31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The Humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
It would be a disgrace to the fine spirit of these heroes if we thought of saving their lives. ‘
Major Kamiya the prosecutor at the Japanese Court Martial who made the above comment went on to say, inter alia-
These heroes must have left Australia with sublime patriotism flowing in their breasts and with the confident expectation of all the Australian people on their shoulders.
As we respect them, so we feel our duty of glorifying their last moments as they deserve, and by doing so the names of these heroes will remain in the hearts of the British and Australian people for evermore. ‘
A specially commissioned March called ‘The Forgotten Heroes’ was played for the first time by the Band of the New South Wales Police Force.
Your Petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to approve the conferring of the medal on the men of ‘Jaywick ‘ and Rimau’ on behalf of the people of Australia to honor the memory of these gallant men so that future generations of Britain and Australia will know and admire what these men did and their memory will remain in the hearts of the British and Australian people for evermore.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Baume, Mr Kevin Cairns, Mr Dobie, Mr Fry, Mr Graham, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Keating, Dr Klugman, Mr Martin, Mr Neil and Mr Stewart.
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 Donald Cameron, Mr MacKellar, Mr Martyr, Mr O’Keefe and Mr Viner.
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:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Baume and Mr Kerin.
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 Cohen and Dr Klugman.
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 respectfully 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 Cohen and Mr Wallis.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its Recommendations-
Therefore the Parliament has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial Report and its Recommendations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray. byMrDobie.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that we believe that all people have the right to quality education, and that it is the responsibility of Government to ensure that sufficient funds are allocated to enable all who wish to exercise that right, to do so.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners, in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Hodgman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision of the Australian Government to depart from its 1975 election promise, a promise re-affirmed during the 1977 election campaign, that pensions would be increased twice-yearly in line with increases in the CPI, will seriously add to the economic burdens now borne by those citizens who are wholly or mainly dependent on their pensions.
Your petitioners are impelled by this fact to call upon the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to review the abovementioned decision, and to determine-
That pensions will be increased twice yearly in line with rises in the CPI as promised by the Prime Minister in 1975 policy speech.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned, members of the Sydney University Post Graduate Representative Association, and like people, respectfully showeth that the Government decision to tax Commonwealth Post Graduate Research Awards will result in:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reverse the decision to tax Commonwealth Postgraduate Research Awards and revert to the former policy of annual adjustments in line with the Consumer Price Index.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To: The Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will-
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
And your humble petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrWallis.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Yates.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House, mindful of the great sacrifice that thousands of Australian servicemen and women have made for peace in the Middle East and Lebanon in 2 World Wars-
calls upon the Government to take action in cooperation with the Commonwealth Governments and non-aligned Governments to end the chaos and destruction of beautiful Lebanon by asking the Australian Minister at the United Nations to invite the Security Council to-
pass a resolution placing Lebanon under temporary United Nations trusteeship;
appoint a United Nations resident Commissioner to assist President Sarkis to restore order;
confirm that the Syrian armed forces will withdraw beyond Bekka;
obtain additional United Nations units from Canada, Australia, New Zealand as well as Pakistan, and
take steps to arrange later for a United Nations plebiscite to be held to determine which regions, if any, wish to secede to Syria;
calls for the appointment of an International Constitutional Commission to re-write the paralysed and worn out Lebanese constitution to ensure that Lebanon becomes a confederate neutral state like Switzerland, and
invites the Prime Minister to send the Foreign Minister to Lebanon and to the United Nations so that the world can be sure that Australia is able and willing to take the initiative in international affairs and, in particular, to help the Lebanese people throughout the world.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the House notes:
1 ) the terrible loss of life, property and other human suffering being caused in Lebanon;
that there are about 150,000 Australians of Lebanese origin with up to half a million immediate relatives in Lebanon;
that Australia has recently done more to assist Lebanese persons to resettle in Australia on a pro rata basis than any other nation; and
that the present situation threatens the existence of Lebanon and the Camp David accords. The House therefore calls upon the Government to extend even further its humanitarian programs of assistance, to prepare further plans to assist quasi refugees and to indicate to the United Nations a willingness to participate in any properly constituted extended United Nations peace keeping force.
-My question should be directed to the Acting Minister for Industry and Commerce, but in his absence I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that the 30 per cent devaluation of the Australian dollar in relation to the yen has meant a higher Australian content requirement under the motor vehicle plans than was the intention when the plans were formulated? Is it a fact that the adjustments announced by the Minister yesterday do not offset completely the effects of the 30 per cent devaluation and have left Chrysler Australia Limited and possibly other motor manufacturing companies paying large penalties for factors over which they had no control?
Is it also a fact that these large penalties may result in a further disastrous loss of employment? Is it true that General Motors-Holden’s Ltd and the Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd can now reduce their local content from over 90 per cent to 85 per cent, thus creating more unemployment? Without wishing in any way to support or criticise the changes made yesterday but seeking information, I ask the Prime Minister why the Government has not allowed a full adjustment for the 30 per cent devaluation and why he has allowed the abolition of the reversion control procedures.
-That is a detailed question. I will treat it as though it were on notice and ask my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, to give the honourable gentleman a full reply. I make only one point, and that is that the companies entered into a motor vehicle plan. They knew the rules of the plan. Quite plainly, any adjustments during the currency of the plan would have to be justified in relation to equity for all companies. There have been a number of currency variations, not just the variations between the yen and the Australian dollar. Quite clearly, there is a difficulty in achieving complete equity if we move away from the basis of the plan itself. Because of the extensive nature of some of the currency movements some adjustment was made. I think that the companies that have benefited from that adjustment might well be thankful that the adjustment was made rather than grumble too much that a greater adjustment was not made.
Mr MARTYR Has the Minister for Trade and Resources seen today’s announcement by Hamersley Holdings of a heavy fall in earnings for the first three quarters of 1978? Has he read the statement by the company that the drop is due to lower tonnage shipments to Europe and Japan and reduced prices? Is the Minister concerned at the declining sales revenue of Australia’s iron ore producers as exemplified by the Hamersley results? Finally, is this one of the reasons for the review of export control procedures which he is currently undertaking?
-Certainly declining tonnages have been the reason for Hamersley Holdings’ reduced profitability which was announced in the newspapers today. I think we all have to recognise that there is slackness in the world’s steel making situation. That is particularly so in Japan. During my visit there earlier this year I acknowledged that inevitably there would be some cut-back in tonnages, although I did not want to see any reduction in the prices being paid for Australian iron ore. However, some negotiations have been carried out recently in regard to new contracts, but these contracts have been at prices in which I have been disappointed and which I considered to be unreasonable. It is for these reasons that I have been having consultations with the industry as to how the marketing arrangements might be reexamined and tightened up. Certainly the Government does not take the point of view that it should look merely at the profitability of an individual company, although we are concerned about having a healthy mining industry.
I think the major interest is the national interest. We have to ensure not only that we secure maximum tonnages at prevailing market conditions but also that we receive the best possible price which is fair and reasonable so that we get the maximum export earnings to improve our balance of payments situation. Our balance of payments situation is not one that can be taken casually. It has to be looked at seriously in terms of our major industries, such as the iron ore industry, the coal industry and the bauxite industry, all of which make a major contribution to our balance of payments situation. It is for reasons of national interest that I am consulting with the companies to find out the best way of handling the situation to ensure that Australian mining interests can demand what I consider to be fair and reasonable market conditions in the prevailing world situation.
-I draw the Prime Minister’s attention to an article in last Sunday’s National Times entitled: ‘How “plumbers” got at the Victorian Liberals’. In particular I draw his attention to the eight instances of break-ins at the offices or homes of Liberal Party members or associates involved in the Victorian land scandals or other controversial issues on the Mornington Peninsula. Noting that the Prime Minister would be concerned at the implications in this very well documented article of a pattern of criminal acts which have caused damage to troublesome sections within the party and to individuals -
-Order! The question is out of order.
-I seek to ask a question in relation to the matter, if I may have your indulgence, Mr Speaker. The question is this: Have the Commonwealth Police been asked to intervene in this matter?
-I will permit the question, but I draw the attention of the honourable gentleman to the fact that the preamble to the question dealt with matters about which it is not in order to ask questions in this House. However, I will permit the final question.
-I have not asked the final question.
-The honourable gentleman is stretching my indulgence to an extent further than I normally permit on Thursday mornings.
– Noting that criminal acts have occurred, I ask the Prime Minister: Have the Commonwealth Police or any other Commonwealth investigatory agency been asked to investigate these criminal acts including the possible use of telephone taps or bugging devices in contravention of the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act?
– I have not read the article to which the honourable gentleman referred.
– Give him a copy.
– I do not think I would be any wiser if I did read it. The honourable gentleman suggested that criminal acts had occurred. If allegations of criminal acts have been made, those making the allegations have open to them the possibility of making their evidence available to the appropriate authorities and having the matter investigated. I would imagine that if they were concerned about the allegations they would have done just that. I would have thought that in most instances the appropriate authority would have been the State police. I am not aware of any involvement or request for the involvement of the Commonwealth police. I am quite certain that if it is within its proper province and activity, an appropriately placed request to the Commonwealth police would get the kind of response that one would expect. Allegations of criminal activities should be pursued under the normal processes of the law.
-Has the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs seen a report alleging that the Government has failed to honour its obligations in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolution in relation to Rhodesia; that it is in fact admitting Rhodesians contrary to that resolution; and that the Government is using its program for the entry of IndoChinese refugees as a means of legitimising entry of Rhodesians?
– I have seen reports in today’s newspapers which carry a statement from the Opposition spokesman on immigration and ethnic affairs alleging that Australia is laundering the entry of Rhodesians via South Africa. I think it is one of the more fanciful statements that have emanated from the ranks of the Opposition since 1975. People from Rhodesia are eligible to apply for migrant entry to Australia on exactly the same basis as anyone else throughout the world, subject to two conditions, that is, that they have not furthered or encouraged the illegal regime in Rhodesia and that they do not travel on Rhodesian passports. Subject to these two conditions, Rhodesians can apply for migrant entry to Australia and they are considered on exactly the same basis as any other individual in the world. The fact that we do not have a migration office in Rhodesia means that they must apply outside that country. The principal point of application is Pretoria.
We have studiously adhered to the terms of the 1968 resolution relating to sanctions against Rhodesia. To suggest that we have used the Indo-Chinese refugee situation as a means of assisting the entry of Rhodesians is, I think, to denigrate Australia’s response- not only the
Government’s response to the Indo-Chinese refugee situation but also the assistance that has been given by voluntary agencies and the Australian community generally. The Opposition spokesman seems to be at a loss to understand the fact that those people coming from the camps in Malaysia and Thailand are put through the process by immigration officers and are given resident status. Those people who have arrived without authorisation are not given resident status; they are given temporary residence status until their refugee status is examined and a decision is made on it. It really is a most fanciful statement and one which does the honourable member no credit.
-Can the Minister for National Development give an assurance that in no circumstance will radioactive waste which at present is stored at Maralinga be shifted to Sydney for storage at the atomic research establishment at Lucas Heights?
– The Government is examining the position at Maralinga as has been discussed in the last week or so. It will make an announcement in due course.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of a statement which is reported in today’s issue of the Australian that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Bob Hawke, considers that the National Employment Conference convened by the Victorian Premier is becoming more and more a useless exercise’? Has the Commonwealth Government in any way varied its decision to support Mr Hamer’s initiative? Is Mr Hawke correct in stating that the Commonwealth Government will be inadequately represented? What role will the Commonwealth Government play at this important and significant conference?
– I believe that the conference to be held under the auspices of the Victorian Government, and with the full support and co-operation of the Commonwealth Government- support and co-operation which will continue no matter what other people might do- should be a very useful one; one which I hope will lead to a better understanding of the present situation and at the same time will throw open for sensible discussion and criticism a number of the nuts and bolts programs which are designed to assist in what is a very difficult situation. I am quite certain that the contribution of the Commonwealth will be appreciated. I think it is a great pity that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions is casting doubt on trade union participation, although I note that at the moment he is speaking for the ACTU, and the Victorian Trades Hall might well take another attitude in relation to this. What Mr Hawke has done over recent days, not only in relation to this conference but also in relation to other conferences in which he is involved with the Commonwealth, indicates a capacity for grandstanding which does not augur well for major conferences which involve Mr Hawke as a participant. I believe that is a pity because there is no doubt that the Australian Council of Trade Unions, without the grandstanding, has an important contribution to make to matters of this kind.
The Government’s foresight in relation to the problems which are now coming to be more widely understood goes back quite some time. The Department of Productivity was established, and even though when it was first announced it was accepted with some degree of cynicism I am quite certain that now its very real role and worth in helping to work for better productivity, for the introduction of new technology and hence for the expansion of Australian industry and for more jobs in Australian industry, is coming to be widely understood. Already there are very significant productivity improvement programs in a number of important industries, in Victoria in particular. The role of the Department and how it is undertaking its task, through tripartite consultations between trade unions, management and government, will be up for discussion and explanation to see whether, as a result, it can be improved. That is something that we would certainly welcome. The Williams and Crawford inquiries were appointed a considerable time ago, as the terms of reference make very plain, against the background of a Commonwealth concern for the future of education and training and hence for the employment prospects of many, many thousands of Australians. The causes which led the Government to move in that direction will also be under discussion at the conference.
A number of other programs in which the Commonwealth is involved, and which have been modified, extended and changed, and which in the light of experience might well be modified in the future, will also be explained. They will be discussed at the conference. I have no doubt that there will be criticisms. I hope that there will also be some praise for the programs. I refer to the Commonwealth Youth Support
Scheme, the National Employment and Training Program, the Special Youth Employment Training Program, the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-Time Training and the Education Program for Unemployed Youth. The last, in particular, is a program that has been very well received. It is providing help for unemployed Australians who maybe had nobody care for them in their lives before they entered into that program. It is a program that warrants full support and, to the extent that is necessary to help young men and women in that particular category, it is one that is being expanded.
Other programs, such as the investment allowances, and the export incentive grants, which are also related to increased employment in Australia, export market development grants and industrial research and development grants, most of which have been very extensively increased under this Budget, despite its financial stringency overall, will also be explained and discussed. I would hope that the discussion would be useful and would help guide the Commonwealth in relation to future policy formation. The reduction in the sales tax on motor vehicles in another matter that is not unrelated to employment.
The preferential government procurement policy is certainly not unrelated to activity in Australian industry, and hence to Australian employment. I still have doubts as to whether the procurement programs of the State governments give the same degree of preference to Australian industry as does the program and purchasing policy of the Commonwealth. I hope that that can be exposed at the conference and that maybe the States will be able to follow our lead in giving greater preference to Australian industry. Productivity improvement, the role of the Department of Productivity, training in industry and commerce, assistance for specific industries, the role of the Industries Assistance Commission and the changes to the legislation governing that Commission requiring it to take into account social changes, requiring it to look at something other than the cold, hard and calculating estimates of efficiency, requiring it to look at regional consequences and requiring it to look at employment consequences, will also be explained and examined at this conference. In other words, the contribution of the Commonwealth at this conference is going to be a very full one indeed. The range of programs which this Government has devised to assist Australian industry, to assist Australian employment and to repair much of the damage caused by our predecessors- the damage which they now seek to hide by a certain degree of noise- will be explained, discussed, examined and, I have no doubt, criticised at the conference. It will be a very useful conference indeed and a nuts and bolts arrangement that is designed to promote and support Australian industry.
– I take a point of order. This is not only a very lengthy answer but also a sham. There are 400,000 people out of work. Why do you not tell them about your programs?
-Order! There is no point of order.
– As a result of this conference, I believe, there will be a better understanding -
-I take a point of order. The proper place for the Prime Minister to defend himself against attack from within his own party is in the party room, not in this Parliament during Question Time. He is taking up Question Time. He has been going for 7 minutes.
– There is no point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– As a result of this conference I am sure there will be a better understanding that at any one time there are about 1 10,000 Australians, many of them young Australians, being assisted by the specific programs of this Government. I have no doubt that the Australian Labor Party does not like there being a better appreciation of that fact. Also, there will be a better understanding that many tens of thousands of Australians have already gone through those programs and are in permanent work as a result. I believe that it will be a pity if Mr Hawke and the Australian Council of Trade Unions do not participate and do not make a contribution. I hope they will be able to do it in a constructive manner and a workmanlike manner. But if Mr Hawke is to grandstand and is to walk out, so be it. That just indicates a certain basic lack of concern by the Australian Council of Trade Unions for those who are now unemployed and indicates a growing awareness that it is principally responsible for unemployment in the wages policies that it has pursued, in its attitude to penalty rates and in its attitude to wage rates for young people in this community, all of which make it much harder for people to be employed. 1 have no doubt that if Mr Hawke does not attend and does not contribute -
Opposition members interjecting.
-If Question Time is to be disrupted by noise of this kind -
-Order! There is too much noise on my left. I ask honourable members on my left to remain silent. The Standing Orders are quite clear. The Prime Minister is entitled to answer as long as the answer is relevant, and the answer is relevant.
– I take a point of order. The Prime Minister has now been speaking for 9 minutes.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat.
– He is afraid to discuss economic matters in the Parliament. He runs out of the House whenever there is a debate on them.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– So he take the coward’s castle way of disrupting -
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Corio.
-I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. You were anxious to draw to my attention to a matter of criminal action in Victoria not being within the ambit of the Prime Minister’s responsibility. I note that the matter now concerned is a conference called by the Premier of Victoria. In what way is it the responsibility of the Prime Minister to be answering the question?
-The Commonwealth is to be represented at the conference.
-One last point -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On many occasions you have asked Ministers to cut down the time of their answers. You have made repeated requests along these lines.
-There is no point of order.
– Do you not think that by answering in this way the Prime Minister is ignoring these rulings and showing disrespect to the Chair?
-Order! There is no point of order.
-If Mr Hawke in the end does not attend this conference I believe that significantly that will be because he knows that the wages policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions is coming to be recognised as a major cause of continued high unemployment, especially amongst young Australians, and he would not want to be examined and crossexamined on that point. I believe that there is coming to be a much greater understanding that the wages policies so noisily promoted by Mr Hawke lead to greater and greater unemployment, expecially amongst young Australians. Mr Hawke should be prepared to have those policies discussed at this conference, and he should expose himself to cross-examination on that matter and enable there to be full debate and discussion on the way in which the Australian Council of Trade Unions shows concern for those in employment but no concern whatsoever for those who currently do not have jobs.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that which he has just answered. If the Prime Minister regards this conference on unemployment as one as important as he has described, will he advise why the Commonwealth was so reluctant and grudging in making its decision to participate? If the conference is as important as he asserts, will he advise why the Government is sending a Minister who ranks twenty-second on the ministerial seniority list- almost at the bottom of the seniority list? If he regards this conference as being as important as he has said, why has he not at least dispatched the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations? But more importantly, if he regards this conference as being as important as he has described, why does he not extend to it the same regard as has the Premier of Victoria and attend himself?
– I regret that the Leader of the Opposition did not regard my answer as adequate or full. Apparently he is at some difference with one or two of his colleagues in relation to that point. The Commonwealth does regard this conference as important because of its specific nature. It will enable an examination of the Commonwealth programs of the kind that I have mentioned, all of which are addressed to Australia’s current economic problems. It will enable those matters to be discussed against the background of the Victorian part of the Australian economy and their particular implications for Victoria to be assessed. It will make it possible for an assessment to be formed of their importance and relevance to the industrial and employment problems in Victoria.
Against that background the kind of conference that is to be held between the Commonwealth and the States, I believe, is appropriately framed. My colleague the Minister for Productivity will be well able to represent the Commonwealth’s point of view at the conference and I am quite certain that he will do it with great effect. The delegates and those who take part in the conference will come away with a much better understanding of the importance and effectiveness of various Commonwealth programs. So the matter rests where it is.
I think that one other point comes out of this matter; that is the very great difficulty of establishing a conference which can address this matter in a serious way and which does not lead to grandstanding or politicisation of a problem which has real social and economic consequences that it ought to be possible to discuss in a calm and quiet way without anyone seeking to destroy the conference by threatening walkouts and without politics being introduced by the Opposition.
- Mr Speaker -
-If the honourable gentleman wishes to raise a point of order he should say so. Otherwise I will call a member from the other side of the House to ask a question.
- Mr Speaker, I want to move the suspension of Standing Orders.
Government members- Oh!
– It will give the Prime Minister a chance to back up his assertions in debate, something he is always too cowardly to do. He has never been prepared to debate these issues in the Parliament.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that word.
– Which word?
-The honourable gentleman knows that he used an unparliamentary expression in relation to the Prime Minister. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I did state that the Prime Minister is cowardly. That is true. I regret it. I withdraw.
– I move:
It is necessary for me to move this procedural motion -
- Mr Speaker -
-. . . to test how sincere -
– Because the matter is similar to the subject put forward for discussion as a matter of public importance-
-. . . the Government is on this issue and to establish whether the Prime Minister will be cowardly once again when he is challenged to debate where the Government stands -
– I move:
-The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
-The Prime Minister is backing away. He is a turncoat.
-The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Speaker, we are desirous of provoking a debate between Malcolm Fraser and Bill Hayden so that the people of Australia can make up their minds about who really is concerned about unemployment.
Motion (by Mr Fife) agreed to:
That the honourable member for Port Adelaide be not further heard.
Original question resolved in the negative.
-Is the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister aware that there exists in the community much argument and animosity about the degree of generosity extended to Commonwealth public servants because of their superannuation scheme. In view of the fact that this animosity is most harmful to the image of public servants and may be ill-founded, will the Minister take steps to obtain a comparative actuarial analysis with other schemes in Australia, particularly in the private sector, and establish how many people benefit from each scheme? Will he then make the findings available to members of this Parliament for consideration?
– I am not aware of the public animosity of which the honourable member spoke, although I am aware that from time to time people do attempt to make comparisons between the benefits that public servants have against those available in the private sector. The honourable member will recall that about three years ago this Parliament approved a new superannuation scheme in arrangements for the Public Service. Of course, the level of benefits was very closely examined by the Parliament of the day, including the Opposition of the day. If there are any particular aspects of the Public Service superannuation scheme that the honourable member is concerned about and if he would like to give me those particulars, I will certainly obtain details for him from the Public Service. Perhaps that will remove his concern and answer any queries that come to him from the public.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. What was the basis for his statement on 7 June that ‘in 1977-78 a gross intake of around 77,000 is expected to yield a net migration gain of about 70,000”? Were the calculations of a loss of about 7,000 migrants based on Australian Bureau of Statistics figures? Is it a fact that total permanent departures between July 1977 and February 1978 were 14,262 persons, or some 6,000 persons more than his estimate of settler loss for the financial year?
– The statement that with a gross intake of approximately 77,000 migrants Australia would finish up with a net migrant increase of approximately 70,000 was based not only on people applying overseas for migration and being granted entry to Australia but also on those acquiring change of status in Australia. If those two figures are added together a net increase of 70,000 for the year is arrived at.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade and Resources. I ask: Is it a fact that nuclear energy is amongst the cheapest of all forms of electricity generation? In view of that, what is the present position in respect of nuclear energy development in other countries?
– It is well accepted in countries overseas that nuclear energy is cheaper, cleaner and safer than oil-fired or coal-fired power stations. It is very interesting to read the report of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission which came out last month. It showed that the cost of producing nuclear power in the United Kingdom is half that of producing power from oil or coal and it is helping to give Britian a major advantage. It is little wonder that when Dr Mabon, the Labour Minister for Energy, was in Australia last year he said that he was absolutely astonished at the attitude of the
Austraiian Labor Party and of trade unions in Australia in not supporting uranium development in this country. Members of the Australian Labor Party are like King Canute, thinking that they can hold back the tide. The rest of the world is going with the nuclear development. It is the best alternative to oil and coal for electric power generation.
In the Press this morning I noticed a report about the Western Mining Corporation Ltd and its Roxby Downs prospect in South Australia, where it has discovered very promising signs for a copper and uranium mine. I think it is rather unfortunate that the discovery had to be in South Australia, where the Premier seems to be bound by ALP policies. It is impossible to mine the copper unless the uranium also is mined. If there is one State in which there is a desperate need to develop more resources to help relieve the unemployment situation and to give a little encouragement to industrial activity, it is South Australia. Yet the ALP policy seems to be to turn its back on the development of uranium, which probably offers more prospects for Australia than any other single item.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report and financial statements of the Australian Shippers Council for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim annual report of the Australian Wool Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976 1 present the recommendations of the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian and Western Australian Grants Commissions on financial assistance to local government in those States for 1978-79. These recommendations have already been made available to honourable members from New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia respectively.
– Pursuant to section 40 of the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Act 1 976 1 present on behalf of the Minister for Productivity the annual report of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board for the year ended 30 June 1978.
-I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-It is recorded on page 1954 of Hansard of Tuesday 17 October that an interjection was made by me during a speech by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West). The honourable member for Cunningham said:
Once again the future of less profitable underground mines is threatened.
An interjection is attributed to me as follows:
Close them down then.
That interjection was not made by me. It should not have been attributed to me. For the record, I do not share those views.
-I will make inquiries as to whether the Hansard reporters can ascertain who made the interjection and attribute it to the correct person. If that cannot be done, I will ask Hansard to eliminate the interjection from the report.
Motion (by Mr Fife) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Tuesday next.
Health Insurance Proposals- Service Pensions- Taiwanese Fish Farming Industry- Australian Agriculture: Petroleum Supplies- Uranium Mining: Aboriginal Land Rights- Migrants: Language ProblemsEducation in the Australian Capital Territory- Australian Capital Territory Self Government Proposals- Queensland Labor Party
That grievances be noted.
-Much has been said by the private health insurance funds and the Australian Medical Association, as well as the close associates in this House of those organisations, in favour of persons indiscriminately- I emphasise the word indiscriminately’- taking out medical insurance after 1 November. I consider this to be highly hypocritical coming from those who when attacking the original Medibank, and especially bulk billing, argued for years that this country’s economy would collapse if the patient did not pay at the point of service. The AMA and the funds want people to join at maximum rates because that would give them- that is, the AMA and the funds- maximum profits. They are obviously speaking through their pockets.
The State governments will also benefit financially if people enter hospitals as private patients. This Government will not benefit. Let me explain that. Every so-called ‘doctor of choice’ patient or private patient in a public hospital contributes $40 or $60 towards his daily bed cost of about $150. Under the cost sharing arrangements this saves the State governments almost half of the patient contribution. But the Commonwealth must balance this against the fact that it has to pay the universal Commonwealth benefit in relation to the medical costs of these patients while they are in hospital because they are fee for service patients. In many cases this medical cost to the Commonwealth will exceed the saving on daily bed costs, and it will therefore be in the interests of the Commonwealth Treasury to increase the proportion of standard ward patients.
Let us be quite clear as to why this Government has decided to reduce the direct cost of medical services to the consumer by means of a subsidy of $621 m in a full year, which is brought about by the abolition of the levy and the introduction of a universal medical benefit amounting to 40 per cent or more of the common fee, with nobody paying more than $20 for each medical service. The reason for this generosity is to cheat the wage earners out of a significant portion of their next two wage indexation increases by replacing the health levy by the so-called ‘temporary’ across-the-board tax increase. The health levy abolition and the associated decrease in the cost of medical insurance will result in the consumer price index being reduced while at the same time it will not be increased by the tax imposition.
In an effort to help those who will suffer financial loss because of this move, I suggest to all
Australians, both current levy payers and contributors to private funds, that they think very carefully before they commit themselves to health insurance expenditure after 1 November. They should remember that whilst the changes come into effect on 1 November there is no need to join any fund before 31 December, event if they finally decide to do so. Anybody joining a fund before 3 1 December is covered immediately but a person can probably save 8 weeks’ contributions by not joining until that date. If such a person would care to send half the money he saves to the Australian Labor Party’s election fund, we would certainly appreciate it.
The changes make it no longer compulsory for Australian residents to pay health insurance. They must choose whether to insure with a private fund or to accept the new universal Commonwealth benefit. This benefit will cover 40 per cent or more of the common fee for each medical service, with a maximum patient payment of $20 for any one service when the common fee is charged. In addition, accommodation in standard wards of public hospitals where treatment is provided by doctors engaged by the hospital will continue to be available free of charge to those persons who are not privately insured for hospital care.
The arrangement under which doctors bulk bill the Commonwealth in relation to pensioner health benefit card holders and their dependants who are not privately insured will continue. Bulk billing arrangements will also be available for persons identified by their doctor as ‘disadvantaged’. That term has not been defined. In such cases doctors will receive 75 per cent of the schedule fee in full payment for each service. It is to the advantage of people to find a doctor who is willing to bulk bill. If a doctor refuses to do this generally or refuses to do it in the case of a particular person or a particular family, the 40 per cent or $20 gap Commonwealth benefit arrangement applies. In order to receive this payment the patient must register at no charge with the private fund of his choice. I recommend registering with Medibank Private to help preserve it as a competitor to the other private funds and to help preserve the jobs of its staff. Medibank Private is already accepting such registrations.
The biggest savings under these new arrangements will go to those who carefully tailor their insurance to their needs. Medical, hospital and ancillary insurance options should be evaluated separately. Generally, for contributors to medical insurance to break even, they will need more than one general practitioner consultation a week or more than two separate major espisodes, certainly major surgical episodes, as private patients in hospital a year. Very few people in this community are likely to come into those categories. The rest of their contributions will pay for the administration and profits of the private funds. I will explain the position in New South Wales and then will ask for leave to incorporate a table which gives similar figures for the other States. In New South Wales, in order to get an extra 35 per cent refund, people would be paying $3.40 a week, getting back $3.12 for a standard general practitioner consultation and reducing the maximum gap from $20 to $10 a service. A 60 per cent cover, giving a 100 per cent refund with the universal Commonwealth benefit will cost about $4.70 a week. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a similar table for the other States.
The table read as follows-
– People should also consider their hospital insurance cover carefully. Keep in mind that the medical staff at public hospitals are often the most highly qualified and the facilities in public hospitals are generally the best. Also keep in mind, however, that standard ward accommodation may be scarce for optional nonurgent operations. The actual scarcity of accommodation obviously varies from area to area. To summarise the position as I see it, my advice would be to assess carefully one’s needs and make whatever savings are possible. Only those people with chronic conditions requiring very frequent medical attention or those people with large families requiring frequent medical attention should consider taking out medical insurance. I emphasise that I am speaking about medical insurance. With regard to hospital insurance, people must decide whether they are willing to accept free standard ward accommodation with care by a hospital doctor, which often is the best care available, or whether they wish to have at least a theoretical choice of doctor or private hospital cover.
They should remember that standard ward treatment, with the removal of the levy, is now again completely free as under the original Medibank scheme. The relative cost of insurance is much higher now. The actual hospital insurance has not been increased by the funds but in fact it will increase by about 80c a week for what is called Hospital 1 cover because the Government has withdrawn the subsidy. The Annis are scared that people will drop out immediately, so at this stage they are carrying that extra cost. In any case the real cost will be the same as it is at present. The relative cost of insurance is of course much higher because it is no longer being compared with the 2Vi per cent levy which one had to pay if one opted for standard ward treatment. From now on people will not be paying any levy.
I hope that this general discussion will help people to make a rational decision. I deplore the fact that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) yesterday in reply to a Dorothy Dix question called my advice ‘irresponsible’. I do not think it is irresponsible. It is one of the options. One of the pities is that the Minister when he announced the changes on the night on which the Budget was delivered in fact quite strongly emphasised that this is one of the choices, and it is a real choice. Yesterday he implied that only people who are well off can afford to take that choice. The proposition is that people who are not well off should pay all that extra money. It is the people who are not well off and cannot afford to pay the extra $3.40 a week who should be thinking very carefully.
– It is the people who take hospital insurance who need to take medical insurance.
-I am not disputing the situation concerning hospital insurance. I have made that point. The maximum cost for any one medical service is $ 10. If a person has an operation involving a surgeon, an anaesthetist and assistant, a number of pathology tests and x-rays, the total cost would be not more than $100 or $120. Is it not ridiculous to take out insurance for that amount? Everyone of us takes out car insurance where that excess is built in. People do not pay the extra money for the excess. It is deplorable to have to pay for it. Nobody likes to pay it. But why pay $3.40 a week in order to reduce the medical costs to half the total amount?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Once again we have heard the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) come in here and utter a diatribe about the future health insurance arrangements. I must agree completely with the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) when he says that the comments that the honourable member has made here again today are completely and utterly irresponsible. How can people gamble with their health on the basis that the honourable member has given today? It is good to know that there are responsible people such as the Labor Minister for Health in New South Wales, Mr Stewart, who has completely dissociated himself with the remarks of the honourable member for Prospect. One must think very carefully indeed before making the decision not to go ahead with health insurance from 1 November. I think the honourable member for Prospect should be condemned for inciting this sort of attitude in this House and thereby in the community.
That is not the reason why I am speaking in this debate today, I am glad the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) is in the House at the moment because what I am about to say deals with his portfolio as well as that of the Treasurer (Mr Howard). It concerns war reparation payments made to victims of Nazi persecution during World War II and sections 23(kc) and 23AD (3) (c) of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Without sounding too melodramatic, I think I should give the backgrounds of the cases of two constituents of my electorate of Bowman that have come to my attention over the last 18 months. I understand from speaking to representatives of the Returned Services League and other bodies that the particular aspects that I am bringing up today, although they are not common, are similar to those in a number of other cases is Australia.
The first case concerns a Dutch born person who was a reserve officer in the Dutch Free Forces in Indonesia during World War II. He fought the Japanese and was duly captured by them and sentenced to a 15-year imprisonment term. He served three years in gaol- in Java, I believe. He lost all his possessions in Indonesia during that time. His wife was separated from him for that period and, I understand, she was put in another prisoner of war camp. His health obviously suffered severely at the hands of the Japanese in the camp and he returned to Holland. When he returned he found that all of the family property in that country had been destroyed by the Nazis and his father had been shot by the Gestapo. He applied for back payment for the term for which he was in gaol in Indonesia but received no payment whatsoever. He worked as a professional librarian.
Early in the 1950s, I understand, he migrated to Australia with his wife, paying his own passage. He worked very hard during his time in Australia. He had four children, I understand. One of those children is now a major in the Australian Army, another is a teacher, another works, in the Australian Taxation office and the other is a doctor. One of them served with the Australian expedition to the Antarctic. However, the result of the period that he spent in the camp in Indonesia during the war certainly took its toll of his health. When the time came for his retirement he applied for repatriation benefits but apparently his case did not come within the confines of the guidelines for the payment of such a pension. After a number of appeals to the Dutch Government, in 1975 he was finally given a payment of compensation. That money came into the country and was duly taxed.
As well as that lump sum compensation payment, he receives a monthly compensation payment from the Dutch Government. However, because that payment does not fall within the guidelines of sections 23(kc) and 23AD (3) (c) of the Income Tax Assessment Act, he has to pay tax on it. He is entitled therefore to no pensioner benefits and no benefits through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Although these payments which are taxed are coming from the Dutch Government as compensation for what he and his family suffered during the war, people who receive compensation payments from the West German Government as victims of Nazi atrocities apparently have those payments exempted from income tax. It would seem to me that this Dutch born person who, incidently, as soon as he could became an Australian citizen, is having a form of discrimination practised against him.
The second case is similar in nature. It concerns a man of Polish extraction who was bom in 1916. At the outbreak of World War II he was imprisoned by the Germans but escaped and joined the Free Polish forces in 1940 when he landed in Britain. Those forces were under British command and eventually, in 1944, he landed back in France with the invasion forces. He returned again to Britain as a second lieutenant with the Cross of Valour. He was offered a commission with the British army but, of course, the war ended and he was finally demobbed. In 1943 he married a young lady of British nationality and lived in Scotland. As soon as possible he took British citizenship. He had three daughters, in 1947, 1951 and 1952, anglicised his name, and continued to live in Scotland until 1962. This gave him 22 years of continuous residence in Britain. In 1962 he migrated to
Australia and ever since has been employed in a large plastics firm. This year he became entitled to his long service leave. He too, of course, has not first-class health. His wife also is sick and he has decided to retire. On a number of occasions he has inquired as to whether he is entitled to receive Veterans’ Affairs pensions.
The latest correspondence that I have from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs says that Division 5A of the Repatriation Act provides for the grant of service pensions to former members of the forces of Commonwealth countries in the same way as it does to Australian veterans; that veterans of Commonwealth forces, to be eligible for service pension, must have lived in Australia continuously at some time for not less than 10 years and must have had theatre-of-war service in a campaign in which Australian veterans were also engaged and in respect of which Australian veterans qualify for service pensions; that veterans of the Free Polish forces, even though those forces were under British command, are not veterans of the British forces; therefore, they do not qualify for benefits under Division 5A of the Repatriation Act. Consequently, this particular gentleman is not eligible to claim a service pension from the Department.
He is, of course, able to claim an age pension but apparently a man who has served under British command, who was with the invasion forces, who received recognition through a particular award, who came back and immediately took out British citizenship, who was married to a British citizen and then migrated to Australia in 1962, is not entitled, under this particular section of the Repatriation Act, to any benefits whatsoever.
We really do have an obligation to look after these people who, through no fault of their own, do not fall within the guidelines for eligibility for repatriation benefits in Australia. Those people, who played their part side by side in many cases with Australian troops, do not qualify, even though they were under British command, for the full British service entitlements, and now they find themselves in a rather difficult position. I can only stress to the Minister for Veteran’s Affairs that this section of the Act, and the section of the Income Tax Act which covers reparation payments for Nazi war atrocities, should be investigated so that we may achieve some sort of justice for these people who fought so nobly and bravely during that period of World War II.
-Honourable members doubtless are aware that recently, with other delegates from this national Parliament, I attended the conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in Jamaica. Before returning to Australia last week I paid a visit to Taiwan. We recall the great embarrassment that was caused a few years ago to our Government when it had to face reality and recognise mainland China in the forums of the world. However, my mission in rising today is to point out how impressed I was with the advances- made by the Taiwanese, particularly in relation to fish farming. As I witnessed that progress in Taiwan I wondered whether the Australian Government would interest itself in this industry as a means of providing gainful employment for the Vietnamese refugees who have been flowing into northern Australia.
I am pleased to see in the House the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann), who is so well versed in matters in the Northern Territory, and I hope that both he and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) will interest themselves in my submission. Before I went overseas the media were emphasising that suitable industries for the employment of refugees should be initiated in the northern part of Australia. We know, from experience with refugees from other countries, that the first problem they face is the language problem, but fish farming, the details of which I propose to spell out a little later, would not present language difficulties to these people, who have sought Australia as their future home and have, on humanitarian grounds, been permitted to settle here. Their arrival has caused some embarrassment to the Government. I am sure that if Labor had been in office it also would have been embarrassed. Their arrival is also causing concern to the Australian people but, as has been pointed out in this chamber, Australia could never turn back the Vietnamese, with their leaking boats. If they were to be drowned we would be seen as despicable in the eyes of the world.
In Taiwan I consulted some very eminent people in the fish farming industry. One was Professor Doctor T. J. Lee, director of the Taiwan Fisheries Research Institute, of 199 Hou-Ih Road, Keelung, Taiwan. I visited a fish farming project with a Mr Richard Yu, the director of the Global Fishing Company of Taiwan, and saw about 1 SO fish ponds in which fish of a species for which there is a ready market in Japan, at $1,500-$ 1,700 per ton, were being produced. The fish breeds to an edible size, about one kilo or a little over a pound, in five months. They also produce an abundance of crabs, eels and prawns in the fish farming projects of Taiwan. If the Government is not considering something of a more attractive nature, such a project, in my view, would be ideal for absorbing at minimum cost, the unemployed Vietnamese and many of our Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. It does not call for great skill and is labourintensive. With the possibility of the Ranger uranium deposits being developed in the Northern Territory, a township of possibly 1,500 or 2,000 people could be created. If a project such as I suggest were implemented- it could be done at minimum cost- that would make available to the people of the Northern Territory a fish that it could not be suggested was contaminated by mercury or, as may happen later, by nuclear waste in our coastal waters. The latter is a problem with fish caught off the Japanese coast and in some British coastal waters. I learned of this at first-hand some 18 months ago when I was in Great Britain. British trawlers are forbidden to trawl for fish off certain parts of Scotland because of the nuclear contamination that exists. There is no possibility that fish farmed along the lines developed by the Taiwanese will present those problems.
I would think that the Taiwanese would be the most advanced people in the world in fish farming. I ask the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, in the absence of the Minister for Primary Industry, to consider this proposition seriously. I am sure that Professor Lee and Mr Richard Yu would not hesitate, if the Government saw fit to undertake a feasibility study, to come to Australia for three or six months to offer the Government or the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation any advice that might be required.
