to 40 per cent. This will have little benefit, if any, in the course of this year and even in the course of the succeeding year. One has only to look at the history of experience in this area to establish that point. In 1974 the ratio stood at in excess of 60 per cent of total assets. The then Government proposed that the statutory ratio should be reduced to 50 per cent. Last year the Government proposed that it be reduced to 45 per cent. In this Budget it is proposed to reduce it further to 40 per cent but it still stands at 53 per cent. The point is that to the extent that there has been any unwinding of this ratio it has been extremely slow, painfully slow, in terms of any benefits which might flow to the home building industry. Quite clearly, that will be of no advantage to the industry in terms of the enormity of the problems which are pressing upon it.
The Government has announced abolition of the mortgage subsidy. On other occasions, and often on the same platform, the same spokesman for the Government has sought to vouchsafe the virtues of a minor adjustment in housing mortgage interest rates of 0.5 per cent. Abolishing the homes savings mortgage subsidy, which the Labor Government introduced, means, for instance, that the average borrowing for an income earner on about $8,000 a year will have an increase effectively equal to 2 per cent in interest charges. That is, he will lose about $7 a week benefit which he currently derives from the scheme. Someone on $10,000 a year will lose a benefit equivalent to $5.70 a week. In that situation there would have to be a reduction in interest rates of between one per cent and 1.5 per cent on top of the adjustments which have already taken place a minor 0.5 per cent before home mortgage payers would be in a position equivalent to that which applied under the home mortgage subsidy scheme.
Again, the Government is suggesting that it intends to achieve further reductions in housing mortgage interest rates. It has asserted that there would be a reduction of 2 per cent in the course of a 12monthly period. There are less than four months to go in that 12monthly period and the Government has yet to achieve three-quarters of its proposed reduction. It is very doubtful that it can achieve any sustainable reduction given the tightness of its monetary management. I refer to the Housing Industry Association submission to the Government prior to the Federal Budget. It displays a politically disinterested view in this matter. It States: . We are of the view that the recent 0.5 per cent reduction-
It is referring to the reduction in interest rates on housing mortgages, of course- has had the effect of inhibiting the mobilisation of funds for housing. The Association therefore further recommends that interest rates applicable to the housing market remain at current levels until such time as market forces warrant a change.
What it is simply pointing out is that one cannot turn upside down the economics equivalent to the law of gravity. The Government cannot pass a law that states: ‘Tomorrow morning, apples will fall to the sky rather than to the ground’. Similarly the Government cannot apply a law which will say interest rates have got to come down when it is restricting the supply of money, accordingly making it scarcer, and forcing up its price which is measured in interest rates. What the Association is pointing out very properly is that there has to be a substantial change on the part of government in the general thrust of its monetary policies.
The state of the industry is extremely depressed. According to the Housing Industry Association it is operating at only 60 per cent capacity. At the present time, it is completing new housing units at the rate of 1 17,000 a year. That will soon be down to about 1 13,000 a year. The Indicative Planning Council has estimated that the industry can comfortably complete 150,000 units a year. That is clear evidence of the severe deficiency in productive output which is being imposed on the industry. Furthermore, the Indicative Planning Council has calculated that for the industry to operate with economies of scale and to sustain its supply outlets, it needs to operate at a completion rate of about 135,000 units a year. I repeat: It is well below that now; it is down to 117,000 completions a year and soon the number of completions will be falling to 113,000. The industry is facing a severe slump in the course of the next 6 months. If one looks at the trend in the figures one notes that completions are exceeding commencements. The number of houses under construction is falling rapidly. This all sums up to a sharp sudden damaging contraction in the course of the next few months. Government economic policies explicitly outlined in the current Budget will guarantee that the full severity of the downturn will be felt by the industry and will commence soon.
The industry has another problem confronting it, large stocks of unsold houses. The industry is being forced to pare prices right back to the bone and in many cases it is selling below cost in the hope of maintaining cash flow. This situation cannot continue. Given the evidence- we base that on the Indicative Planning Council analysis of the industry- that it is operating well below economic scale levels, it is quite clear that very soon prices will have to increase.
The social aspects of this situation are equally distressing. There are 94,000 people waiting to obtain accommodation from the State housing authorities. In New South Wales there are over 28,000 of these people. This year in New South Wales there has been a reduction of $33m in the allocation to that State for welfare housing. To try to offset that, the State Government has contributed some $10m but the total amount available still falls short of what the State Government would like to contribute. But the State Government has been severely restricted in what it can contribute by the cutback in real terms in total funds to that State, in common with all States, this year from the Commonwealth Budget.
The Federal Government has been running a tough economic policy where the State governments have been concerned, just as it has been directing these sorts of policies against the housing industry. It has been applying these intensive fiscal measures against the home building industry at a time when severe economic measures are causing a depression in the home building industry. The home building industry feels the intensity of the economic downturn twice as severely as the rest of the economy.
What should be done? What we ought to be aiming at is lifting the home building rate to about 135,000 home completions a year by the end of the calendar year 1979. This means we should be completing more than 125,000 homes throughout Australia in 1979. What we are proposing is a $700m recovery injection for the Australian home building industry. It would involve, first of all, the ratio of assets which the savings banks are required to hold with the Reserve Bank of Australia being reduced from 7.5 per cent to 5 per cent. That would mean an additional $350m being made available for the Australian home building industry. That would not come out of the Budget. It is no strain on fiscal measures.
The contribution of $2.5m as a subsidy to the States to allow them to borrow money from institutions such as superannuation funds and insurance companies would allow them to borrow about $250m to be on-lent at subsidised rates of interest through permanent and terminating building societies. The interest rates of those institutions could be reduced by as much as 2 per cent to 3 per cent. Accordingly, a valuable and desirable contribution could be made to welfare housing. Also, $100m ought to be provided by the Government for welfare housing. That would make a total of $700m. But only $ 107.5m of that total in fact would become a liability to the Federal Budget. That in turn would be met out of the current Budget and also out of the 1979-80 Budget. The result of that would be the completion of somewhere between 7,000 and 7,500 homes additional to what otherwise would be completed. It would lift the total completion rate to 125,000- even in excess of that figure- for 1979 and lift the rate of home building completions by the end of the year to about 135,000 a year, which is a desirable level if we are to provide adequately for the housing needs of the Australian population and at the same time allow the industry to operate on an economic scale.
– At the outset I want to reaffirm two points, one of which I made earlier at Question Time. The Government does recognise that the housing industry is an industry of vital importance to this country. It is one of our foremost industries. It is important that it be given all the support it can be given. The housing industry has been going through a difficult period. The Government recognises that. Its activity was at a lower level than desirable during the last financial year and, in particular, in the early part of this calendar year. As was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), the industry certainly has been operating below capacity. It would be wrong of me not to recognise those fundamental points in making my comments today. But I think it should be recognised also that the situation is improving. It is a pity that the Leader of the Opposition did not recognise that fact, did not look for a few good points and did not read the newspapers this morning and see some of the headlines to which I will refer in a moment.
I want to make one very important point for the benefit of the Opposition and it is a serious point. It is wrong for the Opposition continually to paint as black a picture as it can possibly paint. This does not do any good at all for the industry. I think that point must be recognised. All the expressions of gloom and doom and all the knocking do not help. As I said at Question Time, confidence is important in the building industry, as it is in any other industry. I suggest to those who are knocking, who are painting pictures of gloom and who are failing to recognise the facts and to see some of the good signs that they are doing nothing for the industry. I can understand their motives. They are motives of self-interest. There is no concern for the important industry that we are now talking about. I hope that the Opposition will not be disposed to continue to talk in the way in which it is and that it will look at a few bright spots, which I will mention in a moment or two, stress them and emphasise them. In doing that the Opposition would be doing much more for the building industry and for the home buyers of this country than it is doing at the moment. Confidence is critical to the industry. Demand is considered at the moment to be one of the important factors in the reduced levels of activity in the industry. It is a key ingredient. It is certainly harmed by this sort of exaggerated talk about lack of finance and tightness in the money supply, the scepticism about interest rates, as was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, and the false claims about cuts in government expenditure. These sorts of comments only turn people away from houses and the home building industry and do a great deal of damage to the industry itself.
I want to mention some of the good points that the Leader of the Opposition failed to recognise in his speech today. Let us talk about finance- a very important subject. The flow of funds to housing is certainly on the increase at the moment. This was not recognised. I refer to the facts which were disclosed yesterday when the figures of the Australian Bureau of Statistics on lending for housing by savings banks and trading banks for the month of July were released. I mention some of the key points. Approvals rose by 7 per cent in July compared to the previous month.
Total approvals in the three-month period ended July were 6 per cent higher than approvals in the three months to April and slightly higher than approvals in the corresponding three months of the previous year. The number of trading bank loan approvals for housing, seasonally adjusted, rose in July for the third consecutive month. Other key points with respect to the seasonally adjusted figures are that approvals rose by almost 6 per cent compared to the previous month. Total approvals in the three months ended July were almost 1 1 per cent higher than approvals in the three months to April and 10 per cent higher than approvals in the corresponding three months of the previous year. On present indications the total number of loan approvals for housing by banks and permanent building societies should be significantly higher in 1978-79 than in 1977-78. The best advice I have is that the funds flowing from the banks to housing may increase by a figure in the order of 20 per cent in this current financial year and from building societies to the purchase of homes by a figure of the order of 9 per cent in this financial year. They are important figures which were not recognised by the Leader of the Opposition in making his remarks today.
It is important also to note the total figure of $267.326m, which is the highest figure ever recorded. That figure was not mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. It is a pity that he has not picked up these facts. If he had looked at the newspapers this morning he would have seen a couple of the headlines. The Australian Financial Review headline states: ‘Banks help almost 84,000 get their own homes’. The Daily Telegraph’s headline states: ‘Bank lending up for homes’. Some important comments are made there. Again, the Leader of the Opposition failed to see those headlines and to recognise those good signs which are about and which indicate that things are on the up for the home building industry. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a statement issued yesterday by Mr R. B. Cameron, the Director of the Australian Bankers Association Research Directorate, in Sydney, which indicates that the funds flowing to housing are on the increase, and to quote briefly from it.
The document read as follows-
From: Australian Bankers’ Association Research Directorate, 23 Hunter Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Banks continued to approve new loans for housing at a high rate in July.
During the month, banks approved new loans for housing totalling S2S6m to individual borrowers throughout Australia.
This compared with $235m in June and S232m in July 1977.
Banks have significantly increased their level of new housing loan approvals during the first seven months of 1978’, Mr R. B. Cameron, Director of the Australian Bankers ‘ Association Research Directorate, said today.
In the seven months to July, banks approved $1, 88.5m in new loans for housing to individual borrowers, which was 16 per cent above the level in the corresponding period of 1 977.
The increased new lending in the current period assisted 83,550 homeseekers throughout Australia to finance the purchase of homes of their own, compared with 80,628 in the corresponding period of 1977.
In the current period, banks helped almost 60 per cent of the total number of homeseekers assisted by all institutional lenders in Australia.
The reduction in the prescribed investment ratio of the nationally-operating savings banks, from 45 to 40 per cent in late-August, will assist their capacity to give continued strong support for housing’.
Mr Cameron was commenting on statistics of housing loans approved by banks for owner-occupation during July, issued today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
These also show, of the July total, savings banks approved $ 1 83m and trading banks $73m.
Please telephone enquiries to:
Sydney-Mr R. B. Cameron-231 5466 (After hours 449 2630)
Melbourne-Mr A. D. P. Martin-67 1220 (After hours 232 4046)
– One comment Mr Cameron makes is that the reduction in the prescribed investment ratio of the nationally operated savings banks, from 45 per cent to 40 per cent in late August, will assist the capacity of the banks to give continued strong support for housing. That is in complete contradiction to a statement which was made by the Leader of the Opposition. The best thing this Government can do for housing in Australia and for the housing industry is to get inflation down further, to get interest rates down further, to continue to improve the general economic climate of this country, to strengthen confidence and, as a result, to strengthen demand for housing. That is the way in which to get real money into the pockets of people who are buying their own homes. Recently I mentioned figures on the advantages to be gained from reductions in interest rates. The reduction of 0.5 per cent in interest rates will mean a saving of something like $9 per month. That is a significant benefit for people who are seeking to buy their own homes and who are struggling along paying these high repayments. We must get interest rates down further. There has been a dramatic improvement in the inflation rate. It was running at a rate of almost 20 per cent in 1974-75. It is down to 7.9 per cent. There has been a big reduction- a dramatic moderation- in the inflation rate applying, in particular, to building materials. That again is an important fact.
The Leader of the Opposition once again produced the old tried remedy of spend, spend, spend. He sees this as the answer to the problems of the home building industry. He says the spending of more money- an additional $ 700m- is the panacea. That has been tried before and it has failed. It is not the answer now. The answer is to be found in the Government’s general approach to the economy, that is, to get interest rates down and to get the inflation rate down. That is recognised by the industry representatives. The Master Builders Association, the Housing Industry Association, all the representatives of the industry have agreed that our general approach in the Budget is the right approach. That is important to recognise. They have praised us for our general approach. In fairness to them, they have asked for a bit more money here and a bit more money there, but the trouble is that that prejudices the general approach. Unfortunately, we really cannot have it both ways. We cannot have spending to support particular industries and at the same time keep the deficit down and thereby get inflation down further and interest rates down. It prejudices our general approach if we start advancing large sums of money on Budget to any industry.
Dealing with the general approach adopted by the Leader of the Opposition, his comments today are incorporated in his Budget, as I understand it. It is a pity that the Leader of the Opposition is not given the chance to produce his own Budget before we produce ours because it might make a difference to his approach. He has suggested that we should have a deficit of $3,650m and a money supply target of 9 per cent to 1 1 per cent. His plan would certainly weaken the Government’s anti-inflationary drive and would destroy the real prospect which now exists of reducing interest rates. No doubt that would damage the lot of home buyers in Australia. For example, his plan to subsidise borrowings by producing $7.5m is an interesting one in that the $7.5m only applies for the first financial year. The total cost would be much greater than that. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to look at that suggestion and produce the total cost. Let us see how much the proposal would cost in total.
There are some questions that one should ask. Does his plan apply only to banks? What are the criteria of eligibility for people who might be able to take advantage of it? We do not know about that. What about the building societies? Are they to be part of the scheme? We are not sure about that. His approach is certainly not a responsible one. It is a costly one. It would be inflationary, there is no doubt about that. It would destroy the opportunities which now exist for reducing interest rates. I am afraid that it is a replay of the old record we heard back in 1974 and 1975- ‘Just write a cheque and she’ll be right, mate. A little bit of spending solves everything’. We know that that does not happen. It is not as simple as that, and deep down in their hearts I think the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) both realise that the panacea they are suggesting would not solve the problems. I really think that deep down in their hearts they agree with the general approach we are adopting. As I said before, the industry itself recognises that our general approach is the right one.
The Budget reinforces the Government’s concern for the health of the housing industry and the ability of Australians to buy their own homes. The Budget further bears down on inflation and creates the conditions for the expansion in private sector finance that we are now seeing and a sustainable reduction in interest rates. By reducing the deficit and its financing requirement and by maintaining monetary stability the Government has eased pressure on the finance market. This has increased the scope for sustainable cuts in interest rates. There is little need for me to remind the House of the impact of lower interest rates on the housing industry. Interest rate reductions reduce the repayments necessary on any given loan and increase the opportunities for home ownership. That is our aim and that is what we will achieve through the policies we have adopted. They will work. They are working now.
It was mentioned today in the House that in Queensland there has been a reduction of one half of one per cent in interest rates on home loans. Of course, in many areas building societies have reduced their home loan interest rates by one half of one per cent. There is more to come and it will come. Clearly, there is a correlation between inflation rates and interest rates. There is every prospect that we will get inflation down to something of the order of 5 per cent at the end of this financial year, and that gives us every prospect of a significant reduction in interest rates. The Budget as it has been drawn will certainly assist the housing industry. As a direct result of the Budget there will be more money for housing. The reduction of the prescribed asset ratio from 45 per cent to 40 per cent -
– It will not be felt this year and you know it.
– The honourable member should read the document that has been incorporated in Hansard with his agreement. He is disagreeing with the banks. The information from the banks is that it will provide very much more money for housing in this financial yearnot in the far distance but in this financial year. Many people say that money is the problem. Through the Budget we are providing more money for housing. The industry can look ahead with confidence because through our economic policies we are creating the right conditions for the development in Australia of a healthy and stable housing industry.
-The question that should be asked of the House and of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) is this: Does the building industry need a stimulus? In his own words, the Minister has recognised that it does. He has said that we are going through difficult times. The housing industry is going through a 10-year low ebb and of course it needs a stimulus and needs it now. It is not much good the Minister talking about changing the prescribed asset ratio from 45 per cent to 40 per cent when he knows that at present the ratio is still running at about 52 per cent. Even though in May 1977 it was changed from 50 per cent to 45 per cent, the Minister knows that it is still standing at 52 per cent. We know that this Government used that as a deliberate policy to dampen down the housing industry and to dampen down the Australian economy. That is a direct policy of the Government, and of course the people are paying for it.
The Minister said that there has been an upturn, according to the figures that have just come out, and that things are going to be rosy. He told us to read this morning’s newspapers and said that more money is being spent this year than for the equivalent period last year. Let me give the Minister the facts and figures of the actual number of homes either purchased or built. In July 1977 the figure for new dwellings was 3,81 1 and in July 1978 the figure was 3,599, a decrease in the number of new homes constructed in the equivalent period or a drop of 5.5 per cent. The figure for the purchase of established homes was 7,403 last July and for this July the figure was 7,552, an increase of 2 per cent; but the overall figure for the purchase of new homes and new dwellings was 11,214 last July and 11,151 this July, or a fall of 0.5 per cent. So that the Minister and the House can read the figures more clearly, I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. In the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and in speeches made by the Minister, the Government has stated that in relation to welfare housing the amount of money made available this year is equivalent to the amount made available last year. That is a deliberate lie. It is a complete distortion of the facts. In the 1974-75 income year, the peak year of the Labor Government, $3 85m was made available. That represented 2.1 per cent of all government outlays in the Budget. This year the Government is making available $3 16m, or 1. 1 per cent of all government outlays. Again if the Minister looks more fully at the amounts of money that were made available this year compared with last year he will find that in 1977-78, $390m was made available and that this year $3 16m was made available. Repayments of advances to the States back to the Commonwealth in 1977-78 were $27.7m and this year will be $30.9m. The interest repayments by the States to the Commonwealth last year were $134m and this year are $ 147.8m. In other words, the net amount of money made available last year under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement was $228. 3m and this year it is $ 137.3m. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) said, the real purchasing power is down drastically by more than half. Therefore, I ask again for a table to be incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
-Nearly 100,000 families are waiting for homes from the Housing Commission and at least half a million people are living in sub-standard housing, and this Government has not only increased the social problems of those elements in the community which need housing and reneged with regard to welfare housing, but it has also reneged on the home savings grant scheme. What happened was that last year for this scheme the Government made available $34m. In a Cabinet submission put forward by the present Minister’s predecessor, it contended that another $76m was needed if all applicants were to be accommodated in 1978-79. Let us examine the situation. Last year the Government made available $34m. This year it cut that figure to $20m. The position is so grave that young people seeking a home savings grant are told that they have to apply from 1 July 1979. That is a slowing down of the housing industry. Most of the proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition to create a stimulus were made by the Housing Industry Association and the Minister knows that they were not inflationary. They were rational proposals to give a stimulus to the housing industry.
Let me continue further about the sell-out of the housing industry by this Government. It cut back the money for the defence service homes scheme this year by another $10m. What does that do? It means that the waiting time to get a defence service home has been increased from 11 months to 14 months and creates a further slowing down of the housing industry. Still further, in this Budget this Government ended the home loan interest tax deductibility scheme. This was the scheme which helped people on low incomes to claim the interest they paid on house repayments as a tax deduction. Again that was a subsidy, and to people on incomes of around $8,000 a year it was a subsidy of about 2 per cent on their interest payments. But the Government scrubbed that proposal because it was helping people on low incomes. This Government is a class government that represents wealthy people and the corporate sector and not the battlers in the community. Still further, what did it do? It scrubbed the homes allowance experiment. That proposal was again a rental proposal whereby the Australian Government subsidised housing rentals of people on low incomes. It scrubbed that proposal. This is the sorry record of the Government.
The proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition were in no way inflationary. He expressed the view quite clearly that they would increase the deficit by $ 107m. This would be absorbed within two budgets, not in this Budget alone, because he said that it would continue to the end of the 1979 calendar year. The situation is that we need a stimulus to the housing industry. We need long term proposals whereby we can continue the finance to enable people to purchase their own homes. In the western suburbs of Sydney the cost of purchasing land and a home is $35,000. Who can afford that on a single income? A person would have to have an earning capacity of at least $270 a week which would allow him to repay $270 a month, because that is the repayment per month on a loan of $30,000 repaid over 25 years at a 10 per cent interest rate. An income of $270 a week represents about 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. That is the magnitude of the problem. Therefore, we need policies whereby we can have an organisation such as the Australian Housing Corporation which was introduced by the Labor Government and which was abolished by this Government. We need an organisation which could keep the flow of finance moving in the housing industry. For these reasons this Government stands condemned on the crisis it has created within the Australian housing industry.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think that we have heard nothing new again from the Australian Labor Party on this issue today. What it has failed to recognise is that if we are to talk about the industry and not home buyers, which is the way in which the matter is framed, we must talk of the whole of the building and housing industry. The Opposition has shown no concern for the home buyer and all concern for the industry and the people who are involved. There should be concern, but the major concern should be to meet the market and to try to meet the needs of people who wish to buy or rent homes. The matter leaves that aside. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) have taken up matters concerning the industry. Their concern does not apply to the general economic circumstances of the country. They fail to recognise the importance of reducing the inflation rate and interest rates and the effects that they have on the home buyer and the cost of buildings.
One of the most important and incredible features of the Labor Party’s Administration was the massive impact it had on those factors of interest rates and inflation. The cost of homes in Australia rose in one year by 32 per cent simply because of the policies of the people who sit opposite. How can people buy homes and plan under those circumstance if they have to meet a commitment that increases by 32 per cent per annum? They cannot meet it. It gets continually further and further away from them. The role and the dedication of this Government have been to reverse those policies and trends so that in fact today the cost of buildings is rising by about 6 per cent or 7 per cent per annum and the cost of labour in the industry is rising by about 8 per cent per annum. Those are the circumstances that the Australian people want and need in order to be able to purchase their homes, to become renters or buyers and to establish shelter for themselves and their families.
