31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The 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 Sir William McMahon, Mr Bradfield and Mr Stewart.
Broadcasting: Radio 3CR Melbourne
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That Radio 3CR Melbourne, be made to adhere to the required standards of broadcasting, as laid down for all other radio stations.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government will enforce the required standard of broadcasting as laid down for all other stations, on community Radio 3CR call on Federal Government to legislate against incitement to racial hatred and violence.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred and Mr Macphee.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That as parents of children in government schools we maintain that it is the responsibility of governments to provide and maintain a public system of education of the highest standard open to all.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the members of this House assembled ensure that the Commonwealth Government maintain a broadly representative Australian Schools Commission to determine; - National priorities in education - Strategies and allocation of funds to ensure equality of educational opportunity for all children - allocation of funds for the continued improvement of public systems of education through General Recurrent and Capital Grants to Government school systems and Special Purpose Programs.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield.
To the Honourble the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Item 6469 of the standard Medical Benefits Table is the means by which payment is made for the slaughter of thousands of unborn babies every year.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should ensure that Item 6469 is removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield.
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 N. A. Brown.
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:
This was the longest successful small scale raid in the history of War.
It would be a disgrace to the fine spirit of these heroes if we thought of saving their lives. ‘
Major Kamiya the prosecutor at the Japanese Court Martial who made the above comment went on to say, inter alia-
These heroes must have left Australia with sublime patriotism flowing in their breasts and with the confident expectation of all the Australian people on their shoulders.
As we respect them, so we feel our duty of glorifying their last moments as they deserve, and by doing so the names of these heroes will remain in the hearts of the British and Australian people for evermore.’
A specially commissioned March called ‘The Forgotten Heroes’ was played for the first time by the Band of the New South Wales Police Force.
Your Petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to approve the conferring of the medal on the men of ‘Jaywick’ and Rimau’ on behalf of the people of Australia to honor the memory of these gallant men so that future generations of Britain and Australia will know and admire what these men did and their memory will remain in the hearts of the British and Australian people for evermore.
And you petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrEllicott.
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 the rises in the CPI as promised by the Prime Minister in his 1975 policy speech.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the undersigned are deeply concerned that:
It appears, from reports in the Australian Press, that Jacob Prai and Otto Ondowame, refugees from West Irian who are now imprisoned in Papua New Guinea, may seek political asylum in Australia. It is clear that if asylum is not granted, their lives are in serious danger.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That, in the interests of human rights, the Australian Government immediately grant this asylum if it is sought.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble Petition of We the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth-
That because this Budget will further increase the number of persons unemployed, because it reduces the average worker ‘s spending power by $ 1 0 per week, because it will reduce the incomes of pensioners, because it is unfair in placing a greater burden on the poor rather than the rich, and because it is driving this country into a depression.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that.
The Federal Government withdraws this Budget and provides Australia, within this Session of Parliament, with a revised Budget that increases the level of economic activity in Australia, lowers unemployment, removes the burdens placed on the disadvantaged, and revives business and consumer confidence in the future of this potentially geat country.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Giles.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the city of Nunawading in the electorate of Deakin respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia per medium of the Minister for Social Security give all directions to ensure that necessary action be taken without delay.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
This humble petition of undersigned Christian citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byDr Jenkins.
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- we object most strongly to the gradual increase of air traffic over our area during the past two years and we are horrified at the suggestion that we should be obliged to suffer more and heavier noise pollution as a result of the extension of Kingsford-Smith Airport. If a strong case can be argued for increased airport facilities for Sydney, then every signature here is a vote against that increase being any extension of Kingsford-Smith.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that there be no extension of Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled-
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That 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 as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) left Australia this morning for China to have discussions over a wide range of trade matters and to attend Australia’s national day at the Peking Foreign Agricultural Machinery Exhibition. He is expected to return on 5 November and, during his absence, the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) will act as Minister for Trade and Resources. I might add that the mission overseas by the Deputy Prime Minister, accompanied by a significant trade party, is one of the more significant trade missions ever to leave Australia.
– Has the Prime Minister seen remarks by the Western Australian Premier, Sir Charles Court, that the policy announcement on export controls by the Minister for Trade and Resources yesterday breached an undertaking between the Western Australian Government and the Federal Government? I ask the Prime Minister specifically: Did such an undertaking exist? If so, has the Commonwealth breached this undertaking? Is the Prime Minister in favour of the policy approach enunciated by the Minister for Trade and Resources yesterday?
-At an earlier time in discussions with the Premier of Western Australia I indicated that there would be, and I believe there should be, discussions between Sir Charles, myself and respective Ministers. That matter was raised when there had been suggestions of the establishment of an export authority in relation to the control of a significant part of Australia’s exports. As honourable gentlemen will know, that matter certainly was not pursued by the Government and, therefore, to an extent the circumstances were altered. I do believe when there are significant elements in changes of policy that there is a necessity for that policy to be undertaken and pursued through consultation, especially when other parties are involved. My colleague, the Minister for Trade and Resources, has of course had very extensive discussions with a significant section of the Australian exporting industry in relation to the statement that he made yesterday. I am advised that a significant section of that industry believes that Australia’s negotiating arm should be strengthened by modifications and by a tightening of policy in situations where Australia often meets a completely unified purchaser, where there might be a number of Australian companies selling in the market and competing against each other. In this particular circumstance there is sense and purpose in giving strength to the arm of Australian negotiators.
I see no similarity whatsoever in the policy announced by my colleague and the policy formerly pursued by the previous Administration in a dictatorial and arbitrary fashion without consultation. I have already arranged for the Minister for Special Trade Representations and for other people to have full discussions with Sir Charles Court in relation to this matter. The same offer obviously applies in relation to other Premiers, if there is a wish for consultation in relation to this matter. This is an important matter for Australia. Obviously it is a very important matter for Western Australia which is such a significant mineral State and one which has pioneered many developments in this field and which will, I am sure, continue to do so under the policies of co-operation of this Government and that State Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Is the Minister aware of a statement in this morning’s Press attributed to the Victorian Minister for Youth, Sport and Recreation, Mr Dixon, to the effect that the Commonwealth appropriation for sport is inadequate? Does the Minister agree with that statement? If so, does the Minister have any plans with regard to the future funding of sport?
-I thank the honourable member for Wilmot for his question. Yes, I did notice the report in this morning’s Press of a letter which Mr Dixon apparently has written to me on this subject of our involvement in sport. With respect to Mr Dixon, I must say that I do not think he has given due credit to this Government for its sports development program which was a new initiative commenced last financial year. I think it is worth noting that no similar sports development program was established by the previous Labor Government. The allocation for sports development in this financial year is $ 1.33m. It is worth noting that that is a 33’/4 per cent increase on the allocation of last year. Under this program at the present time we are assisting more than 70 sporting associations around Australia. We are assisting with international competition, with various coaching programs and are employing a number of administrators of various sports. In fact at present there are 14 full time directors of sports around Australia who are funded by this sports development program. As a matter of interest, on 23 and 24 November we will be bringing these people together in Canberra for a seminar at which they will look at the problems faced by various sports. I am sure that that seminar will assist them to develop their sports.
In some quarters there seems to be a trend towards absolute and total reliance upon the Government for financing sports. I do not think that that is necessarily a very healthy trend. Initiative has to be displayed by the sports themselves in managing their own affairs and in raising their funds. There is no doubt that governments have a key role to play and there is no doubt that money is important. I do not disregard that. But the sports themselves, through their administrators and their supporters, have a role to play and the State governments themselves have a role to play in this funding issue. The sports development program is only one of a number of ways in which we are helping sport and recreation around Australia. We are helping through the ‘Life. Be in it’ program; $600,000 is being made available under that program. Also, $2.5m is being paid to the Queensland Government this financial year to assist it in completing its facilities for the 1982 Commonwealth Games. As well as that, $340,000 is being made available for life saving. I think the House should note that as a Federal Minister I am now spending more money in dollar terms on sports development than has any previous Minister in any previous government.
-That is right. If the honourable member checks the facts he will see that it is right; it is not nonsense. There is one way in which the Commonwealth and the States can join together to give a very real boost to sport in Australia, and that would be through a jointly conducted national sports lottery, if this could be arranged between the various governments. I think this suggestion has a great deal of merit. I know that Mr Dixon is not terribly enthusiastic about this idea.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. I draw your attention to the length of time the Minister is taking to reply to the question. He has been speaking now for six minutes.
-There is no substance in the point of order. I ask the Minister to draw his answer to a conclusion.
– As I was saying, Mr Dixon apparently is not very enthusiastic about this idea of a sports lottery, which I think has a lot of merit. If he is concerned for sport, as I have no doubt he is, I think he should reconsider his attitude to this proposal which would be, I think, a way of providing Australian sport with the financial backing that it needs to rise again to the top in international sporting competitions. Sport is important to Australians and the Government recognises that. We are already doing a great deal.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. How much longer are you going to tolerate Dorothy Dix questions and long winded, drawn out, prepared replies by Ministers?
-There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– Why cannot the Ministers make statements which can be debated by the shadow Ministers on this side of the House? Let us get the facts.
-Under the Standing Orders I have no authority to require a Minister to end his answer. That may be a shortfall in the Standing
Orders. Nevertheless, I must interpret the Standing Orders as they are. I ask the Minister to draw his answer to a conclusion.
– I conclude by saying briefly . that I hope that in some way the States can cooperate with the Federal Government in considering this issue of a sports lottery. As I say, it would be one way of overcoming some of the current problems faced by sport in this country.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. I draw his attention to matters published in the Bulletin today which relate to questions I have asked him previously concerning an official investigation of allegations of financial impropriety involving the Minister for Primary Industry. Does the Prime Minister recall the Minister for Primary Industry telling this House last week that no new matters had been raised concerning his financial affairs?
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. When an accusation, implied or indirect, is made against a Minister of the Crown is it not necessary that the matter be put down in a substantive motion without delay?
-There is no substance in the point of order.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. My point of order is that the Prime Minister does not have any ministerial responsibility for the private financial affairs of the Minister for Primary Industry.
-There is no point of order. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– They split the profits 50-50.
– I ask the Prime Minister -
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I heard a most offensive, unparliamentary remark come from my left. I was unable to identify the voice, but I think that the person who said it ought to be ashamed to make such a scurrilous accusation. If I did know who it was, I would immediately insist on the remark being withdrawn. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– I again ask the Prime Minister: Does the Prime Minister recall the Minister for Primary Industry telling this House last week that no new matters had been raised -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I would like to question your ruling and ask you for an answer to the question raised by the honourable member for Hume which, I believe, is in accordance with the Standing Orders whereby matters related to private affairs of members or Ministers have nothing to do with their portfolio nor do they have anything to do with the Prime Minister having to be responsible for them in this House.
-I have given my ruling; there is no point of order. I think that if the time ever arose when the private conduct of a Minister was not a concern of the Prime Minister, then the Parliament would indeed be in a curious position. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
-Mr Speaker, I try again. I ask the Prime Minister: Does the Prime Minister recall the Minister for Primary Industry telling this House last week that no new matters had been raised concerning his financial affairs and those of family companies in which he and his late father were major directors? Is the Prime Minister aware that today’s disclosures make it clear that the matters currently under investigation involve sums of at least $164,000 gained by the Minister or by his family company over a 1 2-month period and that most of this money -
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
– There is no heroin involved.
– What is now included in the honourable gentleman’s question -
– There is no heroin involved.
-The honourable member for Hunter will remain silent. What is involved in the honourable gentleman’s question does involve an attack on the character of the Minister and would need to be pursued by way of substantive motion, not as a question.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. It is not my intention to canvass the issue one way or the other but to raise the standards or the requirements that the Prime Minister should apply in this sort of situation and to relate those to the standards which he has enunciated firmly and frequently and which he has applied on at least three occasions in the past. To raise that point it is necessary to make these observations to the Prime Minister.
-I interrupt the honourable gentleman. I am not prepared to allow allegations of that kind to be used as part of a question merely to identify what the honourable gentleman is speaking of. If he wishes to put his question, he must put it in order. As at present it is out of order.
-Mr Speaker, let me reframe the question. I ask the Prime Minister: In view of the very serious allegations contained or implied in an article in the Bulletin this morning affecting the credibility and standing of the Minister for Primary Industry, does the Prime Minister still believe that the Minister should not be required to stand down from his official duties pending the outcome of these official investigations?
- Mr Speaker, I think that the honourable gentleman needs reminding of what I said yesterday in relation to this matter. My colleague became executor to an estate and as executor to the estate he soon came to understand that certain matters needed examination, that certain matters needed -
- Mr Speaker- I take a point of order.
-The Prime Minister will resume his seat.
-Mr Speaker, this is Question Time and the Leader of the Opposition now takes points of order which, I suggest, every person in this House knows are frivolous and designed to interrupt answers. I believe, Mr Speaker, that the time has come when frivolous points of order to which there is no substance should cease within this Parliament.
- Mr Speaker, my point of order is that apart from the fact that I did not bleep when the organised interjections took place -
-Order! The honourable gentlemen will make his point of order.
- Mr Speaker, the point of order I raise is very simply this- incidentally, it is part of the reason why I sought to give some evidence to substantiate the justification of my question -
-The honourable gentlemen will make his point of order.
– My question referred to incidents which occurred after the death of the father of the Minister for Primary Industry. The Prime Minister is seeking to relate his answers to incidents which occurred before that death.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
– I must raise with you -
-There is no point of order -
– … the matter of the Prime Minister’s behaviour. He is seeking to evade a very important responsibility -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– in relation to the conduct of his Ministers -
-There is no point of order. The Leader of the Opposition asked a question. The Prime Minister is entitled to answer it provided the answer is relevant. What the Prime Minister has so far said is relevant.
– I think what the honourable gentleman has done is a classic example of what I had in mind. He knows perfectly well there was no point of order but seeks through that device and through your generosity, Mr Speaker, if I may say so, to add to his question points of fact which he would seek to spread throughout the airwaves without any evidence whatsoever to support them, and to spread allegations against a colleague. I believe he only does himself discredit in continuing to act in that particular way. One of the remarkable questions to be asked about this case is: How did that particular letter from Mr Finnane come to be published? How did that come to be available to the Leader of the Opposition or other people, whoever had it? I think that says something about the nature of this prosecution and something about the purpose of this prosecution. It needs to be understood that, when my colleague became executor to an estate, matters were referred to the Taxation Office and at the same time matters were referred to the Corporate Affairs Commissioner of New South Wales because my colleague understood that there were certain matters which had to be put right. Now, in the course of that, there has been a great deal of scuttlebutt moving around -
– A point of order!
-Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. I will hear the point of order.
– On your own instructions to the House, answers have to be relevant. The Prime Minister is referring to a totally different matter to that covered in the Bulletin this morning. The Bulletin article refers to circumstances which arose after the death and, therefore, have no relationship to the estate of the late father of the Minister for Primary Industry.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that, if he consults the Standing Orders, as I suggest he does, he will find that basing a question on a newspaper article is out of order. I permitted him leniency to allow him to base the question on the Bulletin article; that was for the purpose of identification. The answer so far given is relevant. I ask the honourable gentleman not to persist with the point of order.
-We know quite well the scuttlebutt that was running around this building over the last several weeks which indicated that the letter from Mr Finnane was of a certain character requiring certain things of the Minister. Then it appears that the letter is not of that character because Mr Finnane finds, even in his position, that it is necessary to issue a denial contradicting the allegations- contradicting the scuttlebutt. He also said that a report would not be available from Mr Walker, a New South Wales Labor Minister, until February. I believe the honourable gentleman still knows and understands that my colleague has indicated that when matters have been fully pursued a statement will be made to this House in relation to these affairs. I would have believed that honourable gentlemen would understand that my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, since he became executor of this estate, as I am advised, has done everything he can to put the matter right. The matter should await the results of those reports; it should await my colleague’s statement. The honourable gentleman should not seek to pre-judge it. I am certainly not going to do that. I believe my colleague has taken the action necessary to put whatever matters that were outstanding in relation to that estate in a correct form.
– Did the Minister for Defence note at Question Time yesterday how upset the Leader of the Opposition appeared when he asked the Prime Minister about a dinner given by some 40 Government back benchers in honour of the South African Ambassador in a private dining room in Parliament House? Is the Minister aware of other reports that he dropped in to pay his respects to the Ambassador? Is it his practice to be normally courteous to ambassadors with whose countries we have diplomatic relations?
– I would like to think in a moment of modesty that I seek to be courteous to everyone. I will not long detain the House because the Prime Minister put this into proper perspective yesterday. Yes, I did drop in. I had a drink with His Excellency the South African Ambassador. I have been known to be in the residence of His Excellency the Russian Ambassador. I have lunched with the Chinese Ambassador. I am bound to say that if people were to try to extrapolate my political sentiment from my dining companions they would be immensely puzzled because I have even been known to dine with the Leader of the Opposition.
To take it a little further, I have even sungunder appropriate circumstances- the Internationale with the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I think the country is in high danger of losing a sense of perspective and a sense of humour. I do not know who advised my honourable friend to ask the question yesterday but all I say to him is this: If he belonged to me I would give him one right up the bracket.
– To continue the humorous atmosphere created in the House by the Minister for Defence, I direct an artistic question to the Prime Minister. Is Sir John Kerr now hanging in the Prime Minister’s office? Is it the Prime Minister’s intention to dispose of Sir John Kerr quickly or does the Prime Minister intend to move him from wall to wall in various places of the Parliament without a permanent resting place?
-There is a painting about which a number of those on the Historic Memorials Committee who judge these things have spoken or written to me. At the moment I think I am one of the few members of the Committee who has not expressed a view on that painting. When I have received a view from all other members of the Committee- because I would hate to influence any of the other members of the Committee- I will give my own view of the matter. Then the fate of the painting will be finally determined. At the moment, it is in the ante-room to my office. It could go to many other places. Mr Speaker, I think you have expressed a view but you might not want to be in the vanguard of being known to have a certain view of this painting. Therefore, I think that when the decision of the Committee, which makes judgments on these matters, is finally made there probably should be a corporate decision in relation to it. But it may well be that the fate of this painting will be open to various suggestions and if my colleague, the honourable member for Hunter, has some views in relation to it, I would welcome listening to them.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his statement made in this House on 30 May announcing that the Government would implement the plan of action recommended by the Galbally inquiry into post-arrival services for migrants. I further refer the right honourable gentleman to the statement by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech that some $6. 5m would be provided for such programs and services this year. Can the Prime Minister advise the House on the action which the Government has taken to implement the recommendations of this report?
-The general supervision of the recommendations of the Galbally inquiry is under my colleague, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I think the honourable gentleman will understand that certain specific aspects of the recommendations fall within the portfolio responsibilities of other Ministers, for example the Minister for Education. But the program recommended by Mr Frank Galbally is being pursued by the Government and a number of matters are well set in train. Additional grants to ethnic organisations have been announced by my colleague, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. In recent times, special administrative machinery has been established under the Minister to make sure that the program is implemented smoothly and that there is appropriate and proper feedback from ethnic communities so that their views and judgments of the efficacy of the program can be made as time passes.
A special task force headed on a full-time basis by a deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is working on the implementation of the various recommendations and, most importantly, it is keeping in contact with ethnic communities in different parts of Australia. The fact that such a senior public servant is in charge of this task force, working at it full-time, indicates the seriousness with which the Government regards this whole matter. In addition, Mr Frank Galbally has undertaken to act as advisor to the task force to widen the links in communication between the Government, Government departments and ethnic communities on these matters. I believe that these initiatives are well worthwhile. Certainly, on the information available to me, the programs are much appreciated. A number of ethnic communities believe that for the first time they are being given the importance and attention which a government concerned about post-arrival services for migrants should have given many years ago.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the companies with which the Minister for Primary Industry is associated were permitted a tax deduction for losses incurred in circumstances which have given rise to a full investigation by the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission? What was the extent of the deductions allowed? Was there any direct negotiation between the companies and the Taxation Office regarding the eligibility of the companies in these circumstances? Who participated in the negotiations on behalf of these companies?
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide ought to know that in the discharge of my ministerial responsibilities as Treasurer I am expressly precluded from access to the particular affairs of individual taxpayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Will the Minister take the opportunity provided by the announcement by Telecom Australia of a record profit to use whatever influence he may have with Telecom to bring forward the restructuring of the Telecom charging and zoning system to the earliest possible time?
– As the honourable member will know, the profits of Telecom Australia are quite essential for the improvement and extension of Telecom’s services throughout Australia. I am delighted to be able to say to the House that the reduction in long distance and subscriber trunk dialling rates, which were announced to apply from November but which were threatened by the recent industrial action as a result of which Telecom lost $20m, will go ahead. Those reductions to apply from late November will be worth about $30m annually to the Australian people. At the same time Telecom is examining the question of access to service or community centres on a local call basis with a view to providing the best possible local call access for all people throughout Australia. This is an important study and is one which is being undertaken urgently by Telecom. I will emphasise the remarks made by the honourable member for Hume. It will take some months to complete that study but, nevertheless, the urgency is emphasised.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is the Government’s expressed intention to make broadcasters directly accountable to the public through open licence renewal hearings being properly fulfilled at the current Australian Broadcasting Tribunal television hearings in Adelaide? Does the Tribunal’s refusal to make public the costs of certain children’s television programs prejudice the public’s ability to assess whether the channel concerned is doing all it could and should in the case of children’s television?
– The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal is an independent statutory authority and is charged under the Broadcasting and Television Act with the responsibility to conduct public hearings into licence grants and renewal applications.Under the Act the conduct of public hearings is entirely a matter for the Tribunal. The Minister has no power to intervene in or to direct the Tribunal as to the conduct of a public hearing. I certainly would not wish to comment on any matter which is presently the subject of an inquiry by the Tribunal.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Government has maintained that its economic policies will bring about a revival of employment opportunities by making Australian industry more competitive? Does he have any evidence to indicate that these policies are working?
-A number of Australian industries are now getting back into export markets, often with labour intensive products, because of the expertise and skill of Australian production. This certainly is pleasing to see. It is possible only because of a stable cost basis in Australia which has been established as a result of the Australian Government’s policies. Whether the exports are colour television sets being sold to Hong Kong, fishing vessels designed and built in Australia being sold to half a dozen countries around the world or a number of other products, it is a good change and one that augurs well for the future.
It is particularly pleasing to note that one of the major motor vehicle manufacturers in Australia will be launching a new model either today or tomorrow- at least very shortly. One would hope that the launching of that model and the launching of a new model by a major competitor in the early part of next year will provide a further boost for the motor industry which has been assisted by the Budget and by the policies directed towards economic stability. I think it is worth noting that, in 1973, 50,000 to 60,000 units were exported, but that that figure fell significantly as a result of inflation in Australia and as a result of wage increases which made Australian production non-competitive. It is worth noting also that General Motors-Holden ‘s Ltd now is looking to export orders again. It believes that its vehicles are competitive and competitively priced. That is something which should be pleasing to all honourable members of this House.
I am advised that employment at General Motors-Holden’s Ltd has increased by nearly 1,400 from the beginning of this year to the middle of October, and the fact that well over 600 have been employed since the presentation of the Budget is an obvious indication that the company has been assisted by Budget policies. Also, it is projected that over 500 additional employees will be required in the forthcoming months, probably by March or April of next year. That is an example of a major Australian manufacturer looking forward to the future with confidence, providing greater employment and introducing a new model. Honourable gentlemen will be able to make their own judgment about that, but I had the pleasure of driving two of the vehicles last Sunday. It is good to see that the company is looking forward to getting back with vigour into the export market with a product which I hope all of us would believe and understand to be of world standard, well finished by Australian workmen and able to compete and to gain a larger share of our own market and of the export market.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his statements about the development of a Common Fund and in particular to his statement at the Association of South East Asian Nations Trade Fair that two senior officials had just concluded talks on the subject with United States officials. I also draw the right honourable gentleman’s attention to the comments of his Minister for Finance at the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting in Montreal last month to the effect that direct government subscription should not constitute the major part of finance for the Fund. Does this not conflict with the view of a number of Third World countries that direct government financing should be the principal source of funds because they could not bear the burden of repaying loans with interest? Would the right honourable gentleman tell the House what instructions were issued to the two Australian officials and what was the United States response?
– It was not a question of instructions being issued to our own officials; it was a question of their briefing the United States Administration on Australian Government thinking and work in relation to the Common Fund and working alongside United States officials on this matter. There is a hope and an objective that both countries can work towards the achievement of a Common Fund in a reasonable and practical way which will greatly assist marketing possibilities and commodity stability for the developing Third World countries. We know quite well that 18 months ago the developed countries on the one hand and the developing countries on the other were very far apart on the matter of the Common Fund. As a result of that Australia decided to adopt its own independent position in relation to the Fund. We did not earn immediate favour with all the other developed countries in the process, but we believed that there had to be some movement to try to get agreement and that it was not going to be good enough for every country, whichever side of the fence it was on, to say that somebody else had to move first. So Australia adopted altered policies and they were discussed at a meeting of Ministers from the Commonwealth and, I think, won a wide degree of acceptance. Our view has gained very considerable support.
I have had a number of discussions with Prime Minister Manley in relation to this matter and I have no doubt that this is one of the matters that will be high on the agenda for the meeting that he has called at a time when most members would sooner be at home with their familiesbetween Christmas and New Year. That is a meeting between developed and developing countries designed to further the discussion and the debate and to make real progress on economic problems between the developed and the developing world.
I hope that as a result of changes in attitude expressed to us by the United States common approaches can be developed. I also hope that other major industrial countries will come to move their positions. Indeed, the indications to us are that the United Kingdom and France well recognise the need and the merit of the Common Fund, as does Japan, and I believe that there will be an increasing measure of support for the general view that has been expressed by Australia.
I think that it is too early to say what proportion of the funds should come from direct government subscriptions or from the separate international commodity agreements. That is obviously a matter of detail. It will obviously be negotiable. There will presumably be some who believe that the funds for the Common Fund, government subscriptions, should be direct grants. Others would believe that they should be loans. These are matters that might well take some discussion. If the discussions are entered into with good will I believe that there are a number of commodities in regard to which a common fund related to international commodity agreements will be able to bring a greater degree of stability and predictability to developing countries so that their own economic progress can flow forward with less difficulty than has been the case in the past. I also hope that it will help to prevent the continuous deterioration in terms of trade that has been experienced by a number of developing countries. These are very serious matters on which the standards of life and well being of a very large part of the world depend. I hope that the general policies that the Government has pursued in this matter have the bipartisan support of the Parliament.
-Can the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs advise the House of the results of a meeting held between himself and the Australian Association for the Mentally Retarded Incorporated? Have any decisions been made as a result of that meeting regarding the employment of handicapped people in the Australian Public Service?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for showing his interest in this subject, as has his colleague Senator John Knight. Senator Knight introduced Mr McGuire of the Australian Association for the Mentally Retarded Incorporated to me as a prelude to the annual conference of that Association. I was able to tell Mr McGuire of the Government’s real concern to see that avenues were open for mentally and physically handicapped people to have more opportunity for employment in the Australian Public Service. I might indicate to the House some of the things that are already being done in this regard.
The Public Service Board has nominated in each State or Territory a member of its regional office staff to be a special placement officer, obviously to assist prospective employees to find an appropriate kind of employment to meet their handicapped situation. Where an aptitude test is part of the selection procedure for a job the special placement officer is able to arrange special testing of handicapped applicants, where that is necessary. An example of this being done is in relation to the blind where some audio tests have been prepared to aid the selection.
A pilot work experience project was conducted by the Board in 1977 in which 12 handicapped school leavers, including eight who were mildly mentally retarded worked in departments for two days per week and on the remaining days attended school. As the House will be aware, medical standards are a matter of concern to handicapped people. Medical standards for permanent appointment have been modified to facilitate the employment of those persons who may be handicapped but who otherwise would be satisfactory for particular kinds of work. The Public Service Board has also collaborated with other departments in preparing a new code of practices for office accommodation. This would affect both the physically and mentally handicapped.
Finally, I inform the honourable gentleman that the Board is reviewing its selection process and is considering further changes which may be required to ensure that handicapped applicants are given every opportunity of obtaining employment within the Australian Public Service. The honourable member for Canberra and his colleague, Senator Knight, can be well satisfied that the Government takes this area of employment very seriously and is acting upon the representations made to me by the Australian Association for the Mentally Retarded Incorporated.
– I ask the Prime Minister to recall the letter of resignation written to him by the then Minister for Post and Telecommunications in February 1 976. Is it a fact that the then Minister for Post and Telecommunications resigned from the Ministry because, as he said, it would not be proper to act as a Minister while serious allegations against him concerning electoral bribery were under official investigation? Did the Prime Minister state in his letter accepting the Minister’s resignation that he did so because the allegations were to be officially investigated? Why does the Prime Minister now not adopt the same standards in reconsidering my repeated requests to him, the first of which was on 24 May of this year, that he should require the Minister for Primary Industry to resign or stand down as a Minister pending official investigation of those very serious allegations concerning the Minister’s conduct and propriety?
-To the extent that there is an investigation, it was not initiated by my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry. It is an investigation that has been initiated by a Labor Government in New South Wales. In this instance, it seems to have very close links with the Leader of the Opposition’s office and that must put a grave cloud over the results of this investigation when they do come out.
- Mr Speaker -
– The Leader of the Opposition is seeking the call. I do not propose to give him the call. It is my practice to give the call to an honourable member on the opposite side of the House from which the preceding question was asked.