I point out that I am not denigrating the CSIRO or our fisheries divisions in any way, but I must confess that I believe that the Taiwanese, as I have said earlier in my speech, would be more advanced in know-how in this regard than Australia and many other countries of the world. Mr Richard Yu was once in Darwin and he suggested to me that the climate in that region of northern Australia would be most suitable for fish farming. I know that in recent times certain parts off the ocean waters of the coast of the Northern Territory have more or less been made exclusive for fishing by Aborigines. When one takes into consideration the fact that our Aborigines would probably have to be subsidised or government money would have to be made available to equip them with suitable boats to fish the oceans off the Northern Territory and that our Aborigines would probably lack the adapability to do mechanical repairs to their boats, together with the possible losses of boats in tropical storms that suddenly envelop the northern part of Australia, it could well be that it would be safer to engage the Aborigines in this sort of enterprise. I believe it would cost less and be more profitable in view of the markets available in Japan and Taiwan should this matter be developed.
I do hope that at an early date the Government will see fit to invite Professor Lee, the Director of the Taiwan Fisheries Research Institute, and Mr Richard Yu to Australia to confer with the appropriate Minister. I must not overlook the fact that the Northern Territory Administration would probably appreciate, welcome and promote this industry should the Commonwealth Government see fit to cooperate with the Taiwanese authorities, which are prepared to offer all their expertise. I believe that the Northern Territory Administration would readily co-operate because I think this could well be the real answer to absorbing the Vietnamese refugees, giving them a feeling of independence and removing them from social services. This could save the Australian taxpayer a considerable sum as it is paying dole of $50 a week to the unfortunate Vietnamese who have had to seek asylum in Australia. Who is to know that the 200,000 people who have already arrived here- whom the Government has not welcomed although it gave to them a homemight increase to between 300,000 and 500,000 refugees in the years immediately ahead?
– I wish to raise in this Grievance Debate the subject of the increasingly disadvantaged position of Australian agriculture in the national economy. Basically, agriculture’s competitive position in relation to its major competitors on world export markets has been weakened for two main reasons. Firstly, it has been weakened because of the increased protection provided to farmers in nations which are our main competitors and which set world commodity prices because of their volume of sales and production. This is particularly so in the United States of America, Canada and the European Economic Community, where most farm inputs are cheaper and the various assistance measures are designed to support prices and so maintain their farmers’ incomes. The second reason is that secondary industry in Australia receives excessive protection through tariffs, quotas and at times of crisis quite substantial cash contributions. No other issue emphasises more than our fuel policy the impact upon exporting industries of policies designed to react within our domestic context. The rural sector is dependent on petroleum fuels. It is quite powerless to exist and produce without liquid fuels.
Agriculture accounts in usage for up to 20 per cent of the nation’s fuel consumption but this is used by only 6 per cent of our population. Before expanding this argument further it is essential for me to state my support for the Government’s principal energy policy objectives, which are briefly: Moving crude oil prices towards import parity; restraining the rate of growth of energy consumption; achieving the highest degree of self-sufficiency in liquid fuel; and our policies of examining the possible establishment of strategic fuel supplies while developing economic oil and gas reserves as well as the policy that is designed to encourage major export projects while providina support for energy research and development.
This policy has been necessary and is proving successful in achieving its objectives. Already there has been a revival in the Australian petroleum exploration industry. More wells are being drilled this year than in any of the past three years, with 27 exploration wells either completed or now in progress. This increased activity indicates that we will be able to achieve a greater than previously projected level of selfsufficiency in crude oil supplies in the mid-1980s and this is estimated to be at approximately 45 per cent. Our policies are also increasing a recognition within our motor industry and our motoring public of the need for research and rationalisation in regard to energy capacity and economy. Australia, like the rest of the world, has felt the impact of progressively rising fuel costs since 1973 when the OPEC countries increased their prices of Arabian light crude oil from the then price of $5.12 a barrel. Today the price is in excess of $13 a barrel. These spiralling costs, our increased consumption and a growing dependency on imported crude will combine, despite the policies I have already mentioned, to raise our oil import bill, which currently exceeds $700m, to $2,500m in 1985. Not only will this cost spiral increase progressively but it also raises the question of our ability to ensure a continuing supply of liquid fuel for our essential transport and agricultural industries.
A policy of raising the price of crude oil to import parity was inevitable, and there could be no other alternative for a responsible government. It does, however, place the burden of cost quite unfairly upon country people in general and rural industries in particular. Other inequalities within the petroleum industry also bear unfairly on the rural consumer. The practice of discounting petrol in the cities disadvantages fuel users in the country. State governments have a major responsibility to control this practice. The Victorian Government moved very rapidly to remove discounting in the liquor industry, a luxury trade, but it appears quite hesitant to make any similar moves within the petroleum industry.
Then there is the need to scrutinise the total distribution system in the petroleum industry. Inland transportation costs are over three times the average cost of supplying the overall retail network. A further analysis also reveals that the combined cost of agents’ commissions, field representatives and installations of depots associated with the delivery of fuel to primary producers is four times higher per tonne of fuel than the Australia-wide figure. These figures alone indicate the excessive burden being carried by users of petroleum products in rural areas, particularly those more isolated from distribution points and ports.
The implementation of the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act has had a significant impact on reducing fuel costs for those who have been paying excessive penalties for their isolation. We will within the life of the present Parliament further reduce these costs by subsidising freight costs to within Vic a litre of the average metropolitan price. Most fuel users are able to pass on or at least combat rising fuel prices, but rural industries have limited scope to pass on any increase in costs arising from an increase in crude oil prices.
Government policy does provide the primary industry with a concession on distillate. Diesel fuel used on-farm is free of excise but the increase in the cost of crude oil caused by the recent levy has eroded the comparative benefits available prior to 1973 and before the crude oil price hike began. The highest absolute and proportional increases in fuel costs occur on wheat properties, where fuel costs increased by 47 per cent between 1973-74 and 1975-76. These recent changes to crude oil prices have added in the vicinity of $ 160m to Australian agriculture costs and further compound the problems. Fuel costs constitute in excess of 10 per cent of total cash costs on cropping properties. Whilst these costs are not as high on other agricultural properties, fuel costs bear significantly on profitability.
Fuel used on farms is a relatively fixed item of expense in practical terms. This reflects the fact that modern farming systems are dependent to a high degree on petroleum products for energy generation and, as such, the minimum input required for farm operation is high. This relatively inflexible nature of fuel use also reflects the high level of capital investment in farm machinery. Overall implications for the rural sector of increases in fuel prices extend beyond the direct effects. As I briefly mentioned earlier, increased freight charges associated with marketing and the purchasing and transportation of other inputs also emerge. The combination of these effects will increase the economic pressures acting upon farm costs in general, especially those in remoter areas.
A large part of present fuel cost is tax and excise duty. This gives the Government the ability to give a complete or at least a substantial exemption for fuel used in primary production. The same policy as applies to diesel oil could be applied to petrol, as is done in Canada. I therefore call on the Government to make an immediate evaluation of the impact of fuel costs upon our rural exporting industries. Such an inquiry, if independent, could advise of the measures that would be necessary to give Australian agriculture an economic ability to compete effectively. The application of further concessions to essential industry and production would be of benefit to the total Australian community. We are still predominantly dependent for our future on rural exports, and any increase in our earnings would benefit all Australians, and increase our ability to pay for rising import accounts and reverse our worsening trade deficit.
-Over the last few weeks a number of charges and many innuendos have been made by the Government regarding the Australia Labor Party and Aboriginal opposition to urnium mining in the Northern Territory. These charges are not only false but also an insult to the Aboriginal people and their ability to conduct their own affairs. The suggestion that Aboriginal opposition and resistance to uranium mining is something which has just recently been stirred up by the Labor Party does not stand up to any examination. Not one substantial bit of evidence has been put forward to support this claim.
Let us look at what has actually happened. It was a full 17 months ago that the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry commissioners reported that traditional Aboriginal land owners in the Ranger area were opposed to mining on their land. I stress to those honourable members in the chamber that this is clearly set out on page 9 of the second Fox report. Eight weeks ago a white Australian equalled by few in his experience in Aboriginal affairs, Dr H. C. Coombs, warned the Australian Government that a failure to permit traditional decision-making processes to proceed would result in grievance, hostility, and possibly violence. But the Government ignored this advice. It misrepresented the situation because it was so confident that it could bully and con Aboriginal people into signing a one-sided agreement. The Government’s strategy has not worked but it has gone to great lengths to try to confuse the people and to make it work. i charge that it is this Government, and its Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), that has intimidated and interfered with the Northern Land Council, both directly and indirectly, through its man in the Northern Land Council, its white manager, Mr Alex Bishaw. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs said in the House on Tuesday that Mr Bishaw had provided balance in his advice to the Northern Land Council. Let us look at some of the advice which the Minister considers to be balanced. At the Red Lillies meeting of the Northern Land Council, which was persuaded on 14 September to ratify the Ranger agreement, Mr Bishaw- I quote from a transcript of his address- said:
On Monday before coming out here I spoke to officers in the Government who sit in on Cabinet meetings when Ministers are being briefed on matters such as Ranger.
The majority of the Cabinet favours in the event that you do not sign this agreement, the majority of the Cabinet favours not negotiation, not arbitration but simply changing the legislation.
That was said by the white manager of the Northern Land Council talking to Aboriginal people to try to create fear amongst them. Does the Minister consider this to be balanced advice? He has denied that any member of his staff or Department said any such thing. Either Mr Bishaw presented a distorted picture to the Land Council meeting or the Minister is guilty of misleading the House, or intimidation. At the Red Lillies meeting, referring to changes in the legislation Mr Bishaw went on to say:
The danger in that is they have done it six times already in the process of this negotiation.
That is a mislading statement. He was equating the six uranium Acts with changes in the land rights legislation to weaken the Land Council. It is a deliberately confusing statement. Referring to the Ranger inquiry, he said:
The public inquiry has said the Government should proceed to mine Ranger.
This also is false. At no point in either of the Ranger inquiries was any such recommendation made. The Minister said in the House on Tuesday that Mr Bishaw believed the Land Council should be free of party politics. Let me quote another one of Mr Bishaw ‘s statements to the Red Lillies meeting. He said:
A Labor government set up the Ranger Inquiry. When they lost the election they turned against the findings of the inquiry.
This also is false. It is a politically partisan statement. It is so false to suggest that the Ranger inquiry recommended that mining proceed and that the ALP turned on that recommendation. For all the Minister’s support of Mr Bishaw, he has to recognise that Mr Bishaw, under the challenge of being sued by Mr Bob Hawke for libel, admitted that he lied to the Red Lillies meeting of the Northern Land Council. I quote form the Northern Territory News of 28 September. Mr Bishaw said:
It is true that I recently repeated a statement that I had been led to believe had been said by Mr Hawke while he was in Darwin recently.
This was to the effect that Mr Hawke had said that if the Northern Land Council did not sign the Ranger agreement the Government would ‘Pin its ears back ‘.
This was said by me to support my advice to the council that if the council rejected the negotiated Ranger agreement they would not necessarily be supported by all unions.
I said this in that context and because I had been led to believe those words were said by Mr Hawke.
In speaking to Mr Hawke today, he assured me that he had not at any time made any such statement and I accept his assurance absolutely and retract my statement.
We can only ask Mr Bishaw how many of his other statements he would stand by if he were challenged. This admission in itself is misleading. When Mr Bishaw was addressing the Northern Land Council he did not qualify his advice by saying that somebody else had told him that Mr Hawke had done such and such a thing. He said it directly. One has to listen only to the tapes to know that the man is a liar of the worst order. I quote from another part of his evidence regarding trade unions which reads:
The bulk of telegrams that have been received are from trade unions not affiliated with the most powerful trade union group in Australia- the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
This is a further lie. ACTU affiliated unions throughout the country have telegrammed support to the Northern Land Council. Of course, Mr Bishaw has always filed this sort of document out of sight. He has refused consistently to pass such information on to Aboriginal communities. I call on the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to listen to the tapes of Mr Bishaw ‘s address and to make them available to an independent inquiry to judge who is guilty of manipulation and intimidation. If the Government wants to act the transcripts will be available.
It is of no use the Minister saying that Mr Bishaw is not a public servant or that it is not his responsibility to see that Aboriginal communities are consulted in their own language. He has a responsibility as the Minister administering the land rights legislation to see that the terms of that legislation are observed. He cannot escape that responsibility. The land rights legislation requires consultation with the traditional land owners and other Aboriginal communities before any agreement can be signed. For that to occur those people must be provided with information about the draft Ranger agreement. That information should be in a reasonable form and if possible in the Aborigines’ own language and not the complex legal language which was reported in this week’s National Times newspaper. These communities must be given time to understand and discuss the proposals. The Minister cannot escape from the responsibility to see that this takes place. He endorsed these procedures on 22 September and said that while they proceeded an arbitrator would not be appointed. It is time he stopped pressuring the Council and allowed Aboriginal communities to go through the procedures which are spelt out in the Aboriginal land rights legislation.
In the few brief moments I have left I wish to put on record some of the lies which have been used in the smear campaign against the Australian Labor Party. In another place Senator Bonner claimed that Mr Bob Collins handed out to the Press a 2 1 -point plan for consultation after the Northern Land Council meeting on Monday, 2 October. This is also a lie. It was handed out by Mr Dick Malwagu of Goulburn Island who prepared the document with the help of his lawyers.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to take the time to tell honourable members how the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has distorted the picture completely and to give the facts. Unfortunately, the honourable member for Reid has no real reeling for Aborigines, but just keeps pushing his unbalanced tirades for the Friends of the Earth.
-i take a point of order. I ask that that statement be withdrawn. The honourable member made the direct statement that I have no feeling for Aboriginal people at all. That is an untruth and it is offensive to me. I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
-I think the remarks are within the spirit of the Standing Orders but if they are offensive to the honourable member for Reid, I suggest perhaps that they be withdrawn.
-I withdraw them. I will talk today on a problem which affects Australia and all Australians, our migrants, our refugees and our language. Problems are associated with any person settling in another country. He has to fit in with a large number of different customs and procedures; he has to live and work in a different environment. His social fabric has been disturbed, if not entirely dislocated. Many Australians might not appreciate that these are problems. Many Australians have travelled to London, perhaps had a job as secretary or barman, and toured Europe dealing in English with people concerned with the tourist facilities, hotels, restaurants, and guided tours. That is not the situation here, and the main difference is language.
Inability to communicate can create many problems in every day living, but people somehow get by even if it is only at existence level. But the crisis in the inability to speak the language is in education. Lack of understanding because of language problems is bad enough, but when it means that children miss out on education, sometimes entirely, we are creating longer term problems and continuing costs to the community. Therefore, all Australians should be interested. With the best schooling a child needs to spend his full time at school to learn at a normal rate. In this period, he spends much time at school learning English and hopefully his parents also have a large input at home. But what about the newcomer who has little or often no English? He has to compress years of learning into a short time before he can even start to learn other subjects, and his parents are no help in this learning process. Unfortunately his school attendance and performance often suffer in line with being in the lower socio-economic group and having added home problems and sickness. There is often also a strong parental move to have the mother tongue taught. In many cases this is arranged after school or at weekends, which is hardly satisfactory.
Let us look at the picture in a little more detail. I will be looking at Victoria and at the electorate of Hotham because I know them best. However they are not quite average as Victoria has the best education department of all States and Hotham has one of the few big migrant hostels, the Enterprise Hostel, at Springvale. State schools, particularly secondary, are seeing the changing nature of the migrant intake. Until recently most new arrivals were from southern Europe and spread geographically reasonably widely and fairly predictably. The schools had learned to cope though in some cases admittedly not as well as one would like. In 1976 a ceiling was placed on the total number of teachers to be employed at any one time. In Victoria the specialist area of migrant English had 1103 teachers which included full and part time teachers. The effective figure was only 900.
In 1976 and most of 1977 1 suppose one could say that things went along without crisis in spite of the influx of children from South America. However, in October 1977 the first Indo-Chinese refugees went to the Springvale area. At the beginning of 1978 some 500 migrants from IndoChina arrived at Midway in the Maribyrnong area. Some 70 children in this group were then enrolled at Maribyrnong High School, but unfortunately due to the lack of English teachers the children had to wait three months to start school. Hardly had the situation started to stabilise when steady intakes of migrants and refugees at Eastbridge in Mitcham and Enterprise in Springvale upset the equilibrium. At this stage we had the terrible situation of some militant teachers bringing pressure to bear and, to the detriment of a large number of children, refusing to allow the secondary students to be enrolled, forcing them to stay at home. Despite laws regarding compulsory education and threats from social welfare agencies that children who could not be fitted into schools were truants, it was some time before 25 forlorn kids at Enterprise were permitted to go to Springvale South High School, and then the school council had to pay $550 for one term ‘s bus fares. The opening up for big business of Wiltona Hostel in Williamstown has further aggravated the problems in that area. Some other problems have produced anquish Families move to areas where housing is available and sometimes close to their employment. This means that Richmond, Collingwood, Flemington and South Melbourne collect more and more migrants. The local schools and social services are already fully taxed with migrants.
Another problem exists with refugees from Indo-China who miss school sometimes for years. There is an inability properly to assess kids using a language they do not understand at all. I refer also to the problem of the change to a different type of schooling, customs and cultures. The Federal Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs does provide language courses for the refugees. The Department’s books show that 460 people went through an 8-week course last year but because many of the refugees, both adults and children, were illiterate in their own language they had little hope of learning English in the time provided. This is not a great start for kids beginning school. I gather that there is also a problem in that students attending a school which has a migrant language department are ineligible to take courses in intensive English provided by the Child Migrant Education Centre in Melbourne. Even if they were eligible the waiting list for the Centre is frustratingly long. Solutions to the problems will also have to take notice of the anticipated influx of 9,000 refugees this year.
Whilst I have concentrated on the difficulties for migrants in education due to their inability to converse in English, this inability has ramifications in other areas, as the Galbally report indicated. This report goes a long way in recognising migrant problems as a whole, and contains significant recommendations on settlement services, but it does not give sufficient support to the vital question of child education, perhaps because it is a State responsibility. Many students present particularly acute social problems. Many are without families, and are living in poverty, with negligible church and cultural associations and without even friends. Thus their social problems are immense and complex. They generally are frightened and bewildered and certainly still show the marks of their previous life. Recently I was shown drawings done without direction by 5 to 8-year-old Vietnamese boys and girls who had been here for from two to four months. Without exception they were still war orientated. Guns and explosions featured even in drawings of flowers and people.
The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Department of Social Security and the Department of Education are now working closely together and we must hope that they will find solutions. One need is seemingly a central language facility for intensive English programs before attendance at school or work. Maybe these special language courses should be adjacent to all major hostels, instead of their being just the one adjacent to the Maribyrnong High School. Without doubt the biggest need is for migrant or ethnic teachers. Whilst some discussion is taking place on whether such teachers need to have another language, there is no doubt that they need some special training. It is a pity that the State colleges have each worked on volume, rather than thinking out the needs of the community and training accordingly. That is one reason why we have some unemployed teachers and a lack of ethnic teachers. It is interesting to note that the Education Department may be forced to stipulate that there be only one fulltime ethnic teacher to 100 migrants, with no notice taken of the number of ethnic groups or the range of ages. We have a problem and while we continue to take migrants and refugees, and for years thereafter, we will continue to have this language problem. Efforts are being made to overcome these difficulties and I hope that we will see the results of these efforts very soon.
– It would take me several hours even to list the grievances of the people of Australia generally and the people of Canberra in particular about the results of decisions of this Government, particularly those announced in the recent Budget. One of the main grievances relates to the very vicious attacks that are being carried out at the moment against our educational standards. It is rather sickening to hear the sorts of pious platitudes that the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Roger Johnston) uttered in trying to create an impression that this Government is really concerned about educational standards, when the reality of course is quite different.
– I raise a point of order. I take exception to that remark. I did not utter pious platitudes and I do not feel that the honourable member for Fraser has any right to say that I did.
– I am expressing an opinion, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-I suggested earlier that the honourable member for Hotham withdraw a remark of a similar nature when it was objected to by the honourable member for Reid. I would suggest, without restricting his freedom to criticise, that the honourable member for Fraser should withdraw.
– In deference to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will withdraw the remark. I want to talk mostly about the very vicious attacks which the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) is now conducting against the educational standards in the Austraiian Capital Territory. If the honourable member for Hotham had been out on the steps of Parliament House this morning he would have been able to gauge the very real anger of teachers of the Australian Capital Territory at being forced to take industrial action to try to bring to the attention of this Government the very serious situation that is developing in relation to education in Canberra. The point that I want to make and which has been clouded is that this industrial action has nothing to do with improving conditions of work for teachers. It has nothing to do with teachers’ working hours or their rates of pay; it has to do with maintaining our standards in Canberra.
The Minister gave an assurance last year that regardless of whatever action was taken standards of education in Canberra would not be reduced. But he has imposed staff ceilings which are in conflict with staffing formulae. He has set a formula and now he has imposed ceilings which do not allow that formula to be adhered to, so next year the various schools will not have the same number of staff. They cannot follow the staffing formula, which has been set down by the Schools Authority, within the staff ceilings which have been imposed, so standards are going to be reduced. Some people may think that everything in the educational system in Canberra is bright and beautiful just because the schools happen to be rather new. However, members of this House should know that there are many grave deficiencies. In a primary school quite near to where I live in Campbell there are 42 children in a kindergarten class, 35 in another class and 36 in another. Theoretically the number of students in a class should not exceed 30. In most States of Australia the relationships between the staff and the students are much better than they are in Canberra. That is not just an isolated case. There are plenty of cases in Canberra where the staffing situation is quite serious. The type of education that children in Canberra are getting is suffering because there are not enough teachers. Yet next year, according to the Minister, there will be fewer still. The Government has forced this industrial action. The teachers would stop their industrial action tomorrow if the Minister agreed to sit down and negotiate. But he has been quite pig-headed about the matter and he just will not talk about it. He has taken a decision and that is it.
The other means by which our educational standards is being attacked is the impending decision- I do not know what it will be but I do not think it will be pleasant- in relation to study leave. I questioned the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about this the other day. He said that it was costing the Government up to $40m to grant study leave. The report that we have seen says that the cost in terms of salaries and travelling expenses is $ 15.8m, not $40m. If we exclude salaries- people have to be paid whether they are on study leave or not- the figure is only $1.58m. No doubt the Prime Minister has manipulated some figures to create a figure of $40m. That is a totally misguided figure and it completely distorts the cost of study leave to the Australian community. That is a very parochial attitude to take. He also said in his reply that perhaps study leave should be taken in other universities in Australia. That is certainly a very parochial attitude to take.
Since I received that reply from the Prime Minister I have received letters from two academics in Canberra briefly setting out the advantages that they have gained in the last 12 months from study leave. They both deal with very important aspects of Australian research. One of them deals with genetic engineering which is one of the most exciting research areas in Australia today and has very important implications for our rural industries. He had 12 months in America and learned a great deal. The other deals with solar energy, which is another very important aspect of our research program. Those are just two of the areas that are able to be advanced by study leave. Yet it is our understanding that the Prime Minister has some sort of hangup about study leave and about academics generally and that the Government is going to impose some very stringent restrictions on study leave. I think we would all concede that there have been abuses of study leave, and certainly the loopholes should be closed up, but I hope that the Prime Minister does not put Australian universities in a situation where they are out of step with universities in the rest of the world.
The Opposition is also very concerned about the tardiness of the Government in making a firm commitment to construct the new and permanent Parliament House. I think we have reached the stage where a commitment has to be made very soon, otherwise the target date of 1988, which has been talked about for many years, will not be met. I sincerely hope that the Government will make some firm commitment so that we can get on with the process. Everybody concedes that there is an urgent need for a new Parliament House. The Parliamentary Library particularly is under strain. It has a crucial function to perform in relation to the Parliament and performs that function very well. However, demands on its services have increased enormously and it has to move towards new technology in library services which will help to alleviate the pressures due to the lack of space. Eventually more staff and more space will be required in order to supply the necessary service to members of this Parliament.
We all know that if a decision is made to build a new Parliament House it will not provide a lot of work in the very short term for the building industry in Canberra, which has virtually been emasculated by this Government and is on its last legs. Certainly if a decision were made some immediate aid would be given in the early stages to people on the professional side of buildingarchitects and draughtsmen. Later on, when the actual building gets under way, it would be of great assistance to the building industry in Canberra, which has suffered grievously under this Government. A couple of big projects- the Art Gallery and the High Court- will be completed fairly soon and when they are finished there will be no major projects going on in Canberra. The Belconnen Mall project has kept the industry going but it is completed now, and when those other two projects are finished there will be nothing to keep the building industry going in Canberra. The other project on which we would like to see some action is the new Post Office, which the Government has decided it is going to build. As yet there has been no indication as to when it is going to get under way, and we desperately need some action on that- a little less talk and a little more action.
I want to refer very briefly to the coming referendum for self-government in Canberra. The referendum will be held in a few weeks time and yet even to this day the people of Canberra do not know what the Government means by the three options it has given. No written information has been provided, and the referendum is only a few weeks away. The action of the Government prejudices the possibility of people voting for some form of self-government. I think people have to think very seriously about this matter. People who complain about decisions being made affecting Canberra in which they do not have an active role should think very seriously when considering whether they should vote for or against some form of selfgovernment. Many people want a change but they hesitate to indicate what change they want because they do not know the implications, particularly the financial implications, of what the Government means when it says that it wants to give a measure of self-government to Canberra. I hope that information will be forthcoming very soon and that people will consider it very seriously indeed and not reject the opportunity of giving the people of Canberra the degree of selfgovernment that is enjoyed by every other community in Australia.
I have said before in this House that this is the only occasion in the history of Australia when people have been given an opportunity to reject some form of self-government. It has always been regarded as a democratic right and an obligation of people to govern themselves, and I hope that the people of Canberra will see it in that light. But their decisions are being inhibited by the lack of precise information from the
Government on what it means by offering three options. Instead of offering self-government or no self-government, the Government is asking: Do you want a little bit of self-government? Do you want a large measure of self-government? Do you want no change?’ It also raises the question of what the attitude of the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) would be if people voted for no change. If it means that- in fact- there will be no change, will he consider changing the name of the Legislative Assembly, which has no power to legislate, back to ‘Advisory Council*?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to highlight the serious divisions that exist in the Queensland Labor Party and the fraud that has been committed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) on his alleged ideals and ability to control the left wing trade union-dominated party in his State branch of Queensland. We have all heard how Mr Hayden purports to be a moderate democratic socialist. At the John Curtin Memorial Lecture this year he said that the Labor Party under his leadership was committed to objectives of progressive reform. We have all heard about his concern for ministerial propriety and about the need for consultation with the Australian public on matters ranging from uranium mining to technological change. What a fine person Mr Hayden appears to be. Indeed, it is easy when one is in Opposition to say everything in general and nothing in particular. It is easy when one is in Opposition to have honourable intentions but never be in the spot of having to deliver the goods.
How can the Australian electorate assess the sincerity and real intentions of the Leader of the Opposition? Let me suggest to honourable members that perhaps the best way we can assess just how strong, how sincere, and how capable Mr Hayden is is by examining his record in his own branch of the Labor Party, the Queensland branch. On 24 September the Federal Executive, after a month-long investigation, resolved that certain reforms should occur in the structure and membership of the Queensland branch of the Labor Party. The Press reported it and made us all believe that this was a great victory for Mr Hayden. Mr Hayden had fought boots and all’, according to the Melbourne Age. He had gone out on a limb to set in motion the reform of the left wing trades hall-dominated Queensland branch of the Labor Party. Indeed, one journalist not only said that ‘he was the key instigator of reform in the Queensland branch’ but also that ‘he was prepared to be tough and to use all the prestige of a leadership to force through organisational changes’. That was reported in the National Times on 7 October. We are all led to believe that Mr Hayden is a party strongman. I want to say about the words of praise that indeed they are hollow words. I believe that Mr Hayden is nothing more than a cream puff, light and fluffy with no weight, with no power and with a facade- a facade which must be broken down so that the Australian electorate can see how the union left wing bosses still call the tune to which Mr Hayden so merrily dances.
Let us look at the record of the Queensland branch of the Labor Party and examine its trade union-dominated structure by which rank and file ALP members in many cases are virtually excluded from the decision-making process.
-I interrupt the honourable member for Petrie to say that when he is referring to the Leader of the Opposition he should refer to him by that title and not by name.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It takes a little longer. The Queensland branch of the Labor Party in the last four years can best be described as a five-time loser. In the 1974 Federal election Queensland was the only State not to elect five Labor senators. In the 1974 State election the ALP was reduced to a rump party. Indeed, it just made a cricket team.
– Did they have a twelfth man.
-No, they did not have a twelfth man. In the 1975 Federal election only the Leader of the Opposition could scramble back to hold his seat, out of the 1 8 House of Representatives seats in Queensland. In the 1977 State election the ALP received only 43 per cent of the vote. In the 1977 Federal election the ALP in Queensland polled fewer primary votes than in 1975. That is hardly a record of trail-blazing success. But the real issue for many sincere ALP members in Queensland is the present structure and organisation of the party. The Queensland branch of the ALP not only is dominated by a small clique of left wing trade unions but also those people are unrepresentative of the rank and file Labor members in the Australian community in general. The Queensland Central Executive, with its 96 members, has 52 union delegates. Only once every three years is a convention called which gives the average rank and file member some opportunity to have a say. In
Queensland the ALP is in effect dominated by trade union machinery men, the faceless men of Queensland politics. Because of this obvious lopsidedness, a group known as the Reform Movement gathered momentum during this year to make the Labor Party in Queensland a better reflection of Australian society. The goal of that group has been, and remains, to establish a party which will attract ‘the broadest range of men and women’ and whose structure will offer ‘the maximum opportunity for participation at all levels and throughout the State’. The reformers want less trade union domination, an annual convention, a proportional voting system and a more open decision-making process. These demands are hardly startling or revolutionary but they have been resisted by the present power brokers in Queensland because, if met, the demands could mean an end to their incompetent administration.
Where was the Leader of the Opposition when these demands were being stated? At first he stood timidly aside while the reformers were accused of being right wing and middle class academics. In one document circulated amongst ALP members they were described as ‘grubs . . traitors to the Labor cause’. Eventually, in July, Neil Kane, a member of the left wing Electrical Trades Union and a member of the inner Executive of the ALP in Queensland, said that Mr Hayden should not be leader of the Australian Labor Party, because he did not have the confidence of the working class. On this note the Leader of the Opposition himself finally decided that reform was needed. What did he say about the State of the ALP in his own State? Firstly, he said:
The greatest need the Party has at the present time is to widen its membership considerably. It is the only way the Party can feel sure that it is in touch with what is happening in the community.
Secondly, he said that the inner Executive: . . has only seven members, is not representative effectively enough of the trade union movement in Queensland . . . there is no guaranteed representation of branch members . . . nor is there any guaranteed representation from the various parliamentary spheres. It is a closed shop.
That was said during an interview he gave on QTQ Channel 9 on 12 July. Despite the attacks on the Leader of the Opposition by Neil Kane, the inner Executive failed to rebuke Mr Kane. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition even asserted on the television program This Day Tonight on 12 July that Mr Kane had a serious health problem and should retire from the inner Executive. When asked about his views on the matter by BTQ Channel 7 on 12 July, Mr Kane only abused the reporters and articulated nontransmissionable expletives.
These are the sorts of problems that the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party has. These are the sorts of people who run it. We must ask ourselves whether they are capable and responsible enough ever to be allowed to obtain government office. More importantly, we must ask ourselves whether the Leader of the Opposition carried out his assurances to members of the reform group, people whom he described as ‘very fine people . . . inspired by the best of motives’- that was said on the program PM on 2 October- that significant changes would occur and that he would take a strong stand at the Federal Executive meeting on 23 and 24 September about these matters. The Leader of the Opposition backed off. The inquiry was a massive whitewash.
- Mr Deputy Speaker I raise a point of order. Will the honourable member state what happened to Mr Knox the Liberal leader in Queensland -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! There is no point of order.
– What happened to Peter Coleman of New South Wales? Tell us all about them.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Instead of an annual conference as desired by the reformers, the Federal Executive has recommended a biennial conference. Instead of a fifty-fifty structure between trade unions and members for election of delegates to the State Conference and quarterly State Council meetings, it has been recommended that representation will be 60 per cent trade unionists and 40 per cent branch members. In line with this is the fact that voting remains first past the post instead of proportional representation as was promised by the Leader of the Opposition. Under these arrangements the new State Council which replaces the Queensland Central Executive will be even more dominated by trade unions than it is at present. Furthermore, it is still possible for trade unionists who are not signed-up members of the Party to participate in the selection of candidates.
As the reform group stated on 2 October 1 978, the so-called changes are totally unacceptable. They do not have any real effect upon the present structure and nature of the Queensland Labor Party. They are a sell-out by some members of the national Executive but, in particular, the real sell-out is by the Leader of the Opposition. On the issue of proportional representation, only three delegates to the Federal Executive voted for its introduction in Queensland. So much for the Leader of the Opposition’s assurances to the reform group. However, the Leader of the Opposition said that the reform group is ‘wrongly informed’ and that it will find these changes eminently satisfying’. He also said that the changes represent a compromise on the part of the Queensland Executive and that overall they are ‘a vast improvement on what went before’. However, from what I have outlined to honourable members today about what the actual changes are, they can clearly see the disparity between what the Leader of the Opposition said he desired and what he actually achieved. No wonder members of the reform movement feel so sold out by the Leader of the Opposition.
The Leader of the Opposition has been involved in the worst sort of short term politicking and grandstanding that we have seen for many a year. He has attempted to play out the role of a progressive, a reformer and a strongman when, in fact, there has been no reform and he has done what he has been told to do by the faceless left wing power brokers who dominate the Labor Party in Queensland. I suggest to honourable members and the Australian electorate that such a man would be incapable of keeping left wing policies out of a Labor government. If he cannot get his own house in order in Queensland, how does he expect the Australian electorate to believe that he has the strength and sincerity required of any national leader? I say to the House that the Leader of the Opposition -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to move that the honourable member for Petrie be given additional time so that he can explain why the Liberal Party got fewer votes than the Labor Party in every election which he mentioned in his speech.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! It being 12.45 p.m., in accordance with Standing Order 106, the debate is interrupted. I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Speaker has received letters from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107, Mr Speaker has selected one matter, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Port Adelaide, namely:
The failure of the Government to introduce employment programs to effectively counter the worsening unemployment situation.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-The attitude of this Government to unemployed people is a national scandal. In spite of what the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) said about the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), as evidenced in Question Time this morning, is running scared about being challenged by the Leader of the Opposition to a debate on the question of unemployment. As I said at Question Time this morning, let Malcolm Fraser debate Bill Hayden on the question of unemployment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member will refer to the Prime Minister by his title and to the Leader of the Opposition by his title.
-Let the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition debate the question of unemployment, and let the people of Australia make up their minds as to who is the more concerned and talented person to overcome this problem. The misguided nature of the Government’s economic policies is now widely recognised in the community. The Government’s dishonest approach to the unemployment problem was acknowledged even by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) in his revelations to the Parliament last month.
In September this year an estimated 324,000 people were unemployed and looking for full time work. Another 59,000 people were looking for part time work. That figure is 50,000 more than at the same time last year. However, these official statistics disguise the magnitude of the real unemployment. The situation is far worse. Many thousands of young people, married women, and men approaching retiring age have simply dropped out of the labour force. Over the past two and a half years the number of involuntary retirements from the work force has been about 250,000. The real level of unemployment in Australia is therefore close to 650,000 people right now. These figures are testimony to the
Government’s brutal and inhuman approach to economic management. The inappropriateness of its economic policies is now widely recognised in the community.
However, comparatively little critical attention has been directed to the Government’s so-called training schemes or manpower programs. The National Employment and Training scheme, the Special Youth Employment Training Program, the Community Youth Support Scheme, the Education Program for Unemployed Youth and the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Fulltime Training represent the mainstay of Government measures to overcome the labour market difficulties. The Government claims that these schemes operate to alleviate the hardship of unemployment and that they will provide people with the skills and work experience to enhance their prospects of stable employment. What a fraud. What a cruel joke. On 13 September the Prime Minister said that training schemes together with the increased profitability of Australian industry would mean that anybody who wanted to work would have the opportunity opened up to them. Can this Government seriously argue that the expenditure of $ 1 73m in 1978-79 on the programs I have outlined is an attempt to alleviate the hardship of unemployment? Detailed examination of these schemes reveals the bankruptcy of the Government’s approach to employment policy. All these schemes are dependent upon the level of employment opportunities within the private sector and, on Mr Street’s own admission, their potential is limited. In fact, there are 48,000 fewer people now working in the private sector than was the case a year ago.
The basic problem is that there are not enough jobs to go around. There are 650,000 people unemployed who, for whatever reason, are completely untouched and unaffected by the Government ‘s programs. These schemes do little to provide realistic alternatives for the unemployed. Continued praise by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, extrolling the virtues of the Government’s ill-conceived manpower policies, serves only to camouflage the failure of this Government to introduce job creation schemes. This Government consistently refuses to introduce job creation schemes because it panders to the ideological whims of the Prime Minister. Fortunately, we are now beginning to observe signs of unrest within the Liberal Party. There is now talk within its State branches and even within the back bench members of the Parliament of the need to embark on job creation programs. There has even been Press speculation about the introduction of community service schemes to aid the young unemployed.
On 2 October the Age ran a story headlined: Volunteer Plan for the Young Jobless’. On Tuesday the Australian newspaper claimed that the Government was considering paying to local government $100m for jobless relief schemes. These stories reflect the growing concern within the community over the plight of our jobless. The magnitude of the unemployment problem is such that unless the Government introduces sensible job creation measures, this country will face a social and economic disaster of unprecedented proportions. Among the problems increasingly referred to are the growing alienation of the young to the community and its institutions, increases in vandalism and more serious forms of anti-social behaviour, loss of incentive and work motivation, increasing incidence of personal psychological problems, pressures on welfare services and the loss of skilled manpower resources. To date the Government has failed to act. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has presented to Cabinet a number of job creation schemes over the last 12 months. On every occasion these schemes were rejected.
In July this year the Cabinet established an interdepartmental committee which was to report to Cabinet before the end of August on the options for the development of a community service scheme in Australia. I am informed that the deliberations of this committee are now in abeyance despite the fact that last month the Minister told this Parliament: if new jobs were created at an average of 1 30,000 a year for over the next 5 years, we could expect to reduce unemployment to about 4.5 percent;
He went on to say:
These statements of the Minister are particularly relevant when we consider the deliberations of the interdepartmental committee on community service. At its meeting on the 12 July 1978 the committee resolved:
The main thrust of any scheme should be directed towards young unemployed people; that consideration should be given to options which combine work experience and service to the community.
On the one hand, the Government admits the gravity and seriousness of the unemployment problem, but on the other, it refuses to consider any program which could provide the unemployed with work opportunities. Those most vulnerable to social and economic disruption will suffer- the poor, the unskilled and semi-skilled and members of certain ethnic groups. Worst hit will be our young people. Nearly 40 per cent of the unemployed are under 21- young people in whom we have an enormous investment and in whom we have inculcated unprecedented aspirations. As the economy sinks into deeper recession and as the rate of technological change increases, they will be joined by another older group, namely, those well experienced in the workforce but rendered redundant. People like skilled typists, desk and office machine operators, newspaper tradesmen, telecom technicians and retail employees will also be relegated to the indignities of the dole queue.
These prospects threaten to de-skill and demoralise our work force. The Labor Party in government would not tolerate this situation. We are committed to increasing employment so that all those willing to work will find the opportunity to do so. We make no apology for advocating job creation programs. Nor will the Labor Party, unlike this Government, shirk the responsibility of educating and training an industrial work force capable of adapting to rapid periods of structural change within industry. In the short term, the Labor Party would not hesitate to introduce an unemployment relief scheme in conjunction and consultation with State and local governments. Such a scheme would form an integral part of a Labor economic program of controlled growth, both in the public sector directly and in the private sector through the public sector.
Our employment policy, however, would not be limited to the creation of a certain number of jobs. We would pursue an active manpower policy which would involve the following factors: A commitment to economic planning in order to identify those industries requiring a skilled and proficient labour force. There is a need for the preparation and dissemination of information about future requirements, availability and conditions of employment for different categories of labour. Until this is done, any attempts to review the efficacy of present educational and training policies is merely stabbing in the dark.
The Williams inquiry is expected to make major recommendations about the future of education and training in this country without any honest indication from the Government of the long term prospects for Australian industry. The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations has already told the Government that it could expect the manufacturing sector to provide no more than 10 per cent of new jobs in the future and that the Government would have to look more to the tertiary and public sectors for employment creation than it has in the past. Even more disturbing is the fact that the Department has advised the Government that 10 per cent of the work force will be permanently unemployed because of the effects of structural change, especially through new technology, unless the Government creates necessary job opportunities.
