31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 3.3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
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. ‘
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 Sir William McMahon, Mr Bourchier, Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr John Brown, Mr Ewen Cameron, Mr Connolly, Mr Dobie, Mr Fife, Mr Graham, Mr Hurford, Mr Kerin and Mr MacKellar.
To the honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned, having great concern at the way in which children are now being used in the production of pornography call upon the government to introduce immediate legislation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will protect all children and immediately prohibit pornographic child-abuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Dobie, Mr Garland, Mr Shack and Mr Stewart.
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 Fife, Mr Hunt, Mr Jarman and Mr Keith Johnson.
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:
UNO Declaration of the Rights of the Child as part of Australia’s support for the Year of the Child.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr N. A. Brown, Mr Dobie and Mr Jull.
Broadcasting: Radio 3CR Melbourne
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth
That Radio 3CR Melbourne, be made to adhere to the required standards of broadcasting, as laid down for all other radio stations.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government will enforce the required standard of broadcasting as laid down for all other stations, on community Radio 3CR call on Federal Government to legislate against incitment to racial hatred and violence.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred and Mr Macphee.
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 every pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
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 whereas the Fraser Government was elected in December 1975 after promising that pensions would be adjusted instantly and automatically in relation to quarterly Consumer Price Index figures; and whereas that Government subsequently announced that pension adjustments should properly be made half yearly each May and November; it is the current intention of the same Government to legislate for pensions to be adjusted only once a year, and this constitutes a serious breach of generally accepted ethics of democratic government and also deprives many needy pensioners of increases that are essential to their subsistence.
The foregoing facts impel the undersigned Petitioners to request the Australian Government to uphold the principle that the trustworthiness of governments should at all times be above question, and to appeal to the Parliament to prevent the imposition of further economic hardship upon Australian pensioners by rejecting any Bill which has for its aim the introduction of annual adjustments of pension rates.
And Your Petitioners in duty bound will every pray. by Mr Fife.
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray.
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Army Reserve (CMF) and the RAAF Citizens Air Force. byMrHodgman.
Post-graduate Research Awards
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned, members of the Macquarie University Research Student Association, and like minded people, respectfully showeth that the Government decision to tax Commonwealth Postgraduate 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. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the decision of the Government in its last budget to adjust pensions on a yearly basis causes undue hardship to pensioners whose standard of living is dependent on this sole source of income.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government review its decision to index pensions on a yearly basis and accept that all pensions be adjusted on a quarterly basis so that Australians dependent on social security benefits are not forced to live below the poverty line.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the construction of any additional reactor at the Australian Atomic Energy establishment at Lucas Heights in New South Wales.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will every 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 petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrKerin.
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 Neil.
To the honourable the speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
A petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That access to medical abortion services needs to be available to all women regardless of their economic means, as despite contraceptive services, unwanted pregnancies still occur and socio-economic problems are grounds for legal abortions in New South Wales. To ensure that access to legal medical abortion is not denied to poor and underprivileged women;
Your petitioners most humbly pray the parliament should:
Maintain item 6469 unchanged on the medical benefits schedule.
And your petitioners as in duty bound, will every pray. by Mr Uren.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. The Chairman of Qantas Airways Ltd, Sir Lenox Hewitt, who is spokesman for the airline, has admitted publicly that Qantas is discounting tickets overseas or, as the Minister himself described it -
-The honourable gentleman will be out of order if he continues to give information. He may ask his question.
– The Minister used the words ‘Giving kickbacks’. As this is clearly a breach of the Australian Air Navigation Regulations which make it illegal to discount tickets for travel into and out of Australia, can the Minister explain why Qantas has not been prosecuted? Can be assure the House that neither he nor his Department has given Qantas a special dispensation to break the law for commercial reasons?
– In the first place, the honourable member is under a misapprehension. The fact is that club subsidies are legal in discounting of fares. I made the point before that, if a Sydney leagues club- I use that example because such clubs have plenty of money through the operations of poker machines- wishes to use the profits from its poker machines for discounting tickets to members who want to fly overseas, that is perfectly legal. What is not legal is for a discount to come from an airline that has an agreement on a government to government basis on what the air fare structure ought to be; that is the situation. In respect of Qantas, all I can say to the honourable member is that I am not aware what example he is quoting that Sir Lenox Hewitt used. However, Qantas is one of the many other companies that are presently under investigation.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the proposal put forward by the Minister when he was recently overseas, and initiated by Australia to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, calling for international consultation on the Indo-Chinese refugee problem. Is the Minister able to indicate to the House what success Australia is having in its efforts to internationalise the Indo-Chinese refugee issue and obtain from other governments outside the regionapart from France, Canada and the United States of America- a commitment that they also will assist in alleviating the refugee problem by accepting Indo-Chinese refugees for permanent settlement?
-For some time now the Government has been taking positive action at international level to find solutions to the tragic problem of Indo-Chinese refugees. I am grateful to the honourable member for referring to my initiative before the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees but, of course, there have been other proposals, and I refer to both the interest of the Opposition and particularly the endeavours made by my colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in association on this matter. As a Government we have been conferring with countries belonging to the Association of South East Asian Nations and with other governments about means to internationalise the problem. We were instrumental in bringing about an informal international meeting under UNHCR auspices at Kuala Lumpur in
September to discuss the whole problem. Following the discussions I had with Secretary of State Vance and ASEAN leaders in New York, we again took the initiative at the meeting referred to by the honourable member, the UNHCR Executive Committee meeting in Geneva earlier this month. There we successfully called for further substantive consultations with all interested governments. It should be noted that this had the support not only of the Leader of the Opposition but also of most sections of the media. A further meeting will take place in Geneva under UNHCR auspices before the end of 1978.
These initiatives resulted from our continued concern that present resettlement programs are proving inadequate to cope with the outflow of refugees. The worsening situation is, of course, causing growing concern not only to Australia but also to our ASEAN neighbours and to the traditional resettlement countries which were mentioned by the honourable member in his question. Our initiatives at Kuala Lumpur and, particularly, at the recent Executive Committee meetings provided excellent opportunities to apprise participating countries of the very real problems that are involved in this tragic situation. We are hopeful that the forthcoming meeting will create further international awareness and provide greater involvement in seeking solutions because a broadly based and more intensive international response is clearly necessary in support of the UNHCR. The Government is determined to continue its efforts in order to relieve the suffering of these peoples. In short, the answer is that we have enjoyed considerable success to date but further work will be required before the full objectives of our initiatives are achieved.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and I refer him to his main objection to the ACTU Jetset Travel Service Pty Ltd scheme, to his allegation that it is discriminatory and to the fact that there are over 200 other organisations and clubs currently offering travel grants and other travel benefits to their members throughout Australia. Will he in pursuit of his so-called non-discriminatory policy send the Commonwealth Police to investigate all of these other organisations to obtain evidence? In particular, is he now able to tell the House when the Young Liberal Movement in Victoria will receive its first police visit?
– The honourable member also is under a misapprehension about my approach to this question. Let me make it quite clear. What I am seeking to do is to get some equity into the travel industry. I put out a statement last night in which I said that we really had reached only the tip of the iceberg and that the only cure for the problem was to achieve a cheaper regime of air fares to all points in and out of this country, including all the stopovers in Europe, Asia and America. That is the only real way to cure the problem of kickbacks by airlines.
– You have had long enough.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will remain silent.
-Until we achieve that- and negotiations are going on in Asia and Europe this week on the matter- there is no real cure for the kickback problem. Insofar as those club subsidy schemes or travel subsidy schemes -
– What about the kickback you get from Ansett?
– You were Minister for Transport for three years, but you did nothing about this problem. That is why I am left with it. It is typical of what you did with the whole Transport Department. You did nothing.
– You have been here three years and you are acting only now.
– It takes a while to heat up the oven.
– Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I ask the House to come to order. I ask the honourable member for Newcastle to remain silent. I ask the Minister to proceed with his answer to the question.
– I am pursuing in a completely non-discriminatory fashion each report that comes to me about a travel subsidy. I can tell the House that there are now some 59 such travel subsidies being investigated. As to the 200 that the honourable member mentioned, let me say that the usual practice for those clubs that want to engage in the business of club subsidies- it has happened in the past and I am pleased to say that it is still happening- is for those organisations to come voluntarily to my Department and lay on the table exactly what the scheme is all about. They are then advised whether it is a proper and legal scheme.
– When do the troopers go in to the Young Liberals?
-If the honourable member will contain himself, I will get to that part of the question. Of the 59 that are being investigated, it has been necessary to serve notice that further information is required on only seven. The Young Liberals in Victoria will be undergoing exactly the same investigation processes. I do not believe for one moment that they will not voluntarily give us the information. If other organisations which are in this position voluntarily gave us the information they would not be suffering the embarrassment they are suffering today.
-I ask the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations a question. In view of the harsh social and economic effects that the present incredible strike affecting petrol supplies in New South Wales is having, can the Minister inform this House of the real nature of the various industrial disputes currently plaguing the oil industry and causing such disruption, particularly to the citizens of New South Wales?
-In recent weeks there has been continuing industrial disruption on a very wide front in the oil industry, affecting both State and Federal awards. The one which is of most immediate concern and which, I think, principally worries the honourable member, is a strike by about 140 members, I am informed, of various unions, including the Federated Clerks Union, the Transport Workers Union, the Storemen and Packers Union and the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union, at the Caltex Banksmeadow terminal over a claim for $10 a week relating to depreciation of motor vehicles. This strike has caused all shipments of petrol from the terminal to cease. In addition, deliveries to the terminal from the Kurnell refinery have ceased. As a result of this action very serious shortages of petrol and aviation fuel exist in the Sydney area. I understand that the effect of these stoppages is so critical that the New South Wales Government is seriously considering using emergency powers it possesses under the New South Wales Energy Authority Act.
I understand that the matter came before Mr Justice Ludeke of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission today and that about an hour ago he put forward a proposal which would allow a resumption of work. I understand also that Mr Justice Ludeke has proposed that an assessment be made of the situation by experts from the National Roads and Motorists Association. These inspections are to commence at 9 o ‘clock tomorrow morning. I understand that the men have scheduled a meeting for 6.30 tomorrow morning.
– Do you think the issue should be inflamed in this House?
-Order! The Minister will proceed with his answer and ignore that interjection.
– Have you seen the matter of public importance for today? Do you think the issue ought to be in inflamed?
– Order! The honourable member for Adelaide will remain silent.
– I am giving factual information.
-Order! The Minister will ignore the interjection.
– I hope that the men concerned will see the common sense in the proposals put forward by Mr Justice Ludeke and that they will return to work and allow normal petroleum deliveries to commence in Sydney.
– My question which is directed to the Prime Minister is asked in view of the presence in Canberra of the President and Ministers of the Federal Republic of Germany. Is the Prime Minister aware that Germany has a contributory system of pensions and that these are not paid to German migrants to this country if they become naturalised Australian citizens? What is the Government doing to eliminate this discrimination in view of the fact that even noncontributory Australian pensions are paid to those who are eligible without regard to nationality or place of residence?
– I will consult with my collegue and see what specific information I can get for the honourable gentleman. I think it has been the policy of successive governments to pursue reciprocal social security agreements to resolve problems of the kind that the honourable gentleman has mentioned. But I will get a specific answer to the question.
Mr Moore proceeding to address a question to the Prime Minister-
-The honourable member’s question is out of order. He is not entitled to ask for an opinion.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. When was it decided to extend the overseas visit of the Minister for Primary Industry so that he would be absent for the remainder of the present parliamentary sitting period? Why was it decided to extend the visit to London for the purpose of discussing agricultural products within the multilateral trade negotiations when the Prime Minister had already indicated that the Government has written off the likelihood of positive results in that direction? Why has the Prime Minister not followed his own precedents in the case of the Minister for Primary Industry and suspended the Minister from official duties until allegations of financial impropriety are properly dealt with?
-My colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, has had extraordinarily important discussions in the United States over bilateral trade between the United States and Australia. In addition, for some time he has had an invitation from the United Kingdom Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries for discussions in the United Kingdom on agricultural matters relating to the European Economic Community. I put one matter aside to start with. It is true that I have said that I am not all that optimistic of a speedy and constructive outcome of the Multilateral Trade Negotiations. But I went on to say that it was most important to work for a constructive outcome because of its importance for trade between nations for the rest of this century. Therefore, Australia will continue to bend her efforts to achieving that responsible and constructive outcome. The discussions that my colleague is having in London with his British counterpart are certainly very much related to that.
I shall deal first with the matter of discussions with the United States before getting on to the other particular matters which I am certain were the reasons why the honourable gentleman asked this question. The trade we have with the United States is, of course, of very great importance. I think it is known that there is a deficit in our trade balance with the United States which is not dissimilar- having regard to our size- to that which the United States has with Japan. We know quite well the pressure that the United States has borne down on the Government of Japan over recent months and years, for Japan to take some specific action to redress the trade balance between Japan and the United States. Using the same arguments, I am certain that the United States would expect Australia to use every resource available to Australia to argue for measures that would improve the trade balance between the United States and Australia rather than allow it to deteriorate further.
Let me say firmly and categorically that this Government has no intention of taking the course that was pursued by the Australian Labor Party when it was in power in 1973 and 1974, when it allowed Australia finally to be excluded in a major part from markets in Europe and at the same time, without protest, accepted the cessation of markets in Japan. At that time quotas of 120,000 tons in one year were cut to nothing in the year following. The United States imposed restrictions in January 1 975 following a period of unrestricted access to the United States beef market. The lack of action by the Australian Government of that day was principally and primarily responsible for the depression in rural Australia and the depression in the beef industry of Australia over recent times.
It is well known that market access to Japan has been markedly improved. It has been reopened in the years since as a result of the representations and policies of this Government. At the same time access to the United States has been improved to an extent, but not to the extent that we believe is necessary or justified. We will continue to argue with Europe for reasonable access to the markets of Europe because we believe that that will be an essential part of any trade liberalisation.
The supine way in which the Australian Labor Party, when in government, accepted the exclusion of Australian industries from important markets overseas was not an example to be followed by this Government or subsequent Australian governments.
Opposition members interjecting-
– The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There are far too many interjections from my left. They are continual. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to give an example to those who sit behind him.
-As a result of that attitude by the Labor Government, this Government will use every resource available to it to maintain and improve access to markets. In relation to the United States it ought to be noted that the fact that there is a trade deficit of considerable proportions is not insignificantly due to the fact that there are non-tariff barriers on access of a number of our commodities to the United States market.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We know that there is a special privilege given by you to the Prime Minister, but would you tell the Prime Minister that he is abusing Question Time?
-There is no point of order.
-The Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition constantly abuse the privilege that you, Mr Speaker, give to them in this Parliament by chattering into that microphone in front of them. At the same time they do not like the fact known and stated, as is understood by Australia’s primary producers, that the Labor Government betrayed and destroyed Australian primary industry after Australian primary industry. Now let me get to the real reason why the Leader of the Opposition asked this question.
– At last you have come to the question.
– We know quite well that the question was in several parts. I have answered the part in relation to the United States. Now let me come to the part in relation to my colleague. In relation to that, the scuttlebutt had been around the Press Gallery for months. It finally appeared in the Bulletin. Mr Finnane, the New South Wales officer conducting an investigation, has made it perfectly plain that the principal allegations in that journal were not correct and has issued public statements to that effect. I imagine that anyone wanting to write that article could have found that those allegations were incorrect from Mr Finnane in the first place.
It is perfectly plain that the scuttlebutt was around the Press Gallery. I had heard the reports out of the Press Gallery some weeks or months ago. If the Opposition had wanted to ask questions about this matter, it could have asked questions on any parliamentary day for the last several months. The Leader of the Opposition continues to talk into the microphone in a way that you, Mr Speaker, cannot hear but designedly in a way in which the people listening in can hear. It ought to be known and understood that that is the kindergarten way in which he behaves in this Parliament.
When my colleague became the executor of his father’s estate he knew that there were matters to be put right when he was told of the affairs of that estate. The matters were reported immediately by the Minister himself to the Australian Taxation Office and he has given full cooperation to the Taxation Office. They have also been reported by my colleague to the Corporate Affairs Commission. A report will be forthcoming. My colleague has indicated that a statement will be made to the Parliament at the appropriate time. In other words, my colleague has taken the action which he ought to take in relation to these particular matters and in this he has my full support. It is the grossest humbug and the grossest hypocrisy on the part of the Opposition, and in particular the Leader of the Opposition, to attempt to build a case on the eve of the time when the Minister had an important job to do for Australia and an important job for Australian industry. It is typical of the Leader of the Opposition to do as much as he possibly can to frustrate progress and development, whether it is in the Northern Territory or any other part of Australia. On that basis the Leader of the Opposition can stay where he is and the Australian people will keep him where he is.
-Did the Minister for Trade and Resources see recent comments in the Press by a union official suggesting that Australia is in danger of losing its live sheep trade to the Middle East if trade in frozen mutton is not developed? What is being done to develop the carcass trade?
– I have noticed some comments by Mr Jack O Toole of the Australian Meat Industry Employees’ Union in which he complained about the possibility of New Zealand getting into the processed meat trade in Middle East to the detriment of Australia. He suggests that, instead of sending live sheep to that market, we ought to be concentrating more on slaughtered meat. In case Mr O ‘Toole does not know, let me state that New Zealand has just sent its first export shipment of live stock to the Middle East, indicating a growing interest for New Zealand to establish itself in that market. Obviously, the customers in the Middle East are becoming a little concerned about the reliability of Australian supplies and are looking elsewhere. It seems that, if Australia creates any doubt at all, New Zealand will move in and take some of the market for live sheep.
Australia has sent many missions to the Middle East. An official mission, which included three members of this particular union, went there early this year, to investigate the market circumstances. A dual requirement exists both for processed sheep meats and for live sheep. It ill behoves a person like Mr O Toole to say that there is not a market for live sheep. If he continues with that line of argument he will do great detriment to the Australian sheep industry. If there is any damage done to that industry, in the long term it will do damage to his meat workers. We need to develop this market and show that Australia is a reliable supplier. With the progress of time and as these countries develop more cold storage facilities and become more accustomed to processed meat, the live sheep trade might start to ease off. But at the moment there is a real requirement for live sheep. The trade has been a godsend to Australian sheep producers because it has enabled them to get good returns which they never previously had. If that market were to be cut off, it would have devastating effects on the live sheep export industry. Therefore, it is not correct to make the allegation that because New Zealand is sending some processed meat to the Middle East this is damaging Australian trade. The position is just the opposite. If Australia does not sell its live sheep, New Zealand will probably get in and take our place.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Special Trade Representations. I refer to his statement made yesterday in which he said: ‘We have to relinquish the production of some goods which can more sensibly and more economically be produced in the developing countries’. Will the Minister advise whether he discussed these matters during his recent overseas trip? With regard to the Minister’s words ‘planning for the future’, I ask: On what planning basis will the Minister be deciding whether industries must be relinquished? Were these matters discussed in the Association of South East Asian Nations countries he visited? In view of ASEAN ‘s concern about timber imports, does the Minister consider that the Australian timber industry is among the industries to be relinquished in favour of ASEAN countries.
– The speech made yesterday, when read as a whole, indicated to the Metal Trades Industry Association of Australia some of the Government’s activities in relation to the Multilateral Trade Negotiations and the industrial tariff offer that has been made. It indicated what we have been requesting and what we have been attempting to do, with some comment about changes taking place in the industrial manufacturing sector of Australia. I indicated to the meeting the way in which I thought there would be some development in the future. I spoke of planning and not of a plan. When I have been overseas, particularly in Association of South East Asian Nations capital cities, in which the honourable gentleman has shown some interest in recent times, I have explained to them some changes that are taking place here. From the way in which the honourable member put the question, I think he is really reading too much into one sentence. Indeed, I think some of the newspaper headlines reporting that speech are in the same category. I invite him to read it as a whole and to see it in that way. To the best of my recollection, I did not discuss anything to do with the timber industry.
– I ask the Minister for Transport: Is he aware of criticisms of the Government ‘s announced new international aviation policy, claiming that ethnic groups will have to fly to London and then to their countries of origin when wishing to return home for a visit? Are these criticisms justified? Will the Minister consider the need of ethnic groups in our community to have direct cheap air fares to their countries of origin?
– I must say that over the weekend I read with some amazement some articles suggesting that the air fare proposals will deny to the ethnic groups of this country the opportunity of flying at a cheaper rate back to their home countries. Let me make the position clear. I have announced to the House indicative fare proposals from Australia to the United Kingdom. A team is in Europe at the moment seeking to secure a similar fare structure and arrangement with a number of European countries. I will not list all those countries, but, for example, I mention Germany, Italy and Greece. If we are successful we will secure a range of -
– Olympic is not flying into Australia.
– Qantas happens to be flying to Greece, for your information.
– You are talking about bilateral arrangements, are you not?
-Order! The honourable member for Shortland will remain silent.
– We still have bilateral agreements with them. It is time the honourable member for Shortland started to learn something about it. We are seeking to secure a range of air fares to each of those stops throughout Europe, in accordance with the low range of indicative air fares that I announced to the House. The writers of the article failed to bother to read the statement I put down in the House which explained this point. Ethnic groups throughout the country can be assured that we are seeking to arrive at a cheaper regime of air fares to all countries of origin of ethnic groups in Australia- Asia, Europe and America. There is absolutely no truth to the allegation that they will have to fly to London and then perhaps fly back to Italy or wherever else they want to go.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I preface my remarks by saying that his weekend telecast did not do a great deal to enhance my standing with the Hindmarsh federal electorate council.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
– I would now like to retaliate by asking the Prime Minister: What has he done to give effect to his policy to reduce interest charges?
– I regret it if the honourable gentleman objects to being referred to as one of the more senior and respected members of the Australian Labor Party but he knows the warm regard in which I hold him. I am quite sure that in his heart he does not take offence at the remarks whether they were said originally in the telecast or repeated in this Parliament. He has made a contribution to Australian politics over a very long period. It is a contribution of which he and the Labor Party have a right to be proud. The rose in his lapel still looks red.
– Did he get it from my office?
-Mr Speaker, before the last election I made it perfectly plain that important interest rates could move down by up to 2 per cent over the course of this year. I also made it plain that that included the downward movement in rates that had in fact occurred up to that time. The House might be interested to know the extent to which certain rates have moved down over the course of the year and the nature of the reductions: Australian savings bonds by one per cent; finance company oneyear borrowings by 1.25 per cent, and five-year borrowings by 1.37 per cent; industrial debentures, 10 years, for top companies, by 1 Vi per cent- it is worth noting that borrowing by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd broke through the 10 per cent barrier a little while ago; life office commercial mortgage rates, by one per cent; finance company mortgage rates by up to 2 per cent; bank bills, 180 days by 0.9 per cent; long term Commonwealth bonds, by 1.54 per cent; and, as I am advised, in respect of larger borrowings, trading bank overdraft rates, by 0. 1 8 per cent.
– What about housing?
-Housing rates, as the honourable gentleman knows- and I thank him for reminding me- have come down by half a per cent from building societies and on equivalent lending from the Australian trading banks. So there has been a movement downward by up to 2 per cent in finance company mortgage rates and by some lesser amounts in other rates.
I think the notable omission from that, in any public recognition of the situation, is a movement downward in rates by the Australian trading banks, which have maintained their rates at previous levels despite the movement down in rates in many other areas. Of course, the deposits side, the general overdraft rate and the rate up to $100,000 are areas in which many small businesses and many individuals will be looking eagerly for the trading banks to join in the general movement down and the general expectation of a movement down. The success of the Commonwealth loan announced before the Budget but consummated after the Budget was clearly in expectation of a movement downward in interest rates. I have no reason to doubt that further progress will be made throughout the rest of this calendar year and beyond. Already there has been a significant success in this movement which, of course, is dependent upon continuing the successful fight against inflation which will be maintained by this Government.
I also point out that a movement down in general interest rates is one of the best things that can happen in this economy. It is a policy that is supported by the Premier of New South Wales because he knows what lower interest rates do for home borrowers, small businesses and all the rest, and a continuation of policies to achieve that is of vast importance. I think that, if the honourable member for Hindmarsh follows closely, as I am sure he does, the financial markets and the price offered by the Reserve Bank on Commonwealth bonds and debentures, he will find that since the indigestion period caused by instalment buying of Commonwealth bonds concluded some weeks ago the Bank has already begun to shade downwards its government bond rates in its operations on the open market.
– But what has happened to the inquiry into the banking system that was talked about in yesterday’s newspapers?
– I did not read that part of yesterday’s newspapers; but since the honourable gentleman reminds me I will look it up and consult my colleague the Treasurer in relation to it. The point here is that since the period of the previous Commonwealth loan was concluded it is perfectly plain that the Reserve Bank has begun to operate again on the open market, shading down interest rates. I believe that ought to be a pointer for further action, and I am quite certain that all honourable gentlemen in this House will be awaiting eagerly the time when the trading banks join with those responsible for other rates in the community and move the rates down. The Premier of Western Australia was talking to me about this very matter over the weekend, and I am quite certain that all Premiers would support movement by the trading banks. Indeed, many people in the financial world not immediately involved with trade banking believe that the time has long past when the trading banks ought to have moved.
– My question also is directed to the Prime Minister. Has he any advice to offer sections of our community concerning the living conditions of people in some parts of Australia?
– I can only say that living conditions in Australia are generally much better than in any other country and that different places in Australia have differing attractions, depending upon one’s personal inclinations and aptitudes. I was interested to know that a short while ago a politician from the State of Queensland indicated that obviously he believed that his own State was not worth living in and that coming south of the border was leaping a great chasm in time, with Queensland living in the past. He believed also that the lack of gaol break-outs in Queensland was not because of the efficiency of the Queensland administration but because it was the only State where prisoners believed that they were better off inside than outside.
I would believe, Mr Speaker, that that was not the general view of Queenslanders and that it would not be the general view of Australians from other parts of this great country because so many of them go to Queensland for their holidays and so many of them retire to the Sunshine Coast or to the Gold Coast. They obviously like the policies and approaches that in many areas of life are pursued in the great State of Queensland. Indeed, I would find it quite extraordinary that any responsible politician could make such a statement about his own State and about his own electorate.
Government members- Who is he?
– I believe it is a great offence to the overwhelming majority of the people of Queensland. I think that really the sort of attitude that has led to that kind of statement being made by a politician from the State of Queensland indicates that that politician ought to make a decision to leap out of the kindergarten into the real life in an adult world.
-Mr Speaker, in response to queries and pressure, and with a great deal of reluctance, I feel impelled to reveal the origin of this statement. Of course that statement could have come from only one Queensland politician- the sometime Leader of the Australian Labor Party.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister and in the light of his reply, just completed, I undertake henceforth to distinguish between statements which are jokes and statements which are serious.
Government members- Oh!
-This one is serious.
Government members- Oh!
