31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House 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 Carlton and Mr Hunt.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of we the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth-
That because this budget will further increase the number of persons unemployed, because it reduces the average worker ‘s spending power by$ 1 0 per week, because it will reduce the income of pensioners, because it is unfair in placing a greater burden on the poor rather than the rich, and because it is driving this country into a depression.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government withdraws this budget and provides Australia, within this session of Parliament, with a revised budget that increases the level of economic activity in Australia, lowers unemployment, removes the burdens placed on the disadvantaged, and revives business and consumer confidence in the future of this potentially great country.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage.
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 Burns.
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 Dr Everingham.
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 Government rectify immediately their present policy which is stopping Australia from being really free and independent.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. A petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That we, the undersigned, believe that it is a grave injustice if Pressnan Kannan is deported from Australia. We consider him to be a valuable member of our society.
That any attempt to force him to leave Australia against his free will reflects a very poor light upon the Democratic principles of our society.
That we challenge our politicians and our public servants to defend the rights of the individual.
That Pressnan Kannan has lived in Hobart for eight years; it is now his home; he is happily married to an Australian citizen and they are both friends of many of the undersigned.
That we will be very deeply and adversely affected if Pressnan Kannan is forcibly taken from amongst us.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodgman.
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 or annual adjustments in line with the Consumer Price Index.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lusher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
It would be a disgrace to the fine spirit of these heroes if we thought of saving their lives. ‘
Major Kamiya the prosecutor at the Japanese Court Martial who made the above comment went on to say, inter alia-
These heroes must have left Australia with sublime patriotism flowing in their breasts and with the confident expectation of all the Australian people on their shoulders.
As we respect them, so we feel our duty of glorifying their last moments as they deserve, and by doing so the names of these heroes will remain in the hearts of the British and Australian people for evermore. ‘
A specially commissioned March called ‘The Forgotten Heroes’ was played for the first time by the Band of the New South Wales Police Force.
Your Petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to approve the conferring of the medal on the men of ‘Jaywick’ and Rimau’ on behalf of the people of Australia to honour the memory of these gallant men so that future generations of Britain and Australia will know and admire what these men did and their memory will remain in the hearts of the British and Australian people for evermore.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Yates.
-I ask the Treasurer: Why has the Government found it necessary to tax payments made to such people as rehabilitees, people in sheltered employment, and people receiving tuberculosis allowances, including housekeeper allowances? Has the Treasurer, in consultation with the Minister for Social Security, discussed the possible additional costs to be borne by the Government as a result of a likely increase in the institutionalisation of the handicapped flowing from the Government’s decision? Now that the Government has decided to exclude blind pensioners, what are the revised estimates of income to be derived from taxing the pensions of the severely handicapped?
-To take the last part of the question first, the revenue estimates advised to me indicate a tax collection of about $3m in 1978-79 and about $5m in a full year. The honourable gentleman asked why it has become necessary to tax these payments. I think it is fair to say that this is one of those difficult areas in relation to taxation and social welfare policy.
There are differing views in the community as to what should be the basis of taxation and what should be the basis of assisting people who, by reason of a particular disability or disadvantage, ought to receive some kind of additional assistance. On the surface, of course, because of the unfortunate disabilities of some in our community, it is easy to construct an attack upon a government which imposes taxation upon recipients of particular benefits. Let me say to the honourable gentleman, firstly, that by reason of the existing tax free threshold under our taxation system any person who is totally dependent upon these benefits, as I understand it, will not be liable to any taxation. I say to the honourable gentleman, secondly, that if indeed the community believes that some amongst its number, by reason of their disabilities, should be deserving of additional assistance, the right method of doing that is by direct support and social welfare payments.
Our taxation system pays regard to capacity to pay according to the level of income, and it is for that reason that governments constantly get requests from all sections of the community asking them whether a tax exemption should be granted by reason of a particular situation. I think that the honourable gentleman and the House will realise that if a taxation system is not geared to level of income anomalies of a far greater order than presently exist in the taxation system are going to emerge. I ask the honourable gentleman and other honourable members on the other side of the House who may be critical of this decision to remember that a decision was taken several years ago to extend the taxation of pensions in company with the decision then taken to eliminate certain sections of the means test so far as pensions are concerned.
I ask the honourable gentleman to consider those matters. Whilst I respect and understand that he may have a concern about this issue, I ask him to see it in the light, firstly, of having a taxation system which is not productive of too many anomalies and, secondly, of recognising that in the overwhelming majority of cases- I think all, subject to check-anybody who is totally dependent on any of the allowances that he has mentioned will not pay any tax. I put it to him that in circumstances in which there may be income over and above that amount it is not quite as outrageous or unreasonable as he suggests for taxation to be applied.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. After 1 November, when the new health insurance arrangements come into operation, what will be the situation regarding hospital charges for a patient who is not insured if he or she requires intermediate or private accommodation? Can the value of the free public ward accommodation be used as a credit to reduce the cost of intermediate and private ward charges?
– Under the arrangements to apply as from 1 November uninsured persons are entitled to receive hospital accommodation with treatment by a doctor employed by the hospital at no cost to the patient. If an uninsured person wishes to enter a hospital and to be treated by a doctor in either a private or a shared ward he or she will pay $40 a day for shared ward accommodation and $60 a day for a private room at that hospital. The patient also will be entitled to receive 40 per cent of the scheduled fee as a Commonwealth medical benefit, with the patient paying no more than $20 for any one service. Of course, the compulsion in the present health insurance system either to insure or to pay the Medibank levy will be removed after 1 November. It will be for the individual to determine whether he wishes to insure himself either for the cost of a private hospital room or for the cost of a shared room with doctor of choice.
– What if a doctor recommends a private room?
– If in New South Wales, for instance, a doctor recommends that a patient at a recognised public hospital should have a private room, it is a matter for the hospital authorities to provide that private room for the patient, but that room -
– Without charge?
– Yes, at no cost to the patient. But that decision will be taken in accordance with the condition of the patient. This is the practice that applies at present and undoubtedly will continue to apply after 1 November. In most of our recognised hospitals, decisions of that nature are taken according to the condition of the patient. The advantage in taking out health insurance is accepted by people who wish to have their doctor of choice treat them in hospital. When people are not insured, in most instances- particularly when they are patients in the larger teaching hospitals- they will be treated by a doctor who is employed by the hospital.
– Has the Treasurer seen a submission from the Association of Sheltered Workshops, New South Wales, on the effects of taxes on rehabilitees and sheltered workshop allowances? Is it a fact that when an individual earns more than $20 above the normal standard rate pension 50c in each dollar earned will be lost due to the means test and that, of the remaining SOc, 16.5c will be taken by tax, resulting in the Government taking back more than two-thirds of each additional dollar earned over $73.50? Will this mean that the Government will be taking back more then two-thirds of each additional dollar earned over $73.50?
– I have received a submission from that organisation- the Association of Sheltered Workshops, New South Wales- and I think that either I or my colleague, the Minister assisting the Treasurer will be seeing representatives of that organisation in the course of the next week. The figures cited by the honourable member for Sydney are broadly correct, but I would like to check the last dollar and cent of them before saying that in an unqualified way. I point out to the honourable member for Sydney that it is a slight gloss upon the true situation in respect of this category of benefit or any other category of benefit to categorise as taxation an abatement of the means test free element of a person’s income over and above a certain level. 1 think that to do this is to confuse two concepts. The honourable gentleman unfairly implied that the taxation level was set at two-thirds of the income, whereas the taxation level is significantly lower. I think also that the honourable gentleman has done what other critics of Government decisions have done in some of these areas: He has lumped together the amount of income test free pension that is abated according to the level of outside income and the amount of taxation. I think that that unfairly and improperly represents the situation because it is not in truth taxation; it is the operation of the means test, as the honourable gentleman well knows.
-Is the Minister for Transport aware of claims made in South Australia yesterday that there is a risk of no work being done on the Stuart Highway this year unless the Commonwealth Minister for Transport changes his attitude and gives approval for the work to proceed? Is this claim correct, or is State Minister Virgo once again intentionally misleading the State Parliament and the people of South Australia?
-Order! The first part of the question asks for information. That is in order. I will permit the Minister to answer that part of the question.
-The facts of the situation are that on 13 July I approved a program sent to me by the South Australian Minister for Transport, Mr Virgo, for a sum of $270,000 to be spent on one section of the Stuart Highway, from Bookaloo to Mount Gunson, and an extra $60,000 on general works on the Stuart Highway. I wrote back to Mr Virgo expressing my dissatisfaction at the expenditure level of the proposed program and suggested that in this financial year there ought to be at least an effort to spend about $ lm on the Stuart Highway. I am pleased to say that Mr Virgo did write back to me suggesting that he could make available $900,000 on this year’s program. So that there would be no misunderstanding and to confirm that, I wrote to Mr Virgo informing him that I would be prepared to transfer $530,000 from the national commerce roads section to the national highways section to be spent specifically on the Stuart Highway. So far as I am aware I have had no response from Mr Virgo to that proposal. The proposal that he had for this $530,000 was in respect of a road of much lesser importance than the Stuart Highway and could easily be funded from the State’s own resources. The truth is that the ball is in Mr Virgo’s court. I would like to see and I have made provision for, according to my sums anyway- if Mr Virgo does not agree he can write to me again- an amount of $ 1 m to be spent on the Stuart Highway this year leading to a better program next year and the year after. I make the point further that we have provided some $66m for national highway programs in South
Australia over the past few years and Mr Virgo has not made $1 of that money available for expenditure on the Stuart Highway. I think it is time Mr Virgo started to do something, stopped talking and stopped playing politics with roads as he does all the time.
-Maybe it is delayed in the mail, Mr Speaker. The facts are that the Government will honour its commitment made before the last election to extend television into the areas promised at that time. In fact, we will in one respect be able to go further in some parts of Australia. As I indicated at a meeting this morning, I hope quite soon to be putting proposals before the Government whereby we will look at the conversion of part of our remote area television program to satellite by leasing facilities of the International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation.
– I am delighted that my colleague, the honourable member for Kennedy who has asked me some questions on this matter is so delighted about it. This matter at the moment is being developed and I will put a proposal before the Government quite soon. That would, of course, mean that we would be providing not only what we promised for remote areas at the last election but also a better service than that which we undertook to provide at that time. The precise details as to when there will be action in particular electorates is a matter which is still under consideration and because we are looking at this further development of our undertakings there is a little bit to be done in the way of detail. I will let the honourable member have whatever information I can and I will follow up that letter as promised.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications been drawn to today’s report in the Australian that cutbacks will occur in Australian Broadcasting
Commission rural programs? Does the Minister appreciate the enormous significance of ABC rural programs for farmers in providing management and market information for their business operations? Is the Minister aware that Horizon 5- the only national television program dealing with rural matters and providing an essential link between country and city people- is to be chopped in 1979? Can the Minister indicate to the House the Government’s view of the importance of ABC radio and television programming to rural areas?
– The honourable member raises a very important matter. Indeed, he drew my attention to a newspaper article this morning. The Government attaches the greatest importance to Australian Broadcasting Commission rural services. To people in remote areas and in rural parts of Australia the ABC services are a positive lifeline. The Government believes that the ABC must always be prepared to devote a significant part of its resources to the provision of these services. By extending television and radio broadcasts into new and outback areas we are, of course, all the time improving the services and making them more available to a wider number of people. I will look into the matters raised by the honourable member and ask the ABC for information about the matters contained in the newspaper article. I point out that at the foot of that article I think the director of rural services in the ABC indicated that no special sacrifices were being demanded of the ABC’s rural department. Honourable members know that there is restraint all round but no special sacrifice, as I understand it, is being asked of the ABC’s rural department.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Can he inform the House whether any decision has been made in relation to approval being given to the South Australian Government’s application for loan funds to finance the infrastructure of the petrochemical complex at Redcliff in South Australia? If not, when is the decision to be released?
-At the last Premiers Conference and Loan Council meeting the six States and the Commonwealth unanimously agreed that it would be necessary for a joint working party of the Commonwealth and the States to be established and to report to the respective governments as soon as possible on an appropriate response by the Loan Council to a large number of projects which had been submitted not only by the South Australian Government but also by other State governments. My information as of last week is that what is hoped to be the last meeting of that working party took place in Melbourne last Friday week. I am hopeful that arising from that meeting a report of the working party will be available. I take the opportunity to assure the honourable gentleman and other honourable members, including quite a number on this side of the House from South Australia who are interested to know the outcome of the Redcliff application, that both the Commonwealth and the South Australian Governments are anxious to reach a conclusion as soon as possible. I am sure that the honourable gentleman will understand that there are more applications for access to the provisions of the infrastructure guidelines than can perhaps be responsibly accommodated, certainly in the initial stages. Therefore the Commonwealth and the State governments have to work out priorities on both a national and other bases. I assure the honourable gentleman that the Commonwealth is anxious, as is the South Australian Government and the South Australian Opposition, and honourable members from South Australia on both sides of the House, to see a decision on this matter.
– When is the Loan Council meeting?
– The honourable member for Adelaide interrupts. The date of the Loan Council meeting, if there is to be a formal meeting, will be decided once the report of the joint working party is received. Whether it will be necessary to have a formal Loan Council meeting is something that I think the respective governments will have to decide when they have the report. I genuinely assure honourable gentlemen on both sides of the House that there is no delay on the part of the Commonwealth. I regret that in some quarters there have been suggestions of a deliberate delay on the part of the Commonwealth or by the Commonwealth Department of the Treasury. That is absolutely incorrect. In terms of the timetable, the Treasury for some time has been waiting on responses but I do not in any sense criticise the States. There is a genuine desire to have this matter brought to finality as soon as possible so that the fate of the Redcliff project can be known so far as infrastructure finance is concerned.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Education aware that the ACT Teachers Federation called a stop work meeting today in the Australian Capital Territory government schools? Is the Minister also aware of any reason why such a meeting could not have been held outside school hours so that students and parents and particularly working mothers would not be inconvenienced?
– By holding stop work meetings during school hours, the ACT Teachers Federation is striking at the interests of parents. It is also striking at the best interests of students. There might be those students who would regard such action as a sort of diversion from drudgery but the great majority of parents are disturbed, if not outraged, by this type of action. They are particularly outraged by this type of action in the Australian Capital Territory where staff levels in schools will increase in real terms this year and where recurrent spending per head on secondary schools is well above the national level. Spending per head here on schools is 32 per cent above the national average.
Why then is there this sort of stop work action and talk of further action by the teachers? There might be those who would be unkind enough to suggest that it might not be unrelated to the fact that in last Saturday’s Canberra Times there was an announcement of elections for office bearers of the Teachers Federation and indeed that the pre-selection by the Labor Party for the seat held by the honourable member for Canberra at present is to be held next weekend. I understand- and again perhaps I might put it delicately- that the not unattractive Chairman of the ACT Education Authority is a candidate.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Is it a fact, as stated by Mr Doug Jennings, MLA, in the document tabled in the Victorian Parliament last week that, during 1975, Mr Jennings presented to the Minister information which ‘proved beyond doubt that a racket had been worked’ in land deals at Melton and Sunbury? Is it also a fact, as stated by Mr Jennings, that the Minister replied that this was a State matter and he did not wish to be involved in it?
-Order! The honourable gentleman can ask a question relating to the official duties of the Minister but this matter does not relate to the Minister’s official duties. I will give the honourable member the opportunity to make his question relevant.
-Is it a fact that in his capacity as a responsible Minister, as Treasurer, and as the Federal member for the area concerned -
Government members interjecting-
-Order! The House will come to order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is far too much noise on my right. I ask the honourable members to remain silent. I call the honourable member for Lalor.
-Is it a fact that the then Treasurer and member of the House of Representatives for Flinders was consulted by the honourable member for Westernport in the State Parliament who put to him that there was evidence which indicated beyond doubt that a racket had been worked in land deals in Melton and Sunbury? Is it a fact, as stated by Mr Jennings, that the Minister, having been consulted on the matter, replied that this was a State matter and he did not wish to be involved in it? Is it further a fact that a principal beneficiary of the Melton and Sunbury deals was Mr Peter Leake, former chairman of the Minister’s electoral organisation and of the Westernport Regional Planning Authority? How much of this information was known to the right honourable gentleman when the Lynch family trust entered into its Stumpy Gully land dealings with Mr Leake and his associates?
-Order! The question is out of order, but I had to listen to it before I could so rule. It is out of order, but if the Minister wishes to reply, of course I will permit him to do so.
- Mr Speaker, I would like to respond to what the honourable member for Lalor has said. Quite frankly, in terms of procedure in the House, the constant assertions by inference of the honourable gentleman and some of his colleagues, as on this occasion, leave no recourse at all to natural justice. I find myself in this Parliament day after day responding to assertions, without evidence at all, from the honourable gentleman which I think in terms of any concept of what I would call justice in the parliamentary forum leave more than a lot to be desired.
I want to say to the honourable gentleman that his irresponsibility knows no bounds. It was this honourable gentleman- I will come back to what he said in a moment- who, only a few days ago, questioned my colleague the Treasurer about assertions concerning missing Treasury files and made absurd and ludicrous suggestions about telephone calls between a member of my staff and the Federal Treasury. The honourable gentleman has yet to back up those charges with evidence and indeed has yet to apologise to me or to this House. The way in which he goes on in this Parliament in relation to Mr Jennings quite frankly, as I mentioned before, is irresponsibility itself which apparently in his mind knows no bounds.
As for the Jennings statement- I could reply in kind to the assertions in that statement- I remind the honourable gentleman that every person named in that document, lurid and unsubstantiated as it is, has in fact publicly rejected the substance of it. In Victoria at present there is a series of statutory declarations which reject the substance of that document. I have rejected the substance of that document. I have said so before and I repeat it now. I say to the honourable gentleman that if there is any sense -
– Release the papers of last year and we will know that you are not sanctimonious.
– Look at you, you nervous little creep.
- Mr Speaker, a point of order. It is not parliamentary for Ministers to call -
Government members interjecting-
– Government members should just listen with propriety. They are the people who spoke -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– The Minister is a nervous little spiv.
-The House will come to order. The behaviour of the House over the last five minutes leaves a great deal to be desired. I ask for silence. I call the honourable member for Blaxland to make a point of order.
- Mr Speaker, it is not parliamentary for Ministers to call members of the Opposition ‘spivs ‘. It should be withdrawn.
- Mr Speaker, I called the Minister a spiv.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister, who seems to complain about parliamentary immunity being given to documents, might like to look at the one which he had tabled and which attacks Labor Ministers in an unscrupulous manner and is quite dishonest. That Minister was responsible for tabling it.
-Order! There is no point of order. Does the Minister wish to proceed with his answer.
-I thank the honourable gentleman for taking the point of order because there is no doubt that some members of the Opposition cannot forget the principal part which I played in the exposure of the loans affair. Members of the Opposition can quote whatever documents they like. Mr Speaker, let me summarise the position very quickly. Every one of the persons in Victoria who has been named by Mr Jennings in any significant way, including the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, has rejected those allegations. Those rejections have been subject to a series of statutory declarations which of course can be taken at issue in the normal legal process. I have rejected those allegations. These matters concern me and my family. The latter is not irrelevant to my reaction. If I sound angry, in fact I am angry. I am sick and tired of the matter being raised in this House, this national Parliament.
– There is more to come. Release the documentation.
-Order! I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will set an example to the people sitting behind him to remain silent. The Minister was attacked in the question and I believe that he is entitled to respond in silence.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister was not attacked in the question. The question was deliberately phrased in very cool, non-emotive terms, simply to say that a statement had been tabled in the Victorian Parliament as to particular points and to ask whether the Minister would deal with the three points raised and then deal -
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat. I ask the House to listen to the Minister in silence.
– I was saying that I am sick and tired of the degree to which certain members of the Opposition in this Parliament have resorted to what I believe to be the technique of the smear, distortion and outright lies. So far as the Jennings statement is concerned- I am tempted to respond in kind -
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will proceed with his answer.
– So far as the Jennings statement is concerned, I remind the House of what the Solicitor-General has said about that document, I think yesterday, in Victoria. He said that it does not contain, nor does it purport to contain the evidence necessary to sustain the allegations which it makes. I say to the honourable gentleman- and he can put whatever interpretation he wants on my comment: ‘Put up or shut up’. If the honourable gentleman wants to say that all he is doing is asking non-emotive questions, I think he has a responsibility to be able to sustain the thrust of those comments. I could stand in this House as a Minister -
– What about you? Come and read this.
– I know why the honourable member for Corio is concerned about that. The reason why he sits on the other side of the House is something for which I am pleased to say that I accept responsibility. I say in this House that, if those sorts of questions can be asked, members on this side of the House including me could question a number of members of the Opposition on matters that might be entirely proper but they could employ the sort of smear tactic in which the honourable gentleman apparently is prepared to involve himself.
– I move: ‘That the Minister for Industry and Commerce be allowed to table the full documentation in relation to his land dealings prepared by Mr Charles, Q.C., and so far suppressed’. If necessary, I will move for the suspension of Standing Orders to allow him to do so. This will test the sanctimony of the gentleman who has just gone through a performance -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I will not accept the motion, for the simple reason that the right honourable gentleman does not need the authority of the House to table a document. Under the Standing Orders the right honourable gentleman can table a document if he so chooses.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that medical research authorities in some overseas countries claim that the excessive use of salt is a contributory cause of heart disorder and the main cause of severe arthritic conditions? Will the Minister take action to have inquiries made by Australian medical research authorities to verify the validity of these claims? If the claims are correct, will the Minister initiate action in conjunction with State authorities to prevent the excessive use of salt, particularly in baby food preparations, and to warn the Australian people that too much salt is a health hazard?
– The honourable member seeks a medical opinion from me. I am unable to give such an opinion. I will refer his question to the appropriate sub-committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council for investigation. I am aware that doctors and medical scientists in certain fields have made such claims as have been suggested by the honourable member. I do not know just how valid those claims are. I will discuss the matter with the Chairman of the National Health and Medical Research Council to see whether research in this area is being undertaken in Australia or overseas and, if not, whether funds can be made available at some stage for such research to be undertaken in this country. I have no doubt that research is being undertaken. I will give the honourable member what information is available on the issue. I will give consideration, at the appropriate time, to the suggestion that was contained in the latter part of his question.
-I ask the Acting Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations a question concerning youth unemployment. Does the Acting Minister agree that young people in Australia today are community minded and have a sense of concern about the destiny of the nation? Will the Government consider establishing a voluntary scheme whereby young people wishing to work and serve the community by looking after the aged or disadvantaged groups can do so?
– I am sure that all honourable members will agree with the honourable member for Higgins that the vast majority of young people in Australia are responsible people. Australia can be very proud of them. The suggestion that has been made by the honourable member is one that has some merit. Indeed, the matter has been the subject of discussion within the ranks of the Government parties. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in fact is giving serious consideration to the suggestion. I am unable to advise the honourable member or the House about the degree to which the Minister has examined the matter. I assure the honourable member that it is under review. It is considered by the Minister and the Government to be a suggestion with merit. There are difficulties, of course, associated with the implementation and the organisation of a scheme of the kind that has been mentioned by the honourable member for Higgins. The matter is under serious consideration. When the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations returns to Australia I will draw his attention to the question and to the comments of the honourable member.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister. Will the Government consider the written appeal by Dr H. C. Coombs to defer the signing of the Ranger agreement to allow the Aboriginal people more time to consider the terms of the agreement? Has the Minister seen the suggestion by Dr Coombs that for the Government to refuse to do so would be to confess that the agreement had been concluded under duress, in the interests of immediate profits for mining companies?
-Regarding the development of the Ranger uranium mine, negotiations have been proceeding according to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. This Act was formulated during the period of the Labor Government. It lays down a procedure to negotiate the terms and conditions for the development of mines in the Northern Territory. That Act does not allow for Aborigines to withhold consent for the development of uranium mines. It merely allows negotiations to proceed on the terms and conditions. If these terms and conditions are not negotiated then the Act provides for an arbitrator to be put in to determine the issue. I want to say to the House that these negotiations have proceeded in a proper manner. They have been proceeding since October of last year. A settlement has been reached by professional negotiators who have been handling the matter for the Commonwealth Government and for the Northern Land Council. The Northern Land Council, at its meeting last week, agreed to accept what its negotiator had accepted in the course of negotiations. I see no reason for disturbing that arrangement.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Resources. In answer to a question yesterday concerning the dumping of sugar in Papua New Guinea by the European Economic Community, he indicated that his Department would be consulting the industry on what measures Australia will be taking against the EEC under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade arrangements. When will these consultations take place?
– Officials of my Department are meeting representatives of CSR Ltd today, that company being the body which sells sugar on behalf of the Australian industry. They are preparing formal notification to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade challenging the legality, under Article 16 of the GATT, of the export of sugar by the EEC. I mentioned to the House yesterday how incensed the Australian sugar industry and I are that it is now dumping sugar on the Papua New Guinea market with a subsidy content equivalent to about three times the world price. Since 1974 the EEC has been substantially increasing its exports of sugar. In 1974 it exported 360,000 tonnes of sugar with a subsidy content to the value of about $40m. This year it is exporting almost 4 million tonnes of sugar with a subsidy content equivalent to $700m. This is just outrageous and sugar producing countries around the world cannot sit back and allow the EEC to behave in such a manner, particularly when the sugar producing countries have all subscribed to the International Sugar Agreement which imposes certain disciplines on them to restrain their production and exports in order to try to get the world price of sugar increased. Yet the EEC behaves in a most delinquent manner in ignoring the objectives of this great international body and the developing countries around the world and continues to dump massive amounts of this highly subsidised sugar. We are taking this action which I know will have the support of other developing and sugar producing countries. I hope that it is not long before we can obtain a judgment from the GATT as to disciplining the EEC for this outrageous behaviour.
– I direct my question to the Acting Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is the Minister able to explain why in the revised guidelines for the Community Youth Support Scheme, funds are not available to local committees for radio, television or Press advertising of project facilities and activities? Is it a fact that this restriction imposes severe difficulties on local committees in their efforts to communicate with the young unemployed?
– I will be pleased to examine the content of the honourable member’s question and let him have a reply later.
Mr HOWARD (BennelongTreasurer)Pursuant to section 1 1 of the Life Insurance Act 1945, 1 present the annual report of the Life Insurance Commissioner for the year ended 31 December 1 977.
An incident having occurred in the Gallery-
– Pursuant to section 5 (3B) of the Statutory Rules Publication Act 1903, I present a statement relating to the Ombudsman (Northern Territory Self-Go vernment) (Transitional Arrangements) Regulations- Statutory Rules No. 104 of 1978.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In answer to a question without notice yesterday from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) I said that I had received no request from the sugar industry for a draft report to be submitted on the Industries Assistance Commission inquiry into the sugar industry. That is correct. I also added that I was not aware of any approach having been made to me from consumer interests concerning the publication of the draft report. In fact my office had received a copy of a letter sent to my colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) by the President of the Australian Council of Soft Drink Manufacturers. I was not aware of that letter when I gave the answer in this House yesterday. However, the letter certainly contains a request for the publication of the draft report.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Amendment Bill 1978.
Bounty (Agricultural Tractors) Amendment Bill 1978.
Bounty (Books) Amendment Bill 1978.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The methods used by the Government to impose its uranium policy on to Aboriginal communities of the Alligator Rivers Region.
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 conflicts and allegations over the proposed development of uranium in the Northern Territory have brought the hypocrisy of this Government squarely before the Australian people. While preaching self-management for Aboriginal communities, this Government has continually broken its promises to the Aboriginal people. During the last 33 months the Government has presided over the deliberate erosion of financial support for Aboriginal welfare and development programs. It has denied Aboriginal rights to traditional lands in the Borroloola land rights claim. It has failed to take action to honour promises made to the Aurukun and Mornington Island Aboriginal communities. Now there are allegations of Government pressure and threats to ensure the start of development this year of the Ranger uranium project. All the denials in the world by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) do not discount the basic fact that over the last nine months this Government has continually put off consultations and then applied pressure to force its will on the Aboriginal people.
