31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the House that we have present in the gallery this afternoon elected members of the Ninth Norfolk Island Council. On behalf of the House, I extend a warm welcome to the members.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments “that the lower level of inflation made twiceyearly payments inappropriate “ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to the 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Onceayear payments strike a cruel blow to their expectations and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Adermann, Mr O’Keefe and Mr Thomson.
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 present provision of payments for abortion through Items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the level of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed each year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Members should:
Request that legislation be introduced in order to prevent payments for the unnecessary destruction of unborn children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hayden and Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy, with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable Members should-
Amend the Medical Benefits Schedule so as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lusher and Mr Lynch.
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 say we are concerned about the deteriorating standards of ABC radio and Television programs.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to appoint an independent inquiry into the ABC which:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lusher and Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of B. T. Robertson, N. J. Fargaro, and V. Maco respectfully showeth:
That current requirements of the Commissioner of Taxation for the lodgement of Income Tax Returns by Registered Tax Agents restricts the trading of such agents to a period of 8 months in any fiscal year. The demands by the Commissioner for lodgement of Income Tax Returns before the 28 February following the tax year is an imposition and a restriction, limiting the trading from twelve to eight months.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the law should be amended to permit any registered tax agent to trade for a full year and lodge Income Tax returns to the close of the respective tax year.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The undersigned citizens of Australia humbly pray that you reject the motion to be moved by Stephen Lusher MHR which proposes: to remove items from the standard medical benefits table which currently permit medical benefits for abortion’ and to cease the funding of medical benefits schemes through which claims for termination of pregnancies can be made’.
Your petitioners humbly pray that you support: a woman ‘s right to choose abortion as a claimable item under all health benefit schemes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrBaume.
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 childabuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dobie.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned members of the Commonwealth Police Force and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned having great concern at the Government’s decision to form an Australian Federal Police Force, call upon the Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hayden.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of electors of the State of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That compensation benefits payable to injured Australian Government employees and Defence Forces personnel under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971 should be increased as a matter of urgency in view of the financial plight of recipients, particularly those suffering long term incapacity and because of the significant increase in the cost of living which has occurred since compensation payments were last adjusted; and
That statutory provision should be made for the automatic adjustment of compensation benefits.
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 petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Neil.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the rate of unemployment is causing concern with a growing number of people in the community and that the community at large and the Government should take urgent steps to lessen the incidence of unemployment particularly unemployed young people.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Government will introduce legislation providing for a retirement throughout the workforce in the Commonwealth of Australia for all employees at age sixty years and Commonwealth Government Social Security be available as and from that date.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Simon.
-I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the House congratulates the Government that information has been made available to the Public Works Committee members of a work known to the Department of Construction and of which the Department of Transport has given intention to seek Government support in July-August 1979 known as Pan I of Stage I of Brisbane Airport Construction.
The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) will second that motion.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: In view of the fact that yesterday he did not deny the story line in the Australian Financial Review report, and in the light of the subsequent evidence that crude oil imports to Australia have suffered a 10 per cent cutback, will he say why he failed to inform Parliament yesterday about the 10 per cent cut in oil imports to Australia revealed in today’s Press? What undertakings has he sought from and given to the oil companies, especially Caltex, concerning cutbacks?
– I think the honourable member for Blaxland must be referring to the reports which were given in the Australian Financial Review this morning. They resulted from a survey that had been made by that newspaper of oil companies in Australia. The honourable member for Blaxland simply did not read the article clearly enough. It makes two points very clear: First of all, anything that I have said about assessments of the oil supply situation in Australia was completely vindicated by that survey conducted by that newspaper. Secondly, the oil companies that responded to the survey agreed that the situation was under control- I think the term used in the Australian Financial Review report-‘ until the end of June ‘.
We come to the position after June. It is true that there could be shortfalls in supply. I have not made any bones about that. I think the Australian Financial Review calculation of what the shortfall could be, about 3 per cent, is fairly accurate. What has the Government done about that position? It has done a number of things. Firstly, it put in place this Oil Supply Committee to make sure that the Government was fully informed about what the supply situation is and will be in the future. That Committee has been meeting regularly and will continue to meet regularly, about every fortnight. The second thing the Government did was to make sure that the States were fully briefed about what was going on. So there is a special liaison committee of State officials which meets regularly after we have met with the Oil Supply Committee and that special liaison committee is kept fully informed as to the results of that meeting. That is one set of things we have done- information gathering.
There is another series of things that the Government has done. Firstly, in consultations with the producers, BHP-Esso, the Government has managed to have production out of Bass Strait lifted by about 6 per cent. That starts as from next month. That will mean about a 3.8 per cent increase in Australia’s total oil production. Another thing the Government has done is to look at dropping octane ratings. If one point were dropped from both standard and super grades there could be a saving of one per cent to VA per cent of oil supplies. The Government has looked also at temporarily increasing the amount of lead that could go into petrol. There are regulations which would prevent that from happening now in New South Wales metropolitan areas, Victoria and Tasmania. If that could be lifted temporarily and additional lead added it would save up to 3 per cent of oil supplies.
The House will see immediately by going through all those things that the Government has been acting decisively and purposefully to make sure that that situation is covered. As for the final part of the question I can only repeat what I have said a dozen times in this House: There are no deals with any oil company including Caltex.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to discussions and proposals designed to develop a new S-year stabilisation scheme for the Australian wheat industry. Will the Minister advise the House on the progress being made to arrive at a new wheat stabilisation scheme?
– The present 5 -year stabilisation scheme expires on 30 September this year. Therefore it will be necessary for new proposals to take effect from 1 October. Discussions have taken place at Agricultural Council level and with the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and me on the details of these new proposals, which largely arose from the Industries Assistance Commission report which was handed down late last year. At the moment there are two areas outstanding in the attitude of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation representatives and me. The first matter is the basis of calculation of the domestic price for wheat for human consumption and the starting point for the 1979-80 wheat season. The second matter is the basis on which, in the new wheat stabilisation scheme, there should or should not be a contribution from growers and the setting of a minimum price or a first advance for wheat growers. There is acceptance of the fact that there should be a minimum price and that that should equal the first advance. The Government has suggested that it should be at 85 per cent, but if the growers were prepared to leave the contribution of $80m that is now there in their account it would be possible to increase the figure to 95 per cent of the expected realisations over an average of a three-year period. I would hope that we might be able within the next week or so to resolve those two areas of difficulty, so that legislation can be introduced this session. It seems to me that there is not much dividing the AWF and the Government at this time and I hope that the State governments will also agree so that the legislative program can be met.
– I desire again to ask a question of the Minister for National Development. Has his attention been drawn to reports that, following yesterday’s 9.1 per cent oil price rise by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the cost of petrol to the Australian motorist could rise by more than 3c a litre or 1 3c a gallon? Will the OPEC price rise be passed on by the Government on 1 July in its price for locally produced crude oil? If so, will this mean that the Australian motorist will be up for at least an extra $1 for a tank of petrol? Will 30c of this extra dollar pay for imports, 40c go to the Government coffers and 30c go to extra profits for producers of Australian oil? Finally, will this mean that the oil producers will gain an extra $50m, and the Government more than $60m, at the expense of the Australian motorist?
– The honourable member for Blaxland has asked me a number of questions about the effect of OPEC pricing. All the calculations that he has made are assumptions and I cannot say whether they are correct or not. The reasons why I say that are, first, that in respect of the 30 per cent of our oil that is imported the oil companies will no doubt make application to the
Prices Justification Tribunal and it will be up to the Tribunal to decide what shall be the wholesale prices of the products on which the oil companies are basing their applications. As to the 70 per cent domestic production for which we fix the price, I have this to say: The Government fixes the price on 1 January and 1 July. Therefore, the OPEC price rise will have no immediate effect on crude oil supplies produced in Australia. The second point, which I have made clear on many occasions- and I think even in answer to a question asked previously by the honourable member- is that between now and 1 July the Government will consider the OPEC price, the basis for OPEC’s setting that price and the implications for the Australian economy. When it has given the matter that consideration it will be time to say whether or not it will be included in the 1 July calculation.
– Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of growing concern in the community about the traffic in drugs between Thailand and Australia? Will the Government provide to Thailand greater financial assistance and more personnel in the form of Australian narcotics agents, to increase the effectiveness of the co-operation between Australia and Thailand in the detection and apprehension of people who are profiteering from trading in drugs which destroy the lives of young Australians?
-The short answer to both questions is yes. With regard to the second part of the question, that is being done. I will outline briefly what we are doing in conjunction with my colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in that regard. Australia, of course, attaches very great importance to co-operating with the countries of the region in this field of drug control and narcotics trafficking. Time and again I have warned Australians of the consequences of not abiding by the law of the countries that they are visiting. In October last the Government announced details of increased commitments to the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse. The purpose of the fund is to develop programs, particularly in the form of crop replacement, that are designed to stem the spreading of drug abuse. It has assisted a number of countries, particularly Thailand, in this way and the results that have been achieved to date have been encouraging.
The Government’s contribution to the fund over the next three years will be $ 1 m. In addition to making such contributions to a United
Nations fund, we have been instrumental in encouraging co-operation in the context of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting to combat illicit drug trafficking in the region. In addition, a number of initiatives have been taken between the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the Thai narcotics enforcement authorities. These initiatives have included study tours and training for Thai enforcement officials and the provision of some communications equipment. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which is answerable to my colleague, is in conjunction with my Department now examining the possibility of funding a major equipment program for Thai narcotics authorities.
In early 1978 the Narcotics Bureau opened a liaison office in the Australian Embassy in Bangkok. The office was further strengthened earlier this year. The opening of the office has proved, I think, to be an invaluable asset both in establishing and in maintaining close operational liaison with the Thai narcotics enforcement authorities. I need hardly add that these activities are fully consistent with the need to stamp out the pernicious, illicit drug trade. At present 16 Australians are in prison in Thailand on drug charges. As I said at the commencement of this answer, I have emphasised time and again that Australians overseas are subject to the laws of the country they are visiting. I cannot stress too strongly the necessity for Australian travellers to heed this warning. If they do not, then I have to say that, despite the requirements laid down under conventions for us to check on their welfare from time to time, the blunt reality is that they must bear the consequences of their own behaviour.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that over the last four years Commonwealth subsidy to community health services has decreased from 90 per cent to 50 per cent? Is it further a fact that the meagre amounts of money made available by the Commonwealth to this worthy cause of health care for the people of Australia will again be substantially cut in the near future? Will the Minister alleviate the tension felt by employees and patients in every State by giving a positive reply?
-The Commonwealth Government, of course, has entered into an arrangement with the State governments to fund the community health program for this financial year on a dollar for dollar basis, which is regarded as an equitable arrangement with the States. When the community health program first came into operation it was funded by the Commonwealth Government on a 100 per cent basis. In the following year the former Government reduced the percentage of Commonwealth funding by 10 per cent. Progressively the Commonwealth Government has sought to encourage the States to make a larger contribution towards the primary health responsibilities that the States have for the health of the people within those States. In New South Wales, which I think is the State with which the honourable member is most concerned, a total allocation of $19. 6m was made under the community health program. There was a reluctance on the part of the State Government to meet the New South Wales allocation at one stage last year. This resulted in a shortfall of about $840,000 in the program. As a consequence, there was great uncertainty amongst the workers and the patients who were obtaining benefit from the community health program throughout the State.
The Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, just prior to the election, saw some wisdom in making good the expected contribution from New South Wales. So, that State in fact did meet the Commonwealth commitment. More recently, however, there was some real concern because New South Wales appeared not to be able to meet the program that was envisaged and there was a shortfall of about $500,000. Mr Wran made an offer of $250,000, provided the Commonwealth Government matched his offer. Within a matter of hours the Minister for Finance and I had discussions about the matter. We decided that we would in fact meet the New South Wales offer, so that there would not be uncertainty within the community health program in New South Wales. I have had many letters of thanks from workers and patients and I know that the honourable member for Sydney is delighted that both the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government saw fit to find the additional money to keep those essential services going in the electorate of Sydney.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of protracted industrial trouble which has plagued the construction sites of two national buildings in Canberra, namely, the High Court of Australia and the National Gallery. Might I say that these disputes were contrived to pave the way for the local Builders Labourers Federation organiser to enter the big time in Victoria.
-The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
– Is the Prime Minister, visiting the site of the High Court this afternoon with the Chief Justice? In view of the industrial disputes which have plagued the site could this action be regarded as provocative? If the Prime Minister is going to the site, will he take the local member?
-Some considerable time ago, I think at the invitation of the Chief Justice, I made arrangements to visit the site of the High Court building this afternoon with the Chief Justice. I intend to do that. If the local member would like to participate in the visit I am quite sure that he would be very welcome.
– You had better take Bob Ellicott too and let him have a look at the place.
-The Minister might be coming too but, on the other hand, there may be some business in the Parliament relating to the Parliament House Construction Authority which the Minister needs to guide through the Parliament. Therefore that matter might take precedence. But the disputes involving the High Court and other construction sites are of immense concern to the Government. We have also recently been advised that some aspects of the contracts that have been let in relation to those particular disputes would seem to relieve the contractors of some of the costs of time lost as a result of disputes. That would not seem to be a good principle to be embodied in Commonwealth contracts or in contracts undertaken by Commonwealth instrumentalities. It is my understanding that in these cases the contracts were let during the previous Administration. These matters are under close examination by the Government and we will see what options are open to us. With regard to the suggestion that a visit to the High Court site is seen as provocative, I would have thought that that would not be possible. It has been organised for some time. But if there is any suggestion- I am sure it would not come from the honourable member- that in case the visit was seen as provocative the Chief Justice and I should not go to the site, then that is just not on, any more than it is on that I cease to use Commonwealth car No. CI because of an industrial dispute of another kind.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development and point out that a senior official- in fact the top official- of a domestic oil producing company told me in the presence of my colleague, the honourable member for Blaxland, that his company -
-I ask the honourable gentleman to ask his question.
– Is it a fact, as I was told in the presence of my colleague the honourable member for Blaxland, that a large domestic oil producer does not even provide the Government with production costs per barrel of oil from its Australian operations? If this is the case, how can the Government make any assessment on what is a reasonable profit return to the company when Cabinet is considering policy decisions affecting the price of petrol to Australian motorists? If this is so how can the Government so confidently reject the Opposition’s claim that the oil companies are massively ripping-off Australian motorists when the Government apparently does not know and cannot find out such basic information affecting such important economic decision making?
– I do not think I would like to comment on any conversation that the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Blaxland may have had. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition has a question on notice which covers those very points. I will investigate the position about which he has asked and give him an answer in due course.
-My question is to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware of bans and limitations on work by Australian Postal Commission and Australian Telecommunications Commission employees in the pursuit of higher wages? What action is the Government prepared to take?
-There are bans and limitations on work by postal and telecommunications employees. Let me say at the outset that, if there are employees who wish to pursue wage claims, there are in the traditional sense arbitration procedures that enable that to be done and the Government would not for one moment want to stand in the way of either side to an industrial dispute in seeking access to the arbitration process. Indeed, the totality of our policies is designed to encourage that process to be used but at the same time we believe that the arbitral process should be allowed to run its course free from threat and free from the kind of coercion which now seems so often to be the very first element of a bargaining process. To inconvenience the public, to try to exert pressure by the imposition of bans, to work to rules or to adopt other means that cause difficulty, are elements in the process which the Government opposes and will oppose with all the force at its command. Because of the nature and, as it would seem, the increasing tempo of industrial disputes at the present time, mostly related to increased wage claims, the Government will be looking with some urgency at the nature of the immediate response that ought to be given by its own employing agencies, instrumentalities and statutory corporations.
As a general rule we would believe that, where work bans and limitations are used by trade unions in the pursuit of wage claims, stand down clauses should be sought forthwith and not after a considerable time lag as has generally been the case in the past, and where stand down clauses are in awards they ought to be applied forthwith and not after some considerable time as has generally been the case in the past. In other words, there is no effort on the part of the Government to prevent matters from being heard before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and through its various procedures, but we do object and will oppose with all the vigour that we can command unions’ using industrial measures, work bans and limitations as a first step in the negotiating process. The Minister concerned is in touch with both the Australian Telecommunications Commission and the Australian Postal Commission to indicate the Government’s general attitude and I would hope very much that the commissions would take note of that in their own handling of the dispute. Broadly it would involve, if the generality is applied in each case, stand down clauses being sought where those stand down clauses are not available and stand down clauses being applied where they are already in an award.
– In directing my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, I refer to the takeover battle for Kelvinator Australia Ltd with Email Ltd and Simpson Pope Holdings Ltd as leading participants or, should I say, combatants. Is it a fact that the resulting possible takeover or merger has a profound effect on international competitiveness in sections of the Australian whitegoods industry with consequent effects on employment, regional balance and investment? What result is desired or indeed required by government in the national interest? Has there been appropriate consultation with the
South Australian Department of Economic Development? In short, is the Federal Government providing the necessary leadership as part of a policy of restructuring and revitalising this sector of manufacturing industry? If not, why not?
– The Government made its position perfectly clear as to the need for rationalisation of the industry in taking a decision on the Industries Assistance Commission’s report, that decision of course having been taken some months ago. The honourable member is very much aware of the detail of that report and the Government’s decision at that time. I suspect that at that time he would have welcomed the decision because of the need to place that industry on a long-term and viable basis. As for the present market battle which is taking place, I am tempted to respond but I decline to do so because the honourable member must certainly be aware that this is a very, very sensitive matter in the market place. I will be meeting the South Australian Minister, Mr Hudson, this afternoon. I am uncertain as to the particular matters that he wishes to put before me, but I think it would be discourteous to that Minister to abort such discussions by a precipitate response in this House. In any case, in view of the sensitivity of market matters outside, I believe that this is not a matter which ought to come before this House by way of an unforeshadowed question.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to the 200-mile economic zone to be administered by Australia. Have all possible safeguards for the development of the Australian fishing industry been taken into account? Are formal agreements with foreign fishing interests being further considered pending zone declaration procedures in the interests of resource conservation and better assessment of the balanced local utilisation of recognised fishing zones?
-As the House would know, the declaration of an economic zone is still a matter for consultation between countries, under the discussions pertaining to the law of the sea which are still inconclusive. However, the declaration of a 200-mile fishing zone is proceeding and, in Australia’s instance, hopefully will be achieved before too long. I had intimated that I expected the declaration could be made about the middle of April. It now seems that it may be a little later than that because we wish to conclude with the Japanese, and probably the Koreans, appropriate fishing agreements before the proclamation of legislation which was passed by this House last year.
The intent is to protect to the maximum the interests of Australians, both as fishermen and as on-shore processors of the catch. In each of the discussions with other countries pursuing the obligation which is imposed on Australia under the law of the sea regime which permitted the extension of the fishing zone, it is necessary for us to try to accommodate other countries but it is also desirable in our view to gain access for the catch of the extended fishing zone to other markets. That we are seeking to do.
We are of course also trying, through joint ventures and feasibility fishing projects, to determine what marine resource is available for catch and hopefully for exploitation, predominantly by Australian interests. In each of the areas discussions have been undertaken with parties responsible. I believe that the regime that will be developed will not only bring significant economic advantage to Australian fishermen but also will augment the marine resources of Australia which already contribute significantly in a number of areas to Australian export income.
-Will the Prime Minister ensure that proper action is taken within the Public Service Board to guarantee that its operations are not bungled again as they were in the insurance allowance case involving air traffic controllers- a bungle which caused inconvenience and loss to countless thousands of Australians?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask for information and not make a statement.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. In particular, will he see that the Board in future engages in genuine negotiations and dispute settlement and does not evade its responsibilities by treating the arbitration system as a Byzantine maze, to use the expression applied by Acting Public Service Arbitrator Watson yesterday?
-The Public Service Board has heavy responsibilities. I believe it discharges those responsibilities well. It is obviously in a position where many people, many unions and departments come to it with their hands held out asking for it to make decisions which will help them. At the same time the Board has a responsibility, which it seeks to discharge to the best of its ability, to make sure that there are some overriding rules in relation to
Commonwealth employment and that decisions are not made which could involve substantial flow-throughs and consequences for other areas. Therefore, quite plainly, the Board will come under criticism from time to time when it does not give in readily because people ask for something.
I think it is about time that we all came to understand that if each of us is to be paid according to his or her own estimation of his or her worth we will very soon bankrupt this country. Too many leaders in the union movement and too many people in the Australian Labor Party believe that they have an entitlement to be paid according to their own estimation of their worth. Under those circumstances it is quite plain that there need to be institutions in this country- the Public Service Board is one- which must be custodians of some general rules which will work sensibly and which will safeguard the exchequer and the taxpayers’ dollars. I think that the greatest contribution which members of the Australian Labor Party would be able to make in the economic debate in Australia would be to advocate wage restraint, which, as they know in their hearts and as Frank Crean quite plainly knew, would do more to help economic recovery and reinforce the gains that have so far been won than any other single act that is within thenpower or ever will be within their power.
-Has the Prime Minister seen statements that inflation could be reduced to 2.5 per cent by a plan which would make the rich pay more in tax and the poor pay less? Does he believe that this would be a viable way of reducing inflation?
– I have seen some statements to that effect. A member of this House sent me a letter indicating that the Australian Labor Party is now sending out to ethnic communities a weekly digest. Attached to the letter was a copy- perhaps the first copy- of the weekly digest which included a Press release from the Leader of the Opposition dated 22 March. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition could not have meant everything he said in that digest. It would seem to be an attempt to misinform migrants which shows a degree of contempt of Australia’s ethnic groups. In part the Press release stated:
Mr Bill Hayden has promised migrants and other workers more jobs and more money in their pay packets. Mr Hayden has presented a plan which would make the rich pay more in tax and the poor less.