-Can the Prime Minister give any information to the House about the present state of the rural economy in Australia? Is the rural economy assisting the overall economic situation?
– Honourable members will be interested to know that the latest issue of the publication Trends published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics this week contains revised forecasts for the rural economy in the current financial year. Coupled with a good season, these revised forecasts indicate the best prospects for the rural economy perhaps for 1 5 years. That is something which ought to be applauded after the years which farmers in all parts of Australia have been through. The forecasts are certainly more optimistic than those made earlier this year. This is shown by higher meat and wool prices, a larger grain crop, and the fact that the gross value of wheat production in 1978-79 is now expected to be up 60 per cent on last season. The gross value of rural production itself is estimated to be upwards of $350m more than was earlier forecast. This is good news and reflects a vastly improved position across a wide range of rural industries. As a consequence, average income per farm is expected to rise by 40 per cent. The previous estimate had been for an increase of 22 per cent.
In case some honourable members think that that obviously means the farmers are all going to be in the wealthy bracket in Australia, I should add that the increase has been from a low level. The increase is sorely needed so that deferred maintenance can be undertaken and improvements pursued in a proper and realistic way. Because inflation is now lower than it has been for many years the real income per farm is likely to increase, as a result of these changes, by about 32 per cent. The Bureau expects a significant increase in spending on farm equipment and supplies, reversing the previous rundown. Obviously that will flow through into country towns and to industries right around Australia. It is a good thing not only for farmers but also for the whole of the Australian economy. Again, it is something that I believe ought to be applauded.
Even though the price prospect for the rural industries are very much better as these figures indicate, the farmers would not have retained that benefit had it not been for the Government’s policies which were designed to overcome inflation and to provide a stable cost base. Just as that stable cost base is important to farmers and rural industries, so too it is important for the employees of General Motors-Holden Ltd, the Ford Motor Company of Australia, Chrysler Australia Ltd and manufacturing industry right around Australia so that the goods produced can in fact be sold at profitable and proper prices. This is the way to recovery throughout Australia. This is in marked contrast to that great Labor year when farm costs went up by 30 per cent due not only to the 16 per cent or 1 7 per cent rate of inflation but also to the quite deliberate policies of the Labor Government of the day which were designed to cut the throats of the Australian farming community.
-The next item on the paper -
- Mr Speaker -
– Will the Leader of the Opposition give me some indication of why he calls to me. It is not sufficient -
– I move:
On the occasion when the former Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) resigned from the Ministry -
Motion (by Mr Fife) put:
The the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I second the motion. I think it is most important for the Parliament to discuss this matter of the priorities of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)-
Motion (by Mr Fife) agreed to:
That the honourable member for Port Adelaide be not further heard.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Nurse Education and Training to the Tertiary Education Commission entitled ‘Nurse Education and Training’, together with a statement by the Minister for Education.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr Speaker. In an answer to a question at Question Time the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) suggested that there was some association between my office and an official inquiry at the New South Wales State Government level. That is an untrue statement. It is obviously designed to fabricate some sort of distraction and, hopefully, an alibi for the Minister who is the object of this inquiry.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will contain himself to his personal explanation.
-Mr Speaker, it is true that there is a deal of information available in my office on this matter, very largely from public sources. However, one of the sources of information that we have consistently available on this, as on an earlier matter, is within the ranks of the Government.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian Delegation to the recent Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Disarmament. I seek leave to make a short statement.
– I have been encouraged by the widespread parliamentary and public interest in disarmament matters and in the
Special Session, and I have arranged for the preparation of a comprehensive report by the Australian delegation on the Session. I believe that the report will be a valuable document in promoting informed public debate on, and study of, arms control and disarmament questions.
The Special Session recommended that governments give appropriate publicity to its work and conclusions and also decided that there should be an annual disarmament week commencing on 24 October each year. The tabling of the report during the present week demonstrates the support of the Government for these recommendations of the Special Session.
The report comprises:
An introduction by me, as leader of the Australian delegation. This outlines Australia’s approach to the Session, our contribution to its work, the extent to which Australian views and interests were reflected in the final outcome; the overall significance of the meeting and its implications for the future;
An account of the work of the Preparatory Committee for the Session and Australia’s active participation in this; a resume of the principal elements in the Session’s general debate, in which the Prime Minister took part; a detailed discussion of the negotiation of the Session’s lengthy Final Document, including the major issues and difficulties involved in those negotiations; and an assessment of the meeting and the future course of international arms control and disarmament deliberations.
A number of documents are annexed to the report. These comprise the full text of the Session’s Final Document, a collection of Australian papers and statements, the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) at the Session and my own news release commenting on the outcome of the meeting.
May I draw the attention of the House to salient points in the report. Firstly, it demonstrates that Australia played a most active part in both the Preparatory Committee and at the Special Session itself. Our delegation made a substantial contribution to fostering a cooperative climate in which a consensus on the Final Document was successfully negotiated. Secondly, the report underlines the particular contribution which Australia made to the consideration of questions of nuclear arms control. Honourable members are aware that the Government has a strong commitment in this area. The Final Document of the Session brought out a number of points on nuclear arms control issues which the Prime Minister addressed in the Australian statement. Among these were:
Recognition of the need for undertakings by all states in regard to nuclear non-proliferation objectives and for all nuclear transactions to be under effective international safeguards; the importance of substantive measures of nuclear disarmament by the existing nuclear weapon powers both as an objective in its own right and as an inducement to strengthening the existing non-proliferation regime; the urgent requirement for a comprehensive nuclear test ban and a new SALT agreement; and the desirability of a cessation of production of fissionable material for weapons purposes by the nuclear powers as a step towards scaling down the arms race.
Thirdly, the report deals with the overall significance of the Special Session. This was twofold. For the first time all states have agreed on objectives and priorities which should govern arms control and disarmament and have committed themselves to take part in international disarmament efforts. A broad agenda for arms control and disarmament negotiations has been established and the international community will be increasingly involved in discussions and negotiations aimed at achieving substantive measures.
In conclusion, I wish to draw to the attention of the House the changes in international disarmament machinery which were agreed upon at the Special Session and which are outlined in the report. The dormant United Nations Disarmament Commission has been revived as an allmember deliberative forum. Of special importance, however, is the establishment of a new 40-member Committee on Disarmament to replace the former Conference of the Committee on Disarmament or CCD as it was commonly described. The new Committee on Disarmament will be a negotiating body concerned with drawing up new international arms control and disarmament treaties and conventions. Australia has succeeded in securing membership of this Committee. This is a recognition by the international community of the positive and constructive contribution which Australia has made on disarmament questions over a number of years. Our membership of the Committee on Disarmament will involve us more closely in the international disarmament effort and will provide us with new opportunities to exert influence in line with this Government’s long-expressed objectives. I believe that two major issues which should be addressed urgently by the Committee on Disarmament are a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty and a convention banning chemical weapons.
I wish to assure the House that Australia’s objective is to realise effective and lasting measures of arms control and disarmament. Australia will make a major effort to build upon the existing network of arms control and disarmament agreements and to carry forward the achievements of the Special Session. I present the following paper
Report of the Australian Delegation to the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on DisarmamentMinisterial Statement, 25 October 1978.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The Opposition is surprised that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) should now speak of being encouraged by widespread parliamentary and public interest in disarmament matters. We remind the Minister that this is the first occasion on which he has come into the Parliament and uttered more than a few words on the subject, in spite of our invitations to do so. We are not impressed by the capacity to quote paragraph 102 of the final document which states:
The General Assembly proclaims a week starting 24 October, the day of the foundation of the United Nations, as a week devoted to fostering the objectives of disarmament.
We draw the Minister’s attention to the word fostering’ which does not appear in his remarks. The Government must do a great deal more if it is to be seen to be genuinely fostering disarmament and arms control in Australia.
– Your people are the most mendacious speech writers in this Parliament.
-Let us have a bit of silence for a change, Mr Minister. Do not try to stand over the Parliament. We welcome the provision of the report today and we urge the Minister to distribute it as widely as possible. We urge the Minister and other ministers, particularly the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), with responsibility for strategy and disarmament and arms control, to begin to take part in the debate in the Australian community on these issues.
When we speak of fostering these matters, we have in mind the necessity for them to be integrated in a national security policy. The fact is that international security issues now are on such a scale that they demand new approaches. The outlook for Australia’s security is one in which threats of a traditional nature are not visible. At the same time, it is evident that circumstances can alter rapidly, that we are enmeshed in the Western strategic alliance, and that problems of quite different kinds can emerge in terms of access to resources or control over resources. All this requires a very new way of perceiving national, regional and global security. Yet the Government is still doing what it was doing a decade ago- worrying about whether to have a new aircraft carrier, contemplating a new hypersonic tactical fighter and trying to hold together armed divisions irrelevant to current force needs. By insisting on looking at the new problems in the old perspective, the Government is destroying all defence capacity while convincing itself that it must have massive forces to meet unforeseen contingencies.
What we need is a national strategy which integrates disarmament and arms control objectives as essential parts of national security policy. At the global strategy level to which conservative governments have tied us, via United States bases in Australia, arms control measures are essential to human survival. At the regional level, arms control measures are fundamental to the development of economic and social resources. None of our neighbours can, any more than we can, afford massive defence costs. Australia ought to be a pacesetter in moderating defence expenditure rather than in acquiring sophisticated defence equipment. We cannot ask our neighbours to equip themselves with items less sophisticated or less aggressive than our own arms. To continue to want major armaments, but to say that our neighbours should not have them is patronising, colonialist and unrelated to the realities of today. Arms control as a new focus of national security policy ought thus to be central to relations with our neighbours. But in fact the Government is not ready for that. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is unable or unwilling to co-ordinate relations with our region. The economic relationship with the region is in a complete mess.
The Australian people are disturbed about Indonesia’s military policies, but the next Minister to visit Indonesia will be our unsure Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). In the past several weeks the Prime Minister’s Press organisation has been busy emphasising the importance of his visit to India and the warmth of his attachment to the Prime Minister Desai. But has the Prime Minister raised the question of India’s nuclear weapons program? I very much doubt it. The basis for Australia’s security in our region must be sound and strong, but this is beyond the Government’s competence. It is fostering confrontation and its bluster reflects weakness in conviction. It is time we fostered co-operation with our neighbours and fostered an approach to security issues giving a bigger place to arms control and disarmament. These are not the antithesis of security, they ought to be the essence of security.
The Government is failing in the following matters: It has taken no educative or other action to foster disarmament or arms control objectives within the Australian community. It has secured a place on the new disarmament negotiating body but has not told us how it will act in that body. It has not pursued arms control in the Indian Ocean. It has not given any indication that it will seek to limit conventional arms acquisition in the region. It has not ratified the two 1977 protocols to the General Conventions on Human Rights in Armed Conflict. It has not advanced a coherent and comprehensive nuclear non proliferation policy. It has not met its national responsibilities arising from the presence of American bases in Australia.
Responsibility for these matters is divided between a confrontationist Prime Minister, a Defence Minister with no need to know, a Foreign Minister with no power, a Trade Minister who has no ideas and a Special Trade Negotiator who has increasing difficulty negotiating his way aboard various aircraft. The present Ministerial arrangements provide no capacity for coherent international economic policies on the one hand, or coherent international strategic policies on the other. The Prime Minister’s basis for overcoming this is to keep major decisions to himself. If he had any real concern for his own future, or that of the nation, he would make changes in the structure of the Ministry. If the Government does not foster within its own ranks a capacity for effective arms control and disarmament initiatives as central features of international strategic policy, it will be hard for it to foster these concerns nationally. The Government’s failure to do so will reflect its declining relevance to national concerns.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hodges) adjourned.
-The Government Whip has advised that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has been discharged from the Legislation Committee considering the Export
Expansion Grants Bill and that the honourable member for Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has been nominated in his place. The Opposition Whip has advised that the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) has been discharged from that Committee and that the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) has been nominated in his place.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s mismanagement and inability to develop relations and trade with ASEAN.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– Four months ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) called on the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to give more attention to Asia. The plain fact remains that the Fraser Government is unable to manage our relations with our neighbours. Responsibility for our relations with these countries is scattered among a variety of Ministers and, in consequence, there is a mixture of noise and confusion. There is little doubt that the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) considers relations with our neighbours a high priority. But the Foreign Minister does not control our relations with our neighbours. The major issues- trade, investment, industry development, human rights, migration and refugee matters and defence co-operation- are the responsibility of as many Ministers. Among this team of Ministers, the Foreign Minister can at best be regarded as the chief of protocol.
This week, the Prime Minister opened an Association of South East Asian Nations Trade Fair in Sydney. I have just had the pleasure of lunching with Datuk Ali, the ASEAN SecretaryGeneral. Datuk Ali will be in Australia until next week to attend the Australia-ASEAN Forum, at which officials from the ASEAN countries will discuss with Australian officials the issues of concern between us. The Opposition welcomes Datuk Ali to Australia. We welcome the Trade Fair. We welcome the holding of the Forum. But we ask, as we have asked before: Where is the substance of Australian policy? What on earth are the Australian officials going to say? If the Government has no policies, if it has nothing to offer the ASEAN countries; for what futile or strange reason does it keep inviting encounters with ASEAN?
Let us first take a quick look at ASEAN. The Association- ASEAN itself- has existed for almost a decade. So far the efforts of its members- Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand- have not achieved a great deal towards establishing economic integration. They have agreed on five industrial projects- one each. They have begun discussions, in a number of working parties, on the issues of industrial complementation. At a political level, they have not achieved an identity of views, even as to the means to their objective of a zone of peace, freedon and neutrality. Nevertheless, and not least because of external attention, ASEAN grows in importance. Now, China, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Indo-China countries are each in various ways seeking better relations with these countries. In recent weeks the Prime Minister of Vietnam and the Foreign Minister of Kampuchea have visited ASEAN capitals. Although Kampuchea and Vietnam clearly are rivals, we welcome the efforts to expand and develop relations with the ASEAN countries. Their activity offers the prospect of effective co-operation extending beyond ASEAN to the whole region. That is in the interests of peace and development.
Japan and Australia were invited to meet ASEAN leaders after the summit meeting in Kuala Lumpur in August last year. The United States has taken an increased interest in ASEAN in the past year or so. The reason for this attention is the great potential these five countries possess, rather than their power. They are strategically located; they have substantial resources- especially Indonesia- and their economies are reflecting the capacities of intelligent peoples to utilise, or be utilised, by modern technology. That is, a number of other neighbours, and the major powers, are paying attention to the ASEAN countries because they have interests there. Australia has very large interests there. We are not only neighbours, but we cannot look in the other direction to find neighbours of equal weight, except our ally New Zealand. The ASEAN countries, taken together, are our fourth largest export market. Exports of manufactures to ASEAN make up 40 per cent of total exports to ASEAN- double the average in total trade. Those exports are at risk, as are primary product exports in the 1980s. Of all the external powers seeking to come to terms with ASEAN we seem the most inept and the least successful.
A fundamental change is required. We have enjoyed our splendid isolation and enjoyed a foreign policy based on a pack of words here, a few troops there and a foreign base or two elsewhere. We have ridden along on the old colonial trade pattern. Now, for the first time, our foreign relations are acquiring the complexity, the practical implications and the necessity for skilful management that have characterised the foreign relations of Europe for generations. At the very time this is happening, we have a Government unable to co-ordinate international economic policy and a Prime Minister with a personal style which is somewhat of arrogant abuse. It is not only our relations with ASEAN that are being damaged, but these relations have a fragility and a long-term importance that must make them a focus of attention. This mismanagement is, of course, consistent with the Government’s approach to the domestic economy. As never before, we need co-operation between government and the private sector and between managers and employees to identify the new problems and to find new and imaginative answers to them.
The Fraser Government takes the opposite tack. It continues systematically to demolish capacity for planning the national economy. With that diminished capacity to predict future trends, the Government has just stumbled on the fact that Australia is on the verge of a technological revolution which carries immense consequences for the manufacturing base in this country. One fact we do know from the Bureau of Statistics is that 290,000 jobs have been lost since June 1974; 230,000 of those jobs were in manufacturing industry. Despite grotesque distortions like this now drawn into our domestic economic picture, we are still a prosperous, advanced country. But, if we are to. remain a prosperous and an advanced country, it is imperative that we systematically look at the options open to us and make choices about the kind of society we want. This means we must have indicative planning and adequate mechanisms and incentives to facilitate change and encourage innovation. We need to identify the key industries around which to build our future. We must sit down with the ASEAN countries and discuss industrial complementation with them. But we have to go further than that. We share with ASEAN the fact that we have considered foreign investment a basic consideration in economic development. In discussing trade, investment and aid with our neighbours, we should be looking with them at the methods by which these factors can be of maximum benefit. We cannot take a superior attitude. Our manufacturing industries have the same dependence on foreign technology and our industries are in many cases trapped by older technology.
We note the argument presented by the Freedom from Hunger Campaign to the Harries Committee that the export of manufacturing from the developed countries to the developing countries may weaken the economies of both. We need to discuss the issues raised in that submission in the context of a code of conduct for investment in the region. We note the assessment of the Asian Development Bank’s second Asian agricultural survey that in spite of modest gains in manufacturing for export, the countries of South East Asia will be severely set back in the next decade by food grain deficits and weak world prices for non-food primary commodities. We need to discuss these problems on a more sophisticated and practical basis rather than accepting the Prime Minister’s vague advocacy of a common fund.
We note that the second Asian agricultural survey pointed to the need for radical changes in the development approach of planners. Basic inequities, such as the feudal land relations pervading much of Asia, have perverted the application of technology and resulted in even greater inequities as technological benefits accrue only to the wealthy farmers. There are factors we need to review more carefully in discussing investment and aid in the region. We see great benefit in building strong relations with our neighbours. There can be no benefit in the longer term for either side if we pretend that basic industry structure problems do not exist. The same can be said of public concern in Australia about human rights in some Association of South East Asian Nations countries and about their use of military power. If governments pretend, as this Government has, that major differences should be ignored because they are too hard to raise, then they are riding for a fall. Allowing build-up of pressures within Australia will eventually cause great disruption to our external relations.
It is essential to our democratic fabric, not just our foreign relations, that foreign policy reflect domestic opinion. The assertion of a desire for good and equal relations obliges frankness and substance in relations, not the avoidance of issues. The Fraser Government should establish proper ministerial arrangements to co-ordinate international economic policies and to deal with these issues in substance. Instead, what do we see? We see that the Minister for Foreign Affairs organises forums and early warning systems to ensure that the ASEAN countries are coordinated and well-informed of our lack of policy and able to express their displeasure as frequently and as formally as possible. The Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) organises meetings to help Australian manufacturing to go off-shore without having any assessment of the consequences for our economy or for the economies of our neighbours.
The Treasurer (Mr Howard) announces taxes to thwart any such moves off-shore, at the moment that the Minister for Trade and Resources is in mid flight opening his Asian-Australian Industrial Co-operation Conference. The same Treasurer, learning nothing of diplomacy from that, announces in the Budget a 12.5 per cent tariff increase on quota imports, saying that this is merely a revenue and excess profit control. Nobody in the textile industry- importer or manufacturer- shares that view. The correct approach would be to auction import quotas. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) concocts a new international civil aviation policy designed to minimise as far as possible the possibility of Australian travellers ever seeing and learning anything of our ASEAN neighbours. He apparently believes he can play the ASEAN countries off one against the other, but the ASEAN countries will come to the ASEAN Forum with a concerted position on civil aviation.
The Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) visits Singapore and is given a lecture on civil aviation which has become a central issue between the two Governments. Among the ASEAN countries, Singapore is our largest trading partner. The same Minister goes to Kuala Lumpur and allegedly has substantive discussions with the Malaysian Government on bilateral trade matters. Malaysia is enraged about the prospects of heightened protection by Australia for timber products, notably the Industries Assistance Commission’s proposal for a 15 per cent duty on sawn timber. Malaysia plans to make that a big issue at the ASEAN Forum. But on return to Australia, in response to my question yesterday, the Minister said that he did not recall discussing timber with anyone. ‘I do not recall’ is, of course a stock answer. We on this side of the House expect to receive that answer when we ask sticky questions. Once again, however, it is not a credible answer.
Meanwhile, of course, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) has not secured a Cabinet decision on the IAC report on timber which he received on 15 May. At the request of the Association of Country Sawmillers, I wrote to the Minister in June asking when a decision would be made. Of course, the industry is concerned to have a decision because the volume of imports has risen rapidly in anticipation of protection. Nobody benefits from this kind of ministerial dithering. One of the myths of this Government is that it has a strong Prime Minister. But where is his hand in this matter? On Monday he produced a distorted statistical account of what he had done for ASEAN. Since then he has no doubt resumed dreaming of trips overseas, particularly at Christmas time, to Jamaica, Montego Bay, New Delhi and Washington- anywhere he can think of where he will no doubt restore the resolve of the Western alliance, establish the new international economic order and get India to join the nuclear free zone. We remind the Prime Minister of the remarks addressed to him by Lee Kuan Yew at a Press conference on 19 June last concerning the civil aviation issue between Australia and ASEAN. The Prime Minister of Singapore stated:
I would hope that Australians are sufficiently long range in their thinking to know that self-enlightened interest must include growing contacts, growing understanding arising from more contacts between peoples and government in the area in which you live. While it is theoretically possible to take a space craft and shoot off into outer space and drop into New York or Washington or London or Brussels, you will finally come back to earth and the earth has placed you down in the South Pacific with ASEAN as your immediate neighbours, and it doesn’t help to by-pass your immediate neighbours.
We need practical solutions to practical and tough problems. We say that the Government is incapable of that. Yesterday we had an experience at a luncheon here where we were able to indicate in some way all the problems of the European Economic Community, as far as we were concerned, with agricultural produce. We received a very quick, clever reply on the basis that the European Community would look after its own affairs when it came to food production. I reminded the Prime Minister of remarks he made in the Parliament as far back as 1 96 1 when he was talking about the problems that would arise for Australia’s agricultural policies when Great Britain entered the European Community. In other words, we knew what would happen as far back as that.
All we have done in recent months has been to batter on the doors of the European Economic Community pleading for admission in an area where no permit will be given, instead of concentrating our efforts in areas such as ASEAN. We should be sitting down with those people, discussing the problems that we have with them and clearly telling them that there will be a strong market area in that region. We should take into consideration our ally, New Zealand, as to what it is about. We should be developing a very strong and integrated policy for the Australian manufacturing base and, also, for primary production. There will be a world shortage of food. There will be a lot of poverty and there will be a lot of imbalance not only in ASEAN but also in other countries.
We have established very good relations with China. We are very mindful of the fact that as far back as 1971 the present Prime Minister said that he was very fearful of the consequences of ever recognising China. They now happen to be our fifth greatest trading partner. It is for all those reasons that we say to the Government: Why are you not able to develop a policy of coordination to overcome confrontation and clearly stand up and indicate Australia ‘s view on international matters which might be sensitive? It should indicate these matters to our ASEAN neighbours in accordance with what is known to be public opinion in Australia. The Government should not be subservient and always predictable. It should take action on the basis of what we are about as a democratic nation. But when it comes to trade the Government should clearly understand the problems of other nations. The Government should not take action on an ad hoc basis and expect these people to like us simply because we are in the same region. They will not do that. They are very concerned. Any of us who have met these people in recent weeks know that. It is for that reason that we have raised this matter of public importance.
– As a consequence of the speech which has just been made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) this is unquestionably an occasion during which we have listened to probably the most mediocre, meandering, misleading and, I am sorry to say, mendacious statement that has been made in many months. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were to listen to his own leader, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), he would know as well as I do that individual relationships with Association of South East Asian Nations countries are excellent. This is not only as a consequence of visits by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), myself, the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) but also by his own leader, except for some statements to which I will refer. It is not new that trade is a critical matter between those nations and Australia.
The biggest issue we faced when we came to government was the dispute which the Australian Labor Party Government had created between the Philippines and Australia. The Labor Government shattered their aspirations by alleging that it could lower tariff barriers. Once that was done by an across the board sweep the Labor Government jacked up protection virtually overnight in various areas. We inherited the problems that the ad hoc, misleading and hypocritical policies of the Labor Government imposed on the Philippines, so honourable members opposite should not talk to us about not understanding the critical issue of trade. Since I have been Foreign Minister I have understood trade to be absolutely critical and have said so. One would need to be deaf, dumb, blind and mentally deficient not to recognise that ASEAN countries will double their populations over the next 15 years. Where are those people going to be employed? They will be employed in labour intensive industries and if there is effective competition against Australian industry now, it will grow in intensity. We have seen that and have sought to plan constructively with a package of programs. We are not only sensitive to the trade issue but have moved beyond mere sensitivity.
What has this Government done in comparison with what the Labor Government did? One moment’s reflection on the Labor Government’s relations with ASEAN would be worth while. It was during its period in office that the Prime Ministers of Australia and Singapore refused to speak to one another in the end because they could get on in only the most abusive terms. It was during its period in office that the Thais, to quote the remark of their official government spokesman of the day, told the Labor Government to ‘mind your own bloody business’ because it was trying to intrude into their affairs. It was during the Labor Government’s period in office that we shattered that trade element with the Philippines which had to be restored by this Government.
Honourable members opposite asked me to point to what we have done so I will tell them. Not only were we invited to the meeting of ASEAN leaders last year in Kuala Lumpur but also since that time we have sponsored and paid for the Australian-ASEAN Industrial Cooperation Committee, the Australian-ASEAN Trade Fair, the Australian-ASEAN Forum, the Australian-ASEAN joint research projects, the Australian-ASEAN early warning system and we have increased Australian aid to ASEAN. I remind honourable members opposite that this Government was the first to implement aid on that basis, quite apart from contributions bilaterally. Beyond that, because we have a conceptual framework to our foreign policy that the Labor Government never had, we established a committee to examine the Third World and to see how we ought to react effectively to its programs. So honourable members opposite should not tell us what they intend to do. Shallow, shabby responses and the shattering of relations when they were in government is their record. It was an abysmal performance. Yet they stand here today and sweep aside the initiatives I have put forward already and sweep aside what their leader said on his trip around our region.
He called for the further development of trade and in the same breath said that he would cut off supplies of uranium to the Philippines, such was his consistency. He called for closer consultation between Australia and the region and then announced that he would withdraw the Australian squadrons from Malaysia. He promised not to lecture on his trip but at every airport he gave lectures telling the region how it ought to put its affairs in order. So honourable members opposite should not tell us that they know how to administer foreign affairs. They cannot even bring themselves up to date; they cannot even be loquacious in a plausible manner in this Parliament. They were the Hayden remarks, that was the Whitlam record and we have heard the rather mendacious approach which the Opposition has adopted today.
Over and above the initiatives we have taken with ASEAN and the establishment of a committee to examine the Third World, honourable members opposite should have a look at the way we have approached the challenge of development in the Third World today. Australia is unquestionably the leading Western industrialised democratic country in terms of its policy and program on the most critical issue that the Third World wants, namely, the Common Fund, which is fundamental to the integrated program of commodities that Third World countries have put forward. It is for this reason that other countries are now adopting in principle the program we have put forward and I hope that the negotiations which will take place at the resumed negotiating sessions next month will show that we , have been able to take other Western industrialises countries with us. This is not a program for just the Third World generally; it is central -
– What about the Minister for Finance?
-The honourable member would not know, of course. The program is central to both Indonesia and Malaysia, which are ASEAN countries, and we should recognise the desire that these countries have for an effective Common Fund. Australia has taken the leading position in the Group B countries and is seeking to build a bridge between the Group B countries as well.
Over and above the ASEAN initiatives, the conceptual framework that I have talked about previously and the initiatives we have taken on the Common Fund, let us look at what we have done regionally by utilising the Commonwealth, which members of the Opposition thought was either a mechanism to enable its leader to grandstand or something to be dismissed. What we did with the Commonwealth was to establish the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting in Sydney this year out of which we formed the consultative mechanism on trade and the working groups on drugs, terrorism and the like.
– A lot of window dressing.
-The honourable member calls it window dressing even though all those countries warmly embraced and are seeking actively to participate in the committees and working groups which have been structured. We are seeking mutual comprehension. We listen to one another, we co-operate with one another and we co-operate with the countries in our region. Honourable members opposite cannot even comprehend what is transpiring or agree amongst themselves. I recall, when I took the initiative before the United Nations High Commission for Refugees only a couple of weeks ago, receiving a telegram from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) commending me for my initiative on what is the most critical human problem facing ASEAN countries today as the major first recipients of the human beings who are fleeing. The Leader of the Opposition supported this initiative but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) yesterday described it as mere public relations and a gimmick. What sort of difference of view is that? It is not merely a matter of cosmetics or of point scoring; there is not even any consistency amongst members on the other side of the chamber. They should show a bit of genuine concern, put forward some initiatives and act upon them. They have done nothing and are reflecting again the shallow, shabby approach they had when in government which shattered relations and did not promote either goodwill or constructive solutions. That was their approach.
I turn now to the record in trade for those honourable members opposite who want to talk about it. The two-way trade between Australia and ASEAN countries is growing significantly. Australia’s imports from ASEAN countries have grown substantially from $97m in 1971-72 to $557m in 1977-78, an average annual growth of 34 per cent compared with an annual growth of 19 per cent in our total imports. I acknowledge that it is a growth on a small base but nevertheless the growth has been substantial. Australian imports of manufactures grew by an average of 47 per cent a year between 1971-72 and 1977-78. Even imports of the sensitive items subject to restraint, for example, clothing, textiles and footwear, grew from $6. 5m to $45. lm, an annual growth of 38 per cent. So, honourable members opposite need not tell me that progress is not being made. I recognise, and I have said it myself, that we have to continue to recognise that the problems in trade between the ASEAN countries and Australia will be considerable unless governments adopt responsible and responsive policies. This is what we have begun to do.