The Northern Land Council was set up under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1 976. In the year since the Council ‘s current Chairman was elected he has been thrust into negotiating an issue in a role and in a manner totally alien to his culture. As the Ranger uranium environmental inquiry pointed out, Aborigines have never before been confronted with such important matters requiring a knowledge of a negotiating system utterly foreign to their traditional methods of consultation. This Government has attempted to force an agreement to satisfy its own interests, the mining company’s interests and the interests of the Territory’s Legislative Assembly at the expense of the interests of the Aboriginal people. It is the Government, not the Aboriginal people, that has bound Australia into a uranium-contract-centred time-table. No member of this Parliament would have the ability to negotiate in a foreign language within an unfamiliar system of government with a man as powerful as the Prime Minister on an issue as sensitive to the Aboriginal people as is land, the very symbol of their culture, their traditional social system, their sense of identity and self-dependence.
All this has happened in less than nine months, while the Aborigines have constantly been reminded by the media, the Government and the uranium developer that mining will get the go-ahead this year, that the Federal Government controls the uranium-bearing land, that rnining will go ahead no matter what the traditional land owners want, and that negotiations must conclude and will conclude before the wet season this year. I think it is already too late for that. So why the great rush at the last minute? These men of power with the stroke of a pen can speed up cultural genocide. They can destroy all that the Land Rights Act gave or pretended to give to the Aboriginal people. The Government thrusts the Chairman of the Northern Land Council and an executive member of the Council into a room with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and their hatchet man, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and insists on definitive discussions about what the Aborigines see as the apocalyptic destruction of their land. ‘You have to decide now’ is the call. Regardless of what was said at that meeting at the Darwin Travelodge on 8 September, the fact is that over the last nine months there have been constant reminders that the Government must sanction the continued existence of the Northern Land Council. As summed up in the words of Mr Yunupingu: ‘You can’t muck around with the Government. A group of blackfellows can’t do that’. Any Australian placed in that situation, let alone the representatives of a minority group in our community forced into the ruthless game of mining industry politics without the chance to master the rules, would feel under pressure. As far as this Government is concerned, it worked.
In the weeks before the 8 September meeting we saw a very different Chairman of the Northern Land Council say that the agreement would have to be translated from English; that an undertaking not to build the Arnhem Highway extension would be only a step towards having the agreement signed; that the agreement would not be signed until the Government undertook that the Jabiluka project would not go ahead; that the agreement was, to quote Mr Yunupingu ‘s word, rotten; and that the agreement would not be signed immediately by the forthcoming Northern Land Council meeting. Those were strong words. Now he has eaten them. The Prime Minister must have been very convincing in his arguments. Nine months of operating within the overpowering Australian system of government has resulted in the Government’s forcing its uranium go-ahead policy on people who do not want their land and their lives torn apart.
The persistent reminders by the Prime Minister of the urgency of completing negotiations have now resulted in a total breakdown of the traditional Aboriginal method of decisionmaking. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs must be proud of the fact that deliberately or otherwise his Government has effectively taken away from the Northern Land Council its representative capacity. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs had an obligation to understand the traditional method of decision-making and should have respected it. I remind the House of the letter sent today to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs by Dr H. C. Coombs, one of the most experienced and compassionate supporters of Aboriginal rights in this country. In his letter, which he has released publicly, Dr Coombs told the Minister:
I wrote to you on 24 August, drawing your attention to the fact that, unless Aboriginal communities deeply affected were given the opportunity quietly to discuss the issues involved in the proposed agreement between the Government and the Northern Land Council, and to reach a consensus about them, any so-called agreement would command no sense of commitment to it from the Aborigines affected. I urged that you defer the meeting of the Northern Land Council to allow adequate opportunity for a consensus to be developed …
The Government ignored the advice. As Dr Coombs wrote in his letter:
You have chosen rather to pursue a course which has denied the Aboriginal groups concerned real knowledge and understanding of what is involved, and the opportunity to consider it by the processes traditional in their society.
Dr Coombs is adamant that the Government must reconsider and allow the Aboriginal people more time.
– How long? How long does he want?
– How about for this wet season, for a start?
– For another wet season, and another, and so on?
-Order! The honourable member for Canberra will remain silent.
– The interjections obviously use the argument of the thin edge of the wedge- ‘You must not do anything good because they might want more’. I do not accept that. The Opposition rejects the argument that it is no good to do something right because people will want more than their rights. We should do the right thing first and then argue if they want more than their rights. To refuse to do so would be, as Dr Coombs rightly points out: a confession that the Ranger agreement has indeed been concluded under duress, and that the Australian Government rates the immediate profits of mining companies more highly than the deeply-felt anxieties for their ancient way of life of those Australian citizens whom we have, over the last 200 years, continuously robbed of what was theirs by plain and sacred right
This issue is not one of making decisions whiteman style. It involves discussion among clans about land, people and their very existencediscussion which, quite often, takes months to organise and years to conclude. I make no apology if it takes years to do this. If the Government were genuine about wanting a consensus, instead of sitting on its bottom for six of the last nine months and ignoring the approaches from the Northern Land Council, it would have kept the discussions going continually. The NLC waited four months to receive an answer from the Government on one proposal. Do not let Government members tell me that they are interested in consensus while they allow that situation to take place. Despite the statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the House yesterday, the traditional owners have not been kept informed. Their wishes are not reflected in the Ranger agreement because most of them have not seen it.
The Minister for Trade and Resources and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs have claimed that there has been no pressure. That is not what the Press has quoted the Ranger partners ‘ chief geologist, Mr Ryan, as saying. Mr Ryan was a former Progress Party candidate for Tiwi in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly election. He said -
-I would rather believe our Ministers than him.
– The honourable member can disbelieve the chief geologist of the Ranger partners if he likes. The Government engaged him. Mr Ryan said:
Let’s face it. It does mean pressuring the NLC for a decision, otherwise they’d take another two years to make up their minds.
Perhaps that is the answer to the honourable members who ask how long it will take for a decision to be made. The Ranger geologist says that the Aborigines could take another two years to make up their minds. He went on to say:
The Aborigines have been hurled into one of the most acrimonious debates this country has ever seen and they’re not equipped to cope.
Now I come to the crunch statement:
The Government has only itself to blame. It took six months to reply to the NLC’s original proposals which it received last year, and now it has painted itself into a corner.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Resources are at the centre of the blame. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has an obligation to acknowledge the fact that within the Aboriginal system representatives cannot make decisions isolated from the traditional communities without consulting the people of those communities. It is basic to Aboriginal culture that long, informed and organised discussions must take place between the traditional leaders and the whole of the community they represent before a decision can be reached. It is then accepted as a binding consensus. Yet this Government has continually forced the Northern Land Council to overlook this obligation by demanding decisions from ‘representatives’. I put that word ‘representatives’ in inverted commas. It is a white notion of representation. It is not an Aboriginal system. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has a duty to respect the traditional system. If, as he has done, he fails to acknowledge and respect the ways of the Aboriginals, he has no right to claim an ability to protect their interests in the national Parliament.
The Opposition rejects the notion that there has been adequate consultation with the communities concerned. We reject the Government’s divide and rule treatment of the Arnhem Land Aboriginal communities. In the light of nine months, or whatever period the Government cares to name- a pretty inactive nine months- of consistent pressure placed on the Northern Land Council and its chairman by this Government for an agreement, we reject the Minister’s denials of duress. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs obviously is not equipped with the necessary knowledge and understanding of the Aboriginal people to gain a satisfactory agreement for all parties concerned. If he is behaving in this insensitive way because of pressure from within his Party, he should do the honourable thing, as his leader once did, and get out of the job. If, on the other hand, he genuinely wants to assert a feeling for Aboriginal methods and techniques of arriving at a consensus, he ought to make that much more evident in his actions and not just in his words. Dr Coombs has rightly said in his letter that the Government will destroy one of the most promising young leaders of the Aboriginal community in Australia if it persists with this highly destructive approach to all Aboriginal values.
The Opposition calls upon the Government to heed the sort of sentiments that are echoing through this country, not only from Dr Coombs but also from practically every Aboriginal organisation that has ever expressed its voice on land rights. This issue is the cry from the hearts of the Aboriginals. It is a subject which has affected them politically more than any other in our time or in any other time. We call on the Government to respect that sentiment irrespective of whether honourable members opposite consider that Opposition members are genuine in what they are doing. I believe that we are genuine. Perhaps the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is genuine in what he is doing. I ask him to make this evident in his actions and not just in his words.
– I will not challenge the bona fides of the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) who has just spoken in the debate. I believe that he could be genuine in his concern for Aboriginal interests in the Northern Territory. But I challenge very greatly the bona fides of the Australian Labor Party in this whole issue of being concerned about the Aboriginal people. The Labor Party is obsessed with this uranium question. It will go to any length to try to stop uranium mining being developed in this country. Honourable members opposite will stir up the trade union movement, the academics and anybody else to try to frustrate the Government’s desire to develop uranium in the interest of this nation and in die interests of people in other parts of the world who are working to proceed with the nuclear age.
I discount completely the allegations that are being made that the Government is applying duress and pressure on the Aboriginal people and not having any consideration for their interests. In fact, I could accept the matter of public importance at it stands. It refers to:
The methods used by the Government to impose its uranium policy on to Aboriginal communities of the Alligator Rivers Region.
It is not stated what sort of methods are being used. I am prepared to say that the methods we have used are absolutely correct and completely honourable. There is nothing wrong with the wording of that matter of public importance. I would think that if the Opposition were greatly concerned, it would have clarified the methods used. But, of course, honourable members opposite do not say that. I want to say that the Government has acted in a way in which the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill was originally drafted and proposed to allow the Aborigines to negotiate on the terms and conditions. This matter is before the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory at the moment. Therefore I believe that in this debate today a great deal of care needs to be taken to see that we do not cut across matters that the Court may address itself to in the course of the next 24 hours. I do not know quite which courses the Court will take. But I want to limit my remarks and I do not want to make the situation of the Court any worse by referring to matters that might come within its jurisdiction.
What we are talking about really is allowing the Ranger project to go ahead. When the ALP was in office it saw fit that Government should take 50 per cent interest in the Ranger project. The Labor Party believed in the development of this project. If honourable members look at the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, they will see that it does not give the Aboriginals the right to stop mining or to withhold consent. What the Act does is enable them under section 44 to get into the negotiations, whichever project is involved, and to negotiate the terms and conditions for development. If, after a reasonable period, the negotiations fail or they do not succeed they are then referred to an arbitrator who makes his recommendations to the Government. The negotiations under section 44 cover matters relating to the environment, the restoration of the mining area, social concerns and the financial matters in respect of the forms of compensation and assistance in allowing reclamation to be carried out. In the course of these negotiations- although not precisely part of them but a part of the overall package- there were lengthy discussions relating to the National Park, the involvement of Aborigines in the National Park and an agreement with the Northern Land Council as to the administration of that park. When all of these matters are published, as they will be when the agreement is signed with the Northern Land Council, people will have an appreciation of the enormous amount of work that has proceeded during this year in getting to the stage where the Council has felt that it is satisfied with the terms and conditions of the agreement.
The Government has determined that the negotiations will proceed on a fair and just basis, and I believe that that has happened with absolute propriety. There has been a very keen desire on the part of the Government that this matter should not go to an arbitrator. We wanted it to be settled in an amicable way. We have given assistance and we have responded wherever possible to questions and queries that the Land Council might have had. The Government has made funds available to the Council to carry out these negotiations. Can one say that that is pressure? Can one say that that is not co-operating to make the negotiations succeed? The Council was able to contract one of the most renowned international advisers and negotiators, a Dr Stephen Zorn from the United States, who has acted on behalf of many interests including American
Indians and for developing countries in negotiating mining rights and leases. He has come to Australia and he has participated in those negotiations. The Australian Government representative as our negotiator was Mr O ‘Donovan from the Attorney-General’s Department. I want to say that these negotiations were carried out on behalf of the two interests by highly skilled and professional people who were given authority to negotiate. The Aboriginal people had absolute confidence in Dr Stephen Zorn and in his participation in these negotiations. From what I know and from my experience I want to say that he was an extremely impressive and competent person.
The negotiations commenced last October. That is when the opening rounds took place. It is true, as the honourable member for Capricornia says, that several months went by before there were any further negotiations, and there were good reasons for this. In following the procedures recommended by the Fox report, the Government had to bring down legislation and, as the honourable member would know, a package of legislation was brought into this House during the autumn sittings. That legislation was debated in the two Houses before there was agreement. In the course of reaching agreement it was necessary for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and me to fly to Darwin to have consultations with the Northern Territory Administration and the Northern Land Council to ensure that matters were resolved, and they were resolved. That has been our whole approach. Whenever matters were brought up and it was felt that there was inadequate information the Government responded. During these months before the more active and official negotiations commenced a series of documents on environmental, conservation and social welfare matters was prepared. They were lengthy papers that had to stand up to the scrutiny of Dr Stephen Zorn who wanted answers on all of these various factors. Negotiations started in earnest in May this year. I am advised there were approximately seven or eight rounds of negotiations. Most of these negotiations took place in Darwin. I think that there might have been one or two elsewhere, but most of them took place in Darwin because we wanted to accommodate the interests of the Northern Land Council whose members felt it was better for them and it was in their interests to have the talks in Darwin. So the Australian Officials repeatedly went to Darwin to continue the talks. Is that pressure? Is that duress? Eventually an agreement was reached a few weeks ago. It might be of interest to the House to know what Dr Stephen Zorn said in a report that he gave to the Melbourne Age on Wednesday, 1 3 September which reads:
Dr Zorn yesterday agreed the Ranger deal did not pay royalties as high as those received by American indians but, in the long term, the Aborigines would catch up.
On balance the Ranger deal is better than the Canadian indian deal, even though the royalties are lower’, he said.
My estimate is that the environmental provisions in the Ranger deal add at least five per cent to the cash offer.
I’m not overjoyed about the environmental provisions, but it is better than we expected. “The agreement isn’t too bad and in some areas it goes beyond anything which has been offered anywhere else .
Are they the remarks of a man who is dissatisfied? Are those remarks an indication that the Government has not fulfilled its undertaking to the Aboriginal people?
– He is not an Aboriginal. He is a white man.
– Listen to the sheer ignorance of that interjection by the honourable member for Capricornia. It is unbelievable. Who was the negotiator? Who was the man speaking on behalf of the Northern Land Council? Goodness me, who is the man most qualified to make competent remarks? None other than Dr Stephen Zorn. As far as I can make out there is so much humbug from the Labor Party on this question that it is unbelievable. The honourable member for Capricornia said that the Government had locked people into the contracts and that this was governing the situation. Who locked in the Government? The Whitlam Government fully committed itself to endorsing the contracts and said that they would be honoured. It even envisaged using the national interest provisions of the land rights legislation to make sure that they were honoured. Honourable members opposite should not try to tell me that when the Labor Party was in office it did not have views on developing uranium because I have here an extract from Hansard of 1 6 October 1975 in which the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in introducing the Aboriginal Land (Northern Territory) Bill said:
There are certain matters relating to the Ranger uranium project which should be mentioned. No formal claim has yet been made to the Interim Land Commissioner by Aboriginal groups in respect of the Ranger land, but should such a claim be lodged, the procedures embodied in this Bill would of course be followed. It should be noted, however, that the Government has undertaken to honour existing approved export contracts- 5025 tonnes of uranium for Peko-EZ and Queensland Mines. International assurances have been provided by Ministers that Australia will meet the uranium requirements of our major trading partners, which could amount to a total of about 100,000 tonnes of uranium by 1990. Moreover, the very substantial increase in the national welfare which could be derived from development of the
Ranger project could not lightly be overlooked. Should the Government feel obliged to invoke the national interest provisions in the Bill in view of these factors, discussions would be held with those affected. These discussions would include the matter of royalties. I should add that any decision to proceed with the development of the Ranger project will depend upon the Government’s consideration of the findings of the Ranger uranium environmental inquiry.
We have followed that course exactly. The Labor Party is not even prepared to back its own policies when it is in government. So I accept the honourable member’s wording because the Government has acted in a manner which has been absolutely proper and correct. I do not see any reason why the Government should be embarrassed about the manner in which it has handled this whole affair. For the Opposition to attempt to censure the Government is absolute lunacy.
-Because my time is limited I want to correct three aspects of this matter in reply to the Acting Prime Minister. The first aspect is that the court action is not against the Government. It is between the Northern Land Council and the traditional owners. The second aspect I want to clarify and nail to the mast relates to the Memorandum of Understanding between the Commonwealth Government and the Peko-EZ company. The document, Memorandum of Understanding, states:
Contracts to give effect to this Memorandum of Understanding to which Australia is, or is to be, a party shall not become effective until Australia has affirmed them following consideration of:
the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry.
The Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry had an enormous impact on the Australian Labor Party. The findings of the Inquiry changed the thinking and attitude of the Labor Party to uranium mining. It is about time those people who are not so bright, including the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), understood that situation. The other significant aspect with which I want to deal is the question of Aboriginal land rights. This Government through legal tricks amended the Labor Party’s draft land rights legislation to override the Aboriginal right to veto mining on Aboriginal land. This removed the Land Council’s only bargaining power with the Government and the mining company. So let us stop this Government’s hypocrisy on these issues.
The full story of the Ranger negotiations will be written one day. The events of the last few weeks have just begun to reveal the desperate lengths to which this Government has gone in order to force its uranium policy onto the depressed and neglected Aboriginal communities of the Alligator Rivers region. The Government’s attitude is clear. It is not going to let anyone- I repeat, anyone- especially deprived and powerless groups of Aboriginal people, stand in the way of the interests the Government represents. Let there be no doubt about the Government’s policy. Uranium is mined to line the pockets of a few rich corporations which are represented by this Government and by the two members of the National Country Party of Australia who are at the table. They are continuing to talk. The National Country Party really represents the wealthy mining interests. If a minority community is to be destroyed in the process that is just too bad.
It is indecent haste by a greedy white minority gorging itself at the expense of a depressed black minority. This Government is pandering to narrow sectional international interests. It is pandering to the international mining cartel, the international energy companies and the international banks. The whole of the so-called Government strategy is the prostitution of Australia to international corporate capital. That is the plank of its Government’s policy. Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw attention to the laughing hyenas of the mining interests who are in the gallery. Strangers in the gallery are laughing and interfering with the proceedings.
This Government’s outlook is so narrow and so single-minded that it is incapable of seeing the enormous damage that it is doing to Australia in the eyes of the people of the world. If it could look beyond the admittedly powerful but narrow ranks of the big foreign investors it would see that the eyes of the world are on Australia. It would see the enlightened people of Europe, of the United Nations and of the whole of the western world. It would also see the people and leaders of the Third World. All these eyes are on Australia and they can and will see the despicable way in which this Government treats the Aboriginal community of Australia. Long after the mining companies are gone Australia will still have to live down, in the eyes of the world community, the awful reputation that this Government is gaining for the nation.
If we examine the Government’s rhetoric about self-determination and giving the blacks a fair go we find that it is hypocrisy in the extreme. It has been a mask for the racist process of behind the scenes manipulation and intimidation. The Government has tried every trick in the book to undermine the position of Aboriginal communities which have consistently opposed mining on their land. It has used public relations tricks with the aid of sections of the media to misrepresent the Aboriginal position and to create the false image that Aboriginals are interested only in the money from mining royalties. The Government has used straight out intimidation in an attempt to beat these scared people into submission. Undoubtedly the Government’s most despicable trick has been to seek to manipulate directly from within the operations of the Northern Land Council.
Let me examine the efforts which have been made to manipulate the Land Council because I think this is where we can see most clearly the mockery which has been made of the so-called policy of self-determination. The office of the Northern Land Council is structured along traditional Department of Aboriginal Affairs lines, with important matters out of the reach of the Aboriginal people. We have to understand the nature of the Northern Land Council office. It is a white bureaucracy that was set up under the guiding hand of this Government. The structure of the office is inappropriate to Aboriginal culture and decision making. The Government man in the Northern Land Council is the white manager, Mr Alex Bishaw. He is a former departmental officer of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. All along Mr Bishaw ‘s role has been to ensure that the Ranger agreement would be signed with a minimum of fuss and with the greatest of speed. He has restricted the flow of information to the Aboriginal community and has specifically refused information to some communities. We have only to look at his record in recent days. Mr Bishaw told the Northern Land Council meeting that Government officials had told him that Federal Cabinet would legislate away the Northern Land Council’s power if the Ranger agreement were not signed.
– I rise on a point of order. Is it right for the honourable member for Reid to reflect on a defenceless public servant in this way attributing to him motives -
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– There are many other matters about which the Council was deliberately misled. Evidence of this is recorded on the tapes of the proceedings of the Land Council meeting. It undeniably points to a conspiracy to present a completely false picture of the Northern Land Council meeting. A job was done to misinform the Council of the contents of the agreement and to scare its members into believing that they stood isolated and without any support against a Government hell bent on destroying the Council if it did not sign the agreement. Mr Bishaw, on behalf of the Government, played a vital role in this scurrilous episode. The Government has denied what Mr Bishaw said to the Northern Land Council even though it is on public record. Let us have a look at that. It is irrelevant whether the specific threats mentioned by Mr Bishaw to the Land Council meeting were made by the Government or not. The point is that the Land Council was intimidated into making a rushed decision which it did not want to make. The Government is clearly implicated in this pressure.
We have to look only at the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 3 September before the Land Council had any opportunity to look at the draft agreement to see that he said that mining at the Ranger site would begin in about three weeks’ time. That statement was made by the Prime Minister prior to the Northern Land Council meeting. The Government knows full well the submissive way in which the Aboriginal people respond to this kind of pressure. The Government cannot exonerate itself from the actions of a public servant, Mr Bishaw. The Government has only itself to blame for the dissension and the bitterness which today exists amongst the Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land.
In the few moments I have left to speak, I wish to reply to those people who think that the Labor Party has not taken a firm stand on this issue of uranium mining and export and has not warned the Government and the mining companies. The Labor Party’s policy is firm and it has put its policy firmly to the mining companies and the international finance companies which would be involved in this uranium mining. The Labor Party’s policy in this regard is that Labor will repudiate any commitment of a non-Labor government to the mining, processing or export of Australia’s uranium. We warn any mining company or any international finance firm that if it gets involved in Ranger or any other uranium mining venture, it does so at its own risk. We warn such companies because the Labor Party rank and file give sound support to the Australian Labor Party ‘s policy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think I should briefly run through the history of land councils. Let us bear in mind that many of us, especially those from the Territory, at the time said that these large land councils- there were then two of them- were the wrong concept and that they were unkown and unappreciated by Aborigines under their traditional land law. So now we have this situation which was foisted on the Government, but which was accepted by this Government when it came to office. The actions arising from the land rights legislation have brought about the situation today- the pressure on land council members. Silas Roberts, that great gentleman who lives at Maningrida, was under pressure from the previous land council secretary, John Wilders, and he retired under that pressure. We now know that James Gallarrwuy or Galarrwuy Yunupingu as he is now known is said to be under pressure and to be just an up-front man who is being manipulated by people behind the scenes. Who said this? Dr Archie Kalokerinos stated this only the other day.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. During my speech I referred to the fact that people in the Speaker’s Gallery were commenting and laughing whilst I was speaking. I drew your attention to this matter and I am now asking you to act or at least to make inquiries about those people. I believe it is an intimidation of members of this Parliament that people can act in such a way whilst in the precincts of this Parliament. I am again asking you to take action. I want to know who those people are before they leave this chamber.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable gentleman did make reference to it in passing. The Chair did not observe the offence alleged by the honourable member.
– I drew specific-
-Order! There is no point of order.
– I drew specific attention to two people in the Speaker’s Gallery. I pointed to them. They are the people towards the rear of the Gallery and I am again pointing them out.
-Order! The honourable member for Reid is repeating himself. I have ruled that there is no point of order. I ask the honourable member for Reid to resume his seat.
Mr Uren- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am saying to you that people come into this chamber and by intimidation- by speaking, interjecting and laughing -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order.
– I have ruled on the point of order raised by the honourable member for Reid. I have ruled that there is no substance to the point of order.
– I was just going to remind you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the honourable member for Reid is deliberately trying to prevent the honourable member for the Northern Territory from speaking on this matter.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am asking -
-Order! The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for the Northern Territory.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I certainly do not appreciate this ignorant ass speaking in the way in which he did.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I give notice that I will support any extension of time for the honourable member for the Northern Territory, but what I am raising is a matter of principle. Two people in the -
-Order! The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat.
– I am seeking advice from you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat. He is repeating his statement. In connection with the grievance raised by the honourable member for Reid, the position is that the people in the Speaker’s Gallery are there at the invitation of the Speaker of this House. Whilst present they are required and fully expected to observe the decorum of this House. Any behaviour that would intrude on the proceedings of this House would be quite disorderly and inappropriate. Under those circumstances the people involved could be required to leave. In the instance to which the honourable member referred, the Chair did not observe at first hand any behaviour, either offensive or inoffensive. Without questioning the observation of the honourable member for Reid, the Chair is not in a position to accept that the allegations can be substantiated.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am seeking advice from you. What action can be taken by the House to protect the rights of members and to protect them from intimidation -
-The Chair will consider the matter. I have ruled on the circumstances that normally prevail. I call the honourable member for the Northern Territory.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I also thank the former Deputy Leader of” the Opposition for saying that he would agree to an extension of time for me if I require it. I was speaking of James Galarrwuy or Galarrwuy Yunupingu and the opinion that was passed by Dr Archie Kalokerinos. Yunupingu has shown himself in this instance to be a man of fortitude and of outstanding courage. He has taken a stand in accepting the advice of his highly paid and very expert adviser and former legal adviser, Dr Stephen Zorn, whom he has now had the fortitude to sack, in the matter of the Kakadu National Park discussions which the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) mentioned during this debate. We were in Darwin at that time discussing these Kakadu National Park negotiations across the table with Yunupingu, Zorn and McGill. The outstanding man out of those three, in the face of a very able legal man Mr Ian Barker Q.C., the Solicitor-General, was James Galarrwuy, who came out of it in a very good light indeed. He was the one responsible for the discussions finishing on a friendly note. Some agreement was reached as a result. Therefore I hope that he is not to be destroyed, criticised or torn down by the Labor Party. He has certainly mentioned that the Labor Party is using the situation. In today’s Canberra Times Mr Yunupingu is reported as saying that the Labor Party was behind the move, that is, the injunction to prevent the signing of the Ranger uranium mining agreement, and that the Northern Territory ALP was interfering with the Council for its own ends. He went on to say:
What I don’t like is that we are being used at this time by the ALP for their own political vested interests.
That is what he said and it was quoted only today in the Canberra Times. With regard to these land councils, there is the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council and also the more recent one which covers the people of Bathurst and Melville Islands. I think the most successful would be the one on Bathurst Island because it is comprised of one people, the Tiwi people. It is the Tiwi Land Council. In the centre, the Central Land Council was dominated by the legal aid man, Geoff Eames. In the past these land councils have been dominated.
We are talking about pressure by the Government on the land councils and their members. I point out that there has been tremendous pressure on the members of the Northern Land Council itself. I have a booklet, second edition of the Christian Action Group, Galiwin’ku parish, on Elcho Island, which found that those people are using the superstitions and the traditions of Aboriginal people to put tremendous fear into the Aboriginal people. They are using Aboriginal legends and linking them to this uranium mining situation. A photograph of the Mount Brockman area appears in the book. That area is hard by the Ranger leases. There is a legend about this place. The people say that if it is disturbed the great snake will come out and kill everybody. There is a drawing of a tremendous snake biting Aboriginal people.