In addition to that, at the National Conference of the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations yesterday Professor Bill Ford said that the real crisis of technological change will hit Australia in 1 980-8 1 . He said that as a result of the Government’s investment allowance millions and millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money was paid out to companies in the latter part of last financial year for machinery, technology and computers that they will not use for another year or so. The real crisis of technological change will certainly hit us in 1980-81. This situation calls for a radical re-think of how we educate our children. Yet the Williams inquiry is expected to make recommendations without receiving any indication from the Government regarding its intentions about Australian industry.
The second factor in the Labor Party’s manpower policy would be the use of selective employment promotion measures to alleviate labour market disabilities of groups disadvantaged by poverty, discrimination, inadequate training and obsolete skills. The Labor Party would look at providing to employers incentives which would enable them to adjust work, work organisation and working conditions to the skills and abilities of the unemployed. Several Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries are already using schemes of this sort, including exemption from payroll tax, new forms of vocational training, paid education leave and work experience programs for schoolage youth. A Labor Government would establish a permanent community service scheme to involve unemployed young people in constructive, imaginative activities which would enhance individual motivation and develop social and work skills. Such a scheme would be developed in consultation with young people who would be paid a training allowance based on award rates of pay. The Labor Party, unlike the Government, does not expect unemployed young people to work for nothing.
Time does not permit a detailed examination of the failures of present training schemes. The
Labor Party can only draw to the attention of the Australian public the Government’s failure to introduce short term and long-term measures to rectify the impending social and economic disaster. The time lags involved in developing new programs and implementing them to an effective standard of administrative efficiency are considerable. Thus far the Government has been content to argue that the answers lie in the recommendations of the Williams inquiry and the Crawford inquiry. Nothing which might emerge from these inquiries would prevent the Government from implementing emergency relief measures. Given this Government’s record, it is quite likely that any credible solutions emerging from these inquiries will fall foul of the Prime Minister’s personal ideologies and piggy-bank economic thinking.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
-This matter of public importance about unemployment that the Opposition has proposed is clearly in the Government’s opinion and, I believe, in the opinion of the Australian public just not sustainable. This Government is genuinely concerned about the unemployment problem in Australia. It is determined to maintain the economic policy to overcome the mess that was left to us by the Labor Government. The Government is actively pursuing a manpower program to assist in getting the unemployed back to work. One cannot separate the unemployment problem and the state of the economy. We must put the economy right before we will be able to return to a situation as it was in the 1960s when we had relatively full employment. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) in his statement to this House on 14 September 1978 showed the genuine and real concern that this Government has for the problems of the unemployed.
Before I detail the Government’s manpower policies and show how effective they have been, I want to look at what the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has said. He said that the Labor Party would introduce job creation programs and unemployment relief schemes in co-operation with State and local governments. He gave no specific details of what the programs would involve. It sounded very much to me like a re-run of the 1974 record. He said that the Labor Party would not tolerate unemployment. But it created unemployment. It set up the Regional Employment Development scheme and it sounds very much as though it would do it all over again. Let us look at that RED scheme. Under the Labor Government it cost about $430m and affected about 36,000 people. The jobs that were created did not last much longer than eight weeks. The honourable member for Port Adelaide was one of the members of the Labor Party who saw that the scheme was ineffective and decided to scrap it. Now the Labor Party wants to start it again. When we came to office the scheme had been 80 per cent abolished and at the end of the scheme I could not find one person who was left in a permanent job having been employed under the scheme. What does the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations say? One would have thought that Opposition members would have read the speech that he made on 14 September. They might have learned from it. He said:
Unfortunately, this is far from a costless solution, as our predecessors’ experience with their Regional Employment Development scheme demonstrated. Employing the unemployed at the minimum wage, which presumably is what the community would expect, with all the overheads associated with employment- workers’ compensation, accommodation, tools, materials, supervision, administration of such matters as wages, record-keeping et cetera- would far exceed the savings which might be made in unemployment benefit payments and increases in taxation. And, of course, not all the unemployed are unemployment benefit recipients. The overall cost per person would very likely be of the order of $200 to $250 per week. That would necessitate very considerable additional public expenditure that would have to be provided by reduced expenditure elsewhere, increased taxation or an increased deficit.
Of course the honourable member for Port Adelaide just does not tell us where the funds will come from. The Minister continued:
Obviously such action at this time would worsen the prospects for economic recovery and increased job opportunities. It might well increase, rather than decrease, unemployment.
If the scheme proposed by the honourable member for Port Adelaide is so good, why can he not persuade his own State Labor Party Premier to adopt it? South Australia would be a great place to test his proposals because, under Dunstan, it is the State with the highest unemployment. In August 7.07 per cent of its work force were unemployed; last month about 7.8 per cent were unemployed. While in the rest of Australia unemployment fell in September compared with August, it rose in South Australia. Why does the honourable member not take his ideas to Mr Dunstan? Under the Budget allocations South Australia has over $749m to spend as it likes. That is an increase of about 7.9 per cent over last year and about 40 per cent over the last Labor Budget in 1975. That is untied money. Mr Dunstan can spend it as he likes. But he is not spending any of it on the sorts of suggestions that have been put up by the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
It seems quite clear to me that the pie in the sky ideas of the honourable member are just not acceptable to that Premier. I do not believe the proposals are acceptable to or that they will be taken seriously by the Australian public. We have been through it all before. I am very suspicious about the motives of the honourable member for Port Adelaide. If he really is concerned about unemployment, one would think that, he would be using his best efforts to ensure that projects which would create jobs would get off the ground. Instead he and his party do exactly the opposite. The Dunstan Labor Government will not let the Western Mining Corporation’s Roxby Downs project proceed. It is deliberately refusing to allow people the right to work.
– It would create a lot of jobs.
– It would create a lot of jobs but the Dunstan Government will not create the jobs. It will not allow Western Mining Corporation to go ahead. The Federal Labor Party does the same. It is clear that the mining of uranium in the Northern Territory is being held up deliberately by the influence of the Labor Party. It is denigrating the Aboriginal people and refusing to allow the people of Australia to take up productive jobs offered by these projects. How false can the honourable member for Port Adelaide be? He talks about the problems of unemployment, yet he is keeping people out of jobs. How else does the Labor Party explain the presence of Mr Waters, an executive member of the Northern Territory Labor Party, and Mr James, a member of the Labor Party, who are both solicitors, at Oenpelli a day before they were due to act as legal advisers to the meeting at which the Aborigines were to decide their views on mining uranium. I suppose those two members of the Labor Party were not trying to influence the Aborigines; they were just down there to look at the scenery.
It is this sort of action which is undertaken by the Labor Party that is stalling national projects which will create jobs. The honourable member for Port Adelaide keeps looking at band-aid proposals for unemployment when he should be looking at the root causes. While the Labor Party continues to refuse to allow people to work, of course there will be unemployment. What is the Government doing in its manpower policies to assist the unemployed? Firstly, it is necessary to ensure that those people who are seeking employment and those employers who are seeking employees are matched. Clearly, we also want job vacancies to be filled as fast as possible. Therefore, we have increased expenditure on the
Commonwealth Employment Service to ensure that it provides an efficient and modern manpower service. The Government is also providing $125,000 for pilot projects being conducted by new or relocated CES offices, which are designed to help in achieving these aims. The CES is also involved in the administration of government manpower programs. This year there has been an increase of 44 per cent over last year’s expenditure on these programs; an amount of $ 179m has been allocated.
I want to discuss a few of the programs which show the baseless nature of the Opposition’s matter of public importance today. I refer first to the National Employment and Training program, the Budget allocation for which has been increased by 44 per cent to $122m. This program, which emphasises practical on-the-job training assistance, is an extremely cost-effective way of providing people with the skills that they need to obtain secure employment. More than 13,000 people are now undertaking NEAT programs.
Secondly, the Special Youth Employment Training Program provides subsidies, to a maximum of $45 a week per employee, for employers, who take on young unemployed people who are registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service. This reduces the cost to the employer of taking on people who have had difficulty in finding work. The honourable member for Port Adelaide seemed to suggest that the scheme was not worth while. I wonder, then, if he could explain to the House why the number of people benefiting under the scheme has increased from 7,546 in June 1977 to 33,790 in June 1978. Perhaps he ought to get out of his ivory castle and talk to the employers and employees who are using the scheme. Certainly from my own experience it is an extremely worthwhile program. In September 38,814 people were benefiting from the program and being taught job skills so that they can obtain permanent employment. That is different from what happened under the Labor Government’s Regional Employment Development scheme, where people did not stay in their job and did not gain skills that would enable them to obtain long-term employment.
I refer also to the Apprenticeship Support Program for which this year $46m, has been appropriated. This is an increase of 4 1 per cent over the figure of $32. 5m that was provided last year. The Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training program, which is operated under this scheme, aims, through tax-exempt assistance to employers, to encourage the employment and effective training of apprentices. Employers of approximately 63,000 apprentices are expected to be assisted this year.
Another program is that of the national and state training committees, which are assisted by the Government in helping industry develop its training capabilities. This is of great importance to the future development of a skilled work force. In fact last week some of the people who are involved in these committees had discussions with the Government members committee. As a result of that discussion it became clear that this is an extremely valuable program. Another program is the Community Youth Support scheme, the appropriation for which has been increased, from $5.7m last year by more than 50 per cent, to $9m.
I have nothing but praise for the people who are working in these projects in my area. These programs show clearly the fallacy of the argument of the Opposition. It really would have been pleasing if the honourable member for Port Adelaide had made some positive suggestions which could be considered by the House. The Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) have made suggestions concerning structural problems in the work force and, the length of time that people work, such as the 14-day fortnight proposal of the Minister for Productivity, but we have heard not one word on these proposals from the Opposition. It does not wish to discuss these ideas which will help the unemployed of Australia. Why cannot the Australian people have the benefit of the ideas of the Opposition, or does it have none? All we get is criticism, the playing of politics. We get no positive suggestion. It is time that the Opposition provided some suggestions instead of playing politics with the unemployed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The discussion is concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
In an answer that I gave in this House on 27 September, and in a more detailed statement that I made later that day, I indicated that the Government had decided to put beyond doubt that employers are entitled to deductions for the cost of their employees’ long service and other leave only at the time when payment for the leave is made. This Bill will give effect to that decision.
The need for the amendment arises from a decision of the Supreme Court of Victoria in the case of Nilsen Development Laboratories Pty Ltd v. the Federal Commissioner of Taxation. In that decision, the Court held that an employer is entitled to a deduction for the cost of an employee’s leave in the year in which the employee becomes entitled to the leave or in any year in which there is an accretion to a previously accrued leave liability, notwithstanding that no payment is made to the employee. Appeals against the Supreme Court decision have been lodged by the taxpayer concerned and the Commissioner of Taxation and, in the normal course of events, the Government would prefer to await the decision of an appellate court on such an important matter before considering an amendment of the law. However there are several important reasons why the Government has decided that on this occasion it should not wait for the appeal processes to be concluded.
Firstly, the decision has significant revenue implications for the Government. If deductions for leave were to be allowed against 1977-78 income on the basis of the Supreme Court decision, the cost to revenue in the current year would be of the order of $600m. A revenue loss of such proportions in 1978-79 could not be contemplated. Secondly, the decision creates considerable uncertainty among taxpayers because of the disturbance of a practice that has long been regarded as settled, and has been accepted by the very great majority of taxpayers over past years. This uncertainty would continue until the appeals had been finally decided. Taxpayers would be aware that there must be a possibility that if one part of the original decision were upset on appeal- the part which indicates that deductions may be taken when payment is made for previously accrued leave- they could lose very substantial deductions in future years.
The Bill specifies that the amendment allowing deductions for leave liabilities when payment is made is to apply in respect of assessments for the 1977-78 income year and subsequent years, other than assessments made before 28 September 1978. This will protect the revenue from the loss of up to $600m in 1978-79, but it will also ensure that employers do not lose deductions when employees are paid for leave which had previously accrued, and for which deductions had not been allowed.
The amendment will not apply in respect of assessments yet to be raised in respect of earlier years and it will not apply to assessments already raised in respect of the 1977-78 and prior years where the taxpayers’ rights are protected by way of objection or appeal to a court. The finalisation of these latter cases will have to await the decision of an appellate court, and it could well be that further amendments will be required when that decision is given. Although the nature of these further amendments will depend on the final decision of the court, it is envisaged that amendments may be necessary either to ensure that employers do not suffer any loss of deductions or to ensure that employers do not gain any double benefit-for example, by having had a deduction when payment is made and by also being found entitled to deductions at the time of accrual.
The Government recognises that by providing for the amendment to apply to the 1977-78 income year it will be seen as having retrospective effect. For this reason, the Government was extremely reluctant to take this course. At the same time, it must be stressed that the amendment will not result in the loss of any deductions for taxpayers. It is a question only of the time at which that deduction becomes available.
There are also the other aspects that I have mentioned- the fact that the amendment will do no more than restore previously long-accepted practice, the fact that it will guard against the possible loss of deductions and resolve the uncertainty arising from the decision and, finally, the significant revenue implications for 1978-79. Details of the Amendment are contained in the explanatory memorandum that is now being circulated. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Martin) adjourned.
BUI presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
This Bill amends the Maternity Leave (Australian Government Employees) Act to give effect to previously announced changes which are designed to reduce the possibility of exploitation and also the overall cost to the Australian taxpayer. Honourable members may recall that a provision for maternity leave and paid benefits for public servants was introduced by a Liberal government in 1966. When the current Maternity Leave Act was introduced by the Labor Government in 1973, members of this Government- then in Opposition- nonetheless gave notice that the provisions of the Act would require careful examination on the basis of experience gained in its administration. This examination has now been undertaken and has also taken account of the relevant International Labour Organisation convention, community practice, particularly the situation in State Public Services, and the application of the present provisions to the particular circumstances of individual employees- for example, persons on leave without pay. The provisions of this Bill reflect the conclusions of this examination.
Before outlining the changes made by the Bill, I should make it clear that the provision of appropriate maternity leave benefits is seen by the Government as an integral part of the equal employment opportunity policy it follows in relation to its own employees. Without such provisions, a number of women with needed skills and experiences would be lost to the public sector. Proper maternity leave provisions ensure that women, in whom the Government has made a considerable investment in terms of training and development of expertise, are afforded employment protection by being able to continue in Commonwealth employment while also raising a family.
With the removal of the excesses of the present provisions, the Government believes the revised maternity leave scheme implemented by this Bill to be fair and reasonable, balancing the interests of the Government as an employer against its duty to the Australian taxpayer for restraint. In this respect, I should mention that the provisions of the revised scheme will be kept continually under review to ensure that the benefits are availed of in a proper manner and that the possibility of exploitation is reduced to a minimum.
The major changes made by the Bill may be summarised as follows: Deletion of paternity leave; introduction of a qualifying period of one year before paid maternity leave is availablehowever, leave provisions, without pay, will continue to apply in the first year of service; removal of automatic access to sick leave, but sick leave to be available under normal conditions; and standardisation of the amount of payment for leave for maternity purposes at twelve weeks pay.
I now turn to these major changes. Clause 10 abolishes paternity leave. The Government considers that the provision of paternity leave benefits for Commonwealth employees is unnecessary. It is, furthermore, ahead of community standards. Staff who wish to take leave around the time of the birth of the child will still have available to them other forms of leave. These include access to recreation leave credits, flex-time credits and leave without pay. In clause 7, provision is made for the introduction of a 12-month qualifying period in Commonwealth employment before paid maternity leave is available. The introduction of a qualifying period is consistent with the approach taken by State Public Services and with certain other conditions of employment in the Australian Public Service. The main purpose of the qualifying period is to deny the benefits of paid leave to anyone who might seek to enter Commonwealth employment for the primary purpose of availing herself of those benefits.
Cost savings are expected from the provision in clause 7 which removes automatic access by employees on maternity leave to their sick leave credits. The change proposed by the Government will bring the use of sick leave during a maternity leave absence into line with normal sick leave conditions. For women who do not resume duty following maternity leave, the sick leave entitlement under the existing provisions becomes a ‘retirement benefit’ not available to other employees on resignation or retirement. Although access to sick leave will become dependent on the production of a medical certificate, women on maternity leave will still be able to draw on their accrued recreation and long service leave credits during the unpaid period of their maternity leave.
Provision is also made in clause 7 to standardise the amount of payment for maternity leave at twelve weeks pay. Under the present provisions, staff can receive more than 12 weeks pay if the actual date of birth of the child is later than the expected date of birth. The proposed change will ensure that all staff, provided that they have served for 12 months, will receive a common standard of 12 weeks with pay around the time of confinement. This will remove any possibility of staff notifying an early expected date of confinement to maximise their entitlement to paid leave. I should point out that while the amount of paid leave will be standardised at 12 weeks, staff will be able to elect for an additional period of leave without pay to give a total absence of up to 52 weeks.
Consistent with the amendments I have just outlined, the Bill also makes the following changes. Maternity leave may now begin not earlier than 6 weeks before the expected date of binh. The existing provision enables maternity leave to commence up to 20 weeks before the expected date of confinement; this provision was included in the 1973 Act as an extension of the provision contained in the old section 54B of the Public Service Act and is no longer considered appropriate. Sick leave will be available should there be medical complications prior to six weeks before the expected date of birth.
Any period of maternity leave that is without pay- that is, any period of leave after the first twelve weeks paid leave- will not count as service for any purpose although it will not break continuity of employment. Under the present provision, unpaid maternity leave counts as service for all purposes. The change proposed will bring maternity leave into alignment with leave without pay for other private purposes. Provision is made in clause 7 so that employees on extended leave without pay will not be entitled to paid maternity benefits for any period during which the employee has been granted leave without pay. Clause 7 also provides that maternity leave benefits will not be available to employees who are on unauthorised absence from duty, unless the Public Service Board otherwise determines in extenuating circumstances.
In addition, the opportunity has been taken to make the present provisions more flexible by the inclusion of various other amendments. The most important of these concern, firstly, the new section 7- inserted by clause 8 of the Bill- which will enable an employee to continue to work closer than 6 weeks before the expected date of confinement provided the leave officer agrees and a medical certificate is provided; a similar provision will enable an employee to resume duty earlier than 6 weeks after the birth of the child. Secondly, provision is made so that maternity leave may be taken in broken periods, that is, maternity leave may now be interspersed with periods of duty. This change will, for example, enable a mother whose child is hospitalised after premature birth to return to work should she so desire.
I conclude with an outline of the transitional provisions included in clause 1 1 of the Bill. The amendments made by the Bill will come into operation from the date of royal assent and will apply immediately to new employees who commence duty after that date. Existing employees who have been granted maternity or paternity leave before the commencing day of the amendments, or who are absent on such leave on that day, will not be affected by the amendments. In addition, staff who are eligible for the grant of maternity or paternity leave under the existing provisions and who make application to the leave officer before 1 January 1979 will retain their eligibility for such leave. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill amends the Superannuation Act 1976 consequential upon the amendments made to the maternity leave provisions by the Maternity Leave (Australian Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1978. Provision is made in clause 7 of the Maternity Leave Amendment Bill so that only the first 12 weeks of maternity leave will be with pay. Any period of maternity leave taken after the first 12 weeks will be without pay and, by virtue of a new section 7b in clause 8 of the Maternity Leave Amendment Bill, periods of unpaid maternity leave will not count as service for any purpose. Consistent with the provisions of the Maternity Leave Amendment Bill, this Bill deals with the situation of contributors under the Superannuation Act and provides the superannuation arrangements that are to apply to contributors on unpaid maternity leave. The arrangements are similar to those that already apply under the Superannuation Act to contributors on other forms of leave without pay which do not count as service for superannuation purposes.
Clauses 3 and 7 are the key provisions of this Bill. Clause 3 has the effect that any period of unpaid maternity leave will not be included as part of the period of contributory service for superannuation purposes. Clause 7 inserts a new section 51a in the Superannuation Act which provides that where a contribution day occurs during a period of unpaid maternity leave no contributions are to be payable by the female employee on that contribution day. The new section will also enable regulations to be made so that the Superannuation Act may be modified to deal with the various situations that may arise under the new maternity leave provisions. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
That, in accordance with section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974, the House of Representatives approves the following proposals: Erection of a cooling tower at the rear of Parliament House, Canberra. Erection of police guard boxes within the parliamentary zone.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the motion I have just moved is required in accordance with the provisions of the Parliament Act 1974 to permit the construction of a cooling tower at the rear of Parliament House and the construction of two police guard boxes to the rear of the House but within the parliamentary zone. The proposed works will also require the approval of the Senate. As the proposals which I have tabled indicate, the existing cooling towers are approaching the end of their economic life. The capacity of the existing plant will be increased by the erection of a new cooling tower, which it is proposed to locate in a new site to enable it to operate at maximum efficiency. The erection of two guard boxes to the rear of the House will enable better surveillance of the parking area on Camp Hill as well as of the building itself. I commend the motion to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 6 June, on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– by leave- In the second reading speech on this Bill on 6 June I stated that it was the Government’s intention not to seek passage of the Bill at that time. In this way time would be available to interested parties to study the Bill in detail, and provide the Government with any comment on its provisions. Following consideration of comments from the export community and further study by departments, the Government intends to move a number of amendments to the Bill which are essentially of a technical nature. These amendments have been circulated to honourable members for study, but I will briefly mention their purpose.
I turn to the first amendment. It is the intention under the prospective legislation that entitlement to grant is to rest with that person who negotiates an export sale with an overseas buyer. The amendment is to define clearly that person as the one who is legally responsible for the contract of sale with the overseas buyer. The second amendment dennes the date on which export is deemed to have occurred. The third amendment strengthens the definition of ‘company’ and partnership’. The fourth amendment is to ensure that grants are not paid unless there is a corresponding increase in exports. The fifth amendment provides that the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will encompass this legislation on a date to be defined. The remaining amendments bring up to date the offences provisions of the prospective Act.
Mr Deputy Speaker, may I 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, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment Bill 1 978 and the motion to take note of the ministerial statement on export development initiatives as they are associated matters. At the conclusion of the debate separate questions will of course be put on each of the Bills and on the motion to take note of the ministerial statement. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills and the ministerial statement to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering each of these matters? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– This is a cognate debate covering the export expansion grants legislation and the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation. At the outset I state that we are still waiting for the export market development grants legislation. At present there is no sign of it being introduced. In other words, what the Opposition is saying is that from our point of view the Government does not seem to have the co-ordination required effectively to establish an incentive for exports. We have seen the introduction of the Export Expansion Grants Bill, which relates to incentives; but market development legislation has not yet been introduced. We say that this is typical of the piecemeal and fragmentary way in which the Government deals with this important segment of vital interest to Australia.
At present, because of the poor economic circumstances in Australia, it is essential that we develop strong trading opportunities. The best way to do this is by giving incentives. What happened in relation to the Industries Assistance Commission report on export incentives signifies the Government’s peculiar approach of excessive secrecy in this area. That report was given to the Government, I think on 6 January this year. We had the benefit of a ministerial statement on 13 April, when the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) announced a package of Government initiatives. After we made a statement welcoming the statement of 13 April we were obliged to say that we still had not seen the report of the Industries Assistance Commission. The Government did not bother even to table it until after we complained. While the Bill establishing the Overseas Projects Corporation, which apparently is part of the package, has gone through the House, the Corporation has not yet been established. This is the present problem.
The IAC report on export incentives speaks of problems in the manufacturing industry base. These are well known and recognised, but the Commission seems to be saying that we can perhaps rest easy on the basis of the Government’s White Paper on manufacturing industry. I make it clear that the Government’s White Paper really did not grapple with the problems concerning solutions for the industry. In my opinion we have to identify the type of industries we need to promote in this country. We do not want a gunshot arrangement whereby everybody is given some small benefit. We need to realise our aim and give worthwhile incentives to the key industries in Australia which must be supported from the point of view of exports.
While we can talk about the matter from the point of view of being political, we need to give some reasons for the disparity of the Government’s actions. It would be a fair comment to say that possibly six Ministers are trying to do their best for trade. They are the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Deputy Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock), the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland), the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). The number of Ministers concerned is very significant at this stage. Difficulty is experienced no matter what segment of trade is being considered. Is there coordination? The Special Trade Representations Minister is now making some effort to get to the Middle East countries. We feel that that is commendable and should have happened a long while ago. The previous effort by the Government was to hammer the European market to try to gain market penetration. We say that the effective markets that could have been arranged in the Middle East and in the Eastern European bloc have been neglected. We cannot expect to pick up the old trade links we had in the past, particularly prior to the Second World War, when we know very well that the world scene has changed and that the European Economic Community will not open up to us because we are very keen to castigate it and say that it is schizophrenic and deliquent. It is suicidal to enter a verbal trade war on what is wrong with the EEC if we do not consider its politics. As the Deputy Prime Minister has said, the EEC is excessively subsidising its primary producers. This is done for a very good reason- it wants their votes. The EEC will continue this subsidisation. Markets exist elsewhere. Unless we are very careful of what we are about we will have problems not only in the area of beef but also in sugar and a number of other commodities. We are not placing emphasis in the Middle East where the oil revenues are escalating at a great rate.
I want to make a point about the beef incentive allocations of $350,000, which the Minister for Primary Industry calls specialisation promotion. Obviously we will be aiming at the tough markets that are against Australia- the United States and Japan. Would it not have been better to try to assist the lamb marketing opportunities in the Middle East with that sort of promotion? The Government is very confused. The Prime Minister has made some unsuccessful forays into the international trade arena as a result of which a protest note was delivered to us. The Foreign Minister seems to have some appreciation of the complexity but his efforts are thwarted by his other colleagues. The records of the Minister for Trade and Resources and the Minister for Special Trade Representations are dismal.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce has hurried to Japan to discuss complementation in motor vehicle production in the Asian-Pacific region. At last he has recognised the problem there. In the last few minutes Government supporters from South Australia asked what the Opposition had ever done for industry in South Australia. The Opposition did very much indeed. The motor vehicle plan of the Opposition is still being sustained. It enabled Chrysler Australia Ltd to remain in production. It was the hope of the Labor Government of those days that the other motor vehicle manufacturers in Australia would look at a Labor plan for a 4-cylinder engine production plant at Chrysler’s plant in South
Australia, but because the manufacturers are overseas controlled and not interested from the point of view of Australian equity- there is no such investment- they decided to do whatever they liked with the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia. There can be too many manufacturers, but Government members cannot blame it on the previous Labor Government and say that it did nothing. The Opposition tried very hard to get some rationalisation which would have been in the best interests of the Australian public, the consumer and South Australia. Anyone who is beholden to the Ford Motor Co. of Australia or General Motors-Holden’s Ltd will know that all their policies are in accordance with the dictates of their boards which are in the United States. The same applies to some of the incentive grants. We know that in the past a fair amount of incentive grants- taxpayers’ moneyhas been going to very large companies which possibly did not need anything like the incentive. This particularly applies to the companies I have just mentioned.
Australia needs some forward planning. We have clearly to understand where we are heading in regard to trade. We have to pursue new markets. We need new approaches. We might need new approaches to old markets. Agricultural and mineral exports will not sustain a prosperous and advanced society. The manufacturing, service and other advanced sectors must also be sustained. They must be promoted. We need government support for exports and other foreign exchange earning activity. These should include the following: The establishment of an effective national assessment of the international economy and strategic planning for trade; a review of the operation of the traditional forms of trade; promotion and assistance in traditional markets; the establishment of country by country plans and priorities; the provision of incentives for export gains and for export development to efficient industry; the provision of assistance in inverse proportion to the scale of other industry assistance; and the establishment of machinery to facilitate trade with new markets, with small markets and with other governments and their instrumentalities engaging in trade in cooperation with the private sector with a view to assisting private industry.
The Minister for Trade and Resources frequently castigates the Opposition about what he thought was a socialistic adventure called the Overseas Trading Corporation. The corporation would have been of the greatest advantage to the private sector and the rural producer. The Western Australian Lamb Marketing Board is a socialistic enterprise from the point of view that every lamb produced in Western Australia belongs to the Board. Lambs do not belong to the producers. No producer in Western Australia would say: ‘Get rid of that Board’. It is the best thing that ever happened to them in the marketing area. Mr Mcsporran and other intelligent people will say that a great opportunity exists to expand trade in the Middle East, but we cannot even get enough lambs to meet the orders. Is that not the very concept of what we are about? We have a ridiculous situation of leaving it to somebody else. We should be helping the producers and the manufacturers. We need to create a society in Australia where the employee and the employer get together. The producer on the land and the fellow in the slaughter house need to understand each other’s problems. We can trade effectively. We have the best products in the world to sell, but we will not do so if people step back and say: ‘That is socialistic. ‘ We are dealing with countries such as Japan which put a lot of government money into concerns which are trading and competing with us. Australia has to identify what it is about.
We welcome the piecemeal legislation which has been introduced, but wonder why the package is not complete. We are critical of the fact that it has been dragged in. Perhaps the Minister will make a speech next Monday at the opening of the Association of South East Asian Nations trade fair. Somebody will say how well we are going and how we have introduced this piece of legislation. Why was it so delayed? It could have been introduced in the first session of this Parliament. I do not know whether this is a budgetary ploy to try to save some of the outlays, but it is certainly not helping the producers or the manufacturers. They do not get any cash from this legislation. The measure will be sent to a legislation committee, which is as it should be when we look at the way the Bill is drawn.
The Bill contains some great weaknesses. It draws heavily on the Industries Assistance Commission report, but there seems to be a fair number of weaknesses in the drafting- if we can be critical of it to that extent. This is indicated by a further statement today. Another five or six amendments, which we have just sighted for the first time, are to be made to the Bill- welcome as they may be. One of the most significant factors of the BUI is the question of what we mean when we talk about incentive grants. We have to look at the matter from the point of view of what are eligible goods as set out in clause 4. Clause 4 ( 1 ) (a) is worded in the form of a double negative. It states:
Not more than 50 per centum of the value of the goods is attributable to materials or parts not of Australian origin.
Unless one reads the clause carefully one would think that it requires a SO per cent local material content. It does not. There are two separate aspects of that clause. One relates to SO per cent of the value; the other is the question of content. So there may be no Austraiian content from the point of view of materials as long as there is a content in labour in order to get half the value. In other words, there may be no Australian materials in the goods and they would still be eligible for a subsidy. The use of the double negative means that goods will qualify as eligible goods unless more than 50 per cent of the export value is attributable to non-Australian parts and materials. Export value of course is the total value; that is, the value of goods including the cost of labour. For example, if the nonAustralian parts constituted 100 per cent of the parts used but the value of the goods free on board for export was at least twice the cost, the goods would still qualify. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing Australian content of parts as required under clause 4 of the Bill.
The table read as follows-
-The table shows that the Austraiian content required will normally be much less than 50 per cent and will very often be nothing. The Bill therefore does not guarantee that Australians will be subsidising only the manufacture of goods of primarily Australian content. In the view of the Opposition the Australian taxpayer should not be asked to subsidise exports which do not have at least 50 per cent Australian content. One would have thought it was important for Australian industry to require at least 50 per cent Australian material. We will be trying to remedy this situation at the Legislation committee stage. The Opposition is also dissatisfied with clause 4 ( 1 ) (b). I point out that the Minister really did not deal with these matters in his second reading speech. Clause 4 (1) (b) allows the Board to decide, on whatever grounds it thinks fit, what goods should be eligible goods. The definition could well apply to goods which even do not fall within the extremely limited category of clause A.
One of the matters which will concern both primary and secondary producers will be the fact that it is the person who has property in the goods at the time of sale who is entitled to the grant, not the producer. In other words we could find, under this Bill, the exporter- this is a matter for further discussion- getting the grant but not the producer. We draw attention to clause 5 and also to clause 3 (2). The agents can get the benefit of the incentive and not the producers. In our view there ought to be a requirement that export entitlement ought really apply to the people engaged in production. There can be argument about the fact that perhaps the market would not have been found but for the agent but I would like to think that when we are dealing with taxpayers’ money in this regard we are doing so on the basis of expanding employment opportunities, by expanding factories or methods of production, whether it be on the land or elsewhere. We should use it to guarantee a stronger economic base. Those people with entrepreneurial attitudes should not be the ones who can get the benefit. That sort of situation could arise under this Bill. We can have difficulties in defining what people are entitled to this benefit. For example, multinational companies resident in Australia could be entitled to the grant. If a multinational company were to export its goods from Australia it could well qualify for the grant. There is a lot of difficulty in guaranteeing that the grant will be to the benefit of Australia if in fact it is going to be remitted overseas by way of profits. They are some of the matters that we wanted to mention.
Clause 16 of the Bill allows the Board to disregard transactions which are in abuse of the Act. One way in which export grants can be maximised would be by the sale of goods prior to export so that one company which might have no export earnings for one year could virtually sell it to another company on the basis that that company might qualify for the grant. I know the Minister is trying to rectify this matter now. It is a question of what we want to do. If the Government looked at the matter from the Opposition’s point of view, that the incentive ought to go to the producer, it would overcome many of these problems. We hope that these matters will be the subject of consideration by the Legislation Committee. We are very anxious to know what matters the Minister feels should be looked at to guarantee that we can avoid this sort of dealing that will bring transactions within the ambit of the Act and give incentives in an area to which we do not think they should be readily applied.
One other matter which is of concern to the Opposition is the question of trading facilities. It has been drawn to my attention by others that there are some severe problems related to our ability to have as many effective trade commissioners as we want. This problem obviously is due to problems of budgetary expenditure. I am told that the present group in the Middle East is seriously overworked. There are great opportunities for development in areas such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. For that reason those countries ought to be given much more attention. Again I am reminded that airline freight costs are very high indeed. There is some problem as to why we are not doing more to assist our producers by way of freight. There are difficulties in suggesting subsidies in airline areas but we could suggest that Qantas Airways Ltd be given more facilities relative to being able to export. I have been reminded by the Western Australian Lamb Marketing Board that it is not being catered for effectively in that it has to pay freight rates which it says are above average. It could get charter rates which are much cheaper. It has been asking the Government for a decision on this matter since last January and it has not been forthcoming. Accordingly, it is being obliged to pay a fair amount of what it considers to be excess air freight. I am told that in the last year this has meant excess payments by the Western Australian Lamb producers of no less than $759,000. That is no small amount of money. It is a shame that the Government cannot face up to the situation and deal with those problems.
If one talks to people who are interested in establishing trade with the Middle East we find that there are problems with shipping freight rates. They say that often the freight is much more expensive than the container contents. That is a problem; they find it a difficulty. Admittedly, sea routes can be much longer and some consideration has to be given to that fact. Obviously there should be government incentive and encouragement in the form of some subsidy of shipping rates to guarantee effective market control. I make the point that the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) told Parliament on 14 September that the value of Australia’s trade with the Middle East has increased in the past four years from $100m to $560m. That sounds impressive but we also have to look at the fact that oil revenues in the four years to 1981 will amount to no less than $563 billion. We could certainly get a lot more of the Middle East market if we were to cater for it. The Middle East market is growing rapidly because of incomes from oil. There are substantial Middle East proposals as to the type of interests in which it wants to involve itself. Not the least of those interests would be manufacturing interests, some of a joint interest nature, particularly in the solar energy field, and agricultural interests, the difficulties of which we have been discussing.
All in all, whilst we can recognise the great need for this Bill we are mystified as to its piecemeal introduction. As the IAC report was available as far back as 6 June we cannot understand why the Government could not have had this complete package through in the first session of Parliament. It is coming through in dribs and drabs, in a higgledy piggledy fashion, which does not seem to give real incentives to people interested in trade. While welcoming the Government’s recognition of stimulus, we are very anxious that it become complete, effective, and co-ordinated, and that there be a clear understanding of what we are about from the point of view of achieving strong economic growth in this country. The problems are acute from the economic point of view and it is important that the Government start to make clear decisions as to what types of incentive should be given to certain industries to guarantee them making progress. The talent is there; the industries just need the incentive. Therefore I am somewhat concerned that the market development legislation has not even been introduced, although it is an integral part of the Government’s whole policy. While welcoming the legislation we do so subject to the criticisms I have made. We look forward to the Minister being able to satisfy the Opposition’s criticisms.
-The statement on export development initiatives which this House is now debating and which was brought down by the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) earlier this year is one of the most important ministerial statements to be made in recent years. It has very major implications for the long-term economic prosperity of Australia. As Chairman of the Government Members
Trade Sub-Committee, I have a particular interest in this ministerial statement on export development initiatives because the Trade SubCommittee played a significant role in shaping its contents and direction. Undoubtedly, the most notable feature of the statement is the proposed export expansion grants scheme. The legislation relating to this scheme is being debated at the same time as the ministerial statement.
The new export expansion grants scheme will provide for the payment of taxable cash grants calculated on a formula applied to the increase in exports in the grant year over the average annual exports in the three immediately preceding years. It will be possible to vary the base period to allow for peculiarities of special situations. The formula for the export expansion grants scheme provides that increases in exports of up to $500,000 will attract a grant rate of 15c in the dollar and that as exports go beyond $500,000 the increases in the grants will be based on lower rates. Such a formula concentrates the incentive effect of the export expansion grants scheme where it is needed, that is, encouraging small and medium sized firms to export or to improve their existing export performance. This avoids the absurdities of the schemes administered some years back by the Taxation Office. These were the export incentives grants scheme and the export market development allowances scheme. The principal beneficiaries of those earlier schemes were large corporations and government business undertakings which would have exported even if the two schemes had not existed. Particularly in times of financial restraint, or at any time for that matter, the objective of government incentives must be to help persuade business firms or individuals to take on something that they otherwise might not have done. We should not waste taxpayers’ money on subsidising people for something that they would have done anyway.
Other important initiatives in the Government’s export development package are a reformed and simplified export market development grants scheme which encourages exporters to penetrate existing markets further or to open up entirely new markets; an intensified export promotion program by way of increasing awareness among industry of the benefits of exporting; more frequent Australian trade displays and Australian participation in international trade fairs; expanded support facilities such as specialised industry trade missions; a further strengthening of Australia’s excellent Trade Commissioner Service, especially in markets with additional potential such as South East Asia, East Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East, North America and Latin America; approval for the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to increase its subsidy commitment authority from $ 17.5m to $30m so that EFIC may continue to support strongly exporters seeking export orders where extended credit terms are an important competitive factor; the establishment of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation to assist Australian industry to compete for large-scale development projects overseas; promotion of Australian consultancy and construction contracting services overseas through support from an extended EFIC facility and an increased consulting services feasibility study fund; and, finally, government assistance for the marketing abroad of Australian technology by way of seminars, international technology fairs and technology missions.
There are several critical fundamental reasons why Australia must again build up a strong export trade. Firstly, our own population has never been large enough to provide an economic base for many of our industries, particularly our manufacturing industries. Even today’s population of 14 million is small by comparison with the substantial markets directly available to manufacturers in Western Europe, Japan and North America. These overseas manufacturers consequently enjoy a distinct competitive advantage from the economies of scale achievable by virtue of the size of their own domestic markets. In industries where economies of scale are of considerable importance, such as the manufacture of motor vehicles, the implications for Australia are extremely serious and obvious. An Industries Assistance Commission report a few years ago stated that there were too many manufacturers in the motor vehicle industry in Australia. Subsequent events, including the withdrawal of British Leyland, proved the report to be absolutely correct.
It should be further pointed out that any dramatic expansion of the domestic Austraiian market is extremely unlikely. Despite rather wild forecasts not so long ago that Australia’s population would reach 30 million or more by the year 2000, we will in fact be lucky to reach about 20 million. By the year 2000 we may even have only 17 million or 18 million people, depending on where and when our falling birth rate stabilises and on the net gain from immigration in the coming two decades. Whether this very modest increase in our population is desirable or undesirable is another question. The fact is that that is what will happen, on present indications.
Apart from the limited size of our own domestic market, there is a second consideration that compels us to strive to build a strong export trade again. That is the elementary question of just how much further we can penetrate our own domestic market. In attempting to answer that question, it has to be determined, for instance, just how extensively the domestic market is already saturated with consumer durables. For example, there is evidence that colour television has achieved a heavy penetration of the Australian market in about half the time or less that it took similarly to penetrate comparable overseas markets. Furthermore, the spending habits of many young Australians seem increasingly directed to travel and other associated expenditure rather than to the acquisition of material goods. The elderly also now spend a great deal on travel, having already acquired all the necessary household possessions. Their consumption behaviour becomes even more significant when it is remembered that with our falling birth rate and greater longevity the elderly are becoming a larger and larger proportion of our population.
What I have just said clearly shows that the future limitations in the growth of our domestic market necessitates a build-up of our export trade. In a broader perspective, there are also international reasons for strengthening our export position. Australia has lost virtually all her ground in traditional markets such as the United Kingdom and Western Europe as a result of the protective barriers thrown up by the European Economic Community. The main losses have been in respect of primary produce but processed food products and some manufactured goods have also been adversely affected. These lost markets must be replaced and only the seeking out of new export markets can do this in full, although the Government must be commended for aiming to break down the more absurd features of the EEC’s protectionism. In fact, checking the world-wide trend to super protectionism is another reason for renewing Australia’s export trade. If left unchecked, the move to excessive protectionism will completely obliterate competitive advantage as an essential element of world trade and consequently will substantially retard the standard of living that otherwise would be reached by many nations throughout the world.