The Labor Government did not do that. It had no conception of the ramifications of international economics in its foreign policy. The shattering effect of the 1973 oil price hike had no effect on the Labor Government’s attitude to foreign policy. It rolled around, either overcompensating to one country or abusing another. It did not recognise that it had to establish a framework in which it measured international economic relations as an integral part of its foreign policy. That is why we have pressed on with these initiatives with ASEAN; it is why we have taken the initiatives we have in CHOGRM; it is why we have taken the initiative on the Common Fund and the integrated commodity program, the Law of the Sea and the sharing of resources. We have taken those initiatives because we see the necessity of working closely and harmoniously with the Third World, which includes ASEAN countries, albeit that they are the more moderate members of the Third World, within a framework of equitable international economic solutions. If honourable members opposite doubt that we are appreciated by those in ASEAN- and some still do- I will quote brief extracts from the remarks of the Minister representing ASEAN governments at the trade fair this week. I take two paragraphs. He said:
But, Excellencies, this is not quite new in my experience with Australia. In Tact, this is characteristic of Australia which is known at least in my country -
This is the Deputy Minister of Commerce in the Government of Thailand- that in the area of development assistance you are not only generous in terms of the volume of aid but, most significantly, you are also known for the quality. For example, the Australian assisted projects in Thailand have always been carefully chosen on the basis of benefits accrued to the recipients rather than their publicity value. The Australian experts are usually of the highest calibre and the monitoring of the results are also excellent. Here again is another model of international co-operation that the world can learn from you.
In my view, the Fair is yet another clear demonstration of international goodwill and sincerity on the pan of Australia towards the ASEAN countries, and of the expressed determination to co-operate with them as equal partners for mutual benefits. This, we deeply appreciate, and leads me to believe that, while inaugurating this Fair, you have established a firm foundation for an increasingly strong and healthy bond between our countries in the years ahead.
These are not my words. These are not the words of the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) or the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). These are the words this week of the representative of the Association of South East Asian Nations. I seek to have the rest of his remarks incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Response by Prok Amranand, Deputy Minister of Commerce, Government of Thailand
On behalf of the ASEAN Representatives present here, I have the honour and privilege to say how deeply grateful we are for your excellency the Prime Minister to be here to inaugurate the ASEAN Trade Fair.
Since your Excellency made the offer at the Kuala Lumpur meeting with the ASEAN heads of government last year, we in ASEAN have followed the event leading to the launching of this co-operative venture with interest and enthusiasim. I have noted with great satisfaction that from the start this fair was carefully planned and meticulously prepared by Australian experts in close co-operation with ASEAN officials. For instance, the choice of products to be displayed were made only after thorough market investigations, and even the art designs of individual exhibits were the work of experts of high quality. Having previewed the exhibition yesterday, I was more than pleased with what I saw. I believe that such close co-operation between the fair organisers and exhibitors should be a model example to be followed in other instances.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the correction of trade imbalances, no doubt, requires a great deal of effort on all parts as well as decisive policy and administrative measures, this ASEAN Trade Fair represents one of them and I am convinced that it will achieve its objectives. In fact, considering the underlying concepts and the kind of preparations made, it must be an outstanding success and therefore, should be institutionalised as a regular event to be held periodically. . . .
Finally, may I thank the depanment of Trade and Resources, the Department of Foreign Affairs and other agencies concerned for the tremendous efforts they made in making this first ASEAN Trade Fair a reality.
-I thank the House. That will be firm corroboration of the matters that I am putting forward. Opposition members cannot come forward today with sniping, sneering criticisms which put forward no blueprint, no plan, indeed no record in government. We place extraordinarily high importance on our economic and trading relationship with ASEAN. We have been able to demonstrate this not merely by rhetoric but also by performance. The Prime Minister has made several visits to the region. So have I and so have other Ministers. As a result, Australia’s trade and economic policies are now receiving special attention and special consideration.
This means that the matter put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not merely falls to the ground but also is rendered irrelevant by any examination of the record and performance of this Government- and even more so when compared with the present Opposition’s own record and with the disputes between its members. They have no conceptual framework for their policies. They have no central purpose. They have no record and they have no performance. Indeed, I must remind honourable members opposite that they have not even had a policy. When they went before the people in 1975 they did not produce a foreign policy and when they went before the people in 1977 they still did not produce a foreign policy. All they have done is to introduce matters of public importance which have been swept out the window as they justly deserve to be. I am sorry to say these things to a man whom I generally respect as a man who wishes to put forward plausible material. Nevertheless, in putting forward the matter of public importance today he made the most meandering, misleading, mediocre and, regrettably, mendacious address that has been made in months. It does not bear examination.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-(Mr GiIes) - Does the honourable member for Hunter wish to raise a point of order?
– No, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would like to make a comment.
-Then the honourable member will resume his seat.
-Just as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) attempts to defend his present economic incompetence by waffling on about the years from 1972 to 1975, so the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) apes his master by defending his present incompetence by waffling on about the events of the years from 1972 to 1975. It seems to me absurd that anyone in this country would listen to lessons from either this man or his party on foreign policy, because for a generation they have been wrong on every great international issue or at least belated in their recognition of its significance. They were wrong on Vietnam. They were wrong for a generation on the recognition of China. They were wrong for 20 years about the problem developing in southern Africa because of the nature of the regimes there. Yet they come here and attempt to give lessons to us and to the Australian people.
After the past IS minutes let us return to more serious matters. I think that it is not putting it too high to say that in the decades ahead Australia will be judged internationally by its response to South East Asia and, above all, by its response to the Association of South East Asian Nations, constituting, as it does, Australia’s near neighbours. If we, as a rich, affluent, Western nation, cannot establish in depth relationships of friendship and reciprocity with those countries- not merely claim that we have excellent relations but in fact achieve in depth, excellent relations not necessarily with the governments but with the peoples of these countries- there is little prospect of our corning to terms in the international context with the Third World. Unless we can achieve it in our region we have little prospect of achieving it in the rest of the Third World. Our relations with ASEAN will provide a test case for our relations with the Third World as a whole. Failure here will isolate us not merely regionally but internationally.
All the smooth rhetoric of the Foreign Minister will be no substitute for real and substantial relationships with the countries of the region. For several years now we have had smooth rhetoric and insufficient substance in our relations with these countries. All the fine eloquence of the Foreign Minister on a new international economic order will cut no ice unless we can practice in this region the principles underlying the new economic order. It is no good talking about it in international forums and making a great splash unless we can practise it in this area. All the Prime Minister’s oratory in favour of ‘a fairer and stronger world trade system’ will be dismissed as mere hypocrisy unless we in this region can establish with our neighbours a fairer and stronger trade system.
Again what we have all round us is rhetoric without substance. Even the rhetoric itself is pretty thin. I refer to the Foreign Minister’s great’ statement of May which was apparently a statement for this year’s foreign policy. He said:
Effective relations with the five countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations are essential to the Government’s continuing efforts to promote regional stability and economic development.
But his statement included merely a sentence on how he was getting on well with the leaders of those countries, something about aid and waffle about institutions. But there was nothing in that speech- he was completely silent- about the interests which are vital to the ASEAN countries themselves, the issue of closer trading relationships with the ASEAN countries. There was nothing of substance on the strengthening of trade links with ASEAN, nothing of substance on strengthening desired Australian investment in the ASEAN region and nothing at all on the restrictions which still deny reasonable access to Australian markets for ASEAN products. Then this week we heard the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). Again the rhetoric. He said:
The continuing growth of Australia’s exports to the ASEAN nations reflects a logical relationship which flows from their close proximity . . . exports are vital to Australia’s economy, but it must be remembered that this also applies to ASEAN nations.
What is the Government doing not in speech but in its policy to ensure that Australian industry recognises the potential markets in the ASEAN region? What is this Government doing to ensure the necessary adjustments to the Australian manufacturing sector so that it will be in a position to seize developing opportunities in the ASEAN countries? What is the Government doing to ensure an expansion of ASEAN imports which the Deputy Prime Minister assures us is as vital to the ASEAN nations as it is to Australia?
Rather than trying to find substantive answers to these questions which underlie our future relationship with the ASEAN nations, this Government seems content simply to exacerbate our commercial relations with the ASEAN nations.
Let me give some evidence of that particular statement. The Government’s intention, as announced in the Budget, to tax income earned by Australian companies overseas will negate investment incentives which the ASEAN countries have been using to try to attract investment. 1 hear rumours that that may be going the way of some of the other Budget proposals. Let us hope on that point that it will do so in relation to the ASEAN countries. The Budget’s 12.5 per cent duty on goods subject to import quota controls strikes again at particular imports from ASEAN countries. The Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendation, which I believe is now before the Government, for a tariff of 1 5 per cent against timber and timber products would threaten ASEAN imports to Australia, particularly from the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. There is also the recently announced attempt by commercial aviation to impose some kind of international airline regime which neglects our responsibilities for economic cooperation with our ASEAN neighbours. I ask the Government: How much consultation and cooperation lay behind the development of the new aviation policy, at least in relation to countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore? Is this again an example of failure to produce anything of substance and another example of fine rhetoric?
I accept the Foreign Minister’s point that we in the Labor Party are not utterly free of blame for this situation, but if we look at what has been going on in the last few years we will find that nothing has been done in a serious way since this Government has been in power to rectify the trade problems. One of our problems is that we are frequently presented by this Government with an economic situation which is a caricature of what is going on. The Minister used figures, but quite clearly one of his weaknesses as Foreign Minister is some difficulty with figures. There has been a growth of Australian exports to the ASEAN area, but it is only a little ahead of the overall growth pattern of our exports. We have not in fact made a major development in that region in relation to our total trade pattern. There are worrying features about the export pattern to the ASEAN countries. For one thing, it now seems to be a static if not a declining share of these ASEAN markets; that is to say, at least in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand our share of these markets is in no way expanding. Secondly, there is a falling proportion of manufactured goods in what we export. In many ways one of the possibilities for future Australian development is, of course, the export of manufactured goods to these areas. Yet if we look at the figures the share of our export in those areas in terms of manufactured goods is in decline.
The Foreign Minister made much about imports, but did so simply by giving us absolute figures, using an odd base year and telling us nothing about the proportions. Indeed, the worrying thing about imports from ASEAN countries is that as a proportion of our markets there has been no significant increase in the past decade. The Minister did not leave out Middle East oil sold through Singapore, which makes a big difference to the figures, as I think he would admit, but if we leave out that factor, Australian imports sourced from ASEAN countries were 2.8 per cent of our imports in 1 967-68 and 3 per cent of our imports in 1976-77. That shows very little growth in the proportion of the market.
Finally, we should note that the balance of trade is against nearly all of the ASEAN countries. The balance of trade today is in favour of only Singapore. That should concern us as a nation in this area. It should concern us even more when we contrast it with the balance of trade between the ASEAN countries and Japan and ASEAN countries and the United States where the ASEAN countries have the advantage in relation to those developed societies. I finish by simply saying to the Minister that if he bothers to look at the serious facts of our trade situation with ASEAN countries he will see that we have major problems ahead of us. Rather than relying on rhetoric let this Government produce a few substantive proposals, firstly, to expand our exports in the area, particularly in manufactured goods; secondly, to do something about the imbalance of trade; and thirdly, to look again at the import situation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Association of South East Asian Nations is of great importance to Australia. The question which immediately comes to mind is whether relationships between ASEAN and Australia have been improved by attempting to make them a political football in this Parliament today. If we look at the relations, to use the word from this matter of public importance, we see that there is a refugee issue; and in this respect I think that even honourable gentlemen in the Opposition would have to agree that we have reached a remarkable degree of accord with the ASEAN people under remarkably difficult circumstances. If we look at the issue of defence we see that there has been a remarkable degree of co-operation over a very long time. So the matter comes back to one issue- trade. Most of the debate has been centred on trade. Certainly there has been some friction over a period of time, both when the Labor Party was in power and when the Liberal-National Country Party coalition has been in power in Australia. That is no surprise. In fact there have been differences of opinion over trade between almost any two countries in the world.
To our north we have countries which are growing very rapidly. There is in fact an embryo economic bloc. They are showing rates of economic growth of about 8 per cent to 10 per cent which look very good beside Australia’s 3 per cent or 4 per cent. We might bear in mind that
Australia’s average growth over the last decade has been much depressed by the fact that we ran into economic disaster through high inflation and the resultant unemployment during a period of complete and quite unnecessary economic mismanagement for ideological reasons when the Labor Government was in power. Even if we had not had that period of economic mismanagement our rates of growth would still look small beside those of the ASEAN countries. They have a remarkably high rate of population growth. That also will have an effect on Australia. We must understand it and certainly cope with it.
We were accused, amongst other things, of misunderstanding Indo-China. Whatever the difficulties of the Indo-China war, our stand in Indo-China gave ASEAN the breathing space it needed to develop. If there had been no intervention in Indo-China on behalf of the South Vietnamese there would have been no ASEAN. What amazes me about this debate is the number of converts we suddenly have to the low protection school. Until recently the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) had been regarded as a archprotectionist within the Labor Party.
– By whom?
– By many, including most of his own people. Suddenly we have the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith advocating discussions with the ASEAN countries- that is good; so far there is no quarrel- but advocating that following those discussions we admit a much greater flow of imports from the ASEAN countries. I agree with that, but this has been an issue that has cut across party lines. There are people who hold this view both on the other side of the House and on this side of the House, but suddenly this afternoon the issue is put up as a party political matter at the time of the ASEAN Trade Fair, to gain political headlines.
– It is an insult.
– It is an insult to ASEAN, to the Australian people and to this Parliament. What is more, it is very unfortunate that it occurred with regard to these serious issues. The issues are worth debating, but to try to make a political football of them will not bring us anywhere nearer to an understanding of them. To suggest that the Government is doing nothing to come to grips with the problem is arrant nonsense. To suggest that the Labor Party is lily white in its dealing with countries which would trade with us is also arrant nonsense. After all, which government dropped textile quotas upon ASEAN countries that would export to Australia? It was the Labor Government, not our Government. Now that members opposite have joined the low protection school- I welcome them, it is a battle that I have been fighting for some time- I welcome a debate that will lead to the son of understanding in the Australian community that will admit a free flow of goods between ASEAN and Australia and between Australia and other countries that would trade with Australia.
It is a nonsense to suggest that we can achieve a trade balance between any pair of countries. Of course, any country’s trade must balance over an extended period. Australia must import as great a value of goods as it exports. The same applies to any other country. To suggest that we could achieve bilateral trade with any group of countries or any individual country, as I am sure honourable members will realise, is not realistic.
Recently in respect of ASEAN I was disappointed to find that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) used forums overseas to bad mouth Australia. That did not do Australia’s position in ASEAN any good. It did not do his position in ASEAN any good. His action was regarded with amusement by some ASEAN people, although it may have gone down better with others. I would not know.
I do know that in Manila his attitude on the uranium question was causing considerable distress. Uranium is a tradeable commodity. It is one of the goods that these countries are most enthusiastic to trade with Australia. Let honourable members have no doubt about that. Certainly, they wish to sell us more of their goods. There are also goods selected from Australia which they wish to buy if we are prepared to sell them. The Government is prepared to sell uranium to the Philippines or to other ASEAN countries provided that they meet the detail safeguard requirements that we require of all countries. Honourable members opposite cannot have their cake and eat it too. Either they wish to trade with the ASEAN countries or they do not. If they wish to trade with the ASEAN countries that is good; so do I. However, we must accept the adjustment that will take place in Australian industry as it takes the opportunity to expand and take advantage of the ASEAN market which is, I agree, potentially the most valuable market we have. It is the bright light for our industry.
What honourable members opposite seem to misunderstand is that the greatest benefit from this ASEAN trade will not flow to ASEAN. After all, the 200 million within ASEAN have the opportunity to trade with Japan, the United States and other countries. The great benefits will flow to Australia because the trade will provide an opportunity for our manufacturing sector to get economies of scale, long production runs and to become competitive. The situation will not be improved if we try to make a political football of it and downgrade the work the Government has undertaken in recent times, through both the Minister of Productivity (Mr Macphee) and the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland). These Ministers are attempting to bring an understanding of the difficulties and the opportunities to Australia and to encourage the Australian people and our trading partners to make the best of the situation.
-The time for the discussion is concluded.
Motion (by Mr Fife) agreed to:
That Legislation Committees have power to meet during the sitting of the House on Wednesday, 25 October 1978.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
In a statement on 1 1 May this year, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) informed the House of the Government’s decisions on the recommendations of the report of the Independent Inquiry into the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Honourable members will also be aware of the companion statement made that same day by the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) in another place. The Bill that I now bring before the House is designed to provide the appropriate legislative authority for the reorganisation of CSIRO and the other elements of the Government’s decisions announced at that time which require legislative action. The Bill is the result of the most comprehensive review of the Organisation’s performance and of its enabling legislation. The main thrust of the amendments it contains has three principal aims, all of which are directed towards creating an improved framework which will assist the Organisation to continue to serve the nation well in the years ahead and to optimise the benefits to the Australian people that can be derived from national government-financed scientific endeavour.
Firstly, the Bill broadens and modernises the functions of the Organisation and invests the Organisation with the powers necessary to execute these responsibilities. Secondly, provision is made for a revised management structure involving a governing body of reduced size, which will be able to concentrate on policy issues, and the establishment of up to six institutes within which the Organisation’s scientific research and other related affairs will be conducted. These institutes will be formed by aggregating the existing operational activities of the Organisation. Each institute will be under the leadership of a distinguished scientific manager. Thirdly, it establishes enhanced statutory advisory machinery to provide the governing body with highlevel advice on national needs and priorities with respect to scientific research. The Bill maintains the Organisation as a single statutory entity which will continue to be financed, in the main, by annual parliamentary appropriations.
I come now to the specific provisions of the Bill. Clause 6 redefines the powers and functions of the Organisation although they continue to be expressed in broad terms. The main role of CSIRO is to carry out scientific and technological research for the purpose of assisting all sectors of Australian industry, furthering the interests of the Australian community and contributing to the achievement of Australian national objectives and to the performance of the national and international responsibilities of the Commonwealth. This research will continue to be undertaken almost exclusively in the fields of the physical and biological sciences and will be principally longer-term strategic mission oriented research, although fundamental and tactical problem oriented research will be pursued when it is related to the Organisation’s role. The Organisation will have the power to arrange for research to be undertaken on its behalf, where the Executive believes this to be appropriate.
Research into economics and the other social sciences will not be undertaken but the Organisation will continue to utilise requisite expertise from these fields in program conduct, evaluation and planning. Whilst CSIRO will continue to carry out work in fields of the physical and biological sciences that may lead to results with medical applications- for example, nutrition and cell biology- research in human medicine will not be a direct objective of the Organisation. CSIRO will be expected to pursue policies which will encourage and facilitate the use of the results of its research and will have powers to join in the formation of a company or partnership with commercial interests for the purpose of developing a discovery or invention. The collection, interpretation and dissemination of information drawn from world science and technology- as well as from the organisation’s own professional officers and resources- for the benefit of scientific and technological advances in Australia, constitutes another function of the Organisation which is of fundamental importance. This is a matter to which the Government expects increasing attention to be given in future years. This latter function, although an integral part of CSIRO ‘s role as a research organisation, will also involve collaboration and consultation with other Commonwealth agencies active in this field. The training of research workers will remain a function of CSIRO. The Organisation is encouraged to co-operate with tertiary education institutions in this area. It will continue to be able to award fellowships and research studentships by arrangement with relevant universities and make funds available in aid of research, where these awards or funds will be to the benefit of its own research programs and objectives.
Other functions of the Organisation have been preserved without significant change. CSIRO will continue to act as one means of liaison between Australia and other countries with respect to scientific research and make an important contribution to the nation’s foreign technical aid programs. It has a responsibility pursuant to the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1960 to maintain the national standards of measurement of physical quantities for which there are Commonwealth legal units of measurement. The Organisation will be required to establish and maintain standards of measurement of physical quantities beyond the present legal requirements placed on it, and to promote and participate in the development of calibration and other arrangements of benefit to Australian industry and the community at large. As in the past, scientific journals, periodicals and papers will be published by CSIRO and the Organisation will continue to co-operate with research associations in industry and otherwise develop new liaison mechanisms, particularly in the manufacturing industry sector. Pending the resolution by the Government of the future arrangements for funding industrial research associations, the Bill retains this responsibility as a function of the Organisation.
The Bill does not alter the Organisation’s responsibility under section 10 of the principal Act to co-operate with other organisations and authorities- both Federal and State- with a view to preventing, as far as possible, unnecessary overlapping of research programs. While CSIRO ‘s autonomy in setting research program objectives will be maintained, the Bill preserves the authority of the Minister responsible for CSIRO to give directions relating to the broad fields of scientific research and general policy. Such directions will be recorded in the Organisation ‘s annual report, together with any guidelines which the Minister may issue in relation to the policies of the Organisation in making available the Organisation’s industrial and intellectual property, including the formation of partnerships or companies.
Clause 7 of the Bill reconstitutes the Executive which will be responsible for managing the affairs of the Organisation. A separate office of Chairman of the Organisation is created. The person appointed to this office is a member, and the Chairman, of the Executive ex officio, as well being the full-time chief executive. The Chairman of the Organisation and the other members of the executive will be appointed by the Governor-General. As I have already indicated, the new Executive, as the governing body, will be reduced from the present 9 members, 5 of whom are full-time, to between 6 and 8 members, 3 of whom will be full-time. The parttime members, between 3 and 5 in number, will be persons appointed from outside the Organisation.
It has been previously announced that Dr J. P. Wild will be appointed to the position of Chairman of the Organisation. Dr N. K. Boardman will be appointed as one of the other two fulltime members of the executive. The Government is yet to decide on the remainder of the membership. While the Government believes that it would not be practicable to specify in the legislation the individual roles and responsibilities of the full-time members, it envisages that the executive will allot individual responsibilities along the lines proposed by the independent inquiry having due regard to the personal qualifications and experience of particular members.
Proposed Parts III, IV and V in clause 7 contain, in addition to policy matters germane to the requirements of the Organisation and the Government’s decisions thereon, the usual provisions associated with statutory offices. Clause 6 of the Bill also provides for the creation by the executive of up to 6 institutes. The scientific research and related activities will be carried out in these institutes. Each institute will be headed by a senior scientist with the title of Director who will have responsible to him the heads of the particular research activities which will form part of each institute. The main role of the institute directors will be research management and coordination. However, they will also actively participate in the decision-making processes of the executive. The Government envisages that the titles, purposes and composition of institutes will vary from time to time and this is an aspect of policy that the Executive will keep under regular review. It is for this reason that the provision for the creation of institutes is expressed in the Bill in general terms. Action to establish these Institutes and to appoint directors is well advanced. Final decisions will, of course, await the appointment of the new executive.
Institute directors will be appointed by the executive for a term of up to 5 years with eligibility for reappointment. As officers of the Organisation, their terms and conditions of service will be determined by the Executive pursuant to the proposed section 32 in clause 7.
Proposed Part VII in clause 7 of the Bill establishes enhanced advisory machinery. There will be a new Advisory Council and new State committees in each State. The Advisory Council and its attendant arrangements are seen by the Government as a linchpin in the advisory mechanisms directed to assisting the Executive in the determination of the Organisation’s research priorities. The functions of the Advisory Council will be to advise the Executive on the objectives of the Organisation and the priorities to be followed to achieve those objectives; industrial and economic matters that bear on the Organisation’s work; and the identification of the interests of the Australian community that may be furthered by the Organisation. The Council will comprise a part-time Chairman and up to 24 other part-time members, including the Chairmen of the six State committees. The Council will be representative of a wide range of interests and these are set out in broad terms in the Bill. It is intended that the Council would normally include persons associated with primary, secondary and tertiary industry, as well as persons drawn from relevant community interest groups including organised labour.
The Government intends that the Council will be composed of senior and respected persons from the relevant fields. Appointments to the Council will be for a term of five years with provision for renewal for one additional term. The Government agrees with the inquiry’s recommendation that, other than in exceptional circumstances, no person should serve on the Council for more than two terms. The Australian
Science and Technology Council will not be represented on the Council but proposed section 37 makes provision for this body to send an observer to Council meetings. It is envisaged that representatives of the executive would also regularly attend Council meetings as observers at the invitation of the Council. The Council will be required to meet at least three times each financial year but the Government anticipates that meetings could be more frequent than this. It is envisaged that the Advisory Council will establish working parties to examine particular areas related to CSIRO ‘s activities and operations. The Council will be completely independent of the Executive of CSIRO and will have its own secretariat. Its staff may be appointed or seconded from Commonwealth Departments and Authorities, State Government employment, industry, universities, or from CSIRO itself. They wil be engaged under the Science and Industry Research Act as a matter of convenience. However, clause 7 includes a provision which is designed to ensure that the staff of the Advisory Council secretariat are clearly under the direction of the Chairman of the Advisory Council. Clause 7 also provides that the Council’s advice, together with the Executive’s comments on it, will be incorporated in the Organisation’s annual reports.
The committees established in each State will be representative at the State level of interest groups, organisations and associations reflected at a national level on the Advisory Council. Their membership will include, collectively, representatives from the rural industry research funds. The State committees will provide a link with industry, centres of education, and the community generally at a grass roots level. The Bill provides for representatives of State Government instrumentalities to be appointed to the committees. These appointments will be made on the advice of the relevant State Premier. CSIRO officers will not be appointed to State committees as proposed by the independent inquiry. Rather it is intended that appropriate CSIRO officers will attend committee meetings as observers and act as an interface to ensure that fruitful channels of communication between committees and local divisions of the Organisation are sustained. The duration of committee appointments will be comparable to the provision that I have described for the Advisory Council. The Organisation will provide each State committee with the administrative support and assistance necessary for the successful performance of its functions. Details of meetings procedures and related matters will be prescribed in the regulations.
In keeping with the commitment given in the statement of the Minister for Science of 1 1 May, the Bill provides for the establishment of a CSIRO consultative council. The council will comprise representatives of the executive and of staff associations representing CSIRO officers. The council will examine and report to the executive of CSIRO on matters which generally affect, or are of broad interest to, the staff of the Organisation. Regulations will be made to prescribe the manner in which the consultative council is to be constituted and carry out its functions. These regulations will be consistent with the agreement on these matters which has been worked out between the Organisation and the relevant staff associations.
Important changes are made by clause 7 of the Bill to the annual report provision. The Organisation’s future reports will include statements by the Executive on the broad policies pursued by the Organisation with respect to the determination of research program priorities and objectives and other elements of the Organisation’s functions. Following an initial exposition of these broad policies, future reports will describe changes and developments in these policies. The Organisation’s reports will continue to provide a broad outline of the results and progress of research programs.
A number of other amendments of a routine nature are to be made to the principal Act. The staffing provisions of the principal Act are to be amended in accordance with the Government’s decisions on the report of the independent inquiry. The sections relating to financial matters are substituted by proposed Part VIII in clause 7 of the Bill to reflect current drafting and administrative practice. Consistently with the spirit of the freedom of information legislation which is currently before the Senate and the Government’s policy on access to official information, the Bill repeals the official secrecy provision contained in section 3 1 of the principal Act. Clause 10 sets out transitional provisions which protect the staff of the Organisation and preserve their employment conditions.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the changes reflected in this Bill are fundamental to the reorganisation of CSIRO which the Government believes to be highly desirable. The enactment of this measure will enable the new Executive to be appointed and to embark in earnest on the major tasks ahead. The successful achievement of these goals will, I believe, ensure that the Organisation will continue to maintain in future years the prestige it has undoubtedly acquired in the past 52 years and guarantee its continued responsiveness to
Australia’s needs. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 24 October.
Postal and Telecommunications Department
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 78,180,000.
Motion (by Mr Adermann) agreed to:
That further consideration of the proposed expenditure for the Postal and Telecommunications Department be postponed.
Department of Defence
Proposed expenditure, $2,329,185,000.
-The defence estimates, which the House is debating, provide for the expenditure of a massive amount of money in absolute terms. The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), in particular, is to be congratulated on the way in which he has been able to obtain a one per cent increase in real terms in defence expenditure this year. Extraordinarily difficult economic problems still face the Government, although the situation is improving. A need certainly exists for the Government to maintain its anti-inflationary strategy and to maintain the most stringent curbs on expenditure. Most, if not all, departments have been the subject of very close scrutiny. Most other departments have only held the line or, at best, have achieved some increases which have not kept pace with inflation. Therefore, the Minister’s achievement in obtaining a one per cent increase in real terms is very significant. It is in fact something of which he can be proud. However, we must acknowledge that the basic honesty of the Minister’s statement to the House yesterday does leave an unfortunate situation. The Minister has been candid enough to point out that the Defence White Paper and the $ 12,000m expenditure promise have not been able to be kept in the terms in which they were set out. He said that the objectives in some areas will have to be the subject of deferment or postponement.
