31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of we the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because this budget will further increase the number of persons unemployed, because it reduces the average worker’s spending power by S 10 per week, because it will reduce the income of pensioners, because it is unfair in placing a greater burden on the poor rather than the rich, and because it is driving this country into a depression.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
The Federal Government withdraws this budget and provides Australia, within this session of Parliament, with a revised budget that increases the level of economic activity in Australia, lowers unemployment, removes the burdens placed on the disadvantaged, and revives business and consumer confidence in the future of this potentially great country.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr FitzPatrick, Mr Keating, Mr Kerin, Dr Klugman and Mr Morris.
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 a 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 Aldred, Mr Burns and Mr Jarman.
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 Braithwaite, Dr Klugman and Mr McLean.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned Secondary Students of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth that-
An attack is being made on the public school system of the ACT by the abandonment of the staffing formula in order to implement staff ceilings. This will inevitably lead to deterioration in the standard of education in ACT schools.
In particular, high schools and colleges will be forced to reduce the number of optional subjects available to students in 1979. These options were available in 1978 when the staffing formula was operating.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament should: Ensure that the staffing formula which operated in 1978 for the staffing of ACT schools be the same formula-for the staffing of schools in the ACT in 1979.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, by Mr Fry.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate and the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the Fraser Government was elected in December 197S after promising that pensions would be adjusted instantly and automatically in relation to quarterly Consumer Price Index figures; and whereas that Government subsequently announced that pension adjustments should properly be made half yearly each May and November; it is the current intention of the same Government to legislate for pensions to be adjusted only once a year, and this constitutes a serious breach of generally accepted ethics of democratic government and also deprives many needy pensioners of increases that are essential to their subsistence.
The foregoing facts impel the undersigned Petitioners to request the Australian Government to uphold the principle that the trustworthiness of governments should at all times be above question, and to appeal to the Parliament to prevent the imposition of further economic hardship upon Australian pensioners by rejecting any Bill which has for its aim the introduction of annual adjustments of pension rates.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Keating.
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 artifically bureaucratic.
The planned abolition of bulk billing will place an unnecessary burden on the poor and the disadvantaged in our community. The decision to reduce the rebate paid from 85 per cent ro 73 per cent of the scheduled fee is an attack on real wages.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should reverse its decisions on these matters and develop proper consultation with the trade unions and the community.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Dr Klugman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned staff and others in and around Parliament House respectfully showeth:
That we are appalled at the Lusher motion to
The motion is unrealistic, discriminatory and a denial of human rights.
The motion, supported by the Right to Life organisation is only the loud expression of a narrow-minded minority.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Lusher motion.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Simon.
– Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of the likely failure of the internal settlement in Rhodesia, which is due to be achieved by 31 December 1978? Is he also aware of the serious implications this might have for Australia in terms of refugees? It is estimated that at least 100,000 whites may wish to leave Rhodesia, and already 60,000 are in the process of making application to come to Australia. In view of the impact on race relations and the labour market of such an influx into Australia, will the Minister discuss with Commonwealth and other governments the possibility of early action on an international basis to achieve international refugee arrangements to cope with this expected exodus, as a unilateral response by Australia would be undesirable?
-The Government’s view on the internal settlement is well known. I have put it forward on a number of occasions, not only here but elsewhere. Whilst it was a positive move forward, involving as it did three factions of the existing five, saying that it was a positive move is as far as one could go. It did not embrace all the participants in the dispute in Rhodesia and therefore could not have full and total endorsement. The solution to the problem can be achieved by the majority of Rhodesians determining the form of government they desire, and that requires the participation of all people in that country. As to whether or not the internal settlement will fail, at this moment we cannot say that that is necessarily so. The Government’s view all along has been that the Anglo-American proposals are the ones to work to. We still hold to that view.
The question of immigration is primarily a matter for my colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. If one desires a peaceful settlement of this increasingly difficult dispute in Rhodesia one would not want to be concluding immediately that the consequences implied in the honourable member’s question will necessarily occur. We are, of course, receiving an increasing number of immigration applications from people in Rhodesia. They are viewed in the same way, without special categories, as applications from anybody else seeking to enter Australia, with the singular exception that those who have been supporting the illegal regime are excluded. If the situation worsened and we had to view it in humanitarian terms it would be a matter not merely for me to have consultations with other countries but for consultations with the Cabinet. Nevertheless, the Australian Government would stand prepared to respond humanely if the situation deteriorated grievously.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, concerns the Government’s success in reducing the rate of inflation from 16 per cent to under 8 per cent in three years. Has the Treasurer noticed that certain people have claimed that this success has been at huge social cost? What would the social cost have been if rampant inflation had been allowed to continue?
-The honourable member does well to draw the attention of the House, through his question, to the claims which are made about the social cost of the Government’s economic policy. The truth is that the social cost of pursuing an alternative economic strategy to the one pursued by the Government would have been very large indeed. I think that it is worth reminding the House that at the recent meeting of the International Monetary Fund none other than the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reminded the gathering that the principal problem faced by Western governments in reducing unemployment in future years lies in controlling their inflation rates. In truth, what the SecretaryGeneral of the OECD was doing was giving the lie to the proposition that in some way by going easy on reducing the rate of inflation we can reduce the level of unemployment.
This Government holds very much to the view that if alternative strategies had been followed the unemployment level in Australia would be greater. We believe that if greater success had been achieved by the Government in respect of its wages policy submissions to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the level of unemployment in Australia at the present time would be lower. The proposition that there would have been less social cost with an alternative economic strategy is false. Indeed, the cost in social and economic terms of a more permissive economic strategy to those on fixed incomes, to those endeavouring to buy their own houses and to those small businesses endeavouring to invest and make profits would have been very significant. I think that the community and all members of this House ought to bear that in mind when they hear these extravagant charges about the alleged social cost of our economic policy.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the fact that prior to the Budget the Public Service Board was advising applicants that it anticipated hiring 360 university graduates at the end of this year. Is the Prime Minister now aware that applicants are being advised that it is no longer possible to indicate how many graduates will be admitted to the Public Service this year? Can the right honourable gentleman inform the House how many graduates will be admitted to the Public Service at the end of this year and how many school leavers will be admitted to the Public Service at the end of this year?
– I ask the honourable gentleman to treat the question as though it were on notice. I will get an answer as quickly as possible.
-Does the Minister for Post and Telecommunications intend to reduce the funds of the Australian Broadcasting Commission by 1 /365th for every day that it remains off the air so that ABC management will be under the same commercial constraints as any entrepreneur which is out of action as a result of a strike?
– I met some commercial operators at a function the other night, and I offered the parliamentary broadcasts to them but did not get any takers. I am afraid that those factors which are relevant to commercial operations are not necessarily relevant to the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament and, indeed, to many of the tasks undertaken by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the national interest. I will have a look at what the honourable member has said. Let me simply make it quite plain that the Government supports the position of the ABC management, that people who do not work as directed in their normal tasks will not be paid. The Government does not intend to back off from that position. The ABC management is, as I understand it, discussing at the moment with the Federal Executive of the Staff Association the possibility of entering into negotiations over issues that are relevant in the dispute but it has made it quite plain that it will do so only if all strike action is ceased and all bans lifted.
-I am very indebted to the honourable member for the question because there is a major difficulty in Australia for many reasons- diseases, outbreaks of insect infestations and so on which cause problems in various locations. In order to offset these problems we try to the maximum, through the Agricultural Council, to co-ordinate the efforts of the respective State governments which, of course, are responsible for disease eradication as outbreaks emerge around Australia. Indeed, one of the factors which we have tried to assert internationally is that there are marked differences between States or to disease status and the problems encountered with various insects such as fruit fly. For example, in Western Australia there seems to be no justification at all for the Japanese still to exercise the prejudice they do against the import of Western Australian granny smiths, for there is no fruit fly in Western Australia. Indeed, the restraints against movement of apples across Australia and the restraints against fruit fly entering Western Australia suggest that there is every reason for the Japanese to accept that Western Australia can maintain a degree of isolation that inhibits the movement of insects or disease.
Similarly, of course, it is true that in Tasmania, where there is complete freedom from brucellosis and tuberculosis, that State should have an advantage of trading internationally, which advantage perhaps is not enjoyed to the same degree by other States. I mention these matters because it is true that disease and insect control are predominantly the responsibility of State governments. This Government has very significantly increased the Budget allocations to each of the State governments, thereby enabling them to exercise their State responsibilities in a way that is significantly better than was the case during the days of the Whitlam regime. Therefore it is true that, whilst we are co-ordinating these matters within the Agricultural Council, the Commonwealth does not necessarily accept financial responsibility for programs that have traditionally been lying within the responsibilities of the States. With respect to Queensland fruit fly, that matter falls exactly in that circumstance. There is a total acceptance by every State that there needs to be a nationwide eradication campaign, but that does not necessarily mean that the Commonwealth must finance it.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Health. In view of the success of the trachoma program and the continuing government concern for the health of Aborigines, has any consideration been given to similar programs?
– I think the honourable member is probably referring particularly to a very serious problem of middle ear infection amongst Aboriginal children. Quite frankly, I have been considering the possibility of dealing with the middle ear infection amongst Aboriginal children in the way that we dealt with the trachoma problem afflicting Aboriginal people in the remote areas of Australia. However, before coming to any decision on the matter, I think we should await the outcome of the results of a research program which is being undertaken by Dr Jose of the Cancer Institute in Melbourne, Dr Reid of the Department of Health and also Dr Rao, who is an ear, nose and throat specialist from Darwin. The research team has been granted $32,000 from the National Health and Medical Research Council to carry out the first year’s work next year.
The research project will focus on the high prevalence of middle ear infection amongst the Aboriginal children, particularly in the Northern Territory. I was at Bathurst Island earlier in the year and I was surprised to learn that practically all the children on that Island and Melville Island were in fact afflicted by middle ear infection by the time that they were 15 months of age. Further inquiries have revealed that this is a very common problem amongst Aboriginal children. Because we have had great success with the national trachoma program, something like $2m having been spent on it and over 100,000 people in the remote areas of Australia having been screened, it has set a very important model for dealing with serious medical conditions amongst Aboriginal communities. However, as I said earlier, we will await the outcome of the research program before taking any further steps in respect of task forces or whatever.
– I ask the Treasurer Is it a fact that, even with the marginal addition of $ 158m to State borrowings announced at the beginning of this month, total Commonwealth controlled capital payments to the States will still decline by more than 3 per cent in real terms this financial year? Will such a contraction in funds lead to a further reduction of about 5,000 jobs in the building and construction industry, aggravating the recently announced increase in unemployment, which in seasonally adjusted terms is 34,000 greater than it was in February of this year? What measures does the Government have in train to offset, rather than aggravate, this trend?
– Once again, the Leader of the Opposition is indulging in simplistic propositions. He supposes that a given level of public sector spending will produce a given return in jobs. The honourable gentleman knows as well as any other member in this House that during this country’s economic experience when the level of employment was directly linked to the level of public sector spending by governments, there was a very sharp rise in levels of unemployment. The Government simply does not accept the simplistic proposition that the number of people in employment in Australia can be fine tuned according to the volume of public sector spending made possible by this Government.
-Can the Minister for Health inform the House of what progress, if any, has been made by the New South Wales Government in resolving its difficulties in negotiating agreed remuneration for visiting medical officers in country hospitals in New South Wales? Is the stalemate continuing? If so, will the Minister intervene to ensure that medical services in New South Wales country hospitals are maintained?
– In answer to the last part of the question, I would say at the outset that it is not my intention, or the intention of this Government, to become embroiled in the dispute between the State governments and visiting medical officers. The State Government has a very clear responsibility to negotiate terms of contract with those medical officers whom it needs to engage to provide a service within its hospital system. I am informed that the New South Wales Government’s offer of a flat 75 per cent of the schedule fee for medical services in country hospitals is unacceptable to the New South
Wales branch of the Australian Medical Association. I have also been advised that the Minister for Health in New South Wales is bucketing me and the Commonwealth Government on the issue and I am told that the following statement was broadcast over radio 2LF, Young.
– You deserve it.
-There is Big Brother over there trying to defend him. Listen to this:
The Commonwealth Government will only cost-share through the hospital cost-sharing agreement 75 per cent as the modified fee for service . . . If I approve of higher than 75 per cent as the modified fee for service then New South Wales will have to pay the extra amount outside the hospital cost-sharing agreement because Mr Hunt will only recognise 75 per cent as the modified fee for service, so, in fact, Mr Hunt is compelling us to set it at 7 5 per cent . . .
That is utter rubbish. The Minister in New South Wales is running around the country like a chook with its head cut off. He has taken on the doctors in the country areas of New South Wales. He is doing no good and he is blaming me for it- he is blaming the Feds for it. He knows that he has complete power at his disposal to negotiate a satisfactory agreement. All I can say to him is that he should get on with the job, stop looking over his shoulder at me and make sure that he has the doctors to serve the needs of the people in country areas.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. Were Commonwealth police involved in a reported clash with members of a youth club in Melbourne on Sunday last? In what activities were the members of the club involved which prompted law enforcement investigation? Under whose authority was the surveillance undertaken? Were the five people who were arrested Australian citizens and, if so, when were they first referred to as Croatians and why?
-The honourable gentleman has asked a number of questions. I do not have detailed information on all of them but I will make sure that they are referred to my colleague in the Senate. I have some information on the incident to which the honourable member referred. My information is that Commonwealth police were investigating an alleged conspiracy by the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood to commit an offence against section 30c of the Commonwealth Crimes Act. The Acting Commissioner of Commonwealth Police has advised my colleague that the surveillance methods used in this investigation, to which the honourable member referred, were in accordance with the prescribed legislation and due process was observed. Five persons have been charged with a number of offences in relation to this matter but, as the case in general is sub judice, I cannot refer to it in more detail than that. I will refer the other detailed questions to my colleague to see whether they can be answered, bearing in mind that some aspects are sub judice.
-Has the Minister for Defence seen reports of a recent speech made by Dr Robert O’Neill of the Australian National University in which Dr O’Neill made some highly disturbing remarks concerning Australia’s defence preparedness? Has any assessment been made of Dr O’Neill’s remarks and, if so, according to that assessment was he correct in the remarks that he made?
– Yes, my attention was drawn to a speech made by Dr O’Neill. My attention was first drawn to it by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and this language was used:
A leading expert on Australia’s defence needs told a conference in Sydney today that the country’s armed forces were woefully ill equipped.
Dr O’Neill did not use that language. The ABC continued:
He told the delegates the situation was desperate.
Dr O’Neill did not use that language. According to the ABC he criticised the Federal Government, saying that it was creating a long term defence crisis by adopting short term policies. Dr O’Neill did not use that language. As one would expect, the speech given by Dr O’Neill was a characteristically thoughtful speech, constructive in many ways. It was couched in very moderate language. He argued several matters with which one would not necessarily agree. He made a speech which was precisely the type of speech that I have been seeking to engender in the country in terms of a mature debate on defence. It is a matter of great regret to me that the ABC should use such disgraceful language. One wonders what the motive is. I finish by saying this: I have some ex-clients who are guests of Her Majesty at Boggo Road in Brisbane. I hope word reaches them that by comparison with the person who composed this item for the Australian Broadcasting Commission they personify gentle.ness and honesty.
-Has the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations read an article by Mr Greg Hywood in today’s Australian Financial Review which claims that average weekly earnings in the year to September rose by a percentage less than the consumer price index increase for the same period? In the light of this information and with regard to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s February decision to discount the wage rise for the December quarter last year partly because of tax cuts in February this year, will the Government consider instructing its advocate at the Arbitration Commission’s hearings on the wage indexation case to support the argument of the Australian Council of Trade Union’s advocate that the November tax increase should be taken into account by the Bench in its present deliberations just as the February tax decrease was taken into account earlier this year?
– I must admit that I am extremely surprised and disappointed to see honourable members opposite espousing a policy which is absolutely certain to lead to increased unemployment. I believe that the Australian people who are seeking work, as distinct from those who are in work, will not allow such remarks to go unnoticed. The plain fact is, as we have pointed out on many occasions in national wage case hearings by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, that particularly during the years 1973 to 1975 Australians started to pay themselves more for doing the same amount of work. The result is that fewer people now have a job. If we continue to pay ourselves more for doing the same amount of work the number of people who are out of work will increase.
– Can the Treasurer advise the total amount of company income tax paid for the year ended 30 June 1978? If so, what effect on the amount of tax paid did the Government’s investment allowance have? Are there any other advantages to companies, other than taxation saved, through the investment allowance of this Government?
– The total amount of company tax paid in the financial year ended 30 June 1978 was $3 ,095m. During that year the cost to revenue of the investment allowance was of the order of $425m. It is estimated that in the current financial year the investment allowance will cost the revenue something in excess of $400m. Total company tax collections this year are estimated to be $3,222m. It is clear from those figures that in terms of revenue forgone the investment allowance represents a very major concession and major incentive virtually to the whole spectrum of business in Australia, be that business large or small.
The honourable gentleman asked whether there are any benefits from the investment allowance beyond the taxation advantages that are involved. I think all honourable gentlemen would be aware that in an on-going sense the opportunity which the investment allowance has provided for Australian business to modernise much of its equipment and to take advantage of that allowance to make significant investments in plant and equipment has been of very considerable benefit to Australian business. This Government deliberately introduced the investment allowance to provide in the shorter term an incentive for capital investment. There is no doubt that the allowance has done that. It has triggered major capital investment by Australian business. In our view the investment allowance has done the job that it was designed to do when it was introduced. Not only has it been beneficial to Australian business in the direct taxation sense but also it has brought the broader benefits that I mentioned.
– Was the Minister for Primary Industry instrumental in appointing his close friend, Mr Harry M. Miller, to the Board of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation? He is an entrepreneur. He is very good at song and dance acts, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
– Has that Corporation since changed its representation in the United States? Did the Minister on his recent visit to Washington ascertain the reason for the change and who was responsible for appointing the new representation?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for the question because I know how lacking he is of friends. Fortunately I do have a few friends. I know Harry Miller. I would not say that I know him particularly well. All appointments we on this side of the House make to all statutory corporations are made through the Government. They are made in a true, proper and correct way after an assessment of the suitabilities and capabilities of persons required for particular positions. Mr Miller, as a person with special qualifications, occupies one of the positions on the Board of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. I know of no suggestion other than that he has performed his duties with the customary competence that one might expect of him. Indeed, the honourable member might be interested to know that within the legislation which passed through this House an Australian Meat and Livestock Conference was constituted. I attended a part of that Conference yesterday, along with my colleague the honourable member for Wakefield. I believe that the contributions made by Mr Miller and each of the members of the Corporation were most helpful and demonstrated that the Australian meat industry is moving into far better times than, regrettably, it suffered in the hands of the Labor Government.
The second part of the honourable member’s question related to another alleged or suggested change of representation in the United States. In fact since, I think, the early 1970s a firm of legal representatives has served on behalf of the former Australian Meat Board and the present Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. I have met members of the firm on a number of occasions. I met members of the firm, which continues to act on behalf of the Corporation, when I was in Washington a few weeks ago. Of course, other people have been appointed from time to time and I believe that they, equally, have served the interests of the Australian meat exporters very well. I understand one of those firms is no longer acting on behalf of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. I believe that firm in fact played a very effective and efficient role in the days when it had that brief. The decision, however, as to who should act and in what capacity is, of course, for the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation alone. Unlike the honourable gentleman, I do not believe that in decisions of that ilk it is the responsibility of politicians to intervene.
– I address my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. What are the terms of settlement of the recent tanker drivers dispute in Victoria? How do they affect Mr Leo Gorman? Will the Government ensure that Mr Gorman can continue to take delivery of fuel supplies with his own trucks and his own employees?
– I have not seen the terms of settlement in detail and, therefore, I make that caveat. As I understand it, the terms of settlement are that the bans on Mr Gorman picking up fuel at the Esso terminal in Melbourne will be lifted in seven days from the conference which ended late the other night; that if it can be shown that Mr Gorman is in difficulties in the meantime
Commissioner Gough would arbitrate on that; and that the section 45D writs which were issued have also been withdrawn. So far as I am aware, other than the provisions I have described, there would be no bar or bans on Mr Gorman collecting fuel and distributing it to his clients.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that there is likely to be a surplus of medical practitioners in Australia in the next few years. Is it also a fact that some States and the Northern Territory require five years academic training plus two years internship before a graduate in medicine can be granted registration whilst other States require only five years academic training plus one years’ internship before registration? If so, what action has he taken or is he taking to ensure firstly that Australians will not be faced with the alarming situation of having qualified doctors on the unemployment benefit and, secondly, that there are uniform qualifications throughout Australia for registration as a medical practitioner.
– I thank the honourable member for the question because from the speech I heard him make last night in the adjournment debate I think he is quite obviously aware of the serious problem that is now confronting Australia and will confront this country in the next five or six years as a result of a surplus of doctors. The laws of supply and demand do not operate in the medical area. The more doctors we have the more services we have, the higher costs we have and the sicker we become. Quite clearly, if we want to keep health costs within any bounds we will need to ensure that we overcome this very serious impending surplus of doctors in this country.
I am well aware of the difference between the States in respect of the number of years required to be undertaken in medical school. We have a very significant problem in New South Wales in that we have in the one year a double graduation and this, of course, will cause an immediate problem in that State. Because of the concern about this matter I have set up a task force under Dr Sidney Sax which will include representatives from the Tertiary Education Commission, the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, the Department of Education and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The reason we have had to involve a number of departments is that there are a number of areas of responsibility. As Minister for Health, I do not have a responsibility at all, other than to try to make an assessment of the manpower requirements that are necessary to meet the health needs of this country. But the universities, of course, will have to watch the levels of enrolment in the medical schools. Therefore, there is a State government involvement in the issue.
The matter has been the subject of discussion at the last two Health Ministers’ conferences. I do think there are encouraging signs that people are now starting to recognise that a surplus of doctors in this country will not reduce health costs; in fact, it will increase them.
-In the absence of the Minister for Trade and Resources, I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the advice and the hopes made clear by the Government in respect of trade with China, particularly in relation to the export of technology from Australia. I ask the Prime Minister: Has the Government an attitude on barter arrangements between China and an Australian exporting firm such as those that have existed with a number of British exporters for whom marketing rights in Great Britain were reserved exclusively by China following the use of the original British technology?