– I think Government members ought to listen to it because it is very good. Is the Prime Minister aware -
– I do not think that the honourable member will go: *Ho, ho!’, after he has heard it. Is the Prime Minister aware that some 40 members of his Government- ah! now we have silence- including several Ministers, attended a private dinner in Parliament House last week for the South African Ambassador? Is he also aware that the dinner was arranged by Government back benchers who disapprove of the Prime Minister’s public remarks opposing apartheid in South Africa? Does the Prime Minister approve of these secret lobbying exercises by Government members? Will he assure the House that they will not be allowed to undermine the authority of the Foreign Minister or the stated policies of the Government?
-Mr Speaker, I am very glad that the honourable gentleman went to pains to advise me and to advise all honourable members of which matters he regarded as serious and which matters he regarded as a joke, because if he had not advised us of that, I would have been perfectly certain that what he has just suggested would be in exactly the same category as his remarks about his own State of Queensland. In our parties at least, we happen to believe in the free discourse between people and the free discourse between nations. We happen to believe that there needs to be a better understanding of different points of view.
– What happened to Senator Sheil?
– We happen to believe that there is a need for tolerance.
– What happened to Senator Sheil?
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The honourable member for Shortland has interjected persistently today. I ask him to cease interjecting.
– We happen to believe that needing tolerance requires an understanding of other points of view, even if those other points of view happen to be not agreed with.
Mr Speaker, the honourable gentleman certainly would not for one moment have raised this question, for example, if a number of members on his own side of the House had organised a dinner with representatives of the Soviet Union or of other countries, and I would not take it as a mark of criticism if they had. Why should he object to discourse between members of these parties and South African representatives- if the dinner occurred- just because there happens to be a difference in points of view and just because there happens to be a certain government policy? I find it very strange that the honourable gentleman should try to establish the circumstances where communication ought to be shut off. That is the kind of view that we would not accept. That is not the sort of view that we would support in any sense, shape or form.
I am quite certain that it would take much more than a dinner- with all respect to any honourable member who might have been at the dinner- to change the force and strength of the policy attitudes that the Government has expressed, that my colleague the Foreign Minister has expressed on many occasions, that I have expressed on many occasions, and which are well understood and well known in Africa, in South Africa and in the developing world generally. Indeed, it is a mark of the credibility of Australia’s general position throughout the Commonwealth and throughout the developing world that, of all the industrial countries, the attitudes and views of Australia stand very high at this particular point. I think that is in a very significant sense as a result of the foreign policy that has been pursued under the special charge of my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I would have one request of the honourable gentleman so I can be quite clear in the future when he is asking me a question: Will he please advise me whether it is meant to be serious or whether it is meant to be a joke.
– I address my question to the Minister for Finance. Is the Minister aware that there is disquiet amongst Commonwealth public servants concerning refunds of superannuation surpluses? Has the Government made promises about such refunds? When will the refunds be made which would assist the depressed economy of the Australian Capital Territory?
-I am not aware that there is any disquiet amongst members of the Commonwealth Public Service, either pensioners or contributors. I am aware that there is a substantial amount of interest in this matter and members will be aware that we had the new scheme put in in 1976. Since then, there has been a tremendous amount of work. This matter of working out what funds are in excess of what is needed to maintain the fund is very complex.
– I rise to take a point of order. I would draw your attention to question 2174 which is on the same matter as the question asked by the honourable member for Canberra. I am sorry; I have given you the wrong number but there is a question in the Notice Paper on the same matter.
– Can the honourable member direct me to the number of that question?
– I am trying to pick it up.
– On the point of order, the question the honourable member has referred to has to do with employees compensation legislation. It has nothing to do with the Commonwealth superannuation surplus.
– I have the wrong question number.
– I give the honourable member a countdown of 10 seconds.
- Mr Speaker, the question is 2394.
-The question is substantially the same.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. Is the Minister aware that the Major Airport Needs of Sydney Committee Study Information Bulletin on the feasible development options for Bankstown Airport indicates that it would be possible for jet aircraft up to a Boeing 727 size to land and take off at Bankstown Airport? In view of the grave inconvenience already caused to people resident in areas adjacent to Bankstown Airport by aircraft noise, can the Minister give an assurance that there is no possibility that the present role of this airport will be changed to allow intrastate, interstate or international aircraft to use Bankstown Airport either now or in the foreseeable future?
– The purpose in setting up the Major Airport Needs of Sydney Committee Study was to try to find out and to establish properly what are the major airport needs of Sydney. The honourable member will be aware that it is a joint study. When I say ‘a joint study’ I mean that the Commonwealth Government and the State Government of New South Wales have joined together in this study because it really does take the two governments to solve the problem of airport needs. Whilst the Commonwealth might be responsible for the development of airport facilities, all States are heavily involved in these matters because they have to provide service facilities, such as roads, and take account of the environmental factors.
The Major Airport Needs of Sydney study has proceeded as fast as possible and has reported on a number of the issues involved in meeting the needs of Sydney. At this point I am not inclined to give the assurance sought by the honourable member, not because I want to create speculation that there might be some decision taken that would allow Bankstown Airport to have jet facilities, but because I have purposefully- I use that word advisedly- not come to any conclusions on any of the suggestions of that nature simply so that when the MANS study is properly concluded and has reported individually to the State Minister and to me on the needs of Sydney we will be able to come to tight decisions without too much emotion. I do not want my answer -
– If you put it out in the west there will be plenty of commotion.
– Now look, you are the one honourable member I am specifically speaking to because you are stupid enough to go out and try to make something of it.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. Of course, it is correct that I have always been most outspoken in protection of the western suburbs of Sydney, but for the Minister to use remarks such as ‘stupid’ is completely unparliamentary. I should have thought you would have asked him to withdraw. Far from being stupid I am being most active in protecting my area.
-The Minister has used an unparliamentary expression in relation to the honourable member for Chifley and I ask him to withdraw.
– I withdraw that reflection on my honourable colleague. I have not been prepared to speculate on what might come out of the MANS study. I make the point that the MANS committee is an advisory committee to two governments. When the committee concludes its work the two governments will sit down quite coolly, look at the advice given to them and make appropriate decisions.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Review of Domestic Air Transport Policy, parts I and II. Due to the limited number available, copies of this review have been placed in the Table Office and the Parliamentary Library. Arrangements are being made for a consolidated version of parts I and II to be tabled as soon as possible so that all honourable members may be provided with a copy.
– Pursuant to section 78 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942, I present the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– Pursuant to section 99 of the Telecommunications Act 1975, I present the annual report of the Australian Telecommunications Commission for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the final report of the Tertiary Education Commission on study leave in universities and colleges of advanced education, together with a statement by the Minister for Education.
– For the information of honourable members I present the recommendations of the Tertiary Education Commission on recurrent grants for universities and colleges of advanced education for 1980-81 together with a statement by the Minister for Education on programs of the Tertiary Education Commission for 1979-81.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1 974, 1 present the annual statement on the operation of that Act during the year ended 30 June 1978.
-by leave- I draw the attention of the House today to what surely must be one of the great tragedies of our time. As honourable members will be aware, from Independence in 1943 Lebanese politics rested on a delicately balanced compromise or ‘National Covenant’ between Moslems and Christians. Elected positions were apportioned on confessional lines and a quota system regulated entry into the Public Service and the armed forces. It was based on an earlier demographic situation which by the 1970s had long been unrepresentative. It eventually broke down because the Maronites, by far the largest Christian group, were not prepared to accept the fact that the Christian community had become a minority and that the ‘National Covenant’ no longer reflected political realities in Lebanon. The consequence was the 1975-76 civil war which began in April 1 975 with fighting between Maronite and militant Moslem groups. Fighting stopped in November 1976 following an agreement between Arab leaders, including President Sarkis of Lebanon, on the formation of an Arab deterrent force, known as ADF. This force is now some 30,000 strong and composed mainly of Syrians, under the nominal command of President Sarkis. The civil war, however, did not resolve any of Lebanon’s problems or inequalities. Fighting began again in February this year.
The Government has been very disturbed for some months about the deteriorating situation in Lebanon and the increasing civilian casualties resulting from the fighting, especially in Beirut. Fortunately, the ceasefire which came into force on 8 October still seems to be holding. But Beirut has seen innumerable ceasefires break down over the last four years and clearly we cannot afford to be over-confident about how long this one will last. The Government hopes it will continue to hold and welcomes the recent decisions on troop redeployment in Beirut in an effort to reduce friction. The Government also supports the United Nations Interim Force in LebanonUNIFIL in its difficult task in Southern Lebanon. UNIFIL has brought a measure of stability and peace to that area. Tensions remain, however, and the United Nations involvement has not yet ensured the restoration of the Lebanese Government’s authority in Southern Lebanon. The Australian Government regrets that the recent attempt by the Lebanese Government to extend its authority there, in cooperation with the United Nations forces, was not successful. It hopes that the parties responsible for the current impasse will co-operate in efforts towards an early re-establishment of Lebanese Government authority in Southern Lebanon.
Lebanon’s problems are extremely complex. The most recent fighting has seen Maronite militias pitted against Syrian members of the Arab deterrent force. However, there has also been fighting this year between Israelis and Palestinians, between Maronite. Moslem and Palestinian militias in Southern Lebanon, and between rival Palestinian factions in various parts of the country. Each group in Lebanon has its own aims and objectives. Unfortunately they have resorted more and more to violence to try to achieve their ends. The Lebanese army divided mainly on confessional lines during the civil war and, despite determined efforts by the Lebanese Government, the old wounds have not yet been healed. Efforts at reconstructing the Army have been hampered by disagreements- in microcosm the same focus of dispute as plagues the whole country. As a result, the Lebanese Government has been reluctant to use what there is of the Army because of the uncertainty of how it may react in any situation. In short, Lebanon has an assortment of highly armed factions disputing over a wide variety of issues but no national force to keep them under control.
The Arab deterrent force which is largely Syrian in composition, but which also contains contingents from Sudan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is still considered by the Lebanese Government to be acting generally on its behalf as a temporary replacement for the Lebanese Army. President Sarkis has said he will seek a renewal of the ADF’s present mandate which expires in a few days time. Unfortunately, the Arab deterrent force, whose job was to stop the fighting, has increasingly become involved in it, especially in Beirut. While the Lebanese Government considers it to be the only effective security force in Lebanon, the Maronite militia leaders now consider it to be an army of occupation. This clearly reflects Lebanese domestic political differences. However, I would like to point out that there is no simple interpretation of what has been happening in Lebanon. What is overwhelmingly evident is the fearful cost of the conflict. Already there have been thousands of fatalities and thousands of people seriously injured. Many of these have been innocent civilians. Few Lebanese families cannot have been affected. Hundreds of thousands are homeless. Thousands more have fled abroad, taking with them the talents and skills which had helped make Lebanon the prosperous nation it once was. The physical destruction caused by the fighting- the wrecked homes, schools and hospitals- is further testimony to the folly of this continuing conflict.
The Australian Government supports United Nations Security Council Resolution 436 of 6 October 1978. This resolution called on all those involved in hostilities in Lebanon to put an end to acts of violence, to observe scrupulously an immediate and effective ceasefire so that internal peace and national reconciliation might be restored, based on the preservation of Lebanese unity, territorial integrity, independence and national sovereignty. These objectives are firmly endorsed by the Australian Government which believes that national reconciliation can be achieved only by compromise between the political groups within Lebanon. The Australian Government will support all efforts to reach such a compromise. This would help greatly to ease the internal pressures in Lebanon, allow the Lebanese Army to be reconstructed and, ultimately, make the presence of the Arab deterrent force unnecessary.
There can be no doubt that the situation in Beirut and indeed in Lebanon as a whole is so tragic and complex that it merits once again concerted international effort to resolve its problems. The principal concern must be to stop the fighting, and we look to current moves in Beirut, Damascus and other capitals to achieve this. However, it is clear that the degree of tension and antagonism on the ground is so great in and around Beirut that an effective and lasting ceasefire will be difficult to achieve. It is also clear, unfortunately, that the Lebanese Government lacks at the present time the authority and resources to police a ceasefire.
We have, of course, no direct standing in the Lebanese situation. But, with a large and very concerned Lebanese community in Australia, and in the face of a most serious situation of conflict, it is the right and responsibility of any government concerned with humanitarian issues and those of international peace and security to make its views known. What is needed is more active international support for a ceasefire, and the establishment of conditions conducive to a general quietening of the situation. An ADF more widely acceptable on the ground would be one way, and some form of United Nations intervention would be another. In a situation where the various groups in Lebanon- Maronite Moslem, Palestinian and others- are heavily armed, and where there is threat of total breakdown in law and order and indeed in the political unity of Lebanon itself, the need for action is clearly urgent. There is, in particular, a need to avoid a situation which carries the risk of Syria and Israel becoming increasingly involved on contending sides in Lebanon.
If the United Nations were to look to the Security Council to consider some expanded peacekeeping operations in Lebanon, we have to bear in mind that an international consensus on the possible form of or even the need for such action does not exist at the moment. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the Security Council could go much beyond its resolution of 6 October. For it to do so the acquiescence of the five major powers would be required, as would be an indication of acceptance by the various parties on the ground in Lebanon. The Australian Government would certainly support any action taken on this basis. However, the Lebanese Government itself has not called for comprehensive United Nations peace-keeping action. Indeed, up till now, the Lebanese Government has shown no interest in such a course. But even the installation of a further force, if that could be achieved, would not be an end in itself. As I said in my general debate statement to the United Nations General Assembly on 6 October:
United Nations peace-keeping operations can only be as effective as the parties to a dispute will permit. To be successful in the long term, they must be accompanied by intense efforts to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict. Peacekeeping is not an alternative but an important contribution to the negotiation and settlement of disputes. There is a responsibility on the parties to a dispute to work actively to resolve their differences and to remove the need for the continuing presence of United Nation forces. The peace-keeping role is intended to promote solutions, not to perpetuate disputes.
Australia is of course anxious to lend its voice to moves towards a settlement of the underlying problems in Lebanon. This requires a more conciliatory approach by the various militia groups and by the wider communities from which they draw support. It is clear that only with the cooperation of all sections of Lebanese society can any Lebanese Government hope to achieve national reconciliation and harmony. It is this which must be the goal of all efforts, national or international, in regard to Lebanon’s present tragic situation.
I conclude, Mr Speaker, that at this delicate juncture, the most realistic line of action especially as I understand it from my recent meeting with Dr Waldheim, may be for the United Nations’ Secretary-General to maintain his interest in the dispute. I know that Dr Waldheim feels a deep personal anguish about the situation in Lebanon and is anxious to do what he can to help bring the current conflict to an end. On S October, he announced that he had asked Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan to undertake a humanitarian mission to the region with a view to extending the Secretary-General’s good offices to facilitate the cessation of hostilities. I can inform the House that I was able to indicate to Dr Waldheim on 6 October our support for that initiative. Prince Sadruddin ‘s mission clearly contributed to the recent strengthening of the cease fire which it is now for the parties to extend and consolidate. At this time, I make clear the Australian Government’s support for any future role which the Secretary-General will find an opportunity to play and our view that this would constitute the most constructive point of departure which appears to be presently available to the international community. Finally, Mr Speaker, I remind honourable members that Australia has extended substantial humanitarian assistance to Lebanon over the last few years. This year alone we are providing $440,000 in meat and blankets. We have also contributed over $ 1 m towards the maintenance of the United Nations’ peace-keeping force in Lebanon this year. I present the following paper:
Situation in Lebanon- Ministerial Statement, 24 October 1978.
Motion ( by Mr McLeay ) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. In view of the important statement made to the House by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, I beg for leave to give notice that I will raise the matter during the adjournment debate this evening.
-There is no point of order.
– The Opposition supports the thrust of the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). It does so in the context of events which took place last Wednesday when the Opposition received a deputation from a very responsible group representing the Lebanese community in Australia. We are very mindful of the limitations to what we can do as Opposition members. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will notice that we raised questions in the Parliament at that time about what could be done by the Government. That matter was raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) from the point of view of government initiative and, also, what humanitarian relief could be raised. I also raised the question of refugees, bearing in mind that there are 150,000 Lebanese in Australia with relatives numbering about half a million in the Lebanon. We make the point that the Lebanese community has made a very valuable contribution to the Australian way of life.
The destruction in Lebanon is a most bitter and disturbing event for the Lebanese. It affects their families, their friends, their cities and their homes. The question that they keep asking is: ‘What can be saved? What can be retrieved? Can the killing be stopped?’. We agree with the Foreign Minister that the destruction of civil order, and of the cities and towns of Lebanon is a tragedy. We agree that we have no direct standing in the Lebanese situation. We further agree that we need to avoid a situation which carries the risk of Syria and Israel becoming increasingly involved on contending sides in Lebanon. We acknowledge the difficulties in proceeding further in the United Nations. We note the Minister’s advice that the Labanese Government has not called for comprehensive peace-keeping action. We emphasise, as the Minister has, that any peace-keeping intervention must be made with a clear view of the modalities of settlement. As I commented in August when the Minister first advised the House of the proposals for a United Nations force in Namibia, we should be clear about the feasibility of the process United Nations intervention is intended to protect. At the same time, I am quite sure that one reason for President Sarkis ‘s lack of interest in a United Nations presence is that he would have little ground for believing that it would be feasible.
A situation in which the chiefs of our defence forces claim we cannot contribute to a United Nations force is intolerable. That capacity should be basic to force structure development. In the absence of a United Nations force, the role of an Arab deterrent force becomes critical, as does the role of President Sarkis as commander of that force. That leads us to say that the Minister’s statement does not deal with two basic political issues which are, firstly, the constitutional future of Lebanon and, secondly, the relationship of the Lebanese problem to the wider Arab problems. As regards the Lebanese Constitution, the Minister’s statement is contradictory. It begins with a past tense statement of how Lebanon used to be run, with a clear implication that the past is irretrievable. Later, however, the statement points out the need to maintain political unity. In my discussions with leaders of the Lebanese community I obtained the view that there was no alternative to the basic framework of the present Constitution. I therefore suggest that any comment on the situation in Lebanon should confront the reality that very strong action to restore the Constitution is required if the country is not to be torn apart.
Turning to the wider perspective, I notice with surprise that the Minister made no reference to the Camp David agreement and the extent to which the recent developments in Lebanon reflect the injection of Arab-Israeli hostilities into the Lebanese situation. As the Minister casts about, unable to identify any power capable of influencing the Lebanon situation, he might note the unhappy fact that steps taken to seek a solution in the country next door have further unhinged the situation in the Lebanon. A partial solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute is virtually fatal for Lebanon, making it the scene of a surrogate war, if not a direct war, between Syria and Israel, and leaving in Lebanon the massive problem of the displaced Palestinian people. Looking to our relations with Lebanon, I must say that we are weary of the Foreign Minister and other Ministers coming in here and saying that they will tell us about our relations with another country and then only telling us about part of the relationship. We ask: When will the Foreign Minister get the strength and authority to manage our foreign relations? On this occassion, however, he seems to have excelled himself. He has given us an incomplete political analysis of the situation in the Lebanon. Not only that, but also he has forgotten that on 26 May in this House when delivering a seven-page statement he concluded:
The Government has an inescapable responsibility to provide and plan for a growing range of consular services.
At that time we supported that statement and also the importance of the consular functions of the Department of Foreign Affairs. But where is the mention in today’s statement of the availability and need for consular services in the Lebanon? We know Australians were warned to leave the Lebanon some weeks ago. But why cannot the Minister tell us whether any Australians remain in the Lebanon, or about the property of Australians in the Lebanon? These are basic facts that concern Australians as much as the intangibles, the imponderables and the uncertainties of any political situation and of any political solution. Let us look at the other basic omission from the statement- the immigration issue. Surely we would hope that this Minister would have the capacity to produce something a little stronger than the cold and pious answer the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) gave me last Wednesday when he said that he would ‘react positively and humanely to situations which may occur’. Does that really mean that these situations have not occurred? We all know that they have.
The Australian Embassy has withdrawn from Lebanon. We have no quarrel with that. The Minister is entitled to be concerned about his staff. But to where has the Embassy gone? It has gone to Damascus. The Minister must surely be aware that a Lebanese refugee might just as well try to visit the moon as visit Damasus the capital of Syria. Why was the Embassy not withdrawn to Cyprus, where many of the refugees have gone? If there are problems in that, we would like to know about them. In any case, what is the refugee situation in Cyprus? Is it not the case that the Australian High Commissioner there is not able to process immigration cases without bringing staff” from Athens? I am not saying that the answer to destruction and to refugee problems is migration. But there is no discussion of this or of any other aspect of the refugee problem in the Minister’s statement.
We find ourselves accepting quite large numbers of Indo-China refugees. They make up about 25 per cent of our total migration intake. The Foreign Minister made a statement today about how skilfully he was organising a conference on that issue. That appears to be more of a glamorous public relations proposition. But I would be glad to se.e the Minister address his mind to the more mundane issues. There are always difficulties in addressing refugee questions, in deciding who may come and who may not. The personal links between Australian citizens of many decades standing and the people of Lebanon ought to be considered by the Government when making a statement such as this.
-Firstly, I desire to apologise to the Chair. I did not know that it was going to permit some discussion on this matter of great importance to the thousands of Lebanese families in this country. I think that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), by making this statement, has done this country a great service. However, the situation deteriorates every hour and as the days go on the chances of a solution become even more remote. What is far more serious is that the work which the United States Government has so ably done with the Government of Egypt now stands in very great danger. Therefore, whatever happens it is essential that the United States and the Soviet Union lend their efforts to bring a halt to the complete dismemberment of the Lebanon. The constitution of the Lebanon is so old fashioned and worn out that it is virtually unworkable. Therefore, surely the very best thing that the United Nations could achieve would be to ask on all sides that there be a ceasefire until a new Lebanese constitution can be written in an up to date form. In the meantime we must express to the Lebanese families in this country our great sense of anguish and sorrow that their very beautiful country is being torn apart at this time. Many of the Lebanese in Australia, especially in my electorate of Holt, and in other electorates, have asked what the Australian Government can do.
I believe that the statement given by the Foreign Minister is constructive, but I honestly believe that our representative should return to the Lebanon and should not be stationed at Damascus. That is not said with any feeling of disrespect for the Syrian Government which has a severe problem of” its own. Indeed, it would be unfair and wrong if this House did not thank the Syrian Government for what it has endeavoured to do. It is clear to every person connected with the Middle East that the situation now has gone far beyond what can be done by the Syrian Government or by other interested governments in the region. There is no way out of it other than for the United Nations Security Council to meet and to decide that the present fighting in Lebanon must stop and that a major United Nations security force must take over while the new constitution is being written. In the meantime, sympathies from all members of this House go out to the Lebanese families in this country, who week after week and day after day get sad and shattering news concerning their families. Therefore, I am glad this afternoon that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has brought them some comfort and has at last made a constructive statement that he has been actively working at the United Nations to see whether the great powers can bring peace to a most beautiful country, for if we fail in this the whole of the present Middle East negotiations could collapse around us.
If anybody imagines that it is going to be possible to bring a peaceful solution to the Middle East without consulting the Soviet Union directly or indirectly he must be gravely mistaken. It would be far better to reconvene the discussion on the island of Rhodes as soon as possible. In the meantime our heartfelt sorrow goes out to the Lebanese families, especially those who are here and those who are suffering. Our particular wishes go out to the Lebanese politicians, who should be doing their very best right now with the United Nations and Dr Waldheim to bring a halt to the dismemberment of one of the most beautiful countries in the Middle East. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has given us at least some basis for hope, but I would be happy if he would return to the United Nations to make sure that our words and our thoughts come before the Security Council. Australians did not die in the Lebanon or in the Western Desert and lives were not sacrificed in the last World War or the World War before that for nothing. This nation is not prepared to stand by and idly do nothing. Therefore, although I commend the able speech given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, I would suggest that the majority of those who have been connected with the Middle East and know the Middle East would hope that he would return to the United Nations forthwith and make sure that our views are made absolutely known to the Security Council and to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and that the ceasefire should come about in the Lebanon as soon as possible.
Whilst I congratulate the Minister, I hope that he will take active steps to go back to the United Nations in an attempt to get a complete ceasefire and a complete reorganisation of the United Nations forces in the Lebanon as soon as possible. If this does not happen I very much doubt whether the peace that President Carter is so anxiously constructing in the Middle East will succeed. To leave the Soviet Union out of any discussions concerning the Middle East must indeed be a mistake. Therefore, we hope that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and all those who are connected with the Middle East will start again their valuable work at the United Nations in an endeavour to make certain that the fighting in the Lebanon ceases as soon as possible.
Debate (on motion by Mr Stewart) adjourned.
– by leave- Since 1973 successive governments have accepted the need for export controls on Australian minerals to ensure that the national interest is achieved. Since that time our mineral exports have increased threefold from $ 1,480m to $4,400m per annum. This is ready proof that overseas buyers are familiar with and can work within the framework of government export controls. The growth of exports clearly shows their confidence in the administration by this Government of that power. I emphasise ‘this Government’, because, although we use the same basic tool as the Labor Government used between 1973 and 1975, our method of operation has been and will continue to be significantly different.
Ours is not a doctrinaire or heavy-handed approach. We do not send companies off to negotiate in a vacuum. We do not intend to return to a situation where companies, after months of negotiations, are told bluntly that contracts are not satisfactory and that they should go back and do better. When we came to office, we elected to use this tool as a monitoring device, intervening only when necessary. Interventions have been few, and only when absolutely necessary. The Government has a firm policy of leaving negotiations to the commercial parties involved. I have repeatedly stated that I would not use export control powers to interfere with normal commercial contracts unless the outcome is unreasonable and against the national interest.
In accordance with this policy, the Government has endeavoured to give companies the maximum amount of freedom to carry on thencommercial negotiations. We believe that the entrepreneurial capacity of Australian companies should be used effectively and efficiently in the commercial marketing area. We do not wish to develop a greater degree of government involvement than is absolutely necessary to assist the companies and to ensure that our vital national interests are preserved. This has worked well, but as I have made clear in the House in recent weeks, we are facing a situation where buyers are imposing settlements on individual sellers which are less than could reasonably be expected in the market situation. The time has come to review the administration of our export control powers to meet this situation.
I emphasise that we are facing the results of a fundamentally changed market situation. There is a situation of depressed demand and of serious overcapacity among the major suppliers of bulk minerals- particularly iron ore and coal- to the world’s consumers. These commodities have no terminal market prices of the London Metal
Exchange type such as exist for the non-ferrous metals. Negotiations on prices and tonnages are normally conducted between buyer and seller resulting in contracts which reflect the relative strength of the individual buyer and seller. The Australian Government’s concern is that individual Australian companies face buyers who are co-ordinated or who have a high degree of consultation and who, as a result, can and do successfully play one seller off against another. The result is prices, terms, and conditions which do not reflect a fair and reasonable return. This is particularly so in the current state of world markets with Australian companies seemingly fighting each other for available tonnage often at the expense of fair and reasonable returns. Recent developments have indicated that buyers are taking full advantage of this situation.
This is a most unsatisfactory situation and I have already expressed my concern at the price settlements that were agreed to this year for iron ore sales to the Japanese market. A situation can arise where contract conditions may be accepted by one company, albeit reluctantly, but can have grave implications if imposed on other exporters. This can lead to an overall result which is not in the national interest. Based on evidence in recent coal negotiations there is every reason to believe that unsatisfactory results could flow from the forthcoming coal negotiations which encompass approximately 80 per cent of our coal exports to Japan.