– Only the blacks.
– Only the blacks. There is also a drawing concerning Nabarlek. The people in that area, the Madjawarr people, have a similar legend about their Gabo dreaming places. If people dig up this country, big green ants will come out of the ground and kill many people. That is the way in which they can get through to Aboriginal people. It is like discussing something with school children. These people are appealing to the beliefs and traditions of the Aboriginal people. They are twisting those beliefs and traditions for their own ends. This book was produced by the Uniting Church. The words were written by Ian Yule, who I think is the deputy headmaster. It was illustrated on the island.
What do we know about the people of the Uniting Church who produce propaganda of this sort to try to influence Aborigines in a lying and underhand way? (Extension of time granted) I thank the House and the honourable member for Reid. Let me just tell honourable members about some of these people. The person whom I will quote was a member of the Uniting Church in the Aurukun area. The Age of 8 March 1 976 discusses people who work among the Aborigines. These are the people who are putting pressures on these Aboriginal people. Mrs Adams is the wife of the Reverend John Adams, who was at Aurukun when the article was published. In the article she said:
People . . . have been tolerant and even supportive of our radical activities, in our working for the ALP for example.
In our opinion being Christian isn’t different from holding any other ideas, it doesn’t have to have a supernatural meaning. It’s more a commitment to a social way of life. You could almost say we are as much Marxist as Christian, and I wouldn’t like to use that label either. We’re really more Maoist at the moment. The Christian Church provides the community in which it should be possible to do things.
This is the sort of person who is writing and producing this information for Aboriginal consumption. The Opposition refers to pressures being put on those people. Who can put pressures on them? The people who are living with them all the time, their would-be religious advisers, can.
I will mention Mr Leo Finlay. We have heard that only half of the members of the Land Council went to the meeting which was held in the Jabiru area recently. I was talking to one of the charter operators in that area only today. He said that he went out to pick up the people but they just were not there. One of them was Mr Leo Finlay from Borroloola. He did not go to the meeting because he was using his abstinence from signing this agreement, using pressure, to get the recommendations in Mr Justice Toohey ‘s report on the Borroloola land claim and the land claim in the Sir Edward Pellew group of islands at the southern end of the Gulf of Carpentaria altered. Yet Mr Finlay said: the only traditional owner of the Ranger uranium mine site who was present at the meeting-
That is, the meeting at Elcho Island some time earlier this month; this article was printed in the NT News of 1 8 September - said he couldn’t work it out and he didn’t understand what was going on.
That traditional owner is Toby Gangale who, as I have said previously in this House, was reportedly taken to that area about 20 years ago by a tourist operator. He had not lived in the area at all. That is what the tourist operator told me. He appears to be accepted as the one traditional owner. According to the article, he said:
That is, the Northern Land Council- to work things out . . .
The three things the traditional owners requested were that the mine pits be filled in, the Kakadu Park agreement be operating before mining began and outstations be funded.
There we have it. Who has been putting pressure on these people? It has been hotly denied by the leaders of the Government. Certainly at the meeting at which I was present, concerning the Kakadu National Park, no pressure whatsoever was put on the Land Council. As my Leader has said, this matter of public importance could well be just an expose of the correct way to go about things. I am certain that the Government has been going about things in the correct way. Who applied for this injunction? The Labor member for Arnhem applied for it. Mr Waters, who is a partner in the firm of solicitors representing that member, has stood against me twice for the seat of the Northern Territory.
– Twice failed.
– Twice failed; yes, of course. We have heard from Wes Lanhupy, who said that the people who were present at the meeting at Elcho Island were there not to talk about uranium but to talk about fishing. So it has all been turned around by these people who are pressuring the Land Council from the other side not to sign the agreement. The people attended the meeting for one reason but they were talked into taking pressure with regard to another subject. To a great extent that is where the pressure is coming from- from the people who are trying to influence the Aborigines in their normal thought processes. They can sit down and think it out. To have the Government accused of bringing exorbitant pressure to bear is completely wrong.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
– I move:
Customs TariffProposals Nos 22 and 23 ( 1 978).
The Customs TariffProposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Proposals No. 22 formally places before Parliament, as required by law, tariff changes introduced by Gazette Notice during the last recess. The proposals implement the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on Starting, Regulating and Control Apparatus and Other Electrical Equipment. Proposals No. 23 provides for the reduction in duty from 1 July 1978 on a further group of commodities added to Schedule ‘A’ of the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement. A comprehensive summary of the changes contained in Proposals No. 22 has been prepared and is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
– by leaveWhen I delivered the second reading speeches on the Departure Tax Bill and Departure Tax Collection Bill on 24 August 1978, I indicated that I would announce details of the method of collection of the tax at a later date. The Government has decided that tax generally be collected by means of the sale of a stamp to persons other than exempt persons departing from Australia. An amendment to the legislation is now proposed to give effect to that decision.
The Government has also given consideration to the special position of Australia’s external territories and has decided to exclude persons departing from those territories from the requirement to pay departure tax. The amendments will also exclude those who travel to an external territory via another country, provided the stay in the other country is less than seven days. This policy is consistent with the practice of not applying Australian taxes to the external territories. Taxes in the external territories are raised by territory ordinances. An amendment to the legislation to give effect to this decision is now proposed.
Debate resumed from 24 August, on motion by Mr MacKellar
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure in relation to this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Departure Tax Collection BUI as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Australian Labor Party does not propose to oppose this legislation. However, we intend to criticise some aspects of it. I understand from the second reading speech of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) that this Bill is expected to provide some $10m in income for the rest of this financial year and some $13m for a full year. I would imagine that in view of the continuing growth of tourism over the next few years this tax will be a substantial revenue earner for the Government. The Opposition recognises that governments have to get their revenue from somewhere and that at least the section of the community which will be affected by this legislation probably is better able to pay such a tax. However, we make the criticism that the Bill does not provide as the industry had hoped- I think this was one of the reasons the industry did not oppose the tax- that the funds so gathered shall be used for the benefit of the industry.
I think that everyone recognises that we have a major problem in this country at the moment. The problem is one of trying to find suitable occupations for people who have lost their jobs in many manufacturing industries and some tertiary industry as a result of the present world economic recessions, the policies of this present Government and the increase in computer technology. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has forecast that the level of unemployment could hit 500,000 early in 1979. With this in mind I think it is our duty as a Parliament to look for industries that will provide substantial levels of employment. It is unfortunate that some Australian industries which have an opportunity for growth, such as the mining industry and areas of the primary sector, are not labour intensive. We could double our production of iron ore and other minerals but we would not see a substantial increase in the level of employment. Tourism, however, is an industry that does provide very labour intensive employment. In particular it provides employment for women, youth, ethnic groups, the aged and the semi-skilled- the people who are most affected by the present economic recession.
I know that governments normally do not allocate taxes to industry. But I think an exception ought to have been made in the case of the tourist industry. From my observations as a member of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism I would think $ 13m is about the sort of money that is required to get the tourist industry on its feet and to do the sort of exciting things that can be done to kick the industry along. I do not believe that industries are entitled to have hundreds of millions of dollars poured into them. However, if we had the money to do a few small things on top of what we are already doing I think we could generate activity in the industry and as a result ensure quite a substantial amount of employment
According to the Budget the Government will spend $4,240,000 on tourism this financial year. This is an increase of about 30 per cent on the amount allocated last year. This money will be devoted largely to the promotion overseas of tourism to Australia. We welcome that allocation. But this is only one small aspect of tourism.
– See Australia first.
-The honourable member for Canberra makes the point that we should conduct a program of ‘See Australia first’. I forget the exact name of the program initiated by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) when he was Minister for Tourism but, as honourable members know, he undertook a very substantial program which was in effect called See Australia first’.
– It was called ‘Australia, Land of Things To Do”.
-That was the title of the program and it was considered very successful.
-It only cost $400,000.
– That is right-it cost only $400,000. Whilst the Opposition welcomes the increase in expenditure to $4m it believes that other areas require expenditure. Such expenditure would give the industry the fillip that it needs to get off the ground and going.
Australia is falling behind most of its neighbouring countries in its ability to attract the tourist dollar. Fiji and New Zealand, just to name a couple, have a much greater growth rate in this area than does Australia. There are some things that I would like to see carried out. I mentioned that the Government is to spend $4m this financial year on tourist activities. This means that the Government will have at its disposal $9m from the $ 1 3m collected by way of the departure tax. I would like to list the sorts of things that could be done with that extra $9m. I believe that one of the legitimate complaints the industry has had for a long time is that it has never been allowed to depreciate hotel and motel buildings. Obviously the equipment in the buildings is subject to depreciation but the buildings themselves are not. It has always been argued that hotel and motel buildings are in the same category as factories and office blocks, that they have a life of 100 years or so and therefore they are not entitled to claim depreciation. However, the tourist industry is a little different in that fashion and decor are important. What was a very smart and elegant building 1 5 or 20 years ago is quite out of date and tawdry today. I do not want to mention the name of any hotel in this context but we all know of hotels that were built say, in 1955 and which today look tawdry or very ordinary. Everyone will stay at a new hotel rather than an older one. A calculation was made a couple of years ago that the cost of providing a 2Vi per cent depreciation rate for hotels and motels used for tourist accommodation would be about $2. 5m. I believe that this sort of thing will encourage people in Australia to start to upgrade the quality of their tourist accommodation.
There is a desperate need in Australia to provide better tourist amenities at our major tourist attractions. Very few people in this House would not agree- I am sure that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) would agree with me- that Ayers Rock- Alice Springs and the Great Barrier Reef are Australia’s two greatest tourist attractions. I do not say that they are the places to which most Australians go but they are the places that people from overseas most want to visit If you like, we can refer to them as our flag carriers. I have just been to the Rock and to Alice Springs. I visited those places with the Standing Committee on Tourism.
– Have you the badge ‘I climbed Ayers Rock”?
-No. I took one look at the Rock and decided that I had no intention of climbing it. Apart from the fact that I might have been out of breath, I would have been too nervous to try it. I admire those who do climb the Rock. Anybody in Australia who goes to Ayers Rock and sees the inadequate facilities that exist there must be ashamed. It is a disgrace.
– A slum.
-A slum is correct. The five motels are spread all over the place. I have the greatest sympathy with the proprietors who originally built these motels. The Rock is a long way from everywhere. It is difficult to get labour out there and the cost of transporting materials is high. The motels, built 15 to 20 years ago, were probably reasonable at that time. Some years ago when the Labor Government was in office it decided to relocate the accommodation that is spread out round the Rock into a special village. As a result nothing has been done to these motels. By any standard, they are very poor, dilapidated and embarrassing to Australia as the best accommodation we can offer at the Rock.
For many years proposals have existed to develop a special village near the Rock but outside the Uluru National Park. I think that this plan was drawn up six or seven years ago when I first came to this place. It was an excellent plan. It provided for hotels, motels, boutiques, restaurants and interpretive centres. It provided for all the infrastructure required such as water, sewerage, drainage and so on to be located on one site. The village was to be properly built, and planned around the landscape of the Uluru National Park and Ayers Rock.
I tried to find out what happened to that project and what the cost of it would be. The Government bought the existing motels but left the present motel proprietors there on a short-term lease on an annual basis or on a week to week basis- I am not sure which- so that notice to vacate can be given to the proprietors quickly. In the 1978-79 Budget, the estimated expenditure on the Uluru National Park is $779,000. The amount of $385,000 is to be spent on upgrading facilities and rehabilitation of the environment and $394,000 is allocated for operating costs. We can see from those facts that nothing will happen concerning the village. It will not come into operation in the near future. I understand that the total cost, over a five-year period, would be about $30m. In my view they are the sorts of purposes for which this money should be allocated.
I believe that similar sorts of facilities are required at some of our other fine tourist attractions. I nominate Fraser Island as being an ideal place for the establishment of a similar type of village. I have been to the Great Barrier Reef on many occasions. I finally saw the Reef on the last occasion I was there. It was not too wet, too windy, too dry, too hot, too rainy or whatever. I finally went out and saw the Reef. Unfortunately most people cannot see it because inadequate facilities exist to transport people to the Reef except in perfect weather. I believe we should have a range of interpretive centres servicing the Barrier Reef at key points such as Mackay, Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns. I believe that marine museums could be established so that the many hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Barrier Reef would find adequate facilities available on the mainland cities and towns, if they could not get out to the Reef, to enable them to find out what the Reef is all about. It is very disappointing for people, particularly international visitors, who come all the way to Sydney- if a husband and wife is involved they may spend $700 in air fares to get to Cairns or Townsville and another $200 or $300 on accommodation- and find that they cannot get out to the Reef.
– They should go to Heron Island.
– One is not guaranteed at Heron Island of always getting out to the Reef. It is probably the best place to go. As the honourable member for Canberra has raised the question of Heron Island, I should like to add that I believe a case exists there for redevelopment work to be carried out. I think Heron Island is quite a nice place but I think it is ready for redevelopment. I do not want to go into that in great detail now.
I repeat that in the Budget there is a substantial increase in the amount allocated for the promotion of Australia overseas. Australia is getting a very small amount of the international tourist trade. I think that in 1977 the number of arrivals in Australia was 563,28 1. The number of tourists in the past few years has remained between 500,000 and 600,000. Generally speaking, people are of the view that we are not sufficiently promoting Australia overseas. At this time I should also like to raise the fact that only a few of the Japanese tourists are visiting Australia. The Japanese have so much money at the moment that they do not know what to do with it. Some 3.4 million Japanese are leaving Japan each year. The majority of those are going to America and Europe. Less than one per cent is coming to Oceania. I think that about 35,000 Japanese tourists visit Australia each year. It is an absurd situation. One of the excuses we have made for many years is that it is difficult for us to attract the tourist trade from America and Europe because we are so far away. There is nothing much we can do about that; we are a long way from Europe and America. We are not a long way from Japan. I am not saying that this is the Australian Government’s fault. The problem appears to be negotiating a lower air fare with the Japanese Government. At the moment I understand that the Japanese are sticking rigidly to the high air fare until they introduce widebodied jets on the run.
It is something on which our Government ought to be concentrating. To think that we are getting less than one per cent of 3.4 million potential Japanese visitors is absurd because we are 10 hours direct flying time from Tokyo. We are almost as close as America and we are closer than Europe. A great potential exists for the expansion of the Japanese tourist market in Australia. Again, I hope that in the future some of this money will be allocated and earmarked for this purpose. The Government could say: We have a problem in finding different sorts of employment for Australians. We have to look at areas of growth, particularly areas which are labour intensive. We are going to push the tourist industry. We are going to concentrate on making this an area of growth for Australia. To start with, this $ 1 3m we will collect in a full year is the minimum amount we will spend on tourism. We will have a growth factor built into it’. This could happen for a period of three to five years. The industry would not expect to get this tax benefit permanently. If it did receive the benefit for three or four years it would get tremendous results. It would certainly have the support of honourable members on this side of the House and the support of the industry. I believe it would achieve significant results.
I could refer to other areas such as man-made attractions in Australia. I think that we are doing some exciting things in this area. The House of Representatives Committee on Tourism visited various parts of Australia and has seen a number of these man-made attractions including Old Sydney Town which, of course, honourable members will be aware is in my electorate, and the Lachlan Vintage Village. We have been to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat and the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement.
– The Hobart Casino.
Mr COHEN I would not call that a manmade attraction but I take the honourable member’s point. I am talking now about the Oceania historic type museums and attractions that have been developed throughout Australia. I mentioned two before. There are also the Hill End Historical Site, the Hartley Historic Site and the New South Wales Rail Transport Museum. To save me reading through the list, I seek leave to have the list from the study of man-made attractions incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
List of outdoor museum and historic site attractions surveyed
NSW Rail Transport Museum, Picton- Developing.
ZigZag Railway, Lithgow- Proposed.
Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, WarrnamboolDeveloping.
Birdwood Mill Pioneer, Art and Motor MuseumDeveloping.
-To the credit of the present Government, this area of expenditure was originated when Mr Howson was the responsible Minister. The first funds allocated were, I think, in the 1972 Budget. An amount of $lm was set aside for Australiana-type attractions and this was carried on by the Labor Government and expanded. In the 1975-76 Budget $1,829,348 was spent- this was when the present member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) was the Minister for Tourism- and in the 1976-77 Budget, which was really an overhang of our period in government, $831,825 was spent on these sorts of man-made attractions. I believe that most of these sorts of attractions ought to be financially viable. I do not believe that they ought to expect continued government handouts. They ought to be able to stand on their own two feet and I think that we must limit the number of them. We cannot have every town and every village in Australia having its own museum or attraction and expecting government assistance. There has to be a limit to the amount Australia can absorb and the number that Australian people want to see.
– You tell some of the towns that.
-I take the honourable member’s point. It is easy to make those sorts of broad statements, but it is difficult when one gets down to a particular problem. I think there is a strong case, at least for a period of time, for continuing to make funds available. I notice that the amount provided in the 1976-77 Budget was the final amount and that these funds were cut out in the big pruning back of government expenditure by the present Government. In each of the last two Budgets no funds have been set aside for this purpose. I hope that we will re-introduce an amount of between $lm to $2m per year to fund a selected number of specific projects in certain areas. It should not be a permanent grant, but a project should be able to count on an amount of $100,000 so that it can run efficiently. Each project must continue to grow. Old Sydney Town, which many honourable members have visited, is a particular example. Sovereign Hill is another. They must continue to add to their attractions. For instance, a windmill is being built at the Old Sydney Town site at the moment. The structure is complete, but $90,000 is required just to put the machinery in the sails to make the windmill work. There are projects to complete the Sydney
Gaol, St Phillip’s Church and places like that. They will cost a substantial amount of money and at the moment there is such a restraint, both at Federal and State level, that they are finding it difficult to get the funds. They need to be able to continue to add so that people will go back each year to see the new attractions.
These are the sorts of things we would have hoped this Government would have done with the $ 13m. If it is not prepared to do these things in this Budget, one can hope only that it will reconsider the position in the future so that the industry can get the lift it requires. I do not think it is an excessive amount for which to ask. I think the money will be well spent and that it will return five-fold to the Government in terms of profitability in terms of employment, in terms of a future strong growth industry for Australia and in terms of redressing the travel gap which now exists between Australia and the rest of the world because so many more Australians are going out of Australia than there are visitors coming in. I conclude on that note and hope that the Government will consider the suggestions which I have made with sincerity. I am not trying to score political points. We on this side of the House are all strong supporters of this area as, I know, are many members on the Government side and I hope that this will be taken into account.
– By virtue of my position as Chairman of the Select Committee on Tourism I find myself very much in agreement with a lot of what the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) said today. I wonder whether he went far enough. I wonder whether enough people realise that Australia’s share of the international tourist dollar is, in fact, 0.07 per cent. That is a frightening prospect. Really we have been fooling with tourism in the past years. It is a growth industry. It is an industry that needs some assistance and promotion, especially overseas, and by virtue of that promotion and the expected increase in international visitors and indeed more people moving around Australia, there are some tremendous prospects for growth in the employment of unskilled workers, women in the work force and young people. I believe that tourism should be looked at in that light, that it can be a growth industry that can help to alleviate many of the problems which we have today. I suppose really that the Select Committee on Tourism can take a lot of the credit, if we can use that word, for having the introduction of the departure tax accepted because we have been talking about it in public hearings for a long time. There was quite a deal of debate reported in the Press as to whether the departure tax should be SIO or $20. In actual fact $10 was decided upon, I think, by most people in the community inasmuch as it was a substantial amount that would help revenue but was certainly not an amount of money that would stop Australians going overseas.
I do not really think that we want to stop Australians from going overseas altogether, but this departure tax will generate enough funds that can be poured into overseas promotion and assistance of the type mentioned by the honourable member for Robertson this afternoon to make Australia a much more attractive place for people to visit and for Australians to go around and see much more of it. The imposition of the $10 departure tax means that Australia joins 1 1 1 other nations in imposing such a surcharge. I have been relatively interested in the fact that there has not been terribly much public comment at this stage against the imposition of the tax. Indeed in some sections of the tourist industry it has been more than welcomed, provided that the funds generated from that departure tax are poured back into promoting the tourist industry. For those people who have been saying that perhaps the $ 10 is a little bit high, I have a table that spells out some of the departure taxes applicable in other places around the world. Certainly some of them are a lot less than the $10 we have imposed in this country, but some are a lot more. In India, for example, the passenger service charge is $A2.06. However, 12.5 per cent of the airfare is imposed as a foreign travel tax. Then we have the situation of our near neighbour New Zealand where the airport service charge is $A1.79. For foreign travel from New Zealand the imposition is 10 per cent of the fare and in actual fact if somebody were buying a first class around-the-world ticket, they would be paying almost $A300 in departure tax which is a little different, I suppose, to the $10 that we are imposing here. In the Philippines, another near neighbour of ours, the foreign travel tax ranges between $A73.29 to $A45 1.94 and on top of that there is a passenger service charge of $A3.05.
– They spend a lot more money on promoting tourism in that country.
– I was going to get to that point. As the honourable member for Grayndler pointed out, a lot of that money is poured into promotion. It is interesting to look at our near Asian neighbours to see just what they are doing. We can cite examples such as the Philippines, SingaporeSingapore must be the most incredible example of what tourism can do to an economyThailand and even some of the more developed countries of the world. I have made something of a study of some of the foreign tourist boards in recent times. One of the interesting ones at the moment is the Danish Tourist Board. In many respects, the Danes, at the end of the 1960s, faced the same problems that Australia faces now. The number of Danish nationals leaving the country was three times the number of foreign visitors coming in. The balance of payments deficit attributed to tourism was about three to one against them and the Danes established a parliamentary committee to report on the prospects and potential of tourism. That report came into their House in 1973 and all but one of its recommendations have been implemented. The difference is that now the numbers have evened up and there are as many foreigners coming into the country as there are people going out. In fact, the tourist trade in Denmark is in the black; it is making a profit. What is that country of 8.S million people spending on promotion this year? It is spending $A40m. I think we should make a study of what is happening in Denmark. One of the studies instituted in Denmark this year, bearing in mind that the Budget allocation to the Danish Tourist Board has been increased by 33 W percent -
– We will have to go and look at Denmark.
– I think more people should look at Denmark and study the work of the Danish Tourist Board. To my mind, it is one of the leaders of the world in this sort of thing. The Tourist Board has instituted a study in which it is trying to relate directly the increase in the number of visitors to the country to the permanent jobs in the hotels and accommodation industry. That report will be finalised in April next year, and I think we should look at it. It should prove our point about the direct relationship between the increase in the number of visitors and the jobs available in the industry. As the honourable member for Robertson said, those jobs are available to women, to many unskilled workers and to many young people in the community, which is something we should be looking at.
I am disappointed that, despite all the publicity given to the public hearings of the Select Committee on Tourism, the Government has not made any real effort in this Budget to divert some of the funds that will be raised from the imposition of the departure tax into promoting and helping the tourist industry generally. Nobody is going to suggest that there is a nexus between the revenue collected and the funding of the tourist industry- I think we all realise that that is probably undesirable-but about $13m will be collected in the coming 12 months and the fact that only an extra $lm or so will be poured into the Australian Tourist Commission is not a very good record.
– The staff is being reduced at the same time. There will be $lm extra, but fewer staff.
– Good thinking!
– Yes. I join with the honourable member for Robertson and say that I trust that when the Budget Estimates are prepared next year much more of the revenue from the departure tax will be used to assist the tourist industry. It is interesting to go through the figures and look at the estimated growth rates over the next five or six years in the number of tourists coming to Australia. Both Qantas and the Australian Tourist Commission estimate that with the introduction of cheap air fares the number of international tourists visiting Australia will increase by between 8 per cent and 10 per cent, which is a quite considerable figure. If one considers the revenue involved, with an annual growth in the industry of 10 per cent, in five years time the amount collected in departure tax will be most substantial indeed. Such a sum would do a great deal to help a flagging industry, and unfortunately the Australian tourist industry is flagging to a degree at the moment.
I should like to direct the attention of the House to the statement that has just been made by the Minister in regard to collecting the departure tax. If I am wrong I trust that the Minister will correct me, but I am a little worried that the method of collecting the tax means that locals, or indeed international visitors, will have to go to the Taxation Office or to a travel agent to pay their money and get a special stamp. It was suggested at a travel conference in Sydney yesterday that a number of booths might be established beneath the escalators in the Sydney international departure lounge which would mean that people would have to queue up to hand over their $10 before they could board an aircraft. The industry people to whom I was speaking last night indicated that with a full Jumbo load of 404 people, bearing in mind that each $10 transaction might take between IS and 30 seconds, if only four or five booths were operating an extra half an hour could be added to the handling time needed to get people out. I hope that that situation is not going to arise.
I am also a little concerned to think that throughout the country we might reach a situation where people will have to be employed especially to collect the departure tax. I wonder what the cost of that collection might be. I personally believe that there is only one way to do it. The international airlines will kick and buck, but they have every facility for collecting the departure tax. They can do it without any cost to the Government, without any cost to the taxpayer, and with little cost to themselves.
– They do it in lots of other countries.
– In most countries around the world the onus is on the international airlines to collect the travel tax, and I believe that that should be the case here. They have their manifests available and they know the type of passengers they are carrying. The whole operation would be smoothed if they were to collect the tax. It would not cause any undue concern to foreign travellers coming into this country, especially if they have a language problem- a great number of them do- to know that the departure tax was already written into their tickets. If anybody in the community is worried that the $ 1 0 departure tax will be a burden on them at the airport, although it might be considered to be a little dishonest the tax could be included in the price of the ticket. I do not think it is any real secret that Australia will have lower air fares in the years to come. The cheapest fare between Australia and Europe at the moment is about $850, and if that were dropped to about the $600 mark I am sure that not many people would buck at the prospect of paying $6 10 rather than having to go through a separate process of making application with their $10 to get a stamp to enable them to go through the system and get out of the country.
I trust that the Minister is looking at this matter very seriously, because I would hate to see another situation develop where the bureaucracy runs rampant and an expensive monster is set up to try to collect the tax. It is obviously a simple process to allow the airlines to collect the $10 by having it written into their tickets. The airline returns come in all the time to the Department of Transport. Surely it would not be terribly difficult for the airlines to provide the Taxation Office or the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs with the number of outgoing travellers who qualify to pay the departure tax and to make that payment to the Government. It would save a lot of problems and a lot of hassles, especially in the case of people who do not speak the language, who otherwise would be forced to negotiate what is almost a major contract to get out of the country. The fact that exemptions have been made is obviously quite acceptable. I am pleased to see that people under the age of 18 years will not have to pay the $10 tax. It obviously would be an expensive proposition for a man who is required to travel overseas with his family.
Another aspect of the situation that could arise if people have to pay the tax at the airport departure lounge should be considered. It might seem only a small thing, but in fact a quite considerable sum of money is spent by outgoing passengers in duty free shops. It was pointed out to the Select Committee on Tourism that people arriving at an international airport probably have saved only enough money to pay their taxi fares there because they do not want to be left with a lot of foreign currency in their pockets when they leave. They probably have made an estimate of what they will spend on cigarettes, alcohol, watches, perfume, and so on, at a duty free shop. Having made this estimate, when they get to the airport they could find that they are $ 10 short because of the departure tax. Either they will go through the hassle of renegotiating foreign exchange or they will say: ‘Bust it; I will buy it in American dollars when I get to Singapore’. Obviously there is some money involved. Certainly some Government money is involved because the Government is involved in some of the duty free shops around the country. It is a small thing, but it is one that can make a difference overall to the economy and indeed to the viability of duty free businesses in Australia.