-As we know, my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Resources, has recently returned from a very successful trade mission to China. He was accompanied by a number of leading Australian business people. I have no doubt that trade with China is going to expand very greatly in the years immediately ahead of us, just as it has expanded very greatly with many other countries of Asia- Korea and South East Asian countries- and with the Middle East. A major part of the Government’s trade offensive is to build trade in this particular area in our own environment.
From the nature of the honourable gentleman’s question it almost sounded as though he had a particular Australian firm in mind. He said ‘an Australian firm’.
– I used that in a general sense.
– I had better refer the precise nature of the question to my colleague, who has had to go to Sydney for a meeting with some coal producers. If there is a need for taking unusual paths to promote trade, then I certainly believe that that is something Australia ought to contemplate. But up to the present time, trade with China has gone ahead on a very profitable basis. It has been expanding very considerably, and the kind of process that the honourable gentleman indicated has not proved necessary. But we are prepared to look at any means of expanding trade, so I will refer the question to the Minister for Trade and Resources.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I remind him of his attacks when in Opposition upon the former Labor Government’s proposed overseas borrowings, attacks on the basis that insufficient feasibility study was undertaken into projects mentioned. I ask the Prime Minister: Were feasibility studies carried out by the Commonwealth on the projects nominated by the States at the recent Loan Council meeting before the Commonwealth approved the borrowing for each specific project?
-A number of the projects which were approved at the Loan Council meeting were ones which the States had had under examination for many years. I think my colleague, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, was involved in another capacity some years ago in the very early and formative stages of the power project in New South Wales which is to be the subject of special borrowing. Certainly that shows that the projects have been under examination for a very long while. I know that the Loy Yang power project in Victoria is a very important and, indeed, essential part of the development of the State Electricity Commission’s use of brown coal reserves in Victoria. I am quite certain that in all the States the projects have been under the closest possible examination. In addition to that, there was a long examination of the guidelines and then an examination by Commonwealth and State officials.
I have indicated on other occasions that the States had sought this opportunity, this avenue, of raising funds. They had not wanted a Commonwealth guarantee; they had wanted to exercise their own responsibilities as States in relation to the projects. Therefore the viability and good sense of the projects was principally a matter for the States concerned. Obviously the Loan Council as a whole wanted to satisfy itself that the general proposals were in accordance with the guidelines. That was very much the purpose of the extensive discussions between Commonwealth and State officials.
That stands in very marked and formidable contrast to the sorts of processes that were pursued on, I think, 13 and 14 December 1974. On those occasions there was an Executive Council decision which almost certainly was illegal, almost certainly was unconstitutional. There was an attempt to raise $4 billion for temporary purposes. But when the purposes were later tabled in the Parliament it appeared that they were not temporary at all; they were permanent purposes. How could $4 billion be raised on a temporary basis for purposes that happened to be permanent? Quite plainly, if any funds had been raised under that particular authority the matter would have been taken to the High Court. It would have been justiciable and the authority, I believe, would have been struck down as being in defiance of the Constitution. This was all done without advice. It was all done in a way that was surreptitious and deceitful. It was certainly done in defiance of the obligations that the Commonwealth had entered into on earlier occasions with the States, in defiance of the gentlemen’s agreement in relation to loan borrowings. It was deliberate deception of other people, deliberate deception of this Parliament and the proper processes of this Parliament.
I thank the honourable gentleman for the question, which makes it possible to highlight the very marked contrast between the former government and the processes of this Government, which are consummated in the closest possible co-operation and consultation with the States. The only thing that the honourable gentleman regrets, I suppose, in relation to that Loan Council meeting is that there was complete and absolute unanimity between the States and the Commonwealth in relation to these matters. It was an example of all governments, no matter of what political complexion, working very much in Australia’s cause for the advancement of this nation. That, of course, is the one thing that the Opposition, in its present capacity, resents.
– I have been passed a note by my departmental advisers which I think probably answers the question that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked me. The Public Service Board advice is as follows: New staff numbers in the 1978-79 financial year are expected to be approximately 25,500. The main permanent staff categories to which school leavers and graduates may be appointed are assistant research officer, graduates, 350; clerks class 1, 5,250; and clerical assistants grade 1, 5,700. If the honourable gentleman wishes to get additional information I would be grateful if he would advise me.
– For the information of honourable members I present a review of the activities of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– Pursuant to section 21 of the River Murray Waters Act 19151 present the report of the River Murray Commission for the year ended 30 June 1978.
-During the adjournment debate last evening the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) sought to make a comparison between the operations of the State Council of the Victorian Liberal Party and some resolutions that were passed by the State Conference of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria. They tried to demonstrate that there was some hypocrisy in those operations and that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was indulging in that practice. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports alleged, as reported at page 2991 of Hansard, that I had made certain statements before the State Council of the Liberal Party of Victoria expelled one Douglas Jennings. He stated that his source of information was a newspaper. The Fourth Estate is a great estate but I do not think that it is always accurate. One point he made was that I had informed the Prime Minister of all the matters which were under review prior to that expulsion motion being considered by the State Council. That is certainly correct and I think not unusual as the Prime Minister happens to be the leader of our party. I should have thought that courtesy would demand that I inform him. The honourable member also alleged that the Prime Minister knew all about it and approved of it. Under its constitution the Victorian Branch of the Liberal Party operates under a secret ballot system in respect of such matters and I can say -
– I draw the attention of the honourable member to the fact that he is making a personal explanation about how he has been misrepresented.
– I am coming to that now, sir. The allegation is that I stated that the Prime Minister had approved of the action. I did not make such a statement. I would not have known at the time that report was written- 26 Julywhat was the Prime Minister’s attitude to that matter.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1977-78.
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1 977-78.
– I have received letters from the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), the honourable member for Indi (Mr Ewen Cameron) and the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107 I have selected one matter, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Capricornia, namely:
The failure of the Government to guarantee the basic human rights of Aboriginal Australians.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– Yesterday during Question Time in this House we heard the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) call for human rights in the Soviet Union, a nation as far from Australia’s influence as possible. We all support those sentiments. But since his Government took office it has been noted for fine words and not for inspiring actions to promote the rights of the original trustees of his own country, its own Aborigines. When the rallying calls of ‘Aurukun’, ‘Mornington’ and ‘Ranger’ ring out they have a funereal knell for this Government has given them a mournful ring and a sinister stigma. Those words symbolise the soft sell and hard sell-out tactics of the slick Fraser Government. The Prime Minister and his coalition collaborators mutilated the Constitution to ride into Government and they have sidestepped the Constitution ever since.
Nowhere has their artful dodging been more blatant than in the rejection of their constitutional entrustment with Aboriginal affairs. Funding for Aboriginal programs has been whittled away consistently under the Fraser Government. In real terms, spending on Aboriginal housing has fallen by 28.5 per cent since the last Labor Budget; on Aboriginal health by 28.7 per cent; on Aboriginal education by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs by 20.3 per cent; on Aboriginal employment programs by 5.9 per cent; on Aboriginal welfare by 4.9 per cent; on Aboriginal enterprises- that is, selfmanagement by 70.5 per cent; on town management and public utilities by 50.5 per cent; on cultural and recreational funding by 33.8 per cent; and on legal aid by 15.8 per cent. The Government rightly introduced training into this year’s Aboriginal Affairs budget, but, even with that new money, total spending on Aboriginal programs by the Department has shrunk by 29. 1 per cent in real terms since the last Labor Budget. I have drawn attention before to other ill effects of Budget pruning- the abolition of the Aboriginal Housing Panel, the placing of restrictions on the Institute of Aboriginal Studies, and so on. It is typical of this Government to focus such huge Budget cuts on people who are least able to defend themselves or to attract great public awareness to their conquered plight and to their plundered status. There is no sign of that smug attitude changing.
Aboriginal reserves have reached a new crisis point. A huge injection of funds in some later Budget some year will be needed just to carry out urgent repairs and maintenance to get part of the way towards making living standards tolerable. When the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) toured New South Wales reserves earlier this year he made many promises. As usual, he is now proceeding to dispose of them by denying the New South Wales Land Trust its 1978-79 funding allocation until late December. This is making things worse for the people on reserves. No money means no water, no sewerage, no electricity, no repairs, no self respect, no hope, no trust and, for far too many, no future. The delays have forced the Land Trust to put off most of its Aboriginal employees, the essential field officers and liaison staff. Many communities in New South Wales have had to sack their staff because the Government has decided to strangle the New South Wales Land Trust. No wonder the Aboriginal people have lost all faith in the Government. The Minister will understand why when the Aboriginal people reject his future fine promises in advance.
The people of Aurukun and Mornington Island know very well all about the value of the promises of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In the nine full months since the Queensland Government’s intervention in the affairs of the two communities, no practical, no patent and no public progress has been made. Having forced the Aboriginal people to accept- just six months ago today- a six months so-called trial of local government and rather than stand up to the Queensland Government as he will have to do in the end, the Prime Minister can now see that that trial has proved all the worst fears of the people against whom this Government has taken sides. The people still have not seen the lease for their land, nor have they had the constant consultations which we are constantly being assured are occurring. Nor has the drafting of the lease ever remotely involved Aborigines. They are kept constantly and totally in the dark while the Minister utters his reassuring words. Words are cheap, particularly when they come from a cheap Government.
There are still living in the communities State appointees who were sent there by the Queensland Government since this Government said: ‘We will give you self-management’. Local government elections still have not been held and there is no sign of a date being set for such elections. Anyone opposing State administration must first be weeded out of the electoral rolls, according to the State Ministers. That is what they have said. Federal Ministers have said and done nothing to suggest that that will not happen. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has not so far made any response following my personal meeting with him in his office. I asked that he arrange for scrutineers to be present at those elections because there is much evidence of interference by the National Party Government in elections in Queensland- interference even worse than that which was exposed in the courts in Western Australia. Yet on 4 May this year the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs assured the communities that they would make sure the system worked, that there would be true self-management. Over a month earlier, on 30 March, the Minister told the people at Aurukun:
You are free Australian citizens and you ‘ve got a right to manage your own affairs or be managed by people who are acceptable to you.
Those are typically strong words from a Minister who is typically weak on performance. He does not have the courage to stand up for the rights of the people he is supposed to serve, either by defying the Prime Minister as Senator Bonner did on one occasion or by defying the Cabinet, his Party Caucus, his mining mates or whoever it is who makes his promises a pose and who makes his credibility a high vacuum. The Federal Government claims that it has been extremely generous by giving the people of Aurukun $324,000 for the operations of their community. What it does not tell us is that $75,000 of that money will go towards the cost of a new airstrip, an airstrip that the community feels is not needed because there is nothing wrong with the old one. The Minister and I seem to have got in and out of Aurukun all right on the old airstrip. The Aborigines would rather have spent that money on their outstations. There may be a good reason for spending the money on a new airstrip but it is a secret to the Aborigines. Of course, the Minister will assure us that this does not have anything to do with the community’s proximity to certain bauxite deposits or uranium prospectors.
It is very easy for the powerful to have immunity from penalties in the misappropriation of funds. This Government has become expert at fiscal fudging. The people of Aurukun and Mornington Island do not want Queensland style socalled self-management, which is being slowly imposed on them like the closing of the jaws of a giant vice. They have asked constantly for Federal Government help. The Government has just as constantly offered them nothing but fine phrases and hindrance in their struggle for selfmanagement. The son who asks for an egg is given a stone. The great champions of the underdog sell out the Aborigines to State lighters and miners for 30 million pieces of silver or in some cases a lot less. Time and again Aborigines are denied the things that white Australians take for granted. Where else in Australia would we find the community striving for nine months to gain the basic right to elect its own council, the right to see a lease taken out on its own land -
– You were comparing conditions with the Soviet Union, were you not?
– And the right to build on that land. It is very easy to drag red herrings into the debate. It is typical of this Government. The Aborigines have struggled for the right to see a lease taken out on their own land, the right to build on it, to decide who enters their homes, whether they can collect the rent. I am comparing the position with that in other parts of Australia, not the Soviet Union. The Aborigines want the right to manage their own affairs. There is nothing more hypocritical than this Government pontificating about human rights. In the Northern Territory things are fast becoming just as bad. The Government’s behaviour over the signing of the Ranger Uranium Mining Agreement has been shabby and sordid, treacherous and two-timing. Just as the Territory Aborigines had begun to reach a stage of feeling that they had some influence in determining their future, the Fraser Government heavies came in and seduced, sabotaged, destroyed and enslaved what organisation they had. The Minister has sold out all his fine principles, policies and promises. He has placed mining ahead of Aboriginal welfare and well-being. He has discredited and humiliated the Northern Land Council and denied the Aboriginal people the right to consider the most important decision in their history in their own way and in their own time. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a Press release setting out a record of interview with one of the members of the Northern Land Council. It was taken at the Oenpelli meeting. I will leave it on the table pending the approval of the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay).
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs chose to ignore decisions taken by the traditional owners and by the Northern Land Council at Oenpelli preceding his visit to the Territory. He also tricked the Aboriginal people into accepting a document which, only days before, they had totally rejected. On 22 September the Minister made this statement on the radio program PM in relation to a court settlement reached over the Ranger Agreement:
The Land Council has to go through the procedures that are very clearly laid down in the land rights legislation to consult with the traditional owners and obtain their consent before any action is taken and also to consult with any Aboriginal communities which may be affected by the agreement and this is what is going to happen from now on.
The document that I have tabled shows how hollow that statement was. Time has proved that this was yet another cynical and devious ministerial commitment made to be broken. It was a smokescreen to wear down fair criticism, a Goebbels technique to turn Australia into a Third Reich for Aborigines. On 1 1 October the Oenpelli community resolved that all communities represented on the Northern Land Council would be consulted. Within three weeks, the Minister proudly did what the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) could not do. He totally ignored the wishes of the community and verbally bludgeoned, filibustered and bulldozed the Aboriginal people into signing that totally unsatisfactory agreement, falsely assuring them that this would allow proper consultations over the agreement. The minute of approval of the agreement, the court settlement to the injunction, which was reached on 22 September, 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.
Yet, the Minister openly flouted this agreement and shamelessly took part in a meeting of the Northern Land Council in breach of that settlement. He dominated it. This is not the first time that he has publicly defied the law for party political purposes. He did it when he sacked employees of the Maningrida council against the Council’s wishes. He did it when he failed to have tenders called for Aboriginal housing. The Minister has proved conclusively that if ever there was any pressure or manipulation, it was totally conducted by him and the present Government. The tape recordings of the Oenpelli meetings have become closely guarded secrets of the Minister and the Northern Land Council. He has brainwashed and psychologically intimidated this Council into unquestioning obedience. The Minister’s conduct and the Government’s conduct are a disgrace to the nation. If he obeyed the principles of any selfrespecting dingo pack he would resign. However, his Prime Minister will not tolerate such principles. They are only to be used for persuasion.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! I think that that remark could be described as unparliamentary. I ask the honourable member to withdraw it.
– I withdraw ‘dingo pack’. The allegations and transcripts that are now emerging from the members of the Northern Land Council are most serious allegations of denials of Aboriginal rights. The Minister has applied some of the most ruthless tactics to rush through the signing of the agreement. It is an agreement which contains far too many pious hopes and empty gentlemen’s agreements. The Minister said that the people alone were responsible for the six-year delay in the commencement of mining. He said that the Aboriginal people must think of the power-starved Japanese. Not once did he try to explain the draft agreement. He spent hours in harangue. There was no local community consultation as required by law. At the Oenpelli meeting on 11 October, Silas Maralinguru, in speaking against an immediate signing of the agreement, stated:
We have to slow down, we have to make ourselves tall.
This Government has ignored the wishes of the people. It has rushed through an agreement that will never allow the people to make themselves tall. They will stay on their knees till this rotten, corrupt Government is thrown out. The Australian Labor Party rejects this Government’s disregard for the rights of Aboriginal Australians. I seek leave to table a four-line resolution passed by the Lambeth conference.
-Is leave granted?
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. While I was in the chair preceding you, the honourable member for Capricornia sought leave to have a document incorporated in Hansard. It was given to the Minister for Construction and the honourable member went on with his speech while the Minister decided whether the document should be allowed as an incorporation in Hansard. I thought I should inform you of that fact.
– I thank the honourable member for Wakefield. Does the Minister give approval to the document being incorporated in Hansard?
– The circumstances are “exactly as the honourable member for Wakefield has described them. The honourable member for Capricornia asked for a document to be incorporated in Hansard but no Government member had seen it. I have since read it. It is a Press release to The Nation Review. I suppose that it is of some dubious quality but we agree to its incorporation. However, we do not agree to the incorporation of the second document. We have not even seen it.
-Leave is granted for the incorporation of the document referred to by the Minister.
The document read as follows- Tress release 13 November, 1978 From Kay Spurr (Ted Robertson’s Secretary) P.O. Box 4770, Darwin
Press release to Nation Review
The setting: The Botanical Gardens, Darwin. A neatly trimmed circular bed of Canna Lillies; a plastic lazy boy folding chair in juxtaposition to the stiffly resplendant blooms, awaiting an occupant.
A garden party? A vice-regal visit?
A press conference called by Leo Finlay, the northern land council representative for Borroloola, to express publicly his anger and frustration at the signing of the Ranger agreement.
Leo arrives and his story unfolds. It is a story that is shamefully familiar. Leo claims emphatically that Viner has lied to the Aboriginals and that the Northern Land Council has been tricked. ‘I did not know what the Northern Land Council meeting was to be about.’ Leo said. ‘We had got a telegram from the council saying ‘Northern Land Council meeting next week. Bring swag as meeting may be out bush. It is to discuss general business’. Nobody knew that the meeting was to sign the agreement.
He said that Viner had addressed the meeting at Bamyili for a long time, telling them that they did not have the right to stop the mining, and that the government must act in the national interest, and not just for aboriginals. ‘Mr Viner kept telling us that it was our fault that mining had been held up for six years’, Leo continued. ‘He said that we have to think about the interests of other people overseas: We have to think of the Japanese. He told us “The Government has agreed, the mining company has agreed. It’s up to you now to bring it to an end. You people have been fighting it for six years now, and you should get the weight off your shoulders”.’
Leo said that Galarrwuy said ‘I just want one thing now. The Federal Government and the mining company have accepted this agreement so it’s up to us now. Will you accept this agreement?’ Leo replied that the agreement was ‘too weak’ and that Stephen Zorn, himself, had said that it was too weak, but Galarrwuy kept repeating ‘will you just accept it, the Government and mining companies have ‘. ‘Then Harry Wilson asked if the lawyers would still go out to consult with the communities if they accepted the agreement, and Galarrwuy hastily agreed, saying that it would be up to the traditional owners to “say yes or no” to the agreement. ‘So then the people put their hands up and somebody said “well, that ‘s OK. If the consultation is going to go on then we can accept it”.’
According to Leo, there was no actual motion that the council accept the agreement, nor was there any discussion as to the terms of the agreement. ‘We put up our hands but no one knew what exactly we were agreeing to’, Leo said. ‘No one talked about the agreement: Galarrwuy was to strong, and kept saying “will you now accept it, will you just accept it”. ‘After we had put our hands up, Galarrwuy, Viner and the other whites looked really happy. ‘None of the Aboriginal people looked very happy. Just puzzled and a bit sad.’ ‘Dick Malwagu looked very frightened.’ (The next day the meeting moved to Oenpelli for consultation with the traditional owners. It must be pointed out that two of the traditional owners had already ‘agreed’ in their capacity as Northern Land Council members, as well as the representatives from Goulburn and Croker Islands who have strong tribal and cultural links with the Jabiru area. So at this stage, Viner could say that he had the agreement of some of the traditional owners.)
Leo continues: ‘I could see that Oenpelli none of the strong talking owners like Big Bill, Rachael and Hanna were there; there were a few families around but hardly any traditional owners. ‘Yunupingu started off by saying that the Northern Land Council had come to an agreement, and that we should finish it now so that we could talk about other things like land claims. Then Viner gave another speech, about how the Government had entered into contracts with Japan, and told us again that the Aboriginal people were not allowed by law to stop the mining. “It has to happen”, Viner said. “The Government really wants it to go ahead “. ‘Then the owners who had been at Bamyili spoke, and Yunupingu said “Now, you all heard straight from the traditional owners because Goulburn and Croker Island people belong to the country here and you just heard them speak”. ‘Thank you very much for your time and for inviting us here.’
Leo then went on to say that Yunupingu had never once said that the agreement was about to be signed, and did not ask those traditional owners present if they agreed. The agreement was never discussed with the people from the Oenpelli community; all they were told was that they should agree, because they had held mining up for six years. ‘After lunch a car came to pick us up. We thought that we were going to the airport, but we went to the office and saw the agreement all set to be signed. ‘That was a big shock to me. ‘A lot of people signed and a platinum pen was handed out to everyone. I refused to accept one when Viner handed them out.’ ‘If Viner has said that all the traditional owners were consulted at Oenpelli and agreed to this agreement, this is a lie. ‘If Viner has said there was a two hour discussion about the agreement with traditional owners at Oenpelli; this is a lie. ‘If Viner has said that all the traditional owners were present at Oenpelli, this is a lie. In my opinion there were no more than four out of forty. ‘I object to the way the meeting was organised and run. We were given no chance to consult advisers of our choice, no chance to talk about the terms. ‘The process of consultation which had been promised with the communities has never taken place. From the time that we agreed to stop the court injunction we have been lied to and tricked by the Government and by the Northern Land Council chairman and his manager. ‘We have been denied the truth.’
So, what will happen to the agreement now?
Clearly section 23 of the Land Rights Act has not been complied with, but any legal action would have to be taken by the traditional owners at Oenpelli, and the Aboriginal people are tired. They feel that they have little chance of holding out against a Minister of the Crown who acts more like a Minister for Minerals than one for Aboriginals, and less chance of resisting one of their own blood and bigun.
The Government has already made the first pay-out to the Northern Land Council, which would have to be the fastest money draw in history. That money, no doubt, will be spent immediately, adding further ammunition to the arsenal of the Northern Land Council management; it will be hard to repudiate an agreement if the money has already been spent.
