31st Parliament · 1st Session
The House met at 2. 1 5 p.m.
– I inform the House of the absence of Mr Speaker who is on parliamentary business overseas. In accordance with standing order 14 the Chairman of Committees will take the Chair as Acting Speaker.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Millar) thereupon took the chair, and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of we the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth-
That because this budget will further increase the number of persons unemployed, because it reduces the average worker’s spending power by $ 10 per week, because it will reduce the income of pensioners, because it is unfair in placing a greater burden on the poor rather than the rich, and because it is driving this country into a depression.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government withdraws this budget and provides Australia, within this session of Parliament, with a revised budget that increases the level of economic activity in Australia, lowers unemployment, removes the burdens placed on the disadvantaged, and revives business and consumer confidence in the future of this potentially great country.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen and Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned, having great concern at the way in which children are now being used in the production of pornography call upon the government to introduce immediate legislation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will protect all children and immediately prohibit pornographic child-abuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dobie and Mr Shack.
Broadcasting: Radio 3CR Melbourne
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That radio 3CR Melbourne, be made to adhere to the required standards of broadcasting, as laid down for all other radio stations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will enforce the required standard of broadcasting as laid down for all other stations, on community radio 3CR; call on Federal Government to legislate against incitement to racial hatred and violence.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we believe the Federal Government changes to the health insurance system are unjustified, costly and artificially bureaucratic.
The planned abolition of bulk billing will place an unnecessary burden on the poor and the disadvantaged in our community. The decision to reduce the rebate paid from 85 per cent to 75 per cent of the scheduled fee is an attack on real wages.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should reverse its decisions on these matters and develop proper consultation with the trade unions and the community.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will:
And your petitioners as in d uty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the construction of any additional reactor at the Australian Atomic Energy establishment at Lucas Heights in NSW.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Government has (i) Substantially increased indirect taxes; (ii) Increased personal income tax in this financial year; (iii) Failed to reduce public expenditure; (iv) Withdrawn housing loan interest payments for low income earners and (v) Threatened further taxation impositions.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should urge the Government in this financial year, when income tax collections are expected to rise 12 per cent and incomes only 8 per cent, to reduce public expenditure and reduce the burden of taxation on the taxpayer.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Sir William McMahon.
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:
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 Sinclair.
– ( WannonPrime Minister)- Mr Acting Speaker, I inform the House that the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) left Australia yesterday to attend the Baghdad International Trade Fair and to undertake further trade negotiations in South East Asia and Europe. He is expected to return on 2 1 October. During his absence the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) is acting as Minister for Special Trade Representations. I also inform the House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) will be leaving Australia tomorrow to attend the Tuvalu Independence Day celebrations, to attend the United Nations General Assembly and to have discussions in Europe. He is expected to return on 1 8 October. During his absence the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
-On Thursday of last week Mr Speaker announced that following a further incident in the Public Gallery he and the President had decided to introduce a stricter search procedure for members of the public seeking to enter the galleries. Honourable members will notice that beginning today constables of the Commonwealth Police Force are conducting the search and that the procedure followed is similar to that adopted at airports around the world.
-(Oxley-Leader of the Opposition)- I give notice that at the next day of sitting I will move:
. That this House is of the opinion that-
the likely social and economic effects of these changes.
– I ask the Treasurer: How many times will the handicapped people of Australia have to travel to Canberra before the Government announces that it will review the new taxes announced in the Budget on rehabilitation and sheltered workshop allowances? Will the Minister give the House an assurance that it will review these and all similar items in the Budget which have the effect of destroying people’s incentive to work and improve their situation through their own efforts?
– As the honourable gentleman is aware, members of the Government today saw a deputation of organisations concerned with the handicapped. Representatives of a meeting which took place outside Parliament House met the Prime Minister, the Minister for Social Security and me. The Government had this particular section of the Budget under consideration this morning. I can inform the honourable gentleman that the Government has decided not to proceed with the taxation of the welfare payments enumerated on page 22 of the Budget Speech.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to South Africa’s decision to proceed with its own election in Namibia. What is the Government’s reaction to this decision? What are the implications for the proposed United Nations peacekeeping force in this area?
-The South African decision to proceed unilaterally with its own elections for Namibia amounts to a rejection of the recommendations of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the establishment of a United Nations peace-keeping force. As will be recalled, the purpose of this force was to implement the Western proposals for a settlement, including internationally supervised free and fair elections leading to independence for Namibia. The Government does regret this decision by the South African Government. We believe that the Secretary-General’s recommendations were consistent with the Western settlement plan which offered a realistic chance for a peaceful settlement. If South Africa goes ahead, its decision can only lead to a form of independence which would not be accepted internationally and to an intensification, unquestionably, of conflict in the area. It seems to me that the South African Government’s decision plays into the hands of those inimical to the West.
We hope that it will be possible for the South Africans to reconsider that decision. The implications of the decision for the United Nations proposals are not clear at this stage. It is expected that the Security Council will meet this week to consider the matter further. It is too early to say what action may be decided although it is expected that the Western members will make it clear that the Secretary-General’s recommendations for a United Nations peace-keeping force are consistent with their plans as accepted by South Africa. As previously advised, Australia has not yet received a definite approach to contribute to the proposed United Nations peacekeeping force. The elements that the Government will be taking into account in considering this matter were set out in my statement to the House last month. It seems likely that the development of the force will now, at the very least, be delayed. We shall have to await the outcome of further United Nations consideration of the issues before we know whether the force will be established at all.
-The Minister for Foreign Affairs will recall that on 12 October 1976 he announced increased aid to the South Pacific in these terms:
This commitment is to be on a rolling three-year basis which would mean that in 12 months time a forward commitment would be made for the year 1 979-80.
Is it a fact that the Minister failed in 1977 to make any commitment for 1979-80 and that still no commitment has been made? If the program is a 3-year rolling program, should not a commitment for 1980-81 have been made this year? As no such commitment appears in Budget Paper No. 8, I ask the Minister whether he gave any commitment to the South Pacific Forum last week or whether his decision, or the decision of the Government, is that there should not be a 3 -year rolling program of aid for the South Pacific.
-What an extraordinary question.
– But you are an extraordinary man.
-I would agree with that. In a comparison with honourable members opposite, that fact is accentuated. The 3-year rolling program announced in 1976 applied to the financial years 1976-77, 1977-78 and 1978-79. Therefore, it will be apparent to those who are not even numerate that we are not at the completion of the third year of the 3-year rolling program. During the last year of the rolling program the Government will be giving consideration, in the terms of the program, to continuing it. I have indicated that the Government takes the South Pacific seriously for a variety of reasons, but it is not merely my rhetoric and my undertakings made in this place or in announcements made at South Pacific Forums which are important; it is the very nature of the amounts given under the aid program. It ill behoves honourable members opposite to be critical of the Government’s aid program for the South Pacific because this 3-year rolling program has brought about a 400 per cent increase in aid to the South Pacific. It would be an act of excessive generosity to say that our aid should be increasing beyond that rate. My recollection is that aid to be given in this last year of the 3-year rolling program is $28m. This is a substantial amount which was gratefully received and acknowledged. The role that Australia is playing has been endorsed by all member states. It is my intention during this financial year to put my mind to the allocation for the next financial year on the basis of its being a rolling program. At this juncture, not only is the amount not settled but also the nature of those programs has not been settled. I would have thought that, as with the member states of the South Pacific, the Opposition would have commended the Government for its programs in the area rather than played politics when it was unable even to do correct calculations in relation to the program.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Does the Government intend to proceed with the income means testing of family allowances based on the income of the child?
-The short answer to the honourable member’s question is no. The Government has given careful consideration to the implications of this decision. There are obvious administrative anomalies and very strongly held views throughout the community that the application of this decision would bring with it a number of anomalous and inequitable situations. The Government therefore believes that the decision should not be proceeded with.
– What is your deficit looking like?
– The honourable member for Adelaide inquires what effect this decision and the one I announced a few moments ago will have on the deficit. I have done some calculations and the deficit, assuming all else is equal, will be in the order of $2, 835m, which is about $800m less than the stated deficit in the alternative Budget of the Leader of the Opposition and about $ 1,500m less than the real deficit in that alternative Budget.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that those covered by pre-paid health plans or health maintenance organisations in the United States of America have an annual usage of hospital days about one-half the rate of those covered by fee for service schemes? If so, for how long has he been aware of this? When will his Department take steps to establish such schemes as alternatives to the present fee for service insurance schemes which, so obviously, adversely affect the pockets and health of those covered?
– I am generally aware of the contention that is implied in the honourable member’s question in respect of the health maintenance organisations or pre-paid health plans in the United States. Of course my Department has been studying the possibility of encouraging organisations of that nature to establish in Australia. Indeed, the honourable member will recall that when we amended the National Health Act and the Health Insurance Act in 1976 provision was made for the establishment of health maintenance organisations in Australia. Discussions have taken place between my Department, Dr Sax, one or two health insurance organisations and the Australian Medical Association to see whether it would be possible to establish similar organisations in Australia on a pilot project basis. In regard to the other detail in the honourable gentlemen’s question, I will obtain the information for him.
– But when is something going to happen?
– It will depend largely on when health insurance organisations, the medical profession and the State governments, which have a responsibility in this area, are prepared to come forward with a proposal. Obviously we will not set up an organisation ourselves, but we are making every opportunity available for responsible organisations in the community to come forward with plans and we would welcome the opportunity to assist them.
– The Minister for Industry and Commerce will be aware of the value of the German tourist mark to the world market. What was the value to Australia of German tourists coming here in 1977? Is it a fact that the big German travel company, Schwaben International, has purchased land in New South Wales to establish a tourist resort for more German tourists to come to Australia? If so, what is the Department of Industry and Commerce doing directly to assist in this development or through the Australian Tourist Commission to promote more travel of more German tourists to Australia in the forthcoming years?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question both as the honourable member for Bowman and as the Chairman of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism. I can inform the House that the potential of the German tourist market for Australia, as emphasised by the honourable gentleman, is certainly well understood. Official Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that short term visitor arrivals from Germany in 1977 numbered some 1 5,000- a rise of 23 per cent over the figure in the previous year. It is estimated that from that number of visitors from that country Australia would have earned some $ 10.5m in 1977. The House also is aware that the Australian Tourist Commission maintains a number of offices in overseas markets. The European office of the Commission is located at Frankfurt and therefore is well placed to capitalise on the growth potential of the German market. The Commission is working very closely indeed with German tour wholesalers and has brought German travel agents and publicists to Australia as part of a concerted marketing effort. The House will be aware of the very significant lift which has taken place recently in the appropriation for the Australian Tourist Commission. That increase has been of the order of 36.8 per cent, and that also will enable the Commission to increase its marketing activities in Germany.
Schwaben International does have offices in several overseas countries, including the United States of America, Canada, South Africa and South America. It is in fact an organisation of friends and relatives of Germans who have migrated to these countries and it operates generally as a travel club and tourist agent. I understand that, consistent with the question raised by the honourable gentleman, that organisation does have intentions of establishing a holiday and conference camp near Camden in New South Wales. However, I understand that there is no information available in my Department which would indicate whether it has in fact purchased any land at this stage.
Should that development come to fruition, it would certainly be appreciated not only by those officers of my Department responsible for tourism but also by the industry. It is likely that members of Schwaben International throughout the world would be encouraged to visit such a centre. In so doing, of course, they would provide a significant contribution to the Australian tourist industry.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. I refer to a question I asked him last week concerning any conversations he might have had with the Chief Electoral Officer in regard to last year’s redistribution of federal boundaries. He will recall that he acknowledged that such a discussion did take place in July of last year. Did he or any other Minister, except the former Minister for Administrative Services, raise or discuss in any way with the Chief Electoral Officer in July last year the likelihood of an early election? If so, what was the nature of any such discussion and will he table any record of conversation of that discussion.
– I think the answer that I gave last week made the nature of the discussion perfectly plain. In regard to this matter I am relying on a report which came to me from the Chief Electoral Officer himself. This report stated that the discussion related to options in relation to an election in 1977 or 1978. I would have thought that that was perfectly plain.
– Will you table the transcript?
– I am not going to table a transcript of a conversation that was held in my office. Certainly, I took no notes of the particular discussion. If anyone else did take notes I would not know. The particular discussion was in relation to the timing of the options. As the honourable gentleman will know, there was in front of us in relation to that redistribution an electoral situation which meant plainly that a redistribution should go forward before an election could be held. Clearly, any government would want to know what would be the timing for completion of a redistribution.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade and Resources. In view of the delay in getting the Ranger uranium project under way, I ask: What are the implications for Australia’s ability to honour the contracts which have been entered into for the sale of uranium to other countries?
-Contracts were entered into for the sale of 1 1,700 tonnes of uranium from the Peko-EZ Ranger mine, the Queensland Mines Ltd operations at Nabarlek and Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd. These contracts are to extend to 1986 and their purpose is to supply uranium for electric power generation in Japan, West Germany and the United States. These contracts have been backed up both by the Whitlam Administration and by this Government. In order to honour these contracts we have been using stockpiles that the Commonwealth Government held. These stockpiles and what is available from Mary Kathleen are not sufficient to honour these contracts. Therefore, new mines will have to be brought into production, those mines being Ranger, Nabarlek and so on.
The Whitlam Government foreshadowed that the national interest provisions of its Aboriginal Land Rights Bill would be invoked to see that these contracts were honoured. It also gave assurances that Australia would supply 100,000 tonnes of uranium by 1990. 1 think it is terribly important that Australia’s reputation is in no way jeopardised by our not being able to honour these contracts. Certainly, we might be delayed a little in being able to fulfil these contracts. We might have to rely on other means to find some interim arrangements, but it is necessary for new mines to come into production and I think it is a pity that people like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Reid have to keep making statements that these contracts will not be honoured or, rather, to say that no new production should be brought in which, virtually, is saying that the contracts will not be honoured. This is doing great damage to Australia’s reputation. It is causing uncertainties. If they want to be in opposition, to create uncertainties in the minds of Australia’s trading partners, if they want to denigrate Australia’s trading reputation, let them accept the responsibility for that. This country depends very, very significantly, for its internal security and its economic welfare on international trade. Thus, uranium trade, or any other sort of trade, is important to this country. When they make these allegations that they are not concerned about Australia’s reputation, all I can say is that they have no concern at all for the well-being of thousands of Australians who need these industries for jobs.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by referring to the Government’s announced intention to legislate against various tax avoidance schemes. Accepting that there are genuine family trusts, does the right honourable gentleman agree that the Government is losing massive revenue as a result of the widespread use of family trusts and interlocking companies as an income-splitting technique for tax avoidance purposes? Will the Government legislate to close this loophole in the Act and will the Prime Minister require members of his Ministry to set, and will he himself set, an example to the community by ceasing to use this loophole for tax avoidance purposes?
-There are many people throughout this community, and I suspect that there are many in this Parliament, quite apart from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and others who have indicated that they have family trusts of one form or another, who believe that a family trust is necessary for the best discharge of their own family responsibilities, and the Government will not move away from that position. We are not going to be in a position of denigrating any person with any family trust, no matter what the circumstances may be. The thrust of what the Opposition is seeking to do in relation to all these matters is quite plainly to establish the circumstances -
– I rise on a point of order. In my question I made the point that there were genuine family trusts. I am not referring to those family trusts. I am referring to those which are used for tax avoidance purposes. That is the question that I want the Prime Minister to answer.
-There is no point of order. Does the right honourable the Prime Minister wish to continue?
-The honourable gentleman says ‘genuine’. I think that it would be very difficult for him to get up in this House and define in precise terms what he regards as a genuine trust and what he does not regard as a genuine trust.
– Well, your own is not genuine.
-The honourable gentleman would have no idea of the purpose or the nature of it and would have no way of knowing whether it fitted within his definition of genuine or not. Let me say only that this Government will not be in a position of having established circumstances in which any person, any grandfather, grandmother, mother or father who, in relation to their children and whatever, have a family trust, will be cast in the role of people who are avoiding tax that they should otherwise properly pay. Quite plainly, a family trust serves many purposes and it ought to be stated quite plainly that this Government has been very concerned about the breaking up of family farms. It has been very concerned about the breaking up of family businesses and, in a high tax situation, especially when there was low profitability in many small businesses and on many farmsunder those circumstances- many people introduced family trusts to enable their assets to be held together, their farms preserved, their businesses, the corner store, held together. If the honourable gentleman wants to put the Australian Labor Party in opposition to every person in this nation who has a family trust of one kind or another he will be putting it into opposition with a very, very large number of Australian taxpayers, a very, very large number of Australian citizens. I would find it quite impossible, on the evidence that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has so far adduced in public, to find out how the Leader of the Opposition could suddenly exclude the trusts of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition from his universal condemnation of all trusts, as indicated on an earlier occasion. I have indicated in the past that I have no objection at all to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition having a family trust, the Bowen family trust, or separate trusts for his children.
-Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. In view of the attack on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I ask that the Prime Minister take the same action as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did and table his tax return.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– I make the point again that I had no objection to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition stating certain matters. It is only that on an earlier occasion he seemed to have given an explanation about certain aspects that was not in accord with the facts; but what he said is now accepted and there is no need to have that argument over again. The honourable member for Chifley is seeking to establish the circumstance in which every person in this nation who has a family trust should be regarded as doing something that is wrong and unreasonable. The Government will not accept that situation for one moment. It ought to be noted that during three years in government the Australian Labor Party could have legislated in relation to these matters had it so wished.
– But we did not know what you were up to at that stage.
-Now the honourable gentleman says that he does not know what goes on in these matters. I suppose the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had not then told him that he had a family trust. The facts about family trusts have been known for a very long while. Many trusts have been in existence not just for a year or two but for decades. When the Labor Party had an opportunity it could have legislated in this area had it so wished. Indeed, the record of the Australian Labor Party in legislating against tax avoidance was minimal. It did nothing about it. It could have done something about many schemes, but it did not touch them.
Shortly the Treasurer will be indicating in this House, in the appropriate place, the full record of this Government in legislating against tax avoidance mechanisms and procedures which have been or are being outlawed by this Government. I believe that that stands as a record that has not been equalled in any post-war parliament It is a record which shows perfectly plainly that this Government is committed to outlawing trusts used for unreasonable tax avoidance.
– You have admitted it. It is on record.
– I admitted at the time of the last election that I have a family trust, and there is no reason why that should not stand. At that time I did not seek to hide the fact that I had a family trust, as did the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– Is the Minister for Industry and Commerce aware of the increase in passenger motor vehicle registrations since the Budget? Is he now in a position to give the House any information on the future prospects for the motor industry in Australia?
– I thank the honourable member for a question which is very significant to his own electors. Clear evidence now exists in the market place that the Government’s decision to reduce sales tax on passenger motor vehicles is having its intended effect of providing a very significant stimulus to demand. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, original registrations of new passenger motor vehicles rose by 14.3 per cent in the month of August. Industry sources report through my Department that the upturn has continued into September and is expected to be carried through strongly into 1979. The industry now estimates that in 1978 the market will be in the region of 450,000 or about five per cent above that for last year.
The Government has provided a stable policy framework for the motor vehicle industry. It has now taken specific action by means of reducing sales tax on passenger motor vehicles to stimulate renewed activity in the industry. I am confident that the combination of these activities has now created an environment in which the automotive industry can plan with confidence for the future. The automotive industry world wide is undergoing a period of considerable change and re-evaluation. New technologies and products are being developed to meet changing consumer requirements and the increasing influence of energy and environmental factors at minimum cost. The Australian industry cannot afford to fall behind in these significant developments. There continues to be a clear requirement for Australian industry to keep abreast of these developments and to move to a more viable structure.
The motor vehicle plan provides a stable and firm environment until 1984. The competitiveness of the industry in the 1 980s will be partly a function of investment decisions which will need to be taken during the course of the next few years. In this context it is important that the entire industry makes decisions which will facilitate the Australian industry becoming an integral part of the world motor vehicle industry and requiring less government assistance than exists at present. The Government recognises that very real opportunities are open to the industry to achieve this in the period beyond the termination of the present policy. The present environment created by the Government of stability in relation to the motor vehicle plan and the growth now in the market should be used by companies within the industry to plan for the future. It should not be used as any excuse to relax by either management or employees. The need for effective longer term development for the industry will be an area of very real concentration in the next round of industry discussions with the automotive industry.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to the question asked of him by the honourable member for Chifley. I acknowledge that family trusts can have a legitimate purpose where they are not used for tax avoidance measures. Is it not a fact that an income earner with income from sources other than wages and salaries of $33,000 a year- for instance, a wealthy land holder from the Western districts of Victoria- supporting a wife and two children, one under 16 years and one over 16 years, can set up a family trust exclusively for tax avoidance measures and the tax savings through those avoidance measures would be $4,950 a year? What steps does the Prime Minister propose to take to close off this tax avoidance which is depriving the Government of hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue so that he can avoid in future Budgets taxing sources of income of the more deprived groups such as those dependent on low income, on family allowances or on various allowances for the handicapped?
-The Leader of the Opposition really is quite an extraordinary person. He was once a Treasurer. If he had believed that some hundreds of millions of dollars worth of revenue was being lost through such devices, I am quite certain that he would have had advice to act in relation to it. It is quite plain that he plucked a figure out of the air hoping that he would get some headlines. The Leader of the Opposition also has a short memory. In the Australian of 25 November 1977 he said that he knew of no trusts held by senior Labor politicians. Either that was wrong or the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition, as he now is, deceived the present Leader of the Opposition. In addition, at the same time the Leader of the Opposition said that family trusts can be legitimate to avoid tax liability but they are improper and immoral. Let us consider those last words: ‘But they’- meaning all- ‘are improper and immoral’. How he comes down in a latter-day circumstance to try to say that the statement was not an omnibus statement indicating that all trusts are improper and immoral I just do not know. Quite plainly that was the purpose and intent of the Leader of the Opposition.
– You are trying to lie your way out of trouble again. You are a compulsive liar. You are the only liar who has been Prime Minister in the 1 7 years I have been here.
-Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat.
-Might I say something about this first as I am the object of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition? I think it is time that something was said in this House. The Leader of the Opposition and some other members of the Australian Labor Party, two years ago quite without justification and quite without foundation, started to introduce the word ‘lie’ into the political vocabulary. The Leader of the Opposition, as he now is, sits here at Question Time and, although you do not always hear it, Mr Acting Speaker, he mutters the word ‘lie’ or when other Ministers are answering a question he mutters into the microphone something else which goes over the air. He behaves as though he is in the first form at a kindergarten rather than in the Parliament. Generally these remarks are not brought to your attention, Mr Acting Speaker, because I regard them as beneath the dignity of this House and beneath the dignity of the Leader of the Opposition; but, as you have started to pick the matter up on this occasion I believe that it ought to be drawn to your attention and the attention of other people that as a deliberate act of policy the Leader of the Opposition has pre-eminently sought to bring these words and accusations into a general policy for one reason and one alone: He does not have a single idea that would contribute to the better government of this country.
-Mr Acting Speaker, I take a point of order. Under the Standing Orders the Prime Minister has a right at any time to have withdrawn any words he finds objectionable. He has only to make that request and they are automatically withdrawn. It is not necessary to make a speech about it. I think that the right honourable gentleman protests too much. He gave currency to the word ‘corruption’ in this place without any evidence at all and so did his front bench.
-Order! There is no point of order. If the Leader of the Opposition would like to take his seat I will call on him to withdraw the expression, which he realises, of course, is unparliamentary and contrary to Standing Orders.
– No matter how justifiable, I withdraw without reservation.
– I would like to repeat the point I made: In that issue of the Australian the Leader of the Opposition certainly sought to indicate that all family trusts were, in his words, ‘improper and immoral’. He also indicated in very plain terms that no senior members of the Australian Labor Party had family trusts. Either he knew that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had a family trust and he was not telling the truth in that article in the Australian or he did not know and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had not told him.
– He did not know.
-He did not know. That is fair and I accept it. The Leader of the Opposition then sought to say that that statement was not an omnibus statement; that some family trusts are all right and others are not. The honourable gentleman is cutting his cloth to suit a different case now that he knows that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has taken what I, without knowing the details, would regard as a prudent and sensible course, to safeguard the interests of his children and his family. Why should he not do so? It is also time that the Australian Labor Party stopped trying to bring the general debate in this Parliament down to this level and started trying to contribute to the government of this country by speaking about and debating issues of policy and substance instead of the scuttle-butt from the gutter which is so much its natural habitat.
-Has the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations seen reports that H. J. Heinz and Co. Ltd recently has granted wage increases in the form of increased overaward payments to a large number of its employees? Can the Minister give any further information about the payments? What effects will increases of this nature have on employment opportunities? How does the action by the Heinz company accord with Government wages policy?
– Some weeks ago claims were made on various food processing companies, I understand, by the food processors union, for an extra $30 a week. As I understand it, various private conferences have been held since that time. I am further informed that the union accepted the Heinz company’s offer about 10 days ago. It has been reported, as the honourable member said, that a settlement was reached in these private conferences for an increase of about $13 a week. Quite clearly, such increases could only be passed on to the consumer, in the prices of the products of the company concerned and inevitably, because of the increased costs incurred, would lessen the likelihood of improved employment prospects in the industry. If it turns out that the reports of the settlement reached are accurate, then the Government in accordance with its stated policy would have to consider the appropriateness of a Prices Justification Tribunal inquiry into the pricing policies of the firm concerned.
– I raise a point of order. In view of the reply by the Minister concerning a firm in my electorate I give notice that I will raise the whole matter on the adjournment.
-There is no point of order.
-Did the Prime Minister tell the Sydney Rotary Club yesterday that his prediction that unemployment would fall from February and keep falling was based on forecasts available to him at that time? Was not the unemployment forecast of Professor Donald Whitehead, one of his own economic advisers, that: ‘Unemployment is going to rise sharply and will stay higher in 1978 than it was in 1977’ as contained in the National Times at the end of November 1977 available to him? If not, why not? Similarly, were not the economic forecasts of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and the Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research, both of which came out before the end of 1 977, available to him? How does he justify his statement to the Sydney Rotary Club yesterday?
– I justify that statement by the very simple fact that since February this year, in accordance with the statement, unemployment has fallen and has gone on falling. I also indicated that unemployment has not fallen as much as the Government would have hoped and that, consistent with the Budget Papers and the statement of my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, there is likely to be a new peak in January and February of 1979. 1 pointed to one or two of the causes for that. We know quite well that world trade is sluggish.
-The honourable gentleman makes an odd sort of noise. It is probably the best logic of which he is capable. Australia is a very significant and great trading nation. We are very much affected by trading circumstances overseas. The increase in inflation in the United States, the United Kingdom and France and the levelling off of inflation at a high level in countries such as Italy are certainly not helping with an expansion of markets and an expansion of demand. In these circumstances there has not been the growth of world trade that one would have hoped, there has not been the expansion of markets that one would have hoped and there are difficult marketing circumstances for a number of Australia ‘s major exports.
It is perfectly plain against that background of increasing inflation in a number of major industrialised countries that there is not going to be any significant upturn in world markets and world trade for a significant time. I believe that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which indicated that there will not be an improvement in activity and employment until the advanced industrial countries can return to the inflation levels of the 1960s is a very accurate statement.
Against that background I said therefore that it is all the more important for Australia to put its own house in order, for Australia to do what it can to help itself and for Australia to get its inflation rate below that of its major trading partners, as it has done so that our industries will become more competitive within Australia, as they are; so that our industries will be able to get larger shares of export markets, as they are doing and as they will continue to do as our general level of inflation comes down even further below that of a number of other significant countries. To this extent it is certainly very much within Australia’s capacity to do a great deal to help itself. The policies of this Government as supported by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade are very much in line with that.
I went on in my speech to the Rotary Club to say that against that background the appropriate question that is being asked is whether the
Government is doing enough in relation to training programs and in relation to other matters to alleviate the present hardship that is involved. Under the various training programs there are six times as many people involved as there were in 1975. They are much better programs that will help them get real jobs and on-the-job training rather than more academic work in other institutions which would not be so relevant to gaining a job.
Long before this became a matter of current debate, the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training was established by this Government. We hope to have the result of that report in a few weeks. The Crawford study group on structural adjustment also was set up. My colleague, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, has called a meeting of State Labor Ministers. I note that the Premier of New South Wales sought to take credit for that proposed meeting in his policy speech but the Federal Minister in fact called that meeting which relates to the general question of employment.
As honourable gentlemen will be aware, the Government is examining the impact of technology through the Department of Productivity and through tripartite committees involving Government departments, unions and management in a number of sensitive industries. It has had a considerable degree of success. It is open to members of the Opposition, if they so wish, to contribute in a constructive way to this debate on the application of modern technology, how we deal with the report of the Williams inquiry when it is to hand and how we deal with the Crawford inquiry on structural adjustment when that comes to hand. It has been indicated that a significant number of people in the community certainly will be involved when the reports of these inquiries are available. They will be involved in government discussions and the Government expects to receive the co-operation of the States and other people in the community.
Members of the Australian Labor Party can, if they wish, take the opportunity that was opened up in the speech of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the remarks that I made yesterday to contribute constructively to this debate or they can continue, if they wish, to try to use unemployment as a political football and hold out the illusion that they have some solution to this particular matter when they do not. We have the answer but it takes time, as all honourable gentlemen know. We know quite well that the Australian Labor Party has no answer except the answer of barnyard noise by which it seeks to stifle debate. The challenge issued by my colleague in his speech in this Parliament the other day was a challenge to the Opposition to contribute to the debate, if it wishes, in a constructive manner rather than the way in which it has contributed at Question Time today.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister. In the course of a reply to a question I asked of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister asserted that I had presented a figure which I had manufactured. I do not recall his exact words but the meaning was quite clear. The figure I quoted was in relation to the tax saving through the use or, more properly, the abuse of family trusts for tax avoidance purposes. I will recite the figures quickly. They are verifiable. If one takes an income earner with income from sources other than wages and salaries of $33,000 a year, supporting a wife and two children both over 16 years of age- I said one child under 16 and one child over 16 but it makes only a marginal difference- and if that person sets up a family trust for tax avoidance purposes and allocates to his wife $3,893 for the year, because that is the threshhold above which tax commences, no tax would be paid. He would save tax at the marginal rate of 47Vic in the .dollar- that is, $1,849. The family would lose the $597 spouse allowance. So, the net saving would be $1,252. If he allocated $3,893 of income to each of the two children over 16 years of age, his tax savings on that amount- that would not be taxable in their hands- would be $3,698, making a total saving on tax of $4,950, something that the Prime Minister would know more than the rest of us from practical experience.