In addition to that, significant steps have been taken, as the industry itself recognises. I quote from the news sheet of the Housing Industry Association in which it says:
The Federal Government will continue to receive substantial support from the Housing Industry Association for its overall budgetary strategy, in particular its thrust against inflation. HIA fully appreciates that further reductions in the rate of inflation will lead to sustainable reduction in interest rates in the long term.
There is the organisation from which the Leader of the Opposition has plucked some ideas which are before the Government and the community for consideration, and he said ‘Here is my plan’. The Leader of the Opposition has presented this plan and, as I understand it, has taken no heed of his so-called alternative Budget. His alternative Budget is shot to pieces already. By today’s effort he has shot his own alternative Budget to pieces. He is prepared to make willy-nilly decisions, and he is not even in the chamber. The Leader of the Opposition has operated in this way for many years and it is interesting to note his high regard for the taxpayers and for economic administration. Even on 14 March this year he said:
Personal taxes are pretty much at the limit and people are resisting any further increases.
Yet here today, a week after he brought in his alternative Budget, he is saying that he will further increase taxes. This level of responsibility is shown by his colleague the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), the shadow Treasurer, who said:
If Labor does not gain office next election then by 1983 … 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 thinking which has not changed and which we deplore when we come to deal with the housing industry and the needs of home buyers in Australia today. This Government has taken significant steps as the need to do so has arisen. It has made modifications to the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation to allow people buying a home to borrow up to 100 per cent of their financial requirements. No other government has taken these steps; this Government has. It has allowed those people who have some capacity to purchase their own homes to do so. We reintroduced the homes savings grant scheme. The former Government cut out the grants completely. Yet today we heard the Leader of the Opposition say: ‘This Government has fiddled with the scheme slightly. That is deplorable’. He was not even prepared to reintroduce the grants. He stood aside while they were completely cut out. The home savings grant scheme was abandoned by the Australian Labor Party. He was not even prepared to say in the House today that he would not do the same again. I warrant that, given the same opportunity, the Labor Party again would abandon the home savings grant scheme.
There have been significant changes made to the Commonwealth-States housing agreement which will permit greater flexibility and provide a source of funds to the States to reinvest into housing. The new agreement is ordered to allow the States a greater capacity, as homes are turned over and sold, to reinvest in their own right for the provision of welfare housing. I sound a note of caution to the House today when we look at the state of the housing industry. I think that we need to consider exactly where we are going and what our future demands are likely to be. Despite factors such as the Real Estate Institute of Australia saying that it looks forward to a very happy future- the Institute is content with the turnover in the number of homes being sold and the availability of home renters and buyersthere will be a need to examine very closely the housing demand in Australia.
Dr John Patterson, the managing director of John Patterson Urban Systems Pty Ltd, in his assessment of the needs for Australian housing, draws attention to the fact that the birth rate in Australia has declined from nearly 2 per cent per annum in 1 97 1 to a little more than 1 per cent per annum at present. Even in 1975-76, the worst year of building activity, when building completions were down to 132,000 units, completions represented 3.2 per cent of the dwelling stocks. Dr Patterson is saying that we are building homes faster than we may need to build them. I think it would be worth while for the Government and the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry to take up studies such as that done by Dr Patterson to establish what level of building is needed in Australia today and to establish a firm level for the provision of homes in the future.
Indeed, we should be looking at the rate at which families are established. If that were done I think that we would obtain more reliable figures on what the building industry should be doing. I do not think we can continue to have a building industry that builds for the sake of building. It is most regrettable that we have lost skills in the industry because the requirements for them have not existed. But it is welcome news to read an advertisement placed by the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd within the last few days in which it was stated that the Bank has tens of millions of dollars to lend to home buyers. That is the extent of the availability of funds in Australia today. The ANZ Bank has funds available. Within the last few days Mr Cameron of the Australian Bankers Association has said that building approvals have increased dramatically and that the availability of homes is not limited by finance.
In fact, we need to look at the over-building that has taken place in South Australia and Victoria where there is a surplus of homes. At the end of June, 32 per cent of homes built were unsold. Normally, only 15 per cent of homes built are unsold at the end of a month. The socialist structure in South Australia under Mr Dunstan, where we have a land commission, has completely ruined the State’s housing industry. Massive stocks of houses remain unsold.
The Commonwealth Government has taken steps in the housing area and will continue to do so. We have managed the industry effectively so that there is stability in it. There is no shortage of funds. Both the building societies and the banks say that they have adequate funds available to cope with the demand. The Government will modify its policies as necessary. It has proved that it is a Government which is seeking stability in that important industry. By its policies it has demonstrated its capacity to manage. This was not demonstrated by the previous Administration.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The debate is now concluded.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. This morning I asked a question of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) which I said concerned the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) of 1978. The Treasurer said that he had merely made a statement in the House about this matter and that there was no such Bill. I have a copy of the Bill in my hand together with a copy of the Income Tax (Non-Resident Companies) Bill 1978. Both Bills are freely obtainable from the Records Office within the precincts of Parliament House. I devoted a lot of attention in the representations I made to the Treasurer to proposed new Division 1 IB which relates to the income of non-resident companies and also to proposed new section 50N relating to the composition of taxable income. These were the bases upon which I acted, together with a great deal that I had read in the Press and from company sources. I say that there is such a Bill in existence. However, I must express my pleasure at hearing the implicit statement of the Treasurer that as this has not been tabled it has no validity as a parliamentary document. That gives me consolation, as I am sure it will give consolation to Australia’s businessmen and commercial interests who are very interested in ensuring the continued development of Australia’s abilities to exploit the Far Eastern and Eastern markets in order to ensure growing production, growing employment and greater remission of funds to Australia.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions or the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of National Acoustics Laboratory and Ultrasonics Institute, Chatswood, NSW.
The proposal is for the construction of facilities to house the testing, research, administration and support activities of the National Acoustics Laboratory and Ultrasonics Institute in a building complex in which they would share common service facilities. The site of the proposed works is on vacant Commonwealth land in Greville Street, Chatswood, and the new complex will replace existing facilities located in unsuitable warehouse accommodation at Millers Point, Sydney. The estimated cost of the proposed works is $ 1 2m at April 1 978 prices.
The Committee, in recommending the construction of the work, concluded that:
The Departments of Health and Administrative Services should discuss with the Willoughby Municipal Council and local residents the question of continued public access to the site and to the surrounding bushland.
The Government accepts this recommendation and the departments concerned will explore this with the Council and local residents with a view to making appropriate arrangements for public access subject to resolution of liability risks and to maintenance of security of the complex. The Committee also recommended:
The Depanment of Construction take all possible measures to minimise inconvenience to local residents during construction, particularly from heavy vehicles and blasting.
The Government accepts this recommendation and the Department of Construction will take the appropriate action. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
-I support the motion moved by the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay). As mentioned by the Minister, the Public Works Committee did explore and examine in detail the proposal for the building of the Ultrasonics Institute and the National Acoustics Laboratory at Chatswood. Before recommending the construction of the laboratory and the institute on the site proposed, the Committee carefully considered local objections to the proposal. These objections can be broadly stated as: Firstly, that the proposal was inappropriate for a zoned residential area; secondly, that it would alienate an area of open space- some 3.44 hectares- from community use; and, thirdly, that there would be adverse effects on surrounding residents from increased traffic movements and building activity. In addition, the proposed access was regarded as unsuitable and the parking space provided was seen as being deficient.
In relation to zoning, the Committee is satisfied that the Government has the authority to use the proposed site, which is zoned ‘Special Uses: Defence’ for other than defence purposes. The Committee has recommended that the Department of Health and the Department of Administrative Services negotiate with the Willoughby Municipal Council and local residents on the question of continued public access to the site and surrounding bushland. It is pleasing to note that the Minister has indicated that the Government has accepted this recommendation of the Committee. I think it is also important to recognise in this respect that existing flora will be retained where possible and the existing watercourse, ponds and waterfalls will be cleared and preserved as features of the site.
With regard to vehicle access from Greville Street, the Committee was satisfied that the Greville Street access was the only practical solution. This was supported, in particular, by a study by Professor W. R. Blunden, Professor of Traffic Engineering at the University of New South Wales, who advised that there would be no long term significant effects as far as traffic to the site was concerned. The Committee was well aware, however, that there would be dislocation to local residents during the construction period, particularly in relation to blasting and excavation on the site and the use by heavy vehicles of narrow residential streets, to cart away spoil and to bring in concrete and other building materials. It is also pleasing in this respect to note that the Government has accepted the recommendations of the Committee that these disabilities to local residents should be minimised as far as practicable.
I should also mention that the environmental clearance for the proposal was given by the then Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development in June 1 976. This has been followed up and that environmental clearance has been re-endorsed by the Department at this stage. I have pleasure in supporting the motion moved by the Minister for Construction.
-As the member for North Sydney and as this proposal affects the electorate of North Sydney, I have requested permission to make one or two comments on this proposal. I would like to extend my thanks to the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey), and to his colleagues the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) and Senator Jean Melzer from Victoria, who for two days conducted a public hearing in
Chatswood in the electorate of North Sydney and allowed the local residents to put their views side by side with those of the local government authority- the Willoughby Muncipal Council. His Worship the Mayor and the aldermen of that Council are also to be thanked because they made available the facilities of their civic centre and their council chambers to the representatives of the Commonwealth Parliament during the period of the hearing. The hearing went on to quite a late hour during the two days of sitting and gave a fair opportunity to local people to come and express their points of view. I think that it would be fair to say that nobody has questioned the need for a national acoustics laboratory and an ultrasonics institute. Everyone was convinced that the decisions taken relating to this institute and the laboratory were essential. Anyone who had studied the present position of those facilities at Circular Quay would want to see them moved from that appalling situation as quickly as possible.
The report of the Committee has brought the local objections very much to the attention of the Parliament. The report refers to Greville Street as a narrow carriageway. I believe that does indicate that the Chairman and his colleagues are not without a limited sense of humour because, in my view, to describe it as a carriageway at all is a slight over-statement. In fact, at its narrowest point it is only 8 yards or, according to my calculations, 7.3 metres wide. At its widest point it is about 9Vi yards wide. It is an old road in a residential area. The people who live there are going to learn to hate members of the House of Representatives with a good and steady hatred over a period of some 12 months while this construction takes place because the area will be blasted and people will be subjected to noise and great irritation from large trucks containing concrete charging around their quiet residential areas. With all the best intentions in the world of the Department of Construction and those companies employed by the Department to do this work, I have no doubt at all that they still will not be able to protect those people from the misfortunes about which they are concerned.
I noted in paragraph 55 of the report that the Crown Solicitor had advised that the original defence acquisition was in 1915 and in 1917 was a lawful acquisition for a public purpose and that therefore there does not appear to be any constitutional or legal reason why the Commonwealth should not use the land for any purpose within its competence under the Constitution. I cannot help but feel that if there were some people in that area who were wealthy enough to contest that in the High Court of Australia that statement might be shown to be not as careful as it ought to have been. It says that there does not appear to be any constitutional or legal reason. It may be that such a testing would indicate otherwise.
However, the main thing I want to do is plead with the Minister for Construction to advise the Government that there will be a real danger for certain adults, such as elderly people, and for children. I hope that the Commonwealth will recognise that the Commonwealth may be involved in litigation if injuries are sustained or if death by accident occurs during this traumatic period. I put these words on record because I believe that that period will be an acute danger period for the residents. I am doing so, knowing that my remarks will be on the record, in the hope of reminding the Commonwealth that a decision has been made in the national interest which is undoubtedly going to cause a great deal of misery to those local residents for a period.
The whole area consists of about 8 acres or 3.44 hectares of open land. It has been used by children in the area over a long period. It was originally a rifle range. That in the long run it will be put to a very sound and useful purpose I believe no rational person could deny. I am quite sure that when the National Acoustics Laboratory and the Ultrasonics Institute are completed and we have been through the misery of the construction it will be in the best interests of the people of Australia. I bring these matters to the Minister’s attention. I believe they should be placed on the record.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 12 September, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I rise to support the Budget which was brought down by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on 15 August and also to comment specifically on some aspects of it which I believe deserve further development in future Budgets. It is a Budget of responsibility and restraint. Having used the word ‘restraint’, let me firstly comment on some of the allegations which have been made, mostly by politically motivated people, about cutbacks in the Budget. Despite the fact that the Treasurer and the Government as a whole have exercised restraint in the construction of the Budget, there has still been a 7.7 per cent increase in expenditure in this financial year compared with last financial year.
Indeed that is the smallest increase that we have had in any Budget for 10 years but it is still a little greater than the expected rate of inflation over the forthcoming year. So it represents a small real increase. I think that the Australian public realises that we cannot go on year after year having increases in the Budget of 20 per cent, 30 per cent and even 46 per cent, which was the increase in one year during the Whitlam regime. I believe that the public has come to expect that this Government will adopt a responsible attitude and will accept the need for restraint in increases in government expenditure.
Let me comment on one particular category of Budget expenditure, namely, social security and welfare. Again, despite the cries that we have heard about cutbacks in social welfare expenditure, it must be pointed out that this area of the Budget has been the subject of a 7 per cent increase in expenditure in this financial year. There has been some readjustment of priorities to direct the available funds into areas of greatest need. In this respect I would like to comment specifically on the allocations made available for assistance to handicapped persons. It has always struck me as being an anomaly in our society that people who have children who are handicapped, physically or mentally, have had to spend a disproportionate amount of their time raising funds through voluntary organisations and have had to spend a disproportionate amount of their income just to provide the basic necessities for those handicapped children.
On the other hand, many other people who have children with normal abilities, with all their faculties, have had virtually everything provided for them in our system, even up to the doctor of philosophy level. Therefore I believe that the Budget is quite correct in directing a much greater share of available resources towards assistance for handicapped persons. For example, there will be a significant increase in expenditure for the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service. This service provides a comprehensive program of medical, social, educational and vocational rehabilitation. Last year $15m was spent on this program; in the current financial year $ 18.3m has been provided. The special needs of handicapped students also have been recognised by extending the eligibility for the handicapped child ‘s allowance to cover students aged 1 6 to 2 5 years of age who are not in receipt of an invalid pension.
Furthermore, and most significantly, assistance to organisations providing facilities for handicapped persons has been increased substantially on the level of assistance given in the previous year. This year $52m has been provided in the Budget under the handicapped persons assistance scheme, compared with $3 7.9m last year. I am hopeful that the Monkami Centre for the Intellectually Handicapped in Croydon in my electorate will benefit in the near future from this sort of expansion in expenditure in this area. The Handicapped Persons Assistance Act assists eligible organisations to establish sheltered workshops, activity, therapy and training centres and residential accommodation for handicapped children and adults. The Monkami Centre to which I referred presently has an application with the Department of Social Security for a subsidy for the construction of further hostel accommodation which is very much needed in the area.
I wish to point also to the need to extend eligibility for the domiciliary nursing care benefit. I was disappointed that this was not included in the Budget. I strongly recommend to the Treasurer and the Government that it should certainly be included in next year’s Budget, if action is not taken before. The purpose of the domiciliary nursing care benefit is to enable people of at least 65 years of age, who are suffering from an illness or infirmity, to be looked after in their own homes. They are people whose condition would justify their admission to a nursing home in normal circumstances. In recognition of the fact that the age limit excludes many deserving cases, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his policy speech for the 1977 Federal election campaign announced the Government’s intention to reduce the qualifying age limit from 65 to 16 years of age. As I mentioned earlier, I deeply regret that the Government did not see itself able to include this matter in the present Budget.
I have an interest in it because of the existence in my electorate of the Yarra Me Centre for Parapelgics and Quadriplegics, which was established about two years ago with the assistance of a $4 for $ 1 grant under the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act. It is a necessary facility and it provides accommodation on both a permanent and a short term basis for quadriplegics and paraplegics. But some people prefer to look after their quadriplegic and paraplegic relatives at home, at enormous personal expense and inconvenience to their family life. If they wish to do this, they should be encouraged and assisted to do so. Indeed they are saving the public purse thousands of dollars which would be spent if the people concerned had to be institutionalised. Therefore the reduction in the age limit from 65 to 16 years of age for the domiciliary nursing care benefit would encourage and assist a number of such familities to look after their stricken relatives at home. I again urge the Government to take steps to introduce this extended benefit, if possible before the next Budget.
One other area of the Budget which I believe needs a little further attention is the Aged and Disabled Persons Homes Act which provides an excellent program for the construction of homes for elderly people. One of the problems that we are now facing in our community is that many of the migrant groups which came to Australia in large numbers in the late 1940s and early 1950s have a great proportion of their population moving into retirement age. Because of their association with those ethnic communities, they have not necessarily had a priority booking for the Methodist or the Anglican homes for the aged or other homes which have been established with assistance from this Act. So a need has developed in our community to pay some particular attention to the requirements of the elderly members of various ethnic communities because some of them are missing out on accommodation for which other members of the Australian community qualify.
With that point in mind, a number of ethnic organisations have become very active in raising funds for elderly citizens’ homes and are seeking assistance under the Aged and Disabled Persons Homes Act. For example, I refer to the Australian Greek Society for the Care of the Elderly. I attended a fund raising function of this organisation on behalf of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr MacKellar, where the need for this type of facility for elderly members of the Greek community in Victoria was pointed out to me. The organisation is doing very worthwhile work and I hope that it will be given an appropriate place in the priority listings for future approvals for new projects.
Another organisation which is concerned with this issue is the Latvian Friendly Society which is seeking to establish a home for its elderly members- not necessarily Latvians, by the way, but anyone who cares to join- in Hurstbridge in my electorate. Some planning problems are involved. There are some problems with the local council, which I will not go into here. I have been impressed with the quality of the submission which the Society has made, a copy of which I have with me, and the thought that has gone into it in meeting this very basic need. I think most honourable members will appreciate that the members of the Latvian community in Australia, by and large, came to Australia in the late 1940s and early 1950s in rather large numbers. Therefore a very substantial proportion of that community would now be in their retirement years.
I want to move from the subject of social security to the subject of defence. This may seem to be rather a jump but I want to comment on one aspect of the Budget which disturbs me a little. Defence in my view is the primary responsibility of a Commonwealth government. After all, no other level of government can attend to defence and we cannot expect private enterprise to attend to the defence needs of Australia. There has been a 5.2 per cent increase in defence expenditure in the Budget. Whilst this increase is sufficient to keep pace with inflation and to provide for some new capital equipment I believe that as a community we are becoming more aware of Australia’s position in the world and the greater need we have to attend to our own defence needs.
A number of incidents over the last two or three years has drawn the Australian community’s attention to the defence needs of this country. For instance, I refer to the incident involving a drug runner who came into the north of Australia and was pursued by a Royal Austraiian Air Force Hercules aircraft. There have been other incursions of one sort or another which have not necessarily in themselves had a defence significance. However, the fact that those incursions have occurred has drawn to the public’s attention the need for Australia to be able to defend her own borders to a greater extent than is now possible. The development of off-shore oil and gas facilities has also drawn attention to this need. There have been reports in the Press of problems very near to Australia’s borders. For example, there have been problems in East Timor. We have also read recent reports about activity along the border between Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea. I think that many of the reports on that latter matter are in fact exaggerated. But the fact that these problems exist I think is bringing home to the Austraiian people an appreciation of the need for us to make much greater provision to attend to our own defence needs.
People appreciate the need for northern surveillance. The Australian Coastal Surveillance Organisation has been established. This organisation will draw together Commonwealth government and other government agencies and indeed private agencies where their co-operation is required to provide a focal point for surveillance activities. I notice that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) recently circulated a brochure giving details of how to contact this organisation.
The Government has provided additional funds for the chartering of privately owned aircraft to assist in surveillance activities. I believe that in the longer term we will need to create in Australia something along the lines of an Australian coastguard. I do not believe that it is a proper function of the defence forces of this country to attend specifically to surveillance needs. For one thing, the equipment used by our defence forces is of a high technology nature and is very expensive and its use for lower level surveillance activities is not justified. Moreover, the training of members of the Defence Force is different from the training which is required of people who are fundamentally performing a police role. It has been put to me by someone who has been involved in Defence Force training that our defence forces are trained to some extent to use the maximum force to achieve an objective as quickly as possible with maximum casualties to the other side and minimum casualties to our own side. On the other hand, the emphasis of the training which members of police forces receive is directed towards using minimum force and usually great patience to achieve an objective with minimum injury to both the accused and the community as a whole. Therefore to throw members of the defence forces, who have received entirely different training, into a police role could possibly have some unfortunate consequences. Also, from a civil liberties point of view I do not think it would be wise to allow members of our defence forces to be thrown into a situation where they may be required to apprehend people on the grounds of an alleged breach of civil law and where they may become used to that type of activity.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I stated yesterday, and I will state it again today, that this is a dishonest, corrupt and dishonourable Government. It is a Government led by a devious and dishonourable Prime Minister. In fact, he is one of these unfortunate people who even looks crook.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Chifley might moderate his language a little, particularly when he is making reference to another honourable member.
– Well, I will say he is unfortunate in his appearance. I will give some examples of dishonesty and dishonourable conduct. The first is the Budget itself. I have a sheaf of newspaper reports, which has been compiled by the Parliamentary Library. These reports list the leaks that occurred before the Budget was delivered to this Parliament. There was one leak after another. Tax slugs were tipped on liquor, petrol and cigarettes. Of course, that is what happened. There was also a Budget tip that the price of petrol would rise and that the price of cars would fall. Of course, these things also happened. One can go through the newspaper reports and find one leak after another. Every major decision taken in this Budget was leaked deliberately and obviously by the Government and the Treasurer (Mr Howard) before the Budget was brought down. I make a call today in this Parliament for a full inquiry by the Government to establish how these leaks occurred. There was a time when probity of government was considered an absolute essential, when if a Treasurer leaked any information from a Budget he was required immediately to resign. But that is not the case today. Apparently all parts of the Budget were leaked one after the other because the Government thought ‘Oh, this might cushion the effects of the drastic measures in this Budget ‘.
That is one example of dishonourable activity. Also there have been the scandals and the broken promises of this Government. I refer to scandals such as the Withers affair, the Facom affair and another one in the Department of Defence which is right now in the offing. Let me instance just a few of the broken promises- the undertakings given by this dishonourable Prime Minister in both 1975 and 1977.
-Order! I think the honourable member for Chifley would be aware that one cannot make imputations unless it is done by way of a substantive motion. I think it would be classed as offensive to call the Prime Minister dishonourable.