The Government must be admired for one thing: Platinum pens are definitely more subtle than a string of blue beads.
Leo sits on his plastic lazy-boy, next to a bed of flowers trimmed by a neat concrete edging; a flock of whimbrals those delicate refugees from a Siberian winter, wheel and whirl overhead.
For two hundred years these gentle people have been intimidated and exploited, and it is truly shocking to realise that lies and trickery have effectively replaced guns and strychnine.
Poor fella my country, indeed- really, despite the posturing and promises, you never stood a chance.
– On behalf of the Government, I thoroughly reject the matter of public importance raised by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). I would like to know from where the honourable member obtained his material. A great deal of it has obviously been dreamed up. Let me just put a few things right before I deal with the matter of public importance, which refers to basic human rights. The honourable member for Capricornia mentioned Queensland and especially Aurukun and Mornington Island. He may not know- he certainly would not give any credit for it- that the policy which Queensland is about to introduce will give the Aborigines of those two areas, Aurukun and Mornington Island, 50-year leases. They will be able to make their own decisions on what they do with the land and they will have their own shire clerks. The first shire clerk will go to Mornington Island within a week. The man who will go to Aurukun as shire clerk has had vast experience with Aborigines. He was with the Uniting Church in Australia and was previously at Croker Island for many years. He was greatly respected by the people. This is a very good move for these people to go to those areas. I believe they were elected by the previous council. Let us not shed too many crocodile tears about it.
It is very disappointing to hear the honourable member for Capricornia, who is a former Minister, speak about the Aborigines in the Northern Territory as he did. At times I have defended him as being a fair and reasonable man but from the way in which he spoke today it is quite obvious that he is neither fair nor reasonable. He described the treatment of the Aborigines in signing the uranium mining agreement in the Northern Territory as sordid and shabby and said that they were under tremendous pressure from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). I would like to know why Galarrwuy Yunupingu made the statement that he wished the white solicitors who were members of the Australian Labor Party would get off the place and allow the Aborigines to make their own decisions. That has been the story throughout the uranium discussions in the Northern Territory. It is well known there amongst Europeans and Aborigines that the ALP has done nothing at all for the Aborigines other than to try to manipulate them to its own political ends. These people are beginning to realise this fact. When they were at Oenpelli and took the decision to sign the agreement they could see this Labor Party pressure being applied all the time. They returned to their islands- Goulburn Island, Croker and so ondisillusioned and disappointed with the Labor Party; not without reason.
Originally some sections of the Government and even some sections of the Labor Party considered giving to Aborigines what might be called basic human rights. I do not think the honourable member for Capricornia dwelt very much on that point. It concerns land rights legislation for the Aborigines. It concerns the fact that Aboriginal people and European people have to live together in harmony in Australia, something which the Labor Party in its policies has never realised or, it may have realised it, but its policies are directed to separatism and to building up ill feeling between Aborigines and other Australians. In the land rights legislation which was introduced in 1975 there was some hint of endeavouring to do for Aborigines some of the things which were recommended by the Woodward report which, incidentally, was never debated or discussed in any parliamentary forum in this land. The Labor Party hurried the Bill into this House, as we know, to try to get votes for the Labor Party in the 1975 election.
What did it think or care about Aborigines and what has it thought or cared about Aborigines since? Only one member of the Labor Party had any thought for them and that was the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). Unfortunately he got carried away with the situation and created in the Aboriginal mind a sort of cargo cult. He made too many promises and gave them expectations far above what they would ever have envisaged. We have been speaking about land rights, the proposed Kakadu National Park, the proposed Uluru National Park, uranium and so on. These are the material matters which have been put to Aborigines. Let us face it, they should have their fair share and interest in the running of these projects and the spending of funds which will be derived from all these projects. We must realise this; it does not seem to be realised in many places. I say of those people to whom I am really referring that money is not the real object. Money is a means of being able to do the things which this country should be doing for Aborigines. It must be realised that we should not only look to the money aspect which the Labor Party has always done but also we should look at the real feelings of Aboriginal people. If it had done that, it would never have introduced the legislation that it brought in.
The approach that has been taken to the northern Aboriginal people has been disastrous. I am not talking about Aborigines by definition. In my opinion the definition of Aborigine is the result of it being put in the too-hard basket. No one could really define it so a blanket definition was given for all the Aborigines in Australia. The way in which actions are being taken is detrimental now to the real Aboriginal people as I know them, the people in the outback, whether in outback Queensland, Northern Territory,
South Australia or Western Australia. They are the people about whom I am speaking. Of course the problems of Aborigines differ from Hobart to Snake Bay. I think that any government, whether it is a Labor government or this Government, should try to work out what are the problems and needs of these people in the various areas instead of taking a blanket approach to the whole Aboriginal situation. City dwellers are vastly different from the people who live underneath the mulga trees and in the spinifex which, incidentally, probably is the life that they would much rather lead. There are the fringe dwellers, the Torres Strait Islanders and the traditional Aborigines. It is the traditional Aborigines about whom there has been the greatest misconception. Those people who introduced the original land rights Act did not appreciate the Aboriginal approach.
Those generations of people who have lived with them for a long time, over 100 years, in the areas of Central Australia have found out that there has been this misunderstanding. For instance, Aboriginals could be asked the following questions: Do you wish to run your health service; do you wish to have a cattle station; do you wish to run your own affairs; do you wish to have a land council? Of course the answers would be yes. If a question was put the other way, such as ‘Do you want us to delay your responsibility to do those things?’, the answer would still be yes. On that pretext most of the legislation concerning Aborigines has come into being. The only way to have found that out is if one had been living with these people, closely alongside them and associated with them, for years. By the same token, if the Aboriginal people who live in family groups or clans rather than those who are grouped in large areas, such as in Central Australia or Arnhem Land, are asked whether they wish to do certain things such as running a business or health centre they agree and that business automatically becomes that of the proposer. That is why so many Aboriginal ventures have failed. There is a lack of understanding by the European people, the legislators, the departmental people and by anthropologists. These people have failed to do the things which the Aborigines would have wished them to have done. Some Aborigines, we are told, do not want mining but others, such as those on Groote Eylandt, want mining. At Yuendumu the Aborigines want uranium mining. It is the antiuranium people who have tried to use the Aborigines to suit their own ends.
I spoke earlier about ventures having failed. We should realise the mistakes we have made with regard to the basic rights of Aborigines to be able to make their own decisions, to be able to live together with us and to have mutual respect. Since the Labor Party introduced its land rights legislation in 1975 it has been approaching Aborigines for purely political purposes. I am disappointed in the honourable member for Capricornia, a former Minister, because he initiated this discussion of a matter of public importance purely for political purposes. He is trying to drive a wedge between Europeans and Aborigines. That is the greatest disaster of all. As Senator Jim Cavanagh said, Labor’s most disastrous policy was that of Aboriginal selfdetermination. The Labor Party stood back and let the Aborigines go when they should have had a helping hand and strength alongside them. The Labor Party has never given such help. Some enterprises which should have been successful were pushed on to the Aborigines without any real consideration of how they would be run. I refer to such things as fishing at Maningrida, farming and the raising of cattle at Willowra or at Kildurk up in the Kimberleys. Even the views of the Aborigines on schools were not taken into consideration. What the Aborigines really want is only coming through now. They want the Europeans to be alongside them, to co-operate with them and to live together in Australia. They do not want the divisive sort of attitude which was introduced by the Labor Party in order to try to stir up trouble, whether over Aborigines, uranium, land or whatever.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the Legislation Committee considering the Audit Amendment Bill have power to meet during the sitting of the House on Friday, 17November 1978.
Debate resumed from 16 November, on motion by Mr Peacock:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Prior to being interrupted last night I was saying that the Opposition basically supports the concept of State accounting for receival and storage charges for wheat. I had pointed out that as the costs of handling, storage and freight were rising the most rapidly of all growers’ costs, they would be the main concern of growers and governments in the coming years. I believe that a Catch 22 situation applies here. I had stated that Australia is one of the few countries, if not the only one, where nearly all wheat is delivered immediately on harvest. The reason for this is that the climate in this country does not allow the amount of onfarm storage that is particularly evident in the United States and Canada, which experience very cold winters. In fact in Australia the problems of insect control and storage are major areas of concern. The further north in the country the bigger the problems. One of the major problems that Queensland faces is insect infestation.
With the advent of larger acreages and bigger machinery, harvesting is a lot quicker and the peak of demand for receival and storage is thereby accentuated. Coping with this demand means additional costs. State accounting will reflect the component of increased costs from these areas where expansion, replacement or upgrading of silo facilities takes place. It will also reflect existing State characteristics and the pattern of silos and storage that has accumulated over the years. The Catch 22 situation I wish to point to is that as more and bigger machinery is put on to the land and farmers cut costs, greater demands are being placed on the bulk handling system, thereby causing farmers to suffer increased costs.
The bulk handling authorities are in a very difficult financial situation. Evidence before the Industries Assistance Commission clearly indicated that. The use of loan funds via the Loan Council severely restricts those three bulk handling authorities that receive their funds for capital works in this manner. The use of growers’ funds, on the other hand, for South Australia and Western Australia may lead to excessive building of facilities. There has been some criticism of this. Where the answer lies we do not know. The location of storage facilities varies greatly between States. In South Australia and Western Australia a great proportion of the storage is at the seaboard. I think that in South Australia that makes a lot of sense because quite a few outlets are situated on the seaboard. The distances to be travelled are such that to put in sub-terminals would clearly not be warranted. I have a rather different idea on the situation in Western Australia where I think far too much capacity is at the seaboard. In New South Wales and Queensland most of the available storage is inland. Victoria falls somewhere between the extremes to which I have pointed. Victoria, although it has a big terminal at Geelong, has inadequate inloading capacity.
Apart from the costs, loans and growers’ funds, the problems that the bulk handling authorities face relate simply to where they should build additional storage. Should they upgrade storages or build additional storages? Do they build alongside the railways in the country areas? Should they build sub-terminals or increase terminal capacity? This requires a rather major study. The problem of insect control compounds the situation. Investigations are under way at a technical level, through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, into new forms of storage in this country with respect to inert gases and refrigeration. One of the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission was that the whole question of storage should be examined in greater detail. I hope that the Government can get one of the authorities that it has under its charge- the Department of Primary Industry, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics or some such body- to investigate the economics of storage location, pure and simple.
Another problem of the bulk handling authorities is of an institutional nature. For example, if the silo outflows are upgraded and speeded up so that the trains can be filled more quickly it will not necessarily result in any direct benefit to the growers in respect of rail freight charges. This is due to the institutional nature of dealings between State statutory authorities. The State railway accounting systems are not necessarily based on any great logic and they all have rather large problems with State deficits. Even though there is investment in various wheat storage locations and efficiencies are being created it does not necessarily mean- in fact it never means- that the freight advantages will be passed back to the growers. I believe that the bulk handling authorities need to be freed from Australian Loan Council restrictions. Admittedly they are allowed to raise money on the open market but they are still subject to an overall requirement laid down by the Loan Council. If this cannot occur, I think that they should be subsidised in some other way. I hope that the Government will give some attention and thought to this proposition.
The House is aware of possible ramifications in respect of section 92 of the Constitution that have resulted from a recent court judgment. It has been calculated that without interstate wheat trading an amount of up to $90m may have to be spent straightaway for the official bulk handling authorities to provide extra storage. At present the private traders are leasing storage. They have built some storage facilities. If an amount of $90m suddenly has to be found, again the bulk handling authorities will be in a lot of trouble. Another reason that I favour State accounting is that there are great inequities between the farmers in the States in regard to the way they have paid for the facilities for the storage of thengrain. For example, it could be held that New South Wales growers have contributed nowhere near as much to the building of storage facilities as have their colleagues in South Australia and Western Australia because in New South Wales nearly all the capital works expenditure has come directly from loan funds.
I suppose it would be rather heretical to suggest that a bit of free enterprise, as advocated by the IAC, may help in respect of storage if some of the larger grain traders and some of the merchants were allowed to operate more freely in the Australian domestic market, but I do not think it is just as simple as that. It is not so simple that it can be put in terms of slogans such as free enterprise and private trading. If free trading is allowed domestically, poorer quality wheat may be grown as varietal control would not be able to be exercised by the system of dockages. As we are now surely on the path of varietal control, I think that is a major problem for private trading domestically. Also, whilst private traders can take a lot of the under-quality wheat, they may not be able to take it all in a very bad season. So the facilities they provided at present would still have to be regulated in some way.
If there were free domestic trade and no home consumption price was fixed, other than just a floor price, I believe that more wheat would be grown in this country vis-a-vis other grains. But this is a proposition that I think will not be tested. However, in looking at all these inter-related aspects of varietal control, storage and accounting and with another stabilisation scheme coming up, I think it is time to direct our attention to ways of experimenting with some multigrain marketing concepts. We could perhaps think about issuing permits for over-the-border trading just to see how much wheat is actually handled in this way. At present all we have are estimates that it ranges from 200,000 tonnes to 500,000 tonnes a year. Perhaps the tonnage is greater, perhaps it is less. We simply do not know. I think that a good deal of thought needs to be given to this matter. I do not think it is simply a matter of talking about the need for free enterprise to prevail. I think that there are really big institutional problems.
To summarise what I have been saying, the Opposition agrees with this legislation. We agree with the three measures contained in the Bill.
The Opposition believes that varietal control is a step forward. Australian wheat farmers have always been prepared to accept a good deal of government intervention and intervention by authorities in the handling of their crop. In fact the crop is no longer theirs once it leaves the farm. But I think that they also should do their bit. For example, in Queensland there is a very tidy, precise area of grain growing and the organisation of the growing of all grains in that State is excellent. The co-operation of the Queensland Wheat Board with the farmers is excellent. In many ways it is a good example for the rest of Australia. There are other States in which growers want to grow any old wheat and want to kid the Wheat Board about the varieties of wheat that they are actually growing. I think that they should face up to the fact that they will have to compete more and that they will have to do their bit and go along with the proposals of the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Wheatgrowers federation and the Government.
The Opposition appreciates the problems associated with having to get five or six State governments to agree to legislation. Often the States have the legislative whip hand if not the emotional whip hand. The States know full well that the growers in their own States will support them because it is the State governments which bring to them so many direct services. As I said earlier, this applies particularly in respect of the breeding of new varieties of wheat, the testing of varieties and the tests by cereal chemists of wheat at various times. The Opposition agrees with the legislation and recommends it to the House.
– Before commenting on the provisions of the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Amendment Bill, which the House is now discussing, I believe that it is appropriate to compliment the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) for the initiative he has displayed in his speech, the dedication he has obviously shown to ascertaining the problems of the wheat industry and the disciplined approach that he brought to his speech. I am delighted to know that in the Australian Labor Party there are now one or two honourable members who can join the honourable member for Riverina (Mr FitzPatrick) in offering positive comment on matters affecting the rural industry. I note that the honourable member for Riverina is listed to speak in this debate. Over the years we on this side of the House have come to appreciate his positive comments. I therefore preface my remarks by congratulating the honourable member for Werriwa for taking this matter seriously, doing his homework and offering what I believe were quite pertinent and positive comments.
This piece of legislation is one which might be deemed to be of an interim nature pending the discussions about the wheat industry which will be held next year. It would be inappropriate of me to bring into this debate matters of great detail as far as the future of the wheat industry is concerned because it is apparent from Press reports and from deputations that we in this place receive that the wheat debate is just hotting up. This legislation results from the initiative of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, which is the industrial organisation representing Australian wheat fanners, and the Australian Wheat Board, which is the marketing authority, and, through its legislative process, the association that it has with the various State handling authorities. This piece of legislation is one which might be termed the brainchild of the Australian Wheat Board. The Board has come in for some criticism in recent time- most of it unjust. None of us should take offence at a point of view, logically and forcibly expressed, which is of a positive nature. At the same time it would be wrong if one did not take the opportunity in a debate such as this to defend the operations of the Board and to offer it congratulations for a job very well done.
The Board is a product of the Second World War. Basically it follows legislation laid down by the Queensland Government in 1920, which pioneered the organisation of farmers not only in Australia but also on a world-wide basis as far as getting them together is concerned. By getting together their resources and by adopting a single united marketing authority the farmers have the greatest protection that is possible for the preservation of the free enterprise way of life. Over the years the Australian Wheat Board has adopted as its motto the old Latin proverb of non est progredi regredi- there is no such thing as standing still. The Board has at all times guarded against complacency. It holds the view that stability in the long term can be achieved only by a proper appreciation of quality in relation to a buyer’s requirements. This legislation is another step in that direction.
The Australian wheat industry, of course, is an industry of great importance. It is estimated that this year there will be a total production of approximately 13.8 million tonnes and the return to the Australian people and to the Australian wheat industry will be of the order of $ 1 .3 billion to $1.4 billion, and that is a huge sum of money. This important industry represents some 47,000 rural holdings and one cannot even guess at the total number of people who are given meaningful and fruitful employment opportunities on farms, in the handling and service industries and in the flour milling, baking and transport trades.
There was some discussion in the Press recently about whether our methods of assessing our wheat crops are the best available. We hear that our overseas competitors by the use of satellites are well aware of the total Australian production and that the satellite information indicates that our estimated production of 13.8 million tonnes could be somewhat conservative. I am delighted to know that the Australian Wheat Board is not resting on its laurels as far as the interpretation and assessing of our crop are concerned. The Board is exploring avenues to ascertain whether or not it should use a satellite which, of course, would be of tremendous value in the determination of whether farmers are planting the desirable varieties. We do not want a police state. However, in a recent discussion with scientists I was made aware of the fact that a satellite could pick out a row of marihuana plants between two rows of tomato plants in, for instance, a suburban back yard in Sydney or Brisbane. I know that the good people of these two cities certainly would not plant marihuana but I use that as an example to indicate how far we have come in harnessing the use of science for the benefit of man. It will be a wonderful initiative if the Australian Wheat Board’s interest in satellite interpretation can be fulfilled.
It is appropriate to remark in this debate that over the years our trading pattern has changed. In my early lifetime the great proportion of our wheat was sold to the United Kingdom and to European countries. Our wheat was very much prized for its hardness, its milling ability, its freedom from admixtures and its relative dryness. As far as the milling ability of wheat is concerned, in the pre- World War II era an actual ton of flour was extracted from a ton of wheat with a milling extraction of approximately 80 per cent at Roma in the electorate of Maranoa. Those excellent characteristics of the Australian wheat crop were much in demand by overseas countries for mixing and blending. The wheat added strength. It had a wonderful ability to absorb water which meant that more loaves of bread could be made from a given ton of flour. It also had a great ability to resist extension. At the same time it had wonderful extensibility. Those two characteristics of course, relate to the type and quality of bread that is produced. It is absolutely necessary that these quality characteristics of the Australian wheat crop are preserved if we are to hold our place in world markets.
It is interesting to note how our trading patterns have changed. A million tonnes of wheat goes to Japan, a million tonnes to Egypt, Vi million tonnes to China, 1 million tonnes to South East Asia and Indonesia and three quarters of a million tonnes to the Middle East. All of those countries like our wheat because of its whiteness, dryness and freedom from admixtures. Additionally, because of the enthusiasm of Australian wheat breeders to develop a quality product, we are able to offer basically the same type of wheats on many different markets. I want to pay tribute to our wonderful wheat breeders, our dedicated field scientists and all those people associated with the development of top quality varieties of wheat.
I was interested to note that only recently Dr Rodney King was granted a $5,000 scholarship to study wheat breeding in England because of the concern of the Australian Wheat Board and the Australian industry about the fact that many of our modern wheats in periods of excessive rain or in some instances moderate falls of rain tend to germinate, bud and sprout while the wheat is still in the ear. Of course, this has a disastrous reaction as far as the baking and milling process is concerned. The wheat develops what is termed in official circles as excessive alpha amalyse activity. The Hagberg falling number test has been developed to measure this activity. Under this test a reading in excess of 300 is necessary if our wheat is to fulfil the requirements of the noodle maker in Japan and the producers of the other various local products in the areas in which we are now developing a market. So the problem was ascertained. The Australian wheat industry, determined to preserve the excellent name that it has on a worldwide basis, has seen fit to send one of our eminent scientists over to England to overcome the problem of excess alpha amalyse activity in certain of our wheats brought about by the germination factor while the wheat is still in the field.
It is interesting to note that our prime hard wheats are recognised as being among the very best in the world. We do not sell much wheat to the United Kingdom. However, that country has a need to obtain a strong wheat to use in its various mixtures and if Australia had this wheat available at the present time it would be snapped up. We get a premium for this type of wheat. The Australian prime hard 13 per cent protein obtains a premium of about $7 per tonne on the world market. The ordinary hard wheats obtain a premium of about $4 per tonne. How have we been able to obtain these premiums and how have we been able to develop top quality wheats? There are several areas of land in Australia which are rich in protein because they were originally brigalow or Belah scrub lands. Much of that type of land is out in the electorate of Maranoa which is so ably, honestly and well represented in this Parliament by the honourable member for Maranoa, Mr Jim Corbett. There are other areas in northern New South Wales in the electorates represented by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and the honourable member for Darling, Mr Fitzpatrick.
– We have it in Victoria too.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! I am sure the honourable member for Darling Downs would like to identify properly the honourable member to whom he refers. He is the honourable member for Riverina.
– Quite so, I apologise. I know that hard wheats are grown in the area of Victoria represented by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher); but I am talking about top quality prime hard wheats which are essentially grown in the areas which I enumerated. These areas have a natural quality of soil which produces a very high protein content wheat that is necessary to turn out a nicely rounded beautiful loaf of bread. It is also necessary to have an inbuilt quality of protein and this is where the wheat breeders have played a part second to none. I go back to the days of the late Mr Souter who was a pioneer of wheat breeding in Queensland and in Australia. He was followed by Mr David Rosser who now unfortunately is in an administrative situation. This work is at present carried on principally in Queensland at the Queensland Wheat Research Institute and it is funded by the Commonwealth Government and by contributions of growers, often in a voluntary capacity. The work is being conducted by Dr Jim Syme, a well-known and world renowned wheat breeder and his dedicated team of Mr Bob Rees, a plant pathologist and Mr Don Law, a world authority on cereal chemistry.