– I raise a point of order.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition has concluded his personal explanation.
– Would you clarify whether the Leader of the Opposition is talking about the situation that was applying when he was Treasurer or to a current situation?
-There is no substance to the point of order.
– For the information of honourable members, I present a report by the Australian Science and Technology Council entitled: Science and Technology in Australia 1977-78’, Volume I A.
– For the information of honourable members, I present an interim statement of the activities of the Australian Egg Board for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Australian Delegation to the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, Seventh Session, Geneva, from 28 March to 19 May 1978.
– Pursuant to section 24 of the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957, I present the annual report of the National Capital Development Commission for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Fire Board for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
-In view of the admissions by the Prime Minister that he has a family trust -
– I wish to table the searches of the Corporate Affairs Office in Victoria.
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley will not proceed when I call him to order. Is he seeking to make a personal explanation?
– No, I am seeking to table some documents relating to the Prime Minister’s family trust.
-The honourable member does not have the right to proceed. He will resume his seat.
-! wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. For the second time today the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has suggested that I hid the fact that there was a trust for the benefit of some of my children. I make the point that that question was asked by the National Times but it did not print my reply in full on the first occasion. I disclosed to that newspaper that I had a personal trustee for some of the assets of my infant children and that disclosure was later published in the National Times. The Prime Minister would know this because he had the newspaper in his hand when he first raised the matter. There is no question of hiding the matter. At this stage I think I am the only member to have disclosed his income tax return.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During the adjournment debate last Thursday night the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) raised my name damagingly in the context of the Lynch affair. He stated that allegations could just as easily be made against members on this side as against the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch). Without warning me that he was going to do so, which is the normal courtesy in this House, and after extraordinarily professing respect and admiration for the subject of his remarks, he named me. He suggested that a company in which I was a director and shareholder ‘used to borrow money to speculate in suburban houses’. This alleged activity of mine was put by him in such a way as to be untruthful and damaging. It offensively misrepresented the position. I reject it, as will all fairminded people, and I shall explain why I reject it.
-Order! The honourable member will not debate the issue but will come to the point on which he was misrepresented.
– A serious allegation has been made against me personally and I want to explain it fully. I am sure that you, Mr Acting Speaker, and the House will give me that opportunity. On Sunday, 27 November 1977, during the last Federal election campaign I made a full and true disclosure of my family finances. Part of that statement, which was put in all the Press boxes and much of which was published in newspapers the next day, covered the venture mentioned by the honourable member for Macarthur and described it in the following way:
The statement went on:
The company operated prior to my entering Parliament. Our half share was sold to the other couple a few years ago after the company had been dormant for a few years. I do not possess the records to enable me to check the facts that we purchased, one at a time, re-decorated and sold, from memory, about seven houses in the seven years 1962-69. Our share of the surplus in those seven years was about $1,000 which would not have covered professional fees for the time spent.
I emphasise that our share was $1,000 in total over the seven years. I was accountant for the venture. It was part of my accountancy practice. To equate this activity, as the honourable member for Macarthur has done, with that of the Minister for Industry and Commerce is absurd. There was no land speculation. There were no changes in zoning. There were no misuses or illegitimate uses of trusts to evade or avoid taxes. There was a full and true disclosure of all aspects 10 months ago. No properties were purchased for and with my accountancy clients after my entry into this Parliament, other than some shares in a tourist venture which this company bought while I was waiting for my partners to buy me out. If my political opponents think that they can lay a smokescreen to protect themselves from their own improprieties by drawing attention to this sort of venture, they are sadly mistaken. In fact the honourable member for Macarthur, to give him his due, stated that he was not saying that I had been involved in any impropriety.
-Order! The honourable member for Adelaide clearly is debating the issue now. I think he has put -
– I have one final point.
– I would be very happy to have the rest of the statement incorporated in Hansard. There is nothing that I want to hide. If those on the other side do not want the full statement but want to go on laying this smokescreen, I am prepared to leave it at that and to take another opportunity -
-Is the honourable gentleman seeking leave?
– I seek leave.
-Is leave granted?
Government members- No.
-Leave is not granted. I ask the honourable member to come quickly to the conclusion of his personal explanation.
-Mr Acting Speaker, one final point about this affair is relevant to the proper workings of this House and I feel that I should take the opportunity to make you aware of it. On 13 April last, while I was overseas, the Australian newspaper printed a story suggesting that untrue and damaging charges against me, such as those made by the honourable member for Macarthur last Thursday, had been uttered in this House on the previous day. There is no Hansard or Australian Associated Press record of that happening. I can find no honourable member who believes that it did happen in this House on 12 April. In fact I state with confidence that the incident did not take place. Here is the relevance: I believe that the story was fed to the newspapers by a Minister, a Government member or a Press secretary and was not checked for delivery. I believe that the honourable member for Macarthur received his material from the same scurrilous source.
-Order! The honourable member for Adelaide is familiar with the Standing Orders.
-This is the relevance. I have just two more sentences. That damaging story is now the subject of litigation, as I have taken out a writ against the newspaper for defamation. Similarly, if anyone else damages me in this way without the cowardly protection of parliamentary privilege, he too will be served with a writ.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented -
-Order! It is customary for honourable members to seek the indulgence of the Chair if they wish to make a personal explanation.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, having just been misrepresented.
-The honourable member for Macarthur may proceed.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Speaker. It is untrue that I made damaging and untrue charges against the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), as the Hansard will demonstrate. I was very clearly making the point that the most innocent and proper of transactions -
-Order! The honourable member for Macarthur was given the indulgence of the Chair to acquaint the House with how he has been misrepresented. I believe that his remarks are not establishing that.
– I deny the charge that has been made against me just now by the honourable member for Adelaide, namely, that I recklessly, indifferently, wickedly- or any other emotive word- made damaging allegations against him. That is not what I did. The record clearly shows that that is not what I did. I do not know what political stunt the honourable member for Adelaide wants to pull by making this allegation. I think it is essential for me to establish to you, Mr Acting Speaker, what I did so that you recognise the untruth of the allegation now made by the honourable member for Adelaide -
-Order! The honourable member is debating the matter. It is a matter of record in the Hansard. Indeed, I was present in the House when he spoke on the matter to which exception was taken. I feel that the honourable member has had ample opportunity to demonstrate where he has been misrepresented.
– I certainly made no charges.
– by leave- Honourable members will be aware that the seven heads of state and heads of government who attended the Economic Summit Meeting in Bonn in July issued a statement on terrorism on 17 July 1978. The English version of that statement reads as follows:
The Heads of State and Government, concerned about terrorism and the taking of hostages, declare that their Governments will intensify their joint efforts to combat international terrorism. To this end, in cases where a country refuses extradition or prosecution of those who have hijacked an aircraft and /or do not return such aircraft, the Heads of State and Government are jointly resolved that their Governments shall take immediate action to cease all flights to that country. At the same time, their Governments will initiate action to halt all incoming nights from that country, or from any country by the airlines of the country concerned.
They urge other Governments to join them in this commitment.
Australia welcomes this further constructive initiative to enhance the international co-operative efforts required to combat the menacing crime of hijacking, which is a direct threat to international civil aviation and against the lives and liberties of all air travellers.
The Federal Republic of Germany has approached the Australian Government, on behalf of the seven states that participated in the Bonn Summit, seeking its support for the declaration. Similar approaches are being made to other countries on behalf of the ‘Bonn Seven’. The Commonwealth Government strongly supports this constructive action against the threat of terrorism and agrees completely with the objectives of the declaration. We feel that those who attended the Bonn Summit should be commended for taking this positive step.
Australia has a long-standing position of opposition to terrorism in all its manifestations. We have already ratified the three international conventions drawn up to encourage contracting states of the International Civil Aviation Organisation to take action against offenders for crimes committed on international aircraft. We earnestly hope that all contracting states will ultimately ratify or accede to those conventions. We have also supported other initiatives taken in the United Nations to combat all forms of international terrorism. Also, as honourable members will recall, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting in Sydney last February the twelve heads of government present agreed to collaborate more closely to counter terrorism in the region.
Australian support of the Bonn declaration means that we consider ourselves committed to its objectives.
There is no intention to create a specific convention or treaty to which governments will accede; rather, each supporting government reserves its freedom of action in regard to the implementation of the measures proposed by the declaration.
Accordingly, we have responded to the request of the Federal Republic of Germany, as the representative of the seven governments which participated in the Bonn Summit, expressing the support of the Australian Government for the objectives of the declaration and its willingness to co-operate in the attainment of those objectives.
– by leave- On behalf of the Opposition I wish to have it placed on record that we support the action of the Government in endorsing the Bonn Summit statement on terrorism. All right-minded citizens not only in this country but throughout the world are concerned about the incidents of terrorism which have arisen from time to time- affecting mainly aircraft; but not only aircraft, quite often also shipping. Any action which can be taken reasonably to diminish this sort of activity deserves support and endorsement. To the extent that this declaration from the Bonn Summit moves in that direction it has the support and endorsement of the Opposition too.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I present the report of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner on the Warlpiri and Kartangarurru-Kurintji land claim and seek leave to make a statement in connection with the report.
– The land claim to which this report refers is the second to be heard by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner in accordance with the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Honourable members will recall that I presented the Commissioner’s first report, which dealt with the Borroloola land claim, on 26 May 1978. The Aboriginal Land Rights Act provides, amongst other things, that Aboriginals may make traditional land claims in respect of areas of unalienated Crown land in the Northern Territory and that the Aboriginal Land Commissioner shall consider the claims and report upon them to me and my colleague the Minister for the Northern Territory. In the case of the Warlpiri land claim the Central Land Council lodged an application on 16 August 1977 on behalf of a substantial number of Aboriginals claiming to have a traditional land claim to a large area of unalienated Crown land in the Tanami Desert area of the Northern Territory, north-west of Alice Springs. Although described as the ‘Warlpiri land claim’, the claimants included members of the Kartangarurru and Kurintji tribes as well.
Hearing of the claim commenced on 6 March 1978 and concluded on 26 May 1978, with some 137 persons appearing as witnesses. The Commissioner found that there are traditional Aboriginal owners of the whole of the area claimed and that traditional attachment to the land claimed is very strong. The Commissioner has therefore recommended that the land claimed should be granted to Aboriginal land trusts for the benefit of those he found to be the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land. I have accepted the Commissioner’s recommendations. I shall establish these land trusts and will recommend to the Governor-General that a grant of an estate in fee simple for the land be made under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
In case honourable members are concerned over the future of the Tanami Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, the whole of which is included in the land claimed, I might draw attention to the Commissioner’s comments on this matter at paragraphs 363 to 409 of the report. The Commissioner found that the Aboriginals have a real attachment to and concern for their traditional country. He considered that if there is an unconditional grant of this land to a land trust the probabilities are that the traditional owners, through the Central Land Council, will enter into a satisfactory agreement with the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission for the management of the land and that no serious harm will result. In any event, the Wildlife Sanctuary will continue to exist under Northern Territory law for two years and I expect, as did the Commissioner, that an agreement would be concluded in that time.
The Commissioner considered a suggestion that he recommend the granting of the land on condition that the Tanami Desert remain a wildlife sanctuary. He expressed the view that he has no power to make a conditional recommendation. Likewise, I am advised that the Land Rights Act requires me to accept wholly or wholly reject the Commissioner’s recommendations; I have no power to attach conditions to those recommendations. Notwithstanding the legal position, however, the Commissioner felt that a conditional grant of land in this case was not appropriate.
Although this is the second report of the Land Commissioner it is also a historical document as the Commissioner has decided to recommend the granting of all the land sought by Aboriginals. This should demonstrate to those people who were critical of the judgment in the Borroloola case that each claim before the Commissioner will be decided upon its merits and that one cannot judge the whole operation of the Act on the outcome of one decision.
-by leave- The Opposition welcomes the promptness of the determination of this claim and the fact that the whole of the land claimed by the Aboriginal people concerned has been acknowledged and sustained by the Government. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) made some references to the previous determination which referred to the Borroloola people. One of the main criticisms in that case arose from the fact that no expert evidence was called from people who might be considered leading authorities on the nature of Aboriginal land claims, namely, anthropologists. From my brief reading of the judgment so far, the Land Commissioner has not made clear to what extent he considers it necessary to set out that Aboriginals not only can establish traditional ownership but also need to establish their intention to occupy the land. He did make much of this distinction in the Borroloola case.
I believe that this is an issue that does need resolving. I hope that it will be pursued in greater depth in future claims. It should not necessarily be grounds for denying a land claim simply to say that the people have no intention of living there. I take it that the Minister would be open to further representations and renewed claims on behalf of the Borroloola people in relation to those areas of land which were not granted to them last time and which are very central to their comprehension of the land use, particularly the joint use. I refer to the periodical ceremonial use of the whole of the land and not just those sections which were granted to them.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That leave of absence of two months be given to the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) on the ground of parliamentary business overseas and the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) on the ground of public business overseas.
Motion (by Mr Hayden) agreed to:
That leave of absence of two months be given to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) on the ground of public business overseas.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leaveproposed:
1 ) That the House of Representatives, having considered Message No. 103 of the Senate relating to the proposed appointment of a Joint Select Committee to inquire into and report upon the provisions and the operation of the Family Law Act 1975, concurs in the resolution of the Senate, subject to the following modifications-
Clause 1, sub-clause (a), after paragraph (i) insert the following paragraph: (ia) its effects on the institution of marriage and the family; ‘.
Clause 2, omit ‘five’, substitute ‘six’.
Clause 2, omit ‘three’ first occurring, substitute ‘four’.
That the House of Representatives requests the concurrence of the Senate in the modifications made by the House.
That a message be sent to the Senate acquainting it of this resolution.
– The motion before the House is a formal one. The Opposition supports it. This matter has already been a subject of debate in this House. The motion is a formal one which asks the Senate to rectify the position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received letters from the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107,I have selected one matter, and that is that proposed by the honourable member for Blaxland, namely:
The insensitivity of the Minister for Trade and Resources to the national interest with respect to Australia’s trading policy in minerals.
I therefore 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-
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. You will be aware that I wrote to you on a matter of urgency concerning this House. It involved the whole matter of the restructuring of Australian industry and the fact that there are hundreds and hundreds of people in Queensland who have received dismissal notices within the tyre industry. I suggest that that is a matter of far greater urgency than the matter of public importance proposed by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating).
-What is the honourable member’s point of order?
– That is the point of order.
-There is no substance to the honourable member’s point of order.
– This matter was selected as a matter of public importance by the Speaker last week. It was then postponed because the Government called upon the business of the day, so we raise the matter again this week.
-There is no dispute about the matter. I have selected the honourable member for Blaxland to present his matter of public importance and I now call him.
-The Opposition raises this matter of public importance because the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) for three years now has been recreant in his duty as the protector of the national interest in this country. Unlike his predecessor, Sir John McEwen, who tried to do something about stopping the selling off of the farm, the present Leader of the National Country Party has been prepared to give it away at bargain basement prices. The Labor Government’s three years of effort to do something tangible about mineral prices and terms of trade have fallen away to such an extent that the Government’s policy is now back where it was prior to 1972. The last round of iron ore price contract negotiations proved that the Minister is incompetent and that he is prepared to act like Pontius Pilate and to wash his hands of the whole affair. The Minister admitted to me just two weeks ago at Question Time that he approved prices which, to use his own words, were not fair and reasonable. In other words, he approved contracts for iron ore at prices which were below ruling world levels. That was the case in point. The Australian Financial Review, the leading financial paper in the country, called his reply to me an amazing confession of political failure. So, the question is: Why did he approve the contracts? Why did he not make a stand on the manner in which these contracts had been negotiated, and why did he not have any confidence in Australia ‘s strength as a major trader in iron ore- in fact, as the largest exporter of iron ore in the world?
What we have seen over recent times is two companies, which are not Australian companies, behave in such a way as to restrict the capacity of other Australian iron ore mines, in particular, to negotiate fair and proper prices for themselvesfirst in the case of the Cleveland Cliffs Company which, of course, is a part of the Robe River iron ore operation at Pannawonica in Western Australia, and then the Mount Newman consortium, through its marketing partner AMAX Corporation, which holds a 25 per cent interest in Mount Newman, with CSR which holds a 30 per cent interest, BHP which holds a 30 per cent interest and two other companies, which hold a 1 5 per cent interest.
What we have witnessed, and what the Minister was clear about, was that in accepting or negotiating prices on behalf of the Mount Newman consortium the AMAX Corporation had pulled the rug from under the Australian iron ore industry and, of course, lowered the bench-mark prices for iron ore in the two years between now and 1980- remembering, as we need to remember, that AMAX is a 25 per cent foreign participant in an Australian operating company which has 60 per cent Australian equity. Yet what we have seen is the Minister’s concurrence in that company’s lowering the bench-mark for iron ore prices negotiated for Australia.
On 3 1 March this year, the Government gave to the Mount Newman consortium a guideline of 22.2c per FE unit for iron ore fine, and 25.8c per FE unit lump ore. As honourable members know, in each off year contracts, which are not long-term fixed-price contracts, are negotiated when half the contract tonnage comes up. In this negotiation Nippon Steel offered 20.5c per FE unit. On 19 May AMAX came back to Canberra and asked for a reduced guideline to permit it to accept a price of 21.6c per FE unit. Let us remember that the Government had given it a guideline of 22.2c. The Government, quite rightly, refused and on 9 June told AMAX that 20.5c was not a fair and reasonable price.
What had happened in the intervening period? It had been very apparent to the Mount Newman consortium that the best it would be able to do commercially would be 21.75c. It knew that on last year’s figures, which had averaged 22.5c, it would suffer a substantial loss. Remember that on its contracts a 2c change is worth about $10m. So it put together privately with Nippon Steel an agreement, whereby it would increase a contract- which was not normally up for renewal- by roughly 3c, and take down the bench-mark on the other contracts by 2c. It developed a 3-package concept which was peculiar to Mount Newman, and about midJune came back to the Government and sought its agreement. The Minister was in the position in which he had a range of contracts put under his nose by the Mount Newman consortium, at 20.5c per FE unit for the lot, knowing that if he approved the agreement it would lower for the next two years the bench-mark for the Australian iron ore industry. However, he agreed to the arrangement, knowing full well that it would wash off on all the other companies, in Western Australia and elsewhere. Of” course, the Japanese were elated. They had never believed that Australia would be so silly as to accept 20.5c from a high of 22.5c, and also upset the upward progression of prices that for so many years had been the pattern of iron ore negotiations. Not only were we not going to increase the price; in fact, we had moved backwards. The industry had been confident that it could get at least 21.7 or 22c. Instead, it was down to 20.5c. AMAX knew that it would lose about 0.8c per FE unit without bringing the HG1 contract forward, yet to maintain its cash flow for this year it was prepared to jeopardise the interests of the other companies and jeopardise its own interests next year when the HG 1 contract would come up for renegotiation anyway. So, next year, instead of starting off with a bench mark of 22.5c negotiations will begin at 20.5c, and it will not move from that point if the present Minister is still Minister and has his way.
The Minister should have protected the national interest and told AMAX that there was to be no three-contract package, that it was to stand up there and fight for the guideline, which was 22.5c. ‘Don’t come back without it. ‘ Instead, we see that they came back with 20.5, and when Hamersley and other companies went to Japan, the Japanese said, ‘The going rate for Australia is 20.5c; take it or leave it; we will let your contracts go to Brazil.’ So they took it and brought it back for approval. That was the crucial point at which the Minister should have said: ‘I will not approve these contracts; go back and get the guideline figure.’ Of course, he did not have the strength to tell them to do that. They were not able to do it because he had agreed to the contract. Then he admitted to me that the contracts were not fair and reasonable. It is too late after the horse has bolted.
Then we saw, last week on the front page of the Australian Financial Review, the heading: Iron Ore exporters told to get together; Anthony’s ultimatum’. Well, it is all strong stuff, but it is about six months too late. But even if that were to be the case I doubt very much now whether it would be possible to get the Australian private iron ore industry together. There is now a clear case for direct Government involvement in the whole negotiation. Let us consider the coal situation. Who ran out on the south coast coal producers? Clutha! Who ran out on the Queensland coal producers? Utah! Who ran out on the iron ore producers? AMAX! Cleveland Cliffs- indeed, all of the Australian resource industry- has been taken to the cleaners by a handful of foreign companies because the Minister will not protect the national interest and will never exert himself in the way in which he ought.
I note from the Laurie Oakes report of today that the Minister was rebuffed in the Chinese negotiations when he found, much to his surprise, that the prices which had been negotiated by the Japanese had also become the benchmark for negotiations with China. Not only has that price washed off upon the rest of the Australian iron ore contracts, but on the Chinese contracts also. The Minister tried to intervene to improve the contracts, but found that he could not. Of course he could not, because the Chinese were not going to pay for equivalent grades of iron ore any more than the Japanese were prepared to pay. So the whole thing has been a failure.
We are now in the position in which Australia will not this year get as much for iron ore as will the Brazilians, if we take into account the freight differential. That is a tacit, dreadful, chronic admission of failure on behalf of the Australian Government. This has all to be seen in the context of falling tonnage orders from Japan. In April of this year we had a similar debate on this matter. At that point the Minister said that he had done his best to protect tonnages but that the Japanese could not eat the stuff and we would have to accept less. The industry accepted the fact that we had to take less but there should have been no capitulation on prices. It was bad enough having to take less tonnage, but there should have been no capitulation on prices. Instead, what we have seen has been capitulation on prices as well.
The Minister says that if we do not take the iron ore prices the Japanese will take their business to Brazil. That is nonsense to anyone in the industry or to anyone who knows anything about it. The Japanese steel industry has become efficient by world standards simply because it is the best blender of iron ores in the world and has gathered grades of iron ore which it has been able to blend in order to produce steel competitively. It cannot blend Brazilian iron ore with any iron ore other than Australian; it needs our ore to blend successfully. We, of course, supply 50 per cent of Japan’s raw material iron ore requirements. If that is not a position of strength, I do not know what is. Japan could not continue to produce in the absence of Australia’s iron ore, and if we said that we were prepared to place an embargo on exports until Japan came to the party on prices, it would have no recourse other than to come to us. Japan could not pick up anywhere else in the world the spot tonnages that it requires. There is a lot of excess iron ore capacity around the world but not enough for the spot sales needed to replace in any way the tonnages which ordinarily leave Australia for Japan. The whole ploy is to say that, if we do not succumb to the policy of Nippon Steel, everybody will go to Brazil. I think I have demolished that argument.
This year the Japanese will take about 60 million tonnes of Australian iron ore out of a capacity of about 104 million tonnes. By next year, when the Hamersley concentrate is in and the expansion of Robe River is complete, there will be about 20 million tonnes of excess capacity in the Pilbara. Yet in this climate the Deputy Prime Minister and the Western Australian Premier are still talking about new iron ore mines. Can anybody in his right mind imagine Japan negotiating to develop Goldsworthy area C in the present climate of about 20 million tonnes of excess capacity when it has to establish another rail lineapparently some arrangement has been worked out with Mount Newman to duplicate the rail Une- and build infrastructure at 1978 and 1979 prices to gain access to iron ore at prices which would have to be 50 per cent more than current prices? The Japanese are not about to make themselves a whipping post by moving into contracts which specify prices very much higher than present levels. So all this talk that we have to go quiet to get new contracts and new projects off the ground is so much nonsense. New projects will start, as we on the Opposition side of the House have always said, when the world steel industry picks up, when capacity starts to reach its maximum and when the excess iron ore capacity around the world is taken up. Then and only then will the Japanese award contracts for new projects. They will not do so before then, no matter what kind of arm twisting comes from Charlie Court or the Minister for Trade and Resources, or from anyone else for that matter.
Let me quote some of the statements which the Minister for Trade and Resources made when he happened to be in the Opposition. In an address to the Australia Japan Society in Brisbane on 15 June 1975 he said:
The success in increasing iron ore prices in 1973 now threatens to develop into a policy of squeezing the Japanese for all they are worth. As regards coal, Australia has become a world pacesetter in coal pricing. If the latest proposals for coal pricing prevail, then the price of coal will have increased by far more than the price of oil as a result of the OPEC embargo.
In other words, he was saying that the success of the Labor Government’s pricing policies was such that prices were going through the roof. The Minister is now laughing, but that is his own admission. That is what he said in his speech. He need not pooh-pooh it now. Let me quote some other gems from him. Again in 1976 as Minister he said:
And certainly we could not, and will not, stand aside and allow Australian producers to be forced into selling their products at less than fair and reasonable market prices. This can happen when individual producers are dealing with groups or cartels . . .
He went on to say that we would never stand by and see Australian prices drop below world parity prices. So much for his words. The Minister is not believed any more. He lacks credibility with all our trading partners. He is not taken seriously in Tokyo or anywhere else. He goes backwards and forwards between Australia and Japan pleading on his knees with the Japanese to get some kind of fair treatment, while the Japanese laugh their way to the bank. At the same time all the producers I have mentioned do their best to advantage themselves to the detriment of the Australian iron ore industry. As far as we in the Opposition are concerned, it is not good enough. The Minister has shamefully run out on the Australian national interest. He has not protected it. He understands that the companies will cut each others throats to try to get contracts. He realises that the Japanese are playing in the position where they are in a buyer’s market and will play havoc with us; yet he does not have the strength to stand up to our own producers and make them at least observe some kind of uniform pricing arrangements or put up a united front in the face of what is obviously a cartel operating in Japan.
-(Mr Giles) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). If any allegation is to be made about insensitivity to Australia ‘s trading industries, that allegation must be levelled fairly and squarely at the honourable member for Blaxland, because he shows no recognition of the world trading situation in relation to raw materials for steel making. The situation today is vastly different from that which applied in 1973, 1974 and 1975. During those periods of high demand Australia had great opportunities open to it, but of course those opportunities were seriously jeopardised by the foolish policies of the Labor Administration. Today there is a recession. Of course, the Japanese steel mills are suffering. They are operating at a low capacity. Something like 70 per cent of their capacity is being utilised at the moment. There are large stockpiles in Japan. There is low profitability.
However, from the way in which the honourable member talks one would think that these things do not matter. He talks as though we still have a commanding position and as though there is a seller’s market. It is not a seller’s market. It is vastly more a buyer’s market today. Australia is a large supplier of iron ore and coal. We are supplying about 48 per cent of Japanese requirements. The Japanese market represents something like 80 per cent of our exports. So a very special trading relationship exists between
Australia and Japan. Certainly a degree of mutual dependence- a high degree of dependence on Australia’s part- exists in maintaining and establishing the best possible relationships. The attitude of the honourable member displays gross insensitivity to a difficult period through which both our industry and the Japanese industry are going.
The Press statement put out two weeks ago by the honourable member clearly demonstrates that he does not care what remarks he makes about the Japanese. He referred to Japanese imperialism and said that we should be looking for markets elsewhere in Asia. The Government is looking at more markets in Asia, but when Japan takes 80 per cent of our exports of iron ore, the honourable member is playing on dangerous grounds if he thinks that Australia will automatically jeopardise its trading opportunity with Japan just because of some pet theories he might have.
This bullying, hectoring attitude of the honourable member for Blaxland is typical of the policies of the Australian Labor Party when it was in office. When the Labor Party speaks of the imperialists on the one hand and the hill-billy miners on the other, it shows its old thrust of wanting to come through in the middle and take control of the iron ore and coal mining industries by nationalising them. That is its doctrinaire approach and that is the Une it is following. So it is capitalising on whatever circumstances it can, not for the best interests of Australia and the jobs of the workers who are dependent upon these industries, but just to promote its own doctrinaire philosophies. It wants to manage these industries. It wants to own the iron ore and the coal mining industries. To achieve its end it would use the federal export control powers, as it did while it was in office. We saw Labor’s attitude demonstrated also by the overseas loan scandal. The Labor Government wanted to borrow money to buy out these industries and to take control of them. The Labor Party spokesman today tried to put forward ideas about how the Labor Party would look after the national interest, but honourable members opposite are not really concerned about that. They are looking after the Labor Party’s policy and philosophies.
The Government believes in commercial negotiations for the sale of Australia’s produce. We believe that the entrepreneurial capacity of people in business is far more effective and efficient than government or bureaucratic enterprise. We believe that this is the way in which marketing ought to be carried out. This year we have seen certain changes in the practices of the Japanese steel mills which have caused great displeasure to the Government and to me. Our concern is being shared by industry. Our relationship with industry, be it the iron ore industry or the coal mining industry, is such that we can talk to people in industry and consult with them instead of shouting at them and directing them, as seems to be the Labor Party’s attitude.
The honourable member for Blaxland talked a lot about the worth of policies of the ALP when it was in office. Let us analyse how valuable those policies were. Not one new project got under way in this country while the Labor Party was in office. This was at a time when there was high world demand and when people wanted to come to Australia to invest and to develop.
– I rise on a point of order. I ask the Minister to name one iron ore project which has been started since he has been Minister.
-There is no point of order. I advise the honourable member for Blaxland who has made his speech, to remain quiet and not interrupt so much.
-That was a time -
– Where is the $ 1 4,000m-
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Blaxland. If he continues interjecting I will have to deal with him.
– Australia missed a whole generation of expansion of its industries because of the policies of the Labor Party when in office. The Labor Party frightened investment away from this country. At that time we could have attracted industry. Now we have to try to compete with other countries on very stringent terms. We missed the opportunity to influence Japan and other countries to invest here. Those countries went elsewhere, particularly to Brazil, and invested. Today, because of the attitude of the Labor Party, we are suffering the consequences.
Claims that the ALP had great victories with pricing arrangements are hard to justify when looking back over the record. What did the companies say who were involved? Honourable members should ask them. All the companies can remember is the interference and intervention of the then government in negotiations that they carried out. We can remember very clearly what happened with regard to iron ore. The companies negotiated and negotiated and were then told that the contracts were not satisfactory and that they should go back and renegotiate. Because the companies post-dated an agreement on a slightly higher price the government agreed to the contracts. The analysis was that the change made no difference. All it did was irritate our customers and delay the conclusion of the negotiations for about six months. The honourable member should not tell me that his government did any better with regard to iron ore pricing. At the time there was a high world demand and Japan was wanting to buy iron ore. The Labor Party was bullying the Japanese. Where did the Labor Party get? It got nowhere.