We all know about the 80 per cent marginal tax rate which he has already indicated. As far as I am aware, he has not yet told this House that, at the same time, he has been promising substantial tax cuts to different community groups in Australia. In elaborating his economic plans in this House, at no time has he referred to tax cuts for lower income earners. Therefore, he is trying to deceive that is a harsh word to use against him but I cannot think of another accurate one either the ethnic communities or the Parliament.
The Press release also indicated that the plan of the Leader of the Opposition includes reducing the rate of inflation which it stated is now more than 8 per cent to 2.5 per cent. This is the first time that we have seen the Leader of the Opposition put his name to that particular objective. He does not indicate a time scale. He has not been game to claim that the economic plans which he has espoused within the Parliament would result in that objective. Because those plans would lead to a very substantial increase in the deficit and substantial increases in funding problems we all know that they would lead to a great increase in inflation. We know that the Leader of the Opposition sometimes mildly exaggerates the impact of his economic plans. He has not so far dared to promise that they would result in an inflation rate of2½ per cent.
The Press statement is interesting because the Leader of the Opposition explains more clearly than he has done before what is meant by the capital gains tax proposal. On 5 March he said that the family home would be exempt from the capital gains tax. On 15 March at the National Press Club he said that regard would have to be given to the effects of inflation on realised capital gains. In the Press release of 22 March he came clean. The release stated:
Capital gains . . . would be levied on the difference between the amount the asset was bought for and what it sold for.
Although the Leader of the Opposition has said that a home would be exempt the Press release stated:
For instance, a house -
I suppose that for the Labor Party a house is not a home- that cost $250,000 and was sold for $300,000 would bring a tax on the $50,000 profit.
No mention was made of the effect of inflation. It is clear that the Labor Party has no intention of allowing for an inflation factor. It will impose a capital gains tax on the difference between the purchase price and the selling price regardless of inflation. That is quite simply what the Leader of the Opposition indicated in his Press release. It is an old propaganda trick to go around the country telling one thing to one audience and another thing to another audience but sooner or later the audiences come together.
Opposition members interjecting-
-The outburst of interjection from my left is quite unnecessary. I ask honourable members to maintain the dignity of the House.
– This man is the greatest Welsher who has ever been the Prime Minister of this country. He is a humbug.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will withdraw.
- Mr Speaker, what I said was the truth. This is the greatestWelsher that this Parliament has ever had to put up with.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw.
– I withdraw.
– I regret that what I said seems to have struck some kind of sensitivity in the Australian Labor Party. The Leader of the Opposition plainly has been going around the country telling one thing to one audience and quite another to other audiences. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a letter from the Leader of the Opposition, signed ‘Bill Hayden’, and the Press release that was attached to it.
-Is leave granted?
– On the condition that -
-There is no condition.
-. . . the policy speech of Mr Fraser in 1975, with all their lies in it, can be tabled.
-Order! Is leave granted?
The documents read as follows-
Leader of the Opposition
The Australian Labor Party has for some time been concerned at the difficulties of the ethnic press in getting information about political events in Australia.
To meet this need, the ALP is to produce a weekly digest of political news and events.
It will aim to meet the needs of newspapers and other media serving migrant communities.
We will follow up this series in the weeks to come by personal visits to as many editors of the ethnic media as possible. I hope that you will then be able to tell us whether the digest meets your requirements or whether it could be improved in any way.
BILL HAYDEN, M. P.
The Labor Party Leader, Mr Bill Hayden, has promised migrants and other workers more jobs and more money in their pay packets.
Mr Hayden has presented a plan which would make the rich pay more in tax and the poor less.
His plan would be totally different to the way the present Australian Government, headed by Mr Malcolm Fraser, is acting.
Mr Hayden ‘s plan includes: creating 1 30,000 jobs in a year reducing the rate of inflation now more than 8 per cent to 2.5 percent.
He said the rich people in the community could afford to pay more to help reduce unemployment and create jobs. They would have to pay tax on the sale of assets worth more than $200,000.
This tax on ‘capital gains’ would be levied on the difference between the amount the asset was bought for and what it sold for.
For instance, a house that cost $250,000 and was sold for $300,000 would bring a tax on the $50,000 profit. Mr Hayden said because of the limit of $200,000, only the rich would be affected by the tax.
He also promised to bring in a tax on natural resources.
This could apply to the amount of profit made by mining. A Labor Government also would bring in a tax on the revenue earned by petrol companies.
It would prevent the use of family trusts which are used by most rich families to avoid taxation.
It would also change the taxes paid by the top two per cent of income earners once again, the very richest people. These people at present were able, by using clever lawyers, to avoid paying the same amount of tax as poorer people.
Mr Hayden said migrants suffered as a group more than others because of this. Migrants did not know how to cheat the tax laws and paid the full amount out of their salary.
Mr Hayden said he would aim to get unemployment down to two per cent of the work force.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question which follows on from the question he has just answered, not entirely accurately. Is it a fact that promises already firmly made by the Government, which will have to be paid for in the next Budget, will incur a cost to revenue well in excess of $ 1,000m? Will he give a firm guarantee that there will not be increases in personal income tax and indirect taxes to pay -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. We have put up enough with the failure to observe Standing Orders. You will know that under Standing Order -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! I ask honourable members on my left to remain silent. I cannot hear the point of order.
- Sir, you will know that under Standing Order 144 if I can remember it correctly honourable members are not permitted to ask questions related to policy or changes of policy. I ask that in the best interests of this House and the Australian people you stop honourable members from infringing that rule.
-The Standing Order prohibits an honourable member from making a request in a question for a Minister to announce Government policy. I will listen to the question of the Leader of the Opposition to see whether it is a request to announce Government policy.
-I will start again. I ask the Prime Minister, not the Treasurer I presume that the Prime Minister would have some idea of what is going on in economic management -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
– Is it a fact that promises firmly made to the Australian community by the Prime Minister, which will have to be paid for in the next Budget, will incur revenue costs in excess of $ 1,000m? Will the Prime Minister give a firm undertaking that personal income tax and indirect taxes will not be increased to meet those revenue requirements? Furthermore, will he give a guarantee that the half indexation affecting personal income tax rates at the moment will, as promised, be restored to full indexation in the next Budget? Will he also give a firm undertaking that the promise of the Government that the full stock valuation adjustment provisions will be affected within three years from 1976 in fact will be fulfilled in the next Budget?
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I ask you now please to give consideration to the fact that this is a matter of policy and the Leader of the Opposition is not observing the caution that you have given to him.
-The Leader of the Opposition has carefully phrased his question in order to avoid the Standing Order. He has asked for guarantees. It will be open for the Prime Minister, as was done yesterday by the Treasurer, to indicate that he will not discuss the matter prior to the Budget.
-The Treasurer has made it perfectly plain that he is not going to speculate on the next Budget and I am not going to speculate on that Budget either.
– Come offit!
– If the Leader of the Opposition cannot stop interjecting into the microphone -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The House will come to order.
– If the Leader of the Opposition cannot stop interjecting into the microphone when Ministers are seeking to answer the question, he should stop and think before he asks that kind of question. He knows very well what he did in relation to taxation during the Labor years. He knows very well what he did in relation to expenditure during the Labor years. Quite plainly we need to understand and to recognise that income taxes grew by 125 per cent in the three years of Labor. Tax rates on incomes of between $10,000 and $16,000 a year ranged from 45 per cent to 55 per cent. They have been immeasurably reduced under this Government. But in spite of the punitive tax rates of from 45 per cent to 55 per cent imposed on people of modest and average incomes of between $10,000 and $16,000 a year, Labor still could not finance its socialist objectives. Taxes rose twice as much as prices and even Labor’s inflation rate could not keep up with its tax increases. We have introduced tax indexation and rate scale reform. We have introduced a rate of 33’/i per cent on incomes of nearly $17,000 a year compared with Labor’s 55 per cent at $16,000 a year. So it was 55 per cent under Labor at $16,000 a year and under our policy 33Vi per cent at $17,000 a year. If honourable members need a stark contrast between our policies and those of Labor, there they have it. Up to 500,000 low income earners have been relieved from paying any tax at all as a result of our increasing the tax threshold from Labor’s very low figure to not far short of $4,000.
-Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The Prime Minister is not entitled to mislead the House. No one in Australia pays no tax at all. They might pay no income tax, but they pay greater indirect tax.
-Order! There is no point of order. I ask the honourable member for Corio to resume his seat.
– It is a habit of the front bench of the Opposition to get up on what are said to be points of order and make allegations, when there is no point of order, as you have ruled on all occasions, Mr Speaker. It is plainly an abuse of the Standing Orders to make a remark and to make that remark over the air. As far as I am concerned, the more members of the Opposition behave in that way the better because the people of Australia are not the fools that the Labor Party takes them for.
Let me repeat that, under our policies, 500,000 low income earners have been relieved from paying any income tax because we have lifted the tax threshold to not far short of $4,000 whereas under Labor the threshold was much lower than that. Indeed this year, we will collect $3,000m less in income tax than would have been realised under the tax scales that the Leader of the Opposition introduced as Treasurer. We have been told quite plainly that the Labor Party would want to put up taxes again if it came into office because, as the honourable member for Gellibrand, Mr Willis, said in addressing the Labor Economists Conference in June 1978:
If Labor does not gain office next election then by 1983, when we could next hope to gain office, we would face a mammoth task in re-building the public sector- and maybe an equally mammoth task in convincing the electorate that it should pay a higher level of tax to enable us to do so.
I think that states very plainly the Labor Party’s objective. The humbug and the hypocrisy of the Leader of the Opposition should be put aside.
– Does the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs recall reports in December 1978 regarding his discussions with the Yugoslav Government about problems associated with dual citizenship? Can the Minister advise whether there has been any progress in this matter?
– I did have discussions with Yugoslav Ministers during a visit to Yugoslavia just prior to Christmas and I did raise the question of the problems experienced by Australian citizens of Yugoslav origin. It is a fact that, despite taking out Australian citizenship, people from Yugoslavia do not automatically relinquish their Yugoslav citizenship and all that that entails, including the obligation to undertake military service. It was explained to me that it is possible to renounce Yugoslav citizenship, but that decision is taken at the republican government level rather than at the central government level.
As I have already mentioned, this is a problem for Australian citizens of Yugoslav origin visiting that country. I raised with Ministers in Yugoslavia the question of Australian citizens who were undergoing military service. I am very pleased to be able to say that three Australian citizens who were undergoing military service have had that obligation reviewed and at the very highest level two have had their obligations set aside. One has undertaken to continue his military service but at a much reduced time scale.
I am very pleased that the discussions with the Yugoslav Government have resulted in this understanding of Australian citizens’ points of view and I am very hopeful that the discussions which will continue with the Yugoslav Government, relating to the question of dual nationality, will have a mutually acceptable result.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Australian Development Assistance Agency (Repeal) Act 1977,I present the final report of the Australian Development Assistance Agency for the year ended 30 June 1977. The delay in presenting this report has been caused by technicalities that arose in the context of the change in status of the Agency to a bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Government’s response to the report of the Joint Committee on Publications on its inquiry into the purpose, scope and distribution of the Parliamentary Papers Series. I seek leave to have the text incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
That where a printed departmental paper, tabled in Parliament, is given a full Parliamentary distribution, Senators and Members be excluded from receipt of the Parliamentary Paper version.
Agree, on cost saving grounds.
That departments, statutory authorities and other governmental institutions which are not required, by statute, to present an annual report to Parliament, but which had occasion to table an annual report in recent years, be encouraged to continue to present an annual report to Parliament on a consistent basis.
With regard to departmental annual reports, this recommendation has already been agreed to by the Government and guidelines are being developed. Nearly all statutory authorities are required, by legislation, to present annual reports.
If more reports are to be required, there will be increased costs and problems in publication, in some cases with little gain in the amount of information made publicly available. Any authority or institution not already required by statute to present an annual report should do so only if this action would add significantly to public knowledge. The Government is examining guidelines in relation to annual reports of departments.
That the Clerks of the Parliament advise the Chairman on any occasion where an author body has failed to meet a statutory requirement to table its annual report, return or other document within the stated statutory period, or within a reasonable period of time following the completion of the period to which the report refers.
That at the conclusion of each year’s sitting, or as often as may be deemed necessary, the Committee table a return in Parliament recording the titles of those reports of author bodies which have not been tabled during the stated statutory period or within a reasonable period of time following the completion of the period to which the report refers.
While the Government is anxious to eliminate the fundamental causes of delays in the tabling of reports, it may not be possible to overcome delays completely. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, in consultation with other departments as necessary, will be undertaking an examination to identify delays and to formulate recommendations to the Government on how they might be overcome. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet should thus be in a position to obtain an overall picture of the situation in respect of the tabling requirements and performance of all departments and reporting bodies.
It is necessary, however, for the concept of Ministerial responsibility to be observed, and the Government would wish to ensure that Senators’ and Members’ inquiries concerning reports should be addressed to the responsible Minister.
That the publication guidelines of the Committee be amended to read as follows:
It is for the Parliamentary Committee to set its own guidelines.
That the Tree distribution list for the principal Parliamentary publications (excluding Hansard) be as follows:
While the Parliament itself may determine the category of recipients to receive gratis issues of Parliamentary publications, it is essential that the Parliament recognise the additional production, distribution and administrative costs of any extension or partial extension of the distributions. In the final analysis, the Government must decide what level of appropriation it will recommend to the Parliament and will have regard to:
AGPS would also need to be provided with adequate forward advice of any significant increases in free issues, in terms of quantities of publications to be produced and distribution requirements.
The appropriate Ministers will be examining the matter of the distribution of Parliamentary Papers in the forward estimates/budget process in the context of other proposed parliamentary expenditures.
That the grouping system used to determine the free distribution of Parliamentary Papers be revised and updated.
This recommendation is a matter for the Parliament itself.
That the number of future sets of bound volumes held in reserve be reduced to twentyfive.
That future volumes of the Parliamentary Papers Series be bound in high quality buckram material.
That, following the tabling of a report in Parliament which:
Agree. Responsibility for determining whether such reports coming to the attention of the Joint Publications Committee are in acceptable form for reproduction in the Parliamentary Paper Series should rest with the Australian Government Publishing Service.
Recommendation 1 1
That the Australian Government Publishing Service advise the Committee of author bodies which depart from AGPS production guidelines where it is known that the report will be tabled and printed as a Parliamentary Paper.
Oppose. The Government does not support a system which would require one government agency to report spontaneously to a Parliamentary Committee about other agencies’ alleged shortcomings. AGPS will, of course, be taking up with author bodies any departures from the guidelines. The Committee, however, might obtain from the Australian Government Publishing Service, from time to time, a return or statement relating to such shortcomings, including the results of consultations between the Publishing Service and the author agencies concerned.
That where time permits, all reports which are due to be tabled in Parliament and which fall within the Parliamentary Paper publishing guidelines laid down by this Committee should be typeset with sufficient copies being produced simultaneously to satisfy the Parliamentary Paper distribution.
That where it is necessary for a report to be produced with the utmost urgency, and, as a result, the necessary time required to typeset the document is unavailable and, if such report readily falls within the Parliamentary Paper publishing guidelines laid down by this Committee, then it is most desirable that such report be produced in accordance with the requirements of the relevant Australian Government Publishing Service Circular dealing with reproduction from cameraready copy.
The Government agrees with the general objectives of these recommendations. A working group composed of representatives from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Public Service Board and the Australian Government Publishing Service will formulate specific guidelines based on overall economy, efficiency and maintenance of standards in the preparation and production of reports to be tabled in the Parliament. The Government is concerned that, wherever possible, reports due to be tabled in Parliament, are simultaneously produced.
That, at the commencement of each year’s sittings, and thereafter as necessary, the Committee determine whether or not certain papers due to be tabled that year fall within the publishing guidelines laid down by the Committee in this Report and that the Parliament be advised that, when these papers are tabled, it is the intention of the Committee to recommend that they be printed as Parliamentary Papers.
Agree, with the reservation that acceptance should not be construed to mean that the Government will declare in advance to the Committee, or to the Parliament, what reports or other documents it intends to present to the Parliament.
That, following the adoption by Parliament of the reports of the Committee which contain its recommendations for the printing of Parliamentary Papers, such reports be included in the appropriate catalogue of the Australian Government Publishing Service.
That, for a trial period of two years, following upon the completion of the departmental versions of reports by a printing contractor or the Government Printer, the completion of the Parliamentary Paper versions of those reports be undertaken by the Government Printer.
Agree. This practice has been in operation for some time.
That, for a trial period of two years, the Government Printer undertake the printing of Parliamentary Papers on all occasions where Parliamentary Paper stocks have not been produced simultaneously with the departmental tabling version.
Oppose. The recommendation would involve additional costs where original printing had been performed by a commercial house. The Government believes such instances should be determined by AGPS under its normal print allocation procedures.
That in the event of the Government Printer being unable to complete the Parliamentary Paper version of a report, he be authorised to refer the report to the Australian Government Publishing Service to arrange its completion through a suitable printing contractor.
Oppose. The Government Printer is encompassed within AGPS. Implementation of this recommendation would reverse normal procedures.
That the Government Printer complete the Parliamentary Paper version by encasing the original departmental version with the standard blue Parliamentary Paper cover; such cover to include the tabling and printing details presently being recorded on thetitle page.
The Government Printer has instituted the practice. The previous practice was that the standard blue Parliamentary Paper cover was used only to encase the text of departmental reports.
This procedure appears to be an unnecessary, impractical and costly variation to the previous practice. The Government proposes to review the procedure in 1979, particularly with respect to the additional costs which are placed on author agencies for the printing of extra covers for the Parliamentary Paper series.
That the Parliamentary Presiding Officers examine the practicability of employing terminal production units in:
This matter is one for the Parliament to determine. Although this matter is complex and it will be some time before capital and ongoing costs can be accurately estimated, the Government supports, in principle, the recommendation on the basis of potential cost savings and greater service efficiency which should result.
Trials have been conducted between the Parliament and the Printing Office in respect of this recommendation and the Printing Office has made some forward provisions in the Estimates for updating computer facilities for this purpose.
That the Parliamentary Papers Index be consolidated for the period 1901-1975.
This matter is one for the Publications Committee to determine.
That when production and financial considerations permit, the Parliamentary Paper Series be reproduced in a microform version.
That the publications deposit arrangement of the Australian Government Publishing Service be expanded to include the six State Parliamentary Librarians, upon request.
Agree in principle. While the Government supports this recommendation in the interests of broadening existing exchange arrangements and the provision of adequate information and reference sources in the Commonwealth and State Parliamentary libraries, in considering any extension of the existing services, the Government will need to have regard to the staff and other resources available to AGPS in the context of overall constraints and priorities.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– I think I have misrepresented myself.
– Under those circumstances the honourable gentleman may proceed.
– I seek the indulgence of the House to make a comment on a statement which I made last Friday.
-Order! I think the honourable gentleman should ask for indulgence of the Chair rather than of the House. The Chair grants that indulgence. He may proceed.
-Last Friday I issued a Press statement concerning a claim made by the New South Wales Premier that the Fraser Government had granted a 36¾ hour week to Telecom and Australia Post employees. In that statement I rejected the claim made by the New South Wales Premier that the Federal Government had acted in an inconsistent fashion. On reflection, whilst the substance of that statement was and remains correct, there was one aspect of that statement which was incorrect, which was made in good faith at the time and which I wish to take the opportunity of clarifying to the House. I did say in that statement, on the basis of advice I had received, that the decision taken by the Fraser Government to grant the reduced hours was, in fact, taken during the caretaker period between 11 November and 13 December 1975. I now know that strictly speaking that part of the statement was not correct. The situation and the chain of events were as outlined in detail by my colleague the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) in the House yesterday when he explained the chain of events and the obligation that the then Fraser Government felt regarding the previous agreement made by the Whitlam Government with the relevant unions; an obligation which it felt in all of the circumstances it had to accept.
The point that I make is that whilst the substance of that statement, namely a rejection of any claim of inconsistency, was and remains correct, there was one particular aspect which was not technically correct and I therefore wish to draw the attention of the House to that.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-The honourable member may proceed.
-I wish to refer to an article by Captain Vic Sanderson in the Australian on Thursday, 22 March. I do not propose to read the whole of it but just three particular points. It was dealing with the decision of the Labor Government to build four ships, Australian Progress, Australian Prospector, Australian Purpose and Australian Pioneer. It is here that the misrepresentation occurs. The article states:
This order contained three cardinal mistakes. In 1973 shipyard prices were at an alltime high, although already for one year it was clear that over-tonnaging of the world fleets must shortly occur. Secondly, the order was placed in Europe the two larger vessels with Blom & Voss in Hamburg, and the two smaller ones with Gotawerken in Gothenburg, which was an affront to our Japanese trading partners. Thirdly, although the Japanese state that they recognise Australia’s right to share in the Australia Japan ore trade, they were not consulted in any way on this matter.
I refer to the first point raised by Captain Sanderson. Not only was the Labor Government caught with over-tonnage but so too were all the recognised shipping companies of the world. At that time there was not overtonnaging, as I will disclose in my reply to the second point. Captain Sanderson said that it was an affront to our Japanese trading partners to build the ships in Europe. The fact is that the Australian National Line made every effort to have the ships built in Japan, having in mind that they would be used in the Australia Japan ore trade. But there was not one shipyard in Japan then prepared to give delivery within a reasonable time. The shipyards indicated that they understood Australia’s position that if it was going to enter the ore trade it would need ships and would have to have them at an early date. The Japanese understood the position but its shipyards had full order books at that time.
