31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
-I inform the House that the Hon. Mosese Quionibaravi, M.P., the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Fiji, is within the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honourable members I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House.
The Hon. Mosese Quionibaravi thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
-I inform the House that Mr Quionibaravi is accompanied by the Hon. Ratu William Toganivalu, M.P., the Minister of State for Information, and the Hon. Dr Santa Singh, M.P. who are at present in the Speaker’s Gallery. On behalf of all honourable members I extend to them a warm welcome.
Honourable members Hear, hear!
– 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 Mr Cadman, Mr Dobie, Mr Fife, Mr Garland, Mr Howard, Mr Lucock, Mr McLean, Mr Martin and Mr Stewart.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
Major Kamiya the prosecutor at the Japanese Court Martial who made the above comment went on to say, inter alia- “These heroes must have left Australia with sublime patriotism flowing in their breasts and with the confident expectation of all the Australian people on their shoulders. “As we respect them, so we feel our duty of glorying their last moments as they deserve, and by doing so the names of these heroes will remain in the hearts of the British and Australian people for evermore. ‘ ‘
A specially commissioned March called “The Forgotten Heroes” was played for the first time by the Band of the New South Wales Police Force.
Your Petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to approve the conferring of the medal on the men of “Jaywick” and “Rimau” on behalf of the people of Australia to honor the memory of these gallant men so that future generations of Britain and Australia will know and admire what these men did and their memory will remain in the hearts of the British and Australian people for evermore.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Anthony, Mr Carlton, Mr Ruddock and Mr Uren.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:-
That abortion is the deliberate killing of a human beinganathema to God and man.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that this house direct the Government-
Table which currently permit Medical Benefits for Abortion and
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bourchier, Mr Fife, Mr Hunt and Mr Street.
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, Mr Burns, Mr Holding and Mr Staley.
To the honourable 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 under-signed Petitioners to request the Australian Government to uphold the principle that trustworthiness of Governments should at all times be above question.
And to appeal to the Parliament to prevent the imposition of further economic hardship upon Australian Pensioners, by rejecting any Bill which has for its aim the introduction of annual adjustments of Pension rates.
And your Petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Anthony, Mr Holding and Mr Ian Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble Petition of we the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth-
That because this budget will further increase the number of persons unemployed, because it reduces the average worker’s spending power by $ 10 per week, because it will reduce the income of pensioners, because it is unfair in placing a greater burden on the poor rather than the rich, and because it is driving this country into a depression.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that
The Federal Government withdraws this budget and provides Australia, within this session of Parliament, with a revised budget that increases the level of economic activity in Australia, lowers unemployment, removes the burdens placed on the disadvantaged, and revives business and consumer confidence in the future of this potentially great country.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Broadcasting: Radio 3CR Melbourne
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth
That radio 3CR Melbourne, be made to adhere to the required standards of broadcasting, as laid down for all other radio stations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will enforce the required standard of broadcasting as laid down for all other stations, on community radio 3CR call on federal government to legislate against incitement to racial hatred and violence.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
This humble petition of undersigned Christian citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Falconer.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its Recommendations-
Therefore the Parliament has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial Report and its Recommendations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. byMrGillard.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision of the Australian Government to depart from its 1975 election promise, a promise re-affirmed during the 1977 election campaign, that pensions would be increased twice-yearly in line with increases in the CPI, will seriously add to the economic burdens now borne by those citizens who are wholly or mainly dependent on their pensions.
Your petitioners are impelled by this fact to call upon the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to review the abovementioned decision, and to determine-
That pensions will be increased twice yearly in line with rises in the CPI as promised by the Prime Minister in 1975 policy speech.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Humphreys.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
A petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That access to medical abortion services needs to be available to all women regardless of their economic means, as despite contraceptive services, unwanted pregnancies still occur and socio-economic problems are grounds for legal abortions in New South Wales. To ensure that access to legal medical abortion is not denied to poor and underprivileged women.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that Parliament should:
Maintain item 6469 unchanged on the medical benefits schedule.
And your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Hunt.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned being residents of the Federal electorate of Hughes respectfully showeth-
That the Australian Government disallow the payment of medical benefits for abortion.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will support the Stephen Lusher Motion
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the decision of the Government in its last Budget to adjust pensions on a yearly basis causes undue hardship to pensioners whose standard of living is dependent on this sole source of income.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government review its decision to index pensions on a yearly basis and accept that all pensions be adjusted on a quarterly basis so that Australians dependent on social security benefits are not forced to live below the poverty line.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will-
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the construction of any additional reactor at the Australian Atomic Energy Establishment at Lucas Heights in NSW.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because of the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and its Recommendations-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will implement such measures to maintain the Commissioners’ “belief in the right and integrity of the individual to make free choices in the context of human relationships, and to have access to the knowledge and skills which give such a free choice meaning”.
Any your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Barry Jones.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Kerin.
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 citizens in rural areas are strongly opposed to the automation of manually operated telephone exchanges which is resulting in loss of employment for telephone operators in difficult economic times and the unnecessary loss of an efficient, personalised telephone service which has proven to be eminently suited to the needs of rural telephone subscribers.
We the undersigned believe that Telecom Australia should be instructed to seek the views of country telephone subscribers before proceeding further with the automation program which is causing unemployment, confusion, discontent and unnecessary expense to country subscribers.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable House will call on the Government to halt the program pending a full and open Parliamentary inquiry into the needs and desires of affected subscribers and the full economic and social effects of the automation program on country towns, rural telepone subscribers and Telecom Australia employees.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr MacKenzie.
Non-official Post Office, Elliott Heads Road
To the Right Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth in Parliament Assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:-
That the unofficial Post Office situated on the Elliott Heads Road, Kepnock, Bundaberg should be retained. This Post Office presently serves expanding suburban areas from Kepnock to the coast at Elliott Heads and Innes Park. The essential service which it now provides to the benefit of the residents makes it vital that it should not be closed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Millar.
Human Rights in the Soviet Union
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That in view of the Australian Government’s support of the European Security and Cooperation Agreement with its human-rights provisions signed by 35 nations, including the U.S.S.R., in Helsinki in 1975, and in view of the blatant disregard by the Soviet Government of human rights in Russia and further violation of the Helsinki agreement in sentencing Dr Yuri Orloff to imprisonment on Thursday, 18th May, 1978.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Members of the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition condemn the Soviet Government’s violation of human rights of the Russian people and cancel all officially planned visits to the U.S.S.R. until Dr. Orloff is released from imprisonment.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Ruddock.
Human Rights in the Soviet Union
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:
Oppression of human rights and denial of the dignity of freedom of man still continue in the Soviet Union. The lives of Russian dissidents Igor Ogurtsov, Michael Sado and Vladimir Osipov are now threatened by the inhumanly severe conditions of their incarceration. Ogurtsov, founder and leader of All-Russian Social Christian Union for the Liberation of the People and his closest associate Sado were falsely accused of being “traitors to the homeland” when arrested in 1967. Ogurtsov (b. 1937) and Sado (b. 1934) were sentenced to twenty and thirteen years respectively. Their Christian brotherhood (founded in 1964 and numbering 28 members and 30 aspirants in 1967) had set as its objective the pursuit and preservation of human rights and the attainment of religious freedom in the Soviet Union. Their goals were in agreement with human rights provisions of the Helsinki agreement. Osipov (b. 1938) was imprisoned in 1974 and sentenced to eight years. His “crime” was the publication of the journal Veche, where he had expressed the Orthodox Christian point of view and also had informed the Russian people about Ogurtsov ‘s organization and its aims.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that Members of House of Representatives, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition intercede on behalf of these three suffering individuals and prevail upon the U.S.S.R. Government to grant them freedom and the right to emigrate.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Ruddock.
To the Honourable, The Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
Your petitioners, in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Staley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That we believe the Federal Government changes to the health insurance system are unjustified, costly and artificially bureaucratic.
The planned abolition of bulk billing will place an unnecessary burden on the poor and the disadvantaged in our community. The decision to reduce the rebate paid from 85% to 75% of the schedule fee is an attack on real wages. Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should reverse its decisions on these matters and develop properconsultation with the trade unions and the community.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Uren.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: -
The humble Petition of The Parks Community Residents Committee Inc., electors of the Division of Port Adelaide respectfully showeth-
That the Parks Community Centre is of vital importance to the lives of the people of the area known as The Parks.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the application by The South Australian Government for $3.3 million to complete, furnish and fit the Parks Community Centre be approved by the Australian Government.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray. by Mr Young.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) left Australia on 2 November to visit France to attend the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Armistice and to have discussions in Britain. He is expected to return on 23 November. During his absence, the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) is Acting Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and will represent the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) in this chamber.
– I inform the House that Mr Emile van Lennep, the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, is in the Distinguished Visitors’ Gallery. I am sure that the House will join with me in extending a welcome to him.
Honourable members- Hear, hear.
-I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House is of the opinion that-
1 ) The clearly decided intention of Parliament in 1973 was that abortion on demand should not be the law in the Australian Capital Territory;
Any decision in another place to disallow the Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance No. 16 of 1978 is patently in defiance of the decision of 1973 subsequently upheld by the Government; and
3 ) The operation of section 7 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act which prevents re-presentation of an ordinance embracing the substance of a disallowed ordinance for six months, cannot be allowed as a backdoor method of circumventing the present law.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. He will recall this morning saying in relation to the mineral export control policy enunciated by the Minister for Trade and Resources that the policy represented administrative guidelines which were issued as guidelines for discussion and- I quote him- ‘there was a clearly’ (sic) ‘indication that there could be changes ‘ and that that was the strong implication right from the very outset. Is he aware that in the Senate on 26 October 1978 Senator Durack was asked whether it was the Government’s view that the national interest required the full implementation of the mineral export control policy laid down the day before by the Minister for Trade and Resources? Is he aware that Senator Durack said- and I quote him- ‘The answer is yes’? Will the Prime Minister explain how this latest instance of confusion on a key policy matter has arisen within the Ministry? Will he state which view is right: that expressed by Senator Durack as a member of the Ministry or that expressed by him today? If his view is now the correct one, how long will it remain the correct one? Finally, if his view is the correct one, will he indicate what has occurred, between when the policy was enunciated by the Minister for Trade and Resources and more recently, to cause him to change so radically the view of the Government on this important matter?
-The honourable gentleman seems not to understand that when the guidelines were issued they were issued as a draft.
– They were not guidelines. There was no mention of guidelines.
-Order! The honourable member for Blaxland will remain silent.
-And the Government indicated perfectly clearly and plainly-
– That ‘s a lie.
-Order! The honourable member for Blaxland will withdraw that remark.
- Mr Speaker, I will withdraw but I do not like being told that black is white when the Minister made the statement in the House.
-The honourable member for Blaxland will withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I will withdraw unqualifiedly, but let us have a little bit of -
-I will give the honourable gentleman a final opportunity to withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I withdraw unqualifiedly.
-When the guidelines were issued they were issued as a draft, indicating perfectly clearly that the Government wished to consult with the States in relation to these matters and also to consult with the industry in relation to these matters.
– You let Court and Petersen put it over you. They have done you. Why don’t you admit it.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle is making a nuisance of himself. I ask him to please be silent.
-Notwithstanding that, it was indicated that the guidelines were operative and that, of course, was recognised in the statement that was put out yesterday in a very useful and amicable discussion between the Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia, the Minister and myself.
-My question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs refers to the agreement which was reached in April between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments concerning a system of local government for the communities of Aurukun and Mornington Island. I ask the Minister: What progress has been made in implementing the terms of that agreement and, in particular, can he advise when fresh elections are likely to be held for the two councils which were sacked? Further, when will a lease be produced by the Queensland Government?
– I can inform the honourable gentleman that since the agreement of 1 1 April the Commonwealth has pursued steadfastly, in its dealings with the Queensland Government, the implementation of that agreement. Whilst there have been some difficulties along the waywhich I freely acknowledge- I can inform the honourable gentleman that as of this moment very good progress indeed has been made.
– Backwards, progress backwards.
-In fact, I might tell the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that within the last week shire clerks have been appointed to both Mornington Island and Aurukun Shires.
– There has been no election and no lease.
-Order! The honourable member for Capricornia will remain silent.
– The two gentlemen chosen as shire clerks, Mr Grubb and Mr Channells, were interviewed with other applicants for the positions of shire clerk by the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. Thus, these two gentlemen have been accepted by both communities. They have been accepted by me because, under the special legislation, the Queensland Minister for Local Government was required to consult me before permanent appointments were made. I can also inform the honourable gentlemen that, as regards the lease, a great deal of work has been done in bringing that forward, but I might remind the House that this is the first time in the history of Queensland that a long-term lease- in fact a lease of any kind- has been granted to an Aboriginal community in order to secure the tenure of its traditional land. So it is not unexpected that working out the actual terms of the lease should take longer than we might have thought. But from personal contact between me and the Queensland Minister for Local Government I know that the matter is at present before the Queensland Government. I would expect that within the next few weeks decisions will be made by the Queensland Government which will enable that lease to be issued.
The third matter to which the honourable member referred was that of fresh elections following the appointment of an administrator. If the House is aware of the requirements of Queensland local government legislation, it will know that certain formalities have to be gone through, such as preparation of the rolls and notification of elections, which have to follow a particular time-table. The administrator, Mr Ken Browne, has been busy over recent weeks having the rolls brought up to date by comparison with the State electoral rolls. I am advised that that task is almost completed, if it has not been completed within the last week or so. That will pave the way for fresh elections to be held so that an all-Aboriginal council may be elected at free and open elections. I think that this House can be well satisfied that the agreement of 1 1 April is being implemented. I think that when all these procedures have been completed I will be able to report to this House that the twin goals of the Commonwealth to achieve self-management and security of tenure of traditional lands will well and truly have been achieved for the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. In denying the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia claim that he had approved the rules relating to benefits for the chronically ill, the Minister stated yesterday:
All I have approved so far are the new HCF contribution rates which were introduced on November 1.
I ask: How can he approve contribution rates without knowing the cover they provide?
– The registration committee which is established under the National Health Act is responsible for examining the applications that are made by the funds in respect of their tables, and the funds are supposed to provide rules. As a matter of fact, our registration committee and my departmental officers gave priority consideration and attention to the premium rates for each one of the tables so that the funds would be able to offer their premium rates by 1 November. Some of the funds have not yet submitted rules, but HCF’s integrated rules came into the hands of my Department on 24 October and the day before that, 23 October, an officer of my Department informed HCF that the rates and the tables had been approved by the Minister. I approved the rates and the tables once the registration committee recommended that I approve them. But the rules had not been thoroughly investigated. They are the subject of the closest scrutiny. The rules are a document about an inch thick and we are going through them with a fine tooth comb to ensure that HCF does not discriminate against chronically ill or other sick people again.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. On what grounds can a public authority such as Trans-Australia Airlines use taxpayers’ money to acquire a company such as Kay-Hertz Rent-A-Car Pty Ltd that has a significant deficit of shareholders’ funds and a record of unprofitable trading? Why will TAA not announce the amount of money spent on acquiring this subsidiary?
-The first thing to do is to inform the House that the purchase of Hertz Rent-A-Car Pty Ltd was not conducted by Trans-Australia Airlines, that is, by the Australian Airlines Commission. It was conducted by a subsidiary of TAA with an associated partner, Mayne Nickless Ltd. I am asked: ‘So what?’ Such a purchase does not have to come to me as Minister for approval. In other words, the decision by TAA to join with Mayne Nickless in this associated purchase of Hertz is a commercial decision taken, as I understand it, on the best commercial lines.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that staff in the Bureau of Mineral Resources has been cut from a peak of 6 10 in 1 974 to 5 1 0 at 30 June this year and is to be cut further to a target of 495 by June 1979? Will these staff reductions force the BMR to cut or defer major projects, as claimed by Dr Exon, the secretary of the BMR group of the Professional Officers Association? In view of the valuable contributions made by the Bureau to the minerals industry in Australia, why is the Government attacking the BMR when the industry needs its support?
– I think that the honourable member’s figures are generally correct so I will not dispute them, but I do dispute in a very firm way the inference in the question that somehow we are not taking notice of the BMR or that we are reducing its role. In fact the Government’s intentions are quite the opposite. Following recommendations made to the Government by me, the Prime Minister had the Australian Science and Technology Council investigate the functions of the BMR. The Government is now ready to receive the ASTEC report, which I believe is finished, and that report will make sure that the efficiency and functioning of the BMR are totally in line with the policies the Government is pursuing, including exploration. In other words, after the report has been received I think we will find a much more efficient and much more worthwhile BMR.
-Has the Minister for Primary Industry read this week’s edition of Time magazine, which refers to the changing character of agriculture in the United States? If so, how do these figures compare with agriculture’s position in the Australian economy?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for the question, particularly in view of Mr Van Lennep ‘s presence in this House. I think there are many in the world who do not realise the significance of Australian agriculturists to our economy. Indeed, on reading this article in Time, it might be thought that generally the American farmer was more efficient than his Australian counterpart. I can assure the House that that is not so. Whereas the article suggests that each American farmer feeds and clothes 59 people compared with estimates of 19.2 in Western Europe, 13.7 in Japan, 10 in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and a world average of 5.1, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has estimated that the average Australian farmer feeds and clothes approximately 70 people.
The article also contains a number of other facts and figures about United States agriculture which are strikingly similar to the Australian situation. In the United States total farm income fell by nearly 40 per cent between 1973 and 1977. We had a Labor Government and things here were not too good either. In the early years the decline was 30 per cent. Total farm income is expected to increase by 25 per cent in the United States this season, but because we have a Liberal-National Country Party Government now, thank goodness, the BAE forecasts a 40 per cent increase for Australian farmers and an increase of 32 per cent in net farm income.
Quite demonstrably, the Australian farmer has benefited from the positive policies of this Government. I get fed up to the teeth with reading so many of the city-based media which persist in attacking this Government and those of us who are members of it for failure to care for those on the land in Australia. Indeed, as in Australia, in the United States a minority of farmers produce most of the output, but we have not concentrated only on the big farmers. We have intentionally produced policies designed to help the little man, the family farmer who, over the years, has contributed to making this nation what it is. Here, as in the United States, the family farm remains the predominant form of ownership and operation. Unfortunately, farm numbers are declining steadily. We in this Government are certainly intent on trying to reverse that trend and ensure that in every sector the Australian farmer continues to play his part in the totality of this economy. Indeed the one area of shortfall, of course, is access in particular to markets elsewhere in the world. In Europe, the United States and Japan from time to time we have had significant difficulties in selling our agricultural produce.
– I raise a point of order. Mr Speaker, you have consistently ruled that replies of Ministers should be brief. Therefore I ask you to call on the Minister to make his answer brief because it is an answer to a question without notice.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no point of order. Had the honourable gentleman raised the point of order that the latter part of the answer was not relevant to the question, he would have been correct. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that the latter part of the answer is not relevant to the question. I ask him to conclude his answer.
- Mr Speaker, if I might explain, the point that I was seeking to make is that in fact we are all worried about inflation. An important element of inflation is escalating food prices. The article to which the honourable gentleman’s question referred pointed out that food accounts for only 23 per cent of all private spending by Americans. This figure compares with 26 per cent in France-
-I ask the right honourable gentleman to draw his answer to a conclusion.
– It compares with 27 per cent of private spending in West Germany and 33 per cent in Japan but only 2 1 per cent in Australia. Importantly, Australian foodstuffs are produced efficiently and competently and can sell competitively on world markets, subject to being given free market access. I trust that that point might register on my friend from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I ask him: Is it a fact that only three traditional land owners attended the Oenpelli meeting which acceded to the Ranger mining agreement? Were 30 traditional owners identified by the Northern Land Council and should they have been fully informed and consulted before the NLC accepted the decision, in accordance with section 23 (3) of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act? Was the meeting attended and conducted in accordance with the court settlement referring to the need for the meeting?
– The facts upon which the honourable gentleman predicates his question are wrong. The Northern Land Council acted completely in accordance with its statutory responsibilities. The decision that was reached by it after the consent of the traditional owners was received was made in complete accordance with the requirements of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs who would be aware of the current political crisis in Iran. Can the Minister tell the House of the grave ramifications of this crisis for the Western world? Has the Government taken any steps to ensure the safety of Australian citizens in Iran?
– The prospect of continuing instability in Iran obviously is a source of very great concern. The present balance of power in the Gulf region could be affected and any disruption of Iran’s oil exports, if it were to affect the availability of sufficient quantities to meet Western needs, could have only a negative effect on Western interests in terms of the overall strategic balance. Equally, an unstable government in Iran cannot fail to have political repercussions from the eastern Mediterranean through the Indian sub-continent, at the very least. It has been confirmed that the Shah of Iran has appointed a military government to replace the Government of Mr Sharif-Emami who resigned on 5 November. In announcing the decision, the Shah said that he had been obliged to do so after the failure of his efforts to form a coalition government which would have included leading members of opposition groups. The Government has noted that the Shah has promised that the military administration will be an interim measure and that he has reaffirmed his commitment to the holding of free and fair elections, social justice and freedom from repression. We do not yet know, of course, how the people will react and how the military government will go about restoring order.
The situation in Tehran and in the provinces is very uncertain. The Australian Embassy remains operating with a reduced staff. It is without telex services. However, the Department of Foreign
Affairs has had telephone contact with the Embassy. As most honourable members will be aware, Press reports have indicated that mobs caused very great damage in Tehran on 5 November. They attacked airline offices, banks, hotels, restaurants, liquor stores, cinemas, department stores, et cetera. A large number of buses were burnt. The British Embassy was ransacked and damaged by fire. Furthermore, international airline schedules in and out of Tehran have become erratic because of strikes.
In our view it would be unwise for Australian travellers to include Iran on their itineraties at present. We have received no reports to suggest that there is any more danger for Australian citizens than there is for other foreigners at this time but the situation could change rapidly and the Embassy is advising resident Australians that it would be prudent at the very least for them to remain at home until the position clarifies.
-I ask the Minister for Defence: Under what circumstances are Australian servicemen permitted to serve with forces other than Australian or associated services when on leave from the Australian Defence Force.
– Subject to a closer check, my understanding is that no serviceman serving with the Australian forces would be at liberty to serve with any foreign service. I know that there have been one or two instances of this recently. The gentleman who recently took his own life was a case in point. I would not seek to add any sense of aggravation to that family’s distress on this occasion but I will make inquiries for my honourable friend and inform him.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. In view of the importance of overseas investment to Australia and the wide movement of exchange rates today, will the Government consider the introduction of forward cover on capital movements or does the Minister subscribe to a view common in Treasury circles that such an action would only add to speculation?
– The question of introducing forward cover in the circumstances mentioned by the honourable member for Ryan is a matter that has been put to the Government from time to time. Whilst it is a matter that ought to be kept under continuing consideration, depending on any circumstances that might arise, the Government is very much of the view that in present circumstances it would not be appropriate to introduce such arrangements.
Mr Hayden having addressed a question to the
Minister for Primary Industry-
-Order! The question is out of order.
– I take a point of order. I would argue that this question is not out of order. Before Question Time today I took the opportunity of reviewing the Standing Orders. It is quite compatible to raise the standard of private conduct of a Minister in public office. In justifying that assertion, I remind the House and you, Mr Speaker, that the Prime Minister has asserted, not once but many times, that the probity of members of the Ministry is a matter of paramount concern to his Government. On three occasions he has required a Minister in the Parliament to stand down.
– I have heard enough to rule on the point of order.
- Mr Speaker, my point of order very simply is that the Minister for Primary Industry is deeply implicated in a matter described as a ‘round robin arrangement’.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I have ruled that the question is out of order. Any allegation of impropriety on the part of any member of this House must be made on a formal motion. Therefore, the question is out of order.
- Mr Speaker, in that case, I ask the Minister for Primary Industry -
-The question is out of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Phillip.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As on other occasions you have permitted honourable members to rephrase questions, will you permit the Leader of the Opposition to rephrase his question to exclude the matter which you have declared to be out of order?
-No; the question was completed. I ruled it out of order. In accordance with my practice when I rule a question out of order, I gave the call to the other side of the House.
– I take another point of order, Mr Speaker.
– I warn the honourable member for Corio not to persist with points of order.
– My point of order is a substantive one and is based on the ruling which you have just given. It has been your practice on occasions to rule a question out of order, to indicate that pan of the question was in order and to allow the appropriate Minister to answer that pan of the question. The part of the question which asked the Minister whether he would stand down clearly must have been in order, even though the prologue to that part of the question was out of order.
-The manner in which the question was put led me to rule as I did.