What concerns me is: If the Government made careful and calculated decisions only about two years ago to allot the amount of money which the Government then considered necessary in the interests of Australian security, what does the Government now consider the position to be? I assume that the decisions made about two years ago were based upon an appreciation of a stringent financial environment for the years ahead. The question now has to be whether those decisions at the time were the minimal decisions necessary to provide for the security of the country for the future or whether they were irreducible minimums below which we have now found ourselves forced to go. I would like to think that the position is that there was some leeway in the amount set out to support the White Paper; that it was a figure that was not the absolute bare minimum; and that, therefore, the announcements in this Budget can be seen to have not reached the irreducible rninimum which I would believe is necessary for the proper security of the country. However, we will have to wait now to see how things develop.
It is absolutely imperative that the Services know that there will not be further changes to the plans. I must commend the Minister not only for obtaining a one per cent increase in real terms, as I said earlier, but also for producing yesterday, in a very difficult situation, a statement which argues logically and coherently a reasonable approach to the expenditure that he has been given. However, I must come back to the point: Ultimately, either the White Paper was sound or it was overrated in terms of the money that was to be spent. I do not think that it was overgenerous by any means and, therefore, the position we are now in is serious. We must be keen to see that the White Paper and the amounts of money set aside for it are expended even though the time phase may be extended. That is how I understand the Minister’s statement to be framed. There are some deferrals and there have had to be some internal reorganisations; but the ultimate aims, we hope, will be met. Let us hope that that is the case.
The Government has been subjected to a degree of criticism. I make just one reflection on the public position. It is to the credit of the Minister that he has raised the morale of the Services very considerably and, I think, he has raised very considerably the interest in the community in defence. But there is still too low a degree of public interest in defence matters generally. There is too great a degree of apathy, and any public discussion of the topic must be for the good. In general terms, we cannot predict what will happen in the future. We do not know what will happen, particularly in our own region when the present conflict between the Russian-backed Vietnamese and the Chinese-backed Cambodians comes to a head. I do not believe that either of those regimes is intent on simply sitting in its own backyard and not seeking to extend its international influence if it should be able to overcome its opponent in the region. The most likely threat might still come from a resurgence of communist expansionism in the South East Asian region. A further possible threat in the future could come from attempts by the Soviet Union to destabilise the South East Asian region in order to encircle or contain China. This could take place as part of the Soviet Union’s long term quarrel with China. Therefore we must be prepared for possible instability. Even though we are now forced into a difficult economic situation and the Services will have to get by with restraint, the basic task is to ensure that the Services maintain their morale, their training and their skills and that they are capable of immediate, competent and mobile reaction should it be required.
There is one thing in the Minister’s speech that I would like to ask the Government to reconsider. The Minister has painted a picture of judicious restraint on current service training and exercises as being necessary to enable a proper degree of equipment procurement programs to go ahead. It is absolutely vital that that judicious restraint does not extend to unacceptable restraint in activities. The Services have had to cope with cuts in flying time, in steaming time and in ammunition. As the Minister pointed out, all of these activities are expensive. However, I ask the Government seriously to consider before the end of this financial year a modest supplementary estimate directed entirely and exclusively to training activities and exercises and the relevant support for those exercises to be undertaken by the Services. I would have thought that a modest amount of anywhere between $5m and perhaps $10m would enable the Services to get on with their day to day activities and would ensure that we do not have a reduction in the honed talents of the services and an unacceptable reduction in morale. At this stage the position is reasonable. We must keep a very close eye on what could happen if activities grind down too low.
The decision as far as specific items are concerned, particularly the TFF project, seems to me to be reasonable. At present the aircraft that are being looked at are well known throughout the world and may reach the end of their production run by the time we take delivery of them. Alternatively, new aircraft could come along which could well be chosen. I think the decision to continue to assess what aircraft we require is sound, but presumably we we will want a decision to be made within the next year or two.
The statements by the Minister about the participation of Australian defence industry in orders are very welcome. I have noticed public criticisms of the Department of Defence following hearings of a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I just want to say that I, and presumably other members of that Committee on which I serve, will, of course, keep an open mind until we hear all the evidence. We will be waiting to hear submissions from the Department of Defence and other relevant departments, not only in general but also in respect of submissions that have already been made to the sub-committee. Let me repeat: It is unfortunate that the level of finance proposed by the White Paper is not completely available. I hope we will be able to keep up with and match its aims within a very short additional time phase.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We are debating the estimates of the Department of Defence. Over some considerable period of time we have been debating the estimates of other departments. I reiterate a complaint that I made in an earlier debate, namely that members of the House of Representatives are not paid the same courtesies as senators with respect to departmental estimates. My comments in this respect do not apply to only one department. Senators are provided with a breakdown of the estimates of various departments which they can use as members of Estimates committees as well as for other purposes. Members of the House of Representatives in the main have to go and scrounge copies of this information from senators and I do not think that is an appropriate activity. I think this information, if required, should be made available to members of the House of Representatives. I am not suggesting that every member be sent a full set of explanatory notes on the estimates of every department. However, if a request is made, this information should be provided.
I cannot agree with the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) that the situation is reasonable or that the estimates set out in this year’s Budget represent anything other than a substantial long term reduction in Australia’s defence capacity. I do not intend to go through the debate on the defence review that took place last night. However, I think there are a number of areas into which the White Paper projected activity but in which that activity has almost totally disappeared. Among the new projects for this year will be the ordering of an additional number of torpedoes for the Oberon class submarines. On the initial costs of the first ordernumbers were not mentioned last night- it would appear we get something between 25 and 30 new mark 48 torpedoes. Delivery dates have not been indicated, but my understanding is that the American production of these torpedoes is due to end in the financial year 1979 and that the first order that Australia placed is due for delivery in early 1979.
The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), in answer to a question last week, indicated that the Mulloka sonar system would not be available for the three FFG frigates which are being constructed in the United States. I have to query that statement because the Minister also said he thought that the problems had been ironed out and that it would be possible for this sonar system to be installed during refits of our escort ships which are due to take place, according to my understanding, prior to the end of 1983. If that is correct it would appear that the system could be installed in at least the third of the FFG frigates on which construction is due to commence in about a month’s time. I do not know whether a change in the order for these frigates to allow this type of sonar system to be installed is a cost factor or a technical factor, but I would certainly suggest that if it is possible to fit the system, it ought to be fitted to the third frigate. There would seem to be no justification for not fitting the system if it can be fitted to other vessels prior to the date of completion of the third frigate.
The need to maintain and encourage technical and design capacity in respect of specialised weapons is important to Australia’s defence. This capacity is basic to a capacity to utilise weapons. It is also basic to a capacity to maintain weapons during any significant emergency. The scientific and research organisation is suffering a fairly heavy beating because of staff cuts. The Minister last night indicated that civilian staff cuts were of the order of 6,000. The Minister said that this reduction had resulted in increased efficiency. I know of no evidence that would suggest that increased efficiency automatically results from reduced personnel. It may be that by increasing efficiency one can decrease the number of personnel required and that by a proper and systematic usage of personnel one can reduce the number of personnel required. I think it is simplistic in the extreme to suggest that merely by reducing the number of personnel one increases efficiency. There are all sorts of other considerations to be taken into account, one of which has not, at this stage, been taken into account in most of the cutbacks, that is, whether the reductions in personnel are in fact in the areas where surpluses may occur and whether the experiences and capacities that are needed for efficient operation are retained.
I direct one other query to the Minister. Last night he made mention of the fact that one of the existing destroyers would be taken out of service late in 1979 in order to ensure that strains were not placed on the capacity of crews to man these particular ships. He made no mention of the crewing of the additional Oberon submarines. My understanding is that, of the four currently in service with the Navy, one at least has fairly regularly been tied up because of lack of a crew. It may be that additional crews have been trained, but that has not been mentioned and I would be interested to know whether we will be able to put to sea the whole of the six Oberon class submarines at any one time if it were required. I also acknowledge that it is the intention that two of them be under re-fit most times and that four of them be operational.
I raise one other matter which I think is quite serious in consequence. Last night the Minister made reference to the F111 aircraft and he mentioned the alterations which are to be made to that aircraft in order to improve its capacity to arrive at a target and also to improve its capacity to deliver precision weapons systems. He also made a passing reference to the fact that the Government was examining whether such weapons would be acquired. Irrespective of current events, I acknowledge that the F111 is most likely the most capable weapons system in the world for arriving at a target or in the vicinity of a target. I say that so that there can be no query about what I am saying now. But that sort of capacity is only of value if one is then able to deliver a weapons system which is in line with the capacity of the aircraft. At the moment, that does not exist and there is no commitment in this year’s Budget for the provision of such a weapons system. I understand that there are plans to examine the possibility of the Harpoon system being used for the F111s. There are delays because the United States Congress is holding up approval for the United States Air Force to use that system and there are design and cost factors involved, which it would be preferable for the United States to pick up rather than Australia.
But the F111s have been in service for a considerable time. There are relatively cheap weapons systems which would enhance the capacity of that particular aircraft many times over. Even if, subsequently, an additional weapons system such as the Harpoon were to be placed on the aircraft, it would not render other systems obsolete. I think that, if we are going to spend money on the aircraft to improve its capacity to arrive at a target, it is not unreasonable that we ought also to be committing ourselves to providing the aircraft with weapons which would justify the additional capacity of finding targets. Mr Deputy Chairman, there are a number of other matters which I would like to raise, but time will not permit. Perhaps I will raise these matters later in the debate if time does permit.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)The honourable member’s time has expired.
-First of all, might I take this opportunity to express thanks to the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). I do not want to talk about the Sub-Committee of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which I have the privilege of chairing because eventually its report will be produced and tabled and that will be the correct time to bring up matters that are coming forward and that will come forward in relation to this inquiry. But I would not like the opportunity to pass without thanking the Minister for the complete manner in which he has co-operated with that Sub-Committee. He has made transport available to us to all areas of Australia, however remote. We have been to some fairly odd places which it would have been quite impossible to visit without the assistance of the Royal Australian Air Force. I also should like to thank the Minister for at all times making available his officers, whomever we might have wanted, and I would hope that this co-operation would continue.
Before I depart from this particular subject, might I say that I think the present Minister for Defence has based his approach and his attitude on two matters- money and morale. I think the morale of the forces, depleted though they be, is of a very high nature, particularly in comparison with what it was just a few years ago. Each branch of the Defence Force was in a very sorry state in regard to the matter that is of most importance as regards the defence of this country, that is, the morale of the people involved.
In relation to the money side, I well remember an informal discussion that I had with the Minister prior to the previous Budget when he was deeply distressed as to just what funds would be available- never mind what he wanted. We- and when I say ‘we’, I mean all people in this chamber who were involved, whether on government committees or standing or select committees- co-operated in getting behind the Minister to try to provide for him as much money as possible for the Defence vote. I feel the Minister might have been a little sad when, in presenting his statement, he made this comment:
This year’s amount for defence is larger in real terms than any since the last Budget of the McMahon Government.
Having had the privilege of being a Minister in that particular Government, I know just how funds were depleted and just how terribly difficult it was to balance the budget at that time. So, if we are using that time as a touchstone, how much more difficult it now must be for the Minister and those associated with him to provide this nation with the sort of defence that is required, even at an actual minimum.
Another matter which the Minister mentioned in the course of the presentation of his statement was this:
This Government will have no pan 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 am sure that there is no one at all who would not commend the Minister for that statement. But in so doing, we would presume that the high degree of expertise that is required, particularly in matters of procurement, stock-taking, if one likes, and of balancing the budget in relation to both the financing associated with procurement and the nuts and bolts, naturally would not be expected to be found amongst our uniformed people. But, for heavens sake, it would be a sad day for this nation and for the Department of Defence if these people should be isolated, if they should be given a particular command which would not associate them as closely as possible with the uniformed Chiefs of Staff. So I thoroughly agree with and stand four-square with the Minister in that matter.
That brings me to the matter of this continuing conflict which appears to exist between civilians and our Defence personnel. I am afraid that we who have been associated with the defence picture in one way or another over a period of years have never been able to get away from that particular problem. We see this inevitable conflict between civilians and the uniformed people of our Defence Force. This has led to great difficulties and it is a matter which requires the closest of examination. We have seen the tide rise and fall as regards this conflict. During my time as a Minister, I saw a great struggle taking place to keep the major part of command in the hands of the uniformed personnel. On the Opposition side, there was a conflict. Members opposite kept dodging realities. There was an attempt to bring across to the defence forces generally a great measure of civilian control. It did happen, and I am one who has never ceased to feel that it went a little too far.
I now move to the question of threats and friends; and one is inevitably tied up with the other. We are going through a very uneasy period. Anyone who would suggest for a moment that the defence of this country is something that has to be merely a gesture- something that has to be dressed up and ready to provide some sort of an emergency force if some sort of a threat is forthcoming- does not read the newspapers, does not study international affairs and is not at all aware of the various pressures that are building up dangerously. These pressures can be found almost anywhere. I instance the African continent. What a deterioration we have seen there.
I wonder how anyone in his right senses could describe this as an era of peace. I saw an article the other day concerning the United Nations and suggesting that the United Nations was not very much in business these days because we were experiencing an era of peace. Is it an era of peace to see what is happening in Rhodesia and its surrounding countries? There is the slaughter in Lebanon; probably one of the most tragic bloodbaths in history per head of population. That is no exaggerated statement. Yet the responsible people of this world can turn their heads the other way and say that it is not happening. If they have no feeling for what is happening in those areas then let them look at what is happening with the various defence pressures that are building up. If we find some consolation in saying that it is a long way from here, let us look at what is happening again in Vietnam. My colleague, the honourable member for St George, (Mr Neil) a little while ago drew attention to the growing conflict between China and Cambodia. Vietnam, also is involved. You can take it anyway you like; it is a 3 way bet.
I turn now to our own particular situation and refer to our own Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. In passing I pay tribute to David Hamer, a former chairman, and the men who served with him for producing what was a commendable report. The present Committee is endeavouring to carry on under somewhat different guidelines. One of the Committee’s responsibilities was to look very closely at the matter of civilian participation in defence surveillance. We met with difficulty. If the words civilian participation’ are uttered, one can almost feel the defence chiefs bristle. This attitude has to alter. Surely there are lessons to be learned from Israel and other countries where civilian participation is huge and indispensable for the success of operations. It is possible to name a dozen or so countries where in the past 40 or 50 years there has been a successful blending of civilian participation with the formal defence forces. How great is the need to have that situation in Australia. I draw attention to one particular element that could be utilised. We have ample evidence, which will be produced and presented to the Minister in time, that excellent use could be made of the Aboriginal people along the northern frontiers of this country. Many of them have gone back to their tribal areas around the coast under civilian supervision. Under the training of the Army, Navy or Air Force, whatever it may be, we could produce a tremendously effective force of coast watchers- people who would be indispensable in surveillance. They are inquisitive, observant and, what is more, they would have a sense of belonging. Probably a thousand such people could be used.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)-
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Today I wish to deal particularly with the lack of cooperation that the Defence Department is giving Sub-Committee C of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. That subcommittee is charged with the responsibility of inquiring into the defence procurement programs of the Department of Defence and into the question of coastal surveillance, keeping in mind that we now have a 200-mile economic zone sea limit. As a result of that, the Committee under the chairmanship of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), proceeded to Alice Springs, the North West Cape base and Darwin. In Darwin it heard public evidence. At the end of the public evidence I made a statement so that it would be placed on record in the public documents in Hansard. I shall quote from that statement shortly.
Before I deal with that I want to make one or two points. I can only say that from what I sawwithout going into detail, because I do not think it is in the interest of Australia to go into the precise detail of this- I was absolutely shocked at the complete lack of defence in Darwin, the most forward part of this country. Furthermore, I formed the impression- I know other members of the Committee formed that same impressionthat today we once again have a Brisbane line in existence where the vast majority of our Air Force, Navy and Army forces are around Brisbane or south of Brisbane. This is a very serious situation because it means that Darwin has not only an ineffective defence force but also an inefFective surveillance force. I quote now from Hansard record of the public hearing in Brisbane. I then said:
My comments relate to concern at the question of cooperation of the Department of Defence with this Committee. Some members of the Committee will remember that I was going to come straight to Darwin, and that I very nearly did not go to Alice Springs and the North West Cape base. This was as a result of receiving a copy of the letter dated 27 September from the Minister to the Chairman of this Committee which stated, amongst other things:
When I say ‘Committee’ I mean subcommittee
As I am sure you will understand there are, under these procedures, certain constraints upon the access in briefing that can be given.’
Having read that, having gone to Pine Gap- I think it was six years ago- when I was very dissatisfied with the type of briefing that I received then, having understood during the course of the previous Government that the standards of briefing were to be improved -
That is, to parliamentarians- and having myself agreed to that proposition in my own Caucus, I had believed that we would get at least some basic understanding of what the facility was all about. I just want to say this: The briefing I received this time was fundamentally no different from the briefing I received approximately six years ago. I feel it is rather an insult to the intelligence that such a briefing should be given.
It was particularly insulting to Sub-Committee C of the Joint Committee of this Parliament. I continued:
I am naturally not going to put on this tape the details of that briefing. In the previous briefing, which I think was actually in Hansard, we were told that it was purely a research organisation. But the basic difference, I would say, between this briefing and the previous one was simply that previously we were not allowed to go into the briefing room and this time we were. Last time we were shown the toilets and the bedding facilities and so on. Apart from that the information was much the same.
I believe that this Committee is a privileged Committee. It is a Committee established by the Parliament. If we are to be able to investigate and carry out our duties properly and bring down meaningful reports I think it is necessary that the Committee should be given the information which can assist it in that regard. For that reason- and I want to make this quite clear-I would be quite happy to get a security clearance provided that, if there was any suggestion that I did not qualify, I would want to know why.
That is logical. Otherwise the authorities would say: ‘Sorry; he does not get a security clearance’. On asking why, I would be told: ‘I cannot tell you’. As a member of this Parliament, I think that is a quite reasonable offer. I am prepared to go through with it. The record continues:
In other words, this would be for proving purposes. I believe that that particular visit was virtually useless. I add to that that when we went to the North West Cape base it turned out that the base is quite wide open for everyone there, including staff, and the briefing included the fact that the base did convey signals to submarines, including Polaris submarines. We were told in answer to a question from me that the base had never been classified and yet we always understood in the Parliament that it was always classified.
This time we received information which everyone had known about- you could read it anywhere- except you could not be told it in the Parliament. I believe that there has to be a far more realistic approach on this matter by the Department of Defence.
CHAIRMAN- Mr Armitage, perhaps you would like to have this matter disscussed by the major Committee.
– I think so.
CHAIRMAN- Thank you.
– I want to make one point, Mr Chairman. I reserve the right to comment on this matter in other places.
Once again, before the full Committee, when I reported I reserved that right. The fact is that on the very day after we visited Pine Gap- Tuesday, 3 October 1978- there was an article in the Australian headed:
Next arms talks for Moscow.
In a speech marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Mr Carter publicly acknowledged for the first time that the United States had used other than ‘national technical means’ to monitor Soviet activities- especially in respect of the SALT agreements.
One can pick up a science magazine in the United States and read what Pine Gap, the North West Cape base, et cetera, are all about. One can go to the Parliamentary Library and, as I did, take out articles, which I display here, on Pine Gap and the various other facilities in this country. I would have no objection if, for example, Pine Gap were being used for surveillance of the Soviet Union. I would have no objection if the United States were under surveillance by the Russians. After all, under the principles of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks arrangements that would be for the good and peace of the world. It would make sure that neither party could gain a benefit over the other through lack of knowledge or early warning devices in relation to nuclear war.
I think this is a ridiculous situation. I have been told a simple thing which I shall not state clearly here, in the interests of this country. I believe that I know completely what Pine Gap is all about, just as I have always known- despite the lack of information from successive Ministers for Defence in the Parliament- what the North West Cape base is all about. One simple sentence could have been used and the Committee would have known what it was doing and where it was going. The fact is that the Committee is not being given the co-operation of the Department of Defence. Therefore I cannot see how it can usefully carry on its inquiries, until there is a complete reappraisal of the attitude of the Department to the Parliament, to the representatives of the people and especially, of course, to the committees which are placed in a particularly privileged position- these committees that are inquiring into special defence aspects of this nation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-by leave- Honourable members will recall that during my second reading speech on 8 June 1978 introducing the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978I foreshadowed the introduction of a foreign tax credit system for the taxation of overseas earnings of Australian companies and individuals. In that statement I indicated that the new system would apply in respect of income earned from and including 1978-79. One of the purposes of my foreshadowing introduction of the system was to elicit comment and submissions from those Australian companies and individuals who might be affected by the new system of taxing overseas earnings.
Since my announcement, the Government has received a large number of submissions from a significant spectrum of the Australian business community. In the light of these submissions, the Government has decided not to proceed with the introduction of a foreign tax credit system as outlined in my statement of 8 June. In announcing this decision, I inform the House that the Government has come to the conclusion that, whilst there are significant arguments- based on the need for the tax system to be equitable and neutral in its impact- for the introduction of a foreign tax credit system to replace the existing taxation treatment of overseas earnings, these benefits are, in the view of the Government, outweighed by certain adverse consequences which might accrue from the introduction of a credit system.
It is clear from the submissions we have received that many Australian companies see, as a direct consequence of a foreign tax credit system, an erosion of the competitive position of
Australian companies overseas. There is particular concern that the system might have had an adverse effect on the level of Australian investment in countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations region. Australians employed overseas have also been concerned that, despite a partial exemption included in the proposed arrangements, the credit system would have put them at a disadvantage.
Whilst the principal reason for the original proposal was that of permitting greater equity in the taxation treatment of companies which derived earnings outside Australia against those deriving earnings from within Australia, another motivation for the proposal was to reduce the opportunities which currently exist for tax avoidance through the diversion of income to low tax or no tax countries. Whilst, for the reasons I have outlined, the Government does not intend to proceed with the legislation for the proposed foreign tax credit system, it is, consistently with this decision, giving close attention to further measures specifically designed to reduce the scope for avoidance under the existing rules relating to taxation of earnings from international transactions.
I present the following paper:
Foreign Tax Credit System- Ministerial Statement, 25 October 1978.
Motion (by Mr Killen) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-The Opposition regards this statement by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) as a highly retrograde step. In our view, it represents a complete cave-in to pressure from powerful business interests which are implacably opposed to the Government’s proposal, which was to tax foreign source income at Australian company tax rates. The Opposition supported that announcement when it was made by the Treasurer. We have since issued Press statements expressing some alarm at the apparent intention of the Government to water down or perhaps to abandon the proposal. Now, in fact, we find that that is what has happened.
We oppose the backdown because there are various good reasons for doing what the Government proposed to do in the first place. Frankly,- 1 do not think the Government really has changed its mind about the desirability of doing what it originally proposed to do. If honourable members read the Treasurer’s statement they will see that there is no convincing statement as to why the proposal should be abandoned. Rather, the real reason for the cave-in is the pressure that has been put on the Government from Australian business interests. We know that organisations like the Confederation of Australian Industry and the Australian International Business Association and many large companies have pressured the Government considerably in this regard. The major reason for doing what the Government proposed- it has now abandoned that proposal- was simply to close off a major tax avoidance loophole.
– No, it was not.
– It was a very important reason for doing it. It is mentioned in the Treasurer’s statement as an important reason for doing it.
– It is not the major reason and you know that. You should be very careful of the words you use.
– I think it was a major reason for doing it. If the Treasurer wants to argue that it is not the major reason we are quite happy about that. We also think that there are other important reasons for doing it.
– You should get it straight on the record.
Order! The honourable member for Gellibrand will address the Chair.
– I am not really concerned about getting into a semantic debate on whether it is the major reason or just a major reason. It certainly was an important reason for the Government doing what it proposed to do, that is, close off a major tax avoidance loophole. The reason that the Treasurer is so sensitive about this is that he has tried to portray himself, with some substantial justification till now, as a Treasurer who has done a lot to close off tax avoidance loopholes, but what he has said in this statement damages that reputation. I can understand his sensitivity because it damages his and the Government’s reputations of being absolutely sincere in wishing to close off tax loopholes. In this respect let me give the House some advice about what is involved.
As we understand it, there are many big nonlisted groups- private companies- including groups trading in textiles and other commodities, which channel most of their big profits through various tax havens. These private companies are at an advantage because they do not have to publish the sources of their profits. There is widespread use of devices to divert profits to tax havens where companies pay low tax rates and then repatriate the dividends to Australia without incurring any extra tax penalty, as things currently stand. For instance, goods may be bought on the world market by a Hong Kong subsidiary which sells those goods to the Australian parent at a large profit which is then repatriated to Australia but on which they have paid only the low Hong Kong company tax rate of 1 7 per cent. That is what happens in respect of private companies, lt is acknowledged even by those who were doing much of the lobbying that there was a lot of tax avoidance by private companies operating in this way. Importantly, there were many large listed companies which earned a lot of income from foreign sources. A list published in the Australian Financial Review on 19 July showed that about 25 per cent of a sample of 120 top Australian listed companies have subsidiaries operating in Hong Kong or other tax havens.
The kind of money that is being channelled through Hong Kong and other tax havens bears some explanation and development in this House. For instance, the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has ships registered in Hong Kong. These ships registered a profit of $ 1 .2m last financial year but would have paid only 17 per cent tax on that amount compared with the 46 per cent Australian company tax rate. So, clearly BHP was in there lobbying hard for the Government to abandon its proposal. Other companies with significant overseas profits in low tax areas include, and I mention only some of them referred to in the Australian Financial Review survey, the Adelaide Steamship Company Ltd involving a profit of $312,000, Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd $154,000, Comalco Ltd $718,000, Dunlop Australia Ltd $219,000, Nylex Corporation Ltd $431,000, Pioneer Concrete Pty Ltd $3. 2m, Thiess Holdings $1.4m, and there were others which I will not mention. In the New Hebrides, Burns Philp and Co. Ltd has channelled through $ 1.1m in the last year and W. R. Carpenter and Co. Ltd has channelled through $415,000. In Bermuda, CIG Ltd has put through $368,000; in Guernsey the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd has put through $ 1 36,000; and in the Bahamas, the James Hardie company put through $638,000 and H. C. Sleigh Ltd $22 1,000. That is not put forward as a comprehensive list but as an example of the way in which large companies in this country can channel income through foreign tax havens and thereby escape paying the large amounts of tax which would apply if they had to pay the Australian company tax rate. By abandoning the proposal to prevent that tax avoidance, the Government is enabling these companies to continue to escape that level of tax. It is particularly important to note that this is being done at the same time as the Government is imposing an income tax surcharge of VA per cent on the Australian taxpayer because it is desperate to raise revenue. I am sure that the irony of that will not be lost on the Australian population.
It is important also to look at other reasons for introducing the proposal which has now been abandoned. By allowing the loophole to continue Australian companies have been encouraged to go off-shore, that is, to South East Asian nations, because of the tax inducements there. As we all know, over the last several years there has been a move by Australian companies into South East Asia because there are various inducements to investing in and operating businesses there as against in Australia. That is partly due to very substantial wage differentials. It is also partly due to concessions which are made by way of” subsidies and so on. It is not unimportant to note that in most of those South East Asian countries the work force is pretty regimented. This also has certain inducements because the companies will not face any industrial strife. It is for these reasons that the companies have gone over there. In addition to those reasons there have been the substantial tax concessions which are available because of the loophole in Australian company tax law. We believe that this has been an important factor and that the tax system itself has been encourating companies to go off-shore and, in a sense, export Australian jobs. At a time when we have massive unemployment- it will be over the half million mark in the next couple of months- surely it is significant that the Government is abandoning a tax measure which may have done something to prevent the erosion of job opportunities in Australia by Australian companies continuing to export jobs to South East Asian countries.
It is important to note that a recommendation of the Asprey Taxation Review Committee was precisely what the Government said should be done in a statement made previously by the Treasurer. The Asprey Committee recommendation was that we should close off this loophole on the grounds of equity and economic efficiency. The Government also has used those arguments. The Treasurer, in his speech on 8 June announcing the closing off of this loophole, mentioned some of the arguments that were used by the Asprey Committee in formulating its recommendations. He has since used the argument in defence of the proposal that economic efficiency and equity in the tax system demand that these measures be taken. Now those arguments have been jettisoned. If we look at the Treasurer’s statement to see why this has been done it is very hard to believe that the Treasurer really believes his own statement which reads in part:
It is clear from the submissions we have received that many Australian companies see, as a direct consequence of a foreign tax credit system, an erosion of the competitive position of Australian companies overseas.
He did not say that the Government sees it that way but that the companies see it that way. There is no explicit mention of agreement with the companies, only a statement of concern that it might affect investment in ASEAN countries. There certainly is no convincing argument put forward by the Government. We can conclude only that an important tax measure, which was an important recommendation of the Asprey Committee, to close off an important tax loophole and one which was going to do something to stop the erosion of job opportunities in Australia, has been abandoned by this Government simply because it has been put under enormous pressure from large business interests in this country which comprise the major support for the Government parties.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hodges) adjourned.
Department of Defence
Proposed expenditure, $2,329, 1 85,000.
-I support the appropriation for the Department of Defence and wish there were millions of dollars more. I know the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) feels exactly that way too. I want to support some of the comments made earlier by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) about the Minister for Defence. I refer particularly to his general good-heartedness. He needs a heart as big as Phar Lap ‘s to carry the load we have put on him. It is terrible when a government of our basic philosophic convictions about defence finds itself in a difficult situation. I congratulate the Minister on his achievement. He says that we have had a modest but significant real increase of 1 per cent over last year’s outlay on defence. In the present economic circumstances that is something with which we will just have to be content.