It is interesting that the travel and tourist industry really has not raised any major objection to the imposition of a departure tax. Many industry people to whom I have spoken have said that they would be concerned if the money was not poured back into the industry, if it was not used to promote the concept of more and more people coming to visit this country and spend their hardearned dollars. The tourist industry is potentially one of the greatest export industries that this country has and we should be making the most of it. I believe that by the wise allocation of more money to the promotion of tourism we could achieve some very great results for the industry, for the economy as a whole, and indeed for the work force.
-We can thank our cartoonists for the opportunity to reflect humorously on what otherwise would be some of the most scandalous and absurd events in our country and in the world. The cartoonists in turn can thank this Government more than any other in the history of Australia for producing the scandal and the adversities which they so love to regale and lampoon. The value of a cartoon, apart from an appreciation of its wit, lies in its ability to capture a sentiment, sometimes a whole argument, in a few well-drawn lines and several well-chosen words. Surely one of the most pithy comments on the Government’s intention to introduce a departure tax appeared two days after the Budget Speech in a cartoon in the Age where the Treasurer (Mr Howard) is depicted at a news conference explaining his fears that because of the Budget’s severity everyone will flee the country and so, he says, a tax was put on that too. Judging from experience, the Treasurer’s motives in introducing such a tax may in fact be no less ignoble than just that.
The Opposition has indicated that it does not oppose a proposal for a tax of this nature. With a revenue return estimated at upwards of $ 1 5m for the current financial year the imposition of a $ 10 departure tax has caused only a ripple of concern from people generally in the tourist industry as a whole. However, there are certain aspects in regard to collecting the departure tax which the Government at present is trying to sort out with travel agents and airline companies. If the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has to set up a special office to collect the departure tax quite a considerable amount of the tax collected would be eaten up in overheads. So it is not hard for honourable members to understand why the Government would like tourist agents and airline companies to have the responsibility of collecting its tax. In this case I agree with the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) and I feel that it would be quite in order for overseas airline companies to collect that tax for the Government.
There has been talk of reduced air fares for overseas travellers. In fact if the Government is to receive a cut in air fares and if the reduction in air fares increases the number of outbound tourists, as is expected, and thereby increases the amount of tax returning to the Government, this departure tax may be just the thing to give a much needed impetus to get the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and his Government moving to secure an agreement on a reduction in air fares before the millenium. The Opposition’s objection, however, as has been very capably outlined by my colleague the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), is as into which coffers this money will find its way. The Government intends the revenue raised by this tax to flow directly into general revenue. If there is any sense of fairness in the Government or any shame felt for its culpable inactivity and complacency in the affairs of the tourist industry, the Government would ensure that the $15m- I understand that it could be somewhat more than this figure- should be channelled back into tourism. The Government should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s- it should return to tourists what it has taken from tourists.
Coming from Queensland, I am keenly aware of the enormous potential which exists in Australia for the development of international tourist facilities. Queensland’s attractions alone would be enough to sustain tourist growth. With the tropical rain forests of the north, the intriguing Channel Country of the outback, the sunny decadence of the Gold Coast, the big game fishing off Cairns and, of course, the natural splendours of the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland like a magnet draws tourists from all corners of the globe.
– It is a real jewel.
– It is a great place. But these natural resources and the industry developed around them are no more independent of reliance on government policy and support than the manufacturing industry, the mining industry or the rural industry. For too long the tourist industry has had to fight the ignorance of politicians and the intransigence and shortsightedness of dogmatic officials in the Treasury.
A few facts on features of the industry seem in order. In my State the tourist industry is regarded as the third largest industry employing approximately 10 per cent of the work force. As an industry it is one of the most stable units in the economy. It is not subject to the wide price fluctuations experienced in so many other industries. For example, in Mackay when the sugar industry was beset by problems arising from world price instability it was the tourist dollar which kept Mackay alive. It was in a time of adversity that this potential was realised. Surely we do not have to wait for recessions to strike before we can acknowledge the value of our more stable industries. As well as being relatively stable the industry is labour intensive and has an enormous role to play in decentralisation. These and other simple verities ought not to be new to honourable members. Judging, however, from the Government’s sorry record in this area I am inclined to think that this must be news to it. With Australia’s most spectacular attractions being isolated either in the country’s barren interior or its far north the cost of getting there and of providing facilities of an international standard are two paramount considerations in which the Government can assist. The honourable member for Robertson has in the past suggested allowing Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia to fly regionally in the South Pacific and South East Asian areas and to allow Qantas Airways Ltd to stop in Alice Springs, Cairns, Townsviile or Hobart. That may sound like unspeakable hearsay in the board rooms of Ansett and Qantas, but the clear division between international and national flights is not inviolable and certainly not conducive to the growth of the tourist industry. If governments can arrive at bipartite profit and risk-sharing airline agreements the problems associated with extending such agreements to embrace a third airline- in this case Qantas- should certainly not be insurmountable.
The role of this Government in tourism has been miserably underplayed in real terms. The Budget allocation for the Australian Tourist Commission is below the 1975-76 figure. In the last two years of the Labor Government over $5m was spent on the development of tourist attractions, low cost accommodation or tourist development loans. In these respects nothing has been offered by this Government. The Government should give serious consideration to extending assistance to local authorities in tourist areas where it is the local ratepayer who, through his rates, is providing facilities which are used by tourists. It should also again consider using Australian National Line ships for winter-time cruises in north Queensland waters. As well, it would merit attention for the Government to review, with the purpose in mind of implementing, the popular European scheme of tourist train travel on Eurail or student rail travel passes. An allowance for depreciation of tourist buildings is one idea to which the Opposition has attached itself with an expression of sincere interest. The Government, meanwhile, exhibits typical indifference. All these areas are ones in which the Government should get involved. Indeed, involvement ought to include government participation in the promotion and development of facilities to cater for tourists, especially in underdeveloped spots; for instance, the Carnarvon National Park. This sort of active involvement is undertaken in Canada and the United States of America on a large scale. Often private enterprise, or perhaps I should say private interests, follow government enterprises and initiatives once private interests can see for themselves the viability of these developments. I believe that government involvement is a beneficial and vital adjunct to mature and reasoned promotion of our tourist features. Private development has all too often been dazzled by the opportunity for quick returns on its investment, losing sight of the fact that the industry itself has a vested interest in ensuring the protection of the environment. The Gold Coast of Queensland is, I regret, an example of this mindless, uncoordinated and avaricious exploitation. The Government must take note how the asphalt jungle at Surfers Paradise has destroyed the natural phenomenon of the once great Gold Coast of Queensland. Conservation and tourist promotion are not incompatible goals. They can co-exist.
There is another aspect of the departure tax which I believe warrants attention. While I have been encouraging the Government to realise the potential of the tourist industry the Treasury, which has often considered tourism a luxury area, should now be viewing it as a lucrative source of additional revenue. The departure tax to be imposed in Australia is higher than that imposed in comparable countries. The United States of America imposes a $US3 departure tax; Hong Kong imposes a $A3 tax for adults and a $A1 tax for children; Israel a $5.70 tax; Singapore a $4 tax; Malaysia a $2 tax; and the New Hebrides imposes a $2 tax. We must certainly never impose a departure tax of the severity imposed by the New Zealand Government. It imposes a departure tax on outward bound tourists amounting to 10 per cent of their international fare. In addition, we must never be tempted by spurious Treasury arguments to impose a bed tax or a value added tax such as apply in Great Britain. I understand that many spokespersons in the tourist industry are deeply concerned that the departure tax could be the first step towards such levies on tourist services.
The Australian tourist industry waits for a sincere statement of commitment and support from this Government that the $10 departure tax will be channelled back into tourism. The Australian tourist industry waits, but it knows better than to wait with baited breath.
-No government and no individual like increased taxes. However, when a government in the pursuit of decent, honest activities finds it necessary to increase taxation in order to provide the essential services demanded by the population, it is good to see that it, in effect, singles out the people who use the particular facility. This tax is a general revenue tax. Those people who use the facilities will contribute some of the cost of providing them. It must be recalled in this debate that the Australian Government provides three wonderful, essential services for people who find it necessary to use them when they are travelling overseas. Firstly, I refer to the Australian consular services, secondly, to the various offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and, thirdly, to the Bureau of Customs offices. I pay a tribute to all those officers, both in Australia and overseas, who do so much to alleviate the difficulties and hardships which are experienced by overseas travellers from time to time.
The cost of providing these services has been met from general revenue in the past. Whilst the amount of money collected under the legislation will nowhere near meet the costs of providing all the services, it will be in part available to offset the cost of providing the services. I was somewhat disappointed to note the remarks made by the previous speaker in the debate, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Humphreys). Whilst he made a well thought out, thoroughly researched contribution to the debate, I was disappointed with his suggestion that the amount of money to be collected under the legislation in a full year should be returned to the tourist industry. I find some difficulty in following the logic of his argument. In effect, he is trying to establish this principle: When the Government imposes an excise duty on beer, it should use the amount collected under that excise duty for the benefit of beer drinkers. Additionally, if the Government imposes an excise duty on tobacco, it should return all of that excise duty for the benefit of tobacco growers and users.
If the honourable member seeks to advance the argument that if the Government is imposing a general revenue tax on tourists departing Australia the money collected should be returned to the tourist industry, he is trying to establish the principle that the moneys collected under both the excise duties of which I gave illustration should also be returned for the benefit of the people who pay the duty. An excise duty is imposed on every gallon of petrol that is sold in Australia. Should all that money be spent on the construction of roads? That type of thinking has been buried for the last 20 years. I was disappointed, therefore, to find that in the worthwhile contribution made by the honourable member for Griffith he advanced a point of view that cannot be established in fact or in practice. This is a general revenue tax which will help the Australian Government provide those very essential services for which it has been highly commended in the recent Budget.
The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) raised some interesting points in respect of the purchase of departure tax stamps. I am well aware of the great concern of the honourable member that travellers overseas are not disadvantaged when it is necessary for them to purchase these stamps. I hope that the Minister can advise us of the details of whether these stamps will be available at the various immigration offices, in the capital cities, in the regional areas all over Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs offices. I hope that travel agents scattered all over the Commonwealth will be part and parcel of providing this service to their clients. At the present time, travel agents are able to obtain passports for their clients. They may be able to purchase the stamps and sell them to people seeking their services. In effect, the travel agents would provide the total services necessary. I hope also that these departure tax stamps will be available through post offices so that people who live in real Australia- in the rural areas, including the rugged people in all the rural areas of Tasmania, the State of the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck)- will be able to purchase these stamps by post.
The honourable member for Griffith also commented on the cost of the tax overseas. I noted that at the end of his comments he made the remark that he hoped the Australian departure tax would not be related to the level of the departure tax in New Zealand. Initially he compared the Australian departure tax with the departure taxes in what he stated were comparable countries. He compared Australia with places like the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Israel and Singapore. I would have thought the country most comparable to Australia is our sister country, the dominion of New Zealand. It is unfortunate that recently, owing to injury the greatest rugby footballers in Australia Paul McLean and Mark Loane from my home State of Queensland, Australia was unable to field its best side in the First Rugby Test with New Zealand. As an aside, I point out that Mark Loane and Paul McLean are products of the same school that I had the honour to attend. Through the absence of those two great playersgreat products of a great school- New Zealand was just able to pip us in the First International. Unfortunately, Australia had a series of bad runs in the Second but we came good in the Third International.
I would have thought that a valid comparison between the amount of the departure tax collected would not have been between countries like Australia and Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United States of America. It would have been a comparison between countries like Australia and New Zealand. In such a comparison, Australia fares very well indeed. The Minister has imposed a minimal charge of $ 10 a head whereas, as the honourable member for Griffith pointed out, New Zealanders and all international travellers leaving that country pay a surcharge of 10 per cent of their fare. Those things are well worth keeping in mind when one is talking about a government which has relentlessly pursued decency and honesty in government, justice and fairness, seeking to impose a departure tax on people who are using essential services which have been provided by the taxpayers through general revenue.
I hope that the tourist industry will not live in the dark and will not continually lament and request, as the honourable member for Griffith has said it should and would, that this amount of money should be returned in totality to the industry for development of the tourist industry. I think that tourism in Australia has a great future, but what is lacking- I make no great criticism of the industry itself, but I do make a criticism of the Australian nation and the Australian people- is a pride in what we have in Australia. Australia has tourist attractions which are superior to those in any other country, but we are not prepared to get out and to sell them.
– We want the money from the Government.
-It is all right to talk about wanting the money from the Government. If the 14 million people in Australia proudly proclaimed our greatest attraction of all- sunny weather and clear blue skies- we would have a holocaust of people coming to this country. People overseas are continually decrying the fact that the weather is cold, it is raining, the skies are grey and they do not see the sun for weeks on end. We have good weather in Australia for free, but we are not prepared to get out and sell something that is free, the greatest natural benefitsunny days, clear blue skies and starry nights. What better could one have for peace and contentment? We concentrate on that which is artificial. The Australian tourist industry is crying out for funds to be made available to build this and that even though we have these great gifts of nature. We do not have that essential ingredient that we need- pride. We have these great advantages.
We talk about the wonderful attraction of the Vienna Woods. I have had the privilege of going through the Vienna Woods, but for me they are not nearly as attractive as the rain forests of the Darling Downs. What is more attractive than the patchwork quilt pattern of ripening fields and freshly grown crops of the Darling Downs? That is more attractive than the grape growing areas of the flourishing valleys of the Rhine. These are the things that we have in this country. We talk about the wonderful eating places in Europe. We talk about atmosphere. I put this to the House: What better atmosphere could any fair dinkum Australian or any full-blooded male from overseas want than that on a Saturday night in a country pub in any area of Australia? There is as much atmosphere as there is in a Bavarian steak house, the sidewalk cafes of Rome or any of those places.
– You could have a meat pie.
– The honourable member mentions meat pies. I wanted to get on to the subject of food. Surely fish and chips and the meat pie at the football are equally as nourishing as the cold pork pie and warm beer at Lords cricket ground. These are the things that we take for granted. We have atmosphere. What is lacking is our ability to get out and sell it. We talk about the wonderful operas and ballets overseas. Opera in Australia may not be up to the standard of operas overseas, but we have some great ballet performers. I believe that with encouragement and with pride we can develop ballet in this country to the standard where it will equal the ballet anywhere else in the world. We talk about folk singing and folk dancing. Surely there is nothing better than rugged folk singing of Australian outback singers. It would be equal to the folk singing that we might hear and see in places like Innsbruck in Austria. These are the dungs of which we are not proud- but we should be. We are not prepared to get out and sell our country, our culture and our heritage. We talk about the great castles on the Rhine and the great castles in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We have fascinating things capsuled in Australia in our wonderful history and our wonderful buildings. Having damper and scones, corned beef with potatoes cooked in their jackets while watching some fair dinkum Australian in his flannels shearing sheep with hand shears, at the Jondaryan woolshed in the electorate of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) is equally as attractive as any of the overseas performances of fame about which we read.
All of these things indicate that the tourist industry in Australia has a great future, but we have to be part and parcel of it. Make no mistake, we cannot go back. We have to realise that we are an isolated country. The costs involved in getting people here are enormous. I hope that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) will be able to tie up the loose knots so that Australian fares to overseas countries will be equally as attractive as some of those that are available from the United States of America to European countries.
It would be remiss of me if I did not in this debate pass one or two comments about the various State governments and call on them to put their shoulders to the wheel and to be part and parcel of the development of the Australian tourist industry and if I did not make a request of the leaders of the Australian trade union movement to be realistic if they believe that it is important in Australia’s order of things to have full employment in this country. The Australian railway system is basically one controlled by the various States. It annoys me somewhat to find that one can go to Great Britain and obtain a Britrail pass or to Europe and obtain a Eurorail pass which enable travellers to cross borders. Only one fee is payable. Such a system encourages people to get away from the smog bound cities and to see rural areas, the picturesque country areas and the quality of life that permeates country areas be they in Australia or overseas. I hope that the State governments in Australia can get together to devise a system of quick rail transport geared to the needs of overseas tourists. What a wonderful attraction it would be if someone could land in a place like Cairns and by purchasing one rail ticket be able to take a quick train trip down the glorious Queensland coast with a slight veer inwards from Brisbane to the wonderful graneries of the world in the area of the Darling Downs and then continue on to spend a few short hours in the metropolitan cities of Melbourne and Sydney. These are important things. These are the initiatives that have not been taken in the Australian tourist industry. The State governments have a responsibility to copy the example of Britain with its Britrail pass and of the European nations with the Eurorail pass.
The other point that I want to comment on in drawing my comments to a close is the fundamental one of freedom. Whilst people might rebel at the fact that the Government has put a charge on them and they might infer that the Government having established the principle no one would know the boundaries of any future charge, I want to say this because it has to be said and it ought to be said: At least in this country people are free to come and go as they see fit. Those people who espouse a criticism of the free enterprise way of life should remember that in those countries which are controlled by a government which shares their views on socialism and socialist control the people are not free. The people have not the freedom of movement and they have not the freedom of access to information. Only last week I had the privilege to be in Berlin as the guest of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Germany. We were taken behind the Iron Curtain into East Germany, and how disappointing it was. How disgusted I felt deep down that in one city there were German people on one side who were free to go into the East German sector but on the other side the people, kept in by a wall, were forbidden under the threat of death from entering the other sector.
We in this country have to be grateful for the fact that we have had a continuation of democratic governments. I pay a tribute to the Labor Party for the three years in which it was in power. It also endeavoured to preserve the basic freedoms of movement and access to information which have been the hallmarks and traditions of the Australian nation. Let us be proud of the fact that in Australia we are a free people in a free society. We have no restrictions placed on our movements. One gets upset when one sees miles and miles of a concrete wall which is deliberately designed to keep people within certain confines. How disgusting it is that when we go behind that iron curtain we find people queuing up to purchase humble household supplies.
– Has this any relevance to the Bill?
– The honourable member for Hughes talks about relevance. I am establishing a point. Some criticism has been made of the Government because it has put on a $10 departure tax. I accept that criticism. I am making the point the validity of which surely even the honourable member will accept, that at least in this country we are free to depart. Surely the honourable member can appreciate that there is a relevance. If he does not appreciate that then I say that he should go and join his comrades in arms behind the iron curtain in Berlin. These artificial barriers to freedom are disappointing. We should be proud of the fact that we are Australians. We are real people in a real society. We have many things here to be proud of. Let us not sell ourselves short. If we do that we will drive tourists away from this country. I hope that all all of us- governments, politicians, citizens and industry- will get up and adopt the slogan: ‘See Australia first and see the world afterwards’. We can only see Australia first if accommodation and transport costs are contained to a realistic figure.
I made this point earlier in my speech. Trade union leaders should be alive to the situation that we are pricing ourselves out of the tourist industry. Too many motels, cafes and hotels have to close down at weekends because of the high cost factor which is involved in providing labour to give essential services. To me it seems somewhat naive that we have people striving for extra money to pay the educational expenses of their children when they would be only too prepared to have three or four hours work on a Saturday or Sunday morning at the standard rate of pay. The money which would accrue to them would be real money. They would be happier getting $ 10 for doing 4 hours work instead of not having a job to go to because the cost of that job would be too high and that would price the owner of the enterprise out of business. Surely it is reasonable and acceptable to honourable members who sit on the Opposition side that costs be contained and that there be no penalty rates at weekends or on holidays so that women, young people, university students and students from colleges of advanced education -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-One could easily get the impression that we are discussing the Australian tourist industry but, of course, we are discussing the Departure Tax Bill. There has not been very much reference to that tax during the course of the debate. It has been interesting to see the inconsistent attitude of the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) who preceded me. Apparently he believes it is inappropriate to take a tax from people who are departing this country and direct it to a specific purpose. Frankly, I am not carried away with that idea and, by all accounts, the honourable member for Darling Downs is not carried away with it either. He has waxed eloquent about tourism. He wants two bob each way on every matter. He ought to realise that there is nothing unusual or exceptional about taking a tax and devoting it to a specific purpose. That occurs especially in the rural area on many fronts such as in regard to wool, wheat, pigs and so many other things.
We are sick and tired of the hypocrisy and humbug which always emanates from members of the National Country Party of Australia. If honourable members on the Government side who feel strongly about the proceeds of this legislation going to tourism only had the courage of their convictions to move an amendment to that effect, it is very likely that the Opposition spokesman for tourism would consider supporting their amendment. That was the tenor of the main argument of the Opposition in relation to this Bill. We have heard honourable members on the Government side say that the tourist industry is important. During what is left of this financial year we will take $10m- a considerable amount of money- out of the pockets of tourists. We will take SI 3m in a full tax year. If honourable members really believe what they have been saying then they should move positively in that way. I believe the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) is indicating that they will have the support of the Opposition.
I put that suggestion to the honourable member for Darling Downs. He is saying that that is what should happen. But is that the fact? He has been talking about the tourist industry. If he is not saying that, then what is the relevance between the tourist industry and its problems and the airport departure tax? Of course, fundamentally, all we are talking about is a taxation Bill. This is another attempt to overcome the deficit. We ought to realise that the Government has budgeted for a deficit of $2, 8 13m. Of course, that is a high amount. The Government wants to get the amount down. But is the need to get it down so important that we impose this airport departure tax which will inconvenience so many people? In any event, let us remember that the deficit is $52 lm less this year when compared with last year. Why did we not propose an airport departure tax last year to drop the deficit? As the deficit is $52 lm less this year why should we have this imposition?
I think the proper approach to this debate is the whole question of options. Is this the way in which to raise money to meet the deficit? The question is not whether the tourist industry should get the proceeds of this tax of $ 1 3m which will be derived in a full year. It is one of many taxes. As a result of the provisions of the 1 978-79 Budget we are getting $222m extra from people who are beer drinkers. We are getting $12 lm extra in a year off people who drink spirits. We are getting $ 1 36m extra in a year off people who smoke cigarettes. The extra revenue we are getting from people who use motor cars is $6 76m which is a large amount of money. It seems to me that we are really taking a very big hammer and causing a lot of people a lot of inconvenience in the face of that kind of deficit and of those figures to which I have referred just to raise $ 13m in a full tax year. There is no doubt about the truth of what I am saying. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) in his second reading speech stated:
In the present tight budgetary situation it has been necessary for the Government to consider avenues for raising additional revenue. The tax on departures will make a useful contribution in this regard.
I believe there are other options. The Opposition contends that there are other options. We are not in favour of people being subjected to this enormous inconvenience. We have seen what has happened in other countries where this expediency has been resorted to. If the Government had continued the coal export levy in full it would have yielded three dmes the sum which is expected to be collected in a full year from this departure tax. In my view the coal export levy would have been one of the options which would have been preferable instead of inconveniencing so many people. We only have to have regard to the Utah Development Co. situation, if I could say this in passing. The profit of the Utah company rose by $28.1m last year to $158.3m. That was a 60 per cent return on capital. The reduced coal levy which will benefit Utah will derive $25m. I think we could have seriously looked at the idea of a capital gains tax.
I think the House is entitled to recall that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has proposed an alternative Budget. Indeed, the alternative Budget had a particular proposition about a capital gains tax on such great exploitive instrumentalities as the Utah company, which would raise $300m in tax. Would not that be preferable to subjecting the people who save their long service leave and their annual leave and at 60 or 65 years of age take their trip overseas to Japan, Thailand or the United Kingdom? That is the kind of thing that is happening in Australia today. Is it not the aspiration of every worker to take his wife on an overseas trip, upon retirement? The more affluent seek to do so in the middle of their working careers. What this Government has chosen to do is to derive revenue from people who are saving every penny and skimping in order to get that fare together. Members of the National Country Party are laughing. Apparently they do not understand that this is the quest of the workers. It might be all right for some of the wealthy pastoralist friends of the honourable member for Darling Downs to think in an airy-fairy way of a trip overseas as against buying a Rolls Royce, a Mercedes-Benz, or something like that.
– They take it off their tax.
-Indeed, it will become a monetary advantage to them. But I want honourable members to understand that as far as the ordinary people in the street are concerned, it is an earnest quest to get overseas for a bit of a break. Yet this Government is going to take $ 13m off people like that. I put it to honourable members that the other options are far more high principled. If the Labor Party were in office now this tax would not be being introduced right now. I do not believe that it should have been introduced at all. Since it has been introduced, we ought to have some indication from the Minister as to how the proceeds will be used. We ought to have some real answers as to why the tourist industry, for example, cannot benefit since it is the tourists, in the main, who will bear the heavy burden.
I said that I would not speak for very long; therefore I think that I had better let some of my notes go down the drain. I know that the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) is anxious to say a few words. I would have liked to talk at greater length about other options. I want to talk about another way of collecting extra money. If the Government is intent on collecting extra money from the users of airports or airport facilities, a better way would be to increase the levy for port or air navigation facilities- air navigation charges. The Parliament would know that there is scope to increase such charges. In 1975-76 air navigation charges yielded $53.5m. In 1976-77 they yielded $6 1.6m. In 1977-78 the figure rose to $73. 4m. In the last Budget the figure was $77m. The 15 per cent increase in air navigation charges provided for in the last Budget barely covers the rate of inflation. I believe that such an increase would be a better way of getting this $13m a year than subjecting lots and lots of individual travellers to the inconvenience of filling in application forms and so on.
As I look through the clauses of these two associated Bills, my mind starts to boggle at the size of the bureaucracy that will be built up to police this business and the fines that will be imposed on people who try to get out of paying for this $10 coupon. We are to have other specialised officers who will ensure that people who come from Australian Territories do not pay the tax and that people who are just passing through Australia are not subjected to the tax. So it is quite apparent that the cost of getting this $ 13m of revenue in this way will be enormous. We will probably get $ 13m but spend about $6m on a great bureaucracy that will push people around and subject them to all kinds of inconvenience. How many of us have been overseas and have seen people weeping at airports when they have found that they have not anything left out of their travelling money to pay the $10 or $15 departure tax. This has happened to parliamentarians in whose company I was at the time.
– Who was weeping?
-Some of the National Country Party members have been in that situation. Some of them, being so dull and stupid, have been unable to work out the currency exchange rates and have had insufficient money in the right currency at the right time to pay their departure tax. I remember one National Country Party member who actually missed the plane because he could not understand the great complexities involved in currency exchange. I am simply asking: Why subject hundreds of thousands of travellers leaving Australia to this tax to get what in the end will be only a few lousy million dollars? I think the whole scheme is illconceived and I think the Government ought to withdraw it. The people of Australia are being subjected to an enormous nuisance. I just say to the Minister and to the members of the National Country Party, who these days seem to be more intent on looking after the interests of the exploitive overseas mining interests: Get something reasonable from those companies in return for the rape and pillage that is taking place in respect of the enormous resources of this country. If the Government wants $ 13m it should get it from other sources. It should withdraw this legislation. I say to the Government that, for heaven’s sake, if it has not the nous to do that it should make sure that the deprived tourist industry gets some benefit from the revenue that will be obtained.
– in reply- In drawing this second reading debate on these Bills to a close, I thank those honourable members on both sides of the House who have contributed to the debate. I think we can safely say that the debate has ranged widely. A number of suggestions have been made as to ways in which the tourist industry can be improved. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) drew attention to the purpose of the tax. I point out to him one matter of fact: It is not just an airport departure tax; it applies to all departures from Australia.