– I got away with it yesterday when other Deputy Speakers were in the Chair. Anyhow, I will abide by what you have said. In 1975 the Prime Minister gave an undertaking not to interfere with the interest deductibility scheme. This scheme is finished. He undertook to give tax cuts last February. He gave them but he is now taking them away from all wage earners except those few people who are in the high income bracket. In 1975 the Prime Minister undertook not to interfere with children’s services. Look at the amount of funds that has been allocated for the children’s services program. He promised there would be a job for everyone who wanted to work. Have a look at the unemployment level today. He said that the urban development program would be maintained at its present level. That program is virtually nonexistent today. He said that he would not interfere with Medibank. However, he has emasculated and destroyed Medibank. He said that he would not interfere with wage indexation. Yet he goes to the court every time the national wage case is being heard and asks that a plateau increase be granted.
He undertook that pensioners would continue to have their pensions indexed every six months. What has happened in this Budget? He has wiped that indexation to 12 months. These are just a few of the examples of dishonourable actions. Let us have a look at the thrust of this Budget which is completely contrary to the policies of all the major Western industrial nations of the world. Today in every one of those countries the emphasis is being placed on the injection of funds into the public sector and upon the revival of the economy and employment, on the basis that if this does not occur they will sink deeper and deeper into an endless recession which cannot be corrected. The best example of this, of course, is Japan which in the last 10 days has announced that billions of dollars are to be injected into the economy to revive economic growth.
Yet here in Australia we are adopting the exact opposite attitude. Countries in the International Monetary Fund are adopting an attitude which is different to that adopted by this Government. It goes for a retractionary program and the other governments are deliberately endeavouring to inject funds to stimulate their economies. Also there is the question of the attitude of the Government and the fact that its whole policies are misdirected. This is at a time when, the Government should be injecting funds into the public sector and when it should be introducing programs for unemployment relief. At this very time the Government is going in the opposite direction. It has forgotten that the Government is the biggest buyer. When it cuts its expenditure it must create problems in private industry and accordingly increase unemployment.
There are a few other matters on which I wish to touch. I have touched on some scandals and I will touch on another one in a few minutes. Before I do that I want to deal with the matter of computerisation. I have stated before that one of the good things about the Telecom Australia dispute was that it brought to the fore and to the notice of the public the fact that the second industrial revolution was not around the corner but was upon us. This industrial revolution, of course, was brought about by computerisation. This is something that cannot be avoided. I have been to Japan and I have seen what is going on there. There are rooms full of computers with very few people on the floor. The National television factory has decreased the labour content of its product by 50 per cent in three years. In Japan one can go into the biggest steel works in the world and see a few people on the floor. Yet they are producing, with 1,000 men, as much steel as British Steel produces by employing 50,000 men.
This is the second industrial revolution and it has to be grappled with. So far nothing has been done by this Government, although it has now decided to set up an interdepartmental committee. Large sectors of the trade union movement, such as members of the printing trade, clerks, bank officers, employees in Telecom and so on right along the line, have known that this situation is upon them. They have been doing a great deal of research on the matter. Yet the Government has so far repudiated the call by the Premier of New South Wales and by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, for a national inquiry. There must be a national inquiry into new technology. It must include not only this Government, not only public servants, but also the Federal and State governments, employers and employees so that we can get some rationalisation and some rational attitudes towards what will occur. I read an article dated 30 August which reports the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon). It states:
The former Prime Minister and Treasurer, Sir William McMahon, predicted yesterday that unemployment would rise by 80,000 early next year as a result of the Federal Budget.
That is only the beginning because then computerisation comes in. Other things have to be looked at. Workers will have to have learning leave. There will have to be recurrent education for workers to catch up with the new techniques. There needs to be an international exchange of workers or technicians at a low level. We have to look at taxing new technology. So far we have taxed employment by the pay-roll tax because we had full employment. Today we do not have full employment and we should look at taxing new technology. We should look at some of the proposals such as those in Germany where they provide assistance by incentives to improve the quality of life in industry. For young people we should be looking at a completely different method of technical education. We should be taking them right on to the factory floor for training. These are some of the things which have to be done.
There was a great deal of discussion earlier today on the issue of family trusts. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made accusations against the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) which finally he had to retract because the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, whilst he has trusts for his children, does not have family trust companies for income splitting or tax avoidance purposes. The Prime Minister admitted that he had a family trust and I would say he has. I have done a lot of searches into this matter. I have some of it here. These searches are virtually equivalent to the searches done in the Corporate Affairs Office in Melbourne. This research deals with quite a number of companies. The first is the Nareen Pastoral Co. I suppose honourable members have heard of it. It is a certain property. It is very interesting to see some of the names that occur. Mentioned are John Malcolm Fraser, Tamara Margaret Sandford Fraser, Sandford Robert Beggs, Rupert James Hamer, Una Arnold Fraser and Harry Vincent Sampson.
There are also a number of searches dealing with Fraser Properties Pty Ltd. The very interesting part of this matter is the names of the persons who commenced to carry on business under the new business name. A document I have here was signed on 31 August 1975. The business is called L.J.W. Nominees Pty Ltd. I will read a little about this matter which has been searched out. The business was started by two gentlemen. The document which started the business is dated 26 October 1971. The names of the gentlemen are Muir and Kantor. They had two shares, one share each. The total authorised share capital was 10,000 shares at $1 each but only two shares were paid up. On 18 November 1971 those gentlemen returned their allotment of shares. On either 16 or 18 November 1971 Malcolm and Tamara Fraser became directors of the company. There is a lack of information between 1971 and 1 973 when they had their annual meeting. The annual meeting was held on 19 December 1973. 1 can go much further into this matter. It is very interesting that on 1 5 December 1975, two days after the Federal election, the two Frasers resigned as directors of the company and a solicitor by the name of Frank Lewis Birch was appointed on 15 December 1975. Of course this was obviously an attempt at that stage by the Prime Minister to create a camouflage in order to hide his particular interest in this company when he suddenly became Prime Minister.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! I draw the attention of the honourable member to the Standing Orders which require that a matter of this kind should be the subject of a substantive motion.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I point out that yesterday the Prime Minister made exactly the same accusations against the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and he was not stopped by Mr Speaker. He was allowed to go ahead and make accusations against the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It is one law for one and another law for another.
– I ask for leave to table all these documents regarding the Nareen Pastoral Co. and Fraser Properties Pty Ltd. This morning I clearly asked the Prime Minister to table papers and I am now asking the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley), who is at the table, to allow this to be done.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
– This is an obvious cover-up. The Government is frightened to have these documents tabled. I asked Mr Speaker this morning to have the papers tabled. I also asked the Prime Minister to do as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has done and to table his tax return. He has refused to do that. It is very obvious that the Prime Minister is engaging in income splitting with the object of tax avoidance.
-Order! I draw the honourable member’s attention to the Sending Orders. I have already done so once and I do so for the second time. I ask him not to persist in this direction without a substantive motion.
– I state that this is a scandal. It is a cover-up and something -
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Wilmot
– I did not intend to make any comments about the speech that we have just been forced to listen to from the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), but I think that what we have just heard from the honourable member is typical of the negative approach that we find coming from honourable members opposite. This debate is based on the
Budget that was brought down earlier this session. What we have just heard was an attempt by the honourable member for Chifley to do nothing more than to discredit personally certain people on this side of the House. His speech contained absolutely nothing about the Budget, nothing about the economy of this country and nothing about the problems with which this country is faced. It was designed only to denigrate certain members on this side of the House.
– I raise a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, you just ruled that a member of this House cannot be attacked and personal imputations cannot be made without a substantive motion being put to the House. As I said earlier, there are two laws- one for the Prime Minister and one for myself. You are now allowing the honourable member for Wilmot to make a personal attack.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– Contrary to the approaches that have been taken by members of the Opposition, I intend now to offer some comments on the Budget which really is what this debate is all about anyway. What we saw earlier this year when the Budget was presented to us by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) was an ongoing strategy that this Government has followed consistently since it came to Government in December 1975. At that time we were faced with the job of renewing and restoring confidence in the Australian economy and the Australian community after the disastrous events seen during the Labor Government’s term in office. The Liberal Party, prior to coming to government in 1975, made clear certain points in its pre-election campaign of that year. It indicated that there had to be a substantial reduction in the amount of money and the amount of national resources that the Government seeks. (Quorum formed) I am indebted to the honourable member for Chifley for bringing an audience into this House. Honourable members now will hear some positive and constructive views on the Budget, following the disgraceful dissertation by the honourable member for Chifley. He did nothing more during his speech than try to denigrate members on this side of the House. What is more, he cannot even stay in this chamber to hear these positive and constructive ideas. He has walked out of the chamber. I must admit that I am not impressed by the honourable member for Chifley.
As I was saying, this Government has brought down a very positive Budget. It has followed policies that were started in December 1975.
Those policies are aimed at restoring the confidence of the community and putting the economy back on its feet. I must admit, as would all honourable members on this side of the House, that we give our full support to the Government not only for the Budget that it has brought down but also for the strategy behind it. We all knew on this side of the House that we could not have a sound economy following the policies that the Labor Party had enunciated during its term in office. We knew we had to reduce Government spending in order to bring down inflation and to bring down interest rates.
It is a pity that some of our friends on the opposite side of the chamber have not learnt that lesson. Obviously they have not learnt it. What did we hear when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) brought down his shadow Budget? He had the temerity to come in here and propose to this House that the Government should have brought down a Budget with a deficit of some $3,650m. We on this side of the House know, and the Australian community knows, that to follow such a disgraceful policy would do nothing more than simply add people to the dole queues, It would put people out on the streets because they would not be able to get a job. Private industry would not be able to employ people and certainly would not be able to create new job opportunities.
This really is what this Budget is all about. It is an attempt to bring confidence back into private industry, to bring back profitability into private industry and to create job opportunities so that we can reduce the number of people on the unemployment list. Quite obviously, the Opposition, in opposing this Budget, also is opposing the strategies behind the Budget- that is, to bring down inflation, to regenerate business confidence and ultimately to get more people into the work force. The Opposition is opposed to those particular strategies. I think that they should be exposed to the Australian community for putting forward such propositions. This is what the Budget is all about. The Government alone cannot be a guardian angel that can wave a magic wand and cure all the ills in the Australian nation as the Opposition seems to think. We can set a strategy but it must have the support of the Australian community. It must have the support of people outside this chamber and, in particular, it must have the support of the trade union movement.
One proposition that the Government and honourable members on this side of the House have put forward consistently is that in order to get profitability back into private enterprise, to get industry moving and recreate job opportunities, there must be a containment of the wage explosion that happened, particularly during the period of the Labor Government. (Quorum formed) At least, Mr Deputy Speaker, it has been shown that the honourable member for Chifley has one way of making an impact on the House. I was saying that if we are to have renewed job opportunities in this country there must be a containment of the wage explosion which occurred in the past and which was particularly promoted by the Labor Party when it was in government. It wanted to see wages explode. It wanted to see pressure put on private industry. What happened? We had thousands of people thrown on to the list of unemployed. The trade union movement has been particularly irresponsible in the attitudes it has adopted. It tries to put forward some sanctimonious view that the Government should bring down the level of unemployment, while taking in its own policies a diametrically opposed attitude. I was interested to read an editorial in the Australian Financial Review of Wednesday, 22 March, which stated:
There was a time when it was the industrial movement that most fervently espoused the concept of full employment. That day has long since passed. Except for the occasional remark of helpless regret the ACTU treats unemployment as something beyond its control, its responsibility or even its interest.
It is evident that this is simply not true. If the ACTU had a corporate intelligence that rose above the level of immediate self interest it would perceive the inarguable proposition that its members stand to gain more in the long run from sustained and balanced economic growth than by fighting for a larger share of a non-growing or even diminishing economic cake.
That editorial has summed up the concept, the hub, of the Government’s economic strategy, that is, to get private industry moving, to make industries profitable again, to give them the opportunity to grow and expand and by so doing create job opportunities for young people and all other Australians so that we can all share in a growing prosperity. This is what is behind the Government’s strategy. It is perhaps what is behind the propositions that are consistently put forward by members of the Australian Labor Party. They do not want to see private industry prospering because that is so diametrically opposed to their ideology. They would rather replace it with some sort of socialist system. Because of that they are trying consistently to reduce the profitability and the prosperity of the great private companies of Australia.
One thing about which I was somewhat disappointed in the Budget- I again put this proposition to members of the Government- is the level of spending by the Government on sporting facilities throughout Australia. I had written earlier to the Government asking that there be a greater allocation to sports and sporting faculties for young people. In this Budget an amount of $4.9m is being made available for youth, sport and recreation facilities, and of that amount $1.3m will be used to promote national sporting bodies. I am conscious of the fact that we are in a very tight budgetary restraint period and I accept that the Government would find it difficult in this financial year to increase its allocation for these things, but I appeal to the Government, when considering next year’s Budget, to increase substantially the allocation for youth, sport and recreation in this country, particularly in the higher density urban areas of Melbourne and Sydney, so that there will be more available to occupy the young people of this country.
I conclude by saying that this Budget is designed to re-stimulate confidence and restimulate economic growth. It is designed to bring down the rate of inflation and interest rates and in so doing to encourage investment in private industry. I am quite confident that if that philosophy is followed, if those strategies are followed and the people of Australia get behind the strategies of the Budget, its effect will be to enhance the job opportunities for all people in Australia. It is only by making private industry prosperous that we can expect to create long term job opportunities and it is long term job opportunities that I believe the Australian people are looking for. I believe that it is only through following the strategies of this Budget that those job opportunities can be created.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) (5.20)- I was very surprised to hear the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) make such a vicious attack on the excellent speech made by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage). It must be recalled that the honourable member for Chifley was replying almost blow for blow to the statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) but, unlike the Prime Minister, he was not relying on hearsay or innuendo. He had before him a heap of documents that Mosstrooper could not jump. If any unfairness was shown it must surely have been shown by the Minister (Mr Staley), who was at the table. The Minister refused to allow those documents to be incorporated in Hansard. I point out to the Australian public that all the honourable member for Chifley wanted to do was to put forward the facts in the documents he had but he was not allowed to do so.
The Prime Minister has claimed that this Budget will provide a better way of life for all Australians, but there are millions of Australians who would claim that if that is what this Budget is aimed at, it is doomed to failure. This Budget hits hardest those who are already the disadvantaged of this nation- the low income earners, the family unit and the pensioners. It can be said that this is the most unfair and unjust Budget that has ever been thrust upon the Australian population. While attacking the family unit, the low income earner and the pensioner, it provides a windfall for the multinationals, such as the Utah Development Corporation, the automobile companies and the oil cartels. We know what the Budget, aimed at a recession-led recovery, is doing for the multinationals but let us consider what is happening to the average Australian as a result of this Budget. Apart from the broken election promise to reduce taxation, the broken election promise to maintain Medibank, the broken election promise to phase out the means test on pensioners, the Budget places an intolerable burden on the family unit.
While the Liberal Party claims that it recognises the value of the family unit, it attempts to balance the Budget of this nation not by a resource tax on unearned profits or excessive profits but by robbing the family budget. The abolition of the maternity allowance will hit young couples right at the start of their new family life. The decision to tax family allowances for students receiving scholarships will hit families struggling to educate their children. The cuts in the school dental scheme will leave a mark on children of the lower income families for the rest of their lives. The failure to index the family allowance means a reduction in the real value of this allowance. That will hit the family budget hard. More families will have to become dual income families and this will mean that fewer jobs will be available for school leavers. There will be no escape for the family even when the children become school leavers because the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has predicted that there will be a rise in the level of unemployment during the year, despite the fact that 16.5 per cent of the young people aged between 15 and 19 years are unemployed already. While all this is going on the family will have to find more money for taxation, more money for fuel costs. If someone in the family is in ill health they will have to find more money for medical expenses.
The people want to know why it is necessary for the Government to hit the family unit the hardest. Why do we have to have a contractionary Budget when the International Monetary
Fund is issuing warnings about a vicious cycle of deflation? The Budget proves that the Government is concerned about the welfare of the oil companies. It is concerned about the welfare of Utah. It is concerned about the welfare of multinational automobile companies. But what does it care about the welfare of low income families? What does it care about the welfare of the unemployed youth suffering a reduction in the value of his social service benefits through this Budget? What does it care about the old age pensioner who is already behind the cost of living and is being forced to wait another 12 months to have his pension indexed? What does it care about the right of the average Australian to have a job? Each Budget introduced since the Fraser Government came to power has hidden its recessionary purpose behind false promises. In 1976 we had a false promise of an investment-led recovery. In 1977 we had a false promise of a consumer-led recovery. In 1978 we have a false promise of a recession-led recovery. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has pointed out to the nation the futility of this Budget. He has pointed out that investment cannot be won without prospects. The only investments we achieved were in labour-saving devices that caused further unemployment. A manufacturer will not invest in more production if everyone is unemployed and there is no market for his product. He cannot sell more to a consumer who is out of work or in fear of unemployment and an economy cannot be expanded by contracting it. The Leader of the Opposition has repeatedly pointed this out to the nation. His warnings have been echoed by all sections of the nation, contrary to claims made by the Prime Minister that this Budget has received widespread acceptance. Not only have the unemployed echoed the sentiments of the Leader of the Opposition but also renowned economists and even members of the Liberal Party. I would like to read the comments about the Budget of one of the leaders of the Liberal Party, reported in the Australian on 1 September. The report states:
One of the most powerful figures in the Liberal Party in Western Australia has strongly criticised the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, over the Federal Government’s economic policies.
In a sharply worded public criticism Mr Bill Mitchell described the recent Federal Budget as aiming at a ‘recessionled recovery. ‘
Mr Mitchell is known as the most powerful lobbyist in Western Australia. He was an aide to the former Liberal Premier, Sir David Brand, for 12 years and is now an adviser to the present Premier, Sir Charles Court.
His comments are doubly significant because he usually takes a low profile publicly, despite his influential position in the party structure.
In a letter to the Australian, Mr Mitchell warned that Australia should take note of the International Monetary Fund’s recent warning about ‘a vicious cycle of deflation’. He said each Federal Budget since 1 976 had been a prescription for compulsory economic recession and rising unemployment.
That is the warning of a prominent member of the Liberal Party. What have we heard from Government members in this House? Speaker after speaker has supported this vicious and unfair Budget, bluffing it out in the true Nixon style, regardless of the harm to the family unit, regardless of its hidden recessionary measures, and regardless of the broken election promises. It is no wonder that the Speaker of this House, Sir Billy Snedden, is appealing to back benchers to rebel in order to achieve the reform of this Parliament. Let me read what the Speaker of the House has had to say, and I quote again from the Australian of 1 September:
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sir Billy Snedden, yesterday encouraged backbenchers to rebel on some issues to achieve the reform of Federal Parliament.
This is an appeal by the Speaker of the House of Representatives-
He said that party solidarity was a major obstacle to reform.
Criticising the power of the executive over the House of Representatives, he added: ‘There is increasing evidence that members and supporters of the Parliament in the community are beginning to question the executive’s increasing dominance over the legislature and that there is a groundswell of opinion favouring reform. ‘
Sir Billy argued strongly for more power and stature for the House of Representatives.
Clearly, the executive is submerging the Australian legislature to a significant degree, particularly in the House of Representatives, and it has the potential to go further,’ he said.
The result is that the legislature is seen by many as a rubber stamp for the executive and therefore of little importance,’ . . .
This Budget may not be a rubber stamp for the Executive but it is certainly a rubber stamp for the will and stubbornness of the Prime Minister. People throughout Australia are saying that the economy should take an alternative direction, and someone on the Government side should have the courage to oppose the measures of this Budget. I say now that if the Liberals are not prepared to play their part, at least the National Country Party should do something about it.
Each Australian farmer will be $2,000 poorer as a result of the harsh measures dealt out in the 1978-79 Fraser Budget. The hike of 16 per cent to 20 per cent in fuel costs will add $1,000 a year to the average farmer’s fuel bill and the flow-on effect will inflate annual farm costs by a further $1,000. The average farmer will pay at least another $200 in income tax due to the rise in tax rates. Farming consumes 19.5 per cent of Australian fuel and its share of the extra $804m that the Government claims it will raise through the fuel tax will amount to between $160m and $200m over the next year. In addition, the Australian farmer must foot a large part of the fuel bill for the transport sector, which it is said consumes 20 per cent of our fuel. The fuel price hike will be reflected in widespread consumer increases for goods and services, not only on the farm but also in small country towns, and it will deal a death blow to decentralisation. Regional advisory committees trying desperately to attract industries to country centres will have a hopeless task. The National Farmer, the national farming newspaper, in an article by Julian Cribb in the 24 August-6 September issue, tells us that wheat growers’ costs alone will rise from $10 to $12 a tonne due to the fuel cost rise. Because of another broken election promise, farmers will still be forking out around $20m in Federal death duties in 1978-79, despite the Government’s pledge to do away with them. Members of the National Country Party can defend this Budget if they want to do so, but I want rural producers in my electorate to know that I have raised my voice in protest. I want family units to know that I am protesting at the treatment that they are receiving. I want the unemployed youth to know that the Australian Labor Party is protesting at the way that they have been treated. We want the pensioners to know that we are objecting to the fact that they have to wait another 12 months to have any adjustment made although they are already behind in relation to cost increases. The Fraser Government could have obtained the same result by allocating the penalties and disadvantages in a more equitable manner. The Government was prepared to forgo $3 16m as a result -
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I listened with interest to the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick) and I must say that his crocodile tears for the farmers sound very hollow to me because he speaks for a government which when last in office did away with fuel price equalisation which was of very great benefit to the people who live in the electorate of Riverina and indeed in all electorates, particularly those in outlying areas. I would like also to mention that he referred to health. Let me say that despite the stringent expenditure restraints that this Government has had to take as a result of the destruction of our economy by the previous Labor Government, we have introduced a scheme whereby people requiring specialist attention will be able now for the first time to get compensation for travel and accommodation expenses incurred in seeking such attention. This is something which is long overdue, which the Australian Labor Party never even thought of doing but which this Government has done as a result of its consideration for the welfare and health of people who live in areas such as that which the honourable member for Riverina represents.
He talked too about pension increases being made not as often as they have been made in the past. Let me say that under the Labor Government the rate of inflation was so high that pensions were as far behind every quarter as they will be behind every year under this Government. Therefore, pensioners will be a lot better off under this Government. The labour-saving devices which he mentioned were largely brought about and certainly the speed with which they were brought about was accentuated by the rapid increase in the rate of inflation which was characteristic of the Labor Government. I could go on and on.
When we talk about the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and what he has done we must consider what Mr Wran thinks about him. He will not have the Leader of the Opposition near him during the State election. If ever there was an indictment of a federal Labor government, and particularly the Leader of the Opposition about whom the honourable member spoke so freely, surely that must be it. I have not enough time to answer all the statements made by the honourable member because I want to speak to the Budget also.