It is necessary to appreciate that a coordinated buying approach is becoming more and more the technique applied to purchases of Australian minerals. This is a fact of international trade. What it means is that in these depressed market conditions we must be aware of, and have a response ready for, the inevitable pressures that will fall on individual Australian exporters. It is not this Government’s wish to interfere with normal market forces. However, we are concerned about buying techniques which are distorting these market forces, and are designed to depress the prices received for these basic raw materials.
The fundamental objective is to secure fair and reasonable prices for our exports of raw materials and the maximum tonnages that prevailing marketing conditions will allow. In a depressed market place tonnage and price movements can have a tremendous overall effect on our balance of payments and consequently the well-being of Australians as a whole. The importance of the issues is dramatically illustrated when one considers the contribution to our exports by minerals and metal products. Export income from minerals and metal products as a proportion of total export income has risen from 1 1 per cent in 1960 to 28 per cent in 1970 and to 39 per cent in 1977. Coal exports rose in value in 1977-78 to $ 1,465m, iron ore to $92 lm and alumina to $668m. Together, these commodities amount to nearly two-thirds of our mineral exports and 25 per cent of our total exports.
It is important to realise that Australia has a pre-eminent place in world trade in these commodities. We are the largest exporter of iron ore and alumina and the third largest exporter of coal and bauxite. Settlements arrived at by Australian exporters inevitably have a major influence throughout the world. It follows that the prices we achieve are important not only to Australia but also to other exporting countries. Because of these wider implications, the Government, in discharging its responsibilities in respect of the preservation of the national interest, must bear in mind our very real international responsibilities as well as the interests of the Australian industry.
I have been reviewing the Government’s approach to the whole question of export controls and the machinery which should govern future exports of iron ore, coal, bauxite and alumina. The purpose of my statement is to explain to the House the decisions we have taken at this stage. There is no simple prescription for achieving our aims. Clearly it is essential that the Government has at all times the proper knowledge, oversight and control over the arrangements under which Australia’s bulk commodities are exported.
From our own analysis of the situation, reinforced by the views expressed in consultations with producers, it is clear that there is a fundamental need for more effective co-ordination of the marketing of Australian iron ore, coal, bauxite and alumina than has hitherto been achieved. The current export controls on raw materials and semi-processed minerals are administered under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations of the Customs Act. This will continue on the basis of the streamlined and simplified procedures which I introduced last year. However, from today, exporters who wish to enter into negotiations under new or existing contracts will be required to obtain specific approval before making any offers or responding to any offers or entering into any commitments. This will also apply in respect of negotiations already in progress.
Consultation will take place between individual companies and officers of my Department.
Against the background of continuing consultation with industry and the advice of my Department, I will determine the parameters within which a company or companies will be authorised to negotiate. Such parameters will include, as circumstances require it, pricing provisions, tonnage, duration or other usual provisions of commercial commodity contracts. If during the negotiations a company wishes to change the parameters it will be necessary to seek a variation to the approval.
The machinery and procedures I have just outlined will, I believe, in practical terms make the existing system of administering export controls substantially more effective without resort to a marketing authority or legislation. All Australian exporters are worried to varying degrees by the trends that are evident in world markets. Following extensive Government-industry consultations and numerous discussions with individual executives in the coal, iron ore and bauxite-alumina industries, I believe that it is appropriate and necessary for action to be taken by the Government to achieve greater effectiveness of the existing system of export controls. The proposals I have outlined have the necessary flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances and particular industry needs.
There will be continuing consultation with the industries involved. This will ensure that my Department is kept constantly in touch with the state of the market. This is a co-operative endeavour. Our companies will still undertake the commercial negotiations. Furthermore, the companies will know where they stand and they will know that, if they negotiate within the parameters approved by the Government, I shall approve the final contracts. These procedures are directed to ensure a continuing flow of information and exchange between the Government and exporters and to diminish the prospect of the Government continuing to be faced with the situation of having no choice other than to accept or reject a settlement.
We are looking to these new procedures to reduce tensions and possible misunderstandings and to encourage the development of a cooperative interchange between the companies and the Government, a degree of co-operation and predictability that it would be unreasonable to expect individual competing exporting companies to generate. These aims are particularly important in the light of our position as a major world producer and exporter of bulk raw material commodities. We recognise, and I believe enjoy, a special relationship with our traditional customers. The ties are close and we are inextricably linked.
The changes I am proposing are intended to preserve and nurture those ties. I hope they will lead to a reduction of tensions and facilitate the negotiating process not only for Australian sellers, but also for overseas buyers. This has been an important aspect in our considerations. I repeat that negotiation of contracts will be between the Australian commercial interests and the foreign buyers and I would not expect to be discussing directly with individual buyers matters which are the subject of particular commercial negotiations. Finally, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would stress that the success of our endeavours does to a great extent depend upon the wholehearted co-operation of exporters with the Government. My discussions with exporters give me every confidence that this will be forthcoming. I present the following paper:
Export policy for bulk raw materials- Ministerial Statement, 24 October 1978.
Motion ( by Mr McLeay) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I suppose all things change, given enough time. What we have seen today is an enormous about-face by the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony). We have seen an enormous recant on his part on the kinds of policy attitudes which he took in contradistinction to the former Labor Minister for Minerals and Energy, the late Rex Connor. I do not know whether the Minister ought to enjoy the title of Rex Anthony or Doug Connor. Either one is appropriate. What a shame-faced turnabout by the Minister. Also, many ungracious references were made to the former Labor Government’s policy which the Minister has now adopted, holus-bolus and claims as his own with a few semantics to make some distinctions.
Of course, we on this side of the House are complimented enormously by the Government’s shift in policy. It has adopted our policy. All I can say is that I agree with the general tenor of the statement but it is three years too late; we have already lost much business in terms of tonnages and prices of our raw materials. That may not have been the case if the Minister had faced up to his responsibilities at a much earlier time. What, of course, the Minister is worried aboutthis statement operates from today- is that he has been given notice already that the coal negotiations are proceeding and that Australia is doing very poorly. In those negotiations, our customers are banking on the fact that the Minister again will back down at the appropriate moment and not face up to his obligations. That is not the kind of criticism which the Minister can tolerate twice in a month. So, he has decided to remedy the situation and it is better late than never. Let me just tear to pieces the qualifications and excuses in his statement. I will start by referring to page 1 of his statement where he said:
We do not send companies off to negotiations in a vacuum.
He has just done that now for three years and did it particularly with iron ore in the last six months. He also said:
We do not intend to return to a situation where companies … are told bluntly that contracts are not satisfactory and that they should go back and do better.
That is a semantic way of saying that approvals will be conditional. At page 6 of the statement he goes on to say:
I will determine the parameters within which a company or companies will be authorised to negotiate.
Even the former Minister for Minerals and Energy under the Labor Government was never so heavyhanded as to suggest that. The Minister goes on further to say that he will intervene only when absolutely necessary. If that is the case, why did he not intervene in the recent iron ore price negotiations just a couple of months ago? At page 2 of his statement he said:
We do not wish to develop a greater degree of Government involvement . . .
He could have fooled me, Mr Deputy Speaker, because at page 6 he indicates that there is the greatest level of government participation ever envisaged by a Liberal-Country Party Government. That is another semantic reference to try to excuse the shift in policy which has taken place in the Government. Then he went on to say: . . . in recent weeks, we are facing a situation where buyers are imposing settlements on individual sellers which are less than could reasonably be expected in the market situation.
That has been said by honourable members on this side of the House now for three years. He said:
I emphasise that we are facing the results of a fundamentally changed market situation. There is a situation of depressed demand and of serious overcapacity . . .
We have been saying that now for three years. This is the same Minister who, in the middle of the last election campaign when I raised these issues, put out a Press statement saying: ‘Mr Anthony details $14 billion worth of new projects’. That statement then listed the iron ore and coal projects that he said would start up in the next couple of years. If we already have a serious overcapacity situation, how then does he reconcile that view with his view in the election campaign that we ought to have more capacity built into the Australian iron ore and coal industry?
Let us dwell on iron ore for a moment. When the Hamersley concentrator is finished next year and after the Newman expansion and the expansion of Cliffs Robe River, there will be 20 million tonnes excess capacity in the Pilbara. Japan this year will take about 60 million tonnes of iron ore in all. How are they going to dispose of 20 million tonnes from existing mines, plus the tonnage from all of the new projects the Minister talked about during the election campaign? He referred to Marandoo and Goldsworthy area C. He reeled them off, one after another. It was all good stuff in an election campaign but it was not to be believed later. Now he talks about a new, changed situation- one in which there is overcapacity in the minerals industry. It is nice to hear a frank admission but what about some frank admissions during an election campaign, instead of the kind of deceitful material which has emanated constantly from Government Ministers? In his statement the Minister went on to say: . . . Australian companies face buyers who are coordinated or who have a high degree of consultation . . .
Has he just discovered, after all his years as a Minister, that Japan particularly negotiates its buying arrangements and co-ordinates them? Has it taken that many years for the message to get through? He states further: . . . as a result, can and do successfully play one seller off against another.
That is an expression that I remember emanating from this side of the House not so many years ago and of late-one seller being played against another. This statement is a complete lift of Labor policy. I cannot understand why the Minister does not admit it and why he does not say: ‘You are right and we have taken your policy. We agree with you ‘. He should do that instead of trying to pour a bucket all over the former Government’s policy as he did at the start of his statement. He then went on to say:
This is a most unsatisfactory situation and I have already expressed my concern . . .
Concern does not take one very far in mineral negotiations. Everyone expresses concern but that does not go very far. He talked about unsatisfactory results and said:
It is necessary to appreciate that a co-ordinated buying approach is becoming more and more the technique applied to purchases of Australian minerals.
Again, that has been the case for years. He continued:
However, we are concerned about buying techniques which are distorting these market forces, and are designed to depress the prices received for these basic raw materials.
Well, of course, in a buyers market in the face of a cartel it was the Minister’s job to organise the Australian resources industry which he has failed to do. The reason for the change in policy is that the companies in Australia have had a gutful of the present situation of going up there one after the other being picked off by the Nippon Steel Corporation, Sumitomo or any of the others. He went on to say:
It is important to realise-
I emphasise the word ‘realise ‘- that Australia has a pre-eminent place in the world trade in these commodities. We are the largest exporter of iron ore and alumina . . .
I have been saying that to him now for two years. He should realise how strong, in fact, we are. We are the biggest exporters of iron ore in the world and that is why we do not have to eat crow every time we face the negotiating table. Nobody can duplicate the kind of tonnage capacity which comes from this country. While that is a weakness on one side because we are moving into a buyers market, it is a strength on the other side because we are in fact selling so much. Because we are selling so much our customers cannot shift their sources of supply rapidly and must continue to deal with us. In fact, I believe they are happy to deal with us, particularly Japan which is and which will remain our best and most reliable customer. The Minister went on- this is the real point. Mr Deputy Speaker- to say:
Clearly it is essential that the Government has at all times the proper knowledge, oversight and control over the arrangements under which Australia’s bulk commodities are exported.
Just last week in this very chamber when we were dealing with the Estimates, I made these points. The Department of Trade and Resources under the Minister’s tutelage has allowed all kinds of surveillance over mineral commodity movements and prices and the operation of mine sites around the world to run down. The result is that we do not have the necessary information. We are the largest traders in iron ore, alumina, coal, bauxite and all of the other minerals which the Minister nominated, yet we lack basic information about what is happening in the world. We do not know what kind of ore currently is being mined on the mine face in the Brazilian mines. We do not know what kind of grades are being mined currently. We do not know what the shipping schedules are. We do not know at this point in time what strengths we are likely to have or what kind of tonnages or materials are likely to be in demand for blending, particularly in Japan. The same applies to coal. All we do is stumble along in the dark. We are a country that has never grown up. We are in the big league in terms of commodities; yet our Government fails to face up to its obligations in getting a proper information base for the resources trade.
Now the Minister talks, quite sensibly I think, about getting together with the companies to get information. The only point I make is that these are the things that the Labor Party was saying as early as 1973- five years ago. We need a proper control over the export division of the Department of Trade and Resources. We need a proper information base. We need to know what projects are starting up in coal, iron ore and bauxite. We need to know what the capacity projections are into the future. We need to know what the likely demand is, what the grades are, whether coal from other suppliers has certain types of characteristics and properties, whether the phosphorus content of our iron ore is too high in some respects and what are the likely blends that the steel mills will require within the next couple of months. These are all things about which we do not know anything and about which, of course, we should know something. But how can we know anything about them when the departments have been torn to pieces under the Government’s cost cutting measures and staff ceilings have been imposed? All that happens is that our expertise just drops and when we get into tough negotiations we are cut to pieces.
The Minister tries to save his skin by presenting this statement to eliminate a similar recurrence of the iron ore debacle of a couple of months ago in respect of the current coal negotiations. We will not cavil at that. But have a listen to the detail and the wording of the statement made by the Minister. He said:
However, from today, exporters who wish to enter into negotiations under new or existing contracts will be required to obtain specific approval before making any offers -
Not just acceptances but offers- or responding to any offers or entering into any commitments. .If that is not government participation in the full sense of the word, I do not know what is. The Minister continued:
Consultation will take place between individual companies and officers of my Department.
Then he went on to say: . . . I will determine the parameters within which a company or companies will be authorised to negotiate.
I personally support this. Our Party supports it. But the Government never supported it in the past.
– It is exactly the same as the uranium policy.
-That is nothing like it. The Government has just adopted our policy. I do not know whether the Minister thought he could come in here in the dead of the post-Question Time period and get away with this statement. The Minister then went on to say:
Such parameters might include, as circumstances require it, pricing provisions, tonnage, duration or other usual provisions of commerical commodity contracts.
If during the negotiations a company wishes to change the parameters it will be necessary to seek a variation to the approval.
In other words: ‘We give you the parameters; we tell you what you can change; and we give you the ultimate approval for offers and acceptances’. We on this side of the House agree with this; but it is just very new material from the Government. The Minister may smile. As I said earlier, this is an enormous compliment to us. We do not mind the Government pinching our policy; but what we would like is the credit for it on the way through.
The Minister now says that he will not resort to a marketing authority. I do not believe in marketing authorities either. He says that there will be no legislation. I do not believe that legislation is required either. What is required is just a little bit of strength and foresight on the part of the Australian Minister for Trade and Resources and the resolve to make his Department carry out its proper obligations in terms of the mammoth resource movements which come from this country. The Minister in his statement went on to say:
There will be continuing consultation with the industries involved. This will ensure that my Department is kept constantly in touch . . .
He went on to say: . . . and to diminish the prospect of the Government continuing to be faced with the situation of having no choice other than to accept … a settlement.
That is fair enough. The final statement which I draw to the attention of the House is this:
I repeat that negotiation of contracts will be between the Australian commercial interests and the foreign buyers and I would not expect to be discussing directly with individual buyers . . .
That is fair enough. I have always said that I believe it is basically a commercial matter; that parameters ought to be fixed; that companies should not be varying offers to suit themselves, to the exclusion or detriment of other producers; and that they ought to carry on in a fashion which is conducive to and in accordance and in parallel with the Australian national interest. That has not been happening. We on this side of the House believe that it should have been happening. We are now very glad to see that it will be happening. All I say advisedly to the Minister is that it is about time he gave his Department the chance to upgrade its information base and to get the kind of staff it requires in order to obtain proper information on export controls, to know what is happening with other exporters around the world and particularly at other mine sites, and to find out what our customers are doing, not take what they say at face value. I believe that all this can be conducive to maintaining the very valuable relationship that we have with Japan in particular in the resources trade.
Finally, I am appalled at the ungracious references to the former Labor Government by the Minister in his speech. Nevertheless, we are complimented by the fact that the Government at last has seen the error of its ways and has decided just to lift a slab of the Labor Party’s policy from its National Conference documents and adopt it as the policy of the Australian Government.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hodges) adjourned.
– by leave- Two points are central to what I have to say today about the Defence appropriation of $2,501m for 1978-79. Firstly, notwithstanding an overall Budget strategy calling for the most stringent economies throughout the public sector provision has been made for a defence outlay larger than any achieved since we withdrew from Vietnam. It is a modest but significant real increase of one per cent over last year’s outlay. This year’s amount for defence is larger in real terms than any since the last Budget of the McMahon Government. Secondly, the outlay this year, even though it is higher than any achieved in the last six years, and conspicuously larger in real terms than any achieved by our predecessors in office, will not be large enough for us to achieve, in the time that we originally contemplated, all of the objectives and projects in the Defence White Paper of 1 976.
There was a crucial question to be addressed this year in framing the Defence budget, and it was this: Could we defer some of the defence development provisionally proposed for 1978-79. without there being a serious effect on the security which the defence program is designed to afford to the nation now and in the future? If we could, the nation would benefit in terms of the fight against inflation, of economic recovery and of international financial confidence. Indeed, our national capacity to support defence would itself benefit over the longer run. Our conclusion is reflected in the appropriation figures that have been presented and in the level of defence forward commitments that we will have this year.
In. order to maintain a steadily rising level in our defence outlay while avoiding sharp movements, there has been selective rescheduling and revision of some components of the defence program as described in the 1976 White Paper. Some defence facilities or capabilities which we contemplated having in our possession one to two years hence will not now be in our possession until somewhat later. We shall hold to the timing for others, but at initially reduced quantitative levels. Other projects will proceed on schedule. I shall say more about these matters later. But let me emphasise that the enhancement of our defence capabilities will continue.
We said in the White Paper in 1976 that we saw no credible threat in the short term of an attack upon our territory, But we concluded that we needed to maintain a defence force so structured that it would be capable of timely expansion, should longer term international uncertainties develop unfavourably. For a country determined to possess a capacity to defend itself, we must have in our three Services a wide variety of skills- albeit in modest quantities at a time when we are not living in the shadow of a direct threat. We said in the White Paper that we must have a core of readily available forces possessing the ability to respond promptly to lesser military contingencies involving Australian national interests- contingencies which could arise at shorter notice than could the threat of direct attack upon our country. Two years later our judgment as regards Australia’s external environment, and our perception of the time which would be available to us to hasten our preparations, are essentially the same.
This is not to say that the world has stood still. There have been many developments. But they have by no means all been unfavourable. International developments do not warn us that we must divert our defence effort to the achievement of significantly greater readiness in the short term. Rather they suggest that a very wide range of Service skills and equipment and infrastructure should be acquired or preserved, as the case may be, to give the country a sound basis for expansion to deal with any threat which might develop in the longer term.
This choice is important in explaining the Government’s decisions. It is the reason why the Government, when allocating defence funds between, on the one hand, consumables such as ammunition, spare parts, and fuel against, on the other hand, investment in long life, highly effective weapons and infrastructure, has sustained a preference for this latter kind of investment, expensive though they be.
It is easy for critics to say that we should spend more money on ammunition, fuel and other consumable stores to enable an increased number of flying hours, greater steaming time, more interesting and testing exercises and thus higher levels of training for the Navy, Army and Air Force, and at the same time to build up incountry stocks, and put capital and equipment into our defence industries to produce them. We have been encountering some shortages in certain types of ammunition. This has been due in part to technical problems encountered in both local and overseas production and in part to lengthened delivery lead times. As a result we have eaten into stocks accumulated during the Vietnam war. To improve the situation there has been a substantial increase in the quantity of ammunition ordered in the past two years, particularly for the Army. This should ensure that serious shortages do not occur in our training.
When assessing the level of Service activities that need to be maintained it may not always be understood how expensive are some training items such as ammunition and missiles. Some tank practice rounds cost in excess of $350 each and the annual ammunition cost of training a tank crew will exceed $18,000. Missiles are even more costly. Standard surface-to-air missiles fitted in our DDG destroyers cost some $ 145,000 each and the harpoon missile to be fitted to our new FFGs costs in excess of a half a million dollars each.
But despite this the Government has decided to preserve Service activities at levels which will sustain professional standards, military skills, and morale. Moreover, the Defence Force is at the same time making an increased contribution to non-military objectives by way of support of the civil authorities in coastal surveillance, disaster relief and many other ways. Inevitably there will be disappointment when the level of exercising and some equipments on issue are kept under restraint pending a more ample budgetary situation. But the pause which we have imposed on some areas of defence expenditure will benefit the economy and thus, in the longer run, the defence effort itself.
I wish to remind the House that the Government’s priorities will ensure that over the next 36 months there will be a substantial growth in the capital equipment in service in this country, in the form of new and modernised aircraft and their sensors and ground support equipment, and new and modernised Army equipment as my following remarks will show. Much of that equipment will contribute to a more comprehensive defence capability in the maritime environment- air, surface,- and sub-surface- of our continent and of our neighbourhood.
Take firstly maritime military surveillance, reconnaissance and off-shore patrol. I refer to a requirement going far beyond the coastal detection of non-military targets, which is of concurrent but separate interest. Re-equipment of No. 10 Squadron with the highly advanced P3C Orion aircraft has commenced and by the beginning of next year all 10 will have been delivered. Combined with the P3Bs, our maritime surveillance and reconnaissance has been significantly enhanced because of commonality of aircraft type and collocation, and because these aircraft have sensors and related systems at the frontiers of modern technology. When fitted in the quite near future with the Australian Barra sonobuoy, the anti-submarine capability of the Orion will be second to none. These are capabilities which serve our self-reliant defence posture, and they serve our alliance.
The over-the-horizon radar project, Jindalee, is receiving high priority and another $24m has been devoted to its continued development. If it lives up to its promise, and I am confident that it will, we shall have made a major advance in surveillance of the sea and air approaches to the continent. At the same time, other radar acquisitions relating to area surveillance in Australia, are proceeding, including replacement radars for our air defence early warning and ground control interception systems.
For closer coastal and off-shore work- not overlooking that Australia’s coastal sea States rule out the fully effective use of smaller ships- five of the Navy’s 15 new larger patrol craft will be in service by 1980-81, and the remaining 10 by 1985. They will have greater range and speed and better sea-keeping capabilities than we have possessed before- all resulting in greater area coverage and more responsive control of our off-shore waters.
The F111C- an aircraft which gives us a highly effective strategic weapon system at a very moderate cost indeed, in spite of all the stubborn mythology on that point- will have reconnaissance pallets added. The same features which make it a superb strike weapon give this aircraft great potential also in the strategic reconnaissance role, and the modification of four aircraft will commence in 1979. We also are adding to the Fl 1 1C force new radar homing and warning systems at a cost of $ 15m to enhance its already daunting capability to penetrate enemy defences. The compatibility of the F111C systems with precision guided munitions is being studied. We have also recently completed a new aircraft support facility at Amberley which will add greatly to the effectiveness of the F 1 1 1 force.
The Defence Force, as a result of this year’s decisions, will acquire missiles of the most advanced kind, combining the remarkable technology in guidance systems with telling destructive power. We are entering a multi-stage project to acquire remarkably powerful harpoon sea skimming missiles for the Defence Force. They will be capable of being fired from our P3C aircraft when kits are delivered in 1980-81. They are to be carried also by the new patrol frigates. Australia will then have a stand-off strike capability against surface vessels. We are studying whether to fit missiles in our submarines to give them also a stand-off capability against ships. More standard missiles for training will be acquired. All three DDG vessels will then have been equipped with improved surface-to-air missiles. To provide the necessary technical support to these complex modern weapons a torpedo and missile maintenance facility is to be built at Kingswood, New South Wales.
The first Australian submarine squadron will reach full strength with the arrival of HMAS Otama giving us six boats recognised to be the equal of any conventional submarine in service anywhere, with a formidable capacity in antisubmarine and anti-shipping warfare. Some $35m will be spent on acquiring additional MK 48 torpedoes. Submarine effectiveness will be further enhanced with new advanced sonar and fire control systems which are now being installed.
Again I emphasise the heavy costs of all of these developments. But I put it to honourable members that it is logical that a country of our vast distances and modest population should compensate with advanced technology- both defensive and offensive. The skills necessary to operate in this technological range are not developed quickly. They need to be acquired and preserved before threats to our security develop.
Other naval forces
In addition to the submarine force and the guided missile destroyers, modernisation of the fighting capacity of our other naval forces to enable them to operate effectively alone or with others continues. The destroyer HMAS Yarra has been refitted. Between now and 1982, the three destroyers, Parramatta, Stuart and Derwent will be substantially improved and HMAS Adelaide, the first of the new patrol frigates, or FFGs, will enter service. The other frigates follow in this period.
Adverting to my comment about a deliberate priority for capital acquisition over current exercising activities, I remind the House that we have firmly ordered a major ship- a third FFG- only speculated about as a possibility in the White Paper. Re-scheduling and revision of the defence program does not take place only in one direction. These three vessels will bring to the Royal Australian Navy new technologies: Gas turbine propulsion, giving a readiness for sea expressed in minutes rather than hours, and greatly enhanced protection through area surveillance by helicopter. A modern support facility will be built for these ships at Garden Island. In order to man the ships with fully trained crews, and to avoid peak short term manpower demands on the Navy, one of the two Daring class destroyers will be paid off around mid- 1979.
I wish to inform the House of the cost position of the FFGs which naturally reflect inflation and exchange movements. In August 1974, the then Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, referred to a sail-away cost of $64m for each ship. The full project cost for the two ships was estimated to be about $187m in the prices of the day. This covered the sail-away costs plus helicopters, missiles, ammunition, training spares, support and the workup of the ships. It was not until 2 years later that the United States Navy established a firm estimate for a production FFG. In February 1976, I informed the House that the sail-away price for each ship was $97.5m and that the total project cost for two ships was $330m- an increase of some $143m in the two years. Twelve months later, with price escalations and exchange variations, the sail-away cost of each ship was $122.3m and total project costs for two ships was $4 14m in January 1977 prices. The third FFG ordered in November 1977 has a sail-away cost of $ 124.4m, and a project cost of $ 186m in August 1977 prices.
When we discount for changes in the value of money since 1976 affecting both sides of the Defence ledger, it will be found that significant increases in real costs relate not so much to the ships themselves but mainly to increased costs for missiles and helicopters. This is a feature of world prices for this new technology. The cost of the three ships is subject to periodic review with the United States Government in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding and I would expect shortly to be able to update the information to conform to any price or other changes such as the stores content in the package. Looking beyond the FFGs, investigations will continue concerning the need for new destroyer-type vessels from the late 1980s onwards and the characteristics to aim for. Investigations will also continue into what capabilities might be introduced into the Defence Force consequent upon the retirement of HMAS Melbourne in the mid-1980s. Between 1980 and 1982, the Navy will acquire a new amphibious heavy lift ship to support amphibious operations, an oceanographic vessel, and an underway replenishment vessel to replace HMAS Supplyprovided an acceptable contract can be achieved with one or other of the French and Australian competitive tenderers. Feasibility studies into deploying submarine-laid mines from our Oberon-class boats will proceed.