I refer now to coal. We remember only too well the one and only overseas visit of the then Minister for Minerals and Energy to Japan. What did he do? In a panic situation he sold out on negotiations which were actually better than those to which the companies had agreed. He sold out and came back to Australia because the loans affair was brewing. To say that he got better prices is just so ridiculous. The prices were worse than those negotiated by the companies. Those attitudes led to disastrous consequences for this country.
Our job as a government is to build up confidence with all our customers. The Opposition’s attitude is simply to abuse the buyer and not to solve the problems. The honourable member for Blaxland has talked a lot about the problems but not much about how to solve them except by a simplistic approach to which I shall refer in a minute. I am determined to see effective changes made to cope with the problems that have arisen this year. But those changes will come about after consultation with industry. The suggestions and reactions of industry are important. The interests of the companies are involved. Therefore I think it is beholden upon them to give the best advice possible as to how they might benefit.
Make no mistake, the Japanese steel industry has played the game very hard this year. Through its co-ordinated buying approach, it has, I consider, acted unreasonably tough. I have said that before today. Companies have been forced into accepting terms which are not satisfactory. Companies and Australia are losing out as a result of being compelled to accept contracts this year. There have been what I consider no commercial negotiations. The Japanese steel mills made offers that were non-negotiable. They acted as a single buyer. They decided the price they would offer, and that was it. They made one offer- only one- and they did not budge from it. Quite clearly, Australian producers acting individually are powerless to withstand the unified strength of the Japanese steel mills when the mills make a take it or leave it non-negotiable offer.
– What a change. What a different tune you are singing now.
-Order! The honourable member will remain quiet. I will give him one last warning. We do not want the debate interrupted by infantile remarks from the honourable member.
– I am consulting the industry to ascertain its response to this situation. To get the best decision in the interests of Australia takes time and planning. But the ALP and the honourable member for Blaxland with the stroke of a pen would stop shipments from this country. The honourable member talks about sensitivity. He would threaten the Japanese immediately and compel them to retaliate. There would be a confrontation, and a confrontation in the present circumstances could become quite prolonged. The Japanese have stockpiles on hand and would have the opportunity of getting additional supplies from other countries. This could leave Australia in a very difficult position for a long time.
There is a problem. I am studying the problem to decide how best to deal with it. I am studying it in a co-ordinated fashion and am adopting a co-operative approach with the industry. The simplistic approach of the ALP is easy to say. It could have very disastrous consequences. Perhaps the impulsive actions of this impulsive young man are easy to understand, but they are not really the actions of somebody who has a responsibility for the livelihood of” thousands of people in the North West of Western Australia. His actions would stop exports immediately. They would close the mines. They would put thousands of people out of jobs for a time. There would be no income. Is that what the Labor Party wants? Does it merely want to demonstrate its strength without recognising the consequences of this action?
This is the action of a person with complete insensitivity. He should level no charge of insensitivity against me. I am sensitive to the livelihood of the many thousands of people and the industries in this country. We will come to a conclusion on how to handle this problem in a sensible way. The Labor Party is saying automatically that there will be no exports and that that is the only way to handle the situation. If that action is taken Australia immediately will lose countless millions of dollars worth of exports. The industries involved will stall because they cannot continue to operate without the availability of the Japanese market which takes 80 per cent of our exports. What is needed is a sensitive approach. We need the support of industry. Does the honourable member for one minute say that there is a common industry approach to this problem? If so, let the honourable member for Blaxland tell me what it is.
– It is impossible to get one.
– We are trying to get a common industry approach. The honourable member seems to be showing a great deal of ignorance or arrogance as to the approach which the Government is taking. We are trying to get a common industry approach. I have already met with the iron producers. I will be meeting with the coal producers. We are looking at this matter to decide the best approach. At a time of oversupply when it is a buyer’s market and not a seller’s market and when alternative supplies are available around the world at least to meet part of the requirements if not the full requirements for a period, the Opposition is acting very foolishly in taking this stand. People’s jobs and some big industries are involved. Certainly Western Australia as a whole would be affected if iron ore exports to Japan were closed down. If this action is taken with regard to the Japanese there will be a reaction from our other trading partners with whom we are trying to build up a reputation as a sound and reliable supplier. The matter is in hand. It is one that gives the Government and me concern. We will not be told by Labor, with its interventionist policies, how to handle the question.
– I am happy to rise in support of the impulsive young man from Blaxland. The point is that if the impulsive young man from Blaxland were the Minister for Minerals and Energy the mining industry in Australia would not be in its present parlous situation. The impulsive young man from Blaxland has seen, in the last three years, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) undermine the efforts of the Labor Government. Now, three years after having sabotaged Australia’s national interest, the Minister comes round to accepting the reasonableness- in fact the necessity- of the essential ingredient of the policies that were pursued by the last Labor Government. He has a right to feel impetuous. He has a right to feel a little upset that after three years of trying to persuade the Government to adopt our policies it finally has come round to realising that in order to protect the national interest of this country the Federal Government has to intervene. Not for a moment is it a matter of the Labor Party attacking Japan. Japan’s attitude in these matters is entirely understandable. It is simply pursuing its own national interest. However, the Minister for Trade and Resources wants to be a Minister in an Australian government and at the same time to pursue Japan’s national interest. We want a Minister who is prepared to support Australia ‘s national interest.
The Minister talked about all the projects that did not get off the ground during Labor’s term of office. I will point to a few things which this Government has not done. Before the last election late last year several Ministers were talking about billions of dollars worth of investment being imminent. The Minister for Trade and Resources himself talked about a figure of $14 billion. The figure from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was not quite as exaggerated; it was about $6 billion. In Western Australia the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner), who is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and who then was speaking as the Minister Assisting the Treasurer, said that the Government had ready to go projects which would provide jobs for 15,000 workers in Western Australia alone. He mentioned 20 projects. He indicated the level of investment and the extent of the work force which would be employed in each project.
I thought I would follow up this matter. In May this year I put to the Minister for Trade and Resources the details which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs had put before the electorate as firm undertakings which would come into effect as soon as this Government was re-elected. What did I find? Of the 20 projects which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs was prepared to nominate before the election, the Minister for Trade and Resources could give me information on only seven. On only seven of those 20 preelection projects was the Minister able to give any estimate of the level of investment or the extent of the work force. Far from jobs being available for 15,000 people, all the Minister could point to was jobs for 3,000 people. Most of those projects were already under way. What this Government promises depends very much on what time of the year it is and the proximity of the next election.
The Opposition’s complaint is that this Government stood by while one exporter of iron ore sabotaged the whole industry. The Government stood by and let that happen. We saw Mount Newman Mining Co. Pty Ltd accept a 19 per cent cut in the base price in return for a $ 1 4m kickback which was not available to any of the other exporters. This kickback, as the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) has indicated, was in relation to the bringing forward of the renegotiation of one of the Mount Newman company’s major commodities. Clearly, of course, the Mount Newman company was anxious for the Government to approve this arrangement. It was not going to lose anything. Even though the price was lowered the Mount Newman company itself lost nothing out of it. The Government knew of the likely consequences and did nothing. It particularly knew of the consequences for producers such as Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd and other companies which are active in the Pilbara region.
These other companies are now faced with the prospect of a lower base price as a result of this Government’s acceptance of the Mount Newman deal. For them there was no possibility of offsetting that lower price by increasing prices in other directions. The Hamersley Iron company has just committed itself to an investment of about $375m in the industry. What sort of confidence can it have in this Government if, despite making that commitment, it sees this Government stand by while the industry has the stuffing knocked out of it? It is not as though the Government did not know what was going on or was powerless to act. It should have declined to approve the Mount Newman deal. At the very least it should have insisted that the $ 14m involved in the arrangement for the Mount Newman company was incorporated into the base price. If that had been done the Mount Newman company would have lost nothing but the other companies would not have been disadvantaged to the extent that they were; the Mount Newman company would have lost nothing, but the Hamersley company, for instance, would not have been so seriously disadvantaged. Alternatively, if the Government was going to insist upon approving the Mount Newman deal it could have refused to approve the Hamersley deal which flowed directly from it. That did not happen. The Minister found, as a result of approving the Mount Newman deal, that he was incapable of acting to protect the interests of the rest of the industry.
It is not as though this Government has not been prepared to talk tough on this issue. In 1976, when the Minister came back from Japan he said:
I believe the Government has a responsibility to exercise a surveillance over our trade with other countries, but I would hope- and certainly intend- that the Government would become involved in commercial negotiations only if absolutely necessary- that is, only if prices did not reflect world prices and fair trade practices.
He went on to say that the producer would be ordered to go back to Tokyo to get a higher price. If the Minister really believes that, why did he not do it? It was quite clear, as he has admitted subsequently, that the arrangement to which the Mount Newman company agreed and into which the Hamersley company was forced amounted to unfair trade practices and did not reflect world prices. The Minister said that he would prefer to see the private sector conduct its own negotiations, but he also said: . . the Government could not stand aside while the private sector acted in a way which ran counter to our national interests.
That is precisely what has happened on this occasion. Yet this Government, whilst it talks tough, has not been prepared to back up that tough talk with any sort of action. As soon as the crunch comes the Minister for Trade and Resources backs away.
One of the disturbing aspects of this whole incident is the role of the Western Australian Government. When the Federal Minister admitted that he was dissatisfied with the deal that had been negotiated, the Premier of Western Australia said that the Federal Government should get out of the way and let commercial practices prevail in iron ore deals. He said that the country was trading in a difficult market and at such times it was never possible to be certain that the best price had been obtained. Everybody knows that as a result of this Government approving the Mount Newman deal the whole industry has been sabotaged and is now worse off than it was. The Federal Government was not prepared to take the action it said it would take in these circumstances. Later, when answering a question about the tactics of the Japanese, the Premier of Western Australia said:
This is a myth that the Japanese play them off one against the other. They are all big companies. They are all big by world standards. They are all tough operators . . . Now once they become a cartel, that’s when big brother moves in, that’s when the Government is going to move in and heaven forbid, because if you want to put the dead hand on minerals in Australia, you let the Government take over.
There is not a better instance of the dead hand being placed on the iron ore industry in Western Australia. This is the result of the selfish action of one company, spearheaded by a totally foreign owned company which was responsible for the negotiations. That company has been responsible for sabotaging the interests of the whole iron ore industry in Western Australia.
– It is amazing to note the new-found interest in mining by members on the Opposition benches. It is amazing to note the somersaults they are now prepared to perform. The policies put forward by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) make it very clear that the general mining policies of the Australian Labor Party have not changed at all since 1972-73. During the period from 1972 to 1975 the ALP made concerted attempts to nationalise the mining industry by the back door. The policies which were brought down, such as foreign investment guidelines, controls over the mining industry and the abolition of tax concessions during that period, and the general thrust of the policies, resulted in most of the mining industry, most of the prospecting companies throughout Australia, leaving Australia entirely and going to places such as South America. In my electorate alone during the Labor Party’s time in government 122 exploration companies left Australia. They were actively engaged in my electorate prior to that time. So it is hypocritical of members of the Opposition to stand here today and promote greater government control as a means of solving the problems in the mining industry.
It is quite clear that the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) is indeed sensitive to the conditions that prevail not only in the iron ore industry but also in the mining industry generally. Within the parameters of the philosophy by which we stand, of establishing strong free enterprise mining developments, we will see some progress in this matter. The honourable member for Blaxland says that he has the suport of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) for the ideas that he has put forward. The honourable member for Blaxland has put forward some pretty hairy ideas recently. In a whirlwind trip through my electorate he became an overnight expert on not only the iron ore industry but also the gold mining industry. In a very brief visit of one day’s duration to gold mining areas in Kalgoorlie he became an expert. He knew of the problems and he knew how to solve them. He put forward ideas which in his opinion would have solved the problems of the gold mining industry. He said in fact that the whole purpose of his trip to the Kalgoorlie electorate was to facilitate the early re-opening of the mines on the Golden Mile. What a magician he is. His Party has not yet even attained government, let alone been able to influence any of the policies which might facilitate the re-opening of the gold mines on the Golden Mile. He is now an instant expert. He became one in 24 hours, just like that.
I have lived with the problem for 28 years and I realise that the problems go a lot deeper than what the honourable member for Blaxland could have found out or put forward in one day. It was quite clear then and he made it quite clear again today in his comments on the iron ore industry- he appeared to concentrate on the iron ore industry- that he would nationalise that industry tomorrow if he had the chance. It is quite clear that he has no time for the negotiators of the various free enterprise companies. They are the people who live with the problems day by day, the people who are dependent for their very existence on their ability to negotiate. He proposes that public servants living in Canberra or elsewhere have a more intimate knowledge of the industry and its problems than those people who are engaged in the very running of the industry on a day to day basis. I say that that is bunkum. It is quite clear that those people who are dependent not only for their jobs but also for their very existence on the continuation of mining operations have a very great deal to contribute and know more about their industry than most other people in this country. It is also quite clear that this Government is very sensitive to those problems and is aware of the positions that those negotiators hold. I am quite pleased to see that there will be some progress in this matter over the ensuing months.
The proposal that public servants would know more about the industry is absolute rot. There is no doubt at all that they have a nationalistic interest in making sure that the iron ore industry comes under government control. The Opposition pays scant regard to the long-term effects that its policy could have on long-term contracts. It might win a point in the very short term, but let us not forget that the iron ore industry in Western Australia will still exist and will still be viable in 100 years time if we do not have undue government interference. It is quite clear from the present policies of the Government of investment guidelines and of taxation concessions and from its track record of sympathy to the free enterprise way of life that this type of industry will continue in Western Australia for a darned long while. The Opposition pays scant regard to the jobs of some 10,000 or more people engaged in that area.
– Opposition members have no regard at all.
-They have no regard at all for those people and their livelihoods and for the towns and businesses which depend on them. There is also the flow-back into the total community, into the total economy of Australia. The honourable member for Blaxland does not care about that. He would not care about the 40,000 or 50,000 people in my electorate who depend almost totally on the iron ore industry. Instead he says: ‘No, wipe them off. Do away with those jobs, create more unemployment as we did in 1974’. That is the philosophy of Opposition members. That would be the result of their policies.
– Tell us about the gold mining industry.
-I will turn to the gold mining industry as I am prompted. I am reminded of some of the things put forward by the honourable member for Blaxland when he was visiting Kalgoorlie recently. He proposed a fixed price for gold. He said that if the price fell below a certain amount- he did not say what the level would be, whether it be $ 1 40 per oz or $ 1 70 per oz- the Government should give financial assistance. If the price rose above that level the Government should take the profits. If that is not direct government interference in nationalisation of the industry I do not know what is. The very fact that the price of gold has risen from $ 129 per oz to something in the vicinity of $ 1 80 per oz has given new life and new hope to the gold miners in Kalgoorlie. It has given new hope to the people who live there, those people whose livelihood depends on Kalgoorlie. They are looking with expectancy to a further rise in the price of gold. No, the honourable member for Blaxland would say: ‘If the price rises beyond a certain level the Government should take it’. I believe that is rot. That would be reimposing all of the old conditions that broke the gold mining industry.
We had a fixed price for gold for many years of £35 per oz. Because the price never rose above £35 per oz and because of the wage and price increases that occurred over that period, the gold mining companies gradually dried up, went bankrupt and went out of business. That was a direct cause for the closing down of the gold mining industry in Kalgoorlie. The honourable member for Blaxland who recently visited the area said that we ought to reimpose the fixed price for gold so that the Government can take the profits out of gold. If that were the case the mining industry could look forward to no hope of a rise in the price of gold. There would be no hope for the industry to redevelop. The honourable member also said that it would be optional only so that various companies may or may not take advantage of it. Other companies would be left out in the cold. There would not be a true stabilised price for gold. Obviously the honourable member’s policy would result in a quite fixed price for gold.
The people of Kalgoorlie totally rejected this outlook in 1975 and again they totally rejected it in 1977. 1 believe they will totally reject it again and again. It is quite obvious that the honourable member’s poor old hackneyed supporters in Kalgoorlie are running up a gum tree. They are at their wits end to try to do something to upset the present member for that electorate and they cannot do so. One of the honourable member’s errant supporters, in talking about companies, said that they would still be free to maximise their profits in a fixed price situation by increasing the grade or reducing the costs per tonne. He said that both avenues have some potential. The full mining industry utilised all of the avenues of reducing the cost per tonne and increasing its grade under the old system before the companies went broke and closed down. Now the honourable member for Blaxland and his supporters are saying: ‘That is the avenue out of the situation at the moment. We will fix the price of gold and let the companies concerned cut across their profits by reducing their costs and raising the grade of ore.’ I submit that the Opposition is in fact scraping the very bottom of the barrel in relation to this issue. It does not know what it is talking about, but it has made one thing very clear. Its intention to nationalise the mining industry through the back door has not altered and will not alter. I do not believe the people of Australia will be fooled for one minute.
The discussion has concluded.
– I move:
The proposal is for the construction of 68 buildings to provide new and additional working and other accommodation at the Enoggera military area for Field Force units of 6 Task Force and 1 Division. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $ 17.3m at May 1978 prices. The Public Works Committee has reported favourably on the proposal and has recommended the construction of the works involved. Upon the concurrence of the House in this motion, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 14 September, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I seek the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill 1978, 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 Opposition does not oppose these Bills. The Opposition has long stood for stabilisation and rationalisation of income for primary producers. The dried fruits industry has gone through more than its share of traumas in recent years, not the least of which was caused by the changes in market access which occurred because of the exclusion of Australian produce from the European Economic Community. The Bill itself continues a scheme which was introduced in 1971. At that time, it covered most dried fruits- raisins, sultanas and currants- and was similar to the wheat stabilisation scheme. Growers paid into a fund when prices were high and received payments when prices were low. This Bill extends the scheme to the seasons 1978, 1979 and 1980.
In the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) a number of points emerged. The first is that the base price is now $5 1 5 a tonne, which is 20 per cent above the 1976 level and will be adjusted by cost changes. The second point is that only sultanas are covered by the new scheme. The other dried fruits- raisins and currants- have been dropped out of the scheme. The Commonwealth’s contribution is limited to a $25 a tonne payment and to $60,000 in total. This payment is made if and when growers’ funds are exhausted. Previously, payments were limited to $23 on 75,000 tonnes. The Commonwealth’s absolute commitment has fallen, even in money terms, from $ 1.725m to $1.5m. This is a movement in the direction recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission to phase out assistance in this area. It is to that extent- in line with similar legislation which passed through this House recently with regard to the nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy- that the Government is moving to adopt the report of the Industries Assistance Commission to phase out of existence that particular fertiliser. This is directly contrary to the undertakings which the Government gave to primary producers in the firmest terms during its period in Opposition.
I remind the House of the statement made during a debate on the nitrogenous fertilisers legislation on behalf of the National Country Party by the now Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). He indicated, without any qualification, that a National Country PartyLiberal Party Government would not in any circumstances accept the IAC report. At that time for obvious political reasons, he demanded that the Government be thrown out of office because it intended to adopt the IAC report. Not dissimilar statements have been made in respect of this particular area of primary industry. In fact, National Country Party members when in Opposition- I make that qualification because, in Government, they are not delivering what they promised in Opposition- made rather exaggerated claims about what should have been done by a Labor government but what is not being done now by the National Country PartyLiberal Government. It is another case of when one does not have the responsibility one says things that people will like to hear. In fact, some honourable members opposite are still saying those things out in the electorate but they are not voting that way in this Parliament. This legislation will give some assistance of a declining nature to a section of the dried fruits industry. It certainly is not comprehensive assistance. It certainly gives notice to growers that they can expect the Government to follow the same course it followed by introducing the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Amendment Bill- that is, gradually phasing out assistance to the industry.
– What nonsense.
-That is your statement. The Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Amendment Bill was quite clear. It was absolute evidence of the National Country Party’s lack of influence in the Government and of its failure to honour obligations which it gave to the electorate, to those people it asked to support the National Country Party during the period it was in Opposition. This legislation represents a drop in government assistance of $225,000 which is a significant drop at a time of increased costs. It also adds to a number of other adjustments which are being made by the Government in the primary industry areas where government expenditure is being phased out. The Opposition does not oppose the legislation. It warns the growers that, unless they are able to require undertakings given by members who purport to represent them, they can expect further legislation of this nature and of the nature of the nitrogenous fertiliser legislation to withdraw direct government supportother than talk- from their industries.
– I could not quite follow what the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) was trying to say. I thought he said that the Australian Labor Party would have adopted the Industries Assistance Commission recommendations. In fact, he did say that.
– No, I did not.
– Yes, you did.
– I never mentioned a word about what the Labor Party would do.
– Yes, you made that statement. I will check Hansard tomorrow morning. You made the statement that the Labor Party in government would adopt the IAC recommendations.
– I said that Sinclair said that the Labor Party would adopt it. The Labor Party rejected it and maintained a bounty at the level -
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Wakefield to proceed with his speech.
– He is saying I said things that Sinclair said.
– I must be hearing very badly indeed, Mr Deputy Speaker, because I am absolutely certain that the honourable member said that.
– I said that the Minister for Primary Industry said it.
– I have heard your story. If the honourable member for Corio did not say it, I apologise. I was absolutely certain I heard him accurately. I trust that he will not attempt to alter Hansard before I check it in the morning.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for that remark to be withdrawn. It imputes an improper motive to suggest that I would distort the record of my speech. If the honourable member cannot make a speech without having to distort my speech, that is his problem, not mine.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I withdraw and apologise after all and continue on my way as he seems to be a graceless individual.
-Order! The honourable member will continue his speech.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I certainly will. The fact of the matter is that, when the Labor Party was in government, the IAC report came down and it suggested a wide variety of things. The report stated:
The need for the reference on dvfarose from the impending termination of the Dried Vine Fruit Stabilisation Scheme. This Scheme was instituted in 1971 to cover the seasons from 1971 to 1975.
The Commission recommended continuation of the scheme for 1976-77 because crop commitments would be set at that time, but that the scheme not be continued beyond the 1977 season. I will have to be careful what I say here because honourable members on the other side of the chamber are very thin skinned this afternoon, but I am at a loss to know why this Government, in consultation with the industry, offered to continue the stabilisation scheme but missing out the 1977 season. This matter was covered by a Press release at the time from the Minister for Primary Industry. It was to be done if the industry agreed with the Government on refashioning the scheme adopting similar principles. This was an offer which was openly made. It was not foisted on the industry by a government which may or may not have adopted a doctrinaire position in the past. It was brought about with the agreement of the Australian Dried Fruits Association and is the subject of the amending Bill we are dealing with this afternoon.
I do not understand why the honourable member for Corio during his speech criticised the Government for doing this. In this Bill there are several provisions which I thought the honourable member for Corio would have mentioned to save me having to do so. However, since he did not I had better touch on them. Raisins and currants are now eliminated from the stabilisation scheme partially due to the fact that they have a very low export component in their production. The Bill spells out the means of disbursing income held in the two relevant funds, but I shall not deal with this aspect now. The amount of the growers’ contribution cannot be any more than $4m, after which disbursement back to growers will occur. The amount that the Government may have to contribute in any one year is set now at a maximum of $1.5m. There are two constraints that limit the amount of the Commonwealth contribution. The first is the physical one which I have mentioned and the second is that the maximum Commonwealth contribution, now to be attributable only to sultanas, is to be $25 a tonne whereas it was $23 a tonne; such contribution to be limited to an output not exceeding 60,000 tonnes. The honourable member for Corio accurately mentioned a while ago that this quantity previously was 75,000 tonnes. So there is no need for any meaningful debate on this particular Bill. The criteria that this Government adopts, contrary to those adopted by other governments, have been met. The industry has consulted with the Minister and with officials of the Department of Primary Industry and agreement has been reached. That should suffice for this House.
There is one other matter which I would like to discuss. I notice that the Minister in his second reading speech said that 98 per cent of dried fruit growers are represented by the Australian Dried Fruits Association, and I presume that he had substance for making that statement. The Government looks on the ADFA as the authority within the industry with which it negotiates. I have no complaint about that, nor should any reasonable person. However, possibly due to them having dual membership, the Victorian Farmers’ Union and the United Farmers and Graziers of South Australia Inc. have interested themselves in matters remotely pertaining to this Bill. These matters will pertain more to a Bill which it is consistently rumoured in the agricultural Press we are to be presented with later in the session.
This raises a recurring problem, in the South Australian sector anyway, of ADFA administration. I suppose it is not only political groups or trade unions which find it difficult to get a worthwhile number of people along to branch meetings on cold winter evenings, but also grower associations, and this is very much a problem which is exercising the minds of many growers in South Australia. Many growers have not been to their ADFA branch meetings. Few have attended meetings in the past and consequently there have not been weighty discussions on matters pertaining to the future of the dried fruits industry. Therefore, there is a groundswell of opinion developing that growers have not been consulted enough. This is no criticism of the Government because, as I have said, it has meticulously consulted the ADFA. This attitude is symptomatic of the times. If there is a good television program who the hell is going to worry about going to a branch meeting? This is only human nature but it is no use growers saying afterwards that they were not consulted. This is a problem at which the Government should look.
If it is the Government’s intention in a future Bill dealing with this industry to establish a corporation to replace the Dried Vine Fruit Association, I would regard such action as wrong, and I may have to argue this at a later date. I see a grave necessity for a corporation to represent all grape growers and for its responsibilities to include those of the Australian Wine Board, the Australian Dried Fruits Association, cooperatives, distilleries, proprietary companies and all sections of the grape growing industry as they emerge. The new alternative uses of grape products need some voice in these matters. Those firms which are trying to diversify their product by producing, for example, grape juice do not have and cannot have a voice on the Australian Wine Board. I can see great merit in the Government thinking more broadly than it presently is, about a corporation, to use that loose and rather heinous word. There are divergent views expressed by all sides of the grape growing industry. They are all pulling in different directionsbut this will not be news to the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick). This happens all along the line. One way by which a consensus of views would be obtained would be to establish a corporation to deal with these issues. I gather that that matter might be more appropriate to Bills dealing with equalisation of dried vine fruits whereas this Bill refers only to stabilisation. It is interesting to note that, although there has been some insistance that dried tree fruit products be brought under a stabilisation scheme and perhaps under an equalisation scheme later on, this has not been done on this occasion.
I applaud the Government for making the Bill more simplistic by having it deal only with the three-year agreement for sultanas. It is a very difficult matter to find accurate statistics relating to dried vine fruits, as the Industries Assistance Commission found to its chagrin some time ago. In the months and years preceding the IAC report, there was a very strong demand for dual variety grapes for wine purposes. The IAC report quite accurately portrayed that demand. However, the report does not apply today when there is a low demand for grapes in general and one would expect that in the next 12 months more people in my State at any rate will be forced to dry fruits due to the low Australia-wide demand for grapes. Due to the policy that has been adopted with the best of intentions by the South Australian Government of putting a price control mechanism on a wide variety of grapes the entire surplus of grapes has been successfully centred in South Australia and, in particular, in the Riverland area.
The granting of large areas of irrigated ground to mainly big proprietary firms in South Australia is a problem that will have its effect on statistics that will emerge over the next 12 months. The current surplus, contrary to next year’s, is almost exactly the increase in production from those enormous wide open areas of grape production where automatic harvesters can patrol for half a mile at a time in a straight line, and where firms are pruning only one side of their irrigated vines and are slashing the other to cut costs. These factors will not cut back but will extenuate the problem of surplus grapes over the next few years. In my area- I do not know about the areas of honourable members sitting around me- is the equivalent of about 20,000 tonnes of grapes from these sorts of areas as yet unbearing. I put this as a side issue, if you like, to the fact that statistics in relation to the dried vine fruits industry have always been so very hard to glean from one year to the next.
I am pleased that the Government has concentrated its endeavours on sultanas. I think that is right and proper and makes the scheme a lot simpler for all concerned. I am very pleased that there is not mention of tree dried fruit in this legislation. I ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), who is at the table, to make sure that before another Bill of this nature is produced for Parliament to scrutinise copies of the legislation, or at least information on its general thrust, will be available to the industry more readily than as happened with this piece of legislation. In the last 48 hours I have received telephone calls from both the Victorian Farmers Union and the United Farmers and Graziers Association requesting copies of legislation. It was far too late for me to send them. The Australian Dried Fruits Association no doubt does whatever it can to care for its members. It covers 98 per cent of the dried vine fruit producers. However, if the tree dried fruit producers were included the proportion represented by that organisation would be very different. On my understanding the ADFA then would represent less than 50 per cent of the growers. I hope that the Minister sees where my mind is going and that he will do what he can to make future draft legislation, or indeed any generalised papers, available to people on request. I support the Bills.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) (4.48)-I support the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilization Bill 1978 and the Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill 1978. It gives me some satisfaction to be speaking after the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles). On the last occasion on which we spoke on this matter he spoke after me. I will not be as vicious as he was on that occasion. He was very critical of some of the things I had to say. Today he is taking a new turn. He criticised the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) for things he did not say. I remind the honourable member for Wakefield that he should have mentioned the dried fruit storm damage insurance scheme which affected a lot of people in his electorate and in mine. One would hope that when consideration is given to the dried fruit industry consideration will also be given to this insurance scheme. A lot of growers would not insure because earnings on the money in the scheme would have been taxed. It seems to me that it is foolish for the Government to discourage people from insuring their crops in such a manner.
It gives me some satisfaction to know that the Government is introducing a Bill to provide price support for the dried vine fruit growers’ returns in the 1978-79 season. It also gives me some satisfaction to know that by doing this the Government is not accepting the Industries Assistance Commission recommendation that the stabilisation arrangements be discontinued after the 1977 season. It must be remembered that the Industries Assistance Commission recommendation not only deals with stabilisation arrangements but also covers other matters that are violently opposed by the dried vine fruit growers. I point out that the main area of opposition was stated in a letter from the Australian Dried Fruits Association to the Department of Primary Industry as far back as 1 4 July 1 976. The letter states:
I suppose that is one of the most important considerations. Towns and cities along the Murray River depend almost entirely on the dried vine fruit industry. There is no doubt that the implementation of the recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission would have caused widespread family and community hardship had it been fully adopted by the Government. As I said, the Renmark and Sunraysia districts, which were founded in about 1887, depend to a large extent on the dried vine fruit industry. If the recommendation of the IAC were implemented towns in those areas would become ghost towns almost overnight. The Australian Dried Fruits Association’s letter states that 40 per cent of the Sunraysia district depends on dried vine fruits. On my side of the river, in the Wentworth, Buronga and Dareton areas I would think the percentage of the population which depends on the dried vine fruit industry would be even higher.