The Government is certainly to be commended on its determination to continue its successful attack on inflation. To do this it has had to introduce some measures which are distasteful to it and indeed to the public at large, but an indication of the courage of the Government is that it is pursuing those measures which ultimately will be of real benefit to the whole of the community although they are unpopular at present and although the Opposition in this Parliament tries to take advantage of the situation. The temporary increase in income tax which was very reluctantly introduced by the Government for this year only is an example of this. It was introduced only to ensure that the attack on inflation will continue along the successful road that it has already taken. It is generally accepted that a reduction of the deficit is an effective factor in the reduction of the rate of inflation. Indeed, it is regarded by many as an essential factor.
It has been claimed by a Labor spokesman, with characteristically illogical reasoning, that the Government is concerned with reducing the deficit but is not concerned with unemployment. The cold hard facts are that by reducing the inflation rate, with the contribution that that will make to a stable economy, unemployment can be reduced on a sound and continuing basis, and it is the only way that we can effectively do that. I accept the soundness of the Government’s major economic objectives; they are to be commended and they must be proceeded with.
At the same time I recognise that a responsibility is resting on the shoulders of the Government to ensure that the burden of restoring the Australian economy is spread as equitably as possible. The Government feels that it has endeavoured to do that. However, one factor on the Budget which concerns me and which falls very heavily on the primary producers is the increase in the excise on fuel and distillate in particular to bring the price to world parity. Because this action requires primary producers to carry an undue share of the burden of reducing the inflation rate through decreasing the Budget deficit as a result, I urge the Government to have fuel, especially distillate fuel, used by primary producers, exempted from the increase.
The president of the Queensland Graingrowers Association, Mr Don Eather, and its administrator, Mr George Houen, have recently pointed out that the increased fuel price has placed graingrowers at a serious disadvantage in relation to their major competitors for overseas markets. They have pointed out quite rightly that the price of bulk diesel fuel to the commercial user in the United States of America is 40. 1 lc Australian per imperial gallon and if he uses petrol on the farm that excise charge is refunded. The Canadian prices are comparable. Canada and the USA are retaining these concessions although their inflation rates for the 6 months to July 1978 were 12.1 per cent in Canada and 10.5 per cent in the USA. The fact that they are still retaining those concessions shows the value that those governments place on maintaining profitability and world competitiveness in primary industry, and this is something which I believe we should look at very seriously. By comparison at Dalby on the Darling Downs in my electorate of Maranoa the farm delivered price for distillate is expected to be about 72.64c Australian per imperial gallon.
Honourable members can see the disadvantage that we suffer in relation to our competitors overseas in our fight for those markets which we must have to maintain the amount of export income and gross domestic product which these primary and graingrowing industries provide for this country.
Viable productive industries are vitally important to a sound economy and it is against this background that I have urged the Government to examine the value that relief to these industries would be as well as the justice of equitably sharing the burden of re-establishing the Australian economy to the advantage of all Australians. The importance of relieving primary industry of the costs imposed is an attitude held by primary producer organisations across the nation. I find that this attitude is held by responsible representatives of the community not only in my State of Queensland but also in other States. For example, the Western Australian Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. R. Old, in an interview I had with him recently impressed upon me the need for the alleviation of the cost of fuel in production industries; and he also stated that transport industries should be given that consideration too. Of course, he represents a big State which is often compared with Queensland and some of the problems experienced there are certainly experienced in Queensland and in my electorate of Maranoa. Mr Old also stressed to me the need to review taxation zones with the object of introducing another zone and lifting the taxation benefits presently provided in the existing zones. Mr Deputy Speaker, I need hardly assure you that I am pleased to raise the need for updating the taxation zone benefits as it is something for which the National Country Party in Canberra has pressed quite often down the years. I am very sympathetic to Mr Old’s views because, as I have said, my electorate contains areas which are comparable with many of the areas in Western Australia and indeed in other States. This situation applies in areas of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, although possibly not so much in Tasmania.
To demonstrate the extra burden carried by primary producers as a result of increased fuel prices it has been reliably estimated that many farmers in larger farming areas will face an increase of many thousands of dollars and that many other smaller farmers will have to meet extra costs of $1,000 or more. So it is a heavy charge and it has to be remembered, particularly as farming is spread out into more marginal areas, that farmers face very great difficulties of unfavourable seasonal conditions, dependence on the world prices and the need to try to maintain viability. Indeed, there is almost a necessity for a reserve to meet those unpredictable unfavourable conditions that can apply. I wish to quote a statement made by the Queensland Graingrowers Association:
In Queensland fuel is probably the most important cash item in a grain grower’s cost of production. Obviously, the grower has no alternative source of energy for farming, and no way of passing on the extra cost except on the 20 per cent of the nation ‘s wheat crop sold on the domestic market.
I mentioned earlier the vagaries of seasonal conditions. I wish to stress that this fuel has to be used every year even when unfavourable seasonal conditions and low world prices reduce the profitability of the operation of the property to marginal levels on some occasions or even to a loss position. The metropolitan traveller has options available to him to avoid increased fuel costs. No doubt, he can either use public transport or share car travel with other commuters. The fuel wasted by people travelling to work in Brisbane, for example, has been highlighted in census figures published recently. The figures show that 63 per cent of people in the work force travel to work by car and that 50 per cent travel in cars by themselves. Therefore higher petrol prices can be useful in conserving fuel, saving wear and tear on cars and car tyres and making a contribution to reducing traffic density in peak hours. It can be seen that some benefits can be obtained as a result of people having to pay more for fuel in those areas where alternatives are available and savings can be made. I acknowledge that fact but in my appeal I am talking about those areas where fuel simply has to be used and where no alternatives are available.
I have mentioned the problems with which farmers must contend and the conditions under which they work. I wish to stress what is obvious to many farmers and people in country areas: Many people hold the erroneous view that once rain falls after a drought the primary producers’ problems are over. They overlook the fact that in many cases heavy debts have been incurred and have to be liquidated. Similarly, after years of low prices, too many people think that as soon as market prices have improved the primary producers’ troubles are over, again forgetting the need to recover the losses incurred in previous years. I have stressed that point, although I have not had much time to do so. I believe that the Government should look at this matter and with great sincerity, I ask it to do so.
The Government is to be warmly congratulated for providing the amount of finance that it has been able to provide in many areas of Government expenditure, including Medibank, and still keep the deficit at a reasonable level. That is a splendid effort and I commend the Government for it. The determined effort of the Federal Government to control inflation means that if the objective of a 5 per cent inflation rate is achieved this financial year- this seems very likely- the contributions made by the Government to States and to local government will have the added value of being used at a time when inflation is kept down to a lower level. For instance, payments made to the States and to local authorities under the tax sharing arrangements are estimated to increase by 10.7 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively. These funds can be used for whatever purposes the States and local authorities choose. Australia is bearing down on the inflation rate. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said the other night, Australia’s actions in this area provide an example to the rest of the world. The reduction of inflation will benefit those areas of expenditure because the money to be spent will have a greater value as the inflation rate falls. The inflation rate will not be at anything like the level it was during the period of the Labor Government.
Finally, let me say that the ultimate test of a Budget is whether it is in the long term best interests of the people that the Government represents. I am firmly convinced that, subject to the changes that I have suggested- I hope the Government will give serious consideration to them- there is no doubt that this Budget is in the best interests of the Australian people and the Australian nation. The Government has been denigrated for not being able to provide the funds that were provided previously in all areas of expenditure. Possibly, although the Government is providing funds at the same rate as the Labor Government, sometimes the provision of those funds has not kept pace with the full rate of inflation. I hope that people who listen to such denigration of the Government will realise the tremendous benefits that will be obtained in the future through the control of inflation. In that way also we will be able to provide for those deserving young people, in fact all people in the nation, a better prospect of continuing employment, more employment opportunities and a greater possibility of retaining those employment avenues that will be available to them. Employment opportunities have been denied to them because our economy has been broken down as a result of illogical and irresponsible attitudes by the Labor Government.
-Many other honourable members have already pointed out the callousness of Fraserism which is embodied in this Budget. They have pointed out its dishonesty, its inequity and its 18th century solutions for 20th century problems. I will limit my remarks to the disastrous effects the Budget will have on unemployment levels and the total lack of responsibility shown by the Liberal-National Country Party Government in failing to develop a manpower policy to minimise future labour market imbalances. It could well be that the Liberal Government is being supremely cynical and is fully conscious of what it is doing, taking a gamble on the community’s tolerance and, hopefully, short memory. By adopting such repressive tactics now, there is no doubt that inflation will fall. Everything is falling, including levels of employment.
There is no doubt that the Liberal Government tactic will be to increase funding in the next Budget. More funds will be provided for construction purposes. There will be, perhaps, increased subsidies for more areas of the private sector and, with the enormous backlog of unfilled demand building up under these present stifling conditions, a surge in demand will stimulate the beginnings of an apparent economic recovery towards the middle of 1980- hopefully. Then, with a slightly more relaxed Budget in 1980- relaxed in terms of welfare provisionsthe Liberal Government will go to the polls at the end of that year hoping that the false start in the economic recovery and a little more money in the pockets of the poor, before the added availability of funds induces a rise in inflation, may fool many people in the community to vote again for the Liberals. It will be a cynical exercise easily achieved on the backs of the vast majority of people in the community struggling to fulfil their lives, not just exist, on less than average weekly earnings or on very much less for the growing number of willing workers unable to find jobs.
The Government has resorted to its usual deceptive practices in avoiding any direct acknowledgement of the worsening employment situation, even though the Budget Papers cannot hide the truth. Buried deep in the Budget Papers, where presumably the Government hoped no one would notice- the Treasurer (Mr Howard) certainly did not comment on it in his Budget Speech- it is estimated that the labour force will grow by 1.5 per cent or 2 per cent during 1978-79. At the same time, it is anticipated in the
Budget Papers that employment under the socalled stimulus of this aspiration crushing Budget will increase by- wait for it- a mere 0.5 per cent. That means that an additional 46,000 people to 97,000 people will be unable to find jobs. I am using the figures in the Budget Papers. On the figures given by the Treasurer, up to 533,000 Australian citizens wanting to work will be unable to do so. Of course, this is an underestimate of the real position. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) in his comments in this debate noted the inadequacy of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ definitions and methods of collecting data on the extent of unemployment in this country. His criticism of the fact that the full extent of the problem of unemployment is being kept hidden from the Australian people is well founded and much of the blame for this can be laid squarely on the shoulders of the Liberal Government of which he is a member.
The Budget Papers note a sustained fall in the participation rate over the past two years of ‘glorious stimulation’ under the Liberal-National Country Party Government’s economic management. A lot of verbiage then attempts to cloud this simple fact: Work opportunities have fallen disastrously; people become discouraged; they will eventually lose heart and stop trying to find a job and so cease to be counted. That is what a fall in the participation rate means. But they do not cease to be unemployed and they do not just lie down and die: They become, as far as the Government is concerned, ‘non-persons’. As I mentioned earlier, inevitably there will be some lift in economic activity. Hopefully, as far as the Liberal-National Country Party Government is concerned, it will be just before the next general election. In my view, under the policies being pursued or likely to be pursued by this Government, this so called economic recovery will be short-lived.
We are told that the answer to our problem is to increase productivity, to overcome the deficiencies of the Australian worker- that is, deficiencies in the eyes of the Liberal Government and of many captains of industry who are hoping to hide their own deficiencies by shouting loudly about the workers- and to increase our exports. Let me spend a little time pursuing these points, which are glibly thrown off as answers to our problems by so many Government members and by so many editorial writers and conventional economists. Firstly, there is the argument that we should increase our exports. This argument takes two forms. All we have to do, so one line goes, is to go out there and really try. The implication is that untapped markets abound, but where do they abound?
Then there is the argument that we should increase our meat exports. Only the comparatively rich can afford to buy meat. So that rules out most of the world’s population. But most of the rich countries have farmers who are desperately trying to survive, as in this country, and who, as in this country hold more political power than their simple numbers would suggest. No American President could afford to ignore his farming lobby. No Japanese government could afford to ignore its farmers and hope to survive politically. That goes for the whole of the members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The main potential markets are probably China and perhaps Russia. I doubt very much whether either will fulfil the promise of providing the markets we so desperately hope for, if for no other reason than that each will need to export goods in order to pay for our products. Like everyone else, they will have difficulty finding markets for their products and so are far more likely to buy capital goods in order to build up their own industrial capacity and independence rather than spend what valuable foreign exchange they are able to earn on meat or many other of our potential exports to either of those countries.
But, we are told by the economic experts, all we need to do- this is the other line on the export bit- is imitate Sweden and concentrate on those things we are good at. I am anxiously waiting to hear what particular industries there are which we can develop in this way. Let us not forget that Sweden has been developing its expertise over many years and at a time when few, if any, other countries perceived this as a way to economic survival. Many more countries will be trying to do that now, in other words, develop this particular expertise. I say to honourable members opposite: Do not flourish some spectacular inventions, such as InterScan, as a possible solution. InterScan may have a potential market worth billions of dollars, but do not underestimate the ability of America and Japan to beat us in the development of the capacity to produce this equipment. In any case, how many of our possibly 500,000 or more unemployed will be provided with jobs by the development of this innovation? We are fooling ourselves if we pin our faith on such enterprises.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I will continue the discussion that I commenced before the suspension of the sitting.
In order to deal with our economic problems we are told that all we need to do is to overcome the problem of the reluctant Australian worker, to cut back the wage overhang, and all will be well. To cut back the wage overhang’ is a circumlocution for a crude and brutal assault on the conditions of most people in this country, because what it means in real terms is a cut in wages. Of course most people in this country are on wages. We are told that the Australian worker just will not work; he is always on strike; he is just not as industrious as, say, the Japanese worker. I recently visited Japan, with a couple of colleagues, at the invitation of the Japanese Government. I was shocked and pleased to have many illusions shattered.
In discussion with the head of the Toyota company and a couple of his senior executives we were informed that in the view of these industrial leaders more responsibility for Australia’s poor performance compared with that of Japan lies with Australian management than with Australian workers. In visits to several industries, such as the motor car industry, the electronics industry- that is, radio, television and computer manufacture- the steel industry and the shipping industry, we found that the conditions in those industries were often superior to the conditions for workers in our industries. As far as wages were concerned, in most cases equivalent workers in Japan were paid more than our workers are paid.
They received a bonus which was significant; they had fringe benefits, such as often magnificent recreation facilities, and supports of all kinds. Very good housing was supplied at cheap rentals; health services were either paid for or actually provided; and perhaps the greatest benefit of the lot was job security through lifetime employment. In addition to that, the relationship between the worker and the employer was most impressive. Whenever any new process was to be introduced there was always consultation, so that nothing happened to surprise the workers. Actions were not taken without their knowledge; when something happened they knew that it would happen before it happened; they did not learn about it afterwards.
Finally, we are told that all we have to do is to increase our productivity. What does this mean in terms of the effect on people? If Australian worker productivity is less than that of the Japanese workers, is it really because our workers are inadequate or is it because the Japanese are masters of better technology? Who installs technology, in the sense of deciding to introduce it- the workers or management? It is true that Australian workers are worried about automation. So we suffered the recent Telecom dispute. Are Japanese workers less independent, less intelligent or more suppressed and accepting? I doubt it. I wonder how resistant our workers would be if they too had lifetime employment and were expected, of right, to take part in discussions on the introduction of new technology.
Having said all that, let me not seem to be presenting a rosy picture of the position in Japan. The sad reality is that the introduction of sophisticated technology has not solved Japan’s problems. High productivity is no guarantee of economic survival. In Japan there is growing unemployment. It is not shown in the official figures as yet but there is hidden unemployment in large corporations with lifetime employment, where many workers are under-employed and the company in essence provides the social security supports that we expect from our Government. Thus the profit rates of many large Japanese companies are in fact at low levels which would be unacceptable to our hungry entrepreneurs. Despite its technological advantage, exports are falling, posing a further problem for the Japanese. It is true that in monetary terms the value is rising because of the appreciation of the yen, but in quantity of production it is falling, threatening further the employment situation.
The simplistic view that increasing exports is the answer is also wrong, because it has been the very success of Japan’s export effort, its enormous positive trade balance in relation to most of its trading partners, which has resulted in most economic pundits now putting the blame on Japan as one of the causes of the present world economic crisis. In short, none of the simplistic solutions offered by the economic experts seems to be the solution to the growing problems in the world’s economy. It is for this reason, in this area, that I think the policies of the present Government are letting the whole Australian community down and the Government is deluding itself. It is time to ask some critical questions about what society is really about. Is it about profit making or providing for people’s needs? Profit making is not necessarily equivalent to providing for human needs and permitting the fulfilment of human aspirations.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It would have been a relatively easy matter for this Government to have brought down a Budget on 15 August which would have been superficially popular, although some deeper thinking economic critics would have found this to be unsound, as indeed it would have been. The election of a government should not be a popularity contest. When people choose a government one would hope that they would choose that party or candidate who will act in the best long term interests of the nation and the people themselves. In framing this Budget the Government has been forced to take measures which will not please all members of the community in the short term. This was a hard Budget for any Treasurer to bring down but it was a necessary Budget and it was economically responsible. When this Government took office from the Labor Government in 1975 the economy was, to say the least, in a mess. When Labor came to power in 1972 it had inherited a sound economy- inflation was running at only 4.5 per cent and unemployment was only 1 .4 per cent of the work force.
In December 1972, according to Commonwealth Employment Service statistics, unemployment stood at 135,747. After three years of Labor rule the number of unemployed in December 1975 had multiplied to a staggering 343,939, a percentage increase of 153 per cent, or 5 1 per cent per annum.
– How is it going now?
– I will tell the honourable member. The total number of unemployed in July 1978, after 2Vi years of the Fraser Government’s tenure of office, was 393,378, an increase of only 14 per cent for the period as against 153 per cent, and an annual increase of less than 5 per cent as against 5 1 per cent. No one is suggesting that the Government or any honourable member is happy with the present rate of unemployment, but there is no doubt that the rapid escalation of unemployment under Labor has been slowed down drastically under the present Fraser Government.
New let us look at inflation. Under the Whitlam Labor Government inflation escalated from 4.5 per cent to 17 per cent per annum. In one quarter it even reached 19 per cent. Under the present Government’s policies inflation has now been brought down to about 7.9 per cent and according to the Treasury estimates it should be around 5 per cent by June next year. This in itself is a remarkable achievement. In addition interest rates have fallen and are expected to continue to fall. Foreign investment guidelines have been modified to facilitate investment by partly Australian owned foreign companies and the embargo on overseas borrowings for periods of less than six months has been suspended. It is of course natural that this Government would desire to stimulate the economy to reduce unemployment. However, there is no point in stimulating the economy if the economy is not in a fit state to handle the stimulus in a stable manner.
It would be foolish to throw away the hard won gains, that is, lowered inflation, lowered interest rates and the slowing down of the increase in unemployment that this Government has achieved by its policy of restraint. If an increase in the deficit is to be financed in a noninflationery manner, this must necessitate a large increase in the sale of government bonds. The public will be induced to take up this increase in bond subscriptions only if higher interest rates are offered. Due to the relationship between the state of business confidence and the rate of interest one need only look at the share market to see with what favour investors and businessmen greeted the latest fall in the government bond rate. Any immediate increase in aggregate demand through an increase in the money supply would lead only to an immediate increase in imports and perhaps prices rather than an increase in the domestic output at the present time.
Due to the expectation of an increased money supply being inflationary, foreign investors would be less willing to invest in Australia and we need investment in Australia at this time. A lack of investment in Australia would cause a further drain on Australia’s international reserves which would force either large-scale international borrowing or a devaluation of the dollar with its associated destabilising economic effects. So clearly, with our balance of payments already officially described by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in its latest report as ‘weak’, Australia is in no position to give a large-scale domestic stimulus to the economy, and this view is supported by the OECD in its latest full-scale study of the Australian economy.
We must not, however, underestimate the economic achievements of the present Fraser Government. They are, of course, the lowering of interest rates, the lowering of the rate of inflation and the stabilisation of money supply growth at a reasonble level which is a pleasant change in real terms from that which was experienced from year to year under the Whitlam Labor Government. Under that Government the money supply increased in real terms by 20 per cent in 1973 and then turned around and decreased by 20 per cent in real terms in 1974. What was clearly needed following the Labor Government was the adoption of a more flexible and realistic exchange rate policy to enable the removal of large-scale speculation against the Australian dollar. Important also was the gradual return to traditional shares of national product. Real wages which increased out of hand and all proportion during the Whitlam years of 1974 and 1975 have had to be gradually brought back to a more equitable level and companies are again approaching a more reasonable return on their investments. However, for any government to squander these hard-won gains by trying to stimulate the economy too soon and too much would set the economy back many, many years.
There is one matter in the Budget which concerns me greatly, and it is the retrospectivity of increased tax on holiday leave accrued before the alteration in tax rates announced on 15 August in the Budget. Tax was payable on only 5 per cent of the accrued annual leave of anyone who retired prior to 15 August. From 15 August accrued annual leave, even if it was accrued ten years ago, is to be taxed at the rate of 33 W per cent. I would like to read to the House a letter which I have received from a constitutent. This letter is typical of many that I, and I have no doubt many other honourable members, have received. The letter states:
It is a matter of deep concern to me, as a voter in your electorate, that the provisions of the 1978-79 Federal Budget will cause me great financial disadvantage.
I specifically refer to the proposals affecting accrued long service leave and arrears of annual leave.
I am employed as a Stationmaster in the Traffic Branch of the Victorian Railways, which involves shift work as well as working on weekends and Public Holidays. Under the terms of the Railways Salaried Officers Award there is an option available to either take extra pay, or have an additional day credited to annual leave when Public Holidays are worked.
It seems a callous approach to further penalise a penalty granted by arbitration to compensate those people, who by the nature of their employment, have to work when the greater proportion of the work force is enjoying a day’s recreation.
Additionally, the Traffic Branch of the Victorian Railways has suffered a chronic staff shortage since VP Day 1 945, and the Departmental policy has been to not grant long service leave, except in exceptional circumstances, or upon retirement as a lump sum.
Also the Public Holidays so accrued have been treated in the same way. As I have been the victim of this chronic shortage I have been forced to accrue both long service leave and Public Holidays.
It can, therefore, be logically argued that an elector in my position having served 43 years with the Victorian Railways, is being unjustifiably penalised by the provisions of the proposed Budget.
I also have a friend who I know very well and who is in a similar position. He has served for 30 years with the Victorian Railways. To June 1978 he had accrued 205 days annual leave and 140 days for work he was forced to perform on public holidays because someone had to man the railway station. Therefore he had accrued 345 days worth a salary of something like $ 1 1,000. His tax consultant estimates that when he retires at the end of the year he will be taxed at about 40c in the dollar on his accrued leave added to his salary. The cost to this man, who is just about 60 years of age, will be something like $4,000. I think it is pretty terrible that little people who have paid their taxes over the years and who have been law-abiding citizens are to be hit so solidly by this Budget.