Transport and communications
Whether to defend a continent, contribute to international peace-keeping, or assist our allies and friends, we need mobility. Twelve new CI 30 Hercules aircraft will have been delivered this year. They fly further, faster and with bigger loads than those they replace. Delivery to the Army of the first 1,200 replacement light trucks is expected to be completed this year. The remaining 1,100 vehicles are now planned for delivery over the next two to three years. Orders are being placed for a small number of 4 tonne and 8 tonne vehicles for evaluation purposes. This will be the first step in a major replacement program for Army’s medium truck fleet, which will provide valuable work for Australian industry. Other projects are especially valuable to the Defence electronics industry. The allocation of $ 19.1m has been approved for Phase 2 of a new nationwide secure defence communications network which is to replace the obsolescent singleservice networks. Phase 2 will provide appropriate facilities in Victoria and Tasmania. A $15m order was placed recently with Racal Electronics (Aust) for high and medium power communications terminals. Other communications purchases are being developed with Australian industry.
A decision has been taken by the Government on the short list of aircraft to be further considered in the acquisition process for the replacement aircraft for the tactical fighter force. In April of this year, I informed the House of the six aircraft under consideration. Following an overseas inquiry by senior departmental and Air Force officers into future production prospects and costs, and after consultations with Australian aircraft and electronic industries, the Government has decided to confine further detailed evaluation to the following four aircraft:
McDonnell-Douglas Corporation F/A-18; Northrop Corporation F-18L; General Dynamics F-16; and Dassault-Breguet Mirage 2000.
While the Panavia Tornado and the McDonnell-Douglas Corporation F-15 have been removed from further consideration, both of these aircraft have many excellent qualities. In evaluating them against Australia’s strategic circumstances, and against other competing demands on our limited resources, the Government has assessed that the other contending aircraft could meet, better and less expensively, Australia’s operational priorities from the mid- 1 980s onwards.
The short list of contending aircraft has been chosen taking full account of their capabilities in the air-to-air role. In addition, an important consideration has been the potential these aircraft offer in the air-to-surface roles of interdictionincluding anti-shipping operations- tactical reconnaissance and the close support of ground forces. There are advantages in keeping open the option of being able to acquire a single and versatile aircraft ultimately to re-equip the three Mirage squadrons and the operational conversion unit. Assuming we accept, as present technical evidence suggests we can, that refurbishment of the Mirage will satisfy the country’s short term defence requirements, we will be in the fortunate position of being able to benefit from the developments in fighter technology becoming available during the 1980s. Operational/technical and industrial missions will go overseas in the first half of next year to examine performance and other detailed matters. The exact timing of these evaluations will be determined by the necessity to await the further development of some of the promising short listed contender aircraft.
Careful studies of this kind are made necessary by the inherent importance of fighters in our Defence inventory, the magnitude of the expenditure, and the requirement to give Australian industry new technology and management and labour skills of great future Defence value. As to cost- may I remind the House that calculations of numbers and types must be influenced by an estimate that puts the project cost per aircraft and all that goes with it in excess of $20m in present day prices. These will escalate if inflation continues. The Government rejects the concept of an early overseas buy without successful negotiations of an adequate share for Australian industry. It is our local industry which will have to be relied on to maintain and modify the new tactical fighter through its life. At the same time it seems inescapable that some of the technology would not be within the competence of Australian industry unless we were to pay absolutely prohibitive premiums for the number of aircraft that will be ordered. This is a familiar dilemma to which I shall return. To maintain our Mirage fighter asset while the new force is built up, a Mirage refurbishment program will commence in 1978-79 with the acquisition of long lead items, involving a total expenditure of $ 1 5.6m.
I inject a word on our Defence procurement processes. The procurement process must look into the future- as to strategic need and the technology and organisation to satisfy it. Investigations and their consolidation in acquisition objectives must closely engage the professional knowledge and experience of Service officers and the financial and contractual experience of departmental officers. Neither the Defence Department nor the Defence Minister has the final say on contractual terms. Under the system, long established, a separate body- now the Department of Administrative Services- must make, or concur, in the final contractual arrangements. Its processes involve the use of tendering and other procedures laid down in Finance regulations which are not within the control of my Department. It can be argued that there are better ways of selecting the sources of complex Defence equipment but I have no reason to believe that this Parliament would wish at present to change current practice. I say this aware of sniping by my friends opposite that would hold Defence Department administration solely responsible for problems that arise from time to time in the immensely complex business of discharging some of the biggest business transactions in Australia.
However, we have been spared one change which the Labor Administration persuaded this House to accept before it went out of office, and that was to take the ultimate responsibility for specification and negotiation of equipment with which our Services would fight, away from the Chiefs of Staff and their experienced Service colleagues and place it in a separate ministry. Presumably my colleagues opposite reasoned that a civilian Minister, having nothing to do with the Defence portfolio, would accept responsibility to the nation for whatever results, in war, this socialist apparatus would impose on the Services. This Government will have no part of any procurement organisation which does not, from beginning to end, directly involve the Chiefs of Staff and their advisers and experienced Defence officers in the defence equipment acquisition process. I hope there is no ambiguity about that statement.
This leads me to Australian defence production. No subject so readily attracts oversimplified solutions as the dilemma as to how much added cost we should accept in order to divert money to Australian industry to help raise its production in high technology, as against importing it at lower prices because of the advantage of large-scale production in major allied countries. Defence cannot be a prop for all worthy industries suffering from low workload, but its performance in putting work into industry is far better than we are given credit for. The Government’s bargaining strength with overseas suppliers has limits, and it is not possible to compel the transfer of work into industry that cannot meet essential quality and cost standards. The country’s inflated cost structure has negated many such hopes, but under the policies of this government in reducing inflation, I now see better prospects for Australian defence industries.
Equipment related expenditure for Australian industry is rising steadily. It was $337m in 1977-78; it will rise this year to an estimated $387m. The Australian shipbuilding industry, with all its cost problems, has orders of about $85m for the amphibious heavy lift ship and the new patrol boats. Substantial efforts are made to retain skills needed by defence within dockyards- including those managed by private industry- by planning and programming the allocation of repair and overhaul jobs and the modernisation of naval ships. But there are limits to the subsidy which defence and ultimately the taxpayer can pay for its specialist vessels. The electronics industry will benefit from the spending in coming years on the communications systems and from other projects I have described.
We have decided to keep manpower under restraint, and to reduce it in some areas by further measures to increase efficiency and by discarding some lower priority activities. The cut of 650 in Public Service Act civilian manpower, bringing the total civilian reductions to 6,500 in six yearsand I hope some of the critics inside and outside the Parliament will take some heed of that reduction in civilian manpower- will involve some loss of computer support to the Defence Force and in civilian assistance- for example in equipment repair and stores handling- but not in any vital area. Economies in procedures and administration in the Defence Department- for example, in claims checking- are being effected. The Chiefs of Staff have been asked to review the way that they are using their Service and civilian manpower and there is reason to believe that some activities of lesser importance can be curtailed. Army planning can no longer proceed on the assumption that the Regular Army will reach 34,000 by mid-1981. While it will be held at 31,900, the effective strength of the Army Reserve has grown to 22,300, giving a total Army of 54,200.
Provision has been made for modest growth in regular Navy and Air Force personnel strengths of 150 and 70 respectively this year. This will provide for the manning of the recently commissioned Western Australian naval support facility and new equipment being brought into use in both services.
The picture is one of judicious restraint on current Service training and exercising and on administrative support, a disciplined approach to the allocation of manpower, some deferments of equipment, and a continued inflow of high technology high performance equipment for all three Services over the next 36 months. We are expanding in other directions the long-term support of the Services into the future, improving our overseas intelligence access, extending the application of computers to service management of logistics and the maintenance of equipment systems and stores, and improving the education and training systems of the Services. The expensive and complex equipment that I have described makes increasing intellectual demands on those who must plan our strategy, master the use of high technology equipment in operations of war and maintain its serviceability in peace and war. The training and education of our Service leaders of the future have to meet this requirement. The costs of this training will be high.
Conditions of service are being maintained. The Committee of Reference for Defence Force Pay under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Coldham, a Deputy President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, remains active and a further report on allowances is expected shortly. Service emoluments are being kept in line with the contemporary standards and the principles of wage fixing. Steady improvements are being made in housing and accommodation in its various forms for service members.
The defence program has, for national economic reasons, been slowed down. It is a slowdown in growth. It is temporary. I have not sought to disguise that there will be some temporary disappointments and dislocations, but I do say that the restraint on Service activities will enable us to continue to absorb the impressive growth in weapons and equipment which will be placed in the hands of the services over the next 36 months. I remind the House that in its three Budgets the Government has provided for investment in national defence some $2, 460m more than the three Labor Governments. Notwithstanding the impact of inflation this represents a real increase in defence outlay. In the years ahead a place has been found in the program for further substantial capital acquisitions and some growth in Service manpower. The record I submit is one of steady and progressive growth in most capabilities and the balance among them is entirely consistent with the strategic outlook and the security of the country.
I present the following paper:
Defence Review- Ministerial Statement, 24 October 1978. Motion (by Mr McLeay) proposed: That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr McLeay)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Corio speaking for a period not exceeding 3 1 minutes.
-The statement delivered by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) is one on which I congratulate him. However, it contains no reference at all to the real situation in defence. On first hearing, the statement gives the impression that everything in the garden is rosy, that there are no serious problems confronting our defence forces and no serious problems confronting Australian defence. The first thing I want to say is that this statement, following on the statement made last year, buries the five-year defence program and the White Paper on defence presented in 1976. Clearly, the Government is not able to meet that program. The suggestion by the Minister that the deferments or cut-backs- use what word you wishare of a temporary nature is very similar to the suggestion of a former British Prime Minister, Mr Pitt, when he introduced income tax. It, too, was to be a temporary measure.
Lost expenditure is not temporary and it is not recoverable. Delays in equipment programs are not recoverable. The statement delivered to the House today indicates that the Government has accepted a view which it rejected when in Opposition, namely, that there is no credible threat in the foreseeable future. It has slowed down new equipment assessments and purchases until they are almost non-existent. It has reduced the training levels, especially in the reserve force, to levels which would render that force almost totally impotent and must bring up the question whether the reserve force is seriously considered to be part of the Defence Force. I make that statement quite clearly, and I make it quite clear that I support the training and use of the reserve force as an adjunct to the permanent military force and consider that it has a potentially effective role in bolstering the national defence effort. I say ‘potentially’ because this statement and the general rundown in reserve force activities over the last couple of years make that potential minimal and close to being non-existent.
One would have thought, after watching the advertising campaigns which took place a little earlier this year, that a serious effort would have been made to ensure that the co-operation with the reserve force that was sought from civilian industry, the input that was asked of officers who give a considerable amount of their time to the reserve force and the participation in that force that was sought from young men and women would have been accompanied by a serious effort by the Government to make that force not only attractive but also a functional and effective means of providing additional Defence Force personnel in times of any need. This statement and the practical situation indicate that that will not happen and is not likely to happen in the near future.
The Minister for Defence depended for justification of the present statement and the financial situation on past expenditures by past governments. In the statement he used certain figures to justify his assertion that present expenditure is higher than expenditure under Labor governments and indicated that expenditure in real terms is higher than under any other government since the McMahon Government. I think that we ought to put to rest the McMahon Government figure. It is totally irrelevant to the current situation or the situation at any other time after 2 December 1972. The defence budget brought down in 1972 included a component of 1 1,000 national servicemen in addition to a Regular Army force and other regular service personnel which was basically equivalent to the numbers engaged at the present time. At that time 1 1,000 additional salaries were being paid which would have had an effect on the defence vote. Major equipment -
– They were members of the Defence Force. It was still a sacrifice.
– It may have been a sacrifice, but it was one honourable members opposite made knowingly and deliberately as part of their contribution to the Vietnam war. At the time of the change of government in 1972 there was a minimum of new equipment purchases in the pipeline, with none being due for delivery in the first two years of the Labor Government. In fact, most of the decisions on new equipment purchases which are set out in the Minister’s statement were approved during the term of the Labor Government. Unfortunately for the Government, in practical terms it still has to pick up the tab for the increased equipment costs which result from those decisions. There have been very few new equipment decisions since 1975.
In terms of the gross domestic product, which is a measuring stick usually used in determining these things and one which I note the Minister used to criticise the Labor Government’s lack of input when he was the Opposition spokesman, the defence expenditure in 1973-74 was 2.61 per cent; in 1974-75, 2.68 per cent; in 1975-76, 2.6 per cent; in 1976-77, 2.65 per cent; and this year it is estimated at 2.63 per cent, allowing for the changes in monetary adjustments to the GDP as set out in the Budget. In other words, the average of the three Labor Government years was 2.63 per cent of GDP; the average of the first three coalition government years, in the present term, is 2.6 per cent. I use those figures because they were used in Opposition by the present Minister. They are different figures from the ones the Minister used and I think they prove beyond doubt that figures can tell one anything.
The statement by the Minister indicates that a number of major programs are, to say the least, slipping. It casts some doubts on the Government’s continued support of an aircraft carrier acquisition investigation. I note the Minister’s words in the statement when he referred to the means of meeting the gap that will be created when HMAS Melbourne is phased out. That is different from statements which have been made in the past and, if I may say so, it is a more realistic statement. I have some concern, as I think have most people who think about defence equipment, at the replacement syndrome- the continuation of a form of weapons system because the weapons system which is becoming obsolete was in that form. Technological change is so extensive that weapons forms in use one year can become totally obsolete the next. I am not commenting on the carrier project at this stage. We will deal with that at a much later stage, I suggest; but at this stage it is at least arguable whether that is the proper and appropriate replacement for HMAS Melbourne when that vessel is phased out.
The tactical fighter force program clearly has slipped back at least two years from its initial projection. I note that the Minister has stated that in the 1980s we will be able to benefit from the state of development of modern military aircraft technology. I repeat what I said when the Minister made a somewhat different statement earlier this year on the TFF program: Air to air capacity does not seem to be the most important factor for aircraft entering Australian service at this time. It is a desirable capacity, but I doubt whether it is a $500m priority in a restricted defence expenditure program. If, as is set out in the White Paper- I have seen no statement to contradict it- the aim of Australian defence is to protect the Australian continent from an unlikely but nevertheless possible incursion on to the Australian mainland and to exercise a role in the immediate area which would have a correlation to the defence of Australia, an air to air, land based fighter is not the weapons system that we ought to be looking at. Rather we should be looking at a weapons system which is capable of acting in a substantial capacity against ground based forces or surface shipping, which are the most likely offensive targets for which an Australian aircraft would be used.
There is at least one aircraft on the list which meets that criterion. I do not want to comment on the list because at least one of the aircraft is in the developmental stage. It is still very much a potential rather than an actual aircraft. One has been wheeled out only in the last few weeks. I think that the only aircraft which meets the criterion set down a couple of years ago most likely will be midway through its effective life before any Australian deliveries could take place. It may be that it would not be a practical proposition to purchase such an aircraft at that time. I personally think that aircraft is most likely included in the list because of its price which is more attractive than the price for most aircraft. It is a rather unattractive aircraft if one has to pay for it. But that can be said about all the aircraft.
The Minister’s statement makes no mention of replacements for the Army’s 5.5 inch guns which were due to be replaced by a 155 millimetre medium gun. Orders were supposed to have been placed in 1977. Those guns seem to have slipped right out of the defence program. The 105 millimetre field guns were due to be ordered this year. They appear to have disappeared. My understanding is that as few as six 5.5 guns are capable of service operation at any one time. If that is the case then the offensive and defensive capacity of the Army must be under some considerable threat because of its lack of an adequate weapon. The 105 millimetre gun is also reaching the end of its effective life. Whilst it can be kept in storage for long periods it cannot be significantly used and maintained indefinitely as an adequate weapons system.
The underway replenishment ship and the mines countermeasures vessels have been mentioned. As far back as 1973 the Wessex helicopter was suggested by the Navy as unsuitable. A replacement program was, in fact, included in the Minister’s statement last year. It does not appear in this year’s program nor does it appear that funds are available for the replacement of those helicopters. They will be reaching the end of their lives unless something substantial is done to increase their lifespan. The Minister has indicated that $ 15m is to be made available for updating the Mirage aircraft. Apart from the statement made by the Minister earlier this year on the technical fighter force project, little or nothing has been heard of that up-date program. I think the House will welcome a statement by the Minister on the form of up-date it is intended to undertake for the Mirage aircraft and whether that will extend their life beyond 1985. The Minister indicated earlier this year that that date was the potential end of the effective life of the Mirage aircraft.
A number of aspects in the defence area other than equipment and personnel ought to be discussed by the House in some detail. I note the Minister’s statements about procurement and sniping from the Opposition. The facts are- I put these clearly to the Minister- that there is an urgent need for a review, similar to that which the Hope Commission carried out into the securities area, into the whole structure and operations of the Department of Defence. The cutting back of 6,000 civilian personnel within the Department may or may not have improved its efficiency. It may be that those changes which took place as a result of the Tange report and which have now been operational for several years need review by persons outside the Department. It is very difficult to see fault when a person looks in the mirror, irrespective of how selfeffacing that person may be.
The Department of Defence was exempt from the Coombs report on the Public Service. It has not had an independent examination into its structure and operations since the Tange report. Substantially, that was a looking-in-the-mirror report by a person who I acknowledge is highly competent. I believe that what has been going on in the last few months- some of it malicious and some of it soundly based- indicates that a moral problem exists in that area. It will not be solved unless the Minister takes the initiative in this matter and that is his responsibility. Any criticism which takes place in this House has to be criticism of the Minister, not of the Department, because in this House the Minister accepts those responsibilities. I have not met anyone in the Department who was not dedicated or competent. I would say that about all the professional serving officers to whom I have spoken. That does not necessarily mean that there are not problems and it does not mean that those problems can be ignored.
The Minister mentioned some cutback in computer availability based on the AuditorGeneral’s reports which have been coming out regularly for a number of years. The computer problems within the Department of Defence require an independent inquiry and reassessment. They also require the expenditure by the Government of some funds in order to bring in persons who are up to date in computer management and programming so that those problems can be resolved. The whole efficiency and capacity of the Defence Force and of the Department of Defence could well rely on the response capabilities of its computer sections in this modern day and age. The Auditor-General’s reports, which have appeared at least for the last four years, are subject to inquiry within this Parliament. They appear not to have been resolved. Only a passing reference was made in the Minister’s statement to some reduction in capacity. I suggest that without increasing personnel but with a proper approach to modern management processes by bringing in a team capable of dealing with computer programs and of setting the computer section of the Department of Defence in proper order, there could be great savings in personnel, funds, equipment costs and in other related areas within the Department of Defence. If the problems are ignored they will grow and any saving in personnel will be lost by the costs of inefficiency.
I deal only in passing with procurement. The Minister mentioned the process and he indicated in his speech that he was satisfied with that process. He and probably the officers who advise him are the only people I have come across to date in this country who are satisfied. The lead time on procurement is excessive. The Department and the procurement sections face serious problems in that they have to start a process which they sometimes have difficulty in completing in the time scale and which is necessary for the technology which they are seeking to procure. There are problems. I believe that they ought to be resolved by proper managerial inquiries into the process and by consultation with the people with whom the Department has to deal. There are complaints- and I think they are on the record- that a great number of people are concerned about the time the procurement processes take. We go through a farcical situation in order to meet the requirements which are laid down. Knowing that only one organisation can provide a particular weapons system or item, we still go through a long process which ultimately results in the Government paying a far higher price for the goods that we seek. That may be heresy but, nevertheless, it is true.
Given the problems that the Minister has outlined in his budgetary statement, I wonder what is the justification for the maintenance of two Mirage squadrons in Malaysia which it was indicated in evidence in the Senate add $ 18m to the cost of defence. The maintenance of those squadrons in Malaysia was initially indicated to have a time scale which would enable the Malaysian Air Force to become competent and efficient with the aircraft which they had procured. Those aircraft are operational. I do not think anyone suggests that the Malaysian Air Force is not now capable of carrying out the role which was initially carried out by the Mirage squadrons. I have some suspicion that we may not have the capacity to house the aircraft or the squadrons in Australia, but that is a suspicion and not necessarily a statement of fact. I would be interested to know what value we are in fact obtaining from the expenditure of $ 18m. One of the problems that face defence in Australia at the moment is a loss of morale of a very significant magnitude. There is also a concern at the public level about defence. There is no significant defence capacity in Australia from the Cape York Peninsula to Perth.
– That is nonsense.
-No significant capacity.
– Go to Amberley and go for a run in an Fl 1 1.
-I did not know that Amberley was north of the Cape York Peninsula. The Royal Australian Air Force has one aircraft, a DC3, stationed at Darwin and the Army has no real capacity at all to carry out any defensive or offensive operation. There are no amphibious vehicles in the whole of the Northern Territory, nor are there any helicopters in an area which is normally subject to extemely difficult operating conditions caused by water. This complete lack of capacity is coupled with tardiness in repairing or maintaining facilities in that area. I understand that the Air Force hangar which was blown away in Cyclone Tracy is due for replacement in 1979. The radar dish for the Darwin facility has still not been replaced and I think that it has about the same time scale for replacement. The Service homes in Darwin have not been properly repaired since Cyclone Tracy. Temporary repairs were carried out, but two-thirds of those houses are still in an unsatisfactory condition and it would appear that there is no program for those homes to be restored.
I make one other point about Service conditions. I note the Minister’s statement that reviews of salaries, et cetera, are taking place and are a continuing factor. I think that it is fair to say that a considerable number of reductions in Service gradings have taken place recently, some of them on at least doubtful premises and all of them accepted by the Minister. One other fact that concerns me greatly and, I think, should concern this House is the delay in providing pay at equal rates to female service personnel who were granted it some eight or nine months ago and have yet to be paid, I understand, because of delays in the Attorney-General’s office. I think that the Government ought to look at this. It is an entitlement that female serving officers have and they ought not to be subjected to a delay of the order that has already taken place. Some of them will lose their old age pensions if they have to wait much longer because of the income they will receive on retirement in back payments of equal pay. If the Budget is any criteria, they will most likely suffer considerable additional taxation on that amount.
This statement by the Minister has, I think, contributed more to the discussions on disarmament than to those on defence. I think that the Minister is a victim of the Government ‘s cost cutting exercises. I think that this statement follows a long history of conservative governments ‘ attitudes towards defence- a lot of talk and rhetoric and very little practical input. I remind the House of the period immediately before the Second World War when expenditures on defence and defence preparedness were consistently cut by conservative governments whilst the hawks in conservative governments marched around the country telling us how important and necessary defence preparedness was. This statement, the statement last year and the developments since 1976 are fairly clear indications that a similar situation is developing.
One of the areas which is vital to any defence effort is our capacity to undertake research development and design of defence equipment and to maintain and to have an input into that equipment, given a defence emergency when those inputs are not available to us. The White Paper clearly sets out that one of the most important single factors about our defence is our capacity to provide technicians who understand, assess and can give the necessary advice to Service personnel who are not technically qualified in the use and the maximising of the effectiveness of modern weapon systems. I make that statement because the major cut in this Budget is in that area- 9.2 per cent drop in expenditure on development projects. Of the approximately 600 personnel who will be removed from the Public Service sector of the Department of Defence, in excess of 200 will go from the scientific research organisation at Salisbury. The total staff in that area is something less than 2,000, but over onethird of that number will go out of the technical and scientific areas where extremely long lead times in the development of skills exist and in which a greater input and output are absolutely essential if a defence effort of any magnitude is to be maintained within any country.
The advantages that a modern industrial country with a high standard of living and education has over another country are in its technical capacity and its capacity to maximise the values of the inputs that have gone into the society. We are not gaining benefit from those inputs. We are in fact cutting back in those areas. The recent decision, which was forced on the Government because of delays in the development of the project, not to fit the Mulloka to our
FFGs is an example of the fairly regular dismissal of Australian developed projects in our defence areas where those projects are equal to or better than those developed outside Australia. The Mulloka project is, I understand, about two years behind schedule. The third and last of the FFGs will in fact not come off the slipways in the United States until after the refitting of the five Daring class destroyers to which the Minister has already indicated the Mulloka will be fitted. There is something of a question mark about the time scale involved there.
One of the reasons that the Mulloka ‘s development was delayed was, first of all, the allocation of an unsuitable ship, the Yarra, which had noise levels which made calibration and testing extremely difficult and the withdrawal of that ship for a considerable period during the testing of the weapons system. There are other problems, I understand, with the non-delivery by contractors of items up to specification. These are substantial question marks. I understand that this project is potentially one of the most important electronic defence systems to be developed in the world and could have an immense market potential if its final development capacity is achieved. The Minister made considerable play in his statement about the third FFG being ordered and he indicated that this would add to the destroyer fleet. The purchase of that vessel was in fact set out in the White Paper. The White Paper also indicated that the Government considered that a 12-destroyer fleet was required. This will not meet that requirement because the Minister has also announced that another vessel will be withdrawn from service at about the time the first of the FFGs comes into service.
I want to make one other comment, and that relates to the escalation of costs of the frigates. I am concerned at reports that the company manufacturing those frigates is in some degree of financial difficulty. I also draw the attention of the House to the fact that of the two builders of these vessels in the United States one has carried out an economy program to cut out the effects of inflation successfully and the other has not. We have placed our second order with the other. Thus we are paying higher prices than would have been paid had the orders been placed elsewhere. The statement is an abdication of the White Paper and I believe that the House is entitled to acknowledge that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Graham) adjourned.
-The Government Whip has advised that Mr Anthony, Minister for Trade and Resources and member in charge of the Export Expansion Grants Bill, has been discharged from the Legislation Committee considering the Bill and that Mr Garland, Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Resources, has been nominated in his place.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Trade Marks Amendment Bill 1978.
Patents Amendment Bill 1978.
-Mr Speaker has received letters from the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), the honourable member for Indi (Mr Ewen Cameron), the honourable member forTangney (Mr Shack) and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) 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 Bradfield, namely:
The impact of the New South Wales fuel strike on economic recovery.
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 placesMr CONNOLLY (Bradfield) (8.1)-This matter of public importance is being debated in Parliament tonight because of the vital needs of the Australian community to have ready access at all times to adequate quantities of fuel. We are aware of the delicate negotiations which have been conducted today by Mr Justice Ludeke with the objective of getting the truck drivers employed by Caltex Oil at the’ Banksmeadow terminal back to work. Unfortunately, that particular incident is not isolated. For two months there has been a series of industrial disputes in the oil industry in the States of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.
These strikes have involved refinery maintenance workers, refinery operators and transport drivers. Storemen and packers have imposed bans on the loading of premium grade petrol into tankers. Maintenance workers have seriously cut production at the Clyde refinery and stopped it completely for three weeks. This week new industrial troubles arose at the Altona refinery and at the Shell refinery in Victoria. Tomorrow, production will be reduced by 25 per cent. Unless the disputes are settled by next week, production will be reduced by a further 50 per cent. Despite the serious impact of these disputes, the number of personnel involved in this industry and in these strikes is small. For example, the strike at the Caltex Banksmeadow terminal involves only 128 drivers of the Transport Workers Union, 37 members of the Federated Storemen and Packers Union, 16 members of the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union and 15 members of the Federated Clerks Union. It is important to remember that this was a wildcat strike and there is no evidence that union officials were involved or even advised. However, the impact of unnecessary strikes for relatively minor matters in key and strategic industries can and does have a catastrophic effect on the business community, especially small business. At a time when greater employment opportunities are being sought for the Australian people, such strikes by small numbers of people who do not know where their interests as citizens should lie lead to further high levels of unemployment.