The third matter concerns Captain Sanderson’s statement that Japan had not been consulted in any way on this matter. I completely refute that statement because in 1973 Mr H. P. Weymouth, Chairman of the then Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, together with the then General Manager, Mr R. D. Robin, went to Japan and had discussions with the managements of their steel industry and steel mills. They received a clear and precise understanding from the steel mills that in the event of the Australian National Line having bulk carriers that could carry iron ore between Australia and Japan, orders would be given and contracts would be entered into to carry the iron ore.
I have made this statement on a number of occasions. On each occasion the Press has ignored it and has gone on writing what are absolutely and totally untruths and lies.
Captain Sanderson has shown his incompetence by confusing the placing of an order for four 16,000 ton bulk ships with the placing of an order for two 140,000 ton ships and two 120,000 ton bulk ships. He should be doing his homework more thoroughly than he is doing at the moment.
-Yesterday afternoon the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) and the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) requested that the form in which the division lists are presented in Hansard be changed in order to make it more apparent to those who are not familiar with parliamentary proceedings how the tellers voted. I have ascertained that it would be possible to give effect to the purpose which the honourable member for Burke and the honourable member for Bendigo wish to achieve by including the names of the tellers in the alphabetical list of members with the word ‘teller’ in brackets after their names instead of showing them at the end of the list. This procedure will be adopted commencing with the issue of Hansard for the first sitting day of next week.
– by leave- On 8 December 1976, the Senate asked its Standing Committee on National Resources to investigate and report on the role of the Commonwealth in the assessment, planning, development and management of Australia’s water resources. This was to be undertaken having regard to the diverse responsibilities of the Commonwealth and States in these matters and to the Australian Water Resources Council (AWRC) document, A National Approach to Water Resources Management, which had recently been endorsed by the Commonwealth and the States.
The Senate Committee’s report was tabled on 24 August 1978 and I will now outline the principal aspects of the Government’s response.
The constitutional position is clear. The States have primary responsibility for water resource matters although this is often exercised through local authorities. This is undoubtedly an appropriate arrangement as the tier of government closest to the issue is best able to assess needs and determine how these might be met.
In other than meteorological aspects of water resources, the Commonwealth’s direct responsibility is a secondary one- mainly where water matters have implications for defence or interstate trade. It was this latter aspect which brought the Commonwealth into the River Murray Waters Agreement in 1915 at a time when interstate river-borne traffic was still of considerable importance. Nevertheless, the development of water resources in the States has an important bearing on the Commonwealth’s broad interests in economic management, resource allocation, distribution of income and public health. Consequently, the Commonwealth has participated in water resource matters in the States in instances of mutual Commonwealth-States concern or in the national interest.
The Senate Committee noted that the Commonwealth had developed a role in water resource matters in the absence of a clear statement of its policy objectives. It also noted that the AWRC document was not itself a policy statement. It was a statement of general goals and principles relevant to water resource development and management in Australia which could provide the framework for policy formulation by the various governments. The Senate Committee’s first and most important recommendation is that the Commonwealth make a clear statement of its water policy objectives.
Commonwealth water policy
I present the Commonwealth’s water policy statement and a summary of recommendations made by the Senate Committee, together with the Government’s response. Copies of these documents have been circulated to all members and I seek leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Floods and droughts, often severe and widespread, focus public attention periodically on the characteristics of the Australian climate and bring with them an appreciation of the problems associated with the development and management of the nation’s water resources. More recently, the deterioration in the quality of important water resources has created a public awareness of the urgency for action to ensure, as far as practicable, the long-term security of existing supplies.
Australia is not well endowed with water resources. Its rainfall is characterised by extreme locational, seasonal and annual variations. Few of its river and streams are perennial and over fifty percent of annual runoff occurs in areas considerably distant from centres of demand, often in remote tropical locations. Groundwater supplies occur widely, underlying much of the Australian continent, but vary in quantity and quality. Much of inland Australia is dependent on these supplies for stock water and domestic use.
Water resources readily accessible to centres of demand are already substantially committed, although there is widespread recognition of the considerable scope which still exists for increased efficiency in the use of existing supplies. However, on a local or regional basis, the availability of adequate water supplies is becoming a key factor in continuing economic development. It appears inevitable that new supplies, in certain situations, will depend on the processing of water resources of marginal quality and wastewater to acceptable domestic and industrial standards. In turn, this will generate pressures for the development of more advanced water treatment technologies.
Against this background, long-term plans for the utilisation of Australia’s water resources must be perceived with due regard to the close nexus between land and water management, acceptable environmental and health standards, and within the context of overall economic and social development.
A number of key water issues relating to the development and management of Australia’s water resources are already receiving close attention; others are expected to emerge in the near future. Some relate to water quality, including that resulting from irrigation-induced and dryland salinisation, specific and widespread sources of pollution in both urban and agricultural areas, aquatic weeds, levels of treatment for urban water supplies, and the cost and technology of water re-use. Others include the multi-purpose use of catchments and storages, recurring flood damage and the need for water authorities to implement financial planning strategies more appropriate to changing economic conditions and community values.
The overall consequences of these issues are potentially far-reaching and, in the absence of progress towards their resolution, they could affect the economic efficiency of a number of important rural industries, lead to a considerable increase in the cost of urban and rural supplies, or have major environmental consequences.
As the central government in a federal system, the Commonwealth has a close interest in management of the economy, the efficient allocation of resources and the equitable distribution of national income. These interests, together with a number of more direct responsibilities, such as immigration, overseas trade and fiscal policy, in one way or another, are variously influenced by, or themselves influence, State decisions in all areas of economic activity. A significant element in the interaction of these influences is the cost of providing infrastructure services- water, power, transportation, education, etc. More so than most other services, water supply infrastructure is characterised in general by an ever-increasing cost of new services as more distant and /or marginal sources of supply are developed and by very high costs in specific situations of poor resource endowment.
The primary constitutional responsibility for water resource matters lies clearly with the States. Nevertheless, there are instances of mutual Commonwealth/State(s) concern or of national interest which justify Commonwealth participation; for example, where water supplies are an important factor in the interaction of Commonwealth and State responsibilities, or where joint action with the States is desirable in the long-term national interest to encourage sound planning and management practices aimed at minimising current and possible future constraints on national development imposed by the uneven distribution of water resources and their utilisation.
In its involvement in water resource matters, the Commonwealth is firmly committed to co-operation with the States- individually, or collectively through appropriate forums such as the Australian Water Resources Council.
The Australian Water Resources Council, in liaison with other national councils such as the Australian Agricultural Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Environment Council, etc, provides an effective forum for the sharing of experience to mutual advantage, for developing a common approach to major water issues and for identifying emerging problems.
The Council has recently endorsed a document entitled, A National Approach to Water Resource Management. It is reproduced at the end of this statement. It identifies goals and principles universally accepted as basic to the wise and orderly development of Australia’s water resources, leaving the formulation and implementation of appropriate policies to the individual member governments, as they think fit, in accordance with their various responsibilities.
In the broadest terms, the Commonwealth’s objective is the long-term beneficial use of Australia ‘s water resources. The main policy thrusts appropriate to the Commonwealth to achieve this objective are outlined below. They are closely inter-related but each is of sufficient importance to warrant separate emphasis.
This recognises the crucial importance of water to many export-oriented rural and mining industries, and the influence on water resource development of a number of Commonwealth responsibilities.
Many areas of Australia suffer from recurring flooding, often associated with subtantial damage to property and infrastructure, economic and social disruption and, on occasions, loss of life. Basic to this objective is the development of comprehensive floodplain management strategies which take account of structural works and non-structural measures- including flood forecasting and policy instruments available to the relevant authorities- to minimise flood losses.
The Commonwealth has traditionally accepted some contingent liability in respect of assistance to victims of flood damage. Assistance to States and/or local. governments for flood mitigation structures has reduced this contingent liability, at the same time lessening the insecurity of communities living in flood-prone areas. Flood forecasting services have also contributed to a reduction of flood losses.
Drainage and natural run-off from areas affected by irrigation-induced and dryland salinisation are contributing to increased salinity in major water supplies, giving rise also to concern on related health matters. In some areas, absence of adequate drainage is resulting in permanent waterlogging and elsewhere the over-utilisation of groundwater is tending to create irreversible damage to aquifers, further reducing the long-term availability of relatively scarce resources. Chemicals used in agriculture and industrial wastes are, in places, having an adverse effect on river fauna and flora and on the use of rivers and storages for recreation.
Land use and management significantly affect the quantity and quality of both surface supplies and groundwater; the siltation of dams and the pollution of water by sediments carrying toxic materials, pesticides, etc, are clear manifestations of this relationship. In consideration of all water resource issues, it is essential that all significant water/land use and management relationships be identified, assessed and integrated in water resource development and management options.
There is evidence of inefficiency in both the supply and use of water; in addition, wastewater and water of marginal quality are potentially valuable sources of augmentation. Measures are necessary to encourage the more efficient use and re-use of existing supplies and facilities the integration into supply systems of wastewater and water of marginal quality treated to acceptable standards. Health aspects will need to remain under close surveillance.
In the interests of equity and the efficient use of existing water supplies, and having regard to the difficult budgetary problems ‘ increasingly associated with additional water supplies, there is a need for the continuing development of appropriate financing strategies and water-pricing policies. These need not be inconsistent with basic needs being met at a fair and reasonable price yet at a level which provides an incentive to users to avoid wasteful or environmentally harmful practices.
The formal involvement of the public in the water re- source planning process is a recent development. This policy recognises a two-way process- education of the public on water resource issues, and assessment by governments of community reaction to water resource planning, development and management proposals.
The objectives set out above are designed to influence or supplement the programs, operations and policies of water authorities in the States in the long-term national interest. The means available to the Commonwealth to do so include:
As stressed above, the Commonwealth is committed to a co-operative approach with the States in furthering objectives aimed at the more efficient use of Australia’s water resources. In the Commonwealth/States forum provided by the Australian Water Resources Council, the Commonwealth is able to present the case for a national approach on issues relevant to its objectives, particularly where the achievement of these objectives depends on changes to State policies.
To ensure that the operations of the Council and its committees are carried out as efficiently and effectively as possible, the Commonwealth will provide adequate technical and secretariat support to the Council.
There are numerous activities in the water information area which can more effectively be carried out on a national basis because of economies of size, consistency of records and procedures, avoidance of duplication and the need for nation-wide coverage. They include:
The wide range of annual, seasonal and locational variations in rainfall and run-off require that the safe long-term commitment of Australia’s relatively scarce water resources to competing needs be based on assessments, as accurate as possible and continuously refined, of the quantity and quality of surface and groundwater resources. This information has an important bearing on decisions relating to the development of supplies at the lowest effective cost; the multi-purpose use of resources, the location of industry, the decentralisation of population and the competitiveness of many important export-oriented industries- all of which affect the national economy. It is also central to investigations of water resource problem areas and to the formulation of appropriate remedial or preventive action.
Continuing scientific and economic research on major current and emerging problems relevant to the Commonwealth’s water policy objectives is essential, if timely and effective solutions are to be found and implemented.
The introduction of new and innovative technology depends largely on important research results being demonstrated to the point of practical application. While water authorities individually may be unable or unwilling to provide the necessary risk capital to do so, it could well be in the national interest if suitablysized demonstration plans were established in certain circumstances. By so doing, Australia as a whole could benefit from important and far-reaching research findings.
In view of the vast amount of information generated throughout the world each year as a result of water resources research and other activitiesmuch of it relevant to Australian conditions and problems- it is desirable that all concerned with water resource matters be aware of and have access to this material. It is appropriate that the Commonwealth, where practicable, provide a framework within which such information can be disseminated. With regard to satellite-based remote sensing systems, the installation of complementary Commonwealth facilities will allow the States to increase the scope and efficiency of water resources data collection.
The Commonwealth is committed to the River Murray Waters Agreement to which New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are also signatories. River water quality, particularly in respect of salinity, has now become a key factor in the long-term utilisation of the nation’s most important water resource. The four governments are negotiating a new Agreement which, among other matters, would empower the Commission to take account of water quality in its operations and investigations, to monitor water quality and to make representations on matters affecting the quality of water under its control. There may be other future important issues which could justify further amendments to the Agreement.
Financial assistance to the States has been provided extensively in the past for water resource assessment, development and management, generally under specific programs of assistance. It also provides opportunities for influencing the States on a range of significant water resource issues within their areas of responsibility.
The following areas of assistance to the States are consistent with the objectives identified above: water supplies floodplain management salinity reduction and land drainage resource assessment and data collection research and demonstration information dissemination long-term planning, management and development studies public education
Commonwealth powers in this area include policy on taxation concessions relating to private investment. Some of the objectives outlined above can be furthered by action at the individual level, and the Commonwealth can influence the rate and extent of this action through taxation policy.
The conservation, development and management of water resources must take place in the broad framework not only of development and management of resources generally, but also of overall economic, environmental and social planning.
Throughout the developed world, economic merit has frequently been the principal criterion for the assessment of development projects generally. It will remain an important factor, since economic growth is needed to underwrite the diversity of goals of modern society. However, goals other than the production of goods have, particularly in the last few years, been given a new significance as some of the harmful effects of the pursuit of economic growth as the dominant goal, have become more evident.
It must be appreciated that over much of Australia rainfall is highly variable both seasonally and from year to year and that floods and droughts are characteristic of the Australian environment. Much of the interior is extremely dry and for the continent as a whole the average rainfall is low, the loss by evaporation large and the runoff small. Although parts of the coastal belt receive plentiful rain for much of the time, nonetheless these areas do experience drought. Because of these climatic limitations on the amount of water available, extensive water conservation will be necessary for development and to maintain and improve the quality of life.
In the management of water there is abundant evidence of the interdependence of the elements of the whole environment. The damming of a river has a direct effect not only on the submerged area immediately upstream, but also on the characteristics of the river downstream. This may result in major changes, beneficial or otherwise, to the condition of the river channel, to lakes, swamps or other features associated with the river, to water quality, to the habitat of fish and wildlife, as well as to the various human activities, social and commercial, associated with the river. All our water resources rivers, streams, lakes and aquifers and the ecosystems associated with them, must be managed in a way which, as far as possible, will provide overall enhancement of the environment. Furthermore, the management strategies adopted for Australia’s inland waters must give full consideration to the effects on estuaries and marine environments.
Water management is also closely associated with our social well being the availability of adequate water supply and sewerage services is often used as a yardstick for assessing social development. There are, however, other less evident but important relationships. Laws and regulations determining rights to the use of water can affect the distribution of prosperity. Water is often a major component in programs for regional growth or stabilisation. The importance of water as a basis for recreation is already high and will undoubtedly increase. Social objectives, which may not be directly compatible with economic efficiency, must be given proper weight.
Hence it is particularly appropriate in the case of water resources projects that they are planned and assessed not only on the basis of the extent to which they influence economic growth, but also on the basis of their impact on social well being, on regional development, and on the environment generally.
Within this broad framework, a balanced approach to water resources management would include the following desirable goals (some of which may not be achieved quickly):
the provision of water supplies, adequate in quantity and quality:
In order to implement a continuing, planned program in the water field, the following specific activities are proposed which in some cases will require close collaboration and consultation between the Commonwealth and State Governments, and the many other bodies with interests in this field:
– I thank the House. In the broadest terms, the Commonwealth’s objective is the long-term beneficial use of Australia’s relatively limited water resources. In this, the Commonwealth is firmly committed to co-operation with the States. The main policy thrusts appropriate to the Commonwealth for this purpose are to: ensure, as far as practicable, that water resource difficulties do not constrain national development; minimise losses and disruption caused by floods; encourage management practices which reverse trends in the deterioration of water quality and associated land resources; encourage a comprehensive approach to water/land planning and management; encourage the more efficient use of water resources; encourage the development of financial and cost allocation policies appropriate to changing economic circumstances and community values; and finally, encourage public awareness and involvement in water resource issues.
Means to further policy objectives
These objectives are designed in the long-term national interest to influence or supplement the programs, operations and policies of water authorities in the States. The means available to the Commonwealth to do so include: consultation with the States individually, or collectively through appropriate channels such as the Australian Water Resources Council; the availability on a national basis of information necessary for the efficient utilisation of Australia’s water resources, including quantity and quality assessments, research and demonstration; River Murray Waters Agreement; specific programs of assistance, including water supplies, flood plain management and salinity control; and, fiscal powers, mainly taxation policy.
The Government believes that these objectives can be pursued without impinging on State responsibilities and duplication of effort, and I repeat our firm commitment to co-operation with the States in these matters.
The Senate Committee recommended a number of changes to Commonwealth administrative arrangements. They include: First, the Department of National Development to have responsibility for all of the Commonwealth’s water policy interests. Commonwealth responsibilities for water resource policy matters have tended to be dispersed over recent years. This recommendation has already been implemented with the recent re-arrangement of departmental responsibilities; secondly, Bureau of Water Resources to be established to deal with the Commonwealth’s non-policy interests, including the provision of secretariat and technical back-up support for the Australian Water Resources Council, the administration of a proposed national water research program and involvement in other technical water matters. This would signify a considerable broadening of the Commonwealth’s role in water resource matters but the Government does not believe such a step is justified at this time. The States appear to be able to handle current and emerging water issues with increased Commonwealth support. Nevertheless, my Department will consult the Public Service Board on staff requirements to carry out its water resource responsibilities effectively, and to provide whatever additional support is necessary to the States through the Australian Water Resources Council, consistent with the Commonwealth ‘s water policy objectives to which I have already referred. This recommendation will be reviewed if warranted by changed circumstances at some later stage.
Thirdly, an independent statutory Australian Institute of Meteorology to be established to replace the Bureau of Meteorology. It is only recently that the Committee of Inquiry into the Bureau of Meteorology (CIBM) examined the role and activities of the Bureau. Having regard to the wider range of the Bureau’s interests, it recommended that the Bureau continue as an integral part of a department of state. The Government has accepted this recommendation and no new matter has come to light to warrant its reconsideration.
In addition, the Senate Committee has drawn attention to a number of problems which have developed between the Bureau and State water authorities and these will be examined and assessed when action on the CIBM recommendations is being determined.
Fourthly, a water resources division to be established in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The Senate Committee noted the wide dispersion of water research effort within CSIRO and the problems of co-ordinating water research within the organisation. The recent inquiry of the Birch Committee into CSIRO took account of these matters in its recommendations on the restructuring of CSIRO; it did not recommend an aggregation of water research activities into one division. Planning is now in progress to implement the recommendations of the Birch Committee, and I have been assured that there will be appropriate arrangements for much improved co-ordination within and between the proposed institutes on water research matters. To improve communications with the water industry, CSIRO now intends to publish a directory of water research which will draw together its total research effort and describe the programs in progress in the various divisions.
Special areas of assistance
The Committee noted the importance of a number of water management areas and recommended that assistance for flood mitigation and salinity control be provided outside the National Water Resources Program. The Government accepts the substance of these recommendations, and will establish separate sub-programs for these purposes, but within and subject to current arrangements for the administration of the National Water Resources Program. This will ensure that proposals for these important areas are considered concurrently with other major water resource development proposals.
The Committee also recommended that financial assistance be continued for the national water resources assessment program and that, where necessary, it be re-oriented to changing information requirements. The program will continue as a sub-program of the National Water Resources Program, and a working group of the Australian Water Resources Council is now examining the scope and direction of future assessment activities.
The Committee’s recommendation that the Commonwealth provide part of the cost of sewage treatment works has not been accepted by the Government. It is of the view that this is a normal component of urban development and should remain the responsibility of the authorities concerned.
The Committee has recommended a national water research policy and program. These are not feasible in the sense of stated objectives towards which the overall Australian research effort should be oriented. The Commonwealth and the States determine their own priorities having regard to the nature and importance of current and emerging problems in their own areas of responsibility. For its part, as indicated earlier, the Commonwealth will encourage research relevant to its broad policy objectives. To this end, it will continue to use its influence within the Australian Water Resources Council to co-ordinate the overall national research effort, and it will continue its own Water Research Fund to support gap-filling research where necessary.
At the same time, the Commonwealth intends to support private water research bodies such as the Water Research Foundation of Australia. Support will be given to the Foundation on a triennial basis and a grant-in-aid of $25,000 for 1 979-80 is being considered.
It has been recommended that a study be undertaken of the relevance and effectiveness of taxation concessions as a means of achieving the aims and objectives of the Commonwealth’s water policy. Some of the objectives are relevant to action in the private sector, and taxation concessions for specified purposes have potential for influencing the extent and rate of the desired action. I will be discussing with my colleague, the Treasurer (Mr Howard), how such a study might best be undertaken.
It is recommended that the program be developed as the principal means of providing assistance to the States and that the current upper limit of $200m be revised annually. This will be done at a stage when the bulk of funds has been spent or committed. Other related recommendations include: ( 1 ) the areas, terms and conditions for assistance should be spelled out- The areas are identified in the water policy statement but, because of the wide range of water projects eligible for assistance, their costs and the distribution of benefits, terms and conditions will continue to be applied on a project-by-project basis; (2) the principle of allocating costs to beneficiaries should be a general requirement of Commonwealth water resource development- this will be implemented on a project-by-project basis; (3) the Commonwealth should participate in projects on an agreed percentage basis rather than on a fixed amount basis- this would lead to openended commitments which the Government does not favour, but consideration will be given to continuity of funds to meet unavoidable cost increases for projects in progress under the National Water Resources Program.
Other main recommendation
Long term floodplain management practices and procedures should be formulated and implemented; guidelines for this purpose are currently being prepared by the Australian Water Resources Council. Comprehensive planning techniques appropriate to Australian conditions should be developed and their adoption by the States should be encouraged; a workshop, organised by the Australian Water Resources
Council last year on this matter, has set in train the preparation of appropriate guidelines.