– I ask the Treasurer: Does the historic decision of the Government to allow the States to borrow from overseas an amount of $ 1,767m herald a softening of the Government’s economic policies and a weakening of its resolve to fight inflation first? What were the factors that motivated the Government to come to its decision? What does the Minister see as the advantages of this to the nation as a whole?
-The short answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is: No, it does not. Those people in the community who have endeavoured to categorise the attitude taken by the Commonwealth Government at the Loan Council meeting in Melbourne as a weakening of resolve to fight inflation and as a change of economic strategy are wrong. What ought to be understood are a number of important factors which lay behind the attitude taken by the Commonwealth Government at the Melbourne meeting. Firstly, one ought to bear in mind that, when stated as a total sum, $l,700m does sound like a substantial amount of money. But the House will be aware that that amount is to be borrowed over a period of eight years under present intentions and that the addition to borrowing in the current financial year is to be not more than about $158m. It ought to be borne in mind also that the Commonwealth indicated to the Loan Council meeting its very strong view that, whilst not ruling out the undoubted right of States to put forward further proposals, in the absence of special circumstances further approvals under these guidelines ought not to be given during the next three years.
I think that the proposals of and the attitude taken by the Commonwealth Government ought to be seen as a decision which will be of responsible and material benefit to the further development and strengthening of the infrastructure of this country. I think that the decision represents the beginning of a significant era as far as Commonwealth-State financial relations are concerned. I believe that the proposals were put forward responsibly by the States. I believe that the States accept the extra degree of economic responsibility that is involved. I think that, in the light of those circumstances and against the background that when the Commonwealth made its decisions on its own Budget it had in mind the pending Loan Council meeting, the decision and the attitude of the Commonwealth Government should be seen as being wholly consonant with the economic strategy we have followed over the past two and a half years- a strategy from which we have no intention of diverting during the rest of this term in government.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: When can the House expect a statement from him in this House about his private business affairs and dealings, especially subsequent to January 1976? In view of the very serious nature of circumstances being investigated by an official inquiry in New South Wales into his private company affairs, and covering incidents subsequent to January 1976, will he consider standing down until that inquiry is completed, as did three of his ministerial colleagues in circumstances which could be said to be somewhat similar in that their propriety was cast into serious doubt, as his clearly has been?
Mr SINCLAIR I did not hear completely the question which was put earlier and which you, Mr Speaker, ruled out of order; but both then and on a number of other occasions I have been seriously misrepresented by the Leader of the Opposition and other honourable members in this House and by a number of publications. I will be making a personal explanation on those matters at the right and proper time. With respect to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, there is a suggestion in it that in some way I have breached my responsibility. Let me assure him that the solicitors for all the companies, the solicitors for all the shareholders and the accountants who were appointed independently to investigate the affairs of these companies have advised that with respect to all matters, both prior to and subsequent to my father’s death, there is no evidence of any breach of my fiduciary responsibilities.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. In view of the Prime Minister’s statement that the Government will take action to protect people suffering from chronic illness, and the Minister’s own intervention in respect of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia to prevent it from off-loading long term contributors with chronic illnesses to other funds, what action will the Government take to prevent any fund from pursuing such an unethical course of action?
– The Government will proceed to take whatever action is necessary to prohibit the health funds from applying new benefits exclusions to contributors who maintain health insurance at levels above the basic table after 1 November. The Government also will act to prevent health funds from applying rules in their medical tables that result in benefits exclusions on the grounds of chronic illness or old age. For new contributors to tables providing medical benefits above the basic benefits table, registered health funds will be prevented from reducing benefits below the basic 75 per cent of the schedule fee with the $ 10 gap. That includes, of course, the Commonwealth medical benefit. These restrictions on the funds will apply as from 1 November. A thorough review of all the rules and exclusions in the medical tables and hospital tables also is currently under way. This review is being done by my Department as a matter of urgency. The Government will examine the report on this survey and take whatever additional actions are necessary to prevent the funds from abusing the flexible guidelines applicable to the optional tables to the disadvantage of contributors.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer him to the answer he gave me on 14 September last on the subject of the declaration of pecuniary interests by members of Parliament. He said:
If we exposed on a public register the assets of all members of this Parliament we would be giving advice and information to terrorists or would-be terrorists which would be useful to them.
Has the Prime Minister seen that the Victorian Government proposes to introduce such a register? Has he advised the Victorian Premier that his belated approach to the subject would assist a terrorist threat? What action does the Prime Minister intend to take to reduce this terrorist threat?
-The honourable gentleman knows quite well that the answer that was given at that time indicated a number of circumstances that would need to be taken into account before a final decision was made in relation to this matter. The honourable gentleman also is aware that there is an inquiry under way- I know that the honourable gentleman has given evidence before that inquiry- to help and advise in determining what ought to be the proper position in relation to this Parliament. What other parliaments do and determine are matters for them, taking into account their own circumstances. I believe that this Parliament ought to wait, as the Government intends to wait, for the report of the Bowen inquiry into these matters. When we have that advice appropriate decisions will be made.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs who recently announced initiatives that are of vital concern to the petroleum industry. When will a decision be made on these initiatives? If implemented, would they allow for fair, healthy competition in the market place as well as provide adequate protection for the small business sector?
– The backbone of the nation.
-I agree. Will the initiatives further help in ensuring a fair and just price for petroleum products for all Australians, whether in the country or in the city?
– It is true that the basis of the package of proposals which I outlined last week for consideration by the public and, in particular, by the various sections of the oil industry is, on the one hand, the preservation of competition in the market place and, on the other hand, the retention of the small business undertaking in the petroleum retailing industry. I emphasise that the proposals that have been outlined are proposals for consideration. No decision has been taken by the Government and no decision will be taken in relation to the possible implementation of these proposals until full consultation has been held between the various sections of the oil industry and me. In the course of the next few weeks I propose to talk to all sections of the industry that wish to have consultation with the Government. I have also indicated that the Government stands ready to receive any written submissions. I reemphasise that the basic intent in these proposals is the retention of a healthy competitive market place in the interests of the consumer and the maintenance of a place for the small business sector in the retailing industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Are sufficient funds available for on-call interpreter services to enable interpreters to attend with clients for interviews with doctors, lawyers, social workers, counsellors, et cetera, in cases of emergency? Is it intended that this service should be available only for emergencies? How will the reduction in the daily pool of interpreters on call from 40 or 50 interpreters to only 10 interpreters facilitate the servicing of the 25 per cent increase in demand for telephone interpreter services over the demand for last year? Is it reasonable and is it the intention that social workers should continue to have to wait for two to three weeks before obtaining the services of an on-call interpreter in Sydney? Finally, what steps will be taken to ensure the availability of, to quote from the report of the Galbally Review of Post-Arrival Programs and Services to Migrants, ‘adequate interpreting and translating services’?
– I assume that the honourable gentleman is referring to reports coming out of Melbourne about the attendance of interpreters with people who have difficulty with the English language. The Emergency Telephone Interpreter Service has been set up to deal primarily with telephone inquiries. There has been a very big increase in the demand for the services provided by the Emergency Telephone Interpreter Service- 20 per cent annually in the Melbourne area alone. The situation in Melbourne is that the extra demand has required that requests for the personal attendance of interpreters be looked at extremely carefully, and there have been some delays in the provision of this service. We have taken this into account and in fact two additional interpreters are being sought in Melbourne. One will be associated with the Indo-Chinese because there has been a big increase in the demand for interpreters of the languages from Indo-China. The Galbally report has recommended the provision of some millions of dollars to improve the interpreter and translating services available. Those recommendations involve discussions with the States. Those discussions are being actively pursued at present. As the honourable member knows, we have announced the formation of a task force to oversee the implementation of the Galbally recommendations. That task force is presently visiting various States and discussions with State officials are taking place. So, in recent times, there has been a big increase in the number of services provided in this area. But I am not saying that the total situation is covered at this stage. We are conscious of the need further to upgrade the services and we are working towards that end.
-Following the visit to China of the Minister for Trade and Resources can he indicate what prospects there are for further trade and co-operation between Australia and China? What action will be taken to explore and to develop these prospects?
– My visit to China and the discussions I had there added very substantially to the framework that had been established by the visits of Mr Whitlam in 1973, the present Prime Minister in 1976 and other Ministers in recent times. Apart from a lengthy discussion with Premier Hua, I had meetings with seven Ministers and my group of industry leaders had about 17 other meetings with ministries and departments. I am certain that, as a result of this, there will be a flurry of activity between representatives of industry in Australia and China to build up trade between our two countries.
In a few weeks’ time the Australia-China business co-operation committee will be leaving for a 17-day visit. Already we have managed to arrange many meetings for this group. Furthermore, I look forward to further visits to Australia of Chinese Ministers. Keng Piao, a Vice-Premier of China, is expected to come here in the early part of next year. While in China I also renewed the invitation of the Prime Minister to Premier Hua to visit Australia. There will be a follow-up of various missions between our two countries. A coal mission will be going to China shortly to discuss areas of technical co-operation. There will be further discussions on matters relating to iron ore and steel. In fact the whole area of technology will be further explored between the two countries and I have put in hand the possibility of some special technological and science agreement, particularly a technological agreement, with China to protect the patent rights of Australian manufacturers and suppliers should they enter arrangements with China.
I also discussed areas of mineral exploration, mining development and methods, heavy railways, pons, bulk handling, agriculture, animal husbandry and dry land farming. In addition to this sort of technology, China needs consultancy services, specialised equipment and skilled technicians. She needs help in agricultural research and other kinds of research and design. She needs live cattle and sheep to improve her herds and her wool quality. Indeed, while I was in China I took up the question of the ban against Australian wool and livestock because of the outbreak of the blue tongue virus in Australia. The Chinese clearly did not understand what had happened in Australia. I believe that as a result of my discussions and those of Sir Samuel Burston with officials, and those of Professor Badger with scientific people, we have a chance of breaking through the ban which has been preventing about $20m of traditional wool trade with China. I have suggested that as an interim measure China might take wool from the sourthern parts of Australia until Chinese technicians can come here to survey the situation. Certainly a good exchange of information took place in that area.
I am also hopeful that the Chinese, as a result of information I was able to give them on the International Sugar Agreement, will consider their position in that regard. The Chinese have informed me that they are interested in buying, amongst other things, more wheat, sugar, iron ore, steel and wool. They are particularly keen to get more livestock, such as sheep and cattle, from Australia to help with their grassland farming opportunities. In view of the $50m credit line that we have offered through the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, officials of the Bank of China will be getting together with officials of EFIC to see how the credit line might be fulfilled. A long queue of countries is anxious to become involved with the modernisation of China. I am pleased that Australia is up there with those countries. I believe that my visit has laid solid groundwork as a result of which Australia can be involved and participate in the modernisation program that is under way.
I claim to have been misrepresented.
-I will call the honourable gentleman in a moment.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Chicken Meat Research Act 1969 I present the reports of the Australian Chicken Meat Research Committee for the years ended 30 June 1 976, 30 June 1977 and 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim report of the Australian Wine Board for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled: ‘National Highway Linking Hobart, Launceston and Burnie: Appraisal of Penguin to Burnie Section, 1978’.
Pursuant to section 25 of the Grants Commission Act 1973 I present the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on special assistance for States 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present a copy of a letter sent by the Minister for Administrative Services to the honourable member for Chifley concerning the names of passengers who have used Commonwealth cars in the Sydney area during the past year on the authority of the Minister for Primary Industry.
-For the information of honourable members I present the text of a statement made yesterday by the Prime Mininster entitled ‘Loan Council Financing of Development Projects’.
For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Director-General of Health for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Snowy Mountains Council for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– Pursuant to section 45 of the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973 I present the report of the Industries Assistance
Commission for the year ended 30 June 1978 together with a statement outlining the action taken during the year 1977-78 on reports made to me as Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
– Pursuant to section 24 of the Metric Conversion Act 1970 I present the report of the Metric Conversion Board for the year ended 30 June 1978 together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Science.
– Pursuant to section 1 9 of the Anglo-Australian Telescope Agreement Act 1970 I present the report of the AngloAustralian Telescope Board for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the National Fitness Act 1941 I present reports of the activities carried out under the Act for the years ended 30 June 1976 and 30 June 1977.
-The Minister for Primary Industry indicated to me earlier that he wished to make a personal explanation. I say that because the Leader of the Opposition sought to make a personal explanation a moment ago and I asked him to wait. I call the Minister for Primary Industry.
-(New England-Minister for Primary Industry)- Over the last few weeks, I have been seriously misrepresented on a number of occasions. I seek leave to explain how I have been seriously misrepresented.
-Order! I am permitting the right honourable gentleman to speak in order to make a personal explanation. He is not speaking by leave.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. In the Bulletin of 24 October and in the Australian Broadcasting Commission program AM of 18 October it was asserted that I had been asked to show cause why I should not be prosecuted under the Companies Act for offences arising from the affairs of private family companies. On 18 October the Special Investigator appointed by the New South Wales Attorney-General denied that this was so. I confirm that I am certainly not aware of any such request. In the AM program it was further alleged that there were ‘a number of sections of the Companies Act’ that I had been warned on’. It was asserted that I had confirmed this warning. I have not been so warned.
In a question in this House on 25 October, as reported at page 2260 of Hansard, the Leader of the Opposition referred to ‘sums of at least $164,000 gained by the Minister or by his family’. The Reliance group of companies has customarily lent sums to directors and others. Withdrawals have been made to the account of the Sinclair Pastoral Co. and me from the $183,534 standing to the credit of my family interests in the Reliance group accounts. These moneys have been borrowed and repaid in the normal course and, unlike loans to other directors, interest was paid on them. The withdrawals were entirely within the credit due to my family interests.
In the Bulletin of 24 October it was said that three named companies were allegedly milked fraudulently of a sum in excess of $500,000; and that it was alleged that most of this sum went into the bank accounts of the Sinclair Pastoral Co. I do not know the source of these allegations. Independent chartered accountants were appointed by me shortly after my father’s death to report to shareholders on accounts of the respective companies. This report is not finalised, and until then reference to any figures- other than, of course, those already lodged with the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission- can only be speculative. The nature of the payments and whence made must also await that report. Certainly, no payments were made either with my knowledge or with my consent. I note that the New South Wales Attorney-General and the Special Investigator have each denied knowledge of the source of the letter published in the Bulletin of 3 1 October 1978. From a perusal of the photograph of the letter on page 2 1 of that edition, it would appear that it is probably from a carbon copy or a photo copy, not from the original. It could not, therefore, have come from me as only the original is in my possession. Until the publication in the Bulletin, it had not been sighted by, or been in the possession of, anybody other than myself, the company solicitors and the company accountants. Even my staff had not sighted it. Certainly, neither I nor those professional advisers were in any way responsible for its release.
The solicitors for the directors and shareholders of all the companies and the chartered accountants responsible for the investigation which I initiated have advised me- as I explained in answer to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) earlier this afternoon, Mr Speaker- that they are not aware of any evidence that would in any way point to a breach of fiduciary duties on my part, whether with respect to affairs before my father’s death or after it. I reject totally the continued innuendos and inferences of impropriety made in this House and elsewhere against me. In due course, when the accountants have reported to me, I will make a more detailed statement to this House.
- Mr Speaker, this matter is separate from the one which I indicated to you a little earlier, I wished to raise. It comes in response to the statement that has just been made by the Minister for Primary Industry ( Mr Sinclair).
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-He may proceed.
– In the course of his brief and unsatisfactory statement to the House the Minister for Primary Industry implied, at the least, that certain questions which I had raised in this House had been improper and should not have been admitted. I think I have, first of all, to clarify the purpose of the questions. They are not designed to suggest or even to search towards establishing whether the Minister is guilty or not guilty of a range of very serious allegations affecting matters which arose from January -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. May I inquire under what Standing Order the leader of the Opposition is speaking?
-The Leader of the Opposition, having claimed to have been misrepresented, is making a personal explanation.
– I have merely been seeking to establish the principle that has been followed by the present Government, by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and enunciated by him, namely, that the Minister should stand down pending the outcome of the inquiry.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is arguing the issue.
– I have sought to propose nothing more than that, and it is wrong of the Minister to suggest otherwise.
Can I raise also, however, the simple fact that in a matter of a few days in May 1978 more than half a million dollars in cheques was drawn -
– …. through five companies -
– …. according to a round robin arrangement -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– …. directly implicating the Minister for Primary Industry.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I have the documentation.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He well knows that the Standing Orders do not permit him, nor will I grant him indulgence, to make such allegations when he is making a personal explanation, having claimed that he himself has been misrepresented. To misuse the indulgence in that fashion is not, I think, a suitable manner of conducting oneself in the Parliament.
-Mr Speaker, I put it to you that there has been an inconsistency in the way in which you have been applying Standing Orders in this House, and I do so with a proper sense of respect for your position and for you personally. The fact is that certain standards were enunciated by the Prime Minister and in consequence of that- I think properly -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. It appears to me that he is under a misapprehension concerning the situation. Whatever he believes the Prime Minister said or whatever the Prime Minister in fact said, the honourable gentleman cannot reply to it unless he has the call for that purpose. He has not the call for that purpose now. He has the call merely for the purpose of showing where he was misrepresented and what is the true state of affairs.
-Mr Speaker, with respect, I am taking up the point- which seems to me to be virtually a ruling by you- expressed a few seconds ago; namely, that I had no right to raise these particular matters which have been raised.
-I have so ruled.
-AU I am putting to you, Mr Speaker, is that on precedent that you have established here you have allowed questions of a similar nature to be raised.
-The honourable gentleman is not asking a question. He is seeking to make a personal explanation about a misrepresentation concerning himself.
– With respect, you were accusing me of misusing the Standing Orders. What I am saying is that there is an inconsistency in the way in which you have applied the Standing Orders in the course of the Parliament this year -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– …. as a result of which one is left with no alternative -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– …. but to try to explore other ways to raise a matter -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– …. which you allowed to be raised in similar circumstances earlier in the year.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call the Minister for Primary Industry.
Mr SINCLAIR (New England-Minister for Primary Industry)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. In the statement that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) I have again been misrepresented. He made reference to an alleged round robin of cheques involving some $500,000. 1 do not know the nature of the allegation, but I heard the remark. In order to establish tax liability, cheques were paid which established a loan from the Reliance group of companies to the Sinclair Pastoral Co. of the exact amount identified in the balance sheets of the Reliance group, as filed with the Corporate Affairs Commission. That was done to ensure that there would be no avoidance of tax liability. At the suggestion of the solicitors of the company the cheques were negotiated and paid in order to establish responsibility and ensure that there would be no avoidance of tax liability. I completely reject any suggestion that there was anything strange, illegal or improper in the manner or form of the passage or negotiation of those cheques.
– Why don’t you stand down until the inquiry is out of the way, as your colleagues did? We are not going to accept your word. Your word is more fragile than the weather. Stand down, as your colleagues did.
-Order! The House will come to order. I call the honourable member for Fraser.
- Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to ask you a question regarding an industrial dispute which affects your responsibility for the smooth running of the Parliament. I refer to the standing down or dismissal this morning, without any prior warning or consultation, of an employee of the Government Printing Office, which puts at risk the printing of the notice papers and Hansard of the Parliament. I ask: Are you aware of the situation and what action do you propose to take so that the processes of the Parliament may continue and this dispute may be resolved?
-I have no information on the matter. As soon as I leave the chair I will make inquiries concerning it.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Mr Speaker, I assure you that you can relax on this occasion.
-I think I ought to remind the Leader of the Opposition that it is he who is excited, not me.
– In that case we can both relax.
-The honourable gentleman has my indulgence to proceed in an orderly manner.
-On 14 July 1978 in the Melbourne Age under the heading ‘Hayden attacked over refugees’ with the date line: ‘Singapore, July 13. ‘ the following was reported:
The Immigration Minister, Mr MacKellar, today attacked the Opposition Leader, Mr Hayden, for ‘party political point scoring’ on refugees.
The article went on to state:
Mr Hayden said last week that there was a lucrative racket involving the ferrying of refugees to Australia.
Then there was a direct quotation attributed to the Minister, as follows:
I have noted the comments Mr Hayden has made and I would hope the subject of resettlement of refugees could be freed from party political point-scoring. ‘ Mr MacKellar said.
That was a lofty sentiment. Then Mr MacKellar went on to make some political point-scoring. Some four months later, the Minister has caught up with the facts. So that the record can be put straight, an article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, under the heading: ‘Refugees used for profit: Govt’, states:
The Federal Government has received its first clear indications that profiteers are taking advantage of Indo-Chinese refugees, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Mr MacKellar said yesterday.
I merely draw the attention of the House to this matter so that the record can be clear, consistent and straight and to acknowledge that although belated, the Government’s arrival at this point is welcome. I look forward to a letter of apology arriving in due course.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes, I do.
-He may proceed.
– I will not go into the background of the trip by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) into the area, but I did take the opportunity while I was visiting countries which are members of the Association of South East Asian Nations to check all of the sources available to me at that stage- Australian officers operating overseas and the officers of various governments whose countries I was visiting- to see whether there was any basis for the Leader of the Opposition’s remarks. I found none. When I chided him, as I did, I concluded my message by saying that if he had any evidence he should make it available to me. No evidence came from the Leader of the Opposition. As I said in my Press release on Monday, the first direct evidence that came to me in relation to this matter came over the last two weeks.
– For the information of honourable members I present an agreement under section 44 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Northern Land Council. I seek leave to make a statement regarding that agreement.
-I table, for the information of honourable members, the agreement which includes details of the environmental conditions between the Northern Land Council and the Commonwealth which has been negotiated under section 44 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act in respect of the Ranger uranium deposit and which was executed by the Northern Land Council and myself on behalf of the Government on Friday, 3 November. Annexed to the agreement are the proposed authority to mine under section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act and the determination of payments under section 63 sub-section (5) of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act.
In accordance wtih its policy of protecting existing interests in Aboriginal land or land that might become Aboriginal land, the Government in 1976, through section 41 sub-section (2) of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, provided that Aboriginal consent was not a prerequisite to the development of Ranger. Nevertheless, section 44 of the Act required an agreement on terms and conditions relating to the development. As honourable members will be aware, an inquiry under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 was established on 16 July 1975 to inquire into the development by the Atomic Energy Commission in association with Ranger uranium mines of uranium deposits in the Northern Territory.
In addition to the inquiry under the Environment Protection Act the present Government, during consideration of the Aboriginal Land Rights Bill in 1976, introduced an amendment expressly authorising the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry to investigate and make a finding in relation to an Aboriginal land claim in the Alligator Rivers Region. The second and final report, in which the claim to the Ranger area was recommended, was presented to the Government on 17 May 1977. On 25 August 1977 the Government announced that it had accepted almost all of the Inquiry’s principal recommendations. I also draw the attention of honourable members to one of the important statements made in the second report and would like to quote directly from it. The Commission stated, at page 9 of the second report, in respect of Aboriginal views that uranium mining should not proceed: . . we have given careful attention to all that has been put before us by them or on their behalf. In the end, we formed the conclusion that their opposition should not be allowed to prevail.
The Commission went on to say:
After consideration of all factors, we propose a solution which, if a decision is made that uranium mining is to proceed, provides a reasonably satisfactory accommodation between competing interests and the conflicting uses to which land in the Region can be put. This is subject to one qualification. The principal threat to the welfare of the Aboriginal people, and the one they most fear, is constituted by the large numbers of people who can be expected to enter the area. We make a number of recommendations designed to minimise this risk.
In following the solution proposed by the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, the Government announced that it had accepted all of the principal recommendations in respect of Aboriginals. I refer honourable members to the statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), other Ministers and myself in August 1 977 which clearly set out the history of the Ranger project and the decisions of the Government in respect of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. The Aboriginal Land Rights Act has been of direct benefit to Aboriginals in a number of ways. If the Act had not been passed, then there would have been no mechanism allowing Aboriginals to impose special conditions on the development of the Ranger project or to receive any benefits from it. The land upon which the Ranger deposit is located is not land that was historically set aside for the use and benefit of Aboriginals. The good faith of the Government was demonstrated by firstly allowing a claim to the land to be determined by the Ranger Inquiry and secondly by granting title to the land which was recommended.
At Yirrkala on 6 September of this year, I delivered the title deed to the land which includes the Ranger project area but the negotiations which have now been completed actually commenced in October 1977 as if the land had already been granted to Aboriginals. In accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding concerning Ranger entered into by the previous Government, the deposit will be mined under the Atomic Energy Act and by the Commonwealth in partnership with Peko-EZ. Thus it has been the Commonwealth which has been obliged to negotiate with the Northern Land Council. The agreement that I have just tabled has been the result of a lengthy negotiating process with the Commonwealth within the terms of section 44 sub-section (2) of the Land Rights Act. Six major negotiating sessions were held between the Northern Land Council and the Commonwealth negotiators culminating in the initialling, on 25 August 1978, of the agreement known as the Ranger agreement, which I have tabled.