Strikes destroy confidence. They destroy the ability of consumers and investors and create an unstable economic and social environment. The strike action that we have seen in recent weeks has affected the entire east coast of the Australian continent from Melbourne to Brisbane. The area has been seriously affected by almost continuous disruption of the fuel supply industry. In future months when we look at the unemployment statistics and other economic indicators I hope members of the Opposition and the people of Australia will realise that we cannot possibly bring back to this nation a degree of economic stimulus and stability if small sections of the work force, for whatever reason, take the law into their own hands and decide: ‘To hell with Australia and to hell with our fellow citizens. We will do what we want to do’. If this means going to a strike meeting and then going fishing, so be it; they do not care. Perhaps the saddest aspect of all is that in the oil refining industry, the majority of the people who strike are earning incomes of between $15,000 and $20,000 a year. So much for the average wage! One could suggest that they are going on strike because they can afford to. They can afford to take a day off and they do not care how many other people suffer as a result.
What we are seeing today could be termed a watershed in Australia’s industrial relations. We have heard so much about the impact of technology on job opportunities, yet capital intensive industries are very susceptible to strike action by small numbers of key employees. It would appear that Australian industry is being placed in the position where it may be damned if it remains labour intensive and also damned if it becomes capital intensive. This occurs because a small group of people in influential positions in industry are able to use their power to stop the manufacturing sector. In the refining industry, most technical employees in the classifications I mentioned earlier are not earning the basic wage. They are earning a very significant wage in terms of what the average Australian expects to take home in his pay packet over a 12-month period. Regrettably, these men strike because apparently they can afford to. They know that they can hold the economy and their employers to ransom indefinitely.
Stable industrial relations are, and always have been, a key element in our economic recovery. Confidence is a very fragile plant in this community. The previous Administration did its best to destroy it- to pull it out by the roots. Slowly but surely we are regaining the confidence of the business community, but confidence needs to be fertilised with stability based on the community working together and accepting responsibilities as a nation, and being prepared to take second place on occasions if the nation’s interests are in the balance. These strikers are clearly not interested in the nation ‘s progress. They are interested only in themselves. This nation will stand or fall ultimately on the quality of its citizens at work for our nation, not only on what comes out of the ground, or is manufactured in our factories.
Stable industrial relations are a vital element to our economic recovery. For three years we have seen the savings ratio gradually fall as people believe that their future is more secure. They are prepared to spend more. If they do not, the extra jobs will not be created because production will not rise. Energy is essential; without power there can be no work. If there is no work there is no pay. Without doubt this is the most fundamental truism ever. Yet so many people wish to ignore it. We know that the increase in people’s spending capacity is essential to generate greater industrial demand throughout this nation. The Service Station Association of New South Wales stated yesterday that some 2,000 station hand employees had been stood down because of the recent fuel strike at Banksmeadow. Many of those workers will not be reemployed because of the impact of self-service facilities which are now being brought into the service station industry. Throughout the community manual workers are being replaced by technology. Often this is for reasons beyond the control either of the employer or of the hapless employee.
The current strikes obviously are directed at obtaining increases in wages outside the guidelines set by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. For example, the recent strike at the Clyde refinery on 18 September last came after Commissioner Neil had issued a statement from the previously held work value conference asking unions to produce more evidence as to why they should receive wage rises based on so-called significant changes in work value. They could not do it; so they went on strike. The dispute at the Broadmeadow terminal, where the tanker drivers have asked for $ 10 a week allowance for car damage, is another example of this. If the Maritime Services Board stopped building the container terminal tomorrow, I doubt that the extra allowance would be expected to cease- quite the contrary. Allowances of that type, and demands by other groups within this industry for free petrol, for example, are merely stratagems to overcome the guidelines established by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. This Government has fully supported those guidelines which state that no pay increases may be given above indexation or any part thereof, and increases in wages for identifiable changes in work value is the only other criterion on which they may be granted.
The effect of these disputes on the fuel distributors has been catastrophic. In recent days in Sydney only 400 of the 1,200 service stations have remained open. How many will go bankrupt? Why is it that thousands of Sydney motorists should be held to ransom because fewer than 200 people, without the support of their union, simply decided they wanted to go on strike. They believe that they do have a problem. Mr Justice Ludeke has made that clear in his statement today. I commend him for the manner in which he has suggested the dispute should be solved and it will be supervised by the Commission. The National Roads and Motorists Association also has agreed to provide skilled personnel to carry out the necessary inspections of the cars on which, allegedly, the paintwork has been damaged because of the effect of sand blasting from the work nearby.
These problems can be solved by management and workers getting together and seeking solutions. I will not stand in this House and say that all strikes have been caused because of irascible unions. Regrettably, there have also been occasions when employers have been at fault. But in this particular industry in the last few months, what we have seen has been an almost co-ordinated approach by members of various unions to sabotage the future welfare of the entire Australian people.
-What a mischievous intervention by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) this evening. He, amongst other Government supporters, realises that this matter is not a matter for the Federal Parliament. It is a matter for the New South Wales Government and indeed the New South Wales -
– It is a matter of national concern.
– The honourable member for Bradfield was heard in silence. Do me the same honour.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The House will come to order. The honourable member for Blaxland has the right to be heard without interruption.
– This matter has been before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Already today the Minister for Industrial Relations indicated the details of the recommendation by Mr Justice Ludeke that the men should begin work at 6.30 a.m. tomorrow and that he will be on site at the Broadmeadow terminal at 9.30 a.m. tomorrow with inspectors from the National Roads and Motorists Association to inspect car damage, which is the basis of the dispute. Tonight we heard this diatribe from the honourable member for Bradfield, not from a Minister and not from the Government but from the most pretentious, self-opinionated member of this Parliament. He came into the House- he is a man who is incapable of constructive thoughtand raised an issue knowing full well that he could upset the delicate balance of these negotiations. He was not worried about the future of New South Wales or about the people who could be seriously disadvantaged by fuel shortages but for miserable political purposes he tried to take a rise out of the New South Wales Government which beat his Party to death two weeks ago. How silly can one get? Today at Question Time the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) was embarrassed by an interjection from the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who suggested that the matter of public importance listed for today’s business would upset the balance of these negotiations. The Minister did not take up the point because he is aware, as we are aware, that this kind of debate in the Federal Parliament, which is so far away from the dispute and can have no bearing upon it, is mischievous, damaging and could upset the whole basis of the agreement which we hope will lead to a resumption of work tomorrow. As I said earlier, Mr Justice Ludeke will be on site at 9.30 a.m. and he hopes there will be a return to work at 6.30 a.m. We on this side of the House believe that given some good will on both sides this dispute can be settled.
But the real issue about this dispute is that in New South Wales there is a shortage of refining capacity. The whole system is running at its optimum all of the time. Any breakdown by way of strike, shipping problems or any other type of problems, including mechanical breakdown, leads inevitably to a decline in the production of refined motor spirit- petroleum- from New South Wales. We on this side of the House recognised this problem in 1974 when we established the Royal Commission on Petroleum. That Commission took two years to present its reports. The fifth report of that Royal Commission devoted itself exclusively to the problem of refining capacity. I will quote from that report. It is a voluminous document which deals with refining deficiencies throughout the States. At page 88 it lists and documents the present Federal Government’s attitude to refining policy. The report refers to a letter from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to the principals of Total Australia Ltd in New South Wales’. He wrote:
The Commonwealth Government has always been concerned to ensure, as far as possible, that Australian oil refineries had adequate capacity to meet the needs of the Australian people, that they were efficient in order to provide supplies of high quality at least cost and that they were operated in conformity with the national interest.
The Government has now considered the Report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum concerning an additional refinery in the Sydney area and has decided to take no action as we see the matter as primarily one for the State Government and the companies concerned.
In other words, this Government washed its hands of the issue of refining capacity in New South Wales. Now honourable members opposite are bleating about the fact that the system is breaking down because they do not have the courage to come out and own up to their responsibilities and look at the question of a sensible national refining policy. As soon as the refining system breaks down with any kind of a stoppage, one of the blabbermouths on the Government side comes in here trying to disrupt what is already a delicate settlement which is in process in New South Wales. Part of the basis for this socalled matter of public importance is: ‘The impact of the New South Wales fuel strike on economic recovery’. What economic recovery? That is the question one has to ask. I repeat: What economic recovery? We on this side of the House do not find any evidence of economic recovery. Perhaps the honourable member for Bradfield will talk to the directors of David Jones Ltd and tell them about economic recovery. This Government has just about run that company into the wrong side of the ledger. The rest of the retail industry in New South Wales, and throughout the Commonwealth for that matter, and all of the other areas of corporate enterprise -
– Grace Bros did pretty well.
– Just be quiet for a while, will you, sonny.
Order! The honourable member for Kingston will remain silent.
– Plant is running at 75 per cent of capacity throughout the Commonwealth. Retail sales are down. The number of registered unemployed is in excess of 6 per cent and the real level of unemployment is probably about 8 per cent. On the inflation front, we have had two quarters when the inflation rate was jammed at about 8 per cent. I ask honourable members opposite: Where is the economic recovery? This is the economic recovery which is put in jeopardy by a strike over a couple of dozen cars which have been affected by sand blasting. It is a local strike and it should be settled locally.
This is a matter of public importance which, I submit, does not deserve the consideration of the House. It is in the wrong Parliament. It is not a matter that ought to be considered here. I notice in the galleries on both sides of the House some of my friends from the medical profession. I did not hear the honourable member for Bradfield talking about the strike by honorary medical officers in New South Wales who have refused to work at outpatients clinics since 1975. Perhaps they are here to settle that strike. But we do not hear about a strike involving the $70,000 a year income group. We hear only about strikes involving the $10,000 to $12,000 a year income group.
An elitist like the honourable member for Bradfield is doing his best to get the Prime Minister ‘s attention, perhaps hoping against hope that one day he might make the Ministry. But all of us know that he has no chance, particularly when he goes on with this kind of rot. He is just a reject from the Department of Foreign Affairs. The point is that the Premier of New South Wales, although under provocation from all the factors in this strike, has not made any extreme statements; neither has his colleague Mr Hills, the Minister for Industrial Relations in New South Wales; and, to his credit, neither has the Federal Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. It ill behoved the Minister to stand up in the chamber tonight in support of this proposal so that it could be debated, when he indicated clearly his embarrassment today when the matter was raised at Question Time.
I conclude on this note: I am not going to give this debate any more time than I have given it already. It is not worthy of my time or attention. I simply say this: We do not want to see any more of this kind of scatter gun approach to industrial relations by people opposite. I am not in a position to express views on whether this strike is warranted or whether the issues involved are complex. I do not know the situation at Banksmeadow, but I do know this: If the Commonwealth Government does not get off its tail- this applies particularly to the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) who is at the table- on this question of refining capacity, this country is going to find that it is fresh out of grass roots refining capacity. The system just will not always keep operating at optimum capacity. Unless we sit down and start planning the kinds of investments that are required to do something serious about refining capacity we will be in this predicament into the future.
It is worth recalling from the fifth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum in relation to national refining policy that the cost of the eleventh grass roots refinery in Australia will equal the cumulative cost of the previous 10, and that is somewhere approaching a couple of thousand million dollars. In the current state of the petroleum industry no one company wants to go it alone on an investment of that magnitude. So there is a requirement on the Federal Government, which is always mouthing platitudes and slogans about energy policy, to do something about the most basic energy policy, and that is to ensure a decent refinery capacity to supply the refined product to the Australian public, when and where they need it, and one of the places they need it happens to be Sydney. Instead of that, to come in here and support this dodo from Bradfield who talked about an industrial dispute about which he knows nothing and on which he can shed no light ill behoves the Government and ill behoves the honourable members who stood in support of him.
-I am disturbed that the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), the Opposition spokesman on this matter, in his speech was so light on substance and so strong on abuse of my colleague the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly). It is obvious that the honourable member for Blaxland is not concerned about economic recovery. The matter of public importance before the House tonight talks about economic recovery, but we heard not one word from the honourable member about economics or the state of this nation. I will read to him some comments that were made in tonight’s newspapers. The honourable member said that this was not a matter for this House. An article in one newspaper stated:
The executive director of the Bread Manufacturers Association . . . said today: ‘Home deliveries of bread and milk will be cut unless the State Government considers deliveries are an essential service. ‘Some bakeries use oil-fired ovens, and a shortage of fuel would prevent baking. ‘
Another article referred to what Mr Darling, the Executive Director of the Employers Federation of New South Wales, said about the situation. In this article he is reported as saying:
Bread, food processing, brick and rubber manufacturing businesses would be the first to collapse in the fuel shortage . . .
He is reported also as saying:
They are the heaviest users of fuel oil and it all depends how much they have got in stock . . .
The article continued:
The continual fuel disputes have already cost the jobs of 2,000 service station employees.
In Melbourne yesterday, Federal Arbitration Commissioner Mr H. G. Neil -
The honourable member says this is not a Federal matter- called on the ACTU and Federal officials of the unions involved to end the Banksmeadow strike.
These newspaper articles put the matter into perspective. The effect that this stoppage has had on Sydney in particular over a period of one month has been that Sydney has been practically without fuel over that period. The strike has affected the productivity of New South Wales. It also has threatened jobs and in fact been responsible for the loss of jobs. It has interfered with the movement of goods and services and supplies to industry. Yet the honourable member for Blaxland says that it is not a matter for the Federal Parliament when this strike is affecting not only New South Wales but also other States.
What has the New South Wales Government done? When the strike commenced one month ago it was kept quiet.
– A month ago?
– A month ago. There was no action of any type from the New South Wales Government, which endeavoured to keep this matter quiet until the State election was over. But the election is over and there is still no action. The State Government claims that it will call on emergency powers. It has made all sorts of promises to assist the people of this State. But there has been no action. For one month a small group has been able to hold to ransom the State of New South Wales, and that small group has been assisted by groups in other States. There has been an arrangement between a small number of unionists from different unions, who are not elected or recognised members of the executives of those unions, to disrupt and destroy the system. These people are the ones who decided over a period of time to adopt a strategy to interfere with the wellbeing, the commerce, the trade, the productivity and the economic wealth of New South Wales and this nation.
One union was involved in the Shell stoppage that commenced about a month ago. That union has been followed in the last few days by other groups at Caltex. There has been a rolling dispute between unions and different companies and the disruptive effective has been planned and dramatic. I think that in other circumstances it could almost be termed a conspiracy on the part of this small group of unelected union people. The Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union basically was responsible for the dispute, which began on 15 September when that union became involved in a new agreement that was to begin during that month. Because agreement was not reached, the case was put before Mr Commissioner Neil. He was not satisfied that there was a real work value case involved in that dispute. On 20 September work bans and overtime bans were imposed by the AMWSU. It seems to me that there is clear proof that the union was not prepared to accept the judgment of the referee, the judgment of Mr Commissioner Neil, and the union took the matter to bans and dispute regardless of his recommendations.
Hearings took place on the 24th and 25th of last month. The dispute was started one month ago and it has been contrived to extend the dispute over a period of one month. The matter dragged on until groups of retailers- people responsible for selling fuel- in New South Wales took responsible action on behalf of the motorists of that State and banded together to use an organisation known as Southern Cross. This company was formed in an endeavour to import fuel into New South Wales. The company was told by the Transport Workers Union that individual members of the company would be prevented from getting fuel both in the short term and for a period of three months after the settlement of the dispute.
– Isn’t that a secondary boycott?
– It is a clear case of a secondary boycott. I am sure that the honourable member who made the interjection is on the ball and recognises the seriousness of saying to people: ‘You will not earn your living and you will not provide a service and a commodity to the people of your State’. The question of a secondary boycott was raised. This illustrates the determination of a group of unionists to bring the industry to its knees and to harm the wellbeing of the State of New South Wales and, if possible the wellbeing and economic recovery of the nation. It illustrates a determination to prevent the use of fuel- a precious and important commodity that is vital to the life blood of this nation.
There was a clear breach of section 45 D of the Trade Practices Act by the Transport Workers Union which claimed that it was not in breach of that section. I am informed today that that union is continuing its tactics; it is continuing to adopt the practice of threatening not to supply for long periods any individual in New South Wales who will take on board and sell fuel that is imported from Victoria. I am told that at present there is not one transport company in Victoria that is prepared to supply fuel across the border to New South Wales- and members of the Opposition say that this is not a federal matter. It is a clear case of a breach of section 45D and the penalties and fines should be applied, if possible, to those individuals and to those organisations involved.
This current dispute involves partly the Shell company, just as the previous dispute involved that company. Now the Caltex company has become involved. The whole dispute involves a nation-wide co-ordination. No recognised union leader is involved in the current dispute. It is a wildcat dispute. Today Sydney is at a standstill. On speaking to people in that fine city, the centre of commerce and industry, the key to productivity and national economic recovery of this nation, I was told that there was not one thing moving. How many employees turned up to work at Grace Bros, about which the honourable member for Blaxland was talking? How many people were on the job? How many people could get to work?
Of course things cannot progress, of course things cannot improve whilst this type of activity continues. The community is sick and tired of minority groups of this type, small numbers of employees, which refuse to recognise the improved channels of conciliation and arbitration, which refuse to recognise the proper processes of law and refuse to settle their disputes in the proper place with the proper people. Twenty per cent of the national domestic product is involved in the movement of goods. Practically the whole community, though, is affected by the shortage of fuel. There must be a use of conciliation and arbitration. There must be some effort on the part of the New South Wales Government because the community is sick and tired of people who stand still on these matters; unions which abuse their position; employers who do not play ball with their employees; and governments which ignore dramatic and serious circumstances that affect the economic recovery of this nation.
-Every time there is a significant industrial dispute in this nation either a Minister or a would-be Minister from the back benches attempts to make political capital out of it in the Federal Parliament. In the last year we have seen them do it with disputes about the export of live sheep as some workers in the meat industry battled to save their jobs. We have seen them do it in the recent Telecom disputes and in the coal industry with regard to Utah when workers sought a share of the $ 160m profit that Utah made in 1977 and the $138m that Utah sent abroad in that year. We have seen them do it during the recent waterfront dispute when the Government and employers performed the unique and exceptional task of turning a minor dispute in a Melbourne container terminal into a national waterfront stoppage.
This Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his Government destroy everything they touchthe economy and employment. Government members say that this dispute is hindering economic recovery. What economic recovery? Unemployment has increased from 350,000 to 416,000, on seasonally adjusted terms, in the last year- and government members talk about interference with economic recovery! They must be crazy. As a result of a draconian and pitiless Budget designed to increase unemployment, this Government has destroyed the New South Wales branch of its own party and destroyed its own New South Wales leader. On the very day that the Government’s defeated comrades in the New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party are trying to resolve their own internal bickering and leadership problems, the Federal Government pulls the same old divisive tactics as before- it pours oil on industrial fires. That will not work any more. It will not work any more than their federal industrial policies have worked in the past.
This Government should look at its own disruptive record. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) sits in the chamber and does not take any part in the debate because he has not got a feather with which to fly. He knows that his Government does not have a wages or industrial policy, as I shall show in a minute. I say to the Minister: ‘Just look at your disastrous record. Just look at the amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that you steered through the House last year. What good did it do? What dispute have you solved with it?’
-Not one. That legislation provided for the deregistration of unions. It also set up a useless bureaucratic structure called an Industrial Relations Bureau. It provided for the fining and gaoling of unionists and union leaders. It provided for the freezing of union funds and so on. Just what has it achieved? It has achieved precisely nothing. All the Government can contribute towards a wage and an industrial policy is the putting up of two innocuous and inconsequential back benchers to do the dirty work fork.
When will this Government understand that these measures never work; that industrial disputes are solved in the industrial arena, at the conference table or sometimes in the industrial courts? They are never solved in the Federal or the State parliaments. The Government has tried to use a dispute at the oil refineries in New South Wales involving workers in the Transport Workers Union, the Storemen and Packers Union, the Federated Clerks Union and the Amalgamated Metal workers and Shipwrights Union regarding a $10 claim for alleged sand damage to cars, to inflame passions in New South Wales, not because of its alleged concern for the economy, but because it wishes to use the dispute in a vain attempt to restore coalition fortunes, which are irretrievable anyway.
Let me look quickly at the dispute itself. I took the trouble to speak to some people in the Transport Workers Union today and I understand that despite company promises, as ruled by Justice Ludeke, that the senior officials would negotiate with the unions this week, such negotiations did not in fact occur and that actually the company reneged on that arrangement. It sent in junior industrial officers and then told the men concerned that it would refer the dispute to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission anyway and that it ought to be dealt with as part of the oil industry work value case. Despite the posturing of Government members in this place, we now see that negotiations today have perhaps provided the framework of a settlement and that further discussions will take place in the morning that will hopefully end the dispute to the satisfaction of most of the people concerned.
– Not the Liberals. They will be disappointed if it is solved.
-That is right; they will be disappointed that they have not got a dispute on which to stir, to make trouble with, to divert the attention of the electorate away from their Budget attacks and so on.
The point that was made by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) about excessive wages in the oil industry does not stand up to examination. The workers in the Transport Workers Union are not getting overtime at the moment. I understand that $180 a week is their all-up gross wage.
– How much is the honourable member for Bradfield getting?
-The honourable member for Bradfield, as an inconsequential back bencher, gets a little less than $25,000 a year plus a $9,000 a year tax-free electorate allowance.
Government members- The same as you get.
-The difference between Government members and me is that I do not roast workers’ wage increases and they do. I think the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gets between $70,000 and $80,000 a year and no doubt will keep the $60 a week that is left from the February tax cuts after the 1.5c in the dollar tax surcharge is imposed. However the workers in the oil industry in Sydney will not get to keep any of their February tax cuts. Let us look at what might happen to that $ 1 80 a week after the tax surcharge comes into operation as from next month. A married man receiving $152 a week after tax may pay about $7.70 for the much vaunted health insurance changes, leaving him about $144 a week. These are the people whose wage increases Government supporters say are causing unemployment. I am staggered.
The Government blames a so-called wages overhang for unemployment but there is no real evidence to show that there is any wages overhang. The Government cannot offer any justification for this argument. The size of the socalled wages overhang depends on the base time, the criteria used and the starting time for the exercise. At any rate, after we study these aspects of that argument, we still find that it has no validity. As an example I refer to two European countries. First, I mention Sweden, a country with an alleged wages overhang up to 1976 of 12 per cent. Unemployment in that country has been reduced by 36 per cent. My second example is West Germany which, with a small wages overhang of 1.9 per cent had a 365 per cent increase in unemployment.
The Government has become very repetitive in its economic speeches. Each speech ends with a rousing call for wage cuts. It reminds me of the old Roman republican senator who always finished every speech in the Senate of ancient Rome with a rousing call for the destruction of Carthage. No wonder the workers in the oil industry and any other industry are dissatisfied. Look what the Government did to pensioners by introducing yearly instead of half yearly adjustments. Wage indexation hearings are now to be held half yearly. But the Government has not approached the wage indexation flow-on for the June and September quarters in an honest way. It is opposing that flow-on. Talk about incitement. I refer to the front page of the Australian of 20 October and the headline:
Government to Oppose 4pc Wage Rise.
The Government will oppose that increase to the meagre wages that these workers are getting. The Government will oppose passing on even that cost of living increase although it was successful in its argument to drop quarterly wage reviews and to substitute six-monthly adjustment hearings. Prices will be permitted to increase as a result of its action to emasculate the Prices Justification Tribunal.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
– I desisted from taking the time of the honourable member for Cunningham ( Mr West) to take points of order on the interjections from the drones on the back bench opposite. I make the point that the conduct of the Government back bench was a disgrace throughout that speech.
– Order! There is no point of order.
– You are the custodian -
– You are reflecting on the Chair.
-The honourable member for Kingston is not contributing in a worthwhile fashion to the proceedings of the House.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1978-79 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 19 October 1978. Schedule 2.
Proposed expenditure, $282,716,000.
-In speaking to the estimates of this Department, I would like to make some general comments on employment. I emphasise that word ‘employment’. Whenever we are talking about unemployment, so often we forget to put it in the context of the total labour force in Australia and those who are currently employed. I invite a comparison of figures for August of this year with those of August 1975. The 1975 figures show that some 5,841,000 people were in employment then whereas the latest figures I have to hand reveal that 5,969,000 people were employed in August this year. In that three-year period, there has been an increase of 128,000 in the number of persons employed in the work force.
Admittedly over that same period a significant increase has occurred in the number of people unemployed. In August 1975, some 278,000 persons were unemployed. In August 1978, the figure stood at 395,000. The net increase in that period was 1 17,000. However, let us not forget that those figures for the unemployed include people who are normally in the process of looking for work. On some studies, as recently reported, that element may account for up to 40 per cent of those registered. That figure also includes those people who are looking for a job of their own choosing. Again that inflates the figure. Further, those figures also include persons who are now unemployed or seeking work but who resigned voluntarily from their previous employment. Certain figures such as have been brought forward from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that that component again can be up to 30 per cent or 40 per cent. I find unemployment data very confusing. We have at least four sources of data concerning the unemployed, namely, the Commonwealth Employment Service, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, certain surveys undertaken by the Department of Social Security and that information provided by independent surveys, notably certain consultants within the Australian economy. Let us put the matter into some perspective by looking at the figures for registered unemployed and the increase that has ensued over the years. In August 1974, some 140,000 people were registered as unemployed. In August 1975, those registered as unemployed totalled 278,000, an increase of 97.6 per cent in one year. The figure in August 1976 was 292,000, an increase of 5. 1 per cent. In 1977, 359,000 persons were unemployed, representing an increase of 22.8 per cent. In August 1978, an increase of 9.9 per cent was registered with 395,000 persons unemployed. Let us not forget that incredible increase of 97.6 per cent between August 1974 and August 1975 in the number of persons registered as unemployed.
Let us look also at the unemployment benefit payments and the percentage increase we have seen over recent years in that respect. I quote now from a recent publication by the Australian Industries Development Association which contains quite an illuminating graph. In 1973-74, unemployment benefit claimants totalled 33,800. In 1974-75, the number rocketed to 120,600, an increase in one year of 256 per cent which is surely an all time record for any Western democracy. In 1975-76, there were 193,200, an increase of 60 per cent. In 1976-77, 219,700 persons claimed the benefit, an increase of 14 per cent. In 1977-78 the number of claimants stood at 268,300, an increase of 22 per cent. Again we see the same story revealed by these figures. Registered unemployed increased by 97.6 per cent from August 1974 to August 1975. Unemployment benefit claimants in the period 1 973-74 to 1 974-75 increased by 256 per cent.
I could spend time on the causes and the various reasons for this explosion in the number of unemployed, particularly during 1974-75. Without going into the matter in any depth, I certainly venture the opinion that penalty rates, award levels, equal pay provisions, adult pay provisions, loadings including the 17 1/2 per cent holiday loading, wage taxes, payroll taxes and associated costs such as workers compensationwhich to some extent are the responsibility of the States- have all contributed to the problem that we face at the moment. Not inconsequential is the latest example of industrial disputation and dislocation. Right at this time in New South Wales, as we have just been discussing, thousands of people are out of work, hopefully temporarily, because of industrial disputes and strikes. ,
– Oh, come on.