Some of the questions raised by honourable members who contributed to the debate revolved around the question of the collection of the tax. I shall just briefly make clear to the House how the tax will be collected. The method will be by the sale of a tax stamp. This system will include exemption stamps for persons not liable to pay the tax. These tax and exemption stamps will be obtainable from regional offices of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, from Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs booths at airports and major sea ports, from Customs offices at ports where the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs does not have offices and of course at Department of Foreign Affairs passport offices throughout Australia. The stamps will be stuck on or affixed to passenger tickets and, when presented to Customs officials at the departure point, will be cancelled by an over-print stamp showing the passenger as having departed from Australia. This is an important point: If a carrier or an agent should wish to arrange the affixing of a tax stamp to a client’s ticket in order to facilitate passenger travel arrangements, stamps will be available for bulk sale from offices of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. This may be particularly useful when agents or carriers are arranging for group or special charter travel. The agent or carrier will be able to buy the stamps in bulk from Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs offices.
Clause 1 1 of the Bill provides for the Minister to enter into special arrangements concerning the collection of the tax. As an example, a carrying company may make a bulk payment on behalf of passengers listed on a certified manifest. Some shipping companies, in discussions with the Commonwealth, have already indicated their interest in such a procedure. The legislation does not propose that carriers or agents be responsible for the collection of the tax on behalf of the Government. This is up to the individual. But, of course, if agents or carriers wish to come to arrangements with us, we are prepared to discuss those arrangements with them. Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not think that I need to add any more in discussion of the matters that have been brought up in the debate. Perhaps we could now move to the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Amendment (by Mr MacKellar) agreed to:
Omit clause 4, substitute the following clause: 4. ( 1 ) For the purposes of this Act, the departure of a person from Australia for an external Territory shall, if the person is not ordinarily resident in that Territory and intends, at the time of his departure from Australia, to depart from that Territory for a country other than Australia within a period of 3 months after his departure from Australia, be deemed to be a departure of the person from Australia for another country.
For the purposes of this Act (including sub-section ( 1 ) ), the departure of a person from Australia for another country shall, if the person intends, at the time of his departure from Australia, to depart from that country for an external Territory within a period of 7 days after his departure from Australia, be deemed to be a departure of the person from Australia for that external Territory. ‘.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 August, on motion by Mr MacKellar:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appearsAustralia ‘ includes the external Territories;
Amendment (by Mr MacKellar) agreed to:
Omit the definition of ‘Australia ‘.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
This Act extends to every Territory.
Amendment (by Mr MacKellar) proposed:
Omit the clause.
– I cannot understand how a short Bill, such as the Departure Tax Collection Bill 1978, after having been through the House, should now have six amendments proposed to it. It is a clear indication that the Government did not have an idea of what it was doing when it proposed the departure tax. It is a clear indication that the thoughts of the Government at the end of the Cabinet discussions on the Budget were: ‘We have spent that much money; where do we get some money from?’. It decided to impose a departure tax. In his second reading speech, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) said that the Government will notify the industry how the tax will be collected. All the Government was doing in imposing this departure tax was looking for a source of revenue.
At this stage I merely mention the fact that the matter of a departure tax was raised before the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism on 16 May 1978. From my experience I know that that is the time when departments are under the great surveillance of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Finance and are negotiating how much they will spend and what needs to be done. The matter was raised before that Committee. It was suggested by a Mr Neil Leiper and a Mr Lloyd Stear, both lecturers at the Travel and Tourism School of Business and Administrative Studies at the Sydney Technical College. That Committee was interested in the theory because Leiper and Stear had suggested that in order to get some finances to promote international tourism to Australia a tax of between $10 and $20 should be imposed. The Committee was interested enough to ask several departments, as well as Qantas Airways Ltd, to comment on the suggestion. That was at the time when departments, particularly the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Finance, were looking at expenditure and sources of money.
As the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) said a few moments ago, this is a general revenue tax. It is imposed for the simple reason that the Government wants money from somewhere. At the same time the amount of money being made available to the Australian Tourist Commission was upgraded by $l.lm. Revenue coming to the Commonwealth, to Consolidated Revenue from this departure tax will be about $10m this year and, in a full year, $13m. I hazard a guess that there is an underestimation of the revenue that will come in this year and in future years. I just cannot follow a government that does not know why it has put a few lines in a Budget Speech without knowing how that money will be collected, what effect it will have on tourism in Australia and in which areas that money will be used. It surprised me immensely. I cannot say that I like doing this to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. He is a very gentle fellow and quite a likeable fellow. I believe that, instead of that Minister being present now in this chamber, the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) should be here.
– Or the Treasurer.
-And/or the Treasurer (Mr Howard), as the honourable member for Hughes suggests. As the honourable member suggested earlier, this is another taxation measure. So the Treasurer and/or the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who has a tertiary division in his Department, are supposed to control tourism. If a departure tax is to be put on all people over 18 years of age, with certain exemptions, who leave Australia, surely the money collected should be directed in some way towards the development of tourism in Australia.
I only wish I was still the Minister Assisting the Treasurer because I could tell the Government that, if another couple of million dollars was spent on promoting Australia overseas, more than $ 1 3m would come back in foreign currency. The Government under this Bill will charge, I would judge, about 600,000 or 700,000 Australians- after allowing for travellers under 18 years of age and other people who are exempted- $10 each in Australian currency. However, one million or Vi million foreign tourists would bring foreign currency into this country. In the year just concluded we lost something like $300m in Australian currency from Australian tourists who travelled overseas. It is no good the Treasury telling me that the travel gap does not have any effect. The travel gap is increasing. We have to face up to the fact that very few people in very few countries know anything about our tourist destinations and our tourist attractions. They will not know this until such dme as we start to promote ourselves overseas.
During the second reading debate we were told that little countries like Fiji and New Zealand spend four dmes, ten times, and 15 times as much money on tourism as we are spending. I happen to be proud of Australia. I reckon we have more natural attractions than most other countries. We should be selling ourselves internationally to attract people to Australia. We should be selling Australia not only because tourism brings foreign currency into Australia but also because it fosters good will. Tourism allows a friendly face to face confrontation of one nation with another. Let President Carter have his special little three weeks’ holidays at Camp David. Only three people from different countries really got to know each other during the President’s latest stay at Camp David. Bring out a hundred thousand Japanese, bring out people from all the other nations and let them see that we are a gentle nation generally and that we have many things to offer. Let these people bring their foreign currency to Australia. Let us foster good will in the world. The departure tax, which is the subject of this Bill, was a throwaway line in a Budget Speech. It was a suggestion stolen by Treasury and the Department of Finance and perhaps the Department of Industry and Commerce -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I was interested to hear the remarks of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart). The honourable member made a number of points that were made during the second reading debate. He quite properly utilised the opportunity to make those general points during the Committee stage and I do not hold that against him. I would just like to make the point that I understood the honourable member to say that the departure tax would affect the number of people travelling to Australia and we would be better off doing other things.
– I didn’t say that.
– Perhaps I misunderstood the honourable member. However, if anyone has the feeling that the tax will affect movements to or from Australia, the best advice that has been conveyed to us is that it will not. The honourable member made a general point that we should all be encouraging more people to visit Australia and to see Australia for themselves. This point was reiterated by a number of speakers during the second reading debate and I find myself in total agreement with it.
-The Minister for Immigraton and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) might take the opportunity to enlighten the Committee in respect of the expected ramifications that these proposals entail. The amendment that we are discussing- that is the insertion of proposed clause 1 lA- is generally -
– Order! Clause 4 is before the Committee at the moment.
-Of course. What I am saying, of course, applies as well to subsequent clauses which relate to the enactment of the legislation. I think that the Minister could render a service to the House if he took the opportunity when speaking to this clause or indeed the next clause to indicate the expenditure involved in the great organisation that has to be set up to provide this service and give effect to this legislation. We have been told nothing to this effect during the course of the debate. We will be talking shortly about regulations including the regulations that will be required to facilitate the issue of exemption stamps and all kinds of inspectorial procedures at airports. Can the Minister tell us whether this will affect the intake of Commonwealth public servants and the staff ceilings that have been imposed by the Government. Will it -
– Order! The honourable member for Hughes is possibly encouraged by the indulgence of the Chair to the honourable member for Grayndler when he spoke on this clause. I waited patiently for the honourable member for Grayndler to relate his remarks to clause 4 and I was disappointed when he did not do so. In view of the indulgence extended to the honourable member for Grayndler, I would be inclined to treat the honourable member for Hughes likewise. However, I look to the honourable member to respond to what I am saying and to bring his remarks as close as possible to the clause before the Committee.
-Mr Chairman, I understand that the amendment seeks to omit clause 4. Clause 4 states:
This Act extends to every Territory.
I can only say that the Opposition is certainly in favour of the amendment which proposes that the legislation will not extend to the Territories. The Opposition regards this legislation as pernicious and as an enormous burden on anyone affected by it. The Opposition would certainly be very relieved to know that the people of the Territories will not be affected. I will leave my remarks at that and I will take the opportunity to raise other matters during discussion on a subsequent clause.
-The question is:
That the clause be agreed to.
Question resolved in the negative.
Clauses 5 to 7- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
1 ) Where an authorized officer-
An authorized officer may, for the purpose of ascertaining whether tax has been or will be paid in respect of the departure from Australia of a person who, in the opinion of the authorized officer, is about to depart from Australia for another country, require that person, or any other person who may, in the opinion of the authorized officer, have information with respect to the matter, to answer questions or produce documents to him, or both.
Amendments (by Mr MacKellar)- by leaveproposed:
In sub-clause ( 1 ), after ‘country’ insert ‘or for an external Territory’.
In sub-clause (2), after ‘country’ insert ‘or for an external Territory’.
– I am rather amazed that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) did not give any explanation for moving these amendments. Clause 8 states:
1 ) Where an authorized officer-
The Minister moved to insert the words ‘or for an external Territory’ after the words ‘another country’. In sub-clause (2) of clause 8 the Minister has moved that the words ‘or for an external Territory’ be inserted after the word ‘country’. The Minister has given no explanation. I can judge only that the drafting is bad, that the throw-away departure tax in the Budget had not been thought through and that when these Bills were brought into the House they had not even been considered by the Government in any serious way. I ask the Minister whether he would be good enough to tell the Committee why these two amendments are necessary.
– Perhaps the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) has not been in the chamber all the afternoon. If he had been he would have heard me make a statement during the consideration of the previous Bill in which I dealt with the amendments that have been moved and are to be moved to the Bill. They deal with the collection of the tax by means of a stamp. They exclude the Territories from the operation of the Bill. These amendments to the Bill are consequential on the Government’s decision in relation to those two matters.
– I merely want to know why it was not foreseen. Do the external Territories include Lord Howe Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands? Why was not that difficulty foreseen? Why were not those things picked up before the Bill came into this chamber? My case rests. This was not a considered Bill at all.
-The provision that we are considering mainly is about enabling an authorised officer to ascertain whether a tax has been paid. For that purpose, he is able to interrogate people. One can understand that it is a proper prerogative to interrogate a suspect, but I notice that in sub-clause (2) of clause 8 there is also provision to enable any other person who may, in the opinion of the authorised officer, have information with respect to the matter, to answer questions or produce documents to him, or both.
If we are talking about a $10 tax, it seems that we are getting ultra-belligerent about the whole matter. We are equipping bureaucrats with the power not only to interrogate a suspect but also to bring some other passenger- an innocent bystander, as it were- into the fray and maybe to ask: ‘Did you see him buy a ticket? He said that he has lost his ticket and that he does not have one but that he bought one’. By way of this provision the Government will authorise an officer to subject other people to questioning and to create the chance of an uneasy situation arising. I ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) whether this is the case. What does the Government have in mind? To what extent will the travelling public be burdened with what could be a harassing interrogative process that might not have any relationship to their travelling circumstances at all.
– It is certainly not the intention of the Government to harass anybody. This provision gives the authorised officer at least the opportunity to question somebody who may be connected with advice given to intending travellers. As honourable members would understand, many people make their travel arrangements through travel agents. It is not unknown for travel agents to give misleading advice. Hopefully, that will not be the case. This clause covers the contingency where someone else may be required to provide some explanation or to back up someone’s story. Certainly there is no intention on the Government’s part to harass people.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 9 to 1 1- by leave- taken together.
-I rise mainly to seek from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) information about the purpose of clause 11, which has the sub-heading ‘Special arrangements for payment of tax’. The Minister would know that the Bill states that the Minister may make an arrangement with a person under which the person agrees to pay to the Commonwealth an amount equal to any tax that may become payable -
- Mr Chairman, on a point of order. I think we may be a little confused here. We are dealing with clauses 9 to 1 1. We have not reached clause 1 1 at this stage. As I understand it, the honourable member is addressing his remarks to clause 11.
-The Committee is considering clauses 9 to 11, inclusive. The honourable member for Hughes is in order in addressing himself to clause 1 1 .
-Thank you, Mr Chairman. I would like the Minister to explain the purpose of this clause. Who is this person? What kind of person is the subject of this special provision? With whom may the Minister make a special arrangement? I think we need some enlightenment in that regard. Then, I take it, we will be considering amendment No. 5, which has the effect of adding clause 1 1A.
– The Committee will consider that subsequent to its consideration of clauses 9 to 11. The question will be put on proposed new clause 1 lA.
-Again I ask the Minister for some explanation of the purpose of clause 11. I will return subsequently, if I may, to proposed new clause 1 1A.
– As the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) pointed out, clause 1 1 allows the Minister to make an arrangement with any person under which the person agrees to pay to the Commonwealth, in the manner provided in the arrangement, an amount equal to any tax that may become payable by any person to whom the arrangement applies. This allows for the agencytype arrangement under the Bill. It can apply, for instance, to shipping companies which may make special arrangements with the Government in relation to the payment of the departure tax.
Clauses agreed to.
Proposed new clause 1 1 A.
Amendment (by Mr MacKellar) proposed:
After clause 1 1, insert the following new clause: 1 1 A. ( 1 ) The regulations may make provision for and in relation to the payment of tax by the production to authorized officers or such other officers as are prescribed of tax stamps by or on behalf of persons liable to pay tax and, in particular, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, may make provision for and in relation to-
the issue of tax stamps by the Commonwealth and the sale of tax stamps by the Commonwealth and other bodies or persons; and
refunds of amounts paid for the purchase of tax stamps that are not produced for the purpose of payment of tax or in respect of which a refund is otherwise payable under the regulations.
The regulations may make provision for and in relation to the issue by the Commonwealth of stamps (in this sub-section referred to as ‘exemption stamps’) to or in respect of persons in respect of the departure of whom from Australia tax would be payable but for the operation of subsection 6(1) and, in particular, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, may make provision for and in relation to the production to authorized officers or such other officers as are prescribed of exemption stamps by or on behalf of such persons.’
-The amendment, which proposes to insert a new clause IIA, makes reference to the regulations which are to be instituted under the Act, if the Bill becomes an Act. He goes on to refer to the role of authorised officers and the fact that they will be involved in the issue and sale of tax stamps, the refunds of amounts and the issue of exemption stamps. I have been looking for a clause that will enable me more effectively than any other clause to elicit from the Minister some information which the Committee is entitled to have. It seems to me, in all common sense, that this may be the clause under which to do it. It is certainly a clause relating to regulations and it is certainly a clause relating to officers. Mr Chairman, I take it that your silence means acquiescence.
– I suggest that the honourable member proceed, and we will measure the quality of his remarks as he progresses.
-Thank you very much. That is jolly decent of you, Mr Chairman. I ask the Minister whether he is able to indicate to us what kind of organisation is being set up, in terms of the number of officers who will do these things. Of course, we need to have regard for the fact that the imposition that is the subject of the Bill will be enacted in every airport and seaport in Australia from which people take off for overseas places. Obviously, if we are thinking in terms of even one person in every airport and seaport, it will have enormous ramifications. I think that we in this Parliament have a duty to let the people know what sort of organisation we are developing and the ramifications of it, what sort of overhead expenses we are developing and the kind of monster we are creating to obtain for the Government revenue of $ 10m this financial year and, I think, $ 1 3m in a full financial year.
We know that many departments are seeking public servants. We know that there has been a restriction on the number of public servants in terms of the philosophy of the Government and the deficit. I ask the Minister: Is this Bill exempt from the staff ceiling provisions which have been prevailing very stringently throughout the country over a long period of time? Possibly we are thinking of thousands of officers, and not just officers who will work cursorily and occasionally.
Obviously, if this tax is to work at all in respect of every departure, whether it is by aeroplane or by ship, from every airport and seaport in Australia, we have to have officers and all the ramifications that go with them.
– Staff dining rooms.
-They will have to work around the clock and on Saturdays and Sundays at double time or triple time. There will be penalty rates galore. The honourable member for Robertson says that there will need to be staff dining rooms. That is a possibility too. We know about Parkinson’s law. We know how this kind of thing gets out of hand. It is undoubtedly the case that we will need to have hundreds, if not thousands, of people. We will need responsible officers to give effect to these laws. They will have the power to apprehend people, the power to interrogate people and the ability to count the money that is collected, to issue the stamps and all the rest of it. These people cannot operate in senior roles unless they have stenographers, secretaries, switchboard operators and computers. Honourable members should remember that the net objective of this whole thing is $ 10m. I ask the Minister to give this Parliament some indication of the extent of this great monster that is being created for the purpose of obtaining that $10m when there are so many other ways by which $ 10m could have been extracted.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that many specialities are involved in this work. I am not sure why the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is sitting at the table and is responsible for this Bill because it is obviously not an immigration Bill. The whole of the debate has been about tourism and about Australians who are going overseas for a holiday. Yet we have the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs taking charge of this legislation as though he does not realise and the Government does not concede that it is not an immigration matter but an imposition on the workers of this country who are going away for an occasional holiday. In any event I ask him: Who are these officers going to be? Obviously this is a taxation Bill with no purpose other than to overtake the problems of the deficit to the miserable extent of $ 10m. Who are these officers going to be? Are they going to be officers of the Australian Taxation Office? Are they going to be from the Commonwealth Police, or to what extent will they be supported and upheld by the Commonwealth Police? I see that there is a proposal here which is going to add to the extent of penalties for infringement. It seems to me that it is a very high level of penalty that the Government is seeking to impose on those who infringe the provisions of this Bill. Clearly the Commonwealth Police would have some involvement somewhere along the line. Is the Department responsible for civil aviation to be involved or is the Bureau of Customs to be involved? Are all these departments to be involved? Is it going to be a great inter-relationship of bureaucrats which is going to develop into one of the most frightening things this country has ever seen? By what unobtrusive process is this $ 10 going to be extracted? I propose that instead of doing it this way we add it to the tax which is imposed on the air services which operate in and out of this country. Perhaps the Minister might clarify whether the airlines are going to be used- it might be appropriate to do it that way- in which event I ask what kind of commission is going to be given to the airways for rendering this service of collecting -
– The same as PA YE.
-If the honourable member takes an intelligent interest he has the right to interject. Otherwise he has not justified his utterances up to now. I am simply asking in this context: If the airline companies are to be involved in the collection of this tax, are they to receive any commission? If so, how much? Then I ask the Minister How many specialised interpreters are to be involved in this whole business of collecting the $10 tax having regard to the fact that a very large number of the people from whom the tax is to be extracted will be passing through Australia or coming to Australia for a short visit? They will be Japanese, German, Dutch and Hungarian and obviously they will not know too much about this. What kind of expenditure is there in the paraphernalia which is involved in letting even the Australian population know, let alone people from other countries? It is undoubtedly the case that a Japanese person seeking to leave Australia after staying for a week at the Chevron is going to have a great deal of trouble and will need the services of an interpreter. I think that the Government is foisting onto the Australian community a terrible monstrosity. It is the worst way in the world to get $10m, which is just going into Consolidated Revenue and will not even help the people from whom the Government will extract it. I think that the Minister, on behalf of the Government, ought to come clean. If he cannot answer my questions he should postpone this Bill until he can find a Minister who can give the answers because the people of Australia have the right to know.
– I must congratulate the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) on filling in his time. It was a magnificent effort to range so widely in 10 minutes. Let me deal with some of the questions which have been raised. Firstly, this is not a monster. On the question of staff, a number of departments are co-operating in the administration of this departure tax. The Bureau of Customs, the Department of Foreign Affairs and my Department will be co-operating in the arrangements. Let me assure the honourable member that any officer of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs or of any of the other departments concerned has the ability to count the money, if he is worried about that. In the initial stages of the imposition of the tax we will be diverting some staff from other duties so that the initial stages will go smoothly. As it settles down, of course, we will look very closely at the administrative arrangements to see whether additional staff are required.
– Additional to what?
– I am talking about my Department.
– How many?
– We would not see at this stage the need for any additional staff, and I am talking about tens rather than hundreds.
– At which ports?
– Overall. I would like to make a couple of points because I think that the honourable member may inadvertently have misled the Australian people about the imposition of this tax. It does not apply only to Australians. It applies to all people leaving Australia and, therefore, it is not raised just from the Australian people. On a number of occasions during his remarks the honourable member mentioned that it would apply only to Australians. It does not; it applies to all those people, taking account of the exemptions, who leave Australia either by air or by boat. There is no question of a commission being considered but I must say that the officers of my Department have been in consultation with travel agents and air service operators. We are anxious to reach with these people arrangements which will result in the smooth administration of the scheme and we are very confident that we will do that.
-This Bill was brought into the Parliament a couple of weeks ago and the clause we are discussing is labelled ‘Special arrangements for payment of tax’. I would have always thought that a clause with such a label would have really been thought out, but within a couple of weeks -
– Order! Will the honourable member for Grayndler acquaint me with the particular clause to which he is addressing himself?
– Yes. I am referring to the amendment which begins with the words ‘After clause 1 1 , page 4, insert the following clause ‘.
– That is correct. The honourable member may proceed.
-Might I say, Mr Chairman, that you had better now ask your Clerks to do some label watching. I am talking about amendment (5) which starts with the words ‘After clause 11, page 4, insert the following clause’. The side note to clause 11 reads: ‘Special arrangements for payment of tax’. Within a couple of weeks of the Bill’s introduction we have a Minister bringing into this chamber an amendment which commences with the words ‘After clause 11, page 4, insert the following clause’, on the right hand side of which appear the words: Tax stamps and exemption stamps’. Mr Chairman, you might have travelled around the world as often as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) but have you ever had to buy a departure tax stamp in any country you have been in? It is an incorrect question to ask you, Mr Chairman. I ought to ask it of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), the Prime Minister, the Acting Prime Minister or the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland). Have they ever had to go to a department of immigration in any country and ask for a special tax stamp, when they could not speak Japanese, Italian or French? We ‘foreigners in Australia’ are expecting all those people who do not speak English, or is it Austraiian, to find out where our Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs office is. Alternatively, we expect overseas travellers to go to an airport, where there are hundreds of people and many confusing signs, to buy the stamps. We are so narrow in our thinking in Australia that signs in my electorate are not displayed in the Greek language or the Arabic language. Nowhere in any of our international airports do we find a sign telling people where the immigration office or the customs office is situated. The Government has produced a monster in this Bill just to get in revenue $10 million this financial year and $ 1 3 million in a full year.
Let me take the position up until 1980. The imposition of the $ 10 departure tax for each traveller, allowing for all the exemptions, will raise $ 18.9m in 1980. Now, the Committee is told that a new clause will be added after Clause 1 1. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) made a statement before the debate on the Bill commenced. It is the first time in the life of the Parliament that I can remember when a Minister has ever had to explain what he said in his second reading speech before the debate on the Bill even started in the Parliament. This is a complete and utter revenue raising tax. Will this Government be genuine and decent? Will honourable members opposite be fair and support a Prime Minister who says: ‘We are more honourable than any member of the Opposition. We always tell you the truth. We would not raise loans from Arabic countries. We will only raise them’ -
– Not even over breakfast.
-No, not even over breakfast. But it would be possible to raise a loan over breakfast from the Baillieus. It would be possible to raise loans over breakfast on the short-term money market anywhere in Australia. This is just a revenue raising Bill. It has nothing to do with tourism. It has nothing to do with the number of Australians who leave our country. What irks me most is that special arrangements have had to be made for the payment of the tax. After introducing the Bill and it being before the Parliament for a couple of weeks, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has had to add to his second reading speech. I noticed the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has just arrived -
– Because you were speaking, Frank.
– I ask the Treasurer to remember that I have had three years’ experience as Minister assisting the Treasurer. I ask him to remember also that I held that position for the presentation of three Budgets. The Treasurer has just presented his first Budget.
– That is why I came in to hear you.
-How long has the Treasurer been in the Parliament? Mr Chairman, how long has he been in the Parliament?
– I do not think that I am required to answer that question from the honourable member.
– He has been in the Parliament for the terms of three Treasurers.
-One of the members of the National Country Party said that he has been here for the terms of three Treasurers. Not one of our Treasurers was dismissed because he had a family trust.
– The honourable member for Grayndler will know, with his experience, that he is straying somewhat from the clause under discussion.
– I think that is my fault.
– I call on the honourable member for Grayndler to proceed with his remarks.
Honourable members interjecting-
-Mr Chairman, I am just waiting for all the galahs to finish interjecting. I do not want the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to explain the departure tax. I want one of the senior Ministers in the Government to tell me whether he can contradict the figures that I am about to give. We have been told that the tax will raise $ 10m in the remainder of this year and $ 13m in a full year. I have here the estimates of Qantas Airways Ltd based on the short-term arrivals and departures by air only. In 1980, the $10 a head tax will raise $ 18.9m. In 1985, it will raise $24.9m. In 1988 it will raise $28. 8m. Mr Treasurer -
– Is that Qantas only?
-That is the estimate of Qantas. I have taken those figures directly from one of the airline’s submissions. Can the Treasurer correct those figures or is he prepared to admit that this is just another revenue raising tax? There was a throwaway of $ 1.1m to the Australian Tourist Commission in the Budget. If we make an allowance for the amount of money that it will cost to sell the tax stamps, we can see that the Treasury will finish up with about $2m in its coffers when $10m to $13m is being collected in the form of revenue.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Perhaps the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) will allow me to reply to the question he has raised because, as he was, I am the Minister assisting the Treasurer and I recognise that it is a very exalted station to attain. The honourable member has raised again the content of his early remarks on the Bill. Let me just say that all the amendments introduced were consequential upon the Government’s decision, firstly, to remove the necessity for the payment of the departure tax from the territories and, secondly, to collect the departure tax per medium of stamps. The honourable member made the remark that, for the first time in his experience, a Minister had to explain what was stated in his second reading speech. I did not do that. All I did in the statement that I made this afternoon prior to the debate was to acquaint the chamber with the contents of the Government’s amendments in relation to the Bill. I believe that the subject has been debated sufficiently. I believe that we should deal with the Bill.
– I wish to respond to that new matter that has just been introduced. I have before me copies of the second reading speeches- both of them- made by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). In the second reading speech on the Bill that we are discussing now- the Departure Tax Collection Bill 1978- the Minister says:
The travel industry and travellers will be given adequate notice of the date upon which the legislation comes into operation.
He goes on to say:
It is intended to develop arrangements for payment of the tax which will not unduly inconvenience travellers. I will mention details of the method of collection after discussions with the travel industry.
The method of collection of the departure tax comes up for discussion today almost unannounced. The Minister walked into the chamber and announced to the Parliament the method of collection of the tax. Yet the Opposition is supposed to work it out. Mr Minister, the words which I have read were uttered by you. I was at a travel conference on Monday and Tuesday of this week with a member of your Party and I happened to have a copy of the second reading speeches on both of these Bills and of the Bills themselves. I showed them to four or five people at that travel conference, but nobody had seen them. I ended up coming away from the conference without the second reading speeches and Bills, because nobody at that travel research conference had even seen the Bills. For heaven’s sake, Mr Minister, do not start treating this Parliament the same way as Fraser is treating you.