It is a tragic irony of our times that a number of the nations in Western Europe now locked into the incestuous and darkening economic prison that is the European Economic Community were once apostles of a free-flowing world trade. Now, at a stupendous cost to the taxpayers of Western Europe, they dump on the world the heavily subsidised primary produce of hopelessly inefficient German and French agriculture. Today even the United States, which is always amongst the first to posture in the international public forum for a less restricted world trade, has no hesitation in imposing its own trade restrictions when circumstances suit. A world that turns in on itself through the creation of exclusive trading blocs is a world headed for disaster. Not only are major economic opportunities lost but also the potential for political distrust and military conflict is increased. It is far better for the nations of the world to trade rubber thongs and beef than to exchange bullets and auto ground missiles.
Undoubtedly, some of the most lucrative potential markets available to Australia are in South East Asia and the South Pacific. We already have a firm foothold in parts of these regions. For instance, in Papua New Guinea and New Zealand over the past five years or so Australia’s exports have accounted respectively for 50 per cent and 20 per cent of the value of imports into the two markets. Generally speaking, South East Asia and the South Pacific are areas where Australia should have penetrated far more than it has, especially when compared to advances made by the United States, West Germany and Japan. Australia’s proximity to South East Asia and the South Pacific gives us a significant head start in lower freight and better knowledge of the needs of those markets. Furthermore, since the departure of the metropolitan powers administering these regions, there has developed a large urban middle class of local administrators, businessmen, professionals and others with consumption habits similar, but not identical, to those of many Australians. It is also significant that most of this new urban middle class is better disposed towards Australia and Australians than it is towards a number of our competitors.
Of particular importance is the tremendous spending power of consumers that is developing in the five member nations of the Association of South East Asian Nations. These five nationsMalaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand- are experiencing phenomenal growth rates of between 6 per cent and 8.5 per cent per annum. Australia has already benefited to some extent from the growing consumer demand of ASEAN. From 1971-72 to 1977-78 Australian exports to ASEAN grew by 17 per cent per annum to $853m. Despite the steady growth of exports to ASEAN and the fact that the trade balance with ASEAN is in our favour,
Australia’s imports of ASEAN goods for the same period, 1971-72 to 1977-78, increased by an incredible 34 per cent per annum to $557m. At that rate of increase it will not be long before our favourable trade balance is reversed, unless our exports to ASEAN are expanded. Furthermore, in the medium to high technology areas of Australian industry there is considerable scope for doing just that. It is this type of industry that ASEAN countries cannot themselves sustain.
In this regard, and at the risk of sounding a little parochial, I mention a firm in my own electorate of Henty, namely, PCM Electronics Pty Ltd. It is typical of the firms we should be encouraging to export. PCM Electronics is a small, high technology, very efficient firm that, to my mind, is very much the Australian manufacturing business of the future. Against very stiff competition from major companies in Japan, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Holland, PCM Electronics has secured substantial contracts for its radio and other electronic equipment in Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. In addition to the export of medium and high technology manufactured goods to South East Asia and the South Pacific, there is extensive scope for the export of Australian food products, consultancy services and technological expertise and for Australian involvement in joint venture projects.
It should be noted that much of what has been said concerning the export potential of South East Asia and the South Pacific applies also to the developing nations of the Middle East and Latin America. A number of countries in these regions have embarked or are about to embark on the rapid growth path that has characterised ASEAN in recent years. The market implications for Australian exports are obviously similar to the situation already pertaining in ASEAN. Furthermore, by encouraging a vigorous Australian trade relationship with the developing nations of South East Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East and Latin America we will promote our mutual economic prosperity and steadily eliminate the grinding poverty that has characterised so many developing countries. Standards of living are not raised by rhetoric, empty slogans and impossible promises. Even foreign aid programs can sometimes by only short term panaceas for larger and longer term problems. What will lift people from poverty in the developing nations is honest, just and efficient government, a sound economy and, above all, healthy competitive international trade.
Turning from Australia’s trade relationship with the developing nations, it is appropriate now to focus attention on our longer term established trading partner, Japan. Over the past two decades, Japan has gradually assumed the trading role formerly reserved for the United Kingdom. In fact, today nearly 60 per cent of our mining exports, a quarter of our farm exports and some 32 per cent of Australia’s total exports go to Japan. In recent years Australia ‘s trade balance with Japan has been running at a ratio of about 2: 1 in our favour. A sophisticated industrial nation of 1 IS million people, Japan and her manufacturing industries are presently facing similar problems to Australian industry. Japan’s low technology manufacturing industries are increasingly unable to compete with the lower cost, low technology industries of the developing nations. Accordingly, Japan, like Australia, is finding it increasingly necessary to restructure her industrial sector. Further, the fall-off in demand for steel throughout the Western world has forced Japan to reduce her iron ore imports from Australia.
Despite these problems two developments are taking place in the Japanese economy that augur well for Australian products and services. Firstly, the consumption habits of younger Japanese are moving closer to those of Australia, North America and Western Europe. This is especially marked in respect of tastes in food where, for instance, there is a growing trend to prefer beef to the traditional fish and rice that dominate the diet of older Japanese. Currently Australia has under way in Japan a major promotion campaign for beef so as to maximise the benefit to Australia of this important change in the behaviour of the younger Japanese consumer. The second development in Japan potentially of value to Australia is the internal consequence of Japan’s bulging trade surplus. Although, as I have mentioned, the trade balance between Australian and Japan is highly favourable to Australia, generally speaking, that is not characteristic of Japan’s trade balance with the rest of the world, which is reverse. Trade balances elsewhere are usually very much in Japan’s favour.
As part of a genuine attempt on the part of Japan to redress this situation by cutting exports, the Japanese government and Japanese companies are endeavouring to persuade Japanese workers to reduce from a six-day or a five-and-a-half-day working week to a five-day week and to take all leave due to them. Pursuading the highly motivated, work-oriented Japanese worker not to work so hard is proving somewhat difficult. In fact, there have been cases of people simply refusing to work less. As we all know, the problem in Australia is the complete reverse. However, from the increased leisure time that will eventually become available to the Japanese people, we can expect a heightened interest in recreation, sport and tourism. As Australia excels in the production of high quality sporting goods, motor boats, sail craft, other recreational goods and various associated services, Australian exporters should be ready to take advantage of what is happening in Japan at the moment. At the same time this applies equally to our tourist industry. It is worth adding that as increased leisure time becomes available in the more advanced ASEAN nations, particularly Singapore and Malaysia, similar market possibilities will open up in those countries for Australian exporters of recreational goods and for the tourist industry.
In essence, Australian prospects for the future look highly promising except for two qualifications. Firstly, substantial expansion of our exports depends on Australia being competitive in a tough international market place. To this end, the success of this Government in more than halving inflation over the past three years has restored much of the competitive edge of Australian industry. However, Australia is not out of the woods yet. It is imperative that the vast bulk of responsible individuals, industrial organisations and businesses continue to exercise wage restraint. Secondly, the militant and irresponsible elements which disrupt our ports through strikes, go-slows and outright violence must be curbed. The events on the Brisbane wharves the other day were a disgraceful and deplorable episode which did nothing to help boost our export position. In fact, such incidents retard that very objective. It is sad to relate, nevertheless regrettably true, that the operation of Australia’s ports stands a sorry comparison with such superbly efficient ports as the port of Singapore.
Notwithstanding these difficulties, the Government’s export development initiatives are most welcome. I fully support the Minister’s statement and the Bills being debated with it- the Export Expansion Grants Bill and the amendment to the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act. Trade is the very lifeblood of a nation such as Australia. I am sure that we will all see that lifeblood flowing vigorously again in the near future, with the support of the Government initiatives which are now being introduced.
– The Opposition welcomes the statement by the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) on export incentives and recognises that the Government is making an acknowledgment, albeit belatedly, of the need for such incentives. They have been needed for at least two years. I wonder whether it would be sheer cynicism to assume that record unemployment has forced the Government at last to recognise the problem and do something even marginally worth while. But where is the long term policy? What will we do to recover the lost markets? In the last few years some of the most substantial markets which we had for some of our more important products have disappeared. Where in the statement has the Government spelt out what it will do to recover markets for beef, steel, iron ore, sugar, canned fruits and many of our other better products? I feel that further statements need to be made in support of spelling out policies to back the initiatives referred to in the ministerial statement.
Numerous aspects of the statement on export development initiatives are unsatisfactory. Significantly, the Minister made his statement before the tabling of the Industries Assistance Commission report on export incentives, as has already been referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). We find it extraordinarily hard to understand that that is the case. The Minister’s statement does not set out any long term strategy for the development of more markets overseas. It does not deal with the long term structural problems besetting manufacturing industry. Surely that is a matter which is intricately bound up with export incentives. The IAC report states that, whatever the Government intends to dollop out as incentives for manufacturers to export, the harsh fact is that Australian manufacturing industries in the export sector pay, in effect, a tax of $ 103m via the cost of the tariff structure on their material inputs. In the case of many export industries, components are imported from overseas and the manufactured item is assembled or completed in Australia. The IAC report examines the problems inherent in the tariff and subsidy system protecting Australian industry. Briefly, the point made by the IAC is that in many respects the tariff structure operates against the need for efficiency. The IAC report reads:
Domestic industries in general have been discouraged from competing on the world market by the protective structure operating in Australia.
The average level of effective protection of importcompeting manufacturing industries in Australia was about 28 per cent in 1 974-75 and would be even higher now.
In contrast, manufacturing exports are penalised because assistance to import compering industries increases the costs of material inputs and this has resulted in a negative average effective rate of export subsidy of about 5 per cent in 1974-75.
That is an extract from the IAC report which was never tabled. Perhaps the most important comment to be made about the IAC findings is that the system of high protection for import competing industries has raised the overall cost structure in the economy and that the net effect has been to provide a wider range of products for the domestic market. But it has done nothing to help the export market. One point that needs to be stressed is that despite the $600m in mineral exports during the 1960s and the early 1970s, Australian manufacturing industry has not developed significant export markets to the same extent as have overseas countries. In fact, international trade accounts today for about 16 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product, which is the same level that applied nine years ago. That is a sorry indictment of this Government which is now in power and which is alleged to be dedicated to free enterprise.
In the light of these factors it is worthwhile analysing a few of the initiatives undertaken by the Whitlam Government in regard to the promotion of Australian products overseas. Incentive schemes which were operating between 1972 and 1975 provided by way of tax rebates, export incentive grants and export market development allowances $83m in 1972-73 and $92m in 1973-74; and in the financial year 1974-75 these schemes cost $106m. That $106m was wisely and well spent. One can see that during the period Labor was in government the money provided for export incentives was consistently increased.
How does that compare with the record of this Government? I would like to tell honourable members. Last year a paltry $32m was provided by this Government. The Government now proposes that a maximum of $ 100m be provided by it for the financial year 1978-79. That is not as much as was provided three years ago. The big question from the taxpayer’s point of view is: What will the scheme cost? The Government said that it will cost $ 100m in the first year. The cost of incentives in this first year will be $66m and the cost of export market development will be $34m, making a total of $ 100m. However, no mention is made of the cost in the second year and the subsequent years. As the concept envisages forward planning to June 1 982, 1 think it is important that the Government spells out exactly what the scheme will cost in future years. Some of the high flying schemes about which the Government has trumpeted in the last few years were other examples where we were not told what the cost would be. I think we should look in retrospect at the cost of the investment allowance which has been reintroduced by this Government. I do not think the cost has been accurately estimated yet, but it would run into thousands of millions of dollars. What did that scheme produce? All it meant was that manufactures, people in industry, bought highly sophisticated, imported machinery that did nothing to help our manufacturing industry and, in the long run, resulted in industries being more automated and people being put out of work. I hope that the unspecified cost for this scheme does not run to that sort of monstrous level.
I come back to the $100m which the Government says this scheme will cost this year. That amount is not as much as was provided three years ago. It is staggering that at a time of high inflation and at a time when many Australian industries are in decline, this Government should in the last financial year spend only a third of the sum provided by the Labor Government in the way of export incentives three years ago. Now we have a ministerial statement which is a belated attempt to rectify that which has not been done for the past two years under this Government. When the Labor Party was last in government we proposed the idea that the Overseas Trading Corporation be established in order to promote Australian products in overseas markets. That could have been, as the Government knows, an excellent vehicle by which to promote Australian products and by which to liaise with overseas governments. The establishment of the Corporation was initiated by the former honourable member for Melbourne Ports, Mr Frank Crean, primarily in order to deal with the countries of the Middle East and those with centrally planned economies and to provide a world marketing base for Australian manufacturers. It was a perfect indication of the realism shown by the Labor Party in regard to trade matters. Yet the approach of the then Opposition, the present Government, was predictably entirely negative and destructive. When the establishment of the Australian Overseas Trading Corporation was debated in 1975, the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony)- I notice that he has left the chamber- stormed in these terms:
This Bill is an attempt to nationalise indirectly some of Australia’s export industries. It is no surprise that a socialist government should attempt to gain control of Australia’s exports which represent the greatest source of wealth to this nation.
That statement can be found at page 1076 of Hansard of 4 September 1975. Instead of engaging in constructive, rational discussion about the proposal to establish an overseas trading corporation, the then Opposition fumed and ranted about phoney issues, claiming that we intended to nationalise all Australian exporters. I hope people were listening to the remarks that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made about the Western Australian Lamb Marketing Corporation, Mr Deputy Speaker. That is the sort of socialism about which people of your political persuasion rant and rave. That is the sort of government involvement that this country needs. Giving it the name socialism does not offend us, but apparently it worries honourable members opposite. It was suggested also that the legislation to establish the Corporation helped only to extend our trading links with those contemptuously called our ‘commie friends’. The fact is that if Australia is to develop new markets for our manufacturing industry and our primary products, those markets are unlikely to be found with our traditional trading partners. With the present worldwide recession, trade barriers are being erected in most of the developed countries. This is especially the case in regard to agricultural products.
– Not with uranium.
– All the honourable member can think of is uranium. All he can think of is digging out uranium and providing some bloated profits, and never mind the future generations who have to put up with the waste products. The honourable member has fairly named his mark. Significantly the new markets that have been found for our primary industry products have been found in nations such as China. I dare say that the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) would have terrible reservations about our trading with China- the dreaded China. Does the honourable member remember when Mr Whitlam made his visit to China in 1971 the uproar that occurred in Australia? I think it was said that he was bending his knee in obeisance to Mao Tse Tung. I do not hear honourable members opposite these days referring to China as Red China. China is one of our big trading partners, and honourable members opposite should thank the Labor Government for developing that market and for making them realise that China is not the ogre or the bogeyman depicted for 200 years.
We have found markets also in the Soviet Union and in the Middle East countries. They are our big trading partners now. It is in these regions that we should be concentrating our efforts on the export of Australian products. It was to that end that the Overseas Trading Corporation Bill was introduced by the Labor Government. It is a matter of public record that the then Opposition ruthlessly used its power to block that Bill in the Senate and hence destroyed the trading opportunities that may have been available through an Overseas Trading Corporation. Belatedly, as we can see from the Minister’s statement, the present Government has come around to the same conclusion.
This Government has now decided to establish an Overseas Projects Corporation- a corporation whose purpose will be identical to that proposed by the Labor Government in relation to the Overseas Trading Corporation. The Minister in his statement on export development initiatives stated:
Australian firms frequently seek government assistance to compete against overseas interests that are receiving support from their governments for projects in the Middle East and other new markets.
These new markets largely are to be found in the Eastern Bloc countries which prefer government to government negotiations on trade matters. The Minister went on to say:
The Government has completed its discussions with industry organisations and I have presented a Bil] proposing the establishment of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation to the Parliament with a view to the Corporation commencing operations during 1979.
That was from the Minister’s statement of 13 April 1978. What a pity the Government did not have the foresight, wisdom and intelligence to let the Corporation commence in the early 1970s when it was proposed by our Government. Obviously, as the Minister states clearly, it is because Australian firms seek government assistance in regard to promoting their products overseas that this Corporation has been proposed. This is exactly the same argument as the Labor Government used in justifying the Overseas Trading Corporation Bill. So much for the outrageous claim of the Leader of the National Country Party three years ago that this proposal would lead to the expropriation of Australian exporters. Of course there is a need for promoting export industries in times of high unemployment. I was interested to hear the honourable member for Henty (Mr Aldred), whom I regard as one of the more reasonable people on that side of the House, pouring scorn on the Australian work force. I think that people should look at the Jackson report to see what it said about the inefficiency in the management level of our manufacturing industry. The Jackson report did not castigate the work force as some of the Government members tried to do.
The honourable member for Henty spoke of an organisation in his electorate- which is now exporting successfully. I would like to mention an organisation in my electorate. It is known as International Combustion Aust Ltd which, in defiance of the Jackson report, has exhibited some management expertise and because of that expertise it is not exporting but, what is equally important, it is combating Japanese firms that are getting all the big contracts in Australia for the building of combustion boilers. This company recently landed a very large contract, running into hundreds of millions of dollars, with the Victorian Electricity Commission in direct competition with the Japanese industry. This points up that there is nothing wrong with the expertise or workmanship of Australian tradesmen. The workmanship that I have seen in that organisation is just incredible. The work that they are doing in manufacturing boilers which are the best in the world really is something of which Australians can be proud. We should not heap all the blame for our manufacturing industry problems on the work force.
Let us look at the Jackson report and put some of the complaints back on management which has not updated its ideas for the last 30 years, basically because of the high protection barriers that have been put up. There are some other vaguenesses inherent in the Minister’s statement when he talked about improving industries or making them more viable as far as an export proposition is concerned. He did not mention any industry. If he had said that something would be done for the textile industry, the motor industry or the electronics industry, perhaps the statement would have had some validity. But it does not. It is vacuous; it is vague. It merely states platitudes that we have heard many times before. I would like to see him come back with more reports that fill out the bones and tell us exactly what the Government proposes to do.
His statement contained some sort of a reference to tourism. How will the Government help the tourism industry, about which the honourable member for Henty spoke, when the Government is obstructive in the promotion of cheaper air fares to encourage people to come to Australia? The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) who is the shadow minister for tourism spoke in the House yesterday of the need for government initiatives to help the tourism industry become more viable, perhaps by way of increased depreciation allowance on buildings and other initiatives that he mentioned. This report does not mention that point. It does not go into any detail at all. No reference is made as to how the figures of $66m and $34m were arrived at. The Government tells us that it will spend $66m this year on incentives. It spent $32m last year. If it had spelt out exactly how it proposed to double the expenditure, perhaps the report might have had more validity, but it does not.
Finally, we acknowledge the fact that the Government is wanting to do something although we do not agree with the way it intends to do it or the extent to which it wants to do it. At least it intends to do something. We believe that these export incentives should complement other measures, such as a gradual reduction in the high levels of assistance or new initiatives which could arise from the Crawford report on structural adjustment, a very valuable report that does not get a mention in the Minister’s statement. The Government, however, has ignored this approach in moving for increased export incentives now. This is perhaps understandable in the light of the Government’s early election promises of export incentives. So it is merely fulfilling an election promise without really looking at the problem. The Government simply cannot continue pushing out palliatives in the form of protection and export subsidies without addressing itself to the difficult question of the future of manufacturing industry. Failure to do so will inevitably mean a continuation of less efficient, highly protected industries and ultimately a smaller industrial base. If that happens we really will be in trouble.
-It is indeed sad for me to follow in this House a speaker such as the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) who has only recently entered this Parliament but who is following the bad and sorry trail of other members of the Opposition who can only ever come into this chamber and speak about doom and gloom, be negative, run the Government down, let the country down, complain about things and not adopt a nonpartisan attitude which we should all of course adopt on anything to assist the export of Australian goods and services. We on this side of the House are proud of the record of the Government in export and export consciousness. I am particularly pleased to be following the honourable member for Henty (Mr Aldred) as a speaker on the Government side. Incidentally, the honourable member’s speech on this matter was one of the best back bench speeches that I have heard in this chamber for many months. Of course the honourable member is the Chairman of the Trade Sub-committee of the Government Members Trade and Resources Committee. I am pleased to share some of the work on that subcommittee.
– He knows what he is talking about.
– I agree that he knows what he is talking about because, like myself, the honourable member for Henty has spent some time working in the Government service in an area that deals with this Bill. During my six years in the Department of Trade and Industry where I learnt a little about what it means to serve one’s country in a non-partisan way, I learnt that the export of Australian goods overseas is an absolute cornerstone of this nation’s prosperity and future. I suggest that members opposite should look at the Department of Trade and Resources as a very effective department and not complain that certain legislation is not coming through as quickly as they would like or in the order that they would like. That department is hard pressed with the enormous amount of work that it is doing at the moment. Of course, under the staff ceiling provisions that are applying in the Australian Capital Territory and elsewhere, the department is having difficulties.
I would also like to put on record, speaking on the matter of export, how appreciative the Government is of the work which is done by officers of the Department of Trade and Resources. In passing I would like to note that some of the most senior public servants in Canberra at this time were trained in the Department of Trade and Industry, as it then was, under the tutelage of Sir Alan Westerman and of course Sir John McEwen who was the then Leader of the Country Party. When one thinks of other people such as Sir Alan Carmody, Mr Currie, Mr Scully and Mr Wood one realises that that department has given a lot to the Australian people.
Going back to the past, I would just like to run through some matters with which I had some connection when I was in the department in 1968, which is exactly ten years ago. I suppose the experience that I had then proves that really nothing changes in the world. In 1968, the then Chairman of the Export Development Council, Sir Charles McGrath, in commenting upon the need to export, said:
Australia’s growth in the ‘seventies will rest substantially on our collective ability as a nation to marshal our resources and sell goods and services overseas sufficient to buy from other countries the goods and services we are unable to provide ourselves.
Top management in Australian industry, both primary and manufacturing, will need to accept a very determined and sustained commitment to the development of export income earning activities, if we are to build an economically strong nation.
A continuing high rate of growth will assure a future for our young and expanding population and is a national responsibility. It cannot be discharged lightly and will require all our resources, ability, expertise and skill as a nation in producing and selling our exports abroad.
Nothing seems to have changed. Export is still a corner-stone of this nation, a corner-stone of its trade. The only thing that seems to have changed enormously over the last 10 years has been cost: A crippling cost explosion in manufacturing industry, has wiped out our ability in certain areas to export. I cannot but comment as to why we have lost the ability to export manufactured goods. The reason was the explosively high inflation which took place under the previous Labor administration. We saw our markets being wiped out and our exporters, who had put years and years of hard work into developing them, become absolutely frustrated as they realised that they could not compete in regard to cost.
When people from the opposite side of the chamber ask what this Government is doing about exporting and improving our balance of payments situation, the real answer to be given is that it has a conscious policy of reducing costs, interest rates and inflation so that, as manufacturing, primary industry and the production of minerals go forward we can once again compete in world markets. There is no doubt that if the 20-plus per cent rate of inflation that existed in 1 975 had continued we would have found it very difficult, without massive devaluation, to export anything at all. The policy of the Government has been to help exporters get back into export markets both through the tangible assistance that is being provided in the Bills before us and through its general economic thrust. It is also, by its very positive economic policies, encouraging capital inflow.
To return to 1968, one of the most interesting, things of note was that the aim of National Export Week, which was promoted by the Export Development Council and organised by Arch White, a member of the Council, who worked tirelessly over a nine-month period, was the doubling of Australia’s exports within 10 years. In 1967-68 Australia exported $3,000m worth of goods and services. It is interesting to note that in the most recent financial year, 1977-78, Australia’s exports totalled more than $ 1 1,000m. I realise that a good proportion of the difference in the amount, which in 10 years has almost quadrupled, is attributable to inflation, but in 1968, when the Export Development Council said, ‘We are going to make the theme of the National Export Week the doubling of our exports in the next 10 years’, there were in Australia many Jeremiahs who said: ‘That is nonsense; you cannot achieve it’; but it has been achieved.
There is much to be learnt from that- that even with our high costs of production we should today be able to go into the export markets of the world, develop our trade, widen our industrial base and, by promoting exports, both increase our standard of living and help increase that of other countries.
In the 1960s it was fashionable to talk about export action. Most of the firms one saw as one went around Australia had export symbols on the wall of the plant. They had export managers, and the regional offices of the Department of Trade and Industry were very active. They were at the forefront of Government activity within the manufacturing and business sector. They were welcome public servants- unlike so many who go into industry now and are told, ‘Look government, keep your big fingers out; we can operate without you’ In the 1960’s the Department of Trade and Industry was very welcome. I am sure that it is still; that it would not be thrown out the door, but in those days it was usual to think: ‘Export; we are a trading nation; we have to go out and trade. We have to sell our.products overseas’. There was a genuine consciousness, engendered by an active export action campaign abroad in the community. I believe that the policies of those times could be adopted as the policies of today.
The belief of the Trade sub-committee of the Government members committee is that there is a need for a greater export consciousness. We were very pleased when the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) delivered his paper on export development initiatives. Since 1976 we had been saying that this would be good for Australia and very worth while for all in our manufacturing, primary and secondary industry areas.
– It is taking you a long time to get around to it.
– I do not think that is true. The Government is moving forward in a positive way in relation to export consciousness. If honourable members take the trouble to go into the community, into the wider world, and talk to the manufacturers, they will learn that manufacturers are again beginning to think ‘export’. Honourable members must realise that in 1 974, 1975 and 1976 manufacturers could not think export’ because they could not compete. That had been the result of the massive cost inflation that had been imposed upon them by a government that had allowed the local economy to get out of control and had followed that by giving manufacturing a swift kick in the guts by lowering tariffs, by 25 per cent. Who could have thought about exporting in those days, when companies were trying to survive?
I repeat, as one travels around one sees that manufacturers are looking overseas, are trying to get exports going again; are begining to see Australia in the context of South East Asia, in the context- as the honourable member for Parramatta so rightly pointed out- of China, which represents an enormous market to our north. I would not want to detract from the good work that was done by Mr Whitlam in going to China and opening up that area, or the good commonsense of our leader, Prime Minister Fraser, in following that up. Many honourable members opposite thought that Mr Fraser would not wish to talk to the Chinese, that he was some form of terrible conservative wearing blinkers who would move away from that relationship. He did not do that. He went over there and surprised everyone. Now the Chinese are, of course, Mr Fraser ‘s very good friends.
– Imagine if they all bought a pig.
-If they all bought anything at all it would be very useful. It would be even better if they bought a little bit of Swan lager, I would imagine. When we examine the Government’s economic policy on exporting we derive hope for the future. One need have no doubt at all that in the coming years our export figures will improve. It would be as well for members of the Opposition to get nicely behind exporting, so that some of those very vibrant factories down in the electorate of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis)- where I was brought up- can participate. The honourable member for Gellibrand and I went to the same school- Hyde Street State School. We were both struggling working boys.
– You have both come a long way.
– As the honourable member for Diamond Valley has said, we have both come a long way. I believe that the doubling of exports in 10 years, as was aimed at by the Department of Trade and Industry through the Export Development Council in 1968, has been well and truly achieved and I hope that this Government, over the coming 12 months or so, will get down to the work of getting export consciousness going again right throughout the whole of the community so that we can aim at doubling exports again in the coming decade.
– I regret that the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) has been called from the chamber. He was here for most of the debate. Some points were made by Opposition speakers, chiefly, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), and I have some notes on those points which might be helpful to the House. Apparently in dealing with the Australian content of eligible goods there was some criticism of clauses 4(1) (a) and 4(1) (b) of the Export Expansion Grants Bill. That is exactly the same as the equivalent sections 5 ( 1 ) (a) and 5 ( 1 ) (b) of the Export Market Development Grants Act, which was passed in 1974 by the Labor Government. It means that normally there must be a 50 per cent Australian content but the Export Development Grants Board may use its discretion for a lower percentage. The Government is content that the Board will exercise that discretion with care.
A question was asked about who gets the benefit. Apparently there was concern that the agent might get the benefit. I am assured that this is not so as Clause 3 (3) specifically provides that where an agent is used the export earnings go to the principal. Apparently a question was raised concerning the Trade Commissioner Service. The advice I have is that the Trade Commissioner Service is to be strengthened in the Middle East. Someone asked what is happening to the Export Market Development Grants Bill. Preparation of that Bill is almost finalised. There was no point in holding up the legislation before the House until that was ready. In any case exporters will not be getting the benefits from the revision of the export market development grants until the next grant year. I believe that a question was also asked in respect of freight subsidy. The point is that this could be a bottomless pit. The problem would be how to contain the cost. If freight is subsidised, the only effect might be for the rates to go up. They are the notes I have had handed to me. The Minister, in a Committee stage debate later, might care to comment further on those matters.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Mr Adermann for Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That this Bill be referred to a legislation committee for report by 26 October 1978.
Consideration resumed from 16 August, on motion by Mr Anthony:
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 Adermann) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 13 April, on the following paper presented by Mr Anthony:
Export Development Initiatives- Ministerial Statement, 13 April 1978- and on motion by Mr Fife:
That the House take note of the paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Giles)Nominations of members to the legislation committee to consider the Trade Practices Amendment Bill have been received. The Government members are: Mr Fife (member in charge of the Bill), Mr Baillieu, Mr Braithwaite, Mr Dean, Dr Edwards, Mr Hyde, Mr Lusher, Mr McLean, Sir William McMahon, Mr Ian Robinson, and Mr Short. The Opposition members are: Mr John Brown, Mr Holding, Mr Hurford, Mr Barry Jones and Mr Kerin.
-Nominations of members to the legislation committee to consider the Export Expansion Grants Bill have been received. The Government members are: Mr Anthony (member in charge of the Bill), Mr Aldred, Mr Baillieu, Mr Baume, Mr Kevin Cairns, Mr Hyde, Mr Lloyd, Mr Lusher, Mr McLean, Sir William McMahon and Mr Short. The Opposition members are: Mr Armitage, Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr John Brown, Mr Howe and Mr Hurford.
Consideration resumed from 18 October.
Department of Transport
Proposed expenditure, $3 1 1,581,000.
– I wish to bring to the attention of the Committee some of the elements that comprise the estimates for the Department of Transport, particularly in regard to information being sought and statistics being gathered as to those aspects that will allow sensible and well-planned decisions to be made in regard to transport. I refer particularly to those sections of transport that impinge upon Australia’s export capacity. Recent figures that I have to hand indicate that transport costs for Australian export goods have risen by something over 700 per cent in the past 7 years. Costs in comparable countries, such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America and New Zealand, range between a 250 percent and a 350 per cent increase in the same seven years. This leads one to examine in detail some of the factors that influence the increased costs of freight and the increased cost of transporting Australian goods from the place of manufacture or production to their place of sale, the eventual delivery point.
One can break down these costs into three factors. The first is the land-based factor- the cost of transport from the factory or farm to the seaboard. There are often intermediate handling stages which add to the costs. One is very interested to see the activities of the Australian Wool Corporation and similar primary producer-type bodies, whether they be statutory or simply voluntary grower bodies, in attempting to minimise the number of handlings and the costs that accrue to increased handling through any system. I think that the work of the Australian Wool Corporation should be commended, both for the statistical information it provides, its analysis of cost factors and the steps it has taken to minimise the number of times that bales of wool are handled.
However, that cannot be said for most Australian exporting industries. Information is extremely scarce as to the handling charges and the cost of those handling charges on the land element of freight cost. One has to search far and wide to get relevant statistics and relevant information. The Bureau of Transport Economics is doing some important work with particular commodities. However, it would be my view that what we need to do as best we can is to assess the broad range of land-based costs. I suggest to the Government that some effort be made to assess the costs of a broad range of commodities that can be attributed to the movement overland from farm or factory to the seaboard.
I come now to the second factor that one must consider when one looks at the cost of Australian freight charges. That is the repackaging of bulk freight into containers and the movement of those containers to ships, and the more simple handling process for moving general cargo from the wharf into the vessel. For the purpose of this discussion I intend to concentrate on general cargoes. I draw to the attention of the Committee the change that has taken place in the mode of handling cargoes in Australia over the last 10 years. With the introduction of containerisation great advantages have been taken by many freight handling companies and snipping companies. In many instances I am unsure what direct advantage has flowed to the Australian producer. One would question the way in which charges are decided. I think that the ready answer from such handlers and shipping companies would be that they have been able to delay increases rather than to give other real, direct benefits to Australian producers or exporters.
Be that as it may, the cost of handling on the Australian waterfront has brought about an increasing and dynamic will to increase the mechanisation of handling of cargo. A great number of jobs have been lost on the Australian waterfront. One need look only at the Australian waterfront to become concerned about the cost of disruption. The public at large tends to look at the Australian Waterside Workers Federation and to say that it is to blame. I think that is a simplistic approach. The Australian community is uninformed as to what happens on the waterfront. It is quite easy for a small unionmaintenance workers, members of the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union- to close down the whole waterfront in Sydney or Melbourne and to prevent movement of all freight. As few as 28 men may be involved. Within a few days the dispute can flow over to the Federated Clerks Union, the Transport Workers Union and the Australian Workers Union. In that way a small number of peoplenot necessarily waterside workers- can cause a long disruption. We have seen that recently in Australia.
Whilst the major debate and discussion about the cost of labour and the conditions that should apply for the next two years started with the Australian Waterside Workers Federation, that disruption flowed on to many other uinons and stoppages, disputes and disruption occurred- the public generally thinking that it was caused by the waterside workers. When one hears the secretary of that Federation say that there should be only one union servicing the waterfront one is inclined to agree with him for the sake of industrial peace and sensible decision-making. Whether that will ever happen in Australia, I do not know. I think there is much to be said for it coming about. If that is not possible, however, I think as Australians we must be aware that the increased mechanisation that has taken place will continue as shippers, ship owners and cargo handlers try to break down the level of manpower on the waterfront.
The recent dispute in Sydney and Melbourne cost one company $lm in seven days. One shipping company has told me that one of the six vessels it had on the Australian route took 31 days to go through the Australian system, instead of nine. The cost per day of that vessel was $23,000. Such increased costs will be borne by Australian industry and Australian exporters in the form of higher charges. Those costs come back to the Australian citizen, who has to bear the load eventually. I think it is unfortunate that we have not been able to apply our minds sufficiently well to prevent activities of this type from taking place.
Sea freight is the third factor I would like to discuss. The way in which freight rates are set between shipping conferences and individual producers or between conferences and the Australian Shippers Council is an important feature in settling freight charges. Freights have risen regularly. One of the real difficulties that we have as a nation is that we are completely dependent on ship owners to move our goods and in that way to earn our export income. The entry of nonconference lines into the Australian shipping route has had a fairly significant impact on the increase in the cost of freight. At this stage I would think that the entry of non-conference shipping lines has been basically beneficial. It has forced conference lines to contain their cost increases and demands. However, one must maintain a watching brief on the activity of nonconference lines to see that their charges are legitimate and in fact are not being subsidised by a foreign government in order to gain too large a percentage of the Australian market and in that way to hold Australian exporters to ransom.
I hope that the Government can see its way clear to study the details and the conditions that have to be met by Australian exporters and identify real cost increases so that by appropriate action with the will of all the people involvedthe exporter, the purchaser and government departments- the best result can be achieved.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-It was interesting to hear the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), mention the amalgamation of unions. The union he was condemning, the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union, is an amalgamation of about five different unions. When we tried to introduce legislation to facilitate union amalgamation colleagues of the honourable member saw fit to oppose that proposition. I did not intend to speak today about roads because I had something to say on the closure of railway lines. But I am prompted by a couple of news items to do so. An article in Tuesday ‘s Adelaide Advertiser states:
The NT Chief Minister, Mr Everingham, yesterday urged Central Australian business men to boycott trade with SA until the SA Government upgraded about 800 kilometres of the Stuart Highway.
He said the highway from the NT border through the centre of SA was in total disrepair . . .
The Chief Minister said the Central Australian market was worth about $70m a year to SA.
For that sort of money Central Australians deserved an adequately-surfaced highway.
I agree with his last comment. He went on to say that central Australian business people should be looking to the eastern States. If Mr Everingham is looking at anyone he should be looking at the members of the present Government. He should refer back to a telex in which certain promises were made by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). That telex was sent to the Mayor of Alice Springs just prior to the last election. It was carried in a big half page newspaper advertisement last May. It states:
The Federal Minister for Transport, Mr Peter Nixon, has, however, firmly committed the Country/Liberal Party Government to commence work on the reconstruction of the Stuart Highway in 1 978.
After discussing the issue with Mr Sam Calder M.P. and Senator Bernie Kilgariff, I believe it necessary to identify a special fund allocation specifically for the reconstruction of the Stuart Highway.
This would mean, in addition to funds provided to the SA Government as part of the National program and for allocation at their direction, there would be a specific sum provided to up-grade the Stuart Highway over a period of years.
Of course since that statement was made the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has been reneging on or shying away from the commitment that was given by his colleague. Last May at a meeting the Minister met members of both sides of the chamber and various interested business people and it was suggested that more money be allocated to South Australia so that it could prooceed with work on the Stuart Highway. The Minister refused to allocate any additional finance. The only suggestion he could come up with was that South Australia should prune some other program to allow money to be spent on the Stuart Highway. The northern part of South Australia has a number of very bad roads. The Minister was virtually saying that the programs which were being carried out in that area should be stopped so that money could be diverted to the Stuart Highway instead of a special allocation being made to South Australia to complete the road as was promised in the election campaign.
I was intrigued by something which appeared in today’s Adelaide Advertiser. Following the meeting mentioned the South Australian Minister and the Commonwealth Minister agreed to have their officers meet to decide what programs could be pruned. The South Australian Minister agreed to the pruning of expenditure in excess of over $900,000. Today ‘s Advertiser states:
The extra Sim allocated by the Federal Government for the Stuart Highway would be enough to build only about 33 kilometres of the Port Augusta Woomera section, Senator Jessop (South Australia) said yesterday.
The extra allocation was announced in Parliament last week by the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon.
Senator Jessop . . . said some Government members believed a more substantial sum would be needed in subsequent years ‘-
The report goes on, but the inference is that the Federal Government has allocated an additional $lm to the Stuart Highway. It certainly has not. The amount of $lm which will be provided to commence work on the Stuart Highway this year has been taken from other allocations made to South Australia. This has meant that other important road works in that part of South Australia are being pruned to allow work on the Port Augusta- Woomera section to commence. I feel that the Government announcement is misleading. The Government certainly has not made any additional finance available.
The main point of my speech, although I have used half of my time now talking about roads, relates to the closure of the South Australian country railway services. Many services already have been affected. Passenger services have been cut in many areas. Two lines in my electorate, the Wilmington-Gladstone and the PeterboroughQuorn, have been recommended for closure. Two committees have been established by the Government to examine the viability of these lines. I feel that both committees have looked at the closures purely from an economic point of view and have recommended their closure. They obviously have not taken into account the social factors, the effect on employment and so on. Railway action committees have been trying to keep these railway lines open. They have brought forward some very strong points which have been put to the government committees. I will mention a few. No form of transport can carry bulk items like a railway. The action committee points out that the retail cost of fossil fuel is escalating and as time goes on it will become dearer and dearer. Any figure which applies now will not be correct in a few years time. The cost of road transport, which uses most fossil fuel, will get higher and higher. The increase in road traffic which will occur because of the closure of these railway lines will place a greater strain on roads which already are not up to standard. On the October long weekend many cars used the highway in the area of these two lines to travel to the Flinders Ranges. The road finished up in bad condition as a result of the increased traffic. The closure of the railway line will have many social effects. The South Australian Minister for Transport has not agreed to the closure of these lines. He has asked that the matter, in accordance with the relevant Act, should go to arbitration. Clause 9 of the Railway Transfer Agreement provides:
1 ) The Australian Minister will obtain the prior agreement of the State Minister to-
The arbitrator shall, in addition to the factors referred to in sub-clause (2) of Clause 23, take into account the level of public demand and the need for the railway line and services referred to in sub-clause ( 1 ) of this clause.
Clause 23 relating to arbitration in the Agreement provides as follows:
The last three matters that are contained in the Agreement and which have to be considered by the arbitrator are important. The Minister has agreed that the lines which go through rural areas and which carry superphosphate, wheat, and general goods will not be closed prior to the coming harvest. That at least will get these people through the year. The committees that have been formed to keep these railway lines open have asked that the railway lines be kept open for a further five years to allow consideration of the economic position. A matter mentioned by one of the action committees was that a recent economic study of the lines was conducted during drought conditions and as a result revenue earned by the railway was abnormally low. These areas have had three years of drought. It is quite obvious that the revenue from the railway lines in that period would be very low. The committee goes on to say:
We feel that if this line has been earmarked for closure, further economic studies should be conducted especially over a period when seasonal conditions are favourable. We request that any thoughts of closing the line be deferred for five years and that in this period the economics of the line should be fully and honestly studied and considered by both the Federal Minister for Transport and the Australian National Railways Commission.