It would be tragic to consider any stabilisation scheme or any restructuring of the dried fruit industry if the relevance of the citrus and wine industries were not considered at the same time. The dried vine fruit growers in my electorate claim that the wine industry should be studied in association with the dried vine fruit industry. The prospect of the wineries increasing their intake and also of course the difference that the removal of the wine and brandy taxes would make to the wine industry and the effect of the flow-on to the dried fruit industry also should be considered. Of course, the old question of tariff protection against wine and brandy imports comes up. Should there be a need for restructuring in the dried vine fruit industry the prospect of the growers restructuring to citrus growing also should be considered; but this would be ridiculous if there were not adequate protection from the heavy imports of cheap citrus juices. I know that that is another matter that the Industries Assistance Commission is considering at present. It is one which is of vital concern to the dried vine fruit growers. Before any of these considerations are weighed, the further planting of vines should be considered because nothing is more upsetting to the dried vine fruit grower who is trying to restructure than to find that new plantings have taken place in other areas. It is a complaint that I am continually hearing. I am sure that the honourable member for Wakefield and the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) would be concerned about this also.
– It is a State matter, of course.
– It should be a matter of agreement between the States. I think it is wrong to say that it is a State matter. There should be some understanding reached throughout the industry. The result of any recommendation which suggests the need for restructuring must surely be in doubt so long as there remains no effective means of controlling the level of new planting. I think that honourable members have to agree with that observation because that is what the growers have asked for. They have made appeals to have their industry restructured because the current situation is that they can go down the road from their plantations and see a field of new vines. It must be admitted that when the Dried Vine Fruit Stabilisation Bill was introduced in this House in March 1976 the Minister gave a timely warning concerning the future prospects of the industry. I shall read from Hansard what the Minister had to say on that occasion:
There can be little doubt that considerable adjustment will be required in the industry in the next few seasons. Because of the importance of the industry to areas along the Murray River, this adjustment will have serious regional implications. It is the Government’s intention that this process of adjustment should be orderly, and should not be accompanied by unnecessary individual hardship.
I do not know how anyone could reach a conclusion different from that after studying the IAC’s report of November 1975. This was not good news for those engaged in the dried fruit industry, and I expressed the same opinion to many of the growers in my electorate. I did this because I could not see how any assistance could be gained unless everyone realised the seriousness of the situation. I want to read from a report in the Sunraysia Daily that indicates how serious the situation was at that time. It is dated 19 October 1976 and is headed: ‘Growers in trouble are advised to go on the dole’. The report stated:
Mr Whiting and Mr Ken Wright, M.L.C., were also at the meeting.
Mr Whiting said talks centred around the eligibility of dried fruit growers for unemployment benefits.
He said that the only requirement for a grower to go on the dole was that he make himself available for full-time employment.
He said many growers were heavily in debt and needed the unemployment money.
The only alternative is for the growers to walk off their properties, and some are getting close to this, ‘ he said.
Mr Whiting said if growers could work their properties in their spare time, or get another member of the family to do the work, they should register for unemployment benefits.
I read this only to indicate just how serious the situation was at that time in the dried fruit industry. The Minister’s role was appreciated at that time. However, I would not like anyone to think that the growers got all their own way because at that time it was the growers who asked for the deferment of the two-pool scheme for five years together with the continuation for another 5 years of the dried vine fruit stabilisation scheme for sultanas. Of course, many of them are disappointed that the stabilisation scheme is limited to output not exceeding 60,000 tonnes. This represents a reduction of 1 5,000 tonnes in the output provided for in the previous scheme. Taking into consideration the fact that new planting is still allowed to continue, I think that this new provision is an unfair penalty on the dried fruit growers because it is not their fault that these new plantings are taking place.
Regardless of what provision is made in the stabilisation scheme for dried fruit growersassistance is provided to people in serious need of it- unless something is done to improve the salinity level of the Murray River this assistance will be of no purpose. Unless something is done about the wine and brandy tax, wine growers will be in the same predicament. Perhaps the most serious recommendation in the IAC’s report is that which applies to imports of citrus juices. I ask the Government not to hang back much longer in combining the introduction of this stabilisation scheme with an announcement that it will not accept that part of the IAC’s report which deals with the importation of citrus juices. I urge the Government to do that because this is a matter that is seriously concerning growers in the dried vine fruit industry.
-I think we all remember that on 1 1 March 1974 the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, referred to the Industries Assistance Commission for inquiry and report the Australian dried fruit industry. It was set up to inquire into whether the Australian Government should provide financial assistance, whether it should be continued and whether it should assist in stabilising the returns to growers from dried vine fruit production beyond the season commencing 1 January 1975. If it found that those things should happen, it was to inquire into what the nature and extent of the assistance should be, as well as for what period of time any recommended assistance should be provided. The resulting extensive and costly inquiry is well remembered by most people within the industry. It probably requires no further comment, except to note that the Commission’s recommendations could not be presented within the required 18 months.
I shall just briefly mention what those recommendations were. Firstly, in the area of marketing, it was recommended that a two-pool entitlement scheme for the marketing of dried vine fruit be introduced. Secondly, in the adjustment area, it recommended that the provisions of the fruit growing reconstruction report be applied, that there be adjustment counselling, that there be concessional adjustment finance and that there be assistance for the removal of vines.
Thirdly, the Commission said that the dried vine fruit stabilisation scheme should be extended until transactions relating to the 1977 crop had been finalised or until the two-pool entitlement scheme had been introduced but that the stabilisation scheme should not apply beyond the 1977 crop. These recommendations were not acceptable to the majority of members of the Australian Dried Fruit Board or its Federal Council.
At the direction of the Federal Council in 1976 the recommendations were opposed on the following basis: Firstly, that the IAC report was incomplete in that it made no assessment of the effect of its recommendations on the wine industry; secondly, the inquiry did not include an indepth examination of export marketing. It was felt that insufficient information had been given on the ability of the Commonwealth to enforce a two-pool scheme or of the willingness of the State governments to implement complementary legislation to permit such a scheme to operate. In addition, it was felt that the time was inopportune for further retrenchments in the dried fruit producing areas.
The Dried Vine Fruits Stabilisation Amendment Bill and the Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill receive my total support because, through consultation and agreement between the industry and the Government, I believe we have a scheme that will provide for the needs of the industry over the next three years. These Bills have some modifications to previous stabilisation schemes that applied in the seasons 1971 to 1976. A major change is that the arrangements are to apply to returns from dried sultanas only and not, as was the case in the past, to currants and raisins. Today the production of these two products is small in quantity. They are sold mainly on the domestic market. The Government, in agreeing with the request from the industry for exclusion from the arrangements for 1978-1980, has decided that this would not preclude their re-inclusion should a further scheme for stabilisation of dried vine fruits beyond 1980 be considered.
The Government and the industry have also agreed that the base price for the 1 978 season, on a sweat box basis, will be $515 a tonne. This figure takes account of the fact that producers’ prices have been rising, and it is also consistent with general market expectations. It is also 20 per cent higher than the base price for sultanas that applied under the stabilisation scheme for the 1976 season. For the 1979 and 1980 seasons, the base price is to be adjusted by the absolute amount of the net changes to the cash costs of growers and will, for the first time, include an imputed figure for the farm operators; labour as calculated by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. This procedure is consistent with that presently being used to adjust the home consumption price of wheat. If the average seasonal return for sultanas is above the base price by $10 per tonne growers will, except when production does not exceed 50,000 tonnes, pay the excess into the sultana stabilisation fund, the applicable limit being $20 per tonne. At that level no industry contribution will be payable. If in a season a payment out of the stabilisation fund is due, and there is insufficient industry money in the fund, the Commonwealth will finance the payment to the extent necessary to raise the average return to the base price, less $ 10 per tonne.
There are however, as has already been pointed out by previous speakers, two constraints in this legislation. First, there is to be a limit to the amount of Commonwealth contribution. The maximum contribution is to be $25 a tonne, an increase of only $2 over that for the previous scheme. Secondly, such contribution is to be limited, as against 75,000 tonnes previously, to an output not exceeding 60,000 tonnes. The maximum contribution to be made by the Commonwealth in any one season is therefore set at $1.5m.
As was the case with the previous schemes, the maximum of grower contribution held in the sultana stabilisation fund will be $4m, and any surplus will be distributed to growers on a first in, first out basis. I am sure that the proposals set out in this Bill will give added confidence to the sultana producing industry in tackling the rapidly changing production and marketing situations which confront it. They provide some protection to sultana growers against a severe price downturn in world markets and, as I have mentioned, have the full support of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, whose membership includes about 98 per cent of dried fruit growers.
The complementary Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill simply reduces, by 10,000 tonnes, to 50,000 tonnes, the figure as to the minimum quantity of sultanas to be received for packing in any of the seasons 1977, 1978, 1979 or 1980. The dried fruits industry has been going through substantial change and the continuance of stabilisation will permit further changes to be made with a reasonable degree of market assurance. However, we should look at the industry situation as it is at present. On the domestic market the average return from sales has followed an upward trend, from $483 a tonne for sultanas in 1970 to an estimated $852 in 1977. The domestic market usually takes from 22,000 to 24,000 tonnes a year. On the export market, producers’ returns from dried vine fruits depend heavily on world prices, which vary from year to year. In the five seasons to 1977, exports of sultanas, as a proportion of production, ranged from 65 per cent to 74 per cent. There is no doubt that shortterm prospects exist for maintaining high average export prices for sultanas, which in 1977 brought approximately $892 a tonne. That was attributable mainly to world stocks, as a result of a small 1976 crop in California, and reduced supplies in other producing countries being relatively low.
I was interested to hear the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) engage once again in a crystal ball gazing act concerning what he believed this Government might or might not do. I would point out to him that the people in the dried fruits areas well remember exactly what the Labor Government did when it was in office. We remember that its reaction to the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on superphosphate was to remove the bounties. We remember that that Government reacted to the fuel equalisation scheme by removing its benefits to rural dwellers. Also, the honourable member omitted to recall that the Bill which we are now debating has been brought to bear as a result of the total agreement that has been reached, as a result of consultation, between the Government and the major section of the dried fruits industry.
The honourable member for Riverina (Mr FitzPatrick) engaged in some discussion about the effects of recent situations in these areas as they related to hail damage. In any discussion of a Bill such as this one should make some mention of the hail disaster that occurred throughout Sunraysia on 4 October 1977. Some 640 properties were affected. Some were completely wiped out. Some 4,800 hectares were ruined and 12,500 tonnes of fruit could not be harvested. The net effect of this upon the growers was that a total loss of $ 1 2m was suffered.
I pay a great tribute to the various sections of the Commonwealth Government and of the State government which assisted the growers to get through what was perhaps the most traumatic and disastrous period of their lives on their properties. I pay a special tribute to the officers of the Rural Finance Department who, through their understanding and work, have so far distributed in excess of $2m to growers affected by the disaster. The officers of the Department of Social Security and of the Commonwealth Employment Service also deserve considerable credit for their understanding of the situation and the fact that they were able to operate within the changes made to various parts of the welfare legislation, which for the first time enabled selfemployed persons to benefit in times of stress from the social welfare system.
The insuring of horticultural crops has always been a very difficult problem, but the Australian dried fruits industry deserves great credit in that regard. One of the things that came out of this disaster was that it was able to negotiate with a large insurance company, and has now been able to underwrite an insurance scheme that, as long as it receives adequate support, will provide some sort of overall coverage for growers. Since the hailstorm the industry has explored several areas in an attempt to find a suitable hail insurance scheme. Attempts that were made by myself and other members of the industry to obtain government underwriting were unsuccessful. However, it has been possible to obtain, for a premium which is not beyond the finances of individual growers, insurance up to around a maximum of $ 1 m of claims in any one year.
My information is that already some 16,000 hectares of dried fruits production in my electorate has, for the coming year, been covered by this scheme. It is also significant that this year the dried fruits industry can look forward to a continuation of the high prices that it has received in the last two seasons. These high prices have given a new confidence to the industry. This year already, as we are aware, some 50 per cent of the Californian crop has been damaged. Thus these high prices will continue. This is indicated by the fact that the competing countries of Turkey and Greece are presently holding back large quantities of their crops in anticipation of this world shortage and, therefore, increased prices.
I am pleased that the Government rejected the IAC report brought down two years ago. I am pleased because I feel that the dried fruit industry has been very reasonable over the years in attempting to adjust by various measures to changing situations. In the Sunraysia district in my electorate and also in the Robinvale area, the industry has shown responsibility through diversifying into many other cash crops such as fresh vegetable production, avocados and almonds. Of course, there has been an expansion in the citrus industry, which has been perhaps at its most viable level over the last two or three years, thanks to a certain level of government assistance.
I am sure that the areas that are under dried fruit production in Australia at present can look forward to a successful season, hopefully with two or three more to follow. Hopefully, despite the huge increase in costs caused by inflation, the price level will be better than it has ever been before in the history of the industry. I totally support the Bills, recognising that in the near future other legislation relating to the industry will have to be introduced, particularly in regard to equalisation and possibly in regard to the formation of a corporation to look at encompassing all areas of wine and dried grape production. I support this legislation.
– I rise briefly to support the two Bills. I am rather puzzled by the reluctance of Government speakers to acknowledge that, in fact, this legislation represents to some extent a phasing out of assistance under the dried vine fruits stabilisation scheme. They have all acknowledged the figures but they seemed to be reluctant to acknowledge the significance of them. The facts show that the rate of subsidy will be reduced. The maximum Commonwealth contribution will be reduced from $25 to $23 a tonne. The overall ceiling of the Commonwealth contribution in any season will be $1.5m, which is a reduction. The volume to which the subsidy will apply has been reduced from 75,000 tonnes to 60,000 tonnes. Raisins and currants will not be covered by the new scheme. Obviously, these are all marginal cutbacks of the assistance scheme. I think the Government speakers should acknowledge this.
The Government says that it is not adopting the Industries Assistance Commission report. I suppose this is a matter of degree. I think we should remember that the IAC report was produced in a different economic climate from that which exists today. If the IAC was called on today to report on the dried fruit industry it may come up with a completely different formula. When its report was produced it was not under instructions from the Government, as it is now, to take note of the social effects of its recommendations. Of course, the unemployment situation had not got completely out of hand through the bad economic management of the Government. The IAC was rather keen to talk about reconstructing the industry in those days. People perhaps had an opportunity of getting out of the industry and into some other form of employment, which opportunity is not available to them today. So the circumstances are completely changed. One cannot just keep referring to an IAC report put out three or four years ago in circumstances which were completely different from those which are in existence today.
Another interesting feature to note about Government speakers is the difference in their attitudes towards the future of the industry. Certainly, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr
Fisher) was much more optimistic about the future for prices and production than was the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles). I do not know who is right. They cannot both be right. I hope that the honourable member for Mallee is right.
– They could both be wrong.
– They could both be wrong. I did not think of that. Certainly, in relation to production forecasts the honourable member for Wakefield seemed to be at variance with the ‘Outlook’ report in suggesting that perhaps a lot of the wine grapes will finish up as dried grapes because of the integration within the wine industry. The big wine producers are tending to grow their own grapes and become independent of the independent growers. This puts the growers in a much less competitive position. This is happening in the electorate of the honourable member for Wakefield. He should know something about it. His predictions might be much more accurate than those in the official Bureau of Agricultural Economics ‘Outlook’. This report states:
Over the next few years, it is envisaged that the dried vine fruit pack will decline somewhat . . . The bearing area under multi-purpose grapes is fairly static and average yields are trending slightly downward reflecting a large proportion of old vines.
This seems to be in conflict with some of the evidence that many new vines are being planted. The ‘Outlook’ report claims:
Replacements have been low at less than two per cent per year and, although these have been with high yielding material, it should be some time until the proportion of high yielding vines is sufficiently large to reverse the downward trend in average yields.
I do not know who is right. They might both be wrong. I think we all concede that the dried vine fruit industry is a very volatile one. It is very dependent on seasonal conditions, which can be very unstable, and it is very dependent on export prices, which can be also very unstable. Certainly, it is an industry that is in need of stabilisation. It is just a matter of how we go about this stabilisation and whether we achieve the objectives that we set out to achieve when we stabilise these industries. If we tend to reduce production and reduce our dependence on exports, returns should be slightly higher because the domestic market has tended to be better than the export market. We know that export opportunities have declined in the United Kingdom and have tended to be replaced by new opportunities opening up in countries such as Japan, although it seems that we have not made the most of these opportunities. I think that there is considerable room for improvement. There is a much greater potential for increasing our market in Japan if we adopted a more aggressive promotion policy. But in former years we tended to sit back and sell overseas on a protection basis, as we did in the United Kingdom. Now that is all gone. We are not being very successful with the sort of diplomacy we are using to try to sell our goods in the European Economic Community. So we have to depend on overseas markets. Certainly Japan is one of those markets. Canada is another where we enjoy reasonable opportunities. New Zealand is another. In trading with New Zealand we have a freight advantage and we can compete with other countries.
Although the dried vine fruit industry is expected to contract in the long-term with a subsequent decline in the dependence on export markets, in the short-term we will still be dependent on a large proportion of our produce being sold for exports and, consequently, there will be great fluctuations in the returns to the producers. If the domestic prices are able to be maintained above the export prices at present rates, then average producer returns are expected to rise in proportion as the export crop fails.
Whilst we are still staying with the two-pool marketing arrangements which the IAC recommended, I think we should be looking at other alternatives, and there are other alternatives. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick) mentioned one of them. Certainly, I do not think that hail insurance is any great panacea. A person does not get anything tie does not pay for with hail insurance. In fact, he gets a bit less because the insurance companies want their little bit of cream. He does not get anything for nothing from a private insurance company. He only gets something less than what he pays. Certainly it is a means of spreading the risk.
I think that apart from the stabilisation scheme we could be putting much more emphasis on research to make our production more competitive in the export markets. Of course, there is a very wide range of research areas where we are active but could be more active, particularly in solving salinity problems, which were referred to by my colleague, the honourable member for Riverina. The development of root stocks which resist salinity in the water is another area where great potential exists. Extending the shelf life of the product, developing new varieties, protecting the crop against rain damage, looking at the effect of heat treatment and viruses, and the general problem of insect and pest control are all areas which would be good investments. If we were able to divert enough of our resources into those areas it would generally lead to lower production costs and would make us more competitive on overseas markets and less dependent on stabilisation schemes. Apart from that, I think we have to stay with the scheme in the short term. For those reasons I support the Bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 14 September, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 14 September, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Collection Bill 1978 as they are associated measures. Separate questions of course will be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore 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.
– I rise to support the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Amendment Bill 1978. I understand that the purpose of the Bill is to close the loophole by which possible avoidance of the levy formerly existed. This involved producers retaining ownership of whole milk and butter fat until after the product had been processed by a cooperative factory. The obligation on the cooperative to pay the levy raised a legal doubt about who, if anyone, should pay the levy when this procedure was followed. The second Bill, the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Collection Bill, provides for the collection of the levy. The purpose of the levy is to finance research under the auspices of the Dairy Research Committee and to finance the administration and promotional activities of the Australian Dairy Corporation which handles manufactured products. The promotion of liquid sales is the responsibility of State dairy authorities.
Let me refer to the outlook of the industry. Like all other rural industries it is faced with escalating costs, a contracting domestic market and low export returns. This is the normal picture for practically all rural industry and certainly the fruit and dairy industries. The underwriting of butter, cheese, casein and skim milk powder should give increased average unit returns to producers but this is expected to be offset by increasing costs. Therefore, it is expected that the net returns to producers will continue to decline. Last week’s issue of The Land reported that only 2,500 to 2,800 dairy farmers would be left in New South Wales in 10 years. Five years ago there were 6,000 dairymen in New South Wales. There has been a dramatic decline in the industry and a tremendous movement out of it. As was said in debate on the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilization Amendment Bill, the opportunity to get out of these industries now is not so bright because the alternatives are not there for people to enter into other forms of employment. It has also been estimated that in 10 years’ time all dairy production could be serviced by 15 factories. At present there are 38 factories.
The consumption trends in Australia for dairy products have not been good. In 1976-77 butter consumption fell by a record 13.7 per cent to an estimated 8 1 , 000 tonnes despite a fall in real retail prices of 5.3 per cent. This is a result of changes in consumer tastes and the availability of more acceptable alternatives. The other important factor is the fall of 12 per cent in the retail price of the main competitor- margarine. The effect of the removal of production quotas on margarine was quite dramatic on the dairy industry. The downward trend in the consumption of fluid milk and cream since the early 1970s seems to be easing. This easing probably will continue if retail prices are kept constant and if the recent introduction of low fat, high protein milk influences the situation. The important point about the consumption of whole milk is the dramatic effect of the successful promotion undertaken in Victoria which has showed the way to the fact that these products in the hands of professional people with a more aggressive marketing policy can be marketed in the same way as any other product. The consumption of cheese has been increasing steadily, I believe, but this is slowing down and is not likely to continue.
I now turn to the relevance of the purpose of this levy Bill- the research in influencing consumption trends. I refer to the development of a butter-margarine blend and the marketing of other products, such as ‘dairy soft’, which has been marketed by the Australian Dairy Corporation. These are hoped to halt the decline in consumption. As I have mentioned before, the promotion of ‘Big M’ in Melbourne to boost sales of liquid milk resulted in an increase of nine per cent above the trend. It should be noted that whole milk sales return at least twice as much per unit to dairy farmers as manufactured products. Any innovations which can promote the consumption of whole milk as against manufactured products are much more desirable than trying to promote the manufactured products.
A great deal of research activity has been going on in cheese production particularly by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Melbourne. It has four major research projects operating, three of which are concerned with developing better cheese production techniques and improving cheese flavour. The CSIRO is also concerned with developing specialty cheeses. In Tasmania a new factory was opened recently following a fire. It is a very innovative factory which has an output of some 15,000 tonnes. It is operated by Lactos Pty Ltd. It uses the most advanced manufacturing processes, including computer techniques. Australians now eat about 76,000 tonnes of cheese annually, 58,520 tonnes of which is locally produced. The Lactos company believes that the local market in the future will be far more stable for specialty cheeses than for cheddar and tasty cheeses, although other people may not agree.
It is obvious that research and promotion of dairy products are of extreme importance to the viability of the dairy industry. Some good work is going on in this area, but much more still needs to be done. Of course, our promotion activities overseas are also crucial. I shall speak briefly on the export situation. The international market, I understand, is undergoing a process of structural change which has increased its inherent instability and its sensitivity to sudden variations in the volume of traded supplies, particularly of butter and skim milk products. In this process it is believed that the prospects for cheese, whole milk powder and milk protein products appear to be generally more favourable. The problem now seems to be that world stocks are high and production in most producer countries is expanding while demand is declining. This could have very adverse effects on world prices.
Australia is faced with a contracting domestic market, changing demand patterns at home and overseas, and structural changes in the international market. This means alterations in both the pattern and the direction of Australian trade in dairy products. Our main markets are in Japan, but in this area we expect strong competition from New Zealand and possibly the European Economic Community through some of its dumping practices. The Untied States of America and Canada are unlikely to become regular outlets for Australian products. There are also prospects for our products in Latin America, particularly Mexico, and smaller outlets in the Middle East, particularly for cheese. Asian markets are primarily for milk recombining products and joint venture operations of milk recombining plants.
A substantial proportion of Australian dairy products still has to be disposed of overseas. In 1976-77 exports accounted for 29 per cent of milk production. Ten years ago the figure was 36 per cent. This poses a problem as returns for exports are well below domestic returns. The overriding problem is the marketing of our products both overseas and locally. Technology exists for very efficient production of dairy products and research is going on for the continual refining and diversification of these products. Perhaps more emphasis should be placed on market research programs in relation to local and overseas markets. I support the Bills.
-The dairy industry research and promotion levy was introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government in 1972 to allow for the implementation of a more definite dairy industry research and promotion program. In 1976 the levy was widened to include market or human consumption milk as well as milk used for manufacturing. The purpose of these Bills is to close a loophole which allowed some co-operative dairy factories and the farmers who supplied them to avoid their responsibility to the national dairy industry. This legislation closes this escape not only by requiring the levy to be paid when the factory assumes ownership of the milk and then either sells it or manufactures it into dairy products but also by requiring factories which sell or process on behalf of the producer to pay the levy. It also validates past payments by factories.
I wish to refer in some detail to the research aspect of this legislation. Dairy farmers, through the levy, pay for research on a dollar for dollar basis with the Government. This is similar to all other primary industry research schemes. I believe that there is a lesson for the Government and the community in this shared financial arrangement, that is, the sharing of the cost of research. Many sectors in our community claim that their area of interest should receive research grants from the Government or additional research grants from the Government. The National Health and Medical Research Council makes grants for medical research. Grants are made in the fields of industry and science and for social science research. These other interest groups are claiming that more money should be spent on research in their areas. I have not heard one of them put forward the proposition that it is prepared to enter into a cost sharing arrangement with this Government. I am sure that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), who is sitting at the table at present, would be very pleased to hear from the Australian Medical Association and others in the medical fraternity that they would be prepared to put some money in with the funds which the Government is putting forward and so share in the cost of medical research. I know that the Minister has suggested that.
I believe that the farmers of this country have shown the way to the rest of the community. The net incomes of people in other sectors of the community, whether they be doctors, people in industry or social welfare workers, are higher than those of the farmers. No matter how small farmers’ incomes have been, even if they have had negative incomes on a technical basis, they still have been required to pay and have gladly paid the research levy. I believe that the farmers are showing the way to the rest of the country in practical self-help. They will put up money for research on a dollar for dollar basis with the Government. I would like to see that practice extended beyond the farming community to others who say that more should be spent on research.
The sixth annual report of the Dairying Research Committee- that for the year ended 30 June 1978- has just been tabled in the Parliament. The Dairying Research Committee administers the dairy research grants. I compliment those involved with this Committee on their very prompt compilation of this report. I note from the report that $935,618 was approved for expenditure in the year just ended. That is not a huge amount, I acknowledge; but progress certainly is being made. That amount was allocated as follows: Farm research, $310,604; manufacturing research, $455,8 14; and other projects, including education grants, et cetera, $169,200. I have discussed the work of this Committee with John Bennett, the President of the Austraiian Dairy Farmers Federation and one of the four dairy farmer representatives on the Committee. He stated that it is hoped that greater emphasis will be placed on applied or ‘on farm’ research, that is, the type of research that can have immediate or almost immediate application at the farm level.
There is also a need, of course, for greater emphasis on ensuring that farmers are aware of research results and are in a position to apply these results. There is a general proposition to reduce the application gap- the time between when something is discovered and sorted out to a reasonable degree and when the farmers actually apply it. I understand that part of this new emphasis will be a greater concentration on a whole farm management approach rather than on a series of unconnected and unrelated sectors. This appears to me to be good common sense. We must look- I can refer to the dairy farmers I represent in the Goulburn Valley and northern irrigation area of Victoria- at dairy farms and see where the major bottlenecks are, that is, those parts of management which require inordinate time or capital relative to the other parts of the management structure or which are becoming increasingly difficult as herd sizes increase and labour becomes harder to retain.
One could think of some of these bottlenecks as a part of the whole management approach. One is the problem of the time taken to milk cows. This still can be a problem, when one considers that the average herd size has increased so dramatically in the last few years. But, with the reasonably universal use now of herringbones, the increasing confidence returning to the industry and the greater availability of rotary cow sheds, this is not a major bottleneck. In my area, which as I said earlier is an irrigation dairy area, the actual timing and application of irrigation can be a bottleneck. In some cases farmers can milk more cows than they can grow food for. To a certain extent this is being overcome by new irrigation techniques, such as the use of the laser beam in land layout. This is of interest because one of the first commercial applications for the laser has found its way into agriculture and into the use of what we call an automatic or a semiautomatic grading mechanism to improve water flow. One can speak also of some of the more expensive automatic irrigation systems. I think the majority of dairy farmers will require a better financial situation before they can look at those.
Haymaking is a particular problem. The problem lies in the time taken to make it, cart it and feed it out. There is also a problem in relation to the actual amount of hay that is required to sustain cows during the low feed periods. A comparison of my area with the major dairying areas of New Zealand indicated that the average New Zealand dairy farmer requires to conserve only one-third the amount of hay a year conserved by our dairy farmers. This is partly due to their climate. God was very kind to New Zealanders. They can grow grass more easily than farmers anywhere else in the world. They have a better winter growing ability for grass because of their climate. I believe that they have done more homework on the question of management of their stock in order to reduce the amount of hay required during the short feed period. I think this is one of the points that John Bennett is making. One also reads in the report of the work that has been done in the application of large package hay systems to dairy farming. I commend that work because this appears to be a way to reduce the amount of labour required for the handling of the necessary hay. By a ‘large package’ I mean, not the rectangular bale, but a round bale which is equivalent to about 20 to 25 ordinary bales, or one of the other mini-stack systems.
Another area which is quite a problem with increasing herd size is the question of actually joining the cattle, or getting the cows in calf. This is partly due to infertility problems and management problems of a large herd, but it is also due to the problem of observation of heat periods of a large number of cows. There have been some interesting developments in this area, but much remains to be done. The actual length of the milking period- that is, the actual lactation period- of the cows is also of interest. One can see at home partly due to the new arrangements for the provision of liquid milk for human consumption purposes in Victoria a trend to a shorter milking period. This also reflects the attitude in New Zealand where I think farmers to a greater extent than we do have a shorter and more concentrated milking period. We need to undertake some research in this area to ascertain the advantages and disadvantages of that approach to managing a herd. This to me is also part of the overall management concept of a dairy farmer on his farm.
Related to the concentrated milking period in New Zealand is the fact that farmers in that country do not need as much hay. That provides a better recreation period for them. If the farmer is to increase productivity- we hope that through this research system he will- he will have two options. He will have either to increase production or to provide some time for recreation. This is something that is quite often forgotten. Farmers are the only people in our society who are expected somehow or other to work and work and increase productivity. The question of recreation which is seen as a right by the rest of the community is not seen as a right to farmers. I hope that in the development of increasing productivity through this research system farmers will be able to take their fair share of recreation along with others in this community.