-Would the honourable member debate that? I believe that there are somewhere in the vicinity of 3,000 to 4,000 people who are temporarily out of work as a result of the present oil strike in New South Wales. Unemployment is, supposedly, the most critical issue facing Australia but I find it rather perplexing that it has not been necessarily so in my experience. I found it rather perplexing recently when I looked through my appointment book to discover that in nearly three years fewer than 10 people have written to me, telephoned my office or made personal representations to me about the difficulties they personally are experiencing in finding jobs. Certainly there have been letters and representations to me which deal with the unemployment problem generally but from an individual point of view I find it very perplexing that so few people appear to be sufficiently motivated to come to me to seek assistance or at least to make a complaint. I also find it rather perplexing that when one seeks the services of tradesmen, such as bricklayers, one cannot find them. They are supposed to have had great difficulty in obtaining work yet they are not available for months when one tries to get them. When one does get a tradesman one often finds that the tradesman has great difficulty in engaging reliable labour, or any labour at all. Yesterday when a person came to my house to do some bricklaying, he said that he would be ‘there tomorrow providing the troops turn up’. So often they do not.
One group has been hard hit, particularly in regional and country areas. I refer to the very large number of young people who are genuinely trying to gain employment but finding it difficult to secure, particularly in country areas. In closing, I comment on two schemes that this Government has provided to assist youth employment. The first is the Special Youth Employment Training Program with which I agree in principle. I think it is a worthwhile scheme. However, there are some anomalies in it that need to be sorted out. There were difficulties at times with employers experiencing great delays in getting payments from the Department. I believe that the period of employment required before employers are eligible for the subsidy is too short and that in some circumstances it has been open to abuse.
I mention also the Community Youth Support Scheme which has been criticised by honourable members opposite and others as being a mickey mouse scheme. I believe that it has considerable merit in that it provides for a great degree of community involvement, awareness and cooperation. However, often we have found when looking for community co-operation that the people opposed to the scheme were the unionists and the trades and labour councils who are particularly concerned that young people in work experience programs within factories or on the shop floor might jeopardise the jobs and employment of some of their members. In my opinion the guidelines that have been drawn up for the CYSS leave much to be desired. Because of the prohibitions they contain, the guidelines do not back up the thrust of the scheme. They prohibit certain activities, such as the production of goods for sale, activities which assist young people to find job placement, and activities such as counselling. I believe that the guidelines are not in keeping with the true thrust of the scheme. They are either too restrictive or their interpretation has been too restrictive.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-There are several ways of tackling the problem of job displacement caused by the new technology. All of them are to be regarded as options for investigation; none will provide a complete answer. This is a completely new situation. New answers have to be found and it will be necessary to use new terminology. ‘Post-industrialism’, I have argued, is a better term than ‘automation’ or ‘the new technology’ because it is far more comprehensive. ‘Automation’ generally refers to job displacement in manufacturing industry only. ‘Postindustrialism’ includes automation, the growth of the information sector, miniaturisation in which smaller machines have greatly enlarged ranges of functions, and a post-scarcity economy in which problems of goods production have largely been solved. I want to set out a brief analysis of the options that we should be exploring.
In relation to work sharing there are six considerations:
The typical Australian work pattern of 40 hours a week for 48 weeks a year totals 1,920 hours each year, or 2 1.92 per cent of the 8,760 hours in each year. If Australians worked 35 hours a week for 44 weeks each year there would be a fall of 20 per cent to 1,540 total hours worked. In theory this ought to mean a potential increase of 20 per cent in the work force but in practice this is unlikely to occur. In many cases the 35-hour week has led to the same level of productivity as the 40-hour week and, in some cases, to an increase in productivity. The 35-hour week and the 44-week year ought to be adopted as good things in themselves but they will not solve the problem of job creation.
I have great sympathy for the position of the Australian Bank Officials Association and its feeling that employment in banking is under direct threat. However, I am sceptical about whether a 30-hour week will create more jobs. In practice it is hard to see the banks employing additional personnel to take up the six or seven hour shortfall each week caused by a 30-hour week, even if a four-day working week were introduced. It seems more likely that it would encourage greater use of laboursaving devices to augment the existing labour force. This would be counter-productive from the point of view of the ABOA. I am convinced that we must concentrate on changing the working year or the working lifetime if more jobs are to be created.
Early retirement would be the most effective method of work sharing but it poses enormous psychological problems for many people who might feel useless and unwanted at 55 years of age. Retirement at age 55 works well in Japan, where it is the norm, because the Japanese family is essentially three generational. Grandparents normally are involved in the nurturing of children while parents are freed for work. This is not the pattern of family life in Australia where work is an essential prop for most people. Death shortly after retirement is an increasing phenomenon in Australia. I would prefer flexible options about the retirement date to the fixing of mandatory age limits. Sabbatical leave- the concept of one year’s leave in every seven- deserves close examination although obviously it will be very CostlY. However, its cost has to be set against the social cost of chronic unemployment which may rise to 20 per cent of the potential work force.
Sabbatical leave is likely to contribute spectacularly to the growth of tourism and leisure industries which would provide some opportunities for job creation.
I turn now to work alternatives. The considerations here include:
The economic value of domestic work must be recognised and properly remunerated in the same way as we recognise the value of public health or education. Changing the status of domestic work may provide wider real options for many people, mostly women, who are forced to seek jobs in manufacturing or service industries but who might prefer to work at home if it were economically possible. It is striking that the proportion of women in the work force increased from about 3 1.5 per cent in 1971 to 35.8 percent in 1977. Many women might opt to withdraw from either the manufacturing sector or the sector I describe as general economic services. Again, it must be regarded as an option which they can choose freely, not as something which is forced on them.
Michael Young, the British sociologist, not the honourable member for Port Adelaide, has argued that part-time domestic service as a career could absorb large numbers of people in work they would like to do, such as gardening, maintenance, cleaning and child minding. This may be very hard to accept in an obstensibly egalitarian society such as we have in Australia but it is one of the options which needs investigation.
We must recognise that ‘post-industrial society’ is based on a ‘post-scarcity’ economy in which the equitable distribution of goods is a greater problem than their manufacture. Making cars is easy; getting rid of them is hard. As Marx pointed out a century ago, collapse of purchasing power will destroy capitalism. This leads us to the concept of the guaranteed minimum income, that is, that each family ought to have a minimum income based on its reasonable needs, irrespective of how many members work, so as to keep up current levels of consumption. This income ought to be paid to the housewife in recognition of her work value. I recommend to honourable members Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s book The Politics of a Guaranteed Income published in 1973, which is essential reading on this subject which, 1 might point out, was proposed by a Republican administration. People who undertake the care of the aged in their homes- a problem which will grow in an increasingly geriatric community- ought to be paid not less than the Government subsidy to old people ‘s homes for each inmate.
We need to redefine the nature of work. The puritan work ethic is now obsolete because computers and other post-industrial devices do not react to words like ‘ought’ or ‘duty’. Work should be seen as any form of activity that is socially useful, rather than only as employment for wages to produce goods and services.
Education at secondary schools for vocational purposes is decreasing in value. Greater emphasis should be placed on education as a means of developing personal potential. Compared to 15 other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member nations, the proportion of Australians engaged in full time education to the age of 24 years is strikingly low. I do not believe that Australians are uniquely ineducable. The proportion of non-British students from working class and country areas also is extremely low. Education aimed at a tertiary professional qualification will not necessarily suit a majority of young people, but alternative types of education need to be investigated. Further education and the encouragement of arts and craft work ought to be seen as good things, per se, which this community can well afford, quite apart from any role they have as employment generators. I turn now to work creation:
I am putting these alternatives as options; I am not saying that this is the program that should be followed. These are the options that could be looked at. Government certainly can stimulate private employment through tenders for major projects, but each level of potential job creation raises new problems. For example, raising tariff levels can lead to reprisals and cripple export possibilities, and huge increases in defence spending might be politically unacceptable. Stimulation of construction is likely to be short term only. Tourism appears to have some potential, but this should not be overstated.
Reversing economies of scale may be achieved by exercising three options:
I will not have time to develop these options at length, but I point out that economies of scale, as Adam Smith argued, enable more things to be produced by fewer people. In a time of chronic unemployment it may be necessary to have fewer things produced by more people. Twenty-five cities, each with 100,000 people, are likely to provide more work opportunities, with lower overheads, than a single city with 2,500,000 people. If we as a nation were serious about decentralisation and if the Canberra and Albury-Wodonga experiments were developed elsewhere, many more could be absorbed in employment. However, our strong urban tradition is against this.
The last point I want to mention concerns whether we should keep technology out. We can either tax technology or raise the question of who needs it. This is the Luddite option. A technology tax has been proposed to be applied to assist workers in retraining. This begs the question: Retraining for what? This tax would need to be applied at a national level. At a State level it would have little impact as firms would then presumably transfer their computer programming to other States. The potential victims of postindustrialism are migrants, women, unskilled, and semi-skilled workers and the young.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Unfortunately, for some of the time the estimates for the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations were being debated in Committee I was in Cabinet. There were items on the Cabinet agenda for which I had to be present. I therefore apologise for my absence during part of this debate. I assure honourable members who have taken part in it that the Hansard record of the estimates debate will be examined carefully to ensure that all the points and suggestions made by honourable members are considered properly. Where specific questions have been asked I will try to get answers to them.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), leading for the Opposition, made a couple of points that I feel require comment. In particular he made the claim that the Government’s manpower measures are not integrated, his thesis, as I understand it, being that they do not incorporate job creation schemes. What the honourable member has failed to appreciate is that the Government’s range of manpower measures form a carefully integrated and graduated package directed to those who are most in need and supplying particular benefits and attributes to those target groups. Far from lacking integration, they have a progressive effect according to the needs of the various groups that are affected.
Last year the intake under the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training scheme rose by about 10 per cent. According to the latest information I have for the current year, the numbers have been approximately maintained this year and the employers of some 63,000 apprentices will be receiving the benefits of the CRAFT rebate while those apprentices attend full time technical training. For those who seek skills below the trade level, both adults and juniors, the National Employment and Training system is available. The numbers who have been helped through the NEAT system are very considerable. In the case of the Special Youth Employment Training Program, which is part of the NEAT system, something like 100,000 people were helped last year. We expect that number to be approximately maintained this year. So the total numbers going through these schemes are very considerable indeed. In the case of the NEAT system, they are directed specifically to gaps in the labour market where vacancies cannot be filled by people on the books of the Commonwealth Employment Service because they lack the skills required.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide seems to have a misplaced notion as to the use of the Special Youth Employment Training Program. Apart from the training aspect, one of the most important aspects of this scheme is the number of young people it enables to gain work experience. It is the same old vicious circle. They cannot get jobs -
– They are sacked as soon as the subsidy runs out.
-They are not. I will come to that in a minute. They cannot get jobs because they are inexperienced and they are inexperienced because they have not had the chance to gain any experience. The Special Youth Employment Training Program enables them to get that experience. In regard to the honourable member’s comment that they are sacked at the end of the period, the last survey we did on this showed that slightly over 60 per cent were in permanent employment some time after the training period had expired. I have acknowledged before that a small number of firms have tried to abuse the scheme by sacking the young person after the subsidy ended and then lodging another vacancy for a similar type of young person. When that situation is brought to our notice- the scheme is monitored constantly- these people just do not get Special Youth Employment Training Program vacancies filled through the Commonwealth Employment Service.
The number of people involved in the Program is great. At present, something like 38,000 people are under the SYETP. It may be that some people slip through the net, but we do our best to ensure that they do not. I am told that by overseas standards the retention rate at the end of training- that is the figure I have just given to the honourable member- is high. We would like to see it higher and we will do our best to ensure that the scheme is reviewed and monitored constantly to improve it where improvement is shown to be needed. Frankly, the open ended job creation schemes have been shown up in the past. The honourable member’s own party, the Australian Labor Party, instituted the largest of those schemes in Australia in recent times, the Regional Employment Development scheme. The same party subsequently abolished the scheme because the cost became too high. The lesson that was learnt by the Labor Government- in this sense we support it- was that one cannot spend one’s way out of unemployment through these excessively expensive public works job creation schemes. The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) made a very constructive speech. I noted his reference to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the need for consultation on what is, indeed, an extremely complex piece of legislation. I also noted his very sensible analysis of the requirements of a sound industrial relations policy which I wholeheartedly endorse. As I indicated when starting my comments on winding up the debate, where specific questions have been asked we will do our best to ensure that answers are given. The constructive suggestions that have been made will be taken into account when considering the Estimates debate.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $204,267,000.
-The Department of Science covers a fairly wide range of activities. The most dominant of its responsibilities covered in the estimates is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which is dominant in both the scale of its operation, with an appropriation of $ 141m of a total of $224.5 m, with a total staff of over 6,700 and in the nature of its work. Few Australians could fail to have been impressed by the research and achievements of the Organisation. I draw particular attention to the successful participation by CSIRO in the invention of InterScan which was recently adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation for use as the world’s accepted aircraft landing guidance system. While mentioning this accomplishment, I congratulate Dr Paul Wild who led the Organisation’s InterScan research team, and who last month took up the position of Chairman of the CSIRO executive.
However, as well as the prestigious, routine but essential activities are covered by these estimates. I want to discuss one of these areas before referring to the broader questions of science policy, and to the Government’s approach to CSIRO. These estimates for the Department of Science indicate yet a further step in the Government ‘s program of cutting the activities of the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories. During the period of the Labor Government, staffing of the Laboratories was built up to 251 by the end of June 1975, of which 126 were professional chemists and microbiologists. During the financial year just finished, the staffing totalled only 237, and these estimates indicate a further cut in staff to 232. Recently, successive annual reports of the Department have made it quite clear that far from being justified, these staff reductions have adversely affected the work of the Laboratories. The 1975-76 annual report stated: . . . serious organisation deficiencies persist particularly in the management, library and general technical support areas . . .
That situation existed with staff levels maintained constant. The report continued:
These deficiencies have strained the manpower resources of some sections of the Branch and limited opportunities for training staff and undertaking the development and validation of techniques necessary for the examination of new materials coming on to the market or found in the environment.
In other words, the Laboratories were unable to keep their staff up to date with new techniques and new materials for analysis. The following year’s annual report, that is 1 976-77 which is the latest available, made the even stronger point that because staff ceilings were so low the Laboratories were not able to meet all the requirements of client departments. Now, this is a particularly serious situation. Commonwealth departments making use of the Branch’s laboratories include the departments of Primary Industry, Business and Consumer Affairs, Health, Transport and Construction, as well as CSIRO. Various State departments also use the Laboratories such as the Tasmanian Fisheries Department and several agencies of the New South Wales Government.
I draw attention to one particular consequence of the Government’s attacks on staff levels in analytical services. The Sydney regional laboratory of the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories undertakes the analysis of samples for the National Health and Medical Research Council market basket survey of food. This is an important study. It examines a variety of foods for a whole range of possible noxious contaminants, including pesticide residues, heavy metals, and other important compounds. The technical staff at the Sydney laboratory was built up under the Whitlam Government from 61 in 1972 to 80 in 1975. Since then it has fallen to 66, according to the Minister for Science (Senator Webster), and to perhaps as low as 58 according to advice available to me. The result has been that the service provided by the Laboratories has suffered. The Minister in answer to a question on notice stated:
Some programs may have fallen below the expectations of client departments.
Specifically, analysis of the market basket survey samples has taken longer than originally intended. It is no wonder that we were still awaiting publication of the 1975 survey results over two years after it was begun. The Government’s decision to cut staffing at the Analytical Laboratories has saved perhaps $500,000 annually, at the cost of, among other things, poorer scrutiny of hazards of public health. That is surely a sorry reflection on the Government’s Budget priorities.
Let me now return to the CSIRO. The Birch inquiry reported on the CSIRO in August 1977 and the Government’s response to the report was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Science in May of this year. We should examine the estimates in the light of these statements. Where we do this, we find a number of surprises, if not inconsistencies. To begin with, there is the inquiry’s observation that the role of CSIRO has remained biased towards research into problems of rural industries. Since 1950, CSIRO has devoted a relatively constant 4 1 to 45 per cent of its research expenditure to the primary sector, although over that period the contribution of this sector to gross domestic product has declined from about 25 per cent to about 6 per cent.
There is no doubt that the work of CSIRO in this area has been, and continues to be, necessary, extremely valuable and of high repute. However, the economy has changed. As the Birch report makes clear, there is a pressing need for greater emphasis on research and innovation relevant to Australian manufacturing industry. So, it is surprising in view of this interest of the Birch inquiry and in view of the Government’s stated acceptance of the general thrust of the inquiry’s conclusions, that the estimates reveal a marginal shift in appropriations in 1978-79 towards agricultural research and simultaneously away from manufacturing industry research. I repeat that I am reflecting on neither the quality, nor the necessity of rural industry research. What I do question is whether the Government is taking seriously the Birch inquiry’s study and the technical needs of the economy, and whether staff ceilings imposed on CSIRO have not adversely affected plans for future research expansion.
There is not enough time to review the CSIRO estimates in detail. But there is one further specific allocation I want to refer to in relation to the Birch report recommendations. The Government’s statement on the report indicated that the Government sees real merit in the inquiry’s proposal that the National Measurement Laboratory extend its work to areas such as safety, pollution and performance standards. This would be a firm and welcome step in the direction of expanding the activities of CSIRO on behalf of community interests. We might get some factual information on which to decide whether the socalled ‘greenies’ are right or wrong. We seem to get a lot of very vague evidence at present from both sides in these arguments. However, the estimates indicate a cut in the National Measurement Laboratories’ professional staffing from 150 to 136 and a decline in real terms in its funding of approximately 2 per cent. Regardless of the recommendations of the committee advising on the implementation of this proposal of the Birch inquiry, it could not be effectively implemented in the face of cuts in support. Again, cuts in the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories and in the National Measurement Laboratories will prevent the further use of Australia’s scientific capabilities on behalf of community well being.
It is appropriate during this debate to refer to science policy matters more generally, although much of the substance is dealt with by other departments. The first part of the overview report of the Australian Science and Technology Council is a welcome contribution to the literature on Australian science. Its emphasis on industrial research and development, marine sciences and health sciences is sound. However, there is still a need for a review of several major areas of research and for improved organisational arrangements for Australia’s scientific efforts. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission and defence science and technology should certainly be subjected to the sort of inquiry which examined the CSIRO. Rather than using ad hoc committees occasionally to ensure that overlap among Australian scientific work is minimised there should be a continuing council of government science establishments as proposed by the Coombs inquiry into government administration. Such a council could also be used to make it easier to terminate or transfer research programs where necessary, without disadvantaging staff. That seems to be one of the reasons that some, programs continue without terribly good and specific reasons.
Having criticised some aspects of this Department, I want to pay tribute to the other important divisions of the Department of Science, especially the Antarctic Division, the work of which is obviously becoming increasingly important, and the Bureau of Meteorology, which has a continuing vital role to play throughout Australian society.
– I will be covering five aspects of the estimates of the Department of Science: One, the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology; two, the Australian LANDSAT facility; three, the
Ionospheric Prediction Service; four, the AngloAustralian Telescope Board; and lastly, the World Meteorological Organisation. The Bureau of Meteorology has a total budget for this year of $38.75m, but this is up by only $1.2m from last year. It is perhaps difficult to overestimate the importance of weather information to a country such as Australia, so there is a continuing effort to ensure the best possible service within existing resources and to keep a close watch on new technology developed by improved forecasting. Since the first synoptic weather charts were drawn in the late 1700s meteorologists have been faced with three major problems in making accurate forecasts. They are: Insufficient observations, insufficient knowledge of weather processes and difficulty in solving the complex mathematical equations. Great advances have been made, particularly in communications, although the expenditure of nearly $5m on postage, telegrams and telephone services gives only some idea of the need for communications.
However, the greatest changes have come about in recent years with a simultaneous development of weather satellites and computer technology. Australia has been in the forefront in using satellite weather data and our Bureau has always tried to take full advantage of each new development in this field. The first TIROS weather satellite was launched by the United States in 1960 and Australia was one of the first countries to use its satellite photographs for research purposes. Initially photographs from the satellite were sent by mail on request. In 1963 a station was established in Melbourne to receive automatic picture transmission directly from the satellite. Similar stations were installed in Darwin and Perth in 1 968 and later in Brisbane in 1972. At first these polar-orbiting satellites could provide photographs only during the day, but by 1970, with the development of infra-red cameras suitable for use in space, it became possible to obtain pictures of cloud cover over Australia at night.
The most important new development is the advent of the Japanese geostationary meteorological satellite which began service this year. From its fixed orbit 36,000 kilometres above the equator near West Irian it has a magnificent panoramic view of weather patterns over Australia, Japan, South East Asia, New Zealand and adjacent oceans. Whereas the American satellites provide pictures at 12-hourly intervals, this Japanese satellite allows assessments every three hours. In addition, this data may well lead to an improvement in the understanding of weather processes, particularly the way in which fronts and depressions evolve and intensify. All these factors should lead to an eventual improvement in forecasting accuracy, particularly for short term periods of about 12 hours. A new computer message switching system in Melbourne will perform the function of the Telecom-operated switching centres and the Bureau’s interstate switching centres. Improving weather forecasts, even marginally, requires a great deal of research effort and expenditure. Development of accurate long range forecasts appears to be some time away, whilst the ability to forecast changes in climate may not be achieved until well into the future. However, we can be encouraged and confident that these efforts and future developments will eventually lead to more accurate and longer range weather forecasts throughout Australia.
Another program which I talked about earlier this year is LANDSAT which has a budget for plant and equipment of $ 1.6m. This is only part of a three-year establishment program. The American LANDSAT program uses satellites orbiting every 18 days to provide repetitive coverage of the entire land surface. The information from them can be converted into photographic images in four visual and infra-red spectral bands and these can be used as an important supplement and cost saving to existing data gathering. LANDSAT can be used in crop yield forecasting, the identification of diseased crops, pasture management, soil conservation, geological exploration, mapping ecological surveys, monitoring pollution, forest inventories, water resources, flood and bush fire control and marihuana search. Whilst we were originally able to obtain this data from America, this source is no longer available due to technical difficulties in the satellites and we now need a receiving station in Australia with all its attendant processing facilities. I notice that a contract for the electronic equipment has just been let. A further American program, SEASAT, will be launched in 1981. This will provide coverage similar to that provided by LANDSAT but of marine resources, but it can use LANDSAT facilities- truly a worthwhile program.
An item in these estimates which receives very little media attention is the Ionospheric Prediction Service. The cost this year is $917,000 compared with $780,000 last year. This fascinating service is vital to users of long distance radio communications. Commonwealth and State government departments, shipping companies, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and universities receive long term predictions and some 70 organisations receive warnings of short term disturbances. This information comes from a chain of 24-hour ionospheric observing stations from New Guinea to Antarctica and from telescopes watching the sunspots, the activity of which has a great effect on high frequency communications.
The Anglo-Australian Telescope Board has an expenditure of $lm this year, which is up from $850,000 last year. The Board of three members each from the United Kingdom and Australia controls the observatory. It is of interest that Sir Fred Hoyle, the famous astronomer, was its initial Chairman. The telescope came into regular operation in June 1975 and its performance has been exceptional. This is due no doubt to the stringent specifications and the adherence to them during manufacturing and optical finishing. The research programs have a strong emphasis on extragalactic astrophysics- a study of the physical conditions in the galaxies lying outside our own Milky Way system- and how these have evolved. There is also the study of how individual stars are born, evolve and die and of the interstellar gas from which we suspect new stars are forming. Amongst the many interesting programs are: Redshifts for Parkes, plus or minus 4 degrees QSO’s- sounds impressivecounterparts of OH services and possible duplicity of subdwarf B stars, galactic bulge planetary nebulae, spectroscope examination of cer X-3 and transient X-ray sources. Overall, it is a program of which Australia can be proud.
Another service- the World Meteorological Organisation- will receive $160,000 for its first global experiment. Thousands of scientists from many countries will be using an internationally co-ordinated system of satellites, instrumented aircraft, ships, balloons, drifting ocean buoys and high speed computers to subject the atmosphere and sea surfaces to the most intensive surveillance ever conducted. Australia, for its part, will provide 50 drifting ocean buoys and recording equipment in regular Qantas flights plus ground control support. Australia can be very proud of its Department of Science and the programs which it funds.
-When we look at the estimates for the Department of Science and bear in mind many of the platitudes that we have heard over the years about the need for scientific research, it is difficult to see a relationship between that concern and the funds that are being spent. In times of economic stress when we have to pare costs and stop wasting money, it is often found that money spent on research is cut before many other areas of expenditure. The same applies in respect of education and health services. They are the areas that are easy to cut back. Sometimes people doubt whether we ought to bother doing any research in Australia. After all, we are such a small country. We cannot put the resources into research that other countries put into it. It is suggested that perhaps we could just live off the efforts of other countries.
I shall quote from the report of the Independent Inquiry into the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which discussed the question of scientific research in Australia. The report makes the point that Australia provides only a small proportion of the world research effort. There is no doubt about that. The report asks whether research in Australia could be greatly reduced and whether Australia could depend on science and technology from abroad, to an even greater extent than we do now. The conclusion drawn by the report was that in the long run this would be disastrous. This is quite apart from the moralistic argument that Australia is a rich country. We belong to the world; we draw from the world. Therefore, we ought to make a contribution. There are practical reasons also why Australia should have its own research program. Not the least of them is the fact that this continent of ours is unique and for the time being, as the report says, we are its custodians and exploiters. We have to find out about the continent, even if the objective is only to make use of it to our advantage. We have problems which depend closely on our geology, our weather, our geography and even our social structure. These are unique.
World science and technology give guidelines but cannot solve our particular problems or delineate our particular opportunities. The report makes the observation that research is needed to make best use in the long term of our assets and in the short term to overcome as many of our difficulties as possible. While research in science is a major, but not by any means the only, component in the process of trying to make social and economic progress, if it is decreased below its present level, the report asserts that Australia would barely keep up with the advanced world. In some areas of research Australia already falls behind. If this position becomes much worse than it is at the moment, it could well lead to economic and social stagnation. After all, apart from some of our industries such as agriculure, forestry and fisheries which draw on renewable resources, much of our industry is based upon resources which are exhaustible. Even in the renewable resource area, we have many problems that need to be resolved. We need to develop alternative resources. We need to learn how to husband rationally the resources we have. We must develop an energy policy which bears a relationship to our particular needs. Of course, undue dependence on overseas science and technology also implies general dependence. Dependence also implies taking what we are given and not necessarily what we want. Those countries that have nothing to sell or exchange in the world of technology frequently do not receive the latest developments. In addition, they have to pay a very high price for what they do receive. In examining the level of research effort in Australia the examiners of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development noted that on the 1969 figures:
The intensity of R and D in Australian industry would appear to be low . . . amounted to only 1.3 percent of manufacturing industry’s total gross domestic product, whereas in a number of OECD countries the percentage is two to three times as high.