The Northern Land Council has, at all times, acted on the instructions of the traditional owners. Three major meetings of traditional owners were held- at Mudginberri in March 1978, at Murganella in July 1978, and Red Lillies in September 1978. There were, furthermore, during this period four meetings of the full
Northern Land Council and five meetings of the executive. During the course of the negotiations sessions were attended by members of the Northern Land Council, apart from the Chairman, Mr Yunupingu, and the Deputy Chairman, Mr Blitner, and at least two important traditional owners. At the same time as the negotiations on the Ranger mining agreement were proceeding, detailed negotiations to settle the terms of the agreement associated with the lease of the National Park were being pursued. The Commonwealth advanced funds to the Council to cover the costs associated with the negotiations and consultation process, with no strings attached as to whom the Council might consult. Thus, Mr Deputy Speaker, honourable members will see that negotiations have been carried out exhaustively and completely with the direct involvement of Northern Land Council members and traditional owners.
I must pay tribute to the work done by the Northern Land Council in what was a completely new experience for that body. Since 25 August, the Northern Land Council has had a number of further meetings and discussions which have been widely reported. It is sufficient for me to say that the end result of these discussions and actions was a request from the Chairman of the Northern Land Council for me to attend a meeting at Bamyili on 2 November to speak on behalf of the Government. I explained to the Council that the Commonwealth was ready to sign the agreement as providing fair and reasonable terms for both parties. There was no talk of arbitration or of any other action by the Government. After a full day’s discussion, the full meeting of the Northern Land Council agreed to accept the Ranger agreement, and in the event that the traditional owners gave their consent then the documents would be signed.
Members of the Northern Land Council were conscious in making this decision that they were making a decision not only for themselves but for the whole of Australia. They also felt that the time for decision-making had come and that the conclusion of the Ranger agreement would be a foundation for the future upon which they could build. The next day I travelled with the executive to Oenpelli to meet with the traditional owners. At the meeting there, the traditional owners gave their consent and, thereupon, the Ranger Uranium Mining Agreement and the lease of the Kakadu National Park were signed. In fulfilment of its statutory responsibilities, the Ranger Uranium Mining Agreement was signed on behalf of the Northern Land Council by the Chairman, Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Mr Dick
Malwagu from Croker Island and Mr John Gwadbu from Goulburn Island. The agreement for the lease of the Kakadu National Park was also signed and the Chairman and members of the Kakadu Land Trust executed the lease documents. The signatures on the lease included Toby Ganggali, a senior traditional owner for the Ranger project area and a member of the Mirrarr Gudjeimbi clan.
This short undramatised outline of events cannot portray the personal effort of so many people within the Northern Land Council over many months in most difficult circumstances in dealing with negotiations and decisions representing a new experience in Aboriginal affairs. In the course of time, the real story will become known and the distortions, both deliberate and out of ignorance, will be put to rest.
I would now like to focus attention upon a number of significant actions taken by the Government which enhance the position of Aboriginals in relation to uranium mining. On 9 February 1978, the Prime Minister announced that the Aboriginal people who had submitted land claims over the Stage II area of the Kakadu National Park had been assured that mining interests would not be granted in the area without prior consultation and agreement. Similarly, assurances were given to the Northern Land Council two months ago that, unless the Council agrees, no construction on the extension of the Arnhem Highway would be permitted before a final decision is made by the Government on the development of the Pancontinental project at Jabiluka. Through an amendment to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, the Northern Land Council has been given standing in the Northern Territory Supreme Court to seek an injunction against the mining operators should it feel that environmental conditions are not being observed. It has been given rights of inspection of operations and documents and is entitled to information so that it may assess whether environmental conditions are being rigidly enforced. This is very important and a major concession to Aboriginal interests as they themselves will have the means to be satisfied that the environment protection measures are being observed.
The Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry highlighted the deleterious effects upon Aboriginal society caused by alcohol in the region and specifically pointed to the Border Store on the East Alligator River as a major factor in this process. The Government recognised the problems being created by the operation of this local outlet and has assisted the Gunbalanya Council at Oenpelli to purchase the store and thus cease the sale of alcohol from this source. As announced on 20 July 1978, the Government has decided that, from 1 July 1979, revenues received by Aboriginal groups from mining operations anywhere in Australia will be taxed on the basis of the standard rate of personal income tax- 32 per centapplied to 20 per cent of gross revenues. The tax will be collected by the withholding system, that is, it will be deducted before payments are made. This decision removes the uncertainty of the tax law in its application to revenues received by Aboriginal bodies from mining operations on Aboriginal land and applies a reasonable rate in light of the community and social purposes to which the revenue will be applied.
The Commonwealth is presently completing arrangements with the Ranger joint venturers on the terms of the agreement to implement the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the companies by the Whitlam Government in October 1975. That agreement will, in addition, need to take into account the obligations entered into by the Commonwealth in the agreement signed by the Northern Land Council and the Commonwealth last Friday. I expect that these negotiations with the companies will be concluded at an early date when the authority to mine under the Atomic Energy Act will issue. The Government expects that commercial production will be able to start in 1981-82. I now turn to some of the specific aspects of the agreement which will be of direct benefit to the Aboriginal population.
Environmental protection measures relating to the project were as important to the Northern Land Council as anything else, including financial arrangements. My colleague, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), will follow me in making a statement concerning the lease of Aboriginal land to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, and the environment protection arrangements. It has been said, and I believe correctly, that these environmental requirements are as stringent as any others imposed on uranium mining elsewhere in the world. They certainly reflect the firm views of the NLC expressed during the negotiations.
A payment equivalent to a royalty rate of 4Vi per cent on the value of production has been determined under section 63 (5) of the Aboriginal
Land Rights Act and will result in substantial financial returns to the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory. The amount of money that will be applied for the benefit of Aboriginals in the Northern Territory, using a calculation based on the sale of 3,000 tonnes of U308 at $30 per pound, should amount to something in the order of $8m per annum. In addition, there are a number of other substantial payments which will be obtained for the benefit of Aboriginals.
In addition to the annual payments of $200,000 during the currency of the agreement, a further $1,300,000 is payable as follows: $200,000 within 7 days of the agreement’s execution- this sum has already been paid to the Council; $200,000 within 30 days of the issue of the authority to mine; $300,000 within 30 days of the completion of the crushing plant; $300,000 within 30 days of the completion of the power plant; $300,000 within 30 days of the first production of stipulated quantities of uranium oxide. These moneys are to be applied in accordance with the Aboriginal Land Rights Act for the benefit of communities and groups and will meet the administrative costs of the Northern Land Council, Tiwi Land Council and Central Land Council. These payments will naturally prove of great benefit to the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory for social and community purposes and for investment in the future of the Northern Territory.
Instruction in Aboriginal Culture
Under this part of the agreement, the joint venturers will be required to promote among non-Aboriginals employed by them an understanding and respect for the traditions, languages and culture of the Aboriginal people. This will mean that all employees are given appropriate instruction on aspects of Aboriginal history and culture by way of background and orientation. I regard this innovative provision as most important as it is a direct reflection of the need of people working in the area to gain an understanding and appreciation of the traditional background of the people on whose land they are mining.
An Aboriginal liaison committee will be appointed to assist in the relationship between Aboriginals and the mining operators and will help to overcome any difficulties that may arise. The company will be obliged to employ an Aboriginal liaison officer whose specific function will be to facilitate communications between the manager of the project and the Aboriginals in the region. This committee will have equal representation of Aboriginals and the mine management and provision is made for the resolution of disputes that cannot be resolved by the committee. I ask honourable members to study closely the functions given to the Committee under the agreement as they will note the real power that is accorded to the Committee and hence the protection that is afforded to Aboriginal interests.
The joint venturers will be required to ensure that as many local Aboriginals as is practicable are employed where they are capable of carrying out, in a satisfactory manner, the work required. In addition, an operator training scheme will be developed to train Aboriginals in the use of machinery so that they are capable of taking advantage of the employment opportunities offered. The Commonwealth through its own agencies will also do everything possible to assist Aboriginals to take advantage of employment opportunities.
Under the agreement strict control of the consumption of alcohol will be rigidly enforced within the construction camp in the Ranger project area. This is a matter of prime importance to Aboriginals and every effort has been made to accommodate their wishes. Given the controls imposed by the agreement and the joint approach of the mine operators and the NLC in dealing with the question of alcohol consumption, we may well see the emergence of some new solutions to the alcohol problem.
Although the Ranger project area represents only a small part of the area controlled by Aboriginals, the rights of traditional owners to enter upon that land is specifically safeguarded by the agreement. I have also given my assurance that the Government will support the establishment of outstations in the Kakadu Park area.
Honourable members should take note of the sacred site protection measures. This is a matter of particular concern to Aboriginals and the agreement imposes an obligation, at the request of the NLC, upon the Commonwealth to consider the protection of sacred sites should those sites not be adequately protected by existing legislation.
This section obliges the Commonwealth, acting upon the wishes of Aboriginals, to encourage local business involving Aboriginals and the mine operators. This will allow Aboriginals to take advantage of the opportunities offered but will not impose an obligation on the Aboriginal people to undertake functions should they not wish to do so.
In conclusion, I would like to urge honourable members to examine this agreement as part of a whole scheme. It will then be seen for what it is- a unique package of measures which reconcile the interests of Aboriginals, conservationists and miners. Future generations of Australians will be able to look back on it with pride. As Mr Yunupingu and I said in Darwin:
This was an historic and significant occasion. The creation of a great national park was a gift by the Aboriginal people of their traditional land to the Australian nation.
I must express some personal satisfaction that the agreement has been concluded within the framework of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. The scheme as laid down in the Act has been put to a searching test, not without its trials and tribulations, from which has emerged an agreement which is fair and reasonable in its terms to both parties and which will bear the scrutiny of all fair minded persons. Perhaps it is in many ways a good thing that the Act had to be tested by a complex agreement in a controversial area so early in its operation.
As Mr Yunupingu and I said in Darwin-
The Ranger Uranium Agreement marks the first agreement of its kind ever signed by an Aboriginal body independently and in the interests of Aboriginals with respect to their traditional land.
By this Agreement, the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory will work in partnership with the Commonwealth in a great national enterprise.
I commend the agreement to honourable members.
Motion (by Mr Groom) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
– I wish to express the concern of the Opposition at some features of the statement of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and the mechanism by which the agreement was arrived at. On page 4 of the Minister’s statement it is stated:
The Northern Land Council has, at all times, acted on the instructions of the traditional owners.
The resolution of the Oenpelli meeting which objected to the Northern Land Council’s initialling the agreement was, I suggest, totally ignored in the Minister’s statement. In fact, to my knowledge, he has not responded to it in a satisfactory manner in any of his public statements. The resolution stated in part:
The Oenpelli meeting requires that consultation with all of the communities represented on the Northern Land Council take place.
This did not occur because the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs rushed to the Northern Territory and forced a hurried signing of the agreement that the Northern Land Council and the Oenpelli meeting had rejected. I submit to the House and the people of Australia that the Minister has sold out. He has placed mining ahead of Aboriginal welfare and well-being. The past week has not only shown up the Minister for what he really is but also it has left the Australian people in general wondering exactly in which portfolio he is interested. He has been acting in effect as a lackey of the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) and particularly the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in forcing through a decision which has ignored the traditional owners, despite his repeated assurances in this statement that the traditional owners were consulted and that at all times they instructed the Northern Land Council. Little can be done at the Ranger site until after the wet season so there has been no call for such a rush to get these signatures on the agreement now. Why has there been such a hurry? The injunction which was made on 22 September 1978 stated:
Only Aboriginal persons shall be permitted to be present at either of the said meetings except for any lawyers required by the Northern Land Council or any individual councillor for the purposes of giving legal advice.
The current Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, as a lawyer, should have understood and respected that legal document. He did not. He attended the meeting at Bamyili in breach of that settlement. Whether or not he was invited by an official of the NLC is not the point. The fact is that his attendance was a breach of that settlement by that NLC official and the Minister. The Minister and his Government allowed no time for translation into Aboriginal languages of the agreement or any of its simplified versions. The people did not understand. The Minister had a duty to protect their interests by ensuring that they did understand. Translators were available but the simplified versions of the agreement were kept from them despite repeated protests to the Minister in this place and elsewhere in public.
– Have you seen the NLC’s letter to communities?
– The NLC’s letter is not the point that I am making. No translations were available to the traditional owners to discuss before this decision was forced upon them, not only in breach of Aboriginal traditional methods of consultation but also indeed in breach of normal meeting procedure in a white organisation. The Minister and this Government have now left open numerous possibilities that will arise in the future for people from the area concerned to claim that they did not understand. It is extremely dangerous that Press reports of the Bamyili and Oenpelli meetings differ greatly from the story that the Minister has woven. It still becomes very difficult for the Australian people to know whom to believe. It is disgraceful that such an important matter as this one should be shrouded in so much intrigue. David Broadbent, a respected journalist stated in the Age yesterday that every reporter in Darwin knew that the Minister’s claim that ‘the agreement has the unanimous endorsement of the NLC and the traditional owners ‘ was false.
– He does not know what he is talking about.
– I asked the Minister at Question Time whether it was true that the NLC identified 30 traditional owners who were entitled to know the details of the agreement, to be consulted and to understand it. He did not answer that question. I asked him whether only three traditional owners were present at the meeting. He refused to answer.
– I said that was wrong.
– The Minister did not reply. He said that the facts on which my questions were based were incorrect. He did not answer that question. Contrary to the Minister’s statement, he did not meet with the traditional owners. He met with three of them. That was enough for the Minister as he needed only two signatures. The fact that those traditional owners are well and truly a minority of the Oenpelli traditional owners is of little consequence to such a driving force in the Government as is the Minister.
I think that the Aboriginal people of Australia would be more than grateful if the Minister were to drive himself into the trade and resources or national development portfolio and leave his current portfolio open to someone who would represent their wishes and make an effort to understand them. He has seriously damaged the credibility of the Government with the public, the Press, the Aboriginal people and the Parliament. If the Minister refuses to answer these serious allegations and accusations which fit in entirely with all the reports that have come from members of the Northern Land Council and traditional owners since the whole sorry business began, he has no honourable course open to him but to resign. The Minister capped his attitude following the signing when, in the true tradition of the British conqueror, he handed out the rewards. Instead of beads and mirrors, the Aboriginal people were given metal-plated pens.
– I have one myself as a memento of the occasion.
– It was a nice gesture. I wonder whether the Aboriginal people will find out how much they have sold in return for those treasured mementos. The Minister is well aware of the traditional methods of consultation of Aboriginal people and of the significance of land rights to these people. In the Northern Territory News of 26 October he said:
Of all the relationships traditional Aboriginal man has with anybody or anything the most important is that which binds him to a particular tract of land which he refers to as his country’.
It is that deep religious bond which I shall try to explain in this column.
The . . . Government acknowledges the bond under the . . . Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act . . . The Woodward Commission, which was set up under the previous Labor Government . . . found this bond to be very real . . . The commission’s findings were accepted nationally both by Labor and the coalition parties.
The Northern Territory News has been giving the Minister about half a page at a time to explain his attitude to and sympathy with Aborigines. As recently as 1 November he said:
The procedures were praised by the parliamentary select committee on Aboriginal Land Rights … an anthropologist, a site survey officer and a linguist
Representatives of each land-owning group were consulted, and the results were crosschecked with the Aboriginal people concerned.
It took many months for a team, including an anthropologist, a survey officer, a linguist and a number of council field officers to establish and carefully cross-check who the traditional owners are. The team came up with 30 traditional owners. If it takes so long to establish who the traditional owners are, how long does it take to get agreement on a complex document such as the one which has been put before us today? It contains many pages of legal complexity. It took many months of intense legal activity by the Government, the legal advisers of the mining companies and the Northern Land Council when it was finally allowed to be party to the negotiations in the latter few months. Yet we are asked to believe that traditional tribal people, with no translations, in a matter of a couple of days said: ‘Yes, that will do us fine.’ We are asked to believe that they understood the agreement and were properly consulted. In the terms of the Act they were not. The Minister several times in his speech referred to various sections of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. One section that he studiously avoided and did not mention even once is section 23 (3) which states:
In carrying out its functions with respect to any Aboriginal land in its area, a Land Council shall have regard to the interests of, and shall consult with, the traditional Aboriginal owners (if any) of the land and any other Aboriginals interested in the land and, in particular, shall not take any action, including, but not limited to, the giving of consent or the withholding of consent, in any matter in connexion with land held by a Land Trust, unless the Land Council is satisfied that-
the traditional Aboriginal owners (if any) of that land understand the nature and purpose of the proposed action and, as a group, consent to it; and
any Aboriginal community or group that may be affected by the proposed action has been consulted and has had adequate opportunity to express its view to the Land Council.
The settlement arrived at after the injunction spelt out very plainly that that was what the Oenpelli people wanted. Their requests were no more and no less than they were entitled to expect under this Government’s own legislation to which the Minister has repeatedly referred. This procedure has not been carried out. It has not been seen to be carried out. The Minister referred to four meetings in all with the local representatives, the local traditional owners. He did not at any time give us the numbers who attended. He did not at any time suggest that they were given details of the agreement or any of its simplified versions in their own language. He did not at any time tell us how many people were involved in the final bulldozing session which resulted in the signing of the agreement. I believe that he has destroyed the credibility of this Government with the Aboriginal people. He has made the Northern Land Council a distrusted body which will be seen as a mechanism and a tool of powerful white interests.
He quoted three paragraphs from a joint statement by himself and the Chairman of the Northern Land Council. I suggest that the joint statement went against the known, published and consistent words of many members of the Northern Land Council, particularly the local owners. According to the report in the Age to which the Minister has not even referred today -
– It is not worth replying to.
– The Age is a responsible newspaper. The article has David Broadbent’s name attached to it. I asked the Minister specific questions relating to it at Question Time about the numbers who attended the meeting. He has declined to refer to those numbers in any way. There was no suggestion anywhere in the Minister’s statement that proper consultations occurred or that the provisions of the Act had been met. He should at least have referred to meeting the provisions of section 23 (3) of the Act which have been challenged repeatedly throughout the whole of the dispute and which led to the taking of the matter to court after an injunction. Yet he prefers to gloss over them and sweep under the carpet all objections which have been raised on behalf of traditional owners. He has completely rejected the matter of Aboriginal land rights, on which he has written so eloquently in the Northern Territory News. The Opposition does not accept the assurances of the Minister that this is an agreement with the traditional owners. It will be looking for far more assurances.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I protest against this debate being gagged. It is an important debate -
– Order !
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker: The debate is only being adjourned.
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat. Is the honourable member for Reid taking a point of order?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. My point of order is that the Government Whip is gagging this debate. This is an important matter and debate on it is being discouraged.
– Order! There is no point of order.
– I claim that this matter should be discussed now.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourble members I present the agreement and memoranda of lease associated with the lease of Stage 1 of the proposed Kakadu National Park. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.
– The leases and associated documents which I have just tabled represent an historic linking of Aboriginal and national park aspirations. The establishment of Kakadu National Park was central to the recommendations of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. Its creation was seen as essential to the overall strategy for minimising adverse social and environmental impacts which might occur with the onset of mining in the region. Mr Justice Woodward in the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission Report of 1974 indicated that he could see no reason why areas should not be both owned as Aboriginal Land and declared as national park. Later, a proposal along these lines was presented to the Ranger Inquiry by the Aboriginals of the area. The Inquiry subsequently recommended that an agreement should be reached with the Northern Land Council and any other relevant Aboriginal group, regarding the basis on which Aboriginal land could become part of the National Park. The Government accepted the recommendation that:
Aboriginal title should be granted, the national park established and necessary control mechanisms set up, before any substantial amount of construction work is done on the Ranger Project or substantial numbers of people are brought into the area.
The documents tabled today give effect to this new and innovative concept which acknowledges that the granting of land rights to Aboriginals and the management of that land as a park are in fact compatible land uses. The documents which I have tabled comprise three leases between the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Kakadu Land Trust, representing the traditional Aboriginal land owners; and an agreement between the Northern Land Council and the Director which sets out the conditions under which the leases have been agreed.
One of the leases is for the area of the former Woolwonga Aboriginal reserve and wildlife sanctuary, with the other two covering the remainder of the area granted to Aboriginals within Stage 1 of the Park. In summary, the leases provide that the land concerned will be leased for a period of 100 years on the condition that it is administered, managed and controlled as a national park in accordance with the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975, the associated regulations and the plan of management. They also provide for renegotiation prior to expiration and for discussions to take place between the Northern Land Council and the Director at least every 10 years to consider any variation to provisions of the lease. These leases are now in the process of being lodged for registration.
The other document tabled- that is, the agreement with the NLC- requires the Kakadu Land Trust to enter into these leases with the Director subject to a series of conditions. One of the major aims of these conditions is to involve Aboriginals closely in the planning and management of Kakadu. To this end, the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service has undertaken that, when preparing the Park’s plan of management, he will consult with the NLC, which is to ascertain the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners on this matter. This plan of management which requires parliamentary approval, will require that management practices are employed which take into account the interests of the traditional Aboriginal owners. It has been agreed also that a training program will be implemented to enable Aboriginals to assist in the management and control of the Park and that measures will be taken to utilise the traditional skills of Aboriginals living in the Park.
The agreement with the NLC also contains a special provision to allow traditional Aboriginal owners of the land to enter and move freely throughout the Park. It also contains a clause granting particular rights of access to officers of the NLC discharging their statutory responsibilities. The Director, through this agreement, has undertaken to promote among the nonAboriginal residents of the region an understanding and respect for the traditions, languages and culture of the Aboriginal people, and to arrange for instruction in local customs, flora and fauna and geography of the region to be available to persons resident in the region. He is also required to assist the NLC in the identification and recording of Aboriginal sacred sites within the Park and to provide equipment and facilities to undertake this work.
The agreement also contains an undertaking that, if any of the area known as Stage 2 of the
Park becomes Aboriginal land, the NLC will, if requested to do so by the Director, direct the Land Trust to which those Aboriginal lands are granted to enter into an agreement to lease that land as national park. In the meantime, as announced in the August 1977 uranium statement, the land comprising the Stage 2 area of the Park is the responsibility of five Commonwealth departments, acting jointly. The amendments of June 1978 to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act provide for the proclamation of this area as a conservation zone, and for regulations to be made that will ensure control of activities in the area consistent with the eventual use of the land as a national park.
In essence, therefore, the establishment of a conservation zone over the Stage 2 area and the proclamation of Stage 1 as a national park will effectively implement the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry, which the Government endorsed last year. The Stage 1 proclamation can now proceed immediately and the statutory procedures for the preparation of the plan of management can go ahead. A good deal of preliminary work has already been carried out by the Director in preparing the plan of managment which, of course, is a most essential part of the management arrangements for the National Park. I believe the Australian people have reason to be grateful to the NLC and the traditional owners of the land in the region, for this very generous gift of their land to the Commonwealth, to be enjoyed by all as a national park.
The role of the Northern Territory Government also is a crucial factor in the on-going arrangements for the Park. The establishment of a park in the Alligator Rivers region was first proposed in 1965 by the Northern Territory Reserves Board in recognition of the national significance of the area. The Commonwealth in the development of a considerably larger Kakadu National Park recognises that its success will in large measure depend on continuation of the active interest and support of the Northern Territory Government and people.
The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act has been amended to take account of the wishes of the Northern Territory Government. The amendments include a provision requiring consultation between the Director and the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission in the preparation of the plan of management and in relation to the performance of functions and the exercising of powers. Provision also exists to delegate responsibilities to Northern Territory officials. I am confident that the provisions of the leases and associated agreement together with amendments made to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act provide a sound basis for co-operation and for the involvement of the Aboriginal owners in the development of what will become one of the world’s great national parks.
I now take this opportunity to inform honourable members of the progress that has been made in respect to other aspects of the Government’s environmental policies for the Alligator Rivers region. Honourable members will recall that in its uranium statements of August 1977, the Government promised to adopt strict environmental controls and standards in relation to uranium mining in the region. We agreed to establish institutions and programs for the specific purpose of protecting the environment from the consequences of uranium mining. Since then considerable progress has been made and, in fact, the legal and administrative regime for environmental control of mining is now substantially in place. The Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act was assented to in June of this year and an acting appointment to the office of the Supervising Scientist was made shortly afterwards. Action is well advanced on the appointment of members of the Coordinating Committee, to be established under the Act.