I ask that the Minister for Transport take those points into consideration.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
-The following nominations of members to the legislation committee to consider the Public Service Amendment Bill have been received. Government members are Mr Viner, the member in charge of the Bill, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Dobie, Mr Falconer, Mr Fisher, Mr Haslem, Mr Hodgman, Mr Katter, Mr MacKenzie, Mr Simon and Mr Wilson. Opposition members are Mr Humphreys, Mr Keith Johnson, Mr Martin, Mr Les McMahon and Mr Young.
Department of Education
Proposed expenditure, $492,632,000.
-I would like to deal with two aspects of child migrant education. The area which has consumed the major portion of energy and funds is teaching English to non-English speaking children of school age. Since 1971, the Commonwealth Government’s child migrant education program has concentrated on teaching English to immigrant children who were unable to participate adequately in mainstream classroom activities because of insufficient knowledge of English. More recently the scope of the program has been expanded to include multi-cultural education. What this actually involves is still not clear as the term remains undefined even in the recent Galbally review.
There is no consensus as to the content, problems, inplications and likely strategies of multicultural education although there are broad principles which apparently meet with general acceptance. One of the areas of agreement appears to be the need for more emphasis on the teaching of community or ethnic languages in our schools. Community language programs should be available not just for ethnic minorities but as an option for every child, regardless of ethnic background, in order to develop communication skills in a language of the society. By encouraging appreciation of each child’s language and culture, such programs create an improved climate of tolerance and understanding as well as performing a vital role in encouraging the development of high self regard in nonEnglish speaking children.
Despite general agreement on the crucial role played by migrant education for increasing the well-being of all our citizens, the Federal Government’s funding of child migrant education this year is nothing short of tragic. The Galbally review noted that in real terms- I emphasise, in real terms- funds have not been increased since 1975-76. That is the Galbally review finding. This makes a mockery of the repeated claims by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) that his Government has provided strong and continuing support for child migrant education. The Minister’s claims have been refuted by the Government’s own committee of inquiry. This year the Schools Commission recommended that funds be increased from $26.2m in 1978 to $29. lm in 1979. But the Government cut this back to a paltry $2 7.7m, which represents a 1.2 per cent decrease in real terms. This abysmal performance stands in stark contrast to the Government’s rhetoric and to the enormous backlog of need in the area of language training. Recognition of the educational needs of children with immigrant backgrounds has been painfully slow. There is still a wide gap between the demographic reality of our school population and the teaching methods and programs in our schools. The demographic reality, according to a study carried out for the Schools Commission in 1976, is that more than 575,000 persons between the ages of 5 and 19 years came from non-English speaking backgrounds. The Galbally review noted: . . there were resident in Australia up to 400,000 children aged 4 to 14 years who came from a background where English was not spoken.
That comment was made in the same year that the study was carried out. According to the recent report of the Ethnic Affairs Commission of New South Wales, in 1975 children with a native language other than English or an Aboriginal language constituted 18.3 per cent of all primary school children and 1 1.2 per cent of all secondary school children in New South Wales. Yet Federal Government expenditure has failed to recognise this reality. The result is that the majority of migrant children from non-English speaking backgrounds receive little or no assistance. This places them at a severe disadvantage in our society. In 1977 an Australian Council for Educational Research survey indicated that 10 per cent of all migrant students were unable to understand English well enough to cope with normal classroom lessons and that 35 per cent needed remedial assistance. The Australian Teachers Federation survey this year indicated that 49 per cent of those students needing migrant or intensive English assistance were receiving no extra assistance. In 1977 there was roughly one migrant English teacher for every 335 children of non-English speaking backgrounds. Just one teacher. In some States this ratio fell to tragic levels. For example, in Western Australia there was one migrant teacher for every 1,360 children of non-English speaking background. The Galbally review stated: . . the few surveys of the situation, which have been confined to the larger States, confirm that there are significant needs unmet.
It stated that the distribution among the States of funds under the program is not proportionate to the distribution of children of non-English speaking backgrounds. The review recommended that the Commonwealth Government provide an extra $ 10m over the next three years for the teaching of English as a second language. It noted that on the evidence presented the funds might need to be doubled if all existing needs were to be met. But the funding it recommended is too meagre to have much impact. The Government has leapt at the chance to appear to be concerned at very little cost. We will all recall when the Galbally report was presented. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) presented it to the Parliament and spoke of it and made much of the point that the Government, happily, was going to accept all its recommendations. Well, it could afford to do so. In real terms it represented very little advance for many of the migrants’ needs. It was a cheap way out; it was an easy way to get a lot of kudos for very little effort.
Having dealt with the specific issue of migrant education, I would now like to turn to the general question of education, to the needs in the school community and the way the Government has allocated its funds. First of all, in real terms there has been an increase of one per cent for education. On the basis of the estimates that have appeared over the years of the educational needs in the community, there is no doubt that we need increases far larger than that if we are going to catch up in the areas of greatest need which exist in far too many of the Government schools and far too many of the non-government schoolssadly, usually the parochial Catholic schools. There has been no increase whatsoever in the allocations in this Budget in recurrent grants to Government schools. The implication has been made strongly by the Government that the States have been increasing their contributions in line with the Commonwealth and that they will continue to do so. But the reality from the State Governments’ point of view is that their funding has been cut back also. It is highly unlikely that they will be able to continue to increase their allocations to schools. So in real terms the schools will receive less money. They will not even keep pace with the increases in costs because the Federal Government has opted out. The State governments will not be able to keep up.
Capital grants for government schools are down by $8m, from $ 139m to $131m-a 5.9 per cent decrease. Capital grants for nongovernment schools are down also- by a mere $lm, from $31m to $30m, representing a decrease of 3.3 per cent. In terms of the needs- it would be difficult just on a bland statement such as that one to prove this point- there is no doubt that given the needs of the majority of school children, who after all do attend the State school system- I think nearly 70 per cent of the school population goes to State schools- that sort of disproportionate allocation of funding is unreasonable. The one big advance that has been provided by this Government relates to recurrent grants to non-government schools. That allocation has gone up by $ 14m, representing an increase in real terms of 7.5 per cent. Where is that money going? It is going mainly to the most prosperous private schools in the community. The top three levels of schools will get $2.4m, and only $2.5m- almost the same amount- will go to the majority of non-government school pupils, those pupils attending level 6 schools. That is where most of the private sector children attend- the parochial Catholic schools. That is a stark discrimination against the underprivileged, even in the private sector.
-I support the appropriation for education but I must express the disquieting feeling, of not only myself but also many others, that governments and their advisers, even under the adverse conditions that exist at the moment, are much more disposed to raise taxes than to reduce spending. Perhaps education, particularly at the tertiary level, is the most obvious area in which to reduce spending. Of total Federal Government expenditure on education of $2,498m, announced in this Budget, nearly 60 per cent will go to the tertiary area. For many years the universities and colleges of advanced education have had unbelievably generous treatment from governments and have expanded spectacularly. The provision of free education is costing the taxpayer a packet and, according to many observers in this place and elsewhere, gross extravagances in the tertiary institutions are rife. Perhaps that will come under scrutiny next year. However, had we grasped the nettle this year it might have been possible to avoid the Vh per cent addition to the standard rate of income tax, which has caused some upsets round the country.
We have to ask ourselves whether the enormous amounts spent on education result in better people. We have certainly put in the money. Ten years ago spending by the Federal Government on health, education and social welfare used to make up one-quarter of the total Budget outlays. Today, this whole range of social expenditure absorbs nearly half of the total Budget outlays of our Government. One can see that in 10 years the teacher-student ratio has been reduced from 1:25 to 1:18. The number of universities has increased from 14 to 17 and the number enrolled has increased from 95,000 ten years ago to 158,000 today. I wonder whether all of this is producing better people. With the shortage of money that we have I wonder about the merit of the Commonwealth financing curricula development exercises such as the Social Education Materials Project, abbreviated to SEMP; Man; A Course of Study, abbreviated to MACOS; and another called Messageways. These foolish developments being funded by the Government are totally unnecessary and in some way they are actually anti-social. In my electorate several parents have complained to me already about that sort of thing going on in the schools. They are quite certain that it does not make better people.
– Have they read it?
– I have read it and I do not like it. I would not like my kids to be bothered with most of it. MACOS and SEMP have been banned for use in the schools in Queensland. Messageways has come under fire in my own State, and from myself in particular, and many people I have spoken to about it regard it as straight sickness. Children are being asked to play out a murder, and in one case to curse one another in a simulated witch’s coven. To think that government money is being expended on that sort of rot! I cannot understand the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) having a scrap of sympathy for that sort of thing. I thought he had too much sense. Even the children know that some of this nonsense is absolutely incongruous and unnecessary. One young student in Canberra has a much better idea of what school is about than the honourable member for Capricornia. In the Canberra Times of 25 September this year he said:
As far as I am concerned, the most fundamental requirement of a school is that it teach people to be as numerate, and literate (and therefore, hopefully, articulate) as possible.
He went on:
It would be particularly useful if grammar were reintroduced into the English syllabus . . . language, and fluency and clarity are impossible without a comprehensive understanding of its rules.
Further, he said:
There is also a need in schools today for a greater sense of discipline.
He does not want to go back to the bad old days that I think the honourable member for Capricornia would accuse me of wanting to go back to. What he meant was that more control was necessary particularly in the formal classroom situation. He said:
Allowing too much freedom weakens the students’ respect for the teacher, and does nothing to promote applications to the given subject.
To sum up, he said: let us please eliminate the glib, meaningless, pseudo-intellectual jargon used in education . . .
Educationists in their ivory towers may understand their esoteric language, but there is little evidence to suggest that anyone else does. The very vague outlines contained in modern syllabuses are of little practical use to teachers, who cannot be certain precisely what they are meant to be teaching.
Out of the mouths of babes we sometimes learn. I must say two other things. Firstly, I want to deplore the sectarian challenge of the well-named DOGS- the Council for the Defence of Government Schools- to elementary justice for independent schools. I thought those dogs had died a long time ago. I do not think that they have any place in a plural community. The High Court might well have been saved the trouble if the idea I have spoken about before in this place had been implemented at the very beginning. I call the idea individual funding. Some have called it voucher funding. The originator of this scheme is Father John Doyle, a Jesuit priest located in Canberra. He prefers the term ‘individual funding’ because the term ‘voucher’ seems to carry the idea of all kinds of administrative problems when individuals change addresses, drop out of school early, and so on. Those problems would be avoided if all individual schools were entitled to bulk bill the government for their school populations, as is done now by non-government schools. Since the kind of school a child attends is primarily its parent’s responsibility, governments should not discriminate among viable schools. Obviously, individual schools would not discriminate among their pupils on the basis of the size of the parents’ income and would receive from the government the same basic sum whether a pupil was from a wealthy family or not. To ensure that wealthy families did not receive unneeded public subsidies for their children’s schooling, tax schedules should be adjusted. This method of levelling out by means of taxation has actually been suggested by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in a statement published in the Age on 7 July 1 977 and in the Canberra Times on 1 1 July 1977, but it was left to pass unnoticed by most of the media.
This system would draw education funding away from a concentration on the needs of schools to a concern for the needs of the individual family. Parent’s right to choose would be formally recognised by law and the funding of thenchildren ‘s schooling would be formally a social service payment. No doubt there would still be arguments about the appropriate size of the Government’s education spending, but at least each child would receive the same basic allowance, something that is not happening at present. At the same time, if parents were allowed to have and exercise a full right of choice, it is probable that they would also show a greater interest in schooling, in choosing an appropriate school, and this greater parental participation would encourage promotion of higher standards of education in the schools. Standards will not be high as long as parents feel that they have a little or no say in what goes on in the schools. One danger clearly inherent in the working of the present system of government funding is that the fees in non-government schools will rise to a level that only the well-to-do will be able to afford, and I think that was alluded to by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass).
If the scheme I am talking about were implemented, we would be able to eliminate the needs basis. In any case, it is an undemocratic procedure if the well-to-do are the only ones who can afford to attend private schools. That will be avoided if the system of individual funding is adopted. Rather than letting this failure to do justice continue until, as is quite likely, the private sector of education gets into even greater financial difficulties, it seems to me that it would be wiser to give more detailed consideration to what I have outlined. This system regards schooling as a social service to which each child is entitled. Each child would be allotted a schooling grant equal in amount to the average cost of putting a child through a government school. The grant could be used at the school of the parents’ choice and would cover basic, ordinary or standard costs. Such things as new buildings, extensions, et cetera, would be the subject of special grants not related to the individual’s entitlement.
This is almost precisely the way in which we run our social service structure at the moment. I cannot see why this scheme could not have been implemented many years ago. It would certainly have avoided some of the terrible sectarian wrangles. It would certainly have avoided the rise of DOGS and other organisations that are just as reprehensible. It would have been truly democratic Australian justice, and I think the general injustice for those who feel they have to educate their children privately has gone on for far too long. We have reached a stage in Australian democracy when it ought to be brought to an end, and I believe that the scheme I have outlined is the way in which it should be done.
-In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Education I want to raise a matter of specific and real concern to the area I represent, which basically is the Geelong area. In 1976 the Gordon Institute of Technology and the Geelong State College, being the former teachers college, were consolidated and by legislation of the Victorian Parliament, but on the initiative of this Parliament, became the Deakin University. The Gordon Institute of Technology, at the time when the proposal for the Deakin University was mooted, was in the process of moving from buildings it had occupied for many years in the central business district of Geelong to more suitable accommodation at Waurn Ponds, which was in fact a completely new operation some five or six miles out of the urban area of Geelong. The State teachers college was located in fibro buildings of a very temporary nature which, like this Parliament House, were expected to serve for a much longer period than temporary structures ought to serve. The two institutions were both inadequately housed. One was in transit from a site to which the Gordon Technical School was being transferred. It now operates in those buildings. That institution itself is not able to obtain the accommodation it needs in order to function properly as a senior technical school and training institution under the Technical and Further Education Commission. The Gordon Institute of Technology was gradually being moved to a new location.
The project was halted during the triennium. Certain funds which were to be available for the Institute of Technology were not actually expended because of the change which had been announced. With the change of government in 1975 funds for capital works were virtually cut off. Perhaps this sort of exercise could have been justified in relation to existing unversities. After all, even if facilities were not improving at least they were fairly adequate. There is always need for greater facilities but at least facilities existed at the Institute. The new Deakin University did not even have the former facilities of the Institute of Technology. They were already being occupied by the Technical School, which was to take over the sub-tertiary functions of the old Gordon Institute. The new buildings were far from complete. In fact, the facilities were less than half of those that the college of advanced education would have expected. No funds had been spent on the State college, which was also subject to transfer, for improved facilities during the triennium leading to the amalgamation of the institutions. It has not since had any adequate funds spent on its existing location, which is temporary and unsuitable. Yet it is expected to operate a substantial segment of a university.
Under the funding arrangements of the Commonwealth, no additional funds for capital development of the Deakin University were made available last year. No funds have been made available this year. Between $ 1 7m and $20 m is needed for the construction of proper facilities to enable the University to operate on the site on which it is expected to operate. It is quite unsatisfactory and almost unreal that in north Geelong some lectures are given in the faculty of education, that at Waurn Ponds, about 13 miles away, other lectures associated with the same course are given, and that about half way between, in a converted factory, other lectures associated with courses in the same institution are given. That is not a reasonable proposition. I do not think it is reasonable that a new institution which does not have the basic facilities on site should be treated in exactly the same way as the older institutions which have these facilities.
I raise this matter because I think it is important. I think that the Government’s approach is unreal. The University exists. It has been approved by the former Labor Government and by this Government. Facilities for it do not exist. It is unfair to students who live in areas where public transport is practically non-existent. They have to travel extreme distances between institutions in order to obtain an education at a tertiary level. The Technical School is also unsatisfactory for long term accommodation. It has been unable to obtain all the buildings to which it is entitled. It has to share the use of some of them. In general, the denial of capital funds is in fact a denial of educational opportunities. In Victoria, unfortunately, because of opportunistic decisions by the State Government there is an excess of tertiary institutions. The combination of two or three of them into one institution was a step in the right direction. At one stage Victoria had up to 45 degree conferring institutions. Every school above kindergarten looked as though it would be promoted to a degree conferring institution in order to meet the political requirements of the Victorian Government without any consideration at all of the educational status and standing of the degrees which were conferred or the welfare of the students who were subjected to this type of economic or political expansion of these facilities.
The Deakin University offers a substantial number of off-campus studies. I note that in the last couple of days more than 5,000 people have sought places at the University next year to study basic off-campus degree courses. This is an important development in the education system and one which I believe should be supported. The major point I raise is the lack of capital funds in order to provide the basic faculties for an institution which is expected to operate as and compete with universities which have the facilities they need. Deakin University is the University most affected but at least two or three others were cut back in their physical capital development by changes in government attitudes and policies to the severe detriment of those who have to work and study in those institutions. This was done in a very short-sighted manner.
-In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Education I bring to the attention of the Committee some facts about literacy and numeracy. I have before me a document prepared by the Secretary of the Australian Council for Adult Literacy, Mr George Harvey. The document is entitled ‘An Exploratory Analysis of Highest Level of Schooling Attended and Highest Level of Qualifications Obtained’. It begins by pointing out some of the problems young people have in obtaining a proficiency in basic skills through the schooling system. A survey on adult illiteracy in English conducted by Dr Judith Goyen in Sydney indicates that at least 43.3 per cent of adults born in foreign-language countries do not have the literacy skills necessary for survival in this country and that this figure may be as high as 55.8 per cent. Dr Goyen also noted that the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties reported that among those adults seeking literacy courses the 15 to 20 year age groups and 20 to 25 year age groups together constituted 57.6 per cent of all participants. Facts presented to the House of Representatives during parliamentary debates in 1974 indicated that 45.7 per cent of secondary school students were in need of specialist remedial reading and 25 per cent read so badly as to be classified as functionally illiterate.
I raise this matter in the Parliament today because I am most concerned with the impact that literacy and numeracy skills may have on young people who are seeking jobs. One of the commonest comments made by employers is that young people do not possess the skills that they seek. I am not stating that the skills currently required are below the skills that were required 10 or 20 years ago; nor can I state that they are better. I am stating that the skills currently available to young people are not those which are required by the community to a large extent. It is interesting to note that, within the employment area, a recent survey of 100 employers conducted by the Trinity Grammar School in Sydney indicated that their greatest desire was to have greater skills in the literacy and numeracy area.
An analysis of the percentage distribution of the population in Australia who were not attending school in 1971 indicated that, according to various tables prepared during the census of that year, 1.5 per cent of the population had not attended school or had attended infant school only. A further 2.9 per cent attended year 3 or year 4 of primary school, with a total of 22.1 per cent who had not proceeded beyond primary school or who had had no secondary school education. In 1971 one quarter of our population had had no secondary school education. It can also be noted that 20.6 per cent of the population had attended secondary school for only year 1 or year 2 and that a further 21.2 per cent had left school on the completion of year 3. So in total the education of 65.4 per cent of children had not proceeded beyond the equivalent of year 3 in secondary schooling. That is not a surprising figure. The surprising figure is the number of children who had not gone beyond primary school.
The Government has adopted a number of programs which are of assistance to young people who lack basic skills. These basic skills are not obvious to those people who have the opportunity to use them each day. But let me assure the Committee that the capacity to look up names in telephone books, to use street directories effectively, to fill in all sorts of statutory forms is absolutely vital for people to make a successful contribution to and to participate successfully in modern day life. It is a fact that today an individual is required to read 20 times more compulsory leaflets or documents than he was 1 7 years ago. That in itself means that the number of basic skills necessary to conduct oneself with dignity in our community has risen quite markedly.
The Government has made commitments to special programs in which various government departments, apart from the Department of Education, have been involved. I am interested to note that the Government is in the process of co-ordinating the results of various programs that have been conducted by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, as well as by departments such as the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Postal and Telecommunications Department. Those departments have made a very important input to that area of adult literacy. It is my view that these programs should be conducted with an overview by the Department of Education in such a way that they have the proper educational content. They should be conducted in such a way that some of the problems that have been made obvious in recent surveys are overcome and that the young people themselves are assisted.
It is interesting to note that that part of the Henderson report on poverty which dealt with education stated that, following an extensive survey and interview conducted by Professor Henderson, it was found that in order for people to have a satisfactory work life literacy and numeracy were crucial in the gaining and holding of a job. But, having achieved a job, it is very difficult for a person with a low level of skills to feel confident enough to leave that job and to apply for further jobs. I believe he has to be able to win jobs, hold jobs and to change jobs. Henderson found that basic skills of literacy and numeracy were absolutely vital to giving one a sense of wellbeing and a sense of confidence.
I commend the Government for the program that it has introduced. I commend the Government for the co-ordination that it is achieving between the various departments. A rational and comprehensive approach to this serious issue is taking place. However, further progress is needed, in my view. I would like to see all educational authorities throughout Australia commit themselves solidly to overcoming the problems of literacy and numeracy. The lack of those basic skills that honourable members in this House take for granted has to be overcome. In achieving that end, some of the techniques that are already in use would be most helpful. The remedial courses being conducted by technical and further educational bodies are most helpful in that regard. I think we need to look at the volunteer tutor program being conducted in Britain. That involves people with the capacity to read and to write and to do basic figuring passing on those skills. They are not teachers; they are people who have a wealth of practical experience which can be readily communicated to those people who do not have those skills. I understand that the British scheme is working extremely successfully.
Part of our problem with unemployment in Australia is that young people do not know how to approach employment. They do not properly know how to fill their roles once they are employed. Further, much of that lack of certainty and lack of confidence can be sheeted home to their basic lack of skills. We must as a nation take careful note of the current requirements of industry and of the work place. They must be met by our educational institutions. Emphasis should be placed, first of all, on those basic requirements so that a person can enjoy not only his employment but also his culture and his leisure time. The filling out of a personality must start with the acquisition of skills which will allow that person a ready capacity to move to wider and bigger horizons. He must be able to extend his personality and to become far more effective as an Australian citizen.
-The Committee has before it the estimates for the Department of Education for the financial year 1 978-79. It is expected that $492,632,000 will be spent this year on education generally. That figure represents the Commonwealth’s share of the cost of education. When we add to that cost the amount expended on education by the States, we find that the education vote for the whole of Australia represents a tremendously large part of the money expended by both the Commonwealth and the State governments. I often wonder whether or not the funds we appropriate to education are spent wisely. In this modern day there seems to be a tendency for various bodies and organisations to get in for their share of the cake. I often wonder whether in these times education gets more than its fair share of the cake. I realise that in saying this I am treading somewhat on the corns of educationists because education has become a holy cow and anybody who speaks against it is looked upon as almost a pariah in the community. I think we have to be realistic in regard to the amount of money we provide for education. We have to look at areas of expenditure other than education. Also we have to have a decent, hard look at whether the funds being allocated to education are being spent wisely.
Not everybody has the capacity to attend a college of advanced education or a tertiary institution. But if a person has the academic ability to be able at least to try to further his education by attending a college of advanced education, a technical college or a tertiary institution, he should have the opportunity to do so. As against that, one often wonders whether the funds that are allocated for education are being spent too much on teachers and not enough on children. I know that it is not really popular nowadays even to talk along those lines but I often wonder whether teachers themselves realise that after all education is provided for children and not of necessity only for teachers. Whether children are getting their fair share of the funds that are allocated for education is a matter for discussion, I think, and it is a matter to which we as members of parliament should give a great deal of thought. Education is for children. I think that if we have a decent look at the amount of money which is made available for education, we should also have a decent look as to how that money is allocated.
I have felt for many years that in the area of education far too much money is spent on what is called ‘pure’ education and an insufficient amount is spent on technical education. I know that it is very difficult to arrive at a mean. At what stage does one cut off from general education and at what stage does one try to train people for a job in life? I think we have gone to extremes. In the United States of America there is an overemphasis on tertiary education and there are doctors of philosophy by the thousands who cannot get a position because they are overeducated. There is also a tendency for people in my age group- I left school at 14 and educated myself later in my own time- who were reared during the Depression years when the opportunity for a complete education was not available, to go overboard where their children are concerned. It has become a matter somewhat of snob value, not so much to children as to parents, to be able to say that ‘my little Johnnie’ or ‘my little Mary’ is going to university even though little Johnnie or little Mary will probably never finish university because they were pushed there by their mothers or fathers.
I think that is a tremendous waste of monetary resources. Educationists will say- they have said to me- that, even though a person fails, he has been educated. I cannot see that point. I feel that financial resources in any system are limited and we have to make the most of what we have. Having said something on education generally, I feel that we have to look very closelyparticularly the unions and the employers together- at the field of technical education. We have an apprenticeship system which has become somewhat of a holy cow. Employers are finding it extremely difficult financially to employ apprentices. The ordinary employer in private industry is finding it so financially difficult that, despite inducements offered by various governments, he is not taking his fair share of the number of apprenticeships that should be made available to the community. Consequently, the responsibility for the education of apprentices is left largely to government enterprises. I think it is about time that unions, employers and employer organisations got down and had a very hard look at whether technical training or a method for people to go into the work force is best served by our system of apprenticeships.
I have my doubts as to whether the apprenticeship system is the be all and end all as the best method of training people to come into the work force. To my mind, it would be a far better system to have the prospective students who want to go into the technical field streamed off at a much earlier age than at present. At present it is normal for a young man or young lady who wants to go into the technical field, preferably through an apprenticeship, to do the school certificate at 16 years of age. In most cases their subjects do not cover any of the particular lines of education which would fit them for their later life in the apprenticeship or trade in which they will seek to be employed. I think it is about time that we had a good, cold, hard look at our education system, particularly with the idea of streaming off boys and girls at a much earlier age and putting them through courses which would fit them for the employment for which they have some bent.
In the last couple of months I have come back from a tour to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I saw many good things and many things with which I was not particularly impressed. One thing with which I was impressed was the education system. If the Soviet education system has a fault, I think it is that there is a tendency for the children at present to be over-educated. Whilst I criticise our system in Australia for overeducation, I think I have seen a greater measure of it in the Soviet Union. In the education system there at present every child must be educated through the full high school system and must do all the academic subjects up to the equivalent of year 12. It is only at 18 years of age that they find their way into the work force or further levels of tertiary or trade education. I think the Soviet Union system is probably showing the benefit of that over-emphasis on education because at present it appears to be the leader in the scientific field. Australia is a much smaller nation and I think we have to husband our resources much more than we have done in the past. We must use the money that is available to its best value. I am not certain that our funds are being used in that way now.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I enjoyed listening to the thoughful and very sensible speech of the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin), particularly his comments on technical education. I hope that the Government will take note of them. I think a number of speakers have said that the education field was one field in which, in this period of belt tightening, we perhaps could have tightened the belt just a little more. I do not believe we could have tightened it in the primary and secondary sectors, but there is certainly an opportunity for a very hard look at the tertiary sector. I will deal with that matter later in my speech. I want to speak about the two extremes of education, those children, who are disadvantaged for one reason or another and the advantaged students who are at tertiary institutions. First, I would like to deal with the problems of education faced by children in the isolated areas. I note that the appropriation for isolated children is $ 14.6m. There are about 20,000 children who will be assisted by this scheme. That amount is an increase of about $250,000 over last year. I would have liked to have seen more money spent on this area but I will come to that matter later.
The Federal Government provides a basic boarding allowance of $500 a year, not meanstested, to parents with children in primary or secondary schools without reasonable access to a government school. Additional means-tested allowances are available and there are further allowances for children in cases of particular hardship. The State governments also provide assistance although, unfortunately, the Queensland Government does not provide assistance for primary school students. I know that many honourable members will find that to be a great problem. The children in isolated areas have very special problems. One way of helping with those problems is the School of the Air which operates throughout most of the isolated areas. In my electorate 190 primary school children, aged from 6 to 12years, are enrolled in the School of the Air which operates from Cairns. It also provides a service to children on fishing boats and in light houses. One teacher of the school spends up to 10 days at a time visiting the pupils, who otherwise would have very little contact with their teacher. Another form of education is by correspondence. In Queensland last year almost 1,600 primary school students and 5,000 secondary level students were studying by correspondence.
Isolated students face special problems. The Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty mentions some of these. A great many of these children are denied qualified and experienced teachers. Their formal education takes place without aids and materials that are common to larger schools. Specialists, such as remedial teachers, are not available. There is also deprivation in the social context in that they have no opportunity to mix with peer groups in sport and general cultural activities. At page 47 of the report of the Commissioner the following appears:
It is clear at the present time there is a population shift from the rural areas of the country, and that Australia as a whole is becoming increasingly urbanised. There is a very real possibility that the educational experiences available to children in remote areas fit them less and less for a role in an urban society.
This is something that we must examine to see what can be done. The obvious way to do that is to make sure that it is easier for these children to go to boarding schools, or schools in the cities. There are in the towns hostels to which they can go. Many of their parents cannot afford it, and are making great sacrifices to give their children an education.
I refer now to another special problem, the education of Aboriginal children. More than $13m has been appropriated for the Aboriginal Secondary Grants scheme. I agree that it is very necessary that Aboriginal children should receive special benefits as they suffer great disadvantages. I can speak with some authority as I have living in my electorate more than 20,000 Aboriginal and islander children and I am very much aware of the large gap which exists between various sections of the community. However, I am afraid that certain problems are being caused by the making of these special grants. Aboriginal children who go to secondary school have all their fees paid; they have their fares paid, both to go to school and to come home for holidays,* they receive pocket money, clothing, a book allowance and so on. This makes it very difficult for some other people who are living in isolated areas.
Recently I spoke to a policeman stationed at an isolated Aboriginal community who could not afford to send his children to boarding school. His children should receive the privileges that are received by the Aboriginal children in that community. Great changes- very good changes- have taken place in Aboriginal communities, especially in urban areas, where many people of Aboriginal descent are in good jobs and earn good money. It is wrong that just because they are of Aboriginal descent- often quite distant- they should receive privileges that are really meant for Aboriginals who are in isolated communities. I have recommended to the Government that these special secondary school grants for Aboriginals be means-tested. I have not yet received a satisfactory answer but intend to press the Government on it. It is only fair that if an Aboriginal family can afford to send its children to boarding school it should receive no more aid than the equivalent non-Aboriginal family living in the same area.
I refer now very briefly to problems associated with tertiary education. There is no doubt that a great deal of money is spent upon it, and that some of it could be better spent. For instance, there are in Australia 80 colleges of advanced education, with 15,000 students. There are 19 universities, with the same number of students. One problem is that there is a great misuse of resources, with very small colleges of advanced education duplicating the resources of universities. I know of several cases where universities and advanced colleges are next door to each other and, now that many of the advanced colleges are degree-granting institutions, degree courses are being duplicated. To me that seems to be a gross extravagance and misuse of resources that would be much better spent in other ways.
All university education in Australia is now free. That situation was created by the previous Government- and for good reasons. Hitherto, university students had been required to pay about 10 per cent of their fees. The remainder had been provided by the Government. About half of all students had had Commonwealth or other scholarships, which were granted according the degree of merit. This meant that children from disadvantaged families found it very difficult to go to a university. I believe that is why the Labor Government did bring in the free education scheme for universities. It does provide, as other speakers have said, equality of opportunity. But I have spoken to a number of vicechancellors about the problem and they assure me that since free university education has become available there has been a great falling off in the motivation of students; that students think that attendance is a right; that they are going to stay on and they need not work very hard. Moreover, standards have been lowered in many of the smaller institutions. I notice that I have a critic in the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett), but it is nevertheless a problem that should be examined.
It is time to decide whether we should spend these vast sums of money upon giving free university education to children. I would like to see a system of student loans instituted for all students. Perhaps they should be given a loan of a certain percentage of their fees- perhaps the same percentage as they had to provide before. When eventually they pass their course they could repay the loan, if” necessary over a number of years. This would increase their motivation, make them work and make them much better citizens of Australia. I commend that suggestion to the Government.
I have spoken very briefly of the two extremes: Isolated and Aboriginal children on the one hand and the very privileged university students on the other. Let us try to bring the two together so that we do have real equality of opportunity for all Australians, wherever they might live.
– If there is one thing that parliamentarians and academics suffer in common it is a public prejudice about their overseas travel arrangements. I think it is true to say that there are capital public attitudes towards our travel arrangements, and equally critical public attitudes towards the study leave provisions for academics. Interestingly, however, one of the three education references that were made in the Budget Speech concerned the tightening up of tertiary study leave. On 1 1 October the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) himself added to this debate by his contribution at Question Time. He said a number of things, some of which were misleading and others which were inaccurate. In addition, I think that he failed to face up to some of the central issues in the question of university study leave.
In what ways were the Prime Minister’s remarks misleading? Firstly, he dragged into the debate the issue of study leave for university administrators. That represents a very minor part of the problem and in many ways is simply a red herring. He said:
Study leave has not been restricted merely to those who need some relief from academic duties and studies during an academic year. It has been extended to administrators . . .
In almost all universities there is usually a quite separate provision in relation to administrators as distinct from academic staff. Anyhow, the issue of study leave for administrators is a minimal problem and constitutes a very minimal amount of study leave. The report which was presented to the Prime Minister noted that in a five-year period 113 non-academic staff took periods of leave. That represents little more than one staff member a year for each university. So the whole issue of university administrators and study leave is very much a miserable red herring, and its use suggest that there is a pretty poor case to be covered up by the Prime Minister.
Secondly, the Prime Minister bolstered his argument with rhetoric. He said:
If study leave is necessary one year in seven for administrators in universities, why would it not be necessary for adminstrators in other walks of life?
It is true that in many other walks of life administrators now get periods of provisional leave in order to catch up with overseas events in their own field. Indeed, it might be a very good idea if we were able to extend these provisions. But one might ask why should parliamentarians get what is in effect a form of study leave provision every three years? I said yesterday, and I repeat it here, that overseas travel provides a very great opportunity for parliamentarians to visit other societies and examine their political and social institutions, and this is an invaluable experience which I would defend. But equally so, I think the opportunity for university administrators to visit other universities and examine other systems of tertiary education is also an invaluable experience, given that the university is set in an international environment. Again, it is not, as somebody suggested, for a year, because most of these study leave provisions for administrators are for a much shorter period of time- I think the average is about five to six months. Certainly on the figures that we have been given this so-called generosity is not over-used or abused.
The Prime Minister suggested some rather extravagant costing for study leave. He suggested it cost Australia something like $40m a year. Admittedly, he includes in this figure some notional idea of additional staff to replace those overseas, but the Tertiary Education Commission’s report, which included all universities and all colleges of advanced education and included all direct and indirect costs, still manages a total of just under $24m. It is true that those figures were for 1975; but I doubt whether the Prime Minister would wish to argue that his 3-year regime has been characterised by almost 100 per cent inflation. So I think the figure given there is much exaggerated.
It is not surprising that the Prime Minister exaggerates or has a tendency to be extravagant about travel costs. Indeed, even a conservative calculation of the Prime Minister’s international extravaganza in June would suggest that it equalled approximately the total annual study leave budget of one large Australian university. I am dealing now only with direct costs. I am not dealing with academic salaries or prime ministerial salaries; it is simply the direct cost of the Prime Minister’s extravaganza compared with the direct costs of the study leave budget of a large Australian university.
Having got out of the way these peripheral issues, let us look at the whole problem in some perspective. I think that we in this chamber should oppose these kinds of cuts. The reason for so doing is that scholarship is essentially an international activity oriented for Western culture overwhelmingly towards the universities of Europe and the USA. Australia is inevitably geographically isolated from these centres. Australian scholars are geographically cut off from the international community of scholars. For the great bulk of Australian scholars, their sources, the key figures in their field, the great laboratories, are for them overseas. It is true that technological developments have lessened some of this isolation. But none of the basic reasons for which academics go overseas, such as to do sustained personal research, to join particular research groups, to gain access to particular equipment, to work in specialist laboratories, to examine source material, to visit particular regions, institutions, museums and sites and to talk at length with other scholars, can be replaced by improved communication.
This is not to argue that some Australian scholars at times might, for scholarly reasons, desire to take their study leave periods in Australia, as a number do. But it should be their option, their choice, and it should be the exception rather than the rule. Simply to argue, as does the Prime Minister, that we have got good Australian universities, which no one denies, and therefore Australian academics should spend their study leave in other Australian universities is to encourage parochialism and provincialism in our scholarly community which, I believe, will be ultimately paralysing to Australian scholarships and fateful to its international contribution.
Furthermore, the market for scholars is an international market. True, at the moment and for the foreseeable future, it is a buyer’s market. Nevertheless, given its geographical position, Australia will neither attract nor retain the very best scholars without internationally-generous study leave provisions.
Finally, the allocation of resources for study leave should be the province of autonomous universities, not national budget directions. We all recognise that universities in the years ahead are inevitably going to face financial limitations and restrictions. But within very broad guidelines, they should be left to determine their own priorities, to place their own values on study leave as against other demands- that is, they will have to balance the requirements of study leave against other demands in a much tighter budgetary period- but they should not be regimented into a national straight-jacket, as apparently is envisaged by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer ( Mr Howard ).
I recognise that some academics abuse study leave provisions, as 1 suppose some parliamentarians abuse their overseas travelling provisions. But the study leave inquiry looked at this issue and found very little evidence of abuse; indeed, it concluded that there was ‘no evidence of widespread misuse of the study leave system’ and that the committee believes that in most cases study leave propositions have been properly utilised in accordance with their purposes and spirit’. Indeed, there is very much evidence gathered in that and other reports that the pursuit of study leave involves financial and personal cost for most academics.
Let me conclude by saying that whilst there is obviously reason to improve reporting and accountability procedures- the universities have to do a much better job with reporting and accountability procedures in regard to study leave- the proposals espoused in the TEC report and apparently received sympathetically by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer will produce only minimal financial benefits. It is estimated today to be $1.5m a year in savings. In return, it will further weaken university autonomy; it will increase the educational bureaucracy at the tertiary level; it will disadvantage young scholars as against established scholars; and, above all, it will lead to a deterioration in the fabric of Australian intellectual life.
– Australia is a hierarchal society rather than an egalitarian society. Many of us grew up committed to the idea that universal education would be a major force in promoting social equality. I think we know better now. In many ways education reinforces already existing disadvantages in society. This is certainly true if one examines the quality of schools in our major cities, and there is no city in Australia where this is more obvious than Melbourne.
Schools are not particularly effective instruments for instruction either. On this subject 1 must say that I am largely a convert to the views of Dr Ivan Illich, whose book De-Schooling Society will be known to some honourable members. He made the point that the great bulk of what we learn is actually picked up outside school and outside the formal learning, and that all of us learn very much more between the time of our birth and the age of five than we do in subsequent periods at school. In fact, the rate at which we learn seems to fall dramatically relative to those first five years. For example, to illustrate the point Illich is making, we all talk fairly fluently yet talk is something we have picked up outside the school situation. Compare our fluency in talking with our fluency in writing, which generally we learn at school and which generally we do very badly. Walking, physical co-ordination, sport, swimming, driving, cooking, using tools, social relationships, including sex and marriage, and basic philosophy, by which I mean a general secular or religious commitment and elementary reasoning, are learned outside the school education system, but they are the things that tend to be the major components of our lives.
The school is an excellent sorting machine; it classifies people and sets them apart. Just as cattle and sheep are branded, so school leaves its brand or caste mark for life, and few succeed in washing or shaking it off, although an occasional University High School student may become a Liberal back bencher. If a person attends a poor school and he lives in a poverty-stricken social environment, the school system will do relatively little to overcome those disadvantages. If one is disadvantaged, school will tend to extend those disabilities through life. Cultural poverty seems to be inherited and it is extremely difficult to shake off. It is an irony that as we approach the goals of a satisfactory class-pupil ratio in conventionally equipped classrooms, the goal that has been pursued by parties for some time, these goals may recede, turn into a mirage and prove irrelevant for the educational needs of a postindustrial society.
I would like to illustrate this by pointing to relative levels of qualifications found in three federal electorates in Victoria. I must say that it is a mournful commentary on the difficulties under which the Australian Bureau of Statistics is operating that the latest figures available for many of the most important social indicators are from the 1971 census. The 1976 census figures for the two most populous States have not yet been published. I seek leave to incorporate in
Hansard short tables from the 1971 census entitled: ‘Level of Qualifications - Obtained and Studying’ in relation to three Federal electorates. These figures have been adjusted for 1977 electoral boundaries even though they are 1971 figures. The electorates are Lalor, Melbourne and Kooyong.
The tables read as follows-
-I thank the Committee. I make the point that in my electorate the total number of people with bachelor degrees was 325 males and 76 females. The number of those who held a higher degree was 39 males and 7 females. Compare the figures, for example, of the electorate of Melbourne, which is also a safe Labor electorate, pardy industrial but with a high professional content as well. The total number of people in that electorate with a bachelor degree was 2,043 men and 1,115 women. The number of those with a higher degree was 386 men and 123 women. In the prosperous eastern electorate of Kooyong, held by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), 3,349 males and 1,551 females held a bachelor degree. The number of those with a higher degree was 68 1 males and 223 females.