These dedicated people who have harnessed the resources of science and their own natural ability to develop top class wheats have come up with wheats such as Oxley, which has as its parents, Mexican dwarf wheats. They have also developed Cook, which has as its parents a cross of Condor and Timgalen. Condor was developed by the North West Wheat Research Institute in New South Wales and by the three
Queenslanders I have mentioned. Timgalen of course was a product of the University of New South Wales breeding program carried out under Professor Watson, in close association with Mr John Bligh of ‘Anchorfield’ in Queensland, a well known former Queensland wheat producer. These people have developed top quality wheats because they realise that wheat quality is limited by the environment, the availability of suitable varieties and the practicability of effective segregation. Therefore I am delighted to know that we are to have segregation on a varietal basis. I congratulate the Australian Wheat Board and the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation for developing this initiative.
Of course other varieties have been developed in other States. For example there is Shortim which was developed by Nick Derera of the North West Wheat Research Institute, and Tincurran, a biscuit-type wheat which has been developed in Western Australia and which will be grown only in certain areas. It should be pointed out in this debate that the varietal controls will not take place until 1980-81. But we are giving warning to the Australian people that it is necessary to retain the quality characteristics in the Australian wheat crop. In keeping their seed wheat supplies for future years, they should take into account the varietal controls that will be
– This table raises some interesting points. I understand that it has been estimated that for 1978-79 New South Wales will seek a unit payment per tonne from the Australian Wheat Board of $12. Victoria will seek $6.80; South Australia, $7; Western Australia, $11 and Queensland, approximately $8.20. As I said, this raises some interesting points. I am concerned about what will happen with growers, say, in northern New South Wales. Their State charge will be $12 per tonne, whilst in Queensland the charge is estimated to be $8.20. There will also be a freight advantage to administered by the wheat variety control committees in each State.
The legislation deals also with State accounting. I know that all wheat growers and all people associated with the industry will welcome this new move because it will have as its fundamental result the shooting home of accountability to State authorities, to the men who are represented on those State authorities, and many of whom were put there as representatives by way of vote of the rank and file wheat growers. I do not wish to criticise State handling authorities, but too often in the past they have looked upon the Australian Wheat Board in Melbourne as being Santa Claus. They have said: ‘Why worry about cost? It is spread over the total Australian crop. Let us give a service to our growers which is being denied to the growers in other States ‘. That has had to stop. I applaud the sense of accountability and responsibility that is implicit in this type of legislation.
Over the years the Australian Wheat Board has isolated charges to the respective State handling authorities. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which details movements of unit charges payable to bulk handling authorities for the years 1971-72 to 1977-78.
The table read as follows-
Queensland growers of about $2 per tonne. So one does not need to be a mathematician to realise that a grower in New South Wales close to the Queensland border will be financially advantaged to the tune of $5.80 per tonne if he is allowed to deliver his wheat into the Queensland system. A similar situation will apply in the area represented so ably by my colleague, the honourable member for Mallee. The Victorian growers will be charged $6.80. There will be a tendency for southern New South Wales growers to deliver their wheat into the Victorian system because of the lower handling costs adopted by the
Victorian authority. I hope that these matters can be ironed out satisfactorily.
A system has been developed in several States that is different in nature and approach. In Queensland we have at all times gone for high capital costs and low labour costs. Other States, such as Western Australia, have gone for long horizontal storages which require the employment of many men. In Queensland we have gone for vertical storages with self-emptying bottoms. The Queensland system will be cheaper because the labour content is low.
– We are always ahead.
-The honourable member for Maranoa says that Queensland is always ahead. I think the members in Queensland have adopted a disciplined approach of the trained mind of the businessman who is concerned for not only the short term prospects but also the long term prospects of his particular industry. I hope that the Australian Wheat Board will refund to the Queensland Government some extra amount of money for the administrative charges because we in Queensland pay our own growers. We also want to preserve the methods of paying and establishing our Queensland premiums intact, bearing in mind that these state accounting costs are costs from the point of receival in the country to the point where the grain leaves the spout at the terminal for loading into shipholds
Finally, I make a plea about a matter which should be included in future legislation. I do not disagree with freight advantage of Western Australian growers. It is true that they do have a freight advantage. The world pattern of trade has changed but I make a particular plea for the central Queensland growers, represented by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), who ship their wheat out of Gladstone. If we are to establish a principle of returning to growers who deliver to a certain port the advantages of overseas freight in one State, we must also extend to growers in other States any such financial advantage which accrues to them by virtue of their geographical situation. I hope that the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay), who is sitting at the table, will take up this matter with the Minister for Primary Industry.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) ( 1 1.57)- I think we would all agree that we have heard two excellent speeches on this Bill. Both speakers knew their subject very well and supplied a lot of technical and scientific information to the House.
It is my intention to try to get closer to the bread and butter issues because I think I know something about those particular issues. These issues concern me and many of the wheat growers in my electorate. But before doing so, I want to say that it was nice to be able to speak after the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) because usually the position is reversed and the honourable member for Darling Downs speaks after me. Sometimes he praises me and sometimes he has a piece of me. I did notice, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I thank you for pointing it out, that the honourable member for Darling Downs kept referring to me as the honourable member for Darling. I hope that he was not implying that I should be eliminated as the seat of Darling was. As the honourable member for Riverina, I believe that I am just about to make my mark. However, I must admit that I was really out of my depth when the honourable member for Darling Downs started to speak in Latin. I was not sure whether he was praising us or was getting back to his old trick of having a piece of us.
The provisions in this Bill allow each State, with some delay in the case of Victoria and Western Australia, to prescribe classes of wheat fixed by reference to variety and to allow dockages to be made for classes that do not fit the description. This seems to me to represent a major change in the marketing of wheat. I am prepared to admit that it could mean that an overall better type of wheat will be delivered to the receival points. However, when speaking to farmers and growers and other people connected with the wheat industry, one does not hear many complaints regarding the quality of wheat. As the honourable member for Darling Downs has already mentioned, I think it can be said that Australian wheat is of a very high standard. Of course, seasonal conditions sometimes affect the quality of wheat, and it seems to me that this point is not dealt with adequately in the Bill.
However, having regard to the changes to the Act that are proposed in the Bill and the recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in this respect, I believe we should at least consider the present stabilisation Act and what it has achieved. I think it can be said that the Act has provided a framework to allow the industry to develop and has also allowed the growth of the industry to be planned over a long period. In spite of the fact that at one stage quotas had to be introduced to take up a short term over-supply, I believe we can be very pleased with the functioning of the stabilisation
Act. It has provided the industry with a reasonable return for the resources employed in the production of wheat. It has allowed the Australian Wheat Board to provide protection for the orderly marketing of wheat within Australia and at the same time to consolidate Australia’s position as one of the three major wheat exporting countries of the world.
I am particularly proud when I look into the records to find that the wheat stabilisation principle was introduced by the Hon. R. L. Pollard, Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government in 1946, and that first stabilisation plan commenced operation in 1948. Over this period of 30 years, stabilisation has served both the industry and the Australian economy well- The industry has grown from one that produced 190 million bushels a year to one that today is looking to a production of something in the order of 500 million bushels. During this time the Australian wheat industry has reached a very high peak of technical efficiency in the production of the commodity, as the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) and the honourable member for Darling Downs have already pointed out. The expertise of the Australian Wheat Board has seen Australia consolidate her position as one of the major exporting countries of the world, whose importance as a supplier of wheat to countries unable to provide their own requirements has been proved on many occasions over the period of the scheme.
Because of the history of the stabilisation scheme, one would want to see changes come about slowly in regard to the production and marketing of wheat. If the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation requested the Commonwealth and the States to introduce a scheme to discourage the growing of unacceptable varieties of wheat in Australia, then I believe that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and members of this House would be under some obligation to make provision for such protection. I notice that the Minister said in his second reading speech:
The Australian Agricultural Council agreed in principle to introduce such a scheme, with the objective of ensuring that the marketability of the Australian wheat crop is not prejudiced.
I am not sure what is meant by the words ‘in principle’. It seems to me that the Council is either for or against the scheme, and it should clearly indicate which way it intends to jump. The Minister also said in his second reading speech:
The Council accepted that the homogeneity of the crop is an important characteristic in the Australian Wheat Board’s ability to sell the grain competitively on the international market. Unacceptable varieties would have a deleterious effect on the homogeneity of the crop and so affect its marketability.
That does not convey a great deal to me. I think we would all agree that unacceptable varieties would have an effect on the marketability of the crop, and I cannot really understand why such phrasing was used. At least we have something in our favour when we consider that the scheme is based on the Australian Wheat Board making dockages on unacceptable varieties delivered to it. The guidelines for the operation of the scheme were drawn up by the Australian Wheat Board in close collaboration with both the Commonwealth and the States. It augurs well for the success of the scheme if everyone agrees that this is the right way to market the wheat. The change in the present Australia-wide pooling of storage and handling costs to one where growers in a particular State would be charged a rate for storage and handling that would be appropriate to the rate of remuneration received by the bulk handling authority of the particular State seems to be fair. It will identify the cost in each State and thereby ensure that each State has a greater accountability for its operations. I believe that that should bring about greater efficiency in the marketing of our wheat.
It appears to me that while we are tightening controls on the varietal characteristics we should give some consideration to the supply and the price of stock feed wheat. Members of the Wheatgrowers Federation have told me that they have given a great deal of time and attention to the most practical way of permitting the Australian Wheat Board to sell wheat for stock feed purposes. Obviously, there is a growing local and export market for feed grains, even though it is admitted that considerable development is still required in regard to specialised feed wheat. Ideally, this wheat should be readily identifiable. Up until the High Court’s decision, a large amount of this wheat was sold outside the control of the Wheat Board. However, most growers and traders now wish to carry on this trade inside the Board’s control. Recently I addressed a meeting at Wamboota, which was listed as a discussion with the Wamboota Women’s Charity Club. I ended up being nailed to the cross for explaining this Government’s policy on the marketing of Australian wheat, but I think I put up a better argument than the Minister could have.
I was impressed with the concern of some of these people, who will be seriously affected by the High Court’s decision. It surprised me that although everyone seemed to be in favour of orderly marketing, many young growers, contractors and dealers, who have been part of the production and sale of wheat, believe that although that form of production and sale was not approved of at least it was allowed to continue on the ‘blind eye’ system. It has been in operation for so long that many of the young growers came into the industry on the understanding that it was the way of life, part of the production and marketing of wheat. I ask the Minister to cushion the effect of the High Court’s decision as much as possible. If this is not done a lot of people who have been connected with Australian primary production will be penalised, I believe unfairly, because of the points I have already made. I know that some people do not like talking about the High Court’s decision when we are discussing the stabilisation Bill, but it must be remembered that my electorate is probably affected more severely than any other electorate in Australia. These people are very concerned and they will be hurt unless some provision is made for them.
As I have said, it is nice to see that some unanimity exists between the wheat growers and the people connected with the marketing of wheat. Even those who sell their wheat through the Wheat Board are unanimous that wheat growers must be provided with a marketing system capable of guaranteeing an element of price security. They all agree that this should be done through the. Australian Wheat Board and that the Board should be the sole exporter of wheat. They agree also that any system must ensure that all levies are collected and that provision is made for disease and pest control. It is nice to know that all sections of the production and marketing of wheat seem to agree on those points. In this context the merchants and traders in my electorate are asking that they be licensed and that the licensed private sale of wheat relate primarily to stock feed wheat. Since it is not feasible to exclude some qualities of wheat they say that realistically all wheat must be included in any licensing scheme. The essential aim of any licensed private sale system would be to ensure that the scheme is not overburdened with excessive controls. It is accepted that the controls must be sufficient to eradicate irregular and undesirable trading practices and facilitate the collection of necessary industry levies as well as providing a pest and disease control system.
I am in favour of orderly marketing, along with the great majority of the producers and merchants. But they believe that there is a place for the private marketing and sale of wheat and they have asked that this aspect be given due consideration. I draw the attention of the House to paragraph 6.70 of the Green Paper entitled ‘ Rural Policy in Australia ‘, which states:
One danger of the large single marketing authority is the possibility of it becoming bureaucratic and slow-moving in its marketing and management operations.
All honourable members will realise how big the Australian Wheat Board is becoming. Perhaps it would not be a bad idea to have some private sales so that we can have some kind of comparison, small though it may be. I believe that we should make provision for licensed private sales if only during the period of the phasing in of this new scheme to do away with across-the-board sales. I ask the Minister for Primary Industry to give consideration to those matters.
– It is a pleasure to rise to speak in support of the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Amendment Bill. It has been a pleasure to listen to the excellent comments made by the three honourable members who have participated in this debate so far. The first part of this BUI includes a provision that will establish a varietal control scheme for wheat throughout Australia. It provides also for a change in the legal basis on which the Board makes payments to the State bulk handling authorities and for a change in the basis of remuneration of those authorities. I think that it is important to state, as the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) points out, that the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation requested the Commonwealth and the States to introduce a scheme that would discourage the growing of unacceptable varieties of wheat in Australia. In turn, the Australian Agricultural Council agreed in principle to introduce such a scheme with the objective of ensuring that the marketability of the Australian wheat crop was not prejudiced. Since then all States have agreed in principle to the varietal control scheme and all States, with the exception of Victoria and Western Australia, are proceeding with the introduction of this amendment without delay. Victoria and Western Australia propose to make the necessary amendments to their legislation next year. Until the legislation of those two States has been amended, it is necessary to make provision for this in the complementary Commonwealth-State legislation because of the nature of the pooling arrangements provided therein.
This amendment provides for the exclusion from the scheme for the time being of wheat from those two States. One of the recommendations made in the recent Industries Assistance
Commission report on the wheat industry relating to marketing arrangements stated that restraints currently imposed on the Australian Wheat Board in respect of grading, pricing and segregation should be removed. Under the current legislation the Board is required to receive into the Australian Standard White class any variety that conforms with the receival standards regardless of how poor its processing quality may be. More significantly, the Board must pay the grower of that wheat the average pool return per tonne less freight and handling costs without making any allowance for processing quality. This system means that the growers of ASW wheat are never made aware of the relative values to the end user of the varieties which they deliver and there is no incentive whatsoever to improve the quality of their product. It is therefore very important that growers be made aware of the commercial value of the varieties they grow and the proposed changes to the legislation are designed to do just that.
The scheme is the result of processors, both abroad and in Australia, becoming increasingly exacting in regard to quality. Dockages will apply at receival in exactly the same way as those now applying for physical defects. As I have mentioned, in some States the scheme will be given a trial run in the coming crop. This trial and the 1979-80 crop will allow growers, bulk handling authorities and the Board to become familiar with it and to rectify any operational problems. It will also give growers in all States two seasons to reorganise their seed situation to meet marketing demands.
The workings of the scheme are roughly as follows: The wheat advisory committees in the various States will recommend the varieties to be sown and before sowing all varieties will be fully discussed with the various committees. The committees’ recommendations will, as at present, be based on yield, disease resistance and quality. The docking system at harvest will operate as follows: No dockage will apply to varieties recommended by the committee in each State. All varieties other than those recommended by the committee will be subject to assessment by the Board. For example, varieties with minor quality disabilities will attract a dockage equal to the present dockage for wheat containing sprouted grain. This is $3 per tonne. These dockage varieties will be binned as ASW. Very poor quality varieties completely out of line with local growing conditions, unregistered varieties and cross-breds will attract a dockage up to the maximum general purpose dockage, which is currently $22 per tonne, and will be stored as general purpose grain.
Other conditions of the scheme are that at delivery growers or their agents will be required to state the variety of each load. It has been stated by a former member of this House- I guess he was stating pure Liberal principles- that he would defend the right of his growers to go broke any way they wished. At the time he made that comment there were 283 varieties of wheat in Australia. Whilst I would defend the right of any grower to grow what he wished, I would not defend the right of any grower to deliver any variety of wheat to marketing authorities and have it mixed with other growers’ grain to the detriment of the total crop. I think that it is important that the varietal control recommendations, which have been the subject of so much emotional and often ill-informed discussion, are being introduced. It is extremely important for growers to appreciate the necessity for such a scheme and the very real advantages that will flow from it. We cannot continue to prejudice the saleability of the Australian wheat crop any longer.
The second part of the legislation deals with the changes in arrangements for the remuneration of the State bulk handling authorities by the Australian Wheat Board. This also is supported by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. Until now the costs of wheat handling and storage have been pooled on an Australia-wide basis. Under the revised arrangements Australiawide pooling will no longer apply. Growers delivering wheat to the central receival system of each State will be charged at a rate for storage and handling which is appropriate to the costs incurred by the bulk handling authority in their State. This new arrangement will identify for growers the charges incurred by the authority which stores and handles their wheat and will so enable it greater accountability to wheat growers, for over the last few years these charges have been increasing at a very high rate. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a chart which shows payments to bulk handling authorities, State by State, and also unit payments to bulk handling authorities. I have discussed this matter with the Opposition spokesman.
The table read as follows-
– The system that has worked for many years is one whereby the Australian Wheat Board, through its licensed receivers, accepts all wheat tendered to it by growers, subject to certain minimum requisite standards. The licensed receivers are the bulk handling authorities in each State, and these comprise four government authorities and two wheat grower co-operatives, as well as certain flour millers and stock feed suppliers who have been licensed to receive wheat.
Capital expenditure by the bulk handling authorities in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland is financed either through State government loans or through commercial loans, which in total form part of the State’s loan allocation from the Australian Loan Council. In South Australia and Western Australia, however, capital expenditure is financed by tolls on deliveries from growers, which provide a rotating loan fund, and loans from commercial institutions. I think it is important that I set out what is contained in the report of the Industries Assistance Commission. The costs incurred by receivers on the following items are reimbursed by the Australian Wheat Board: Depreciation on storages, buildings, and equipment; interest and associated expenses on loans for the purchase of assets; interest on tolls in South Australia; interest on tolls and levies in Western Australia; interest on levies in
Queensland; operating expenses; and, of course, hiring charges paid to the bulk handling authorities on the basis of one per cent of the original cost of the asset.
I have already incorporated in Hansard the tables which set out the costs incurred by the bulk handling authorities, State by State. These costs are pooled and shared on a pro rata basis by all wheat growers in Australia. The Australian Wheat Board- I think it is significant that this is recognised- proposed that this arrangement be altered so that wheat growers in any one State would bear directly the costs of their bulk handling authority. On the basis that the current reimbursement system continued, between 1971-72 and 1976-77 handling and storage costs of wheat growers in Western Australia and New South Wales would have increased, while for growers in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland they would have generally declined.
At this point I wish to indicate the storage capacity that we have in Australia. In 1976-77 our total storage capacity for wheat, excluding stock feed and on-farm storage, was 20.3 million tonnes. The bulk handling authorities controlled almost all of that storage capacity, with 15.9 million tonnes of country capacity and 4.1 million tonnes of capacity at the seaboard. The storage capacity of flour millers was only 0.3 million tonnes. Over recent weeks quite a considerable argument has been going on in the Victorian media in relation to the announcement by the Grain Elevators Board in Victoria that it intends to slash charges for the coming wheat season. I think it is worth pointing out that the costs that are incurred by many of our bulk handling authorities are very much dependent on the amount of production grown in that State from year to year. I think it is quite dishonest on the part of our bulk handling authorities to make claims at times for either increases or decreases in their costs from season to season, without relating such claims to their production.
I think the only State which could really claim very high efficiency in the delivery of grain is Queensland. If we compare the costs of the 1976-77 season with those expected in the 1978-79 season we find that the only State that can really claim an honest reduction in costs is Queensland. The costs in that State have been reduced from $9.64 per tonne to $8.20 per tonne. The Grain Elevators Board in Victoria, which is a most efficient and effective grain handling authority, this year will be charging growers $6.80 per tonne. In 1976-77, which was an equivalent year of production, the cost was approximately $4.63 per tonne. That indicates that, whilst costs have been reduced when compared with those of last season, in a year of low production costs increased quite significantly, especially when compared with costs in 1976-77 which was an equivalent year of production.
I do not wish to elaborate a great deal more on the Bill, except to say that it has the support of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. I believe it will introduce greater efficiency into our marketing and handling costs. I believe it will promote a greater acceptance of the quality of the Australian wheat crop on the export market. I would like to congratulate, as did the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), the Australian Wheat Board on its operations over very many years. When we start talking about the costs of marketing and the handling of wheat, it is sometimes forgotten that these costs basically relate not to the costs incurred by the Australian Wheat Board but costs incurred through our various transport systems and our handling authorities. I believe that the relative cost incurred by the Australian Wheat Board in its operations was in the vicinity of 49c per tonne for all wheat handled in the last year.
I believe that the decisions to have State accountability will put tremendous pressure on the State handling authorities to explain to their growers and to justify to their growers any decisions that are taken in relation to further construction of storage facilities. It is now recognised in Victoria that the decisions that had to be taken quite hurriedly to build additional storage facilities in the years of very heavy production in 1976-77- horizontal storages were builtsignificantly increased the cost of that system to growers. When Queensland was faced with a similar situation it opted for vertical storages, which have had the opposite effect as regards costs.
I make one other comment. I hope that the arrangements that are presently under way relating to the use of Portland as an export terminal for wheat will soon be concluded. There is no doubt that Geelong has a magnificent and efficient grain terminal, but the costs involved in and the inefficiencies of transporting to Geelong all of Victoria’s grain and some of the grain of the Riverina have long been recognised. As soon as the terminal at Portland can be utilised by the Australian Wheat Board, we will see further reductions in costs for the people involved, particularly those in the north-west and western parts of Victoria, in the delivery of grain to that very favourable port. That port can accommodate ships of a capacity twice that which can be handled at Geelong and, of course, it does not suffer from the same demurrage charges. I support the legislation. I believe it has the acceptance of the Australian wheat industry. I believe that it forms part of a lead-up to the very successful establishment of a new stabilisation scheme for Australian wheat growers.