The Senate Committee recommends that the Australian Water Resources Council should continue with an upgraded and extended secretariat. This recommendation is supported, subject to normal consultations between my Department and the Public Service Board. The Council has made a very valuable contribution to Commonwealth-States co-operation in water resource matters, but there is need for the greater involvement of the metropolitan water authorities in the AWRC, its committees and activities if a truly national approach to water resource issues is to be developed and become effective. The limited participation of these authorities in the AWRC has been one of the shortcomings of the Council in its 1 5 years of noteworthy achievements. I will be raising this matter in the Council at the earliest opportunity.
The Government acknowledges the valuable contribution made by the Senate Committee to the identification of a role for the Commonwealth in water resource matters. Its recommendations will play an important part in ensuring the long term beneficial management of the nation’s water resources, making it possible for future generations to enjoy living standards and pursue new opportunities from a secure and undiminished water resource base. I present the following paper:
Commonwealth’s Role in Water Matters-Ministerial Statement, 28 March 1979.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-The Opposition would have liked more notice of the statement just delivered by the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman). It is a comprehensive statement. It is true that the Government gave the necessary notice of its presentation, but it is the kind of statement in relation to which more notice could have been given, thereby permitting us to consider at greater length the Government’s proposition. We certainly hope that the motion ‘That the House take note of the paper’ is debated in the not too distant future so that honourable members who are interested in water resource management issues will be given a chance to speak on this subject. Such a debate should not be limited to such an extent that only one speaker from each side of the House takes part in it.
The Government has outlined the recommendations made by the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources in its report on the Commonwealth’s Role in Water Matters. I take this opportunity to say that the Opposition believes that the report from the Senate Standing Committee was a very good one, and that it was very competently put together. It is evidence of the fact that specialised parliamentary committees can play a very useful role in the identification of problems, particularly in the case of this issue, responsibility for which has been spread throughout the States. There is no clear delineation of responsibilities. It is a CommonwealthState matter. There is not even a clear departmental delineation of responsibilities. That is why it has been tucked away in the ‘too hard’ basket for so long. It has required the scrutiny of a parliamentary committee to try to drag the threads together.
The Minister’s statement discusses at some length the Government’s attitude to the recommendations of the Committee. The most specific conclusion that one can draw from the Senate Standing Committee’s report is that the Commonwealth Government had developed a role in water resource matters but that it did so in the absence of a clear statement of policy objectives. In other words, the Government had, over the years, been committed to spending money on water resource management projects but there was no rhyme or reason in the allocation of that money. It was a case of funds being allocated in the absence of a policy; there was no policy direction. The Senate Standing Committee points out that fact. The Committee recommended that the Government make a clear statement of its policy objectives. The policy objectives, as the Minister sees them, were outlined in the statement which he has just completed reading. I put it to the House that those objectives remain very vague. He says things such as this:
The main policy thrusts appropriate to the Commonwealth for this purpose are to ensure, as far as practicable, that water resource difficulties do not constrain national development;
That is a laudable enough objective, but what does it really mean? The statement continues: minimise losses and disruption caused by floods;
Nobody wants to be disrupted by floods, and everyone would seek to minimise losses. Again, there is nothing hard about such a proposition. The statement continues: encourage management practices which reverse trends in the deterioration of water quality and associated land resources;
All these objectives seem laudable enough, but they do not get down to a strong statement of policy. They are really just vague objectives, and nothing more than that. There is a complete lack of policy, which is characteristic of the Fraser Government and, in fact, of conservative governments in this country when dealing with matters such as water resource management, which is a Commonwealth-State issue, which have to be resolved and in relation to which no clear responsibility resides with one department. There has been a lack of positive government policies.
The Minister really only talks about consultation with the States. This Minister is a great talker. He is always talking abot consultation with the States. He is always consulting people. During Question Time he talks about how he has told the States about shortfalls in energy. It might be fine to tell people about things, but what does he intend to do about things? That is what we would like to know. We would like a little bit of action rather than talk. At least we are encouraged by the fact that the Government has now seen fit to bring the matter of water policy under one department, namely, the Department of National Development. That is a step in the right direction, and I acknowledge that. The Minister’s statement does not mention the allocation of additional funds for water resource management. No increase in funds for State water projects was announced. One would have thought that with the unveiling of such a policy document there would have been an indication of a renewed Commonwealth financial effort towards achieving the objective of water resource management.
In the Budget of 1975-76, which was presented in the last year of office of the Labor Government, a total of $24. 57m was made available for water resource projects- $ 19.48m for specific projects, and $5.09m for surface water measurement investigation. Even allowing for a modest increment to that first figure for inflation, in order to bring it into line with 1 979 prices, one would need to be thinking of somewhere in the order of $29m to $30m if it were to keep pace with the 1975-76 performance. What do we find? This year the allocation for water resource matters is $2 1.1m. In other words, since the Labor Government was in office the allocation has declined by about one-third, as far as I can glean from the Budget documents. A general decline in public services and in the commitment of funds to national development matters has been characteristic of the present Government. This characteristic again shows up in the fact that the Government’s performance has been very poor in terms of funds being made available for water management matters in conjunction with the States.
The report also mentions the problem of salinity, as well as the River Murray Waters Agreement and other matters. We all know that one of the major water problems in Australia is the salinity problem of the River Murray. The River Murray dumps 800,000 tonnes of salt into various parts of the countryside traversed by the River Murray system -
– Into South Australia.
-Into South Australia, as my very learned friend, the honourable member for Hawker, says. He has taken a keen interest in this matter. The River Murray Commission, which is more worried about the quantity of water and navigational issues, does not address itself to this question of salinity. We have heard nothing from the Fraser Government about the problems facing Adelaide, including the problems in relation to Adelaide’s water supply, the quality of water for South Australia, and particularly the quality of water for the city of Adelaide and the cities along the Murray River. We have seen no comprehensive approach to these matters, and nothing was mentioned by the Minister about looking at the whole River Murray system the water basin of the River Murray. In the past there has tended to be a cursory attempt to look at the problems of the River Murray only in the immediate area of the main trunk of the river and not to look at the totality of it. The River Murray basin extends right into New South Wales and, if I am correct, into parts of Queensland so that the catchment area is quite wide. Yet nothing has been done about the River Murray. The salinity problem is quite acute. It seems to be completely overlooked by the Fraser Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The level of conversation is too high. I ask honourable members to subdue their voices. The honourable member for Blaxland has a right to be heard in silence. The honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) will resume his seat if it is his intention to stay in the House.
– The Government seems to completely overlook the matter of salinity. Adelaide can really go to pot when it comes to this Government’s interest in the salinity problem. That goes for all the River Murray towns. There has to be comprehensive national approach to the River Murray and its water basin or water system depending on how one expresses it. This statement really does not touch that situation. I must say that we on the Opposition side hope that at least the policy will translate into something more positive than what we have presently seen. I hope that the Government will see fit in the August Budget to increase the level of appropriations to restore at least the real value of appropriations made by the former Labor Government in the last year of its Budget so that we can play a useful and constructive role in water management issues.
I leave the matter on this point. We will support any positive initiatives by the Government to do something sensible about water management issues. We believe that this ought to be a bipartisan matter. Water is an essential commodity for people reliant upon it in the various areas in Australia which are experiencing difficulties. I certainly hope that honourable members such as the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) and other honourable members on the Labor side and, I am sure, honourable members on the Government side who seriously take an interest in water management issues will be paid the courtesy of being given the opportunity to debate this matter. They deserve the right to put their views in the Parliament in a debate following this statement.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hodges) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Poultry Industry Levy Amendment Bill 1 979.
Poultry Industry Assistance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969 I present the fortysecond General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- As in past years, the report summarises the Committee’s activities for the previous 12 months; in this case, the period ending 31 December 1978. In addition to activities relating to the six reports presented by the Committee, quite a number of the 49 occasions on which the Committee met during the year were for the purpose of its inquiry into the proposed Defence Force Academy which the Committee hopes to report on in the near future. In addition, at the request of the Presiding Officers, the Committee obtained evidence and provided advice on the proposed alterations to the front entrance of Parliament House.
Included in the report is a summary of the progress of works previously reported on by the Committee; the likelihood of the Committee examining proposed works of selected statutory authorities in the future; a review of some aspects of the non-reference of defence works to theCommittee; and a comment concerning changes to works proposed which have occurred after the Committee’s report to Parliament. The House may be assured that the Public Works Committee continues to examine works proposals in a manner which ensures that there is a need for the work and that the proposed expenditure is fully justified.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The unnecessary purchase of and the attempt to evade Parliamentary scrutiny in the buying of VIP aircraft.
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 -
-For many months now the Government has tried to conceal, to trivialise and to cover up, what almost every Australian- including, as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) well knows, a good number of those sitting behind him in this House today- knows is, at this dme, a national scandal. Indeed, it might be so described at any time. This is the purchase, for the Prime Minister’s personal use, of two luxury Boeing 707 aircraft. Again I stress that they are for the Prime Minister’s personal use. They are for the use of the man who promised Australia he would not be a tourist Prime Minister. This is yet another promise from this Prime Minister rendered inoperative within weeks of its utterance. This issue cannot be trivialised and, as the Prime Minister is learning today, it cannot be covered up, however hard he and his hapless Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) might try. We on this side of the House consider it an important issue, not only in its own right, but also for its reflection on the whole style of Fraser Government. The purchase of these luxury planes for Mr Malcolm Frasermake no mistake, they are bought for him and nobody else because it was his decision not, as he would have us believe, a decision made by an independent security inquiry- epitomises the two characteristics which, after three years, have become outstanding of the Fraser Government. These characteristics epitomise both the Fraser Government’s style and its quality. To my shame, I have to say that these Fraser characteristics are deceit and self-indulgence. No man occupying the high office that Mr Fraser occupies today -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will refer to the Prime Minister as such in a direct reference.
– No man occupying the high office that the Prime Minister occupies today has given Australians a more generous measure of both than the man who occupies that position. From the time he crawled into that chair as Prime Minister, he has demonstrated both overtly, and wherever possible covertly, these two characteristics. They have become not only his standards but also the standards of his Government. Both, needless to say, are demonstrated yet again in the aircraft scandal. The Prime Minister talks a lot about the obligations of the workers, their rights and their conditions. In the latter two cases he talks more about what they should not have rather than what they should have.
We knew little of the Prime Minister’s private lifestyle before he assumed his present office. But in the last three years we have learned much, not I need hardly add, with any assistance from the Prime Minister himself. It was not the Prime Minister who revealed the fact that while life for the people was not meant to be easy, he could afford to spend $9,000 on an imported dinner set for the Lodge, replacing a set which had been good enough for Whitlam, Gorton, McMahon, Holt and even Menzies. It was the Press, again it was not the Prime Minister, who told us about his lavish refurnishing of the Lodge at a time of economic hardship, and of his wife’s connection with the firm that carried it out. This was another exposure which sent the Prime Minister whimpering to the Flinders Street boardroom. The Prime Minister was strangely reluctant to tell us about the loans his wife’s company was able to obtain in extraordinary circumstances from the Victorian Government. He had very little to say about the $160,000 it cost the Australian taxpayer for him to stopover to have dinner with his sister in Rome on one of the junkets overseas. The Prime Minister again had nothing to do with the exposure of the fact that he was buying not one but two custom built, bullet proof cars for his personal use on his occasional visits to Melbourne. All these factors demonstrate in the Prime Minister qualities about which I spoke earlier- deceit and self-indulgence. The issue which we are debating today similarly demonstrates both. Not for the first time, the Prime Minister has been successful in involving his subordinates in such an exercise.
Hardly surprising it was not the Prime Minister who announced the proposal to purchase these aircraft. It was the Press. It was not the Prime Minister who told us what they would ultimately cost. It was the Press. Indeed, had we believed the Prime Minister and his office from the start, the nation might have believed that the aircraft were costing a mere pittance- a mere $14m. It is not a big figure when one examines the other areas in which the Prime Minister has indulged himself over the past three years. On the one hand, he has created economic hardship for millions. On the other hand he has lived a personal life of unparalleled luxury at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. It might be fanenough for a Prime Minister to live in this way, but if it is it is fair enough also for him not to conceal it.
The desperate measures to which the Prime Minister stooped in this scandal and in other scandals to conceal from taxpayers just how generous they are being in providing for his personal comfort would indicate to any observer, no matter from what side of the House he views it, that even the Prime Minister does not consider it is fair enough. The Prime Minister has still not told the House the cost of the luxury we are debating today. When his office provided a figure of $ 14m, that did not include the cost of spares; that did not include the cost of refitting; that did not include the cost of specialised equipment with which both aircraft are being provided. Somehow the office overlooked the fact that every engine, plus four spares, is to have expended on it $ Item- a total of $ 18m in all- to reduce noise levels so that the aircraft can be used for the purpose for which they are designed, and that is the Prime Minister’s touring abroad.
His office did not mention the fact that the taxi-ways at the Canberra airport have to be reinforced- at a figure still unknown- so that the aircraft can be conveniently on tap at the Prime Minister’s home base. Frantic efforts were made by the Prime Minister and his staff to conceal these facts from the Australian public, but even the Services, not noted as radicals, found this last exercise in self-indulgence, not to mention deceit, a little rich. It is not hard to find in the Royal
Australian Air Force now very senior officers who estimate the total cost of this extravagance at above $37m. Believe me, the Prime Minister has been in no rush to deny this figure and if he does or he has some lackey to do it on his behalf today, I would ask the House to check the figures carefully. Deceit with this man is the name of the game, particularly where his own comfort is concerned.
The Prime Minister has a very special talent with his Ministers. Perhaps he has promised eventually to look after them as extravagantly as he looks after himself. Somehow the prefect can always find in the ministerial class some lackey who will go in to bat for him -
Order! I feel that that expression is unparliamentary and I call on the honourable member to withdraw.
-. . . someone who will act the part of a stooge -
-Order! I call upon the honourable member to withdraw and not to compound his misdemeanour.
-I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was not talking about anyone specifically; most of them carry it out. He can always find someone who will go in to bat for him, someone who will assist with the cover-up. We were told originally that the aircraft had a defence capacity, that they could be used to carry troops in an emergency. With luxury lounge chairs, home kitchen, cocktail bar and television they will be the most indulged fighting men since Caesar’s Romans looted Gaul, even if the aircraft when refitted can carry only 30 of them. That again was deceit. If I had a dollar for every mile travelled in these aircraft by servicemen below the rank of General and the Government had a dollar for every mile the Prime Minister travels around the globe we would certainly have no trouble with the national deficit.
I come back to a point I made earlier. It might be argued, though I do not know of anybody outside the Prime Minister’s immediate family who would argue it, that self-indulgence on this lavish scale is the province of a Prime Minister. None of his predecessors have felt it, but likewise none of his predecessors have shared the privileged background of this man who tells us that life was not meant to be easy. If this is argued, why the deficit, why the cover-up and why not, to use the words of a man who is looking distinctly muddy now, even to the Prime Minister, come clean?
But again this exercise bears the Prime Minister’s stamp. The defence story would not wash, but this has not deterred the Prime Minister. Try another tack; tell the people something else; tell them anything- anything but the truth. It is the Finance Minister’s turn to play the role for the Prime Minister- the lackey for the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister chose him well. If ever there was a man of straw on the Prime Minister’s team, it is the Minister for Finance. Sir Robert Mark’s report on terrorism and security in Australia, we are told, insisted on the aircraft purchase; the Finance Minister told us. To quote the Minister: ‘If you could only see the report’. Again deceit. The report is not a secret document. I seem to remember reading extracts in the Canberra Times shortly after the report went to the Prime Minister. It made no such assertions, no such recommendations. It stated quite clearly that chartering would preserve the Prime Minister’s safety as efficiently as would purchasing. If the Prime Minister wishes to deny this charge, let him table the report. I challenge the Government to table the report.
In this exercise it is not security that is at risk; it is the Prime Minister’s personal comfort. But right to the last the Prime Minister’s hallmark of deceit has stuck with this exercise. Again it was not the Prime Minister who volunteered the manner in which payment was to be made for the planes- through the Advance to the Finance Minister, not through a special appropriation. It came to the surface, again by accident, in a Senate inquiry. What did this Government dominated inquiry do when once again the prefect had been found out? It hurried off into a secret session. Was security again at risk- after all, the aircraft are only pieces of defence equipment- or was it the Prime Minister’s face it was trying to save? The Finance Minister, in a pathetic attempt to please the boss who almost had his head four weeks ago, said the payment from his Advance is routine.
The Treasurer’s Advance provides for funds to be paid out for ‘special, urgent, unforeseen or unforeseeable events’. Was this not foreseen? Does the Prime Minister seriously tell us that from the first day he occupied a seat in Parliament he was not planning to go one better than any of his predecessors and indulge himself in this way? We have known about it for months, and I suggest so did the Finance Minister. He has been trying to cover up lost ground- the mark of the Prime Minister’s deceit; deceit to cover self-indulgence. The Finance Minister told us that it had to be paid in this way because Qantas Airways Ltd needed the money. When we check this story we find that only part of the cost is being paid out of the emergency fund. The rest will come not out of this year’s Budget, not out of a special appropriation, but out of next year’s Budget. The financial emergency which was squeezing Qantas and which was used to justify this tack was a way of avoiding parliamentary scrutiny of the most blatant act of self-indulgence that any member of this Parliament has ever seen. It could in fact wait until September or October this year to be finally resolved. What an emergency involving a government dealing with its own airline!
Every member of this House who has watched the Prime Minister feather his own nest, disgrace the high office because of self-indulgence, knows the reason for handling the matter in this way. But I can assure honourable members that they would not have known- none of us would have known- had it not been for the accident in the Senate inquiry which blew the whistle yet again on the Prime Minister. If this were not a fact there would be no need for the Finance Minister to cover up. It was done for one reason and one reason only- to avoid public debate on something which the Prime Minister knows the public will not accept.
– I put aside the attack by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) upon the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser); it does him no credit. Let us look at the facts as to the Advance to the Minister for Finance. It is appropriated by the Parliament to enable a Minister for Finance to make advances that will be recovered during the financial year in respect of expenditure, that is expenditure for the ordinary annual services of the Government, and to make moneys available for expenditure, being expenditure for the ordinary annual services of the Government, particulars of which will afterwards be submitted to the Parliament or pending the issue of a warrant of the Governor-General specifically applicable to that expenditure.
The basic need for the advance appropriations is to provide some flexibility in the Commonwealth budgetary system by means of a contingency fund. A government could either, on the one hand, not function efficiently if it had to approach Parliament every time it needed to supplement the funds appropriated for any service or purpose or, on the other hand, resort to the device of building into individual appropriations padding’ so as to have an insurance against the need for additional funds in at least some of them. A centrally controlled contingency fund is a more efficient and realistic resolution of the problem. As I understand it, the various States in Australia have provisions for contingency expenditures of the kind met from such advances. It is clear that the need for Executive government to have access to contingency fund arrangements is accepted by the various parliaments. Some of these provisions are relatively larger than others and, indeed, much larger relatively than the advances to the Commonwealth Minister for Finance.
It is of course essentially a matter of judgment what amounts should be sought in the Supply and the Appropriation Bills for the Advance appropriations. The Minister normally decides what amounts should be sought although, on occasions, the decision is taken in consultation with the Prime Minister or as a consequence of consideration by Cabinet. Since, by their nature, the advances are contingency funds no precise estimate of requirements can be made. But regard is had to such factors as the extent of the issues made in the previous year, the likely parliamentary timetable and the Government’s general expenditure policies. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard figures showing the Advance to the Minister for Finance for the years 1969-70 to 1978-79.
The document read as follows-
-Neither the Advance appropriations themselves nor the Audit Act require that calls should be made only on advances in urgent or special circumstances. Parliament has therefore left the use of advances to the good judgment of the Minister. Because the advances are, in essence, a contingency fund for unforeseen expenditure and limited as to amount, steps are taken to guard against departments regarding them as a conveniently available source of finance, which lessens the need for the best possible estimating. Thus, departments have been advised that funds will be issued from advances only in urgent or special circumstances. With regard to the accountability to Parliament, it is axiomatic, and the Parliament I submit did not intend otherwise, that issues made by the Minister for Finance from the Advance appropriations are for purposes not specifically authorised by the Parliament. The Parliament provides a contingency fund for the Minister to draw upon within certain broad rules and requires him to report back particulars of the issues he has made ibr expenditure.
The reporting of particulars of amounts made available from the advances for expenditure, other than expenditure on advances that are recovered in the financial year, is achieved by the inclusion of those amounts in an appropriation or an additional Appropriation Bill or where issues have taken place after the close-off date for an additional Appropriation Bill in the statement tabled by the Minister in the Parliament. When the Minister’s statement is tabled, the Parliament refers it to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts for examination. As the Committee has pointed out in its reports, in its examination the Committee seeks to ascertain whether or not the expenditure from the advances has been confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the Appropriation Bills or the additional Appropriation Bills.
How does this purchase meet the rule governing the use of the advances that the need to make a payment shall be urgent and unforeseen? The wording of the Advance appropriations, which has remained unaltered for years without question in Parliament, does not include any such requirement. Parliament has therefore made no such requirement of the Government. However, as a matter of practice, the advances are controlled in this way. The payments for these aircraft were made because they were urgent. For valid commercial reasons Qantas Airways Ltd required settlement by 30 March 1979. The payments were unforeseen at the time of the preparation of the Budget.