The point is that from an educational point of view the electorate of Lalor- it is characteristic of the western suburbs of Melbourne generally- is a virtual intellectual proletariat. It is taken for granted that there is a double standard in our educational system. It is a two-tiered educational system. It is taken for granted that most of the pupils who go through the schools in the eastern part of Melbourne are looking forward to what they describe as ‘a career’. That is, they look forward to a great degree of job satisfaction. It is taken for granted that most of them will finish their secondary education and that they have high levels of personal aspiration. But it is often taken for granted that in the western suburbs of Melbourne- I am sure this is true of the western and south western suburbs of Sydney as wellthat there will be a low degree of personal aspiration built into the school system. It is taken for granted that the overwhelming majority of students will drop out before they complete their secondary education and that most of them are aimed not at a career but at what is described with somewhat less dignified language as simply a job ‘ and they will go into the work force as factory fodder. I find that extremely disturbing.
I will have time to refer to only one other thing that concerns me very much about our education system. That is that so little is being done to teach foreign languages. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard two tables from the report of the Committee on Teaching of Migrant Languages in Schools. I refer to table 2 / 1 , ‘Estimated Number of Primary School Courses in Modern Languages’, and table 3/1, ‘Modern Languages Taught in Responding Secondary Schools ‘.
The tables read as follows-
-I thank the Committee. The tables point out that to a large extent the languages that we teach are still determined very much by the traditional English style of education that we inherited. As the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) has said so often, the reason why French is still the language most taught in Australian schools is simply that France is 21 miles away from England. But there are very few schools in Australia- the number, mercifully, is increasing- where languages of the Asian region are taught and very few schools where the languages of the people of our migrant community are taught. In my own electorate there is great difficulty in securing classes to teach the Maltese language. Maltese is easily the largest single language group in Lalor. Historically and linguistically it is an extremely important language- it is a Semitic language, as honourable members would know- but very rarely taught although there are thousands of children in Lalor ‘s schools whose family tongue is Maltese. I think it is important that we recognise the importance of teaching Japanese, Chinese and Indonesian/Malay. We will stay in this part of Asia for a very long time and it is essential that we get to know those languages, but they must be taught at primary level. It is too late to begin seriously teaching foreign languages at secondary level once the whole pattern of thought is determined. I urge the Government to do far more to make sure that we understand the languages of the region we live in and the culture of the people who five among us.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Proposed expenditure agree to.
Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development
Proposed expenditure, $4 1,724,000.
Department of Construction
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 55,979,000.
-In the short time available in this estimates debate I would like to concentrate on sport. The Minister for Enviroment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) is responsible for this area. In recent years we have seen a decline in the funds available for sport in Australia. The total amount of funds provided for sport in 1971-72 was $0.5m. In 1972-73 $0.7m was provided. When the Labor Government came to power, for the first time sport was treated as it ought to have been treated and funds started to increase. They went from $3.1m in 1973-74 to $11.4m in 1975- 76. From then on there has been a gradual decline. We have seen the balance of our program as it was wound down to $9.7m in 1976- 77, then to $6.6m. This year the appropriation is $7.4m, but that is a little deceptive because included in that figure is $2. 5m for a grant to Queensland, for preparation for the Commonwealth Games to be held in 1982, and some other funds for lifesaving and the ‘Life. Be in it’ program. The actual funding for the national sporting bodies and the national sports program is very, very small.
– What did you give?
– We gave a considerable amount more than you did in real terms. In real terms we gave a great deal. In 1975-76 the total expenditure was $1 1.4m. I am not a great mathematician but I can take $7.4m from $ 11.4m. The Government is $4m behind, so what is the Minister talking about?
– I am sorry, you misunderstand the point. That was bricks and mortar.
-That is right and in the national sports program the Government’s amount in real terms is less than what we were giving, and in the bricks and mortar area the funds are nonexistent. The Government does not provide any funds at all for sporting facilities. I point out that the previous Minister responsible in this area, the present Minister for National Development (Mr Newman), said when these funds were made available that it was merely a starting point. He was quoted publicly and privately. In fact the Budget in that year, 1977, was not passed until October or November and the funds were expected to be expended between 1 January and 30 June of 1978. It was expected that the funds were purely a base figure to get this sport started again. The Government did not give one cent to the sports program in 1 976-77.
We can go on quibbling about the figures. I do not think that anybody in this House would argue with the fact that the present Government has wound down assistance to sport. We are making a mistake to think that these funds are being provided simply for recreation. Plenty of evidence from overseas- from West Germany, East Germany and a whole range of countriessuggests that as countries increase funding to sport and provide widespread sports programs for community participation the standard of community health improves. I think we are making a bad mistake by continuing to look at sport as if it were some form of pleasurable recreation. Sport is a form of preventative medicine. I hate to sound corny or to use a cliche, but a fit nation is a healthy nation. I think the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) should debate these estimates. The allocations for sport should come from the health program.
There is a mountain of evidence to show how out of condition Australians are. Loads of surveys of school children and adults have been carried out. We all know that this is a fact, and yet we continue to pour $7 billion into health and- to use the bigger figure- $7.4m into sport. Emphasis on sport is one really effective way in which we can contribute to a fit and healthy nation.
I think a lot of importance has been placed on Australia’s deteriorating performance in international events. I would be the last to come into the House and say that we should spend millions of dollars to win gold medals. Gold medals are merely by-products of the widespread sports programs that exist in East Germany, West Germany, Canada and the United States. On a recent visit to Western Australia I was told by the director of the community sports program, Mr Graham, that, from information gathered in a survey, only 15 per cent of Western Australians participate regularly in any sport. We are light years behind the European communist countries, the United States and Canada in the provision of community facilities. Athletes come back from these countries and are absolutely appalled at the Australian conditions when compared to the athletic facilities in other countries.
I wrote the Labor Party’s policy in 1972 for sport. It was incorporated in the Blacktown address by Mr Whitlam. Basically we have to get back to the principles we enunciated then and which were implemented by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) as the Minister administering sporting activities. We have to generate activity in Australia at four levels. The first is at the national level. We need a national sports institute to train coaches, to provide training camps and to ensure that quality sportsmen are available in all our institutions, schools and universities and in our community so that people are learning how to prepare themselves in sport. We need to increase the funds available to the various national sporting organisations so that they can provide coaching programs and international visits by teams from Australia and by overseas teams. We can lift our standards through competition from visitors. The Minister said that nothing had been done in the capital expenditure area. The figures that I mentioned before about capital expenditure are very deceptive. If we cared to use the figures for funds that were provided by the Labor Government under the Regional Employment Development scheme funds for sporting facilities would skyrocket beyond the figures mentioned in these estimates. In my electorate of Robertson alone we spent $3.25m on sporting facilities. We have magnificent youth centres and tennis courts.
– And a good member too.
– A good member; the Minister is right. If we took these factors into consideration the allocation on sporting facilities would increase from between $10m to $ 12m to $40m or $50m. I do not want to see the matter administered in the ad hoc way it was before. We must again join with the States and local government and start to provide capital funds for a widespread range of sporting amenities such as athletic and cycling tracks that will enable people to participate in sport in a way they cannot at present. Woy Woy and Gosford now have magnificent youth centres which were built by the Central Coast Leagues Club. We are in the process of opening another at The Entrance. I think in this sense my electorate has better amenities than most. Hundreds of places in Australia do not have anything like these sorts of facilities. Probably up to 35-year-old sports such as judo, gymnastics, wrestling and squash- I cannot remember them all- are played in these youth centres. Thousands of young people participate each week. When such activities are Australiawide we will have a fit nation. The by-product of having a nation of young people active in sport will be that Australia will win medals once again. I would hate to think that that is our objective. However, it will come about as a result of having a very fit and healthy nation.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
-I wish to devote my time to a matter of public expenditure that is minor but which relates directly to a question of great national importance. I refer to the appropriation for the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development and the allocation of $350,000 to unspecified conservation organisations. One of the bodies that benefit from the taxpayers purse is the Australian Conservation Foundation. When the nature of the Australian Conservation Foundation is considered, other honourable members also may seriously question the propriety of giving that organisation one cent of the taxpayers’ money. The statements and actions of the ACF over the past few years brand it as being a partisan and political organisation. It can have no claim to being an objective and impartial critic of environmental policy. It is committed to an antigrowth philosophy and implicit support of a radical restructuring of society to an extent that would alarm even some honourable members opposite. I do not say for one minute that such people as the ACF Director, Dr Mosely, have no right to express their points of view; but I do say that they should not do so at the expense of the taxpayers who supplied some 45 per cent of the funding for the ACF in 1 977.
Direct funding is only one way in which my electors and the taxpayers generally are supporting the ACF. This organisation also benefits from the fact that donations to it are tax deductible. That is a considerable financial advantage that confers the imprimatur of total respectability. It is a concession that is not available to a great many charitable and benevolent organisations. Particularly disturbing are suggestions that other conservation organisations that are not in receipt of government grants are also sharing the privilege of tax deductible donations. Friends of the Earth, an extremist conservation organisation that was denied government funding in 1977, has solicited donations, claiming that they will be tax deductible if sent by way of the ACF. Project Jonah also has been reported as attempting to creep under this convenient umbrella. That does not please the constituents in my electorate, especially those who reside in the Albany region. I appreciate the fact that the Government has denied that tax deductibility is extended to these and other organisations, but I would ask the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to ensure that no donations are being collected through the agents of the ACF and then passed on to other bodies whose aims make no pretence of objectivity. Moreover, I earnestly request the Treasurer to withdraw the undeserved privilege of tax deductibility for donations to the ACF.
Anyone who doubts the nature of the ACF need only examine its publications. In the ACF June newsletter, ACF councillor, Mr K. Vallance, openly proclaimed the political nature of conservation. A page is devoted to a satire of Lang Hancock. Whilst Mr Hancock may be fair game for criticism at times, there is no need for him to be ridiculed at the expense of the taxpayer. The August newsletter featured a call by
Dr Mosely for support for the anti bauxite lobbyist in Western Australia, quoting some spurious and questionable arguments as gospel. Needless to say, the ACF- and Dr Mosely in particular- has taken a hard line position against whaling. One would expect a responsible conservation body to back up its assertions with hard scientific evidence. But the June issue of Habitat, the ACF glossy magazine, boasts and antiwhaling article written not by a marine scientist or naturalist but by a trendy professor of philosophy from Monash University. An article in the August issue is more factual but it is the work of two individuals, Peter Brotherton and Joy Lee, whose activities as propagandists cast a doubt on their scientific objectivity. If a supposedly responsible conservation organisation funded by the public is going to intervene in such politically sensitive issues as whaling or bauxite mining, then the public will have a right to expect it to present a carefully researched and factual viewpoint. All we are getting is emotional propaganda which is preservationist rather than truly conservationist.
I come now to the basic objection to public funding of the ACF. In every major controversy in which it has engaged- the Newport power station, Fraser Island sand mining, wood chipping and bauxite mining- it has sought to stop development of industries that create large scale employment or to shut down major export earners. Is the ACF so shortsightedly concerned for the slightest environmental damage that it totally ignores these questions? Alternatively, as I tend to believe, is the shutting down and strangulation of industrial growth the real objective of the radical conservationists who now control the ACF?
I must confess to a deep interest in this question. Expansion of the bauxite industry, at a conservative estimate, will create something like 3,000 new jobs in the Forrest electorate. The sober assessments of the Western Australian Forestry Department do not indicate that mining will increase water salinity in the western slopes of the Darling Range where mining will be concentrated. A very full program of reafforestation by the mining companies is already enhancing both water catchment and the recreational value of the forest. Yet the ACF chooses to intervene on the side of the extremists whose arguments in relation to water salinity have been proved wrong time and time again. Dr Mosely calls upon the Federal Government to overrule the State Government and deny export licences for alumina. Truly, the ACF has embarked on a massive campaign of industrial sabotage- and the taxpayer is footing the bill.
I must unreservedly endorse the statement of Sir Charles Court on 6 August when he declared that radical conservationism ignores the need for a balance between the needs of development and the environment. Job lobbies will have to be formed to meet the challenge of environmental lobbies. Sir Charles has put the matter into perspective. The voters who have returned this Government twice expect it to act to conserve jobs ahead of conserving sand mines, disease ridden forests and whales. People do want responsible environmental management which is not incompatible with responsible development, of which wood chipping and bauxite mining are prime examples. Let me quote one of the finest environmental scientists in Australia, Professor Des O’Connor. He defines conservation as: ‘The planned management and wise use of nature’s resources- as a whole as well as separately’. He is well aware of the disastrous effects that environmental extremists can have on the economy and on the average man’s standard of living.
What do the extremists say when taxed on the question of jobs? They prattle on about labourintensive industries. That is economic idiocy unless- and this is the significant point- one believes in Marxist solutions to economic difficulties. It is our labour-intensive industries that are in the most trouble today, yet the Marxist leadership of the extreme left Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Unions promotes it as an economic solution.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The estimates being debated are for the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. Under the last two Fraser Ministries- I am talking now of the Ministry from 1975 to 1977 and the Ministry since that time- no department has taken more drastic cuts or been butchered more than this Department. The former Department of Environment and Conservation, the former Department of Urban and Regional Development, and in some respects the former Department of Tourism and Recreation were joined together to form this Department. The sad situation is that it has a very low priority from this Government, and I am not casting any reflection on the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) when 1 say that he is one of the junior Ministers in a Ministry of 27. The Department has no muscle. It has no authority at all on economic matters. The former Department of Urban and Regional Development was a major policy department and had an enormous say in economic matters and resource allocation.
One has to understand the philosophy of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to understand why this Department has taken such a drastic beating. If one looks at the actual funding between 1975-76 and 1978-79, one sees that expenditure on growth centres has been cut by 73 per cent, on urban rehabilitation by 76 per cent, and on flood mitigation by 68 per cent. The area improvement programs have been eliminated completely and the expenditure on land commissions has been cut by nearly 80 per cent, on other urban development by nearly 80 per cent, on the development of Aboriginal community amenities by 9 1 per cent, on protection of the environment by nearly 40 per cent, and on sewerage and garbage assistance by 8 1 per cent. Those are the percentage figures. If one looks at the total figures for urban and regional development and the environment one finds that the expenditure in money terms in 1975-76 was $408m. This year the expenditure will be $108m. Those figures do not relate to real money terms because with inflationary pressures that $108m would be worth about half that amount today. If one considers this matter as a percentage of Budget outlays, in 1975-76 allocations to the Department of Urban and Regional Development and the Department of Environment and Conservation represented 7.4 per cent of Budget outlays. On the estimates this year, that figure will come down to 4 per cent.
That is the sorry record of this Government in the field of urban and regional development. There has been a cut in public works programs. There has been a cut in housing. There has been a cut in employment. It is a part of this Government’s economic policy to squeeze the public sector and to create a pool of unemployment to try to bring down inflation. To illustrate those points more graphically and so that people who read Hansard will be able to understand them, I seek leave to have tables incorporated in Hansard.
The tables read as follows-
– If we are to provide a stimulus to the economy, if we are to get things moving again, it is important that we have selective government expenditure. It is important that we spend money on urban programs. It is important that we try to catch up with the sewerage backlog because that represents labour-intensive work. If we spend money in these industries there is a multiplying effect which stimulates employment within the economy. The Opposition states quite clearly that both men and materials are available and this Government should take the initiative to provide selective stimulus to the economy in order to get things under way. As I have said, when the Government starts to spend money in these sectors there is a flow-on effect. On the question of housing, if one looks at what governments have spent on public housing one finds that in 1974-75 the Labor Government allocated 2. 1 per cent of the Budget expenditure to public housing. What is the situation this year? It is estimated that the Government will spend about 1.1 per cent this year. Last year the Government made available $390m for public housing and this year that amount has been cut to $3 16m. If one looks at other allocations for housing one finds that defence service homes expenditure is down by $ 10.7m over last year and housing expenditure in the Territories is down by $5. 3m. As to the homes savings grants scheme, which was the Government’s answer for young people who wanted to get homes, last year $35m was made available and this year the allocation has been cut back to $20m. A Cabinet submission was made last year, prior to the discussion of the Budget, that an amount of $76m would be needed if the Government was to meet all the applications under the home savings grants scheme. Instead it made only $20m available, which means that the majority of people who are waiting for the loan and have been told that they will get it on 1 July next year will find then that
the money is not available because there are too many applicants.
This Government stands condemned more because of the drastic cuts it has made to these programs than because of anything else. If we look at the question of local government, which also is covered by this Department, we find that in the last year of the Labor Government the money made available to local government as a percentage of the previous year’s income tax returns was 2.89 per cent, but this year the Government has made available only 1.52 per cent of tax revenue. It promised that it would build up that figure to 2 per cent. Again, this is an area that needs money because it will be spent in labour-intensive industries and will provide an immediate stimulus to the unemployment sector of our community.
As far as the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development is concerned, if the Government involved itself right across the board in the problems of local government and in the problems of the States, particularly in the public works sector, it would have an enormous influence. I believe that we will overcome the problems of both our capital cities and our provincial cities only if there is a real spirit of co-operation between the three levels of government, working together with people’s organisations and with the private sector. That is the only way in which we are going to solve our urban problems and we have to do it by working in a co-operative fashion. The sad situation is that this Government has withdrawn completely from urban and regional development matters and has left it to the States and local government to solve the problems. The Government itself has not become involved. The States have been given the responsibility but they have not been given the money. This is indicated by the figures to which I have referred. The sad situation is that the major cutbacks by this Government have had an enormous influence on the growth of unemployment in this country. I believe that the Government stands condemned for the Estimates for this Department.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I will restrict my remarks to housing. It is not often that I can agree with the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), but I accept some of the remarks he has just made. He said that the housing industry is one of the most important industries in this country. It creates employment. It helps to boost the economy. If we have a viable building industry we have a viable economy. That has always been my personal view. I have yet to find any reason to change that attitude. I assure the honourable member for Reid that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), who is at the table, also has that attitude. It is just a matter of how money is spent. This Government is taking proper restrictive and necessary economic measures in view of the state of the economy which it inherited from the former Labor Government, which unfortunately threw money around in any direction.
The Budget announced the decision to reduce the prescribed assets ratio of the savings banks by 5 per cent. This should enable those banks to lend more money for housing this year. We congratulate the Minister for that. I express a little concern- I have no doubt that he has the same concern- that when a similar measure was taken by the former Treasurer, the banks, unfortunately, held a greater amount of money in assets than was required. I wonder whether the money will go to where it is supposed to go, that is, the housing industry. I ask the Minister to make every effort to ensure that the banks funnel this money into the housing area. It is well known that banks are not noted for providing housing funds unless the person wishing to borrow has a certain amount of equity or a long trading association with the bank. I am not being unkind. Banks have a marvellous record of providing money for housing to people on a certain level of income. But there is a very large demand for housing from people with an income of $250 a week and less.
– Hear, hear!
– The honourable member agrees. I well remember that when the Labor Party was in government it did not want to provide any money through homes savings grants. It wanted all funds to go to rental homes.
– That is not right.
-It is reasonably right. The honourable member who interjected was the Minister for Housing who wanted to make houses available for $6,000. Through the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, the Minister has provided the means for assisting more people to own a home for giving rental assistance. This is important.
I now turn to a problem which I believe is not being attacked properly. I have been informed that 15,000 young couples or families wish to purchase homes through co-operative and terminating building societies. These government guaranteed societies operating under State legislation are restricted in the amounts of money they have to lend at the moment. I have put forward a proposal to the Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Howard) that the Commonwealth Government show the way by taking out a national loan of $500m. Recently a $700m national loan was raised in a matter of days. The people of Australia are prepared to invest their money in the future of this country. What better way to invest their money than in housing for the young people of this country. Various opponents to such a scheme argue that there has been a drop in building permits and that the demand for housing has dropped simply because many people are buying old homes and doing them up. I have yet to see a person who sells a home and does not require another one in which to live.
It is normal in our society that when a young person is starting off he has to buy within his means. This is logical and it is right. People earning $250 a week and less are restricted in the amount of money they can pay for a home. They cannot pay $60,000. At present they are limited to a loan of $25,000 if they can get the maximum amount, which they can borrow for up to 25 years or 30 years at a very low rate of interest of about 7 per cent. This is provided for in the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. It is good. But this provision caters for only a small group of people. There is a tremendous line up of people wanting to take out loans at every cooperative and terminating building society in this country. I ask the Minister to give this matter careful consideration and to discuss it with the Treasurer. I will take it up with them. I am sure that all State governments, of whatever political persuasion, and the Opposition would join us in saying: ‘Let us get young people into houses. We do not want them living in flats. Let us get this country where it should be so that people who want homes have the opportunity of getting them, particularly those on low incomes.’ The
Housing Agreement will cater for those people earning $160 a week and under with loans at a low interest rate. Those people earning $160 a week to $250 a week can afford the repayments on loans of about $30,000 at an interest rate of 9Vi per cent. I have some figures which I have shown to the honourable member for Reid. They indicate that the repayment term can range from 30 to 45 years on loans varying from $25,000 to $35,000. 1 seek leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
-If money is raised by the Government for housing, it does not have to be pushed out immediately. It could make a progressive loan of $150m this year, another early next year and so on. In a short space of time the building industry would be moving again. Young people on low income levels would be able to buy homes. They, in turn, would create a higher demand for homes for those on the higher income level who wished to move into a better home. They could sell and move into another home. It would be a cycle. If the Government is prepared to take out this loan, the money should be provided only to State government organisations, the terminating or co-operative building societies. It should not be available to housing commissions for rental homes. Rental assistance has already been provided for under the existing agreement. I am talking about providing money expressly for the purpose of assisting young people to purchase a home and to give them the opportunity of home ownership, in which the Liberal and National Country parties have always believed. Home ownership will provide -
– Why didn’t you come along with us?
– When the honourable member was Minister for Housing he was totally opposed to home ownership. We believe in home ownership. The Government has had to face up to a difficult economic problem. It has brought down a Budget designed to carry the economy within the limits of the money available. But Australian money is available. It will not affect inflation or interest rates. It can be borrowed at the normal rate of 9 per cent, without upsetting any lending institution. This money could provide the impetus for housing for the young people of this country on low levels of income. The banks, through arrangements made by the Treasurer and the Minister, have the opportunity also of lending money to those people who can afford higher repayments. We have the opportunity to make sure that the building industry gets the impetus it deserves. I can assure honourable members if we can get the building industry on its feet every other sector of the country will respond. People who buy houses furnish them. They do not live in bare houses. They buy furniture. They set up a home. Food is bought. They buy lawnmowers. They buy boats, as the Opposition Whip does. They buy television sets. They buy radios. This is life.
The point is that if we can get the housing industry going in this country, I am certain in my mind- I know that a number of my colleagues join with me in this belief- that we can make the economy tick the way we want it to tick. We can achieve that result without forcing an increase in the rate of inflation. I will take this matter as far as I can to ensure that this loan is raised. I am certain that the Cabinet will give very favourable consideration to this very important matter. I believe that the result will be an expansion of the building industry, which in turn will be of great benefit to the young people of this country, to the economy of this country and to the future of this country. The housing industry is one of our greatest employers. It is one of the greatest users of the natural resources of the country and it is one of the major industries of the country.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I gather from what the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) said that he is in disagreement with the policy of the Government and that he wants more money spent on housing. I take it he is implying that more funds ought to be made available to the terminating building societies, for example. Of course, that is an area in which an effective curtailment of funds has occurred. It was the Labor Government which introduced special provisions which enabled people earning up to 90 per cent of average weekly earnings to qualify for assistance from the Government at 5Vt per cent interest rate. I cannot have my train of thought derailed too much by the tirade of the honourable member for Bendigo who preceded me in the discussion, because what he said was very hard to comprehend. It was obvious that he just wanted the best of both worlds.
The new Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) is sitting at the table. We are all looking to him with great expectations, hoping that there might be a new turn of events under his administration. We hope that he is more than a pretty face, but we have not seen much evidence of that up to now. The Government continues to direct resources into the corporate sector. For example, the investment allowance, in relation to which more than $850m has been appropriated, is obviously designed to replace men with machines. There does not seem to be an effective realisation on the part of the Government that investment in the building and construction area, which is labour intensive, will bring very great benefits to this country. A cut of approximately 9 per cent in real terms has occurred in total Commonwealth controlled funds which flow to the building and construction industry. This will mean a loss of about 28,000 jobs, some 14,000 of them as a directresult of this decision, and that many more again will occur in the material supply area, the servicing area and other associated industries.
The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) mentioned some figures. I would like to document my case with some figures. In Budget terms, net advances to the States for housing have been reduced by 26.S per cent. Expenditure on defence service housing has been reduced by 26.6 per cent. Expenditure on housing in the Territories has been cut by 95.7 per cent. Overall the curtailment in housing expenditure is 33 per cent. Much more slashing of the funds has occurred in connection with urban affairs generally. For example, funds made available under the heading ‘Sewerage and Garbage assistance to the States’ have been slashed by 60.6 per cent. Funds have been reduced for land commissions, urban rehabilitation, urban flood mitigation. So it goes on. These are matters which generally fall into the area of housing and construction and associated areas.
Let us look at the official figures in regard to housing approvals. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics a reduction in the number of new dwellings approved has occurred as follows: In Australia in August 1978 there were 10,390 approvals; in August 1977 the number was 1 1,360. So that in itself shows a drop in approvals of 9.6 per cent. That is to say, 970 fewer approvals were made this August than was the case in August of last year. Then let us look at the commencement figures for the most recent quarter, which happens to be the June quarter 1978. The number of commencements on dwellings over Australia in that quarter was 32,140, which compares unfavourably with the June quarter 1977 figure of 33,330. The same pattern emerges whichever figures one looks at.
Let us now look at the matter of loans from savings and trading banks to individuals for financing construction and purchase of newly constructed dwellings. The number of new dwellings commenced on which savings and trading bank loans were given was as follows: In August 1977 the total was 4,387 and in August 1978 the total was 4,065. So we have another reduction in that area. Thus 322 fewer new dwellings were financed by savings and trading bank loans in August of this year than was the case a year ago. The cost of financing new dwellings also rose between August last year and August this year. The increase in round figures was from $81m to $85m. So it has cost more to finance fewer new buildings because, whilst $4m more this year than last year was borrowed from savings and trading banks by new home buyers, 322 fewer new houses were funded.
I turn now to the figures in regard to finance made available from savings and trading banks for new and old dwellings. We find that over Australia $238m was allocated in August 1977 and $274m for August 1978. That represents a 15 per cent increase in net terms, but it does not really imply anything of great significance because that allocation is in regard to new and old dwellings. So we see so much of that sort of substance being burnt up in the turnover of old houses. The Government just seems to be unable to see the wood for the trees in this regard. It places a lot of reliance on the decision to reduce the prescribed assets ratio held by the savings banks. I think this is the thimble and pea trick because the assets ratio has been around the 50 per cent level for some time in any case. It will not shift downwards because of the rigidity of the asset structure of the banks and because of the prospects of the banks obtaining capital gains from their bonds. I was quite interested to see a comment on this matter in the publication Inside Canberra. In referring to this matter, that publication stated, referring to the building industry:
All it got was a reduction from 43 per cent to 40 per cent in the ratio of public securities and liquid assets which savings banks are required to hold. Mr Howard claimed this would expand savings banks’ capacity to lend for housing. In fact this will not happen for at least six months for a variety of reasons, including the reluctance of the banks to get rid of paper at a time when interest rates are easing downward and borrowings from local government authorities are to increase by 1 2 per cent this year.
Yet that is the factor upon which the Government has placed such great reliance. The figures- time will not permit me to go through them all- show that rents have gone up, that employment in the home building industry has fallen dramatically. We can see that for all of Australia, excluding the Northern Territory, 7,900 jobs were lost in the industry last year. Now I come to the policies of the Fraser Government designed to alleviate this situation. Already the Fraser Government has abolished the Australian Housing Corporation which was designed to be versatile and to have the capacity to move in and to assist people who were faced with mortgage barriers in obtaining housing loans. We have virtually abdicated from the housing field because we have taken away the instrumentality that would have enabled the Commonwealth to be effective in this area. Now funds for the home savings grants scheme have been curtailed. The Government has cut into the funds that were to be made available for defence service homes. Of course the much vaunted Housing Allowance Voucher Experiment scheme has now been abandoned. This time last year it was one of the future housing initiatives of the Liberal Country Party alliance which has now found it to have no teeth and no usefulness. Having spent money on the bureaucracy and all the overhead factors associated with it, and not having given any benefit to the people who are seeking homes, the Government has suddenly decided to jettison this initiative as well.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In my remarks tonight I would like to offer my support for the movement to establish in our country a ‘charter for sport’. In addressing myself to division 296, subdivision 3, item 03 of the estimates for the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, it is appropriate to build on the remarks of the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) who discussed in his speech sport and the aims and aspirations of sport. It is appropriate to establish what is desirable in the general Australian sporting context. I think it is absolutely essential that we adopt a pyramid type approach wherein we give opportunity to those people who aspire to international fame and recognition and also make available facilities for those people who merely want to engage in sport for the fulfilment of their own personalities and for the adequate enjoyment of leisure.
A pyramid type approach would be beneficial to all sectors because, on account of the example given by champions, in future more people would be at the apex and fewer people would be at the base. Nothing inspires enthusiasm more than people having as an idol the world champion in their own sport. We must adopt an approach which will encourage our top class athletes and performers to better themselves, to achieve their total and absolute potential, whilst at the same time making available facilities for people who merely want to enjoy themselves. It appears to me that the ‘Charter of German Sport’ would be very appropriate for us in Australia to adopt. In effect it could be the blueprint for launching us on a new recipe for living. I quote from that document:
The ‘ Charter of German Sport ‘ aims at a uniform conception of the encouragement of sport, of its educational value and its educational aim. It outlines a common task which is achieved only in close partnership with the State, the schools, the parents, the churches, the political parties and all other social organisations serving man and the common welfare.
The gymnastic and sports associations and clubs are fully trusted with the solution of the tasks assigned to them. They deserve this trust, however, not only because of the special knowledge peculiar to them, but also because of the extraordinary, quite indefinable values resting upon voluntary personal initiative.
That charter seems to me to indicate what is desirable in the Australian context. On the one hand we give due recognition to voluntary helpers, those people who have carried the burden of keeping amateur and professional sport alive. All of us are only too fully aware of people who have made great sacrifices in a voluntary coaching capacity or in the conduct of the various lotteries and the provision of foodstuffs. We could not exist without them. I suppose it is true to say that these people epitomise the Australian ethos and develop the Australian character. But at present more assistance is necessary if we are to encourage sport. I was delighted today to have the opportunity, with some of my colleagues, to discuss this matter with Wayne Reid, Les Martyn and Gary Daley who are members of the Australian Confederation of Sport. I congratulate them in trying to bring together the threads of an organisation to control the future direction of sport and sporting associations in this country. They deserve every possible encouragement.
I find it difficult to understand the situation in Australia wherein, up to the present, sport has been looked upon merely as recreation rather than a part of living. I cannot understand why it has not been included in the total concept of education. In education emphasis is given to literacy, numeracy and drama but not to sport. Why cannot sport be made part and parcel of the curriculum in schools? It is essential for our young people not only to participate for the value of participating but also to obtain discipline. If one thing is lacking in Australian society at present surely it is discipline. Only last Friday night I had the privilege to be associated with the starting of a 200-kilometre endurance horse ride from the city of Warwick to the Gold Coast. I was delighted to see a 71 -year old man, Mr Tom Mahony, who rode that long distance from midnight on Friday night till 3 o’clock on Sunday afternoon. I thought what a pity the long haired, unshaven people on the Gold Coast- there are some of those people there- were not able to absorb some of bis inner toughness, some of his discipline. I am concerned that with the great emphasis that is put on education sport is excluded from the curriculum. I am also concerned that the total health bill in Australia, including the costs incurred by State, Federal and local authorities and private means, is in the order of $7,000m this year. That is roughly $480 a head of population.
Yet governments in Australia spend 9 cents a head on sport. The expenditure in Canada is $1.46 a head and in Britain it is 47 cents a head. It seems to me that overseas statistics indicate that where a nation encourages competition in sport, where people actually engage in sport rather than sitting on the sidelines, the health of that nation is of a higher standard and it spends fewer dollars for each head of population in health costs. So it appears to me to be a perfectly desirable and laudable proposition to advance that we transfer resources from health costs to sporting costs. That seems to be a sound approach. I think the best method of adopting this approach is for the Commonwealth Government to provide funding in the area of administration and national coaching. The Australian Confederation of Sport is comprised of some 94 associations, but there is not sufficient money to have them administered. I would think that if we reduced the allocation to health by, say, $4m or $5m and transferred it to sport, we could have a national administrator and a national coach for all of these sports. That would strike a first blow and would be a start.
One gets upset when one finds that in a country such as Canada 30 Australian coaches have been engaged for the purpose of developing its sport! We cannot find the money to employ them in Australia yet, indicative of its concern for sport as a part of the art of living, Canada is able to supply them with professional positions. What would we think if we lost all of our good singing teachers, ballet teachers and university professors? We would be very concerned about that situation. I submit that it is already very late in the day to consider and show some concern about the loss of professional coaches overseas. I applaud bodies such as the Rothmans Foundation which, among other things, supplies a national director of coaching for rugby union in the person of Mr Dick Marks.
I find it difficult to accept a situation in which the Government of Australia- and I accept my part of the blame- applies a sales tax to sports goods. That tax nets the Commonwealth $45m a year. It would be appropriate to allow sporting goods to be made available free of sales tax. It would not involve a huge loss of revenue. I hope that in the next 12 months the Minister at the table, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), will be able to persuade the State governments to participate in a national sports lottery. I grieve when I find out all the football -
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I rise to support the call made by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) for the Government to make more money available to overcome the housing shortage situation and stimulate the housing industry. We know that activity in the housing industry is at a 10-year low, that there are unemployed tradesmen and that surplus material is lying idle. Therefore, I believe that the views expressed by a back bencher on the Government side of the chamber, criticising the Government for not making available sufficient funding for housing, should be supported. Also, the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), in speaking tonight on PM, again criticised the Government for not making more money available in the public works and housing sectors. He also is to be commended. A revolt is coming among Government supporters who seek greater expenditure on housing and public works so that the economy can be stimulated and the present unemployment situation can be dealt with. But I point out to the honourable member for Bendigo that in speaking of the needed money being made available through the terminating building societies he indicates that he does not understand that that money is made available to them by way of the Government through the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. The amount that was made available under that agreement last year for this purpose was $390m. This year it has been cut back to $3 16m. It is distributed under a formula whereby 70 per cent is allocated to the housing commissions and the other 30 per cent is allocated through the terminating building societies.
Let us examine in greater depth the actual amounts that the States receive for housing. Even as far back as 1974-75 the total amount they received represented 2.1 per cent of the Government’s overall budget expenditure. This year the appropriation under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement represents only 1.1 per cent of total Budget expenditure. The actual sum made available to the States for housing in 1974-75 was $385m. There was provision for repayment of advances in the amount of $ 1 9m and an interest repayment of $88m, leaving a net amount of $278m. For 1978-79, $3 16m has been made available. Of this sum, $3 lm represents repayment of advances and $147m represents interest repayment, leaving a net payment to the States of only $137m. That compares with a net of $278m in 1974-75. One can appreciate the dire straits in which the housing industry finds itself. I believe that what the honourable member for Bendigo has said- that the Government should make more money available- is very important indeed.
I wish now to discuss the figures in more detail. The Treasurer, Mr Howard, said in his Budget speech that the Government hoped to stimulate the housing sector through the advances made by way of the savings banks. The ratio was to be changed from 45 per cent to 40 per cent. The truth is that at present it stands at 53 per cent. Even if the Government gets it down, if things improve, to 40 per cent, one must also consider the amount that is actually being loaned for new housing- and I emphasise that money for new housing is needed to stimulate the economy. Last month only about 30 per cent of all loans made available through the savings banks related to new housing. In the case of the permanent building societies the figure was 3 1 per cent. For the savings banks it was actually 33 per cent. On the latest figures they have fallen even further. Last month only 28 per cent of all loans allocated through the savings banks were for new housing. Therefore, even if the ratio were reduced it would not stimulate the construction of new houses.
On the other hand, if we look at the proposition that has been put forward by the honourable member for Bendigo and consider making the money available through the public sector, through the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, we find again that of the 70 per cent that goes to the State housing commissions at least 85 per cent goes into new housing, and 15 per cent into land. The money that goes through the terminating building societies -
– I rise on a point of order. I do not want to interrupt this very interesting discussion, but I must point out that I did not say that the money would go to the housing commission.
– There is no substance to the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Again, 57 per cent of all loans that are made through the terminating building societies go into new housing. Therefore, at least 75 per cent of all Government money that is spent through the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement is devoted to new housing. That would mean that for every dollar spent in the public sector through the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, one would have to spend $2.50 in the private sector. Therefore, one would not achieve the same stimulus.
The honourable member for Bendigo also spoke about the need for money to be made available for new loans. He talked about people earning up to $250 a week finding it difficult to get loans, or to meet the required monthly repayments on a housing loan. It is even worse than that. In the western suburbs of Sydney a normal home costs about $35,000. Even if one had a $5,000 deposit, the repayment on a 25-year loan of $30,000 at an interest rate of 10 per cent would be $272 a month. If the weekly repayment is to represent only 25 per cent of the weekly income it means that people earning less than 135 per cent of average weekly earnings would be disqualified. It is important that the Government introduce housing schemes which will allow people to get their foot on the first rung of the ladder to purchase their first home. The only way in which that can be done, to my knowledge, is by way of a deferred mortgage repayment scheme. Very few people default on their housing loans. Therefore, we have to have more confidence in people and we have to formulate a housing policy whereby in the early stages people do not pay as much in repayments as they do in later years. I believe that under the deferred mortgage payment scheme, with government guarantees, more people can be housed. Otherwise these people will be forced to put their names on the housing commission waiting lists. Already 100,000 families are on those lists and the number is growing faster and faster each year. Because of the economic conditions prevailing, more and more people are going to be forced on to the housing commission waiting lists. As I said before, this Government is cutting back on expenditure on public housing instead of increasing it so as to give a stimulus to the housing industry.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to thank all honourable members who have contributed to the debate on the estimates for the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. I would like also to respond to some of the points that have been made. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) commenced the debate by making what I thought were some quite reasonable comments on sport and the involvement of government in sport. I commend him particularly for his comments on the importance of sport in preventive medicine, the importance of developing sport and having people involved in sport so that it will improve their health and thereby reduce health costs. I think that was a very worthwhile point.
I do not think he was terribly fair about the contribution being made at the moment by the Government to sports development and the amount of funds being provided. He failed fairly to state the facts. This financial year we will be providing $ 1.33m, which is a 33 1/3 per cent increase on the amount provided in the previous financial year. In dollar terms it is the most that has ever been provided for sports development in this country. The honourable member spoke about $11m being provided during the Labor Government’s term of office, but most of that money was provided not to sportsmen and sportswomen to develop theirskills but to constructing buildings- bricks and mortar. Certainly that is important but the States and local government can do that. I think that the role of the Federal Government is properly to develop our sporting skills and to encourage our sportsmen and sportswomen. Recently we announced the allocation to various sporting bodies throughout Australia of this $ 1.33m. Seventy-two sporting organisations will receive assistance this financial year. The grants include $562,700 for international competition and $382,000 for administration.
– It is embarrassing.
– The honourable member says that it is embarrassing; that it is not enough. It is important and it is recognised as important by the sporting bodies. It is helping them and providing them with a great deal of initiative and incentive, and they commend the Government.
– They do not.
-They do commend the Government. Full time coaches and coaching projects will receive $237,600, research and information dissemination will receive $34,300 and other forms of sports development will receive $5,000. They are large amounts of money and that is appreciated by the sporting bodies concerned. The honourable member for Robertson made one interesting comment which I thought was a reflection upon the Labor Government ‘s approach to sport when he said- I think I am quoting him correctly- that he would not like it to be done in the ad hoc way it was done before. If honourable members read his speech they will see that it is really a comment upon the Labor Government’s approach to sport. He was saying that it was an ad hoc approach. I think that underneath he was giving some credit to our approach to sport. Last year $1m was allocated to sport. It was a start. We have built on that. We have not wound down our sports program; we have built on it. We have increased it by 33 1/3 per cent. That is important and I think some credit should be given for it.
The honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) spoke about grants to conservation . organisations and mentioned the $350,000 that is being made available to conservation organisations. I thank him for his contribution. He made the point that this amount is being granted to unspecified conservation organisations. It is true to say that at present the bodies are unspecified but they will be specified quite soon. I have received advice from the Australian Heritage Commission and I am now in a position to allocate those funds. I would expect that quite soon I will be announcing the various allocations to the bodies concerned. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) made his usual speech on the subject of housing. He seems to think that the public sector is all-important and appears to disregard the private sector. He wants more and more money spent on public housing in Australia and does not give due regard to the private sector.