– I will have to reply to that, Mr Chairman. I made it absolutely clear in the second reading speech that I would be bringing back details on how the tax would be collected, and I have done just that. Consultations have been held with the travel industry by officers of my Department. The second reading speech was available in Hansard for anybody who wanted to take account of it and to acquaint themselves with it. We are making every effort to ensure that members of the travel industry are fully acquainted with the provisions of this Bill and we will continue to do so. I am very pleased to be able to say that these consultations have so far been held in a very amicable spirit.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 14- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed or necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act, and, in particular-
Amendment (by Mr MacKellar) proposed:
Omit ‘$100’, substitute ‘$500’.
-I want briefly to ask a question of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). I imagine that 99 per cent of the people who depart from Australia will leave from airports or sea terminals, so I cannot see that many people will be able to avoid paying this tax. When they go through Customs they will have to show the tax stamps. Does the proposed penalty relate to people who leave Australia by private vessel? Surely we are not going to police the odd yacht that leaves the country. I am concerned that the penalties may be a bit harsh. I hope that the collection of this sort of tax is administered with some sensitivity and that people are not harassed. For instance, a situation could arise in which people do not know that this tax has to be paid. I have had that experience myself. It may be that people will spend all their money before they go to the airport and at the last minute become aware of the tax. It may be that a family of five does not have enough money to pay the tax. This is the sort of thing that can happen. I hope that people will not be stranded at airports because they do not have enough money to pay the tax. I hope that we do not have people running around arresting people for not paying a $ 10 tax. If the situation should occur that people are unable to pay the tax for one reason or other I hope that common sense prevails and that they may be allowed to pay the tax at some future date.
-In similar vein I want to ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) to clarify several matters. Clause IS of the Bill states:
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, . . .
The fact of the matter is that this Parliament does not even know what regulations may be made by the Governor-General. Yet we are now deter.mining that instead of the provisions in the Bill prevailing, that is, that there shall be a penalty of $ 100, the provisions will be altered to increase the penalty to $500. It seems to me to be quite strange that we should go to such lengths in respect of categories of offences that are not even known to the Parliament. Obviously when the legislation was first drafted somebody thought that no matter what happens any kind of offence involved in trying to avoid the payment of a $10 tax should not attract a penalty of more than $100, and that is what the Bill says. It seems to me to be fairly reasonable to fine someone $100 for side-stepping a $10 imposition.
We are actually dealing with a clause under which the Governor-General ‘may make regulations’ and for some unknown reason in association with that the Minister, being responsible for this Bill, has in his wisdom suddenly decided to jack up the penalty 500 per cent. What is the reason for this increase? Can the Minister explain to the Committee the type of penalty that in his view justifies the imposition of a $500 fine? Goodness me, it was not all that long ago that if a person was liable to a fine of $500 for an offence he could be subject to an alternative penalty of six months gaol. What are the penalties for comparable offences under other legislation?
Not only has the Government changed its mind, such is the hurried nature of its approach to this legislation, but quite frankly I do not think there has been any proper consideration given to the Bill at all. Obviously it is the worst schemozzle ever seen in a desperate attempt to raise $ 13m in a full tax year. I have no doubt that the Government will spend about $ 15m or $20m to gross the $13m. That is the first thing. The Government has not thought about this legislation at all. It should be tossed out lock, stock and barrel. No doubt we need some explanation from the Minister as to why the Government made a mistake in the first instance when it proposed the imposition of this penalty. Suddenly overnight it has decided, without even knowing what the regulations will be or what the offences will be, to jack up the penalty from $ 100 to $500.
Let me ask this question of the Minister. Supposing an offence is committed by a tourist from one of the Arab oil countries or a tourist from Turkey or Japan and the person, a non-English speaking person, has shot through without paying the $10 tax. In the event that people are convicted and fined $100 under the Bill, or $500 under the amendment, does the Government propose to extradite these people from overseas? What proportion of potential offenders are likely to be people from other countries, including people who cannot speak the English language? It seems to me to be incredible that the Government has not thought out the legislation. The whole proposition is absurd. Do the extradition provisions in other legislation apply to this Bill? If not, by what process does the Government intend to apply the same kind of justice to people other than Australians as it intends to apply to people who reside in this country?
– The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) and the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) raised the question of penalties. The honourable member for Robertson asked whether we would be harassing people. I repeat that that is certainly not the intention of the Government in this matter. As honourable members will have noticed, there is provision for departure stamps or exemption stamps to be issued. In those situations there is the possibility that people may seek to misuse those stamps in some way. I am advised by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department that the appropriate penalty, to bring this matter into line with similar legislation covering similar situations, is a maximum fine of $500. This is not an amount which must be charged. It is a maximum amount.
As the honourable member for Hughes would know, as he has been in the Parliament a long time, regulations are laid before the Parliament for 14 days. It is not a question of their being brought in surreptitiously without the Parliament being aware of their nature. I think the honourable member’s argument tends to fall down in relation to regulations. The honourable member for Hughes has sought, at some length, to obfuscate the issue. I remind the honourable member that over 100 different countries are already charging a departure tax of one sort or another. They seem to get through the administrative difficulties fairly easily. The situation remains that we will be watching the administration of the scheme very closely. If changes are necessary, we are prepared to make them.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Tide agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar)- by leave- read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 1 9 September.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed expenditure, $48,666,000.
Department of Administrative Services
Proposed expenditure, $278,738,000.
-Under the estimates of these two Departments I have a few questions and a few points to make. I am very glad that fortuitously the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr MacKellar) is in the chamber. He will be able to get the answers to the questions for me. To give him and his officers time to think about these questions I will state them earlier rather than later. The first question to which I would like an answer relates to grantsinaid in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) for the International Social Security Association. In the past financial year $30,000 was appropriated but nothing was spent. In spite of nothing being spent last year why has $18,200 been appropriated this year? I think that perhaps in this chamber we should find the answers to some of these details as do the Senate Estimates committees. I am not aware that the Senate Estimates committees have applied themselves to that particular question to date.
Similarly, under the Department of Administrative Services we have the heading Australian Property Service and the item fire protection, Commonwealth property. Last year $1,701,326 was spent, whereas this financial year much less is appropriated. I think in this era of inflation we are working at a rate of increase of at least 7.5 per cent. In the Commonwealth sphere, particularly in the defence sphere, and in relation to properties that are looked after by the Department of Administrative Services for the Department of Defence, we are well aware that better fire protection is necessary. It is of interest to me and I am sure to other honourable members to know that less will be appropriated this year compared with last year on such an important item.
The third question is a technical one inasmuch as I have noted that where appropriations are made for particular international conferences, in previous years they have come out of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) but this year they are being looked after under Appropriation Bill (No. 2). I am looking in particular at amounts appropriated for the International Association for Child Psychiatry and Allied Professions, the International Organisation of Citrus Virologists and the International Conference on Mining and Metallurgy. All these international conferences will take place in this country in this financial year. Last year such appropriations would have been made in Appropriation Bill (No. 1). This year they are included in Appropriation Bill (No. 2). I think it is appropriate that we should seek the reason.
So much for the questions; now to make a few points. These relate to the amounts appropriated under the heading of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for the AuditorGeneral’s Office and the Public Service Board. Incidentally, about $1 1.5m is to be made available to the Auditor-General’s Office. I would have hoped that that amount might have been greater at a time when an amendment to the Audit Act is due to come through the Parliament and when we have efficient audits in the pipeline. Nevertheless I do not have sufficient details to question that appropriation further. There is an increase to about $ 15.75m under Appropriation Bill (No. 1) for the Public Service Board. Last week the Auditor-General’s report was tabled in the Parliament. As honourable members know it was highly critical of various sections of government. I make the charge that much of the subject matter of criticism was due directly not to the diligence of public servants in this community but to the Government’s parsimonious and heavy handed attitude to the public sector. I refer to the incredibly blunt, unsophisticated and wasteful use of staff ceilings.
The Auditor-General’s report mentioned, just to pick out a few items, that there was a failure in the Government Aircraft Factories properly to control its costs and finances. It was suggested that in the Department of Social Security in 1977-78 debits were raised to record overpayments of benefits, pensions and allowances totalling $ 19.8m- well above the corresponding figure in the previous year. It was stated in relation to the Department of Education, in respect of student assistance schemes, that the figure rose from $2.43m in 1977 to $2.67m in 1978, although the number of cases of overpayments involved fell from 9,174 to 8,661. 1 could go on through a list of the particular charges made by the Auditor-General. But really it is irrelevant for me to give all those details. They are readily available to honourable members and to the country. At this point my main reason for raising the matter is to draw attention to the fact that the Auditor-General himself stated that staff shortages imposed by the Government on its departments were severely affecting the ability of departments to do their jobs. I draw the attention of honourable members and of the country to this serious situation that is now applying in government administration in this country because of the particular ideology being applied to administering the public sector.
Because the time left to me to speak is short, I pay tribute briefly to Mr K. C. O. Shann, the former Chairman of the Public Service Board who recently retired voluntarily and prematurely. I believe that this retirement must relate to the growing chaos in public administration brought about by the factors I have mentioned. It has been brought about by the blunt ways of seeking to achieve efficiency, to put the best interpretation on the reasons for the Government’s actions in imposing staff ceilings in such an unsophisticated way. I assert that the Labor Party is as keen and as concerned about efficiency in the public sector as is any other group in this community, but we believe that this should be brought about in a proper way, such as by applying the recommendations of the Coombs Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration rather than these blunt ways of applying staff ceilings as the Fraser Government has done in the last Vh years. We have evidence that not only do we believe in government efficiency but also we attack this problem in a more sophisticated and reasonable way as a political party. I instance what is happening in both South Australia and New South Wales at the present time. In South Australia the Corbett committee of inquiry is looking into government administration in that State. In New South Wales the Wilenski Review of New South Wales Government Administration is performing the same task. Great praise has been accorded to both those governments for setting up those commissions and to both commissions for the way in which they have set about their task.
In a number of cases, the Public Service does not have the resources to carry out Government policy in the Federal sector at the present time. The Public Service unions, to their credit, want efficiency. For all that we might enjoy jokes about those who work in the public sector and the inefficient ways in which they use their time, they want efficiency. I believe that we ought to look at the way in which this is sought to be achieved in the public sector.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like, first of all, to express my admiration for the Minister who previously held the portfolio of administrative services and to express my very warm welcome to his successor. Anyone who knows Fred Chaney knows that he is a very capable person and a person who has a very high degree of integrity. I think he will do great justice to his very important portfolio.
I want to speak on just two subjects tonight. Both may appear, in the general orbit of things, to be a little trivial; but I assure you Mr Deputy Chairman that to honourable members of this chamber that is not the case. The first matter I would like to discuss is our Commonwealth cars. I make a very earnest appeal to the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) to examine the whole of this subject in detail. I do not think any of us are convinced that there has been any great advantage in confining us to our own Commonwealth drivers for limited periods. To a greater degree we have found this to be an intrusion, and I do not use that word with any intention at ali of being offensive to the hire car drivers or the taxi drivers. Some taxi drivers, particularly those in Sydney, are a very wonderful group of people. But we have a loyalty to our own drivers. There is much more involved than just some sort of an emotional loyalty. We hear much these days of the matter of security. When would a member be more vulnerable than on a long drive home on a dark night with a driver he has never seen before in his life? Our drivers are subjected to all sorts of training- training in courtesy and training to fit them to handle a vehicle safely. Our drivers are pretty well the finished article.
In addition, there is the matter of confidentiality. There is not a man in this chamber who, when being driven in a Commonwealth car, does not feel that he is quite free to discuss matters such as we are obliged to do or we take advantage of doing when a couple of us are being driven from the airport in the one car. All that confidentiality has been reduced considerably. Also, when a member travels to another State he usually travels to the far corners of that State. When travelling with a Commonwealth driver it is very relaxing to talk one’s own language and to talk to someone who understands just how one is feeling at the end of a fairly tedious week. These matters may appear to be fairly trivial, but they are not: They are terribly important to us. It is tike our eating facilities. We are obliged to accept these things and therefore they should be at a standard which is acceptable to us. There is only one thing that we want and that is to go back completely to having the Commonwealth drivers look after us and drive us in their vehicles.
Let me get away from that subject for a moment and refer to another matter- using my electorate as an example, again at the risk of appearing to be parochial in this matter. Before I make my remarks for your consideration, Mr Deputy Chairman, and for the consideration of honourable members, I submit that anything I say in relation to the electorate that I represent could very well apply to at least the other sprawling, large rural electorates of this nation- and there are quite a few of them. Many of my remarks would apply to any electorate, whether it be urban or rural. The first thing I ask the Department of Administrative Services to do is to devote just some of that $278,738,000 to improving in many ways our ability to get through to and to create an effective liaison and physical contact with the groups of people we represent. All of us know that that is a terribly difficult thing to do and I am sure that all of us on both sides of the chamber have as our ultimate desire the ability to come into contact with the greatest possible number of people in our electorates.
When one has an electorate of 420,000 square miles such as I have or an electorate of the size of that represented so capably by my friend, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), or of the size of so many other electorates throughout this country, it would appear at first glance as though we have an impossible task. I remember well one very rainy night when Arthur Calwell gave me a lift after dinner from the Hotel Kurrajong back to Parliament House. He said to me: ‘Now that I have you in the car on your own, I will tell you something: I wouldn’t accept $100,000 a year to represent Kennedy’. Well, frankly, I would.
– They are lucky to have you, though.
– I thank the Minister.
– Have you accepted less, Bob?
-Only under duress. Costs may be taken into account. I shudder when I think of the amount of my telephone bill. If I am asked why my telephone bill is so high, I have a very simple answer. In most parts of large country and semi-rural electorates officers of departments are not available for a pensioner or someone who is disadvantaged- it is that sort of person whom we mainly try to look after- to contact. I always think that the test of a politician is his ability to give the greatest help to those people who need it most- the less privileged, the less intelligent if you like and the less favoured. In order to do that the person telephones the member, the member rings the department and if he cannot talk to the Minister or to one of his senior officials, he gets on to someone else. That person phones the member back and the member phones the person who contacted him in the first place. The telephone bill is very high when the member has to pay for all of these trunk line calls these days.
What I am arguing is that in these very large electorates, such as Maranoa and Kennedy, there should be two electorate officers. That has been approved for the honourable member for the Northern Territory and, God bless him, Sam Calder needs it; so does Mick Cotter in his huge electorate of Kalgoorlie; so do the other large electorates in this nation. Why should there be two offices? Is it because the honourable member wants the extra responsiblity of additional staff? Not for one moment. The position is that there are different characteristics in an electorate. If one moves from one end of an electorate such as Maranoa, if you like- let me get away from Kennedy for a moment- one will notice different characteristics. Within that electorate is the Darling Downs which is a closely settled area where people have so much in common- the outlook of the grain grower and his particular characteristics. Out around Charleville is an entirely different group of people.
The same applies in my electorate of Kennedy. In Mount Isa is a mining community. In the environs around Mount Isa are the cattle raisers which are a breed of their own- I do not mean the cattle, I mean the cattle raisers. In the southern part, in the extremities, say, the Burnett Valley, are people with a different attitude. For those people who are not informed- we all cannot be sufficiently informed in these mattersfruit growers, grain growers and small farmers live in that area. So the member for such an electorate should have an office in which the staff is capable of assessing the needs and the particular characteristics of the type of person in that area.
In addition, I want to mention the matter that I raised earlier and that is that the member should give the service which can be achieved only through physical contact with the various groups of people. In order to do that, travel facilities must be made as reasonable and sensible as possible. Again I always hesitate to raise this matter because I do not want any more money, salary or allowances; what I want is the ability to get to the people in my electorate and to serve them. Again may I say that the comments that I make in relation to the electorates of Kennedy and Maranoa would apply equally, but to a more or a lesser degree, to every electorate in Australia. I am not one of those people who appreciates the general view of a politician. I get sick of this attitude and I resent it. I thoroughly resent some of the cartoons. I have had a lot of almost affection for Mr Pickering through his cartoons but I think his cartoon on the front page of the Australian the other day was utterly offensive to every member of Parliament. In it one kid says to another ‘Is your dad still in politics?’ The other says: ‘No, he has decided to go straight’. That is not funny. What is funny about that? Are we here to be shot at?
The point that I make is that in our heart of hearts, if we have one ounce of integrity and decency, we want to serve our people in the most effective manner. That is the make up of every politician, on whichever side of the House he sits. I think the Government has a tremendous obligation in this matter. Even if it has to save money, it should not save it at the expense of our ability and capacity to come into close physical contact with the groups of people that we represent. Let them get at us; let them talk to us. Any politician who puts himself in an ivory tower is not worth his salt. That is my appeal tonight: That the Department of Administrative Services do something about the matter. I think the Minister will do everything possible. I most certainly hope that he will.
-It is practically impossible to deal effectively with the estimates of either of these two departments, firstly because, unlike senators, we are not provided with details of the departmental estimates in documented form. Even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) was supplied with the only available copy a few hours ago. The estimates of these departments cover as broad a range as I think we would have before us. In 10 minutes it is impossible to deal with them adequately. There are some specific matters in each portfolio with which I think the Committee should deal, and some matters which probably ought to be included in the estimates of these departments are not. After a quick glance at a copy of the estimates for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and at Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1978-79, I am concerned at the fact that a number of costs, which under previous governments were set out in total in those documents, are not now set out in the documents presented to the Parliament by the present Government even though comparisons between the two sets of figures are regularly made.
I refer to the costs of overseas travel. The present practice in assessing costs of overseas travel is to discount from the costs officers seconded from other departments to the Prime Minister’s entourage and also to exclude from the costs the segments which relate to the fares of those officers. When VIP aircraft are used, the cost is not included in the total costs either. This presents a false picture. A look through the Estimates does not give any real comparison between the cost of that form of travel and the cost of the form of travel previously used by another Prime Minister when a charter aircraft with all-up costs was made available. Then it was quite easy to see what was the total cost of travel. I am not one of those people who would inhibit the travel of Ministers. I believe it is absolutely essential that direct contact between Ministers and members of parliament take place with people outside Australia. For too long Australia lived in isolation and hid behind its isolation. I think it made serious mistakes because of that situation. That does not alter the fact that if comparative figures are to be used the figures ought to be comparable.
One or two other matters concern me about this set of estimates. One matter is that the cost of security arrangements is rising rapidly; I am not sure that the security itself is increasing at the same rate. There is at least a school of opinion which suggests that the development of our visible security arrangements around any particular figure will in fact draw unto him persons who will seek to breach that security. If publicity is given to those breaches it encourages other people to try the same thing.
– Are you a part of that school?
-I think there is too much visible security at the moment. In this building at the moment there is practically one police officer for every person in the building. I do not think the arrangements, most of which have been enforced by the Prime Minister, are reasonable nor do I think the announced future arrangements are reasonable. My understanding is that currently there are matters before the Joint Committee on Public Works relating to alterations to this building, of which neither of the Houses of Parliament have been told, nor have the members of the Parliament. I think it is important that members should know what is going on in this place and elsewhere. One instance about security arrangements to which I would point is that where they cover persons such as the Leader of the Opposition, he is entitled to expect that any documentation that he makes of his movements to a security organisation or to persons who are responsible for his security are kept absolutely confidential. At the moment he cannot be confident that that is the situation.
In 1976 the then Prime Minister called for the diaries of people who were responsible for the security of a former Prime Minister. I think that must cause a breakdown because the persons concerned have to accept that their movements are not secure or confidential with regard to any meetings or anything else that they arrange; in the name of security they can be documented, can be called for by the Prime Minister and are available to the Government. That is just the same situation as putting secret police on the tail of Leaders of the Opposition and, by doing so, preventing them from carrying out their proper functions.
One of the problems with the security arrangements at Parliament House is that they can inhibit seriously a person seeking to see a member of parliament. A Government Minister or other persons could use the fact that a person visited an Opposition member against that person in respect of promotion opportunities and so on. This sort of thing does happen. Names are sought and names are found. Members of the public may be inhibited by security arrangements. These people could, as the Prime Minister once saidand admittedly it was in his favour to make such a statement- wish to raise in the public interest matters that ought to be discussed with members of parliament and members of the Opposition.
I would like to refer to a number of other matters while I am speaking about security. I would like to raise one point which the Prime Minister could determine relatively quickly which would greatly enhance the security arrangements in this building. I believe that accommodation should be provided for the Executive branch of Government outside this building. The accommodation could be connected by a single entrance only through which members of the Executive could enter this place for parliamentary duties. This would not be difficult to arrange. It will be easy to build an Executive block adjacent to this place which had a single elevated entrance into this place. Such an arrangement would remove from this building the entrance and exit of many thousands of people a day who come here not on parliamentary business, not for duties associated with the Parliament but for duties associated with the ministry. If this were done security arrangements would be that much easier.
I would like to make one other point about security. I believe that the present arrangement whereby everyone from the Clerks down walks around with a dog tag on his or her collar is not the best means of identification. I think that people who are regularly employed in this building could be covered much more adequately by being provided with some form of insignia to which they alone would be entitled. If it is considered that a pass is necessary- and the pass system is utilised all around the world- a pass could be carried in the pocket and produced whenever required. It is ridiculous that people who are extremely well known have to walk around wearing their picture on a piece of card. This system of identification may be all right in places in which people are not known. But it is certainly not all right in this place. I believe that a proper insignia and a proper codification could be issued to people who work in this place. I do not think there would be any difficulties at all if identity discs, or what have you, were carried in the pockets of people in this place and produced on demand.
I want to make reference to one other matter which I think hits at the very heart of the way in which Parliament itself operates. The Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) is responsible for the Remuneration Tribunal. The Tribunal in its most recent report made an allocation of staff to the Opposition. The Prime Minister, for reasons best known to him, decided to refuse to go along with the recommendation in the report. He used what was left out of the report to enable him to act in this way. The Prime Minister threatened to reduce staff by the number which he intended to cut off the allocation to shadow ministers if the Opposition did not accept his breach of the meaning and sense of the report. The report -
– What is the source of that statement?
-The Prime Minister.
-The report indicated that one additional staff member, an assistant secretary- that is the research assistant-electoral assistant rate- be provided.
– I would check my letters if I were you.
– We have letters.
– I think you do not know what is in them.
-The Prime Minister decided that he would not do that but that he could make 10 staff members available. He then fixed different rates of salary. There were in fact 16 staff members involved, if we leave the leaders out of the allocation. He then fixed salary ranges and conditions. As a result $ 1 ,000 or $2,000- it is most likely nearer to $2,000 than $ 1,000-will be spent on the provision of this staff than would have been the case if the report of the Tribunal had been adopted. I think that that is stupid.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-My remarks this evening will be related only to the Department of Administrative Services. I hope that I do not lower the tone or value of the debate -
-I hope you are not going to talk about envelopes.
– I will not talk about envelopes about which the honourable member for St George has expressed concern. I want to talk about such mundane issues as the situation in which members find themselves in their electorate offices. I seek to comment on bureaucratic procedures, rules, regulations and red tapesome people like the honourable member for St George may call them the tools of frustration- as they affect the efficient operations of a member of parliament in his electorate. My comments are intended to be constructive, not merely nitpicking. My comments are not directed against my colleague, the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney), who has only recently taken over ministerial responsibility for this portfolio. Those of my comments which are critical are aimed at those who deserve censure. I recognise, however, that there are many good decisions made and that those who seek to assist members of parliament in their electorate offices experience frustrations in their own particular way and of a different order. My comments are aimed at attaining a reasonable standard of office accommodation which at least will give staff of members of this chamber the opportunity to act efficiently. Each member could raise a number of minor problems. I will restrict myself to three such problems which I will deal with separately. I imagine, Mr Deputy Chairman, that other members could multiply by three any particular issue that I might raise. In many cases and in many ways these issues could be considered to be relatively insignificant.
The first matter that should be noted is the variation in standard between office furniture and accessories available to a member in a city Commonwealth complex of each State and the facilities and equipment made available to suburban or country members.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
– I cannot believe that the staff in the city office, the constituents who visit the office or the member need to be impressed by a show of office quality superior to the outer city office. Nor can I believe that the person responsible for this discrepancy deliberately adopts an attitude that second best is good enough for the suburban or rural member. Perhaps I am wrong.
The majority of members in this place work hard in their electorates. One of the most important aspects of our work is communicating with people in the electorate. It is important that Commonwealth government decisions and details of government policies and programs are widely understood in the community. This is partly done through the media. The freedom of information legislation will go some way in further educating and stimulating public awareness of Commonwealth Government processes. But the local member also plays a positive role. To do this properly a member needs certain basic requirements. He needs a set of his tools of trade, an efficient and capable staff and a high standard of office equipment and facilities.
Let me give an example of inefficiency and waste of taxpayers’ funds. All of the charactersand I say this with tongue in cheek- deliberately mentioned are real and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead are intentional. My secretary for a number of months had great difficulty with her typewriter. The local typewriter mechanic had to make many calls. After several calls the Melbourne office asked that a letter be sent seeking a new typewriter. That letter was sent on 10 May. Further repairs were needed from time to time until it was conceded that the manufacturer should examine the machine. The typewriter was duly sent to Melbourne, a distance of some ISO kilometres, on the basis that it would be repaired, not replaced. A second hand replacement was freighted by mail to Moe, which is 150 kilometres from Melbourne. Because the typewriter was in two parts it was necessary to have the local mechanic travel 25 kilometres to assemble the machine. That was done. But the next day the machine was again inoperative and further repairs were necessary. The original machine is with the manufacturer still receiving attention. My staff have lost count of the days, not hours, of lost time. While they do not sit around twiddling their thumbs, office procedure and office efficiency have been interrupted countless times by mechanical breakdown. The repair and freight costs have added further to the Government loss. I emphasise that the basic tool of a private secretary- a typewriter- has not been available in my office for days on end. The constituent who wants a reply to correspondence has to wait in the meantime and work accumulates and frustrations mount. Frustration is experienced not only by the staff but also by the member, I might add. The constituent is not interested in the excuse that my secretary’s typewriter is broken.
I turn now to another absurd example of lack of flexibility. Under entitlements allowed by the Remuneration Tribunal, a member of parliament is able to receive a number of city or national newspapers on a regular daily or weekly basis. I guess that the costs of that would be approximately $200 per annum. To many members outside the metropolitan area, the local newspapers are of a greater electoral significance. The annual subscriptions payable to enable me to receive copies of each of the ten weekly newspapers published in my electorate would be less than the cost of supplying the Melbourne dailies. For some reason, I cannot effect that saving of national importance. I suppose it would be in the order of some $50 a year. It is a very significant sum! It highlights the degree of inflexibility in the interpretation of government regulations. This inflexibility is similar to the type of delay which constituents sometimes experience in dealing with departments and which often result in contemptuous references to government and so-called bureaucratic red tape.
The final example I wish to give relates to the situation with regard to the tape recorders which are supplied to honourable members. I make no complaint about the actual tape recorders which are supplied- the actual equipment- but many back bench members employ their two members of staff as secretaries. In my own case, my home is some 80 kilometres from the office, which is located at the other end of the electorate. It becomes necessary to use tape recorders extensively as a means of dictation to staff who handle the enormous volume of paperwork to and from constituents, Ministers and other instrumentalities. Whilst I fully appreciate economic constraints, I do believe it is necessary for both secretaries in offices of members who employ both members of their staff as secretaries to have dictation machines. Office efficiency and cost savings would be immediately evident. Honourable members will be aware that we have available to us in this House the skills of a number of audio typists. The machines they use are of a different type of manufacture from those used generally in electorate offices and are different from the hand machines available to most members. Standardisation of tape recording equipment would generally improve the effectiveness of members. The working conditions of members of this Parliament have been greatly improved over the past few years. However, it is conceded that we have some distance to go before the reasonably high standard which most honourable members would desire is achieved. It may not be achieved until the new and permanent Parliament House is completed. However, the problems associated with electorate offices of members require immediate consideration. I urge the Minister to seek the views of members with the intention of upgrading working conditions and office equipment in the electorate offices of all members.