Some honourable members may ask why the Government could not have so arranged the contract with Qantas so that no payments needed to be made until Parliament had considered and passed the Additional Estimates Bills. The Additional Estimates Bills are not normally enacted much before the end of the autumn sittings. This means that settlement would have been planned not before early or mid-June. Negotiations with
Qantas revealed that it had planned its operations on the basis of the two aircraft being sold in March. To have deferred the sale would have resulted in cash flow problems in relation to new aircraft purchases. Qantas would have had no difficulty at all in selling the aircraft to another purchaser in March consistent with its normal commercial operations. Because the Government expects Qantas to conduct its business as a commercial enterprise, it was fair and reasonable to proceed on the basis of payments being made in March. Some honourable members may ask why no provision was made in the Budget. I have already indicated that the Government had not been able to locate suitable aircraft at that time. It was therefore decided that no provision should be made in the Budget Estimates. It is relevant to remind honourable members that the principles to be observed by departments in preparing estimates include the following. Estimates for all items of expenditure shall represent a realistic assessment of the sum that is expected to be spent having regard to the information available to the department at the time of preparation. Estimates shall not include amounts in respect of proposals which are so far from firm that it is not possible to form any real estimate of what payments, if any, will be made.
Honourable members may ask why the Government did not introduce a special Bill to obtain parliamentary approval for the purchase? It is not the practice for special Bills to be introduced to authorise the Government to purchase particular items of defence equipment or indeed other major items of equipment. The Government rejects completely any suggestion of deceit surrounding the purchase of these aircraft. On 13 December 1978 Cabinet approved the purchase of two Boeing 707-338 aircraft and associated supplies and services at an estimated cost of $ 14.575m. Cabinet was aware that the purchase would need to be funded from the Advance to the Minister for Finance. On 13 December 1978 the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) made a Press announcement of the decision to buy two Boeing 707 aircraft.
The Government rejects any suggestion that the use of the Advance to the Minister for Finance in any way prevents adequate parliamentary scrutiny of public expenditure. The Parliament has appropriated Advance moneys for decades without any restriction against their use to meet the cost of services for which no provision was made in a relevant Supply or Appropriation Act. The use of the advances in anticipation of a parliamentary appropriation has been normal practice for years by governments of either political persuasion. Whether a payment is urgent and unable to await the provision of an appropriation in the normal way must be a matter for decision by the Minister for Finance or by the Government. In accordance with normal practice an amount of $10,200,610 is due to be paid to Qantas by 30 March 1 979- in a day or two. This amount will be included in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) which is due for introduction in the Parliament shortly. Honourable members will have at that time ample opportunity to debate the merits of the Government ‘s decision. No further payments are contemplated this financial year but it may be necessary to seek funds in the Supply Bill which will be introduced in May to cover the final payment to Qantas which could become due early in the next financial year.
It may be well to remind members of the Opposition who raised this matter that they also had use of the Advance to the Treasurer, as it was then known, during their term in government. Whilst convention prevents me from having access to records of a previous government there are three well publicised but maybe questionable uses of the Advance when Labor was in government. In April-May 1973, $8.3m was provided for the purchase of pipes for the MoombaSydney pipeline in anticipation of Additional Estimates. Not many people will forget that in September 1973, $1.1 3m was provided to purchase the painting ‘Blue Poles’ in anticipation of appropriation. This was quite controversial at the time. Other payments were made for equity participation in tourist developments such as the Old Sydney Town project.
From listening to the honourable member for Port Adelaide I do not really think he is very concerned about whether the Advance to the Minister for Finance has been used correctly; he is more concerned about trying to get some political advantage out of the purchase of the 707 aircraft. I think that we should ask ourselves some questions. Is travel by a national leader necessary? Australia is an important and large trading nation. It is essential that a national leader of the day plays his role in international conferences, whether of a Commonwealth, world or regional character. If we accept that there is a need for the nation’s leader to travel, we would hardly disagree with the point of view that these days air travel is a pretty necessary component. Therefore, we should ask ourselves how a leader should travel by air. I repeat that it has been clearly demonstrated from security reports that to continue to allow a national leader to travel by commercial aircraft would be to take security risks which we as a government are not prepared to take. We are not prepared to ignore the warning. If honourable members opposite will not accept the growth of international terrorismthere have been plenty of instances of it- this Government is prepared to accept that it occurs. It will not put at risk the safety of a Prime Minister and the safety of hundreds of other people who could be travelling with him. The honourable member for Port Adelaide mentioned Sir Robert Mark. The former chief of Scotland Yard said:
In a country so dependent on air travel as Australia, the use of VIP aircraft which subtracted attractive targets from the main stream of passengers has much to commend it as a counter-terrorist measure.
We took that very good advice. We will not risk the life of the Prime Minister of this country and the lives of other passengers who may be travelling on the same aircraft. In addition, when a Prime Minister travels by commercial aircraft there is enormous inconvenience to other people because of the tight security arrangements which are necessary. The Government’s decision was based upon security advice. That advice was a critical element in the decision.
Of course, these special purpose aircraft will not be used simply by the Prime Minister. In fact, their use by the Prime Minister will probably be about one-fifth of their total use. Eighty per cent of their time will be used for the normal defence transport purposes.The aircraft will be based at Richmond which is the headquarters of the transport base in Australia. Each year $ lm alone will be saved in the 24 return flights to Butterworth for which we have been chartering aircraft for a considerable number of years. Far from being used simply by the Prime Minister, 80 per cent of the time of the aircraft will be used by the Royal Australian Air Force in the normal way in which it uses other facilities available to it. The decision was taken after exhaustive investigation and after very sound advice was offered to the Government. The decision was right. It was in the interests of the security of this country. Not only was the decision right but also the manner in which it was implemented, through using on this occasion the Advance to the Minister for Finance, was equally right and proper.
-The whole of the funding arrangements for this shabby deal have not been explained by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). There is no question on this side of the House whether there is a need for a Minister for Finance to have an advance account. Everybody accepts that. What we argue is, to use the Minister’s terms, whether the good judgment of the Minister was used on this occasion. Officers of his own Department said at a Senate Committee inquiry into the guidelines for the use of that account that the use of the account was for urgent and special circumstances and not just for convenience. The Minister himself a few moments ago said that it should be used for circumstances which are neither foreseen nor foreseeable.
It was known in August 1974 that Qantas Airways Ltd had two Boeing 707 aeroplanes available for purchase by the Government. In fact, Qantas offered those planes to the Government. It still had those planes while the latest negotiations were proceeding. The Government knew that if it could find no other aeroplanes the Qantas planes would be available. On 5 May last year, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) announced in the House a decision to purchase two aeroplanes for the overseas trips of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It was expected at that time that the aeroplanes would be the Boeing 727-100 series. It was known well before the last Budget that the Government intended to make this purchase. It is quite unsatisfactory for the Minister for Finance to say that the purchase was neither foreseen nor foreseeable. Of course it was known. The whole futile exercise of running around the world looking for 727 aircraft was a ruse to keep us guessing. The whole exercise has been one in which we have had to extract the facts instalment by instalment.
I repeat that the Government first announced that it would make this purchase in May. In July the overseas investigation group returned saying that it could find no aeroplanes. In October with a sense of panic the Government put pressure on Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia asking them each to release one of their aircraft for this purpose. Ansett and TAA would not respond. The Government then decided in December that it would purchase two aeroplanes from Qantas for about $ 14.5m. In February this year it was discovered that as a result of crass bungling on the part of the Government it had underestimated the need for urgent and crucial modifications to the aeroplanes which would lift the price from $ 14.5m to over $2Om
There is absolutely no doubt that the Prime Minister was determined from the word go that he would get planes of one kind or another in order to pamper himself when travelling overseas. The Prime Minister has been absolutely determined. The whole exercise has revealed the two most disturbing aspects about him. The first is his obsession with his own comforts and convenience. The second is his determination to get his own way regardless of the consequences. It is because the Prime Minister was so determined that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) when introducing the Budget last year could have been certain that the Government would have a commitment to make a purchase of this kind in one way or another. If it is true that this purchase was unforeseen and unforeseeable, why did the Government not come clean and explain that it intended to use the Advance to the Minister for Finance for the purpose of the purchase. This fact had to be extracted reluctantly from officers of the Department of Finance at a meeting of a Senate committee. Only under considerable duress did they come clean.
That was not the only evidence of deception. On 13 December the Minister for Defence said that the funds for the purchase would not come from the Defence budget. Because of the failure to recognise the need for modification, the extra cost above $14.5m will come from the Defence budget. Some of it will come from this year’s Defence budget and some of it will come from next year’s Defence budget. What about the cost of retraining staff to man these aeroplanes? It has been estimated at $ lm. That will also come from the Defence budget. The Government has said that it will spend money from sources other than the Defence budget. In December last year the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) said that it would be appropriated by a special vote. A reasonable person would expect that a special measure would be introduced into the Parliament in relation to this purchase in just the same way as special Bills are introduced to guarantee a loan to Qantas when it wants to purchase aeroplanes for its own airline.
Why can a special Bill not be introduced to appropriate funds for this purchase? The purchase will be buried in an appropriation Bill to be introduced next week. The catch is that it is impossible for anyone to tamper with an appropriation Bill without rejecting the whole Bill. The Minister knows that very well. The funds for this purchase will be buried in a large appropriation involving many vital expenditures. Dissident Government senators will not be allowed to tamper with the appropriation Bill and withdraw the funds for this purchase. My prediction is that if Government senators were given the opportunity to reject this measure they would join with the Opposition and reject it out of hand. They know that pensioners are being asked to forego twice-yearly adjustments to their pensions and that this is an entirely inappropriate time for $40m to be spent for the sake of the Prime Minister’s own convenience and comfort.
It is worth mentioning that during the debate in February this year when it was proposed that the twice-yearly adjustments be re-introduced, the Government said that it was an outrageous suggestion that it could suddenly find the extra money necessary to do this. The Government said that it would have to recast the whole Budget in order to find the necessary $28m to pay the pensioners and that if it had increased expenditure at that stage it would have had a devastating effect on the inflation rate. What a different set of standards the Government has when it comes to the provision of the Prime Minister’s comforts. How easy it is to find $40m to purchase flying penthouses to transport the Prime Minister around the world. Honourable members do not have to take my word for this. The Newcastle Morning Herald described the purchase as a ‘monstrous self-indulgent extravagance ‘. The Sydney Morning Herald is very cautious. It stated:
It is hard to avoid a suspicion of self-indulgence on the Prime Minister’s part.
Compare this situation with the Prime Minister’s remarks in November 1975. He said that he would ‘end government extravagance and excesses’. This purchase is an outrageous extravagance, particularly when measured alongside the Government’s penny-pinching approach to the pensioners of this country. Nobody argues that it is not necessary to provide special transport for the Prime Minister. No member on this side argues that the Prime Minister should travel around the world in commercial aeroplanes. In fact, it was Gough Whitlam who established the precedent of chartering aeroplanes for the purpose of crucial overseas visits. But let us compare the costs involved. In this case we are looking at a purchase price alone of $21m. The Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence (Mr McLeay) has acknowledged that it will cost $4.5m a year to maintain and service these aeroplanes.
-What did it cost the Labor Government?
-If the honourable member for Dundas will keep quiet, I will continue. Compare $4.5m with the $180,000 that it cost the Prime Minister of the day, Gough Whitlam, to charter a plane from Qantas to travel to Europe. His much-criticised visit to Europe cost $180,000. The cost of running the proposed aircraft is estimated to be $4.5m a year, let alone the $21m to buy them. Heaven knows how many million dollars it will cost the Government to land the planes at Canberra and even for them to land and take off at the base at Richmond where they will be housed. They cannot even use the Richmond airstrip.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The final words of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) demonstrated clearly to this House the utter humbug of the reasoning behind the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young)- I call him the Don Quixote of the Australian Labor Party- for raising this matter of public importance which is being debated today. The sense of what the honourable member for Fremantle just said was: No one on this side criticises the Prime Minister for using special aircraft, because Mr Whitlam did the same thing’. This matter of public importance accuses the Government of making unnecessary purchases and then attempting to evade parliamentary scrutiny. The honourable member for Fremantle, the second speaker for the Opposition, in his last words admitted that there was a case for VIP aircraft of this type being made available to help Prime Ministers and other senior officials of the Australian Government and also to be used for defence purposes.
We have heard a travesty of the truth on this matter. Both the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the previous Prime Minister were given the strongest advice on security grounds that when travelling overseas they should be in special purpose aircraft- either those owned by the Royal Australian Air Force or by Qantas Airways Ltd. Having in mind the general security situation which we see internationally today, it would be of the utmost stupidity for any Australian Prime Minister, regardless of his party, to travel overseas on an aircraft with 300-odd other passengers and put their lives in jeopardy because of his presence, and that of his party, on the aircraft. There are cases on record where Prime Ministers of this country have been taken off aeroplanes in the Middle East to be feted and treated as VIPs while everybody else was left on the plane to sweat it out. According to the Opposition, that is appropriate for mere citizens. Apparently there is no difficulty associated with that. Why should we bother trying to purchase special aircraft? The health or security of other passengers on board does not matter! I think that too much has been made of the question of the use of aircraft by Prime Ministers. For obvious reasons the Opposition is trying to play it up. In the media and so forth it tries to demonstrate- as the honourable member for
Port Adelaide has tried again and failed- to suggest that the Prime Minister is disporting himself on the international stage, using extravagant luxuries supplied for him by the Australian people.
The number of times these two aircraft will be used in any 12-month period justifies without doubt their usage by the RAAF for a whole range of purposes. For example, at present each year we send about 24 flights of CI 30 aircraft to Butterworth, taking personnel, goods, stores and so forth. It is intended that these new aircraft will be used to replace the CI 30s on many routes. They will soon be used to take Australian troops to Namibia. Honourable members are aware that 320 Australians have been allocated to United Nations forces there. There will be requirements for these aircraft to take Australian troops to Canada and to South East Asia and to be used for defence purposes, defence exercises and so forth. Again the Opposition made light of this. These facts did not fit the case and therefore had to be totally ignored.
I do not want to take any further time of the House on the necessity for this purchase. However, I would like to deal in detail with the second allegation that the Opposition has made, namely, that we have attempted to evade parliamentary scrutiny by buying two 707 aircraft from Qantas Airways Ltd under the advance to the Minister for Finance. Yesterday the honourable member for Port Adelaide took up the time of the House by tilting at the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman). Today he tilted at the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). We wait in expectation to see whom he will be tilting at tomorrow and which windmill may or may not bother turning as a result. If the honourable member is genuinely interested in how the affairs of this nation are run and how the finances of this Commonwealth are managed, he should join a committee of this Parliament such as the Expenditure Committee or the Public Accounts Committee, when he might actually learn something.
The uses of the Advance to the Minister for Finance fall broadly into four categories. The fourth category is the one which has specific reference to this case. The moneys may be made available in supplementation of existing appropriations, for specified purposes or to finance new services the need for which arises or about which decision is reached after the Government has determined what provisions are to be included for specific purposes in Appropriation Bills. The Minister for Finance clearly pointed out that when the last Appropriation Bills were drawn up there was absolutely no possibility of the Government knowing what aircraft would be purchased or what they would cost. The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) made it clear in May last year that our objective was to purchase two aircraft. It was also stated by various people that the ideal aircraft for the purpose would be Boeing 707s.
It is well known by people who have access to information on the international availability of aircraft that good 707s are in extremely short supply. The only two in Australia are those which belong to Qantas. Qantas had already made its decision, that it wished to transfer completely to 747s and dispense with 707s. Therefore the two 707s were to be sold either in Australia or overseas. In that context the
-This table demonstrates one very interesting fact and it is this: For the three Budget periods which were affected by the Labor Party when it was in government, namely 1972-73, 1973-74 and 1974-75, the actual expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer increased by 75 per cent in the first year, 226 per cent in the second year and 43 per cent in the third year. And we have heard it suggested that we have misused the Advance to the Treasurer.
I am not prepared to say that the Labor Party, during that period in government, necessarily misused those funds, but what I am pointing out is that it used funds for a whole range of opportunities- to initiate policies and to start programs which, for various reasons, it had not taken into account earlier in the fiscal period. That is exactly the position we find in this case: The Government did not know at the time that there would be a requirement for funds to purchase those two aircraft, nor did it know what the
Government sent overseas a number of professional Air Force personnel to see what we could do elsewhere. It is the responsibility of this Government to be absolutely sure that the best aircraft is purchased at the lowest possible price. That demonstrates once again the fiscal responsibility that this Government has applied in the last three Budgets, contrary to what we saw from the Opposition when it was in power.
Mr Deputy Speaker, in this context I would like to have incorporated in Hansard a table of appropriation and expenditure from the Advance to the Minister for Finance for the period 1968-69 to 1978-79.
The table read as follows- aircraft were going to cost. The important point is this: If a department does not know what its expenditure is likely to be- this is laid down quite clearly by the Public Accounts Committee in its 173rd report and has the total support of the Department of Finance- that department is not permitted to apply from the Advances to the Minister for Finance any figment of the imagination. We want to know exactly what programmes are going to cost and exactly what the commitment to the Department of Finance and to the Australian people will be in that fiscal period. That is why the position in this case was abundantly clear.
Advance appropriations, contrary to what we have heard from the other side of the House, do not require that they should be made only in special or urgent circumstances, and I emphasise that point. Parliament has left the use of the Advance to the judgment of the Minister of
Finance. The Advances are in essence contingency funds for unforeseen expenditure and are limited to the amounts which have been approved. Consequently, steps have been taken to guard against departments regarding the funds as a conveniently available source of finance which lessens the need for them to be more specific in terms of their estimating through the Appropriation Bills Nos. 1 to 4. In the next week Appropriation Bill (No. 3) will come forward and in that Bill appropriate funds will be made available for the purchase of these aircraft. I emphasise that nothing has been done in this case which is in the slightest degree illegal or improper. It was fully in accordance with accepted financial practice.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The debate is concluded.
Motion (by Mr Fife) agreed to:
That the legislation committee considering the Prices Justification Amendment Bill 1 979 have power to meet during the sitting of the House on Wednesday, 28 March 1979.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Construction of patrol boat base, Cairns, Queensland.
The proposal is for the construction of facilities necessary to accommodate and maintain the new and larger Fremantle class patrol boats due to start arriving progressively from October 1980 and other small Naval ships providing coastal surveillance in Northern Australian Waters.
The proposal consists of the following works:
A jetty and a wharf providing four alongside berths for vessels of size that will normally be based at Cairns and fitted with the necessary services to the berthing points including fuel;
A covered maintenance berth for two Fremantle class patrol boats to allow efficient and effective maintenance and stores replenishment during wet weather;
A store to accommodate items in constant use with a high turnover rate, likely to be required at short notice, or requiring special storage;
A command-administration building;
Miscellaneous small facilities including a small boat shed and ramp, flammable store, security control post, and covered parking for service vehicles;
Site preparation and services.
The estimated cost of the proposal at February 1979 prices is $8.8m. I table plans of the proposed work.
-The Opposition welcomes the reference to the Public Works Committee of this proposed base and is anxiously awaiting the Government’s announcement of similar proposals in respect of the base at Darwin which is under consideration and the base at Broome which was promised in the 1976 White Paper but which appears to have been lost in the area of forgotten things. Without going beyond the operations of patrol boats, I make the point that there is need for adequate base facilities around the northern Australian coast for the operation of these vessels. At present the basing arrangements are well below par and certainly do not constitute a reasonable set of facilities for operations of craft of this size. At the moment there is an inadequate facility at Darwin which the Department of the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) has under consideration for presentation and there is also a proposal for replacement. There are almost no facilities between Darwin and Perth. The promise made in the White Paper in 1976, to this stage has not been fulfilled and there is no indication that either the Department of Defence or the Minister’s Department has such a project under consideration. In this case the Minister is not responsible for the planning. He is responsible only for the carrying out of the work once the planning has been completed by the department concerned, in this case the Department of Defence.
I raise this matter because this is one of the few opportunities which arise in this Parliament to deal with specific matters of this nature. Most people in northern Australia feel they are being neglected by the Commonwealth in the defence area. Delays in providing basic facilities for the operation of defence forces and surveillance forces for the protection of those areas are looked on as being evidence of a complete lack of concern by Canberra.
The Opposition supports the reference and hopes that the proposals concerned will be found to be acceptable to the Public Works Committee and will be able to be proceeded with without any significant delay. They are part of a fairly expensive program in the two areas of Darwin and Cairns. There is, however, an urgent need for the Government to consider and to bring forward similar proposals in respect of the announced facility at Broome, if in fact that is still part of government policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 8 March, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I indicate at the outset that the Opposition does not oppose this Bill. Tasmania is an appropriate State for this type of agreement. However, we do have some criticisms about the financial arrangements. We believe that they are rather niggardly. Let me draw a comparison between the financial arrangements made for native forestry and those for softwood forestry. My belief is that, considering the cropping time of the native forests- for the hardwood forests it is between 60 and 80 years- the 20-year deferment of loan repayments period is rather short, even acknowledging that the repayments are spread over 40 years. I think the agreement for native forestry fares rather badly when compared with that for softwood forestry. That is not the only criticism. Some criticism could be levelled on environmental factors at both the Federal and State governments. That will come out in the general debate.
On this particular matter one thing that I would like to express is the surprise at the general lack of interest in this type of environmental subject. Several years ago this Bill would have attracted a lot of attention and concern, not only from the House but also from outside interests. It would appear that concern for environmental matters is well down the drain. Forestry is a very interesting area because it encompasses so many factors. It encompasses natural resources, economics, employment, flora, fauna and the use of exotics, and there are aesthetic and other factors. I refer the House to the report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation of May 1975 on the operation of Softwood Forestry Agreements Acts. We find some comments there that indicate that all forms of development are being questioned as to their environmental effects. The softwood planting program, as fostered by the legislation under review, is one such issue. The report states:
The particular aspect that arouses concern is that large areas of Australia ‘s native forest-
That is what this legislation deals with- and all that it contains and represents, are being cleared to make way for the establishment of exotic plantations. There is also considerable concern that this development is proceeding apace without adequate safeguards being taken and without proper research into the long term effects of it, especially those which impinge on soil and water resources, both being natural assets with which this country is not well endowed.