– One question was raised during the debate to which I want to respond briefly, and I want to comment also on another matter relating to this season’s wheat trade. I am advised that the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) asked a question about the freight advantage which currently applies to Western Australia. It was suggested that he would like that freight advantage to apply to all wheat, irrespective of the State of origin. This matter has in fact already been raised by some States, and I will ensure that it is examined when we look at the whole question of the arrangements to apply beyond the 1978-79 season. As the honourable gentleman would know, next year we will have to consider legislation which provides for a new wheat stabilisation period. That legislation will be based on whatever conclusions are reached on the Industries Assistance Commission report. I assure the honourable member that at that time the question of freight advantage in all States will be taken into account.
During the debate, some reference was made to the accommodation of private traders. Quite obviously, the decision of the High Court of Australia has caused a good deal of concern in many sections of the industry, particularly in wheat growing areas adjacent to State boundaries. I know that the origins of private trading perhaps lie more in the degree to which off-grade wheats could not be treated in a normal way. Often, they were not able to be delivered to silos. In some instances, the off-grade wheat, having been loaded on to the back of the farmer’s truck, was taken to the closest railhead. The farmer was then told that the wheat did not meet the requirements of the grain in that silo, particularly if it happened to be a prime hard wheat area. The farmer was in the invidious position then of not knowing what the devil to do with the load he had on his truck. In those circumstances some farmers were able to find outlets privately. Perhaps in that way private trading came to be as extensive as it now is.
For various reasons, particularly with the growth of the stock feed industry, there has been a tremendous development in private trading. We are all aware of the circumstances that prevailed before the High Court decision. However, I believe that the Australian Wheat Board has adopted a very sound and positive attitude towards accommodating those who previously have taken advantage of private trading. Members of this House might have seen statements made by the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board on the practice that he proposes to follow. To the maximum extent, he will try to utilise facilities that private traders enjoy. For example, he hopes to be able to use their silage. I think also that the manner and form of handling the crop should pick up most of the advantages that the private traders have provided. The Chairman of the Wheat Board hopes that it will be possible to ensure that in most States there is an alternative of utilising road transport, as well as rail transport, for handling grain.
For example, in the electorate of Riverina facilities will extend as far north as Hay to provide for truck delivery of grain into the Victorian market. I hope that there will also be facilities to ensure that in licensed stock feed mills delivery can be effected directly from the farm to those mills. Of course, this is essentially a transitional arrangement The details will properly be made by the Chairman or officers of the Wheat Board at an appropriate time. I assure the House that I certainly have been most concerned to see that no farmer will be disadvantaged because of the High Court decision and the lack of future availability of private trading facilities. The attitude that the industry takes towards private trading this year might well be affected because of the very significant availability of barley, its price and the fact that in most stock feed mills barley is likely to be bought at such a price that people will not be so inclined to trade in wheat as they have been in other years.
Whatever the results of this season, they will certainly be very significant in determining what role private traders have in any future wheat stabilisation arrangements. To my mind, the important part of private trading is that it is a facility which has been availed of by a few growers. Unfortunately, equity has not necessarily prevailed. In other words, the storage charges and the charges of the Wheat Board for handling and research and so on have not been paid for by some farmers in the way that they have been paid for by others. It is important that there be complete equity among all Australian wheat growers, wherever they may be, while we have the present marketing system. I believe that the Wheat Board arrangements should help to accommodate that requirement. Whatever happens this year will certainly be significant in determining what arrangements are made in the consideration of the Industries Assistance Commission report, next year’s legislation and the regime that will apply at the end of this season, when the new stabilisation arrangements must come into force. I believe it is important, however, that private growers enjoy to the maximum the benefits that private traders have brought to them. It is the responsibility of the Australian Wheat Board, through the various grain elevator boards and bulk handling authorities, to ensure that that is so. That is not peculiarly the responsibility of the Wheat Board. It is also significantly the responsibility of the bulk handling authorities in the several States. I know that the State of the honourable member for Riverina- my own State of New South Wales- it is very important that Grain Elevators Board, which is responsible for handling grain, plays its part to ensure to the maximum extent possible, that no grower suffers because of any changes imposed on the industry through the application of the High Court decision.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Newman) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 August, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports the Bill. Constant on-going research programs are an essential part of good marketing procedures. We applaud the poultry industry’s acknowledgement of this and the fact that farmers are prepared to put their money where their- I hesitate to say ‘beak’- mouth is. This Bill seeks to raise by $100,000 the amount available for research into marketing and the general economics of the industry. I guess that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, would have an interest in this Bill because in the suburb of Seven Hills in your electorate there is a very large poultry research station. Whilst there are very few poultry farmers in Parramatta, except perhaps the ones down the road from me who have a few chooks in the backyard, I do not suppose I need to lay an egg to be a judge of an omelette. So I feel I am justified in speaking on this Bill.
– The honourable member for Parramatta is a chook lover as well.
-He is a bird lover as well. That is true. For the benefit of those people outside the industry and the Parliament who are not aware of the existing legislation and arrangements concerning poultry research, I would like to give a brief account of the Bill’s history. Before I do that, I point out that I am disturbed to see that no member of the National Country Party, with the exception of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), is present in the House. I would have thought that when we were debating a Bill which is intimately concerned with the people whom they are supposed to represent they would be present in the House. They certainly would be here if we were discussing uranium. I am surprised that they are not here when we are discussing eggs. Perhaps yellowcake is more important to them than yellow yokes.
In 1966, the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965 was amended to allow for a Commonwealth and industry combined cost sharing of a research program. The Commonwealth paid into the Poultry Industry Trust Fund- known as the pm- amounts equal to those raised through the hen levy. I will not go into the full ramifications of the hen levy but one of the speakers who follow me in the debate may do so. The money paid into the PITF is basically for three purposes. Firstly, the hen levy gathered from all States is redistributed back to the States to stabilise domestic and export unit costs. Secondly, part of that levy is kept aside- $100,000 in this case- and is the industry’s contribution to research. The Commonwealth, out of Consolidated Revenue, puts up a corresponding amount for research, that is, an amount up to $100,000 contributed on a shared dollar for dollar basis. The third purpose is the refinancing of Reserve Bank loans to State egg boards. This Bill is concerned with the second of those functions, that is, the amount shared between the Commonwealth and the industry for research. The proposal is for an extra $100,000 to be contributed-$50,000 from each partner, the Commonwealth and the industry. This has come as a request from the industry through the CEMAA, that is, the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia.
I would like to quote from the fourth report of the Poultry Research Advisory Committee, which covers the period from July 1975 to June 1977. That body has been set up under the umbrella of the CEMAA. In this report the chairman, Mr R. B. Fuge, states:
Research is a tool to be used to the advantage of industry. To be effective it should tackle immediate and short-term problems and assess areas for study with the aim of maintaining and improving consumer demand in the market place.
I said earlier that we commend the industry for being prepared to boost its share of the cost of the research programs. I would like to elaborate on that point. Since 1968 the Poultry Research Advisory Committee, the PRAC, has allocated the vast majority of its funds to projects that have been designed to improve or increase egg production. The Minister mentioned in his second reading speech such points as disease control, nutritional studies, egg quality and genetic improvement as examples of this research. All these areas are designed to improve and or increase production. While they are commendable in themselves, these projects have done little to help the industry to promote and sell more eggs. The public is getting a far superior product because of this research but it is not buying any more eggs because of the advances in the industry. It is a pity.
It is for this reason, as well as simply keeping up with inflation, that more money is needed. Research needs to expand into the market place as well as the laboratories of the nation. Money is needed so that the decline in egg consumption which has become noticeable will be overcome. On this point I would like to expand on the state of the egg industry. Over the past decade there has been a continuing trend towards larger nocks. In 1966-67, for example, only 2 per cent of poultry farms had flocks of 5,000 or more hens. By comparison, in 1976-77 about 17 per cent of all registered farms had flocks of this size. There has been a steady consolidation within the poultry industry which has seen the decline of the small poultry farmer. Of course that does not take into account the unknown quantity in the egg production area, that is, the backyard farmer or the small farmer who is not registered. No one really knows for what percentage of production they are responsible but it is believed to be of the order of 30 per cent.
The fact that industry has consolidated into larger flocks with the decline of the small poultry farmer is regrettable because it has meant that many have fallen by the wayside. But in other ways, it makes for a more efficient and rewarding occupation for those people who remain in the business of egg production. This consolidation is partly the result of the quota system which the States have instigated and partly due to natural economic trends. Figures that have been taken from the annual report made under the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965-66 on the operation of the Act and which has been brought together in a readily digestible form in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics publication Eggs: Situation and Outlook 1978 give a good graphic indication of this consolidation within the poultry industry. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard some of these statistics which indicate the number of poultry farms, the number of leviable hens and the average flock size by State. They are quite interesting statistics because they illustrate the points that I have been making.
The table read as follows-
-In 1965-66, for instance, there were 16,891 poultry farms in Australia. In 1976-77, by comparison, there were only 3,730 farms. Similarly, the number of leviable hens in 1965-66 was 9,485. In 1976-77, with consequent increases in population, there were only 10,686 hens- not a really appreciable increase which would tend to suggest either that we are eating fewer eggs or the hens are laying more eggs. That is a question at which we should look more closely. A decline in the production of eggs has been evident from 1974 and, due to an epidemic of Marek’s disease resulting in heavy stock losses, 1976-77 also showed a very low level. This steady decline has been the result of the hen quotas which have been operating nationwide for a couple of years. This has had the desirable effect of bringing the rate of production closer to the rate of domestic demand, thus reducing the amount of stock needed to be exported at lower costs. This of course helps the stabilising process although in 1976 Australia’s stock of exportable egg product was so low that Japan which is almost our exclusive customer- it takes about 99 per cent of our egg productlooked elsewhere. I think that is another matter at which we should look. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics in its publication Eggs: Situation and Outlook, in talking about Japan, stated: … in 1976-77, they accounted for more than 97 per cent … of all eggs packed or processed for export. In the case of the major export product, egg pulp, it would seem that Japan is likely to remain the only important market. A general slowing in the rate of economic growth has reduced Japanese import demand for eggs since 1973. Also, in 1976, South Africa and China increased their shares of the Japanese market to 25 per cent and 23 per cent respectively compared with 19 per cent and 17 per cent respectively the year before. The proportion of the Japanese market supplied by Australia declined from 47 per cent in 1975 to 45 per cent in 1976.
It would appear that that is one area where more research is needed, perhaps not to increase the size of the Japanese market that we have but. surely to find some other markets. South Africa and China have got under our guard and increased their share of the Japanese market, as I just pointed out. This balance between output and consumption, which seemed to be occurring, has recently shown signs of reversing. The BAE suggests that the 1977-78 levels of production are expected to rise again while, conversely, there is evidence to show that consumption is on the decline. This is the irony of the whole situation. Research is overcoming the problems of disease which has a natural culling effect on flock sizes and also improving the quality and quantity of egg production for each hen. But this is happening at a time when the public is losing interest in the mighty egg. The BAE states:
Changes in tastes and dietary habits appear to have resulted in a switch away from the consumption of eggs.
Overall, in 1976-77 there was a net decline in domestic consumption of 2.6 million dozen eggs or 1.7 per cent from the level of the previous year. Perhaps for the meat and egg industries the quicker we get back to eating steak and eggs as our staple diet the better for all concerned. Those figures take into account a slight increase in other egg products. It is for this reason that the industry is suggesting an increase in the money that is available for research so that it might increase consumption and thus take advantage of the production increases which are a direct result of scientific research into the field of poultry biology. It is commendable that the industry has opted to increase the pool, that is, to expand the available finances for market research rather than to cut back on its biological research programs.
The poultry research scheme urgently needs to look at new ways to tempt the gourmet with its products. Egg and spoon picnic races, whipped egg white facials and of course the ubiquitous strawberry pavlova can only account for so much of this difference between output and consumption. New ideas are needed and this takes money. I might put in a word here for the egg white facial which I just mentioned. My great grandmother, who is rather an elderly lady swears by it. She plasters her face with whipped egg white, sits back with a glass of good brandy and, with her feet up in a comfortable position, contemplates passages from the Kama Sutra for an hour every day. She has the countenance of a girl of 20 years. I am not sure which of the three commodities accounts for her radiance but whichever it is it works; I would like to think that it is the eggs. So there are ways of looking at the humble egg, a little lateral thinking perhaps, which could open new vistas.
– Which came first?
– The chicken or the egg?
-That is a question that probably a man with the honourable member’s Irish background might be able to solve for me. On a more serious note, during my discussions with personnel in the industry one recurring theme emerged. Prominent people in the area of poultry research have commented on what they see as egg politics, working against the better interests of the industry. The Council for Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia has the power of veto over what research projects will be approved. This body, which is made up of State representatives and apparently State interests as against overall interests sometimes militates against the recommendations of the Poultry Research Advisory Committee. It seems fruitless for the CEMAA to set up an advisory body such as PRAC if it is not prepared to accept its recommendations. According to my sources, the Minister is aware of this dissatisfaction amongst the research people. They say that PRAC has the experts, is in touch with research and knows in what direction the poultry research scheme should be going. While CEMAA is able to overrule this advice by its power of veto, for whatever reason, the industry is not getting the best value for its research dollar. A great deal of time is wasted while CEMAA debates the issue. These people are being paid for their services, so there is a waste if their advice is not accepted.
For the 1976-77 research programs PRAC effectively reported direct to the Minister rather than to the Minister through CEMAA. This procedure was hailed by many in the industry as a major breakthrough. The appointed panel of experts of PRAC judged all projects on their scientific merit and their relevance to the industry, and allocated funds accordingly. It was seen as a truly national effort. There has since been a reversal and the 1978-79 program recommended by the research body has once again had to be submitted to CEMAA, which seems to be a backward step. It seems ludicrous for this expert body to report to a political group which has vested State interests and which can veto a project for any reason. In one particular year it vetoed the total research program. It is time that the Poultry Research Advisory Committee was given the authority it deserves because of its expertise and knowledge. It should have the right to report direct to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Opposition supports the increased amount of $50,000 as being the Commonwealth’s share of the expanded research pool. We trust it will be well used.
– The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) earlier in his remarks said that no member of the National Country Party was present in the House. I can well understand why he said that. I certainly do not, in any spirit of anger, seek to correct him, but for the purpose of the record I point out to the honourable member- I know that he is a very fairminded person- that I was present in the chamber. I was talking to departmental officers who had some figures for me. I would like it to be known that I was present in the chamber but quite obviously could not be seen by the honourable member for Parramatta.
– A dishonest remark.
– I do not believe it was a dishonest remark. I was sitting in an area which could not be seen by the honourable member. I want that to be known for the purpose of the record. It would be wrong if the 3,730 registered poultry farmers in Australia read a report which indicated that the National Country Party did not have a representative present in the chamber during this debate when in fact it did.
We support this legislation for two reasons. Firstly, it will allow the continuation of research which, in many instances, has world wide reputation and application. Secondly, it is refreshing to be associated- as we have said in previous debates on rural industry research matters- with legislation which indicates that the people who are part and parcel of it are not waiting for governments to provide all the funds for a project but are funding it on a one-for-one basis with the Commonwealth Government. In many instances the people concerned are contributing sums greater than the 50 per cent pro rata stipulations. This has been of tremendous benefit to the industry. We should encourage people to contribute out of their own funds for the purpose of updating their own industry, keeping it to the forefront of world quality and production trends, keeping their losses from disease to a minimum and also updating production by using modern feeding techniques.
The poultry industry in Australia also deserves congratulations for exercising discipline and selfrestraint. Only a few years ago- possibly five- the industry was in virtual chaos. Production was running unbridled and world markets were, in most instances, unobtainable. If markets were obtainable payments were at rock bottom prices. The industry consisted basically of many small-type units facing ruin. It is a tribute to the various State and Commonwealth departmental officers that, in association with industry leaders, they were able to hammer out on the anvil of discussion strategies and initiatives which have placed the poultry industry in Australia in a fairly reasonable economic position and on a sound framework and base.
It is not easy to say to a poultry farmer or any other businessman that he has to exercise restraint and self-discipline because in the final analysis these things will lead to greater profitability, greater economic strength and improved quality of life. People have responded and reorganised. A meaningful, beneficial relationship and spirit of co-operation has allowed that situation to be reached. I pay tribute therefore to the industry and to the various governments which have been associated in the reorganisation.
– Some want to see it broken down, though.
– There are always people who do not believe in success and who do not appreciate the efforts that are made by people who organise themselves not only for their own benefit but also in order to put on the consumer’s table a quality product at a reasonable price. I will talk about that aspect later. I compliment the honourable member for Parramatta who developed that point about having a good article. He expressed some concern at the fact that the consumption of eggs is not as high as what it might well be.
The industry disciplined itself and imposed on itself an overall hen quota of 13.2 million. The quota for New South Wales was 5.47 million, for Victoria 3.17 million; for Queensland 1.9 million; for South Australia 1.3 million, for Western Australia one million, and for Tasmania 0.3 1 million. It is interesting to note that notwithstanding the overall limit of 1 3.2 million hens the total number of leviable hens is 1 1 million. The industry is mainly confined to New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. New South Wales has 4.6 million leviable hens, Victoria 2.7 million, Queensland 1.7 million, South Australia 0.9 million, Western Australia 0.8 million and Tasmania 0.2 million.
The industry has been honest. The people involved have accepted an upper limit and they have individual quotas. Safeguards such as accounting methods and other procedures have been adopted to make sure that no one transgresses his quota. It is good therefore to see that we still have in a modern society people whose word is their bond and who believe, when given a quota, that it is wrong for them to revert to underhand procedures to increase their quota. Some 1 1 million of the quota of 1 3.2 million hens is allocated.
Some people may think that the poultry industry is only of small economic importance. It is tremendously important to a lot of people in the milling industry and in baking and associated trades. Its gross value last year was about $ 1 32m. Returns to the growers varied from State to State. I note that Western Australia poultry producers had the highest net return per dozen 69.87c. In New South Wales the figure was 61.87c, in Victoria 66.29c, Queensland 66.46c, South Australia 65.48c and Tasmania 68.7c.
– New South Wales is the cheapest State again.
-Unfortunately that is true.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I gave the House details of the net returns on a dozen basis to the various egg producers in the States. Those net returns are affected by the volume of eggs consumed locally and egg products that we export. Last year we exported 0.5 million dozen eggs in the shell and 1 5,000 tonnes of egg pulp. The principal market for our egg pulp is Japan and the principal markets for our eggs in the shell are Japan, the Gulf states and Papua New Guinea. On an Australian wide basis there is a joint Commonwealth-State responsibility for the marketing of eggs. The Australian Egg Board looks after the export of eggs under the Egg Export Control Act 1947 and the situation in the various States is controlled by the State egg marketing boards and authorities. All in all the administration of the marketing situation has been well looked after and is in line with that of other marketing authorities that are in charge of various rural products.
The Poultry Research Advisory Committee, which is the monitoring and overseeing authority for the money that is collected under this legislation, was established in June 1968. It considers and evaluates an annual program of research into matters of importance to the industry and is controlled by 13 members, seven of whom are elected from the industry. Once again there is in this industry a partnership between the scientists and the practical people out in the field. Between them they come up with a total program dealing with such matters as disease control, marketing and the economics of the industry. In the past the Committee has distributed at least $200,000 each year. Since 1969-70 it has distributed a total of $2,271,233. Under this Bill an amount of $150,000 is being appropriated by the Commonwealth. That, together with the matching contribution from the industry, will result in at least $300,000 being available for the various projects that are decided upon from time to time by the Committee.
Some remarkable breakthroughs have occurred. One instance that is worthy of comment is the fact that research into disease control and the conversion of feed into eggs has lifted production on an annual basis from 185 eggs per hen in 1966-67 to 202 eggs per hen now. I shall give some examples of successful research. I refer firstly to the introduction of a vaccine against Marek’s disease which has proved to be particularly effective. Further research to develop an improved vaccine is currently being conducted. That is an on-going program. Secondly, nutritional experiments have shown that restrictive protein feeding can produce savings on feed with a minor reduction in output. Based on that finding, research is being undertaken to determine the optimum protein requirement of laying hens. Thirdly, investigations into egg quality have shown that many pale yolk eggs are produced in Victoria during the autumn season. This may be caused by the diet composition or the type of environment in which individual hens are kept. The problem is a complex one and research is continuing into it.
Australia has received international recognition in the area of research, such as in the area of developing a vaccine for the control of Newcastle disease, which over the years has had a telling and devastating effect on hens, and consequently eggs, as well as on broiler production. Dr Peter Spradbrow, a well-known authority from the University of Queensland, has done a good deal of research overseas in regard to the development of a vaccine for the control of Newcastle disease. In effect, on account of the wonderful breakthroughs he has made in unlocking scientific barriers, he is entitled to wear the mantle of Australia’s leading light in the research field. In his research he has had excellent help from the various State departments of agriculture.
One of the great problems of the industry is in the matter of feed costs. Like so many other industries, this is a matter over which the consuming industry has very little control whatsoever. The members of it are what might be termed on the end of the line and they have to take into store the various feeds as prepared for them or by them at the sum total of the cost of the various items used in the preparation of these feeds. In 1976-77 the cost of feed in the poultry farmers’ silos in Sydney rose by $15 a tonne to $121.25 a tonne. Many people believed that that would be disastrous for the industry. There has now been a further increase. The cost has risen to about $ 1 35 a tonne. I wonder what can be done to contain the cost of feed wheat, particularly the cost to the consuming industry of that basic product.
Earlier today in another debate some honourable members advanced the proposition that offgrade wheat could be traded quite legitimately outside the auspices of the Australian Wheat Board. Because some wheat is weather damaged or has too many noxious weeds in it, such as black oats, it cannot be accepted by the handling authorities. That is the case not because it is of inferior quality but because there are insufficient segregation points at the various silos scattered throughout the country. This wheat is often returned to the farm for cleaning purposes. That, of course, results in increased costs. That wheat could quite readily be used by the consumers of stock feed in an ungraded condition, subject to rebate for the quality of it. If this wheat can be traded within the ambit of the Australian Wheat Board, being a part of it and apart from it at the same time, it could result in a lowering of feed costs to the Australian poultry industry.
I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) will look at this proposition in association with the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and the Australian Wheat Board. I am not advocating a novel proposition. It was also advocated by speakers in the debate today about the wheat legislation. Of course, one also can advance the proposition that feed costs into store could be reduced if the farmers had lower costs in their total farming program. I may be wandering a little outside the ambit of this Bill but we are talking about the input of feed costs on the poultry industry and how that cost can be contained.