As honourable members will know, the role of the Committee is to assist the Supervising Scientist in considering and reviewing standards, practices, and procedures in relation to uranium mining operations, as far as environmental protection is concerned. The Northern Land Council is to be represented on the Committee, thus ensuring that Aboriginal interests are kept well to the fore in the Committee’s deliberations. I expect that the Co-ordinating Committee will hold its first meeting during December.
A further provision in the Act is the establishment of a research institute. Naturally, this is a longer term project, but already a well equipped field station is being established at Jabiru, and a number of important research and monitoring studies have been initiated. Honourable members will recall that the Ranger uranium environment inquiry referred to the considerable amount of research that was needed before precise standards should be imposed on the various control aspects of the mining operations. As the Ranger mine will not be operational for possibly three years, there is time to develop proper standards for the protection of the environment, and these will be applied progressively as the basic information is obtained and interpreted by the
Supervising Scientist, with the advice of the Coordinating Committee.
It is within this context that I wish to draw honourable members’ attention to the arrangement that the Government has made for detailed environmental protection measures. The environmental requirements for Ranger, which reflect fully the recommendations of the Ranger uranium environmental inquiry, are a condition of the authority to mine. This authority is given under section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act. These requirements are set out in Appendix A of the section 4 1 authority that has been tabled with the Ranger agreement documents today. I might say that all of these environmental requirements were the subject of quite detailed consideration and discussions during the Government’s negotiations with the Northern Land Council, and the Council did indicate its satisfaction with them knowing, of course, that precise standards are to be applied before mining and milling commences, and after adequate research has been done.
In large measure, the detailed requirements are to be implemented and enforced through relevant laws of the Northern Territory. I wish to acknowledge the co-operation of the Northern Territory Government in this matter. In consultation with the Commonwealth, the Northern Territory has reviewed its laws and has brought forward amendments to relevant Acts, with the sole purpose of ensuring that the controls agreed on by the Commonwealth for uranium mining are adequately covered by the laws of the Territory. We are appreciative of this, but we also recognise the heavy burden which will be placed on the Territory in the rigorous administration of these laws as they relate to uranium mining and, consequently, the Commonwealth has agreed to meet the additional costs of these regulatory services. This will ensure that co-operatively, the Commonwealth and the Territory can implement the strict environmental requirements recommended by the Ranger inquiry, and agreed on by the Government in its uranium decision of August 1977.
The role of the Supervising Scientist is, of course, vital in these arrangements. The Supervising Scientist will be required to maintain an overall supervision of the effects of uranium mining on the environment of the region. He will work with the supervising authorities in the Territory in carrying out this task. In addition, there are some aspects of environment control that will be the direct responsibility of the Supervising Scientist, including the very important matter of disposal of tailings from the mining and milling operations. Honourable members will appreciate that the responsibilities of the Supervising Scientist are wide-ranging and demanding. I remind honourable members that the Act establishing the Office of the Supervising Scientist requires him to report to me annually. He may also report at other times and there is provision for me to obtain reports at any time. All reports from the Supervising Scientist are to be tabled in Parliament so there will be the opportunity for Parliament itself to be kept fully informed on developments in respect to environment protection.
May I remind the House of the provision that is made through the Environment Protection (Northern Territory Supreme Court) Act for the Northern Land Council, the Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission to apply to the Supreme Court for orders in relation to protection of the environment from uranium mining. The Government sees this arrangement as providing an opportunity for these three organisations to reinforce the environment protection machinery in the region.
Finally, I wish to announce that the Government proposes to introduce a levy as a recognition of the special costs of environmental monitoring and research activities related to uranium mining in the region. Because the Supervising Scientist and the research institute will be carrying out environmental monitoring and research activities specially designed for regulation of uranium mining, the Government has decided that an appropriate levy should be paid by the uranium miners concerned in recognition of the special environmental costs involved. The levy will be payable by companies engaged in the mining of uranium in the region and will be related to the quantity of yellowcake produced from uranium mined by a company, which is exported. The levy will be at a maximum rate of 5c per pound of yellowcake exported. In all, I believe that the Government, through these legislative and administrative arrangements, and the land use controls to be enforced through the national park procedures has established new and significant standards for resource management and environmental protection, and that the opportunity is provided for a completely satisfactory reconciliation of the various interests in the region.
I present the following paper:
Kakadu National Park- Leases and AgreementMinisterial Statement, 7 November 1978.
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
-The Opposition’s basic objection to the proposal for the Kakadu National Park has not changed since the uranium Bills were debated in May. We are still basically opposed to the idea of mining uranium or, for that matter, mining anything in a national park. While some features of the statement made by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) have some attractions, we said in great detail what we had to say when the various Bills, including the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill, were debated in May this year. I would like to quote again the remark made by the Minister that I quoted in the debate on that occasion. Describing the Kakadu National Park, he said:
The Alligator Rivers region is important in the context of world conservation. An area of outstanding beauty and grandeur, it also has great significance because of its social, cultural, biological, anthropological and archeological attributes.
There is no question that we would agree with the view that the Minister has put. It seems to be recognised in Australia and world wide that the Kakadu National Park is one of the great wilderness areas of the world and certainly one of the great areas in Australia. The idea that one should mine, particularly uranium, in a national park goes against all our concepts of what a national park is all about. If there were to be no uranium mining in the park many of these arrangements, such as the arrangements regarding leasing of the park and agreements with the Aboriginals, would be quite satisfactory. However, if there were to be no mining, the arrangements would not be needed. We believe that the potential damage to the ecosystem of the whole region is enormous. I mentioned in the debate in May that there was a strong possibility of the seepage from Jabiluka flowing into the Magela Creek system and the Koongarra mine seepage flowing into the Norlangie Creek and thence into the South Alligator River region.
– Why did you buy 50 per cent of the company?
-What was that?
– Why did your Government buy 50 per cent of the action?
– I thought the honourable member was accusing me of buying it. I can assure him that, even though I had a small win in the Melbourne Cup, I am not ready to buy into uranium mines. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) has raised the question. Some of the decisions made by the previous Labor Government may have been incorrect.
The fact is that our views on uranium have changed and we are strongly opposed to uranium mining. I would have thought that would be clear even to the honourable member for La Trobe. We are opposed to uranium mining and particularly opposed to uranium mining in a national park. We know the language of the Government. It draws a line around a section in which it is going to mine and says that it is outside the park and therefore mining is not being carried out in the park. We know that it is absurd; the Government knows it is absurd. But it carries on with this pretence that by doing this somehow technically the mining is not being done in a park.
Some sorts of mining possibly would not be as deleterious to the ecosystem of the Kakadu National Park as uranium mining would be because of the potential dangers and the waste that flows from uranium mining. But of course we have seen what happened in Rum Jungle. Hopefully the environment protection will be considerably better in Kakadu than it was in the previous experience. It could hardly be worse. The Minister is nodding his head. I shall wind up because everyone seems to be anxious to deal with another matter this afternoon. It is interesting to see that the Government takes so much interest in a national park. I wish we could get it as interested in some other areas of conservation as it is in Kakadu National Park.
-In the Great Barrier Reef. I would be most enthusiastic about the Government being interested in Ayers Rock- the Uluru National Park- and Fraser Island. If we could get some legislation to give the same sort of protection and Government investment in those areas, I would be delighted. But we seem to concentrate a great deal more attention on Kakadu. I wonder whether it is because of all the uranium there. I am interested in this 5c levy. Does the Minister have any idea what sort of funds it is proposed to raise or any approximate estimate of what sort of money would be available for the Supervising Scientist.
– This is not Question Time.
-I thought the Minister might have some ideas. He could have answered and made the debate a little less formal. Obviously the Minister does not know, so I will withdraw the question.
– It is a simple mathematical calculation.
-The Minister did not present any figures. It is very difficult to calculate if we do not have any figures from which to calculate it.
– Well, you have figures.
– Not in this statement. I conclude by saying that our position has not changed. We are totally opposed to uranium mining in a national park, and specifically in Kakadu National Park.
Debate (on motion by Mr Ruddock) adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Social Services Amendment Bill 1978.
Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill 1978.
Trade Marks Amendment Bill 1978.
Patents Amendment Bill 1978.
National Health Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978.
Health Insurance Amendment Bill ( No. 2 ) 1 978.
Health Insurance Commission Amendment Bill 1 978.
-Mr Speaker has received letters from both the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and the honourable member for Indi (Mr Ewen Cameron) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107, Mr Speaker has selected one matter; that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Gellibrand, namely:
The Government’s continuing policy of reducing the real level of wages.
I therefore call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-The Opposition raises this matter for debate because it wishes to expose the economic invalidity and the political expediency of what has become the central tenet of this Government’s economic policy; that is the need to slash the level of real wages. Soon after it was elected in December 1975, the Fraser Government discarded its unequivocal election promise to support wage indexation and since then has argued that real wages should be slashed and even that money wages should be frozen, that wage indexation should be totally abandoned and that we should revert to the system of annual national wage cases with no prima facie presumption that wages should then be increased in line with price movements or indeed with any other specific criteria. However, following repeated rejection of its hardline approach by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the Government softened its approach in its submission last week in the current national wage case by calling for maximum wage restraint rather than flatly opposing any wage increase at all. Such a policy approach, however, still clearly involves a determination to bring about reduced real incomes and therefore reduced living standards for the great majority of wage and salary earners. The Conciliation and Arbitration .Commission awarded full wage indexation in only one out of the past nine cases. Indeed in the last case it awarded only 71 per cent indexation. This shows the extent to which the Government’s approach has been forced upon the Commission.
The February tax cuts may have alleviated this reduction in real wages somewhat but the income tax surcharge now applying will effectively wipe out all the benefits of the tax cuts for wage and salary earners who earn between $114 and $238 a week- that is the great majority of themand leave them even worse off than before. The Government’s wage and tax policies therefore are intended to reduce the real living standard of wage and salary earners by transferring real income from them to those who reap the benefits of increased profits. Such a policy is defended by the Government as being necessary to reduce inflation and unemployment. In support of its case it has introduced the concept of the socalled real wage overhang; that is, the extent to which real wages have risen above the level of productivity. The Government claims that it is a basic precondition to the reduction of unemployment that this supposed overhang be eliminated. Until this happens, it argues, profits will be too low to attract sufficient investment to generate jobs and economic recovery.
The first point to note regarding this policy is the conceptual stupidity of aiming to restore normal factor income shares during a severe recession. The Government argues that profits’ share of total income is well below its long run average level, that correspondingly wages ‘ share is well above its long term average and that these income shares must be returned to normal levels if investment is to be sufficiently profitable to provide jobs and economic growth. However the reality is that wage’s share has fallen quite considerably from its 1974 level and profits’ share has shown some recovery. Chan 6 on page 20 of Statement No. 2 of the Budget Papers shows the extent of these movements, with wages’ share falling from over 69 per cent of non-farm gross product at factor cost in 1974 to just over 64 per cent, which is still a little above its long term average share of just over 62 per cent. So wages’ share has come down considerably but not enough for the Government which says it must get back to its long term level if economic recovery is to occur.
But the Government takes no account of the fact that in a recession wages’ share always rises and profits’ share always declines as profit margins are squeezed by increased fixed cost per unit of output and the difficulty of raising prices in a slack market. This happens in every recession. Yet the Government insists that now, in the middle of a very severe recession, the normal non-recession shares of factor incomes must be restored. It is a crazy argument. If that were to happen, and ah economic recovery by some miracle followed, profits ‘ share would zoom to an all time high. Regard simply must be had to the degree of capacity under-utilisation. In this regard the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research says that for the current degree of capacity under-utilisation profits share is already back to normal.
The argument used more recently to bolster the shares argument for reducing real wages has been the need to reduce the real wage overhang. The measurement of such an overhang depends on obtaining a suitable measure, for real wage costs and for productivity and comparing the two series over time. This raises many technical arguments about the appropriate statistical series to use for these measures and also about the starting point from which the comparison should be made.
Without going too deeply into those technicalities, it must be said that the measure relied on by the Government in wage indexation cases to prove its contention as to the existence of a real wage overhang has varied over time but has generally been that which most emphasised the extent of the overhang. For instance, it has adopted a measure of wage costs which includes payroll tax and employers workers compensation insurance payments. On the other hand though, it takes no account of the various wage subsidy schemes currently in operation such as the Special Youth Employment Training Program, the National Employment and Training scheme and the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training which together subsidised wages by $ 1 00m in 1 977-78.
In regard to productivity, the Government has refused to use the productivity measure recommended by a working party of officials on the measurement of productivity- which body was established in 1975 to advise the Government on the most appropriate productivity measure for wage determination purposes- and has instead adopted a form of measurement that produces a lower productivity increase. The latest figures utilised by the Government to support its real wage overhang argument were those submitted in the recent wage fixation principles case and reproduced in a special supplement to the September 1978 edition of the Treasury’s monthly round-up of economic statistics. That material, as contained in table 2 of the supplement, shows a real wage overhang of 7 per cent for the year 1976-77 which is the latest available period for the measure used.
It is tremendously important to note however that that figure for 1976-77 effectively tells us the position as the Treasury says it should be measured at the end of December 1976; that is, 22 months ago. Thus we have the absolutely remarkable proposition that because the Treasury’s calculations show a real wage overhang of 7 per cent for a point in time almost two years ago, the Government says that wages must now, in November 1 978, be further substantially reduced in real terms so that the overhang of two years ago can be eliminated. How do we even know that the overhang of December 1976 still exists? Given the fact that average weekly earnings rose by 9.8 per cent in 1977-78 while prices rose by 9.5 per cent, it would appear that there was little if any rise in real labour costs in 1977- 78. So with further productivity growth during that year one would expect a considerable fall in any overhang in that year. It is therefore not surprising that estimates by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research indicate that over the last financial year the real wage overhang has been virtually eliminated. In its second quarterly edition of the Australian Economic Review for this year the Melbourne Institute went fully into this matter and included a chart which showed that the index of real labour costs was only fractionally above the index of trend growth in productivity in 1977-78 and was forecast to fall below it in 1 978- 79.I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table produced by the Institute which provides the statistical basis for chart C which appears on page 9 of the Australian Economic Review for the second quarter of 1 978.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. The table shows that the ratio of real labour costs for the productivity trend- that is, the real wage overhang- was, 106.0 or 6 per cent, in 1976-77. That was slightly less than the Government’s figure for that year which was 107 or seven per cent. The table forecasts a fall to 101.8 in 1977-78 and to only 97.5 in 1978-79. The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at page 10 of its Australian Economic
Review for the second quarter of 1978 states:
The evidence, of which a selection is provided above, leads us to the conclusion that, on the best measure available, real labour costs had returned to a roughly normal relationship with trend productivity by 1977-78, and on current policies are likely to be well below that normal relationship in 1978-79.
Further on it stated: we conclude that the view that unemployment in Australia can only be significantly reduced if real wages fall is mistaken, as are policies based on this view.
Similar conclusions have also been reached by the Flinders University National Institute of Labour Studies, which body produces a quarterly publication entitled the ‘Australian Bulletin of Labour’. The Institute in its June 1978 edition of the Bulletin, considered the real wage overhang argument and, having conducted its analysis of the evidence, it also concluded that the real wage overhang does not now exist. Page 2 of the Australian Bulletin of Labour’ states:
Stripped of its statistical raiment, ‘real wage overhang analysis’ is seen to be naive classical partial equilibrium theory, and its policy prescriptions the same pre-Keynesian orthodoxy that gave the world the Great Depression and the Hungry Thirties. The ‘real wage overhang’ is a symptom of the depth of the current recession, not its cause. Our current economic malaise must be treated, not by economic ‘blood letting’, but by strengthening the patient through selective fiscal stimulus.
Thus an analysis of the evidence concerning the extent of any real wage overhang leads overwhelmingly to the conclusion that it simply does not exist. But even if it is contended, despite the convincing evidence to the contrary, that a real wage overhang does exist, there are still very good reasons to be highly sceptical of the Government’s claims that such an overhang is responsible for the growth of unemployment. Neither the Government nor anyone else has produced any firm evidence of such a causal relationship. On the other hand there is ample evidence available to show that assertions of such a simple relationship are simplistic nonsense. One such piece of evidence is the fact that despite a far greater percentage increase in female wages than in male wages over recent years due to the phasing in of equal pay, female employment has fared much better than male employment. Over the five-year period June 1 973 to June 1978 male award rates rose by 108 per cent but female award rates increased by 143 per cent. But in regard to employment, the total number of hours worked per week by all males in civilian employment- that is, the numbers engaged in full or part-time work multiplied by the number of hours worked- actually declined by 2.6 per cent over that period whilst the total number of hours worked by females increased by 8 per cent despite their far greater increase in pay. Any real wage overhang was clearly far greater for women than for men but their employment performance has been markedly better than for men. Such evidence must surely throw great doubt on the alleged real wage overhang and unemployment relationship.
Perhaps even more convincing as a reason to doubt the alleged real wage overhangunemployment relationship is the fact that at an international level there is no discernible relationship whatsoever between the extent of real wage overhang and the increase in unemployment. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing real wage imbalance and unemployment in nine industrialised countries in the period 1972 to 1976.
The table read as follows-
Data Source: OECD Economic Surveys, Australia April 1978 p. 18 Table 4.
US Department of Labour.
Bureau of Labour Statistics.
Monthly Labour Review April 1977 p. 15. Table 2.
Document Source: National Wage Case, March Quarter 1978 Exhibit J18.
-I thank the House. The table shows that no discernible relationship exists between real wage overhang and unemployment at all. Canada had a similar real wage overhang to Australia for the period covered but its unemployment increased by 141/2 per cent compared with 100 per cent for Australia. Germany had the lowest real wage overhang but the highest percentage rise in unemployment. Sweden had the highest real wage overhang but its level of unemployment actually fell by 36 per cent. Thus the evidence is not only that the dreaded real wage overhang does not even exist but that even if it did it is far too simplistic to simply attribute all our economic woes to that fact.
Finally I make two points of clarification on the Opposition’s attitude to wages. Firstly, we are not saying that wage increases are irrelevant to our economic circumstances. Clearly, substantial increases in money wages have implications for inflation and the competitive position of Australian industry. However we strongly assert that real wage reductions in current circumstances are inequitable, unnecessary and quite likely counter-productive as an economic purgative. Maintenance of real wages whilst reducing rates of increase in money wage would be quite possible with reductions in indirect taxes and government charges. Secondly, we are concerned that the Government’s inequitable wages policy is undermining the system of orderly wage fixation in this country by destroying the confidence of the trade unions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the wage indexation system. So long as union bargaining power is inhibited by high unemployment that may not be a problem for the Government, but if the economy should eventually move into a substantial recovery phase, union frustration and resentment at the depression of real wages and complete lack of confidence in the wage indexation system may well boil over into another wage explosion.
Potentially, therefore, the Government’s wages policy could be enormously damaging to our economic future. Indeed, it raises the strong possibility that, without a drastic change of wages policy in the near future, this Government may never be able to allow anything like a full economic recovery to occur, even if it knew how to achieve it, for fear of generating an inflationary wages explosion. A return to full employment with low rates of inflation must, in our view, involve the adoption of an equitable wages policy, supported by the trade union movement. A continuance of the present wages policy of this Government will ensure that it is never able to achieve that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We have heard an extraordinary outline of economic theory that seemed to argue that the amount of labour employed is unaffected by its price; that the cost of employing a worker, or the substitution of labour for capital, is unaffected by the relative prices of labour and capital. Yet the previous speaker, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), conceded that the price of labour affected Australia’s competitive position- I believe he said in world markets. Surely he would have to concede that if it affects our competitive position in world markets it must also affect our competitive position in domestic markets. If our competitive position is affected by the price of labour how can activity, and the amount of labour employed, not be affected? How can an industry be priced out of a market and still employ the same amount of labour? It is an economic nonsense.
The honourable member contended that the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research believed that the wage overhang had been largely overcome. I hope that he is right. It is a very optimistic forecast. That is the situation which normally arises as an economy climbs out of a recession. However, if we have gone so far, it does not follow that the levels of employment will not be affected by the price of labour. That does not follow at all and I am sure that the Melbourne Institute does not contend that it does. Certainly, in discussions with its members that is not what they contended to me.
The honourable member discussed the cost of labour in terms of award wages. Of course, award wages do not represent the total cost of labour. It is affected also by over-award payments, overtime and non-wage factors such as the cost of various classes of insurance, holiday pay, pay-roll tax, superannuation and so on. Unfortunately, the effective wage overhang is influenced by these costs. Unfortunately, award wages have risen more slowly than has total labour cost. Therefore, the decision that any employer must make as to whether he will use a piece of machinery to do a job or put on more labour, whether he will capitalise his enterprise or go into the labour market and ask someone to do the job, is influenced by these other non-wage costs.
– And subsidies.
– And subsidies, I concede. Unfortunately, we still have the cost of past decisions working their way through; we still have the cost of more recent decisions working their way through. So the decision that any employer must make is affected adversely, from labour’s point of view, by the cumulative cost of past wage decisions and more recent non-wage decisions.
The previous speaker flew in the face of the advice of the Treasury, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development -
– And the Reserve Bank.
-And the Reserve Bank. I point out that a signatory to the report of the Reserve Bank is Mr Bob Hawke, a person who is not unknown in trade union circles.
– Or in the ALP.
– Or the Australian Labor Party. The honourable member was flying in the face of the vast weight of economic advice on which this or any other government has to rely. He suggests that suddenly the overhang has become irrelevant. I suggest that the trade union movement does not represent the unemployed. It represents people who are in work. It represents people who have jobs now. Therefore, it is not surprising that the trade union movement argues for a bigger share of the total economic cake. It is not surprising that it argues on behalf of its members, who are in jobs, so that they might get rather more and those who are out of work might get rather less. I remind the honourable member of what was said by a former Treasurer of this nation, Treasurer Crean perhaps the best of the Australian Labor Party Treasurers. He said: ‘One man’s pay rise is another man’s job. “
– That will haunt them.
-Yes, it will haunt them. It is as true now as it was then. The wages take-off of 1973-74 that was encouraged by the Labor Government coincided with the rise in unemployment. It is hardly surprising that in any market the cost of a commodity affects its usage. In this case the commodity is labour. That wild escalation of wage rates and labour costs resulted inevitably in a fall in labour usage.
It is not surprising that Treasurer Crean saw that this had happened. It is not surprising, since he was a responsible and compassionate man, that at that time he pointed it out to the nation. It is possibly also not surprising that the trade union movement and its advocates should ignore that fact in representing, quite properly, those who are in work and who pay their union dues. It is not surprising that we see the state of affairs that we do now. We went deeply into this recession. We also went into it somewhat later than did most of the other OECD countries. We are climbing out of it and are following the pattern that is normally followed by a country climbing out of recession. We are now in the first stages of that recovery. We have seen a marked increase in productivity, which is the other side of the coin referred to by the last speaker, and that will increase our competitiveness in world and domestic markets.
– There has not been much productivity.
– We have had a marked increase in productivity and the statistics demonstrate that fact. Employment is normally the last of the economic indicators to rise when a country is climbing out of an economic recession. That has been so in other economic recessions in this country and in economic recessions in other countries also. If we try to raise the price of labour we delay the arrival of the time when we might climb out of the recession, to the detriment of the unemployed who surely are the great sufferers.
The Reserve Bank, the OECD, the Treasury, the Henderson and Ironmonger group in Melbourne- with whom I have discussed this matter- and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade all point this out. Do honourable members opposite really wish to fly in the face of all of the economic advice that the nation is receiving? Investment is up. The gross domestic product is rising at a much slower rate. Employment will not rise unless GDP rises can overtake that wage overhang. Employment will rise when that wage overhang is overcome and not before.
-This Government is now well and truly locked into its own specious arguments that real wage levels are the major cause of unemployment. The economic strategy which it has been pursuing for several years of expecting cuts in federal expenditure and in real wages to reduce the rate of inflation and then to attract investment and thus restore employment is now dead. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) buried that policy last August. They admitted, despite all their wage reductions and their cutback mentality, that there would be no improvement in the labour market in the near future, that there was no hope of producing the 650,000 new jobs in five years which the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations stated were necessary to reduce unemployment to 4.5 per cent in five years’ time. They admitted that more than 500,000 people in Australia would be unemployed by next February. After having admitted all that, they still maintained that they were on the right track economically; that their policies were correct. They still wanted to blame workers’ wage levels for the downturn in the economy.