The Birch report comes to this conclusion on the figures: . . . on an international scale, Australia spends only a moderate fraction of its GDP on research and development, and is more comparable to those countries which do not, on the whole, possess prosperous high technology industries.
Having persuaded myself, at least, that Australia needs to indulge in a concerted research effort in a number of areas, I will now quote from a report to the Prime Minister by the Australian Science and Technology Council on energy research and development in Australia. This is one of the factors that the Birch Committee highlighted. The Council ‘s report points out:
The establishment of alternative energy sources must be considered in the light of the fact that the provision of energy in all its forms (electrical power, fuels for transport and industrial processes, etc.) is a very large scale enterprise. The rime required for the introduction of alternative large scale commercial processes may be many years and the investment required will be very large.
In discussing the funding of energy research and development, the ASTEC report mentions that energy research and development in Australia must be given a high priority. It re-emphasises the point. The report goes on to state:
Australia is fortunate in having access to large coal deposits . . . However, unless further substantial reserves are discovered, serious shortages in indigenous petroleum supplies will occur in the next decade.
The report concludes with the Council’s recommendation that: . . . the development and demonstration of processes for the national production for fuels for transport should be accorded very high priority.
We look in vain for evidence of the Government’s response to either of those reports. The actual level of funding for the coming year is below what would be expected if the allocation simply kept up with the effects of inflation.
Although I shall not go into the matter in more detail, in real terms the value of the allocation to CSIRO is down, not up. This is despite the report into CSIRO and despite the recommendations to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) by ASTEC. In the area of research grants, last year the allocation was $279,000. This was grossly inadequate. This year the figure is to be increasedvery significantly, I agree- to $407,000. This is nowhere near the tens of millions of dollars that will probably have to be spent over a very few years if we are to get anywhere. The increase in expenditure is hardly as dramatic as one would expect in view of the importance attached to this sort of research. I have mentioned only a few areas. Great importance is attached to this research by ASTEC on the one hand and the Birch Committee on the other.
Now that the world is shrinking in size and its population is increasing, there are still greater demands on our resources, particularly the renewable resources. With the results of the Law of the Sea Conferences and the decision to extend our area of economic control to 200 miles beyond our coastline, we now have responsibility for the resources in those areas. At this stage, the resources are mainly fish. Marine sciences will become far more significant to the long-term welfare of this country. We have established the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Its allocation last year was $2.1m. It is less this year. When one notes these practical manifestations of the Government’s concern for science and technology, one begins to wonder whether this Government really appreciates the true significance of our scientific potential. As I said earlier, in this world of rapidly diminishing resources and increases in population, tensions, strains and economic pressures, if we are to survive it may well be through our scientific endeavour and our ability more adequately to care for the resources we have. Through scientific effort we should adapt ourselves to new ways of doing things and should develop new industries which will help us survive. This Government seems nowhere near recognising that fact.
– It gives me great pleasure to speak to the estimates of the Department of Science. May I say at the outset that I hope that I live to see the day when the Department of Science is renamed and becomes the Department of Science and the Antarctic. I have put such a proposal to the Government but to date it has not received acceptance. It is my genuine belief that because of Australia ‘s historical connection with the Antarctic, extending back to 1810 when Macquarie Island was first discovered by an Australian, and our continuing involvement in the Antarctic, the Antarctic is sufficiently important to be recognised at least in the naming of a department and under the responsibility of a Minister who is identifiable as Australia’s Minister for the Antarctic. It is a matter of very great pride and pleasure to me personally and I believe to all Tasmanians regardless of political persuasion, that last week at Kingston in Tasmania the commencement of earthworks, site works, at the site of the Antarctic Division got under way. It has been a dream for many of us that we would eventually see the commencement of work on the transfer of the Antarctic Division. It is, in fact, now under way. Over the next 2Vi years, substantial works will be carried out in that area. The original price of $7.3m on March 1 977 figures, in my view, will be exceeded substantially. I would be very surprised at the completion of the Antarctic Division at Kingston if there is any change out of $ 10m. I go further and say that the associated works which will be carried out in the area by the private sector, by the State government and local government will mean that that complex will be worth about $20m to the municipality of Kingborough. It will have a marked effect on the economy not only of Hobart but also of southern Tasmania during the period of construction.
It is as well to remind ourselves of Australia’s involvement in the Antarctic. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that by virtue of the Australian Antarctic Territory Acceptance Act of 1936, the Australian Government became responsible for an area which comprises about three-sevenths of Antarctica. Australia has been active in this area since 1947 and has maintained a permanent presence since 1 954 through the occupancy of research stations by the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition at Mawson, Casey and Davis. In December 1959 Australia and 1 1 other nations signed the Antarctic Treaty which laid down some important principles underlying national and international involvements in scientific research in Antarctica. International collaboration had begun during the International Geophysical Year in 1957 and has continued uninterrupted on the continent itself and through regular consultative meetings of nations adhering to the Treaty. The last of those meetings was held last year in London. The Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition and the Antarctic Division are located within the Department of Science. They have provided outstanding service to Australia over the years through activities on the continent and the sub-Antarctic islands. I just mention in passing some small pleasure that in looking at Mawson’s Proclamation whereby Australia laid claim to the Antarctic, included in the description is a group of islets known as the Hodgeman islets. I note they are spelt in the South Australian fashion of Hodgeman; nevertheless the Hodgeman islets were claimed by Mawson and are defined in the proclamation he made.
With respect to the Antarctic Division, its two main recognised functions are, firstly, the general administration and logistic support of ANARE involving the establishment and maintenance of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic stations, the mounting of annual expeditions to the Antarctic- the next expedition will go early in December- and the co-ordination of the relevant activities of the agencies which make up the ANARE; and, secondly, to conduct approved programs in various fields of scientific research which presently include upper atmosphere physics, cosmic ray physics, glaciology, biology and medical science.
In relation to the Antarctic Division, as I mentioned a moment ago the 1977 estimate of costs was $7.3m. But to that must be added the estimated cost of $1.2m for the two laboratory buildings and associated services proposed for the Antarctic Division. If we add those two figures together we get a figure of $8.5m. I therefore predict with some confidence that there will not be much change left from $ 1 0m by the end of 1 980. 1 think I would be failing in my duty if I did not do this at this point in time pay tribute, firstly, to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for the determination of the Government to ensure that the Antarctic base was transferred to Kingston, and, secondly and jointly, to the two responsible Ministers- the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) and the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay). Both Ministers have shown a keen interest in the progress of what has been a somewhat protracted matter. I believe that at this point of time they should be congratulated and thanked for the fact that the dream has now become a reality. I also take the opportunity of placing on record my gratitude to the head of the Department of Construction in Tasmania, Mr Allan McKenzie, and his staff and the architects, engineers and consultants who worked on the project. Going back a little further in time, I pay tribute to those who rallied to the cause and gave evidence before the Public Works Committee during its hearings in 1977. 1 mention in passing the valuable contribution of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce, the University of Tasmania, the State Government and a host of other individuals and organisations who rallied to the cause.
There is one matter that I raise in relation to the Antarctic Division. It is a dream that I have that Mawson’s hut, or a replica of Mawson’s hut to be more precise, should be constructed at the site of the Antarctic base at Kingston. The best scientific evidence available indicates that it would be completely wrong to remove Mawson’s original hut from the Antarctic. I understand that it would deteriorate. Besides, there are very strong historical reasons for leaving it where it is. I thought, like most people, that the hut was a small hut but its dimensions are quite substantial. They are 30 feet by 30 feet. I suppose I should be using metric measurements, particularly on the estimates for this particular Department. The hut which measures 30 feet by 30 feet is a fairly substantial construction. It has been drawn to my attention by one of the architects working on the Antarctic Division that there is not sufficient land for a replica of that hut to be put on the site. Accordingly, I give notice that I will be making an approach to the Minister for Science who has been very keenly interested in this matter to see whether the Government might be able to acquire some extra ground so that a replica of Mawson’s hut can be constructed adjacent to the Antarctic base. I believe it would be a great tourist attraction. The interior could be used for a first-class Antarctic museum. Not only would it be a tourist attraction of some significance, it would also have substantial educational qualities. I know that my colleague the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann), who is at the table, would be quite happy to convey what I have said to the Minister for Science. I, of course, will be pursuing the matter with him.
I will refer to two other matters in the minute or two remaining to me. I remind the Committee of the enormous resources of the Antarctic and the need for the establishment of an international organisation to govern the use of the marine resources of the Antarctic waters. Earlier this year the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) chaired a meeting in Australia involving the treaty nations. I understand that a further meeting could be held either later this year or early next year. I urge that Australia is the logical site for the headquarters of that international marine resources organisation; and clearly there can be only two choices- Canberra or Kingston. For a number of reasons with which I will not bore the Committee at this point of time, I simply say that Kingston, Tasmania, wins hands down. The proposition I am putting to the Government, therefore is that if Australia is to host this international organisation we should have the opportunity to see it established next to the Antarctic base at Kingston. If this happens, hopefully the treaty nations will establish what I call Antarctic embassies next to that. In other words, Kingston, Tasmania, into the twenty-first century should logically be the headquarters for the management of the resources of the Antarctic.
My time has almost expired. I thank the Government for standing firm on the question of the transfer. I assure the Committee that this decision will not be regretted. It is a decision that all Tasmanians welcome. It is one that I, as the member for the electorate concerned, welcome most particularly and warmly.
– I listened with interest to the comments of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) on the Antarctic Division. I was a little surprised that he did not pay a tribute to John Coates, his predecessor in the seat of Denison, who worked very hard between 1972 and 1975 to ensure that the Antarctic Division was transferred to the seat of Denison.
– I have done it hundreds of times. I really have.
– The honourable member should not hesitate to be generous and to include Mr Coates in his remarks. I listened with interest to what the honourable member said about Mawson. I seem to remember as a very young scientist attending a conference of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science in Adelaide in 1946 in the presence of Sir Douglas Mawson and seeing a black and white film of the expedition. It may be that the honourable member for Denison and I could find a common cause and perhaps try to get hold of that film so that our fellow members could see what the expedition was like.
It was not my intention to talk on the Antarctic Division. We have sent that south. It seems to me that on the estimates for the Department of Science I refer almost annually to the Australian Biological Resources Study. I note in this year’s estimates the continued commitment of $250,000 to this study. I think it is as well to remind honourable members of the reason for this study. It has become evident over the years that there is inadequate compiled information with regard to the biological resources of Australia, the deficiency being more in the field of fauna than in the field of flora. Indeed, Australia is years behind other countries, such as the United States of America and India, in recording its biological resources. One of the important factors, of course, is the unique nature of the biological resources in Australia; the fart that so much is found that is unique to this continent. Added to this is the developing knowledge that there are ecological chains, that there is interdependence between the various levels of the flora and fauna, and without knowledge of this it is difficult to make calculated judgments on how far one can take environmental measures or preservation measures.
One sees what is happening in the United States at the moment. For example, the Tellico Dam was to be built on the Little Tennessee River at a cost of $ 166m. This project has been held up by a judgment of the United States Supreme Court because this is the only area where the 3-inch long snail darter exists. There is a similar problem with the Furbish lousewort, which is threatened by the proposed $5 5 9m Dickey Lincoln Dam in Maine. The problem there is protection of a species purely for the sake of the protection of a species. We may have to come to a decision that some species are going to be lost. But if we are going to make that decision we want to be sure of their ecological significance. We want to be sure that these species do not occupy an ecological nitch which is important to the existence of other species. Without an adequate biological resources study we cannot expect this to be the case. The honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) has pointed to some of the deficiencies in expenditure in the science area. What we would like to know is what progress has been made in this biological resources study, how far we are advanced towards getting a reasonable overall picture and when it is predicted the resources study would be substantially carried out. If, as I believe, it is progressing very slowly, I think we will find that the expenditure on it is quite inadequate.
Another item that is of interest under the Department of Science is the Anglo-Australian Telescope Board. We remember the legislation that was passed by this chamber some time ago in relation to the telescope agreement. One wonders how far we are prepared to go in Australia on the question of research in the astronomy field. My attention was drawn recently to a joint effort of the University of Arizona and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Apparently on Mount Hopkins, some 40 miles south of Tucson, Arizona, a multiple mirror telescope has been constructed which, it is suggested, has as much capacity as the very largest of the one mirror telescopes. It is composed of six main mirrors, each with a diameter of 1.8 metres. Internal laser tracking is used for its operation. The interesting thing about its cost is that at $8m the multiple mirror telescope cost a fourth of the cost of a comparable conventional telescope. One of the reasons this telescope does not cost as much is the advantage that it has when it comes to casting, grinding and mounting smaller mirrors as against the larger conventional mirror. It also was interesting to read that the construction of the telescope was made possible because the United States Air Force had a number of 1.8 metre blank mirrors from its spy satellite program. With Australia involved in various satellite programs, one wonders whether there is any reserve capacity which could be utilised to construct this cheaper type of telescope to increase Australia’s capacity perhaps under the Anglo-Australian telescope agreement.
Furthermore the United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development is to convene next year. We have had the production of an Australian national paper on the subject. If members refer to chapter eight of that paper which is entitled Science in Australia and which commences on page 141- I do not want to go into detail on that chapter- they will find that the very introduction indicates the complexity of the arrangements in the science and technology field in Australia. It makes one wonder about the effectiveness of a ministry of science itself when so many truly scientific functions are hived off to other departments. I guess that the main functions of the Ministry for Science are really concerned with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The others are all peripheral. Many of the functions have gone to the Department of Health. A number of functions have gone to the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, whilst a number of other functions are in the more technical area. The Department of Education is to take over a fair amount of the functions of the Ministry of Science. One wonders whether this will not lead to some gaps in our attitude towards science.
I have raised previously the question of the herbicides 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. This has not been taken up by this Federal Government. Victorian councils are now banning those herbicides. They originated in America and America is now banning them. As far as I can make out, there is no facility for research on them in Australia. There has been no comment from the Federal Minister for Science (Senator Webster) or from the Federal Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) regarding those herbicides. They take no responsibility at all for the overall picture in Australia. Had time permitted I was going to continue my remarks about this research facility in science because I wanted to raise the question of asbestosis- a matter which has recently gained some prominence in Victoria.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The appropriation for the Department of Science amounts to $204,267,000, of which the major item of expenditure is to finance the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for expenditure under the Science Industry and Research Act. In that area alone the Department of Science has certainly proved its worth in very many ways. If there are some weaknesses, as has been pointed out by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), then there are certainly many great successes. So let us not dwell on the things that have not been done: Let us remember with some degree of gratitude the great achievements that have already been recorded.
The outstanding success of CSIRO in recent times has been the InterScan aircraft landing system. The InterScan system began as a suggestion by the Division of Radiophysics in CSIRO to the Australian Department of Transport that an appropriate system would feature planar fan-like radio beams which are scanned to and fro using an electronic switching technique. When an aircraft intercepts the scanning beam, the system can determine the aircraft’s angular position relative to the airport runway by measuring the time interval between the signals received from successive scans. Combining this information with the distance from the airport will enable the aircraft’s position to be determined accurately. That is one of CSIRO ‘s very great achievements. It has contributed to the safety of aircraft travel in this country- a very important aspect of national life.
When the InterScan system was first proposed, in 1972, the United States Federal Aviation Administration was developing four different types of landing systems, one of which would eventually be chosen as the United States proposal to the International Civil Aviation Organisation. However, the United States Federal Aviation Administration, after sending a team of experts to Australia to review the InterScan work, arranged for one of the four United States developments to be modified to include the InterScan time reference scanning beam signal format. That modified system was subsequently adopted by the United States of America as its proposal to the ICAO and the Australian and United States submissions became complementary- a great tribute indeed to Australian scientists. The acceptance of this system by ICAO was of course again a great tribute to the quality of work that was done by scientists in our own CSIRO and which had previously been recognised by the American team which had been sent out to Australia to examine the situation. That is just one point, but it is one that I want to emphasise because it is something that indicates the value of this Department. I repeat: Despite some criticism that might be made of the Department, let us remember with some degree of pride the achievements that have been recorded by the CSIRO and by the Department of Science.
Time is very limited and I must touch on only a few aspects of the Department of Science. But there is another aspect which is of great interest and value to the community generally, and that is the Bureau of Meteorology. The most recognised aspect of the work of the Bureau is its weather forecasting service. It is of very great value in a number of areas including aviation, primary industry and flood warnings. In those areas, the Bureau has carried out some splendid work. Forecasting is one of those difficult jobs that people have to do and which is important, but which becomes confused by unpredictable changes. Nevertheless, its importance cannot be underestimated. It is quite obvious that accurate longer range forecasting would also be of great advantage in all the other areas that I have mentioned. Research is going on into that aspect of the Bureau’s activities. However, the process is a slow one because of the changing conditions that are so often met within those areas. Very often those changes are unpredictable and the information received has first to be checked. I repeat: This is a problem that remains to be solved to the degree of accuracy that we would like to see. The work is going on and I commend the Bureau of Meteorology for the work it is doing in that area.
Satellite information will become available and will be of very real assistance as regards the information it will provide to enable more accurate and longer range forecasts to be given. I understand that the satellite likely to be used for this purpose is Japanese-owned and that information will be processed in Japan and forwarded to this Australian Bureau of Meteorology under an agreement. Of course we look forward to having our own satellite or a share in a satellite to provide us with that information. In the meantime however, it means that in the field of science, at any rate, we can get the degree of co-operation between nations which is so desirable and for the welfare of all.
The development of satellite communication is one of the most interesting developments of recent times. Great progress is being made in this area. There is no doubt that satellite communication will be one of the important aspects in conquering distances in those sparsely settled parts of Australia. We are looking forward to the time when telecommunications and television services are provided via satellite or perhaps through the leasing of satellites. This would enable very deserving people in outback areas to receive those benefits which are common place elsewhere and which are regarded as something that everyone should have and which everyone, particularly those in the more closely settled areas, the larger towns and even the smaller towns within range of the present broadcasting services, already have. The very high cost of providing fully effective services, together with the limitations on resources, has meant that some demands for new or expanded services of the Department of Science have not always been able to be met. As the demands can only increase, we are going to find that there will be even greater demand from time to time. Questions which arise in this area include: Are all the present services required, and if not, can any of them be discontinued in the interests of economy? On the other hand, is the present range of services sufficient and if not, what should be added to that range?
The meteorologist is constantly motivated to improve the quality of his output and in particular, the accuracy and timeliness of his forecasts. I mentioned previously the cyclone warning service which has proved of great value. Indeed, it is responsible for the saving of many lives. Turning to a different area, we find that these storm warnings and these flood warnings have enabled people to move stocks from areas that were likely to be flooded. They therefore saved a good deal in that direction and made the possibility of people living in those areas and looking after their herds and flocks more tenable than would otherwise be the case. The likelihood of such flooding would simply be guesswork otherwise.
I also mention that many requests are made. It is pleasing for me to note the consideration extended by the Department of Science to commercial television stations. As an example the manager of DDQ Channel 10 Toowoomba wrote to his local member, the ever active and alert honourable member of Darling Downs Tom McVeigh, expressing concern that the weather information available to Channel 10 was not as extensive as that shown on the local Australian Broadcasting Commission station.
– You gave me great assistance, though.
– I would not have referred to that but for the honourable member mentioning it. As a result of his representations, supported by representations made by me, the Minister advised us that arrangements would be made to enable Channel 10 to produce a weather map with information provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. Arrangements within the Bureau for the provision of this service are almost complete and the Bureau will be in touch with the station in the next few days regarding practical details for the implementation of this service which will enable Channel 10, the Toowoomba commercial station, to provide improved weather report presentation. Although it is of local interest in my area and the area of the electorate of Darling Downs, it is an example of the co-operation and the willingness of the Department of Science to meet the requests that are made to it. It is one example of many. It is a very good example and I am very pleased to mention it tonight. In conclusion, let me say that my admiration for the Department is very high. I pay a tribute to the Minister for Science Senator Webster for the great interest he has shown in all aspects of his Department. I compliment him and the Department of Science for the progress that has been made under his administration.
– I thank honourable members for their part in the debate on the estimates of the Department of Science. I shall ensure that the comments, statements and some very constructive suggestions that were made are brought to the attention of the Minister for Science (Senator Webster). Where he wants to give more detailed replies I shall make sure those replies are passed on to members. There were just one or two comments I would like to make. The member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) did make some complaint concerning the level of staffing of the analytical laboratories. A brief response I make is that the Minister for Science has not received any complaints from any of his colleagues about the level of services provided by the laboratories. Despite the staff reductions, the number of samples examined has not fallen significantly, largely due to new techniques which have led to increased productivity.
The member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) commented on what he regarded as the insufficiency of research grants. He said that there had been an increase in the vote from $279,000 to $407,000. My information is that that only applies to the Territories and it is only pan of the story. There was a very substantial increase in research grants to the States- from $ 10.1m to $ 1 1 .9m. That is quite a substantial increase.
There was a number of comments on the Birch Report. I shall not answer those at this stage because the Government is acting on that Report. Legislation will be coming to this chamber very quickly now. There will be a debate on all aspects of the Birch report. Probably the remarks will be more appropriate at that time.
The member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) commented on the Australian Biological Resources Study. Very recently the Government announced long-term arrangements. An advisory committee will be established before the end of this calendar year. A report has just been received from the Government Printer on the first five years’ work and that will be tabled very shortly. The study involves the resources of many Commonwealth and State agencies. Progress is not solely dependent on the funds that are shown in the Bill. Nevertheless, there are a great many species to be discovered and identified and the project will last for very many decades.
There was some comment on the multiple mirror telescope which was recently developed in the United States of America. Senator Webster may feel inclined to reply in some greater detail to the comment and the observation there, but I just point out that the Government has announced its intention to establish a committee of astronomers to advise it on future developments in astronomy and to ensure that future investment in telescopes is made in the light of advice on the latest technology applicable to astronomy. That announcement made by the Government followed a full scale review of astronomy in Australia. Again I thank honourable members for their contribution to the debate. I assure them that I shall bring those comments to the attention of the Minister. Any advice he gives me I shall convey to the members who have participated.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $178,1 80,000.
-In going through these estimates, one notes the allocation for the Task Force on a national satellite system for Australia. I do not want to discuss it in detail because I presume that at some later date there will be a debate on its report. I make, however, an observation on the composition of the Task
Force. It consisted of 3 members drawn from the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, one member from Telecom, 2 members from the Department of Defence, 2 members from the Department of Transport, and one member from each of the Departments of Health and Finance. It is funny that the Australian Broadcasting Commission does not get a mention. I notice in the annual report of the Commissioners that they comment on the Australian domestic satellite system inquiry. They say that they maintained a continuing interest in the prospects and potential for the national broadcasting service of an Australian domestic satellite system. As the largest radio and television organisation in the country- in fact the only truly national service- I would have thought it would have had more interest in it than, for example, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission which has, frankly, nothing to do with internal communications. It was a very odd selection if I may say so. I am not blaming the Minister at the table.
– It would not have been a bad idea for the ABC to be in it.
– I am glad that the Minister is acknowledging the point I wish to make. I felt from the very tone of the comments in the Commissioners’ report that they felt a little hurt that they were left out and that they managed to send representatives to the Task Force on 17 February, made a presentation and were able to attend a formal public hearing on 7 March to discuss their own submission. I think that was a bit of an insult to the ABC. The Minister concedes that point.
Coming to the Special Broadcasting Service, I quote from a letter I have received- no doubt all other members in the Committee have received it- from the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations. I find it slightly ironic. The letter concerns the Federal Government’s plan to introduce a pilot ethnic television service through the Special Broadcasting Service. FACTS, the commercial television stations’ organisation, states that it believes this decision has been taken precipitously and without adequate consideration of alternative methods. That intrigued me a little and I wondered what it was really getting at. Further in the letter it states:
The Government’s decision also blurs the definition of the role of the Special Broadcasting Service relative to the other sectors of the broadcasting service, especially the Public Broadcasting Service.
I must say, reading further and looking at its comments, that I hope the Minister does not take too much notice of them. Frankly, I think it is whingeing. I suspect that it is really worried that the experiment might prove successful. FACTS claimed that it did some survey of the potential for ethnic programming. My guess is that, from its point of view, as a potentially, highly profitable commercial venture it found that was highly unlikely. However, if such a service is conducted by the Government I may quibble whether it should be the Special Broadcasting Service or the Australian Broadcasting Commission that has responsibility. I shall come to that in a moment. Whichever way it goes it is highly likely that it will be successful in the sense that a lot of members of the ethnic communities will watch; which means that they will cease watching the commercial stations.
There is nothing in the laws of the land to stop the commercial stations from providing ethnic programs. They are free to do it. They were free to do it while I was the Minister. They whinged like hell but they could have done it. No government has stopped them, but they have not done it. The Australian Labor Party Government established ethnic radio. They complained then but no one stopped them establishing it instead. This Government is now threatening to proceed with ethnic television and they are complaining again. I hope that their complaints are well founded. I hope they lose audiences and they deserve to lose audiences because they have failed the Australian community. There is no reason why we should pander to them and their continual complaining. However, they do make one comment which I think needs to be considered. They question the decision to use the Special Broadcasting Service for this innovation. The Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations last year said:
Last year the Broadcasting and Television Act was amended to require Commercial and Public Licensees to be accountable to their communities through regular public inquiries into licence renewal applications. The Government also stated that the ABC would be required to face regular public inquiries into its performance.
We agree with those sentiments and obviously the Government does too. The quotation continues:
However, no such provision applies to the SBS and therefore there will be no public inquiry into the adequacy of its programming, the standards it applies to its programming and whether it has adhered to those standards.
I suspect that there may be something in that argument and the Minister for Post and Telecommunications may well give some attention to the idea of establishing some mechanism whereby at least the ethnic communities will have some say or some opportunity for offering criticism on the functioning of this pilot ethnic television station.
– The idea is that there will be that sort of monitoring.
– I am glad the Minister said that because that suits me fine. The legislation does not require it; it depends upon the Minister and if he decides to establish such a review mechanism that is all to the good.
-The NEBACs and the SEBACs are for this purpose in this particular.
– I see. I turn now to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is a bit disconcerting to find that the funding of the ABC continues to be cut back in real terms. A comparison between the Budget allocation last year and the Budget allocation this year indicates that the Commission is being short-changed. In its last annual report the Commission said: . . . while the ABC’s appropriation for operational expenditure increased by $6.0 18m (4.8 per cent) compared with 1976-77, the consumer price index increased by approximately 8 per cent over the same period.
So the ABC was severely pruned and this pruning is continuing. In the present Estimates there really is no adequate compensation for the loss of funds due to the effects of inflation, if nothing else, and this is at a time when one would have hoped that the ABC would be embarking upon more innovations, not fewer. However, with the monetary restraints placed upon it, the Commission is crawling back into its box to a certain extent.
I now touch on the subject of radio station 2JJ. In its annual report the Commission noted: 2JJ, which operates from a standby transmitter near Liverpool, south-west of Sydney, continues to broadcast under the least favourable transmission arrangements of any of the main Sydney radio stations.