The implementation of this research requires a confidence in the future by those who are engaged in the industry. I think of confidence in the future in two ways. Firstly the age structure of those in the industry should be such that they will take risks. This is quite a problem not only for dairying but also for agriculture generally. It does not apply just in Australia, in fact the position in some other countries is worse than it is here. The average age of farmers is rising and as the average age rises the willingness to take risks is reduced. There was an interesting visit to Parliament last week by Professor Fraser who is Professor of Sociology at Massey University. Earlier this year when I was in New Zealand I witnessed some of the field work for a hill study which was attempting in the hill country behind Wanganui in the North Island to assess the willingness of farmers to take risks- in other words, to invest in new capital to increase livestock and so forth. That study appears to have come up with a rather surprising result. Previous opinion on the subject was that farmers up to the age of about 40 or perhaps 45 were prepared to take risks for the future. As a result of the survey the group conducting the study is now inclined to the view that the age at which a farmer turns off and starts to play safe is far lower than what was originally thought and could be as low as in the twenties. It found that by the time a farmer reaches 30 or 35 years of age he is not prepared to take risks. For a dynamic kind of agriculture which we have and which I hope will continue this is a very serious message for us, if that particular study has application elsewhere.
The other point I make in relation to risk taking is that farmers not only need confidence in the future and in receiving a certain level of income but also need the level of income that allows them to put a deposit on the extra livestock units or machinery, whatever they may need. I hope that as a result of the underwriting arrangements that this Government has introduced and has improved the measures taken by the industry itself, some with government support and some without government support, to stabilise the industry will provide this most necessary confidence so that our dairying industry can remain at the forefront of the technically efficient dairy industries in the world. I support the legislation.
-The Opposition does not oppose either of these two Bills. The purpose of the first Bill- the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Amendment Bill- is to close a possible loophole by which the dairying industry could avoid paying the levy provided for under the Act. Legal doubts had been raised about two aspects of the Act. Apparently they are these: Firstly, the imposition of the Commonwealth levy on whole milk and butterfat which is produced in Australia and supplied by the producer to a co-operative dairy factory for processing by the co-operative on behalf of the producer; and, secondly, the obligation of the co-operative dairy factories to make deductions equal to the levy from amounts payable to producers in respect to whole milk and butterfat supplied by a producer to a co-operative dairy factory for processing by the co-operative on behalf of the producer and to pay such amounts to the Commonwealth.
The second Bill- the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Collection Billfacilitates the collection of the levy. The Act which this Bill amends provides that a person who purchases whole milk or butterfat from the producer becomes liable to pay the levy on behalf of the producer if it has not already been paid. Apparently it has been discovered that payment of the levy could be avoided and this possibility has resulted in these two amending Bills. The need for amendments to the two Acts relates to circumstances where whole milk or butterfat is not actually purchased by a cooperative dairy factory but is delivered to the cooperative on behalf of the producer or processed by the co-operative for subsequent sale. This has raised the doubt as to whether the co-operative in their cirucmstances actually has to pay the levy. The Opposition believes that it is in the interests of the industy and of the country generally that such a loophole be closed. The moneys collected under the legislation are used to finance the research activities of the Dairying Research Committee and to finance the administration and promotion activities of the Australian Dairy Corporation. The Opposition supports these objectives, supports the basis of the amendments, and supports both pieces of legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 14 September, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 2 1 September.
Department of the Northern Territory
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 , 247,000.
Department of the Capital Territory
Proposed expenditure, $80,303,000.
Department of Home Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $7 1,426,000.
-Tonight I want to speak about the estimates for the Department of Home Affairs, which deals with the problems of women in Australia. Before I deal with the actual estimates themselves, I want to say something about discrimination against women in this country. Much has been said about discrimination in recent years and many people are in favour of eliminating discrimination against women. It is a bit like one of the sacred cows. Everybody says: ‘Yes, we are in favour of such action’, but not a great deal is being done about it. I would like to suggest that, if we are really serious about ending discrimination against women, we ought to start right here in Parliament House. I have done some research. I am aware of the fact that there is not one woman member of this Parliament which has 123 members. In 77 years of this Parliament only four women- Joan Child, Kay Brownbill, Doris Blackburn and Dame Enid Lyons- have served. They served a total of 12 years and six months in the Parliament. More than 1,000 members have been elected to this place, yet we have had only four women members.
– That is in the House of Representatives.
-That is in the House of Representatives. There have been not many more in the Senate. It really is disgraceful that there is not one woman member of the House of Representatives. We often talk about how advanced we are as a Western society. Yet, countries like India, Israel and Sri Lanka which, supposedly, do not give the same status to women as we do, in recent years have had women Prime Ministers. Let me also suggest that perhaps we can start in this chamber by eliminating some of the discrimination that exists. I am not aware of any woman being appointed as a senior counsel officer or a Clerk of this Parliament. I have the greatest respect for the Clerks in this Parliament- Mr Blake, Mr Pettifer and othersbut is it not about time that perhaps the SerjeantatArms or the Usher of the Black Rod were women? I know that there are Clerks of Houses of Parliament who are women.
There is not one woman attendant in this Parliament. The women who do work in this House usually serve the tea in the dining room. Quite frankly, it is about time we did more than just pay lip service to women. It has to start with the political parties and it has to start with the bureaucrats who run Parliament House. I do not want to offend any of the attendants here tonight but the only breakthrough which has been made in recent years is the employment of female Hansard reporters. That has only occurred in the last few years. If we are to take this matter seriously something has to be done about it. As it is nearly six o ‘clock, I will leave my comments on the estimates until the sitting is resumed.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was saying that this chamber is the last bastion of male chauvinism and I called upon the political parties to change their attitudes and have women preselected to contest the next election. I note with interest that the Australian Labor Party has selected a woman candidate, Mrs Ros Kelly, as its candidate for the seat of Canberra at the next election. I want to talk now about the Estimates and to point out that during the last election campaign, this Government made a commitment to equal opportunity for women. Yet it has gone to great lengths to ensure that any advancement made by the Labor Government towards this goal is reversed. Severe cutbacks in areas vital to the realisation of equal opportunity- education, child care, retraining, health, welfare, legal aid, et ceterahave been the order of the day under the Fraser administration.
I have no illusions regarding this Government’s attitude to women’s affairs; it was made quite clear by the downgrading of the Women’s Affairs Section by its removal from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to the ragbag’ Department of Home Affairs which is near the bottom of the list of ministries. The Government has now seen fit to abolish the maternity allowance. It sought to cut back funds for the family allowances by introducing a means test on children and students but I understand that that proposal is to be revised. It has reduced funds for family planning services by 6.3 per cent in real terms and has cut funds for children’s services by 15.5 per cent. Women particularly will suffer from higher unemployment and reduced health, education and child care services. Unfortunately, this is what is contained in the Government’s recent Budget.
The greatest problem confronting women at the moment- they share this problem with the community at large- is unemployment. According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, in August 125,600 females were looking for full-time employment and 49,100 females looking for part-time employment. The latest Commonwealth Employment Service figures show that in August there were 122,221 registered female unemployed but this does not account for the massive, hidden unemployment among women. All honourable members are aware that many women who were in the work force and whose husbands are working do not bother to register for work when they learn that they are not eligible for the unemployment benefit. Although it has been argued by the Government that there are many people who should not be registered for the unemployment benefit, there are thousands upon thousands of women who do not bother to register for work even though they want employment.
The Government has guaranteed that the unemployment figure will increase; this is evident from the admission by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the last few weeks. Nothing has been done to overcome the factors which restrict the participation of women in the work force. There is no provision for the payment of unemployment benefits when married women lose their jobs. Worse, there has been an unfortunate, and at time bitter, conservative reaction to the move by women into the paid work force. This is pure scapegoating- a reaction to the economic crisis and to the social problems created and aggravated by that crisis. Married women have taken the brunt of that attack which challenges their right to paid employment. Historically full employment has been primarily an objective for males and, as the French sociologist, Evelyne Sullerot, writes:
There is a need for more flexibility in work patterns. The demand for permanent part-time work as distinct from casual employment has increased considerably, especially among men and women with family responsibilities, single parents, people with health or domestic problems, and those wishing to update their knowledge, skills, and so on. The Government should be facilitating this development within the Public Service and encouraging private employers to do likewise.
In the few minutes remaining to me I draw attention to the serious problems facing women’s refuges. Refuges provide essential services for women and children in crisis; they are an alternative to a home situation that has become intolerable. The need for refuges is increasing, along with the need for rape crisis centres and women’s health centres. These needs are only gradually being recognised. The present Government withdrew from funding these services directly. Instead, funds now are made available to the States through the community health programs to be allocated as the States see fit. This is part of the Government’s so-called federalism policy which, in practice, means farming off responsibilities to the State governments. The situation is totally inadequate. The Government now funds only 50 per cent of capital costs and 75 per cent of operating costs of refuges. There is no guarantee that the States will distribute the funds or supply the balance. The Queensland Government has constantly baulked at this and this year has undertaken to provide only up to 25 per cent of capital costs and 12’/4 per cent of operating costs leaving the organisations themselves to find the remaining 25 per cent and 12’/4 per cent of the respective costs. Under these conditions the very existence of refuges in Queensland is seriously threatened. Generally, refuges face uncertainty from year to year over whether adequate funds will be made available, hindering any attempt at forward planning. The Government should give a three-year guarantee of funding for the refuge program.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-To return some relevance to the debate at hand I shall address myself in the few minutes available to me tonight to a discussion of the estimates for the Department of the Capital Territory. It is interesting to look at the overall expenditure figures for the Department of the Capital Territory provided in Appropriation Bills (No. 1) and (No. 2). The administrative expenditure provided under Appropriation Bill (No. 1) totals $80m. The capital expenditure provided by Appropriation Bill ( No. 2) is nearly $172m, bringing proposed total expenditure for the forthcoming financial year through the Department of the Capital Territory to $252m with which to look after a community of about 230,000 people. It is interesting to compare Canberra with a city such as Townsville which has a population of about 90,000 peoplethey are in the city itself- and a total budget expenditure of about $30m, taking into account loan fund allocations of $8m for the current financial year. This simple comparison alone suggests that Canberra is a favoured city.
Some allowances have to be made for Canberra’s position. The Department of the Capital Territory undertakes what could be called State functions- functions which in other Australian States are undertaken by the States and not the local authorities. Therefore, the Department of the Capital Territory becomes involved in such things as the fire brigade, roads, police and education which, in the States, are State functions. We also have to allow for the fact that Canberra is the capital city of the whole nation and as the national capital there are distinctive national capital features which have to be paid for and which are worth paying for. For example, there is a high percentage of open space which helps to beautify what is indeed a lovely city. In Canberra’s buildings, and in the government buildings in particular, a particular standard is sought which enhances the national capital aspect of the city and which is worth paying for.
– That is not reflected in Parliament House.
– That is true. I repeat that for those 230,000-odd people who live here this is something of a favoured place. For example, we heard this week that per capita education spending in Canberra is something like 32 per cent above the national average. That gives this place something of a favoured aspect.
– Yes, but teachers still go on strike.
-That is regrettable. The fact that this is a favoured city can be drawn from the estimates for the Department of the Capital Territory. Look at what is provided to cover the estimated loss on running the Canberra bus service in this financial year. An amount of $7m is the estimated loss at which the bus service will run in this favoured city. If that were translated to household rates- this is only my rough calculation; no doubt it would be possible to make a more accurate calculation than this- I estimate that it would add something like $100 a year to the rates of each householder in this city. It is no use telling me that the bus service has a peculiarly national capital aspect to it, because essentially it is used by the people who live here as is the case with public transport in any other city in the nation. Again I concede the national capital aspect of Canberra. This city has a fine road system and vast open spaces; so it requires servicing perhaps over and above the average. But I would like the people of this city to bear in mind that this is something of a favoured city.
I return once more to consider parks and open spaces. They have to be maintained by gardeners, mowers, et cetera. In the Estimates this year something like $5m is provided for this expenditure- $5 m to look after parks and gardens. I repeat once more that to a large degree that can be well and truly justified by bearing in mind that this is the national capital. But those people who live here should not forget that they certainly live in a somewhat favoured environment, just having regard to the amount of money spent on them. Again if one were to go through a bit of simple arithmetic and work out how much more rates would be if all that expenditure were added to the rates paid by the people of this city, it would be seen to be a very substantial sum. I wonder whether the people of this city would like to contribute to it.
I said before that we have to make allowances in the amount of money spent on this city for the fact that it undertakes what we might call Statetype functions. Lease payments are made by the people of this city- the sort of lease rental payments that would go to a State government if the property were in a State. The freehold equivalent would be paid out to some extent in land tax. The people of Canberra certainly pay their rent, as it were, as people in the States do. They pay rates these days. But I point out that income from Canberra rates and rents in this financial year is estimated to amount to something like $50m, and that income is to service expenditure that is far in excess of the figure.
So where does all this get us? It seems to me that it is useful from the point of view of both Canberra itself and the Australian community at large to draw some general conclusions from those figures. The first is that the people of Canberra should accept and recognise that they live in a somewhat favoured city. They tend to have the best of facilities and the best of advantages. The second thing that has to be pointed out from the point of view of the rest of the country is that Canberra is the national capital and as such it is. worth making sure that Canberra looks good, to put it in rather simplistic terms. It is worth making sure that its open spaces are beautiful, that its buildings are of a consistently high standard and that its planning is the best possible to make sure that all the visitors who come to this place- let us not forget that this is virtually the greatest single tourist attraction in Australia- get value for money. The rest of the community must recognise that it is worth spending additional money on keeping this place beautiful as the national capital.
The third conclusion that ought to be drawn from all this is that the rest of the community is entitled to be certain that Australia is getting value for money. When one sees the provision being made for the loss on the bus service$7m the amount of money provided to look after open spaces and in sheer money terms the amount of money being spent on a community in which 230,000 people live, it is worth asking ourselves seriously whether we are getting value for money. So far as those people who live here are concerned the answer is easy; but so far as the people who live elsewhere in Australia are concerned the answer is not so easy. The Government has an obligation to monitor what is happening here and to make sure that value for money is being given for the good of the whole of Australia.
-We have just heard the proof of the statement that statistics can always be made to say anything that one wishes them to say. It is a pity that the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Dean) did not concede that some of the expenditure, especially in areas such as education, is the result of government policies and not some gross expenditure or lavishness on the people of Canberra. The fact of the matter is that over the last 20 years as a matter of government policy many thousands of people have been transferred compulsorily to Canberra. I think we all remember this policy as one of the major mistakes of the Menzies era. Nevertheless, it has occurred. It has caused increases in population such as occur in the outer suburban areas of the major cities. It has reduced the population in some of the State capital cities from which people have moved. This has required additional expenditure because new facilities have had to be provided for an unnatural growth of population. I think that ought to be taken into account when anyone starts talking about the amounts which are expended in Canberra, especially on such things as education. Governments cannot have it both ways. If a government tells people that they have to leave their homes, pull up their roots and go to another place and if it expands that place unnaturally and far beyond the normal growth, I think it is not unreasonable for the government concerned to be expected to provide the facilities.
As to people getting value for money out of money expended in Canberra, I think most Australians are quite proud of the open spaces in Canberra. Woe betide any government which decides that rather than have open spaces and a national capital of which people can be proud it will set Canberra up for land speculators or others to put up flat developments or something else. That is the sort of alternative about which I think we are talking. Some of the natural areas in Canberra which are uncared for and still in a semi-bush setting ought to be left that way because they are part of the city’s attractions. That is not what I rose to speak on; but people make speeches such as that and play to the electorate back home on the basis that those people there are being cheated a bit, as they are. The Government showed just how much people are being cheated the other day when a Minister, in dealing with the home help Bills, talked about it being the responsibility of the States to pick up the tab for what the Commonwealth has not done. But of course the States have not picked it up; so the councils will have to pick it up. This is a beautiful buck-passing exercise. If I were on the side of Parliament where that was happening I would be looking for some sort of scapegoat too.
I want to talk about a matter which is of serious concern and should be of long term concern to most Australians. We may now be debating one of the last sets of estimates for the Northern Territory. We are allowing control of that area to pass out of the hands of the Federal Parliament and into the hands of a new parliament which has been established for the Territory which is moving rapidly towards statehood. That is a situation in relation to which the people of the Territory have not as yet been consulted, and apparently they are not considered important enough to consult. Nevertheless, they are being forced into that situation. I note that it is not the intention of the Government to adopt the same practice in regard to the Capital Territory. Apparently the people of Canberra are closer to hand and therefore are able to demand a referendum. By moving out of the Northern Territory we are moving out of an area in which almost the total Aboriginal population lives in a tribal state. That is the aspect about which I am concerned because I do not think that provision is being made for the long-term continuation of a reasonable policy in relation to Aborigines in the Northern Territory. I do not think there has been any planning in that regard or that any funds have been allocated for that purpose.
The history of the American Indian is one of a white man government in Washington making a succession of treaties and wars with the Indians. On each occasion that the economic circumstances changed so that the white people of the United States needed something that they had guaranteed the Indians in a treaty, the Government would develop a new treaty which met the economic needs and greed of the white population. In Australia we are moving into that sort of situation in which we give undertakings which, apparently, we do not take very seriously. Certainly, undertakings that have been given on behalf of this Parliament in recent times have not been taken terribly seriously. Before we allow to pass out of the control of this Parliament the determination of the rights and privileges of Aborigines, including the right of Aborigines to live their own lives, I think proper and carefully set out legislation which deals with the tribal Aborigines and their rights to live in the manner in which they wish to live in the Northern Territory should be established.
I think it would be a tragedy if we were to adopt policies such as those being espoused in Queensland, for instance, where the aim of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement in that State is the assimilation of Aborigines. In other words, its aim is gradually to wipe out the Aboriginal race and make them become imitations of white people and, on the basis of the way in which the policy is being carried out at the present time, second class citizens. This is the worst thing that can happen to any race of people. It is something which the Aborigines in Australia should not be obliged to accept. It is not accepting the responsibilities which were given to this Parliament by means of a referendum which received practically unanimous support throughout Australia. It was the most overwhelming result in a referendum on a contentious matter in Australia since Federation.
The obligations to Aborigines rest on this Parliament quite clearly. It is absolutely essential that we should assert the rights of Aborigines to be Aborigines. We should reject, once and for all, any white anting of their culture and their normal mode of living for commercial gain. That is the great danger with which they are faced: They are vulnerable to exploitation for commercial gain, whether it be by a rum runner or a mining company which, if it means making a quick dollar, does not mind if the whole history of a people is completely denigrated in return for a few years of quick turnover. In many cases, Austraia could afford to forgo that development. At the moment, it would appear that that is not likely to occur.
Anyone who likes to look can see the clear evidence of what happened to the American Indians. Greed was placed above everything else in the relations between the white people of the United States and the American Indians. At the moment, all the evidence indicates that both this Government and the existing State Governments which have under their control large numbers of Aborigines are allowing a similar situation to develop. In the last week, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) has been saying that if certain mining contracts were not signed then the land rights of Aborigines in the Northern Territory could be in jeopardy. In a number of instances the right of Aboriginals to make decisions for themselves has been taken away. We have a situation even now whereby Aboriginals could be allowed to elect their own representatives provided they elect those representatives nominated by the Ministers of the Government concerned.
I make no suggestion about whether the Government of the Northern Territory has or has not made decisions on this issue, but it will be under extreme pressure from commercial interests to give up principles which are unprofitable but which protect the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory who wish to live in their traditional way. The Government of the Northern Territory will be under extreme pressure. It has less than a viable economic base at this stage on which to assume statehood and to be virtually weaned from the Commonwealth. It will be under pressure to raise revenue in the easy way. One such method is that of denying the traditional occupants of land in the Northern Territory their way of life. Unfortunately, the word ‘assimilation’ is used too often and we are rarely prepared to consider what it actually means. It does not mean that Aborigines should become part of the white community. It means their losing their national identity and their traditional way of life and being destroyed as a race of people. At an earlier time in history there may have been some excuse for what occurred in the United States. At this stage there is no excuse for it occurring in Australia.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-‘ Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It was my intention to discuss the estimates for the Department of the Northern Territory, but there seem to be so many self-styled Aboriginal experts around this place that I might have to spend some time on that problem. I just point out that the appropriation in the 1978-79 Budget for this Department was a niggardly $1.2m. However, we must realise that the Northern Territory Government received a block vote of $280m with which to back up many of the responsibilities which passed to it on 1 July. The handing over of many of those responsibilities was the result of a recommendation by a joint committee of this House. I am sure that everyone in the Territory at the moment considers that the Government which shouldered those responsiblities on 1 July is doing a very good job in carrying out its duties and is producing a realistic approach to Territory affairs. I consider that had the Northern Territory Government had the responsibility for some of the areas which are now being criticised so trenchantly by people who live thousands of miles away, many of the problems would not be in existence now. That is only too obvious.
During the estimates debate the former Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), discussed nothing but Aboriginal affairs. He put forward only his side of a case- the way in which he sees the situation. He must have been inspired by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) who took up the same sort of approach. The point about the whole business of Aborigines and the whites, or Ballanda, as they say on the North Coast, is that they live in the Northern Territory and so do we. The people who criticise those who live in the Northern Territory, especially the Government which is now running it, have no real conception of the immense difficulties which confront the various sides of the question.
It is important to realise- and I have discussed this at great length with Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who agrees with me- that if the Aborigines were to get all the money in the world from royalties, or all the power in the world through the land rights legislation, it still would not do them the slightest good if the rapport between blacks and whites were destroyed. As I see it in this place, and from the comments made by people in the South, it strikes me that the intention is to destroy that rapport between Aborigines and Europeans and others in the Northern Territory. We hear them talking about the traditional rights of Aborigines and of the pressures being placed on them. Of course, pressures are being imposed, but in many cases they are coming not from my side of politics but from other quarters. They are coming from amongst the Aborigines themselves. Consider the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress debacle, for instance. Pressures were imposed there. People were imported from the South to run a congress which operated in Central Austarlia and was based at Alice Springs.
These are the sorts of arguments that are being espoused by the two honourable members who have just spoken. They should instead be examining the real beliefs of the traditional Aborigines. We talk about land councils and about the provision of Aboriginal health services. If you go and sit down in the scrub in the shade under a mulga, or a whitewood tree somewhere and discuss with the traditional Aborigines- to whom I would not mind betting these people have never even spoken- you would be told that the Aborigines did not want to embrace these concepts; that they wanted to deal with a proper hospital in Alice Springs. They have expressed that again and again. They do not understand what is proposed. Nor have large councils anything in common with their concept of land lore. No wonder they are confused. No wonder the decision of Galarrwuy Yunupingu has been undermined. He sits at the head of a large Land Council, which purports to have 42 members. He thought that he was dealing with the traditional owners, but I very much doubt that he was. I believe that in the Jabiru-Ranger area it is a secondary succession situation. In my opinion the assertion that Toby Gangale is the traditional owner should be proven. So be it, but no wonder that Galarrwuy Yunupingu found his decision tossed, as it were. Traditionally he is not allowed to speak for these other people. He must go back and consult the elders and the traditional owners.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! I do not wish to be difficult but the debate on the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is yet to come. This debate is on the Department of the Northern Territory.
-Thank you, Mr Chairman. Could I refer you to the speech of the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) last Thursday? He spoke of nothing but this, and I am endeavouring to answer him.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I was not here. I am not concerned with the speech of the honourable member for Reid. However, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) tied in his remarks very well with the responsibility of the Northern Territory Parliament. If the honourable member could do that also, I would be pleased.
– Thank you for your advice, Mr Deputy Chairman. On the subject of the Northern Territory Government and the estimates which relate to it, at an earlier time, when the Australian Labor Party was in Opposition, as it is now, the then honourable member for Dawson criticised the then Government strongly because he said statehood was not being proceeded with quickly enough. Then, during recent elections we heard members of the Australian Labor Party in the Northern Territory- as we hear them stillcalling for a referendum and speaking, on the basis of some spurious leaked document of $ 1 5m extra in taxes that people would be paying. I gather that, as a result of the $280m that they were voted this time, in the main taxes did not go up. So on the one hand we have the Australian Labor Party calling for a referendum before the Northern Territory goes to statehood and is given greater responsibility and, on the other, we have the supporters of that party in the Australian Capital Territory blocking a referendum there.
-Unfortunately, we did not block it.
-No, but it was your policy to block it. So I just do not know where the honourable member’s Party stands in regard to the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, in respect of which it has two differing policies; or in its policy concerning Aborigines, in respect of which it is espousing something which is completely wrong. Since we are speaking about money, I would say that money is not the answer. Again, the need is for the continuance of a good rapport between those who live in the Territory and the people, black or white, who will produce the income in the Territory. They must be able to live together. There are many who believe that they can, but the more stirring that emanates from down here, especially from some of the honourable members of this House, the worse it will be.
– I must first refer to the remarks of the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Dean) who asked whether in the Australian Capital Territory the people were getting value for money. I do not think that that is the question that should be asked. We must remember clearly that the sorts of decisions to spend in Canberra huge quantities of money have not been the decisions of its people. For instance, they were not a party to the decision to construct the Lower Molonglo Sewerage Treatment Plant, which cost something like $30m, and which must very shortly be passed on through the sewerage rates. It is designed, I understand, to provide for up to a million people.
The people of Canberra were not a party to the decision to build the new Googong dam water supply, which certainly will not be needed in the immediate future but which, again, will load the water rates of the people of Canberra. The same can be said of the Waniassa College, which is now under wraps. The people of Canberra were not involved in that decision in any shape or form, nor were they involved in the construction of the Calvary Hospital, which we are unable to staff or put beds in. The public should be made aware that these decisions are completely out of the hands of the people of Canberra. Again, it was not their decision that the city was so dispersed as to make bus services very expensive to operate. These were decisions made by the Federal Government.
We have this ridiculous situation in which the national Parliament is tonight debating accounts which normally one would find before a municipal council, or even a State Government; in which the national Parliament has to debate such things as the cost of lighting and cleaning in the capital city; the Canberra Show Ground Trust; and the cost of operating Lake Burley Griffin. These are all matters with which Federal members, in their own States, are not concerned. They are not concerned with municipal matters or with State expenditures. Yet the Federal Parliament is asked to spend its time on the consideration of municipal accounts, lighting coststhe whole lot. These things are terribly important to the people of Canberra but I suggest that they are not to the Federal Parliament and should not be the subject of scrutiny by it.
The present Government stands condemned because of its failure to initiate some form of selfgovernment whereby the people who have to pay the bills have some say in decisions about how money is spent in Canberra. The present policy has existed for far too long. This Government gave a definite undertaking that it would grant Canberra people a say in the running of the city. It has reneged on those undertakings. It has now sought the soft option of offering a referendum. No doubt at that referendum the haves will vote to ensure that the have nots have no say in the way in which Canberra is run. The way it is run at the moment suits some people but it does not suit a lot of other people. It is the height of absurdity for people to come into this chamber and criticise the people of Canberra because certain facilities are so costly. It is not their decision. Quite clearly, it is the decision of this Parliament, and people should be well aware of that by now.
– Canberra is their favourite stalking horse. If you cannot get anything else to bash, bash Canberra.
-That is right; bash Canberra. That is what this Budget is all about. It is just a continuation of the Canberra bashing process that has gone on ever since this Government came to power. Let us look at another very substantial item in the Budget. On page 36 of Budget Paper No. 2 is listed the cost for the computer services of the Department of the Capital Territory. Last year the cost was $624,415. This year it is to be $1,491,900. I do not know precisely what the computers do. I know some of the things they do. I cannot understand how it would cost almost $1.5m for the Department’s share of a computer to handle its accounts. It is not that the accounts are being handled efficiently. They are being handled very inefficiently. They are studded with mistakes, sometimes very serious mistakes. People have been seriously overcharged in their rental accounts. Some have been overcharged for years and the mistakes have not been picked up by the computer.
I understand that the explanation of the cost for computer services is that the system was imposed on the Department of the Capital Territory by the Public Service Board as its share of the MANDATA program. We all know that this has been a disastrous program. It has cost the Government millions and millions of dollars, and it is not working efficiently. Yet the Government has put practically $ 1.5 m onto the vote for the Department of the Capital Territory for computer services. Not only did the people of Canberra have nothing to do with the MANDATA scheme. I suggest that this Parliament did not even know it was going on. Did we know that the MANDATA scheme was to be initiated? Were we advised on how efficient or how inefficient it was to be? I suggest that the Parliament was conned into having it adopted. Of course, once these programs start it is very difficult to stop them. I think we have reached a very serious situation when these sorts of computer services can be brought in without any consultation. The Department of the Capital Territory had no say in the decision to put that computer system into the Department. It is a very substantial item which went up by 120 per cent in one year. This is the sort of thing that is going on all the time. Yet people have the hide to say that Canberra people are over-indulged and they get it easy. It is utter nonsense, and I think most people are starting to realise it now.
In the next 12 or 18 months the people will be far more aware of the injustices that will take place because of the sorts of programs that have gone on without any reference to the people of Canberra. I think the water and sewerage rates are considered reasonable at the moment. In 12 months when the impact of the Googong Dam and the lower Molonglo sewerage treatment works is felt, it may be necessary to raise sewerage rates by anything up to 100 per cent or even 200 per cent. This will be necessary to cover servicing of the capital on those huge projects which the people of Canberra had nothing to do with and which are planned to cater for a population of up to one million people. That population may never be reached. In any case, it will not be reached for a long time. However, people are expected to pay for these facilities now. Of course, the Federal Government does not pay its full share of them.
We might well ask: Even if the expected growth rates of Canberra had been taken into account, would an elected representative body have made a decision that would cost ratepayers so dearly in the future? The experts who made such decisions are not accountable for these decisions. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) is not accountable to the people of Canberra. It is absurd for the Minister to say that the Australian Capital Territory has a form of self-government because the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) and I are in the Federal Parliament. We cancel out each other’s vote. So virtually the Australian Capital Territory has no representation here at all. If I were to move an amendment it would be interesting to see whether the honourable member for Canberra would cross the floor. I do not think so. We would just cancel out each other’s vote. So it is an absurd argument to say that the Australian Capital Territory has a form of self-government. This is an argument which the present Minister uses.
Residents can be very vocal about particular development proposals. They are very vocal now about the proposals for development of the area along Ginninderra Creek. The people have to make their voices heard to stop the recreational areas being built out by the National Capital Development Commission. They were very vocal about the plans to build on the foothills of Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie. I think most members of the Parliament would have supported the people of Canberra in preventing the development on those foothills because they are just as concerned to preserve the original Burley Griffin concept.