Concern has been expressed by those who question the economics of extensive softwood plantings in Australia and by those who doubt its social value.
On the other hand there are those in the timber industry who believe that the timber resources of Australia- and those of some of our traditional overseas suppliers- have been rapidly depleted. They see the need for Australia to protect itself against future shortages by embarking on an entensive program of plantation development using fast growing, highly productive softwood species suitable for a wide range of uses.
That was the sort of conflict that existed at the time and the problem to which one had to apply oneself. In doing that it is inevitable that one has to turn to this question of native forestry and hardwoods. We welcome the fact that this shows now some concern with regard to native forestry. It would appear to be a fairly restrictive measure and I point out that it applies principally to a eucalypt monoculture on marginal farm land. So in that sense we are not speaking strictly of a native forest; we are speaking of eucalypt tree farms on marginal farm land, which is a worthwhile venture in itself. Environmentally and economically it is not necessarily wide enough in its scope. There is provision for regeneration after fire damage and the work done there. There is also the question of the thinning of blackwood regeneration so that it is properly carried out for ultimate yield. That may be good economic and environmental management.
For biological and economic purposes Tasmania is a good State within which to start this program but it needs extension into other States. Tasmania is well endowed with native hardwood. It is the base for several paper manufacturers which require not only the hardwood supply, but in addition, the long-fibred softwoods. This particular industry is vital to the economy of Tasmania. I trust that my colleague the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) will have an opportunity to speak on the economic aspects of this because he and a number of other members of the House have travelled to these places and have looked at this problem of native forestry.
For some years Tasmania’s hardwood forests have been replanted and regenerated. They have a great deal of experience in this. Tasmania’s hardwood timber resources have an important role in the total future needs of Australia. Back in 1975 it was already supplying 15 per cent of the nation’s sawn wood and 75 per cent of its pulp. There is no reason why it cannot make a larger contribution to the needs of Australia on a controlled basis. It is necessary that strict management procedures should be inforced and are not relaxed in response to economic pressures. Some of the factors that come into that can be discussed as we go along.
The Environment and Conservation Committee at that time indicated that the financial assistance given to Tasmania on the forestry program should include provision for more emphasis to the purchase of marginal land and to the regeneration of hardwood forests. At last some steps are being taken in this direction, which we applaud. If we take on further the report of the Environment and Conservation Committee we seem to accept that our timber resources are large. In fact as that committee found Australia’s timber resources are relatively small and should be conserved in the long-term interests of the nation.
Another thing that is happening in those areas where there are intensive forestry activities is that there is insufficient research into the effects upon the flora, fauna, the soil of the area and the water supplies, and what happens where large areas of native forest are clear-felled and are not properly harvested and regenerated. That is a subject of some concern and it is something that should be written into this type of agreement. At that time there was insufficient use of marginal farm land. This gives an opportunity for some of that to be corrected. As I have said, Tasmania is a good State to start with in regard to the regeneration of hardwoods.
I am disturbed at this loss of environmental interest, particularly in the forest area which cover such a wide scope. In 1975 there was a growing public awareness of the value of native forests for scientific, educational and recreational purposes but this wider overview seems to have been completely lost. I hope that we can stimulate fresh interest in the research and concern in those areas. The Committee of Environment and Conservation found that the forestry and timber industries were important elements in the decentralisation process and were substantial employers of manpower in rural areas where employment opportunities were limited. That is why the Tasmanian agreement is so important.
In the long term it supplies employment prospects. It helps the economy of an island State and helps some of those less densely populated areas.
In referring to the report I would remind honourable members that it recommended that immediate consideration should be given to providing financial assistance to the States for the regeneration of hardwood areas in a way that would ensure the maintenance of forest diversity and other environmental values. I do not know that this agreement completely does that. The first aim seems to be the monoculture of eucalypts. The diversity seems to be secondary to that. I hope that we will be able to progress to a situation where we take more notice of the forest diversity and the environmental factors. We should be able to examine our at present undedicated forests in Tasmania to assess their timber potential on a sustained yield basis so that we can correct problems which have occurred in the past and which we must face up to now.
I regret that insufficient work is done in biological survey to be able to realise the true biological effects of much of this element. This agreement raises broad environmental factors as well as the question of employment and economic opportunities in a small State. It is an economic and employment weapon that could be used in rural areas in other States. I hope that this example will be set. I utter the warning that there will be need for further biological survey and constant environmental monitoring if the program is to be properly successful. Whilst the monoculture of eucalypts has more commercial appeal because it is easier, with reafforestation programs we should try for a natural forest diversity which I think would have much greater beneficial effects.
I turn to the effects on the wildlife in these hardwood areas. A lot is known about the botanical state of these areas but very little is known about the zoological state. We are told that lost native forestry can be replaced by a biological shelter created by the planting of exotics. Frankly, I do not believe that. I believe we have to watch the problem created for our native forestry when the clear felling of the native forest removes the habitat of so many dependent species, thus spelling their extinction. Into these sorts of agreements we should have a cooperative Commonwealth-State relationship carrying on research, with the primary task of ensuring that such hardwood reafforestation is accompanied by the preservation of all those biological values that were there before.
It may even be that in addition to these three factors in the native forestry program mentioned in the speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) some of the Victorian examples may be followed. In Victoria, where there is clear felling and softwoods being planted, strips of native forest are being left along streams and waterways, along ridges and between plantation blocks to provide native forest corridors in an attempt to maintain the native forest diversity and also to preserve the biological balance that is there. I can but quote from a report by Professor Specht, published in the Australian Journal of Botany, Supplementary Series No. 7, July 1974, where he states:
Man’s control over ecosystems and thus over evolution is increasingly taking the place of natural selection. Domesticated plants and animals have virtually lost their capacity for existence- let alone continuing evolution- without human assistance; and environments have been so drastically modified that large numbers of species, plant and animal, have been exterminated through loss of habitats . . .
That is a cause for concern. Frankel concluded:
We have acquired evolutionary responsibility.
In order to exercise this responsibility wisely we must learn how ecosystems work- not just how a monoculture of domesticated plants such as wheat, sugar-cane, or radiata pine grows, but how all complex, and usually perennial ecosystems function. Over long periods of evolutionary time, a subtle balance has been achieved between the environment and the producers, consumers, and decomposers in these natural ecosystems . . . The understanding of the productivity and maintenance … of ecosystems will enable them to be manipulated scientifically for the welfare of mankind.
My criticism of this Bill has been based mainly on its restrictive environmental nature and, further, on the rather niggardly attitude of the States concerning the period of repayment of the amount involved. I am concerned at this loss of feeling for environmental values. They are not just matters of green issues or ‘bleeding heart’ effects. What is involved is knowledge of environmental matters and an examination of our marvellous resources, such as timber, a material that is so much a part of our every day life and is so useful in all that we do. It is a matter of having the knowledge of the ecosystems concerned and being able to manipulate them scientifically so as to preserve not only the aesthetic values and the biological values but all the economic and other values that flow from it.
-May I commend the previous speaker, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), on his thoughtful and well prepared speech -
– Very knowledgeable.
– Yes, it was very knowledgeable and one which I think will be of great advantage to Tasmanians and also to the people who are going to make decisions in the future in this particular area. The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the execution of an agreement between the Commonwealth and Tasmania for a program of native forestry. The program will assist in ensuring the supply of raw material to future forest production and industries. I believe it will contribute to the long term industrial development of Tasmania as well as enhance the environment.
The implementation of the program will assist also in alleviating the current unemployment situation in that State. In 1976 the then Premier of Tasmania sought Commonwealth assistance to combat unemployment in Tasmania. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) answered the call and commissioned Sir Bede Callaghan, CBE. to inquire into the structure of industry and the employment situation in Tasmania. Sir Bede’s report was tabled in Parliament in September 1977. Thus was initiated the 10-point plan. This is one of the points of that plan. The inquiry found that Tasmania had problems not encountered in other States. After considering the report, the Government agreed to adopt a considerate attitude to policy making affecting Tasmania.
Sir Bede’s report stressed the need for development of stable, efficient industries which provide opportunities for long term growth. The report noted also that forestry and its dependent industries were, and would continue to be, of vital importance to Tasmania’s economy. Forestry was seen as a means of providing worthwhile employment opportunities in the short and the long term.
In a recent report on timber and timber products the Industries Assistance Commission concluded that the forest product industries were genuinely low cost and efficient by Australian standards. The Government has recognised the potential of the fine paper industry in Tasmania to contribute to the economy of that State and of the nation in its recent decisions on the protective requirements of that industry. The Government noted that the industry was efficient, decentralised and had a potential for expansion that would result in both replacement of imports and increased export sales. Against this background, the Government viewed favourably a request from the Tasmanian Government for financial assistance for a program of native forestry development.
The program approved comprises the establishment of eucalypt plantations on marginal farmland purchased previously by the State, the rehabilitation of forests damaged by fire and the thinning of blackwood regeneration to hasten sawlog production. The Government has offered to the Tasmanian Government loans of up to $136,000, in real terms, for the five-year period which commenced on 1 July 1978, on the basis that expenditure be matched by the State. In recognition of the time taken for forestry projects to yield a return on investment, the terms of the loans provide for a 20-year deferment of repayments. Interest payable at the long-term bond rate is capitalised in this period and repayments of capital and interest at the same rate are made in the subsequent 40 years on a six-monthly basis. The terms are similar to those agreed to by the States and incorporated in the Softwood Forestry Agreements Act 1 978 but allow for a longer deferment and repayment period, thus reflecting the longer term required by the eucalypts to reach maturity.
I want to speak in the same vein as the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), who spoke constructively. I do not wish today to engage in controversy. I am to be the only speaker from the Government side but many speakers from the Opposition side are to follow me. However, it is interesting to note that about 12 months ago Mr Batt, the President of the Federal Labor Party, spelt out an air of gloom about Tasmania. He said that its prospects were very dim and that opportunities there were limited. He really painted a picture of gloom for that State. Yet, I am pleased to say, there seems now to be a spirit of communication between the Treasurer of Tasmania, who is President of the Australian Labor Party, and the Federal Government. There seems to be a spirit of cooperation which indicates that things are not really so gloomy in that State.
I am pleased to quote from an article which appeared in the Hobart Mercury of 23 March, headed ‘$80m invested in 18 months. Tasmanians should be confident: Batt’, as follows:
With about $80m invested in Tasmanian industry in the past 1 8 months Tasmanians could be confident of the future of the State, the Treasurer, Mr Batt, said yesterday.
He told Parliament he was sick and tired of the constant knocking by some people in the State.
Let’s stop predicting Tasmania is going backwards; there is no need for any citizen to have feelings of gloom, he said.
Mr Batt said there were plenty of examples of Tasmanian industry expanding.
But we seem to be under the impression that because of our population size . . .
It is about 400,000- we should accept a view of humility, ‘ he said.
Mr Batt said the forestry industry was an example of a Tasmanian industry successful not only on a State level but nationally and internationally.
About 25 per cent of the total income of the State is from forests and wood-based industries,’ he said.
Woodchips are worth $54m in export earnings while logs and sawn timber bring in $8,300,000 to the State. ‘
Mr Batt said 59 per cent of sawn timber exports from Australia came from Tasmania.
As well, 27 per cent of Australian paper exports are from Tasmania and 29 per cent of Australian forest exports, excluding woodchips are from Tasmania,’ he said.
On Wednesday, an American wishing to purchase Tasmanian timber came and saw me, and last year we increased exports to Europe by 12 percent.’
Mr Batt said there was a tendency in the community to bemoan difficulties of our smallness, neglect the advantages and be negative about the State’s future.
He said the recent announcement of Stanley Works Pty Ltd . . .
That is the Titan works- transferring production from Victoria to Tasmania was a good example of how Tasmanian industry was competing successfully on international markets. “They are exporting highly technical products successfully to North America, Northern Europe and South East Asia,’ Mr Batt said.
He said there were several reasons for industry locating in Tasmania- cheap land, access to water, accessible Government and stable work force.
There seems to have been a complete turnaround by Mr Batt. I am pleased that he is starting to be constructive about the future of Tasmania. One of the fundamental points from the Sir Bede Callaghan report is that the Federal Government is assisting Tasmania’s timber industry. I think Mr Batt forgot to mention the freight equalisation plan, which is worth $20 m to that State. I believe that we are starting to realise that if the Federal Government and the State Government can work in co-operation there is a chance for Tasmania; that we may be able to get out of the depressing picture of gloom that Mr Batt painted some 12 months ago. I raised that matter in this House by way of a question to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to give him an opportunity to answer some of the matters that Mr Batt had raised. I believe that Mr Batt is now starting to see daylight and realise that, with complete co-operation, we can put Tasmania in a situation in which it can be self-sufficient, in which it will not have a brain drain as a result of our young people going to the mainland for jobs; that we will be able to stimulate the timber and other industries as a result of the . many initiatives that have perhaps come from the Sir Bede
Callaghan report. I have in mind the 10 points of which I have already spoken.
It is important that I should cite Sir Bede’s comments about the timber industry. He was commissioned by the Prime Minister. Many criticised Sir Bede when he came to Tasmania. They asked: ‘Why come down here and report back to the Federal Parliament?’ However, the initiatives mentioned by Sir Bede in respect of the timber, mining and fishing industries are starting to bear fruit. To my mind, one important thing that Mr Batt forgot to mention when he spoke so brightly about the future of Tasmania was the fact that the bright future was as a result of initiatives of the Federal Government. However, the facts are before the people of Tasmania, who are beginning to realise that the State is entering a period in which it can improve considerably. Of the forestry industry, Sir Bede said:
A considerable proportion of the State’s forestry reserves are privately owned and a detailed inquiry into this is being undertaken by Mr M. G. Everett, Q.C. Indeed, some of the submissions made to Mr Everett were made available to me for information.
The Australian Logging Federation made some useful observations about the escalation of operating costs that are reflected in comments I have made elsewhere in this report.
He said, speaking specifically:
The Tasmanian Timber Association made proposals and comments relating to specific disabilities the industry bears vis-a-vis other States . , . They include liability to payroll taxation, special road tolls and the out-of-area road haulage permit system. Other more general items of concern include the claim that deterioration in quality and volume of sawlogs available to the industry following a reduction in Crown log quotas (by 20 per cent) and declining private supplies.
Those factors make it extremely difficult for the State to flourish. These initiatives by the Federal Government will make the timber industry viable again. With the freight equalisation plan and the other nine points that we intend to initiate, I believe that the future of Tasmania is bright. I agree with Mr Batt for the first time. I am pleased that he has changed his mind. That was probably due to the influence of some of his Labor Party colleagues who have had a good effect on him. He must realise that by continually knocking this Federal Government he will not gain support for his opposing views.
I regret that there are not more Tasmanians in the chamber to debate this issue. Unfortunately, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) is in hospital. I send my kindest regards to him. I hope that he gets better quickly. Unfortunately, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) is absent today. For that reason I am afraid that I have to leave it to members of the
Opposition to follow me in the debate. I hope that their remarks follow in the constructive strain that I have endeavoured to initiate today and that they do not engage in a knocking exercise and start a stupid argument about what they could do for Tasmania and what should be done for Tasmania.
– I would not mind if the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) was as generous in Tasmania as he is in the House of Representatives. Of course, he is an inside angel and an outside devil. When he is in Tasmania he will say literally anything to the Tasmanian newspapers. I do not mind having a little debate about what is good for Tasmania. He says that we should not be point scoring about what we think ought to happen in Tasmania compared with what he thinks ought to happen to Tasmania, but there is no such generosity on his part when he is amongst the members of the Tasmanian Press. We have to use this opportunity, and in fact any debate on Tasmania, to say where the Opposition stands on Tasmanian issues.
I think that this legislation is an indication of how the Fraser Government has been contemptuous of Tasmanian interests. That is not to say that we disparage the Tasmanian Native Forestry Agreement Bill. We do not oppose the legislation. When one looks at the Bill, one finds that its purpose is to provide a relatively insignificant amount of money- only loans of up to $136,000 in each of the five years of the agreement. One could hardly be impressed with a total of $136,000 for the State. That will not go far in funding reafforestation projects. That is what the Bill is all about. It is not even as generous as the Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill which was introduced last year. Yet the honourable member for Franklin tells us that the Government is pulling its weight in Tasmania. Another aspect of the Bill is that it provides for a 20-year deferment of loan repayments, with the interest being capitalised at the end of the 20-year period. If my memory serves me correctly, the Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill provided for a complete interest deferral. So, in fact, there has been a regression in terms of the kinds of conditions applicable to loans in this legislation compared with those applicable under the original Bill.
The honourable member for Franklin mentioned the Callaghan Committee report. I should have thought that the honourable member would have liked to keep that report quiet because it and the 10-point plan which was hatched up by Mr Fraser and Mr Newman following the release of the report are things of which the Government should be ashamed. I make the point that the Callaghan report recommended that funding for these kinds of reafforestation schemes be allocated not on a dollar for dollar basis, but on the basis of the current equivalent rating for financial aid to a State. In other words, relativity between States in terms of assistance from Canberra should be reflected in agreements such as this, and such assistance should not be on a dollar for dollar basis. The allocation of funds on a dollar for dollar basis does not really assess the capacity of the State to pay, whereas the general reimbursements do assess the State’s position. That is why Sir Bede Callaghan ‘s recommendation should have been followed. It was not followed. In the case of Tasmania, funds should have been allocated on about a $2 for $ 1 basis instead of a $ 1 for $ 1 basis. Perhaps the honourable member for Franklin will take that on board as a demonstration of the fact that the Fraser Government really never does very much for Tasmania. Even if the Government gave $136,000, the honourable member would say: Well, it is not a loan; it is a grant’. But it is not a grant; it is only a loan. And the interest will be capitalised. So finally, over the period, the Government is not doing very much for Tasmania at all.
In the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), he makes reference to Sir Bede Callaghan ‘s report on the structure of industry and the employment situation in Tasmania. Following the publication of that report, in November 1977 the Government put forward a 10-point plan, to which I referred earlier, to aid Tasmania. About 16 months has now elapsed since that 10-point plan was introduced rather hurriedly and in dubious circumstances. It is rather disturbing to see how little progress has been made by the Government in respect of that 10-point package. It should be remembered that this is not Sir Bede Callaghan ‘s package; it is the package of Mr Fraser and Mr Newman. It is disturbing because of the disadvantages suffered by Tasmania as a result of its island status. This island status has given rise to economic disadvantages which have inevitable social consequences. For instance, per capita income in Tasmania is 10 per cent below the national average. The per capita rate of cash benefit payment is higher than that of only one other State. The progressive erosion of the manufacturing industry base has resulted in a substantial loss of jobs, and the unemployment position in Tasmania is quite parlous.
The honourable member for Franklin talked about the alleged foreboding of the Deputy Premier of Tasmania. Let me say that he is entitled- in fact it is his bounden duty- to say that Tasmania has special difficulties and to plead a case here in Canberra. Apparently the honourable member for Franklin believes that it is infra dig for the Tasmanian Government to say anything about these kinds of things. The sorts of problems faced by Tasmania cannot be dealt with by broad brush macro policies. Attention must be given to regional consequences of such policies, whether they be to do with monetary policy or with manufacturing adjustment policy and the like. In addition, there is a need to have policies which are designed specifically to favour a developing region- in other words, an assistance policy for regions. This is only one of the messages which recently came through clearly in the Crawford report, which recommended that ‘location specific measures be adopted to deal with severe problems of economic change in regions within States’. How well has the Government performed in this area in respect of Tasmania? The honourable member for Franklin always talks about the freight equalisation scheme, but the freight equalisation investigation was established under the Whitlam Government and the scheme would have been introduced but for the fact that that Government was dismissed. All the other things which Mr Fraser went to Tasmania to open -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! I do not like interrupting the honourable member for Blaxland, but he has offended against the rules of the House on a couple of occasions. Members should be referred to by their proper parliamentary title.
– I should refer to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), Mr Deputy Speaker. The Prime Minister was in Tasmania a couple of weeks ago, I think, opening a Commonwealth project. I just cannot remember exactly which project it was.
– The Antarctic base.
– The Antarctic base. The Antarctic base again was begun by the former Government. I do not deprecate the fact that this Government has carried on with it; it is a great thing for Tasmania. I extend my congratulations to the Government for so doing.
– That sounds all right; it is good.
-It is good; I agree with that. All the same, one has to look at the performance of the Government in respect of Tasmania. Of the 10 points in the package for Tasmania, the Federal Government has backed right off in relation to the three of them. It is its plan and yet it has backed off in relation to three of the points.
As for defence facilities, for instance, the Federal Government’s view is that Tasmania is an area of low strategic priority. I believe that the Premier of Tasmania has a letter from the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) saying this very thing. Is it. not fatuous that the Government should develop a 10-point policy and then walk away from the first point as soon as there is an exchange of correspondence in regard to it? Quite clearly, there was an exchange of correspondence. The Minister for Defence said: ‘Tasmania has a low strategic priority. There will be no further placement of defence personnel in Tasmania’. In addition, because of the distance from Tasmania of existing defence bases, the Government argues that it is not well suited for training purposes. Tasmania is situated a long way from existing facilities; so the Government says: ‘That point is out. We are not going back to look at it’. On the one hand it says: ‘This is our plan’; but, when one gets to the nitty-gritty of correspondence, it says: ‘We cannot do these things because they are unsuitable’. So much for defence. Another aspect of the package dealt with ensuring that, to the fullest extent, the Federal Government would extend its Australianmade goods preference to Tasmania. Again, that is another point which has not seen the light of day since the 10-point plan was unveiled. Quite apart from the enormous administrative difficulties of implementing such a proposal, it is probably unconstitutional.