I am attracted to the proposition that was advanced in the debate on the Budget Speech by my colleague the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). In that speech the honourable member made an appeal to the Government to re-think and look again at giving a rebate on fuel used by farmers for the purpose of producing basic feeds, particularly those crops that are used both in human consumption and in the various stock feed industries. I fully support the point of view put by the honourable member on that occasion. He made a telling observation. If the fanner is to be forced to have included in his cost factors the world cost price for fuel there will be no other result than that his produce will be priced out of the world market places and the Australian consumer will have to pay more for the products that he uses.
I hope that over the next 12 months members of the National Country Party, the Liberal Party and the Opposition can be persuaded to the point of view that fuel used by primary producers on the farm in the production of grains, meats and all other proteins should be subject to a rebate. I do not want to go into the odious comparisons between the cost factor in Australia and the cost factor overseas. If we are to compete on an equal basis with overseas countries and stand up to competition we must be entitled to receive every possible consideration and rebate in line with what is given overseas. I am most attracted to that proposition.
In this legislation emphasis is given to research into marketing and marketing habits. Expressed briefly, that means selling more eggs. I am delighted at the initiative displayed by the various egg marketing authorities which have adopted as their No. 1 objective getting out into the schools and selling the nutritional value of eggs. They are letting the children know that the old fashioned egg flip still is a wonderful help in recharging energy, especially in children who participate in sport.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Opposition supports this legislation, as it always supports positive legislation which will increase funds for research purposes in any area of primary industry. Of course, assistance is particularly necessary now in the poultry industry, which is faced with fairly substantial increases in feed costs following the new Australian Wheat Board arrangements which restrict across-the-board trade. This will result in a very significant increase in the whole cost structure of the poultry industry. The Opposition believes that the benefits of research in almost any industry are undeniable. This is particularly so in the poultry industry in terms of production, cost efficiency and particularly market research, to which the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) referred.
There is a clear case for increased funding of research in this industry, although research is often a risky business. I notice that in the annual report of the Poultry Research Advisory Committee some of the projects begun some years ago have had to be abandoned as it has become apparent that the approaches taken were misdirected. The costs of other projects were found to be unjustifiable in terms of their expected results. Nevertheless, a considerable amount of very good work is being done within the industry and within the various research institutions.
I would like to refer briefly to some of the research being carried out. In the area of disease control, valuable findings have resulted from research related to Newcastle disease. The time is approaching for the production of a vaccine based on the mild Australian strains of Newcastle disease that would give protection against the more virulent strains which may come in from overseas at any time despite our precautions. Production of such a vaccine is most urgent since it has been found that about 30 per cent of flocks tested showed signs of present or past infections with one of the mild strains of Newcastle disease. In other words, no more than a quarter of the Australian birds, and possibly less, carry enough antibodies to resist the other more virulent strains. If a virulent strain of Newcastle disease infected a flock or flocks with a high protection from our mild strains, the virulent strain could build up without being detected and there could be very serious repercussions. Other important research work includes work on infectious bronchitis, the growing of avian viruses in bird cell cultures and the development of a vaccine for Marek’s disease.
Another important area, of course, is the area of nutrition research. Work has been directed towards the possible substitution of cereals lower in cost than wheat, which is the staple product for poultry foods. Soya bean meal, peanut meal, various oil seed meals, sorghums and possibly heavy yielding strains of maize in certain areas are suitable substitutes in certain market circumstances. Research is also being carried out into the consequences for the production of protein restriction in feeding programs, selective breeding of efficient layers, upgrading of egg quality and so on.
The poultry industry, of course, is responsive to genetic research. The life cycle of poultry is so short that one can measure the results of genetic selection in a very short time. Certainly in the poultry meat area one can see the result of one’s selections in just a few weeks. One can draw conclusions very quickly, certainly much sooner than someone in the beef industry, for example, who has to wait a long while to see the results of his research. As I have said, research in the poultry industry is both necessary and commendable if the industry is to maintain and improve its efficiency in relation to both domestic and export markets.
Of course, we all realise that the industry is based on the domestic market. The export market is a loss market. If we did not have an export market and our production was such that we did not need it the domestic industry would be much sounder and the public would receive much cheaper eggs. Few consumers may be aware that Australian sales of eggs have been declining in recent years. It is good to see the egg marketing organisations planning a national scheme to boost sales in response to this decline. I understand that they will be directing their efforts mainly at children, who eat more eggs than any other group. I understand the plan requires the approval of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia, the Commonwealth body, before it can be launched. I have no doubt that that will be forthcoming.
A spokesman for the Victorian Egg Board is reported in a recent edition of the Australian Financial Review as saying that he wants to see more of the annual egg surplus sold in Australia than overseas, where eggs are sold at a loss. Certainly this is a much more positive approach to egg marketing than the practice of sustaining heavy losses overseas. The only problem with marketing research, of course, is that one often increases the consumption of one product at the expense of another. Whilst one may spend a lot of money on selling more eggs, the response may be that the pig industry may then decide to spend a lot more money competing with the egg industry. If we are trying to promote something that is to replace an import, certainly this is very good. If we are promoting a product on the basis of nutritional value, I think that too is good. I do not know how we can avoid one product competing with another. Certainly it is very good for the advertising agencies to have products competing with each other for a share of the consumer’s dollar.
I thought the spokesman of the Victorian Egg Board made a rather interesting remark when he said that the Board wants to sell its surplus in Australia and not overseas. Certainly in recent years the Victorian Egg Board has been responsible for some very questionable behaviour in the way in which it has gone about selling its surplus eggs in Australia. It has invaded the Australian Capital Territory market, which was traditionally a New South Wales Egg Board market and which more recently has been a market for substantially local production which set out to supply the local need. I say without any hesitation that the Victorian Egg Board is culpable of dumping surplus eggs in the Australian Capital Territory. I will return to that point in a moment. However, I just want to say that if the national promotion campaign is successful it is hoped that the success will not be at the expense of other high quality primary products but will be because of the better nutritional choices by consumers.
In relation to the situation in Canberra, I want to make it clear that the Canberra consumer has been in the situation of having to pay the hen levy, which is $1 per hen per year, and it is now mooted that it will become $2 next year. The levy is equivalent to 4c per dozen eggs. The producer pays $1 a year for every laying bird he has, but he passes that cost on to the consumer. So in effect the consumers in Canberra have been paying 4c a dozen more for eggs than they should pay because the Canberra producer has to pay the Council of Egg Marketing Authority’s levy. The CEMA levy would be fair enough if we got the benefits from it. Traditionally we have not contributed to exports, and a lot of the levy money goes to subsidise the loss on exports. So we do not contribute to the exportable surplus but we do contribute to the levy.
If we had the protection of orderly marketing, that would be fair enough, and until recently we have had that protection. However, now we find the Victorian Egg Board coming in and selling eggs, initially under very unfair competitive conditions against locally produced eggs. They offered special incentives to retailers to buy their eggs rather than locally produced eggs. The retailers margin was increased but there was no price benefit to the consumer. All the arrangements did was ensure that some of the eggs supplied to consumers in Canberra are not as fresh as the locally produced eggs. When transport costs were added to the discount offered, it was obvious that the Victorian Egg Board was selling eggs for much less in Canberra than in Victoria. This resulted in court action, and an injunction was taken out which restrained the Victorian Egg Board from selling eggs below the price for which they were selling in Victoria. However, it is still selling eggs here and now has about 20 per cent of the market. We do not know what sort of kick-back arrangements the Board has, but the net result is that it is creating an artificial surplus of locally produced eggs in Canberra, which have to be off-loaded on to the New South Wales Egg Board. The Victorian Board has moved in and taken 20 per cent of our market and 20 per cent of the local product now has to be dumped on the New South Wales Board. That is orderly marketing gone mad.
I wrote to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) about this ridiculous situation, and I will quote from his response. He said that the matter was discussed at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, which is the appropriate body to discuss these matters, and in view of the implications of what I had told the Minister, the following resolution was agreed upon by the Council:
The Minister’s letter concluded:
Appropriate action is being taken to inform the Victorian Egg Board of the Council ‘s resolution.
The practice is still going on, although not in quite the same terms. However, basically the problem is still there. The direction of the Agricultural Council has been disregarded, and in place of the orderly marketing that we should have we have extremely disorderly marketing. There is no question that that is the situation in Canberra at the moment. One very large local producer supplies a very good product- excellent quality, excellent colour, and always fresh- and employs 56 workers in his establishment in Canberra. These people are now concerned about their jobs because of the continuing intrusion of the Victorian Egg Board, in defiance of the wishes of the Australian Agricultural Council and in defiance of the general proposition that egg boards were set up to stabilise and organise marketing. It is a ridiculous situation which reflects no credit on the State boards and no credit on the Australian Agricultural Council if they cannot impose a degree of common sense in this matter.
It is apparent that egg marketing, despite the fact that it is a highly socialised industry and highly subsidised by consumers, is not working well. The whole problem is that the States do not control production. They are supposed to have licensing systems, but they have been very pussyfooted about the way in which they have introduced licensing systems to restrict production. They have continued to produce a surplus, and are very jealous of their States’ rights. They seem to think that it is their privilege to produce a surplus, but when it comes to disposing of that surplus they unload it on to the Federal Government. They say that constitutionally it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to dispose of agricultural surplus. This is a very nice arrangement, but it results in an increased cost to the consumer. We lose heavily on our exports of pulp or egg powder or whatever we sell. If these boards were working efficiently and in a rational manner, production would be trimmed down to meet the local market. If that happened the consumers of Australia would get much cheaper eggs and we would not have the ridiculous situation of local consumers subsidising the export loss. The problem is not solved by Victorian producers trying to divert their surplus. Instead of sending it overseas at a loss they are sending it into the Australian Capital Territory and competing unfairly with locally produced eggs. I think that that is an intolerable situation, and it is up to the Minister for Primary Industry to exert some authority and sort it out so that these things do no continue, to the detriment of both consumers and producers.
In relation to Canberra, although I have asked the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) to intervene and introduce legislation to protect the local producers, he has done nothing. This is just another argument which might influence people to support the referendum for self-government being held next Saturday. If we had locally elected people who were responsible to those who work in the local egg industry, Canberra people might think more seriously about self-government. Locally elected people who were responsible to the local people would be under pressure to legislate to look after their local industries. Our Minister is elected in Sydney, and although I am not saying that he is disinterested in employment he certainly has not seen fit to take any action. Although on paper we have an egg marketing authority, a licensing authority within the Department of the Capital Territory, it has really done nothing to protect the local people and local jobs. This is another very good argument for the view that it is time the people of Canberra elected representatives who are responsible to them and who are prepared to legislate to look after the interests of both producers and consumers in the Australian Capital Territory.
-Along with my colleague the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), I too was once a poultry farmer and therefore have more than a passing interest in this Bill. I think for a few years I also recorded my occupation as chicken plucker on official forms. Now I have much pleasure in representing Werriwa, where more chickens are plucked than in any other electorate in the Parliament because Inghams Enterprises is situated in that electorate. I cannot claim any credit for turkeys being plucked in my electorate because they are in the electorate of the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume), and I will not get on to the subject of game birds. I will not take up the time of the House by speaking for too long on this Bill, the purpose of which has been set out very well by other speakers. The purpose of the Bill is basically to amend the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965 so as to increase the level of funds available for poultry research. With the passage of this Bill, the total amount available for poultry research in any one financial year, commencing with the current 1978-79 financial year, will be a maximum of $300,000 instead of the present $200,000 with the Government’s share being up to $ 1 50,000. It is estimated that in the current financial year the increase will involve additional government expenditure of about $23,000.
I think it needs to be said that the industry is to be congratulated for its initiative in offering an increase in its expenditure on research. The research program in the current year is well set out in a document tabled recently in this House. For example, the total allocation for research on disease is some $76,000, the total amount allocated to various research projects on nutrition amounts to $95,000, and there is a whole heap of research on general subjects. In terms of the total allocation this year of $249,000, some $146,000 has already been allocated to continuing projects, with only $73,000 for new projects. But that is in the nature of research. If we are to do research properly we must set the priorities early and undertake research programs that bore away at the problems.
I want to spend some time on the research that is being conducted into diseases. Priority in research has been given to major diseases, quite properly in my view. Firstly, there is the area of research into Newcastle disease, which other honourable members have mentioned already. There have been a number of Newcastle disease scares in Australia, the latest being in September 1977. The fear behind each scare is understandable. Newcastle disease is caused by a virus and is still the most dangerous of poultry diseases. The threat is as great as ever despite the fact that several strains of Newcastle disease vaccine are well established in Australia and have probably affected one quarter of our birds. The Victorian project at the Atwood Veterinary Research Laboratory at Westmeadows grew out of the detection in 1966 of NDV in Queensland flocks. The virus was soon found in flocks in other States and a small study showed that it was not the same virus as the killer strains that had swept parts of Australia in 1930 and which were to ravage Californian and European flocks in the early 1 970s. I think that more research into this area is worth while indeed.
There is still some research going on, although perhaps the research program may have terminated now, into the disease generally known as coccidiosis. This is a disease that affects young birds in particular so therefore it affects both the broiler industry and the egg-laying industry. The problem with coccidiosis is that it soon develops strains resistant to the drugs used. It is a disease that builds up some immunity and there is a need constantly to produce new drugs to contain it. I believe that that area also should have some priority.
Infectious bronchitis is another area into which there has been quite a bit of research. That program is due to terminate in June 1979. Infectious bronchitis is a particular problem for the broiler industry. To some degree it is a stress related disease inasmuch as it is a respiratory disease that is at the end of the cycle which includes corysa and some of the other stress respiratory diseases. Work on infectious bronchitis virus has continued for over 15 years at Armidale and has been supported for the past 8 years by the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities. An immense amount has been learnt about the virus and the damage it does. As a result two vaccines have been developed yet the virus is still not under control. It has been an almost classic case of running or researching flat out just to keep up with events. Again I think there needs to be a continuing research program. Before 1962 no one knew for certain just what infectious bronchitis was.
The fourth area I want to mention briefly is Marek ‘s disease. When I was in the poultry industry Marek’s disease was known more familiarly as the leucosis complex of diseases. As I understand it, research into this disease has terminated but I would think that there should be a lot more research into this area. Perhaps I am wrong in saying that this research has terminated. No, it has not. According to information I have here the University of Sydney is continuing research in the current year on the control of Marek’s disease by vaccination. As I said, Marek’s disease was known as leucosis complex. I guess that one could say that the Marek’s disease vaccine situation. could be described in the same way- complex. In this area success came quickly, perhaps too quickly, with the development of a vaccine based on a closely related virus, the herpes virus of turkeys. This vaccine, which was similar to vaccines widely used overseas, was successful and was rapidly adopted by the industry. In the first year control was of the order of 80 per cent to 85 per cent, the only serious problem being that the vaccine was difficult to administer. Birds had to be individually vaccinated. Mass dosing in drinking water or by aerosol sprays did not work although these techniques had been used successfully with other vaccines such as the infectious laryngo tracheitis vaccine. The success story was short lived. In the second last field survey overall protection was down to 75 per cent and in some flocks was much lower. Although this vaccine has been developed, it has been proved that there needs to be a lot more testing of it and a lot more monitoring of its effects on succeeding generations of poultry.
As I said at the outset, there is no need for me to speak for very long on this Bill although it is very important to yet another primary industry in this country. Other speakers, and the Minister’s second reading speech, have covered precisely the purpose of the Bill and the research and organisational structure. The industry is to be congratulated for taking the initiative to contribute more money to research into its own problems. The Opposition commends the Bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As Honourable members are aware, there are three principal elements concerning the payment of medical benefits under the new health insurance arrangements which commenced operation on 1 November 1978. Persons may register for Commonwealth benefit purposes only or insure with a registered medical benefits organisation for basic medical benefits which, with the Commonwealth medical benefits, will cover 75 per cent of schedule fees with a maximum gap of $10 for each service. A further alternative is for people to insure under other medical benefits tables, including optional medical benefits tables offered by organisations. As I indicated in my second reading speech when introducing the National Health Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978, these tables, which must conform with guidelines determined by the Minister for Health, enable registered organisations to offer a variety of medical benefits packages, including deductibles.
The Goverment is very disappointed and surprised at the recent action of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia in manipulating the optional medical benefits table concept to restrict the payment of medical benefits for certain of its contributors, particularly chronically ill persons.
I reiterate my abhorrence at this action and confirm the views expressed in this House and outside parliament in deploring the HCF action. The Government is committed to taking positive actions to safeguard the medical and hospital benefits entitlements of contributors who have been, or may be, affected by any similar action taken, or proposed to be taken, by HCF or any other registered medical benefits organisation.
Before outlining in detail the provisions of the Bill before the House, I would like to inform honourable members that the Goverment ‘s new health insurance arrangements are working exceptionally smoothly, except for a small, but most important, group of contributors, who are subject to the medical benefits exclusions rules of registered organisations. While providing flexibility within the arrangements for organisations to determine benefit packages, it was not contemplated that organisations would use this new flexibility in a way which would enable them to abrogate their responsibility to pay medical benefits for those long-standing contributors in most need of medical benefits coverage.
Section 73BE of the National Health Act provides for the Minister for Health to give directions to registered medical benefit organisations, including directions with respect to the scope and level of benefits available to contributors. The Bill, in clause 4, expands section 73BE to enable directions to be given by the Minister to ensure that all or any of the objectives specified in new sub-section 73BE (2) be achieved. The objectives specified in the Bill are as follows: The first objective is to prevent discrimination in the payment of medical benefits for medical services rendered on or after 1 November 1978 which is, in the opinion of the Minister for Health, improper discrimination. This term is defined in clause 3 of the Bill and, briefly, is discrimination relating to the following matters: Chronic illness; age of the patient; limitation on the level of medical benefits payable under organisations’ rules because of the frequency of the rendering of professional services or the aggregate of amounts of benefits payable; or any other ground prescribed by regulations. Medical benefit exclusion rules vary considerably among organisations. However, rules concerning the grounds I have just mentioned, with the exception of age of the patient, are considered to be those most frequently applied.
The second objective is to prevent registered medical benefits organisations from changing, after 1 November 1978, the way in which they administered rules for contributors before that date. This applies to rules which reduce or cancel medical benefits for medical services rendered on or after 1 November 1978. 1 am sure honourable members will accept that, as a principle, persons affected by new or restructured tables under the new health insurance arrangements should be able to maintain their full medical benefits entitlements which existed prior to 1 November 1978. A direction, pertaining to this objective, ensures the maintenance of that cover.
The third objective which may be achieved by ministerial direction is to ensure that persons, insured with a registered medical benefits organisation, do not, through the application of benefit reduction rules, have the level of insured benefits reduced below the basic medical benefits level. The fourth objective is directed to a situation which has arisen where some registered hospital benefit organisations are refusing to pay hospital benefits for persons whose hospitalisation is considered by those organisations to be unnecessary. Such grounds are principally on the basis that, in the opinion of the organisation, because of their age or condition these persons should be more appropriately accommodated in, say, a nursing home. The power of the Minister to direct, as specified in clause 4, new paragraph 73BE (2) (d) of the Bill, will enable him to ensure that contributors to hospital benefits funds who are admitted to hospital are not denied hospital benefits at the basic level. It will be noted that the date of application in relation to this objective is 1 May 1978. Honourable members will recall that in a Press statement made on this issue on 30 April 1978 by the Minister of Health in New South Wales and me, I stated that when I had evidence on these nonpayments of benefits, action would be taken to safeguard patients. The Hospitals Contribution Fund, which was the particular organisation involved, then announced it would review its decision. On 1 May 1978 I issued a further press statement stating I would await certain outcomes before considering further measures. Since that period there have been a number of representations on the issue. Therefore 1 May 1978 is the appropriate date for the implementation of this objective.
The Bill also ensures that the position of persons affected by any action taken by a registered organisation, before a direction takes effect, in relation to an objective specified in the Bill, can be safeguarded. Provision is made to enable the Minister to require the organisation to reconsider all claims for medical benefits made before the direction takes effect and deal with those claims as if the direction had been in force at the time the claim had originally been considered. The Bill further provides for the Minister to place a copy of any direction under new sub-section 73be(3) before each House of Parliament. The direction does not take effect until the period of 15 sitting days specified for disallowance has passed.
I am aware that some organisations’ rules provide for cancellation of membership of contributors. To safeguard continued membership for those persons who, for example, are chronically ill persons, clause 5 of the Bill provides a new section 73BFB, which entitles a person who believes cancellation of his membership to the medical benefits fund constitutes an ‘improper discrimination’ against him to request the Minister to direct the organisation concerned to reinstate the person. Where the Minister is of the opinion that improper discrimination has occurred the Minister can direct the organisation concerned to reinstate the person without loss of entitlement.
Section 73E of the National Health Act provides for the Minister for Health to determine guidelines relating to optional medical and hospital benefit tables. Benefit tables satisfying the guidelines, and criteria specified in the National Health Act, are declared, by the Minister, to the optional tables. There is some doubt that the existing provision enables the Minister to vary the guidelines after a declaration has been made. The amendment, in clause 6, enables the guidelines to be varied and, further, enables the Minister to revoke a declaration following a variation to the guidelines. Again the Minister’s revocation of such a declaration is to be placed before each House of Parliament and does not take effect until the period of disallowance of 1 5 sitting days has passed.