When looking at the municipal accounts we see that they include matters such as parks andgardens, the dog pound, garbage collection, what to do with sump oil, public toilet facilities and libraries. What important topics these are for the Federal Parliament to be dealing with! I think it is high time that the Government came to realise that the people will not continue to put up with this nonsense for ever. It is time that people in Canberra were given the responsibility of making decisions about how and where their money is spent. They should not have these tremendous charges imposed on them, only to hear members in this Parliament criticise them because of the standards in Canberra. The people do not set the standards in Canberra. It is high time that the Minister grasped the nettle and made a decision to give the people in Canberra some responsibility and the opportunity of electing people who are responsible directly to the Canberra electorate and not to an electorate somewhere in Victoria or New South Wales, so that if they do not perform the people of Canberra have the right of recall. That is what we have been waiting for this Government to do.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is an honour to follow the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), who speaks so eruditely on the subject of Canberra. As people would know, the honourable member for Fraser and I share the responsibility of looking after the people in the national capital although, of course, we are on opposite sides of the Parliament. That is probably a good thing for the people of Canberra, as we can work together on many occasions with equanimity and to the good benefit of the people. But I am wondering why the honourable member for Fraser went on so much about selfgovernment for the Australian Capital Territory. The Government has made quite clear its proposition to hold a referendum on the question before Christmas this year in order to let the people of Canberra decide whether they want to have self-government or what sort of government they want to have.
It amazes me also that when the Opposition was in government for three years it had a perfect opportunity to bring self-government into the Capital Territory. What did the Australian Labor Party do in those three years? It did not even talk about self-government. It did nothing. It was during the election campaign of 1975 that we in the Liberal Party developed as part of our party policy a blueprint for moving the Australian Capital Territory towards selfgovernment. I am glad to say that in many ways that blueprint is now coming to pass, even if it is a little more slowly than expected. A great controversy exists in Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory as to whether we should have self-government. I think that the way in which the Government is testing the water is a responsible approach. I share the view of the honourable member for Fraser that it is a little wrong that people outside the Capital Territory make so many decisions on behalf of the people of Canberra.
I would like to speak briefly in the short time I have about the appropriation for the Department of the Capital Territory. The National Capital Development Commission’s 2 1st annual report was tabled in this place today. It sums up the situation in Canberra very well. It states:
This Annual Report marks the completion of twenty years ‘ work by the Commission in the planning and development of the National Capital.
That is the capital of Australia. The report continues:
In that time Canberra has grown from a population of 39,000 to an estimated 213,000 and the physical structure which has been built to service the needs of this population is a significant national achievement with few parallels anywhere in the world.
The year under review has been marked by a continuation of lower levels of population growth compared with the mid-1970s. The growth rate is tending to stabilise at about 3 per cent per annum. The local economy is still in the process of adjusting to this change and it has been characterised by relatively high levels of unemployment and a general slowing down in business activity, particularly in the construction industry.
I thought the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Dean) made a very good speech tonight, pointing out to the people of Canberra how fortunate they are to live in the national capital. I think that very few honourable members would deny that. He also suggested, in passing, that we had a little too much money spent on us. We have the benefit of having a young city, the national capital of Australia. The people of Canberra are very proud in representing all the people of Australia. Many thousands of people visit the city each year. It is trite to say that we are being oversubsidised.
Those of us who are familiar with the Capital Territory know that the municipal account is prepared on a notional basis and this indicates that we balance our budget in a municipal sense. If we take into account State-like functions as they would be financed by State grants and by revenues collected from taxation which are disbursed to the States, we more than hold our own. We have good administration through the NCDC, through the Department of the Capital Territory and other departments which ensure that the people of Australia get very good value for their money. The Minister for the Capital Territory in a Press statement on the Budget appropriation for Canberra expressed confidence and optimism that the Budget would ensure continued growth for the city. His statement continued:
However, the Budget did reflect the importance the Government continued to place on restraining public expenditure as a central element of its national economic strategy.
There is no doubt that the Government is being a little harsher on the Capital Territory than most of us would like, but I think the Government is being fair and even-handed. In fact I went on record after the Budget and said how amazed I was at how well we had done. Being the local member, I must not say that too loudly or people from the electorate of Herbert and other places outside the Australian Capital Territory will come knocking on our door and will ask the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) why we have done so well.
On balance it is a very responsible Budget. The Department of the Capital Territory has fared well. NCDC spending has been cut back substantially, but we must take into account the much lower growth rate in Canberra. We know that the NCDC still has plenty of work to get on with. We are to have more bus drivers. There will be more money for police and fire services. The Commissioner for Housing loan has risen to $23,000. Recreation, cultural and community services have been allocated a little more money. We have been able to give more money to welfare. Compared with State budgets, I think that we have done just as well as people in the States. At a time when New South Wales, the State which surrounds the Capital Territory is to have an election, I think it is wise that the New South Wales residents know that most of the people in the Capital Territory think that the present administration is doing a very workmanlike job in this city.
One area in the Budget about which I have some concern is Australian Capital Territory schools. At the moment the ACT Schools Authority, the Federal Department of Education and the Australian Teachers Federation are having somewhat of a difference over the staff ceilings which probably will apply in 1979. Unfortunately the position is being exacerbated by people who are trying to confront senior Ministers of this Government and by the Teachers Federation which is holding stop work meetings a little early in the battle which it thinks is to come. Stop work meetings in education are always a sad thing. They affect the students themselves. They affect parents and, more particularly, single parents or working mothers who have either to miss work or leave their children at home when teachers go on strike. I must express disappointment tonight that the Teachers Federation could not have waited another week or so so that this industrial problem, this problem about the future of our children’s education, could be settled in a responsible way. So far most statements made have been responsible. However, I am not in favour of stop work meetings during school time.
In closing, I pass on to one thing which affects my electorate and which I think should be aired in the national Parliament even though it is a fairly parochial issue. I refer to the closing of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation subbranch office at Narrabundah. I refer to the matter at a time when the Parliament has had presented to it the Commonwealth Banking Corporation annual report which indicated a profit, after provision for taxation, of $22. 9m. This is a banking corporation which is, I suppose, the model for corporations which would be established by a socialist government for the people. It is the sort of thing which would take over the running of this country in all sorts of areas. It is supposed to be the bank of the people. Narrabundah, which is in my electorate, is an area of socio-economic problems. It is an area of high migrant concentration. It contains some low-standard housing to which people on rental rebates have to go at least in the initial period of being helped. There are many pensioners and old people. But, there is only one bank. I have a letter here from Mr Christie of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation who says:
In reply to your telegram of 1 8 September 1 978 I wish to confirm that it is the Corporation’s intention to close the Narrabundah sub-branch on 29 September 1978 because there are security problems with the premises.
I fully appreciate that the closure of Narrabundah subbranch will provide a measure of inconvenience to the local community.
In closing I simply say that I hope one of the private enterprise banks gets off its backside and opens a branch in Narrabundah. I would have thought that a bank with a profit of $22. 9m could cover security problems in an area which has many pensioners and poor people.
– During the debate on these estimates we have heard a lot about the Aboriginal people. I feel entitled to make one comment. The Labor Government of 1972-75 was elected on a policy of recognising Aboriginal land rights. Everybody in this Parliament will recall the massive statements that former Prime Minister Whitlam made in his speech in 1972. By 1975 land rights had not been recognised by the Labor Government. It was this Government in 1976 that recognised land rights for the Aboriginal people. The Labor Government did nothing about it. Let that be known and let that be remembered.
The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) made some statements about my Department. He referred to it- it was not an original statement- as a rag-bag department. I do not regard it as a rag-bag department. I regard it as a department which has a very promising future; a future which also reflects the past. I remind honourable members that the Department of Home Affairs was one of the original departments of State. Indeed the site of this capital city was chosen under the auspices of the Minister for Home Affairs. He was a very famous Minister. He set up the Commonwealth Bank.
-King O ‘Malley.
– The honourable member recalls his name. He was the Minister for Home Affairs way back in 1907 or 1910. Honourable gentlemen opposite should not laugh too much about the Department of Home Affairs. It represents a very historic department that existed until about 1933. 1 am very proud to be the Minister of the Department of Home Affairs on its second appearance. I expect it to continue for a long time.
The other thing to which the honourable member for Robertson referred was the transfer of the office of Women’s Affairs from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to my Department. We know that on the very first day the Director of the Office of Women’s Affairs resigned. I was very sorry that that happened. I think that she failed to realise that this was not the end; this was the beginning. The Office of Women’s Affairs was being placed in a department where it could have access to the Minister and could start to do things positively. Since the Office was set up it has engaged very actively in a number of projects. Honourable members opposite asked a question last week about what has been done in relation to the report on human relationships. It may surprise them to know that quite a bit has been done in relation to this report because my Department has the co-ordinating function in relation to it. For instance, at the moment it is engaged in drawing up proposals for anti-discrimination legislation. It also is involved in an important project which is assisted very much by the report on human relationships, and that is the development of laws relating to rape and the protection of women in relation to sexual assaults in the Australian Capital Territory. I hope that the efforts of the Office of Women’s Affairs in this regard will lead to some major advances in the law either of the Commonwealth or of the Australian Capital Territory.
Another thing that the Office has organised is the establishment of the National Women’s Advisory Council. Honourable members will recall that in, I think, 1976 a working party was set up by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when the Office was in his Department- this revealed great foresight- with the purpose of seeing how this Advisory Council could be established. A report was brought down and in May this year the Government’s decision finally to establish the body was announced. Since then the members of that body have been appointed and the National Women’s Advisory Council has had its first meeting. I understand that it will have another meeting this week.
The purpose of that body is to give women a voice in government. It is all right for honourable members on either side of the chamber to talk about the role of women, but women do not have much voice in government. They certainly have not had it in Labor governments in the past. At least this Government has a Cabinet Minister who is a woman, but the voice of women is not often heard in government. So, the National Women’s Advisory Council will do exactly, precisely, what has not been done in the past. Under the chairmanship of Mrs Beryl Beaurepaire and with the assistance of women who have been chosen from right across the political spectrum in this country, I believe that the cause of women will be furthered.
One thing of note that will happen in Canberra this week is that a shopfront office will be established in the Office of Women’s Affairs in the CML Building in Civic. As I understand it, this is the first time that this will have been done.
– A very good decision.
– If the honourable member for Kennedy wishes to know something about women’s affairs- I am sure that he could learn a lot- he can go to the CML Building, visit the Office of Women’s Affairs and find out something about the Government’s policies. If he wishes to say something about women’s affairs he may do so in that shopfront office. The other purpose of that office is to enable women to come in off the street, as it were, and seek information about where women can be aided in government. Honourable members opposite guffaw when I say that, but women in the community do not have the opportunity to go to places or offices where there is a concentration on matters relating to women ‘s affairs. In a sense this is an experiment, but in another sense it is a real project by the Government to enable a form of access to information to be obtained by women throughout the nation and women who live in the national capital. If it is a successful experiment I hope that in future years the Government will see fit to set up similar offices around this country, I hope in co-ordination with State governments, so that there will be places to which women can go to have some of the questions that affect them answered.
A lot was said by the honourable member for Robertson about married women in the work force. It has never been a policy of this Government that married women should stay at home. If anybody thinks otherwise he is quite wrong. There is no discrimination against married women on the part of this Government. Married women who want to go to work are entitled to do so, just as anybody else is. Anybody who suggests otherwise is not telling the truth about the policy of this Government.
– You are only kidding to the women voters.
-I am not kidding to the women at all. At the moment there are 1.3 million married women in the work force, in case the honourable member for Hindmarsh does not know. If those 1.3 million married women were taken out of the work force it would not solve anything. People such as the honourable member for Hindmarsh- I am sure that the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) would back me up- apparently believe that married women should stay at home. I thought that the honourable member for Hindmarsh did not accept such a proposition, but apparently he thinks that married women should stay at home. I believe that the headlines tomorrow will reflect that fact. I hope that he will be able to explain himself and that he will not say that he was misrepresented.
– I hope that you will be able to explain yourself to your wife after she reads this speech of yours.
– Don ‘t you worry!
– You have a bit of explaining to do to Bob Katter’s wife, too.
– Let us not get on to that subject. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) did not speak tonight; he spoke last week about museums. This is another interesting subject that falls within my portfolio as Minister for Home Affairs. The honourable member for McMillan wants to see a national museum. As I said as recently as last Thursday, I think it was, it is my intention to bring before the Government a proposal to set up a museum of Australia. I do not think that anybody on either side of the chamber would want to disagree with that proposition. However, any government would need to feel that it had the funds in order to entertain such a project. Those of us who have been overseas and have been to, for instance, the museum in Mexico City which reflects the background of the Mexican people- the Aztecs and othersobviously would be impressed by the great need to have in any country a magnificent museum which would establish the background and tradition of the people of that country.
The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Dean) spoke about the national capital in terms which were familiar from a Queenslander.
Queenslanders have a tendency- I think the honourable member for Kennedy would agree- to be not always complimentary to our capital city. There was a little of that in his speech tonight. I regret that, because I think that every Australian ought to be proud of the national capital. Quite frankly, anybody on my side of the chamber ought to be doubly proud of it for the very reason that the person who was responsible for setting up our national capital in the form which it now takes- I think honourable members will have to agree- was the late Sir Robert Menzies. It was his vision in 1956 and 1957 that saw the need to face up to the fact that this was going to be our national capital and it needed to be developed as such.
So it was that the Lake project and all the other projects that now make up this beautiful city were brought about. Of course, that cost a great deal of money, but this is an investment of which I believe every Australian ought to be proud. We should not see it as something which should not have occurred or which is overluxurious. The fact is that national buildings cost money. Designs have to be employed which will be attractive to visitors and which will give the vision of a national capital. Those things tend to be more expensive than ordinary shop buildings or ordinary office buildings. The fact is that we now have a city of which all Australians can be proud. The fact is that we are erecting a number of large buildings in this city. The cost of these buildings is reflected in the estimates for this year. The High Court will be finished in 1980, the National Gallery in 1 98 1 , and there are some people who think that some other large building on a hill might be erected before the turn of the century. They might turn out to be optimists; anyhow, we will see.
The honourable member for Herbert referred to the matter of rates. I say to him that the rates in this city are comparable with the rates in other capital cities. Those honourable members who own homes in Canberra pay rates and know that they are comparable. Certainly it seems that a large amount of money is expended on parks and gardens in Canberra, but the fact is that this city is stretched out. There are literally hun.dereds and hundreds of acres of parks and gardens- magnificent gardens. We all know that they provide for visitors as well as for residents. In other words, the investment here is not just for the people of Canberra; the investment here is for the people of Australia. This needs to be understood when anybody tends to criticise the national capital.
I turn to the bus system. The bus system incurs a loss of somewhere around $7m. The fact is that bus systems all over the world incur great losses. This is a fact of life. The only public transport system in this city is a bus service. We do not have trains; we do not have trams as Melbourne has; we have only the bus service. Those members of the public who do not wish to use motor cars- it could be said that there is an overuse of motor cars in Canberra- are entitled to have an effective service. We do have a bus service of which people certainly can be proud. It is a good, effective bus service. It runs schedules that meet the convenience of the public, and the cost is no greater than the comparative costs of public transport in the States.
The honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) is troubled about our not pursuing the matter of self-government. The fact is of course that we are pursuing the matter of selfgovernment, but we have decided to be democratic about it. We have decided to allow the people of Canberra to decide whether they want the form of self-government that the honourable member for Canberra would like to thrust on them.
– The honourable member for Fraser, not Canberra.
– The honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry). I apologise to the honourable member for Canberra for saying such a thing.
– You sound more like Eddie Ward each time I hear you.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh need not worry about that. Apparently the honourable member for Fraser wants to thrust a form of self-government on the people of Canberra. For all I know they may be perfectly satisfied with the system that they have at the moment. Quite frankly, I speak up for that system. I do not urge the people of Canberra necessarily to adopt that view in their referendum vote, but it is not a bad system. In fact it is a system which works and works efficiently. It provides for the people of Canberra the sort of budget that is before this Parliament at the moment. The other alternatives are there. If the people of Canberra want a form of local government, so be it. If they want self-government in the State-like form, so be it. The Government is quite content for them to have it.
The decisions to build things such as the Molonglo sewage treatment works, the Googong Dam and the like were made in an earlier period, as the honourable member for Fraser well knows. Those decisions were made when it was believed that the population of Canberra would grow at approximately 10 per cent per annum. All honourable members know that that has not continued to be the case and that the population of Canberra is now growing at about two per cent or three per cent per annum. The fact is that these services which were determined upon by governments, including the Labor Government in 1972 to 1975, are now found to be in a sense ahead of their times. They are there; they represented bona fide decisions based on projections made at the time. Those projections have not been fulfilled. The people of the Australian Capital Territory- the people of Canberra- have not been forced to pay for these things. The fact is that to a very great degree the Commonwealth Parliament and therefore the taxpayer of Australia has had to meet these costs. So they have not been an excessive burden on the people of Canberra.
The honourable member referred to a number of other things. He referred to the problems of the computer system. I am sure that he understands that this is an inter-departmental matter, that it takes up the Public Service Board MANDATA system and meets the cost of it, and that that explains why the estimate has increased. In conclusion I thank honourable members for the constructive debate we have had on the estimates for the Department of the Capital Territory, the Department of Home Affairs and, I am sure, the Department of the Northern Territory. The latter will shortly go out of existence. I remind honourable members that the residual functions will become part of the Department of Home Affairs.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $525,985,000.
– The Opposition makes the point that foreign policy is seen as a low priority because of the magnitude of our domestic problems. We say that this has not prevented the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) from seeking the international stage. Yet under the leadership of the Prime Minister we have seen a marked cutback in the Department of Foreign Affairs. This reflected at the outset his basic judgment that he could find more reactionary advice elsewhere. In fact, over the past two years or so what the Prime Minister has given us is eccentricity in foreign policy with a neglect for the long-term need for strong and effective machinery for the projection of Australian interests. In some areas the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and his Department have influenced the Prime Minister, notably in the retention of progressive approaches to race and to the new international economic order embarked upon by Labor. For a number of reasons, not just because of the animus of the Prime Minister, the foreign affairs portfolio and its administration are in trouble. The Department of Foreign Affairs claims a special status in Canberra. That is a matter for resentment at times. That resentment contributed to the equanimity with which other departments have observed its emasculation over the past 2V4 years.
The fact that the Department of Foreign Affairs has been unable to resist the downhill path reflects some of its management policies. I will identify three of them. Firstly, the Department continues to maintain a closed shop in its recruitment of diplomatic staff. There is a class system to separate diplomatic staff from other staff. This makes for an unhappy and divided institution. Secondly, the Department’s approach to staffing of branches in Canberra as distinct from overseas tends to produce inexperienced and mediocre advice and to weaken the Department as a force in interdepartmental negotiation. I refer here to the fact that the Department’s policy is for officers to work in Canberra for two years and to work during that time in two jobsone related to their last posting, the other related to their next posting. How in these circumstances can the Department expect to produce consistent advice and how can its officers ever have their minds on their present jobs rather than on the next one? Thirdly, the Department of Foreign Affairs sustains a policy of promotion on the basis of seniority such as is rarely seen and is entirely inappropriate in any organisation concerned about excellence and originality of advice.
There are many fine Australians in our foreign service, but I do not believe the system allows them to develop their potential. We need to review the nature of and access to the foreign service. We need to be wary of the way in which institutions and forms and graces of diplomacy penetrate and distort the capacity for critical judgment among the practitioners. This is particularly the case because the whole spectrum of international relations is changing. The counter offensive against Foreign Affairs has shifted the balance of power between departments but has brought us in no way closer to strategies and solutions for the larger international problems confronting us.
Our relations with South East Asia are in worse shape than ever. But those relations remain the victim of interdepartmental rivalries, a scarcely measured loss at the end of a chain of bitter consequences in our failure to plan the national economy. We can have no strategy for the Association of South East Asian Nations until we have a strategy for Australian industry. Our relations with more established allies and sources of investment and technology are the victims of the same style of confrontation with which we are so sadly familiar at home. Our foreign relations have never been worse. Our foreign policy machinery has never been weaker. Its morale has never been lower and its management more in need of fundamental reform. We urge the Government not just the Foreign Minister, to adapt a more positive approach and one related to Australia’s long-term needs.
We welcome the publication for the first time of the appropriation for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. This comes about as a consequence of the findings of a royal commission instituted by the Labor Government. It is difficult to make a constructive comment on a one line appropriation. The amount is in excess of $7m. This is ten times the size of our contribution to the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. It is a little larger than our contribution to the United Nations Development programs. It is several million dollars less than our contribution to the Columbo Plan. It is about 70 per cent of the cost of our Embassy in Washington. The trend, notably in the United States, is for intelligence operations by governments to be subject to greater public scrutiny. We will need to continue to overview the level of secrecy attending this item of expenditure.
It is the Opposition’s view that there should always be a judicial audit of intelligence operations. We know that this one line item previously was buried in other estimates. That ought not to have prevented the presentation in this Budget of a figure of actual expenditure in 1 977-78. 1 make the point that the figure appropriated is an appropriation to a body financially accountable. Thus, I would expect actual expenditure to be accurately and properly presented in the next Budget. The example set in the presentation of the accounts of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is frankly not good enough. An amount of $9,950,000 was appropriated and was exactly spent, to the last cent. I cannot believe that ASIO spent it in such an accurate manner. Moneys appropriated by these bodies are not grants and ought to be cumulative.
I now wish to focus on the larger items of expenditure on foreign aid. Let me say at the outset that there is a need for general public review of aid policy. The Government claims that it will increase expenditure on foreign aid by 8.7 per cent. This is the lowest projected increase in the 1970s. It follows projections in the last two Fraser Budgets of 14 per cent and 12 per cent. But those figures have not been met in actual expenditure. The first Fraser Government cut the Hayden Budget for aid from 14 per cent in 1 975 to 5.8 per cent and, in the following year, actually achieved growth of only 8.9 per cent. Last year was better, at 10.2 per cent. However, had the Hayden target been met and subsequent targets been met, the total appropriation, even for an 8.7 per cent increase this year, would be $598m, not $455m- in other words, a difference of $ 143m. I have prepared a table which indicates that the total appropriated but not spent for aid between 1975 and 1978 was $55.4m. I seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
– Not until you have given me the courtesy of showing it to me.
-I put a copy in front of you but apparently you have not had a chance to look at it. We established a statutory body to take charge of development assistance. We increased .aid in 1973-74 by 37 per cent and in 1974-75 by 15 per cent. The Fraser Government made the Australian Development Assistance Bureau once again a part of the Department of Foreign Affairs where it does not enjoy equal status. We question the sincerity of this Government ‘s attitude to aid. The coherence of the Government’s foreign policy as a whole is called into question. The current continuing flirtation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs with the grand design of a new international economic order does not cover up the failures of our aid program at a practical level. One area of aid to which the Minister has given great attention is the South Pacific but there has been recent criticism of that and–
– Only by you.
-No, from the point of view of other people- for example, the Australian Council for Overseas Aid.
– Yes, but he drafted your question. He is in collaboration with you.
-He did not draft my question. He referred to your Press statement. Shall we have a close look at the Minister’s statement. He is usually noted for his incompetence but not for misleading people. On 12 October 1 976, the Minister said:
We will have a 3-year rolling program and there will be announced in 12 month’s time -
That would be in 1977- our commitment for 1979-80.
He has not announced it yet. How about that?
– We have the whole 3-year program.
-Do not run away with the idea that you can act your way out of this by bluster. The Minister said in 1 976 that in 1977 he would announce a commitment for aid in 1979-80. He has not done that. That was 12 months ago.
– That is 400 per cent more than your Government.
-Not at all. Let us have a look at the figures. The Minister has never met the aid that he always envisaged he would meet in a Budget. Why is it, Mr Minister, that you have failed to honour your promise? A representative of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid has said that the widely welcomed decision of 1976 has been sacrificed on the altar of the 1978 Budget. It is important when we talk about aid that we do not just talk about money; we ought to talk about manpower. One of the problems the Government has is that it cannot even deliver the goods from the point of view of manpower. The Minister is the victim of circumstances in the sense that while he endeavours to appropriate money he has no idea as to how that money is being spent. There is a false economy in this particular area. In other words, I understand we have $89m of projects -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Does the Minister for Foreign Affairs grant leave for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to include a table in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
-I have listened with some interest to the pedantic offering of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). One of the things that worries me quite frankly is that I cannot see a great deal of fundamental difference between what the Government is doing and what the Opposition is advocating. With my background it worries me a little. It almost seems as though we have a bipartisan approach to foreign affairs. However, I hope that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) will understand that there are as many views about foreign affairs as there are people in this House. Not all of us entirely agree with the direction that the Government is taking. I personally would like to see- again, I hope the Minister will understand- a lot more money spent on defence and a little less spent on foreign affairs. Nonetheless, I support the appropriations.
I am not and never could be happy about vast investments in real estate in foreign capitals. I understand that not much will be invested in real estate in this Budget but in the past we have spent vast amounts in foreign capitals. I feel somehow that it would be much better if we spent the money on desperately needed military equipment in this country. It seems to me that we ought not to be so unsure of ourselves overseas that we need palatial and salubrious premises. I am quite certain in the world of tough realities of international affairs that we do not kid anyone. Other countries look more for reality of view and quality of view rather than at our premises. In relation to these realities, I worry a little because we are spending so much of the time of the Department of Foreign Affairs worrying and talking about the Third World, the United Nations, Africa and Rhodesia when it seems to me that the real problems that confront this country are that we have to secure for ourselves a reliable supply of oil until we discover our own supplies, we have to secure markets for our minerals and
produce other than Europe, and we have to secure ourselves in South East Asia militarily, politically and economically.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs spoke quite well in the Roy Milne lecture. I think that I am pleased to agree with him totally in one small quotation. He said that all States have their own interests and adapt their behaviour to the arena in which they are operating. This means that those in the Third World are exactly the same as we are. In the complete historical context of the first, second, third, fourth or fifth world or in any historic period we are the same because as Palmerston observed quite a long time ago: There are no such things as permanent friendships, only permanent interests. We have to stop thinking about the alleged mystique of the Third World and forget the rhetoric of anti-colonialism and non-alignment because all these can very easily be submerged in the pursuit of permanent interests. If there is a good deal going that is what they are interested in- not the rhetoric. The Third World mystique plus the insistence of great and powerful friends have kept us involved more or less directly in the United Nations and I personally feel that we are too deeply involved.
The former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Moynihan, has had much to say about the United Nations and about nonaligned countries of the Third World. President Carter described that great non-aligned, Third World leader, Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, as ‘a man who on his own initiative combined with other great leaders, Nehru, Nasser, to form an organisation of the non-aligned peoples of the world’. Mr Moynihan summed up many things when, in response, he said:
Unhappily, the so-called non-aligned have much too often, especially in recent years, been non-aligned against the United States and on behalf of the Soviet Union in every world forum and on every world issue of consequence.
Whilst Tito may now be offside with the Soviet Union this was not always the case- so, friendships do change all the time. We should remember that sometimes great and powerful friends did nothing for us when a few years ago we were unwilling for Indonesia to have West New Guinea. This area is called something else now; but what happened then is all forgotten. We have now a good, useful and, I hope, permanent relationship with Indonesia because it is our nearest neighbour. I pray that the relationship we have now continues and prospers. The only point I make about this is that powerful friendships do not necessarily last unless the interests are there and it just was not in the interests of the United States that we should keep West New Guinea. Our involvement with the United Nations and the Third World against Rhodesia and South Africa is something with which I must express disagreement. We should not have been involved in the sanctions against Rhodesia. It has cost our primary producers dearly because we have been involved when other nations who are less straightforward than we but who screamed sanctions,’ went on trading and did rather well out of it. My opinion is that if we do not have anything except words to contribute to this difficult situation we should keep our mouths closed at home and abroad and concentrate on what I regard, and have expressed before, as the real issues.
It should be remembered that I said that securing a supply of oil was one of those issues. It seems to me that uranium is much more powerful than Third World rhetoric because in uranium we have a sure counter at the bargaining table. Iran and Saudi Arabia want uranium; we need oil until we can find a secure and permanent supply of our own. I would like the Department of” Foreign Affairs to concentrate more on this matter because it is important to the continuity of life in this country.
Another issue, the search for markets for minerals and produce, is I am sure being taken care of by all departments concerned, but the Department of Foreign Affairs has an important place amongst them by virtue of its many posts overseas. A third issue, which perhaps is the most important now and will be in the future, is one that I notice the Minister has nagged too. In his Roy Milne address, when referring to South East Asia, he said:
The region remains of basic strategic importance to Australia. Although at this moment it is a less pressing concern there is no guarantee that international relations in South East Asia have completely stabilised or that all the present Governments in the area are immune from subversion from internal or external sources. However, the prospects for peace and stability are better now than at any time in the last 30 years or so.
I hope that the Minister is right but I sometimes worry when I realise that our defence expenditure as a proportion of Budget spending has dropped to half of what it was 10 years ago. Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister is completely right with that prediction. The Minister went on in that address to give significance to the region in which we live. It seems to me that we ought to be considering what we should do in the future in this area. All the elements are present for a deal which links all the nations around the Pacific into a regional bloc- call it what we will. Some people have called it a Pacific community. I do not much care what it is called as long as the idea is taken forward. We should be linking Australia, the Association of South East Asian Nations, Japan and its economic subsidiary States instead of screaming hard trade at the European Economic Community and swallowing equally mistaken doses of Third World ideology. If we did this we would be on the road to political and economic health. If we do not, before we know where we are we may find that Japan, having lost faith in the American alliance, will have re-armed and sought alliance with China. Should that happen I suggest that we may not be able to maintain the independence of this country; and that is a rather serious thing to say on this particular night of this particular year. The consequences of the failure to bring about the sort of alliance I have described may well be that serious eventually.
The Pacific bloc, associating first Australia and the ASEAN group of States and then Japan and subsidiary nations such as Taiwan and South Korea, offers a conceivable alternative. I believe that there is still time in which to seek this result but we are running out of time. I suspect that if we do not make the substantial progress with this bloc that we should, the United States, Europe, Japan and ASEAN will probably give us away and, if that happens, we could be in very serious trouble in maintaining the independence of this country and keeping Australia a free and democratic nation in this part of the world.
– I want tonight to direct my critical remarks at the aid program of the Australian Government but want to say first of all that my remarks are meant to refer to the philosophy and the emphasis of the program and not to individual projects on the ground. I was privileged in July to visit Bangladesh and to see individual agricultural projects at Ishurdi and Baghabari Ghat and to see road building work in the Chittagong Hills.