I and other honourable members have raised this matter with the Treasurer (Mr Howard), but to no avail. I am concerned because these people are hard working and, as I have said, lawabiding members of our community. I have put to the Treasurer that leave accrued prior to the presentation of the Budget should be taxed at the old rate but that leave accrued after 15 August should be taxed at the new rate of 33 W per cent. This, I believe, would remove the retrospectivity of this tax and at the same time any unfairness which may be meted out to these people. I have been told by the Treasurer that such a proposal is not practicable but I have not been told why it is not practicable. I do not accept that expalanation. I am not satisfied with the answer and I hope that the Treasurer and the Government will take some action to see that these people are not hurt by this decision to make this tax retrospective.
– I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed by the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) with regard to the retrospective taxing of accrued annual leave, long service leave, retirement allowances and so on. Because of the limited time available to me in this debate I wish to concentrate specifically on Aboriginal affairs. I recall that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his weekly electorate talk last weekend stated that his Government’s 2’A years in office had marked a ‘real turning point for the Australian Aboriginal’. The Opposition wholeheartedly agrees. With this Budget the Prime Minister has turned the hopes of the Aboriginal people right around and driven them back into the intolerable conditions that were characteristic of their treatment in the 1 950s and 1 960s.
Spending on Aboriginal housing has been allowed to slide to such a deplorable state that the
Government was shamed into a so-called special initiative’ in Aboriginal housing. But the special initiative’ is still 28 per cent, or more than a quarter, lower in real terms- that is taking into account the adjustment for inflation- than the level of spending in the last Labor Budget. Indeed, it is still lower than the first Fraser Budget. Further, if we discount the special allocation of $450,000 to the Northern Territory Housing Commission, spending this year, in real terms, has increased by only $1 Wm over the last year and there are not too many houses in that. Although the Minister called this a special initiative, it is not enough simply to pay for the maintenance of existing homes. The existing homes which have been and which are being rented to Aboriginals would need far more than that allocation.
What will happen is that although a few new homes will be built, that will be fewer than the numbers going out of service and deteriorating, and the backlog will grow. The Government thinks nothing of spending $40m on VIP jets for the Prime Minister. Recently he had extensive renovations made to the Lodge in Canberra, the cost of which would have paid for several Aboriginal houses. This meagre effort occurs at a time when the Department of the Minister produces statistics showing that 25 per cent of dwellings in areas other than capital cities are impoverished. Both grants-in-aid and grants to the States are still well below the funding level of 1975-76. Not only has the Government created a backlog in housing for Aboriginals, but also the Aboriginal hostels program has suffered.
We should remember that this Government completely suspended the hostels program for 1976-77 and has not yet made up for that suspension. Further, the Government has progressively halved funds available under the Aboriginal housing and personal loans fund. The whole of the increased funds this year are taken up under a new scheme whereby occupants of housing association homes may obtain funds to purchase the dwellings they occupy. Whilst this is a welcome initiative, I suggest that the funding is inadequate overall and that it should be restored to the same real level of 1976-77. That is not asking too much. It is asking far from enough. Obviously, if we are going to beat inflation, and all the other problems for which the Government sets top priority, we should not be doing it at the expense of people who are struggling to exist and who are suffering from the inability to catch up. Certainly many of us suffer because of inflation but we do not suffer what these people suffer. Their needs should not be pared in this way.
The Government’s decision to cease funding the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ housing panel and to hand responsibility for architectural services over to the Department of Construction is just one more example of the lack of concern of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) for the wishes of the Aboriginal people. Of course, the Minister is not specifically responsible. The whole Government bears the responsibility, particularly the architects of the Government’s economic priorities. There has always been an urgent need for a body to provide architectural services for the express needs of individual communities following full consultation with the people of those communities. Ideally, the communities should have the means, the initiative and the funds to engage architectural expertise themselves. But at least the housing panel was a start to have some expert, in depth, approach to consulting with various communities about their various needs.
The panel in its early days had many failings but following its reorganisation it has operated successfully. It has consulted the people of various communities. It has produced homes that suit the needs of those people, instead of producing the many unoccupied, white elephant structures, the so-called bus shelters and so on, that are scattered around different communities in Australia due to inadequate consultation and due to people trying to impose what they perceive as the needs of the people on people who have vastly different needs in the housing field.
The Minister will only aggravate the problems by believing that he can abolish the panel without making adequate provision for alternative representative Aboriginal housing planning services. Queensland is a typical example, where the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement spends its allocation on Aboriginal and Islander housing without any consultation, planning or appreciation of Aboriginal and Islander housing needs, and frequently without any proper accounting system of housing and construction costs. Nor does it invite any participation by the Aboriginals concerned in such things as on-the-job training employment. The end result is that the blacks in that State live in boxes totally unsuited to their individual needs.
In some areas like Yarrabah they are crammed together like in an inner suburb. They are close to a dusty unsealed street with lush rolling acres of reserve all around. This is a complete abnegation of Aboriginal sensitivity to their land and surroundings. This causes fights and tensions. This township of Yarrabah has a complete lack of sealed streets. Dust flies every time anybody goes past. It is placed at the end of a totally sealed road all the way from Cairns to the reserve township boundary. That is the sort of priority the Queensland Government has. It looks at the convenience and the comfort of the white administrators as being far more important than the needs of the community they are allegedly serving. Without the housing panel the Aboriginal people can look forward only to more homes in the Queensland tradition, designed by white bureaucrats in capital cities who are totally oblivious to Aboriginal needs and to the environmental conditions of the areas where housing for Aboriginals is needed.
Consultation with Aboriginal people about their housing needs is central to the Australian Labor Party’s policy and the Opposition rejects both the abolition of the panel and the Government’s ignorance of the wishes of the Aboriginal people. But the matter goes much further than housing. The Minister has also seen fit to ignore the publicly acknowledged fact that the most important possession of Aboriginal people in Australia is their land. It is their very life, their very existence. They say: ‘If you take my land from me you kill me’. Spending by the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission has been hampered under this Government, not only by the lack of funds but also because the Minister finds it extremely easy to delay approval of purchases. Thus, every year the allocation of funds is eroded and pared down while the amount unspent and carried over from the previous year gets bigger. If the Minister delays for a few months some other buyer often snaps up the very property that the Aboriginals are claiming as their traditional land. That relieves the Minister of the necessity to find funds and so he can cut the allocation of funds for the next year. One more property has gone down the drain. One more opportunity has been lost to buy the property at a reasonable price.
For 1978-79 the appropriation is 27 per cent less than the previous year’s appropriation. This cuts the allocation by one quarter for no good or sufficient reason. This year the Commission has available to it, in total, $500,000 less than last year. This Government has done nothing but hinder the Commission’s acquisition program. Not only have funds been cut back but also in 1976-77 no additional funds were available to the Commission and funds carried over from the previous year were frozen by Ministerial directive. So, while the Minister talks about selfmanagement and the Prime Minister talks about turning points and rights, their ruthless actions make a mockery of their rhetoric.
Spending on Aboriginal education has also suffered under this Government. Spending on Aboriginal education as a proportion of the total education budget has dropped from 2.2 per cent under the Australian Labor Party Government to 1.8 per cent under the Fraser Government. This is the answer of the Government to the fact that only one per cent of Aboriginal students reach matriculation. Bilingual teaching is poorly provided and bi-cultural education exists hardly at all except where a dedicated teacher makes a special voluntary effort. Aboriginal health has also been hit by this Government despite promises by the Prime Minister and by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. During the 1977 election campaign both promised funding for Aboriginal health programs costing $7m in 1978-79. The Minister on Budget night, now comfortably back in office, stated that the new program would be started this year at an estimated cost of $2.5m, which is about one third of the promised amount.
This Government cannot afford to break election promises in such a sensitive area, especially in light of the fact that Aboriginal infant mortality in Australia is as high as 98 per thousand in some areas. It is one of the highest rates in the world and five times greater than that of the white population. About 60 per cent of Aboriginal people in Central Australia over 60 years of age are blind and 30 per cent of Aboriginal children under 1 1 years of age have trachoma. Because of the lack of preventive medical services and health services, on average, urban Aboriginal children cost the Government hundreds of dollars a year per child in remedial medical costs. In non-urban areas, 36.9 per cent, more than one-third, of the communities have no doctor and 32.9 per cent, nearly one-third, of the nonurban communities have no access to hospitals. About one in five of these communities- that is, 1 9 per cent- have no nursing staff and so on.
But the Government was not content with simply breaking an election promise. Although the Minister claimed that his Department’s spending on Aboriginal health programs increased by 7. 1 per cent- that is about $2m- he failed to mention that the total Government spending figure in fact reflects a reduction of $1.3m. This is the familiar story of figure juggling to hoodwink people that we have seen in all aspects of this Budget. The total Government spending figure represents a decrease of 2.5 per cent when compared with last year’s allocation and that was underspent by $ 1.4m. This level of spending is still well below the 1975-76 level. The Government’s new training category is welcome, especially in the light of the disastrously high Aboriginal unemployment level which is now well over 50 per cent of the work force. The pity is that it took such a critical situation to get the Government to act at all. It is also disappointing that funds were cut in many other areas to enable the establishment of this category. Already the northern New South Wales region of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has rejected funding completely this financial year in protest at the Budget. I should like to refer to its telegram in which it stated the grounds for this rejection. The region rejected the funding on the grounds that the funds are inadequate to allow continuation of current programs. This is a denial of aboriginal advancement and self-determination.
The conditions of Aboriginals living in urban and country areas have deteriorated rapidly. The Minister made some loud noises on his trip around New South Wales communities in June this year, but that was all. If the Prime Minister believes the core of his Government’s policy regarding Aboriginal advancement is summed up in the term ‘self-management’ then let him tell that to the Aborigines of Woorabinda who ask for Federal Government takeover when delegates go to Aboriginal conferences and other organisations but are too frightened even to allow their elected representative, a Labor senator, to go there in fear of political repercussions. Let the Prime Minister tell that to the Aborigines at Aurukun and Mornington Island.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not want to get into a political slanging match with my friend the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) who has just spoken about Aboriginal education but I must say that having visited Kormilda College in Darwin, the Aboriginal Teacher Training College in Batchelor, and the schools at Bathurst Island, Melville Island and Mornington Island, I am astounded that he could make the speech that he has just made. I am quite astounded.
– You have mentioned three schools.
– If the honourable member will just hold his tongue for a moment and take it steady -
– If the honourable member will listen to me we can argue about it later. There was, and there is, a problem about whether the money for Aboriginal education is getting to those who need the education or whether it is getting lost on the way through administration procedures. That was one aspect of Aboriginal education that troubled many of us on our visits to the Northern Territory and elsewhere. But frankly, if the honourable member for Capricornia wants to attack the Queensland Government about its education policy or its work in hospitals at Mornington Island and elsewhere, I should just like to say that so far as I am concerned, and from what I have observed, he is doing it entirely on a party political basis. What I have seen in certain areas- I do not say that it is altogether satisfactory- is far better than I would have thought possible.
I should now like to deal with what I originally wanted to say. As far as the electors of Holt are concerned, the Budget was certainly tough and it was certainly expected. I have yet to meet anybody who would suggest that this country should run further into debt, that we should mortgage the future of our children or give up the progress that we have achieved already in reducing both inflation and interest rates. Certainly, the hardest thing any government has to do, like any honest parent, is to say no and to mean it. This has to be done from time to time. I spent my winter recess in the electorate of Holt except for visits to the Northern Territory and Queensland. It would therefore be unfair if I did not say that the great successful international companies and successful multi-national international companies, like General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd, International Harvester Australia Ltd, Perkins Engines Australia Pty Ltd and all those who work with and are connected with the motor industry, are sincerely thankful that in the Budget the Government reduced sales tax. This has been a great help to them and to the motor industry. I have had a chance to visit various companies, schools and hospitals and have had the opportunity to take note of what the Government is spending on education. For example the new Dandenong Technical College is costing $9. 7m. It should be completed by next year.
The Federal Government’s record in care for the old people, the disabled and the disadvantaged is well demonstrated by the funds it has supplied for the building of Walara, for sheltered workshops and for the new community centre which it has financed at Keysborough. At St Marys, a vast community centre has been built in the middle of Dandenong. I hope that the
Government will assist financially with this project as well. It is quite certain that Dandenong will be the city centre of Melbourne in the 1 980s and, therefore, those who are responsible for local government in the area are thankful that this Government will transfer funds for the advantage of that developing area. Even though times are difficult I have noticed in the Budget that Australia’s expenditure on overseas aid to developing nations has not fallen. It has increased by 8.6 per cent to $455m. It is, therefore, good that we do not forget, even in difficult times, that we have a duty to our neighbours.
We noticed that the Government has not fallen down on its promises concerning training programs. There is an increase of 44 per cent. It is providing $173m for the Commonwealth assisted training programs. The four Community Youth Support Scheme programs to help with youth employment have been fully funded in the Holt electorate for this year. As for those who need social security and welfare payments, it is interesting to note that the Budget provides $8 billion to help the family, the handicapped and the aged. Liberal philosophy believes in looking after those who need help. Its policy basis is humanitarian.
I would like to follow on from the reasoned speech given by the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones). I want to turn to some of the more important national issues, to face them and to do some positive thinking. I should like to refer to the energy crisis, the problem of the Aboriginal settlement at Mornington Island and, finally, the urgent need for a national youth community cadet scheme to assist in the evergrowing problem of youth employment which simply will not go away.
– That will be tremendous. That is a terrific idea.
– If the honourable member speaks a little louder I will be able to hear what he says.
– That is a terrific idea.
– Thank you very much. I am very glad to receive the compliments of the honourable member for Robertson. It is a very good idea and it has been supported by many other people.
The general public in our country for many years has believed that Australia is just plain lucky. Unlimited fuel supplies are there and, therefore, we can all have cheap petrol. Thus, any concept that we should conserve our fuel has not crossed our minds. Indeed, our fuel supplies were discovered between the middle 1950s and the 1960s. We have been living off them ever since but that does not mean to say that we have not had to import petroleum from overseas. As we begin to use up our reserves in this country our fuel bill will increase in the next 10 to 15 years. Some say that we will be importing 45 per cent of our petroleum between 1980 and 1990. The effect on the balance of payments could be catastrophic even if one sets off against it the export of Australian coal.
It is surely obvious that we must now take seriously the problem of energy consumption and prepare ourselves for the situation that is coming. Therefore, it is better to look at the situation calmly. Because of the size of Australia, 45 per cent of our petroleum fuel consumption is on transport. Less of this fuel is likely to be found, barring major discoveries. What we do have in this country in quantity but not quite unlimited quantity- 192.92 mcm- is liquid petroleum gas. It is my view that strategically it is downright nonsense and even dangerous from a national security point of view for us to plan on using imported petroleum in the years ahead because even if we mobilised now we would have only 90 days of petrol available to the nation. Therefore, I am all for major changes to be made immediately to our energy usage which will avoid trebling Australia’s oil imports in the 1980s, together with the balance of payments problem. The Federal Government and all State governments should set an example. Slowly and surely we should start to fit all our vehicles with liquid petroleum gas tanks. The vehicles could then be charged with both petroleum and gas. The changeover should not cost more than $500. This should be tax deductible. There is also no reason why the Government should not seriously consider using our uranium. What is the point of having the uranium and not using it. There is no reason why we should not be in the forefront of the world in enriching uranium, exporting uranium and eventually storing uranium in the deep areas of Western Australia at levels where there is no underground disturbance. We are fortunate to have an area where the vitrified uranium waste could be buried. I therefore call upon all State governments and the Federal Government to give the nation a lead in the conservation of Australia’s fuel supplies.
I turn for a few moments to the tradegy of Mornington Island. It is inhabited by 800 Aboriginal people, including those who fled from Bentinch. My visit to the Island was with the agreement of the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson), after consulting the
Deputy Director of Education in Brisbane and the Chairman of the Government Parties’ education committee, Senator Martin. Mornington Island is not quite the place where one can land in the early morning aeroplane and take off the same evening as an instant expert ready to meet the television cameras in Sydney or Melbourne. With the background experience of other parts of the world I wandered round that beautiful island for four days between 19 and 24 July as the guest of the Uniting Church and those connected with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I am grateful to my hosts, particularly Bob Quick and Scottie Flemming, for looking after me while I was there. To be perfectly frank I was astounded at some of the conditions I found. They were even comparable to the refugee camps in Palestine.
There is no doubt that the Islanders are of the greatest cultural heritage to Australia. Their struggle for survival has been momentous. We must do everything in our power to help them. I sat chatting with members of the Council- Larry Lanley, Prince Escort and the Roughseys- and I can still hear them describing the early days of the white ship bringing in Reverend Hall and his murder by the people from the mainland just for tobacco. They said: ‘We were all outdoor hunting people. We came to the mission for food, for church, for school and for learning’. They have endured cyclones. They have new buildings. Their new State school is excellent. Their new houses with solar heating are perfectly adequate. What puzzled me was the remark by one of them. He said: ‘You are giving us education and learning but, tell me, what will my people do when they have finished this learning?’ There is no industry and husbandry is in its infancy. That day 200 head of cattle came ashore. I am not too certain that we should not encourage some of them to go back, like their ancestors, and relearn their ancient skills.
In order to sustain their faith in us perhaps the Federal Government should establish coastguard stations there with the co-operation of the Queensland Government. Perhaps we should also consider raising an Aboriginal volunteer police unit. It would be quite wrong if I did not say that I was deeply impressed with the work of the principal of the High School, Mr Ronald Knox, and his staff, particularly the Aboriginal teaching aides, and the sisters and nurses from the Queensland Government who work in the hospital as well as those in charge of welfare. Perhaps the final word of wisdom came from one of the leaders when he said: ‘Why cannot you leave us in peace and simply agree between your governments about the man who will advise us?’ That is not a bad request from the people. The Premier of Queensland may think that Canberra is very far away. We, as back bench members, may be humiliated. We have to learn to accept humiliation. We have to learn to accept patience and courage. They are good Christian virtues. As members of parliament we must be patient while the present situation continues. I think it is the only thing we can do. I simply do not think the Federation could stand the seizure by the Federal Government of Crown land belonging to a State and I do not think that the constitutional validity of the referendum is of any value. I believe that it is a non sequitur.
I turn now to the last point- youth unemployment. Why do some people imagine that the youth employment problem will go away? How can they possibly think such a thing? What is the experience of Canada, the United States, Italy and France? The experience is that with technological development and with women going into industry, the chances of young people obtaining employment are becoming fewer and fewer. Major programs have been mounted in almost every other European country for a national youth employment scheme. I really cannot understand why we do not set about doing this ourselves. Professor Ford of the University of New South Wales, Brigadier Macready, a representative of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), Dr Kelsall of the Mount Eliza Staff College and many people connected with youth affairs all agree that something of this sort should be done. I was particularly impressed with an interview I had with Mr Peter Nolan of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I have now come to the conclusion that if this nation is going to fight party politics over unemployment, including the unemployment of young people, we will certainly betray all that we have achieved in the past.
– You are unbelievable, you mob. What do you think you fought the 1975 election on- motherhood? Unemployment was the issue.
-It is of the greatest possible regret to me that between 1972 and 1975 the honourable member’s party did not pass one single provision to assist young people. I am sorry to say that but unfortunately it is true. Therefore, with the help of the more sensible honourable members on the other side of the House, I am endeavouring to formulate a national youth community cadet scheme which I will give to the Government so that everybody can look at it. They can tear it about and do what they like with it but I think that someone has to make that effort. I am prepared to do it. I hope that the honourable gentleman will assist me.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I suppose that one could agree with some of the remarks of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates). Hopefully he will use his influence with the Government to do something about these matters. The ball is certainly in the Government’s court. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in his speech of 12 September in reference to the Budget, said:
Those in real need certainly will not find this a hard Budget.
The Australian Council of Social Service has stated:
The 1978-79 Budget reflects an unmitigated deterioration of the position of the poorest and most disadvantaged groups in our community. Under the guise of austerity a massive redistribution of resources has occurred away from the unemployed, the pensioners and other low income groups.
I think that typifies what this Budget is all about. It was certainly a leaky Budget. Months beforehand information was being leaked to the newspapers about what would take place. We knew that petrol prices were going to rise and the means test was going to be reintroduced. As has happened in the past, a lot of these things come out before a Budget is presented and then, when the Budget is brought down, it is not nearly so bad and people accept the smaller imposts in the Budget. For this Budget the leaks proved to be correct. It can be called a Budget of broken promises because that is certainly what it is. Let me start with the promise that Medibank would be retained, and this promise goes back to the 1975 election. What do we find now? Medibank as we knew it under the Whitlam Government has gone. The promise made during the 1975 election campaign that the Government would retain Medibank has been broken. There were promises of jobs for all, but the unemployment position has deteriorated to a fair extent since this Government came into office. That is another broken promise. In regard to taxation, I remember the election advertisement last December showing someone holding up a fistful of $5 notes and setting out what the Fraser Government would do if it was returned. The Government gave some concessions in February but it has now taken them away. It gave with one hand and took away with the other.
It is obvious that the recipients of social security payments have been hit hard by the Budget. Let me deal with social security benefits and some of the broken promises. The Government said that it would take politics out of social security benefit increases, which were to be granted twice a year in line with the consumer price index. Now we find that they are to be granted only once a year. There is to be a freeze on pension increases for those over 70 years of age. In effect, the Government has reintroduced the means test for people of that age. That is another broken promise. In regard to unemployment benefits, a beneficiary with no dependants is not to receive any increase. Young recipients of unemployment benefits have had no increase since 1975. In the city of Whyalla a very bad employment situation obtains and it has had a very bad effect there. This Government has had a fair bit to do with creating the problem because of its policy of closing the shipyards and its recent refusal to assist the State Government by establishing a rolling stock manufacturing plant there. A report in today’s Adelaide Advertiser states:
Record jobless in Whyalla.
A record 1,933 people were registered as unemployed here last month.
Figures issued by the Commonwealth Employment Service show an increase of 22 1 on the previous month.
It is the second time this year the record has been broken- in May, 1,857 people were registered as unemployed.