It is interesting to note that 90 per cent of the funds provided for housing in Australia is provided by the private sector through the banks, building societies and other lending institutions, and from private sources. Only 10 per cent or thereabouts of those funds is provided as public funding. It is important to recognise that the more important sector to the future of housing and the financing of housing in Australia is the private sector. We are giving proper encouragement to an expansion of funding through the private sector and that must be recognised. The decision made to reduce the prescribed asset ratio from 45 per cent to 40 per cent is recognised by the housing industry, the banks and other lending institutions as an important decision which will result during this financial year in an increased flow to the housing industry and to the home buyer of funds required to purchase homes. Again, that was an important decision.
The honourable member for Reid made the comment that we should be spending more on government departments, that we should build up the size of government in Canberra. I know that is his view but others would disagree with - him. There is no doubt that during the Labor Government’s term of office a great deal of money was wasted in some of the programs which he encouraged. Many of them were important programs; many were great in theory but not great in practice. On any sensible and responsible assessment of the job he did when he was in office, one would say that many of the decisions made at that time were unsuccessful and many of the public resources used at that time were wasted. Of course, the people who pay are the taxpayers, the ordinary hard-working men and women of this country. I think we should have due regard to the fact that the money we spend as governments is not our own money; it is money earned through toil and effort by ordinary people in the community.
The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) was not critical of the Government, on my understanding of his comments. The member for Reid suggested he was, but he was not. Again, I think that if one reads his speech one will find that he was not critical of the Government. He made what I would believe to be a very constructive contribution in which he made some suggestions that are worthy of close consideration. He suggested a scheme to assist people, especially young people and those on limited incomes, to get into homes. He mentioned a national loan. I must say that I think there are problems with that sort of scheme. Nevertheless I will be pursuing it and discussing it further with the Treasurer (Mr Howard). The matter has already been raised with us. I make the point that the honourable member for Bendigo is not a theorist; he is a person who has had a lot of experience in the building industry. He was in that industry for many years. He is a practical person. One cannot ignore that sort .of experience. One must take heed of the comments made by a person of his experience. I again thank him for his contribution.
I think the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) made a disappointing contribution. He distorted the facts and figures, as he so often does. I must make that point. He is known as a fiddler of figures and he fiddled with figures on this occasion. I make the point that as far as funding under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement is concerned there will be as much available to the States this year to fund welfare housing as there was last year, but it depends upon State effort. If the States make the effort and the contribution that I believe they will make, then in no sense will welfare housing suffer during this financial year.
I mentioned the base figure of $ 186m and a matching figure of $ 130m. That means that the States will provide a matching figure of $ 130m. All the States have indicated that they will make the full matching contribution. Where the honourable member for Hughes has gone wrong is that he has ignored the revolving funds. I must point out to him that these funds are an important part of welfare housing funding in Australia. In this financial year the revolving funds, which he has ignored, will amount to something like $69m. If he adds that figure to the other figures he has mentioned he will come up with something like the right figure.
The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) made an excellent contribution to this debate, as he usually does. He spoke about the triangle concept of sports development. Those who heard him speak on the subject would appreciate that he displays a good deal of knowledge, common sense and understanding of sports development in Australia. His ideas are consistent with the ideas of the Government. We believe that we should encourage our top sportsmen and sportswomen and by encouraging them we will thereby encourage mass participation in sport by Australians. I think that is the point made by the honourable member for Darling Downs. He made an important point when he mentioned the downgrading of sport in the education system. We should look at this carefully as should educationists. It is not good that sport should be excluded from some schools, as I think is occurring in some areas. I think that sport should be given its proper place in schools and in the education system. I noted the other comments that were made by the honourable member for Darling Downs and certainly I will take those into account in the development of our sports policy in the future.
– What initiatives are you going to take to overcome the housing crisis?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-The question now is -
- Mr Deputy Chairman -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! There is no point of order. I am about to put the question. The question is that the proposed expenditure -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. The honourable member for Hughes just stood to take a point of order. The question had not been put and you would not listen to his point of order.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat. Does the honourable member for Hughes have a point of order?
- Mr Deputy Chairman, with respect to you, I asked the Minister a question. I did not regard that as any justification for him to sit down.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Questions are out of order and you have no business to ask the Minister a question at this time.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of Employment and Industrial Relations
Proposed expenditure, $282,716,000.
-In the few minutes available I want to pay some specific attention to the Government’s manpower programs, so-called- the National Employment and Training scheme, the Special Youth Employment Training Program, the Community Youth Support scheme, the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training scheme and the Education Program for Unemployed Youth. The Government maintains that these programs provide people with skills and work experience to enhance their prospects of stable employment. Even if existing programs were successful in achieving these limited aims the expenditure of $ 173.8m is a pitiful amount to invest in Australia’s future productive capacity. Australia needs an integrated and systematic plan that offers the unemployed the choice of employment, job training, education or community service. Present schemes do little to provide realistic alternatives for the unemployed. Clearly this Government has failed in the area of job creation. Close scrutiny of training schemes also reveals that it has failed to comprehend the immense problem of educating and training an industrial work force capable of adapting to rapid periods of structural change within industry.
The appropriation for the NEAT scheme has gone up from $84.9m to $122m. The SYETP scheme, which forms such a large part of the NEAT scheme, has had an increase from $47. lm to $80m, The SYETP scheme will receive $80m or two-thirds of the total NEAT allocation this financial year. The period of training under the SYETP scheme is reduced from six to four months in 1978-79 and the rate of wage subsidy payable to employers is reduced from $67 to $45 a week. This was done, according to the Treasurer (Mr Howard), to correct ‘the present tendency for SYETP to favour unduly younger age groups to the detriment of older age groups ‘. Of the estimated throughput of about 1 10,000 trainees under NEAT in 1978-79 about 80,000 are expected to be trained under the SYEPT scheme. Therefore NEAT has an estimated throughput of 30,000 trainees in 1978-79, which provides little hope that NEAT will make any significant contribution to the education and training of the adult work force over the age of 24 years. This figure in itself represents a clear admission by the Government that it is prepared to deny large numbers of the unemployed the right to obtain the necessary skills required to work in an economy characterised by dramatic changes in skill requirements. Indeed this is not surprising, given the Government’s reluctance to engage in the forecasting of the future manpower requirements of Australian industry.
The SYETP scheme is the main government measure used to alleviate youth unemployment. It is totally dependent upon the level of employment opportunities within the private sector and therefore it does not add to the overall stock of jobs in the community. There is considerable evidence to suggest that its effect upon the level of employment is counterproductive. I give some reasons why. Employers are not obliged to create an additional position to qualify for the subsidy; employers are not required to retain the employee when the subsidy period expires; and there is no bar on employers hiring a succession of trainees, although the young people themselves are eligible for only one period of subsidised training under the scheme. Therefore the scheme has the effect of recycling unemployment. Firms simply hire unemployed workers to replace other workers who then become unemployed. The scheme has the effect of creating less stable and less satisfactory jobs which may take the place of permanent ones. It has the effect of discouraging a rational deployment of manpower. SYETP approvals are not subject to the labour market lists which are used to vet applications for general NEAT funding. Thus, the socalled trainees may be absorbed into areas where employment opportunities are most threatened by structural adjustment and technological change. The Government is not even able to tell the Parliament what type of training has been provided for SYETP beneficiaries.
I understand that a survey conducted by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations earlier this year shows that between October and December last year only 35 per cent of those taken on under the scheme and completing it had been given permanent jobs by their employers, whilst an earlier survey gave the figure at 50 per cent. This is a clear indication that the employers are misusing the scheme by retrenching young people at the end of the sixmonth subsidised training period. The Government’s cutback in the subsidy is a clear indication also that employers have abused this generous level of wage subsidy.
The contention that the changes have been made to correct the present tendency for SYETP to favour unduly younger groups to the detriment of the employment prospects of older age groups is not borne out in the unemployment figures. Although unemployment for 15 to 19- year-olds dropped from 175,000 in February to 125,000 in May and to 1 19,000 in August, these declines were not matched by increases in employment. Between February and August the number of 15 to 24-year-olds in jobs fell by 3,900. In addition this period was characterised by a withdrawal of young people from the labour force with a drop in the participation rate of 1 5 to 19-year-olds from 65.2 per cent to 61 per cent- 50,000 young people simply disappeared from the labour force. The decline in youth unemployment is therefore illusory.
The SYETP scheme therefore is clearly a failure as a job creation scheme. The Government however maintains that the scheme is a training scheme despite the following facts: Conventional business is not often in a position to provide adequate resources for the development of basic job skills. The CES does not have the resources adequately to supervise in-plant training. There is no requirement that the employer provide marketable job skills. A flat rate subsidy ensures that the training that is provided is orientated towards secondary and low wage occupations. The scheme therefore swallows some two-thirds of the NEAT budget but fails to ensure any net increase in jobs while conducting a training component of dubious validity.
The budget for the Community Youth Support Scheme rose from $5.7m last year to $9m this year. The purpose of the scheme is to fund community based organisations to run activities and work orientation programs for local young people without jobs. The Government recently has introduced new guidelines that hinder the ability of these projects to cater for the unemployed in any meaningful way. The guidelines prevent projects from engaging in job related activities, such as self-employment, the production of goods for sale and job search and placement. Given the fact that 29 young people are unemployed for every CES vacancy, these guidelines effectively prevent the Community Youth Support Scheme’s ability to operate a socalled ‘employment related scheme’. In effect the scheme’s role under the new guidelines is aptly described as cuddle therapy. Its only purpose is to instil the work ethic into kids who stand little chance of getting a job because any local initiatives which could create employment are forbidden.
The training element involved in CYSS is also constrained by the guidelines which prevent ‘formal education classes or instruction in job skills as those normally provided by educational and training institutions’. Under the guidelines CYSS schemes are confined to the role of drop-in centres. There is little doubt that some CYSS schemes have been highly successful in providing essential moral and personal support for the unemployed. They do, however, vary enormously in their effectiveness. If the Government was serious, there is no doubt CYSS could easily be absorbed into NEAT as a job creation and training project where participants could be paid a training allowance.
The estimates for the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-Time Training scheme have gone up from $ 15.8m in 1977-78 to $38m in 1978-79. Despite the introduction of CRAFT in January 1977 a drop of 5.6 per cent in apprenticeship intakes occurred in 1977-78 compared with the previous year. Quite clearly, employers are still reluctant to boost their apprenticeship intakes. This, to a large extent, is a reflection of the shrinkage in the overall labour market particularly in the building and construction industries. Let me refer to the major labour intensive industries. We note that the intake of apprentices in 1977-78 compared with 1976-77 in the metal industries throughout Australia dropped by 5.2 per cent. The number of apprentices employed in the building industry dropped dramatically by 18.3 per cent. There was a drop of 6.9 per cent in the number of apprentices taken into the vehicle industry in 1977-78. These figures had varying effects throughout the States.
As I said this morning, the employment and unemployment situation has reached a crisis in Australia. The Government ignores to its peril what is occurring in Australia. Something has to be done urgently to put people back to work. The Government needs to recognise the drop-out in the labour force in Australia. More money will have to be put into job creation programs as quickly as possible if we are to avoid the sort of social crisis that is now upon us. If the Government continues to ignore the problems of unemployment with which it is confronted, there can be absolutely no doubt at all that the next time it goes to the polls we will see a change of government.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I would like to follow the same theme as the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and address my remarks to the same estimates. I was somewhat disappointed with his speech. We have heard some very good speeches in this chamber from the honourable member and, on occasions, he has made good suggestions to the House and to the Government about methods that can be followed to alleviate the increasing problems of unemployment in this country. Tonight the honourable member outlined the various schemes that the Government has introduced in order to train young people to go into the work force and in that way alleviate the problems of the young unemployed. But the honourable member for Port Adelaide did nothing more than criticise every scheme that the Government now has in operation. I think it is totally wrong for the honourable member for Port Adelaide or any member on the other side of the chamber to say that all the various schemes such as the National Employment and Training Scheme, the Special Youth Employment Training Scheme and the Community Youth Support Scheme that the Government is operating have no effect at all in training young people to get into the work force. That is a totally wrong construction. It is undue political criticism on the honourable member’s part. I was very disappointed with that aspect of his speech.
The honourable member, in the course of his speech, said that the Government will be spending $ 1 73.8m this year for apprentice training and other schemes to train young people to go into the work force. I compare the $46.3m that has been budgeted this current financial year for apprenticeship training with the $32. 6m that was allocated for the previous financial year. The allocation this year for general employment training schemes which cover the broad spectrum of programs stands at $ 126.8m. Last year the amount was $87.4m and the year before $32.9m. This gives some indication of the concern that this Government has for unemployment. It can be related to the processes and methods that the Government has implemented to try to alleviate the problems of the unemployed and to train young people for a place in the labour force.
The other aspect that disappointed me about the honourable member’s speech was that he seemed to assume that the only people in the community who have a responsibility for unemployment are members of the Federal Government. That is a totally wrong construction. We all recall the very good and forthright speech made to this chamber by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) some weeks ago. He outlined to this House and to the country the long term nature of unemployment and the associated social problems that must be recognised and taken to heart not just by the Government but by every person and every section of our society. That speech was made on a nonpartisan, non-political basis. It set out the facts. It was a discussion paper. We will all be able to analyse critically the problems of unemployment. Members of this Parliament and people throughout the country will be able to set their minds to solving the problems and accepting the factors that have to be taken into account to reduce unemployment on a long term basis.
All of us in this place seem to have the idea that unemployment is an economic problem and that we have to get these kids into the work place so that they can be earning money, paying taxes and alleviating our social welfare bill. I remind honourable members opposite that unemployment is not just an economic problem. It is great to have young people in the work force, earning money and paying their way in society, but unemployment now must be recognised as being as much a social problem as an economic problem. While members on the other side of the chamber might try to put unemployment in an economic context and say that the Government should make economic decisions and moves in order to cope with unemployment, we have to recognise that unemployment is a social problem. Because it is a social problem responsibility must be accepted by all sections of the community and not just by people in this place.
Let us look at educational standards. If we are to look at social aspects we have to look at education. This is what the teachers in the schools say about the people who go through the education system: ‘All we do is to train a kid until he is 16 or 17 years old and we don’t give two hoots where he goes once he leaves school’. But the kids, once they leave school, have to go out and find a job. Surely the education system must take its share of the responsibility for unemployment because of the way it is putting the kids on the labour market. So consideration must be given to education in this regard. What about disciplinary standards? As stated in an earlier speech by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), discipline in society has slumped to a very low level. I believe that until we can correct this downturn in disciplinary standards we will not be able to offer to the labour market young people who employers will be prepared to take on to their staff.
What about wage levels? What consideration has been given by honourable members on the opposite side of this chamber to the effect that ever increasing wage levels have in taking away jobs from people who are looking for jobs? Surely we must accept as a fact that the rising level of wages has a big impact on keeping people out of the work force. We have to accept that as part of the social problem of unemployment. What about full adult pay at the age of 18? What would honourable members on the other side of this chamber do if a young kid just out of school, with no training and no competency at all to go into the work force, appeared on their doorsteps and said: ‘I demand full pay without training’. Would they be prepared to give that person a job? This is the situation facing so many young kids. They cannot get into the work force. They are precluded from it because of various agreements that have been made as a result of strong arm tactics by the trade union movement. We have to accept that as being part of the social problem of unemployment.
What about the number of married women who are going back into the work force? What consideration have we given to that point? Ten years ago 14.1 per cent of the work force was made up of married women. Today that percentage is 22 per cent. That accounts for an extra 450,000 married women in the work force. How many of those married women are keeping kids in the dole queues? What consideration have any honourable members in this chamber, and for that matter members of the general community, given to the impact on unemployment of that factor? Surely we must consider these factors. What about the technology revolution? Surely we have to consider that as part of the social change and social impact affecting unemployment. These are all parts of the problem of unemployment. It is not just a problem that this Government can face. It is not just a problem that this Government can solve allocating money, as people on the other side of this chamber seem to think.
We heard the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) suggest that there should be job creation programs. What sort of solution is that? It is a band-aid solution to a long term problem. It will not work. We have to have long term, solutions to unemployment and they have to involve every section of society, every group and organisation in the community. All of us in Australia collectively have to “ accept that responsibility if. we are to solve this problem. If we have a section of society such as the trade union movement or any other group that says: ‘We are not going to accept that responsibility we are going to adopt an anti-social attitude’, then I believe that the long term effect in the future will be to keep more and more kids in the dole queues and extend this problem for many more years than is absolutely necessary.
– It is always a delight to follow the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr). His absolute paranoia about the trade union movement comes through in every speech that he makes in this House. We had hoped that in the 10 minutes in which he addressed us we were going to get some sort of indication of what the Government intends to do about solving the unemployment problem. It would seem that the honourable member for Wilmot has now discovered the truth of something that often has been said to him since 1975 when he first became a member of this House- that unemployment is a social problem. That is an incredible discovery. I would like to reply to some of the honourable member’s comments. He used the old caper of Phil Lynch, the honourable member for Flinders, and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who always say that ever increasing wage levels are aggravating the unemployment situation. That is very easy to say and it is a little difficult to refute but it rather overlooks the real facts of the matter. The honourable member for Wilmot stated the real facts finally when he said that increased mechanisation and advances in technology are keeping kids out of work. That is the key to the problem. It would not matter what wage rates are being paid to people. At no time in the past have wage levels had an effect on the level at which employers will employ people. Nor will they have an effect in the future.
I will advance that argument a little further. I think we ought to have a look at what actually happens. Somebody at some time invests his capital and establishes a factory to manufacture goods. After manufacturing those goods he sets about finding a market for them. The market is successful and he sells the goods at a higher price that it cost him to manufacture them. Therefore the operation is profitable. Surely that operation is pretty basic I think that everybody in the community, perhaps with the exception of the honourable member for Wilmot, would have sufficient intelligence to understand that that is exactly what happens from day to day in all the factories in Australia and around the world. Employers employ as many people as they need to produce the volume of goods that they wish to produce so that they can then sell them and get the whole system going again.
Whether wage rates are up or down is completely irrelevant. They are not- I repeat they are not- of any significance in this country. If people care to compare wage rates paid in Australia with the slave wage rates paid in some other countries they must answer this question: How is it that countries such as West Germany, the United States, Japan and a number of others with wage rates comparable to ours are still able to proceed and do what they want to do? So there is no validity in the argument about ever increasing wage levels adding to the level of unemployment. The same argument applies to kids being paid full wages. That is a completely irrelevant matter. The honourable member thinks that married women go to work just to wear out their old clothes. He ignores the fact that in most cases- certainly it is the case in my electorate- if married women are working they are doing so to sustain the income of the family and not to keep kids out of work. If they were to move away from their present employment the whole family would go down the drain.
I would rather take up the theme that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) put to us tonight. He was quite correct, as he generally is. He was on the ball and followed the whole theme through. This Community Youth Support Scheme that the Government put to us, is a charade. That is known by everybody. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) should know that the Community Youth Support Scheme in the city of Broadmeadows, which is a very prominent city in my electorate, is a charade. He has been told so by the people who have been responsible for managing it. They have suffered nothing but frustration in their endeavours and their attempts. The whole purpose of the CYSS, as it is euphemistically called, is to make sure that young people leaving school are work oriented. I do not know what that means; somebody must know. In the city of Broadmeadows a host of people, for a long time and at great expense to themselves in terms of money and loss of recreation, have endeavoured to make this CYSS scheme work. It has not worked. The guidelines are restrictive.
A group in Sunbury, another prominent centre in my electorate, who wished to set up a project under the CYSS scheme, were told by the State organisation that that just was not on. There were no funds available to the kids in that town. We are talking about at least two towns in Victoria with a very high percentage of young unemployed people. The people in Sunbury, with the best of intentions, wished to set up a CYSS project. Poor as I might think it is, at least it is a band-aid job. However, they were told by this Government, with its great compassion for unemployed young people, that funds just were not available. The people in Broadmeadows are able to work only from month to month, six months at a time, because they have been told that there is no guarantee that funds will be available in six months time. They are very conscientious and very well trained people, but they have now packed it in and said: ‘We are not going to live this sort of life. We also have some sort of commitment to make and we are not going to live six months at a time because it is impossible for this Government to make up its mind.’ They have now wound up the whole project. I am not convinced that the CYSS is the answer to the problem of the young unemployed but at least it was some sort of effort, and because of the inability of this Government to make a commitment even that has gone by the board.
In relation to the other schemes, again I agree with the honourable member for Port Adelaide. There is a scheme whereby employers are paid a sum of money- I think it is some 50 per cent of award wages- for the employees they put on, but not necessarily for job creation. No attempt has been made in the estimates for this Department, nor indeed in the whole of the Budget documents, to do anything about job creation. I suppose that ‘job creation ‘ is a nice phrase. It sounds good. The Government has picked it up and intends to use it as much as it can, but nothing positive is being done. The honourable member for Wilmot said that a lot of suggestions had been made but they had never been followed through. He happens to be on the Government side of the chamber. It is no good him coming into this Committee and bleating and weeping in the way that he and his colleagues generally do about the inactivity of this Government when they have it in their hands to do something about it.
Their party meeting last Wednesday took a long time. It is very seldom that I pay credit to members of the Liberal Party, but tonight I am going to make an exception and pay credit to the Speaker of this chamber, Sir Billy Snedden. If the Press reports are correct, he came forward with a solution to the problem. I understand that it did not get very far in the Liberal Party room, but they did meet until 1.15 p.m. that day whereas normally they give up at about 12.45 p.m. So for about half an hour there was a decent old blue going on in the Liberal Party room. I am not privy to those sorts of discussions but I notice that the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) is laughing his head off, so apparently his favourite horse got up. I would like to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting.
– It was very interesting.
-I should imagine that it was very interesting, and that is why I wish I had been a fly on the wall. The important thing that appeared in the Press report on Thursday morning- this morning- is that the person who to all intents and purposes is above party politics, the Speaker of this House, a man I hold in very high reverence, made the only sensible suggestion that was made in the Liberal Party room yesterday. He said: ‘If you are going to create work in this country then pump your money into public works’, and he is quite right. The Government could apply the funds that it has available, although this sort of approach does not always need funds. If it provided that sort of incentive, if it got the construction industry working again, I ask everybody to examine the multiplier effect of that. I am not talking only about those terrible building worker blokes, such as Norm Gallagher and the rest of them, I am talking about a whole host of people who make carpet and lino and drapes -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) has a very vivid imagination, and I give him full marks for that. Not only is he able to picture in his mind a Liberal-Country Party meeting, quite accurately I might say, but more than that he is able to give what I can describe only as a very novel interpretation of the economic problems facing Australia today. If the honourable member for Burke would contain himself for one moment, I will deal with one of the erroneous views he put forward. The honourable member maintained that wage increases in Australia today are of no significance whatsoever so far as inflation and unemployment are concerned, and I emphasise the words ‘of no significance at all’. I concede that the Government may be hard pressed to show that wage increases are the sole reason for inflation and the sole reason for unemployment in Australia. but I should have thought that everyone who has any understanding at all of the issues would have agreed that wage increases in Australia since 1974 have played a major part in the economic problems that have faced this country.
If the honourable member for Burke has any doubt at all about this, I would refer him to the views not of a spokesman for the Government benches but of one of the Labor Party’s own economic advisers during the three years of the Labor Government. I refer to Professor Gruen, a very distinguished economist. Professor Gruen quite recently, after a lot of research, has expounded the view that the wage overhang, as it is called, the excess of wage costs over productivity- what this nation produces in goods and services- is still today, even after the erosion of real wages, a major factor at the root of the unemployment problem facing Australia. That is not me speaking, that is Professor Gruen, and I suggest that the honourable member for Burke should go away and read what he has had to say because he was an adviser during the three years of the Labor Government. Indeed, he was even an adviser to the great man himself.
I will deal now more specifically with the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and make a brief remark about an Act of this Parliament the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, within the framework of which industrial relations in the federal sphere are conducted. There are many Commonwealth statutes which today require consolidation and redrafting, and one of the major candidates for that treatment is the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Sir John Moore, who is the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, recently described the Conciliation and Arbitration Act as a lawyer’s nightmare. A number of other people who were present at the conference where Sir John made that remark agreed with him. For instance, amongst others, I agreed with him. It is true that the Act requires consolidation. It requires redrawing because it is now one of the prime candidates in the legislative jigsaw stakes. Above all, the Act is one which is required to be used regularly by people in the work place on both sides of the industrial fence- on the management side and the union side. It must be comprehensible, it must be understandable, it must follow logically, and I am afraid that at the moment it is not really any of those things. I make a plea for the early redrafting and consolidation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
The second point I want to make briefly, although it is important, is that in times of difficult industrial relations it is appropriate to pay regard to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), whom I think handles a very difficult portfolio very well. Not only has he been concerned with some very difficult industrial relations crises but he has also been concerned with a very difficult employment situation. I believe that he has brought good faith, high intelligence and a very honest approach to the very real problems facing Australia. If one of the tests of a successful industrial relations policy is the number of days lost through strikes, then surely the Government in general and the Minister in particular must be given considerable credit for what they have achieved. I say that because in 1974 Australians, believe it or not, lost over 6 million working days through industrial disputes. Last year, 1977, the number had dropped to just over 1,500,000. There was a drop from over 6 million working days to just over 1,500,000 working days. Frankly, I think that that is a very accurate and appropriate indication of the success of the policies administered by the Government and Mr Street in industrial relations.
In the remaining time available to me I want to put, I hope in a non-partisan way, some of the objectives that any government should have- I believe that this Government has- in the industrial relations field. What are the basic objectives that a government should pursue in industrial relations? The first, I suggest, is that we should try to achieve harmonious relations between employers and employees. Secondly, we should try to achieve a situation where disputes, if they arise, are settled by conciliation or, if that fails, by arbitration. Our third objective should be to ensure that the public is not inconvenienced by strikes in industry and, in particular, in public utilities. It should be recognised that many of the victims of strikes and other industrial action are innocent. The Government has a responsibility to those people and, indeed, to all citizens to use all the powers it has at its disposal to ensure that citizens can go about their ordinary lives and continue their work unhampered by disruptive industrial action. Above all, the Government, I would maintain, has every right to ensure that government employees and employees of semigovernment instrumentalities, who after all have permanent employment, who are in a monopoly position in industry and who are paid from public money, are not able to hold the rest of the community at ransom merely at their own whim. That is an essential objective of any industrial relations policy.
Our fourth objective should be to encourage membership of industrial organisations, particularly trade unions. Members should be encouraged to take an active part in the running of their union’s affairs. Our fifth objective should be that despite that objective individuals should be protected from a domineering or overbearing industrial organisation. Sixthly, it should be recognised- I venture to suggest that some Opposition members do not seem to appreciate this-that industrial relations decisions, including voluntary settlements as well as arbitrated decisions, cannot be looked at solely in a vacuum. They all affect the economy. Some decisions, in fact, damage the economy. Some decisions hamper the achievements of the Government’s economic policies and objectives.
The seventh objective is a tremendously important one which has probably only come to the surface during the life of the present Government, and that is that the public interest should be protected and preserved. The Government has taken the position that there is a public interest above and quite apart from the immediate private interests of the parties concerned, whether trade unions or employers. The public has a right to be heard and represented. The Government has endeavoured, I believe successfully, to manifest the preservation of that public interest. The final objective is to put the Public Service as nearly as possible on the same footing as employment in private enterprise.
Those are, in effect, non-partisan positions. I believe that they are sensible, practical and rational objectives of any industrial relations policy. I hope that in the remaining time of this Parliament over the next two and a half years the Opposition will see its way clear to join with the Government in pursuing those policies. The only result will be the betterment of the welfare of all Australian people.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time- has expired.
-In the course of this Committee debate thus far, the very serious and important points made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) about the extent of the crisis that exists in Australian society in terms of the unemployment level and the failure of this Government to meet this problem have gone unanswered. There have been two contributions from Government members. Let me deal with the latter of these, the speech of the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown). I say to the honourable member with candour and without being personal that I am tired of the sorts of allegations which have almost become part of the mythology of members of the Liberal Party. When we are looking at the problem of unemployment the people they always blame are those who are at the lower level of the socioeconomic strata in our society. If only the metal workers, the plumbers, the builders, the carpenters or the other tradesmen would accept a little less it would be all right. I have grown used to listening to that sort of advocacy from the honourable member for Diamond Valley, who, with respect to him, has a professional capacity. The honourable gentleman is a full time professional legal advocate for employers’ interests in the industrial courts of this country. I have no doubt that he has enjoyed all the increases which have taken place in legal fees over the last five years. It is extraordinary how it is all right for members of the legal profession to accept substantial and significant increases which are beyond the comprehension of the average tradesman.
– I suppose you could add retired State members of parliament to the list.
– All I am saying to the honourable gentleman is that when he is not sitting in this Parliament he is spending his time as an industrial advocate for the employers. Tonight he confused his functions. He need not come into the chamber and say: ‘Now I am talking to you objectively. I have put on my other hat. I am now the honourable member for Diamond Valley’. This attitude was reflected also by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr). Who did he blame for the unemployment situation? His speech was an extraordinary hotchpotch. First of all he blamed the teachers. If only the teachers had been teaching the kids the right things there would not be as many unemployed. Then he blamed the married women.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I take a point of order.
– Can the honourable member not take it?
– Perhaps the honourable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat while I take my point of order. I assume that he has finished talking about me. I merely ask you, Mr Deputy Chairman, to note that I have not asked him to withdraw anything that he has said.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage)-
That is not a point of order.
– The honourable member for Wilmot was concerned to blame first of all the teachers. When he finished with them it was the fault of the trade unions. He put this argument less eloquently because he is less of a professional advocate than the honourable member for Diamond Valley. He also got stuck into the married women. Somehow, if married women were not in the work force it would all be better.
– You did not understand what he said, did you?
– I listened very carefully. The problem with honourable gentlemen opposite is that like those who thus far have spoken in this debate they are absolutely limited by their own prejudices and attitudes. The breakdown of wealth in Australia is as follows: The top 5 per cent owns over 20 per cent of the wealth of this community; the middle 45 per cent owns 60 per cent of the wealth and the lowest 50 per centthat is one half of Australia’s society- owns less than 15 per cent of the wealth. Whenever honourable gentlemen opposite talk about the crisis in the economic system all the burden, responsibility and blame is always put on the lower 50 per cent of the community. Day after day in this place the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and those who follow him put all the blame for inflation on that 50 per cent. They are told that if they want a greater share of the cake they are somehow acting in a way that is either immoral or irresponsible.
– Neither the honourable member for Wilmot nor I said anything like that. You are a dreamer if you think either of us said anything like that.
– I suggest to the honourable gentleman that he said very clearly- he was a clear advocate of this in the Parliament tonight, although he might try to move away from itthat increases in wages are related to the level of unemployment in this community. That is part of his mythology. I am not saying this in a personal sense to the honourable member for Diamond Valley; I am saying it in the context of the sort of social class interest that he continually represents. I venture to suggest that he has never forgone any increase in his professional fees, but he is prepared to say that if those people in the Australian community who comprise the 50 per cent who own the least would only forgo increases in their wages, then the problems would be solved.
– I will get back to the Minister. His turn is coming. That is part of the mythology of this Government. It is reflected daily in the attitude of the Prime Minister. It is a factor which constantly runs through the Government ‘s economic philosophy. The monetarist theory which is being pursued by this Government at the present time will not solve the unemployment problem; it will increase it. That is the point which was made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) earlier today. That point will remain unanswered by the Minister, as it has remained unanswered by government members opposite.
What are the dimensions of the problem at which we are looking? In August this year an estimated 332,800 people were unemployed and looking for full time work. They represent 6.2 per cent of the full time labour force. Another 63,200 people were unemployed and looking for part time work. They represent 6.3 per cent of the part time labour force. The real situation is far worse than the formal statistics suggest. Many people have given up looking for work because they know that none is available. Thousands of young people, married women and men approaching retiring age have simply dropped out of the labour force. Over the past two and a half years the number of involuntary retirements from the work force has been of the order of 250,000. The real level of unemployment in Australia is therefore close to 650,000 people. This level of unemployment strikes disproportionately at those most vulnerable to social and economic disruption- the poor, the unskilled and semiskilled, members of certain ethnic groups. The worst hit will be our young people.
When one examines the estimates for this Department- they are simply a reflection of this Government’s total economic strategy- one sees that they contain nothing which will go anywhere near solving the economic problems that exist in this society. So long as this Government continues with the sort of perpetual political handouts which are made on an almost daily basis by the Prime Minister and by his Ministers, so long as a disproportionate amount of blame is placed upon the work force of this community and upon the trade union movement, so long as the Government is engaged on an almost daily basis in attacks upon the trade union movement, I do not believe that there is any way at all that what is contained in these estimates will go anywhere near solving the problem.
This Government is absolutely devoid of anything resembling a coherent manpower policy. It is locked into a mythical view of how the private enterprise system works. It might well find that that view would have been relevant in the 1890s; it will certainly not be relevant, given the economic problems we will have to face, in the 1980s. Perhaps at some stage we as a community will have to face up to the very real problem that economic systems have to meet the needs of people who live in a society and that people do not have to be made to conform to the prevailing economic system by way of the creation of huge dole queues. This system is in a considerable state of crisis. What is needed is for a far more realistic and far more rational discussion to take place than we are likely to have in this Parliament. That is perceived and understood by thousands of working people throughout Australia. Certainly nothing has emanated from the Government side of the House which will give them confidence and there is nothing in these estimates which will give them confidence.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage)-
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr N. A. BROWN (Diamond Valley)-Mr Deputy Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I do. I am not asking the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) to withdraw a syllable of the heap of personal abuse that he directed towards me. If that is all he has to contribute he will be just as great a success in this Parliament as he was in the Victorian Parliament, and presumably he will try to collect another $200,000 from this superannuation fund.
– Order! The honourable member for Diamond Valley is making a personal explanation as to how he has been misrepresented.
-With that introductory remark, I will now proceed to do so.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Diamond Valley will resume his seat. I gave the honourable member the call to make a personal explanation as to how he had been misrepresented. That does not give him the right then to attack another member of the House. I ask the honourable member for Diamond Valley to confine his remarks completely to that section of the address of the previous speaker in relation to which he claims he was misrepresented.
-I was about to do so. It is only your volubility that prevents me from doing so, Mr Deputy Chairman.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark. It is a reflection on the Chair.
-Instantly, yes. Of course I withdraw it, Mr Deputy Chairman. My personal explanation is this: With those introductory remarks which I have already made, I say that what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said with respect to my remarks on wage increases and those of the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) was completely inaccurate. We said nothing like the remarks he attributed to us.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. The honourable member for Diamond Valley made a very nasty and sneering remark about the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. The remark was about the legitimacy of the superannuation benefits he received from the Victorian Parliament. I ask that you ask -
-Can ‘t he defend himself?
– That was a most outrageous remark. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports served for a long time in the Melbourne Parliament. He was entitled to receive what he got. The honourable member for Diamond Valley has no right to make those sorts of remarks, as though something he did was illegal.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! If the honourable member for Melbourne Ports regards the remarks of the honourable member for Diamond Valley as being offensive, then I will ask the honourable member for Diamond Valley to withdraw.
– I find the remarks of the honourable member for Diamond Valley offensive and I ask him to withdraw them.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- In accordance with the normal procedure followed, I ask the honourable member for Diamond Valley to withdraw.
– I will confine my withdrawal to just one sentence. Bearing in mind that I did not ask the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to withdraw anything he said about me, I do withdraw what I said about him, as he has asked me to do.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. My point of order is that the implication in the honourable member’s withdrawal is that I made statements about him which were offensive and which normally I would have to withdraw. The difference is this: Everything that I said about the honourable gentleman was related -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports is not taking a point of order. I think he is giving an explanation.
– No, I assure you, Mr Deputy Chairman, it is a point of order. My point of order is that the honourable gentleman in his withdrawal implied that I made statements about him which should have been withdrawn but which he did not ask to be withdrawn. I persist in saying that everything I said in my remarks was fair and accurate comment. If in fact my remarks were unparliamentary I would not have made them.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Bradfield, who I am sure will restore peace.
-The discussion this evening on this most important subject has demonstrated to all those who have cared to listen the sad fact that the so-called alternative government of this great land of ours is totally bereft of any capacity or serious suggestions as to how to overcome this very serious problem which the nation is facing. I refer, of course, to the question of unemployment. We have been told by numerous speakers on the other side of the House that for members of the Government to allude to that catastrophic history that befell this nation between 1972 and 1974 was just an aberration, part of our imagination, and not to be taken seriously. I will not shout on this occasion as members of the Opposition are shouting and I would be grateful if they would perhaps just sit back and listen to the facts of the situation. Five actions which were taken during that period must be seen in the context of the present major unemployment situation. These are as follows: the upward valuation of the dollar in December 1972, the across the board tariff cuts of 25 per cent in July 1973, the massive wage cost increases in 1974, the reaction of that Government towards any serious attempt at increasing the degree of foreign investment in Australia’s productive capacity and, for good measure, record interest rates and a record rate of inflation which had not faced this country since the 1880s.
-For the few months during the Korean War. Let us keep the situation in context. The position, therefore, is that we are today trying to rebuild an economy which, by the end of 1974, by any reasonable yardstick was in a catastrophic situation. The improvements for which we are looking are still not as satisfactory as we would like them to be. But we cannot create a miracle overnight and what we had during that time, combined with the international realities, such as the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ decision to raise oil prices by some hundreds of per cent, a major fall in consumer demand by the main European Economic Community markets, had a considerable impact on Australia’s capacity to produce and capacity to sell. These situations are still with us today. The EEC countries are still groping to find a new formula, a new way, of overcoming these major economic problems which the developed world has faced over the last five years. A continual fall in the value of the United States dollar, for example, is not only creating problems in terms of the balance of trade for countries such as Australia -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. I would ask you to consider whether the remarks of the honourable member, while interesting, are related to the estimates that are before us at page 55.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)-A certain amount of latitude has been allowed -
-As a matter of fact there is no question that they are. I am setting the scenario for the policies which have been introduced by this Government to help overcome the problem of unemployment which was caused by gentlemen like the honourable gentleman opposite who thinks he knows everything but demonstrates that he knows nothing.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Bradfield has been here long enough to know that when the Chairman is speaking he should resume his seat. He has not even given me the opportunity to rule on the point of order raised by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. All he has done is to cut down his own speaking time. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has raised a point of order that the honourable member for Bradfield is not speaking to the terms of the debate. A certain amount of latitude has been allowed to all speakers by the Chair. I ask the honourable member for Bradfield to try to relate his remarks more than he has been doing to the estimates that are before us.
– If we take the figures for unemployment and analyse them to see exactly what areas in particular have the greatest problems in finding jobs at present, we find certain characteristics. These people lack skills; they lack work experience; they usually have broken job histories; and, above all, they have low levels of education. While the honourable member opposite might accuse my colleague of bringing up this question, the fact is that the problem which is a major sociological one is not simply a question of reflating the economy and therefore making jobs. That sort of simplistic attitude got us into precisely the mess in which we are in today. Anyone who does not want to face that economic and historical reality has no right to sit in this chamber and say ostensibly that he is representing an electorate of the Australian people, people who, incidentally, have demonstrated a lot more common sense than he ever has.
– I wish to take a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. Honourable members who have views that are different from those of the honourable member for Bradfield are entitled to sit in this chamber. I find that his suggestion that he is the only person who knows anything is offensive.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I cannot rule in favour of the honourable member for Corio.
-The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) made a certain number of points when he made a statement a few weeks ago- a very courageous statement- which put to the Australian people the realities of the position facing us. He said that if we were to try to achieve the pre- 1 974 situation in the labour market, we would be looking towards an increasing labour force as a result of immigration of some 20,000 people a year, a return to the pre- 1974 trend in female participation rates, which is considerably below what it is now, no change in the participation of young people and education in the work force, respectively, and no normal additional participation following an increase in the demand for labour. The simple facts facing us are that we are at present seeing a demographic bulge which simply means that the young people who were born in the 1950s are now coming onto the labour market. That was a period of increased fertility in the Australian population which has not been equalled since those days.
The problem we are facing is not only technological. There are people who would seriously suggest- I have heard it suggested from honourable members on the other side- that we should take a Luddite approach and destroy all the machinery and somehow or other turn back the historical process. The fact is that we will have to live with technology; we will have to live with the situation that unless we can make a significant improvement in the quality of our work force we will have to have a percentage of people who will not be employable in the foreseeable future. The experience of the organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development- we are now in the fortunate position of being able to learn from its four years of experience if we wish to do so- has demonstrated that of programs directed at supporting young people and, for that matter, all sections of the community, must be directed at two levels. Firstly they must be directed at job support, job creation and work experience. Those three major areas must be regarded in this context.