The Bill, in clause 8, amends section 78 of the National Health Act. The amendment is twofold. Firstly, it removes any doubt that the power of the Minister to consider changes made by organisations in relation to the matters specified in subsection 78 ( 1), also includes power to consider a change which makes provision for a new table of benefits to be offered by the organisation. Secondly, the amendment prevents the Minister from approving a change to organisations’ rules which provides for a new table of benefits, or alters or affects contributors or benefits, if in the opinion of the Minister the change brings about an ‘improper discrimination’. Decisions by the Minister under section 78 are subject to review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The final amendment in the Bill is in clause 9, under new section 73BFB, where provision is made for the Minister to make a direction to a registered organisation to reinstate a contributor whose membership has been cancelled on grounds of improper discrimination. This direction will also be subject to review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
I hope that, in the administration of their medical and hospital benefits funds, registered organisations will act responsibly and with concern for contributors. The Bill before the House confers on the Minister for Health powers of direction to safeguard membership and benefit entitlements of contributors. While the matters subject to direction are specified in the Bill as a clear indication of the Government’s intention to preserve contributors’ rights, I am hopeful that organisations will administer their rules in a manner which will result in the activation of the ministerial powers of direction being required only in exceptional circumstances. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16 August, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-On behalf of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and the Opposition I would like to say a few words about the Life Insurance Amendment Bill. The Bill deals with the terms and conditions of employment of the Life Insurance Commissioner. The Life Insurance Commissioner has the function of administering the Life Insurance Act 1945, which oversees the operation of life insurance companies operating in Australia. Previously, the holder of this position has also held the post of Australian Government Actuary and the conditions of employment have been determined under the Public Service Act. Now, commendably, the job of Life Insurance Commissioner has been split from the job of Actuary. In the view of the Opposition, this move can only add to the efficiency of the person holding the position.
The Bill is designed to enable the conditions of employment to be determined under the Life Insurance Act. This will bring the position into line with similar provisions for other statutory office holders. The conditions of employment, as cited in the Bill, are to be commended and involve the following: Time in office is limited to seven years but the Commissioner is eligible for reappointment. The age limit is to be 65 years. The Commissioner may not be a director or employee of a life insurance company or related company. The salary shall be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal. The Commissioner shall not engage in paid employment outside the duties of his office without the Treasurer’s consent. He shall give a written notification of any pecuniary interests. The Governor-General can determine the Commissioner’s appointment if the Commissioner becomes bankrupt or contravenes the Act. Similar conditions apply to the appointment of an Acting Commissioner.
These conditions are well thought out to ensure that the Commissioner is well able to oversee the operation of the industry. As I have said, the Opposition regards these as very worthwhile amendments to the legislation. They will improve it. They provide very effective safeguards. For those reasons the Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 August, on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I simply indicate that the Opposition does not oppose this minor amendment to the Quarantine Act. I want to use the opportunity to make a few remarks about the quarantine activities in my electorate. I actually have two quarantine stations in my electorate. Whilst the electorate of Werriwa might be the place where most chicken plucking is carried out, I suspect that -
– And pheasants.
– And pheasants. What about ducks?
-I suspect that Fremantle is probably unique in having so many quarantine stations in the one electorate. However, it is the announced intention of the Government to close down both the quarantine stations and open others in new locations. I think that is a decision which has been fairly universally applauded. One of the quarantine stations is at Woodman Point. The decision in principle to close that station was taken some time ago, I think by Dr Everingham, the predecessor of the present Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). It has been the subject of lengthy negotiations with the State Government ever since. The point I make about the Woodman quarantine station is that it is located on superb beachfront land. It is like an oasis in the midst of a light industrial belt which includes a number of noxious industries. Its closure opens up the opportunity of providing an excellent recreational facility for the people who live south of the Swan River. Therefore, the future use of this land is of very great importance, not only to the people of my electorate, but also to the people of surrounding electorates, including, I dare say, the residents of the Canning electorate.
I make the point that in the Government’s negotiations with the Western Australian Government in determining the sale of this land, I think it is not possible for the Federal Government simply to absolve itself of any responsibility concerning the land ‘s future use. The tendency has been for the Government to offer the land for sale to the Western Australian Government. Therefore, once the Western Australian Government purchases that land, it will be the responsibility of that Government to determine its future use. I do not think the position is quite as simple as that. Surely, the asking price which the Commonwealth nominates for that land will determine the way in which the State Government can use it economically. For instance, if the Commonwealth asks a very high price for the land then the Western Australian Government will be tempted to use some, if not all, of the land for industrial purposes and so on. It will be less likely to make all the land available for recreational purposes. I know that this is not the direct responsibility of the Minister for Health, who is at the table. I know that he is not responsible for the disposal of Commonwealth land, but I think there are a number of other matters which I will come to in a moment that bear directly on his responsibility.
The second quarantine station in question is the Bicton animal quarantine station. Recently, I received a letter from Senator Chaney, who, as the Minister for Administrative Services, is responsible for the disposal of Commonwealth land. He indicated to me that an alternative site was available to which the animal quarantine station activities could be moved. However, the matter is apparently again the subject of negotiations with the State Government. I want to refer briefly to that matter. This quarantine station is located on prime land with excellent views across one of the prettiest parts of the Swan River. When we bear in mind that Senator Chaney pointed out in his letter to me that one of the reasons for the sale of the land was to open up the possibility of the use of that land being more compatible with the surrounding residential areas, it is a matter of concern to the residents near that quarantine station. Certainly, it is a matter of concern to me. The point is that, again, the Commonwealth is saying that the future use of this land is not a matter of prime concern to the Commonwealth. It is interested only in making the land available to the Western Australian State Government at a price and leaving the decisions about its future use to that Government. I think it is not possible for the Federal Government to avoid the responsibility entirely because if, in this instance, it asks a very high price for this prime residential land, then there will be an irresistible temptation for the State Government to ensure that it gets a reasonable return from its purchase and to open the land up for commercial and residential development.
On the other hand, the residents of the area are very keen to see the land used for recreational and public open-space-type activities. Therefore, I think the Federal Government must bear in mind the wishes of the residents when it is negotiating this sale with the State Government. For both Woodman Point quarantine station and the Bicton quarantine station the Commonwealth Government ought to be asking a price which will allow the State Government to make the land available for public open space and recreational purposes, once it has been purchased by the Western Australian Government. I urge the Federal Government to take a view in its negotiations with the State Government which will leave the options of the State Government open on this matter.
I have said before that it is the Department of Administrative Services which has responsibility for the disposal of this land, but it seems to me that we are in a somewhat awkward position. Whilst the decisions in principle have been taken to remove both of these facilities, apparently the final decision has not been taken by the Department of Health. I would like from the Minister at least some indication in the case of the Bicton quarantine station, and in relation to Woodman Point if possible, some indication of when it is anticipated that the activities of both locations will be moved elsewhere so that the land then becomes available for other uses. It seems to me that that is a question which has not been answered yet. It is of course of very great importance to those people who are trying to agitate for the proper and effective future use of that land. I ask the Minister whether he can provide some information concerning the likely date of closure of both those facilities and their removal elsewhere.
The second thing on which I would like some explanation from the Minister relates to allegations which have recently been made that major building works have recently been carried on at the Bicton animal quarantine station. The person in charge of the quarantine station, the station manager, has said: ‘No new work has been done in the past six months; only major repairs that were urgently needed like wire being replaced for kennels and patching work on roads is being done.’ That is what the station manager said, but I have been reliably informed by people who live over the road from this quarantine station that to call the recent capital works that have been going on at the station simply major repairs is a total distortion of the English language; in fact what has been going on is building works of a fairly substantial nature. It seems to me to be a questionable activity for the Government on the one hand to be engaged in a building program at this site and at the same time making arrangements for the removal of its activity, and of course, the likely demolition of any buildings which are there.
I would like some explanation from the Minister as to what works have actually been going on there, the cost of those works and how those works fit into the Government’s apparently announced policy for the closure of this station and for the removal of its activities elsewhere. I did say that this was a fairly minor Bill that we are debating. I did say that the Opposition was not opposed to it. I therefore conclude my remarks.
– I choose to disagree with the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) in saying that this Bill is a minor one. It may be a relatively small Bill in that it proposes few changes to the Quarantine Act, but I feel it is a very important Bill so far as the future of Australian agricultural industries is concerned and the protection of Australia from diseases and pests. The Bill sets out to increase the penalties provided under the Quarantine Act. The penalties at the moment are ludicrously low. They have not been changed for quite some time. They are substantially increased by this legislation. For plants and animals being illegally imported into Australia, the penalty will rise from something like $500 or six months gaol to $5,000 or two years imprisonment. I think it is very important so far as the administration of quarantine is concerned that it is ably backed up by penalties which are sufficient and justify the importance which the Government places on quarantine. I do not have to canvass very deeply the need for effective quarantine within Australia because is it very obvious indeed.
One estimate is that if foot and mouth disease breaks out in Australia it could cost the Australian agricultural industry in the order of $600m. It is a frightening prospect if any of these diseases such as foot and mouth, rabies, rinderpest or bluetongue do get into Australia. Not only would it be a cost to the agricultural industries, it also would be a threat to many of our exports because we saw that in the bluetongue incident people were very wary of buying products from a country where there is a possibility of collecting a disease such as that. I was disturbed to read in the annual report of the DirectorGeneral of Health that over seven tonnes of goods of plant or animal origin was confiscated in one year. This sounds a really frightening amount because any of these goods or plants of animal origin which have been confiscated could have brought in disease to Australia. He mentioned that it included 8,000 plants, some 16,000 items of fresh fruit and some 2,000 eggs. Of course, he has not mentioned other products such as meat, including salami, and the things like that which are constantly being removed from incoming passengers or visitors to Australia.
I think that this legislation also clearly demonstrates the readiness or keenness of the Government to enforce, update and improve quarantine. We have done a lot on quarantine since we have been in government. I congratulate the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), who is at the table, for this fact. I would point out some of the things we have done in relation to quarantine apart from this legislation. I am very pleased to see the establishment of surveillance on the north coast of Australia. I think this is vital. This will allow the area between Geraldton in Western Australia and Cairns in Queensland to be viewed from the air each day. It will help quite a lot so far as quarantine is concerned. We have seen cases of fishermen and refugees coming in to the unattended parts of north-west and northern Australia. They constitute a grave quarantine hazard.
It is all very well to say that fishermen do not land, but there have been incidents of fishermen landing on the north-west coast. It is all very well to say that fishermen from Indonesia eat rice and do not bring meat in, but cows’ heads have been found at Ashmore (Cartier) Reef, and so on. There has to be an effective surveillance and there has to be a way for the quarantine service to check these areas very quickly and pick up any cases of people corning in. Certainly, some animals such as dogs, cats or fowls are carried on some of these vessels. These constitute a real hazard indeed. That is one of the measures we have undertaken. We have undertaken capital works programs or there are capital works programs about to start. For instance, the Cocos Islands station is about to start and hopefully will be completed in April 1981 at a cost of some $6.4m. This will allow importations from a number of countries whence importations cannot currently be taken.
We have commenced the building of the National Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong which will cost some $80m. Once that is completed and the Cocos Islands station is completed it will permit the importation of stock from a number of countries and areas whence stock just cannot be brought in at the moment because of the risk of diseases. These areas include Africa, Asia and South America and the like, and that is a substantial improvement in that regard. We are upgrading the Torrens Island facilities so that it will be able to handle 36 horses and 144 cattle at a time. This will allow the importation of cattle and so on from New Zealand and perhaps from the United Kingdom and Ireland. There is the construction of a new quarantine station at Wallgrove in New South Wales which will cost some $4. 6m. This will allow the importation of cats, dogs and horses. There has been a substantial effort by this Government in the total area of quarantine. The capital works programs indicate the importance that this Government places on that area.
– What about Bicton? It is about time it was closed down.
-The honourable member for Fremantle and the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr), by interjection, mentioned Bicton. Negotiation is being conducted between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government for a new site. I understand that this is taking quite some time and no site has yet been determined. Until that site is determined it will not be possible to build a new station. Bicton needs replacing; there is no doubt about that. Bicton is inadequate and badly situated for a quarantine station for cats and dogs.
– Chaney told me they have a site.
– Not yet. Also other quarantine initiatives that have been taken include the provision of additional incinerators at Perth airport. That project is just about complete at this stage. It will cost some $660,000. That will be a very important addition which has been grievously needed. Until now there have been four incinerators at that airport which are quite incapable of handling the garbage from international aircraft. Further, a new incinerator is to be provided at Port Hedland at a cost of $170,000. From the report of the Director-General of Health I see that it is planned to improve the incinerator at Tullamarine airport and provide new incinerators at Rockhampton and Townsville.
I am not particularly happy with several aspects of quarantine. I note that the new automatic disinfecting method has now been approved for Qantas Boeing 747s. The reports that I have heard on this method indicate that there is still a possibility of live insects coming through these sprays. I think the Department should reassess its activities in this regard and make sure that they are completely effective. I understand that the methods used for the identification of insects that are collected by quarantine staff are very slow indeed. I think there should be a much speedier way of doing this than the current facilities provide. Secondly, I also emphasise that in my opinion the importance that the Government places on quarantine is very clear indeed but I am worried about the morale of the officers in the quarantine service. I think the service needs to be updated and there should be more diligence and dedication from the officers. I think there should be an upgrading of the service and the whole question of staff morale should be looked at. A number of unhappy incidents have occurred, particularly in relation to Mr Toomer from Western Australia. It is very clear that there have been some bad administrative improprieties carried out by the Department of Health as far as its staff is concerned. I think this has decreased morale. Some of the quarantine officers to whom I have spoken, I feel, are just going through the motions and doing their jobs. If quarantine is to be effective much more than that has. to be done. In general, I support the Bill.
-I would like to cover only one aspect in relation to the Quarantine Amendment Bill 1978. Whilst I applaud the increased imposition of penalties at which the Bill is primarily aimed, I believe, as other honourable members have indicated, that other actions need to be taken in the quarantine area. I will take one matter which was raised by the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey).
It refers to flower imports and the likelihood of infestation from insects coming into this country. I rely on a paper which has been prepared on this subject. It states:
Entomologists estimate that there are about 5 million insect species world-wide, and the CSIRO considers that Australia has about 50,000 of this number. We have only 500 insect pests of plants in Australia- so far.
There are approximately 6,000 plant diseases (2,000 for pasture and forage crops, 800 vegetables, 1,600 fruit and nuts, and 1,400 ornamental plants) that have not reached Australia- yet
The concern which is being expressed by flower growers and importers is related to insects which are likely to infest and destroy crops being brought into this country. I do not think there is any doubt about them coming in. I will just refer to a paper which was prepared by Mr Morschel the Director-General of Plant Quarantine, to answer representations which had been made to him by the President for the time being of the Flower Growers Branch of the Victorian Farmers Union in August 1 977. He stated:
There is no denying that pests about which little may be known will survive on cut flowers exported to Australia from the other side of the world.
He went on to explain that some quarantine inspection is taking place. I think it needs to be recognised that in 1977 there were reports of spotted alfalfa, blue-green aphids, oriental fruit fly and giant African snail coming into Australia. I will now refer to a quotation from a Mr Begg who has made representations to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). I might just record here my appreciation for the Minister reacting very quickly when representations were made to him including representations from Mr Begg who is on the consultative committee which was established to examine the dangers inherent in the importation of cut flowers. Mr Begg states:
Other pests will arrive here and some will hitchhike on unfumigated flowers and then move to main food crops. To name just two of many that will affect flower growers, home gardeners and farmers alike, the Japanese Beetle feeds on 275 kinds of flowers, fruits, vegetables and pasture crops; the omniverous leaf roller will eat alfalfa, celery, citrus, cotton, lettuces, sugarbeet, melons, strawberries, begonias, oleanders, carnations, chrysanthemums and roses. Neither of these insects is here yet and yet we allow unfumigated flowers in from areas where these pests do great damage.
A number of learned authorities would also add weight to the seriousness of the situation of not having a total fumigation of all cut flowers as they come into this country. I think in 1977 approximately 12 million stems came into Australia at a total value of $661,000. It is a growing market; it has increased considerably since 1971. Professor Boodley who is the Professor of Floriculture at Cornel University states:
There is very definitely a disease and insect risk with a shipment of plants and flowers from one country to another.
Dr McCain, Extension Plant Pathologist at the University of California, states:
I would be concerned about flower imports into Australia from areas that had diseases not already present in Australia.
Dr Michael Hollings who is perhaps the world ‘s leading virologist states:
There is bound to be a risk in importation of cut flowers without fumigation for pests or checks for pathogens.
Nobody is suggesting that there should be a complete cessation of importation of cut flowers Some of the cynics might say that the greatest noise is being made by the flower growers in this country. They are not concerned to stop importation; they are simply concerned to stop infestation by insects coming into this country and destroying crops which are such a valuable part of our domestic product. Without wishing to delay the House too much, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a question and answer summary which resulted from the representations that I mentioned earlier. It is the paper which was released by the Victorian Farmers Union and which contains comments by the VFU and comments by the Director-General of Plant Quarantine, Mr Morschel. I think those comments very much highlight the fact that more action is required.
The document read as follows-
Reply: Mr. Morschel said in a press release, 3 1.8.77, that a sample flower was inspected from each carton of cut flowers. If inspectors look at one flower in a carton of approximately 500 flowers, how can they see insects on the other 499 flowers in that canon?
Many insects are microscopic, many camouflage themselves, making it very difficult, and often impossible for inspectors to see them.
Reply: Fumigations should be mandatory, as is recognised by Quarantine Inspectors and conscientious importers. It is the only way to ensure no insects are being imported. Microscopic mites cannot be seen with the naked eye. Fumigation saves time, both for the importer and Quarantine. It took 7 men 1 hour to inspect half a consignment of roses in Melbourne, they found a mite and the whole shipment had to be fumigated. It would have saved seven hours labour if they had been mandatorily fumigated.
Reply: Pest strips only do part of the job. They cannot penetrate packaging materials, plastic or the cocoons of insects.
Reply: It shouldn’t be up to the flower importers, it should be Quarantine policy.
Reply: Completely untrue. It is NOT possible to detect all stages of insects and diseases by inspection as Mr. Morschehimself says in Introduction to Plant Quarantine.
Reply: We are talking QUARANTINE not TRADE. Additionally, a leading Melbourne nursery has all their shipments fumigated. They have found that dry flowers in good condition can be satisfactorily fumigated. Plastic wrapping prolongs the effect of the methyl bromide and wet flowers have an increased absorption rate.
Reply: As has been said earlier, they have little chance of finding insects if they inspect one flower in S00. Every flower should be fumigated.
Reply: It is pure speculation that anyone would want to smuggle a lucerne plant. Aphids can use temporary hosts such as aircraft or be attracted by the light and warmth of a flower packing shed in a lucerne growing area, be trapped in cartons and shipped here. The point is backed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection of the USA and by Dr. Michael Hollings, perhaps one of the world ‘s leading virologists.
Reply: Generally, but not always. It would be much easier for Quarantine if they were. For example the Japanese beetle feeds on 27S kinds of flowers, fruit, vegetables and pasture crops. The omniverous leaf roller will eat alfalfa, celery, citrus, cotton, lettuces, sugarbeet, melons, strawberries, begonias, oleanders, chrysanthemums and roses. Neither of these insects is here yet and neither is host specific. We are certainly hastening their arrival when we import bulk shipments of roses from America.
Reply: Chrysanthemum White Rust a dreaded disease that totally decimates crops is found in very few countries (it has been found in NZ from where we import Chrysanthemums) is able to be transmitted by flowers- and this is how it entered and has spread in the US.
Reply: We cannot agree. Nursery stock must be fumigated and grown in gazetted greenhouses to (a) kill insects, and (b) check for disease. Cut flowers are not fumigated and inspection of one flower in a carton of 500 cannot be regarded as check for disease. The Department says that it fumigates cuttings because a greenhouse is an ideal breeding ground for insects. The life cycle of an insect varies, some last only one day, others longer. An orchid has a vase life of about 6 weeks, carnations and chrysanthemums will last three weeks- more than enough time for an insect to mature in a warm house. An insect cannot distinguish between a slip cutting and a flower, why does the Department?
Reply: Three reputable Victorian nurseries and the plant quarantine division of the Plant Research Institute (Vic.) have all propagated successfully from supposedly inhibited carnations.
Reply: Granted interstate quarantine has nothing to do with cut flower imports, but the varying standards of inspection at the 18 permitted overseas entry ports for plant material has. Flower importers know the standards vary and they take advantage of it. Anyway- why are there 1 8 permitted entry ports? Flowers come into the large cities for use in those cities. Other ports such as Burnie, Broome and Geraldton should be barred.
Reply: Mangoes from India are mandatorily fumigated; slip cuttings are mandatorily fumigated, why not cut flowers?
Reply: A matter of opinion only. Many overseas authorities believe there is considerable risk in allowing bulk shipments of untreated, unexamined cut flowers into the country. Even Mr Morschel himself says the risk is proportional to the volume of cut flower imports. Trade volume has increased from $102,000 in 1972 to $661,000 in 1977. This increase in volume alone is ‘grounds for change’.
Reply: Is it being sustained at a high level when:
Reply: We should continue to up-grade our quarantine requirements to meet new situations, and not lower our standards to conform with the rest of the world, if only because we are an island continent in splendid isolation.
-I will not delay the House any further. I simply want to emphasise that I believe that there is a grave risk continuing where quarantine inspection is being carried out of a carton of flowers which may contain perhaps 500 stems. Whilst there is only an examination of between one to 100 of these 500 stems, it remains quite clear that a number are not examined or fumigated in any way. I appeal to the Minister to take the matter further and make mandatory the fumigation of all cut flowers into this country.
-The Quarantine Amendment Bill 1978 highlights the great importance of ensuring that quarantine laws in Australia are strictly observed. The main purpose of the Bill is to increase the penalties that can be imposed upon persons convicted of offences against the quarantine laws of this country. It is high time that these penalties were increased as they have not been changed for many years. Current penalties certainly are not in keeping with the seriousness of the effects that could come about from the breaching of quarantine laws. Because the penalties are not in accord with the gravity of such breaches they do not provide the necessary degree of deterrent to people who may be tempted to breach deliberately our quarantine regulations. Breaches of quarantine laws could be disastrous for some industries in this country. The enormous cost that could be incurred as a result of the introduction of diseases into Australia cannot be overemphasised.