Like others, I regret that we have had to curtail some of our defence objectives, as set out in the White Paper. I regret even more- I think we are all responsible for this- that over the last 10 years defence spending as a proportion of total
Budget outlays has dropped from 17 per cent to about 81/2 per cent. I think that is something that does not reflect much credit on this Parliament. At the same time our singularity as a nation, our separation from great and powerful friends, has increased. I do not need to allude to any of the things to which the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) alluded to support that argument. We are on our own. We have to make big and important decisions.
I wish to spend a moment now discussing Western Australia’s feelings about defence. Western Australia is the largest State with the greatest length of coastline. The Timor Sea laps its northern shores and the Indian and Southern Oceans lap the rest of its coastline. Western Australians have always been terribly concerned about security, principally because our iron ore and other primary exports go across the Indian Ocean. We are terribly concerned at the present lack of surveillance. We know that the Government is doing something about that, but we are basically concerned, I suppose, because of our sparse population, the general isolation in our north and the fact that so much of our potential wealth is in the north-west. Western Australians have had an historic concern with defence. It is true that this issue was the only reason why Western Australia came into the Federation. I might say that that decision has been under constant challenge from secessionists. I know that my friends will support me when I say that disabilities, such as high tariffs and centralised decisions which hurt Western Australia, keep that secession feeling alive. I know that the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) would agree with that.
Mr Deputy Chairman, I will not ask you to bring me back to the subject under discussion. I will come back to it of my own volition. Defence is the subject about which we are worried today. All Western Australians were a little reassured earlier this year, when the Minister and various other people came over and at last opened the Garden Island naval base at Cockburn Sound. The need for that base has been in the minds of the defence establishment almost since Federation and it has taken 78 years and two World Wars to get this naval base. There are some strategic thinkers who feel that it has almost outlived its usefulness. There are some, of course, who have said that the bricks and mortar at Garden Island are a bad investment. I would agree with that in war time, but in peacetime we should take the opportunity to give our servicemen and women every comfort and facility. It is they to whom we look to fight for us and, if necessary, give their lives for us. That is an eventuality that none of us hope for, but with the inevitability of the troubles of this world it has come about far too often.
I believe that the major part of defence expenditure should be on equipment and service personnel rather than on what others have referred to as a ballpoint bureaucracy or even something such as Casey University, which has been in the minds of all honourable members recently. I have to say to the Minister that every service person with whom I have spoken in recent times seems to be against the idea of Casey University. They would prefer the existing service education system to be modified rather than to commence a new project. I hope that the Minister will have more talks with service personnel at all levels, at least at the level that would be part of the establishment at Casey University. I suppose that I am one of those people who say that we should assess our basic needs for defence and then find the money to satisfy them. These days we have to be pretty sure of ourselves because, as the Minister has pointed out in his statement, there are enormous costs. For instance, tank practice rounds cost in excess of $350 each and the cost of training a tank crew exceeds $ 1 8,000.
– That is for ammunition alone.
-That if for ammunition alone. Missiles are even more costly. Standard surfacetoair missiles fitted in our DDG destroyers cost $145,000 each. The harpoon missile in the FFG costs in excess of $500,000. Those of us- I am one of them- who say that we must assess what we need and then find the money for it must bear that in mind. I make this point because very often it is said that those of us who believe that we should work out what we need first do not think about the costs involved, but we do think about the costs involved. I stick to the theory that we should basically assess what we must have and then pay the price. That has always been the way defence establishes itself. To date we have been lucky. We have avoided difficulties but inevitably, as has happened already a few times this century, there will be other difficulties. This time I hope we are ready. The Minister has said that democracies have never been ready for any conflict in the last 70 years. I have heard him say that at least four times in this chamber and it cannot be said often enough.
I regret the loss today of an FI 1 1 aircraft but this in no way faults the excellent judgment of those who originally decided to give us this aircraft. It is basically a nuclear bomber and that probably accounts for some of the sensitivity of the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) earlier on. He knows that it is a nuclear bomber. We all know that it is a nuclear bomber. Really what we ought to be thinking about here and in other places is ensuring that it has its complete equipment. It is perhaps useful in some respects to try to transform these nuclear bombers into reconnaissance aircraft but I would prefer to go to the logic of the situation and complete the equipment. At this point I wish to make a few basic reflections about the present defence criteria.
– Did the Minister ask you to say that?
– I would say to the honourable member for Port Adelaide that there is plenty of room for differences of opinion in this place. I have been a member for a couple of years now and although the Minister and I are not necessarily totally in agreement about everything by and large we seem to get by. There is plenty of room for a difference of opinion. He would probably disagree with what I am going to say now, but it is going to be said anyway. This nation is huge, rich and under-populated. It is logical that because we lack people we should concentrate on defending ourselves with the most efficient machines. Some of these are nuclear and some are rocket propelled. I know the ritual song and dance that normally go on when these things are mentioned in this place, but we cannot run away from the inevitability and the logic of equipping ourselves properly to defend ourselves.
– Against whom?
-That is a silly interjection from the honourable member. He knows very well that one cannot specify who one’s enemies will be at any time. I keep saying to honourable members opposite that there are no such things as permanent friendships or permanent enemies; only permanent interests. The honourable member knows that as well as I do. Our nearest neighbours- South Africa, India, China and the United States- all have nuclear weapons. Why cannot we? We have a better standard of civilisation than some of those countries and our very future might well demand one day that we answer this vital question. I do not mind answering it now. I vote yes. The sooner this country is equipped with its full defence equipment, part of which should be nuclear, the better it will be. Meanwhile the present demands our attention and I commend the appropriation for the Department of Defence.
– It gives me somewhat a sense of deja vu to come back here after nearly three years and to speak on defence matters. I must start off by saying, of course, that my side of the chamber totally opposes the arming of the FI 1 ls with atomic weaponry and that we adhere to all that is said with respect to nuclear non-proliferation.
I am here today representing another electorate which has a large defence component. When I was a member of this House previously, I was privileged to represent the electorate of Macarthur which had in it HMAS Albatross and also HMAS Cresswell nearby. In Werriwa we have the Ingleburn Army establishment and just over the border, in the seat of the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin), there is the Holsworthy-Moorebank complex. In the three years that I was privileged to represent HMAS Albatross, I found that I had a great deal of admiration and respect for the officers and men in the armed forces and for their real and sustained views on the defence of this country.
I do not come here to seek to wreak any revenge on the honourable member for Moreton, the present Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), but I would like to point out, whatever the intentions of anyone who holds this very diffcult job and no matter what his enthusiasm may be, that other things get in the way. When we were in government, despite all the attacks on Lance Barnard, we found that we could not do many of the things that we wanted to do with regard to defence. I now feel that the present Minister’s chickens are now coming home to roost. I even fear that his abject statement of yesterday was not the final chicken. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) might have a few more chickens yet to come.
When I was previously a member of this place I was also privileged to be the secretary of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence under Mr Barnard and Mr Morrison. I well remember what the then Opposition said about its expectations for the defence forces. So I checked Hansard and the Press files for those three years and found that my memory was fairly correct. The honourable member for Moreton asked two questions on defence in 1972, said nothing in 1 973 and said almost nothing in 1 974. Of course, he was not the shadow spokesman for defence at that time. The shadow spokesman for the then Opposition was the then member for Barker who did not speak in this House so much as drip acid. When the honourable member for Moreton assumed the responsibilities for defence for the Liberal Party he at least treated us to Burkean phraseology, good humour and allusions to past generals such as Theodosius who, I think, was from the fourth century A,D.
– Or the fifth.
– Or the fifth century A.D. He alluded also to Wavell and treated us to biting sarcasm. He labelled Mr Barnard as ‘living evidence of life after death’ and, on one other memorable occasion, as ‘the most complete tragedy the nation has ever known’. Mr Barnard got terrific serves from the honourable member for Moreton. No one has ever doubted the honourable member for Moreton ‘s interest in defence but I put on the record, now that he is in the hot seat, that some of these comments were most unfair. We heard of our not being able to defend Sydney on a sunny Sunday afternoon, that the Canberra hills could not be defended by a cadet corps and all these sorts of things. But now the boot is on the other foot, and often in the Minister’s mouth. The often vicious personal criticism by the then Opposition of Mr Barnard centred on men, equipment and organisation. I guess that much of the time all we speak about is money. There is this interminable debate about the percentage of gross national product going to defence and I do not think there is much sense in boring the chamber again with figures. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) put more figures into Hansard yesterday with respect to this and to the three-year averages.
When in government we picked up the recommendations of the Jess committee on conditions and, of course, this provoked many resignations. I well remember the criticisms at that time about the number of resignations. Perhaps those criticisms were very valid because it takes a lot of time to train an officer in the armed Services and a sudden bulge in the number of people resigning was a matter for real concern. It was also a matter in peacetime that allowed promotion of some of the younger officers. But the Opposition of that time bleated loud and long, particularly in respect of the Army. I think it was General MacDonald who said that we needed 38,000 men in the Army. We said that the figure should be 34,000 which was our target. We were criticised virulently for that. The figure is now 31,900. If people are going to talk about the numbers in the Army as if this is a matter of dramatic importance, they want to stick to some of the figures when they achieve office. The last conference of the Returned Services League pointed out that the Army did not have any bullets or, if it did have bullets, that many of them were defective. We now see reports in the newspapers that ammunition is lacking. I know in the electorate adjoining mine that the Army is using old ammunition for mortars and that four out of five exercises for some units are cancelled.
Going beyond these immediate and rather small concerns, let us look at the five-year rolling procurement program which was brought in with such a flourish on, I think, 4 November 1976. This five-year program has now effectively become a 10-year program. If we do the calculations there is a shortfall of some $400m in terms of the weapons procurement element of that supposed $ 12,000m program. I also remember that we were abused for putting a couple of squadrons of Mirages in mothballs. I think that it is now a question of saying: ‘Thank God we did’. I remember arguing many times in this chamber that the Mirage was more than adequate to meet any likely opposition in our region and yet the then Opposition was adamant on the urgency of its replacement. It said that when it came to government the Mirage would be urgently replaced by 1977. Now it is to be refurbished. One of the reasons- I do not think that it is the key reason- that the FI 5, for example, is not available with respect to the TFF is that there is a great chance that we could not even get it now if we wanted to. By the time we could buy it, its production run would have ceased. There may be some difficulty in gaining entry into the programs for the other four aircraft under review. I think that is illustrative of the problems with lead times and equipment.
I remember in the Estimates debate in 1975 that the then Minister made some comments about the few Rapier missiles that we were buying. But I noted from the newspaper the other day, even though we committed the country to buying Rapier missiles at that time, that they are only now coming through. This is the problem with defence equipment- there is a very long lead time. Although we were attacked for not buying lots of equipment in 1973 and 1974, the problem was that very little equipment was ordered that would have fed through at that time. Admittedly we were abused and we cancelled the DDL program, but, as honourable members know, the specification of 12 destroyers had rapidly become three cruisers and we had to have a look at that again. The FFG, which was then attacked and which has now become the star attraction of the Minister’s catalogue, was also something which we had to order and for which we had to go through the process of procurement. Even now the third one that we are going to buy will not add to our fleet numbers.
In the statement yesterday I do not think that there was sufficient reference to naval air power. I think that people now accept more and more that there is no chance of getting a sophisticated carrier force. But I think that the concept of naval air power must be stressed in this country. If we look at the list of goodies, which was touted out again yesterday, it seems to me to be the same old list that we have been trotting out for something like three or four years. I would think that over two-thirds of the buys for which credit is being claimed were initiated during the time of the Labor Government. I can well remember the jest of the honourable member for Moreton when he asked: ‘Why 53 Leopard tanks? Why 8 LRMP aircraft? Why not 53!4? Why not 6? Why not 10?’ Perhaps he had some information on this, but if one is going to make some funny little jibes about the number of items of equipment that are bought, I guess that by and large one relies on the requirement of the armed Services and on what the Budget parameters allow one to buy to prove the matter one way or the other.
Let us look at the organisation and at what has happened with respect to that during the term of this Government. I should say that the Minister bristled with respect to our decisions on bands, cadets and the Army reserve. The reorganisation itself was opposed. But let us look at some of the organisations now under the present Minister and at the problems he faces. Even in the last few days we have seen headlines such as ‘Naval Bungling’ and ‘Defence Plans Undermined by Treasury’. One headline was: ‘They can’t even count’. An article stated that a Liberal MLC said that planning procedures currently practised by the Department of Defence are inappropriate and a major impediment. I am not saying that that is all the fault of the Minister, but I would like him to admit that there are massive problems and, no matter what the ambitions and enthusiasm are of a single Minister for Defence, that he has great problems and needs the support of all of us in this chamber.
– Sadly, I must deny myself the pleasure of replying to my honourable friend because I am under an obligation to propose that progress be reported.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 12 September, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Audit Amendment Bill now before the House is an important piece of legislation, although not exactly the high point of political contention. It provides for various significant amendments to the Audit
Act and is similar in many respects to a Bill previously brought before this House in May 1976. But it, having been passed by this House, was allowed to lapse with the proroguing of Parliament in February 1977, by which time it had still not been passed by the Senate. However, a significant difference between that Bill and the one now before the House is that the new Bill contains provisions for the introduction of efficiency audits, which concept is supported by the Opposition. Indeed, the Opposition supports the Bill as a whole although we are concerned about some aspects of it to which I will make reference later.
The provision for the establishment of efficiency audits represents a very significant alteration in one of the oldest Acts of this Parliament. It will significantly expand the role of the Auditor-General beyond his traditional role of financial auditing to that of assessing whether Government resources are being utilised economically and efficiently. In so doing, the Government is implementing a recommendation of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. It is pleasing to see that the Government is at last acting on at least one of that Royal Commission’s numerous but largely ignored recommendations. However, the Royal Commission did not originate the idea. It was suggested to it by the Auditor-General who, in turn, was presumably aware that many other developed countries have such a provision in their governmental auditing procedures. It therefore represents a very significant expansion and updating of the Australian Government’s auditing procedures and accordingly is worthy of some explanation to the Parliament and the public.
Unfortunately and surprisingly the second reading speech of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) said virtually nothing about it. The only other public comment from the Government came from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) who, on 7 November 1977, in his then capacity as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters, made a cryptic three-page statement on the subject when tabling the report of the working party of officials on efficiency audits, a report which had been completed seven months earlier in April 1977. Furthermore, in stating the Opposition’s attitude to this Bill, it is appropriate I believe to provide some information on this important matter that the Government has not bothered to provide to the Parliament or the public. There are two basic arguments for efficiency audits, both of which are strongly supported by the Opposition. First, there is the obvious need to ensure that the Government’s resources are in fact being utilised efficiently. This is not something that comes within the scope of the conventional financial audit which simply determines whether financial operations are conducted with propriety, whether financial reports are presented fairly and whether the body subjected to audit has complied with all the applicable laws and regulations. Thus, it is not concerned with efficiency of the body subject to audit.
An efficiency audit remedies this deficiency by determining whether a department or statutory authority is utilising its resources in an efficient manner and seeks to reveal the causes of any inefficiencies or uneconomical practices. Such a practice is surely justified as a means of ensuring against waste of taxpayers’ money by the bureaucracy. Those who provide the resources to government- that is, the taxpayers- clearly have the right to be assured that those resources are not being wasted by inefficiency. But without efficiency audits, no such assurances can be given. As the Royal Commission pointed out, the obligation on the Public Service Board under section 17 of the Public Service Act to maintain an oversight of the activities and business methods of the departments and to devise means of effecting economies and promoting efficiency is not a satisfactory guarantee of efficiency in the Service.
The Royal Commission found that for some years the Board had not used its powers under section 1 7 to promote efficiency in the Public Service and although it had recently recommenced section 1 7 examinations, the Royal Commission found them to be very narrow in scope, being mainly exercises in assisting and improving management rather than in auditing or assessing performance. It found also that the results of these examinations are kept confidential to the departments concerned, thereby preventing outside assessment. Thus, the Public Service Act provided no guarantee to the public that government administration was proceeding efficiently. Efficiency audits, however, being concerned directly with efficiency in the use of resources would remedy this, especially as they would be reported to Parliament and so be public documents.
The second reason for introducing efficiency audits has to do with ensuring the primacy of political responsibility for administrative efficiency by making departmental heads accountable to their Ministers, the Cabinet and the Parliament for the efficiency with which they maintain their departments. As the Royal Commission pointed out, without such efficiency audits Minister, Cabinet and Parliament have no systematic or effective way of assessing departmental performance. In that situation, it is farcical to believe that final responsibility for departmental performance is in the hands of those who are directly responsible to the people. The theory of the Westminster system is that the Minister is wholly responsible for all actions in his department. But how can this really be so when he has much more to do than keep a close watch on his department and when he has no real means of assessing or monitoring its performance?
Even though some Ministers may become intimately aware of the operations of their departments, it is not feasible to conclude that they can keep a close watch on all its activities. As many Ministers clearly have a rather less than intimate knowledge of their departments, so much more valid does this point become. A process such as is provided for in this Bill will for the first time enable Ministers properly to assess the performance and efficiency of their departments and of the departmental heads who must in general take responsiblity for their departments’ efficiency. Understandably perhaps, the report of the working party records expressions of concern by departmental heads who, despite section 25 (2) of the Public Service Act which holds them responsible for the general working of a department, believe that the actual degree of responsibility they bear is unclear because of the extent to which their managerial authority is subject to influence by co-ordinating authorities such as the Public Service Board, the Treasury and the Department of Finance. This seems to us to be a matter which should be cleared up by the Government. Even so, it is no argument, as the working party concluded, for not proceeding with efficiency audits.
The important point is to locate, expose and eradicate inefficiency and poor performance. The extent to which departmental heads are responsible for that can be ascertained by further inquiry. If the policies and procedures of coordinating authorities are causing inefficiency, they too should be exposed and altered, and they will be by the efficiency audit process. Efficiency audits will also greatly enhance the ability of Parliament, as distinct from the Executive, to monitor the performance of departments. Parliament, as the representative of the people, should have the role of guardian of the administrative and executive efficiency of government. But as we are all aware, the power of Parliament has receded considerably over the years with that of the Executive being correspondingly enhanced. The ability of Parliament to consider reports of the Auditor-General relating to efficiency audits should be a substantial step towards redressing this imbalance. We are pleased that this Bill provides for such audits to be presented to Parliament. Presumably, either the Standing Committee on Expenditure or the Joint Committee of Public Accounts will then analyse these reports on behalf of Parliament and report if necessary to the Parliament as a whole.
However, we have some concern about the provisions of the Bill in this respect. It seems that the Auditor-General is only empowered, rather than required, to report to the Parliament. Why is there not a general requirement to report subject to the ability of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to restrict reporting for security or other reasons as set out in the Bill? In this regard also we find it difficult to understand why there is provision for regulations to exclude from efficiency audits such bodies as the Defence Force, the Commonwealth Teaching Service, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Commonwealth Police Force and the Australian Capital Territory Police Force. Insofar as security or other reasons would make public reportage undesirable, the provisions for the Attorney-General to issue a certificate restricting reportage on certain bodies would seem to be sufficient protection. So, why make provision to exclude such significant bodies from efficiency audits altogether? Certainly no reason is given by the Minister in his second reading speech, and the working party of officials and the Royal Commission both recommended that such audits apply across the whole of the Commonwealth government administration, without any exceptions being mentioned.
One other aspect of efficiency audits to which I wish to draw attention is the distinction between such audits and what may be termed program effectiveness reviews. Whereas the efficiency audit is concerned only with the efficient use of resources, the program effectiveness review goes a stage further by assessing whether the objectives of particular programs are being achieved. Such a review represents a third level of auditing of government administration that is already well established in such countries as the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany and Sweden. However, as none of these countries have a Westminster system of government, it is easier to provide for auditing of this kind there than it is in our system. This is because in the Westminster system the executive and legislative arms of the governmental system are not separate, as they are in the United States, for instance, and the Auditor-General in the Westminster system is therefore independent of the political debate on policy. If he were to get into the realm of program effectiveness reviews, he clearly would be brought into a more political role. In the United Slates, however, the Controller-General has no such constraints, as his job is to keep the Executive under surveillance on behalf of a quite separate Congress. Accordingly, not only Australia but also the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada, as other countries utilising the Westminster system, have not given their Auditors-General this third auditing role. However, that is not to say that such program effectiveness reviews should not be conducted. Clearly, it is very important to be sure that programs that are supposed to be achieving a certain result are in fact doing so. But our system provides for no constant checking to make sure that this is the case.
The Royal Commission suggested that such reviews could be performed most appropriately by a unit within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, utilising information contained in the Auditor-General’s efficiency audits. However, a far more satisfactory arrangement would seem to us to be for the Auditor-General, in conducting his efficiency audits, to monitor the extent to which departments themselves are evaluating the effectiveness of their programs, thus requiring the departments to undertake their own program effectiveness reviews. This is what happens in Canada, where a Westminster system also applies, and it would seem to us to be an extremely sensible move to introduce it hereindeed, it would provide a very sensible corollary to the introduction of efficiency reviews. Also on the matter, of benefits to be obtained from efficiency audits, we hope that the benefits claimed by the working party to be possible are in fact achieved. According to the working party, overseas experience indicates that cost-benefit ratios of the order of 1:4 to 1: 12 for this type of work can reasonably be expected.
Certainly the costs do not look like being too high. According to the Public Service Board, the average efficiency audit will involve about four months of field work for four officers, and it is apparently the intention of the Auditor-General to phase in the concept by commencing with a few feasibility studies, some or all of which will proceed eventually to full efficiency audit. I understand that the feasibility studies have commenced already and that they are in the following areas: The student assistance program under the Department of Education; the property management area of the Department of Administrative Services; and the administration of Australia’s foreign aid by the Department of Foreign Affairs. One could ask: Why choose these three? I would like to know in the course of this debate whether there is any particular reason for those three being adopted. I would have thought that recent revelations in the Press regarding the Department of Defence would have made it a prime area for commencement of such efficiency audits. Finally, in regard to efficiency audits, let me say that although I appreciate the need u> phase in the concept, I hope that staff ceilings will not prove to be an impediment to their more rapid introduction. If the costbenefit ratio is anything like as favourable as the working party found, then it would be extraordinarily foolish to postpone such audits because of lack of staff. It would bc a classic case of being penny wise and pound foolish.
One other matter that I would like to raise at this stage concerns the amendments to the surcharge power. The Bill seeks to repeal the existing surcharge provisions, which have been dormant for many years. They provide for the Auditor-General to recover from a government employee any loss or damage due to that employee’s default, neglect, mistake, error or fraud. However, because of difficulties associated with establishing default or neglect and the fact that the Auditor-General had to be judge and prosecutor, which is unfair and inappropriate Ibr an auditor, and because the person accused had little opportunity to give evidence in his own defence, these provisions are now being repealed and a new procedure is being introduced. The new procedure provides for the departmental head to take action for recovery of losses or recompense for damage, and in this respect it is certainly an improvement. So, too, is the provision for appeal by an officer to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or to a court.
However, we are concerned that, where an officer held cash by way of an advance or was in charge of stores or property and loss or damage occurred, the onus of proof that he or she was not at fault in that case is to be put on the officer. Such a procedure seems to be contrary to the general theme of our law, which is to put the burden of proof on the plaintiff or accuser. The officer would have to prove that he took reasonable steps to prevent the loss or damage as it has been spelt out in the Bill before the House, and this could be quite difficult. The officer may not know the name or whereabouts of some witness or all the facts relating to the matter. Furthermore, it seems to us that it could be quite possible for the departmental head to use those sections of the Bill which put the onus of proof on the employee as an alternative to proceeding under the gross negligence or misconduct provisions, in which case the onus of proof is on those laying the charge. Thus it could quite generally be the case that an officer being surcharged was faced with having to prove his innocence. In our view the Government would be well advised to reconsider the proposed section 70ae, as it introduces an element of unfairness into what is in most respects a commendable piece of legislation.
-The legislation before the House is, without doubt, one of the most important pieces of legislation which any parliament under the Westminster system has the opportunity to debate. I go so far as to say that it is key legislation for Parliament to be able to maintain its position as watchdog over the affairs of the Executive. While over the years there has been a case made- and with some justification- that parliaments in fact have abrogated much of their power and their capacity to overview the Executive, it is for that reason that I believe a significant set of amendments, as put forward in this legislation, requires very careful examination.
I congratulate the Government and the officers of the various departments who have been involved in the drafting of this legislation. It is extremely comprehensive; at the same time, it is very technically competent. Nevertheless, there are a number of concepts in it which, as my colleague on the other side of the House who has just spoken, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) pointed out, perhaps require further detailed examination at the Committee stage of the Bill. I point out that this legislation was presented to this Parliament, more or less in its present form, as far back as 29 April 1976. However, for reasons of which the House is well aware, it was withdrawn and major amendments were made, not the least of which is the provision for the concept of efficiency audits. Now, once again, we have the Bill before us. It has, as I also pointed out, a very important place in the statutes because it provides for the audit of the Government’s accounts and sets down important controls which are fundamental to accounting of receipts and payments under the control of the departments of state. Not least of all, the Audit Act gives to Parliament the capacity itself to overview the Executive in that regard.
Audit legislation, as I see it, must always be responsive to the needs of the growth of the civil service and to budgetary increases which have been an interminable fact of life this century, because government as we understand it is becoming more and more complicated year after year. For that reason there is no point applying what are essentially 19th century concepts in a day of computerisation and technology, high specialisation and so forth. These areas have not in many respects been adequately covered by the existing Audit Act.
If I might make specific reference to certain points in the Bill, I would like to draw the attention of the House in particular to clause 5. This is very significant. At last we see provided in legislation the fact that the permanent head of a department must in law be responsible for making appropriate arrangements for the implementation not only of the Audit Act but also for the manner in which the finance regulations and directions are carried out by his department. Strange though it may seem, and somewhat quaint in terms of the realities of the parliamentary processes, and those of government, existing legislation to date has made no reference to the responsibilities of a permanent head in relation to the financial management of his department. How this has managed to persist for so many years bedevils the imagination. Fortunately departmental heads have, of course, taken it as a fact of life that they are responsible for the financial management of their departments. Nevertheless, this legislation closes the loopholes and classifies once and for all the fact that they are legally responsible.
As Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and a member of that Committee for nearly five years I think I should point out to the House that the Committee in a number of reports presented to this Parliament has expressed the view that the question of accountability has been a very real problem. There have been cases when public funds have not been adequately accounted for, and not spent in the most efficient and effective manner because of the weaknesses of the existing system in that regard.
I would also like to refer to the Minister’s power to approve acts of grace payments. I think there are members probably on both sides of the House who have some difficulties with the provisions of clause 25. The basic problem is that I am not convinced and I think it would be fair to say that the Public Accounts Committee is not convinced, that the provisions as they currently stand would guarantee under all circumstances that acts of grace payments made by Ministers on the advice of officials should always remain in the category of secret dealings. The difficulty we face is that the Auditor-General, for reason which I think I understand, has taken the view that it is not his responsiblity to get involved in what he sees as the political decisions of government. I certainly appreciate that point of view. The Committee of which I am the Chairman, suggested to the Government a formula by which, if there were any specific difficulties in this area and if Parliament itself, in a general context, was not to be allowed to have access to this information, perhaps at least a senior committee of the Parliament such as the Public Accounts Committee could be brought into the confidence of the Government.
The fact remains, however, that what is and what is not a political decision in this context is not a question I could answer here tonight. It is one essentially for Ministers and for Cabinet to decide. I would just like to place on record my belief that this aspect of the legislation could perhaps be more effectively improved. Ultimately we are responsible to the electorate for the expenditure of public funds and whilst it can be said that ex gratia payments are private between government and the individuals concerned, I have a strong view that the electorate would expect some part of their representatives forming the Parliament as members of a specialist committee of the Parliament should perhaps be given some degree of trust in this regard. I should say on behalf of my colleagues that to my knowledge there has never been a single case where any confidential information passed to the Public Accounts Committee by any government has ever become public knowledge. I think we can stand on our record in that regard.
The surcharge power is perhaps the most difficult element of this legislation which has yet to be dealt with. The basic fact, of course, is that the Auditor-General has complained for many years that the existing Act in fact prevents him from taking legal action against officers who have breached through negligence, misconduct and so forth, Treasury regulations with regard to major loss of funds or of equipment. The difficulty we are facing, however, is the question of establishing fault or neglect and as was pointed out by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) there is a legal question involved here which cannot be ignored. The Public Accounts Committee has not had the advantage of a legal opinion on this matter from the Solicitor-General. Nevertheless, we have sought some advice from the Parliamentary
Library staff in this regard and they have advised us:
There would appear to be no legislative parallel or precedent for the use of the term ‘gross negligence’ in any statute concerning this particular area of Public Service regulation.
What one would therefore suspect is that in a court of law the difficulty of proving what is gross negligence would be virtually so insurmountable that I would suggest the difficulties of applying the surcharge powers under the amended legislation would in fact be almost as bad as the existing law. This is a difficult area. We acknowledge that. However, the use of terminology in legislation such as audit Bills in particular is of great importance and deserves the considerable thought of both advisers to government and of the Parliament itself.