– That is the point.
– Well, if it were unconstitutional may I ask the honourable member why the Liberal Party in the persons of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) proposed such a point if they believed it to be unconstitutional in the first place? Of course this was a 10-point plan unveiled in the middle of an election campaign. Of course, we understand. Their attitude is: ‘Do not look at what we say after the election campaign, believe it only during the course of it’. The third point of the package which the Federal Government has failed to deliver concerns the relocation of the precision tool annexe at Launceston. The Tasmanian Government has been forced to relocate the annexe at its own expense. The Commonwealth Government walked away from that point. These examples are all part of the Government’s 10-point plan. Of course the other points are still in a state of flux. The likelihood is that the Government will not even measure up to the promise about the afforestation plan because, as I said earlier, on a dollar for dollar basis- not on a proper proportional basis of assistance to Tasmania as happens with other Commonwealth assistance- the Commonwealth does not distinguish as to the needs of the State adequately. Again, the Bill provides only for loans of $136,000. If the Government said $ 1.36m maybe that would be a figure that the Tasmanian Government could look at with regard to afforestation and do something in a supportive and useful way.
– Things are looking brighter, aren’t they?
– Better? An amount of $130,000 is better than nothing I suppose. But how paltry an amount it is. If things are all right in Tasmania, as the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) suggests, all I can say is that it must be as a result of the Labor Government in Tasmania. Certainly it is not anything the Commonwealth Government has done. It has done nothing for Tasmania. The few things that it carried on with were developed by the former Australian Labor Party Government and not by this Government. There is not one thing that I can remember and I ask any other honourable member who follows me in this debate to suggest one thing which the Fraser Government has pioneered, established and followed through in Tasmania.
– Mount Lyell for a start, and freight equalisation too.
– Mount Lyell happened to be an assistance problem because of a collapse in copper prices in the sinusoidal fluctuations of world commodity movements. It was not a specific plan; it was not a construction. Anyway, we supported the plan. I supported it before the 1977 elections. We have unhesitatingly said that Mount Lyell should be supported. Of course we were right. The copper price improved. There is now no operating loss and the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd is back on its feet again. So that is hardly an issue either.
It does not matter where we look. For all of the blustering, noise and wind from the honourable members from Tasmania in the Parliament on the Government side, they have produced nothing. They seek to go back to Tasmania and to make big fellows of themselves in the Tasmanian Press but here in Canberra they just have not produced the goods. It befalls the lot of the Opposition to make this point and to say that the 10-point plan was a sham to begin with. It is turning out to be of little effect in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government has been disturbed by the fact that the Federal Government has not honoured its promises in respect of the 10-point plan. With regard to other assistance measures there has been no advantage to that State.
I therefore rise on this occasion to make those points. While we think that afforestation is an important project for Tasmania we are appalled by the fact that the level of assistance is so low and not a realistic appropriation at all. That should provoke the thoughts of Tasmanians on the points of just how interested the Fraser Government is in their lot and how the Government has neglected Tasmania as a developing region of the Commonwealth away from the mainland. This is apart from things which were implemented by the former Government.
-It is proper that I should remind the House that this Tasmanian Native Forestry Agreement Bill relates to a hardwood agreement between the Commonwealth and Tasmania. I think it is important to make the point that this scheme applies only to Tasmania. It does not apply to any- mainland State. I take this as significant, because the Government and Government members, particularly those from Tasmania, have taken a great interest in Tasmania. Might I add that this is probably the first time in living memory that governments have taken such an interest in a single State and in its disadvantages. I just touch on an overall disadvantage that might concern Tasmania. I refer immediately to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. If there is a deficiency in the standard of living in a State, that State has a perfect right to be a claimant State under the Commonwealth Grants Commission. That is the answer to a lot of the contentions that have been put before the House this afternoon.
I believe that Sir Bede Callaghan, when he brought down these recommendations, looked at Tasmania because of its peculiar soil and climatic conditions as being a proper State in which the Federal Government could instigate this particular trial process. Many States, I think, would like to have the depth and richness of soil and the climatic conditions for the growing of softwoods, hardwoods and all sorts of other agricultural products that Tasmania has as its right and as its potential. Many people, including myself, will look on this trial in Tasmania with a great deal of interest. One of my aims in my retirement, Mr Deputy Speaker, is to do as you suggested a little while ago and that is to plant hardwoods on the area of land I control in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. It it a wish of mine to try to do so. I will be watching the species planted under similar climatic conditions in Tasmania with a great deal of interest in my own right. This leads me to the next logical conclusion. I believe the Commonwealth will look at the success of this small trial scheme in Tasmania with a great deal of interest to see whether, specifically, the Commonwealth ought to move into hardwood plantings in other States of Australia.
I notice that the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) in his speech pointed out the proper connection between softwoods and hardwoods as an environmental aspect which must be noted. As a practical observer, might I tell the honourable member for Scullin and you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I have been terribly impressed in recent years to see what a close association there is between- if I might use the term- unnatural softwoods, in other words, imported species planted for softwood production and natural hardwoods in many areas of Australia. This is rather similar to the fact that in many areas of Australia the kangaroo population has increased in leaps and bounds, might I say, because of the provision of dams and waterholes spread throughout the length and breadth of this country. I also notice that the parrot population and many indigenous bird life species have increased in spite of the planting of softwoods in some areas.
I personally have a horror of living under pine trees. I have done so for quite a period of my life. What a cold, clammy, uninteresting, domineering species they are. They are all encompassing and nothing of any merit will grow under them. They just take over the whole of the soil in which they grow. Personally I have no wish to ever plant softwoods. I have some sympathy for the man in South Australia who went around ringbarking them in the Adelaide Hills a little while ago. It was a terrible thing to do. My horror of softwoods in comparison with hardwoods is to the degree which I have described. I therefore think that any move- this Bill will encourage itthat Australians make in their own right and any interest they have to plant hardwoods is a move in the right direction. As I have said already I, for one, will be doing so when the day comes for my retirement, if not before. Mr Deputy Speaker, in case you rule me out of order I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the repayments made by the Commonwealth in relation to the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme.
The document read as follows-
Since the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme was introduced by the present Commonwealth Government the following payments have been made for goods moving northbound from Tasmania to the Mainland up to the end of
– Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will leave that alone but I think it is proper that the amounts should be put into the Hansard to cope with the attack made by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) who said that this Government overlooks that State of Tasmania. I leave it at that because I do not wish to grind a political point in relation to it at all. To save the time of the House I will finish off with the point on which I started. This hardwood forestry agreement Bill favours Tasmania. It is the only State in which the Commonwealth Government is involved in such a scheme. The freight equalisation scheme, which has saved millions of dollars for all sorts of industries in Tasmania, is a scheme that solely affects Tasmania. Other honourable members have mentioned the assistance which has been given to the Mount Lyell mining operations. Again, that assistance is solely for the benefit of the State of Tasmania. Anyone who denies that this Government is interested in these sorts of schemes as they affect Tasmania ought to have a rational look at them. I do not believe that politically it is possible to deny that the Government is interested in Tasmania, nor do I think it is possible for Tasmanians to be unaware of the great attention and interest that this Government shows in that State. The Government Parties rural committee which I chair is one committee that goes to Tasmania. We have looked at the forestry potential in that State. I commend the Federal Government and the Tasmanian Government for bringing down this forestry agreement Bill.
– Before I speak directly to the Bill I congratulate the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles) for the remarks he has made. In fact, they follow on the remarks which you, Mr Deputy Speaker, made in your contribution to this debate. I am pleased to support this Bill for many reasons, not the least of which is that I, like the honourable member for Wakefield and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) who is sitting in front of me, have a great love of native trees. The honourable member for Reid exhibited that in his period as a Minister within the Labor Government. It is a pity that our native forests are the declining commodity that they are. There is something uniquely Australian about a towering majestic gum. I agree with the honourable member for Wakefield that they should never be replaced by the all-devouring exotic pines that deprive the soil of everything to the extent that there is an absolute lack of anything growing underneath a pine tree. The native Australian eucalypt of course does not have that all-devouring property and the ecology as a whole thrives not in spite of it but because of it. It is a pity that our native forests are disappearing.
I draw the attention of the House to the problem in Western Australia where the few remaining large stands of jarrah are under threat because of the hunger of bauxite miners for an even greater share of Australia’s wealth. So the environmental aspects of this Bill are all important to the Labor Party. We have a marvellous propensity in Australia to plant exotics. We fill our forests with imported pines, and this disease has reached to home gardeners. It is difficult to find in a home garden these days a gum, a tea tree or a wattle. Everybody seems to want to plant a golden pine, a claret ash or a camellia- anything but an Australian native. This is a disease that I would like to see cured. Even around this Parliament House there is a great propensity to fill up gardens with imported deciduous trees, forgetting that if there is one thing that is uniquely Australian it is Canberra. I am pleased to see that in the revamping of the courtyards in Parliament House we are getting around to planting some Australian natives which we can appreciate.
-I wonder whether I can get the honourable member away from Canberra and down to Tasmania, which is the subject of the Bill.
-I will get around to Tasmania in a moment. I am making the point that I think it is important to support governments which are prepared to support any form of native hardwood forestry, with native trees being the variety planted. I am prepared to support them on those grounds. I would also like to refer the House to the problem in the New England area of New South Wales where the native eucalypt forests are being badly impaired by the huge infestation of Christmas beetles. This of course is caused by the graziers’ great propensity to clear areas without any thought for the natural ecology, resulting in insufficient trees to cope with the beetles. Historically of course there were just enough beetles to retain a balance so that the trees did not overpower the whole environment, but that is not the case at the moment. Now the beetles are overpowering the trees and enormous stands of eucalypts in the New England area are being totally destroyed. This leads to an imbalance so far as the native fauna is concerned. You cannot find koalas in pine forests, no matter how hard you look, and because of the declining number of natural stands for koalas in Australia we should start thinking about preserving our eucalypts. The same goes for our birds, despite what the honourable member for Wakefield said about parrots having a greater love for pines than they will have for eucalypts.
So there is a good deal to be said for supporting any move by a government that will cause an increase in native eucalypt forests. This must be done selectively. The Minister assisting the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann), who is sitting at the table, would know something about the waste of $30m in sustaining native forests in the Northern Territory, which waste was revealed by the Standing Committee on Expenditure. I am pleased to say that that would not happen in Tasmania because there are not the same difficult climatic conditions that the forestry program encountered in the Northern Territory.
– Tell us about that report.
-I wonder what happened to that report. I think this is relevant to this Bill, Mr Deputy Speaker. We have not yet received a reply from the Government in respect of the charges the Expenditure Committee made but I am hopeful that similar charges will not have to be made by that Committee in respect of the Tasmanian project. I am sure that with the Government which is in office in Tasmania, despite the paucity of quality in Tasmanian representation in this House, this program will be successful.
If I may return to the Bill under discussion, having wandered, I am afraid, the Tasmanian Native Forestry Agreement Bill 1979 proposes to introduce a scheme whereby the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments co-operate in the development of a program of native forestry. This program is a direct result of the 1977 report by Sir Bede Callaghan, referred to by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck), concerning the structure of industry and employment in Tasmania. This report stressed, amongst other things, the importance of the forestry industry to the Tasmanian economy both in terms of profitability and in terms of employment opportunities. Actually the remarks of the honourable member are pertinent because Tasmanian forests account for about 30 per cent of the gross value of all primary production in the State and also for about 30 per cent of all the value added by secondary industry with paper production of course in the forefront. It is therefore obvious that the Tasmanian forestry industry is worthy of Federal Government assistance. For this reason the Opposition supports the Bill.
However, having said that, I would add that the Opposition supports the Bill with reservations, as I believe the Tasmanian Government does. These reservations concern the specific proposals put forward in the Bill for the financing of the Tasmanian forestry program. As I understand it the Bill provides for loans of up to $136,000 a year for five years, a total of $680,000, with expenditure matched on a dollar for dollar basis by the State Government. No interest or capital is repayable for a period of 20 years. After this time, however, the interest compounded is payable in a lump sum. The capital is repayable in half yearly instalments over the next 40 years although repayments may be made earlier, and hopefully they would be made earlier. In the second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) failed to clarify this method of repayment any further than that. Specifically it is not clear whether further interest is payable on the outstanding balance at the end of the 20 years. I would be grateful if the Minister could in reply or during the Committee stage elucidate whether interest is payable on the outstanding balance at the end of the 20 years.
I am also concerned about the accuracy of the statement by the Minister for Primary Industry that ‘repayments of capital and interest at the same rate are made in the subsequent 40 years on a six-monthly basis’. The Tasmanian Government has expressed concern at the financial terms of the Bill, although it recognises the importance of the forestry program. This concern is based upon the manner in which the funding agreement was drawn up. Prior to 1978, a satisfactory scheme for the development of softwood forests was operating in Tasmania. When this agreement ended last year, funds were provided for the maintenance of existing pine plantations. The interest on these funds dated from the beginning of the agreement because these trees were already grown and ready for harvesting. The same maintenance formula was applied to the new agreement for hardwoods. However, the circumstances between the two projects vary greatly. Instead of a partly mature forest already being harvested, the forests being dealt with under the new scheme are newly planted and returns could not be expected for some decades. The Tasmanian Government thus sought a 20 year moratorium on interest and capital repayments similar to the 10 year moratorium which had operated under the softwood agreement. This previous moratorium worked most successfully as has been demonstrated by the stimulus given to the Tasmanian industry by the commissioning of new pulping plants and by the creation of new jobs. The terms of the new agreement do not appear to be as conducive to stimulating the industry as was the last scheme.
One further area of doubt that I have concerns the cost of administering the provisions of this Bill over a 60 year period. It seems possible that the administrative costs could be as great as the loan itself which is, I admit, only a maximum of $680,000. The costs of administering the loan over 40 or 60 years would probably amount to more than the loan itself. Nevertheless, as I stated at the outset of this speech, the Opposition recognises the need to upgrade the Tasmanian forestry industry and accepts the Bill for that reason. We support the Bill largely because of our concern for the people of Tasmania. We are often criticised in this House for not worrying about Tasmania, but such is not the case. I assure the Tasmanian people and the Tasmanian members of this Parliament that we on this side of the House have great concern for the Tasmanian people.
-I congratulate the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) for the fairness and impartiality of his speech. I heard part of the speech on the broadcast system of the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) who is now occupying the chair. I congratulate him for the fairness and impartiality of his speech. I note also the valuable contribution by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck). I regret however that two styles of tactic appear to have been used in this debate. We have had fair and impartial speeches from two honourable members opposite and a strong speech from the honourable member for Franklin. Once again the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) is out of step. Whilst I recognise that he has to put on some sort of a show to justify his position in the Australian Labor Party representing the interests of Tasmania he reminds me more and more of a ferret. He whips in, has a quick nip and whips out again. That, with respect, has been the characteristic of his behaviour since he was appointed Australian Labor Party spokesman for Tasmania. He comes down to our State intermittently- it is some time since we have seen him- rather like a wandering minstrel, trying to seduce the electors of Tasmania to turn their five Federal members. They will not do so. Whilst the honourable member is welcome to holiday in Tasmania, he should not try to play politics there.
The Tasmanian Native Forestry Agreement Bill 1979 comes before the Parliament as yet another indication of the Government’s commitment to put into effect the recommendations of the report by Sir Bede Callaghan. Honourable members opposite ask what has been done in relation to the 10 point plan. They just do not know. Let me run quickly through some of the matters raised. I will not try the patience of the House. I remind the House of the $2 5m freight equalisation scheme which was based directly on the Callaghan report. This is nothing like the one-way $3.5m scheme which was introduced during the Whitlam years. The $25 m equalisation scheme applies to north bound and south bound traffic. I refer also to the accelerated construction of the Antarctic base.
– That was a Whitlam move.
– I have already paid tribute to my predecessor in the seat of Denison, Mr John Coates. He put the proposal forward. The Whitlam Government made the promise, we have delivered it. I believe one must be fair. I believe that if Mr Coates were in the chamber he would concede that I have at all times given him credit. The fact of the matter is that the Liberal Government is building the base.
The honourable member for Blaxland asked what sort of policy is being followed when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) says that a preference should be given to Tasmanian-made products. He appears to be unaware that a constitutional problem exists. Section 96 of the Constitution makes it difficult for a State preference to be given. But the matter is being worked on. The honourable member for Blaxland claimed that the defence forces in Tasmania would not be increased and said something about a letter from the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) to the Premier. I know that serious consideration is being given to upgrading the naval forces in Tasmania for the simple reason that increased marine surveillance will be essential with the introduction of the 200-mile limit: My colleague, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), knows what I am talking about. I wanted to make those quick rejoinders. The honourable member for Blaxland should not make statements which are not correct in fact.
I support the Bill. In the remaining minutes available to me, I repeat a plea that I made in this Parliament two years ago. I believe it to be constructive. It is consistent with the recommendations of the Callaghan report. I ask my friend and colleague the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann), who is at the table, to pass forward to those in the Cabinet and particularly the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the fact that I have once again raised this issue. The Federal Department of Primary Industry at the moment has a Forestry Branch. There is also a Forest Products Industry Advisory Council in the Department of Industry and Commerce. Two years ago, I approached the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton as he then was, to ask whether he had any objection to my putting forward a proposal that the two sections should be amalgamated. I went to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and asked whether his Department had any objection to my putting forward the proposal. The two branches combined would represent a core of approximately 100 experts and public servants. I am putting the proposal forward again. The two branches should be brought together so that we have a national forestry bureau. When such a bureau is established, it should be based in Tasmania. This is not something I bring up for the first time. I raised it in the House two years ago. I commend to the Government the amalgamation of those two small sections as a national forestry bureau. It should be based in the forest State of Australia, namely, Tasmania. I support the Bill.
– I must start off almost with an apology because I want to talk about the Bill, Tasmania and forestry. I do not intend talking about the 200-mile limit, the successful seduction of Tasmanian voters by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), freight equalisation, koala bears or Christmas beatles. The matter before the House was notified to Parliament for the first time in the August 1978 Budget. The Tasmanian Native Forestry Agreement Bill 1979 provides a program for native forestry development which has been approved by the Government. The terms are similar to those in the Softwood Forestry Agreements Act of 1978 but allow for a longer deferment and repayment period and reflect the longer time required for the eucalypts to reach maturity. Under the Softwood Forestry Agreements Acts of 1967, 1972 and 1976, loans totalling $55.3m have been advanced to the States to assist the establishment of softwood plantations. Assistance for new plantings ceased in 1976-77. New arrangements implemented in 1977-78 restrict Commonwealth involvement to loans for maintenance of existing Commonwealth-financed plantings for the fiveyear period which commenced on 1 July 1977. The new Act has limited assistance for 1977-78 to $4.2m but provides that payments in the subsequent four years vary with State requirements for the maintenance programs. Delays in finalising agreements with the States have prevented payments being made in 1977-78.
Since the original 1967 agreement- as was pointed out by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) who is occupying the Chair at this time- and with the rise in general community concern about the ecological and environmental impact of forestry several major investigations have been made into forestry. Although forestry is essentially a State issue, this Parliament has a role, financially, and a responsibility, economically and environmentally, to enlarge the forestry debate. In strictly environmental terms, one should not let the occasion pass without reference to the two most heated disputes at present. Some 400,000 hectares of northern Jarrah forests in West Australia are under threat. The gradual removal of forests also threatens Perth’s water supply. This is due to bauxite mining proposals in the Wagerup, Pinjarra and Kwinana areas. The other dispute concerns the Border Ranges National Park in New South Wales. All conservationists hope and pray that the Grady’s Creek Flora Reserve is not logged.
The major investigations to which I have referred resulted in reports from the National Estate Committee of Inquiry which my friend, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), initiated, the Forestry and Wood-based Industries Development Conference, the Working Group on Rural Policy- these three documents were produced in 1974- and the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. In addition, the Industries Assistance Commission has produced two reports. The first was on timber and timber products, plywood and veneer. It concluded that the industry is generally efficient and low cost. It recommended rates of duty which, in its opinion, may increase total levels of employment and activity in the bulk of the industry. The second report, which referred to certain paper and paperboard products, was issued in October 1978. Again, the
Government agreed to protection of the local industry. Protection is based on firms operating at Burnie, Wesley Vale and Nowra which is in my former electorate.
Arising from the report of the House of Representatives Committee on Environment and Conservation, of which I was a member, the Government took up the recommendation that a body such as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics should determine the economic viability of the softwood planting program both on strict financial grounds and on the broadest possible cost benefit grounds. From that recommendation we gained a report from the BAE, published in 1977, on plantation requirements to 1980 based on an analysis of supply and demand for forest products to 2020. The BAE now has a forestry section. It is carrying out very important economic research. I refer honourable members to a more recent article by Miss R. F. Treadwell in the ‘Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economics’ of January 1978 in which estimates have been published on the planting rates required between 1976 and 1990 for the supply of softwood until 2030. The conclusion of that study was that an annual average planting rate of 20,700 hectares per annum would suffice on the basis of the most likely conditions occurring, this area being well below current plantings of about 33,000 hectares. The methodology of the study was a simulation of the various supply and demand balances. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table from the work I have cited showing the results of the various simulations.