Though the Australians working on these projects often cover their idealism with an outwardly and perhaps necessarily tough veneer of cynicism, all Australians can be proud of the enthusiasm, dedication and expertise which these Australians bring to their work. Overall Australia’s aid program must increasingly be regarded as disappointing and at times embarrassingly so. For instance, to discover that in much of South Asia, distant Canada or European and Scandinavian nations are making a much more significant contribution than Australia, which is on the periphery of the Asian world, is deeply disturbing. As with many of the policies of this Government, I am afraid that aid is often more a matter of posture than of substance. As with the other policies of this Government, the aid achievement of the Fraser Government falls distinctly behind the achievement of the Whitlam Government.
The developed nations made a moral commitment at the beginning of this decade to aim at devoting 0.7 per cent of their gross national product to overseas aid. That certainly was only a moral commitment. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) recently reaffirmed his commitment to work towards the aid target of 0.7 per cent of our GNP. What is the actual achievement? It is true that there has been an increase in the Budget for the coming year of about 8.7 per cent but the total allocation of development assistance in 1978-79 represents an estimate of only 0.45 per cent of GNP, well below the target figure of 0.7 per cent to be aimed at for the decade. At the rate of progress of this Government over the past three years we will be into the next century before the target figure is reached unless there is a dramatic increase. By contrast, under the Whitlam Government the target was resolutely pursued and in the last year of that Government we had reached the figure of 0.6 per cent of GNP being devoted to overseas aid.
– That is just not true.
-These are the figures provided in the Minister’s own statement. I suggest that he look at the 1 975 figures in his statement.
– You know what he did. He slashed it to 0.4 per cent.
-The Minister should have corrected them in his publications. Since then there has been a falling away, a failure of resolution in some ways. Of course, this has occurred in every advanced industrial society. I am not saying that there has been a falling away in
Australia alone. Every advanced industrial society has tended to fall away a little from the 1974-75 position because of the economic recession. But it is interesting to note that in no single developed society has the proportionate fall been as great as in Australia, on the figures provided in Budget Statement No. 8.
The result is that of the 17 DAC countries Australia now ranks eighth in terms of aid provided measured as a percentage of gross national product. Of these 1 7 countries only Japan is, with Australia, geographically attached to this area of greatest need- a geographical relation that I think should impose on Australia a special responsibility in the field of overseas aid. Distant Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands all have achieved the target figure of 0.7 per cent of GNP and Canada, Denmark and France all now clearly surpass Australia. But, of course, I agree that we should not relate this issue just to questions of quantitative comparisons. They are only a starting point. We need to look at the quality of aid. Here one of the problems with Australian aid is the bias in the distribution of that aid. Fifty-one per cent, or over half, of our aid next year will go the Papua New Guinea. I recognise that we have a major responsibility to Papua New Guinea, a responsibility which we must continue to bear, although I think that the very fact of that responsibility which countries such as Canada, Sweden and Norway do not have may be a further argument that the proportion of our resources that we devote to overseas aid should be perhaps greater than that of other countries. Our effort should be perhaps exceptional in international terms.
One of the problems of the bias towards Papua New Guinea in our aid- the fact that over half of it goes to Papua New Guinea- is that it also runs contrary to one of the basic principles of the Development Decade, and that is the urgings of nearly every international body that the advanced societies should give first priority to the least developed of countries. In the scale of development Papua New Guinea is not badly off. The really serious problems of southern Asia lie in countries such as Bangladesh and India. Indeed, I think it would clearly benefit Australia- and also Papua New Guinea- if Australia could play a more active international role in diversifying Papua New Guinea’s sources of aid. I admit that the Foreign Minister has been endeavouring in ways to do this. A diversification of sources of aid for Papua New Guinea would enable Australia to pursue a more diversified and imaginative aid program. For instance, our aid to these two countries in southern Asia- to
Bangladesh, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, and to India, with enormous economic problems- is insignificant as compared with that of Canada. For instance, in 1977-78 India, with a population of 700 million, received in direct bilateral aid from Australia only $2.4m. So there is a problem of the distribution of Australian aid.
The last point I want to raise is that I am a little worried about the absolute decline in our total multilateral assistance in 1978-79. I realise that this relates mainly to international financial institutions and that the fall results from the pattern of encashment of funds for these institutions. Nevertheless, there is no sign in any of the documents of the central development issue of whether a nation’s resources are better directed to multilateral aid rather than bilateral aid. There are very powerful arguments that multilateral aid may be the most effective form of international aid. Certainly it is an argument worth considering, particularly as our proportion devoted to multilateral aid- about 15 per cent- is relatively low.
For instance, it can be argued that multilateral aid minimises national interest distortions in the delivery of aid. One of the inevitable problems of the provision of aid is that national interest enters into it and may distort the effective distribution of that aid, whereas if it goes through the multilateral institutions- United Nations institutions and other organisations- there is less likelihood of national interest distortions. These organisations are specially organised and designed for aid purposes. They may be much better bodies for delivering international aid than the limited agencies we have in Australia. That is a further reason for considering greater use of multilateral aid or greater devotion of our resources to multilateral aid. It is likely that these international bodies have greater experience and expertise in aid programs which on a dollar for dollar basis wil make for a more effective utilisation of the aid we can provide.
I realise that other arguments are to be considered against that. There are sometimes the problems of the excessive bureaucracies which are created around these international organisations. But I would like to see much more serious consideration than it appears from the documents with which we were proved has yet been given to the debate on multilateral aid as against bilateral aid. Therefore I hope that in the coming years the sorts of points I have made- firstly, about our relative international contribution, considering the specific location of Australia secondly, the problems of the bias in the distribution of our aid; and, thirdly, the issue of bilateral aid as against multilateral aid- will receive increasing consideration by this Government.
– I rise at this juncture because I am shortly to depart for overseas. If the debate on these estimates is not completed tonight and is continued tomorrow my colleague the then Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Sinclair) will be able to reply to a number of the speeches and particularly some of the thoughts which the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) put forward and which I assume others will express in regard to the general international relations arena. Two matters have been raised in regard to aid programs and I would not like to leave the country without directing the attention of the Committee to some inaccuracies that have been put forward tonight.
By way of introduction let me say that regrettably in this chamber we see a lack of debate on foreign policy. This is not the fault of the Government. We have put down major foreign policy statements each year. This did not occur when the Opposition was in government. We have provided a conceptual framework for our foreign policy. My statement last year and my statement in May certainly indicated this. Of course the emphasis is on regional relations and with the great democracies, et cetera. But, above all, we were able to indicate the perception of changes when we were in Opposition and to follow them through. This contrasts, after the initial burst of some sensible changes which occurred when the Opposition came into government, with what then was nothing but a mixture of ad hockery, over-compensation and, frankly, in two areas, outright deception.
– Where were the two areas?
-One was when at the fall of South Vietnam cables revealed dramatically in this chamber what was being done and the difference between the cables that were being sent by the Labor Government to Saigon and what was being sent to Hanoi. A major newspaper called for the resignation of the Government because of the outright deception that occurred. The other area, of course, was over Timor. We have discussed that in the past; so I need not go into it in this debate on the Estimates. That was the outright deception. Our committee of inquiry into the Third World is to fit within this perception and conceptual framework that we have. I would have liked to spend some time on the remarks that the honourable member for Swan made about the Third World. The honourable member on occasions kindly quoted from an address I delivered to the Institute of International Affairs. This address perhaps could be read by honourable members, who would see that I was not exaggerating the importance of the Third World countries but putting them in their proper context and placing on the emergent problems amongst the constituent countries of the Third World the emphasis that they require.
I rise particularly because of the remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), who sought to indicate that if the Australian Labor Party were still in power there would be substantial increases in aid programs. I think he even referred to the Hayden Budget to emphasise this. The reality is that when the current Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) was Treasurer his first act in regard to aid programs was to slash the percentage of gross national product going to aid from 0.56 per cent to 0.52 per cent. Worse than that, he imposed the most enormous problems on Papua New Guinea in its very first year of independence. In that fragile period of September 1975 when that country entered into independence, it had its aid program slashed. Papua New Guinea has been put on notice tonight by the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) who indicated quite clearly that the quantum of aid to Papua New Guinea, quite apart from its nature, ought to be re-examined. If the honourable member wants to create again the uncertainty and the ferment in that country, both in the Opposition and in the Government, that his Party created while it was in government, then I think he has given due warning of that tonight. That was another element of the Hayden Budget which created grave uncertainty at the most sensitive period of time and which almost tore asunder that close trusting relationship which had been developed with Papua New Guinea by successive LiberalNational Country Party governments. The year in which it was entering into independence was hardly the year in which to commence the slashing of aid programs to Papua New Guinea.
So not only did the Hayden Budget reduce aid expressed in terms of a percentage of the gross national product but also the aid program pursued by the Labor Party did not embrace the sorts of concepts which the honourable member for Bonython was calling for and which was implicit in the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, namely, a change in the nature of the aid programs. The most dramatic changes that have occurred in the nature of Australian aid programs have occurred during the period in office of this Government. I shall touch on this aspect in a moment.
I know that quantum alone is not a matter that can be simply pointed to. Opposition members have said this themselves. They cannot do otherwise having slashed aid expressed as a percentage of the gross national product during the last year in which they were in government. Changes that we have made in the nature of our aid programs, particularly to the South Pacific to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred, illustrate not merely that we can increase quantum in that area. I remind the committee that in an area in which the Opposition criticised our aid programs, in the three-year rolling program we increased by 400 per cent the amounts of money provided by the previous Government. We not only increased the allocation by a sizeable amount and gave the recipient countries certainty in planning, but also we charged the types of programs pursued. We introduced a form of assistance to local entrepeneurs. We introduced a method of meeting local costs in relation to aid projects. We are now doing that not only in the South Pacific but also in the Association of South East Asian Nations groups and in the least developed countries. We have introduced a system of forward programming through longer term commitments. This has been done largely to assist recipients of our aid with their forward planning.
The other notable features of this Budget so far as aid is concerned is that it includes provision for the far-reaching changes introduced in Australia ‘s food aid program. This year the bilateral aid program includes an additional component in the form of development import grants for the purchase of development oriented goods and services from Australia. These grants are the method chosen to disburse bilaterally half of the contribution in this area. The other half will be given through a multilateral program in the form of untied cash payments to the International Development Association.
Having referred to the International Development Association I want to mention something that occurred during the Labor Government’s period of office. The International Development Association and the Asian Development Fund are charged with providing soft loans to the most needy countries. In 1974, on a per capita grant basis, the most needy countries in our area which justified a great deal of attention from Australia were the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. For reasons which are best known to the IDA and the ADF, they refused to allocate funds to those countries. At Australia’s initiative, which was later supported by other countries, we have this year at last been able to change this situation around. The IDA and the ADF have been given directives once again to provide soft loans to Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. That matter was not even raised by the Australian Labor Party when it was in government.
I had hoped to make a speech in which I dealt with the estimates line by line, but my departure for overseas will prevent me from doing that. I wanted to answer the charges about the aid program itself and to indicate that, for example, our aid program to the South Pacific, which has been criticised in this country, was warmly applauded by all leaders in the South Pacific. Our aid program to Papua New Guinea has been described by the Deputy Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea as being not merely the most enlightened in the world but as an example to all other developed countries to follow. Not only has this Government introduced a conceptual framework to our foreign policy, restored relationships with other countries and furthered our role in the region in the important area of economic relations and trade relations with ASEAN and the South Pacific countries but also in the particular areas of importance to us as well as to them- we should never dismiss that element which is of some importance, namely, that we have a responsibility in our own region and not just to distant lands- we have not merely increased the amounts of money available but more particularly we have changed the nature of the programs to provide both flexibility and forward planning. To my way of thinking it is a foreign policy that generally is endorsed by the Opposition. I do not look for bipartisanship of its own cause. However, if, after parties have examined issues, they see that there are not fundamental changes that is all to the good because one does not want a foreign policy tipped on its head when governments change. I am not an advocate of bipartisanship for its own sake. In reality the reason that support generally is given to this foreign policy, I would assume, is that either the Opposition finds such a policy plausible in itself or it recognises that its own homework has not yet been done. The reality is that the Australian Labor Party has not produced a foreign policy in the last two elections. No alternative foreign policy was put to the people in 1975 or 1 977. If that is the case, we can rely only on what I described earlier as a mixture of ad hockery, a degree of overcompensation and, I regret to say, in two cases, outright deception.
– I have listened to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and I think that in a way he belittles himself. The sad situation is that this debate is a kind of mud slinging business on the question of aid. We are dealing with the question of what percentage of the gross national product should be allocated when human values are under consideration. The Minister knows- those who have sat in Cabinet know- that the real enemy that has had to be beaten, particularly in these last few years, is the Federal Treasury. The Federal Treasury has been trying to cut aid appropriations not only in the latter years of the Labor Government but also during this Government’s term of office. It has applied very strong discipline with regard to aid to the underdeveloped nations. To some extent, the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) tried to raise the question that we should look at broader horizons in South East Asia when making aid available. I think that that point of view is worthy of consideration because it was put forward in a constructive manner.
I am not happy with this conservative government; I think it is one of the worst governments that this country has ever had. But in fairness, I think the Foreign Minister has kept an even hand on his portfolio. I know that he probably even has problems within his own conservative party, and one has to recognise the role he has to play within the Government and within the international family of nations. One cannot deny the fact that the line set down by the former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, is being continued. One could argue that there is a continuation of that line. I am not trying to define the situation because I know that the Foreign Minister will say that I put a different emphasis on different fields. There is a close relationship between the two situations. I believe that Australia needs an independent foreign policy. The element of independence must be interelated more and more with that of economic policy. We know this country more and more is becoming controlled by what we call trans-national corporations, wealthy financial institutions, most of which, of course, are based in the United States. Therefore, the United States exercises excessive influence over this country’s foreign policy.
I want, in the short time that is available to me, to confine my remarks to the struggle of the people of Vietnam for independence and freedom. We know that for 30 years that nation struggled for its independence and freedom, that it fought first against the French, then the Japanese and then the Americans. Of course, it won that struggle despite great odds and at an enormous price. The bombing that was unleashed upon it far exceeded what had been unleashed on the whole of Europe in the Second World War. So the Vietnamese people have come out of a 30-year struggle and are trying to bring about the reconstruction of their nation. Most remarkable of all is the tolerance displayed by its leadership, by what in fact is a most compassionate government. If one could use that word, it is even a gentle government, because it is striving to reconstruct Vietnam. It holds no hate for its adversaries of the past. At the same time it is seeking to unify a country which, over the last three decades in particular, has been divided.
During two of the three years since the war ended Vietnam had, insofar as food supply is concerned, two very bad seasons climatically. Strange to relate, areas of that country experienced what there would be considered a drought and, as a result, its crops were affected greatly. Recently, in the Mekong Delta in particular, bad flooding has occurred. Indeed the flooding has been so great that nine provinces have been affected adversely. When the Foreign Minister considers the granting of aid, I hope that he will have his Department give special consideration to the situation in Vietnam. Because of its enormous losses during the recent floods a call has been made by that country seeking world aid.
Not only has Vietnam many special problems to overcome but also has it been confronted with the conflict on the border region with Kampuchea. I have not at any time been one to engage in scaremongering, but when recently I was in Vietnam I had discussions with people who were refugees from Kampuchea. I listened to their stories of the brutalities that had occurred. If the barbarity which occurred was onetenth of the magnitude alleged, that regime in Kampuchea must be a very cruel one indeed. The sad situation is, I believe, that an immature government has taken short cuts on the road to what it calls socialism and in doing so has brought great cruelty to the people of Kampuchea. In addition, it has also entered into military conflict with Vietnam. This again has placed a great burden on the Vietnamese people, engaged as they are in the reconstruction of their nation after 30 years of war.
I know that where aid is concerned it is extremely difficult to stretch the bow. I know that the major enemy which the Government has to overcome is not the parliamentary Oppositionwhich joins the Foreign Minister in trying to step up the percentage of aid given and does not quibble about whether it is a percentage point lower than when it was in office- it is the same bureaucracy, the Treasury, that strives to cut back the amount granted. I do not know whether the Minister for Foreign Affairs can with the help of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) keep the hands of the Treasury away from the granting of aid, but I would note that, because of Australia’s involvement in the internal affairs of Vietnam, and the tens and hundreds of millions we spent in trying to interfere there, we have a moral obligation to fulfil. I believe that we should extend aid contribution to Vietnam.
During my recent visit to that country Hoang Bich Son, the Vice Foreign Minister, told me personally of the good relationship that he had with Foreign Minister Peacock and the understanding that they seemed to have achieved. Also, I know that when Phan Yen, another Vice Foreign Minister, was here he reported that good relations had been built up between governments. It is important that we understand the difficult problems and hard conditions that do exist in Vietnam. It is not much good Government supporters claiming that Vietnam is a part of certain blocs. They were driven into the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. Vietnam is a country which is striving to maintain its independence and freedom from all sides whether it be China or the Soviet Union on the one hand or the United States on the other. Even though it has entered Comecon, it has maintained its links with the International Bank. It has done that because it wants to maintain its freedom from having to rely on any one nation.
The better the understanding that the members of the Parliament have of that and the more we can assist the Government in understanding the problems of reconstruction in Vietnam, and in recognising our moral obligation to try to assist that country back to a state of greater dignity and independence and to assist in its reconstruction the better it will be for this region of the world.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-During the winter recess of this Parliament, I took a private overseas study tour, concerned mainly with the motor vehicle manufacturing industry and youth affairs. Part of the time during that trip was spent in South Africa, many points of whose motor industry bear comparison with the motor industry of Australia. However, while in South Africa I also had the opportunity to examine at first hand the general situation in that country, and in particular its ethnic problems. It is to these aspects that I will refer tonight in the context of the debate on the expenditure estimates of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
While in South Africa, I took the opportunity to travel widely, visiting most major urban centres, some rural areas and the so-called homelands areas. Through this I had the opportunity to talk with a broad cross-section of the community- white, coloured, Indian and black ethnic groups, ranging from strong supporters of the present Nationalist Party Government and its policies to its equally strong opponents. These included Government and Opposition white members of parliament, people such as Sonny Leon, the leader of the Coloured Peoples’ Labor Party in the Coloured Representative Council, Mr Reddy and other members of the executive of the South African Indian Council, urban and homeland black leaders, Government bureaucrats, business men and people such as Dr Beyers Naude, the former moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, who is now under a banning order for his opposition to apartheid. In this way I had the opportunity to gauge a broad cross-section of opinion, as well as make direct observations about the current situation in South Africa, and also possible future developments.
I would particularly like to commend our Australian Ambassador to South Africa and his senior staff at our missions in Pretoria, Capetown and Johannesburg for their assistance to me with regard to the investigations which I undertook. I would also like to commend them for the work that they are doing in South Africa to maintain a liaison with the various ethnic groups in that country in order to provide adequate information to our Government on which it can base appropriate policies.
Also I received welcome co-operation from the South African Government. There was certainly no attempt by it to prevent me from contacting people who were unsympathetic to its present policies.
All my investigations revealed a significant dichotomy in the South African situation. On the one hand, non-whites are making significant progress in the economic sphere and many whites are changing their attitudes to blacks in both the working and the social environments. On the other hand, the present Government refuses to extend the opportunity for any real participation by non-whites in government decision-making and the nation’s formal political processes. The transition in the economic and social spheres has occurred partly through nonwhites’ own initiatives, partly through the initiatives of private enterprise businesses and partly through government economic and educational programs. For example, job reservation for whites has virtually disappeared and will soon be abolished completely. More and more nonwhites are receiving training for and are moving into managerial positions in the private sector. Certainly, non-whites are becoming better educated and more affluent, and hence better equipped to take part in everyday life of the South African community. Particularly among young whites, attitudes of prejudice and discrimination against non-whites are less evident than among older people. Perhaps that is an omen for a better future.
Certainly, it is possible to argue about the rate of change in the economic and social spheres and whether or not the attitudes of non-whites in these spheres are being developed with sufficient rapidity. The rate of change is difficult to gauge during one limited visit to that country, but one could well argue that the broadening of opportunities should be occurring more rapidly. One of the main factors which is contributing to the broadening economic opportunities for nonwhites has been rapid economic growth in South Africa in recent times. Those who advocate trade boycotts and disinvestment in South Africa are, in fact, advocating a halt to economic progress for non-whites. This economic progress has been a major catalyst for change in South Africa and this can continue, but it will not continue if sources of trade and investment are cut off.
This aspect is of double importance to Australia in that during the period of a high level of trade between the two countries the balance was strongly in Australia’s favour. In particular, trade with South Africa was of great benefit to Australia ‘s motor vehicle and component manufacturing industries. As the honourable member for Kingston, I have some interest in the motor industry. It needs every export avenue which it is possible to obtain. In recent years some $35m a year worth of business has been lost to the motor vehicle industry in exports largely as a result of wharf stoppages preventing goods from being shipped to South Africa on a regular basis. The decline in total trade between South Africa and Australia has seen our favourable balance decline markedly in favour of South Africa. Hence for the altruistic motive of providing further opportunities for non-white advancement and perhaps for a more selfish motive of economic benefit to Australia, I believe we should be stepping up our trade activity with that country.
The significant change in attitude which I mentioned earlier and the broadening of economic opportunities make the end of apartheid inevitable. One thing which history clearly shows is that as people become better educated, more affluent and more able to participate in the economic life of the community, they will inevitably demand the right to participate in its political life. But the present South African Government stubbornly refuses to recognise this fact. Despite acknowledgment by the bulk of people to whom I spoke while visiting South Africa that apartheid is doomed and full political rights have to be given to non-whites, the Government itself steadfastly pursues its policy of apartheid. Although petty apartheid is progressively breaking down, this occurs only after considerable internal pressure on the Government and rarely as a Government initiative. If peace and prosperity are to be maintained for all South Africans it is essential that the present Government change its attitude and be seen to initiate progress towards full and equal participation in the political process by all ethnic groups within South Africa.
Currently the Government proposes a concept of three separate parliaments for whites, coloureds and Indians, but both the coloureds and the Indians in that country have made it very clear that that proposal is not an acceptable alternative to the present situation or an acceptable alternative to full and direct participation. Similarly, the Government’s propagation of the homeland concept, although accepted by some black leaders who are resident in the homelands, has been rejected by other homeland leaders and is particularly rejected by blacks living in urban areas. So, equally, that is not an acceptable alternative to the development of full political participation. Unless an acceptable formula is initiated the danger is that non-whites will become increasingly politically radicalised and will seek alternative solutions which would be to the detriment of all South Africans. As more advancement is achieved in the economic and social spheres, the existing political structure is causing more and more resentment among nonwhites. This is particularly evident among younger non-whites, who are less prepared to accept the status quo than are the old generation.
It is to be hoped that the recent change in leadership of the South African Government will provide some opportunity for a change in its policies. The movement towards total participation must be transitional. Certainly, an overnight institution of what is termed black majority rule could cause problems as great as a perpetual continuation of the present system. The transition should be gradual to accommodate the developing experience of non-whites in political participation, but it must be seen to be actively occurring and effectively bearing fruit for nonwhites. The end of apartheid is inevitable. It is to be hoped that it will be ended on the initiative of the present South African Government rather than by what might be a violent initiative of those currently denied full rights of citizenship.
I believe that one way in which Australia could assist this peaceful transition would be through the provision of educational scholarships for South Africans, both white and non-white, which would encourage co-operation among the various ethnic groups resident in South Africa and thereby cause a further moderation of their attitudes. When those students who had been educated in Australia returned to South Africa with the benefit of education in an Australian environment, they would be able to contribute more effectively to a peaceful resolution of that country’s problems. I would particularly urge the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) to consider that suggestion.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)-
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to deal with subdivision 4.07 of the Appropriation Bill, the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), in his statement to the Parliament on 24 August last, when tabling agreements with the Republic of Finland and the Republic of the Philippines concerning the sale of our uranium, again repeated that Australia will sell uranium only to those nation states that are prepared to accept their obligations under the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It is essentially upon that Treaty that Australia has to rely in the hope that Australian uranium is not eventually used for the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It is not good enough for those of us who are concerned about the fact that there are too many nuclear weapons in the world simply to accept without argument that, as a nation producing uranium, we can simply rely upon the operations of the International Atomic Energy Agency and upon treaties to limit the use of Australian uranium in the production of nuclear weapons. In the real world in which Australia must operate, governments come and go. In the final analysis, whether a nation determines to become a nuclear power in its own right is essentially a decision which it takes in terms of its view of its own self-interest.
The International Atomic Energy Agency is responsible for checking observance of the Nonproliferation Treaty. But in 1976 it had only 44 field agents to examine the world’s nuclear activities and the vast majority of its funds- that is, 80 per cent- went to ‘promotional activities’. The essence of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s activities is bookkeeping. Agency inspectors do not scrutinise the physical protection of the materials. That is left to individual nations. Some countries make themselves quite open to IAEA inspectors whilst others prefer to do their own reporting on themselves. Sometimes these reports are filed late; sometimes they are not filed at all. Some countries even assert the right to reject a particular inspector until the IAEA sends one more to their liking. The Fox inquiry in its first report listed nine main limitations and weaknesses of the IAEA system. At page 147 it concluded:
The Commission recognises that these defects, taken together, are so serious that safeguards may prove only an illusion of protection.
Having regard to the serious inadequacies that have been thus far exposed by the Fox report and other serious commentators, it is simply not good enough for this Government to assert that IAEA safeguards of themselves provide any real basis against nuclear proliferation.
Even the Agency has admitted to the inadequacy of its own controls. In September 1977 at the general conference in Vienna it reported on plans to tighten controls in the light of evidence that in 10 countries inspected in 1977 it was unable to fully verify adherence to safeguards. The other basis asserted by the Minister as giving Australia a sanction against any purchasing nation which does not comply with or breaks an agreement is the interruption of supply which the Minister sees as a serious deterrent and sanction for the receiving country. That assertion must be viewed in the light of history. Certainly historical experience does not allow us to share the Minister’s confidence.
India, which in 1974 exploded its own atomic device, had accepted a safeguard Canadian reactor and then built its own plutonium reprocessing plant nearby. After the first Canadian fuel load was taken out of the reactor, the Indians replaced it with fuel made from Indian uranium. The Canadians were then informed that the safeguards no longer applied. It is perfectly true that the Indian explosion, made possible by United States and Canadian aid, was one of the major events which affected the formulation of United States policy on nuclear proliferation in recent years. Others were a $25m French deal to supply Pakistan with a re-processing plant giving it easy access to plutonium and therefore bombs, and a West German agreement to provide Brazil with a complete nuclear industry for $ 8,000m which entailed even greater risks. It is true that these sales reflect the intense competitiveness of international nuclear markets.
The existence of huge financial stakes and rivalries in this market is a factor which can readily affect any agreement that Australia makes to sell uranium. That factor has been ignored completely by the Minister in his statement to the Parliament. The competitiveness of the nuclear power industry and the huge financial stakes involved mean that countries are tempted to compete with each other by relaxing safeguards for customers or offering highly sensitive technology such as re-processing or enrichment technology. That was precisely what occurred when West Germany won an agreement to provide Brazil with a complete nuclear industry for $8,000m. Germany was able to win an order for eight nuclear reactors by offering the re-processing technology that its only serious competitor, the Westinghouse Electrical Corporation, could not meet due to the United States policy which prohibits the overseas sale of reprocessing plants.
The fact is that the International Atomic Energy Agency has no authority to take action against any violations other than simply to announce them. Most countries consider occasional inspections to impinge on their sovereignty; few countries would grant an international team police authority to confiscate diverted bomb grade materials. The experience of the United States shows that we should put very little faith in bilateral agreements on safeguards. After all, the United States has traditionally insisted on the same veto rights as the Minister now asserts Australia will have, but the United States found that these rights were violated in 19 cases between 1971 and 1974. In each case fuels, including plutonium, supplied by the United States, were shifted from one country to another without American permission. If the United States, with its intelligence and administrative network, could discover these contract breaches only after the event, what hope has Australia of ensuring that its safeguards are adhered to? The fact of the matter is that in order to chase the quick dollar by the sale of uranium this Government has endeavoured to minimise the risks and the problems involved in nuclear proliferation.
The only real statement on this matter made to the House on 24 August last did not face up to the real problem of the inadequacy currently present in IAEA safeguards but the Minister for Foreign Affairs by not stating these problems is simply hoping that the people of Australia will not be aware of them. Having regard to the history of nuclear proliferation and the obvious difficulties in terms of real politics of trying to make a nuclear proliferation treaty work, the Minister does himself no service and the people of Australia real disservice when he oversimplifies and avoids the real problems posed by the sale of Australian uranium and its potential significance in expanding the nuclear arsenal that already threatens the future of mankind and life on this planet as we know it.
States Grants Home Care Legislation- Australian Telecommunications Commission- Immigration facilities at Melbourne Airport- Trade Unions- Flood Mitigation- Lebanon- Aborigines
Motion (by Mr Peacock) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-More and more emphasis has been placed recently on the credibility of statements made by Ministers of this Government. A clear example of this problem of credibility was evident in relation to the Stales Grants (Home Care) Amendment Bill which recently has been through this House. I would like to quote some statements which have appeared in the local Press in my electorate to indicate some of the conflicts which exist between the Government’s perception of the situation with respect to funding under this legislation and the way in which the changes under the legislation are perceived at the local level. The Northcote Leader of 1 9 September carries a story which has the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) suggesting that claims that changes in the subsidy arrangements under the States Grants (Home Care) Act had reduced Commonwealth funding for services to the aged could be discounted. Senator Guilfoyle is quoted as saying:
This politically motivated attempt to denigrate the Commonwealth commitment to these vital services had no basis in fact . . . Following the increased allocation in the Budget for expenditure under the States Grants (Home Care) Act, all outstanding applications by State governments for new welfare officer positions and new home care services could be approved.
Similarly the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) claimed in the
Heidelberger that rather than there being a reduction in funds ‘additional funds had been made available for home care services’. Mr Brown went on to say that the only change in the home care service is that the Federal Government’s contribution will be cut by half. However, the honourable member for Diamond Valley continued optimistically:
The State Government now has funds from its own sources to support these activities more substantially.
The reality is that the Victorian Government in its Budget has not allocated additional funds. So, the basis for funding has changed substantially. While it is clear that the Government in one sense will be spending more money this financial year, it is, in fact, back paying councils for staff that they took on over the past two years in anticipation of funding. It is spreading money more thinly across a wider number of councils. I could quote statements made by several people from the various local government authorities in my electorate. It is quite clear that from the point of view of local government the situation is seen very differently from the way it was presented by the Minister in the local Press in that electorate. Mr Jones, the City Manager of the City of Heidelberg, was quite specific. In the Heidelberger he said that his Council will ‘have to find an extra $29,000 to keep the city’s home help service afloat’. He said:
I am very disappointed with the State Government. I was sure that it would have maintained the subsidy at $4 for every $ 1 offered by the Council.