In the short time left to me, I turn to a matter which usually gets an airing during the Estimates debate. It relates to the working conditions of Commonwealth car drivers. As I have mentioned, this subject usually gets an airing- I am not playing on words- in the Estimates debate. I am referring to air conditioning for all Commonwealth cars in the pool, whichever State they may be in, even Tasmania. All Commonwealth cars should have air conditioning installed in them. The driver may spend 10 to 14 hours in his car when weather conditions are such that stress and discomfort are extreme during the summer months. I do not understand cars and I do not know anything about them, but I believe we have even reached the absurd situation where the standard fitting of a radio in a particular car which was purchased for use in the Commonwealth pool was removed. A black panel was put in the radio’s place because the rule says that no Commonwealth car should have a radio unless it is a ministerial-type car. That is the sort of absurdity at which I think we need to look.
I conclude my remarks by corning back to the efficiency of members and the way in which they operate within their electorates. At the moment, I think we are being completely hamstrung by the type of bureaucratic irrelevancy which is introduced into maintaining equipment in a first class order and into maintaining offices so that they can function in the way in which most modern offices should function in 1 978.
-I should like to confine my remarks to the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services. I should like to concentrate my remarks on the Property and Survey Division of the Department of Administrative Services. Honourable members may not be aware of the enormous influence the Australian Government has on urban development. If it wants to use that influence it can improve development in urban and regional areas. During the last six months when I was Minister for Urban and Regional Development, the Property and Survey Division was transferred to the Department of Urban and Regional Development. I was able to see the importance of that section at first hand. In some respects, I was aware of the planning policies of that division. One must realise that the Commonwealth Government uses about 500,000 square feet of office space each year and needs about another 500,000 square feet of office space each year to upgrade its office accommodation. If the use of such space is planned in the correct manner the influence on the development of our cities is enormous.
I believe that the Government has a commitment to work in co-operation with both the State and local authorities. The Government will have an enormous influence on the development of major cities. The sad situation is that market forces have determined the development of our major cities. Market forces have generally caused the over-development of the central business districts of our capital cities. These market forces have caused a great deal of problems for local government authorities, particularly in relation to the transport systems in our capital cities. When we were in government we held discussions with all State governments and we made a great deal of progress with two conservative State governments. Those two conservative State governments were the New South Wales Liberal Government and the Victorian Liberal Government. In Melbourne alone, a study found that there were 18,000 Commonwealth public servants too many in the central business district of Melbourne. It was thought that those public servants should be dispersed either to what were called sub-metropolitan areas or, in some cases, to growth centres like Albury-Wodonga and Geelong. Basically, they are the two areas to which public servants would have been moved if they had been moved from metropolitan Melbourne.
Many public servants would have been transferred to areas that were agreed upon in joint discussions between the Australian and Victorian governments. The proposal was that we should develop areas such as Sunshine, Broadmeadows, Watsonia, Epping and the Dandenongs in progressive stages. Suggestions were made that the number of Commonwealth public servants to be transferred would differ in each area. In some cases 1,000 public servants could be transferred, but in other cases as many as 3,000 could be transferred. That would have improved the situation in many ways.
I should like to refer firstly to the public transport system. An inter-relationship between transport and correct town planning would help a great deal. At present, because of the free market forces in the central business district of the city, the trams, buses and trains in Melbourne are empty when they leave the city in the mornings, but, of course, they come back in packed. The reverse situation applies in the evening. If we develop a city- we had made arrangements with the Victorian planning authorities to develop our nodes or sub-metropolitan centres- we would not only provide job opportunities for public servants living on the fringes of those cities but also provide job opportunities by building the office blocks to house those public servants. They were not to be just places of isolation where public servants were housed. Within those office buildings we were going to have cultural facilities, social faculties and other amenities. In the Sydney situation we proposed to develop the Parramatta site. At that site we were going to house 4,500 public servants and within that building there was going to be at least a quarter of a million square feet of shop space- in other words, the boutiques, clothing shops, and so on- a post office and, above all, theatres and cultural centres. We were constructing these buildings on the fringes of cities. We were not only giving job opportunities to workers generally but also making available greater cultural facilities in those areas.
It seems to me that the Commonwealth Government could give the lead in this regard. It has not only enormous control over its own public servants but also influence over the statutory authorities that come under the Commonwealth. Some examples are the Australian Telecommunications Commission, the Australian Postal Commission, the Commonwealth Bank, TransAustralia Airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd, just to mention a few. Again I stress that it is important that these things be taken into consideration.
Yesterday the very important report of the Committee of Inquiry into Housing Costs was tabled in this chamber. The report states that a department should be set up, not only in the Commonwealth context but also in the State context. Recommendation 2 of the report states:
Each State should establish a Ministerial portfolio responsible for urban and housing policy in its fullest sense. The Minister would have the primary task of co-ordinating the activities of other related portfolios with responsibility for issues affecting urban needs and the urban environment and for liaison with other levels of government and the private sector.
I believe that that department would be the counterpart of the old Department of Urban and Regional Development. I believe that the Property Section should not be in the Department of Administrative Services but should be in the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. We need such a weight, such a punch, in influencing the development of our urban communities in such a body as the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development.
The sad situation is that, rather than entering into what I believe to be co-operative federalism and working in co-operation with State authorities and local authorities so that our capital cities and provincial cities can become rational places in which to live, this Government has withdrawn and said: ‘That is a State responsibility’. I believe that in urban living one cannot divorce oneself. The situation that I described in regard to dispersed places in Melbourne should apply in respect of Sydney. We stopped the Woolloomooloo development in which the previous Government had proposed to build an office building for some 15,000 Commonwealth public servants. In its place we were going to build in areas such as Parramatta, Campbelltown and Penrith. Of course, the same principle was involved- to try to make the city a rational place, to give job opportunities on the fringes of the city and, particularly, to make transport more rational in the capital cities. I urge the Government to reassess its administrative arrangements and to transfer the Property Section to the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In the time allotted for my speech this evening I intend to address myself to the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services. I wish to talk, firstly, about two small matters that appear in the estimates- small in terms of expenditure but important in community terms- and then to move on to a third point. The first of the small matters has to do with the flags, recordings and royal portraits for which provision has been made. I notice that last year $16,300 was appropriated for these items, although it does not appear to have been spent. This year a considerably larger sum- $50,000- has been appropriated. There seem to have been some delays in making available the recordings of the national anthem and the national song and I trust that those delays will be overcome shortly. In general, I support and commend the making available of flags, recordings and royal portraits.
In saying that, I am not being jingoistic. I suggest in all seriousness that those small provisions from the Commonwealth offer one small opportunity to enable our young people to develop an affection for our nation and its institutions. Indeed, I suggest that the Government can do more here. There is a need to foster in young people a reasonable understanding of the Constitution and the institutions of the country. In later life this might lead to a proper and necessary regard and concern for the nation and its institutions, particularly the institution of parliament. In my opinion there is too little regard held in the broad community at large for this Parliament. By many it is regarded as a plaything of politicians of doubtful worth, and its importance as the constitutional, democratic instrument of the people themselves is not well enough understood. I believe that the Government would do well to consider ways of informing the people better about this institution and assisting young people to appreciate the necessity for it.
The second small point to which I referred is the projected appropriation of funds for the bicentenary celebrations. I notice that this year a sum of $41,000 has been set aside for that purpose. I simply draw attention to it as I believe that it is important for the community at large to have its attention drawn to the fact that our bicentenary celebrations will be upon us soon, in fact in 1988. 1 am pleased that funds have been made available and that plans are in hand to begin the important celebrations. I point out to the community at large that no doubt it will take the full eight to ten years to plan properly fitting celebrations for the bi-centenary of this country.
The third point that I draw from the estimates is a rather more substantial point in money terms, and that is the expenditure planned on rent for various government departments. This is a very large item of expenditure. In fact, some $60m is being appropriated just for this item. I would like to offer a suggestion as to how we might change the way in which we are spending that rent money to the betterment of the Commonwealth as a whole. To do that it will be useful for me to describe the situation I know best. That is the situation in the city of Townsville which is the base of my electorate. This will give an excellent example of how we can slightly change the direction of this rent to the betterment of the community and the good of the Commonwealth. Townsville is the tenth city of the nation. Outside the six metropolitan areas and the larger cities which are relatively close to those metropolitan areas it can be justly said that Townsville is the largest decentralised centre in Australia. Indeed, its population these days is something like 100,000. Townsville itself encompasses a wide range of activities. It has copper and nickel refining; a railhead and a port; a meat works; growing and widespread light industry and commercial interests; and large defence establishments. It offers significant tertiary education services in the form of the university, technical and further education and a college of advanced education.
In addition to that both the State and Commonwealth governments recognise Townsville as an administrative centre not just for the city itself but also for the whole of northern Queensland, which it services. From the Commonwealth’s point of view virtually the whole range of Commonwealth services are housed there, including the Australian Taxation Office for the whole of north Queensland, the Commonwealth Employment Service and an office of the Department of Social Security. So one could go through the whole range of Commonwealth activities which are included there. The accommodation which is offered to Commonwealth public servants in Townsville is inadequate to say the least. There is one main building which is now quite old, beyond real modernisation and outdated. There are also a number of war-time buildings; that is what they are and how best they can be described. As for the rest of the accommodation, the premises are rented, no doubt at considerable expense.
The Commonwealth has a plan for its own building in the future. It owns land near the centre of the city in a very good position indeed. There is a need for a new office block to house Commonwealth public servants because of the scattered and largely inadequate nature of the rental accommodation presently offered. At the same time, bearing in mind the decentralised nature of the city, there would be a contribution to the local economy if some sort of building activity for Commonwealth public servants were embarked upon. But of course as far as capital expenditure is concerned we recognise the constraints of the moment. The suggestion that I would offer is this: Bearing in mind that the Commonwealth owns the land there, is it not possible for the Commonwealth to call tenders for the erection by private enterprise of a building on that land under the terms of a building lease with provisions for a sub-lease back to the Commonwealth over the appropriate length of time, say, 20 years? This sort of arrangement can be made by government and statutory authorities. It has been done in the city of Townsville itself.
A number of advantages flow from this sort of activity. In the first place, from the Commonwealth’s point of view there would not be a need for capital expenditure at this point. Secondly, the sub-lease back arrangement can offer the Commonwealth the right of acquisition at the end of the lease or at some time within the period of the lease. The advantage of that is that when funds become available the Commonwealth could buy in the future at present values. A third advantage, of course, is that that sort of arrangement would permit the immediate injection of building funds- capital funds- into the city of Townsville. As I say, that is an example of what could happen in other places. A fourth advantage is fairly obvious, of course, and that is that it would enable the Commonwealth, which uses Townsville as a very large administrative centre in its operations in north Queensland, to offer adequate and proper accommodation to all those employees of government who work in the city of Townsville. This sort of arrangement, I would suggest, has significant and important possibilities. As I say, I use the city of Townsville as an example of how widely it can be adopted no doubt in other areas. I would commend that suggestion for the serious consideration of the Government.
-At the outset of this debate on the Estimates there is just one point I would like to raise. It seems somewhat farcical to me, when we in the chamber debate the Estimates and make our contributions in which we put forward various propositions both for and against the various sums which have been allocated in the Estimates, that the appropriate Minister is not present. I think that the very least that honourable members of this chamber could expect is that the Minister responsible for the particular department be present in the chamber at the time when the
Estimates are discussed. The discussion of the Estimates is one of the functions of the Estimates committees in the other place, commonly called the Senate. However, when we make a serious contribution towards the Estimates of this Parliament I think that at the very least the Minister concerned could be present. Not only should he be present but also he should make a contribution to the various remarks put forward by the various honourable members.
Having said that, I must say that I sympathised with the honourable members for McMillan (Mr Simon) when he recounted the somewhat horrendous problems of his secretary in trying to perform, through the Department of Administrative Services, such a large task as the replacement of a broken-down typewriter. I could recount in a similar vein the procedures through which I had to go a couple of weeks ago when I moved from my old electorate office to another office about ISO yards further down the road. I think I could write not only a chapter but also a whole book which would be a better seller than some of Fred Daly’s books. My secretary and I went through horrendous adventures in trying to get such simple things as a set of curtains or a sign. From the day I ordered it, it took 8Vi weeks to get a sign to announce to the populace in my electorate that I had moved to a new office. It took 8Vi weeks to get that sign to announce the fact that I was actually in existence at that new office.
As for the set of curtains, I was almost at the stage of getting my wife to buy the curtain material and to make them up herself because it took seven weeks and four days to get the set of curtains put into my office. The purpose of the curtains was not to block out the sunlight but to give my constituents a certain amount of privacy. I do not know whether the reason given to me by the officers of the Department as to why they could not get me a new set of curtains but only a second hand set of curtains which had to be dry cleaned and altered is true, but I accept it as true because they were fairly senior officers of the Department. They told me that no money has been allocated this year for such things as office equipment and curtains for the offices of members of Parliament other than for those honourable members who have their offices in the capital cities. That seems ridiculous to me but apparently it is so. This is something I would like the Minister to have a look at because it seems absolutely ridiculous to me. If no money is allowed in this Budget for repairs and general maintenance in the offices of members of parliament, equipment and such things as curtains, tables and chairs will go to rack and ruin. Not only will they not be repaired but they will also collapse.
I remember one occasion which brought about a form of temper on my part. About 18 months ago I was interviewing a constituent and in my office was a chair which I had tried for eight weeks to get picked up and repaired. The constituent sat on the chair and it almost collapsed. I am afraid that my patience gave way and after the constituent had walked out the next thing that my secretary heard was a great amount of rumbling and noise coming from my office. It was me jumping on that chair and finally making sure that it was absolutely useless for any constituent to sit on in the future. She thought that I had gone berserk. Possibly I had but it was an example of the frustration I had felt at not being able even to get a chair picked up and repaired through the Department of Administrative Services.
Let me deal with another matter on a very serious vein in regard to the Department’s estimates. I notice that the appropriation in 1978-79 for rent, office and other accommodation of Government departments amounts to the huge sum of $60,190,000. The expenditure on this item last year- in 1977-78- amounted to $51,082,651. The appropriation this year represents a substantial increase of some $9m over the expenditure last year. The thought surely must come into everybody’s mind: Why is the Australian Government paying out such a large amount of money in rent when it could be and should be building its own office accommodation particularly in the outer suburban areas of Sydney? I noted that the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Dean) mentioned the city of Townsville also. I can see no reason why all the Government departments should not be centralised in one building in the outer suburban area of Sydney. It would not be a huge complex but it would be one large building.
I cite as an example the Hurstville area represented by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly). It is also portion of my electorate. I cite the growth centres of Bankstown, Parramatta and Campbelltown. Would it not be more intelligent for the convenience of the residents of the area to have the departments centralised in one building? I include all the Commonwealth departments and preferably all the State government departments. It would be a huge complex but not necessarily as large or as ornate as the Russell defence headquarters which manages the defence of this nation. I understand that there are about three people at Russell for every man in the defence forces. Yesterday I quoted Parkinson’s Law. We start off with one man and next thing we know we have a department. I seriously suggest that active consideration should be given to the centralising of all government departments, not only the Australian Government departments but also the State government departments.
How much more convenient would it be for the people of Australia if this were done? After all, our constituents are the people who pay our salaries. The taxpayers- they are our constituents- put us here to represent them. How much more convenient would it be for them to be able to go into one building and find in that building the offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service, the Department of Social Security, the Federal members’ rooms, the divisional returning officer and Telecom. When a constituent was dissatisfied with the results he has received from any of those departments, he could just march straight in to the Federal member’s rooms. He would not have to go marching down the street to some other building. Quite frankly, this is one of the roles of the Federal member of parliament. I say this advisedly as a person who has spent 34 years in the Commonwealth Public Service: It is extremely difficult for a person to break through that front counter. Even now, as a member of parliament, I would hate to have to go to that front counter of many of the Government departments and try to break through. I find it difficult enough as a member of parliament when speaking on the telephone to break through to the parliamentary liaison officer. I well remember telephoning one of the government departments. I have always said, ‘My name is Vince Martin, M.P.’. The girl answering the telephone said, ‘M.P.- what are you- a military policeman?’ I said, ‘No, love; I happen to be a member of parliament’. She said, Oh, a member of parliament’. I did not get very much further even when she said that. For that reason, I say it is most important that we should try to centralise all the Government departments in one building. Arrangements could be made and should be made with the State government departments so that we assist the people of Australia- our constituents- with the problems that they have. Surely we can do that by having the departments centralised in one building.
I wish to speak briefly about the conveyance of members of parliament and others, the appropriation for which is set out in division 140.3 of the Estimates in the Appropriation Bill (No. 1). The appropriation for this division in 1978-79 is $4,300,000 with an amount of $4,1 19,000 being spent last year. I suggest that the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) look at the blatant overcharging which is taking place, particularly by hire car drivers, in the charges they are making for the conveyance of members of Parliament and others. I raised this matter with the previous Minister for Administrative Service. He threw the responsibility back to the member of Parliament who was using the vehicle. It is not our responsibility to either spy or check on over what period the charges are incurred. I feel that the Department itself has a responsibility to see that blatant overcharging is not taking place, particularly by hire car drivers. This is not the responsibility of members of Parliament.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -The honourable member’s time has expired.
-There are a few matters in these estimates for the Department of Administrative Services and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet that should concern all honourable members. The first one with which I wish to deal is the adequacy of the protection of the Parliament. This relates to the estimates for Commonwealth Police services and, therefore, is relevant to this division of the Estimates. For example, it is disturbing to note in the Estimates that an amount of $55,000 has been allocated for the current year on top of the $ 178,000 which was expended last year on compensation for business affected by security arrangements. That related to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting in Sydney. I presume that a large part of that expenditure relates to the closing of various businesses after the bomb blast. The consequences of that bomb blast had the Meeting taken place on the other side of the hotel and had the bomb gone off at a different time, naturally would have been even more disastrous than they were. It was bad enough that people were killed.
It concerns me, when I look at these estimates and recall another incident that occurred in the chamber this afternoon, that the security arrangements clearly are inadequate. That people so far have thrown only leaflets from the visitors ‘ gallery is something for which we should all be very grateful. I must express my concern that the sorts of security arrangements that exist in overseas parliaments do not appear to have been extended to our Parliament. In that context, I am concerned that there appears to be a great degree of resistance to the proposition that members of Parliament should co-operate with the security arrangements made in terms of passes and so on. I have heard continual complaints, particularly from some members of the Opposition, about the requirement that people visiting them should be cleared and pass through a form of checking which strikes me as being absolutely essential in view of the extraordinary atmosphere of hatred that unfortunately is being generated now in the political arena. When we hear comments even from such people as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) about a Prime Minister in terms of personal likes and dislikes, a sort of emotional approach to politics is generated which I think is inappropriate.
My strong view is that there has been some kind of a spin-off from the violent words of politicians into the violent deeds of people. I regard that link as a very direct one. I think that the people who are urging and who have urged the citizens of this nation to maintain their rage, to maintain their anger or who have made other sorts of curious admonitions relating to violent action will inevitably encourage and have inevitably encouraged the exercise of brutal power and brutal force in our community. I suppose that brings us to the fact that the Commonwealth Police appropriation has increased from an expenditure of $28. 3m last financial year to $36. 7m this year. That is a substantial increase. One wonders to what extent that amount will be sufficient if, in fact, the climate and atmosphere of hatred being generated in politics and by politicians among the people continues to develop. We must ensure that mob rule, mob violence and mob emotions are not effectively whipped up by some people for political purposes in such a way that the very institution of this Parliament, for example, could be endangered.
May I now move from the matter of my concern about the maintenance of consitutional law as established in the courts, by traditions and by a Constitution, to another matter relating to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I am very pleased to see the substantial increase in funds allocated to the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman which is there to assist in the democratic process. Of course, it will be operating for a full year this year compared with its partial activities last year. It seems to me to be essential that in any fast growing bureaucratic system as ours is there must be access by the people to an ombudsman or similar person who has the power and the right to protect the individual against big government. Whilst this Government’s policy is against the concept of big government there is no doubt, as the proposed appropriations indicate, that more and more money is being spent by government. Admittedly the size of the bureaucracy has fortunately been reduced under the present Government which is rather a pleasant change from the headlong rise under the previous Government.
– Nowhere near enough.
-The honourable member says: Nowhere near enough’. I thank him and I totally support him in this matter. I hope that the co-operative federalism, which involves the States in accepting their fair share of responsibility, will mean that the duplication of services in both the Federal and State Government Public Services will steadily continue to be removed so that the number of bureaucrats who are involved in the business of government should be effectively diminished. I have no objection to the principle of bureaucracy, and the crack has been made that some of my best friends are bureaucrats. I take the view that no matter how efficient and effective the bureaucracy is there is always a need for an ombudsman. In that sense I am concerned that the parallel ombudsman for the defence forces has I think still not been appointed in a permanent sense. I think someone is acting in a temporary capacity as the defence forces ombudsman. I urge that the Government, which is quite properly expressing its concern for the people by substantially increasing the allocation for the Commonwealth Ombudsman, should mirror that concern in regard to the defence forces by resolving speedily the problem relating to the defence forces.
May I end with one simple point, and that is by looking at that section of these estimates dealing with overseas trips because we continue to hear much about overseas trips and the enormous expenditure on them. I want to draw the attention of the Committee to an historical event which is recorded in this year’s Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1978-79 at page 21. 1 am certain the Committee will be interested to note that this name is appearing for the last time in this context. The entry ‘Mr E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., M.P.- 1978’ appears under the item headed Visits Abroad of Ministers . . . and Others’. The total expenditure shown, I must say, is only $32,171.
– For whom?
-The man’s name is E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., M.P. I raise it simply because I think it is unfortunate that so many people have decided to have a crack at the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about the cost of overseas trips. I simply suggest that overseas visits by the present Prime Minister which cost a small fraction of the cost of those trips by the previous
Prime Minister- $500,000 was spent on one trip -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In reply to the final remarks by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume), on these estimates the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), I think it was, mentioned we do not oppose overseas trips per se for responsible Ministers and Prime Ministers, but we like to see some return from them for Australia in respect of results from foreign countries. At least the name ‘E. G. Whitlam’ still commands a good deal more respect than the name of the present Prime Minister does overseas. I want to deal with another matter that the honourable member for Macarthur dealt with, and that is the question of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. I too welcome this service. I do think that members of Parliament will be faced with some crises in judgment in advising their constituents on problems. Only in the last couple of days we have seen reports of guidelines relating to access by members of Parliament to public servants and officers of statutory authorities. I guess that if we read them one could, being hypercritical, say that this is some sort of restriction on members. I am not sure that they are in fact restrictions.
– If they are carried out they will be totally restrictive.
– They could be totally restrictive, and I think this is one of the fears that we have. In my electorate there is a large element of social worker problems which have to be taken up with Department ‘s.
– A very fine electorate.
– It is a very fine electorate. Over the years I have managed to get quite reasonable replies by not asking for ministerial decisions and so on but by going to senior officers in the departments who have been courteous and who have handled the majority of cases very well. There are of course matters which are beyond their control and which involve policy. One then has to approach the Minister for an answer. I am a bit concerned whether at that stage a member makes a judgment to press for a ministerial decision or whether it might be better to utilise the Commonwealth Ombudsman in view of the powers that he has to view files and papers. I can see that this is a matter that members will have to consider seriously. I suppose that each member will have to form his own individual guidelines according to his experience. I offer this warning:
We do need to watch the guidelines which are given to public servants and the guidelines dealing with how we refer matters to the Ombudsman himself.
I would like now to turn to the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services to reinforce the plea made by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) in regard to the question of detail on expenditure items. I refer to item 09, subdivision 2 of division 130 at page 14 of the Bill. The item relates to fees for private surveying services, consultants and parttime members of committees. The proposed appropriation involves well over $lm. It has very vague terminology to describe what the funds are used for and one could be a bit facetious and ask what are the private surveying services. Are they surveying land, buildings or public opinion? Who are the consultants? What are the committees? Who are the part-time members of the committees referred to in this item under Administrative Expenses of the Department of Administrative Services? I think we need to have a look at the form in which the Estimates are put forward. The Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland), who is at the table, would be interested in this matter because he is a previous chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure. A number of these issues are relevant to the operations of that committee.
I turn to the question of the Australian Property Services of the Department of Administrative Services. One of the things that concerns me is that I do not think enough attention has been paid in the properties we acquire to access for the disabled. Australian standard design code 1428 of 1977 outlines design rules for access by the disabled in new buildings. I make a plea that we pay more attention to this aspect not only when constructing new public buildings but also in how older buildings conform, whether or not they are government buildings. To give an example of what I am talking about I point out that I know that Parliament House does not come into this category. If we look at the front of the House we see a sign which states that there is access for the disabled at the sides of the House where there are ramps rather than steps. So persons in wheelchairs can get into the House along those ramps rather than by the steps. Such a person can move from floor to floor by lift. But when one starts to wander around these corridors of power or intrigue- whatever one likes to call them- every here and there one finds a couple of steps, a series of steps and all sorts of obstructions which make it pretty impossible for a disabled person to move around the House. I think we should show some consideration for them. Only last night I noticed a disabled gentleman sitting in the visitors gallery upstairs. He had extreme difficulty in handling himself out of the lower seat. I think that a lot of consideration has to be given to this design code by Property Services.
A couple of honourable members in this debate on the Estimates have referred to honourable members’ electoral offices. I inhabit a very good office which has ample space and equipment. I am one who has chosen to have the two staff allowed to me work in my electorate. Unfortunately, not only did the redistribution of last year increase the size of my electorate from 40 square kilometres to 609 square kilometres- that is not terribly large but it is still a great relative increase- but also it placed the electoral office some two kilometres out of the electorate. When we inquire about the availability of electoral offices we are told that there are bounds with regard to area, alterations and so on. These are fairly rigidly applied. I think it is about time that the Department of Administrative Services reviewed this matter. A new factor has come in and that is that a number of honourable members now have two members of staff in their electoral office because they feel that they serve their constituents best that way. If we are to have three people occupying an office we should have standards and conditions that are worthwhile for the member and his staff. Honourable members need to have a place for the storage of their files. The equipment needs a place to operate properly and there needs to be a reasonable area in which honourable members can deal with individuals and delegations who visit them.
The other considerations are that suitable properties are not always easy to get, particularly when one has a diversity of transport methods to get to an area and no clearly defined centre. If we rigidly define the number of square feet and what can be done to alter an electoral office, and if we do not take into consideration the factor of whether an honourable member is using two members of staff or one and a number of the other things that have intruded, we get a most unsatisfactory position. I trust that the new Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) will have a look at those guidelines and review them with a view to taking these other factors into account.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-For a few moments I shall say a few words about the services which we receive. I put on record- not to cause any upset in the debate- that I have had the most beneficial co-operation from the Department of Administrative Services in creating my new electoral office. It would be useful if, from time to time, honourable members would pay some tribute to the Department because of what they have received. I put the situation quite clearly. The other Parliament from which I come gave members no electoral office. There was no car. There were no secretaries. Honourable members in this Parliament are extremely fortunate in that they are able to rely on a government department to provide them with a number of extremely valuable services. During the parliamentary recess I visited the car pool belonging to the Department of Administrative Services in Melbourne. I went there as a private member to see whether there were any problems at that car pool which could be properly improved.
As a result of that visit I came to the conclusion that the tests with liquid petroleum gas which were carried out by the Government car pool and by the Department were unsatisfactory. The Government cars had been transferred completely to the use of liquid petroleum gas. The drivers at the car pool were then asked whether they thought these cars were of any value and whether the changeover to LP gas was of any advantage. Naturally anybody who is put in a Government car which is using just LP gas comes to the conclusion that he does not know where he will be able to refill the car. Although the tests were satisfactory in one way they were not approved of by those who did the tests. I suggest that the car pool carry out a futher set of tests and use the same system used by the Melbourne taxis. The Government car pool should use a tank of petrol and LP gas together. There is no problem about this. I suggest that this is one way to have a most enormous saving in the use of petrol.