That will give the House an idea of the situation in Whyalla. The unemployment rate was 13. 1 per cent and I would say that now it would be between 14 per cent and 15 per cent. In the social security area there are other matters which the Government has introduced in this Budget that affect the less fortunate in society. It is going to tax the allowance for people in sheltered employment and also rehabilitation allowances. Family allowances were introduced with much fanfare in 1976 and have remained at the same figures since that time, with no indexation. The allowance for the children of pensioners has not been increased since 1975. In addition the supplementary allowance of $5 a week has not been increased since 1975 and there is to be a restriction on pensioner health benefits and various other matters relating to the less fortunate in society. The level of permissible earnings for beneficiaries of unemployment, sickness and special benefits has not been increased in this Budget, and I point out that the level has not been adjusted since 1974. This has a very bad effect in cases where people have some income. The fact that the permissible level of earnings has not been altered means that many people I know who receive small superannuation pensions which are indexed find that as soon as their pensions reach a particular level they lose all their benefits. Although they get a small increase in superannuation, because they go over that level they lose any fringe benefits they have as well as some of their social security payments. The Government has also taken away the maternity allowance, which has been traditional in Australia. All these things hit the less fortunate in society the hardest and are matters for which the Government should be condemned.
There are a few points dealing with the rural sector that I would like to mention. A few months ago a lot of trumpeting went on with the introduction of the fuel subsidy scheme, which helped to pay some of the freight costs for fuel in rural areas. The scheme was greeted as being a great gift to people in the rural areas, but I have always been a strong critic of it. Even with the payment of the subsidy, in many outback areas people are still paying prices way above those paid by people in the capital cities. In a statement last week to the National Press Club the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said that the increase in freight prices to people in rural areas would be covered by the fuel subsidy scheme. Either he is having himself on or he is very poor at figures because it is only in the very remote areas that that would occur. As far as my own State is concerned, it is only in areas 600 or 700 miles from Adelaide that the fuel subsidy scheme would in any way offset the increase in fuel prices. I can remember a State Liberal member in my electorate making a claim a few months ago that an alleged delay in South Australia in introducing the fuel subsidy scheme would cost a particular town in the electorate $60,000 a month, and that was on a subsidy of 0.8c a litre. Looking at those very dubious figures, and they are dubious, the increase in fuel prices introduced by this Government will cost that town $260,000. The decision on fuel prices will add $160m a year to farmers’ costs and will certainly amount to a lot more than the $40m a year in superphosphate bounty which they receive from the Government. The Government is going to add $160m to their annual costs through increased fuel prices.
One item in the Budget that has had a very bad effect in South Australia is the increase in the excise on brandy. About 85 per cent of South Australia’s brandy comes from the River Murray region, and the excise increase has placed the brandy producers in a very difficult situation. I am sure that my friend the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick) has also struck this problem. Increased transport costs will seep right through the whole economy and will certainly make the position of the farmers a lot more difficult. The honourable member for Holt referred to the training of young people. The Budget makes provision for reduced backing for the operation of the Australian National Railways. As a result, it is anticipated that a number of country railway lines in South Australia will close. We know that the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) opposed the railway amalgamation. He now accepts it but he is going to close all the country railway lines.
This is a matter which touches on the employment of young people. In answer to a question I asked recently the Minister said that the Australian National Railways had reduced its work force by 1,500 since June 1975 and will have to reduce it by another 340. One of the results of this, and it has become evident in the last couple of weeks, is that the Australian National Railways, which has always taken on about 45 apprentices a year at Port Augusta, will take no apprentices whatsoever this year. The Whyalla shipyards, which were another large employer of apprentices in that area, have stopped operations and another avenue has been closed off. But thanks to the Government’s policy another avenue for the training of apprentices will not be opened this year, that is to say, there will be no apprentices for the Australian National Railways. That avenue appears now to have gone. This is an extremely short-sighted policy which has raised a lot of opposition from the trade unions in the area, from the local council, from the chambers of commerce and, of course from the parents of those children who are coming onto the labour market this year. Once the present apprentices go the Australian National Railways will dismantle the training system it has now and it is doubtful whether it will start up again. I urge the Minister to reconsider this decision. It will create a vacuum of which the railways will feel the effect in a number of years when the apprentices they would normally have are not coming on.
I am afraid that time will not allow it but one can cite a number of government publications such as ‘Training Talkback’, which has a headline which reads ‘Warning on Skill Shortages’, and another which mentions a number of programs by which the Government assists the training of young people, including the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training. Yet this Government, which boasts about the proposals which it brings into operation to assist in the training of young people, is going to make a decision that this year there will be no training of apprentices in one of its own instrumentalities. It is interesting to quote from a statement which the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) made with reference to the CRAFT scheme. It reads:
Mr Street stressed the need to have trained tradesmen available as economic recovery occurred, in order to meet the need of industry and help avoid skills bottlenecks which promoted inflation.
One can quote all these statements and see just how hypocritical they are when we see what the Government is actually doing. My colleague the member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations a question on notice covering the training of young people and the subsidising of employees. Again time will not allow me to quote in full the answer which was given, but it mentions where the assistance comes from, including some sections of the National Employment and Training System, the Manpower Development Officer Subsidy Scheme, the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training scheme, the National Apprenticeship Assistance Scheme and quite a number of others. If one reads further on in the answer one sees some of the things which are possible. Part of the answer states:
Under the Additional Apprentices Scheme, arrangements were made for certain Commonwealth and State Government establishments to provide complete apprenticeships over and above their own training requirements, thus utilising valuable surplus training capacity. The entire cost of these apprenticeships is met by the Commonwealth, and apprentices on completion of training are available to private industry. This scheme is now being phased down in favour of the Group One- Year Scheme.
One can go through all those schemes. The Government is prepared to boast about what it is doing and introduce these schemes to help private employers. Yet in a major instrumentality of its own over which it has complete control and in which a complete training setup has been established with very competent instructors it has decided that it will not train any apprentices. It is all right to talk about reducing staff and putting on staff ceilings but here the Government has an opportunity to put its money where its mouth is. It is prepared to pay money to private employers for all the schemes which are going to help the training of apprentices and in its own establishment, which is in a small country city and which is the main area in which apprentices can receive training, it is going to turn its back on the school leavers this year and throw them onto the market. I urge the Government to reconsider this decision because I feel that it is an insult to the people in that area.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr McLean) adjourned.
– I ask for the indulgence of the House to add to an answer to a question I gave at Question Time today.
– Earlier today the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) asked me:
Is it a fact that the real cut in total funds for New South Wales of 4.5 per cent through the present Commonwealth Budget as against allocations in 1976-77 would require an extra $ 150m to restore the real level of funding this year to the 1976-77 level?
I went on to answer:
I have indicated that the States basically received an 8 per cent or 9 per cent increase in total funding from the Commonwealth.
The figure to which I was referring in that area was the financial assistance grants which had increased not by 8 per cent or 9 per cent but by 10.5 per cent, much more than enough to meet the needs of inflation and to leave over considerable funds to meet the needs of the States in accordance with the States ‘ own priorities.
The Treasurer (Mr Howard) went on later to indicate in another answer that total fundings, taking into account loan funds, loan allocations and special purpose grants, had increased by about 5.7 per cent, which again in the circumstances was a not ungenerous figure. I went on to indicate that as a result of that the States and certainly New South Wales have all been able to bring in extraordinarily generous Budgets making further tax concessions, which indicates that the Commonwealth’s generosity over the last two or three years has been very real indeed. I want to clarify that the figure I used related to the financial assistance grants and that the increase was 10.5 per cent and not 8 per cent or 9 per cent as I had indicated.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement, too.
– On what grounds does the honourable member wish to make a statement?
– In response to the comment made by the Prime Minister.
-The Prime Minister was just adding, by leave of the House, to a question that he answered this morning.
– I am seeking the leave of the House to add to what he said.
– Leave is not granted.
-Leave is not granted.
– You cannot take part in a fair debate. You have no confidence in your capacity to defend your position.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
– I support the Budget. I was advocating a tough Budget several months ago and I still maintain it is the correct economic strategy for Australia at this time. In fact in some ways it was not tough enough. ( Quorum formed). As I was saying, the basic thrust of this Budget is quite correct. The fight against inflation is a prerequisite if Australia is to attain higher levels of economic activity and greater job opportunities on a long-term, sustainable basis. This requires in fiscal policy firm control of the deficit, and I refer those who say that this concentration of economic policy against inflation is a heartless approach to economic management, to the Henderson Committee of Inquiry into Poverty in Australia. Part of that report said:
No country with a continuing inflation rate of over 10 per cent per annum has been able to prevent this causing hardship to important groups of poor people.
This is very important in the context of this Budget. Although our present inflation rate is less than 10 per cent per annum and will continue to fall if present policies are maintained, this is a situation which can very easily be reversed. The Reserve Bank of Australia endorses these comments, and I quote from its recent report which says:
With such displacements of key factors persisting, and with inflation still high enough to sustain an inflationary psychology, there is a substantial risk that a further stimulus to demand especially from the public sector will tend to spill over fairly quickly into higher prices, rather than lead to sustained increases in production and employment.
That comes from the Reserve Bank of Australia, an independent, thoroughly competent and authoritative body of economic opinion in Australia. If the Reserve Bank opinion is not good enough for members of the Opposition, surely they can learn from Australia’s own experience and their own experience when they were in government. If they cannot do that, they should look at the present situation around the world. Countries such as Canada and the United
States of America are presently paying the price of prematurely relaxing their economic policies. They are now suffering from high and rising inflation rates. If the Reserve Bank opinion is not good enough for them, surely that fact is. If honourable members opposite still are not satisfied, I would refer them to a speech made by the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to the Council of Europe last October when he called for a moderate, non-inflationary expansion of demand in member countries. But he added some very important qualifications which are relevant to the present economic situation in Australia. I will quote from that speech. He said:
It was recognised that in many countries the necessary recovery in productive investment was unlikely to be forthcoming without a shift in underlying cost/price relationships in favour of profits. In particular, where there was also a need to improve the balance of payments there would be only limited scope for increases in public current expenditure and private consumption.
The OECD again advocated this course of action in its April 1978 report on Australia. In other words, the balance of payments position, a major bar to economic stimulation at present, will come into an accommodating position only when inflation, and therefore the domestic deficit, is held in check. The OECD also maintains, as does the Reserve Bank and the Government, that the distortion between real wages and productivity is a major barrier to a sustained rise in productive investment and employment prospects. In other words, greater wage restraint is required in Australia.
The Reserve Bank’s report in this regard is also interesting, particularly in view of the fact that Mr Hawke, the head of the trade union movement in Australia, is a member of the Reserve Bank Board. He was the President of the Australian Labor Party when the report was written. Of course, there was no dissenting report. The trade union movement and the ALP both complain that automation is taking jobs from people. But they also agree with full wage indexation although Australia has a very substantial gap between the growth of real wages and the growth of productivity. They do not see these matters as being in any way related- that is, the price of labour and the demand for labour. This was obvious in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). The Reserve Bank acknowledged that a number of people argued the case for more expansionary policies on the basis that there is excess capacity in industry which could quickly be used up in a noninflationary manner. What the Bank basically said was that the price of the labour factor of production no longer reflects its worth or its availability, and that filling up the utilisation gap by labour may not be a reasonable proposition any longer. This will remain the case unless wage restraint is rigorously adhered to in this country.
In all these areas, the OECD, the Reserve Bank and other major authorities agree that a tight wages policy is necessary. But not the Opposition. The Opposition again wants full wage indexation which will continue the 1974 wagesprofit distortion which still remains a major obstacle to a recovery in employment. The popular debate on this Budget has centred mainly on specific items of expenditure cuts or revenue raising. But there has been a general consensus that the broad strategy of this Budget is correct. This strategy, which is supported by the OECD, by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the Reserve Bank, is necessary if the preconditions for a longer term and sustainable noninflationary growth pattern are to be established. In other words, if employment in the longer term is to be increased, the major distortions of this economy- inflation, the balance of payments, the relationship between costs and prices or wages and profits- all have to be corrected and this requires political courage at this time.
Unfortunately, members of the Opposition, again by their comments, have sought a simplistic solution to these problems. They again, through the speeches of their spokesmen, seek to impose solutions which they themselves have tried previously and which have failed dismally. Again there is the call for a higher deficit. It is claimed that this will have a mildly expansionary effect. But this has been tested before and no matter what the mix between revenue and expenditure options, the deficit has to be financed. It can be financed only by measures which are repressive and which in the long run will reverse any short-term expansionary impact. Let us look at the record. Adopting the principle put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in his reply to the Budget, one would expect an expanded Budget to expand economic activity and employment levels. The Labor Government tried this in 1974. The deficit rose from $293m to $2, 567m. Government expenditure rose by 46 per cent. What was the effect on employment of this massive Budget deficit? It was disastrous. Why was it disastrous? It was disastrous because income taxes rose by 40 per cent; interest rates skyrocketed to IVA per cent; and inflation rose to the highest levels in Australia ‘s history- to 1 7 per cent per annum for 1974-75. So that is how the deficit was financed. These results of the massive relaxation of fiscal policy meant that unemployment rose by over 160 per cent. Quite obviously, the solution of the Opposition is the same as the one it used so disastrously when honourable members opposite were in Government.
My only constructive criticism of the present Budget presented by the Government is the trade-off between the income tax surcharge and expenditure levels. Successive Budgets have been unable to restore the recurrent expenditure side of the Budget to a reasonable level following the 1974-75 blow-out. This is where the burden of fiscal policy lies and the Government, although steadily reducing the rate of increase in Government current expenditure, still has not reduced it to a level which can be financed satisfactorily from borrowings and taxation. The Government did not go far enough in trimming back expenditure, the result being an increase in taxes which, although being only a one year surcharge, has a number of very significant disadvantages. First, this measure runs contrary to the whole thrust of the Government’s tax reforms of the past 2lA years. Secondly, and more importantly, this method of financing the deficit will not assist economic recovery. It will have a contractionary impact which would not have occurred if the deficit had been corrected by a cutback in public consumption expenditure. If this current expenditure had been cut back even further to an extent that would have permitted the government to move towards non-inflationary stimulatory investment expenditure from the public sector, the Budget outlays strategy would have been even more acceptable.
Thirdly, and related to these matters, is the whole basis on which public consumption expenditure is disbursed. This is going to be a major area of concern for all future Federal governments. Government leaders are constantly stating that welfare should be based on need. But when it comes to biting that bullet it seems that we develop soft teeth. Continued adherence to universal welfare payments is bad welfare policy. It certainly is not part of the Liberal philosophy. This Government should have taken the opportunity in this Budget at last to adopt selectivity based on need as the basis of expenditure on welfare which at present costs taxpayers in excess of $8 billion per annum. Such a move, which I believe many members of the Opposition would privately support, and which the Pensioners League of Australia- and certainly the pensioners to whom I speak- also supports, has a number of obvious benefits. First of all, the ability of governments to move constantly towards lower taxes is limited by universal welfare payments. Secondly, and related to this, is the possibility of killing the goose which lays the golden egg. In other words, the national product, however it is split up, will not grow as it should because incentives have to be removed. Thirdly, universal payments automatically mean that for any particular benefit those in most need of its assistance will not receive as much of the benefit as their circumstances would dictate. This is because a given appropriation is shared between those who need assistance and those who do not. Fourthly, universal payments may well mean that indexation of such benefits is simply not financially possible and hence their real value will gradually be eroded. Also, the future manoeuvrability of governments with their Budgets is hampered by universal schemes. They are unable to respond to new emerging areas of need. In the present context one could refer to the problems of homelessness and the need to upgrade existing subsidies in that area, families with severely handicapped children, and so forth.
Finally, of course, if governments did decide to base welfare payments solely on need there would be the opportunity for governments to introduce tough budgets such as this one without, at the same time, being forced to implement penny-pinching measures involving social injustices such as reverting to annual adjustments of pensions. That basically is my only criticism of a Budget which, as an instrument of economic policy, is a sound one and one which will enable this Government in the longer term to correct those basic distortions which presently prevent a return to higher levels of economic activity and employment on a sustainable basis. I hope that the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland), who is at the table, will convey my suggestions to the Government on this particular philosophy of disbursing welfare payments.
I think that with taxation indexed and with a wide range of benefits indexed there is an automatic tendency these days for Budget deficits to expand automatically. That means a number of things which have very serious consequences: Governments are not able to respond to economic problems as they would like to; there is a problem in constantly moving towards tax reductions; and the capacity to respond to real areas of need is reduced and, of course, the indexation of major benefits is prevented. So in all these areas I think all the members of this Parliament should recognise that social welfare payments should be based solely on need. In that way, future governments will be able to budget responsibly for the economic and social needs of this country.
– I move:
Mr Deputy Speaker, I find it necessary to move this procedural motion because tonight we saw the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) enter the House and seek to retrieve an extremely embarrassing situation for himself one generated by a further display of his wellknown dishonesty when he presents to the Parliament an accounting of government policy. It is well known that we can no longer rely on the integrity and the credibility of the Prime Minister. He is not an honest man.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
A division having been called for and the bells being rung-
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wonder whether at a suitable time you will take into account the unparliamentary language and unfair implications put forward by the Leader of the Opposition regarding a member of this House.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I second the motion. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is afraid of Parliament these days.
– I raise a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, I wonder whether you heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) refer to a member of this House as being dishonest, before the last motion was moved. May I suggest that he be asked to withdraw it.
-No, I did not hear that comment.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, nothing that I said-
-Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to respond to the point of order?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. Nothing that I said was unparliamentary. Everything that I said is well known and well established. The main point that I made was that the Prime
Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is not an honest man. That is well established by his behaviour and conduct in this House. It is not disputed by any serious person.
-Order! If the Leader of the Opposition is now saying that the Prime Minister is dishonest, I would ask him to withdraw it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I repeat that I said that the Prime Minister’s behaviour is not that of an honest man. I have said that many times. It has not been disputed before by the Chair. Why would the Chair now, with a tiro occupying it, seek to challenge it?
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
-As I was saying, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Prime Minister is afraid of Parliament.
Motion (by Mr Garland) put:
That the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Garland) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– No government since Federation has revealed in such a short time so many unpleasant characteristics lacking in any constructive or redeeming contributions to the life of this nation as this Fraser Government. Let me deal briefly with three of the more unpleasant of these characteristics revealed so clearly in the Budget Papers we are now discussing. I refer to, firstly, the Government’s complete incapacity for honesty; secondly, its insensitivity to the point of inhumanity in its dealings with the less fortunate sectors of the community; and, thirdly, its complete incompetence in handling the nation’s affairs, particularly the nation ‘s economic affairs.
The essential dishonesty of the Government, if it were not already evident, has been highlighted by the recent performances of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Election promises have no validity when uttered by the present Prime Minister. Taxes were to come down. Remember the disgraceful appeal to base avarice of the fistful of dollars? Taxes did come down, for a few months until the election was over. They are now back higher than they were in the first place.
It is an unfair Budget because it reduces the income and living standards of those earning less than the average wage to a greater extent than those on higher than average wages. The increase in taxation from November this year for those earning less than $250 a week will be 8 per cent but for people earning more than $250 a week the percentage increase in taxation steadily declines. The increase in taxation for the Prime Minister, for instance, who earns $1,500 a week is less than 5 per cent. Let me take as an example the average worker who earns around $200 per week. These workers will pay an average of $1.80 a week more for petrol. They will pay an average of $2 more for cigarettes and drink.
– What are you paying in taxes?
-Every cent I am entitled to, thank you very much.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! There is too much conversation in the House. Would honourable members please give the honourable member for Parramatta the courtesy that the House requires.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. They will pay an average of $1.50 a week more for clothing and footwear. They will pay $3.20 a week more in increased taxation. If buying their own home, the cost of taxation deductions for mortgage repayments will be $3.50 a week. This means that an average worker will pay $12 a week more out of earnings than he did before this unjust and mean Budget was brought to light.
Medibank is another example of the Prime Minister’s lack of honesty. The promise to maintain Medibank was a base and convenient lie. We were promised that the means test on pensions would be abolished and that their real value would be maintained. Now the means test for pensioners over 70 years of age is to be restored. What could be meaner than this? We have the retreat to annual indexation for pensioners generally and the abolition of indexation totally for single people in receipt of the unemployment benefit.
The Government’s cavalier disregard for the truth extends not only to its hollow election promises but also to the very mathematics of the Budget figures. They are obviously rigged. For example, the estimate for the unemployment benefit is down from last year by $ 10m although the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has already conceded that the level of unemployment will rise by 25,000. This is, of course, a wildly optimistic assessment of the likely rise. The latest figuresthe figures which this Government Tikesproduced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show a rise of 50,000 in the number of unemployed people in the last year. Who on earth would consider it would be less than that this year?
The stock market and the investors have reacted in a predictable fashion to the promise of a reduced deficit and the holding down of interest rates which this implies. It is only a matter of time before these people discover that this year’s calculations are as wildly astray as last year’s and the deficit will blow out again. Then they will discover that they have been seduced like the rest of the community only to be abandoned by this congenitally dishonest Government. I wonder whether they will be dancing in the street at the end of the financial year? I fancy otherwise.
This Budget is aimed in a most inhumane fashion at those least able to afford new impositions. As evidence of its all-pervasive cruelty, the Government has imposed on these people new and regressive taxes, crippling new charges on lump sum leave payments, the abolition of the maternity allowance, the destruction of the concept of universal health and massive reductions in welfare housing. It has also made petty and mean spirited changes to the social service benefits available to people such as accident victims undergoing rehabilitation and even tuberculosis sufferers. But even more important than any of these measures in demonstrating the sheer callousness of the Government is its attitude to unemployment which is absolutely clear. It is: The unemployed are in that position either because they do not want to work or because they just represent the price which has to be paid to fulfil the Government ‘s paranoia in having the inflation rate reduced.
The thought that everyone of those unemployed persons is not just a statistic but a human being who is depressed, despairing and fast losing every shred of dignity and self-confidence he or she once possessed, does not seem to have occurred to the Government. The unemployed receive no fringe benefits. They can earn only $6 a week before financial penalty is imposed and they have no entitlement to supplementary rent allowance. Their expenses are greater in many cases because they have transport, postal and clothing costs in connection with their search for work. There is no justification for this situation and the Government is not even trying to provide one for treating them in a worse fashion than it treats other beneficiaries and pensioners. This is a cruel attack on their precarious financial situation and self-esteem.
Those under 1 8 years of age who are on unemployment benefit are still entitled to only $36 a week. This amount has not been raised since April 1975 and it has lost 50 per cent of its value in that time. There are 55,000 young people under 18 years of age trying to exist on this amount while they look for work. This is particularly hard on the young of the poor and rural families who have left home looking for jobs. Also, 8,000 people under 18 years of age have been on unemployment benefit for more than six months. There may still be a few hardened souls left who would be prepared to accept this Government’s cynicism and hypocrisy if they could be persuaded that these harsh measures were necessary to revive our flagging economy. But is there anyone left in Australia who believes this story? The Prime Minister has been telling us with nauseating repetitiveness that inflation is coming down. But where is the promised recovery? Real wages have declined. Living standards have retreated. Unemployment increases constantly. But where is the promised recovery? It is nowhere to be seen.