Only two of the last 10 wage judgments awarded full indexation. Although the national average wage rose from $175.70 in December 1975 to $215.50 in June 1978, the cumulative effect of full indexation would have produced a national average wage of $236.70 by the end of June 1978. So already partial wage indexation has reduced the average wage by at least $2 1 .20 a week since December 1975. Let us go out into the real world away from this place and see what average workers in industry are earning. I will cite two examples. I cite a middle income iron worker employed at Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd at Port Kembla as a crane driver who is currently earning $181 gross per week for 40 hours work. A similar situation applies to the municipal council workers in the provincial city of Wollongong, where plant operators earn $194 a week and labourers earn $173.85 a week. That is a gross wage from which taxation must be deducted. Despite these wage cuts and despite low wages which have prevailed over the last three years, the seasonally adjusted figure for unemployment has risen in the last year by 55,000 to 413,000. How far must wages fall before the Government’s policies start to work and unemployment levels fall? The Minister and the Government refuse to answer because they are lost.
– It depends how quickly you want the recovery.
– The Government is taking a long time about it. This Government has already forced the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to implement half-yearly hearings for the national wage case, which, will reduce total wages by $500m this year. That is, employers will save one per cent of the $50,000m total annual wage bill. This saving is compatible with the Budget tax decisions, which rob workers of at least $12 per week but leave $60 per week of the amount gained from the February tax cuts for a person earning $2,000 per week. The Government still opposes just compensation to workers for the four per cent consumer price index rises in the June and September quarters. After having got its way with the Commission it still wants to oppose the four per cent flow on into wages. That is the sheer immorality of what it is doing. We require a wage fixing system based on automatic quarterly adjustments on a full percentage basis at least up to national average wage levels. Instead, the Government schemes and dreams of freezing wage levels. It just will not freeze prices.
I refer to the recent statement by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) regarding the changes that will be effected to the Prices Justification Tribunal. Some of the changes announced by the Minister were that no company, whatever its size, has automatically to notify price increases in the future and that ‘The Minister’s approval will be required before the tribunal can hold a public inquiry’. In those two major points lies the emasculation of the Tribunal. Let every wage and salary earner note that this Government is prepared to peg wage levels but is not prepared to peg prices.
Let us look at the Government’s policy with regard to investment allowances and payroll taxes. The Government blames unemployment upon wage levels but ignores the effect of its own investment allowance and State payroll taxes on the cost of labour relative to capital. Capital equipment ordered before 30 June 1978 and installed before June 1979 attracts a tax deduction of 40 per cent of the cost of the equipment. That is an effective discount of 18.4 per cent. Equipment ordered after 30 June 1978 attracts a deduction of 20 per cent. That is an effective discount of 9.2 per cent. As this benefit accrues soon after the equipment is paid for, the effect of wage levels on investment decisions depends upon expected wage levels throughout the life of the investment, not just those prevailing at the time of investment. So we see that the investment allowance contributed more to machines replacing workers than high wages ever did.
I refer now to the Government’s preoccupation with an alleged real wage overhang. The Treasury and the Government say that there is an overhang of at least seven per cent. If the overhang represents the percentage by which real labour costs have exceeded productivity growth, clearly the method of assessing labour costs and productivity and the starting point of calculations are crucial to the exercise. What components should comprise productivity growth? Do we mean the whole economy, the market sector, or just the non-farm market sector? Should we include payroll tax and all supplementary costs when calculating labour costs? By varying these criteria- this is the important point- one can arrive at the desired conclusion. The Treasury, using the non-farm market sector and all real labour costs and using 1966-67 as a base point, calculated a wage overhang of 1 1 per cent in 1974-75, falling back to seven per cent in 1977. However, using a base point of late 1973 before the so-called wages explosion of 1974 and excluding payroll tax, there is only a 1.8 per cent real wage overhang in 1977 and if the figures are up-dated to the present, this overhang disappears entirely.
If increases in female wage rates are excluded on the assumption that the principle of equal pay for equal work is a social rather than an economic matter, and using a productivity criteria of long-term trend growth in the market sector of the economy with a starting point of 1973, it is even possible to show a 5 per cent wage underhang
In calculating so-called wage overhangs or underhangs the results may be tailored to order. The very concept of comparing labour costs and productivity increase to illustrate a wage overhang or underhang is so imprecise as to be useless in reaching hard economic conclusions. Even if there were a wage overhang it would not necessarily create unemployment. Overseas comparisons are so erratic that they disprove the theory completely. For instance, between 1972 and 1976, as the shadow Minister pointed out in the figures he tabled, in Sweden the wage overhang of 12.6 per cent was accompanied by a reduction in unemployment of 36 per cent. In the same period, West Germany experienced a small 1.9 per cent overhang but unemployment rose by 375 per cent. When viewed in total, these OECD figures entirely disprove the Government’s theory that wage overhang causes unemployment. Instead of blaming the workers for unemployment it is time that a Labor Government was allowed to stimulate the economy. Let us stimulate the economy with selective expenditure and commence the industrial and manpower planning policies required to offer the young unemployed some hope for the future. The Coalition Cabinet is running around in circles, mindlessly cackling its economic slogans, while this nation rushes headlong to disaster.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I welcome the opportunity to enter this debate because, in my opinion, wages policy is one area of economic management, along with several others, where the Opposition is particularly vulnerable. Its plans to argue for full wage indexation reflect the general principle on which it bases its whole approach to opposition. That is, in the light of the economic difficulties facing this country it chooses to indulge in popular rather than proper economic policies and be all things to all men. That reflects an attitude which brought Australia to the economic brink several years ago, and it is an attitude which is as irrelevant and improper today as it was then. The Opposition does not seem to realise that real wage increases generally accompany economic growth. They result from economic growth. In the absence of productivity growth, wage increases lead only to cost increases, cost inflation and unemployment. Nowhere in its economic policies, particularly in the area of wages policy, does it argue for restraint, although all the respectable bodies of economic opinion around the world say that in economies such as Australia restraint is absolutely necessary, particularly in the wages area.
The Labor Party seeks continued expansion in overall demand management; yet surely its own experience should show that that is no longer an appropriate policy. I remind the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) that Labor’s deficit budgeting led to record inflation rates, record interest rates and record income tax increases. Into this vicious circle entered a permissive wages policy which saw average weekly earnings rise by 28 per cent in 1974, a time of record unemployment and a time when consumer prices rose by 16 per cent, and national economic growth was zero. Its wages policy was disastrous. Even its own Treasurer, Mr Crean, pointed this out. Labor’s policy has not changed. I quote from the Reserve Bank’s annual report for 1976, which stated:
The Australian economy has been tightened and strengthened since the unprecedented developments of 1974. In the twelve months to December 1974, average weekly earnings rose by 28 per cent, consumer prices by 16 per cent, and so real wages by some 10 per cent- cramming into twelve months the normal trend growth of real wages accruing in about three years; and this in a year in which average productivity fell as output contracted.
Of course, real wage increases, if matched by productivity improvement, are quite right and proper, but in the absence of any comparable productivity gains they only add to money costs, with employers looking to other factors of production. Hence we have the reason for Labor Treasurer Crean ‘s statement that one man’s pay rise is another man’s job. That is going to haunt the Labor Party for a long while.
I remind the honourable member also that his present Leader said something similar when he was Treasurer. Unless inflation is controlled, and this can be done by restoring real wages to a realistic level, there will be no productive investment and no sustainable employment increases. The whole question of factor shares is absolutely critical to improved economic performance in this country. That is a view shared seemingly by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, who served on the Reserve Bank Board while at the same time being President of the Australia Labor Party. What has the Reserve Bank said, apparently with his approval? In its 1976 report it stated:
The need is for the main arms of stabilisation policywages policy, budgetary policy and monetary policy- to keep moving firmly towards restraint so that the subsidence of inflation in Australia does not lag long after other countries.
The Reserve Bank report for 1977 stated something very similar, and I quote:
The steepness of the rise in numbers unemployed during the initial part of the most recent economic downturn appears, in part, to have been related to the way in which increases in labour costs in 1973 and 1974 outstripped the increase in final prices of goods and services. To some extent, unemployment has stayed high because real labour costs have remained high.
The Reserve Bank has again stated the same proposition in 1978. One has to recognise, as does the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, that a country such as Australia must continue to follow a restrictive fiscal and monetary policy because of the shift which has taken place in our key economic relationships. In this regard, the Reserve Bank in its 1978 report referred to a number of distortions. It referred to the large increases in labour’s share of the national product and the corresponding declining share of profits and therefore investment as a percentage of national product.
Unrealistically high real wage levels comprise a major barrier to domestic demand expansion in this country. Even if the Opposition will not accept the view of the Reserve Bank, perhaps it will listen to what the OECD has said. In September last year the Secretary General, Mr Van Lennep, addressing the Council of Europe, stated:
Demand management policies should … be directed towards achieving a moderate but sustained expansion of demand, strong enough to permit a progressive reduction in unemployment, but not so strong as to set off a resurgence of inflation.
He qualified that statement by mentioning a few things relevant to the present Australian experience when he said: . . it was recognised that in many countries the necessary recovery in productive investment was unlikely to be forthcoming without a shift in underlying cost-price relationships in favour of profits. In particular where there was also a need to improve the balance of payments there would be only limited scope for increases in public current expenditure and private consumption.
That view was sustained also in the OECD’s economic survey of Australia in April this year. Mr Van Lennep went on to say, referring to successful OECD countries: . . where effective stabilisation policies have been pursued, it has proved possible to hold down production costs in relation to prices and thus pave the way for the necessary improvement in the rate of return on capital. This has generally meant that at some point wages have risen less fast than prices, particularly in countries needing to improve their competitive position in world markets.
In other words, the best way to beat inflation and return employment prospects to this country is through the real wages policy which is being pursued by this Government. It is the only sensible approach to this subject. I think Mr Van Lennep ‘s comments sum up exactly the Australian experience, indicate that the wages policy of this Government is internationally accepted as being the correct one and reject the kind of proposition contained in this matter of public importance.
I regard the attitude of the Labor Party and the unions in the area of wages policy as being extremely selfish. At a time of high unemployment they seek further real wage increases- the very thing that has caused many of the people they are meant to represent to be out of work now. Their attitude to real wages is not only selfish but also flies in the face of respected economic opinion throughout Australia and internationally. In these times, if Labor pursued such a policy in government it would have the same effect as before. It would throw more people out of work. The attitude of the Opposition to wages is particularly interesting in view of the current debate on technology and unemployment. The Opposition claims that automation is taking jobs but it also agrees with full wage indexation from a position where Australia has a very substantial gap between the growth of real wages and the growth of productivity. The Opposition does not see these matters as being related in any waythat is, the price of labour and the demand for labour as against other factors of production. It was very obvious that technology based on cheap energy or on capital-labour ratios reflecting real wage levels of some years ago had become less profitable. One could therefore ask: Is it surprising that a good deal of business investment in the past two years has gone towards increasing the ratio of capital to labour as a response to the change in their relative prices?
The action of proposing for discussion a matter of public importance such as this is, I think, a nonsense. It ignores economic reality and would be disastrous if translated into policy. I refer the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) to the share of wages in our national gross domestic product. Between 1968-69 and 1972-73, the profit share was 17.5 per cent. In 1974-75, it was 14.2 per cent. It fell to 14 per cent in the following year. In 1976-77 it was 14.4 per cent. In the September quarter this year it was 14 per cent. That constitutes a major barrier to expansion in this country. It leads to investment in machinery and mitigates against further employment of people in Australia. It is about time the Labor Party started thinking in terms of the unemployed instead of those people presently being looked after by a selfish trade union movement.
-The discussion is concluded.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 25 October.
Consideration of Legislation Committee report.
Amendments made by Legislation Committee:
Legislation Committee amendment No. 1 -
Omit sub-clause (4), substitute the following sub-clause: “(4) For the purposes of this Act, a person shall be taken to have sold eligible goods if, and only if, the Board is satisfied that, under the contract of sale, the goods are clearly sold for export and are exported ‘ ‘.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 2-
After sub-clause (2) insert the following sub-clause: “(2a) For the purposes of paragraph ( 1 ) (a)-
the date of export of goods exported under a bill of lading shall be deemed to be-
the date shown on the bill of lading; or
ii) the date on which they are received for shipment at the port or airport of export, whichever is the earlier;
the date of export of goods sold as stores for use on ships or aircraft that are intended to leave Australia shall be deemed to be the date of the sale; and
the date of export of any other goods shall be deemed to be the date on which they are received for shipment at the port or airport of export. ‘ ‘.
A reference in this Act to a resident of Australia is a reference to-
Legislation Committee amendment No. 3-
Omit paragraphs (c) and (d), substitute the following paragraphs: “(c) a company which is incorporated in Australia, or which, not being incorporated in Australia, carries on business in Australia and is declared by the Minister, on the advice of the Board, by writing signed by him, to be a company to which this paragraph applies; or “(d) a partnership which carries on business in Australia and exists by virtue of the law of a State or Territory,”.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 4-
Omit sub-clauses ( 1 ) and (2), substitute the following subclause. “ 16. ( 1 ) Where the Board is of the opinion that an act or thing (including the making of an agreement, arrangement or payment, the forming of a corporation or partnership or the distribution of income or activities as between different persons or different years) has been done that, if the powers of the Board under this section were not exercised, would result in an increase in the total of the amounts paid as grants without there being a corresponding increase in the total of the amounts of the export earnings of persons in the grant years, the Board, to the extent that it thinks it necessary to do so to prevent or limit that result, may, for the purposes of this Act, disregard or adjust all or any of the following amounts, that is to say, the amount of the export earnings, the amount of the export earnings increment, or the amount of the incentive grant entitlement, of a claimant for a year, being an amount that, in the opinion of the Board, has been affected by, or is an amount of anything resulting from, that act or thing.”.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 5-
After “that” insert “, on or after a date to be fixed by Proclamation,”.
Penalty: $ 10,000 or imprisonment for 6 months.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 6-
Omit “6 months”, substitute “2 years, or both”.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 7-
Add the following sub-clauses: “(3) An offence against sub-section (1) may be prosecuted upon indictment or, subject to sub-section (4), summarily, but an offender is not liable to be punished more than once in respect of the same offence. “(4) Where a person is charged with an offence against sub-section (1 ), a court of summary jurisdiction may, with the consent of the defendant and of the prosecutor and if the court is satisfied that it is proper to do so, determine the charge summarily. “(5) Where a court of summary jurisdiction determines a charge summarily in accordance with sub-section (4), it shall not-
where the defendant is a corporation- impose a fine exceeding $4,000; or
in any other case- impose a fine exceeding $2,000 or sentence the defendant to imprisonment for a period exceeding 1 year. “.
Further proposed amendments.
- (Quorum formed) Honourable members will recall that on 19 October the Export Expansion Grants Bill 1978 was referred to a House of Representatives Legislation Committee for review and report. The Committee met on 25 October and the Chairman reported the Bill with amendments to the House on the same day. The Committee accepted a number of amendments to the Bill which were circulated by the Government on 19 October. Members of the Committee also raised a number of matters about the operation of the scheme. These matters related to the method of dealing with exclusions, the new exporter provisions, determination of export earning increments and the penal provisions of the Bill. The questions were answered in the Committee and, where appropriate, further elaborations were subsequently given to the members concerned.
Further amendments were proposed by the Committee to two particular matters. Consideration has been given to these proposed amendments. As a result the Government has circulated proposed amendments to clause 3 sub-clause ( 1 ) paragraph (e) concerning the definition of’minerals’ and clause 3 sub-clause (4). The amendment to the definition of ‘minerals’ is proposed in order to clarify the intentions of the Government. The amendment to clause 3 sub-clause (4) also is a clarifying amendment. That sub-clause defines the person who is to be regarded as making the export sale and thus is to be credited with export earnings for the purpose of the scheme. As pointed out in the Committee’s discussion, the sub-clause as it is at present drafted is not entirely clear on this point. The amendment is proposed in order to ensure that the Government’s intention is achieved, that is, that the person who is to be credited with export earnings is the person who was the contracting party to the export transaction. I move:
-The Opposition supports this amendment. I listened to the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations (Mr Garland) carefully and I thought it was perhaps a little ungracious of him not to pay tribute to the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) as the person who actually suggested this amendment at the Legislation Committee stage. Although he was not a member of the Legislation Committee he was able to suggest this amendment at that meeting. I am always full of admiration and bewilderment at the ways of parliamentary counsel. My admiration and bewilderment continued after I learned that the wording suggested by the honourable member for Sturt was:
Perhaps that wording was thought not to be satisfactory at the time. It is now put before the House in the following form:
If that change makes so much difference I am surprised and, I repeat, bewildered.
However, the Legislation Committee’s work has borne fruit. I believe the Government has examined what was said at the meeting of the Committee, has thought about it and is now proposing this amendment. I hardly need now to make it explicit that I think that the experiences that we have had with the Legislation Committees to date have been good and that further consideration is given to wording than would otherwise be given. From the number of amendments that the Government has put before the Legislation Committee, it would seem that the exercise has a riveting effect on the Ministers, and their advisers as well, and that after the Bill has been introduced they give further consideration to the wording and use the Legislation
Committee to make certain changes. I repeat that the Opposition supports this amendment.
– As was pointed out by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), I must immediately make good the point that the originator of this amendment was indeed the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson). The purpose of the amendment was to try to clarify a concern which the honourable member had and about which he exchanged some correspondence with the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), for whom I am acting in this debate. I give all praise to the honourable member. I think he will go down in parliamentary history as the first honourable member to make an amendment that was supported by a government under the new system.
– I thank the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) for the manner in which he accepted the proposal for the amendment and for bringing it into the House. I must admit, as did the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), that I find some difficulty in following the way in which parliamentary counsel has chosen to include the same words as I suggested but in a slightly different place in the sub-clause. I think it is very important to note that when legislation comes before this Parliament and is then presented before Legislation Committees it is not good enough for those persons who are proposing the legislation to write, in response to a question concerning the meaning of the proposed legislation, that one must wait until after the Parliament has passed the legislation before he can be told whether or not a particular item falls within a definition. This is the sort of letter that I received in relation to my inquiry in respect of this Bill.
It is this Parliament that must lay down the terms and conditions under which benefits or export expansion grants, as is the case here, should be made available. It is not satisfactory for Ministers and their advisers to write and say: We are terribly sorry. We think the benefit will be included and will be available but you must wait until the legislation has been passed. We cannot really comment upon the matter until Parliament has passed the legislation. ‘ Here was a member of Parliament seeking information as to what that legislation would mean if he voted for it. Parliamentary counsel and government advisers should not put before this House legislation, the meaning and effect of which they cannot explain to members of this House. The legislation should be taken back to the draftsmen before it is introduced. The Parliament and parliamentary committees should not be called upon to pass legislation in respect of which there are admitted grey areas. If it is clear that the Government intends that something should be included, it should be so specified. I am very gratified to think that the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland), who is also the Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) was able to see that point and to understand that we in this House who are acting as legislators want to know what we are legislating about. The purpose of the legislation committees should be to do just what has been achieved in relation to the amendment to which I am speaking. I am, therefore, pleased in detail that the particular amendment in which I had an interest has been accepted; but I am also pleased in principle that the Government has recognised the value of legislation committees as a means whereby grey areas can be removed from legislation and the intent of the Government made clear to the legislators. The community for whom we are legislating will then have clear and definite laws under which people can operate, make their business transactions and anticipate the results without having to go to some tribunal to determine whether on vague facts and contradictory definitions their particular applications for grants fall within the legislation or outside it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
– I move:
In effect, the Government moves this amendment to reinstate the amendment it proposed to the Committee which, in fact, changed it. I understand that after consultations with the parliamentary draftsmen those honourable members supporting the first amendment of the Legislation Committee are satisfied that the original amendment of the Government would achieve the objective they sought to achieve. Therefore, the Government moves this amendment to put the Bill back into its original position. The results of the Legislation Committee have shown the value of the new system. No doubt committees will refine their objectives as they go along. I think it will become obvious that there will have to be consultation with the parliamentary draftsmen. Therefore, we will be adopting similar procedures to this in a number of cases. To take up the point made by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), I am sure that governments and all honourable members will have to continue to rely heavily on the mysteries, knowledge and experience of parliamentary draftsmen.
-The Opposition does not oppose this amendment but I wish the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) were present tonight to tell us how he had come to be persuaded that this particular amendment was now necessary. He was the honourable member who moved an amendment to the Government’s amendment in the Legislation Committee. As we can see from the Hansard of that Legislation Committee, he told us that his representations had come from no less a body than the New South Wales Manufacturers Export Council. That body was quite properly concerned that by using the original wording to which the amendment moved by the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) now returns there would be doubt as to whether the goods were, in fact, moved overseas, which is what we understand the word export’ to mean. That is why the right honourable member suggested the words ‘the goods are clearly sold for export and are exported’. The point was made that the words contained in this amendment, namely ‘the property in the goods passed from that person to a buyer resident outside Australia’ do not make it certain that the goods actually go overseas.
I know that the lawyers in the House will concede that property can pass without the goods being physically transferred. That was the point of the amendment moved by the right honourable member for Lowe. The arguments were well accepted by members of the Legislation Committee. The only argument the Minister has now made in suggesting that we return to the words of the original amendment which he moved on the Legislation Committee but which he was not able to persuade those who were giving their undivided attention to the subject to accept, is that the parliamentary counsel has consulted with those honourable members and persuaded them to accept the Government’s original wording. The right honourable member for Lowe is the only one I know off hand who falls into this category. If there are any other honourable members in the House who were of a like mind with the right honourable member for Lowe and who have consulted with the parliamentary counsel, I hope that they will tell us why they are now persuaded by the Government’s arguments. The Opposition voted with the right honourable member for Lowe. The person leading for the Opposition at the time was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). He was not taken into the confidence of the Government and brought to such a conference.
– Are you sure of that?
– I am absolutely certain about it. He is very sorry that he cannot be here tonight. He has briefed me- I hope the House will agree that he has done so adequately- on the subject. I am putting the case not only for myself but also for him. I put it strongly because I hope that in the future the same courtesy will be extended not only to government members but also to other honourable members who support a particular amendment. I repeat that we want to be certain that the actual property in the goods is not the only thing that is transferred but that the goods themselves are also transferred before they become subject to grants- to funds from this Parliament from the taxpayers of this nation. The last point I make is to repeat what I said in the Legislation Committee. The word ‘buyer’ is returned in this amendment. The amendment states:
I made the point on the legislation Committee that there is no definition of the word ‘buyer’ in this Bill. This means that any intra-company international transfers between multi-national or transnational companies, whatever we might call them, within the same group will be eligible for an export expansion grant. I hope that the Government is quite clear that these sorts of transfers ought to be the beneficiaries of such grants. I am uncertain whether they should be. I am glad to have the opportunity of raising the matter at this stage as I raised it in the Legislation Committee itself.
– I was mildly surprised to hear the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) say that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) had not been consulted about this amendment, because my understanding was that he had been consulted.
– I will have to apologise if that happened.
– I do not state that firmly, but that was my understanding. Perhaps I was in error. However, I have advice to the effect that the Government’s original amendment to the Bill, which really, by moving my motion, I have sought to have reinstated, will in fact achieve the objectives which were sought by the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) and, indeed, by other honourable members who participated in the debate on this matter in the Legislation Committee, as is set out in the Hansard record. The Government’s amendment, if passed, will ensure that a manufacturer who enters into a contract of sale with an overseas buyer will be eligible for the grant and also, under the other provisions of the Bill, the grant will not be payable unless the goods are exported, which was the point raised during the debate on this matter. Having achieved the objectives which lay behind the amendment passed by the Legislation Committee, it would seem to be unnecessary to change the Government’s amendment.
Perhaps I ought to say in different words what I said a moment ago. I think that it is very important for the House to take great note of the recommendations and advice of parliamentary counsel. Drafting legislation is not an easy matter. Of course, that is not to say that honourable members cannot and should not question the way legislation is drafted. But a lot of technicalities are involved. Drafting legislation is a specialised occupation. I am sure that many of us have had the experience of listening to advice which has persuaded us that one form of wording achieves an objective better than another.
– I hope you noticed that I used the word ‘ admiration ‘ as well.
-Yes, I did. I was not quite sure how the honourable member meant it from the way he said it, but I did notice that he used that word. Obviously in this procedure, which I take it we all agree is still being formed, there will have to be- rightly so- a good deal of reliance on parliamentary counsel. I think that in this case we have discovered that the principle which everybody wishes to achieve is the same. Based on the advice I have received, I believe that the amendment which I have moved provides the wording that the House should adopt.
Amendment to amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Bill, as reported from the Legislation Committee and as further amended, agreed to.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 October.
Consideration of Legislation Committee report.
Amendments made by Legislation Committee.
Sections S3 to 63 (inclusive) of the Principal Act are repealed and the following sections and headings to subdivisions are substituted: 55. (1) In this Division, unless the contrary intention appears- original office’ means- .