I would like now to refer to the question of efficiency audits which is without doubt the innovative aspect contained in this legislation. The Australian efficiency audit exercise was essentially based on the experience of the United States Government. We had in Australia last year Mr Elma Staats, the United States Controller-General who came from Washington and gave us considerable advice in this matter. I had the satisfaction of being included from the proposal’s inception. I met with the Government’s working party which prepared the report which was later tabled in this Parliament. What we are trying to achieve in terms of efficiency audits of departments, statutory authorities and government-owned companies is quite radical because previously the Auditor-General was restricted absolutely, in terms of legislation at least, to financial or regulatory audits. He has in fact in recent reports, as honourable members will no doubt be aware, gone somewhat beyond this very strict interpretation of the regulations. It is because of that that the amendments had to be included in this legislation. The important thing is that the Auditor-General is now moving into the area of statutory authorities and governmentowned companies. Whereas in the past, with the singular exception of the Australian Industry Development Corporation, he has had the power to conduct regulatory audits only of statutory authorities and some goverment-owned companies, though certainly not all, under this legislation he in fact will have a much greater capacity to range over the entire area of government expenditure.
I should also point out that, whereas two committees of this Parliament have the capacity to investigate all areas of government expenditure in accordance with the terms of reference given to them by this Parliament, the Public Accounts Committee, in accordance with its existing Act, is quite specifically limited to matters referred to by the Auditor-General or to the expenditure of departments of state. We are therefore legally under considerable restraints in our capacity to look at statutory corporations. Certainly we would have great difficulty in looking at various government funded public companies and so forth. We hope that amendments to the Public Accounts Committee Act which the Committee put up to the Government some 12 months ago will see the light of day in the near future.
The difficulty, however, with efficiency audits, is, as I mentioned earlier, a question of terminology. The Royal Commission on Government Administration, which is one of the planks upon which the amendments to this particular Bill have been based, pointed out that we need the development of a system of forward estimates and so forth which could be examined by various committees of this House.
It also pointed out that the area of efficiency audits would have to be brought in so that expenditure of funds at the administrative level, not at the level of programs per se, should be examined to see whether the evaluation of procedures had been conducted in a manner which was economic and efficient in the use of resources. Clause 3 of the Bill seeks to add a new sub-section (4) (a) and (b) to section 2 defining efficiency audits. The actual terminology used is rather interesting. Reference is made in proposed new sub-section 4 (a) to an evaluation of the procedures and departments used to determine economy and efficiency in the use of resources. Proposed new sub-section (4) (b) of section 2 refers to the evaluation of whether the functions examined are being carried on in an economic and efficient manner. So it is a value judgment whether (a) is more important than (b), and I do not think that it is of any particular importance to argue the question on that basis.
Nevertheless, the importance of the AuditorGeneral’s staff being in a position to evaluate the efficiency and managerial control systems of departments is something of great importance. It presumes that the systems of departments are OK, provided staff who are of the appropriate classifications are available. The quality of staff is also taken into account. Unfortunately, the reality of life is that no department of State is able to say at all times that it has the most efficient managerial system being applied to various areas of government policy. Therefore, I would suggest that the primary emphasis on efficiency audit authority should rather be to evaluate whether financial and other resources are being used in the most economic and efficient manner. If primary emphasis is placed on evaluating efficiency rather than on managerial control systems, I would suggest that that would be more likely to be the objective to which the AuditorGeneral should, in the early stages at least, be directing his efforts.
The difficulty that the Auditor-General faces is that at this time there are very few people in Australia with the technical skills able to enter into this very specific area. He is building the numbers up; he is seeking them from the private sector; he is seeking them from other departments of state and of course from the AuditorGeneral’s own office. The Joint Committee of Public Accounts has for many years had a very close relationship with the Auditor-General, and I might say that it has been a very happy one indeed. I wish him well in this very important area. Nevertheless, in the first few years we would not anticipate that perhaps more than two or three efficiency audits at the most would be conducted per year because of the staffing problem and the need to ensure that the results of an efficiency audit could be effectively implemented.
This is where the Parliament comes in. At the present time there are no less than three committees which have an interest in the overview of government efficiency and financial areas. I refer of course to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, the Expenditure Committee of this House and also to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. It is not possible, for reasons which all honourable members should be aware, to draw a finite and clear distinction between exactly what other committees will do in this particular area. But the report tabled by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) some months ago clarified the fact that the Government was prepared to take the view that the Expenditure Committee of this House and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts would be the two Committees of Parliament which would take on the responsibility for vetting and considering in further detail the efficiency audits tabled in this House by the Auditor-General. We have not at this stage had the opportunity to decide between ourselves exactly how this matter will be handled. It is far too premature at this time to take the matter any further.
Nevertheless, it is important. We do not want to be placed in a position where we are simply going to repeat the work already conducted by the Auditor-General. Perhaps the most significant area we could look at- and in my own experience there have been many cases of this- is that where departments say that reports of the Auditor-General have been unfair or have not been based on the principles which they think are sound administrative practice. Perhaps this is an opportunity for the committees of the Parliament to come in and take the role of an adjudicator and settle the matter and make an appropriate and a final report to Parliament. I emphasise the word ‘final’ because in the Public Accounts Committee area for many years we have had the advantage of a system called the Department of Finance Minutes or, as it was initially, the Treasury Finance Minutes which are tabled in this House and which are the ultimate result of the initial report tabled by the Public Accounts Committee and which are then further examined by departments. We have not found this to be a totally satisfactory area and we hope that in due course the Parliament will permit us to have an additional staff position at least to enable the Public Accounts Committee of its own right to be able to conduct its own, shall we say, audits’, on the recommendations made by us to the Parliament on reports that have gone through in the past. This is a matter of the greatest importance if we are effectively to be seen to be on top of a large bureaucratic machine which has demonstrated- and this is shown quite clearly from the Auditor-General’s report on an annual basis- that there are major problems in efficiency which cannot be overlooked at any time if we are to have an efficient system of government in this country.
They are the basic matters that I want to raise. As I said, I regard this legislation as being of considerable importance. There are other minor matters, for example, clause 41 amends section 49 of the principal Act with regard to the monthly statement of receipts and expenditure of public moneys in a manner and a form to be determined by the Minister. The Minister, in his statement to the House, stated that there may be some doubt whether the Minister should have the right to determine what information in fact goes to Parliament in this form. But I venture to suggest that the provisions enacted in this legislation, by which it will be necessary for any amendments subsequently carried out to be given the same treatment as other amendments to legislation, is probably an adequate means of control. For my own part, I take the view that the existing statement is satisfactory and I am sure that members of this House would not look kindly upon any major amendments to detract from the information already contained in them.
The other matters which are worth mentioning are minor ones. Clause 54 provides for a new part to be inserted to make provision for the audit by the Auditor-General of certain authorities established under an Act or ordinance. I made reference of this earlier. I regard this as a most significant step forward. Also in this Bill there is the repeal of existing Section 70B of the principal Act which will prevent Treasurers in future from guaranteeing loans made by specified banks for purposes of the Commonwealth. I see this as a most significant step forward and I commend the Government for accepting this provision. Clause 59 has one small problem. Here we have a case where the Minister is authorised to waive the recovery of amounts of money which are legally recoverable but which, for good reason, ought not to be recovered. This is one of those examples of gobbledegook which one finds in legislation of this type. Again I request that serious consideration be given to what is an effective definition in law of ‘good reason’ because again we have the question of value judgments being introduced. Reference was made earlier to the question of the accounts under examination of security organisations such as the Joint Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Security Intelligence Service, the Commonwealth Police, and so on. There are quite good and perfectly valid security reasons why such accounts should not be subject to public scrutiny in the Parliament. But in so commenting I merely make the point that over the years America’s Central Intelligence Agency accounts have been quite difficult.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-My remarks on this Bill will deal almost solely with the provisions relating to efficiency audits. I hope that some, if not all, of my comments will reinforce the comments made by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly). The Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration recommended that the Auditor-General should have the responsibility for auditing the efficiency of Commonwealth departments and statutory authorities. In paragraph 3.6.1, under the heading ‘Efficiency Audits’ the report states in part:
The Commission proposes, therefore, that there should be a regular program of efficiency audits in which departmental performance will be assessed. These assessments should be so designed that they would bring before ministers, Cabinet and Parliament both the assessment itself and the data on which it is based.
The Commission went on further to say in paragraph 3.6.7:
The Public Service Board has shown great reluctance to assess the performance of departments and agencies. Indeed, for some years, no section 17 examinations were made and, now that they have been resumed they are seen as exercises in assisting and improving management rather than in auditing or assessing performance.
It goes on further to say:
Furthermore, the report of the team is treated as strictly confidential to the Department concerned and great care is exercised to preserve this confidentiality. It was only with much reluctance that the Board gave the Commission access to its report, enabling it to study the scope and methods of the inquiries. That scope was found to be extremely narrow.
In paragraph 3.6.15, the Commission said:
In all of these respects the Commission believes that there is room for joint studies of financial administration by Treasury and the Departments concerned. Such studies, however, would again not eliminate the need for ex-post audit type examinations conducted by a wholly independent authority.
In recommendation 8, appearing in paragraph 3.6.20, the Commission stated: the Commission suggest for the consideration of Parliament: (a) that the role of the Auditor-
General as an officer of Parliament should be clarified and strengthened;
that there should be a Parliamentary Committee on administrative efficiency (it is not for us to determine whether this function should bc added to that of the Public Accounts Committee, or another existing committee or whether a new and separate committee should be established for this purpose);
that the Parliamentary Committee on administrative efficiency should have the same powers to call witnesses as does the Public Accounts Committee.
On 28 July the Government announced that it had accepted this recommendation in principle. On 7 November 1 977, the then Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service matters, Mr Street, tabled a report of a working party of officials on efficiency audits and foreshadowed legislation to amend the Audit Act to give the Auditor-General the power to conduct efficiency audits.
On page 2966 of the Hansard record of 7 November 1977 the Minister is reported as having said:
The officials’ report leaves open the arrangements for parliamentary consideration of efficiency reports from the Auditor-General. The Chairmen of both the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and the House of Representatives Expenditure Committee have indicated that they would wish to examine the reports, and that they would maintain the closest liaison in any such examination, in order to ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication of examination of departmental efficiency and expenditure. The Government intends to give this procedure a trial.
I am the Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure. The Chairman, the honourable Kevin Cairns, is unavoidably absent due to illness in his family. I give some opinions of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure. I point out that the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration saw the efficiency of the public sector being increased by the development of a system of forward estimates, the delegation of” greater responsibility from the centre- that is, from the central authorities such as Treasury and the Public Service Board- to spending departments, delegation within spending departments to lower levels of officers, and some of this backed up by efficiency audit reports. In short, the report saw efficiency audits and their eventual examination by a parliamentary committee as part of a system of responsibility and accountability in administration.
The question the Parliament has to ask is this: If the system envisaged in the RCAGA report has not been adopted what is there to take ils place? The ultimate effectiveness of the efficiency audit function must be viewed against the background of an overall system in which the Parliament has a most important role to play in the management and control of expenditure in the public sector. The Parliament does not know what procedures the Executive has or will establish for its consideration of efficiency audit reports. These procedures when known should be communicated both to the committees and to this Parliament as soon as possible. Efficiency audit reports to the Parliament have not been considered by either the Joint Committee of Public Accounts or the House of Representatives Committee on Expenditure, but the Expenditure Committee believes that in considering the role of both those committees in examining efficiency audit reports the following points are relevant: a. The committees should not seek to do the same job as the Auditor-General; b. if the AuditorGeneral’s views and those of the department are not the same then the committee can ‘arbitrate’; c. otherwise, the major job of the committee should be to ensure that the recommendations or suggestions are being implemented and to check this at a later date as well; and, d. there could also be matters or issues which the AuditorGeneral raises in his report which could form the basis of inquiry by the committee that examines his report.
The Expenditure Committee ‘s major concern is with the efficiency audit provisions of the Bill. We should examine this part of the Bill clause by clause. Clause 3, which amends section 2 of the principal Act, contains in proposed sub-section (2) a definition of efficiency audit. Paragraph (a) of proposed sub-section (4) refers to an evaluation of the procedures departments use to determine economy and efficiency in the use of resources, and paragraph (b) refers to an evaluation of whether the functions examined are being carried out in an economical and efficient manner. Since paragraph (a) precedes paragraph (b) the Committee assumes that greater emphasis is placed on (a) than (b). The Committee thinks this emphasis is wrong. It reflects the view of the officials’ report which, at page ix, states:
This appears to be based on an understanding that if systems are correctly drawn up, if quality staff is employed, if procedures for selecting quality staff are adequate and if salaries are also adequate, efficiency is assured. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) also made that point. While all of this has an attractive, logical base, the Committee believes that, based on its own experience, the primary emphasis of the efficiency audit authority should be to evaluate whether financial and other resources are being used in the most economical and efficient manner. If primary emphasis is placed on evaluating efficiency rather than managerial control systems this will accord better with the provisions of proposed new section 48g (i) which directs the Auditor-General to prepare an annual report on efficiency audits and on the costs of and benefits from such audits. Not only does the Committee think that the order of emphasis should be reversed- that is, paragraph (b) appearing before paragraph (a)- but it also suggests a rewording of proposed sub-section (4) of section 2 as follows:
I now pose several questions so that they may be considered by the Minister before the meeting of the Legislation Committee at which this legislation will be considered. I refer first to clause 9, which proposes a new section 12 in the principal Act. In respect of proposed sub-section (1)1 ask: Why should the Auditor-General draw to the attention of Ministers such matters arising out of the exercise of his powers and the performance of his functions as are in his opinion of sufficient importance to justify him so doing? If he draws matters to the attention of the Minister, will he also inform the Parliament as to the matters he drew to the Minister’s attention?
Concerning paragraph (a) of proposed subsection (2) I ask: Why, in respect of efficiency audits, should the Auditor-General draw certain matters to the attention of Ministers? What sorts of matters relating to efficiency audits would he draw to Ministers’ attention? Do these matters include provision of information on areas which should be subject to program effectiveness or, as stated on page 36 of the report of the working party of officials, will the Auditor-General ‘make his views about which areas should be subject to program effectiveness review known informally to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet which has been given the central responsibility for program review’? If the AuditorGeneral does all this, will he also be informing the Parliament what he has told the Executive? If the Auditor-General does not, it would be a matter for serious consideration by the Parliament because it would reflect a closer association of the Auditor-General with the Executive than with the Parliament. Should the AuditorGeneral be first drawing the attention of the Parliament to areas which should be subject to program effectiveness review rather than first informing the Executive and perhaps not even telling the Parliament? I want some of these questions answered by the Minister responsible.
In relation to proposed new section 48C(2) the explanatory memorandum says that subsections (2) and (3) enable the Auditor-General to carry out an efficiency audit of an eligible incorporated company at the request of the Minister. Why is it necessary for the Minister to make a request? Can the Minister veto such an inquiry? Why cannot the Parliament request an efficiency audit if the Minister is allowed by law to make such a request? I turn now to proposed new section 48c (4) and ask: Why should the Minister be involved in an efficiency audit that entails Commonwealth funds spent by State governments? Proposed new section 48F ( 1 ) says that the Auditor-General may prepare and sign an efficiency audit report. Why is the word ‘may’ used and not the word ‘shall’? If there are exceptions why should not they be included in this section?
Incidentally, one does not know when an efficiency audit begins. If the Auditor-General is required to prepare efficiency audit reports- and we see no reason why there should not be such a requirement- as a corollary it may be necessary for the legislation to state when an efficiency audit begins- for example, by the AuditorGeneral informing the Permanent Head and the Parliament that he has commenced an efficiency audit into X, Y or Z. In relation to proposed new section 48F (2) (a) to (c) the Expenditure Committee suggests that the word ‘may’ be omitted and the word ‘should’ be inserted in its place. In (c) it suggests deletion of the word ‘may’. Proposed new section 48F(4) refers to the Auditor-General preparing a restricted report and enables him, if he chooses, to prepare a separate report that does not include confidential information. The Expenditure Committee suggests that if he prepares a restricted report it should be mandatory for him to prepare the other report as well. This could be achieved by deleting the word ‘may’ in the sixth line of sub-section (4) and inserting the words ‘shall transmit to the Parliament’ in its place. In relation to proposed new section 48F(6) (a) to (c) the Committee thinks that this section is unsatisfactory. The Auditor-General must transmit his. report to the Parliament by whichever is the most expeditious way. Therefore (a), (b) and (c) should be qualified accordingly. The Committee suggests that a suitable amendment to sub-section (6) (a) could be:
Notwithstanding anything in sub-section (6) the AuditorGeneral shall transmit signed copies pf the report to ea’ch House of the Parliament as expeditiously as possible and no later than he furnishes copies of the report to the parties mentioned in sub-section (8).
The same comments could apply to proposed new section 48G (2). I turn now to comment on proposed new section 48N (4). If the independent auditor addresses a matter to the Department or the Minister, as he is allowed to do under this sub-section, should not these matters also be presented to the Parliament? In proposed new section 48P (2) (a) to (c) the word ‘may’ should be replaced by the word ‘should’. Amendments could be made to other clauses of this Bill.
– In Committee.
– I am raising the matter at this stage because the legislation committees are in an embryonic state. No member of this Parliament yet knows exactly how the legislation committees are going to work. I notice in the Standing Orders that it is essential for the clerk of a legislation committee to be advised of any proposed amendments so that they may be printed for the benefit of the members of the committee. What I am trying to do in making this statement on behalf of the Expenditure Committee is ensure that the Minister and the officials have an opportunity to study some of the thoughts that are expressed at this second reading stage and before the legislation committees meet. It will be absolutely useless if we go along to the legislation committee and find that all these propositions are going to be placed before the committee without the Minister and his officials having had an opportunity to consider them. I am putting these thoughts before the Parliament this evening so that the Minister and officials will have some idea of the arguments to be advanced and the comments to be made before the legislation committee.
I know that this next matter has been raised previously but I raise it again. It is essential that the papers to go before the legislation committees are made available to the members of those committees as early as practicable so that they may study them before they go to the committee meeting. Basically, the members of the Expenditure Committee and all members of this Parliament should be greatly concerned that this Bill appears to create a closer association of the Auditor-General with the Executive rather than with this Parliament. I ask that the Minister for Finance consider the points that I, the honourable member for Gellibrand and the honourable member for Bradfield have raised prior to the meeting of the legislation committee which I understand will take place about Thursday week.
– As an introduction I should say that I have been associated with the attempt to redraft the Audit Amendment Act 1978 since the inception of what came to be called the Wright Committee. I well remember that some of the objections of those of us on the Committee were raised initially when we met six officials of the various departments of State. Various recommendations were then made to them. I, in particular, drew attention to some attempted amendments to section 49 of the principal Act which deals with what is called the Niemeyer statement. The proposed amendment is contained in clause 41 of the Bill which is now before the House. When I first raised the question of the Niemeyer statement I asked in the clearest possible language why it was desired to amend the section which had existed for so long, which had been so useful and which had been an essential instrument for examining monetary statistics as they came through in order that we could ascertain exactly how the Budget proposals were going and whether the events lived up to the expectations and the anticipations mentioned in Budget Paper No. 2 and other Budget papers.
I could not get a sensible answer to the questions we put and I have not been able yet to get an acceptable answer. I want to persist with that now by asking firstly that we do not amend section 49 and then that the House reject that proposed amendment, leaving the law exactly as it is today. In my hand I have the latest Neimeyer statement for the three months to 30 September 1978. lt presents information in a way that cannot be found anywhere else in government statistics. It sets out the outlays and receipts of the Government for the immediately preceding month and the corresponding period of months in previous years. The latest statement deals with the month of September and compares the three months to 30 September 1977 with the three months to 30 September 1978. It then goes on to deal with financial transactions and gives an analysis or a summary as required by the Audit Act 1 90 1 . Finally it makes some comments about the unfunded debt and bank balances at 30 September 1978.
I emphasise again that if we are to serve the interests of the public and if we want the members of this House to know what is happening with the monetary transactions of the Commonwealth and the debt of the overseas accounts, we must have this document in its present form.
I repeat that I have not yet been able to find one argument why there should be a change. So, in the nation’s interest; in the interest of those who have to study these things and prepare documents which can be used by members of this Parliament, I am sure that this clause should stay as it is. The Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) was good enough to permit me to have discussions with a member of the Department. That person put it to me that two safeguards would be provided by giving the Minister the opportunity, by regulation, to amend the form and the substance in which the Niemeyer statement is presented. I would not have a bar of this argument, for these reasons: First of all, when we look at this question of whether or not there is any protection due to the fact that it has to be done by regulation, I must state immediately that I cannot accept that. All members and society itself will remember an attempt by the permanent heads of two departments to make amendments to by-laws they can do exactly the same by means of resolution- in order to introduce a green edging around the envelopes in which pensions are posted. Then, by bureaucratic dictate, there was an attempt to ensure that if the pension was to be on-posted it had to be in a green bordered envelope. Neither of the Ministers were consulted and no one would have known about the amendment to the by-law if it had not been for the Press. Therefore, it seems to me, and I am certain that this will be accepted by most members in this House, that we are not prepared to accept an amendment by regulation. It would have to be done by the House itself by means of a substantive motion and a change in the law.
The second point was put to me- I accept that it was put in honesty- that the Department could not accept the words ‘receipts and expenditures’. The Department felt that they were lacking in precise definition. But when I looked at the Billthis was one of the incredible factors- I found that exactly the same words were used there. If in one case there was not a clear and easily understood definition of the words, I cannot understand why the Department would want to stick them back again. I cannot accept that. I am rather sorry that the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) who spoke before me did not mention this. I took this matter to the Expenditure Committee of this House. The Committee agreed with me and I was assured today that it would be mentioned by the honourable gentleman in his speech. He might have done so before I came in here. That is the first reason. The second reason is that the Bill seeks to leave out reference to the Loan Funds. I have to say in precise and definite language that I could not accept that. The Loan Funds must be included in the document because they give the Parliament the opportunity genuinely to understand over the whole spectrum of finance what is happening. Those are the points that I wanted to make. I ask that the clause be left exactly as it is.
There are two other amendments to which I want to refer that I choose to call the ‘Baume’ recommendations. The Wright Committee strongly recommended that we should make two amendments to the Bill. Regrettably we were not able to have those amendments drafted before the Bill was brought in and passed. I would like to read out to the House what I regard as the Baume proposals. I was in a rush to speak at another committee meeting before I came here and I hope I have not forgotten to pick up the amendments en route. Nonetheless I will do my best to extract them from the mass of papers that I had at both meetings. In any event if I can remember them they refer to two factors. The first concerns action taken against a member of the Public Service by a permanent head. In most cases in private life if there has been negligence, the negligence is enough to have the person reprimanded. The reprimand and action must be contained in reports that are available to the House or in papers that are printed by the Auditor-General. It is desired of the Bureaucracy that gross negligence rather than negligence must be the decisive factor.
Over the years I have believed that standards in the Public Service must be higher than they are in any other section. Because public servants have a great degree of privilege as a result of their permanence in office and of other matters associated with it, I believe that the recommendation of the Wright Committee should be sustained. I believe that most members of my party and members of the Opposition will agree with that. I am afraid that I am unable to find the document detailing the other Baume amendments. It concerns publication of names and amounts and when settlements take place. They are well known to the Department and they would be well known to the Minister. I will make copies of the proposals available. I hope that before this matter is brought before the Legislation Committee we will have been able to resolve the difficulties so that we can agree upon the amendments in the Legislation Committee and then bring them back into the House Committee as a whole. I believe that it is critical that we understand why.
I have just come from a meeting of a Legislation Committee and I found there that in regard to amendments that were to be moved the Minister concerned was saying that he would have to refer the matter back to Cabinet. I believe that if this system of Bills being considered by legislation committees is to be successful, it is critical that the Minister should be not only aware of the proposals- in each case he has known that the proposals have been referred to the Department over a period of months- but also that he must have some authority to decide so that agreement can be made or he can give an assurance that in the interim period between the meeting of the Legislation Committee and the matter going back to the House for approval, there can be discussions between the Minister involved and the member involved in the proposed amendments or the members of the Committee itself. Unless that is done the Committee will not serve the useful purpose that it is now serving. I must say, in regard to the two meetings I have attended and the one that I hope to attend relating to trade practices, that we can deal with these matters ever so much more easily, ever so much more effectively and competently in the Legislation Committee than we can in the Committee of the Whole. I have to compliment those committees for the work they are doing, but, as the honourable member for Grayndler said to me, I hope that in the process we will regard ourselves and the Ministers will regard themselves as the protectors of the rights of this Parliament and the people of this country and not allow the bureaucracy to put into law what it wants because it might find it easier to administer the amendments it wants rather than the amendments that the representatives of the people want. I am told that I am supposed to speak for 20 minutes. I am doing my best to get that far, but I have now run out of words. I hope I may be excused by the Speaker for going back to the Legislation Committee now.
-Like the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) who preceded me in this debate, I will not be taking up a great deal of time of the House in this debate. As a result of other commitments I find myself not as prepared as I would have liked to have been to contribute to this debate, but I am pleased to see that the Audit Amendment Bill 1978 will be referred to the Legislation Committee of which I am a member. I look forward to taking up matters at that time rather than in the House. The purposes of this Bill basically relate to the form of the statement which is generally known as the Niemeyer statement, which is presented by the Minister for Finance, and formerly the Treasurer, on a monthly basis to the Parliament and to the people of Australia, the processes in relation to ex gratia payments by the Commonwealth, the provisions for recovery of losses attributable to negligence by public servants and, of course, the establishment of the efficiency audit system. It is my understanding that my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart), has dealt in great detail with the question of the efficiency audit procedure. This is obviously a matter which has been given serious consideration by the Public Accounts Committee and by the Expenditure Committee, both committees of this Parliament, as well as by private members and former senators of this Parliament.
The items which I wish to touch on tonight relate basically to the ex gratia payments situation. I have to admit that what the Government is doing gives me some cause for concern. When I read the explanatory memorandum in relation to acts of grace I found that the proposed new section spells out more clearly than the present section the Minister’s power to approve act of grace payments and is worded in such a way that the
Minister is permitted to delegate the power. Provision is made for a committee of senior officers, including the Secretary to the Department of Finance, the Comptroller-General of Customs and the Secretary of the Department of Administrative Services, or their deputies, to advise the Minister on substantial acts of grace requests. It is my understanding that the definition of ‘substantial’ is amounts of over $25,000. The practice which we have been told will be followed in the case of act of grace payments is that there will be a report to the Parliament which simply outlines the numbers and the amounts paid by each department under act of grace approval and, in the case of waiver of debts, the number of approvals given and the amounts involved. Although considerable consideration had been given to this matter by parliamentary committees, individual members and party committees and there has been correspondence with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) and others, the situation is still not to be regarded as totally satisfactory. I, for one, retain some concern about it. The Parliament is not going to be in a position to know any of the details in relation to acts of grace payments. All we will know is that a certain number are paid out by each department and that they amount to a certain amount of money. The Public Service itself is not really in a position to be able to inform committees of the total amount of money that is involved because it is spread across a wide range of departments and is not accumulated or consolidated for the benefit of the Parliament.
Two of the reasons given for not naming individual people are that it might be embarrassing to those people and that it might have been the Commonwealth’s fault that some action was taken which led to an act of grace payment having to be made. For instance, if the Department of Social Security rules a person ineligible to receive a pension and on subsequent examination it is found that that person was entitled to receive that pension, that there was a period of six or 12 months during which he had not received the pension to which he was entitled and that there was no legal basis for it to be paid, an act of grace payment of the amount of money involved might be made to take account of the amount of money to which the individual should have been entitled but which due to departmental problems he was not able to receive. That is obviously the sort of situation which does not relate to any fault on the part of the individual. If there was any fault at all, it was in the Public Service department. For that reason, it is argued that that person should not be named in a report coming before the Parliament and the people of Australia as having been the recipient of an act of grace payment. I can understand that.
Similarly, I imagine that the Public Service has reservations about admitting that these sons of things happen. I think at one stage it was suggested that the public servant who was involved in making the error ought to be named and that if that proposition found favour with the Government fewer public servants might make such mistakes. But I do not suggest for a moment that we are going to get rid of those mistakes altogether and I do not pursue that matter. I think that provision needs to be made for some control by the Parliament over the act of grace payment situation. It is quite conceivable that my colleague, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), has made reference to this previously. If he has, I apologise, I did not hear his contribution. The proposition which has been mentioned, which I support and to which I hope the Government may give further consideration, is that a full list of the act of grace payments which are made during the course of a year be made available through the Auditor-General to a committee of the Parliament. I agree that the Joint Committee of Public Accounts is probably the most appropriate committee to which that list could be made available. I think that it can be left to the discretion and responsibility of that Committee to give consideration to the act of grace payments list as provided, to seek information in those circumstances in which it feels information ought to be sought and, if necessary, in certain circumstances to make a report to the Parliament. I think that that information can be provided to the Public Accounts Committee, if that be the appropriate committee, on a confidential basis, that the relevant inquiry should be undertaken in camera and that only if it is felt to be absolutely necessary in the interests of public information should the Parliament and, therefore, the people of Australia, be informed that an act of grace payment, which the Parliament through its committee feels was an unnecessary one, has in fact been made and that perhaps some consideration ought to be given to that.