Mr Jones went on to say that the State Government had had pressure put on it by the Federal Government pulling out of the scheme in the Budget. Similarly, the Preston councillors complained that the reduction of the subsidy was only part of a general program of reducing subsidies. Councillor Matthews was quoted in the Preston Post as saying:
We may be forced to put up the rates. The Municipal Association of Victoria and all municipalities should form a united front. This is only a start. After the State Budget there could be more cuts.
The Northcote Council’s Director of Finance estimates that as a result of Federal cutbacks and the failure of the State Government to increase subsidies that Council stands to lose $ 13,500 annually. It also will need increased money to pay for the city’s welfare worker.
The feeling in my electorate among people with responsibility for providing local government services clearly is snared by many people in local government outside that electorate. More than 50 councils were represented recently at a meeting in Collingwood which condemned cutbacks in the funding of the home care program. Councillor Hogg, the Mayor of Collingwood, accused the Federal Government of sleight of hand tactics in its policies. She said that the cutbacks would mean that councils would have to raise rates to maintain the quality of existing services and that the Federal Government was paying lip service to the needs of welfare while taking money away from it. We see reflected in this legislation the future of the new federalism. The new federalism clearly means that councils in my electorate will be asked to take on services and that funds will not be provided. It means that the Government on the one hand is devolving so-called power to councils and on the other hand is reducing their capacity to provide services.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I raise a matter which concerns a company in my electorate whose business has been hurt. It has faced added expenses because of the error of a public servant in the Australian Telecommunications Commission in not putting its telephone number in the telephone book. I will quote from the correspondence on this matter. The letter from the company said:
Our Company has two Display Home locations, one at Burwood Highway, Vermont and the other in Serpells Road, Templestowe.
Our office was at Burwood Highway Centre and we anticipated moving our office to Templestowe when completed but for other reasons we moved our office to our present address of 3 Karou Court, Vermont South and had our telephone transferred from our Burwood Highway Centre to this address.
Telecom however cut us out of the ‘white page ‘ directory although not advised to do so and gave us a location at our Templestowe Centre also with another number not even connected and did not list our present telephone number.
This is quite devastating to us particularly in view of the Building Industry sinking slowly out of sight and our image has been damaged as the public generally leap to the conclusion that that Centre has gone out of business and that is farthest from the truth.
As a result it was necessary for us to attempt to make ourselves known so we were forced to place our Company with the ‘Yellow Pages’ for which a cost of $80-00 has to be paid.
We believe that Telecom have made a serious blunder to say the least and as we still have to pay our telephone rental for an unlisted number and name we feel that Telecom should be expected to pay us compensation, by that we mean at least the entry in the Yellow Pages.
I was asked to bring the matter to the notice of Telecom. I received a reply from Mr Smith, the State Manager of Telecom, which, in part, states:
My enquiries reveal that in July 1977, arrangements were made for the entry B. J. Fulton Pty Ltd, Sarah Crescent,
Templestowe, telephone 846 2279, to be listed in the directory computer file following Mr Fulton’s application for removal of his telephone service to this address. Unfortunately, although Telecom Australia was later advised that the service was to be moved instead to 3 Karou Court, Vermont South, this notification was not referred to the area responsible for alterations to directory entries. This failure in our procedures is being examined closely to avoid any similar occurrences in future.
Regarding Mr Fulton’s request for free prominent listing in the Yellow Pages, whilst in no way detracting from the seriousness of this error, the Telecom By-Laws make no provision for the recognition of claims for compensation arising as a result of errors in, or omissions from the telephone directory.
I have now received a further letter from Mr Fulton. He said:
In Mr Smith’s letter to you it is quite clear that there was no further thing which this Company could do to ensure that our entry in the directory was assured.
We are not satisfied that Telecom Australia can just turn around and say our By-laws do not allow for compensation for an obvious error of this type.
No other organisation can pass off their errors in this manner and we do not accept the explanation given.
Any company in Australia would be extremely wealthy if it brushed aside it’s errors by saying our Memorandum and Articles of Association do not allow for our errors.
Under the circumstances it is apparent that the matter must be brought out in the House of Representatives so the whole structure will be amended and that Telecom will be responsible for their mistakes and we would ask if you would be good enough to present to the House our frustrations in this matter.
In conclusion, I feel that this firm has suffered quite a lot through the fact that people have not been able to contact it. Perhaps people thought that it had gone out of business. On top of that it has had to pay $80 to have its telephone number put in the yellow pages. It has been treated very unfairly. I think that this matter should be aired publicly in the House.
– I wish to bring a matter to the attention of the House. Earlier this month I was fortunate to attend the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Bonn. I returned to Australia through Singapore to Sydney and finally to Melbourne, arriving at Melbourne at about 9 o’clock last Thursday, 2 1 September. The matter I wish to bring to the attention of the House is the appalling method used by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs or its officers at Melbourne Airport to clear passengers who are arriving in Australia or returning to Australia. I had been through health clearances in Sydney and I had to go through immigration and customs clearances in Melbourne. It took exactly one hour for me, standing in a queue- it was the same for all the other people there- to move from one side of the barrier to the other. It was not as though there was a large number of passengers arriving at the same time. The aircraft in which I arrived had unloaded most of its passengers in Sydney. I hope that those people who disembarked in Sydney did not have the same experience.
The reason I bother to raise this matter is that, having had the benefit of visiting a number of countries during my journey to Europe, I can say, without any fear of contradiction, that the worst port in the world for people to get through immigration clearances must be Melbourne Airport at Tullamarine. You know that I have a finely tuned sense of humour and that I am a very patient man, Mr Deputy Speaker. I stood with great patience in the queue, with people from all parts of the world, for one hour waiting to get my passport checked. Exercising my fine wit to the customs officer- I do not think that he appreciated it- I simply made the comment: ‘You know, it astounds me that we have bloody illegal immigrants in this country when a Federal member of Parliament has so much trouble getting back into it’. This situation ought to be corrected. It seems to me that a lot of unnecessary clerical work was being done on behalf of passengers by the immigration staff. Only four or five immigration officers were working at their posts. There were positions for another two or three officers, but the positions were not filled.
It could be said that this is attributable to the cutback in funds and staff by the present Government. I can assure honourable members and anybody else who may be listening that it is not a very pleasant experience. I certainly am not at my best, as far as humour and wit are concerned, when I have spent a whole night sitting up in an aircraft from Singapore, spent one and a half or two hours walking around Sydney Airport waiting for the aircraft to depart to Melbourne, and then have suffered a delay of an hour- it was possibly more for some people- standing in a queue waiting to re-enter my own country. Heathrow airport at London has a far greater volume of people travelling through and being subject to its migrant procedures than Tullamarine in Melbourne ever would. Yet at Heathrow there was not one fraction of the delay that there was at Tullamarine in Melbourne.
Being a native of the city of Melbourne and Melbourne airport being an international airport and a rather fine airport of which we are all very proud, it rather distresses me that the first impression that a very large number of people get when they arrive in our country is one of incompetence, bungling, of people standing in long queues for long periods of time simply waiting to have their documents processed in order to go past the barrier. As a consequence of the circumstances which I am relating people waiting outside to greet travellers stood around for more than an hour. As the door opened and people came through the Customs area the people outside flocked around hoping that it was the people for whom they were anxiously waiting. I hope that the Minister will take note of what has been said in the House tonight. He can check all the facts. He will find them accurate. I am sure it is not an isolated incident. I hope he will use his good offices to have that situation corrected on behalf of the returning Australians and on behalf of thousands and thousands of visitors who come through that international airport every year.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, this afternoon at Question Time the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) attempted to answer an arranged question concerning H. J. Heinz and Co. Australia Ltd.
– A question without notice.
– It was a question without notice. The company concerned is in the electorate of Holt. I consider that the instigating of the question about which the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) has told me is an extraordinary parliamentary discourtesy and hardly the way to make for the best industrial relations in the area which I represent. Indeed the Minister took no trouble at all to consult the company, the union or the member who represents the area concerned. Heinz has an investment of $20m in Dandenong and is responsible for the job security of over 1,000 employees, 450 of whom are members of the Food Preservers Union of Australia. I am glad to state that I have met the shop steward personally. Concerning the recent problems over a log of claims, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission ordered that the parties participate in a further conference at their convenience in an endeavour to solve the problem finally. As a result an agreement was put by the union to its members that they receive an extra $13 per week, $5 of which had already been agreed upon before the Commission and $8 of which was agreed upon at the conference ordered by the Commission.
Following a telephone conversation with the managing director and the personnel officer of the company I have received a telex. I would be grateful if the Opposition would give me leave to have that incorporated in Hansard.
The telex read as follows-
Mr Bill Yates
Liberal Party of Australia
The H J Heinz Company Australia Ltd has been subjected to a series of strikes, slopwork meetings and overtime bans since the announcement of the Federal Budget on August15.
The Food Preservers’ Union’s point being that the Federal Budget represented a further loss of real wages to the work-force which should be recouped from the employer.
A log of claims was served on the company on August 22, 1978. In an attempt to resolve the situation the company and the union have appeared twice before the Arbitration and Conciliation Commission. The matter was not resolved in private conference before the commission and the commission ordered the parties to participate in further conferences at their convenience in an endeavour to finally resolve the matter.
On September 13, in an effort to get the striking workforce back to work the company made an offer to the union. This was subsequently put to a mass meeting and accepted. Work resumed with the return of the night shift on September 14.
The company advises me that it would welcome an opportunity to meet with Mr Street to explain its position and to draw his attention to the difficulties faced by the manufacturing sector as a result of being caught between the conflicting objectives of government policies, the Arbitration and Conciliation Commission, the P J T, the unions and the company’s basic objective of conducting a financially viable business.
– I thank the House. The company advises me that it would welcome an opportunity to meet the Minister, Mr Street, to explain its position and to draw his attention to the difficulties faced by the manufacturing industry as a result of being caught between the conflicting objectives of government policies, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Prices Justification Tribunal, the unions and the company’s basic objective of conducting a financially viable business. It is therefore absolutely clear that it is now in the national interest that a national conference should try to come to some successful proposition concerning a national wages policy.
– I want tonight to discuss the matter of Toongabbie Creek. I want to support the remarks made last week by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown). This Government criticised at Question Time the New South Wales Government for not making the Toongabbie Creek project a major priority in its water resources program. The fact is that this Government has proposed to make available $200m over a period of five years for water resources in both rural and urban areas. Yet if one examines how much money it has made available one will see that last year $12m of available funds was unspent. This year the Government has added another $5m to that amount. In other words $ 17m is now available for the program. Yet the Government professes that it will spend $200m over five years. All I can say is that at that rate the program will certainly take a low priority under this Government.
The Government is trying to criticise the New South Wales Government for not giving the Toongabbie Creek a high priority. In the first place the Toongabbie Creek project was carried out due to the flooding that occurred and to the deaths that occurred in the area from flooding.
– Eleven people.
– The honourable member for Parramatta has interjected that 1 1 people have been killed. The situation is that when the Labor Party was in government the area improvement program was carried out in the western suburbs. Money was made available by the Labor Government of that day to carry out a survey. The survey was commended by the then honourable member for Mitchell, a conservative member who was at that time in Opposition. This Government since that time- after all it is now in its third year of office- has not made one penny available for water resources in the Toongabbie Creek area. To give honourable members some idea of the amount of money that is needed for water resources, sewerage and drainage throughout this country I point out that New South Wales, which has 52 applications, estimates that flood mitigation and drainage problems alone will cost $365m. That is without its sewerage problem. The Whitlam Labor Government in its last year made $1 13m available for the sewerage backlog program. This Government in its first year cut the expenditure to $53m and in its second year completely abolished it.
I am a little weary of governments of hypocrisy such as this Government trying to bring forward a so-called $200m program over five years when in fact it made only $5m available this year in addition to the $12m of last year’s allocation which was unspent. This Government’s priorities are so low in that regard. It is about time that this Government started to step up the priority in regard to this expenditure. It is playing cheap politics and it is playing with people’s lives. We need direct grants from the Australian Government to the local government authority to overcome these problems. The only way that many drainage problems in the western suburbs of Sydney and in other areas are going to be solved is by direct involvement of the Australian Government working in co-operation with local government. That was the situation under the Labor Government. If the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) looked after his water scheme in Tasmania he would be doing some service, but he has not even done that.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to ask the House to concern itself with the seriously deteriorating position in the Lebanon. Tonight there was a reception to farewell the Ambassador for the Lebanon who is leaving Australia. I place on record my tribute to his work in this country and to the way in which he has helped the persons of various different backgrounds who have come to Australia from the Lebanon. Unfortunately at present there are signs that the Lebanon may in fact collapse, that as a political entity it may be destroyed. I certainly hope not. It has a proud history. It is a country which deserves to have its territorial integrity and political viability preserved.
The Lebanese community in Australia consists of diverse groups of persons but almost overwhelmingly they are concerned to lead a new life in Australia, to bring up their children in this country and to contribute to Australia. But the problems in their own country prey upon their minds most seriously. In particular, there are thousands of persons in Australia who worry and grieve for their relatives in the Lebanon, some of whom have disappeared, some of whom have died in recent days, many of whom are homeless and many of whom are out of communication with their relatives in this country.
One of the calls that has been made upon the Australian Government recently is that it give consideration to supporting in the United Nations a request for the United Nations peacekeeping force to be extended to the north of the Lebanon as well as to the south and perhaps even to other parts of the Lebanon. In view of the serious position I think there is much merit in this suggestion. I ask the Government to give it very close consideration with a view to developing a position that could be put before the United Nations.
We know what is happening in the South. There is a reasonable status quo. The Israeli forces have not withdrawn as it had been thought they would. In fact they have handed over much of the control in the area to the right wing forces. There is some reasonable stability.
However, in the North there has been serious fighting between Syrianese and Lebanese persons, principally Christians. There has been a split amongst some of the pre-existing groups. There is serious fighting between the Phalangists and the Franjiehists If the situation gets any worse there could even be a possible claim by some groups to set up a state of North Lebanon in itself. I would imagine that once that occurred it could set in train forces that might lead to horrendous consequences.
The situation is probably more serious now than it has ever been. Unfortunately, very little news is reaching Australia. There appears to be a news link between Tripoli, Cyprus and Paris and some information comes to us by that source. There seems to be very little real information other than that. According to the reports, there is a very bad deterioration in the position. The Syrianese are accused of shelling and carrying out other attacks upon the persons of North Lebanon in such a way that there is said to be very serious loss of life. If a proper United Nations initiative were adopted and if requests were made to Australia, I would support the use of a properly constituted Australian force contributing to a properly constituted United Nations peacekeeping force on request because of the very great interest that Australian persons of Lebanese origin have in what is happening in that country. If the situation collapses the numbers of applications for people to come to Australia to join their relatives in this country will be immense. This will probably overshadow what occurred one or two years ago and would cause quite a strain to those persons and would cause great strains on our infrastructure here including our immigration program and our schools. Of course, we also face an unemployment problem. I call on the Government to heed the call that has been made by the associations and to prepare a posture for proceeding to the United Nations -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Opposition shares the concern of the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) who has just spoken. It is well established Australian Labor Party policy that we should provide the United Nations forces with assistance. I think that we have demonstrated a practical capacity to back that up. I sincerely hope that the Government will do likewise not only because Australia is concerned with Lebanese citizens here but also because it is concerned for common humanity. There are other situations in which we should take an interest, including East Timor.
In the short time remaining for this adjournment debate I take the opportunity to supplement some of the remarks I made last week when we were dealing with the estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I draw attention to some aspects of policy in that Department. I am glad that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) is at the table. I hope he will glean amongst his other deliberations some of my remarks.
Under the Fraser Government, Aboriginal people in Australia have suffered a slide in the level of operation of Aboriginal programs that has effectively put these programs more than eight years behind. The development of this reversing trend is continuing. It has reached an intolerable situation. Already the northern New South Wales region of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has met and rejected funding completely this financial year in protest at the Budget. The funds provided were not sufficient to continue current programs. The region’s telegram of advice to the Minister stated:
This is a denial of Aboriginal advancement and selfdetermination.
Grants to the States for Aboriginal education have decreased by 2.24 per cent over last year or by 9.9 per cent since the last Labor Budget. Adjusted for inflation, the decrease becomes 30.7 per cent or $1.9m since the last Labor Budget. In total, spending on Aboriginal education under the Fraser Government is 12.7 per cent or $5m less in real terms than it was under the Labor Government. The last Labor Government brought total spending on Aboriginal affairs to a level proportionate with the percentage of Aborigines in the population. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is doing his best to erode that situation.
The Fraser Government Aboriginal Affairs budgets have been consistently characterised with misspending, underspending and broken promises. The so-called special effort in the area of Aboriginal housing for this financial year is a direct result of backlog created in this area by the deliberate cutbacks in previous Fraser Government Budgets in both maintenance and construction programs. Even so, the $2m additional funding over last year’s allocation will not solve the problem. Funding for this financial year is still 28 per cent lower in real terms than the level allocated in the last Labor Budget. Grants in aid and grants to the States for Aboriginal housing are both still well below the level of the last Labor Budget.
Since it has been in office, the Fraser Government has halved the funds available under the Aboriginal housing and personal loans funds. The whole of this year’s increase has been taken up under a new program for the purchase of Aboriginal Housing Association homes only. The Government has ceased funding the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Housing Panel. This is yet another example of the Government’s lack of concern for participation by Aboriginal people in the design of their own homes. The Department of Construction will have to start from tors to achieve, we hope, some sort of communication with Aborigines in this field. A successful housing program demands full consultation with the people if the individual and community needs are to be considered adequately. The New South Wales Aboriginal Lands Trust has been told what its allocation is for 1978-79 but it also has been told that it will not be handed over any of that money until December. No reasons were offered for that course of action. It is running out of money and the direct effect of this policy will be felt by people living on the New South Wales reserves. Its allocation this year has been cut by $507,033- over 45 per cent- in operational funding.
We also question the recent practice of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs of allocating money direct to communities or unincorporated organisations. Whilst this can be good decentralisation in some cases, there are instances in New South Wales where firms act as trustees for community organisations and control the community’s funds. Most of them are law or accountancy firms run by whites. The New South Wales Aboriginal Lands Trust will have to increase rental charges in Trust homes without being able to give anything in return. Most housing is badly in need of maintenance. Yet, funds will not be forthcoming until December this year. There are other areas of concern that are raised with me almost daily, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted.
– I request that the debate be continued.
-The debate may be continued until 11.10 p.m.
– I rise to reply to the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). I apologise for taking the time of the House to do so. The honourable member for Reid is well known in this place for his record of inaccurate, wild and exaggerated statements. Tonight he did nothing to change that record. In fact he has done an awful lot to enhance that record, if ‘enhance’ is the right word to use. I wish to state the position with regard to the Toongabbie Creek and to the money which is made available to the New South Wales Government under the national water resources program.
– You are giving $lm this financial year.
– That is more than the Opposition ever did on this issue when it was in government.
– How much can you get done with $ 1 m in the whole State?
-Order! The honourable member will remain silent.
– The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) well knows the situation and in his usual hysterical -
– I do well know it; I am just quoting it to you.
-Order! I would not like to have to warn another Deputy Chairman of Committees. I would ask him to keep his peace while the Minister replies to a contention put by one of the honourable member’s colleagues a while ago. That seems a reasonable request to me.
– As dispassionately as I can, let me outline the facts. First of all, this year the Government has allocated under the national water resources program not $5m, as the honourable member for Reid stated, but $20m for new commitments. That is the first thing. The second thing -
– Over five years.
– Do not talk nonsense. It is $20m for this year. The second point that has to be made clear is that if the New South Wales Government wishes to fund the Toongabbie mitigation scheme or any other mitigation scheme all it has to do is nominate its priorities for work under this program. As I said in the
House a little while ago, the New South Wales Government has failed to face up to that responsibility. It has failed to nominate the priorities it would choose to have funded. Therefore, not only is it holding up the national water resources program but also is denying to the people of New South Wales and particularly of the western suburbs of Sydney, whom the honourable member for Reid was pretending to defend tonight, funds which are now available. The honourable member for Chifley, the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) and others who sit opposite well know the situation. I said at Question Time a few days ago that I was certain that they had made those points very clear to Mr Gordon who is the State Minister responsible for these matters. They are the facts. I hope that the honourable member for Reid has some feeling of remorse for getting up here tonight and making such wildly inaccurate statements about this matter.
-Order! The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until 2. 1 5 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Mr Yates to move That this House
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 5 April 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2), (3) and (4) On 2 July, I announced that the Commonwealth had agreed to purchase from Mr Clunies-Ross the whole of his interests in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, with the exception of his residence and an associated dwelling, at a price of $6.25m, plus stock at valuation.
The purchase, which included the copra plantation, the village area and all the plant and equipment, was completed on I September.
The purchase was welcomed, as part of the Government’s policies for the advancement of the Territory, by Cocos’ first elected Advisory Council, which was established last March, and also by the Cocos Malay Community in a group meeting. The Council had been fully consulted on a number of occasions by both the Administrator and me concerning the Government ‘s intentions.
A comprehensive programme for the implementation of the Government’s policies for the Territory is under way or in an advanced stage of planning:
An elected Local Government Council will be established as soon as possible.
The village area on Home Island will be transferred to the Council acting on behalf of the Community.
The Council will possess the necessary powers for local government activities in the village area, and will advise the Government on a broad range of matters affecting the community for example education, health and immigration.
A Cocos Malay Co-operative will be formed to run the copra plantation, to engage in construction and maintenance contracts with the Government and to engage in other business.
The plantation will be leased to the Co-operative by the Government at nominal rental.
As the present population may not be adequate to provide the necessary work force, if required, additional residents will be invited to live on the Islands from amongst former Cocos Malay residents, as far as possible from Australia but, if necessary, also from South East Asia.
A proportion of the profits made by the Co-operative will be made available to the Council to be used for the benefit of the local community generally.
An improved electricity reticulation system will be provided in 1978-79.
Sewerage facilities will be provided for Home Island in 1979-80.
Arrangements have been made for Cocos Malay residents to visit relatives in Australia at a concessional air fare, to assist in improving the attractiveness of the Islands to both present residents and those who might wish to return.
The Government has agreed that the Cocos (Keeling) Islands should issue its own stamps and obtain the revenue from this source. The Government has in mind that the revenue should be placed in a special fund to be used for the purposes of the local community in consultation with the local Council.
As I announced recently, in a joint statement with the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Australian citizenship will shortly be available to persons who were ordinarily resident on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands immediately before the transfer of those Islands to Australia on 23 November 1955, who are now ordinarily resident in Australia or an external Territory. I expect to introduce legislation for this purpose at an early date.
Australian currency is now being used and, so far as is known, all tokens which were in circulation have been redeemed by the Clunies-Ross Estate.
In the interim period of about four months, from 1 September until the Co-operative and the Local Government Council have been established, Mr Clunies-Ross has agreed to manage the plantation and other business on behalf of the Cocos Islanders without charge. During this interim period, Mr Clunies-Ross will be responsible to the Cocos Malay Interim Advisory Council on matters of policy relating to the conduct of the enterprises. With the approval of the Cocos Malay Interim Advisory Council the average wage for members of the Community workforce has been substantially increased.
The basis of the Government’s policies is Australia’s belief that the welfare of the inhabitants of the Islands is paramount.
The Government has taken fully into account the report of the United Nations Visiting Mission to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, 1 974. 1 do not believe that there is any difference of substance between the Government’s policy and the conclusions and recommendations of that Mission.
The Government’s actions are consistent with its policy of promoting the process of self-determination in the Territory. The United Nations Committee on Decolonisation, in its report of 10 August, welcomed the initiatives taken by the Government and noted with satisfaction the Government’s policy of assuring the political, social and economic development of the Cocos people.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
1 ) The cost of maternity leave in the Department of Primary Industry for:
The total number of hours of maternity leave taken during:
The number of employees who have resigned/retired within one month of the end of the leave period ibr:
The Department is unable to provide this information as it is not recorded on official records.
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 29 May 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Prices Justification Tribunal: 1975-76- S2, 192,000; 1 976-77-$2, 165,750; 1 977-78-$ 1 ,996, 100.
Trade Practices Commission, Trade Practices Tribunal: 1975-76-S3, 189,200; 1976-77-53.378.500; 1977-78-$3,495,300.
Industries Assistance Commission, Prices Justification Tribunal, Trade Practices Commission: Appropriations are divided into 2 sub-divisions:
Temporary Assistance Authority, Trade Practices Tribunal: Included in the overall departmental special appropriation- ‘Holders of Public Office- ( Remuneration Tribunals Act, 1973)’.
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 2 June 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Freedom of Information: Interdepartmental Committee-1973 (Question No. 1S65)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 1 5 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Publishing Service bookshops which received 1,323 copies or from the Attorney-General’s Department, which held the balance.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
When will he make available to the Parliament all of the information concerning United States-Australian relations which is currently available to (a) the United States Congress and (b) a United States citizen under the United States Freedom of Information Act.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am not aware that there exists any identifiable body of information concerning United States-Australian relations which is currently available to the United States Congress or to a United States citizen under the United States Freedom of Information Act.
If the honourable member has in mind any specific item of information or any documents, or any body of information or documents, concerning United States-Australian relations which has in fact been made available in the United States to the Congress or to a person under the United States Freedom of Information Act, I shall be glad to consider the question of making available to him any equivalent information or documents in the possession of the Commonwealth Government.
Ministerial Involvement in Departmental Decision-making Processes (Question No. 1574)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 1 5 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 1 5 August 1978:
Apart from specified exceptions made in writing by an authorised officer, are top secret, secret and confidential documents automatically downgraded at regular periodical intervals until declassified altogether, as in the United States of America.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There is no automatic downgrading of classified material. However, the Protective Security Handbook notes that the passage of time may alter the importance certain classified material has with regard to the national interest.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 1 5 August 1978:
What are the Australian Government Departments that do not present annual reports to the Parliament.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following Departments did not present annual reports to the Parliament during 1 977-78:
Administrative Services; Attorney-General’s; Business and Consumer Affairs; Employment and Industrial Relations; Finance; Health; Home Affairs;* National Development;* Northern Territory; Postal and Telecommunications; Primary Industry; Prime Minister and Cabinet; Special Trade Representative;* Trade and Resources;* Treasury; Veterans’ Affairs.
Created during 1977-78. Predecessor Departments, however, did not present annual reports to the Parliament during 1977-78.
I draw the honourable member’s attention to the statement of 9 June 1978 Access to Official Information by the Attorney-General, Senator Durack (Hansard, Senate, pages 2689-93) in which it was announced that the Government has agreed that all Departments produce annual reports. The Departments listed above will be required to produce annual reports for 1978-79.
Questions on the Notice Paper (Question No. 1654)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
What was the number of unanswered questions on the Notice Paper at each prorogation of the Parliament since 1971 and how many of these were (a) answered after the prorogation and (b) restored to the Notice Paper at the following Paliament or session.
– The Clerk of the House of Representatives has provided the following information in answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
At present the Commonwealth subsidises a total of 1 12 welfare officer positions throughout Australia. Since October 1975 financial constraints have precluded the approval of new welfare officer positions for subsidy under the Act. With additional funding provided in the 1978-79 Budget I was recently able to announce that the Commonwealth support could be extended to an additional 79 welfare officers bringing the total to 1 9 1 positions.
In addition the Government has accepted the recommendations of the Galbally Report regarding the appointment of ethnic welfare officers to work specifically among the ethnicaged. The Government has appropriated $0.1 lm for the salaries of 1 0 new ethnic welfare officer positions in 1 978-79; to be followed by five positions in 1 979-80 and 1 980-8 1 .
Ethnic Liaison Officers: Attendance at Seminars (Question No. 1708)
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 16 August 1978:
How many special working holiday visa applications were (a) accepted and (b) rejected from visitors from the following countries during 1976 and 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
United Kingdom-2,502: Ireland- 1 15: Canada-844.
An indication of the number of applications approved in 1976 may be gained from the comparative table of working holiday visa holders who actually arrived in Australia in that year and during 1977.
Note: Arrivals in 1976 and 1977 would include some people granted visas in 1 975 and 1 976 respectively.
Within the statistics of visa refusals separate figures for working holiday applications are not maintained.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 17 August 1978:
Does the Government remain committed to the promise that Stage I of the Brisbane Airport Plan, including the new runway, will be completed and in operation by early 1 986.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes. The Government has no reason to alter the target date at this time.
As you are aware considerable consultations and investigations are required before construction work on this large project physically commences. To date development is proceeding satisfactorily and it is believed that the early 1986 completion date will be met.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 22 August 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The review is to:
Examine and report progressively on the effectiveness of existing departmental information activities and make recommendations including:
scope for cost recovery;
Concentrate on planned information programs and activities and examine procedures for responding to individual requests from the public only in so far as these may have a bearing on such planned programs and activities.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
-The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The additional staff will be located at the Sydney Registry.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 24 August 1978:
-The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Officers of the Department who travelled to Switzerland during the 1975-76 financial year and details of their visits are:
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 24 August 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Clothing-746; Textiles-388; Footwear-36 1 .
For the quota period beginning 1 September 1978, applications received were:
Clothing- 1947; Textiles-880.
Clothing-355; Textiles-284; Footwear-73.
For the quota period beginning 1 September 1978 the Textiles, Clothing and Footwear Special Quotas Advisory Committee has not yet made recommendations to the Committee of Ministers.
In one instance, an apparent intent to sell the quota was ascertained; this investigation has not yet been completed.
The Chairman then makes a comprehensive report and recommendations to myself and the Ministers for Trade and Resources, Industry and Commerce and Foreign Affairs. As soon as the decisions are made by Ministers all applicants are advised of the outcome of their application.
The main reasons for delays in allocations from the anomalies reserve are the large number of applications involved, the clerical function of ensuring that all applications are duly considered and the need to analyse and compare the relative merits of each application.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 12 September 1978:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
United States Department of Agriculture are concerned primarily with the United States domestic beef situation. These two projections do not, therefore, necessarily contradict each other.
The FAO has indicated an increase in United States of America beef import requirements in 1985. This is not inconsistent with the predicted upswings in production in the United States at this time. Under the present meat import law imports are directly related to the level of domestic production and lower prices in the United States could be expected to raise consumption in that country.
Commonwealth Land at Keilor East (Question No. 1918)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 12 September 1978:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 September 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780926_reps_31_hor111/>.