Legislation Committee amendment No. 1 -
Omit “Sections 55 to 63 “, substitute “Sections 55 to 62 “.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 2-
Omit proposed sub-paragraph (i) and (ii), substitute the following sub-paragraphs: “(i) if, at any time after he last performed duty in the Service, he has, in accordance with section 87g, become the holder of an office in the Service- the last office of which he so became the holder; “(ii) if he is not a person to whom sub-paragraph (i) applies but was the holder of an office when he last performed duty in the Service before his dismissalthat office; or “(iii) if he is not a person to whom sub-paragraph (i) applies but was an unattached officer performing duty in a Department when he last performed duty in the Service before his dismissal- an office in that Departmentthe duties of which correspond to the duties he was performing, and the classification of which is the same as the classification applicable to him, when he last performed duty in the Service before his dismissal; “.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 3-
Omit proposed sub-section (3), substitute the following sub-section: “(3) An officer charged under sub-section (2) may request the Chief Officer to furnish copies of the charge to either or both of the following, that is to say-
to an organization specified by the officer, being an organization within the meaning of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904; or
to a person specified by the officer, being a person whom the officer wishes to assist him in relation to the charge, and, if the officer makes such a request, the Chief Officer shall comply with the request. “.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 4-
Omit proposed sub-section (4), substitute the following sub-section: “(4) A person shall not be appointed as the Chairman of a
Disciplinary Appeal Board unless he is or has been a Magistrate or is enrolled as a legal practitioner of the High Court, of another federal court or of the Supreme Court of a State or Territory and has been so enrolled for not less than 5 years. “.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 5-
After clause 20 insert the following new clause: “ 20a. Section 63 of the Principal Act is renumbered 63 u. “.
After Division 12 of Part III of the Principal Act the following Part is inserted:
“PART IV-OFFICERS HOLDING PUBLIC OFFICES OR EMPLOYED BY PUBLIC AUTHORITIES
“Division 1- Preliminary “87. (1) In this Part, unless the contrary intention appears- “87k.(1) …. “(5)Where-
Legislation Committee amendment No. 6-
After “section 16” insert “or sub-paragraph 19 (2) (b) (iv)”.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 7-
After “section 16” insert “or sub-paragraph 19(2)(b)(iv)”.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 8-
After sub-section ( 3 ) insert the following sub-section: “(3a) Where-
a person who was a person to whom Division 2 applied-
ceased to be such a person by reason of his having retired from employment by a public authority in order to become a candidate for election as a member of a House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of a Sate or of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory or a prescribed legislative or advisory body for another Territory;
retired also from the Service;
was a candidate at the election; and
failed to be elected;
those retirements took effect not earlier than 1 month before the date on which nominations for the election closed; and
the person has, upon applications made within 2 months after the declaration of the result of the election, been re-employed by that public authority and re-appointed to the Service under section 47c, he shall be deemed to have continued in the employment of that public authority as if he had not retired and had been on leave of absence without pay during the period from and including the day on which his retirement became effective to and including the day on which he was so re-employed. “.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 9-
Omit “applies”, substitute “applied “.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 10-
After sub-clause ( 1 ) insert the following sub-clause: “(A) Section 22 of the Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission Act 1977 is amended by omitting sub-section (2).”.
Further proposed amendments.
Sections 55 to 63 (inclusive) of the Principal Act are repealed and the following sections and headings to Subdivisions are substituted: “55. (I) In this Division, unless the contrary intention appears- “56. For the purposes of this Subdivision and Subdivisions B, C and E, an officer shall be taken to have failed to fulfil his duty as an officer if and only if-
– I move the following amendment to the Bill:
In proposed new section 56 (e), omit ‘or brings the Service into disrepute’.
Mr Deputy Speaker, in moving this amendment I seek the indulgence of the House to refer to two other clauses in the Bill and, indeed, to a subsequent amendment which I shall seek to move at the appropriate time. The second amendment is consequential upon this amendment which I have moved. It will be impossible for honourable members to follow my line of argument without my making reference to what will be either section 57 ( 1) or section 59 (2) of the Public Service Act when this Bill is passed. I seek that indulgence and will not trespass on the indulgence if the Chair grants it to me.
Proposed new section 56 will replace, in the main, section 55 ( 1 ) (e) of the principal Act. Section 55 ( 1 ) (e) provides, inter alia, that where an officer is guilty of any disgraceful or improper conduct, either in his official capacity or otherwise, he shall be subject to discipline. I make it quite clear that I do not object to proposed section 56 paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) and my objection to proposed paragraph (e), if the Parliament passes it, will be that, if the Minister at any time, whether by reason of an allegation made to him or otherwise, has reason to believe that an officer of the First Division may have failed to fulfil his duty as an officer, he may by notice in writing delivered to the officer suspend the officer from duty and charge him with failure. Under proposed section 59 sub-section (2), prima facie that suspension will be without pay.
This means, therefore, that if the Minister at any time, whether as a result of an allegation or otherwise, has reason to believe that a First Division officer has failed in his duty, that public servant can be suspended without pay until the matter is determined. My complaint is that proposed section 56 paragraph (e) sets out an offence in the following terms: he engages in improper conduct otherwise than as an officer -
I do not object to that, and then it goes on: being conduct that affects adversely the performance of his duties -
I do not object to that. The obvious case that comes to mind is where a man consumes a lot of alcohol one night and cannot carry out his duties in the Public Service the following morning. But I ask honourable members to listen to these words which follow: or brings the Service into disrepute.
What does that mean? What it means is that if a public servant in his own free time has done something which in the Minister’s judgment brings the Public Service into disrepute that public servant can be suspended by administrative action of the Minister and he can be suspended without pay. I make it quite clear, as I made it clear in the Committee, that I do not believe for one moment that the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister (Mr Viner), who is at the table, would abuse that power; but I suggest that we are seeking to put on to the statute book a power which is to be given to a Minister, who is a political animal, to take action against a public servant without trial, and the effect of that will be that that man will be suspended without pay.
What would the situation be if a Minister thought that a public servant brought the Service into disrepute if he took part in a march in Brisbane? What would the situation be if a Minister considered that it brought the Public Service into disrepute if a man who was a First Division public servant lived with somebody who was not his lawful wife? My complaint is that this legislation will give to an unnamed future Minister a power over a public servant which I do not believe is a reasonable power and which I do believe is capable of abuse. I have no hesitation in saying that if this legislation had been brought in when the Australian Labor Party was in power our Party would have risen in horror and said: ‘This is outrageous’.
– You would have withheld Supply over that.
– I would not be at all surprised if it went to that point because I believe, and I know that the honourable member for Hughes believes, that the rights of the ordinary individual must be protected by honourable members of good will on both sides of the House. The point I make is that, by way of this legislation, we are seeking to create an offence with no mental element at all. Simply at the instance of the Minister, if he believes that a public servant has acted, outside his duty and in his own spare time, in a manner which brings the Service into disrepute that public servant will be liable to suspension, and suspension without pay. It is for that reason that I have moved the amendment.
I appreciate that there is a desire on the part of the Government and of the Opposition to get this legislation through. I am very conscious of the fact that it has been carefully considered by Joint Council and that the Public Service wants to see the Bill passed. However, I am absolutely amazed that those people who have argued the case for the Public Service have been prepared to accept a replacement of the words ‘disgraceful or improper conduct’, which are the words in the present Act, words which have a clear legal meaning and impose a very great burden on the prosecutor to establish that the conduct was disgraceful or improper. Those words have been taken out. If my amendment is not agreed to, every First Division public servant in Australia will be exposed in future to disciplinary action at the whim of a Minister.
I will not go on to debate my second amendment except to say that it is now clear that the Minister will not need an allegation or complaint. He can act on hearsay, tittle tattle or on his own prejudiced idea of what is or what is not in the interest of the Service. That is the reason for the amendment I propose to move to proposed new section 57.
I was given a fair hearing before the Legislation Committee. However if I had moved this amendment then I would have been out of order; so, consistent with my duty as I see it, I have moved it now. I hope that at the last ditch there may be a reconsideration by both the Minister and the honourable member representing the Opposition on this matter, and an appreciation of the fact that they are about to put in the statute books a very powerful weapon in the hands of a member of the Executive who could maliciously, and without any substantive right of review or redress being available to a public servant, take it out on a public servant about whom the Minister had formed the view that the public servant had acted contrary to the interests of the Service. Consider the situation of a public servant who in conscience wrote a letter to a newspaper criticising certain aspects of administration. Under this Bui, if the Minister considered that that action was contrary to the interests of the Service, the public servant could be suspended. However if after his case had been dealt with he were cleared he would have no statutory right to payment for the period of suspension. Far be it from me to take up the cudgels on behalf of those who have conceded the point; I am amazed that the Public Service organisations have accepted this provision.
– As the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) has pointed out, this matter was raised before the Legislation Committee and was answered by me there. The honourable member’s proposition was considered and debated but not accepted by the Legislation Committee; so he has moved this amendment tonight. I will not take up too much of the time of the House on either this amendment or the one which he proposes to move later, but let me restate briefly the position because I feel, with the greatest of respect to the honourable gentleman, that he has rather exaggerated the intention and the implications behind these proposed provisions. As to this amendment, the present provisions in section 55 sub-section (1) paragraph (e) enable disciplinary action to be taken where an officer ‘is guilty of any disgraceful or improper conduct, either in his official capacity or otherwise’. On the recommendation of Joint Council- a statutory body on which both staff and management are represented, so it does not have a one-sided attitude- the words ‘or otherwise ‘ have been recast so that in proposed new section 56 paragraph (e) improper conduct is restricted to conduct which has a direct bearing on an officer’s ability to continue or to perform his duty satisfactorily or the ability of the Service generally to conduct public business satisfactorily and in a politically impartial manner. I think all honourable members would appreciate the importance of that. In other words, the present open-endedness of the words ‘or otherwise’ is replaced by a statutory requirement to show relevance to the employment situation before disciplinary action can be taken.
As I pointed out to the honourable gentleman in the Committee, the words he has objected to, namely, ‘bringing the Service into disrepute’, are not unknown. In fact, they are fairly common in situations of this kind. I referred to the example in the armed services legislation. Disciplinary provisions there refer to conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline. In other words, it is left to the judgment of the Service, according to its standards. Under the Public Service Act, when a charge is disputed it goes to a board of inquiry, so it is not a matter which can be dealt with simply on the whim of a Minister. In discussing this amendment the honourable gentleman has referred to matters related to his second amendment. For the sake of clarity 1 will leave my comments on the second amendment until it has been moved.
– I think it is imperative that the Opposition makes its position clear in relation to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). At the Legislation Committee we opposed the suggestion of an amendment. Indeed, we were guided a great deal by our earlier discussions with representatives of the peak councils concerned with these matters and also by the reports of Joint Council, which for some years had worked on the amendments to the Act, and of the sub-committee which dealt specifically with disciplinary action that could be taken against members of” the Public Service. These things were spelt out quite specifically in those reports. Both Joint Council and the subcommittee had on them representatives of the peak councils. We were attempting, without rushing the matter too much, to get this Bill through the Parliament this session. We were not looking for ways and means of delaying the passage of the Bill. Therefore, we are in no way persuaded by the argument of the honourable member for Denison that there will be wholesale disruption in the Public Service if this Bill becomes law.
I pointed out at the Legislation Committee that the sub-committee dealing with these matters looked not so much at the relevance of people participating in street marches in Brisbane and whether that brought the Public Service into disrepute as at public utterances by public servants in their position as public servants. I referred to the situation where the head of a department argued publicly against a government decision. That may be looked upon as bringing the Service into disrepute and as something for which action could be taken against the public servant. By and large, the Opposition, in agreeing with the way in which the Act has been amended, has been guided by the discussions with the peak councils, by the reports of Joint Council, particularly the reports of the disciplinary sub-committee of Joint Council. The Act has been amended very closely in accordance with the specific recommendations of Joint Council which has worked on the Bill for about seven years.
I accept the decision of the House, as I am obliged to, with respect to the first amendment. Now that we have passed proposed new section 56 in its original form, its provisions are so wide that I shudder to think of the position of any First Division officer confronted with a future change of government. A Minister who may have regarded that officer’s behaviour as quite proper in the first instance might well be replaced by a Minister who not only does not regard his action as proper but also is looking for any excuse at all to deal with the First Division public servant. If honourable members do not believe that this happens they should go out into the Public Service and talk to Commonwealth public servants after a change of the Australian government or to State public servants after a change of State government. With the utmost of respect to my colleague the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) whom I respect very much on this matter- I am aware of the work that he has done- I am staggered that the peak councils gave this matter away.
I now turn to this proposed amendment. Proposed new section 57(1) reads:
Where the Minister has at any dme, whether by reason of an allegation made to him or otherwise -
What does ‘or otherwise’ mean? Somebody takes him by the arm at the races and gives him a bit of spicy gossip. He picks up something through hearsay and tittle-tattle and believes it. This situation would not apply in a court of law. And the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), for whom I have a genuine affection, stands in this chamber and defends this legislation on the basis that there is similar legislation under martial law. I am sure the public servants of Australia will be delighted to know that they are now subject to a provision taken straight out of Queen’s regulations and Admiralty instructions and martial law! I do not believe that the public servants of Australia should be equated with those under military law. I say, with a great affection to the Minister, that it really was drawing a very long bow to use that argument. My objection is to the words ‘or otherwise’. The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) and my friend the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) will confirm that nobody in this land stands in jeopardy of a conviction in a court of law unless or until somebody makes a complaint. That is the first cab off the rank. There must be a complaint. Even prosecution for a fiddling little parking metre offence has to be started by complaint. That is the law of the land for the ordinary people. The First Division public servant will be delighted to find out that we have actually put in an Act of Parliament, that disciplinary action against him can be taken whether there is an allegation made against him or ‘otherwise ‘!
– He could be the victim of an anonymous letter.
-The honourable member is right. The experience of the honourable member for Hunter in these matters is respected in this House. He knows as well as I do that such a provision will start anonymous letters and anonymous telephone calls.
– It will improve the Budgets.
– I am sure the honourable member for Port Adelaide knows that there is validity in what I am saying. The point I wish to make and the point of my amendment are that steps should not be taken to suspend a First Division public servant unless there is at least a complaint on file, that somebody has been prepared to put his or her name to a complaint and it is there on file in the Minister’s office. We have the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. We have the Ombudsman. How is the AAT or the Ombudsman to conduct an inquiry and review a ministerial decision to suspend a First Division public servant if there is a right of review- and that is arguable- when there is no file at all? Perhaps such information may have come by a midnight telephone message to the Minister’s wife who passed it on to the Minister. This is not putting the situation too strongly.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and the honourable member for Port Adelaide, would probably act properly. However, we are putting this provision on to the statute book. I know what is going to happen. In 40 years’ time when some public servant is crucified under this legislation some honourable member will raise it in Parliament and say: ‘It has been on the statute books for 40 years. It was passed in 1978. It was a very intelligent Parliament that year. That Parliament must have known what was right’. Any honourable member who genuinely believes that the power of the Executive should be restricted or who believes in the rights of individuals should stand firm and say that this proposed new section 57 ( 1) has within it an incentive for poison pen letters, tittle tattle, hearsay and backstabbing attacks on members of the Public Service.
I thought that all members of this Parliament supported the integrity of the Public Service. We want it to be apolitical. Frankly, if I were a First Division officer in a controversial department, if I had to argue against a Minister or give advice to a Minister on options that the Minister did not like, would I be prepared to do it knowing that a midnight telephone call could give the Minister the authority to suspend me without pay for weeks with no statutory right to receive that pay when I am eventually acquitted?
I again appeal to the Minister to think again. As in the case of the previous amendment, I will not detain the House by replying to the Minister. This provision is un-British. It is contrary to the law as I understand it. It is contrary to what I consider to be a fair go that public servants in this country are to be exposed to these sorts of provisions we are about to pass. Although I accept the House’s decision on my earlier amendment, I hope the House might be prepared to accept this amendment. It matters not one whit to me, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the peak councils have said this legislation is all right. There are lawyers on the peak councils. They must have forgotten every principle of first year law if they agreed to this.
– They were spending too much time looking at the stand-down provisions.
-That is probably the explanation. They overlooked this. They probably want this Bill. After seven years I guess anybody gets impatient. They probably said: ‘We are going to have it, warts and all ‘. Before resuming my seat I make the prediction that we will see the day when this clause in this legislation is denounced by a Labor parliament as an enactment which opened the way for leading public servants in this country to be rendered victims of ministerial retribution. I do not want that and I do not believe that members in this chamber want it either.
-As a member of the Legislation Committee which considered this piece of legislation, I am rather surprised at the construction which the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) has put on the words ‘whether by reason of an allegation made to him or otherwise’. I would have thought that in a number of cases, particularly where it involves senior officers of the Public Service, the Minister may be in the best positionindeed he may be the only person in a position- to know that some action which would constitute a breach of the law in these terms has been taken by a senior public servant. Therefore to require that somebody else make an allegation to the Minister would exclude the Minister himself, who may be in the best position to know, from laying a complaint. The honourable member for Denison seems to be talking as though the Minister is in the position of complainant, judge and jury with respect to a charge that he may care to make against a senior public servant.
The Minister is really only in the position of being a complainant. The allegation has to be heard by a board of inquiry. The Minister will have to produce the information and the evidence to back up any allegation that he might make against a senior public servant. Therein lies the protection against any abuse which a Minister may be tempted to make of this proposed new section. The Minister will have to prove the allegation he makes. It will have to be proved to the satisfaction of a board of inquiry. If after examination by a board of inquiry it is found that the Minister has made a frivolous, vexatious or intimidatory complaint without adequate evidence and basis, the Minister would wind up with a very large portion of egg on his face. That is the disincentive to any Minister abusing this provision. Therefore the words ‘or otherwise’ in this proposed new section allow the Minister, where he is the only person in a position to know that something has taken place and the only person in the position to provide the information, opportunity and scope to initiate action which then has to be considered by a board of inquiry.
– I thank the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) for his contribution because he has succinctly and ably answered the propositions put by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). The fears of the honourable member for Denison that frivolous and vexatious charges and suspension of officers may occur are no greater under the proposed provisions of this amending Bill than they are under the existing sections of the Public Service Act. In other words if one were of a mind to do so one could make the same kind of statements about the present Act as about the Bill.
The explanatory memorandum circulated with the amending Bill points out that it was the view of the Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration that ‘it should still be open to any person to lodge complaints about an alleged misconduct and that there ought to be administrative procedures to ensure that such complaints are recorded and investigated’. The Bill vests the charging power with the responsible Minister whilst still recognising the right of anyone to bring a matter forward. This applies where the Minister has at any time whether by reason of an allegation made to him or otherwise reason to believe that an offence has been committed. I also point out to the honourable member for Denison that the existing Act provides for the Minister to suspend a First Division officer in the event that a charge has been made by any person. Likewise, the Bill provides for the Minister to suspend a person upon a charge being laid.
As the honourable member for Casey has rightly pointed out, the Minister by way of the amending Bill will be put in the position of a complainant. Any person can come forward with an allegation and if the Minister thinks that a charge is warranted he may lay the charge. If no person comes forward but circumstances are brought to the attention of the Minister which justify his view that an offence has been committed, the Minister may lay the charges and thereupon suspend. If the charge is not admitted a board of inquiry will hear the charge. I think that this is in complete accord with the principles of justice for criminal offences or quasi-criminal offences as learned by first-year law students. It seems to me that this is the judgment of the peak councils and the joint council. They are quite satisfied that the rights of the individual are fully protected under these provisions. I close by simply pointing out that the amendment can operate as a protection to a permanent head, to a First Division officer, against vexatious or frivolous complaints or charges by a subordinate who may be merely displeased with a decision of his permanent head and therefore wishing to take it out upon him by laying a complaint. With those comments I indicate to the House that the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment moved by the honourable member for Denison.
-The Opposition is not persuaded to vote for the amendment moved by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). As someone who will be a Minister in a couple of years time, let me say that the primary relationship is between the Minister and the departmental head. The Minister has certain responsibilities that do not rest with people making allegations to him. In some cases commitments are never made by Ministers but departmental heads are shifted sideways without anything going on the record at all. That has occurred in the past. It may well be -
– What about Hal Cook in Geneva?
-I do not think that Hal Cook was terribly displeased about living by the lake in Geneva for a couple of years. In fact, I do not think he liked coming back. Obviously at the time of a change of government different priorities are adopted and there may be a reorganisation of departments themselves as occurred at the end of 1972 and in early 1973. Quite new departments may be established. Be that as it may, certainly no relationship is more important than the relationship between the body politic, in this case the Minister, and the head of a public service department. Even though some may describe the honourable member for Denison as a sort of super jurist who is looking after and protecting the public servants, we do not have fears about the way in which amendments are being made to the Act on this occasion. We are not persuaded to vote for the amendment of the honourable member for Denison.
– I wish to take up the point made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). He confirmed the view which is held by many that governments look for political allegiance from First Division public servants. I state my firm conviction that whether the person concerned is a First, Second, Third or Fourth Division public servant by virtue of his very occupation he has an obligation to serve various governments with the same dedication and integrity as he served previous governments or would serve later governments. I was rather saddened to hear the honourable member for Port Adelaide make the point that sometimes people have to be sent off to Geneva because of the unacceptability of political views. I would hate to see the endorsement in this country of the principles which exist in the United States of America where governments unashamedly appoint people to high positions. Australia has a different system. Regardless of the political persuasion of a particular government it should be able to rely on the integrity of its First, Second, Third and Fourth Division public servants to serve it as faithfully as they did any previous government.
– It does not seem that the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) is having a very good year. Perhaps he cannot hear. I did not say anything about the political affiliation of departmental heads.
– You talked about Geneva and Hal Cook,
– An interjection was made that Hal Cook, at the end of 1 972 -
– Went to Geneva.
-That is right. A new departmental head was appointed to the Department of Labor. I did not suggest for one instance that governments look at the political affiliations of departmental heads. Whilst we are on the subject I would like to say that political leaders on both sides of politics have tended to surround themselves with people they think are confidants of their own political persuasion. The office of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is buzzing with people who adhere to his point of view. I do not suggest for one instance that that should not be the case. On the other hand nor do I bury my head like an ostrich and say that a party can move into power and that everybody at every level is totally acceptable to it. A new government is usually elected because it has different ideas from the previous government. Of course, people will be promoted to see that the new government’s policies are carried out. Perhaps that will occur more and more in Australia. I am not suggesting for one instance that people will have to register their political views so that new governments can decide whom they appoint and whom they promote. That was not the point of view I put at all.
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) said that people would be promoted to see that a new government’s policies were carried out. That is the very crux of my previous contribution. I do not believe governments whether Labor or Liberal should have to move people sideways or send them to Geneva or Peking simply to see the government ‘s policies implemented. If the government of the day says to the head of a department that policies should be implemented in a certain way the policies should be so implemented regardless of the views of the First or Second Division officers of the Public Service.
– You had better have a yarn to John Stone.
– Rolling stones gather no moss. I am not entering into that debate. I am giving my view. I inform my friend that I have not had such a bad year. As the honourable member sits in Opposition next year, the year after and the year after that he can determine who has the success in this place.
Bill, as reported from Legislation Committee, agreed to.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 August, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The legislation before the House is designed to give force to the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government, the Tasmanian Government and the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd to extend assistance to the Mount Lyell mining venture to 30 June 1980. Such assistance is to be up to a maximum contingent liability of $3. 8m, on a dollar for dollar basis with the State of Tasmania. It is estimated in the legislation that, at most, the Commonwealth would be obliged under the arrangement to pay $1.6m over the 21-month period. As honourable members are aware, on 16 August an amendment to the original Bill was introduced to extend payments to the company for a period of three months from 1 July 1978, pending the outcome of the negotiations. There were Press reports about the negotiations, which were concluded successfully with the making of a tripartite arrangement between the Commonwealth, the Labor Government of Tasmania and the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd, the beneficial owner of which is the Consolidated Goldfields Group.
We on this side of the House have supported the underwriting of the operating losses of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd. We did not do so on the basis that we believed that it was the right political thing to do, or because of a wish to grab votes or on any other issue. The fact was that, because of the industries which were dependent upon the operation of the Mount Lyell copper mine the company’s operations at Queenstown supported the employment base of not only that region, but also the whole west coast region and, to a point, the north-west region also. In Queenstown, which has become the centre of the west coast area, there is a good deal of both private ownership and public infrastructure. Indeed, over the last few years there has been a renewal of public infrastructure and community colleges, hospitals and the like have been constructed there; so much so that the collapse of the copper mine would have meant a scaling down of the activities of the town and enormous losses being inflicted upon persons who had put their life’s work into the town- all because of a fall in the price of copper, because of a down turn in the world economy.