I will move off the question of act of grace payments. I deal for a moment or two with the question of the recovery of losses which are attributable to negligence on the part of an employee of the Government. What concerns me about this is simply the question of definition. The way in which this provision will operate is that where cash is held by a person who holds an advance in a departmental or governmental situation or where stores are held on a personal liability basis, the person who holds the cash or the stores should be liable for any loss or damage unless he can show that he is not at fault. The onus of proof is on him. I do not think that anybody really wants to argue about that. But in all other cases there should be a liability on the public servant or employee only if gross negligence or misconduct can be demonstrated. In these cases the onus of proof has to be on the Commonwealth. That to me is a problem. I do not believe that we have been offered in the amending Bill a definition of gross negligence. I understand from people who deal with lawyers and who have some knowledge of this business that gross negligence is almost impossible to define. It has to be noted that the onus of proof rests with the Commonwealth and not with the employee. It seems to me that we are going to achieve a situation in which no prosecutions will be made in a loss or damage to Commonwealth property situation simply because it will become totally impossible to demonstrate that that has occurred. It concerns me that the Government has been prepared to put to this Parliament a proposition which effectively removes from the ambit of the Governor-General or the Auditor-General the power to prosecute people who have behaved in a way in which they should not have behaved and who have caused damage to the property which ultimately belongs to the Australian people, the taxpayers, and which is administered on their behalf by the government of the day. That ought to be a situation which worries us all. The situation that applied before was such that because of the restrictive nature of the legislation and because of difficulties in administering it, it became in practice virtually impossible to prosecute public servants for acts of negligence concerning Commonwealth property.
The solution to that situation that is being offered to us, in effect, is: Let us forget about it all together; let us put in the legislation some terminology which will be confusing and indefinable and which will be such that nobody really can ever be brought before anybody to answer for negligence in these matters. We ought to be giving some more thought to this aspect. I hope that the legislation committees, which will meet in the week after the parliamentary recess, consideration will be given to the fact that there ought to be a realistic way of having a come back at public servants who behave in a negligent fashion without the severe restrictions which are being put before us in the present legislation. Not only is the language terribly restrictive by using the words ‘gross negligence’ but also the Commonwealth has to prove the case. It seems to me that the situation is not good enough at all.
This Bill concerns itself with a range of other matters. As I indicated, I do not want to become involved with the question of efficiency audits at this stage other than to say that I think it is a very proper and timely move on the part of the Government to pass to the Auditor-General the responsibility of conducting these efficiency audits. I believe there needs to be further consideration of the proposal- perhaps that will happen during the Committee stage- to see that it is handled properly; to make sure that the parliamentary relationship with those efficiency audits is effective and that we do not find ourselves in the situation that we often find ourselves in with respect to those reviews of administrations conducted under the Public Service Act. Sometimes the reviews are so confidential and the circulation of them is so restricted that the Parliament does not know that they are going on, let alone that something may have been recommended in relation to them. I think we must take into account the points that the honourable member for Grayndler made. If I recall correctly, the gist of much of what he was saying was that there needs to be a pretty careful examination of the role of the Auditor-General. We have to ask ourselves whether the Auditor-General is carrying out the role in which we have traditionally cast him.
From the point of view of the Parliament, the Auditor-General occupies a very special position in the Public Service structure in that he reports directly to the Parliament and not to the Executive. He ought to be, and he ought to be seen to be, independent of the Executive. I do not want to see anything happen through the amendments proposed by this Bill- in particular in relation to the introduction of efficiency audits and the way in which they are to be handled by the AuditorGeneral whereby the Auditor-General will lose any of that independence from the Public Service as we traditionally know. He should not become any more distant from or unrelated to the Parliament in that traditional relationship as we have come to know it.
The Auditor-General has an important relationship with this Parliament. As honourable members know, he reports directly to Mr Speaker on behalf of this chamber. He ought to be guaranteed an independence and a maintenance of an independence vis-a-vis the Executive, the structure of the Public Service and the bureaucracy as it relates to the Executive. I think that that is something we need to make sure is guaranteed. In the introduction of the new arrangements concerning efficiency audits we must make absolutely sure that the Auditor-General remains a servant of the Parliament as he is in Westminster and not become an agent or a servant of the Executive. I believe that that will be considered further in the interests of the proper relationship that exists in the whole set-up.
One of the other changes proposed by the Bill relates to the financial responsibilities of permanent heads. That is a matter about which the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration had something to say. It was keen to see that the position of permanent heads should be clarified. The Government has looked at that matter and amendments are proposed in the Bill. Section 60 of the Audit Act will be amended to provide for departmental transactions being brought together into a set of accounts which will become part of the statement of receipts and expenditure for which the Minister for Finance carries responsibility. Perhaps one of the more interesting points about this amendment is that all receipts and expenditure of a department are to appear in one section of the statement. The amendment will require permanent heads to provide the Minister with notes of explanation to those accounts. Probably that is a proper move. Certainly there is room to improve the relationship and the definition or role of permanent heads. This Bill seeks to do that.
Other matters contained in the Bill are such that they do not give me a great deal of cause for concern. I reiterate that the things I am concerned about really relate to these ex gratia payments and to the question of gross negligence as I have outlined it in relation to the loss of or damage to Commonwealth property which is attributable to public servants. I appreciate the fact that the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) expressed a great deal of concern about the form of the Neimeyer statement or its replacement. I do not want to give the impression that I am not concerned about that. I compliment my colleague, the honourable member for Grayndler, on his contribution to the debate in relation to efficiency audits.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Audit Amendment Bill normally would not be ventilated with the same exuberance as is being demonstrated tonight except for the fact that legislation committees are meeting this evening and it is the view of the Parliament, in its corporate state that there ought to be nothing of a highly controversial nature taking place in the House. Yet the fact that we have had an opportunity to talk to this Bill at greater length tonight than would normally be the case provides very great benefit to the Parliament. The first realisation that I have is that although this legislation has been around for a long time, not many honourable members necessarily have applied themselves to it. On the other hand, some members have applied themselves to the consideration of this watchdog role about government expenditure with enormous capacity. I think that tribute is due to the members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and the Expenditure Committee.
– The Public Accounts Committee, even more so.
-The members of these two committees are derived from both sides of the House. They applied themselves to the consideration of this legislation and they played a vital role. It is interesting to recall that this legislation was discussed a long time ago but fell foul of the closing down of the previous Parliament. The legislation was in the Senate when the Parliament was prorogued in 1977. That, together with the other circumstances to which I have referred, probably has caused it to come out of the doldrums and take on this new significance.
The calibre of the debate tonight has been most revealing. I think that special tribute is due to the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) and to the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who led for the Opposition in the debate. We have come to expect a high standard from him. He is an expert in matters associated with the economy generally. The honourable member for Grayndler is a former Minister Assisting the Treasurer- indeed, he assisted several Treasurers- and he has applied himself to the subject assiduously for a long time. I think that I would be less than gracious if I did not acknowledge the speech of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) as well. Some people have said that his face is his fortune. Some people have said that he has no feeling for people. But one thing we do comprehend is that he has some interest in economic matters and that he presides over the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament to very good effect.
Mr Deputy Speaker, as you are aware, it is not in keeping with my style to pay too many tributes. Yet, with your indulgence, I would like to go on to pay another one tonight. That, of course, is to the man who I believe breathed life into this entire subject. I refer to Dr Coombs, who presided over the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. That Royal Commission made the fundamental point, which I thinkis accepted now by everyone as being totally correct, that the Public Service was running riot to some degree or that, in any case, it was not subject to scrutiny that could stand up to examination; that it might have been right, but it was not being shown to be right because the checking-out processes were not sufficient. The report of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration, which was presented to the Parliament in 1 976, was a great report. I would like to make some references to it. I suppose that one could speak about the report for a long time, but 1 shall refer only to section 3.6.7, which is relevant to the legislation now before the House. It reads:
The Public Service Hoard has shown great reluctance to assess the performance of departments and agencies. Indeed,for some years no section 17 examinations were made and. now that they have been resumed, they are seen as exercises in assisting and improving management rather than in auditing or assessing performance. They arc carried out by a team headed by an external consultant and including a senior officer from the department or agency concerned. The form oftheBoard’s participation emphasises its role of servicing the team, although there is no reason to doubt its real contribution to the study itself. Furthermore, the report of the team is treated as strictly confidential to the department concerned, and great care is exercised to preserve this confidentiality. It is only with much reluctance that the Board gave the Commission access to its reports, enabling it to study the scope and methods of the inquiries. That scope was found extremely narrow.
That report, of course, has a vintage quality about it by now, but it rings as true today as it did at the time it was made. Nothing of an adequate nature can be said about the chairman of that inquiry, Dr Coombs, not only in respect of that report but also in respect of so many other matters. He drew out from this massive documentationthe report is about11/2 inches thick and consists of almost 500 pages- the fact that the departments of the Public Service were not being brought under adequate scrutiny.
Now we have the amendments to the Audit Act. I do not profess to comprehend them all; they are extremely technical. Although it is rare for me to agree with the Government, if my interpretation is correct the legislation means that the Auditor-General in now being unfettered or freed and given the characteristics of flexibility, to move in, to probe, in his discerning way, and to cause, by that very licence, a greater degree of competence and efficiency. This is a very great advantage. As I look through the legislation in a cursory way 1 notice that in proposed Division 2 of Part VI there is provision for efficiency audits. I do not really understand the definition of an efficiency audit. The name implies something of merit, the merits conceded by competent members from both sides of the Parliament. I have no doubt that that division is very important. It requires the results of the efficiency audit to be made readily available. Proposed sections 48j to 48p seem to relate to a capacity to invoke independent auditors, and that appeals to me also as a very likely innovation.
Let me now make reference to the report of the working party of officials on efficiency audits. I hope that I have not given the impression that, somehow or other, Dr Coombs and his inquiry have crept up on an unsuspecting and vulnerable Public Service by preparing the legislation before us. Not only were Dr Coombs and his inquiry involved but also the Public Service itself was involved in this self-evaluation by way of this working party of officials. It has provided a very worthwhile report. I notice that the report refers to the publications of the United States General Accounting Office and says that it provides a useful description of an efficiency and economy audit. The report goes on to describe it in these terms:
A review of efficiency and economy shall include inquiry into whether, in carrying out its responsibilities the audited entity is giving due consideration to conservation of its resources and minimum expenditure and effort. Examples of uneconomical practices or efficiencies the audit should he alert to include
procedures, whether officially prescribed or merely followed, which are ineffective or more costly than justified.
Duplication of effort by employees or between organisational units.
It is surprising the extent to which such duplication can take place with the participants even being oblivious to the way in which they arc shadowing one another. So it is very important to be conscious of that vulnerability. Paragraph (c) refers to the performance of work which serves little or no useful purpose. One can go on just doing something as a routine matter. It is a worthy process to have a purposeful, objective and periodical examination to ascertain whether the action is justifiable. This is one of the processes which is being followed by theUnited States General Accounting Office.
Paragraph (d) refers to the inefficient or uneconomical use of equipment. Of course, that issue is taking on new dimensions of importance as we move into the computerisation area. The capital cost of this equipment in some instances can amount to millions of dollars. Paragraph (e) refers to overstaffing in relation to work to be done. Paragraph (f) refers to faulty buying practices and accumulation of unneeded or excess quantities of property, materials or supplies. Goodness me, if we think of this factor alone and relate it to any area we can recognise that we have hardly scratched the surface. I doubt that we have scratched the surface even in respect of our own individual lives. The duplication or unnecessary storage of articles in the kitchen cupboard because of the ready availability of similar articles is amazing. When we see this matter from the standpoint of a departmental situation, the whole question of accumulating unneeded excess quantities of property, materials or supplies is absolutely mindboggling.
I know that this sort of thing happens in respect of senators and members of the House of Representatives. In the time I have been around this place I have seen dictaphone apparatus come into the possession of members of Parliament as a right because it was suddenly fashionable for people to have such an appliance. Heavens knows what these machines cost. However, we were supplied with a Grundig or some other make of machine and some people dictated letters on them and some did not. The equipment would have cost $200 or perhaps $385. However, when one moved around members’ offices one found that some of the machines had been pushed away in a corner. These machines were lost to the bureaucracy, never to be retrieved again in most instances. Before long we find that the machines are superseded and something else takes their place and so on. This is what has happened only in regard to members’ offices. Goodness me, does not the whole issue of the accumulation of unneeded and excess quantities of property need a sort of watchdog brief so far as departments are concerned? The ramifications in respect of departments are mammoth.
We become accustomed to things which take us over. We always have to be restless and throw off the burden of possessions and the great human inclination to want things and to build up the facade of power and strength which is typified by possessions. Indeed, an insidious campaign is taking place around us all the time to the effect that our expectations have to be lifted towards wanting something, always reaching out beyond our grasp, always chasing the advertised product whether we need it or not. That applies to departments as much as it applies to individuals. The report goes on -
– More so with departments because they are using taxpayers money.
-I think my colleague the honourable member for Grayndler has made a very good point. I remember the previous member for Wakefield used to say: ‘You can always tell the size of a man’s expense account by the enthusiasm with which he summons the waiter’. I think departments are ready to take on these new contrivances because they are not responsible for the bill which regrettably in these situations finally falls back on the taxpayer.
I was mentioning the criteria of issues that loomed prominently in respect of the report of the working party of officials as they saw the situation in the United States. The working party went on to refer to overstaffing in relation to work being done. So much of what I have said about other matters can apply to that matterthe sort of furrowed tracks in which people are doing things. I know of one case in which a Minister assiduously put out Press releases. This Minister had the responsibility to account to the whole of the government about certain Press releases. Day after day he checked the Press releases, signed them and approved them. After a long time he said to his departmental head: Where are the manifestations of these Press releases?1 The departmental head said: ‘I will have a look at it Minister’. Time went by and the Minister asked again and again. He became impatient and said: ‘Before the end of this week I want to know what has happened to these Press releases’. He found out that this alcoholic public servant had taken these faithfully produced Press releases, which had actually been run off on a duplicating machine, stacked up in an office but never released to a newspaper. That public servant was stood down. Public Service regulations would not allow any more to be done to him than to have a dunce ‘s cap put on him and to be sent out in the corridor for a period. How can these roles continue without anybody really knowing whether they are productive? One would not know unless one was very conscious of what was happening.
The working party mentioned many other matters which bear mentioning, but I think the matters I have raised are useful. I think the amendments to the legislation are useful and 1 commend the Government in this connection. One thing is certain and that is that the Australian community is entitled to value for money. The days of parasites being tolerated have gone. There is no excuse for anyone not giving value for the services they are being paid to give.
Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
-The ultimate responsibility for government expenditure lies with this Parliament. Whether funds are expended by commissions, departments or other government instrumentalities, the ultimate responsibility rests with this House. Members of Parliament are elected to scrutinise and to ensure protection of the community at large, to ensure that proper procedures take place and that the process of expenditure is both effective and to the public benefit.
This Government has adopted an interesting technique in its proposal to instigate an efficiency audit. This is something of which I believe the community unassociated with government has been in search for a long time. Members of Parliament too often hear complaints- unwarranted complaints- about the Public Service. The public at large who are the taxpayers have little contact with the Public Service and feel that large amounts of their money is collected for which they see little benefit. It is the responsibility of members of this place and of the Public Service to reassure the community at large and in fact to justify and account in detail for their activities and their roles on behalf of the community.
The Parliament through its agent, the AuditorGeneral, conducts audits and carries out a scrutiny on behalf of the community. It would seem to me that perhaps the Parliament and the Government should consider whether the Auditor-General should become an officer of the Parliament and be directly responsible to the Parliament rather than be the head of a quasidepartment of the Public Service. Such a role for the Auditor-General would make him responsible to the Speaker. He could, as in the House of Commons, present his case to the Parliament at large, and, through the activities of the Public Accounts Committee be recognised as an officer and an agent of the Parliament and, therefore, of the community and the Australian nation. It is often the view that the Public Service is unfeeling, not understanding and in fact not directly responsible to the Australian people. This is most unfortunate as is the view often held that members of Parliament are not caring or directly responsible. Members of Parliament and the Public Service recognise their responsibilities and their roles. Every technique that can be undertaken to encourage greater confidence and a greater awareness of the dedication, particularly of the Public Service, will benefit the nation and bolster the confidence of the community. I believe there is a close link between the examination of efficiency and the level of productivity that is maintained or achieved within any government service and within any public sector. An interesting link is established by the Australian Society of Accountants in its bulletin entitled: ‘Efficiency Audits in Government’. The Australian Society of Accountants defines this matter by saying:
Economy and efficiency audit- determines whether the entity is managing or utilising its resources (personnel, property, space and so forth ) in an economical and efficient manner and the causes of any inefficiencies or uneconomical practices, including inadequacies in management information systems, administrative procedures or organisational structure.
In my view it is not a particularly successful definition but it does in fact indicate, from an accounting point of view, the close link between efficiency and productivity. I believe that productivity is not connected completely with just the sheer production of goods or services. It is not in fact an indication of how hard anybody works and it should not determine what goods or services should be produced. It does not reflect what is good of bad and it does not reflect the quality of life in the community. Productivity in fact is the area in which all the resources that are necessary are brought together so that the community, the employees and those responsible gain the ultimate benefit of remuneration, greater satisfaction or a better delivery of the services that they are offering or a combination of all for the least cost. It would seem to me that an examination of productivity within government departments and the public sector is a key factor in the establishment of efficiency audit. The two overlap and productivity measures, in my view, must be considered by the Auditor-General in assessing the efficiency of government departments or various procedures.
Productivity is more than efficiency, performance and effectiveness but these are all important elements. I believe productivity is a belief in human progress- progress in every aspect for those who are involved in any one enterprise. Society makes demands on the private sector for an ability to fulfil certain requirements. Governments, however, only have two tools with which to respond to public demand- regulations and money. The way in which regulations or money interact and react with the community is the ultimate test of efficiency and also productivity. Government productivity and government efficiency are, in part, a management role. In the diversities of its roles and enterprises, government resembles a giant conglomerate. In business conglomeration affords efficiencies of scale but this does not apply generally to government. The larger the government enterprise, the more often we have decreased efficiency or decreased productivity. The absence of a competitive market, of course, is the distinctive difference between the levels of productivity in the public and private sectors. This provides a stimulus for people to achieve, a stimulus for people to take measurements of effectiveness-measurements of performance or efficiency which are all factors of the way in which they fill their roles in a productive way.
But the Parliament ultimately is responsible to taxpayers and voters. Therefore, in this place one would think there is a greater sense of awareness of what are the competitive factors and what are the features which will ensure efficiency and greater productivity. The taxpayers and voters can tell the difference between clean and dirty streets, smooth roads, congested traffic, prompt or slow police reponse and efficient delivery of social service benefits and all the other benefits provided by government. The public can assess this and the Parliament often assesses this. Part of the function of this legislation before the House is to ensure that all elements of government can assess the situation and be aware of it. I therefore put to the House that the feature of productivity within the area of efficiency and efficiency audit needs to be a factor applied and considered sympathetically by the AuditorGeneral. In the past governments have tended to ignore productivity. It is not my view that this can continue for much longer. The public sector is protected but the days of complete protection and lack of public scrutiny have gone. Too often we have depended on the charisma of leadership or the ability to turn aside criticism to justify an inefficient or an unproductive process. Those days have gone because the simple fact is that about one in every six Australians work at some level of government employment. Therefore, it would seem that there is a responsibility on everyone involved to justify and effectively measure for the community exactly what they are doing and the effectiveness of what they are doing.
There is great difficulty in trying to improve the productivity and efficiency of government. I feel that in many instances governments tend to become involved in areas that are not rightly theirs. We see State governments involved in running brickworks. We see people employed in post offices throughout Australia when, in my view, unofficial post offices provide in most areas a far more effective, efficient and productive service to the community at large. There are a great number of areas- public transport being a major one- where governments have inserted themselves, basically with good intention but with poor result. Government needs to draw back from these areas and pass on its various roles to those people who have the incentive and who will ultimately seek to serve the community most effectively. By passing back to people in the private sector some of the roles of government, it will free government to supervise effectively, survey and in fact apply its own mind to the key performances and the key areas which no other but government can fill. What we are looking for is a drawing back of government from some areas but the retention by government of the way in which it makes its arrangements by contract or legislation or regulation to protect the community.
Having done that, there seems to me to be a need for government to assess its own role and to see whether it can become more effective. Part of the effectiveness of government is the effectiveness of individuals within government. So often we offer no incentive to the Public Service and place no restriction on the Public Service. I regard permanency of employment, as we see it in the Australian Public Service, as a detrimental feature. It is not a feature that benefits the wellintentioned, dynamic individuals within the Service. It is not a provision that applies anywhere else in the nation. But if we remove permanency of employment, we should at the same time provide greater incentives to individuals who show capacity.
There are many ways by which this can be done and I commend the example of other countries where benefits are offered to members of the Public Service for their input to government. They are benefits which are commensurate with those received by individuals in the private sector for expertise and capacity.
I think there is need to consider the granting of leave of absence to valued employees for study tours and sabbatical type leave for high level public servants. There is also the need to provide low rent holiday accommodation. Further, there is the need to provide a credit system for fuel for motor cars, as is provided by many companies for their employees. There is the need to provide a system of support for high achievers. But at the same time let us not shrink from taking some of the hard decisions whereby we remove difficulties that are obvious in the Public Service; the difficulties of permanency of employment, Supperannuation programs that apply acrosstheboard and the capacity to flex on or flex off- all sorts of benefits that are not available elsewhere and which the community at large does not enjoy. I think that the application of that sort of incentive to the individual will increase efficiency. In the assessment of efficiency, it would seem to me that the Auditor-General will need to apply his mind to the alternatives that any scheme can take up. It would mean, therefore, that options of private use, contractual use, contractual delivery, private sector promotion of different services, staffing arrangements and managerial arrangements would all have to be considered. I believe that the Public Service would respond to the sensible application of efficiency audit.
Other factors within the Bill fall within the scope of what I have already mentioned, particularly in regard to enforcing some limitations upon members of the Public Service. One that I would mention, apart from the permanency of employment, is the area of gross negligence as set out in the Bill. It would seem to me that in this instance the definition of ‘gross negligence’ is most difficult to pursue. I personally oppose the concept and feel that, as within other areas of employment, the term ‘negligence’ should be the one that is used. I have read a number of papers and a number of definitions which prove to me that gross negligence is an unsatisfactory term; that ‘gross negligence’ has to be proved. Employees who are negligent need to be reprimanded and need to understand their responsibilities. No service, particularly the Australian Public Service, will gain credit for sloppy administration, or from people who are allowed, in some way, to avoid their own responsibilities. It is part of the responsibility of this House and of members of the Public Service at large to convince the Australian community that they are thoughtful, diligent and careful in their activity. I am not convinced that the purposes of the Parliament or of the nation are met by the measures of gross negligence as defined.
At this stage I would like particularly to pay tribute to the former Senator- now Sir Reginald- Wright who recently graced the other place for his thoughtful contribution, and, one might say, forceful contribution on this matter. I know that there would be some members of the Public Service who would think that he was somewhat overbearing in his views. However, his dedication to the concept of responsibility to all Australians is one that would not be denied by any honourable member. He spoke most persuasively on this particular area as well as on the areas of act of grace payments and on other matters which will no doubt be dealt with in the Committee stages of this Bill. But I repeat that the application of an efficiency audit will bring credit to the administration of government. It will bring credit to the Parliament itself and it will bring credit to the Public Service. Linked with the concept of efficiency audit are productivity levels. One must look also at the application of productivity and good decisions to benefit all Australians.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is indeed my pleasure to speak in support of this Audit Act Amendment Bill. It is an extremely complicated Bill which consists of 66 pages. I understand that amendments have been considered over a number of years. I certainly am pleased to see the legislation come into the House, even at this late stage. I suppose that the Auditor-General’s Office strikes fear into most government departments- and, or course, so it should. No one seems to like auditors, but they are a very necessary part of any government, business, enterprise or whatever it may be. I wish to say how efficient I feel the Auditor-General’s Office is. I just glanced at the amount of money allocated to the Auditor-General’s Office for 1978-79 and I was pleasantly surprised to see that its salaries, wages and administrative costs are only $ 1 1 ,432,000. That is a lot of money; but, considering the job that this office does in relation to other departments, I think the people of Australia are getting good value for their money.
This Bill covers a number of items. I do not pretend to understand them all, but I have taken the time to look at some of the amendments. Many of them are machinery amendments, particularly the ones that alter the Audit Act to cope with the fact that the Northern Territory is now operating under its own steam. Many of the amendments really update the Audit Act to allow for computer-based accounting. When I look at the original Act I see some of the terminology, such as that in section 40 of that original Act, which states that the Treasurer shall keep at the Treasury a book called the cash book. I think honourable members will agree that that terminology is very outdated, being terminology that accountants used 20 and 30 years ago. We are in the computer age today and it is necessary to make sure that these machinery amendments go through to cope with this computer age.
I refer now to some of the other clauses of this amending legislation that interest me. Firstly, I refer to one that does cause me some little concern, namely the clause that deals with the monthly statements of receipts and expenditure. I think it amends section 49 of the principal Act, which originally read:
Many honourable members here will realise that this deals particularly with the monthly statement commonly referred to as the Niemeyer statement. I know that I, like other members, and members of the media, look forward to the details of that monthly statement. It shows clearly the expenditure month by month of each government department plus the progressive totals. I am concerned at this amendment which interferes with the monthly statement and the annual statement because the amendment transposes the original meaning of the Act to the extent that the matter is under the jurisdiction of the Minister.
I turn to the clause that deals with the words gross negligence’. I realise that other members who have spoken before me have also mentioned this clause. The amending Bill says: . . where there occurs a loss of, or deficiency in, public moneys, or the loss or destruction of, or damage to, other property of the Commonwealth, an officer who, by his misconduct or by performing any of his duties in a grossly negligent manner, causes or contributes to the loss, deficiency, destruction or damage is liable to pay to the Commonwealth an amount equal to- and it goes on. As other members have done, I express concern about the words ‘gross negligence’. I am not of a legal mind, but I have made inquiries regarding this terminology from people who have some expertise in this field. To my horror I find that there really is no definition of gross negligence’. Therefore, in the form in which it is in the Bill it would be extremely hard to define the words and I think it is doubtful whether action can be taken where gross negligence occurs.
I now move to what I call the main thrust of the Bill before us, and that is efficiency audits. The performance of the Government, like any big business, is judged by the amount of money that is usually spent by each department. This attitude has grown up over the years. For instance, if the Government spends 10 per cent more on, say, education this year than last year, the Government is generally judged by the people as having improved the education system. This also happens in many big businesses where seniority of people is judged by the number of people they have on their staff and the amount of money they spend. Although I can suggest few alternatives to this system, the system in itself tends to breed inefficiency. I am pleased to see that this legislation allows efficiency audits to commence, because I think this can improve efficiency remarkably within the Government ranks. I am looking forward with a great deal of interest to seeing the effect of efficiency audits on the various government departments when this legislation is passed. I wish the Auditor-General well and hope that perhaps next year, instead of $1 1.4m being available to his Office, he will have a substantially greater sum available to cope with his work in efficiency audits, thus giving greater efficiency to the taxpayers of this country. I do not propose to elaborate on any other clauses of this Bill. I am extremely happy to see it come before the Parliament and I am very confident that a Bill such as this, even though it has taken so long to come before this Parliament and even though it is such a complicated Bill, will do much for the people of Australia. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I strongly support the points made by other speakers relating to gross negligence, secret payments and the Niemeyer statement. I wish to pay a tribute to exSenator Reg Wright, who played such a dominant role in the very effective Committee scrutiny that was given to this Bill in the last 12 months or so. His determination against some quite stout opposition has meant that a considerable number of the propositions he maintained have found their way into the Bill. Regrettably, a couple have not, in particular two that have been referred to tonight- payments that remain secret and the concept of gross negligence being the only one acceptable to the Government when claiming recompense. It seems to me that in these two instances the former Senator was correct and I regret that the Government has not seen fit to take into account the very strong matters of principle that were raised by him. I hope that some of his former colleagues in another place will give the Bill the sort of scrutiny that no doubt he would have given it had he still been a member of that place.
Another matter that I wish to raise relates to the operations of governmental corporations and the auditing thereof. It is obviously a function of the Auditor-General to assist in the speedy presentation of reports by governmental bodies to this House and the nation. I believe that the Auditor-General is doing an excellent job in pursuing that most excellent objective. However, the problem as I see it is that far too many reports of governmental bodies are still coming to this House after a disgracefully long period. This situation has existed for quite a long time. A couple of years ago in this House I complained about the delay involved in the presentation of the annual report of Qantas Airways Ltd. I regret that on that occasion I wrongly blamed the Auditor-General for the delay. I was put right and I thank the Auditor-General for the correspondence that ensued. However, it resulted in Qantas complaining that the delay was not its fault either.
I draw the attention of the House to the latest report of Qantas which is available to honourable members and the nation. It came into the hands of this Parliament in March or April this year- I cannot identify which month- signed by the Principal Accounting Officer on 1 February 1978 and by the Auditor-General only 9 days later, 10 February 1978. However, it relates to the financial year that ended on 3 1 March 1977. In other words, it took almost a year- a little over one month short of a year- for this report to be signed by the Principal Accounting Officer and the directors of Qantas. It seems to me extraordinary that this major government-owned corporation should take such an immense amount of time to produce its annual report. If Qantas had been a listed public company it would have been de-listed by the stock exchanges for failing to comply with the basic requirements of public corporations in this nation. It strikes me as appalling that even after having pointed out this situation in this House a couple of years ago, Qantas still appears, for some reason or other, to be incapable of making an effective report to this House.
I stress that one of the features of good reporting is a capacity to report with speed so that the report still has relevance to the current time. It is not good enough for Qantas to take 1 1 months to report to the nation on how it operated. It is not good for any governmental corporation to hide behind its legal position, its position of power as a governmental corporation, to avoid meeting the requirements that an ordinary corporation would have to meet. I hope that the AuditorGeneral regards it as one of his functions to note to the accounts in the way that auditors of public corporations do that there has been an inordinate delay in the presentation of these accounts. I believe the House is owed an explanation by Qantas.