The Labor Government set this station up as an experiment. Surely the experimental period is over now and the Government could do something about providing a permanent station. When I was Minister I accepted the popularity of 2JJ and suggested that it should transfer to FM broadcasting and be given a new broadcasting station so that it could reach its audience. The annual report commented:
The 2 2JJ signal is out of reach of a large part of the station ‘s target audience, particularly those living in the northern and eastern suburbs, and the Commission expresses its continuing concern at this situation.
I share its concern. The Commission expressed its concern while I was Minister and I initiated action to move 2JJ to the FM band and to give it a new station. Incidentally, I also suggested that its program be transmitted to Melbourne on the landline and broadcast over the spare FM transmitter which I knew existed in Melbourne despite advice to the contrary. I note that that spare transmitter is being used now. It was there all the damned time. That is what irritates me. It is now being used to test interference and is being moved closer and closer to the ABC frequency to see how close it can get. I am not sorry this is happening now. I am sorry it is happening so late and that the opportunity was not taken to allow 2JJ to broadcast to prove that the same sort of program could have been acceptable in Melbourne and so prompt the establishment of a separate but similar type of station in Melbourne for Melbourne audiences.
Finally, on the question of bias in the ABC news programs, I invite the Minister to get, as I did when I was Minister, a rundown of the time available on radio and television for representatives of various political parties, and the amount of time given in the news broadcast to each of these parties. It would be very instructive.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Staley) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– It is appropriate that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) is at the table because I want to raise a question concerning the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am not usually one who criticises the ABC. I know that it has a fairly difficult job to do and that it has been affected by staff and funding cuts. Nevertheless, compared with other news media, maybe it is still better than they are. However, I criticise the ABC very strongly for what I consider to be a highly irresponsible attitude adopted by at least some of the ABC programs during the last five days when dealing with an allegation about the Ku Klux Klan. The ABC staff and the ABC programmers- those who decide the content of ABC programs- should realise when they are dealing with issues like this that overseas the ABC is regarded in some ways as the British Broadcasting Corporation is regarded; as a semiofficial newsagency. I think it is wrong, or highly irresponsible, to make up a story or to broadcast a story knowing, as they must have known, that the story was untrue. Yet the ABC interviewed people and started what was more than a rumour by pretending that it was a fact that a fairly large organisation affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan existed in Australia. On the program PM last Friday, 20 October, the item started off with Huw Evans saying:
The extreme right wing Ku Klux Klan is alive and flourishing in Australia, according to a man claiming to be the Australian leader of the Klan. Graeham Irvine reports from Darwin.
Then Graeham Irvine came on and said:
Rumours that the Ku Klux Klan was operating in the Northern Territory have been circulating here for several months. These were finally confirmed here in Darwin yesterday when an Australian man dressed in the traditional white robes and mask of the Klan walked into the ABC television studio under tight security. He only agreed to speak to one reporter and refused to divulge his own whereabouts or any of his group ‘s activities.
I omit part of the report, but it continued:
He claimed that Darwin was the Australian headquarters of the Klan which has affiliations with similar organisations in Britain and America. The group, he said, had 170 members in the Northern Territory and many more throughout Australia, particularly in the universities.
He then named some of the universities and, at the end of the report, said:
Both Mr Everingham -
He is Chief Minister in the Northern Territory- and Opposition Leader, John Issacs, refused to take the story seriously and Issacs told me this afternoon that the socalled -
He then mentioned the Ku Klux Klan man- is none other than the same Territory policeman currently facing police disciplinary charges over a similar hoax at Katherine some months ago.
That surely should have been the end; but no. The following Monday, on the AM program, they kicked it along. Warren Duncan, reporting on AM, said:
According to various reports over the past few days the Ku Klux Clan has now reached out from the south of the United States to claim certain whites in Australia . . . over the weekend Geoff McMullen interviewed, in New York, the three imperial wizards who now head rival factions of the Klan in America . . .
They kicked the story along as if it were a true story. As a final item, Warren Duncan said:
We have attempted to trace the Northern Territory leader mentioned by David Duke but so far without success.
I think it is wrong and highly irresponsible for people to behave in that fashion if they have access to the national radio network. I predict that in 20 years or so Australia will be in significant trouble as far as much of the world is concerned. There will be a significant number of people who will pick on this program, pretend that the story is true and use it against us at some later stage, claiming that there is a Ku Klux Klan in Australia and that the official Australian Broadcasting Commission has confirmed that there are 170 Ku Klux Klanners in the Northern Territory. If people have access to the airwaves, paid for by the Australian taxpayer, they ought to be more responsible in their attitude before they push stories like that. If they do not have enough material to occupy half an hour, perhaps they should finish after 20 minutes and play some music.
– I rise tonight to speak about the United Nations, today being United Nations Day. On 24 October 1945 the United Nations was formally constituted. I take the opportunity to speak on the work of the United Nations, its aims and objectives. Five minutes is not sufficient time to deal adequately with the work and significance of the United Nations organisations. Accordingly, my remarks will be in summary form. The contribution by the Australian Government to the United Nations in the current financial year is estimated at $23,418,000. There are some people in the community, indeed in this House, who would advocate that the United Nations and its various agencies be dismantled. The usual argument in support of that proposition is based on an erroneous belief that the work of the United Nations is dominated by a group of developing nations of the Third World which usually are described as socialist in philosophic outlook.
Whilst it is true that power blocs have developed in recent years with many Third World countries in a dominant position, the work of the United Nations in the political, economic and social spheres remains fundamental to peace and international co-operation. The minority on the extreme right of politics in this country advance an argument that any member state of the United Nations surrenders her sovereignty. This disordered logic proceeds to conclude that a member state’s policies can be influenced, if not dominated, by nations of a different political philosophy. Some of the more recent ramblings of members of the League of Rights have suggested that the new international economic order has resulted in Australia’s economic policy being distorted by, and in the sole interests of, the developing countries to the detriment of the Government’s internal economic policies. This, of course, is nonsense.
The time available tonight will permit me only to summarise some of the excellent work being undertaken by one or two of the United Nations agencies. In 1974 the general Assembly of the
United Nations created the 36-member World Food Council. The Council has been described by the United Nations Secretary-General, Kurt Waldheim, as the highest political body in the world which deals exclusively with food problems. This financial year Australia will contribute $12,137,000 to the World Food Program. That program was established by the United Nations and the Food and Agriculture Organisation to provide food to developing nations. There are two aspects of the assistance. The principal purpose of the program is to stimulate and advance economic and social development. Assistance accordingly is given to projects which will improve the health and skills of coming generations and establish the infrastructure for their economic development. At the end of 1972, 550 projects in 88 countries had been approved under this program. The program provides funds and personnel to assist the victims of emergencies such as earthquakes in Chile, Greece, Iran, Nepal, Peru and Turkey and flood and hurricane victims and those suffering from the effects of droughts in Afghanistan, Botswana, India, and Mali and so on. Refugees and displaced persons also are fed through United Nations agencies.
One could go on and talk about a number of other agencies which are assisted specifically by the Australian Government. For example, this financial year the United Nations Development Program will receive $6,820,000; the United Nations Children’s Fund, $1,800,000; the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, $420,000; and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, $640,000. There are also a number of world conferences which are significant, such as the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, the United Nations Water Conference, the International Conference on Developments in Nuclear Power and the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, the United Nations Conference on Desertification, the Review Conference on the Sea-bed Treaty, and the United Nations Conference on Technical Co-operation among Developing Countries.
In its current session we have seen recently a general assembly devoted to disarmament. More particularly on that subject we have seen a special report by a United Nations expert group on the economic and social consequences of the arms race and military expenditure. That group also highlighted the significance and importance of the Disarmament Conference if its findings were implemented internationally. For example, the World Health Organisation has spent some $83m over 10 years to eradicate smallpox in the world. That amount would not suffice to buy even a single modern strategic bomber. I conclude by making a plea in terms used by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). When addressing the United Nations General Assembly, he stated:
But the one crisis that cannot be risked is a crisis of confidence in the United Nations itself.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– When coming from Sydney early this morning I was reading the Daily Telegraph. At page 3 I read an article entitled: ‘Two-thirds of us ill, survey shows’. The author of the article was Warwick Costin, It stated:
Sixty-three per cent of Australians are suffering from one or more illnesses, according to a health survey.
I might say that this figure comes from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and is one of the many statistics that come into the offices of members of the Parliament which otherwise I might not have read. I went to the Parliamentary Library this afternoon and the Library was able to give me statistics that prove that the figures Mr Costin cites in the article are factual. The article continued:
The results suggest that Australia has become a nation of wheezing crocks, with 63.6 per cent of the population suffering from at least one ailment.
The survey, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, was undertaken in the period from July 1977 to June 1978 and the results were released in Canberra at noon on 23 October 1978. As a sideline- I think the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) would appreciate this- the article stated that, if 63 per cent of the people in Australia are not in the best condition, the other 37 per cent are doctors who are laughing that they are lit. The article went on:
An alarming 1.2 million women took common pain relievers in the two days before being interviewed.
But prescriptions had been obtained by only 39 per cent of them.
Women are by far the biggest sufferers of high blood pressure.
I think politicians might suffer from this complaint as well, in view of the hours they put in. The article continued:
More than half the adult population take pills or tonics almost daily and one child in three is already on some form of medication.
Another surprise was that almost 49,000 children between the ages of one and five had not been given protection from polio (health authorities advise that babies should have received three doses of polio vaccine by the age of 12 months).
However, a health department expert said the number of children not immunised, 3.8 per cent, was not large enough to cause concern.
Nevertheless, 3.8 per cent of the child population have not been immunised. Mr Deputy Speaker, the Olympic Games are to be held in 1980 and Australia has a lot of sportsmen. We have professional tennis players and amateurs in rowing, fencing, weightlifting, swimming and athletics. I looked in the dictionary for a definition of the word ‘amateur’. It stated that an ‘amateur’ is a lover of any art or science but not a professional. How will we compete against America and Russia. We have a lottery now in order to raise money to send our boys and girl, our athletes and other people to the Olympic Games. That is a . disgrace. Australia has a population of 14 million with 6 million in the work force, not counting the unemployed- I do not want to bring politics into this issue- and there are many pensioners. But we see that 63.6 per cent are sick, so this makes us a sick nation.
Let us look at ourselves as politicians. What do we do around the place? We do a bit of jogging, walking, bowling and we play tennis and ride push bikes. We start work at 8 o’clock in the morning and we finish at 1 1 or 12 o’clock in the night. As a minimum we work from 9 a.m. and we finish at 1 1 p.m. We should show that we are leaders. When the new Parliament House is built- I am pleased that our friends opposite are non-political on this matter- we must have some facilities to look after ourselves. As politicians we are not healthy people. A chap in Sydney named Les Gronow has looked after me; he is a bit of an athlete. We are living on pills because we do not want to do hard work. People would rather have a few pills that will make them fit for the future.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Recently Mr Justice Hutley, a respected judge of the New South Wales Court of Appeal, made a submission to the New South Wales Law Reform Commission on the standards of the legal profession. On this occasion I find myself in considerable disagreement with the learned judge. He starts off by stating:
The legal profession, and indeed all professions, are drawn from the better-off sections of the community, reinforced by the especially able children of the poor.
He then goes on to say that if one does not come from a good family background one is at a disadvantage in becoming a lawyer, because one has not learnt the traditions of learning and scholarship which, to a considerable degree, are transmitted by the family.
He then goes on to state that the profession should not be allowed to fall to the literacy level of its clients and that, in particular, if we are to admit into the profession Aborigines and migrants, there will be a need for an elaborate course of indoctrination of those persons before they will be properly able to put into practice the ethics of the profession. He complains about the flooding of the profession by persons who, without either professional family association or inadequate indoctrination, have acquired the often dangerous skills put in the hands of lawyers. I particularly take exception to a paragraph in the submission which reads:
The clan type of loyalty, which I understand is the basis of much Aboriginal and migrant morality, is fundamentally inconsistent with the individual integrity which is required of a lawyer.
I hope that members of the legal profession, at least, in this House will be mindful to send submissions to the Law Reform Commission to canvass the points raised by Mr Justice Hutley. Very simply, there are good and bad in all people. There are different standards in our community. Of course, we want the law to have persons who represent high standards in the community regardless of their background, family, race, colour or creed.
I really think that the learned judge does not hold his argument together logically in any case, because he says that at this stage the Aboriginals and migrants are largely unrepresented classes in the law. He then goes on to complain that the legal system is presently struggling ineffectually against the actual business morality of the day and against pressures for shoddy workmanship and avoidance of responsibility for production and the like, which apparently come from the trade unions.
He is saying that we do not have Aborigines and migrants in any great numbers in the law now and yet the law is struggling ineffectually against the evils of a type of morality in our society brought forth by some classes of big business and by some classes of trade unionists. So there is a logical inconsistency in what he is saying. If the problem is already with us, then it is with us not because of Aborigines and migrants but because of pre-existing difficulties in our society arising from improper behaviour among various people. It arises from the various prejudices that occur in our society.
The other thing which I think it is important to canvass is that we cannot go en masse condemning clan loyalty as such. What is wrong with loyalty to the family? Would we not have less divorce and less trouble in our community if many of the people in the community adopted some of the extended family type activities of migrants? What is wrong with wanting children to respect their parents, to have proper education and to wish standards to be high? What is wrong with working hard, which is what many migrants do? They band together. They work hard in a shop or business together. What is wrong with that type of loyalty to a group? I do not think it is in any way inconsistent with the integrity which the law requires. What is wrong with respect for the aged, looking after them and having a proper way of taking care of them?
In any case, what about the clan loyalties in our own community? There is great reluctance to deal with anybody who is a dobber. You cannot dob on your mates. We have our own clan loyalties. We have the Army. We have schools. We have lodges and other organisations. We only have to remember that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. There is a real clan attitude in our community which is not inconsistent with the application of proper individual integrity at the right time. I think an appropriate example is that of Congressman Diggs in America. He was a black congressman, recently convicted of fraud. The foreman of the jury was a black man. He stated: ‘It bothered me to vote a fellow black guilty but I had to do it becaue it was obvious’. That is a clear case of a man applying his conscience and doing what was necessary regardless of any prejudice one way or the other to a person on the ground of his race.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is good to hear so many bipartisan speeches during this debate. I hope I will get some sympathy for the latest development in the Aurukun situation which has come to my notice today. I propose to read briefly a letter from Mr A. C. Morris, the community adviser. Amongst other things he states:
In my present position of administering the Aurukun Community for the Queensland Department of Local Government, I request that you would make known the total injustice of the present situation.
Although given no official position, and described as a drop-out and a stirrer, I am expected to continue the administration of the Aurukun with the Church paying my salary. The Queensland Government have not as yet agreed to reimburse my salary to the Church for the period 1 July onwards and refuse to make any contribution to my future salary. A Shire Clerk will not be taking over residence at Aurukun until the new year.
The Queensland Government have said they will not reimburse the Church for any expenses of running Aurukun from 1 July to 30 September. The Queesland Health Department have also said they will not reimburse the salaries of the two nurses working here during the same period. That Department has as yet taken up no responsibility for operating the hospital.
While all this goes on, the Federal Government sit back and forget about Aurukun. The local community company, Aurukun Community Incorporated Pty Ltd, through which the DAA fund the community, has or is being starved for funds. The company has had to take up responsibilities previously handled by the Mission or Church administration. As the company has insufficient funds, employees in the garden and sawmill have been laid off and are applying for unemployment benefits.
The company has made a submission for further funding to the DAA (copy enclosed) but have as yet received not a single extra dollar above and beyond the allocation previously made for 1978-79. The previous allocation is made up of funds for a new air strip, housing, money for decentralised groups and the usual annual thirty-five thousand dollars for company administration. There is no allocation for Aboriginal wages.
When the Aurukun councillors visited Canberra last month and spoke with Mr Viner they came away convinced that the Federal Government would ensure that the company received sufficient funding to employ present staff, both Aboriginal and European.
Nothing has happened!
This community has lost all faith in the Federal Government to support them as promised in the early stages of the struggle. The community refused Queensland Government monies, demanding they should first see the lease which will cover their land. However, without Commonwealth support they have been starved into a position where they have no choice but to accept.
They have been promised council elections before the end of 1 978. However, this seems more and more remote.
In regard to mining, they have been placed in a worse position than previously with no provision for compensation, royalties or power to control mining on their traditional lands.
What a sad picture after the achievements that have been made in the Northern Territory. What a long way to go before these people will receive anything resembling justice from the white man.
Please help make Australia and your colleagues in Parliament aware of what is happening.
A submission for additional funds was attached to the letter. I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) who is at the table whether he would have any objection to the incorporation of that submission in Hansard.
The submission read as follows-
Submission for Application for additional funds for Aurukun Community Inc. for period 1st November 1978 to 3 1st June 1979 to enable the Company to take responsibility for areas previously funded through the Uniting Church Administration.
Comprises 1 acre planted to bananas. 1 acres planted to cassava. ‘h acres of new horticultural land now under development to be used to grow vegetables in the 1978-79. wet season.
Market for produce- local community store.
% of deficiency required for November 1978-June 1979-$ 15,350.
Equipped to maintain Company vehicles and boats, private vehicles and outboard motors.
B.P. Australia fuel agency.
Estimated Revenue based on 1 977-78-$25,000.
Deficiency-$ 18,000. % of Deficiency required for Nov. 1978-June 1979 $12,000.
Frames for extensions to houses in old village at $1,000 per house. (Provide funds are available from DAA to extend 4 homes- Uniting Church has agreed to provide funds for 2 such extensions at approximately $ 1 0,000 per extensions ) = $6,000.
Timber to repair Shire Housing: $5,000. Estimated Expenditure:
% of Deficiency required November 1978-June 1979 $7,333.32.
2/3 of Deficiency required Nov. 1978-June 1979-S9689
Grant to extend 4 old homes in village at $10,000 per house -$40,000.
Grant given to Aurukun Community Inc. from which loans will be allocated to original home owners to be repaid in regular weekly repayments.
A grant has also been made available by the Uniting Church for the extension of 2 homes in the old village.
A carpenter is available to begin work. The grant would employ one European carpenter and four Aboriginals trainee carpenters, plus provide for all materials and freight. The grant would also provide revenue to the sawmill enterprise (see above).
Revenue 1 0 weeks at $ 1 0 per week-$400
Total funds required maintain employment level in community-$32,888.64.
To employ building team additional- $39,600.
– I thank the House. This is a long and sorry story. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), whom I informed earlier this evening that I would be speaking on this matter, has not, I believe, abided by the undertakings that he has given to the Aboriginal people of Aurukun. He seems to have deserted completely this young man who is carrying on, with the church apparently his only hope or assurance of getting any income, and indeed, of employing any Aboriginals at all. The fact that most of them are on unemployment relief, I suggest, is a quite scandalous situation. The people of Aurukun want to know when council elections will be held and when they will see the lease. The Minister apparently told them at one stage that it would be by the end of the year. He has told me quite recently that he hopes it will be by next March. Yet the Minister for Local Government in Queensland said that he hopes it might be by next April. We do not know when there will be a lease or when there will be a local government. The Minister has answered a question of mine recently by saying that the Aborigines agreed to a six months trial of local government. The six months are almost up. There is no sign of it even beginning to work, let alone there being a six months trial.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) has answered two questions that I had on the Notice Paper concerning the Computer User Data Mechanism scheme. I feel that I should bring this matter to the attention of the House tonight. The Computer User Data Mechanism scheme was a network that was introduced into Australia to meet a demand by large government departments and business customers to transmit data between their own computers and remote terminals on sub-networks derived from common switching and transmission plant that was provided by Telecom Australia. In providing these facilities, CUDM, as it is known, appeared as a secure private network for each customer, or so the Minister said.
I think that it is probably worth our while going back in history to get the background of what this is all about. The first of five common user network operational centres was placed in service in Brisbane on 4 December 1972. CUDN- Common User Data Network- centres have been introduced in the other mainland capitals, the last centre, Perth, being placed in service as late as 25 August 1975 when the network became fully national. The point I am trying to raise tonight is that the plain facts of the situation are now that this network is operating in only two cities, Sydney and Melbourne. It is being used only by Trans-Australia Airways and the Department of Health in those two cities. The cost to the Australian taxpayer in 1972- in 1972 dollar terms- was $ 16.8m. It was an investment that was made following studies that were allegedly done by the old Department- admittedly before Telecom came into operation.
It is an amazing situation that $ 16.8m of taxpayers funds can be invested in this sort of network for virtually no use at all. It would seem that very shortly TAA will be dropping out of that network and will be using its own system completely. The departmental excuse apparently is that the development of mini computers and other technological changes have made CUDN virtually inefficient and inoperative. What an amazing situation that the Department is prepared to spend $ 16.8m in 1972 for two departments, a statutory body of the Commonwealth and a Public Service department, to take advantage of that network.
– A bureaucratic bungle.
– It is a complete bureaucratic bungle. When we go further than that and ask just what contribution TAA and the Department of Health are making to meet the cost of this, we cannot get an answer. We are told that the charges are worked out nationally and that it is not possible to get any identification of the cost to subscribers of the use of the facility on a State by State basis. Certainly since 1972 Telecom and Australia Post have been established as two separate statutory bodies, but the decision has been made; it has been a complete and utter waste of the taxpayers funds; and one can hope only that with the establishment of the bodies and, I would trust, a closer scrutiny by members of this House -
– It would not happen in private enterprise.
– It certainly would not happen in private enterprise. We can hope only that we will not get this sort of situation happening again where $ 16.8m of taxpayers funds have gone virtually down the drain or down the tubes. I believe that it is a scandal that needs our further investigation. It is one for which all members of the Department and of this House must watch. In the days of developing technology we must watch and make sure that this situation does not happen again.
-The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) has misled the Australian public and his own Cabinet colleagues over the Government’s declared policy of a net target of 70,000 settlers this year. This target does not represent any increase over last year’s net intake, according to the Minister. Let us look more closely at the claim. On 7 June the Minister stated that for 1977-78 ‘a gross intake of around 77,000 is expected to yield a net immigration of about 70,000’. He then went on to say that ‘a gross intake of 90,000’, which is the Government’s target for next year, ‘will produce a net gain of 70,000 in 1978-79.’ Such a result met the requirements of a Cabinet decision that net migration should not increase over the next three years. The Minister has manipulated the figures for the last year to create the illusion that net immigration was 70,000 persons when in fact it fell well below this level. This is clearly illustrated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for permanent departures.
Between July 1977 and February 1978 total permanent departures were some 14,262 persons, more than 6,000 persons above the Minister’s estimate of settler loss for the total year. It is clear that the net gain from a gross intake of 77,000 would be about 55,000 persons if departures for the remaining four months of 1977-78 continue at the rate for the first eight months. The Minister tried to explain away this discrepancy by saying in the House last week: . . . the 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 those acquiring change of status in Australia.
This is a clear departure from previous methods of calculating settler loss or net settler gain. By doing this the Minister has been able to manipulate the figures to create the illusion that he was not increasing the immigration intake. In fact the Government has increased its net immigration target by over 25 per cent at a time of still increasing unemployment. If the Cabinet decision and the Government’s claims were to be implemented, the target gross settler intake for 1978-79 would have been set at around 70,000 and not 90,000 persons. By including in the net immigration figures people already in Australia who were granted a change of status, the Minister seems to be saying that last year some 10,000 to 15,000 visitors were permitted to become permanent residents. Such action would make a mockery of the Government’s selected immigration program. Further, such changes in status by visitors have supposedly been actively discouraged by the Government. On 7 June the Minister condemned the use of visitor entry to circumvent the immigration program and claimed to be tightening up on such activity.
If this new policy is as successful as the one that the Government followed last year we can expect our net immigration intake to be around 85,000 persons, which is a significant increase on the stated target of 70,000 new settlers as permanent Australian residents. The Minister, in answer to a question from one of his own colleagues with regard to my Press statement relating to the entry of Rhodesians into this country, claimed that I had distorted the situation. He claimed that people from Rhodesia are eligible to apply for migrant entry into Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. tomorrow.
The following notice was given: Mr Groom to move-
That legislation committees have power to meet during the sitting of the House on Wednesday, 25 October 1978.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2), (3) and (4). At the Ministerial meeting of the OECD Council in November 1974, Australia did not seek to oppose the establishment of the International Energy Agency within the framework of the OECD, but advised that Australia would not become a member at that time. The Government has the question of membership of the IEA currently under review.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 7 March 1 978: were circulated:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
At the Ministerial meeting of the OECD Council in November 1974, Australia did not seek to oppose the establishment of the International Energy Agency within the framework of the OECD, but advised that Australia would not become a member at that time. The Government has the question of membership of the IEA currently under review.
The International Energy Agency is an autonomous body established in November 1974 within the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Nineteen of the OECD’s twenty-four Member countries participate in the IEA, and the Commission of the European Communities takes part by special arrangement.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Progressive reductions in the price of leased lines as a result of improved technology in the trunk network, and rapid development in mini computers, have been the principal factors in the limited life of CUDN. Both TAA and the Department of Health will operate their own computer systems using Telecom leased lines.
The current move to decentralise mail handling in NSW forms part of a national plan aimed at phasing out large Central Mail Exchanges and replacing them with several smaller facilities which are: more appropriately located to provide a speedy and reliable mail service; capable of ready adaptation to meet changing community needs in the mail service over the next decade and beyond and considered to offer potential for improvement of working conditions and management/staff relationships.
Significant progress on the decentralisation plan has already been made in Victoria and the results there confirm that mail handling in decentralised facilities is more effective and efficient than was the case when most of the State’s mail was processed through the large Central Mail Exchange. It is expected that similar results will be achieved in NSW as the program for decentralisation proceeds.
The letter handling equipment currently used at the Sydney Central Mail Exchange handles approximately 1.4 million letters each working day. Problems when the equipment was first installed did result in the damage and destruction of some mail. These problems, however, were overcome many years ago, and instances of delays to or destruction of letters by this equipment are now extremely rare. Most of the significant mail delays in NSW have been caused by industrial problems. It is expected that the smaller centres proposed will lead to an improvement in this respect also.
Telecom is also simulating the common overseas practice of centralised control of maintenance activities in its approach to the maintenance of its ARE II installations at Elsternwick, Victoria and Salisbury, SA, and this experience has indicated the practicability of the centralised maintenance approach.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 10 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following members and senators are members of the Government (Backbenchers’) Treasury Committee: J. M. Bradfield, M. E. Sainsbury, M. E. Baume, K. J. Aldred, R. A. Braithwaite, M. H. Bungey, Hon K. M. Cairns, Hon J. D. M. Dobie, Dr H. R. Edwards, G. O. H. Giles, J. M. Hyde, A. W. Jarman, S. A. Lusher, R. M. McLean, Rt Hon Sir William McMahon, Senator A. J. Messner, J. C. Moore, J. R. Porter, J. R. Short.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 26 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1976-48; 1977-34; 1978- NU.
Definition: ‘leave period means duration of paid leave’.
Note- All references to ‘maternity leave’ mean the mandatory period of paid leave under the Maternity Leave (Australian Government Employees) Act 1 973.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 29 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The appointment of the Director was also proclaimed to be effective on 3 October 1977.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 October 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19781024_reps_31_hor111/>.