There was an Industries Assistance Commission inquiry into the matter and the IAC recommended that the mine close down. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde), who is trying to interject, is part of the antiTasmanian group in the Government parties, the so-called free marketeers.
– Ha, ha!
– The honourable member for Perth also chides me about it. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) has not yet gone into his usual act but probably will later in the debate. The people of Tasmania ought to recognise that, no matter how much the honourable members for Franklin (Mr Goodluck), Denison (Mr Hodgman) and Wilmot (Mr Burr) might go through their pantomine antics here, the truth is that the present Government is an anti-Tasmanian government; it is against the interests of the people of Tasmania.
– It does not show up in the figures.
– The group that is cackling like cockies on the back bench of the Government is made up of the people who are the most vocal against assistance to Mount Lyell. They are the ones who are on the record in that regard. They are the ones who lead the anti-Tasmanian putsch within the Government parties. This Government has been, over a sustained period, probably the most anti-Tasmanian of any in recent Commonwealth history. One has only to compare its modest performance in regard to Tasmania with that of the former Labor Government in terms of the provision of finance for development of the basic infrastructure.
– Ha, ha!
– The honourable member for Denison laughs like a yahoo on the back bench. Let me tell him that the Whitlam formula, as it is termed, for reimbursements to the State of Tasmania, is still the basis on which funding is being made to that State. It is a basis which the present Government has failed to commit itself to renew. All of the major works that have been under construction in Tasmania in recent times have been, of course, the product of the former Labor Government. Of course, in that vein, we are continuing to support what we belive is an important employment area, the Queenstown region.
Honourable members opposite may take a cynical view of it; but by its chiding of the Federal Government the Tasmanian Labor Government has convinced it that it must honour its responsibilities with respect to Tasmania and prop up the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd until market trends became more readable. The truth is that while this has been happening the company has been so successful in effecting economies in the operation of the mine that operating costs have been reduced dramatically.
Under the tripartite arrangement, over the period in question the company will spend $ 1.8m on new roads and mine vehicles. One would hope that during that period or, given the recent signs of improvement in world copper prices, perhaps even by the end of this year the venture will be covering its operating costs, without the need to resort at all to subsidy payments. If that proves to be the case it will mean that the IAC will have fallen flat, that its advice will have been shown to be wrong. The honourable member for Moore shakes his head. He believes in the IAC. That is good; let that go on the record. Let the anti-Tasmanian manifestations bear fruit in this chamber. Let the anti-Tasmanians chant their slogans by all means. I will make them a matter of public record.
The point is simply that the IAC looked at this matter. I do not say that the IAC is a worthless institution. In fact, we created it; but we did so on the basis that, in addition to straight economic considerations, one must take into account the people and communities involved in the venture. The IAC took a pessimistic view of employment prospects in the light of the state of the world economy and the price of copper. I do not know what the price on the London Metals Exchange is today; but, when this matter last came up and I was interested in it, it was about £630 a tonne. It is now about £750 a tonne; it has climbed quite dramatically. If there is an appreciable increase in the copper price the mine might not show an operating deficit at all. If one were to look at all the people who were bullish about copper, such as the United States Exxon Corporation, or even our own Mount Isa Mines, one would find that a lot of the world’s mines are in mothballs and supply is starting to be tailored to meet demand. This has been reflected in prices, which are beginning to move upwards.
– What about the Kalgoorlie area?
– The honourable member for Kalgoorlie again chants his concern about this.
– He will be there.
– The honourable member is not going the right way to be there, particularly in view of his performance in regard to the gold industry.
– You made a dismal effort in Kalgoorlie.
– I brought the honourable member out. It was the first time in 21/2 years that he had even mentioned the gold industry in the town in which he lives.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The House will come to order. The honourable member for Blaxland will address himself to the Chair.
– I was provoked. At least the Western Australian gold industry has taken some heart from the proposals we have put to it and is now talking bullishly about a return to employment in the Kalgoorlie area. That is no thanks to the honourable member for Kalgoorlie. Let that go on the record. One can tell from the interjections that there is a lot of opposition to this measure from the Government side, not from the Opposition side. I just make the point that the mothballing of a couple of copper mines around the world has had the effect of reducing the amount of copper available to a limited market and now the prices are starting to change. So as soon as the demand picks up the mines which are still operating will be the beneficiaries of any improvement. Hopefully, with the economies of scale which have been effected in Tasmania, the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Co. venture in Queenstown can start to pay dividends.
When one inspects this facility one finds that there is still a quite mammoth ore body to be mined in the future. This is not a traditional mine where the ore body is paid out. Admittedly the grades of copper are low, but they are quite extensive. The mine is being mined intelligently in my view by a very competent interested staff and a competent interested work force which knows that the mine has to pay its way. The result has been that much of the infrastructure which was invested into the mine before the collapse in the copper price is now being used to recover copper and to mine it economically. If Exxon or any of the other major operators in the world copper scene or even our own Mount Isa Mines is even faintly correct in the assessment of where copper prices are going this contingent liability of $3.8m on the Commonwealth would be redundant. The Commonwealth may not even have to spend the $ 1.6m which it expects to spend in the next 2 1 months.
I do not like the fact that Consolidated Gold Fields Co. sold Renison Tin out of the Mount
Lyell Mining and Railway company’s portfolio of shares. What happened was that the tin price improved and Renison Tin made some spectacular earnings. Those earnings would have indeed subsidised the then current losses of the copper mining venture at Mount Lyell. We should remember of course that the Mount LyellMining and Railway Co. owned the shares in Renison Tin. The company says that there was no ulterior motive. The public can be the best judge of that. It separated Renison Tin from Mount Lyell so that it was in a profitable position and Mount Lyell was standing like a country outhouse with its losses showing and then it beat its path to the Government saying: ‘It is about time you subsidised us’. I would have accepted its offer of $3m to walk out of the place. I would have taken it up on its offer.
– Yes, and have us operate the mine or have another interested company, or indeed the men themselves working as a cooperative operating it. Anything would be better than the present arrangement whereby we pay for the mine ‘s losses and it picks up the profitable venture at the end. In the end the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. under Consolidated Gold Fields was prepared to close the venture if the Tasmanian Government and the Commonwealth Government did not come to the party. That was the cold reality of the situation and that was the situation which we could not permit to occur. The Tasmanian Government saw that there was a problem with employment. There were about 2,000 jobs involved directly. Considering that the total unemployment level in Tasmania is 12,000, this 2,000 was a lot. It could not afford that to happen, so on a dollar for dollar basis now the Commonwealth is putting its money where its mouth is- I am referring to the Labor Government in Tasmania- and putting up $ 1.6m on $3. 8m in the event that this contingent liability needs to be met. I do not think it will have to be met.
I think that the punt which the Tasmanian Labor Government has taken has been correct. Despite the anti-Tasmanian feeling on the Government side and the bleatings of the honourable member for Wilmot and the others on the Government back benches, the truth is that the Tasmanian Government had to convince the Commonwealth that it had to come to the party. This happens to be the seat of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom). The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister were worried about the fact that the Minister might disappear from the political landscape. On the basis of political preservation they were compelled by the logic of the Tasmanian Government to subsidise the mine. We on this side of the chamber believed that the Mount Lyell Mining–
– There is nobody else here with you. Where are all the other Labor Party members?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The House will come to order. The honourable member for Denison will cease his persistent interjecting.
– The honourable member for Denison behaves always like a larrikin when Tasmanian matters are being discussed.
-The honourable member for Blaxland will address himself to the Chair.
– It is time the Tasmanian people woke up to the fact that the honourable member for Denison and some of his colleagues are singing a different song in this House to the song they sing in Tasmania. Their statements here and their statements in Tasmania do not bear comparison, analysis or examination. The truth is that we on this side of the House decided that the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. operation had to be maintained. I gave an assurance to Premier Lowe last year before the Federal election that we would have maintained an operating deficit of the mine in the event of an improvement in copper prices. That improvement has in fact come about. It is a tribute to both governments that they rejected the advice of the Industries Assistance Commission in relation to this matter. Obviously the advice was wrong. The truth is that the copper price is picking up. It would appear now that there may be a negligible operating deficit and that the $3. 8m maximum of contingent liability may not ever need to be called upon.
I know of the quandary for governments when traditional mining towns face problems. There are other such towns in the Commonwealth which do not need to be mentioned here tonight. Most people are familiar with them. They are not just mining sites; they are not just small deposits. A tradition of mining and a tradition of private ownership and of public infrastructure, have been developed in the towns. Therefore one has to look at the matter other than just on a purely economic basis. One has to look at the matter on the basis of maintaining employment of the region. The simple fact of the matter is that in the future the IAC will need to take these matters into account. That does not mean there is a carte blanche situation obtaining. I would have liked to have been the Minister when the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. or Consolidated Gold Fields pulled Renison Tin out of Mount Lyell and then came to me looking to subsidise their losses, because they would have got short shift. I would not have taken their offer; they would not have held the gun at my head the way they have with other governments in the past.
– We have some more giggles from the honourable member for Mackellar up the back. I see that he is joining the squad. Nevertheless, this action has been taken. It is an episode we would not want to see repeated in this country. What has emerged from the whole of the negotiation is an amicable settlement. After all, it is the people of Queenstown who are the real victims in this matter. They are the people who really matter. The added wealth and value of the product of the mine is important to the economy of Tasmania. A great tribute needs to be paid to the Labor Government in Tasmania which is putting up funds on a dollar for dollar basis with the Commonwealth. It does not have the reserves; it does not have a Budget of $20,000m-odd. It has only a very small Budget. This money represents a substantial proportion of its funds. The honourable member for Wilmot cannot even give credit to his own State Government yet he says he is here representing Tasmania.
The truth is that the Tasmanian Government convinced the Commonwealth that this money had to be paid. It put its money where its mouth is. Now the Commonwealth has come into the agreement and the company at long last has decided to put $ 1.8m into new roads and mine vehicles. So be it; at least there is an improvement in the infrastructure of the mine. This will improve the long term viability of the mine and will give Queenstown a lease in the future which it did not have not so long ago.
– Listen, Paul, did you know Tasmania is due south of Melbourne? That is the direction you go.
– That is the kind of inane stupid utterance that we hear from the honourable member for Wilmot. That is the kind of trivia that he introduces into debates here. It is about time that the Tasmanian people were familiar with the inanities which emerge from these honourable members. It is about time that the people knew that these members have not the interest of the Tasmanian people at heart. They are interested in just holding their seats and doing the least they can. This Government has not done one discernible thing for the State of Tasmania; not one. It had to be bludgeoned into this agreement by the Tasmanian Government, basically to save the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. It had no other motives, no motive more honourable that that. The honourable member can keep his remarks to himself. We on this side of the House have upheld the traditions of concern we had for Tasmania in the three years between 1972 and 1975. I was in Launceston and Devonport last week. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) laughs on the back bench, but he should go and see some of the councils and the people around Launceston and Devonport and ask them about the funds they got from the Whitlam Government. He should ask them where the funds are now for the north-west waters scheme and some of the other projects. He should ask them where the money is coming from for some of the programs they started.
– It is coming from us.
– It has stopped coming from you. There is nothing. It was reduced to a trickle and now it has cut out. They are starting to feel the pinch. Now that the rhetoric is past, they realise when they consider the performance of” the Fraser Government that it is doing nothing for Tasmania and that in fact we emerged with great credit from our three years in office. I conclude on this point. We pulled our weight with Tasmania and we have continued to do so in Opposition, both before the last election and now, by encouraging support for Queenstown and for the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company. I hope that the Tasmanian people and particularly the people of Queenstown see this agreement by the Commonwealth for what it is- a play by the Government to try to hold the seat of Braddon against the anti-Tasmanian interests who are presently sitting in the chamber, who are operating to the long-term detriment of Tasmania. That is something which I and other people will try to communicate to the Tasmanian people so that they are fooled no longer by the charlatans opposite. We on this side support the legislation and the amendments moved by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). We hope that the House gives speedy passage to the legislation.
-What the Government intends to do in this matter is very simple. The Government has selected one private organisation on which to expend public moneys. The principles that the Government is offending by doing this are very simple, and it is those principles that I wish to discuss. It is the ultimate of interventionism to step in and to expend public moneys not on an industry but on one company, one private organisation within an industry. I submit that that is very strange liberalism.
Our founding fathers when drafting the Australian Constitution went to great lengths to ensure that this sort of thing would not happen, and I will cite five sections of the Constitution in which they endeavoured to make sure that it was not possible either to penalise one section of Australia, or to hand out benefits to one section, at the expense of the rest. Section 51 (ii), which deals with taxation, provides that one of the powers of the Commonwealth shall be taxation, but so as not to discriminate between States or parts of States. Section 5 1 (iii) provides:
Bounties on the production or export of goods, but so that such bounties shall be uniform throughout the Commonwealth:
Section 88 deals with uniform customs duties and ensures that they will be uniform. Section 92 ensures that there will be free trade between the States. Section 99 states:
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof.
Unfortunately, the founding fathers placed section 96 in the Constitution, which allowed all those principles so carefully enshrined to be cast away. If we are going to hand out taxpayers money to benefit a private organisation, why Queenstown? Why not Kalgoorlie? Why not the gold mines in Kalgoorlie? A request was made by the State to the Commonwealth for dollar for dollar support for those gold mines. In relation to the copper industry, why not the Burra mine? Why not any other company?
– Why not David Jones?
– As my friend says, why not David Jones? Why should it be mining?
– David Jones does not need it.
– David Jones has already closed a shop in Perth. Why pick out a mining company in Queenstown? Why a mining company? Why Queenstown? Incidentally, why only companies? Is small business any different? I know a delicatessen that is in quite a lot of trouble. Is the test unprofitability? We can find plenty of unprofitable businesses. I know plenty of unprofitable farmers. They are small; that is all. What if the unprofitability is caused by asset stripping? What if Consolidated Gold Fields Australia Ltd, the company that has the beneficial interest in the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Ltd happens to have highly profitable ventures such as Renison tin and Bellambi coal? Is the test to be isolation? If it is isolation, why not Kalgoorlie or Port Hedland, which would make Mount Lyell look like a suburb of Melbourne. Is the test Tasmania? If so, what do I say to Western Australians? I suggest that it is not a proper use of public moneys to pay them to individual private organisations. We are bound ultimately to be accused of pork barrel politics and the system of Government itself will be brought into disrepute. If I have time I will come back to that. We have seen but a few of these types of payments, but since the Mount Lyell decision we have had one at Barraba for Woodsreef. Thank the Lord that that is not in a coalition electorate; otherwise we might well be accused again of pork barrelling.
– It is in a coalition electorate. It is in New England.
-That is a pity. It is unfortunate that it is in a coalition electorate. Thank the Lord that no member of this House happens to be in the unfortunate position of holding shares in Consolidated Gold Fields. How would he feel about this? Would he declare his interest and abstain from voting? It would still be an embarrassing position for rum.
– He would pick up his dividend.
– I do not know whether he would pick up his dividend or not. What about members representing other companies, other towns, or other States? This is in fact an issue of what is and what is not proper government. Let us look at the economic considerations. Is it wise to use public resources to prop up ailing companies? To do so is an assumption that the Government knows better than the market place. It is an assumption that the Government knows better than the banks, who might have provided the money, or the public, who might have subscribed the money. It is also an assumption that the Government knows better than Consolidated Gold Fields itself, and in that respect I should like to quote from an article in the Melbourne Herald under the headline ‘Cons. Gold Seeks Expansion’:
Consolidated Gold Fields Australia Limited is actively seeking areas for expansion of the group ‘s activities.
CGFA chairman, Mr S. L. Segal, told shareholders at the annual meeting in Sydney today that the company was ‘very liquid ‘ with cash resources of around $20m.
This placed CGFA in a position to expand its operations when opportunities presented themselves ‘and which we are actively seeking, ‘ Mr Segal said.
If he is actively seeking a place to expand, why not Mount Lyell? Perhaps his judgment differs from that of the Government. Perhaps the judgment within the mining industry differs from the judgment within the Government. Far from creating employment by using public resources to prop up what is unprofitable, the Government is destroying it. Professor Wolfgang Kasper stated:
National productivity levels will only rise to match national wage levels sufficiently to achieve high employment, if (industrial and regional) structures of supply adjust to changed structures of demand and to changed international trade patterns.
It is undoubtedly true that if we insist on pushing our resources into those areas that are least likely to be profitable and where product is least likely to grow, we are least likely to get an increase in employment. Employment will be created in Queenstown but at a cost of employment in the rest of Australia. There will be a net loss. If we do not concentrate on those things that we do well, product will never grow fast enough and product and full employment are likely to be lower than they otherwise would be for any given wage level.
We produce copper at Mount Isa in Queensland. If we wish and are determined to subsidise copper, I suggest that by tipping the same resources into a profitable mine instead of an unprofitable one, we would make better use of the revenues from taxpayers. Where are the revenues from taxpayers? What do I say to Sir Charles Court- there are a lot of mines in Western Australia as there are in Queensland- the next time he wants to get some sort of public support from the Commonwealth Government for a mine in Western Australia? Do I suggest that he ought to put his head in the economic trough and guzzle? I know it is bad economics; he knows it is bad economics; we all know it is bad economics. Propping up ailing industries is inevitably bad. My father built what I think was the last hansom cab to run in Melbourne. Ought he to have been subsidised to go on making hansom cabs to this day? It is a nonsense.
I would like to quote from the Industries Assistance Commission’s annual report which was tabled in Parliament today. I quote from the preface because I have not time to read much of the report:
Pressures for structural change appear to be mainly responsible for the disproportionate loss of employment in highly assisted industries, and the additional assistance they have received has added to the backlog of change which the economy will have to face. Sheltering them has also been to the detriment of more likely assisted activities which, notwithstanding these extra burdens, have weathered the recession substantially better than high cost activities. Whatever merits these policies might have as ‘temporary’ measures, the further they are extended the more likely they are to prejudice the health of the economy and thus retard recovery from the recession.
There are thousands more mines that are similar to Mount Lyell. Where will we draw the line?
I now want to make a point about the process of the decision itself. Members of this place belong to political parties. Rules within those parties govern their functioning. We all have them. They are similar as between parties. When I play the game by the rules it appears that no one hears. When I do not have the wit and the eloquence to sway my colleagues I accept it. That is the rule. When I have the wit and the eloquence, however I came by it, to have the majority of my colleagues with me, I expect to be heard so that I do not have to make this sort of speech in the House. After Mount Lyell there were to be no more of these situations. Yet we have Woodsreef which is a very similar circumstance indeed. A government that seeks loyalty must give it. So much for the Government and the decision.
I now wish to say something to which I hope the mining industry will listen. Profit is a reward, or it should be, for risk taking. If the Government is to pick up miners’ risks it must ultimately take action to spread the risks over other miners. The only way in which this can be done- I say this particularly to the Minister for Finance (Mr EricRobinson) who is at the table- is by imposing a resources tax. There must necessarily be a resources tax to pay for this sort of benefit that carries the risks of mining companies. The mining industry might note that governments have a habit of expanding taxes beyond the purpose for which they were raised originally. Once this resources tax is raised and we look many years down the line, the mining industry might be just a little fearful that it is not used entirely to prop up mining companies. In fact, one might question whether in seeking these forms of assistance the mining industry has in fact been very clever. I sincerely hope, for Australia’s sake, that we are not setting a precedent.
-The Opposition supports this proposal because it fits in with its principles of looking after, with a sense of balance, people in need. Opposition members support this proposal because it extends the life of a very important mining town in a very significant region of our country until that mining town is given life through an expected change in the price paid for copper. This means that, unlike members of the Liberal Party who support the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde), we are not supporting this Bill in an unprincipled way. I admire the honourable member for Moore for the courage shown in what he has said because he is being true to Liberalism. He has, of course, brought out in this speech tonight a distinct difference between the liberalism which he supports and the interventionist approach which the Government is pursuing and which, for reasons of principle, I am happy to support today along with other members of my party. So we as a party, the Australian Labor Party, can hold our heads up in supporting these funds for this important region and we can be content that we are doing so and following our principles.
Of course, we are also quite justified in showing up how strange it is that those people who pay lip service to liberalism are not in great numbers here tonight in following their principles. I want to point out that on plenty of occasions similar principles should be followed by people who have an interventionist philosophy, such as I have, to help the people of Western Australia. I would be proud on occasions, of course, to follow those principles in those cases as well. One of those cases could well be in supporting the Premier of Western Australia in his successful attempts yesterday at the Loan Council meeting to get the permission of that Council to borrow funds from overseas for a natural gas pipeline from the Pilbara to Perth. There is no certainty yet that that project will bear up well in a feasibility study. No feasibility study has been done but I think there could well be a good case made out for Penh, which needs that energy and which has the homes and the people ready for the jobs that are to be created to get that natural gas.
I believe that the honourable member for Moore is supported by the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) in speaking up against the people of Tasmania and suggesting that his own people in Western Australia are being hurt accordingly. He should remember the issue of the natural gas pipeline to Perth and what happened with the Ord River scheme and he should remember that all of these cases following our interventionist approach must be pursued with a sense of balance and a sense of justifying this particular case because of the expected increase in copper prices.
Across my desk today came a document dated October 1978 from Citibank in the United States of America. It referred to copper prices. I did not know at the time that I would be speaking in this debate. Because the expected price of copper is so related to the justification for these funds in support of the people of Queenstown and the workers in the Mount Lyell company, I want to read the opening paragraphs of the Citibank report on copper prices. They state:
In the spring of 1974, when the United States realized it was not just about to run out of energy, it suddenly discovered it was running out of pennies. For a time, stores had trouble making change, postage stamps were used as currency, and retail prices often were quoted to the nearest nickel. The reason for the shortage was that, with the price of copper going through the roof, some people were amassing their very own hoards of pennies. They thought it was the smart thing to do.
That was little more than four years ago. Yet it’s hard to recapture the mood of that springtime- and even harder to remember that, back then, pennies seemed to matter.
This happened four years ago when copper was in extraordinarily short supply. Who is to say that this will not be the story of copper in a year’s time? The article continued:
And it’s only quite recently that there have been some signs of a real upswing in demand. In 1977, Free- World consumption of refined copper rose to 6.8 million metric tons from a cyclical low of 5.5 million. Still, last year’s improvement in demand was weaker than most forecasters had expected.
But since early this year, copper prices have been moving steadily upward on the London Metal Exchange.
In industry circles, of course, there is still disagreement and uncertainty about what will happen to copper prices. This decision, if we can take the word of the Minister, is based on the assumption that the mine will be viable. That is the main reason that the Opposition is pleased to support the Bill. I repeat that we expect the mine to become viable. We want to give support to the people of this significant region of our countrythe people of the mining town of Queenstown. The Labor Government in Tasmania under Premier Doug Lowe must take credit for persuading the conservative Fraser national Government into the agreement given effect in this Bill. We now know what a problem it would have been for the Tasmanian Labor Government to persuade these conservatives. As the honourable member for Moore has suggested, these conservatives are going against their own principles in providing these funds. As I said, the funds are the result of representations from the Tasmanian Labor Government.
The agreement which is given effect in this Bill provides the necessary funds for the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd to continue operations and for Queenstown to continue its illustrious and colourful existence. We in the Federal Opposition are amazed at the unprincipled way in which so many Liberals are acting in this matter. It needs to go on record time and again, and the people of Australia need to know that every time such a measure as this comes up members of the Liberal Party are going against their own principles in providing funds such as these. What security can others who need funds have in the future? They have no security whatsoever. People need to take that into account when they next consider who would be best governing them in the national sphere.
The truth is that the generosity of this measure does not for the most part emanate from this Parliament and from this Liberal-National Country Party Government. It emanates from the Tasmanian Labor Government. Certainly the extra $ lm or thereabouts made available to the end of September is, I understand, a grant with no strings attached. This amount was provided in the original Bill. I agree that that amount comes from the national Government. I hope that is so. I believe that the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) will correct me if I am wrong. But the amount of up to $3, 800m to be available to the end of June 1980 which was the subject of the Minister’s remarks when he opened this debateabout $ 1.6m is expected to be necessary for the 2 1 month period- will be matched dollar for dollar so generously by the Tasmanian people through their State Labor Government. Small State though it is, Tasmania is matching the amount of up to $3,800m. Part of the Commonwealth contribution is only an interest-free section 96 grant to the Tasmanian Government and it will be repayable from future positive cash flows achieved by the Mount Lyell mine and applied to repayments to Tasmania. I repeat that the Commonwealth contribution is basically a loan, not a grant. The only way the Commonwealth will lose this money is if the mine does not become viable and there is no cash flow with which to repay it.