I also raise this point in relation to the Australian Pipeline Authority. On 28 April 1978 the Auditor-General reported on its accounts for the year ending 30 June 1977. What is so special about this organisation that it cannot meet the legal requirements under the Companies Acts of the States of the Commonwealth and cannot meet the the Companies Act requirements of the Australian Capital Territory? I believe that the time has long since passed when we should put up with this appallingly bad reporting from governmental authorities. There are some examples of good reporting and in this regard I commend the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. These bodies report speedily and the Auditor-General naturally is assisting in bringing about effective reporting to the people of Australia. I hope that the Auditor-General will take up with these corporations the delays in the presentation of accounts. I submit that it is a function of a report to be timely and one of the functions of the Auditor-General is to ensure that that happens. However, I commend the AuditorGeneral on the obvious efforts being made within his office to produce speedy reports. I ask the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann), who is at the table, to draw to the attention of the Government what is a totally unsatisfactory situation in respect of so many other reports by government corporations.
Debate (on motion by Dr Jenkins) adjourned.
Bill reported from Legislation Committee with amendments.
Ordered that consideration of the report be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Unemployment in Whyalla -Tasmania-New Zealand Air Service- Telecommunication facilities for the Handicapped- Commonwealth Employment Service- Misleading Advertising-Rural Australia: Fuel Prices- Victoria: Ballarat By-election
Motion ( by Mr Adermann ) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Tonight I wish to say a few words about the situation that now obtains in the city of Whyalla within the Grey electorate. At present about 1 ,950 people are out of work, many of them being tradesmen from the shipyards which were formerly in operation in Whyalla. There are, of course, many young people among the approximately 1,950 people out of work. I was rather touched a few weeks ago by a letter that I received from two such young people who wrote to me explaining their situation. They are both at an age where they are not entitled to indexation increases in the unemployment benefit. The letter was such that I was able to send it to the local newspaper to explain the situation that these young people are facing. I also arranged for a copy of the letter to be sent to the relevant Minister. The problems set out in the letter are indicative of those facing many people in that city.
About two years ago there were many early signs of problems ahead unless something were done about the shipyards. Fewer orders were placed with the shipyard and unless further orders were placed it was clear that there would be trouble with employment in that city. Organisations such as the Whyalla Combined Unions Council, the local council, the chambers of commerce and other interested people and organisations in the city of Whyalla arranged for deputations to come to Canberra to see whether they could get the Federal Government to do something to retrieve the position of the shipbuilding industry. Whyalla did not have the opportunity that was given to Newcastle. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that the Government would build two ships at Newcastle. However, he put such impossible conditions on the building of these ships that Newcastle did not get an opportunity even to consider the offer. A similar offer was never made to Whyalla. Of course, all the deputations were to no avail because the shipyards are now closed, with the resultant unemployment in Whyalla.
I do not place all the blame upon the Government. To date the Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd has scraped out of this situation pretty well scot-free. It is quite obvious that it did not want to keep the shipyard open. It was the company’s decision to close it. I do not think that it would have welcomed any government assistance to keep it going. It wanted to close the shipyard. Possibly its action was a little hard-hearted because a great percentage of the people employed in the Whyalla Shipyard were migrants brought from overseas to a decentralised city. Most had their fares paid by the Australian Government and were assisted into housing provided by the South Australian Housing Trust. A lot of government assistance went into providing a work force for BHP. It seems a part of our system that, when a company decides that it no longer wants to stay in that type of business and decides to close those operations, these people are all thrown on the scrapheap. There is no doubt of the assistance that has been given by the Federal Government and the State Government in providing the company with a work force.
When it was obvious that the work force at the shipyard was going to be reduced, it was said that alternative employment could be found in the steelworks. It just happened that the steelworks went through a bad period but it picked up in that it received some further overseas orders with the result that more people could be taken on. One of the matters that was of great concern to a number of the unions covering the employees at Whyalla was that if a person suffered some injury while an employee of the shipyard, such as a damaged kneecap or some loss of hearing or anything that left that person with a physical handicap, when that person applied for a job at the steelworks, after having been put off from the shipyards, that person was denied a job because of that injury. The result is that at the present time many highly qualified tradesmen are out of work in Whyalla with not much hope of gaining employment at their particular trade in the very near future. Of course the Government must share a great deal of the blame because it did absolutely nothing for Whyalla. It was not prepared to place any orders with the shipyard. The State Government established a working party to examine alternative means of employment and suggested the establishment of a railway rolling stock mill at Whyalla to produce rolling stock for Australian railways. This would have required Federal Government assistance and the suggestion received a complete knockback from the Federal Government. There have been approaches for Ministers to visit Whyalla.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-As one who believes in the proposition ‘You heard it first in Federal Parliament’ let me now briefly and officially inform the House that at this very moment Ansett Airlines of Australia are conducting feasibility surveys into the possibility of applying to operate a direct passenger air service between Tasmania and New Zealand. Honourable members will recall that the matter was discussed last week and it is indeed refreshing that a domestic airline operator has moved speedily within hours of the statement in the House of Representatives by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) to conduct a feasibility survey with a possibility of establishing this direct air service. As I have indicated, both Air New Zealand and Qantas have had ample opportunity to institute such a service. They have chosen not to do so and in these circumstances I repeat that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a domestic Australian operator seeking a licence to operate offshore. Let me briefly set out the facts as they have been given to me by Ansett concerning the
First and foremost, Ansett Airlines has advised that such a service will have to be operated by a Boeing 727 or nothing. In other words it is not in a position to purchase new aircraft for the institution of such a service. However, I note the announcement by the Minister for Transport today that Ansett Airlines is seeking approval from the Government for funds to purchase another Boeing 727. Who knows but that we may be fortunate enough to have access to that plane when it is acquired by Ansett. I am informed that there are two alternatives. The first is the use of an aircraft of the Boeing 727 100 series and the second is the use of an aircraft of the Boeing 727 200 series. In addition, the airline is carrying out a traffic survey as to the amount of business that could be expected. My own view and the view of the people who have collected statistics in recent months with a view to encouraging a domestic operator to institute the service is that there is certainly enough traffic to warrant a fortnightly service and possibly even a weekly service. It is, of course, obvious to all honourable members that people travelling from Tasmania to New Zealand direct would be saved the cost of $100 which is the current return air fare to Melbourne. Without any disrespect to Victorian members, it would also save the unpleasantness of having to spend several hours at Tullamarine Airport. In addition, a feasibility survey as to tariffs and timetables is under way.
There are only three remaining steps to be taken. I understand that the Pilots Federation has an international agreement that international flights will not operate on domesticroutes and that domestic operators will not operate on international routes. I simply make the point that, as there is no direct route at the moment between Tasmania and New Zealand, no direct route between Hobart and Christchurch, which is the specific route under consideration, that international agreement does not apply. In addition the operator would require the approval of the Federal Government and the New Zealand Government. There is no doubt at all as to the approval of the Federal Government in view of the publicly expressed attitude of the Minister and for that I congratulate him. I do not believe that the New Zealand Government would have any basis at all to refuse a licence to permit Ansett Airlines of Australia to operate directly from Tasmania to New Zealand. If Air New Zealand is not sufficiently interested to operate such a service, I believe that the Government of New Zealand is in no position to say that
October 1978 REPRESENTATIVES 2319
– Tonight I want to do something that is slightly out of character with my actions since I have been in this place. I might add that I have been here nine years today. I wish to congratulate the Government, in particular the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). The reason I do this is that for a long period I have been -
– Nine years.
-Yes, over nine years, as a matter of fact. I have been pressing, on behalf of Mr Michael Anderson, who lives at Tullamarine and who is a deaf mute, for a communications system for Mr Anderson and people like him so that they do not have to be in physical contact with one another or within sight of one another in order to communicate. I am sure that every honourable member in this House would agree with me that to be unable to use a telephone is not a joking matter. If one suffers from these disabilities, it is not a jocular matter to be required, if one wishes to communicate with somebody on the other side of the city- and Melbourne is a large city- to drive one’s car or to take another form of transport to come within sight of the person with whom one wishes to communicate.
Mr Anderson is a very active man within his own community- that is, the deaf community in Victoria- and he brought to my attention the fact that there are devices available, not yet in Australia but overseas, whereby people who are completely deaf and those who are deaf and mute can communicate with one another via a telephone using a teletype system. I was very pleased on Thursday night of last weekotherwise I would have raised this matter earlier- to receive a letter from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications referring to my earlier representations on this matter. The Minister tells me that Telecom Australia has completed the evaluation of the telephone typewriter units and that for technical reasons the units are not suitable for use over the Australian telephone network. That, of course, is regrettable. He said that arrangements are being made, however, to carry out modifications to overcome the present technical problems. That is laudable. I pay great credit to the very fine technicians of Telecom Australia, but by putting together all the technical advice that is available to us it would seem to me that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility for these people to be provided with equipment that can be attached to their telephones to enable them to communicate with their peers and their fellows who live in distant places. Any effort that can be made by government employees or by Telecom to bring this equipment to the point where it can be used as quickly as possible must be encouraged by the Government, by this House and by the whole community. Whilst not wishing in any way to write down the impact on other people of their deformities, I think that the inability to communicate is a very grave problem. I will quickly read the third paragraph of this letter. The Minister went on to say:
As this type of equipment offers a new mode of communication in Australia extensive field research has been necessary to assess the impact of social, economic and technological factors on the users, in particular the deaf, and the degree of change required in their present communication patterns. The co-operation of the Adult Deaf Society of Victoria has been of great assistance in this project. When the investigation of these units has been completed, detailed information will be distributed through relevant organisations.
I simply close by paying credit to the Minister, to those who preceded him and to those technicians in Telecom who are working out the technical details to make this sort of instrument available to the thousands of deaf people throughout Australia who at the moment, as I say, must be within eyesight to communicate.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In the Sydney Morning Herald of Saturday, 2 September of this year an advertisement appeared in the name of Tooheys Limited for an accounts payable clerk. This advertisement had the Tooheys Limited logo on it and, after describing the position and the type of person required, it stated that applications might be made by telephoning a named person on a certain telephone number after 9 a.m. On telephoning that number one discovers that it is an office of the Commonwealth Employment Service, but that is not stated in the advertisement. I will quote from a New South Wales Act, the Industrial Arbitration (Employment Agencies) Act of 1975- which relates to the licensing and regulating of private employment agencies. Under the heading ‘ Offences by licensees’ the relevant section of the Act says:
A licensee who- advertises or causes to be advertised, or publishes or causes to be published, any matter that, by its tenor, suggests, implies or infers that the matter is not advertised or published by or on behalf of a private employment agency; is guilty of an offence and liable to a penalty not exceeding $500.
In other words, if a private employment agency inserted an advertisement in exactly the same terms as this one apparently inserted by the Commonwealth Employment Service, the private employment agency would be guilty of an offence punishable by a fine of $500. This points to the excessively vigorous marketing policy, if I might put it that way, of some sections of the Commonwealth Employment Service and of the Professional Employment Office in particular in the way in which they are seeking to go into areas of job placement which are being adequately catered for by commercial agencies. There seems no justification to me for the Professional Employment Office seeking to obtain vacancies from employers, advertising those vacancies on behalf of the employers and trying to entice presently employed people away from their jobs to apply for those vacancies. This is going well beyond the role of trying to find positions for unemployed persons or trying to act as a labour exchange in areas that are not necessarily well served by private employment agencies. But surely in a time when there are complaints in the Public Service about staff ceilings it seems a waste of resources to use those staff to carry out functions which can be and are being adequately catered for by private employment agencies in the economy. It seems to be a waste of the Commonwealth Employment Service resources to extend the activities of the CES into that sort of area. I think that the responsible Minister ought to take very vigorous action to ensure that the resources of the Commonwealth Employment Service are used to the best advantage in areas that cannot be catered for by private agencies.
I am also disturbed by reports that I have received of the attitude of non-co-operation of some Commonwealth Employment Service officers with respect to their dealings with private employment agencies. It is common for them to plead that their obligations under International Labour Organisation Convention No. 88 prevent them from having any dealings with agencies which charge a fee for their service. I have read that particular Convention in detail and, whilst it is possible to place a very restrictive interpretation on it, it is also possible to place a very open and co-operative interpretation on it, if one were so inclined. Surely the major aim is to see that people are suitably placed in employment and if a bit of co-operation in talking about the available vacancies can be achieved between private employment agencies and the Commonwealth Employment Service, that is all to the good and is fully consistent with the proper aims and objectives of the Commonwealth Employment Service. I believe that the responsible Minister ought to take strong action to ensure that the Commonwealth Employment Service plays a proper and co-operative role in the economy and takes the opportunity to work with private employment agencies where it can to see that people are suitably placed.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I wish to bring to the attention of the Parliament tonight a case of misrepresentation on a scale certainly larger than that to which this House is accustomed. In fact the case involved in the misrepresentation of this country is in some of the most esteemed journals of the United States of America. I read from an advertisement placed in recent editions of the Saturday Evening Post- an advertisement similar to advertisements placed in other leading American journals. It states: 50,000 jobs. Free transportation! Latest information for $2 Austco, Box 8289, Long Beach, California.
When my mother in America alerted me to this vital information, it naturally surprised me. Here I was, along with every member of the Opposition and the occasional reluctant Government supporter, protesting loud and long at the parlous state of employment in this country- no doubt our colleagues in New Zealand were doing likewise- when suddenly an American company is going to show us, for the princely sum of $2, where to lay our hands on 50,000 jobs. What a scoop! What a trump it would be for the Opposition if one day we could tell the Government that for $2 we would show it how to get 50,000 jobs for the registered unemployed. Well, it is a fizzer and a fraud. I regret not only that it is not true but also that I parted with my own $2 in order to find that out. The 26,000 unemployed of New Zealand and the 400,000 unemployed of this country need not raise their hopes. The information which I received from the company calling itself Austco included stationery with the well known insignia of a kangaroo- straight from Qantas Airways Ltd.
Among the information relevant to Australiathere is not much of it- was the offer of a beautiful colour map of Australia which, it was proclaimed, showed all the States of Australia with special maps of Perth, Melbourne, Sydney. Adelaide and New Zealand. I do not know whether the omission of Queensland and Brisbane was accidental or whether Austco knows something that Canberra does not know. Anyway, as well as the offer of this beautiful map, the eager American recipient receives a list of US firms which are engaged in manufacturing operations in Australia, either directly or indirectly though subsidiary and associated companies, and which have a proportion of their ordinary capital owned by US firms other than those resident in Australia. Whilst the list includes the Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corporation, the Chrysler Company is conspicuous by its absence. Again, I do not know if Austco knows something that we do not. The varied list covers businesses involved in everything from preservatives and foundation garments to baby foods and mining iron ore. Many of the firms, as far as I have been able to determine, simply do not exist in this country. I cannot for the life of me work out from where Austco gets the figure of 50,000. No doubt, the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations would be eager to know.
The language of the leaflet is typically hard sell, and as they say in the advertising game, hype ‘. I quote from one page:
Working overseas in Australia is exciting, rewarding, adventuresome and the opportunities for you to come home with a fortune in your pocket are now even greater than ever!
Far from having a fortune in his pocket, any luckless American adventurer is likely in these times of recession to leave these shores and return home with only holes in his pocket. What tragic irony it is that Americans are being so deceived and duped. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will clear the air by issuing a statement through Australia’s many representatives in the United States of America- in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Washington- explaining just how miserable and hopeless is our present economic and employment situation. Better still, since the Government has made great play of the Prime Minister’s belated invitation from President Carter, he might take the opportunity when in America to illuminate Americans about our economy. While Americans have effective laws which will permit legal action against those people presently misrepresenting the Australian economy and the employment situation, Australians- among them our unemployed- are not able to take action against those people in this country who flagrantly misrepresent and mislead them over the true state of the Australian economy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I speak in this adjournment debate tonight to mention the growing disquiet of rural Australia brought about by increasing costs, particularly those associated with fuel. The broad thrust of the Government’s policy, commenced last year and completed in the 1978-79 Budget, to bring crude oil prices up to world parity price is one that should raise little objection. This is particularly so in the realisation that if we are to regulate our own and the world’s dwindling supplies of oil, a price penalty, not unreasonable on world standards prices, will be the best means to effect a consumer discipline to stretch as far as possible those dwindling resources and supplies. However, there are forces generated within the oil industry in Australia that fly in the face of Government policy. I refer to the discounting policies carried on in the capital cities of Australia that provide petrol for the motorist at a figure as little as 1 8.9c per litre compared with 24c to 25c per litre in my electorate. This runs completely counter to the disciplines of the crude oil levy and is an actual encouragement for the capital city motorist to use excessive petrol and not conserve it, as should be the principle.
These differences in prices under this discounting policy of the oil companies represent just another penalty paid by the people of rural Australia to subsidise their capital city relations. There is no incentive to transfer to public transport or for the more economic use of the motor vehicle as the levy, intended. Rural industries of Australia which represent 6 per cent of the population use 20 per cent of our fuels. These people not only subsidise the cities; they also pay one-fifth of the levy which is an indirect tax paid to revenue by way of increased costs which, because of competition from other countries, cannot be recouped on the export market, where three-quarters of the product is sold. The rural industries have no alternative fuels to which they can turn. They cannot further economise on fuel use, so the costs direct and indirect, just have to borne. These include freights, the cost of goods and fertiliser costs. These have all increased due to the influence of the levy. This is all happening while the discounting policies lay waste our essential fuels.
Other honourable members have spoken many times in the House of this problem of discounting. It is time that the State and Federal governments looked realistically at the problem and sought a remedy. This is especially so in view of the Government’s policy to raise the crude oil price to world parity prices. One can only assume that the marketing strategy of the oil companies is the result of an excess production capacity for which markets must be not only maintained but also increased with no respect for the future and the needs of the next generation. If this is the situation, an application to the Prices Justification Tribunal for an increase in price to the oil companies is not the answer. Rationalisation of the total refining industry and a searching inquiry into it should provide the real answer. With the evidence obvious in the existence of the discount, a government would have to be blind not to see the deeper implications of the other abuses it creates and the potential for waste it proposes.
In Brisbane at this time small business people in petrol stations are being squeezed by the oil companies in the petrol discount war. They are being pushed further by higher rentals charged at the same time. These small business people are being pushed towards bankruptcy with a potential loss of employment to Queensland and also to this nation of thousands of service station attendants. I appreciate that an inquiry on this and other aspects of the matter is current. I hope that the results of that inquiry will be made available quickly in order to place any subsidy, if any has to be provided, in the hands of the people who need it most for export purposes and to earn export dollars- that is, the farmers themselves.
- Mr Deputy Speaker–
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-I call the honourable member for Ballarat.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order. I rose in my place before you called the honourable member for Ballarat.
-There is no point of order. The practice is to alternate from each side of the House. It is not an open event. I call the honourable member for Ballarat.
-As the House will be aware, there is a by-election in Ballarat for the State Upper House in Victoria this Saturday. An extraordinary number of Australian Labor Party personalities have come to pay homage to our great city. Yesterday we had the pleasure of a visit from the Premier of New South Wales. He was a little late in getting to
Ballarat because of the immense industrial problems that New South Wales has, I might note, under a Labor Government which claims to be able to co-operate with the trade union movement. However, he was late. As I understand Sir Henry Bolte said on a television broadcast in Victoria tonight, the Premier ran in and ran out. ‘In fact’, said Sir Henry, ‘the only thing he did not do was walk on water and that was only because he did not have the time ‘.
We also have had frequent visits from the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria, Mr Wilkes. In his visit to Ballarat on Tuesday, he opened the annual conference of the Victorian branch of the Australian Textile Workers Union. Some of the statements that he made about unemployment in the textile industry and the causes for it were reported in the local newspaper in Ballarat. In my view they were a little short of libellous. Certainly, to say that he was deliberately misleading would be to put the most generous interpretation on his remarks. Mr Wilkes appears not to remember that it was the Labor Government which deliberately and knowingly caused massive unemployment in the clothing, textile and footwear industries as a result of its 25 per cent tariff cut in 1973. He also appears to have forgotten the massive disruption to production, and therefore employment, as a result of the wild wages splurge in 1973 and 1 974, deliberately encouraged by the then Labor Government.
I also wonder whether Mr Wilkes has forgotten that during the Labor period in office the number of persons registered for employment in Ballarat increased about threefold and that in one year alone- 1975- unemployment in the city of Ballarat rose by 100 per cent. Mr Wilkes also seemed to have forgotten in his address that the present Liberal Government has imposed quite severe quota restrictions on imports of clothing, textiles and footwear in an attempt to stop the rot that was caused by the policies of the previous Labor Government and to provide employment in the industries concerned.
Mr Wilkes also made the assertion, which I found absolutely staggering, that trade unionists fare better under a Labor government than under Liberal governments and that relationships in the industrial relations area are more harmonious when Labor governments are in office. Mr Wran’s problems in New South Wales this week and in recent weeks seem to give the lie to that assertion. Quite obviously, Mr Wilkes has also conveniently forgotten that industrial unrest in Australia was higher in 1 975 under a Labor Government than at any other time in our history. He also neglected to mention that in Ballarat in the past two years the Liberal Government has done more, I believe, to strengthen the rights of individual trade unionists than any other government in a generation. He preached consultation with the trade union movement. But the last Labor Government cut off almost all communication with trade unions other than those extreme left wing unions which have had and continue to have such a large influence on the operations of the Labor Government.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. tomorrow.
The following notices were given:
Mr Howard to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Primary Industry Bank Act 1977 in relation to the Income Equalisation Deposits Trust Account.
Mr Fife to present a Bill for an Act relating to Trade Practices.
Mr Staley to present a Bill for an Act relating to the grant of financial assistance to the States for and in relation to schools.
Mr Ellicott to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Act 1955.
Mr Nixon to present a Bill for an Act relating to the provision of certain equipment for a domestic airline.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The Department of Administrative Services has provided the following information in response to the honourable member’s question:
Since 1 January 1950, 403 knighthoods and dameships have been awarded on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Government. A.K.’s and A.D.’s introduced in 1 976 are not awarded on the recommendation of the Government but are listed to complete the table. The awards are distributed amongst the categories as set out below:
It is not practicable in many cases to classify recipients of honours under the headings contained in the question and to attempt to do so could give a misleading impression. In addition the information is not readily available.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
Will he confer with the Presiding Officers on future Budget Estimates for Parliament and allow the Parliament itself to resolve any differences which may develop between himself and the Presiding Officers.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Presiding Officers have recently raised this matter with me. I shall consider the matter and reply to them as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
Can he state whether there could be any circumstance under which an officer of any Government Department or agency would be justified in classifying a document or information of any kind as ‘not for Prime Minister’s eyes’, or words to that effect.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There is no such classification for official papers. I cannot imagine any circumstances in which it would be justifiable.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 1 5 August 1 978:
Will he tell the Parliament whether a ‘D’ notice was ever issued in relation to news relating to the Indonesian invasion of Timor; if so (a) when was it issued, (b) to what specific information did it relate and (c) by whom was it issued.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No ‘D’ notice about Indonesian actions in East Timor or the situation there was ever issued.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
When will the media be given access to the official records relating to the secret history of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under current Government policies relating to archives, which are the same rules that applied under the previous Labor Government and which are intended to be given statutory basis when the Archives Bill introduced into the Parliament on 9 June 1978 is enacted, official records are generally made available publicly after a period of 30 years has elapsed since 31 December in the year in which the records came into existence.
I would not envisage any departure from either the current rules, or from the provisions of the impending legislation, that would delay release of official records relating to Australia ‘s involvement in the war in Vietnam.
Provision of Information to Parliament by Public Servants (Question No. 1589)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
Has the Government no lawful right to instruct a public servant to refrain from providing certain information to the Parliament.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under our system of government, Ministers are responsible to the Parliament, and for the provision of information to the Parliament. Officials supplying information to the Parliament an under the authority of their Minister.
I invite the attention of the honourable member to relevant points set out in the statement made by, and to guidelines tabled by, the Minister Assisting me (Mr Viner) in this House on 28 September 1978 in relation to official witnesses appearing before Parliamentary Committees. I also draw to his attention the guidelines relating to access by members of Parliament to public servants and officers of statutory authorities and the guidelines to apply to appearances by public servants and officers of statutory authorities before Party Committees that were tabled in Parliament on 19 September 1978.
Guidelines for Official Witnesses appearing before Parliamentary Committees (Question No. 1590)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
When will the Government publish the guidelines for official witnesses appearing before Parliamentary Committees.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The guidelines were tabled on 28 September 1978, (see Hansard, pages 1304 to 1508).
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 1 5 August 1 978:
Are any employees of the Australian Government associated with the Institute for the Study of Conflict in London.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am unaware of any Australian Government employees associated with the Institute for the Study of Conflict in London.
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
What is the present ratio of (a) Class 4, (b) Class 5, (c) Class 6, (d) Class 7, (e) Class 8, (f) Class 9, (g) Class 10 and (h) Class 1 1, to the total number of persons belonging to the Fourth Division of the Australian Public Service.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Public Service Board has provided the information in the following table.
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
Will he give an assurance that public servants who overindulge in alcohol outside working hours will not be treated differently from other members of the workforce who do so.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Public Service Act currently permits a number of courses to be followed in cases where alcohol consumption outside working hours adversely affects work performance or brings the Service into disrepute. Decisions relating to appropriate action (disciplinary, counselling, et cetera) will depend on the individual circumstances of each case. The honourable member will be aware that the present disciplinary provisions of the Act will be replaced on the passage of the Public Service Amendment Bill 1978, currently before the House.
The question of alcohol misuse is currently receiving close attention within the Service and the Joint Council of the Australian Public Service recently endorsed an approach to the matter which emphasises preventive and rehabilitative aspects (see pages 60 and 71 of the 1978 Annual Report of the Public Service Board ).
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
Is it possible for a public servant convicted of a criminal offence to remain in the Public Service and are homosexual offences disregarded.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is possible that a public servant convicted of a criminal offence might be permitted to remain in the Public Service. At present section 62 (2) of the Public Service Act outlines action which the Public Service Board may take when an officer is convicted of a criminal offence. I would also invite the honourable member’s attention to my second reading speech on the Public Service Amendment Bill 1978 (Hansard, 6 June 1978, page 3095).
As to the Public Service Board’s policy on homosexual acts, I refer the honourable member to page 76 of the Board ‘s Annual Report for 1 978.
Selling Data-Bank Material Outside the Public Service (Question No. 1627)
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
What is the specific sanction that prevents a public servant from selling official data-bank material to a body outside the Public Service.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Public Service Regulation 34 and section 70 of the Crimes Act 1914 both prohibit the unauthorised or unlawful disclosure of information.
If proceedings are instituted under section 70 of the Crimes Act an officer may be liable, on conviction, to a maximum penalty of imprisonment for two years. In addition action could be taken under section 62 of the Public Service Act 1 922 resulting in the officer’s dismissal from the Service or such lesser punishment as the case requires.
A breach of Public Service Regulation 34 is a matter which could lead to disciplinary action under section 55 of the Public Service Act. The actions available under that section range from a caution or reprimand to dismissal.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Co-ordinative and Consultative Arrangements with the States (Question No. 2104)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 19 September 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Co-ordinative and Consultative Arrangements with the States (Question No. 2118)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 19 September 1978:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I refer the honourable member to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question No. 2090 (House of Representatives Hansard, 17 October 1978, page 1972).
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 20 September 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 27 September 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I also refer the honourable member to the remarks I made in the House on 27 September 1978 (Hansard, page 1430), relating to the inquiry at present being conducted by a committee whose Chairman is Sir Nigel Bowen.
asked the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 27 September 1978:
When will the Parliament receive an answer to question No. 2026 appearing on the Notice Paper in my name in relation to a question which was first put on the Notice Paper on 15 August 1978.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the answer provided by the Acting Minister for Finance to his Question on Notice No. 1625 (Hansard, 28 September 1978, page 1586).
asked the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 27 September 1978:
When will the Parliament receive an answer to question No. 2027 appearing on the Notice Paper in my name in relation to a question which was first put on the Notice Paper on 15 August 1978.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the answer provided by the Acting Minister for Finance to his Question on Notice No. 1626 (Hansard, 10 October 1978, page 1666) and to parts III and IV of the handbook for Commonwealth medical officers tabled by me on11 October 1 978 ( Hansard, page 1694).
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 27 September1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 28 September 1978:
Will he direct Ministers to follow the examples seto n his own replies to questions Nos 1565, 1566, 1567, 1574,1584, 1586, 1615, 1652 and 1654 instead of adopting evasive and, sometimes, cavalier attitudes towards questions placed on the Parliament’s Notice Paper.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to my answer to question No. 156 1 (Hansard, 12 September 1978. page 90 1 ).
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 28 September 1 978:
Will he study the reply given by the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security to question No. 1675 and say whether it complies with the guidelines set out in the reply he gave to question No. 1561.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I do not wish to add to my answer to question No. 1 56 1 (Hansard, 1 2 September 1978, page 90 1 ).
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
Are any figures available for the incidence of visual disorders not associated with diseases of the eye in Australian school children.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Presumably the question concerns refractive visual errors in children necessitating the wearing of spectacles. If this is so, I regret that I have no figures available.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
– The answers to the honourable member’s question are as follows:
Immigration Procedures at Tullamarine Airport (Question No. 2408)
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19781025_reps_31_hor111/>.