The Budget does not reveal one measure or program to stimulate recovery in the economy or one measure designed to correct unemployment. In fact, the Budget acknowledged that unemployment would rise and it ensured that it would, by cutting back, by 10 per cent, that is in real terms, on the level of public spending. In one area alone, for instance the building and construction industry, it is estimated that this move will cost 28,000 jobs. But that is just another line in this Government’s catalogue of despair which it terms a Budget. Meanness, pettiness and bloody-mindedness are the hallmarks of this Budget. There is something pathetic about a government which sinks to the level of taxing pensions paid to all sorts of underprivileged and handicapped people.
The allowance paid to rehabilitees and handicapped persons working in sheltered workshops, numbering fewer than 10,000, for the first time in history will be taxed as will the livingawayfromhome allowance and the incentive allowance paid to rehabilitation trainees. This is a very mean measure which will have serious consequences for some of the most disadvantaged recipients of social welfare payments in Australia. For many it will destroy incentive and independence. It will force others back into institutions.
Nobody will convince me that, despite the announcement made by the Treasurer last Thursday, exempting the blind from the taxation provisions of this miserable Budget, the Government did not have in mind to tax the working recipients of the blind pension. It was only the public uproar which this provision created which caused the Treasurer to make that statement. I ask honourable members to imagine a government wanting to force the blind people of this country back on to the verandahs and away from the work force which they joined after years of hard and intensive training.
But all the issues I have mentioned apart, the most baffling part of the whole Budget is the total lack of good and sound basic business principles it espouses. For an economic statement emanating from a political party which allegedly is the traditional business party, it is devoid of any real business philosophy. Even the most elementary examination of Australia’s economic malaise would indicate the need for a consumerled recovery. This is something which my Party has been espousing over the full period of the Government’s reign. Yet the sections of the community most likely to spend their incomes are the sections which are most deprived by the Budget of the necessary spending ammunition, and that is some money. People at the top of the scale spend any increase in available funds on imported luxuries such as continental cars, overseas holidays or, alternatively, they save their increased earnings. People at the other end of the spectrum- that is the low income earners and pensioners- tend to spend immediately any increase in income in Australia on Australian goods and services. Yet these are the people who have their available cash most reduced by the ramifications of this Budget.
In my electorate of Parramatta there is a living- or should I say dying- example of this Government’s lack of a real business philosophy. In the Whitlam years the Government purchased a block of land for $5m in the city of Parramatta to build a Commonwealth centre with a view to housing 6,000 public servants. This was the first plank in a decentralisation policy to enable people to work near where they lived and to save the overtaxing of services in the capital city of Sydney.
-They scrubbed that in 1975.
-Of course the Government scrubbed that in 1975. That was the first thing it did when it came to power. It is a fair measure of the Government’s lack of business ability that it did that. But that is no wonder when one looks at the Cabinet which is almost totally composed of graziers. We all know about graziers and their great lack of business ability. They belong to the most inefficient industry in Australia. They are the people who decry any form of socialism and yet they practise it almost totally in relation to rural industries. We know their philosophy. It is: Socialise the losses and capitalise the gains. That situation is fairly evident when one looks at the total lack of business principles those honourable members espouse. Work was begun on the Parramatta site and a public inquiry was instituted under the chairmanship of my colleague the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). It is very interesting to look at some of the findings of this inquiry: One finding states:
Apart from the physical advantages to the Government in owning its office accommodation, recent studies have demonstrated that it is generally more economical to own office accommodation than to lease equivalent privately owned space. The costs of building and operating the proposed office complex compare favourably with the cost of leasing equivalent accommodation constructed under similar economic conditions.
I ask honourable members to listen to the next finding which states:
The Committee were advised that based on a conservative estimated rental figure of $12 per square foot per annum to lease accommodation by 1980, the annual savings from construction rather than leasing would result in a return to the Government in excess of 16 per cent. On this basis, it is expected that the Australian Government would recoup the initial capital investment in the office towers of the proposed Australian Government Centre in nine years.
I ask: What other business in Australia would have an opportunity to build a building and be able to amortise totally within 10 years? But honourable members on the Government side are so stupid and so lacking in business principles that they would not realise the value of being able to do that. Honourable members are so used to subsidising themselves that they would not realise what a wonderful business proposition this is. I tell honourable members that in 1975 a total of 316,000 square metres of office space was occupied by the Austrlaian Public Service in Sydney. More than 229,000 square metres, or about 72 per cent, was leased at an annual rental of $13m. Of course the Government does not want to build the building because it is leasing space off Mainline, the crash company, the Lend Lease company, other great multinationals and the huge wealthy landlords who support the Government.
Of course the Government does not want to build its own accommodation and so put public servants in accommodation owned by the people. It would prefer to pay rent to the companies
I have mentioned. I ask honourable members to think about the situation. Here is an opportunity for the Government to invest- I guess in 1978 figures- $60m and to recoup the lot within 10 years. The argument the Government has put against that suggestion is that that amount would increase the deficit. But what sort of business principle is that? If any honourable member on the Government side has been in business he would know that if he were to build an asset it would not go into the liability column. But honourable members say: ‘It would cost us $60m to build that building and that would increase the deficit. Therefore the proposition is bad’. I put it to honourable members that that proposition is not bad, but that it is good. Once having spent the $60m the nation would then own a $60m building which would enable from 4,500 to 6,000 public servants to work where they live, with all the consequent social advantages. But more importantly it would enable the Australian people to own a $60m asset right where it should be and that is in the western suburbs of Sydney where people live.
At the moment in Parramatta we have 13 Commonwealth departments in rented space such as the Department of Health, the Australian Electoral Office, the Commonwealth Employment Service, the Bureau of Customs, the Family Court, the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, two Medibank offices, an office of Qantas Airways Ltd, two social security offices, a branch of the Taxation Office with 1,000 people working in rented space and Telecom Australia. All these people should be working in an office owned by the Australian Government and by the Australian people. Instead we are providing rich landlords with millions of dollars a year in rent. I say again that it is a fair example of the total lack of any business expertise on the Government side of the House if honourable members opposite cannot see the value of that proposal. Why do they not wake up to themselves? If they did the people of Australia might support them and Australia would get back on the road so far as the economics of this nation are concerned.
– I should like to state the obvious: People with a genuine sense of responsibility have claimed that this Budget perhaps is one of the most courageous, and certainly one of the most responsible, that we have seen presented during the history of the Australian Parliament. Of course, we have heard from members of the old team which demonstrates about everything that might lead to the financial security and the general security of this country. We are used to their behaviour. Anyone who is honest, anyone who has moved around this country and has attempted logically and sensibly to take a cross-section of opinion, would be amazed at the general acceptance of the harsh measures contained in the Budget. It is not very pleasant for any government to raise the price of ordinary commodities which are attractive to the average Australian, such as beer and smokes. This was done because it had to be done. The Budget generally received acceptance.
One aspect of the Budget on which I would like to comment is the rise in the price of fuel. Petrol and distillate is critical to a number of Australians- to people associated with agriculture, to people associated with the grazing industry, the hauliers and so on. We must remember, of course, that dependent on those people are the great provincial cities and the metropolitan areas of this nation. It would be a sad and sorry spectacle if the hinterland of this nation began to shrink and began to suffer continuous economic disadvantages. This nation soon would be brought to its knees. So we are all in this together. If we in this particular section of the House are accused at times of being a little parochial and of crying havoc for the country people, honourable members should bear in mind that we are interdependent. This is obvious to responsible people. I have just completed a 2,000 mile trip through a fairly wide crosssection of this country.
– All in your electorate.
– It is still a fairly wide crosssection of this country. I was able to evaluate the reaction of people who will be very seriously affected by this rise in the price of fuel. It is not simply one of those reactions that come and go after a Budget. I have been presented with figures showing the additional costs which will be incurred by people who, at the moment, cannot bear any further costs.
I should like to leave that subject for one moment and deal with another aspect of activity in the areas that I represent. In my electorate we have what could become a crisis. I am referring to the closing down- God forbid- of the nickel mine at Greenvale. Not only is the mine involved; the smelters north of Townsville would suffer also. If the mine were to close down, the smelters also would close down. It has been revealed that as a direct result of the rise in the price of fuel this company probably will be paying an additional $3m a year. Anyone who has any knowledge of this particular operation will be aware that there has been no margin for error in its operations. I make a profound appeal to our Government to consider this matter seriously. I know that consideration is being given to it already. Mr Knox, the Queensland treasurer, has flown down to confer with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I have contacted the Prime Minister, the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) and my own leader, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), about this very serious matter.
I would like the Government to examine a system that I believe has been accepted and introduced in the United States. The Government should consider introducing two-tier pricing for fuel. I am led to believe- I think the information is completely accurate- that a twotier fuel pricing policy exists in the United States. It is strictly policed to the point where each of the particular fuels is a different colour. Any attempt by people to defraud the government by using the fuel that is available to the agricultural section of the community, and those dependent on that section, could result in them being in serious trouble. I do not have the precise figures available to me but I have been told that the fuel is available to farmers and people of that nature who are utterly dependent for their existence and the continuation of their industry on paying 40 cents a gallon. I appeal to the Government to examine this proposition and see whether there could be a two-tier pricing policy for fuel in this country. I certainly hope that this will produce some results.
We have been told that there is to be a further investigation into the price of petrol and other fuel commodities in country areas following the introduction of the fuel price equalisation scheme which has helped the agricultural industry considerably. In outback areas fuel already has reached 28 cents a litre.
– How much?
– It has reached 28 cents a litre. That would be only the beginning. This seriously affects we people who are resident in those areas, particularly people on the land who are so dependent on both distillate and petroleum. Honourable members should remember that many large scale implements, such as great giant headers, still run on petrol. I think we are inclined to overlook the fact that many peoplehauliers, tourists and trade representativesfrom the metropolitan and the provincial city areas go into the outlying areas. They, in turn, have to suffer this penalty. They begin to realise, no doubt, the permanent penalty which people in the country areas have to endure. So much for fuel. I would hope that some developments will take place which will take the pressure off people who already are in a very serious situation.
I turn now to the beef industry. I should like to refer briefly to the package deal which was presented by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) about this time last year. It was a very generous concept. It was evolved by the Government and presented to this House by the Minister for Primary Industry. It came at a time when people associated with the beef cattle industry were looking for something of this nature. Let us have a look at what that package deal presented. It suggested that there should be an examination with the object of bringing greater equality of profit sharing into the industry. It suggested that there should be a greater balance of profits between the producer and the exporter. At that time record profits were being earned by the exporters. The deal also informed those who were involved that beef classification was being regarded as a matter of great urgency. Until classification became a national operation it was not possible to look at a reasonable and stable marketing scheme which would bring long-term security to the beef cattle industry.
The third measure to which the Minister for Primary Industry referred was an examination by the Prices Justification Tribunal of the marketing of beef in this country, again with the object of bringing a greater share of the profits to the producers. We know that this is being done but to what extent that inquiry will probe remains to be seen. It needs to be a deep and continuing operation. A hit-and-run type of examination would perhaps reveal certain imbalances but a few months later we would revert to the old system. We do not want that to happen. The final matter mentioned in that particular address to the House was the examination of the conditions under which people who are involved in the beef industry live, their quality of life and the costs with which they have to contend. The idea was to examine the whole structure of their way of life with the object of bringing far greater equality to those people, something commensurate with the advantages enjoyed by people in urban areas. Needless to say the whole of that deal was a great morale booster. It was greatly appreciated. I hope that all of those matters are well and truly proceeding.
I want to refer briefly to a matter which may appear to be parochial but which certainly is not, that is, a project in my own area known as the Julius Dam project. I have spoken about this matter in the House time and again. It could be argued that if funds or grants were made available for this project it would be creating a precedent, that there is nothing to support it. This is not the case at all. The Mount Isa mining complex contributes very considerably, to the Treasury of this nation, as I am sure the Treasurer (Mr Howard) would concede. It is a large complex, it is a great money earning complex and it is terribly important to the economy of this country. It is part of the general pattern of the continuing efficiency of that operation and the people in that area. I hope most sincerely that the Government will, as it did last year, consider the provision of some financial aid commensurate with the need of that particular project. I hope that we will have some favourable news about the project in the near future.
The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and the rest of us who represent country areas know that one of the areas in which we never seem to make any progress is the area of television. I ask the House and the nation just for a moment to transpose their particular way of life to those remote areas where one never sees a test pattern and one is obliged to listen to some of the garbage that comes over the Australian Broadcasting Commission each and every evening from people who are so near to being out and out radicals, communists and that type of thing. It is nothing new to those of us on this side of the House. We hear it time and again from the new breed of Labor politicians. But for those people to have to endure that type of garbage and have no alternative is an imposition that I think should be removed and removed quite urgently. In addition, the people in the remote areas have only one television channel to look at. Many people in Australia might like motor racing and find it a very exciting sport, but when one has only one channel to look at and one has no alternative for the whole of Sunday afternoon but to look at motor racing it is not wildly exciting.
However, getting back to my original comment in relation to having any sort of television reception, for 24 years the majority of the people of this nation have enjoyed the amenity of having four channels to watch, although in many centres there are only two channels. The extraordinary thing about this is that every one of the people in the isolated areas is an important element in the fabric of the money earning capacity of this nation. There are no parasites. They are people who are sustaining the industries which produce the billions of dollars which come into the coffers of this nation. I think it is high time that improved television reception was introduced. How many millions of dollars would it take to spread television signals into that area? I believe, from certain information that seems to be around the corridors at the moment, that we may have television satellites before very much longer. Of course, this would be the solution to the whole problem. In the meantime let us have the scheme that has been approved and then fill in the gaps.
I say again, having moved among all sections of the community, in a great part of this country, that the people are proud of this Budget. The point about honourable members on the other side of the House is that they cling to straws. They rely on the same old team to go out and demonstrate and to say: ‘Okay, 1, 2, 3- out into the streets. Start waving flags. Run the Budget down. Get the media to support us’. The responsible people of this nation and the international community have acclaimed this Budget as one of the most courageous and one of the greatest Budgets of our era.
– It is always a treat to listen to Budget debates, particularly when Government members are participating, because they get up and say that they are going to support the Budget and that it is the most courageous Budget that any of them has ever heard and then proceed to demolish it piece by piece. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), at the same time as he embraced the Budget, referred in most disparaging terms to one of the most serious defects of the Budget, that is, the policy in relation to fuel pricing. The consequences of that particular decision for his constituents are not going to be forgotten readily. His constituents and the constituents in all remote areas- all people involved in primary industry- will suffer as a consequence of that policy decision for a very long time and I dare say that we will see as a consequence of that decision the going to the wall of more and more small farmers. One wonders why the people who criticise correctly those aspects of the Budget do not have the courage to proceed to change them.
In trying to assess this Budget, which I assume is what we are supposed to be doing, I think we ought to be looking for three ingredients. On the basis of those ingredients we ought to be able to make some sort of assessment. The first ingredient we should expect to find in any Budget is what it says about the economic policy for the months immediately ahead. The second ingredient is what the Budget has to say about the longer term economic policy objectives for this country. The third ingredient of any Budget on which an assessment can be made is what statement it includes about social priorities in the context of the economic situation. I think that if we look at this Budget and try to find those three ingredients we can move to some sort of sensible assessment of it. If we make the assessment on the basis of these three ingredients I think that we will find this Budget seriously wanting.
Let us look firstly at the question of the economic policy for the immediate future. I think it is fair enough to admit that in terms of economic policy instruments the Budget itself is a totally inadequate tool. So much of the economy is controlled from outside the public sector that whatever one does in a Budget is really going to have only a peripheral effect directly on the rest of the economy. But even if we accept that limitation there ought to be some means of providing through the Budget and through the assortment of economic policy tools which the Government can flex at the time of the Budget, a stimulus to the economy, whether it be in a positive or negative way. In this Budget this Government has opted for a course which at best can be described as neutral and at worst as negative. The amazing aspect of this Budget is that if one were to describe it to someone who was ignorant of the economic situation in this country and if one were to describe the sort of short term economic policy which was included within the Budget and then ask what kind of economic situation that policy was appropriate for I am sure that any reasonable person would say that that Budget includes an economic policy which is appropriate for a healthy economy, for an economy which is in need of neither encouragement nor restraint. In fact, the nasty reality is that the economy of Australia is far from healthy.
It is the very great failure of this Government to grasp the severity of that situation which is so worrying. I would not mind so much if we were arguing about the alternative kinds of remedies which were required to correct the economy, but what the Government is really proposing is that no action should be taken. It is as if the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had a vision of what the economy should be and is going to hang around until the economy measures up to that vision. It is incomprehensible that a Budget like this should be brought down at a time of such diabolical economic stress.
I know that unemployment is not always a very precise measure of the state of the economy because there are other factors, particularly these days, which influence it. But if we take that as one of the indicators, and it is a significant indicator, we find that by the end of the year something like half a million people will be out of work- an astonishing number of people unable to find work. Again, if we look at the building industry, another indicator which has always been considered significant, we find that that industry is in worse shape than it has been for 10 years. Thirdly, if we look at the question of manufacturing industry we find that it is in a continuing state of decline with no real prospect of improvement. The decline has been going on for some years now and there is no sign of its being arrested. To take a fourth indicator, the balance of payments, we find that that situation is in continuing decline, with a record deficit being recorded recently.
I am not saying that those are the only indicators, and indeed one could refer to others which confirm the seriousness of the situation. This Government, faced with the crisis, has decided to opt out of the situation altogether. It has decided to reduce its activity in the quite pathetic belief that market forces in the rest of the economy are somehow going to solve the problem. Particularly in these times when the private sector is in such a perilous position it is quite absurd for the Government to abdicate in favour of the precariously unpredictable market forces. Specifically, if we were looking for a strategy in terms of the short term economic policy of this Government, we would have to say that it is a strategy of hope; that is, the Government hopes that interest rates will come down and, as a consequence, it hopes that there will be an encouragement to investment and therefore it hopes that as a result there will be an increase in the number of jobs. In another area, the Government hopes that inflation will fall and it hopes that this will lead to an increase in overseas investment, which it hopes will lead to an increase in the number of jobs in this country. When this is added to the further hope that the Government hopes that interest rates do not come down too fast and do not come down too far so as to discourage foreign capital from coming into this country, we have a scenario confidence in which requires a passionately religious belief in the guiding hand principle. Indeed, I think one could say that this economy is floating on the wing of a prayer. The really serious prospect for us is that should these fragile expectations not be realised, how much worse is the economy going to be in 12 months time.
On any assessment, I think the Budget fails to measure up in the area in which the greatest claims are made for it; that is, in the area of short-term economic policy. The second point on which I think an assessment can be made is in the area of what the Budget says about the longer term economic strategy of this country. What has the Budget got to say about the shape of the Australian economy 10 years from now? Even if we were to accept the Government’s own ambitions, even if we were to say that there was to be an upsurge in investment, what does this Budget say about the direction of that investment? In the area of manufacturing industry, all the Government can point to is a now totally discredited White Paper which reveals that the Government has no ideas, no thoughts, about the future of manufacturing industry in this country. Due to the obsessions of the Prime Minister, we have a protection policy which requires that manufacturing industry proceed on the basis of total chaos. It is a policy which responds more to the requirements of other countries than it does to the requirements of this country. Against that background, we cannot expect manufacturing industry to take the necessary steps which must be taken if it is going to come out of its current malaise.
The only encouragement the Government gives in this area is to promote actively the replacement of men by machines. I do not want to be included amongst those who are opposed out of hand to the introduction of new technology or new processes. In fact, I think one can justify the introduction of new technology and new processes partly because it is necessary to overcome some of the problems which in the past have attended earlier introductions of new technology or new processes. For instance, one can simply point to such areas as the widespread use of agricultural chemicals and the disastrous consequences which have flowed from it to realise that we need increases in technology, increases in processes, just to overcome the problems which earlier technology have brought about. I am not opposing the idea of the introduction of new technology. Indeed I support it because I am not interested at all in continuing to imprison workers in the appalling conditions which prevail in many factories throughout Australia. But it is not really as simple as that. It tends to be the case that in those areas where new processes would have the greatest social advances the new technology is avoided simply because the necessary investment is not available. So those areas where the need is greatest tend to be passed by.
What worries me is that the introduction of this new technology is often justified on the basis of quite anti-social grounds. Indeed, the main justification for the introduction of this new technology is a primitive and simplistic view of efficiency. I think any concept of efficiency, particularly where it concerns an assessment of the price of labour, automatically involves a very serious value judgment. It is simply not acceptable to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the introduction of new procedures without taking account of the social consequences which flow from the displacement of workers. We get into the classic situation where the private profit is being made at great public cost. If it is society at large which is to pay the price or be responsible for the consequences then it is quite reasonable that the public at large, governments, ought to have a say in the direction in which new technology is taking us and the pace at which it is being introduced. Nowhere in this Budget is there an acknowledgement of that problem.
There are other areas in which this Government is silent in terms of long-term economic policy- For instance, if one takes another of the Government’s ambitions, that is, an upsurge in the amount of foreign investment, we find no statement in this Budget or from the Government about the consequences which may flow in the area of foreign ownership and control. If there is any suggestion coming from the Government it must be the suggestion that the Government has abandoned the aim of increased local ownership and control. This is an area of fundamental importance to Australia’s future, and yet again the Government has no ideas, no plans. On this basis as well, as a statement of long-term economic policy this Budget is indeed a failure.
The third ingredient to which I would like to refer briefly is that, in the circumstances of the prevailing economic conditions, if we accept the Government’s claim that there is need for the degree of restraint included in this Budget we are entitled to ask who is going to bear the burden of it. Where are the Government’s social priorities in terms of where the burden of the Budget should fall? One of the most appalling aspects of this Budget is that the burden of the restraint falls upon those people who are already disproportionately distressed by the prevailing economic circumstances. One has to look only at people such as farmers, pensioners, home buyers, children in government schools and low income earners to find that they are the ones who are disproportionately continuing to bear the burden of the economic policies of this Government. On this basis as well I think that we can see that as a statement of the social priorities of this Government, this Budget is a disaster.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarsOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-In June of this year I visited Libya and Lebanon as a member of a delegation from the Australian Labor movement. We visited Libya at the invitation of the Libyan Government, and in both countries we were guests of the Libyan Government. I understand that such an invitation will be extended in future to members of all parties. This visit seems to have caused some concern amongst sections of the community and various stories have circulated. It culminated recently in Douglas Wilkie in the Melbourne Sun using the visit as an apologia for the existence of Croatian terrorists in Australia. So I think that we should put this matter straight.