When we hear noisy, useless Liberal Federal members from Tasmania trying to pretend that the State Government is not the main force behind this measure we should look at the facts and realise from where the real generosity is coming. It is coming from the people of Tasmania, through their own Government and not through the national Government at all. In other words, the prime movers in this operation are the people of Tasmania themselves and their Labor Government. Well may we ask: Where are the Liberal Federal members from Tasmania? Why have they not persuaded the Fraser Government to be more helpful? Why is the Commonwealth Government providing a loan and not a grant? Why have these fellows not been doing more for their State? They make plenty of noise but when it comes to real action and achieving something for their State we find that they go to water. They are useless when it comes to really helping the people of Tasmania. What they are good at is getting publicity at the expense of their colleagues on their own side. They cross the floor on certain Bills when they know that they will not be responsible for defeating the Government but when it comes to the real job of seeing that the situation of the Tasmanian people is improved and that they are getting a share of the cake from the national Parliament they go to water. From this matter they gain no credit whatever.
What is needed above all else for Mount Lyell and Queenstown in order to provide the necessary security for the people of that region is higher copper prices. They will be brought about through a more expansionary economic policy both here and abroad resulting in a higher level of economic activity both here and abroad. What do honourable members for Tasmania do about that? I have already explained how they are ratting on their mates on their own side on plenty of occasions to get cheap publicity at home. Where are they when it comes to persuading their own Government to undertake a more expansionary economic policy which might lead to higher copper prices and a better deal for the people of Queenstown and other parts of Tasmania? We do not hear from them. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) and the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) are in the chamber. Earlier we heard the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) making noises. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) is here. But were are they when it matters? Where are they not only when it means getting money in the form of grants rather than loans for the people of Tasmania but also when it matters in achieving a more expansionary economic policy so that we will see higher copper prices and we will have some security for people in that area?
When it comes to the crunch, honourable members opposite from Tasmania are supporting the Liberal-National Country Party Government, which is responsible for stagnation policies, which is responsible for the poor deal for the pensioners and which is responsible for the lousy health scheme which is being debated around the country now. The Government is responsible for these things. It is time that those honourable members opposite realised that at home they will not get away with their behaviour for ever. They might have the ear of big business in the form of the Hobart Mercury and they might be the friends of some wishy-washy people in the Australian Broacasting Commission in Hobart right now. However, the people of southern Tasmania will be fooled some of the time but they will not be fooled all of the time. Now the realisation of the true worth of these honourable members from Tasmania is coming home. The time is overdue to expose these honourable members. I hope that my contribution tonight has done something towards achieving that.
I concede that what is being done by way of this Bill is being done against the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission. I repeat that, in spite of the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission, this assistance is short term and is predicated on the belief that copper prices will increase. We will be helped enormously in getting that increase in copper prices if we have a more expansionary policy and if the Minister for Finance who is at the table right now, when he goes to meetings of the International Monetary Fund does not preach to the other nations of the world that they should be following the same stagnation policies as we in this country are following but tells them that we should have some reasonable, modest expansion, such as is being suggested and recommended by the Australian Labor Party.
The assistance that will be provided is based on a number of factors in addition to the main one, which is that the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd will be viable when copper prices achieve a reasonable level. One other principle on which the assistance is based is that a town such as Queenstown, with hundreds of people owning their own homes, should be preserved during this difficult period until viability returns or until some other form of occupation can be introduced into such a depressed area. Ours is about the only country in the world that does not have proper regional industrial policies. Even the small island of Great Britain has specific policies, for instance, for the Newcastle area. In a town such as Queenstown, where people enjoy a quality of life, if copper prices are not going to go up and the mine there is not going to be viable, we must use the intervening period to ensure that industries are placed in that region. If the Government is uncertain about copper prices and about the future of the Mount Lyell company beyond June 1980, it must be the strong recommendation of everyone that the time between now and June 1980 should be used in placing alternative employment opportunities in the town of Queenstown.
It is worth mentioning also, particularly in view of some remarks made by the honourable member for Moore, that the Mount Lyell company has made reductions in its production costs and is investing up to $1.8m over the next 2 1 months. It cannot see much return from that investment, in spite of what is being put in by the Tasmanian Labor Government and by way of loan from this national Government. So shareholders’ funds are being used for the future of the company. It is not a case of a company receiving a rort from the taxpayers in order to pay out dividends in the future. It is a matter of a loan from this Parliament and a grant from the Tasmanian Parliament being provided to keep that company alive, the town of Queenstown alive, and that region of Tasmania alive until copper prices improve. I think that the situation would be intolerable if we did not pursue this course.
I am glad that the Opposition is able to support this measure. I am even more pleased that we are able to do so in a principled way whereas, as has been shown by the honourable member for Moore, honourable members on the other side of the House are doing it in an unprincipled way. Indeed, in the future any measure such as this, necessary though it might be, will be carried through by the present Fraser Government only if it is not following its own true liberalism principles.
-I am somewhat surprised at the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). I always thought that he was a quite decent fellow, but tonight he has indicated exactly what he is- a trendy socialist with airy-fairy ideas who all of a sudden is ready to condemn the Tasmanians and to say some quite alarming things. I think that his behaviour tonight has a taint of extreme politics about it. Previously the skeleton member, who has left the chamber now, started in on the Tasmanians. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) has been appointed by the Australian Labor Party to represent it in Tasmania; so of course he would come into this House tonight and try to discredit the Tasmanians. He thinks that in the eyes of the people in Tasmania he will succeed in what he is trying to do; but he failed dismally tonight.
I am disappointed that the honourable member for Adelaide should have entered on that same cart and tried to do exactly the same thing, namely, to discredit the good Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), who has worked so hard for this legislation, nicely and quietly behind the scenes, trying to do the right thing for Tasmania. All of a sudden the honourable member for Adelaide has sought to discredit him tonight. It will not go over at all. I think that the people in Tasmania will listen to what has been said tonight and will realise that the Opposition has just used the debate on this legislation to try to get a bit of cheap political gain. A point was made about the famous Tasmanian Labor Government. All of a sudden we heard from both speakers from the other side of the House praise for the Tasmanian Labor Government- what a good Government it is, et cetera, et cetera. We were told that we on this side of the House who are from Tasmania never shower any praise on the Tasmanian Labor Government. What does it do to us when we go back to Tasmania? At every opportunity it runs us down. It never gives us one ounce of praise. So why should we come into this House and praise it?
I can understand the feelings of the honourable members from Western Australia and other honourable members. They are not against Tasmania; they are against the principle of assisting a mine there when mines in Western Australia are suffering. We can understand that. But as rational members of the Liberal Party of Australia we can talk about the issue. Of course, we can disagree. But when we come into this House we are united. Those honourable members realise that in the best interests of Tasmania it is vital to keep this mine going, so they support the measure. But they can have their views on what they think should occur. They have expressed them already tonight. I admire the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) for putting up a solid argument on a matter of principle. We do not disagree with his argument. But I think that he can understand the situation. All the honourable members from Tasmania have said before that Queenstown and Mount Lyell are unique. That area has disabilities that are foreign to other places in Australia. It needs sympathetic and different attention. That is why the Federal Government is assisting the mining company at Mount Lyell in order to keep the town of Queenstown going, to keep employment opportunities going, et cetera.
I am pleased to see that the skeleton member has come back to the table. It gives me a nice opportunity to refute what he said about pantomime antics in Tasmania. I think that he is reaching a Jekyll and Hyde situation. He is trying to be Hyde here and trying to create a Jekyll image in Tasmania. It is just not going over at all; it is like water off a duck’s back. Honourable members opposite can say what they like about the Tasmanians, but the five squeakers from the Australian Labor Party who previously represented Tasmania never said a word about Tasmania. Between 1972 and 1975 we in Tasmania suffered as a result. For that reason those former Tasmanian members lost their seats in 1975. They lost because they did not say anything about Tasmania. We on this side do not rat on our own members. We say what we think and will continue to do so. The Tasmanians do not think that we are rats; they admire us because we stand up for Tasmania. They do not say that we have ratted on our members, and we will be elected again because we are standing up for Tasmania.
The people at Queenstown who are listening tonight will know that we have fought hard for their interests, and under great difficulty at times. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, because he is a Minister, has been unable to defend what he realises is in the best interests of the people of Queenstown, but he has won through by adopting a nice calm attitude- quite different from me, but that is good- and he will be admired for that in his electorate.
I would like now to talk a little about Queenstown, having got those few things off my plate. Nevertheless, they needed to be said tonight because it is obvious that the Opposition has not come in here to debate Queenstown at all. It has come in here, firstly, to try to put the sword between the Western Australian and Tasmanian members by saying that the Western Australians are against the Tasmanians and, secondly, to say that the Tasmanian members said one thing here and then went back to Tasmania and said something different. That is quite untrue. I do not have any good friends on the Hobart Mercury, nor has the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman); and I do not have any good friends in the Australian Broadcasting Commission. What rot members opposite talk. They get just as much publicity as we get. In fact, the honourable member for Blaxland recently received far more publicity than I have received in the last six months. He is a protege of Jack Lang. There was published a lovely photograph of him taken about 10 years ago. So honourable members opposite should not try to start that caper. They get far more publicity than I get. What they are saying is absolute rot. I do not think I have any good friends in those circles in Hobart. They treat me as a normal politician and give me a fair go, and that is all I want.
I will now talk a little about Queenstown, some of the social problems there and some of the reasons why the Federal Government has come in and assisted. I hope that the honourable member for Moore, the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) and the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) will understand that we in Tasmania think that Queenstown is unique, that it is different and that it should be supported. It is a very old mine.
– They are not agreeing with you.
-No, they are not but they are listening. Many people have questioned why the Tasmanian members have fought so hard for this legislation. I do not think that such people realise the severe social implications if the mine were to close. There has been very little said about Queenstown and Tasmania tonight. It has all been political argument, tainted by members of the Opposition trying to run other people down, so I will get straight to the point and talk about Queenstown and the reason why this legislation is so important.
Tasmania’s isolation from the mainland creates many problems and in the case of Queenstown the problems are compounded by its isolation within Tasmania. Queenstown has a population of approximately 4,200 people and is situated in the west coast region of Tasmania in extremely rugged mountainous terrain. It is approximately 158 miles from Hobart in the south and Launceston in the north and 1 18 miles from Burnie in the north-west. This means that it is the furthest town from any major supply centre. It has a rainfall of approximately 100 inches per year. The supply of essential goods over mountainous roads creates high freight costs. Despite these disadvantages Queenstown has consistently maintained a stable population, with third and fourth generations of families still working for the company. That is significant and important. The Queenstown community is almost wholly dependent on the Mount Lyell mine for its livelihood. Apart from the 65 per cent of the population directly employed by the mining company, the retail trade and community services in Queenstown are all dependent on expenditure by the company and its work force.
There are no alternatives for Queenstown. Tourism is limited because people only nightstop in Queenstown on their way around the State. To encourage tourists to stay longer would necessitate major investments to the tune of many millions of dollars to provide facilities. So, for Queenstown and its 4,500 people there is no alternative to the Mount Lyell mine. We in the Liberal and National Country parties must get our priorities right and realise that when there are human problems at hand we must look at them sympathetically and judge them on their merits. My party is not moving away from that principle on this occasion. It is saying that there are two issues at stake- the human issue and the point of principle that if we give assistance to one we should give it to others. I hope that honourable members will support the argument that Queenstown is unique and different and needs to be kept going. There are 400,000 people in Tasmania.
– There is not one member of the Opposition in the chamber.
-I frightened them all out. Of course I would frighten them all out because they realise that what I am saying is sincere.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. There is no shadow Minister for the Opposition at the table.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! There is no point of order.
– There is one coming back now.
-Order! The House will come to order. The honourable member will address himself to the Bill before the House.
-Certainly. I hope that all honourable members on my side will support this legislation. The Opposition has indicated that it is politic for it to do so. I hope also that everybody will understand that we, as Tasmanians, hope and pray that Queenstown will continue in a way that will create employment opportunities not only for the people who are now employed there but also for their families and for other people who may come to the town in the future.
– I rise tonight not to oppose the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd or Queenstown but to oppose in principle the reasons for granting this assistance to the area. Strange things are happening in Canberra these days. Assistance is on again, then off again. Kalgoorlie, Mount Lyell, Duchess, Cobar, Woodsreef, and Mount Magnet are all- affected. What is to be next? Will it be Greenvale or Mount Goldsworthy? I wonder. We go to all the trouble to set up Industries Assistance Commission inquiries and interdepartmental committees to discuss the results of those inquiries, all at great cost.
The IAC is charged with gathering evidence independently and with gathering the facts of the case without emotion or bias. It then presents recommendations to the Government. It has made recommendations to the Government in regard to the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. and other mining operations. However, we disregard these recommendations. Is it because we, sitting in this chamber, without having gathered the evidence, are better informed than those unbiased people who unemotionally have gathered evidence? I hate to think what the alternative reasons might be. If the Mount Lyell mine after receiving only short term government assistance will make huge profits again, why was not the parent company prepared to invest in the mine? The company, through its Chairman, recently said that it was so embarrassed with liquid funds that it was looking for investment opportunities. The company Chairman announced this to the Press on 24 October this year. Would not the Mount Lyell mine be an investment possibility, particularly if it is going to be so good in the long term, or are we going to continue to prop up uneconomic industries with taxpayers’ money and allow shareholders in mining companies to reap the profits without taking the high risks?
Why do the mining companies expect to accept high profits? It is because high risk capital is involved in investment in mining. Mining is a finite industry. The day the first tonne is dug from a mine is a day closer to the end of the productive life of that mine. It is significant that the assistance presently being agreed to for the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Co. is due to end on 30 June 1980. At this stage, the development of the Mt Lyell mine gives that mine approximately two years’ life. Without further massive infusions of capital for development the mine does not have a logical life beyond two years. The directors will tell one this. And we are prepared to support the mine for almost two years. What are we doing? We are kidding ourselves. Mt Lyell is not the real problem; it is only the symptom of the problems. In two years ‘ time we will have to make this decision again. We will face that decision hard, right on the nose. I do not believe there will be any chance of sidestepping it at that time. Really we have to look at what the directors of Consolidated Gold Fields Australia Ltd have done in recent years with shareholders’ money. They have separated the very profitable operations of Renison Limited and Bellambi Coal Co. Ltd. They are taking their huge profits and then expecting the taxpayers of Australia to pick up the losses. I ask: Is that fair? When next honourable members are talking to taxpayers, pensioners, old people and sick people who are wondering why taxes are so high will they be prepared to indicate support for every uneconomic industry thoughout this country? Are we prepared to pick up the losses when mines operate with high risk capital? I do not believe that we are.
The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) went off on a very emotional tangent tonight about Kalgoorlie. When he went to Kalgoorlie he was an utter failure. He was drummed out of town as a dead loss. He went there promoting a scheme of support for an uneconomic industry, advocating a fixed price for gold. He said that the Government ought to peg the price of gold at some mythical level and that the companies ought not to be able to take the profits out of gold but that governments ought to pick up the losses. He proposes to take all the initiative out of gold mining. He wants to socialise and nationalise the gold mining industry by back door methods. I do not believe that this is acceptable to the taxpayers of Australia. I do not believe that they have forgotten the debacle from 1972 to 1975. In Kalgoorlie the honourable member for Blaxland was a lone sheep bleating in the wilderness. The people of Kalgoorlie will not be hoodwinked by that sort of action. The honourable member would have us nationalise the iron ore industry and the goldmining industry. Is this what we are all about? I do not believe that we are.
I believe that we should have been using our influences to convince the parent companies of Mt Lyell and Consolidated Gold Fields Aust. Ltd to invest some of the high profits from mining with which they are now embarrassed. Representatives of these companies have said that they are now embarrassed with the high liquidity situation and are looking for investment possibilities. This was reported in the Melbourne Herald and other newspapers on 24 October this year. I put it to honourable members that that is really the essence of and the answer to the Mt Lyell type situation.
The honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) earlier tonight asked: What are the alternatives? If we are going to use taxpayers’ money to prop up uneconomic industries throughout the nation, surely we would have to be looking at the mining industry propping up the mining industry. What does that mean? That surely means the imposition of a resources tax. 1 reject that. I do not believe that that is acceptable. I do not believe that there should be a super tax or resources tax on a mining industry which should logically accept the high risks and certainly reap the high profits. We should not be imposing additional taxes on mining companies. But the mining industry must realise that if people in some sections of it are putting their hands out and prepared to take additional taxpayers’ money and are being supported by taxpayers’ money they will have to pay extra for it. The mining industry in general is not prepared to accept that. But more importantly still this
Government, and any government, will be kidding itself if it thinks that it can continue to shovel dollars down a hole in the ground.
I have nothing against the people of Tasmania or the people of Mt Lyell and Queenstown. I have visited Queenstown a couple of times. I spent a few days of my recent honeymoon there. Queenstown is a beautiful place. I had enjoyed it very much. The people there are friendly. In general- I must say this in all honesty- the people of Queenstown and those working in the Mt Lyell mine are prepared to pull their weight. They are not totally committed to putting their hands out and having them filled with government dollars. They are willing to do a decent day’s work for a decent day’s wage. But I believe we were wrong firstly in offering that sort of assistance to Mt Lyell and we will be definitely wrong if we continue to offer that sort of assistance in such mines as Woodsreef, Cobar, Duchess and others. I could go on to mention the situation in Mt Magnet where $ 1 .2m was all that was needed. In fact indications and feelers were put out for government assistance of $ 1.2m. I asked the people from Mt Magnet: ‘Would it not be better to go to your shareholders for that $ 1.2 m?’ They did, and they were heavily oversubscribed in one day. This occurred recently. Those people did the right thing. They got their $ 1.2m from the shareholders because they are the people who will reap the profits. The taxpayers will never reap the profits out of Mt Lyell. We ought to look very seriously indeed at the direction in which we are going in supporting uneconomic industries.
-On 11 November 1977-which is a rather ominous date, but I will not go into thatthe Government accepted the Industries Assistance Commission report. It passed legislation providing for reimbursement on a dollar for dollar basis with the Tasmanian Government to keep the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Co. viable. The Bill before the House tonight merely seeks to extend the period of that legislation by three months. Obviously the Opposition supports the amending Bill introduced by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson).
– Only one month.
-Let me finish. The Bill seeks to underwrite the losses of the company to mid- 1980 on a dollar for dollar basis with the Tasmanian Labor Government which is prepared from its modest resources to put up $3.8m to see that Mt Lyell remains viable, that Queenstown does not die and that 2,000 jobs are not lost. That would result in a 1 6 per cent increase in unemployment in this small State. The interesting aspect of this debate is that suddenly there appears to be an anti-Tasmanian putsch appearing opposite. The honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean), the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) suddenly appear to be the hated enemies of Tasmania. I wonder how the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck), the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) and the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) will handle this. Suddenly cracks are appearing in the alliance. Suddenly socialism is all right if it is in one’s electorate. But, when it is in someone else’s electorate, it is socialism; then it is propping up unprofitable industries.
We support this Bill because it demonstrates what governments are about. Governments are about providing some viability for industry. If that involves putting up at risk some public money, we support it. It is interesting to see that the honourable members from Tasmania support that concept when it applies to their State but when such assistance is directed somewhere else they regard it as dreaded socialism. However, when it is for pork barrelling in their own electorates it is all right. We do not consider it to be pork barrelling. We have concern for an industry that we think is worth saving, for a town we do not want to see die and for the 2,000 jobs that we consider important. It is a pity that honourable members on the other side cannot have a similar combined and united view. It really is an interesting study in psychology to see this little fissure occur between the two minor States- that can be spelt ‘miner’ or ‘minor’- of Western Australia and Tasmania. I was very surprised to see the honourable member for Franklin sitting alongside the honourable member for Kalgoorlie and copping it all so calmly.
– He is not here.
– When the honourable member for Kalgoorlie was pouring buckets on Tasmania the honourable member for Franklin was sitting beside him and copping it sweetly. What happened when we moved amendments to the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Amendment Bill? Why did honourable members opposite not cross the floor and support our proposal to double the subsidy offered by the Government? We believe that that should have been done because the apple and pear industry needs support. Where were honourable members opposite then? More importantly, what are honourable members opposite doing when their Government brings down a Budget that is running down the economy and leading us to the problems that are now occurring in Mount Lyell and in Kalgoorlie? The problems are a result of the Government’s lack of economic expertise. Why do honourable members opposite not stand and protest about that? Why do they say nothing until a Bill is introduced to help their State?
– And Ballarat too.
-And Ballarat too. Why do honourable members opposite wait until a Bill like this is introduced to show the Press in Tasmania what wonderful and strong people they are. Where are honourable members opposite when it comes to criticising the Government for its economic policies which have led to a total rundown in our economy and to this sort of -
Honourable members interjecting.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The House will come to order.
– He is standing up there yakking like a horse.
-Order! The honourable member will cease interjecting.
-I am pleased that my horse does not talk. The honourable member for Bendigo is making about as much sense as my horse might make if it could talk. The honourable member knows that his Government’s policies are wrong. The honourable member knows that the policies the Government has been pursuing are leading to a rundown in all sorts of industries; not just the apple and pear industry or the mining industry in Mount Lyell. The whole range of the Australian economy is being run down. Honourable members should not grandstand about Mount Lyell and Kalgoorlie to suit their own Press. They should be worried about Australia.
– You are a pseudo capitalist.
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will cease interjecting.
– I believe he is standing up there talking like a capitalist.
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will cease interjecting. The House will come to order.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The contribution of the honourable member is actually one of the better ones he has made in this place.
– I suggest to the honourable member for Parramatta that he deal with the Bill.
-As I said before, the Bill is a fait accompli but we support it because we know that the assistance is necessary to the continuance of an important industry in Tasmania. Although the assistance is for an area in the electorate of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), we do not consider it to be pork barrelling. It is a necessary operation that will save 2,000 jobs. That is our total concern. It is a section 96 grant- a no interest loan which will be paid back when the company achieves a reasonable cash flow. Given the upsurge in world prices for metals, especially copper, that will happen. We do not consider that this grant will cost the Government anything in the long run. It allows the Government the luxury of appearing to be generous at very little cost to it. It saves the miners’ jobs and keeps the production of copper going at a time when demand for that commodity appears to be picking up. All of this has relevance to our export revenue earnings now and in the future. We support the Bill.
Heaven knows that this Government shows little enough confidence in Australia. For once, if only for electoral purposes, to gain support in Tasmanian seats, it is showing a little confidence in something. We support the Government for doing that, although it is a pretty cynical act. I would like the Government to compare its efforts in Queenstown with those of the Tasmanian Labor Government. From the Tasmanian Government’s modest resources it is prepared to provide $3. 8m to back up its confidence in an industry in that State. It is a pity that the interest of the Government was not of the same idealist strain as that of the Tasmanian Government. As I said at the outset, I hope that the people listening to the debate are noting the fissure within the ranks of the coalition, that Government members from Western Australia are pouring scorn on those from Tasmania for trying to do something for their State. I do not think they are trying to do it in the idealistic way that we are. Nevertheless, the method will do. We support the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for the purposes of an amendment to be moved by the Minister announced.
– Honourable members will recall that the Tasmania Grant (The Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978 was introduced on 16 August 1978 to give effect to the Government’s decision of 28 June 1 978 to continue assistance for the Mount Lyell company. The Government announced at that time that the Commonwealth would continue assistance for Mount Lyell for the three months after 1 July 1978 pending the outcome of negotiations with Tasmania and the Mount Lyell company on the question of further assistance to the company. On 23 August 1978 it was announced that the Commonwealth had reached agreement with the Tasmanian Government and the company to provide assistance for the operation of the Mount Lyell mine for a further 2 1 months period ending on 30 June 1980.
The amendment now being proposed to the Bill is to allow this further assistance to be provided. The amendment to the Bill would permit agreement to extend assistance up to 30 June 1980, and up to a limit of $3.8m, subject to Tasmania itself bearing at least half the cost of the further assistance. The Government has been prepared to share the cost of this assistance to
Mount Lyell on a dollar for dollar basis with Tasmania because of the serious consequences which would be suffered by thelong-established but isolated Queenstown community and region should the mine close.
The government was aware of the level of private ownership of community facilities such as housing in Queenstown, which is unusually high for mining towns. It was also conscious that the company has achieved a substantial reduction in the cost of mine production and is willing to invest in new road and mine vehicles at an estimated cost of $ 1.8m.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I shall report progress.
-I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following notice was given:
Mr McLeay to move that, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Garden Island Dockyard, NSW- Workshop, amenities building and services.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 November 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19781107_reps_31_hor112/>.