Australia has achieved great success in keeping animal diseases out of this country for over a century, but if Australia is to remain free from diseases that exist in other countries it is essential that we update to the maximum degree the most effective controls on the importation of animalsperhaps this should apply to other areas also but I emphasise ‘animals’- which could introduce diseases into Australia. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) talked in his second reading speech about the possible introduction of rabies through the illegal importation of a cat or dog. This would have very serious effects on the keeping of domestic pets in this country. While that is a serious matter I am more concerned with the effects on the livestock industry. At present Australia has an advantage in overseas markets for its livestock and agricultural products because of our freedom from serious pests and diseases. One of the most frightening things envisaged is an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. This disease can be imported into this country through a breach of quarantine regulations or in some other way. However, it is most likely to be imported through a breach of quarantine regulations. It has been estimated that if such an outbreak occurred it could cost Australia up to $600m per annum. The disaster that would occur and the serious economic effect this would have on our livestock industry needs no emphasis from me. That alone stresses the need for this legislation. I am certainly very pleased to see it introduced.
In recent times there have been increasing attempts to import birds illegally into this country. Such illegal imports are extremely dangerous. For example, Newcastle disease was brought into Australia through a consignment of illegally imported birds from Indonesia. Fortunately the quarantine authorities were able to locate the birds and prevent the disease spreading. This demonstrates that diseases can be imported. An outbreak of Newcastle disease in America resulted in the necessity to destroy 12 million birds. This cost the American people dearly. Australia does not want any repetition of that incident. The changes in penalties could play a valuable part in deterring attempts such as those made in recent times. The need for changes is emphasised by the speed of transport today. Slow means of transport are disappearing. Areas are not so isolated as they were previously which is one benefit. It is imperative therefore that we constantly be on the alert to prevent the entry into Australia of diseases by any method, particularly by breaches of the quarantine regulations.
No country can guarantee exotic diseases will not be introduced but we can take every possible step to reduce the chances. That, in effect, is what this Bill is aiming to do. Another problem which constitutes a growing risk of disease introduction is the difficulty of effectively patrolling all of our northern shores. Although this aspect has been mentioned before it is worth emphasising. We should be looking at the most effective means of continuing surveillance against the possibility of illegal landings and, consequently, the risk of disease introduction. We must face the fact that effective patrols will be more extensive and consequently more costly than in the past.
I do not want to detract from the importance that has been given to this matter by the Australian Government. As a member of the Joint Comittee on Public Works at the time, I looked at possible sites for an off-shore quarantine station. A thorough investigation was made of possible sites at Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. We recommended the Cocos Island site. It is a long way away but nevertheless it will be effective. The honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey) has mentioned the details. A station there can be used in conjunction with quarantine stations on the mainland. A great deal can be said about this matter. I have tried to emphasise, in the short time I have been speaking, the great seriousness of it. The lack of awareness in the general community about the dangers and the economic effects of the introduction into Australia of exotic diseases concerns me. I would like to see some publicity given to the subject. I am sorry to see that the Press Gallery is understaffed at present. I hope that the media in general will take this matter up for the benefit of Australia. Often we find that an attack on an individual or something of minor importance which should not concern the National Parliament to the extent that it does is given headlines of great magnitude, while something of this nature, which is not sensational but is of tremendous importance, gets no mention in the majority of the media.
As evidence of the Government’s firm determination to do everything possible to prevent the introduction of exotic diseases, this Bill provides a change in the maximum penalty for a breach of the quarantine laws from $500 or six months imprisonment to $5,000 or two years imprisonment. That indicates the seriousness view of this matter taken by the Government. A person knowingly bringing into Australia any goods, animals, plants or other disease agents in contravention of the Act will be subject to a maximum monetary penalty of $10,000. The previous penalty was $2,000. 1 commend the Government on raising the penalties. The penalties are not too great for people who jeopardise the welfare of the Australian nation by this sort of action. I commend the Government on this legislation. I repeat that I trust that the community at large will be fully co-operative and take a keener interest in assisting in the prevention of exotic diseases not only by strictly observing the Act but also by reporting any breach of the quarantine regulations which might come to notice.
– Briefly, I wish to associate myself with this important step. The Government has decided to update the penalties imposed on those who flout the quarantine laws of this country and thus endanger the livelihood of Australian rural producers. The great advantage that Australia has by being an island can be destroyed by the unthinking actions of a handful of people. The nation could be thrown into complete chaos as a result of somebody trying to make a profit by importing a foreign bird with some exotic disease. The entire poultry flock could be wiped out. Other repercussions could be equally as damaging. In view of the newly emerging diseases such as Lassa fever and the Marburg virus, along with old-timers such as foot and mouth and Newcastle disease, we cannot help being forever vigilant in ensuring that this country is protected.
I have promised the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) that my comments will be brief. In the interests of the man on the land the Government should update the penalties in a Bill of this nature more often than every 10 years. We should build into this sort of legislation a provision which ensures that, say, every two years the penalties automatically will be reviewed and increased in line with the rate of inflation. I know that we have been assured by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that within a few months the rate of inflation will be down to 5 per cent. Even so, at the end of a two-year period the value of penalties provided in legislation will have eroded significantly. Regrettably and unfortunately as the value of the penalties diminishes because of inflation, the half-wits who endanger the livelihood of Australians, particularly rural producers, will think that the risk is worth while and will engage in illegal practices.
– in reply- Firstly, I would like to respond to the remarks of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) in respect of his concern about the disposal of the land that will become surplus to the needs of the Department of Health once the Woodman Point quarantine station is closed down. It is an obsolete station in terms of modern medicine and modern methods of treating exotic disease or fevers of any type. The Government is in the process of developing a high security infectious unit at the Fairfield Hospital in Melbourne. It is negotiating the purchase of very sophisticated equipment to enable infectious cases to be transported to that hospital in certain circumstances and in other circumstances to some of the special wards that are available in the capital cities. The discussions with the States are almost complete. As soon as they are we will be in a position to close down many of the quarantine stations that were established when smallpox was the great fear, the great disease, the scourge of mankind. Because of the tremendous work that the World Health Organisation has undertaken- I think this is one of its great achievements- smallpox has been practically wiped off the globe. Once the virus has been disposed of there is no reason to suggest that it will again scourge the human race. The other day Sir Gustav Nossal suggested that even the viruses being stored at the various laboratories should be destroyed so that there will not be a recurrence of the problem that occurred in the United Kingdom recently. So we are reaching the stage at which the Woodman Point station and many of the other quarantine stations will be able to be disposed of. I will certainly take on board the points raised by the honourable member and convey his message to my colleague the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney), who has a responsibility for negotiating with the Western Australian Government the disposal of that very important and attractive property. I think that the honourable member’s point is well taken.
In respect of the Bicton animal quarantine station, an alternate site has been chosen. The site is adjacent to the Perth Airport. The conditions of transfer are in the process of negotiation with the Western Australian Government. It is anxious to have the Commonwealth close down the Bicton animal quarantine station. We are necessarily involved in fairly substantial transfer costs. We are in the process of seeking to obtain some concessions from the Western Australian Government in respect of the removal costs associated with the transfer. I cannot give the honourable member for Fremantle an answer in respect of the question he raised about the amount of money being spent on major restructuring works at Bicton. I understand that funds were appropriated for some necessary repairs to the existing facility, which at present is substantially overloaded. As soon as the information is available to me, which could be later this afternoon, I will convey it to the honourable member for Fremantle.
I thank the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey) very much for his contribution to the debate. Virtually from the day that I was commissioned as Minister for Health the honourable member has been constantly on my doorstep. He has maintained a continuing interest in the area of quarantine. Unfortunately, not enough people in the Parliament or the community generally are aware of the tremendous significance of the quarantine precautions which are taken to the total social and economic structure of this country. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and the honourable member for Canning have quite rightly said that, for instance, an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in this country would probably result in a loss to the economy of $ 1,000m in a full year. Our economy could never stand such an enormous loss. Those of us who are involved in matters of quarantine and who understand the importance of quarantine measures are living in constant fear of foot and mouth disease entering this country. If it does it will spell disaster for the economy of this nation. I think the Parliament should be comforted by the fact that there are people in the Parliament like the honourable member for Canning, the honourable member for Maranoa and others, although there are not too many of them, who are concerned about quarantine matters.
One of the issues which the honourable member for Canning raised with me early in the piece was what he regarded as being a lack of proper facilities in Western Australia. He pointed out that in recent years there had been an enormous increase in the volume of shipping traffic into the north-western ports and also in the volume of traffic at Perth Airport. In response to a request the Director-General of the Department of Health and I went to Western Australia in 1976. We spent several days there. It was quite apparent that the incinerator there was quite inadequate to meet modern requirements. So high priority was accorded to the re-siting of that facility and the re-building of it. It is now almost complete. I am certain that the honourable member for Canning will be there for its opening because of his keen interest in the matter.
The Director-General and I also went to the north-western coastal areas and quite clearly there was a lack of facilities there. Port Hedland did not have adequate incinerator facilities. The staffing facilities were spread fairly thinly from Perth to the far north-western coast. At that time it was stressed that there was great need for a regular surveillance of shipping and other activities along the whole of the northern coast of Australia. So, largely as a result of the pressures that have been brought to bear upon the Government and because of my own concern about the need to keep this country free of exotic diseases as well as a recognition of the problem by the Government, the Government has moved at a time of economic stringency to spend substantial sums of money on improving general quarantine surveillance within and outside Australia.
The honourable member for Canning referred to some of the things that have been done. It is quite an impressive record. For instance, the Government has commenced the construction of the new off-shore quarantine station on Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Heavens above, it should have been there many years ago. At least a start has been made. This country has been denied enormous opportunities as a result of not being able to import into it some very important genetic strains. For instance, if we could get into Australia the fat tail sheep we would be able to supply to the great satisfaction of Middle Eastern countries the type of meat that they require but because we have to get them from countries in which foot and mouth disease and bluetongue are endemic we are unable to bring that genetic strain to this country. The time will come, of course, when the facilities on Cocos (Keeling) Islands will enable us progressively to introduce some of the important genetic strains to produce livestock which are adaptable to Australia’s climatic conditions. Climatology, of course, has now been accepted as quite an important aspect of animal breeding and animal husbandry. Clearly in the northern part of Australia we should be producing tick free cattle. There are many strains that have a resistance to ticks. Many of our cattle in the northern part of Australia do not have resistance to this problem and enormous costs are incurred in trying to keep the tick population down by chemical means.
We have gone ahead, of course, with restructuring the Torrens Island facility, and that will provide a very important back-up facility for Cocos. The new Wallgrove facility in New South Wales which will cost about $4.6m will also be of tremendous value to the State of New South Wales. I have no doubt that the coastal surveillance program that has now been put into operation will give us a greater protection than we have ever had. Of course, with the increasing volume of all sorts of vessels coming into our northern waters- ships, small vessels, refugee vessels and so on- it is absolutely vital that this surveillance be rigidly enforced.
The legislation before us is largely designed to enforce the law. We have very strict quarantine laws but the penalties have not been severe enough. I suppose the penalties could be regarded as Draconian when compared with the penalties applying to other legislation. They were the most severe penalties to which I could get the Government to agree. I would not have worried one iota if they had been twice as severe, because I believe we have a responsibility to keep this country clean.
I have asked my Department to prepare another brochure to explain to travellers entering Australia either by air or by sea why Australia is adopting some of the rather rigid laws in respect to quarantine and why particular procedures are being adopted. I think it is very important to explain to people why one is taking harsh measures. I have heard so many people say that they cannot understand why those characters walk down the corridors of aircraft with what appears to be fly sprays. They want to know whether the spray is being used to kill insects or flies or whether it is supposed to kill all the wogs that the passengers have breathed into the enclosed spaces on the aircraft. Quite frankly, they do not have a damn clue why they are being sprayed. They think this is one of the things that Australians do. They think it is probably some sort of weird Down Under attitude. I think we have a responsibility to explain to people coming into Australia for the first time why these things are done.
The honourable member for Canning also referred to the new procedures that have been adopted in respect of spraying the holds of Qantas Airways Ltd aircraft with mechanical devices. I very reluctantly agreed to this procedure in the first instance. It has been tried on a short term basis, and we are currently evaluating and monitoring the results. I have not had any adverse response to the tests that have been carried out. But if the honourable member has any information I would be very pleased to have it, because we do not want in any way to weaken the value of that procedure.
I would like also to refer to a point the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) made about the need to promote a better understanding within and outside this country as to why we have strict quarantine laws. I think that such an explanation is vital. I think that at some stage the Government will have to prepare a documentary or enter into some sort of public relations exercise or public exhibition to make Australians conscious of the need for quarantine procedures. Each year well over one million people travel overseas and come back to this country. As the report of the Director-General indicates, something like seven tonnes of plant, food and other materials was confiscated at our airports in all sorts of articles. I do not wish to delay the House.
– That is an understatement.
– I just want to mention briefly a matter raised by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon). The honourable member for Reid has had a great rest; he need not worry. I am sorry that his sleep has been disturbed. But the honourable member for McMillan -
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker. If the Minister wants to make unparliamentary remarks I will just have to ruffle him up a little.
My point of order is that the Minister is replying to the second reading stage of the debate; he is not making a second reading speech. The Minister knows that many honourable members want to get away. He has clearly set out in his second reading speech what the Bill is all about. He is only indulging in repetition.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! There is no substance to the point of order. The honourable member for Reid may have defeated the very purpose of his point of order.
– Briefly the honourable member for McMillan spoke about the horticultural interests in Victoria. I know they are very concerned about the possibility of insect infestation and exotic insects coming into Australia in cut flowers. We have set up a consultative committee which comprises representatives of the horticultural interests of Victoria and elsewhere to confer with my Department on any matters that concern them specifically. That committee is working extremely well. I know that Mr Begg, to whom the honourable member referred, is still most concerned. So are we. The horticultural interests can rest assured that we will watch the situation very closely. We will be using that consultative committee to the maximum to protect the interests of the horticultural producers of this country. In conclusion, I thank those honourable members who participated in the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.
Bill reported from legislation committee with amendments.
Ordered that consideration of the report be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Sales Tax Amendment Bills (Nos 1 to 9) 1978.
States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill 1 978.
Bounty (Metal-working Machine Tools) Bill 1978.
Bounty (Drilling Machines) Amendment Bill 1978.
Metal Working Machine Tools Bounty Amendment Bill 1978.
Debate resumed from 8 November, on motion by Mr Adermann:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-On this afternoon of consensus and unanimity I wish to make a few weighty and measured comments on the fifth Order of the Day. The Bill before the House is a proposal to amend the Weights and Measures (National Standards) Act 1960. Naturally the Bill receives the support of the Opposition. After all, the Opposition is concerned with updating and improving the administration of national standards. The Opposition has made vigorous efforts to ensure that the Government maintains proper standards in other areas. It is a pity that the Government’s determination to do so is restricted to only an interest in standards for natural quantities, as it is with this legislation.
The principal Act regulates the units of measurement of physical quantities and approves the designs of devices such as weighing machines. It created the National Standards Commission in 1960 to establish the use of uniform units and standards of measurement. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, through the National Measurement Laboratory, actually discharges these responsibilities. The Science and Industry Research Act gave the CSIRO these functions and, following the recommendations of the Birch inquiry, the Organisation will continue its association with the Standards Commission. This is a close association at present, especially in view of the fact that Mr Alan Harper, the recently appointed Chairman of the Commission, was previously a senior principal research scientist at the National Measurement Laboratory.
The proposed amendment to the Act will modify the CSIRO-NSC relationship to give CSIRO a less direct role in the appointment of members of the Commission. Other than that change, and some updating with regard to various administrative matters, the most interesting feature of the Bill is that it increases the penalty for false claims that instruments used in trade have been certified as approved by the Commission. This is a sensible amendment as it moves in the direction of improving customer protection. There is no need to prolong discussion of the Bill. It provides a rare occasionalthough not so rare this afternoon- for genuine bipartisan policy. The Opposition supports the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr McLeay) read a third time.
House adjourned at 4.7 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on IS August 1978:
Are details of all tender prices for each contract available to the public.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
No. In accordance with Finance Regulation S3 and Finance Directions 31/33, Notification of Contracts Arranged and 31/34, Disclosure of Information relating to Contracts, extracts of contracts awarded (except for those special exceptions described in Regulation 53) are published in the Commonwealth Gazette. Each extract contains the tender reference number, a description of the supplies, the value of the contract and the name and address of the contractor.
The Finance Directions provide that further information in relation to the contract including unit price may be disclosed at the discretion of the Chief Officer of the Department requiring the supplies, or the Chairman of a Tender Board where the contract was approved by a Tender Board.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
What was the expected (a) volume effect and (b) price effect in response to the lower sales tax on motor cars and station wagons used in estimating sales for revenue in 1978-79.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It was stated in the Budget Speech that the price of a car costing about $7,000 should be reduced by roughly $530- that is, about TA per cent- by the reduction in sales tax. From the Budget papers it is also clear that, in arriving at the sales tax revenue estimates, allowance has been made for an increase in the volume of sales (above that which was estimated to occur prior to the reduction in sales tax on cars and station wagons). While such estimates are necessarily imprecise, I am sure that the honourable member will be glad to know that such evidence as is available to date suggests that the revenue estimate in this area may prove to have been, if anything, somewhat understated.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 14 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The document 1 referred to is a draft World Health Organisation document being circulated among W.H.O. members only for comments and amendments. However, when it is finalised I expect that it will be freely available.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 2 1 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Steering Committee recommended that a radiotherapy unit should be established at Woden Valley Hospital, with an expected operational date of early 1983.
asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice, on 26 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 27 September 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
) As described in reply to question (2), all the computers form one integrated system which will be a total information handling system for all Overseas Posts and the Department. This system will embrace:
asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 27 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The purchase cost of each computer, including associated peripheral and terminal equipment, is:
The computers are used for the following major purposes:
The nature of the data stored is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 27 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 28 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government is also concerned at the downturn which has been evident in private investment, and it is aiming, with this decision, to provide the basis for a revival in investment.
Private investment is essential for the welfare of the economy and the maintenance of full employment. ‘
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
Is he able to say what were the dates and places of all (a) above ground and (b) underground nuclear explosions carried out during the last three years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No, because some of the information on nuclear explosions which is available to the Australian Government is of a confidential nature.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) (a) The recruit intake for HMAS Leeuwin for the years 1970 to 1977 and for 1978 to date are: 1970-768; 1971-778; 1972-777; 1973-775; 1974-643; 1975-807; 1976-800; 1977-757; 1978-330.
In current conditions of shortages and restriction on required manpower growth, it has been necessary to adopt all possible measures to reduce the proportion of ineffective manpower under training within allowed total strength. New entries, who have not achieved the training level for employment, form a significant proportion of ineffective manpower.
Because of the current economic situation and the fact that a Junior Recruit requires 9 months training to become effective compared with 3 months for an adult it has been necessary to shift the balance of entries towards the adult recruit. This has been made easier by the current levels of unemployment in the community.
The success of this scheme will depend on recruiting targets for the male Adult Entry being met.
So that good recruits are not lost suitable Junior Recruit applicants are being encouraged to join as adult recruits when they reach 17 years of age.
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 1 1 October 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 1 9 October 1 978:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question: (1)1 assume that the honourable member is referring to the free issue to schools of cassettes of the National Anthem and the National Tune, about which an announcement was made earlier this year.
The earlier announcement specified that schools and those eligible for the free issue of the Australian National Flag should apply to their local Member of the House of Representatives or a Senator for the cassettes.
Association of Migrants Returned from Australia (Question No. 2645)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 25 October 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Embassy has not been able fully to meet this specific requirement for reading material partly because of the volume of material involved in the request and partly because of other demands in Italy for material about Australia. It does, however, provide the Association with the Embassy’s monthly publication ‘Bolettino Australiano’ and Australian Information Service weekly newsletters and releases of general interest. The Association also enjoys free access to the Embassy’s film library.
Apart from the Australian Embassy’s library in Rome to which members of the ANEA have access, there are also a number of other sources of information on Australia in Italy which have been sponsored by the Australian Government. Australia continues to provide books to Ca’Foscari University in Venice in support of the Australian Studies Course offered there by Professor B. Hickey. It has also pesented a selection of books to the University of Turin and will this year present a collection to the University of Bologna.
While the Government believes that the universities, and especially the University of Venice, should for the time being receive priority in respect of the material available for distribution in Italy, it will nevertheless continue to keep in touch with the Association about its activities and give consideration to promote further assistance as resources permit.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 26 October 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) The four reports and/or investigations and their dates are:
Reasons for the Government’s decision in principle to close ASCO are summarised below:
As the number and dates of the above reports and investigations show the decision on ASCO was reached after lengthy and detailed examination of modern requirements for a Defence Force Canteen Service in the light of socioeconomic changes which have affected servicemen and servicewomen over the last decade.
These include the better personal mobility and financial circumstances now generally enjoyed by Service personnel and their families and the greater availability of chain stores, supermarkets and discount houses in all fields.
ASCO has been faced with increased competition and declining patronage to the extent that late in 1977 it made an approach to the Government for a large subsidy to carry it through its then current financial year.
The Government does not wish to deny a canteen service to members of the Defence Force. However it has decided that canteens should now be more closely aligned to providing only basic and essential needs while recognising that some special measures would be necessary to provide for geographically remote areas.
The Services have been asked to prepare proposals for alternative canteen services based on these criteria. These do not envisage canteen services similar to those provided by ASCO.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 8 November 1978:
Will the Government consider liberalising the means test for unemployed persons currently at $6 per week for a married couple, after which the benefit is reduced on a dollar for dollar earned basis, to bring it in line with the means test for other social security benefits; if not, why not.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The income test on unemployment benefit will be subject to review as part of the Government’s overall Budget examination of social welfare programs and policies.
In considering variations to the existing income test on unemployment benefits regard must be had to the possible effects of such variations on incentives to seek full time work and equity between unemployment beneficiaries and employed members of the workforce.
To apply a more liberal pensions income test to unemployment benefits would very substantially increase the amount of income a person may have before being disqualified from all benefit. For example, if the pensions income test were to be adopted, a single unemployed person over the age of 18 could have weekly income of up to $122.90 before entitlement to benefit ceased; a married person could have weekly income of up to $211.90. These limits would be higher in the case of families with children.
As a result unemployment beneficiaries with resources of their own, or who are able to find part time or casual work, could receive a higher income than a person in full time employment.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 November 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Because of my concern to assist disadvantaged people I have asked my Department to re-examine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. However, the Guild’s concern is appreciated and further consideration will be given to the Pharmacy Guild proposal and other proposals.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 November 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19781117_reps_31_hor112/>.