I agree that if a driver is supposed to go to Wangaratta, and the car is using LP gas, the question is where will he refill his car. I agree with the drivers I met at the car pool that it would be better if the Government car pool had interchangeable tanks. I would say that those I interviewed at the Government car pool in Melbourne would be extremely dissatisfied if I did not let the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) know their views and opinions and my discoveries when I went there. I suggest that it is a complete waste of time not to have proper car cleaning equipment installed in Melbourne. I support other honourable members who have suggested that most of the cars should have air conditioning. Those are three simple things that should be done.
– The Department spent $50 taking out of the cars $30 radios that were in them when they were bought.
– Is that not a ridiculous situation to have occurred? I am very sorry; I tried to support the Government to the best of my ability but there are three things that I suggest this car pool should have. Firstly, it should have LP gas in tanks. Secondly, there should be proper cleaning equipment for all cars, and, thirdly, all government cars should have air conditioning. I am glad to have had this opportunity to support those who work in the government car pool and to thank them for all they do for us. I think it is only polite that honourable members should say that they are all very grateful for the work of the Department and particularly for those who work in the government car pool service.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of the Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $233,067,000.
Department of Finance
Proposed expenditure, $25,379,000.
Advance to the Minister for Finance
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 25,000,000.
– I wish to support the attitude expressed in this chamber tonight by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). He made the point very validly that the full details of the Estimates are not submitted to this chamber, although they are submitted to the Senate, and that if we want a copy of them we have to go on bended knee and virtually purloin one from the Senate in order to find out the full details of the funds expended by this Government. This is the chamber in which the Budget is introduced and in which the Estimates are introduced; so surely it is common sense and sound government to have the details of the Estimates supplied to us.
I also want to deal with the extraordinary loss of revenue which is occurring with regard to the Department of Finance and the impact this is having upon the policies of the Treasury as well. Unfortunately, at present a lobby is in existence which is bringing a great deal of pressure to bear upon the Government in regard to the foreign tax credits Bill. This legislation has been brought down with the full intent of taxing foreign-source income of Australian resident companies and individuals so as to ensure that there is tax equity. This applies in particular to discourage companies from going off-shore and thereby reducing Australian employment, at this time of very high unemployment in this country.
The other day we heard a question directed to the Treasurer (Mr Howard) by, if I recollect correctly, the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) the answer to which indicated quite clearly that the Government is having second thoughts with regard to this legislation. In other words, the lobbies, particularly the lobbies representing the individuals and companies utilising tax havens overseas, are working. This applies particularly to those companies which have gone off-shore and which have been going off-shore continually but particularly over the last three years because they can get special tax holidays and lower tax rates in other countries. They have no concern whatsoever for their own country. They are concerned purely about the profit or the extra profit they can make and the lower tax they will pay by taking their business overseas. This, of course, is being encouraged by the Government if it goes back on its own word on this very important legislation. It is caving in to the lobbyists who are operating in this Parliament and in the lobbies of this Parliament. They are operating with the express purpose of endeavouring to maintain their present tax evasion or avoidance schemeswhatever one likes to call them.
– The rip-offs.
– As the honourable member for Parramatta says, they are rip-offs. I am very surprised indeed that a person such as the right honourable member for Lowe, who has been in this chamber for so long, would lend himself to these lobbyists who are operating in the corridors of this Parliament.
– But you were a oncer once.
– Whether the honourable member for Eden-Monaro likes it or not, he is a twicer in more ways than one, and everyone knows that. Mr Deputy Chairman, this legislation is a very retrograde step. I think it should be looked at very carefully indeed. Without a doubt, this is a government which at present is claiming great credit for closing tax avoidance loopholes; yet when pressures are applied to the Government it immediately buckles.
Let us look at a few of these schemes. The other day I dealt at length with a particular avoidance scheme, that is, the family trust There can, of course, be genuine family trusts set up for the purpose of protecting the interests of a family as a result of a death in the family, whereby the assets of the parent who died are willed to the children or the grandchildren. Such family trusts can be utterly and completely valid. But the vast majority of the trusts which are being set up in this country today are set up purely for the purpose of income splitting, for tax avoidance purposes. For example, by dividing the income from a property of, say, $60,000, which normally would attract tax at the rate of approximately 60c in the dollar, amongst four members of the family, the income is reduced to $ 1 5,000 for each of those members, which would attract a tax of 15c in the dollar. This is the method used for tax avoidance purposes.
The Treasurer (Mr Howard), in answer to a question from the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) one day as to whether the Government would take action on this, the most blatant tax avoidance scheme in existence, to close up this loophole, said that it was not tax avoidance, it was tax minimisation. Can any member of this chamber tell me the difference between tax avoidance and tax minimisation? What it amounts to is that both of them are simply legalised tax avoidance schemes. The Government knows it exists. It is losing about a thousand million dollars a year because of such loopholes and it will not close them up. Why will it not close them up? It is because too many people on the Government side are indulging in this tax avoidance. That is what is behind it all.
Let us look at a few of the people involved. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony), the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and former Treasurer, with his land deals and family trusts, are all involved in tax avoidance. I have not the slightest doubt that the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party also would be involved in this racket. That is all it can be called. There has been a complete cover-up of it by this Government. Time and time again I have endeavoured to table -
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I take a point of order. Is it in order for the honourable member for Chifley to say this when his own Deputy Leader has a family trust and real estate deals and minimises his own tax?
– That statement is a deliberate lie, and you know it. You are scum.
– Withdraw that.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– That is a lie, and you know it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN-Order! Does the honourable member for St George wish to take a point of order?
- Mr Deputy Chairman, the honourable member for Corio said that I was lying. I ask him to withdraw that. It he wants me to prove what I said, I will.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN-Order! Did the honourable member for Corio accuse the honourable member for St George of lying?
– I just stated a fact, Mr Deputy Chairman; but, in deference to you, I withdraw the remark. I will ask the honourable member for St George to stand up in this chamber during the adjournment debate tonight and prove what he said.
– I have sought leave to table in this Parliament documents resulting from searches of the records of the Corporate Affairs Commission in Victoria which show quite clearly and beyond doubt the activities of the Prime Minister of this country with regard to tax avoidance.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I take a point of order. May I ask the Chair whether the remarks now being made by the honourable member for Chifley have any relevance to the motion before the chamber?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- There is no substance in the point of order. It is a very free and wide-ranging discussion on these appropriations.
– I was dealing with losses of revenue and that relates to the estimates for the Department of Finance and for the Treasury. These obvious attempts to interrupt this debate tonight by taking points of order are another example of an attempt by the forces in this Government, because of its corruption and its dishonesty, to have another cover-up. They are frightened that the real facts will be brought out in this Parliament. The facts are that leading members of this Government are tied up in this ramp. It is time that that ramp was ended. It is time that this Government took action to legislate against this tax avoidance ramp.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond)- Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I shall report progress.
Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-The matter that I raise tonight concerns employees of the Government. I refer to the operation of the compensation legislation that covers Commonwealth employees and in particular those people who have long-term injuries and are off work for over six months. At present the employee receives full pay for the first six months but once that period is up his weekly payment drops considerably. These rates have been increased only once since 1974, when the Labor Government increased them. Prior to that date, the Labor Government had tried to bring in more comprehensive compensation legislation to cover its employees but of course it was defeated in the Senate by the Liberal Party and National Country Party senators. Subsequently Labor took the opportunity of increasing the rates to what were more appropriate rates at that time. Those rates continued for another 12 months.
In 1975 the then Labor Government introduced another Bill that would have increased the rates to what would have been more applicable at that time. The rates were then $57 a week for the injured person, $ 1 5 a week for his wife and $7 a week for each child. That Bill which was drafted by the Labor Government was one of the Bills that lay on the table when the Kerr coup took place. The result was that that legislation never came before the House and of course those people missed out on an increase to which they should have been entitled. When the present Government came to power in 1975 the recipients of long-term compensation had to wait another 12 months before any move was made to adjust their weekly payments. Nothing further was done until October 1976 when a Bill was introduced which made increased payments retrospective to, I think, 1 September. It increased payments to $80 a week for the employee, $21 a week for his wife and $10 a week for each child. The compensation recipients went from 1974 to 1976 without any adjustment in the amount of weekly payments.
It is now 1978 and it does not appear that these rates will be adjusted this year. That means that they have gone a further two years without any adjustment in their rates of pay. I have written to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) on this matter. I have raised it in the House on a couple of occasions and, up to date, I have had no response. The Minister replied that the matter would be considered in the context of the Budget. Quite obviously it has not been included in the Budget. The Government appears to be reluctant to introduce legislation to adjust the amount of compensation payable to these people. If legislation is not introduced this year to effect an increase it will mean that these people will have gone three years without any adjustment whatsoever having been made. These are people who are on long-term compensation. Most of them have back injuries and injuries from which they suffer considerable pain all the time. Most of these people worked for wages.
I come in close contact with a great number of these people. Many of them were employed either by Telecom Australia on line gangs or by Australia Post. Most of them were employees of the Australian National Railways. A vast majority of the Australian National Railways employees who are suffering these injuries were fettlers and people who were employed in jobs in which there is more risk of injury to their person. These people have now been waiting for two years for an increase in their rates of payment. From the Budget it does not appear as though the increase will be forthcoming this year. There was no mention whatsoever in the Budget of any alteration. I feel that the Government should adopt a more humane attitude to these people.
The Government should take a close look at this matter with the object of ensuring that the rates of payment these people receive are increased. I quoted the rates earlier: They are $80 a week for the employee, $2 1 a week for the wife and $10 a week for each child. That means that a man with a wife and two children receives $121 a week. That payment is made to an employee of the Government who has been injured at work and is off work for a considerable time. I earnestly ask the Government and the Minister to have a close look at this matter. If something is not done it will certainly not be to the Government’s credit.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) challenged me to make certain statements in support of a matter that I put to the House by way of interjection a short time ago. He was asked to withdraw his comments about me. The comment that I have made was that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) has a family trust, that he has been involved in land deals and that he has minimised his tax. In response to the invitation of the honourable member for Corio, I want to outline from the published material the matters that have been admitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I do not intend to mount an attack on him. It is not a substantive motion and I do not intend to offend the Standing Orders.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member for St George has just said that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition admitted that he was a tax minimiser. This remark reflects upon the integrity of another member of the House. It is unparliamentary and should be ruled out of order. It is only a scabby attack upon another member and it should be ruled out of order.
-Order! The Chair is attentive of the particular requirement that any reflection on a member be made by way of a substantive motion. It is difficult to assess at this stage whether the situation is consequential or whether it is one of intent. The honourable member for St George may proceed, but I remind him that if by inference he reflects upon any member of this House, I will be required to call him to order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member for St George has already said that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was seeking to minimise his tax through some device. That is already a reflection which he should be made to withdraw.
-Order! There is no substance to the point of order.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In debate a couple of months ago you called me to order for doing precisely what the honourable member for St George is doing. Last week in this House I was called to order by a Deputy Speaker from the Government side of the House on the grounds that a substantive motion should be moved. This is precisely the same point which the honourable member for Blaxland has raised. Is there one law for one person and a different law for another person?
-Order! The Chair has ruled that the remarks of the honourable member for St George to this point do not constitute a reflection on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, there is nothing wrong in itself in having a family trust, which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does. There is nothing wrong in itself in being involved in land deals, which he has agreed that he has been. There is nothing wrong in itself in minimising tax, the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. I have been challenged and the matters are quite clear on the public record. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s tax return for the last financial year has been made available in public -
-I rise to order. This arises from a debate in which I made certain remarks earlier tonight.
Honourable members interjecting
-Order! The House will come to order.
– In that speech I compared the difference between tax avoidance and income splitting. I made the point that there are genuine family trusts, and that is the very type of genuine family trust that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has. The type of family trust I was referring to was the family trust concerned with income splitting and tax avoidance. That is a different thing.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s tax return for 1976-77 has an entry next to the words that require the form to set out details of the separate net income of each child. That entry reads: ‘See Bowen family trust’. That is a tax return of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition produced by him in public, presumably signed by him or presumably signed by his accountants or lawyers or certainly on his behalf. It says: ‘See Bowen family trust’. The only way, if there be any doubt at all, that one can get further into the matter is for that tax return of the family trust to be produced in public. That has not been done. I repeat that it says: ‘See Bowen family trust’. When the honourable member discussed this matter in this House on previous occasions he said: ‘I did not have a trust company’. But a family trust does not need a company. It can be an individual trustee. It can have a company as a trustee. But the tax return says: ‘See Bowen family trust’. Where is the tax return of the Bowen family trust? That is what we want to know.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I move: That the honourable member be granted an extension of time.
-The motion is not acceptable.
– I have to defend myself. The honourable member for St George -
– What about the tax return?
-I am prepared to disclose that tax return. Also I am giving evidence tomorrow before Sir Nigel Bowen ‘s committee.
-I did last week.
-I am grateful for that. I want the honourable member to know that his Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gave evidence in camera so that it could not be disclosed.
– Tell us about the tax return.
-I am talking about your Prime Minister.
– Talk about yourself.
-He went before the -
-Order! The honourable member for St George has had an opportunity to address this House.
-The honourable member casts enough aspersions. He is a smart little guy -
-I read your tax return out.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for St George to remain silent.
-Just be fair.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for St George to remain silent. If he persists I shall have to deal with him.
-The point that I object to is the statement that I am a tax minimiser. I have gone to a lot of trouble to explain that I have a number of children, some of whom are minors and that they have assets in their own right. The income from those assets is theirs in their own right. That is the point.
– With a trustee.
-The only reason there is a trustee is they are minors. There is a big -
– Why are they on your tax return?
-I warn the honourable member for St George.
-If the honourable member knew something about tax returns he would realise that if I claim for education expenses I have to indicate whether they have a separate form of income and being quite honest about it I said yes, that they have. It is approximately $850 each for four of my children. It is on the return. The point that I want to make to the honourable member is this: There is a big difference between me in that case and someone, such as an adult like the honourable member, getting hold of an option and selling it as a land speculator for a very substantial profit and putting that profit among his wife and children on the basis of a trust company, because that is virtually minimising tax. I just make the point that my children have owned the particular piece of real estate for some six or seven years. They have been paying tax on it at a very high rate. Because there was a mortgage on the land for a period, the Commissioner of Taxation says they are not beneficially entitled and they pay tax at the rate of 50c in the dollar. I think it is pretty poor that the honourable member should raise this matter in the way he has because he has never disclosed any information in respect of his own tax return. He will notice my own -
– What about the shopping centre?
-He will notice that my own tax return discloses that the only income I have is my parliamentary salary. I am asked that everyone discloses his source of income. I know that the honourable member has been involved in a bit of litigation at times and one wonders what sort of income he has from working as a practising barrister while he has been a member here.
– Read my submission.
-Perhaps also he might talk about the legal aid he might have received as a barrister. Let us put it right on the line.
– What about the shopping centre?
-How much money does the honourable member get from a taxpayer when he talks about his income?
– What about the south coast development?
-My sole income is my parliamentary salary.
-What about the flats?
-They happen to be assets. Let us have a look at the honourable member’s assets.
– What about the shopping complex?
-I have disclosed mine; disclose yours. That is the point.
– What about the shopping -
-A11 I want to say is this: We have asked the Prime Minister -
-What about the flats?
-We have asked the Prime Minister to disclose his as well and we particularly want to know what happened to the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) who will not disclose his.
– Seven property holdings?
-I have no objection to the fact that people -
– What about the farm -
-. . . are entitled to talk about their assets and their income because they are in public life.
– What about the loans to the public trustee?
-Is it any wonder that the honourable member is -
-I only want to make the point -
-Order! I name the honourable member for St George.
– I move:
-The question is: That the honourable member be suspended from the services of the House.’ Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no; I think the ayes have it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I suggest that the honourable gentleman might be reasonably given a chance to apologise. The same opportunity was given to a member of the Opposition last week. Unfortunately I was not in the chamber when the honourable gentleman transgressed. I suggest that he apologise to you and perhaps the motion might be withdrawn.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! The Chair is reluctant to be forced into taking the action of naming the honourable member for St George or any honourable member for that matter. But the honourable member for St George has been most persistent in his interjections. If he is prepared to apologise and that apology conveys a genuine desire to observe the Standing Order, I would be prepared to accept it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I apologise and I regret what I have done in respect of your ruling.
-I ask for leave to withdraw the motion relating to the suspension of the honourable member.
Motion- by leave- v.ithdrawn
-Mr Deputy Speaker, my time has expired. I would just like to thank you for your courtesy and consideration. I appreciate what you have done. I wish that other honourable members had the same integrity as you do.
-The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) made a speech during the Grievance Day debate last Thursday on the effects that smoking has on the health of our community. I suggest that this address should be compulsory reading by every Federal and State parliamentarian because it is a most authoritative caution to those people who not only smoke but also promote the habit and the drug. I will not reiterate the arguments of the honourable member but I use his address as a base for my own complaint against those people who would smoke in public places to the inconvenience, annoyance and, to some degree, the health risk of those who are unfortunate enough to share their company or public space at that time.
I draw the attention of the House to the successful complaint in the Parramatta Court of Petty Sessions last April where the defendant was charged and fined for assault for deliberately blowing smoke in the face of another passenger. Although some would claim that those who smoke in public and share their exhaled smoke with others do so unintentionally, I submit that, whilst they may do so without a realisation of the mischief and inconvenience they cause to others, actually the act is deliberate. There are suggestions that the inhaling of smoke exhaled by others is as great as, if not greater than, the health risk to the smoker. My last three years of travel in public transport, meetings in confined rooms and public receptions confirm this to be the situation. In that regard, I believe that my health is at greater risk now than it was three years ago. Whilst not denying any person the right to smoke and risk the threat of lung cancer, I do deny them any right to thrust their afflictions on to me or on to others.
In some cities, for instance in Brisbane, smoking in buses is prohibited. In this chamber, by custom, the addicts are denied the opportunity to smoke. We can take refuge in here because smoking is not allowed in the chamber. Similarly, this practice of denial should be expanded and extended to all public transport and to all public places. As a Federal government, we could commence with the airlines. We could either stop it or seat the smokers to the rear of the aircraft and let them smoke between the burners. At present, there is no discipline. By preventing the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio the Federal Government has recognised the danger to human health. It is a natural extension of this policy to prohibit smoking in public places where the Federal Government has control, such as in air transportation or even in our own car transport pool.
I commend the non-smokers rights movement for trying to mobilise that 70 per cent of Australia’s population which does not smoke but which suffers because of the 30 per cent which does. State governments could clean up their Acts and the air if they proceeded to prohibit smoking in taxis, public transport, lifts, public buildings, or confine those who do smoke to special areas where they can share their exhaust with fellow participants. It is disturbing enough as the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) said that as a civilised race we find people of all ages submitting themselves to this drug. My concern is for those more enlightened people who do not smoke and who should not have to bear the afflictions of others who do.
– I wrote to the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) tonight to advise him that I intend to raise on the adjournment tonight a matter concerning him. I would be interested to know whether the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) did the same with respect to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). The matter I wish to raise concerns the Minister’s dealing in home units on the Gold Coast- more specifically the extraordinarily generous terms he received from QBE Insurance Ltd on a $79,000 loan to finance the purchase last year of the Minister’s home unit in the Golden Gate development at Surfers Paradise. There are two major points.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. It concerns me that we have a person who comes up with stories that deal in filth, muck and guttersniping tactics.
-There is no point of order.
-The facts are these: In November 1977 during the election campaign the Minister was forced -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– You are a twicer.
– Why am I a twicer?
-The honourable member will take his point of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to Standing Order 76 which states:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
I point out that the imputations being made in the present instance by the honourable member for Lalor do not reflect kindly on the Minister about whom he speaks. I believe that this whole speech, the way it is turning out, should be ruled completely out of order.
-The honourable member for Eden-Monaro may be anticipating a reflection. The Chair has not determined that there is a reflection at this point. I trust that the honourable member for Lalor is fully alert to the requirement of the Standing Orders, if he has a mind to reflect on any member of this House.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Is the honourable member for Eden-Monaro taking a point of order.
– Yes. Would it be out of order to ask that you carefully scrutinise what is about to be said so that -
-That is a reflection on the Chair.
-In November 1 977 during the election campaign the Minister was forced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to resign as Treasurer.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I refer you to Standing Order 6 1 which, in part, states:
When two or more Members rise together to speak the Speaker shall call upon the Member who, in his opinion, first rose in his place;
I have been present in the chamber since the beginning of the debate, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have been first on my feet every time.
-The honourable member will not debate the matter.
– That is a frivolous point of order.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat. I am ruling on the point of order. There is no substance to the point of order.
-The purchase of the home unit was on the basis of a loan on extraordinarily favourable terms to the Minister. Firstly, it was a high loan-to-security ratio of 83 per cent, whereas more usual sources of loan funds for this purpose such as banks and finance companies -
– I take a point of order. Standing Order 76 quite clearly states:
All imputations of improper motives and allMr DEPUTY SPEAKER-There is no point of order. I have already ruled on that point.
– I am sorry-
-The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat. I have ruled that there is no point of order. I caution members that there is a penalty attaching to the introduction of specious points of orders.
– Excuse me, Mr Deputy Speaker, on the point of order. I must question your sitting me down before you listened to what I had to say. I was merely going to say -
– I have ruled on the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Seriously, we have Standing Orders and you should hear what I have to say.
– I call the honourable member for Lalor.
-Secondly, the terms of the 1 5-year loan allowed the Minister to pay only interest during the first three years and then 47 quarterly payments of $750 each over the following 12 years. I seek leave of the House to table and incorporate in Hansard the mortgage documents.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I take a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, during the speech of the honourable member for Lalor four minutes out of five minutes were taken up with points of order. All except one were specious. The point of order raised by the honourable member for Tangney was deliberately specious. I put to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that if the Chair allows that type of point of order to be raised we may as well forget the adjournment debate. If the honourable member had read the Standing Order from which he quoted he would know that he could have moved a motion if he disagreed with your ruling.
-There is no substance to the point of order.
– Could I raise a point of order? Before my time expired I sought leave of the House to table and incorporate in Hansard a bill of mortgage.
-The point raised by the honourable member for Lalor is that he sought leave before his dme expired. His request did not come to the notice of the Chair. It is a rather sad reflection on the chamber that there was such a noise level and such disorderly behaviour that a member may have been denied his ordinary rights. The Chair in fact did not hear his request.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I seek leave now to table and incorporate in Hansard the document?
-The honourable member’s time expired. He is therefore denied further opportunity to introduce fresh material.
– Could I seek your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker?
-The honourable member will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Moore.
– I have a letter from QBE Insurance Ltd which granted this loan. The letter states quite clearly that the loan was on normal terms. The letter has been made public and the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) -
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. As the Presiding Officer it is your duty, which indeed you try to fulfil, to be fair to members on both sides of the House. As a result of frivolous points of order being raised the honourable member for Lalor was denied the right to speak for his alloted time. Now redress is to be taken in the debate by Government speakers -
-I ask the honourable member to move specifically to his point of order.
– The point of order is that the honourable member for Bendigo should have been named or sat down.
-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, after the second reading of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 1978, to move-
That the Bill be referred to a legislation committee for report by 28 September 1 978.
Mr Sinclair, after the second reading of the Trade Marks Amendment Bill 1978, to move-
That the Bill be referred to a legislation committee for report by 26 October 1 978.
Mr Sinclair, after the second reading of the Patents Amendment Bill 1 978, to move-
That the Bill be referred to a legislation committee for report by 26 October 1978.
Mr Ellicott, to present a Bill for an Act relating to the remuneration and allowances payable to the holders of certain judicial and other offices, and for other purposes.
Hence this House believes that attempts have been made to frustrate the 1965 agreement, the spirit of the stock exchange rules on change in control of companies and section 26AAA of the Income Tax Assessment Act which provides for the taxation of profits from the resale of assets within 12 months of purchase.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Following consideration of my proposal that a new terminal was necessary at Coolangatta and as a first step towards the scrutiny by the Committee, the Government has authorised the development of the project to a stage where it might be considered by the Public Works Committee.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 7 June 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The provision of concessional travel is a matter for decision by the domestic airlines within their commercial judgments.
In regard to international services, Australia would in any case, be unable to act unilaterally in providing concessions because of the terms of our bilateral air agreements.
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 17 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) High explosives, RDX, TNT and RDX/Tetryl;
The quantities of these products produced by the factory vary from time to time and are dependent on Defence munitions requirements.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The report on the Seminar was published by the Australian Government Publishing Service and disseminated to all participants in the conference, a large number of interested bodies in Australia and overseas and placed on sale through AGPS bookshops.
Since the Seminar a number of States have sought assistance under the Commonwealth’s planning and research legislation to undertake studies on aspects of marketing their public transport services. The following studies have been assisted by the Commonwealth under the Transport (Planning and Research) Act 1974:
In addition, a number of proposals concerning research into marketing of urban public transport services, submitted by the States for Commonwealth assistance under the Transport Planning and Research (Financial Assistance) Act 1 977, are currently under consideration.
Urban public transport marketing proposals involving capital expenditure are eligible to be considered for Commonwealth assistance. No such projects were approved under the 1973-78 Urban Public Transport Agreement. However, with regard to the Commonwealth’s 1978-83 assistance program, 1 am currently considering several marketing projects proposed by States in their 1 978-79 submissions.
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Pancontinental Mining Limited was designated as proponent of the proposed action by the Department of the Northern Territory on 28 September 1 977.
Pancontinental Mining Limited submitted initial information under paragraph 2.1 of the Administrative Procedures on 27 January 1 978.
I directed the preparation and submission to me of an environmental impact statement in relation to this proposal on 13 February 1978.
The draft environmental impact statement was released for public review from 30 May to 30 June 1978.
Nine public comments were received by my Department and forwarded to the Company to be taken into account in the preparation of a final environmental impact statement
The final environmental impact statement was submitted to my Department on 25 July 1978.
My Department conducted an examination of the final environmental impact statement in accordance with paragraph 9. 1 of the Administrative Procedures.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 August 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Wales Department of Technical and Further Education for $18,000 and a Cessna 170 VH-CAS, sold to the Department of National Development for $8,000.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Commissioning and periodic checks of navigation aid installations throughout Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Training and flight proficiency checks of Departmental pilots and operational personnel.
Search and rescue operations.
Assistance in times of national emergency, e.g. flood relief, bush fires, cyclone relief.
The provision of transport and aircraft facilities as required in aircraft accident investigation.
Transport commitments as requested by Department of
Prime Minister and Cabinet or Department of Defence under established arrangements-
Transport of Departmental personnel travelling on duty to points which are served by unsatisfactory alternative methods of transport.
Merlin aircraft and Aero Commander aircraft are used by Central Office and Regional Offices of the Department for similar purposes and for the transport of operational and technical personnel engaged in liaison with and Surveillance of the industry, e.g. Examiners of Airmen, Airworthiness Surveyors.
Beech 35/36 aircraft and Piper PA28 aircraft are used by Regional Offices of the Department for search and rescue flights, transport of operational, technical and accident investigation personnel, periodic checks of airports and training and flight proficiency checking of Departmental pilots and operational personnel.
asked the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 23 August 1 978:
What percentage of the markets for (a) beef and (b) dairy products does Australia currently have in (i) Japan, (ii) Canada, (iii) the United States of America and (iv) the European Economic Community.
– The latest published trade statistics available are for the year 1977. These indicate market shares as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 September 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780920_reps_31_hor110/>.