To date the Government has introduced the Community Youth Support scheme which, in a sense, has been very successful. Perhaps some of the problems faced by this type of program are caused because it is monolithic. It lacks some degree of flexibility. There is a case for such flexibility to be introduced. If the OECD experience is to be followed- I recommend that it should be followed- what we will need and will see over the next year or so is an increased number of community-based schemes which would have incorporated in them a close affinity with community groups, social welfare organisations, local government, et cetera. Fundamentally, unless we can assist communities to have sufficient capacity to create employment opportunities it is no good sitting in Canberra and somehow being able to say that the rest of
Australia will do as it is told. That is not how this nation has ever worked.
In the next few weeks the Federal Government will be entering into significant negotiations with the States to enable them to spend funds which are gained on the international loan market and which will be directed at job creation. Members on both sides of this House have made the point that perhaps more funds should be spent in capital works programs which are directed at job creation.
– Why don ‘t you do it?
– If the honourable member would listen to what I have just said, I will repeat it. The negotiations which are about to be entered into with the States are precisely directed at allowing them to borrow funds on the international money market which they may then invest in capital works projects within their areas of administration. That is where the problem will be solved, not in Canberra. It will be solved at the grass roots of the Australian people. The major factor that we need is to make the Austraiian people appreciate the immensity of the problem and, from their appreciation, we can work together at finding solutions. It is no good simply standing on top of the pile and saying that other people must do as they are told. The Australian people have overcome greater problems in the past and will certainly, as a nation, find solutions to them in the present.
-We are dealing tonight with the estimates for the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, yet where is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street)? We will tonight almost, if not absolutely, complete consideration of these estimates, yet the Minister has not even shown his face in the Committee. Where is he? This shows how much concern that man has for his own Department. It shows how ashamed he is of the policies that he has to implement in his Department on behalf of his Government. That little man has to implement the policies dictated by none other than the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser. Where is the Minister? Why is he not in this Parliament tonight to answer the criticisms that have been made of his Department? Instead, we have in the chamber one of the most junior Ministers, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), dealing with one of the most important issues facing this country, that of unemployment. It is a disgrace. This Government is a cruel, heartless, dishonest and dishonourable Government.
– I rise on a point of order. I would like to indicate that the Minister is at this moment in the Cabinet room attending a Cabinet meeting.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr MartinThere is no substance to the point of order.
– That is not a point of order. If the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations is in the Cabinet room there is no reason why, as other Ministers have done, he should not have come out of the Cabinet room to at least answer here the criticisms that have been made of his Department and his Government, to stand up here and protect his portfolio. His failure to do so is a disgrace to this Parliament; it is a disgrace to this Government. I repeat, this is a cruel, heartless, dishonest and dishonourable Government. The Minister himself knows that and is frightened to come in here and face up to the criticisms that have been levelled here tonight. The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) earlier tonight mentioned the Speaker of this Parliament. After all, Mr Deputy Chairman, he is one of our colleagues. You, as a Deputy Chairman of Committees, and I, as a Deputy Chairman of Committees, have respect for the Speaker of the Parliament. In the Liberal Party room yesterday he was outspokenly critical of this Government.
– I rise on a point of order. Unless the honourable member has recently joined the Liberal Party- which we would not accept- he does not know what was said in the party room yesterday.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)That is not a point of order.
– The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) was not in the House earlier tonight when that matter was referred to by the honourable member for Burke and when the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) confirmed that these discussions did occur in the Liberal Party room yesterday. They were not denied. The honourable member has confirmed by his very words, and the whole intonation of his address and interjections, that it happened; that is, that the Speaker of the Parliament, because of the importance of this issue to the nation, stood aside and entered into the political controversy surrounding the economic policies of this Government, stating that it was time that more funds were pumped into the public sector so as to revive employment in this country. When that happens, when the divisions within the Government are so great that a Speaker has to come out, come away from the traditions of the position of Speaker and enter the party fray, we know how serious the position is.
I represent an area of the outer western suburbs of Sydney which has one of the highest rates, if not the highest rate, of unemployment in the whole of the country. It is suffering from the policies of this Governments, cruel, heartless policies which take no cognisance of the need to do something for the future generation, the young people of today. Look at the patchwork of programs that the Government is introducing. I am surprised at the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly). We often have quiet, personal chats and I am surprised to hear tonight that the honourable member for Bradfield would back up the Community Youth Support scheme. I ask him not to run out of the House. I am not going to embarrass him. I am surprised that he stands up for the Community Youth Support scheme. He knows as well as I do that it is a patchwork scheme which is not really doing very much for the people of this country, particularly the young people.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr MartinaBe fore the honourable member for Bendigo raises his point of order I remind all honourable members, including the honourable member for Bendigo, that there is a difference between a point of order and a point for debate. I hope for all members’ sakes that from now on they take proper points of order.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman. Do we understand that the member of the Australian Labor Party who is speaking is totally opposed to assistance to young people under the CYSS scheme?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- That is not a point of order.
– Quite contrary to the attitude of the vast majority of Government members, I have continued to chair the local electorate committee for CYSS in my electorate. That is more than the vast majority of Government members have done. The minutes of that committee- they are available for public dissemination- record my qualifications. I am recorded as having stated that it is a patchwork scheme which does not measure up to the requirements in overcoming this massive problem of youth unemployment, particularly in the outer western suburbs of Sydney. I am particularly concerned that this scheme is too often loosely administered. I hope that one of these days the honourable member for Bradfield, as Chairman of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, might look at that aspect.
Tonight we heard the honourable member for Bradfield mention that now there are proposals for what he called a job creation scheme. That is a new term for it; it is no longer called an unemployment relief scheme. He said that the Government is giving consideration to such a proposal. We read that in the newspapers two days ago. An amount of $ 100m is to be shared by the Federal Government, the State Governments and local government.
– It is kindergarten stuff. That amount is peanuts. If we are to introduce a real unemployment relief or job creation program, instead of throwing all those hunderds of millions of dollars- getting up towards $ 1,000m- down the drain in unemployment relief, in order to provide some worthwhile community facilities we should be talking about the Federal Government providing between $300m and $500m. Then we might have a worthwhile scheme, a scheme which would help to overcome unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, in this country and we would do something worth while for the nation.
Instead of that the Government is continuing to play around with these patchwork proposals, such as the Community Youth Support Scheme and the Special Youth Employment Training Program. Under that program the Government pays an employer to employ a kid for a few months and at the end of that he gets the sack and all his human expectations are destroyed overnight because the employer is using greed instead of acting in accordance with the intent of the program, which is to give the kid a job, train him for that job and keeping him in that job. Instead the employer sacks the kid at the first opportunity and takes on some other cheap employee.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment.
Social Services Amendment Bill 1978.
Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill 1978.
Australian Film Industry: Deaths of Paulette and Phyllis McDonagh- Australian Conservation Foundation- Local Government Finance- Parliamentary Committees: Staffing- Tasmania- New Zealand Air Service-Industrial Safety and Health
-It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to draw the attention of the House to the deaths of two of the most remarkable women in the history of the Australian cinema, Paulette and Phyllis McDonagh. Their achievement has been undeservedly forgotten, and I want it to be recorded by the national Parliament. There were three McDonagh sisters, all born in the first decade of this century, the daughters of a Sydney doctor. They grew up under the influence of Hollywood films, spent many hours watching and anlaysing them and finally decided, with fiercely independent spirit, to take on the United States industry and produce their own films. The eldest sister- Isobelle McDonagh, Mrs Charles Stewart- was an actress who performed under the name of Marie Lorraine. She is still living in England. Paulette McDonagh was director and principal writer and died on 29 August 1978. The youngest sister, Phyllis McDonagh, was business manager, publicist and art director. She died two days ago, on 17 October. They produced four feature films- Those who Love made in 1926; The Far Paradise made in 1928; The Cheaters made in 1930; and Two Minutes Silence made in 1933. The first and last of these films are now lost- a mournful indication of the poor archival holdings of our important films.
Apart from their four feature films, the sisters also produced documentaries. Their films were amazingly inexpensive. They often made effective use of interiors in their family home, Drummoyne House. Their films secured release in England. Their last two features were talkies. Their style was naturalistic and they stressed the importance of the low-keyed cinema style of acting in contrast to the more flamboyant stage style. I invite honourable members to consider the audacity of these young women and the enormous odds they overcame. All their films were box office successes and critical successes as well. In the 1930s the three sisters left film production. Isobelle married and went to England; Phyllis moved to NZ. For 40 years they were ignored. They never received any official recognition; no OBEs or AMs were pushed in their direction. However, on 19 August 1978, in Perth, at the Australian Film Awards presented by the Australian Film Institute, Phyllis McDonagh- Mrs Leo O’Brien- accepted the Raymond Longford Award on behalf of the three sisters in recognition of their pioneering work in Australian film production.
I would like to refer to their last film Two Minutes Silence, which was based on a play by the late Leslie Haylen, who was MHR for Parkes between 1943 and 1966. That film had its premiere in Canberra before an audience of parliamentarians at the Capital Theatre on 18 October 1933- just 45 years ago this week. William Morris Hughes wrote the introduction to the book of the film and called it ‘a considerable achievement’. The poet Kenneth Slessor wrote:
The treatment is surprisingly free from banality and the whole effect is one of beauty and strength’.
As I remarked earlier, the film is now lost. Perhaps a copy of it is lying forgotten in a cellar or garage somewhere. I think it would be a fitting memorial to the McDonagh sisters if it could be found. I hope that the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) might take up the cause- a very important cause- of looking for Australia’s lost films. There are very many lost films in our relatively short film history, and they are really part of the national heritage. They have just been lost through neglect, and I think it is important that we do what we can to find them. I hope that the Minister might circulate all libraries, museums, schools and public institutions with lists of those missing items in our brief film heritage. Sad to say, even the Raymond Longford Award this year did not generate any interest in the remarkable achievements of the McDonagh sisters, and their deaths were ignored by the media. They deserve far better recognition than that. I think that we ought to be ashamed, as a nation, of the neglect that we often hand out to our pioneers.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the Australian Conservation Foundation, which last year was funded by the Federal Government to the tune of $150,000 or 45 per cent of the Foundation’s budget, is the subject about which I would like to speak tonight. This organisation is developing a definite trend of preservation rather than conservation. Its solutions to the unemployment problem created by its actions in opposing any development would appear to be to promote the concept of labour-intensive industries. It is economic idiocy unless- and this is the significant pointone believes in Marxist solutions to economic difficulties. It is the labour-intensive industries in Australia today which are in the most trouble. Yet the Marxist leadership of the extreme Left promotes this as an economic solution. At the same time, it seeks to shut down some of our mining industries and other development industries within Australia which keep our economy afloat. Is it an accident that the Australian Conservation Foundation has established an organisation called Conservationists for Full Employment under the chairmanship of our best known communist, Jack Mundey? It is all so simple: Sabotage employment and export earnings under the guise of conservation and rebuild the shattered economy on Marxist lines. What has happened to the Austraiian Conservation Foundation is a classic example of the politicisation of non-government organisations by dedicated Left wing extremists who know how to manipulate genuine, if impracticable, idealists.
The concept of the Australian Conservation Foundation is not unsound. There is a valued place for responsible, objective organisations concerned with sensible environmental management- and I say that as the representative of one of the most stunningly beautiful areas in Australia. But to fund the Australian Conservation Foundation in its present state is to mock the unemployed and in particular, is to mock this Government. Would you believe, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this organisation which could not survive without Federal Government fundingtaxpayers ‘ money- has the audacity to take out a writ in the High Court of Australia against the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) with regard to the tourist development at Yeppoon in Queensland. What a cheek! One sometimes wonders just what the heck we are on about.
Earlier this year an inquiry was initiated by the Australian Government into Australia’s involvement in whaling. Cheyne Beach Whaling Co., which is a legitimate Australian enterprise operating under a licence issued by the Australian Government and complying with international standards as set down by the International Whaling Commission- it is Australia ‘s only whaling company- found that it had to defend its position against the conservationists- in particular, against Project Jonah, which was offered and has been given funding by the Federal Government to the tune of $25,000 of taxpayers’ money. It is true that similar funding has been offered to other organisations. I trust that the Cheyne Beach Whaling Co. will also be given the same amount. I know that it has cost the company far more than that amount to defend its position, which, as I have said, is to run a legitimate licensed enterprise under this Australian Government.
– I draw to the attention of the House tonight the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) to the annual conference of the Local Government Association of New South Wales. For some time I have been looking at these speeches made by the Leader of the Opposition to various gatherings. I thought it might be useful, over a period, just to draw the attention of people to the things that he might say because by the time we get round to holding another election, an edition of the various undertakings made by him might be of some interest to the voters of this nation. The ladies and gentlemen of local government are fairly hard-headed people and know exactly what balancing a budget is all about and they are not likely to be taken in by some of the nonsense that is included in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I quote directly from the Leader of the Opposition, who said:
In 1973, direct financial support was provided for local government in the national Budget as part of a firm, coherent and expanding program.
It certainly was expanding. In 1973 the increase in Budget outlays over the previous year was some 20 per cent and in the following year the increase was 45.9 per cent over the outlays for 1 973-74. 1 seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a small table of increases over this period.
The table read as follows-
– I thank the House. Having made this statement about the firm, coherent and expanding program, the Leader of the Opposition in fact said that he had some regrets. He said that the initiatives the Labor Government took in providing grants to local government through the Grants Commission on a needs basis was not a good initiative. He has decided, it seems, in the future to avoid this mistake and to give a basic grant with a topping-up provision. That is an interesting admission. The situation that occurred during the Labor Government’s term of office led to all sorts of difficulty in local government. Later in his speech to this same body the Leader of the Opposition said: . . local government is better able to assess community needs than Canberra bureaucrats . . . there is no co-ordination between the various funding agencies … to gain a grant under the present system it is the articulate rather than the deserving who do best at the expense of the less articulate . . . and, of course, the system is wide open to pork barrelling or, if you prefer, political patronage.
I would say that that is an absolutely correct description of what happened under the Labor Government’s approach to local government. We are now to believe that the Leader of the Opposition is to take up the present policy of this Government on local government. The difficulty is that by the way he was .talking to this body he seemed to be indicating that there will be a vast expansion of revenues not related to a percentage of Federal tax revenues but on a generally increasing base. He seems to hold out.on the one hand to the representatives of local government that they will get a great deal more money and yet at other meetings and gatherings where he is speaking to taxpayers and ratepayers he indicates that somehow or other they will pay less rates and taxes than they would under the present Government.
He criticises the present Government for giving to local government in direct grants under the present formula an increase of only 8.5 per cent over the previous year. The increase of approximately 8.5 per cent is greater by far than the estimated increase in prices over the year and it therefore represents a real increase to local government. It is also only part of the Government’s commitment to increase the funding of local government to 2 per cent of tax revenues. Yet this 8.5 per cent increase is considered by the Leader of the Opposition to be insufficient, and implied in his speech is a promise of a great increase to local government independently of taxation revenues to the Commonwealth. The speech should be examined carefully together with other speeches by the Leader of the Opposition over the forthcoming two years. I give notice that I will be watching these carefully and adding up the promises as time passes so that each of the audiences addressed by the honourable gentleman will know exactly what to expect at the end of this period.
-I wish to raise a matter which is of considerable concern to me personally and which should be of concern to the Parliament. That is the staffing of the parliamentary committees. I do not want to raise a specific matter but the method by which staffing is arrived at, the manner in which staff is allocated and the effect that the ability of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) or the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to place ceilings on that staff has on the freedom of the Parliament to carry out its function. There have been and will continue to be problems because of staff ceilings and because of the need for staff to be added to the general committee staff.
As I see it, because of the staff ceiling arrangements there is also a serious problem of conflicts between the domestic or the single House committees operated by a House, the joint committees which are assigned to a House and the general staff available to the Departments of the Senate or the House of Representatives. At the moment the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence has a total of nine staff members. This may seem to be an adequate staff if one ignores the fact that the Committee is carrying out four separate investigations through subcommittees, all of which have substantial work loads. The Defence sub-committee, for instance, has an extremely heavy work load but a staff of two.
Senators believe that their domestic committees are understaffed and at least some have suggested that it should be within the capacity of the President to reduce the number of staff on the joint committees and to allocate that staff to the Senate committees. That legitimate claim by senators highlights the conflict that exists. There are two separate arrangements for committeesfor those established by a single House and for those established on a joint basis and allocated to a House for administration. There are a couple of other committees that are not administered by either House. But by the imposition of staff ceilings a committee can be rendered almost impotent through staff not being available to enable it to adequately perform its functions. If this Parliament is to inquire into anything relative to a major public service or community activity it must have backup research and staff facilities. It cannot have those facilities if the Executive has the right to overrule the Parliament in respect of the resource support that is available to the Parliament to enable it to carry out the tasks it feels should be undertaken.
I make one other point. I do not believe it is appropriate, even if the existing system continues, for the staff of joint committees, of domestic committees of a single House and of the House itself to be lumped under one staff ceiling. There ought to be an appropriation for staff of joint committees in accordance with the decisions of the two Houses of Parliament to establish those committees. Such committees are established by decision of the two Houses and their staff should be separate from the staff of either House even though the committees’ staff may be administered by one or other House.
It is not possible to deal at length with a matter such as this on an adjournment debate. I would like a discussion of what I see to be an important need for reform of the whole system under which we operate. The system is rendered almost impotent because of the limitations I have described, as well as other restrictions. There is also the fact that the two Houses seem to be competing with one another for a single role. I have prepared a paper which I believe can form the basis for discussion of the activities of the two Houses and the manner in which they should operate. I do not have time to read the paper into Hansard. I therefore seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard so that honourable members can read it and comment on it. I hope that the paper will at least start some discussion of the manner in which this Parliament might make itself an effective decision.
The document read as follows-
A discussion paper on the future development of Parliamentary Government of the Commonwealth by Gordon G. Scholes, M.P.
The present structure
At present, the two House structure with differing terms of office and electoral base, but mirroring and competing with each other for status and authority, constitutes a source of instability which can and has made effective government impossible and rendered the electorate impotent.
The result of an election can because of the differing electorates and methods of election, result in a different result in each House, despite an exactly similar actual vote i.e. the 1974 double dissolution elected a Labor majority in the House of Representatives, but a tied Senate.
The overhang in normal elections of half the Senate, supposedly to give continuity in the Senate, in fact distorts the wish of the electorate, where it seeks to remove an incumbent majority.
Proportional representation has removed the possibility of a complete or substantial change at a single election.
The majority of senators being subject only to the will of their Party, rather than the electorate, only 12 of the 64 senators face a significant electoral risk.
Thus, the continuity question is irrelevant.
While Government Members and Senators may affect Executive decision, the non-Executive Members of each House play only a minor and substantially ineffective role in actual law making and the decision making process.
Not since 1937 has a Government been defeated by a vote of elected Members of any Australian Parliament where that Government enjoyed majority support at the time of election in its own right.
It is improbable that a reversal of the power of decision making concentration will take place, nor will effective Parliamentary control develop without significant changes in approach, attitude and the relationship of the Executive to the Parliament.
On both practical and equity grounds the concept of a basic equal component of the Parliament being elected by proportional representation should be accepted and any proposal for reform of the system should include a major involvement of the Senate, but with a role different from the House of Representatives.
The intended role of the Senate was to protect the rights of the States, however, this has not occurred. If the boundaries of the areas from which senators are chosen bore no relationship to State boundaries, the composition and operation of the Senate would be as it is now, on political, not geographical allegiances.
In a two House situation it is a waste of resources for the functions to be duplicated.
The division of a single function between the two Houses, diminishes both and weakens their effectiveness.
A House of Review and a House of Government is the theory, but not the practice.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are Houses of Government, with the Senate Committees as the only concession to a review function.
This could be changed to provide each House with a separate and different function.
All Ministers should be located and chosen from the House of Representatives. The House should be required to recommend by resolution the Members who will serve as Ministers of State. Except immediately following an election, when a Ministry may be nominated to serve until the first meering of the House (prior to the address at the opening).
This would mean that all Government business would arise in the House of Representatives.
Ministers would attend in the Senate for Questions on a roster basis, (A Question Time structure similar to that of the House of Commons, i.e. Questions on Notice followed by a series of supplementary questions would seem more practical than questions without notice).
Bills and Ministerial statements would be introduced and dealt with by the Minister in charge of the Bill, or another Minister designated. This format is used in the Indian Parliament and Standing Orders for a limited Ministerial exchange were approved by the House of Representatives Standing Orders Committee in 1974-73 but not dealt with by the House.
The Senate Committee system should be developed for a continuing examination of all aspects of Commonwealth activity, responsibility and administration.
The structure, staffing arrangements, funding and other arrangements would be the exclusive right of the Senate. (Each Committee should have its own annual allocation).
Appropriations initiated by the passage through the Senate of” a resolution requesting the Governor-General to request an appropriation of a specified amount for the purposes of the Senate (The Speaker, President, and GovernorGeneral would constitute the Executive Council for Parliamentary Questions).
Senate Committee Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen should have a status and staff substantially the same as for a Minister (Chairman) and Deputy Party Leader, (Vice Chairman).
Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen should be chosen from a panel elected by the Senate in a proportional ballot (The method of election should elect one candidate at each stage, irrespective of quotas obtained.
The candidate with the greatest number of votes would be elected and a quota deducted from the elected candidates surplus, which would then be transfered at the appropriate value. The candidate with the highest number of votes would then be elected. This would repeat until the number required is elected). Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen would be appointed in accordance with their order of election.
The positions of Leader and Deputy Leader of the Government and Opposition, would be replaced by majority and minority Leader and Deputies.
The Senate would retain its power to initiate legislation from either private members or its committees. Bills requiring an appropriation would be transmitted to the House of Representatives as a request for legislation. The request to include the form of the Bill requested. (The House of Representatives should be required to inform the Senate of its intention regarding the Senate request within a specified period).
The withdrawal of Ministers would have the effect of eliminating the initiation of Government business in the Senate.
The role of Committees and their status would change the emphasis of the Chamber to that of a House of Review. It would also tend to reduce the political nature of the Senate ‘s activities and require a major contribution from Senators to establish and justify the new role.
The changes to the Senate Practice and function could all be achieved without alteration to the Constitution, by agreement between the Houses on a comprehensive Parliament Act and changes to the respective standing orders.
The House of Representatives would also be substantially altered in practice by the changed role of the Senate, and the emphasis placed on review and investigation by the Senate. (Joint Committees would probably prove impractical. )
The Government would operate totally within the framework of the House of Representatives.
All Ministers would be members of that House.
All Policy statements and initiatives would originate in the House of Representatives, and all appropriations would be initiated from the House of Representatives.
This would, because of its inherent majority support in the House of Representatives, ensure Executive control over expenditures, etc.
It would also under existing arrangements introduce an even greater dominance over the Chamber by the Ministry.
As it would be anticipated that the Senate would spend a much lower proportion of its time on current legislation, this function should be undertaken by Members of the House of Representatives.
A system of plenary sessions for major debate and final passage of legislation, together with a number of Legislative Committees to which Bills, Statements, etc. would automatically be referred for consideration at all stages.
It may be that Committees of varying numbers could give a more effective forum for policy and technical consideration of proposed legislation, and Ministerial statements and reports to the House from both internal and external sources.
Reasonable alternatives would seem to be, say50 members and/or 25 members which would deal with matters referred by the House.
The larger Committee would be used where it is considered appropriate by the House for important legislation, especially where major policy or social change were involved.
A number of matters could by agreement be dealt with in smaller Committees.
This would enable Members to deal with a greater volume of business without significant extensions of sitting times or time spent in Canberra.
Plenary sessions would highlight debate on major Bills and policy consideration.
In addition, investigative committees in the expenditure, appropriation and other significant policy areas should continue.
In such an arrangement it would be appropriate to establish a Business Committee consisting of The Speaker, or his Deputy, The Leader of the House, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or his nominee, and the Party Whips. Where more than one Party forms the Government, an extra Opposition Member would be appointed.
The Business Committee would make recommendations to the House on the method of dealing with business i.e. plenary sessions, full debate, part debate, then reference to a major or minor Legislative Committee. Initial consideration and report from a Legislative Committee either major or minor or to an investigative (i.e. Select Committee).
The rights of the Opposition to have matters it considers of major importance debated in Plenarary session would be protected by providing for a small number of objections (say 5 per cent or 10 per cent of the total membership of the House) to overrule a motion to refer any stage of a motion to a Committee.
A similar provision should exist to refer a question back to plenary session of the House at any stage.
The House would set maximum periods for a Committee to report on a matter referred. This should not be less than three sitting weeks unless agreed to by leave.
The Committees should not be subject to limits of time procedures nor should closure motions be accepted by the Chair, unless in the opinion of the Chair, members of the Committee have had adequate time for debate on a particular question.
The availability of limitation of time in Plenary session only, would provide incentive for members to have legislation referred to Legislative Committees.
To make this system genuinely effective as a means of alteration of the growing imbalance between the Executive and the Parliament, it would be necessary for changes in approach by political parties both inside and outside the Parliament.
As a first step limits should be placed on areas of Executive action. i.e. The Cabinet or Executive Council should be provided with defined functions and responsibilities by the Parliament.
The Parliament should insist in the right to final determination of:
International agreements or treaties entered into on behalf of Australia; agreements between the Commonwealth and the States. and agreement with commercial organisations, the appointment of:
Parliament should also have the right to reject nominees for Government Boards, et cetera.
Limits should also be placed on the level of commitment of funds prior to appropriation of the required funds for the specific purpose.
Continuing appropriations should be examined regularly by an appropriate House Committee at not more than 3 yearly intervals and a report made to the House re same. At present the major expenditures of the Government are not subject to appropriation requests at regular intervals. Thus the Parliament has no effective means of scrutiny.
The House of Representatives should have its own appropriation of funds which would be under the control of the Speaker acting on advice of the House Committee, which would have its authority expanded to include responsibility for the House of Representatives administration as an Executive function.
The operation of the Parliamentary complex would be more efficient and effective if a single department of the parliament were established. The department under the ministerial authority of the Speaker and /or the President would be responsible for all functions other than those directly associated with the House, i.e. Questions under the direct authority of the Clerk and relative to the business of the Houses.
All other functions would be carried out by the Department of the Parliament.
Accommodation for Members of Parliament, Ministers, Committees, Transport, Equipment, Library and research, Hansard, Catering, Meeting rooms, et cetera, would be administered by a single department with separate functional sections.
The administration at a political level would be answerable to a Committee drawn from each House which would advise the Presiding Officers, consider requests for appropriations and carry out the executive functions. The appropriation would be presented to the House of Representatives by the Speaker.
Each House would require an independent committee, administration and research unit comparable with say the Prime Minister’s department.
Members of Committees would need access to specialist advice, et cetera.
This could probably be best achieved by the establishment of Party committee staff units which would also act in a reasearch capacity to Members on the relevant Parliamentary Committee.
In areas of policy, not reserved for the Executive, Parliamentary Committees would be expected to carry out investigative work, collate deficiencies and /or prepare new or amending legislation for consideration by the Parliament.
An examination of the Swedish Committee structure would prove useful.
The functions and authority of Cabinet should be clearly defined in legislation. It should be an offence for a Minister to give false or misleading information on matters within his authority.
As an adjunct to parliamentary restructuring, public service arrangements should be altered to remove the position of Permanent Head, and its replacement with a term appointed Director, who if a permanent public servant, would hold the higher office only for the term of the appointment and unless re-appointed would revert to former grade.
There could be validity in examining the introduction of the system of non-parliamentary Deputy or Vice-Ministers, who would serve under Ministers of State, be appointed by and answerable to Cabinet, for the implementation of policy and the administration of Ministerial authority delegated to the Vice-Minister with the approval of Parliament.
The relationship to Parliament would be similar to a Parliamentary Under-Secretary rather than a permanent Head, and would thus be available for questioning etc., before Parliamentary Committees and if either House requires, to appear before the House or Legislative Committees.
This format would also enable the Cabinet to be of manageable size, without removing the required level of political control over policy implementation, et cetera.
It would permit the introduction by the Government of persons, whose technical competence or expertise are desired, without the need for a previous career in parliament.
The reduction in the number of Ministers in the Parliament, would strengthen the parliament and lessen the grip of Ministers on the House of Representatives.
The exclusive prerogative given to Ministers by the Standing Orders should be removed or at least reduced to a minimum.
The right of Parliament to obtain information should be clearly set out in the Parliament Act. Also clear protection should be set out for public servants providing information to Parliament at the request of Parliament.
It should be an offence for any public servant to withhold requested information from Parliament.
It should also be an offence for a senior officer or a Minister to direct that information requested be withheld.
Where it is felt the national interest could best be served and /or national security requires information to be withheld, the Minister concerned should advise the relevant Presiding Officer in writing. If the Presiding Officer is not satisfied that the reasons for withholding requested information is not satisfactory, Cabinet should be asked to consider the Ministers reasons. The Cabinet decision if it sustains the original position should be reported direct to the House concerned.
There should be a Private Members day every 4th week, during sitting periods.
The House should sit at 1 1.30 a.m. on each sitting day, and continue sitting through the midday meal period.
On each Thursday the Leader of the Opposition should have available to him a period of 20 minutes to address the House on Opposition policy.
The Speaker should have the authority to direct a Minister to make a statement to the House on a matter within his responsibility that has arisen or been released outside the House.
Ministers making Statements to the House should be liable to be asked to explain or clarify the statement, by question from Members of Parliament for a reasonable period to be determined by the Speaker.
The success of changes of functions and procedures depends on the extent to which members are prepared to participate and contribute as individuals.
It will also require that Governments demand unqualified support only on critical policy and fiscal matters.
Similarly the Opposition should be selective on the matters to be officially opposed on a Party basis.
This will be essential to the success of the changed role of the Senate.
-On 17 October in this House I gave notice of motion the first part of which was a plea for the Federal Government to make permanent the standby airfare concession scheme. The second part of the motion I shall read in full.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Denison will not be in order if he makes reference to proceedings in the House.
-No. I am merely referring to this as a matter of record.
-The honourable member’s reference directly links the matter with earlier proceedings.
– I was endeavouring- to make my remarks relevant, but I bow reluctantly and out of respect to your ruling I do not refer to the Notice of Motion. Is it in order to refer to an answer given in the House yesterday?
-The honourable member is entitled to refer in the adjournment debate to previous proceedings only if they are relevant to the subject introduced.
-The answer I am about to refer to is definitely relevant to the subject. It is impossible to discuss the subject without referring to the answer given in the House yesterday by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) to a question asked by me. I refer to page 1996 of Hansard. I asked the Minister for Transport what the situation would be with respect to the establishment of a direct Tasmania-New Zealand air service if an overseas carrier such as Qantas Airways Ltd or Air New Zealand Ltd was not prepared to institute such a service. I asked whether or not the Federal Government would be prepared to licence an Australian domestic airline operator to institute such a service. In summary of the answer, the Minister indicated that he had expressed considerable interest in the possibility of such a service, that he in fact had endeavoured to interest an operator to institute such a service and that the problem was that to date no person had indicated an interest in introducing such a service. In essence the Minister invited me to apply what persuasive powers I had to endeavour to find an operator who would be prepared to institute a direct Tasmania-New Zealand air service.
I report very briefly to the House that I have accepted the Minister’s challenge. I have taken positive steps. Indeed, I am taking steps which were originated some time ago to persuade an Australian domestic airline .operator to apply to the Federal Government for a licence to operate a direct service between Tasmania and New Zealand. A number of important people in the airline industry were in Canberra last night. Further discussions have continued by telephone today. Whilst it is still early days and I am not in a position to say anything definite, I feel sufficiently confident at this point to indicate that I believe there is a chance that an Australian domestic operator and possibly one other may be prepared to institute a direct service between Tasmania and New Zealand. I believe that the statistical information that is available to myself and my colleagues Senator Townley, the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck), and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) is sufficient to justify at least a fortnightly service between Tasmania and New Zealand and possibly a weekly service.
It would seem that the obvious port in New Zealand into which such a service would be directed is Christchurch. Hobart Airport or Launceston Airport would be suitable for the initiation of such a service. It is also a matter of common knowledge that it may well be possible to institute what would be a triangular service between Hobart, New Zealand and Melbourne. In other words, the flight could travel via Melbourne each trip or alternatively it could be a direct service. This is a matter of considerable importance. Recent statistics indicate that New Zealand provides the bulk of Australia’s tourist intake. That is an important point to note. My complaint is that not enough New Zealanders have been getting down to Tasmania. I place on record my gratitude to the Minister for his enthusiasm. I hope that if an Australian domestic airline operator makes such an application to operate a direct service between Tasmania and New Zealand the New Zealand Government will co-operate and we will not see a doginthemanger attitude by the New Zealand Government, Qantas or Air New Zealand. It could be a tremendous breakthrough for Tasmania’s tourist industry. I applaud the support of the Minister and hope that the challenge he offered to me in the chamber yesterday will be recognised, acknowledged and acted upon within the next few days.
– I refer briefly to the subject of industrial safety and health in Australia with particular reference to the nature of the Australian work force which is increasingly multi-cultural. The statistics available clearly indicate the enormity of the problem. For example, the Department of Productivity, using census and compensation figures, states that in an average year there are 300 deaths from accidents at work, 350,000 temporary disabilities and over one million man weeks lost each year. Compensation returns indicate that $ 1 ,000m is lost each year through lost wages and salaries. The safety institute estimates that up to $5,000m is lost through wages, lost production and damage.
The Department of Productivity also estimates that, on average, approximately three times as much time is lost because of accidents and illnesses than is lost because of industrial disputes. In an earlier speech I discussed the problems of the various pieces of legislation which exist within the Commonwealth and the States. This legislation is often inconsistent and, overall, it is not doing much to deal with the immense problem to which I have just referred. One recent initiative which has been taken has been an attempt by the Commonwealth Government to implement a code of general principle concerning occupational safety and health in Australian Government employment. This code was developed by a committee from concerned government departments, from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, from the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations and from inspectors of State labour departments.
Earlier this year the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced that Commonwealth departments and factories would implement the code as soon as they were able, thereby giving a lead to both private industries and to State government industries. The code is an attempt to provide overall guidelines for all industries. It has been largely based on recent experience in the development of occupational health and safety legislation in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Sweden and other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Being based on these experiences, the code has adopted the broad findings and tenets of such recent acts, emphasising the need for involvement and cooperation of all parties concerned with safety and health. The foreword to the code sets out the basis for this by stating:
Maximum safety cannot be ensured by control of the environment alone but demands the understanding and cooperation of all persons at all levels.
The code provides not only for the control of the physical environment, but for the training, consultation between management and employees and their maximum involvement in all accident prevention measures.
This code, if implemented, would provide a good basis on which to develop a healthier and safer work environment. The most serious problem, however, is the lack of recognition given by the code to the multi-cultural diversity of our work force. The code states that to effectively control safety and prevent accidents, in effect all workers must be involved and consulted, and must understand procedures. However, the code does not acknowledge who these workers are. Statistics from the United Nations Demographic Handbooks, 1973-76, show that, outside Israel, Australia today has the most diverse work force of all modern, industrialised countries. For example, 39 per cent of the present population of Australia has either been born overseas or at least has one parent of overseas origin. Nearly 20 per cent of Australia’s population are persons of non-Anglo Saxon origin. Migrant males in the work force from non-Anglo Saxon countries tend to be concentrated in manufacturing industries. For example, in the 1971 census we find that some 48 per cent Yugoslav born, 48 per cent Greek born, 37 per cent Italian born and 35 per cent German born work in manufacturing industry, compared with 19 per cent of all Australian born and 28 per cent of United Kingdom male workers. As Lever has pointed out:
The proportion of migrants in certain, mainly low status manual occupations, is rising faster than is their proportion in the population. Australian and British born are leaving these jobs while non-British migrants are either entering them, staying in them or leaving them more slowly than are Australian or British workers.
The key point of this is that in developing industrial safety and health policies in Australia we must constantly be aware that the work force is so diverse. Non-English speaking migrants increasingly form the basis of manufacturing and construction industries. A recent study carried out by the Centre for Urban Research and Action into a particular industry shows some of the problems. It showed that in this particular industry, which involved hard, dirty and manual labour, 58 per cent of the workers surveyed had lost time through accidents. Most accidents happened to people in their first 12 months of work. Employees with the least experience tended to be the most recently arrived migrants and to suffer the most accidents. Whilst one would have to generally support the proposed code for occupational health and safety in Australia, it is important that the code take account of the measures which I have been suggesting. In line with this point I suggest that all communication, induction and training needs to be multi-lingual. Health and safety information must be passed on to workers In their own language. More appropriate safety, induction and training sessions should be established for migrant workers. English language training on the job should be provided as a right to all non-English speaking workers. These courses should involve workers and bilingual educationalists so that the most relevant material is used.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 1 1 o’clock the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 26 May 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 12 September 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
These views have been registered with the Japanese Government. Australia has, also, on a number of occasions in recent months, raised with the Japanese Government, at both Ministerial and official levels, matters related to the reported agreement with New Zealand. We have sought assurances from Japan that any arrangements entered into with New Zealand on dairy products are nondiscriminatory, so that Australia will have the opportunity to participate on an equal basis as a supplier of dairy products for Japan ‘s requirements.
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 14 September 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 19 September 1978:
What are the amounts and countries involved for commercial insurance that make up the components of our invisible debts balance of payments figures for the year 1 977-78 in the Current Account and Capital Account figures.
-The Australian Statistician has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The limited information on commercial insurance transactions, per se, included in the balance of payments current account debits is set out below. Country details are not yet available for 1977-78. The figures include net marine insurance (premiums less claims) which is part of the Balance of Payments Item 4- Transportation, and other net commercial insurance and re-insurance (premiums less claims) between resident insurance companies and unrelated companies overseas, part of Balance of Payments Item 7- Miscellaneous, when premiums exceed claims, and Item 10- Transfers when claims exceed premiums.
In respect of the capital account debits, the only information available is on foreign investment in the insurance industry in Australia. This information is set out below and, once again, excludes Life insurance. These figures form part of the Balance of Payments Item 14- Foreign investment in Australian Companies. Details for 1977-78 are not yet available.
Details of income payable on direct foreign investment in the Australian insurance industry (excluding life insurance) are also relevant and are set out below. It should be noted that this income is derived from all business conducted by the relevant enterprises in Australia, i.e. it includes earnings on insurance business per se, as well as income on investments, etc, in Australia. These figures form part of the Balance of Payments current account Item 8- Property Income with the ‘Undistributed Income’ component also shown as a counterpart item in the Balance of Payments capital account forming part of Item 14. Details for 1977-78 are not yet available.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 20 September 1978:
Will the Bureau of Transport Economics’ investigation of the impact on urban travel patterns and modal choice of policy decisions by the Government on matters such as excise and sales tax, as mentioned on page 26 of his Department’s 1976-77 Annual Report, result in a formal report to the Government.
-The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
The Director of the Bureau of Transport Economics advises me that the entry in the 1976-77 Annual Report refers to a series of investigations into the possible use of new techniques, based on the analysis of decisions by individual consumers, to assess the likely impact of specific fiscal measures on modal choice and, more specifically, motor vehicle usage. The work falls under the heading of development of analytical techniques, and no formal report is planned at this stage.
Distribution of Cables to Parliamentary Advisers at Sessions of the United Nations General Assembly (Question No. 2184)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 26 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the reply given in this House by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to Question No. 1662, on 21 September 1978.
Research into Soil and River Salinity (Question No. 2345)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 28 September 1978:
-The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
However, the honourable member may be interested to have a brief outline of some of CSIRO’s involvement in this area.
CSIRO, along with State Departments and universities, is actively engaged in a variety of research projects related to salinity. The research covers both irrigation and dryland salinity. The work is carried out at various places across the continent by the Divisions of Soils, Horticultural Research, Irrigation Research, Land Resources Management, Land Use Research, Tropical Crops and Pastures, and Environmental Mechanics. The honourable member will probably be more interested in the first three of these Divisions than the others, since their work is particularly relevant to irrigated and dryland agriculture in the Murray and Murrumbidgee Valleys.
The Division of Soils has carried out surveys in parts of South Australia to provide information about the distribution of soils with salt in their profiles. The Division is also carrying out research concerned with the reclamation and use of salt-affected soils, with irrigation methods and soil salinity, with the behaviour of salt compounds in soils, and with the measurement of soil salinity.
The Division of Horticultural Research is carrying out fundamental research into the effects of salinity on plant processes such as photosynthesis. At the Division’s Merbein research station, emphasis has recently been placed on evaluating the effects of salinity on the performance of perennial horticultural crops and developing salt-tolerant crop varieties.
The Division of Irrigation Research has worked out methods of farming irrigated rice-growing soils in rotation with the rice crop to minimise the effect of salt in the root zone. The Division has worked on the origin of salt and its movement in the environment. Researchers have worked on ways of detaching soil salinity slugs in river systems and have surveyed the soil salinity balance of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Areas. They have also studied the movement of salt in clay soils used for rice growing using water from the MIA.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a)(b) Post independence arrangements in respect of services currently being provided by the Administering Powers have not been finalised. We are not aware of any public statements by the Administering Powers or the Government of the New Hebrides on future arrangements.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 October 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19781019_reps_31_hor111/>.