The fact is that on the trip none of the members visited any place or talked with any person who was proscribed by our political party, the Australian Labor Party, by the Australian Government or by the United Nations. In Libya we found a country where the people had been under Ottoman oppression for many years and then Italian oppression. After World War II the country was seen as an Italian colony, and it has been under the charge of both the United Kingdom and America. Only in the last nine years has this nation had control of its finances and tried to develop, and it seems to be making progress with the oil revenues it is getting.
Not only members of the Labor movement made this visit. The Honourable Ian Smith, the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, and his wife and the Honourable Charles Hider, a Liberal member of the Upper House in Victoria, and his wife were there. There are teams sponsored by the Western Australian and South Australian governments working in agricultural areas there. So all in all snide remarks about that aspect of the visit should not hold any water. It should be a place for which we should try to do more.
Lebanon is a country to which we all should pay more attention because of the turmoil and risk for the world which exist there as a result of the local problems, the Lebanese civil war and the Palestinian problem. We talked to representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. In particular we talked to George Habash and officers of the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine. They discussed the Middle East problem with us. They stated very clearly their views on the Middle East problem from the point of view both of the Palestinian factions themselves and what they saw as the political problems there. They are, after ali, a Marxist- Leninist group and see the matter not entirely as a clash of nationalities but as a political struggle. They enabled us to visit camps and other features of interest and were concerned to secure our safety in what is a very turbulent area.
On visiting camps both in Beirut and near Tyre we met the popular committees who help to run those camps. These are made up of representatives of all the factions which comprise the PLO and of independents from those camps. We were able to get information on how the camps were organised, the problems of disease and nutrition, their attempts to develop kindergartens and so on. I make no apology for the fact that we visited that area to try to see that side of the problem. Whilst people may debate the rights and wrongs of the political situation in relation to these people, there is no doubt about the people in the camps- one can only admire them for their determination, discipline, general outlook and the way they have tried to help themselves under difficult circumstances.
-A few days ago the President of the Law Council of Australia, Mr Ferguson, made statements about the problems of legal aid in Australia. Mr Ferguson is a most respected lawyer and he stated that the Federal Government should be providing more funding for legal aid, particularly to assist pensioners and other groups. However, I think that Mr Ferguson’s comments should be put in perspective because although it might be attractive to talk in terms of providing extra money to solve the problem, there are wider issues.
The use of public funds generally is an important question. I am on record as saying that I support in New South Wales- I am more familiar with that State than with the other States- the provision of both salaried systems and legal aid systems which direct money to members of the private profession to help them to represent persons who may not be able otherwise to obtain assistance.
There is one aspect which is most disturbing in New South Wales and that is the development of the criminal defence system whereby the private legal profession is to a very great extent now almost without a real role in criminal defences. In my opinion the pendulum has swung much too far towards the provision by the state of the defence. At present, therefore, we have in New South Wales substantially the state through the judges, who are independent, of course, but seen by the public to represent the state, carrying out judicial functions. We have the state carrying out the prosecution and we have the state carrying out the defence. As a matter of fundamental priniciple this is unsound.
The use of the state system should be restricted to those areas where it is obviously necessary. In 1944 the Government provided a public defenders’ system which worked very well and which continues to work well subject to the amount of work that has to be done. The public defenders are skilled persons. Many of them do 80 or more criminal trials a year and that is simply far too great a burden. On the other hand, the private Bar has now reached the situation of doing relatively very few criminal trials in Sydney. The public defenders are also now doing work in the magistrates’ courts. A duty solicitors’ scheme is also available.
What is happening is that not only has the work of the private Bar been reduced but also those who are doing the work are finding very little opportunity to obtain experience, with the result that persons who obtain the assistance of private lawyers in some cases are finding that the Courts of Appeal are ruling upon appeals on the basis of the unfortunate carriage of the matter at the trial by the appellant’s counsel. This is a direct result of the failure to apply reasonable means tests. In New South Wales for many areas of public defence there is no means test. One can step from a Mercedes straight into the dock on a driving charge, obtain the services of the public defender and not be subject to any means test. What has in fact happened as part of the trade off between the New South Wales authorities and to some extent the profession is that the private profession is now dealing in the main with civil matters, matters of money and matters of property and is not dealing with the private rights of the citizen in those cases where his liberty is under threat. A most extraordinary situation has developed. It is not the case in any other State and it removes the right of choice from the individual to a great extent.
The lack of a means test means that aid is going to persons who would otherwise be able to afford their own defence and the situation has become totally unbalanced. The fundamental problem of the state being seen to provide the judge, prosecutor and defender has been overcome. I think that the Federal authorities should look most carefully at this. I think that there should be a reasonable and responsible means test and that there should be a dual scheme to provide the best assistance to people in criminal matters and to ensure that all the private work is not going to the area of big money interests and civil cases. I think that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) should be looking at these matters. I commend Mr Ferguson but I ask him to look at a wider area for solutions.
-I desire to use the occasion of the adjournment debate to raise a serious matter concerning the reputation of the Parliament of Victoria and members who serve in that Parliament. This afternoon in the Victorian Parliament a document was tabled by a former member of the Liberal Party of Australia, a Mr Jennings. It is a 64page document and in it very serious allegations are made against members of the Victorian Government -
-And you; you are in it too.
– That is what I am proposing to deal with. Because I was mentioned, as was the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), I want to take the first available opportunity in this Parliament to deal with those aspects of the allegation insofar as they concern me. I say, quite frankly, that if there were any substance or truth in the allegations as they affect either myself or the Minister for Industry and Commerce in terms of our representation in this Parliament, neither of us would be fit to hold public office. Therefore, being a member of this institution, I believe it is proper that in this Parliament I should raise the substance of the allegation that is made and deal with it here, conscious of the fact, as we are all aware, that any honourable member who makes any statement to the Parliament which is untruthful has a course of action to follow that is time-honoured. I certainly would observe that tradition.
In a conversation which took place between a Mr Jennings and Mr Dunstan, who was then Minister for Public Works, it was suggested by Mr Dunstan, following a question by Mr Jennings, that there had been no questions asked in the House in 1974 concerning the Melton land deal. According to Mr Jennings’ statement, Mr Dunstan ‘s reply was:
I told you Melton stinks’. I said - that being Mr Jennings-
Yes, ‘I know that but why didn’t Clyde Holding ask any questions?’ He said, ‘I told you it stinks. There are 30,000 reasons why he didn’t.’ I said, ‘Do you mean he was paid off?’ He said, ‘Of course he was paid off. Any fool would realise that.’ I said, ‘It is certainly rotten when the Opposition Leader is shut up by money.’ He said, ‘I know that but the members of the Party and the people in the electorate keep voting us in; so why shouldn ‘t we? ‘
First of all, I say that the substance of that statement is completely false. At no stage did I as Leader of the Opposition in Victoria, or any member of the parliamentary Party, ever receive any suggestion of an emolument, nor did we at any stage allow any action that we took in the Parliament, either by way of question or the initiation of action, to be influenced by any such suggestion. I go further than that and say that the nature of that suggestion does not simply involve my reputation. I am more than capable of looking after that in my private capacity. I say that the matter goes to the institution of parliament itself. It is a grievous statement which suggests that, as between a member of a parliament who is supporting a government and a Minister of the Crown, there is graft and corruption on such a scale that Ministers of the Crown would clearly have to be involved in those scandalous transactions. That in itself is bad enough.
It is even more calculated to bring the parliamentary institution and the individuals in it into disrepute if it is suggested that it is possible, if the matter concerned is being properly investigated, to simply buy off the Leader of the Opposition and members of the Opposition. I repudiate that suggestion. I say that it is a lie. I say to this Parliament that it is a lie and I have invited publicly the Premier of Victoria to hold a judicial inquiry into all these allegations. However, at the earliest possible time, within the precincts of this Parliament, I wanted to use this opportunity to make a clear and unequivocal statement to the Parliament. Not only have I taken the earliest possible action publicly to refute the allegation, I have done it in this institution. The Minister for Industry and Commerce can take his own action in respect of this matter. I simply say that if there were one tittle of evidence in this allegation none of us would be fit to hold public office.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable members time has expired.
-Tonight I draw the attention of the House to the death of one of Sydney’s greatest lord mayors, a leading citizen of that city. I refer to the late Leo Port who was a good and close longstanding friend of mine; a man who contributed so much to the renewal of the city of Sydney, a man who, in effect, in the end, through his excessive zeal and excessive energy, contributed his life in the service of the citizens of Sydney. I recognise that Leo Port needs no memorial in the hearts of the people of Sydney. There is forever in front of them the memorial of that restored city. The excitement and the life that Leo Port brought back to that city will remain after his untimely, unfortunate, early death. Whether one agrees with everything that Leo Port did during his time as Lord Mayor one must concede that he was a man of untold energy, vision and belief in the city of Sydney. His confidence in his own view and the correctness of what he was doing at times brought him into conflict with some people. However, I am certain that those people with whom he was in conflict will all agree that he was a man of the deepest integrity who was also blessed with a capacity for unbelievable hard work.
It is unfortunate that in the last months of his life he was plagued by a series of attacks which went beyond the bounds of good taste, which were vicious and which regrettably, I believe, served to hasten his death. I do not want to name the people who were involved in those attacks. They know who I am talking about. I was astounded to see that one of them had the gall to turn up at the memorial service for Leo Port. These people are aware of the nature of their vicious and villainous attack on this man.
– Nobody in this House would.
– Nobody in this House; I am not suggesting that. I do not wish to identify the people. Let them stand condemned themselves. All I am saying is that it is unfortunate that a man of such status, such stature and such capacity, a man who did so much for Sydney, at the end of his life should have had to tolerate the kind of viciousness that was heaped upon him by his opponents.
I was particularly distressed to note the behaviour of some sections of the Press towards Leo Port on the day of his death. I do not wish to discuss whether or not the National Times was correct in pursuing a course of action which it believed was correct because it involved a matter of general principle. The newspaper’s case is arguable. Let the newspaper defend itself. There is no way that the Sunday newspaper involved can defend itself. It picked over the corpse of Leo Port. It did so by picking over the bones of the National Times article. I regret that such a fine and outstanding man should have been subjected to those unfair and unbelievable pressures when it was well known that he was in serious health at the time. I know that all honourable members on this side of the House will join me in expressing their condolence to his wife, Edith, and to his children. I know that all honourable members on this side of the House, and I hope all honourable members opposite also, will recognise and appreciate the fine work this man did for the city of Sydney.
-Since the Telecom dispute we have witnessed confrontations involving industrial renegades seeking to enjoy the benefits of trade unionism while refuting their obligations and a major dispute resulting from stand-downs in container terminals on the Australian waterfront. What is the reason for this sudden support for non-unionists and industrial provocation by waterfront employers? Is it because the Government and some employers recognise that only the trade union movement prevents the use of the vast army of the unemployed to reduce the living standards of workers?
It is desirable that people join unions from conviction rather than from legal compulsion but, not surprisingly, most trade unions insist on full coverage within their area of work. The Government now upholds the rights of so-called conscientious objectors. It did not do so when it sent young Australians to die in Vietnam. Trade unionists rightly refused to work with those who would accept the gains of collective action but who would refuse to contribute towards achieving them. As one union leader puts it: ‘This Miss Biggs might have her conscientious beliefs that she should not be in a union, but there are 3,500 others who have a conscientious belief that she should be in a union’.
I turn now to the situation on the Australian waterfront. A national strike has developed because of the foolish action of Seatainers and Liner Services Ltd in standing down 500 Melbourne waterside workers as a result of a dispute by members of other unions. Historically, there have been no stand-downs on the Australian waterfront since 1914. Honourable members opposite should understand that these workers consider it a matter of deep principle. Members of the Foremen Stevedores Association, an organisation not noted for industrial militancy, have now joined the dispute. Under Federal legislation introduced last October, waterside workers work either with operational companies or in terminals. Men transfer from company to company but not from container terminals. Employers refused a concessional option of transferring these Melbourne terminal men to conventional stevedoring operations. They were more interested in confrontation.
Honourable members opposite should understand the history of the Australian waterfront. Fewer than 10,000 men are now employed there whereas 25 years ago almost 30,000 men were employed. Roll-on roll-off ships, bulk loading, mechanisation and the great mistake of containerisation instead of investment in unit load ships have taken their toll of jobs. The waterfront experience preceded the present concern about the computer holocaust. But agreement was reached for redundancy payments, a 35-hour week and a pension scheme featuring early optional retirement. Unionists in terminal operations work continuous shift work. This means the 35 hours are worked by a system of five shifts on, three shifts off. In return, the employers know that they will receive a service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These stand-downs in Melbourne are a deliberate attempt to wreck a system which cannot function unless the men know that they will not be subjected to sudden deprivation of earnings from disputes over which they have no control. If the waterfront employers wish to wreck the system which guarantees labour at any time and at all hours, their deliberate, insensitive, provocative and unprincipled action in Melbourne will do so.
There is a great need for a single industry union on the Australian waterfront. There is no need for this vital industry to be covered by waterside workers in stevedoring operations, clerks keeping cargo tallies, members of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemens Association and the Federated Ironworkers Association driving cranes and storemen and packers filling containers. Therein lies the seeds of real industrial confrontation. The folly of the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour in standing down waterside workers has widened this dipute and made it harder to solve. Now that 70-odd maintenance men have returned to work, we are still left with a national dispute. Now the Waterside Workers Federation will probably seek payment for its members wrongfully stood down during this dispute and will seek a pledge that it will not happen again. If these measures are not forthcoming, the nation could face complete disruption whenever the employers seek confrontation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Yesterday I informed the House of the events that culminated in the decision of the staff of the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms to go on strike on Monday and Tuesday of this week. One of the terms of a return to work was that action would be taken to secure the intervention of the Public Service Arbitrator in the matter. In pursuance of this condition, a private conference of the parties involved was held this morning. A recommendation was made to us by the Acting
Public Service Arbitrator, Mr R. H. C. Watson, that Mr Aper should be stood down with pay until a decision is handed down on his application for exemption from joining a union on the ground of his conscientious beliefs. I have now to inform the House that the President and I have decided to accept the recommendation, which was made strongly.
– I have spoken several times in the House about fuel conservation and I have said that there should be alternatives to petrol driven motor vehicles. Tonight I want to switch a little; I want to talk about the insulation of homes and other occupied buildings as an energy conservation measure. This is now compulsory for new houses in New Zealand and I believe it also should be in Australia. State governments should introduce loan schemes to reduce the enormous amount of energy being wasted through conventional household heating. I understand that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has assisted in research which shows that something like 30 per cent of household heating escapes through the ceiling of an uninsulated house.
Insulation, of course, is a thermal control measure which works both ways: It has a beneficial cooling effect in hot, summer conditions and has a warming effect in winter conditions. It is extremely beneficial to sick people, pensioners and others to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Insulation can also conserve energy, which I believe is most beneficial. Its benefits are quite clear. It is equally clear that many Australians cannot afford the capital cost. That is why I believe the State governments should introduce loan schemes, which probably could be handled through State electricity authorities. I know that State electricity authorities have been long-time advocates of home insulation. It is unfortunate that their political masters have not given due regard to their advice. I know also that governments find it very difficult in the present economic climate to throw money around, particularly on all the frills that go with it. The money I am talking about would be fully recoverable.
I believe it would be in the interest of all governments also to look to compulsory insulation of all new public buildings, particularly hospitals and schools. The heating costs in uninsulated schools in the colder parts of this country are extremely high, partly because the buildings are occupied for the limited number of hours five days a week and not during the weekends. Either they are heated constantly during the winter, even though they are unoccupied for the greater proportion of the time, or high capacity heating systems have to be installed to make the buildings livable during school hours only. Of course there is the problem of summer heat. Adequate insulation would minimise both problems with a considerable saving in energy. I firmly believe that State governments should institute plans to provide insulation in all new homes and also in public buildings. I believe that it would be of great benefit to the conservation of energy.
I switch for a few seconds to something that is occurring in Hobart. I notice that my friend the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) is in the House tonight. The honourable member for Denison supported me in the call to have an inquiry into the women’s centres in Hobart. I believe that the information that has been brought to the notice of the Tasmanian Government by the honourable member for Denison, and I support him, is absolutely scandalous. I also believe that the way in which the honourable member for Denison and I were treated in the Tasmanian State Parliament today when we were blamed for bringing forward that information is absolutely scandalous. I believe that we were perfectly entitled to bring to the notice of the Tasmanian public things occurring in the community that we do not believe in. I believe, so does the responsible Minister in Tasmania, that we have a moral responsibility to tell the Tasmanian public -
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
The following notices were given:
Mr Sinclair to present a Bill for an Act to make provision for and in relation to the control and eradication of exotic diseases affecting livestock.
Mr Sinclair to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilization Act 1971.
Mr Fife to present a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounties on the production of certain metal-working machine tools.
Mr Fife to present a Bill for an Act to amend section 6 of the Bounty (Drilling Machines) Act 1978.
Mr Fife to present a Bill for an Act to amend section 6 of the Metal Working Machine Tools Bounty Act 1972.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 9 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 4 April 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Support- professional, technical and other staff categories used from non-research areas, e.g. engineering services.
ii) Approximately 15 per cent of the total staff of 1 , 070 at the AAEC’s research establishment is employed in the Uranium Fuel Cycle Program. A substantial pan of this15 per cent is engaged in research into uranium enrichment. Detailed data on research and development in this area, including staff numbers are not made public by overseas organisations. The AAEC follows this practice.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 4 April 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Western Australia -Kwinana
South Australia- Osborne
Tasmania- Bell Bay
Northern Territory- Darwin.
By way of explanation, oil is not used to a large extent for base load electricity generation in Australia. Most modern large coalfired power stations use oil during start-up and for control of the combustion process in certain circumstances, e.g. rapid load increases. Remote isolated areas are normally supplied byDiesel generators. For peak lopping and emergency startup of thermal generating units, gas turbines fuelled by distillate are installed in several States.
The conversion of the two largest generating units at Kwinana, Western Australia, to alternative coal firing is currently underway. The Osborne power station in South
Australia is used for peak load and standby only and Bell Bay power station in Tasmania was constructed mainly to provide reserve capacity in a drought situation.
Population Movement to Capital Cities (Question No. 855)
asked the Minister for
National Development, upon notice, on 29 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Internal migration data are not yet available from the 1976 Census. However, it has been estimated that between 1971 and 1 976, rural areas experienced a net population loss of about 50,000. The 1976 Census preliminary results also show that the capital city share of national population was fairly stable between 1971 and 1976. Thus the outflow of population from rural areas was to provincial centres rather than the capital cities.
The Government has provided $ 10.5m for expenditure under the Program during 1978-79. This will permit $6.4m to be spent on new projects, after meeting commitments of $4.1m carried forward from 1977-78. The Government has also authorised the entering of commitments during the current year, amounting to $6m, for expenditure beyond 30 June 1979.
The Decentralisation Advisory Board is responsible for examining requests put forward by firms, local government bodies and, in some cases, State Government Departments, for Commonwealth support of projects offering long term economic benefits to selected non-metropolitan areas. The Board operates under broad Government guidelines designed to ensure the most effective use of the funds provided for decentralisation objectives. Membership of the Board includes businessmen and Commonwealth and State public servants.
The Commonwealth continues to provide financial support for the regional growth centre at Albury-Wodonga. $5.3m will be provided in 1978-79. The emphasis is now on provision of essential services and encouragement of private investment rather than land acquisition. The project has from the beginning involved joint action by the Commonwealth, NSW and Victorian Governments.
The Commonwealth Decentralised Development Program has been operating for only eight months, and its effectiveness cannot yet be assessed. There is no doubt, however, that Albury-Wodonga has been successfully established as a centre with every prospect of continued and selfsustaining growth. This was demonstrated by Australian Newsprint Mills Ltd’s recent announcement of a $155m project at Albury-Wodonga.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 25 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 25 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
When has he travelled overseas by aeroplane since 1 1 November 1975.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
June 1976, January 1977, March 1977, April 1978 and July 1978.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 30 May 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 8 June 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
Was the National Energy Advisory Committee requested or directed by him not to make recommendations on nuclear energy or uranium processing in its report on proposals for a research and development program for energy.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 8 June 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) In 1973 the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommended that as a prudent measure total lead emissions from motor vehicles should not be allowed to exceed the 1973 levels. The National Energy Advisory Committee (NEAC) did not question the NHMRC recommendation. However, in a report, ‘Motor Spirit- Octane Ratings and Lead Additives’, NEAC advanced proposals whereby the NHMRC recommendations could be met in a manner involving considerable economic and energy savings.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 8 June 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) The National Energy Advisory Committee report in question made no claim that independent studies are being conducted into the effects on human health of lead emissions from motor vehicle exhausts. See also answer to question No. 1 543 of 8 June 1 978.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) This is a complex technical matter which raises important questions related to economic feasibility. The National Energy Advisory Committee is currently examining the use of alcohols and alcohol-motor spirit blends as alternatives to motor spirit, and until a comprehensive report is available to Government it would be premature to consider the use of these alternative fuels.
wn asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 1 5 August 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Queensland Government has appointed the Sugar Board to administer such domestic marketing of sugar. CSR Limited and the Millaquin Sugar Co. Ltd refine sugar for the domestic market under contract to the Queensland Government and, as agents, implement the marketing policies of the Sugar Board.
I have noted from the official price list forwarded to my Department by the Sugar Board that the list price for brewers sugar was increased from 5 June 1978, the date of the last increase in the domestic price of sugar, by $ 1 4.00 per tonne over the price set at 1 6 June 1 977.
I am not aware in detail of marketing arrangements determined by the Sugar Board. I am advised, however, that for some years sugar has faced strong competition from other fermentable products in the beer brewing adjunct market. Marketing arrangements to meet this competition, and retain for the sugar industry its share of the market for brewers fermentable adjuncts, are matters within the commercial judgment and discretion of the Sugar Board.
I am informed that the products described as ‘brewers sugar’ are specially prepared for use in that industry, and are not usable in other industries.
I may add that the continuing effort of the sugar industry to improve the quality of all its products is something of which it can rightly be proud.
wn asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 1 5 August 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2 ) and (3 ) See answer to 1 7 1 4.
wn asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 1 5 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (l)and(2)Seeanswerto 1714.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 22 August 1978:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The study is considered to have flaws in this and other aspects, and does not in itself provide any basis for modifying current public health standards for radiation protection.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 23 August 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The study is considered to have flaws in this and other respects, and does not in itself provide any basis for modifying current public health standards for radiation protection.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780913_reps_31_hor110/>.