The table read as follows-
– Forestry is not without its ideologies. Attitudes such as ‘wood is good’, self-sufficiency is good’ and ‘the only good tree is a felled one’ seem to be put up against the longer term views of the conservationists. My ideology centres on a technocratic plea for more fundamental economic research, particularly into what the real questions are. I am sure, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you can understand my ideology. It comes from my having been an axe man and a market economist. The BAE report was partly responsible for the withdrawal of the
Australian Government from funding new plantations. What that report proves is that we do not need new plantations of the previous scale. I believe that just as the States once had to justify proposals put to the Australian Government for funds for water projects, the same should apply for forestry.
We do not know what the real demand for wood is, what its real value is, how the market for wood products operates or what the locational and infrastructural aspects of the industry imply. For example, there is evidence that the State forestry services themselves do not know fully the size of their timber resource. For example, Western Australia and Tasmania have recently revised substantially downwards their estimates of reserves. Too many supply studies by the State governments simply do not see the light of day. This is critical. I suspect that due to the lack of fundamental economic knowledge, royalties are too low and that timber which we are still chipping in an environmentally disastrous manner would return far more if left standing for future use as hardwood timber. Quotas for hardwood mills in the States, particularly New South Wales, have resulted in subeconomic, fragmented units in an industry in which wages are low and conditions are bad. If the full value of wood were extracted from the market, more investment funds would be forthcoming without government assistance.
We know that massive investment errors have occurred in the Northern Territory but I shall direct my remarks specifically to Tasmania. All the hardwood silviculture in Tasmania based on production may not pay as much as studies and attention to processing and marketing efficiency would pay. It is not known how much a tonne the Government and owners of the forest resource should be receiving from the chippers. There is no viable reinvestment program in most of the States as producers are not maximising returns from the market. In my opinion, there seems to be a need for more basic research into simple factors such as supply and demand and the role of imports- what price self-sufficiency? These problems are not easily solved.
There are problems, for example, in the estimation of future forestry requirements due to the time taken for forests to mature. Wood is processed into a diverse set of final products which are both competitive with and complementary to each other and non-wood products, the demand for which is not or cannot be known with any precision. This brings out the most important aspect of timber production, that is that the scheduling of supply from both hardwood native forests and softwood plantations is complex as they are competitive as well as interactive resources. We already know that since the inception of large scale planting of softwoods in the 1960s, the calculated amount of plantations needed for Australia to obtain self-sufficiency has been successively lowered. In the 1960s the target seemed to be 30,000 hectares per annum. The Forwood Conference of 1974 put forward a figure of 28,500. In 1977 the BAE suggested a figure of less than 20,000 hectares per annum. The article written in 1978 to which I referred suggested 2 1 ,000 hectares per annum.
Plantation pines were meant to displace imports from the Australian market. However, although considerable volumes are now coming onto the market, imports have been unaffected whereas the local hardwood industry has suffered from competition from pine material. This aspect of timber consumption in Australia is related to demands and tastes within the building industry. Woods that are imported such as oregon, teak, cedar and moronti are probably dependent on tastes, the specification of architects and whether people want particular timbers. Whether this will continue to be the case when the really large volumes of pinus radiata begin to come on stream in the 1980’s and 1990’s is not known. If it happens that way, the hardwood industry, particularly in Tasmania, will be in lots of trouble. Therefore we could ask whether the Commonwealth should subsidise the price of hardwood in some way. The States already subsidise the price of their hardwood resource to the extent that none of the big hardwood State forestry services come anywhere near paying their way. The only result seems to have been the artificial perpetuation of small uneconomic sawmill units in an industry aided and abetted by parochial political pressures. Everyone knows that State politicians can be easily pushed on the matter of giving more reserves to timber mills.
Is wood chipping the answer? If it is, why are States such as Tasmania selling the wood chip resource to exporting companies at prices which are not only low- I have heard of figures of less than $2 a tonne- but are also declining in real terms? I re-emphasise my earlier points. An investment in efficiency and information could well be worthwhile for forestry. We have almost a crisis of information at the moment. For example, little is known of how the wood products market operates. There have been almost no significant studies of the locational and infrastructural aspects of the major forestry projects in Australia. Even some of those which have been done have never been published. Why? At present the State forestry services find it very difficult to give even an overall estimate of the hardwood volume they have, let alone the categories of cost at which it could or should be made available. How are we to plan a softwood program and now a hardwood program which is supposed to supplement the hardwood resource if we cannot get accurate volume and cost figures on the hardwood resource itself?
My belief is that much of the forest planning in Australia has proceeded on the basis of what I would call a ‘conspiracy of enthusiasm ‘. It is time for some hardheaded and neutral economic evaluation of the industry. If we are to continue investing money in forestry- in places such as Tasmania this is unavoidable and necessary- we should also invest some time and energy in investigating fully the economics of what we are doing. If we are to invest in hardwood silviculture in Tasmania we must also ensure that that State’s forest resource will be processed and marketed efficiently and profitably. No amount of refinement of silvicultural techniques of production alone could possibly have a sufficient effect to guarantee that the Tasmanian hardwood industry will become and remain an efficient and viable industry in the long term. The problems and potential problems in Tasmania go well beyond what could be achieved by simply attention to production. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill; it commends it to the House.
– In closing the debate I thank honourable members for a constructive and interesting debate. Unfortunately, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) seemed intent- as is his wont- on making a partisan, political criticism and attacking the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck). That did not add anything to the debate. Apart from that, the debate by honourable members from both sides of the House was constructive and thoughtful, although it did not follow narrowly the terms of the Bill. I found some contributions and observations interesting and helpful. One or two questions were asked. The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) asked whether the aid was sufficient. All I can say is that the Bill covers all the proposals related to native forests that were submitted by Tasmania in 1977. Tasmania recently submitted further proposals which are being examined.
There was talk of a national program. The Government has received from time to time recommendations from the Australian Forestry Council that the Commonwealth finance a program of native forest rehabilitation. Unfortunately, to date necessary Budget restraints have precluded the approval of the requests of the States; but, should the States again put forward proposals, these necessarily would have to be examined in the light of the budgetary situation at that time. A specific question concerning the repayment of interest schedules was asked by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown). The information I have been given is that the first three Softwood Forestry Agreements Acts had an interest holiday for 10 years but the most recent Act has capitalised interest for 15 years. The Government has decided that projects which can be justified on economic grounds and can bear all interest charges should do so. The deferment of interest charges has been made to meet the particular cash flow problems of this particular project. Interest is payable on the outstanding balance of the loans. The honourable member asked a question on that point. If he looks at clause 7 of the Schedule to the Bill he will find that it answers the question he asked. I thank all speakers for their contributions to the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Adermann) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 8 March, on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This is a rather historic occasion on which to respond to this Bill that has been introduced by the Government. I feel some honour in being the first speaker for the Opposition on the Bill because it was on 26 September 1974 that I also had the honour of introducing into this Parliament a private member’s Bill which for the first time established the site for a new and permanent Parliament House. Honourable members will recall that the debate as to where the new Parliament House ought to be sited had been going on for some time. The matter having been initiated in the House of Representatives by me, as is the usual practice it was then passed to the Senate which made some amendments. For the first time the Parliament had determined that the new and permanent Parliament House would be built on Capital Hill.
The Labor Party offers no opposition to the Parliament House Construction Authority Bill 1979. However, there is a need to say some things about the measure that is before the House. But before doing so, I would like to pay tribute to the Minister at the table, the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott). Since he has been the Minister for Home Affairs he has played a very significant and positive role in ensuring that parliamentarians of the future and those who work in Parliament House shall work in a place that is more comfortable and more appropriate to their respective callings.
– We will miss him when he goes to the High Court.
-As the honourable member for Lalor rightly says, we will certainly miss the Minister when he goes to the High Court. Without wishing to prejudice the Minister’s chances in that area, I say that I trust that the rumours that are now rife throughout the Commonwealth as to his appointment to the High Court of Australia are true. The High Court could not be graced by a more worthy jurist than the Minister for home Affairs, and I say that with all sincerity.
After the site for the new Parliament House was determined, in 1975 a joint committee was set up which was responsible for doing all the things necessary to bring about this new and permanent parliament house. In the ensuing four years that committee has worked very well. It has been well served by its secretariat and it has been well served by those members of the Parliament who have served upon it, including the Presiding Officers of this Parliament, who, I might add, have had great influence. Together those people have brought the project to the stage where the new and permanent parliament house is not just a dream, a dream that the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and many others had had for a long time, but is very close to becoming a reality. There is no doubt in my mind that the timetable that has been set by that committee whereby the new parliament house will be ready for occupation on 26 January 1988 by parliamentarians and by the numerous people who work in this Parliament House, thereby commemorating the 200th anniversary of the invasion of Australia by Europeans, will be achieved.
I just want to make one other point. It is very easy to misunderstand the whole situation and to gain the impression that parliamentarians are setting about building themselves a new Taj Mahal in which to carry out their duties. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anybody who has had the opportunity to read the brief will know that the new and permanent parliament house is probably being built, as indeed it should be, more for those who spend most hours of their day, most weeks of their year and most years of their lives working in this place. You may or may not know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that we parliamentarians have a very high mortality rate in terms of our occupation of these fine and comfortable green benches. In the short time that I have been a member of this House- 10 yearssome 100 parliamentarians have attested to the very high mortality rate of parliamentarians. So the new and permanent parliament house is not being built for those people: Rather it is being built for the numerous people who were here before parliamentarians came and who will be here after the parliamentarians have gone. I speak in a very sincere way of the dedicated staff, the people who work in this building under conditions which, were I again a union organiser, it would not be my wont to allow. However, these people are so dedicated to their task that they choose to work here, despite the conditions. However, that is not a very good reason for this great, this young, this vigorous country of ours not having in its premier city, Canberra, a meeting place for the national assembly of this country- the House of Representatives and its brother or sister, the Senate- a proper place, a place designed specifically to meet the needs of contemporary parliamentarians and their staff and the staff that is needed to make the Parliament work.
One thought that does cross my mind is this: The committee that was set up has developed the whole concept to the stage where it is almost time now for a competition to be called for architects to come forward and register themselves for their attempt to design for us a new parliament house. A brief has been prepared by the committee and when the appropriate time comes it will be made available to those who want to enter the contest. In this way architects registered in Australia- the contest will not necessarily be limited to Australian architects- will pit their skills and will indicate to a panel that has already been appointed how they would endeavour to solve the multitude of problems associated with the design and construction of the new and permanent parliament house for the national assembly of Australia. Another thought in my mind is: What is the future role of the existing committee or perhaps of its successor? The Bill does not indicate what that role will be. The Bill gives an indication that there will be a committee and makes mention of the fact that the Authority to be established by the Bill will be responsible for reporting to a committee of the Parliament.
Paragraph 5 (b) of the Bill states that one of the functions of the Authority is: to furnish to the Minister and to any relevant Joint Committee information with respect to matters relating to the design or construction of Parliament House;
Clause 7(a) states that the Authority shall, in the exercise of its powers or the performance of its functions under this Act: have regard to any advice furnished to it by a relevant Joint Committee;
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I do not wish to be unkind to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) but a member of this House is addressing his remarks to the Minister for Home Affairs on a very important issue that is before the Parliament.
– I am listening.
– I am sure that the Minister is listening but he is listening to the Prime Minister too. Without any disrespect to the Prime Minister, I would like the -
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Burke.
– It is the birthday of the honourable member for Burke, too. He is entitled to a bit of respect.
– He is entitled to be heard by the Minister for Home Affairs.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Burke.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Will you acknowledge what I am saying?
-It is not my role to wish him a happy birthday. Will the honourable member resume his seat?
-Thank you very kindly.
– I am asking you–
-I warn the honourable member that if he does not resume his seat I will have to take action.
– You do not have to wish me a happy birthday to hear my point of order and address me on that.
-I have heard the point of order. I call the honourable member for Burke.
-I have my ideas about what may happen in this area. It would not be inappropriate for me to express those ideas in this chamber. I am sure that the Minister will comment in regard to any relevant joint committee, either the existing committee or a succeeding committee. I make this point because, if the intention is to build a new and permanent Parliament House, it has already been acknowledged that the parliamentarians and those who work in this building ought to have a great deal of input into the building up of the brief. Indeed, that has been done. Since 1975, a committee of parliamentarians from both sides of this chamber and of the Senate has been considering this matter. There has been an input by parliamentarians. They in turn- and it is acknowledged throughout the community that parliamentarians are very practical people- have questioned those people who have functions to perform within this building. For example, the Parliamentary Library has been questioned as have the people in the Joint House Department and all of the other users of Parliament House including the Department of the House of Representatives and the Department of the Senate as to their assessment of their needs. I say quite unequivocally that this is one of the best exercises in which I have been involved. It has certainly given an opportunity to people to make their wishes clear in this matter.
The Government, as is its prerogative, has set a limit on the cost of the project. I will return to that point later. Such a limitation on funds to a very large extent determines the size of a building. Nobody knows what shape the building is to be. Models have been made to indicate that there will be a building. In the process of determining who will design the new and permanent Parliament House, the Committee has not asked for a design. The Committee would not like to be faced with the situation that arose in New South Wales with the ‘design’- and I use that word in inverted commas- of the Sydney Opera House. A very fine architect, Joern Utzon, from Denmark simply submitted a sketch on the back of an envelope. As a Melbournian, I must say that it is a delightful building but I point out that because that delightful building was sketched in such a way all sorts of problems were involved in its construction. Mr Deputy Speaker, as a man of great experience in this area- you have served on the Public Works Committee- you well know that the roof of the Opera House is a series of parabolic curves. Do not look astounded, Mr Deputy Speaker; you know what I mean. There was some difficulty in finding builders who were able to construct these parabolic curves. The Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, aware of that fact, decided that it was not going to ask for a postcard or watercolour sketches of a new and permanent Parliament House. Rather it proposed to seek architects who were capable of solving problems. The Committee is looking for a designer rather than a design.
The Committee has decided that the competition will be open to architects who are registered in Australia. That does not mean Australian architects; it means, as it says, architects who are registered in Australia. As a result I am a little unsure where the Department of Housing and Construction stands. Has it the ability to enter the competition? I confess that I have not asked this question before. I can be accused of being derelict to my duty. I did not ask this question at Committee meetings. In all honesty, it is a thought that has only just crossed my mind. Perhaps the Minister will advise me whether there are legal or constitutional difficulties which would preclude the Department of Housing and Construction entering the competition in the same way as architects registered in Australia may. I know that the Minister probably has the answer to that question. But it is a matter of concern to me because I hold the Department of Housing and Construction in the highest regard. I have had great experience with this Department through my association with the Public Works Committee. I know that it is staffed by a number of distinguished architects. I am aware also that, because of a change in Government philosophy, the Department’s activities have been wound down. Perhaps its strength is not what it might have been if it had been encouraged to enter into competition with other architects and architectural companies throughout our community and kept itself active in the field of design work.
I turn now to the personnel of the Parliament House Construction Authority. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his second reading speech, when introducing this Bill, advised the House of the people who had been chosen to fill the positions that the Bill will create. I do hot want to be unkind but it seems very curious to me that the Prime Minister, who is relying on the brutal use of numbers, introduces a Bill to establish a parliament house construction authority and, ignoring the Parliament, presumes that the Parliament will pass the legislation. The Bill establishes a position of chairman and five other positions, one of which will be filled by the current Commissioner of the National Capital
Development Commission, Mr Powell. My limited knowledge of these matters tells me that the authority does not exist until the Bill is proclaimed and becomes law.
The Prime Minister has presumed- he is noted for this characteristic- that this chamber, the Senate and indeed the Governor-General will agree with his wishes and that the Bill will become law. He might be right. He probably is right. It just seems to me that this is an act of sheer contempt for both chambers of this Parliament- the green and red deserts- by the Prime Minister who is notorious throughout this country for his contempt of Parliament. He has given endless illustrations of that attitude.
The Prime Minister, in his second reading speech introducing a measure to establish an authority which is yet to be debated and as yet has to be voted upon by the two Houses, in his presumptious way, announced the names of the people who are to fill the positions created by the Bill.
Who were they? The Chairman he announced as Sir Bernard Callinan, who was described as an engineer. I will come back to him. The second person announced was Sir John Overall, an architect who I understand enjoys a good deal of prestige. I am not one of those people who hide in cupboards; I know a number of people in Australia. The third person was Mr R. Ling, Chairman of Hill Industries Ltd. I do not know the man. The next person was Mr N. Macphillamy, a lawyer and businessman. That was how he was described by the Prime Minister. The next person was a Mr L. Muir, a stockbroker and financier. The final person was Mr A. Powell, Commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission. It seems to me that we are about to construct the most prestigious building in Australia and by all accounts one of the largest buildings in Australia. The Government has conceded that the cost of the building will be of the order of $150m. Therefore, it is something better than just a tin shed on the highest point in the metropolitan district of Canberra.
It is a big, complex building, albeit designed by a person who will perhaps turn out to be the best person in solving architectural problems in Australia. It is still a building that needs a great deal of practical input. The Bill refers to the Construction Authority reporting to a committee. It does not say when nor how frequently. Yet those people are charged with the responsibility of building the new and permanent parliament house and making sure that the work is done, the contracts are let and the bills are paid. Reducing it to simple terms, I liken it to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, building yourself a small cottage in which to live. As the constructing authority you employ builders and all the other people who then do the work, put up the frame, lay the bricks, call in the plumbers get all the work organised. That is what the Construction Authority is going to do.
It is fair enough to have an engineer as Chairman. I shall come back to that matter in a moment. There is an architect on the Authority. But can somebody explain to me how the Chairman of Directors of Hill Industries Ltd, a lawyer and a businessman, and- this was the one that really cut me off at the socks- a stockbroker and a financier are involved in building a parliament house? I find this beyond my comprehension. We might as well put Harry M. Miller into the job and complete it. Then we would have the Holy Trinity. When I look at the names of those people do I find anybody from the building industry- a practical builder? I am not touting for anybody. However, there are a number of construction companies in Australia, which probably will not be involved in this project but which would be willing to have somebody seconded to the job. The Bill protects such people because if they have a pecuniary interest all they have to do is raise the matter.
Who is representing the Australian Council of Trade Unions? Who is representing the building trades? Who is representing the tradesmen who actually will build the new parliament house? Where are their representatives on the Authority? There is not one representative of these people, but stockbrokers, lawyers and a chairman of directors are represented. They are the people who have sent this country down the drain for the last 78 years. We have them trying to build a new parliament house for us. Where are the practical people, the people who will do the work? Where are their representatives? ‘Not there, Your Honour’. ‘No appearance, Your Worship’. Yet we are going to be stuck with this Authority because the Prime Minister said so. What will he do if the Parliament decides it will throw out the Bill? The Prime Minister has already told these people that they have a job.
– Do not trust those Liberal senators.
-Do not trust those Liberal senators. I have told you about those Liberal senators before, Ted. You cannot trust them as far as you can see them. The Prime Minister is inclined to agree with me. If this Bill is thrown out, what happens then? We have these fellows who have been promised a job and no money to pay them. I now come to the Chairman. Shall we call him Chairman-Elect or Chairman to be appointed or whatever?
– Chairman Mao.
-There is a difference there. The Chairman, as decided by the Prime Minister, is one Brigadier Sir Bernard Callinan. He is a worrying choice as far as I am concerned. That was why twice during my address I said I would come back to him. This gentleman has had a very checkered career. I make no apologies for the fact that I am a politician. This bloke has had a very chequered career both politically and professionally. He is a patron of the National Civic Council. Who knows that? He was formally an advisor to President Diem of the late unlamented regime in South Vietnam. What person in the whole world could be more discredited than the late President Diem of South Vietnam?
Sir Bernard was the Prime Minister’s appointee as a commissioner of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and was regarded as the most conservative and reactionary of all the commissioners. I am not suggesting that all the commissioners are conservative and reactionary. He demanded the right to vet the subjects to be discussed and the names of people to be interviewed on ABC current affairs programs. He is also a Director of British Petroleum Pty Ltd. We all know about petroleum companies after the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) fixed up the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) for us today. He is a State Electricity Commissioner. Professionally, Sir Bernard Callinan is Chairman and Managing Director of Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey Pty Ltd, consulting engineers of Melbourne.
The greatest construction project in which Sir Bernard has been involved so far is the West Gate Bridge. He was the Deputy Chairman of the original Lower Yarra Crossing Authority- an invention of Sir Henry Bolte, who was one of the Holy Trinity of Associated Securities Ltd- which later became the West Gate Bridge Authority. Sir Bernard was the Chairman of the Technical Committee of the Lower Yarra Crossing Authority and the West Gate Bridge Authority. There are several unsatisfactory matters which have never been resolved in connection with Sir Bernard Callinan ‘s administration of the West Gate Bridge. The first matter relates to the tragic collapse of that bridge in October 1970 when 35 people died. A royal commission was held and it blamed the West Gate Bridge Authority for allowing ‘the atmosphere of urgency to permit “judgments to be influenced by the prevailing sense of pressure, resulting from ill-conceived decisions and the kind of mistakes which all too often arise from hasty actions” ‘. The Melbourne City Coroner, Mr Pascoe, S.M., in his inquest on the dead men blamed the Authority for ‘lack of control over the consultants and the contractors, and failing to inspect the work frequently’. He went on to say that this aggravated an all round confusion. Will this happen with the new and permanent parliament house? It is not a very impressive recommendation.
Sir Bernard Callinan, Chairman of Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey, was instrumental in securing the removal, under very curious circumstances, of Dr W. A. Fairhurst, a bridge designer of international reputation, as Director of Engineering of the bridge. After the original Freeman Fox design collapsed, Dr Fairhurst was brought in as a ‘bridge doctor’ to clean up the mess and to complete the project. Early in 1972 Dr Fairhurst was edged out and a new Director of Engineering was appointed, a Mr Hans Wolfram, who by a strange coincidence happened to be a Director of Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey- as clear a case of conflict of interest as can be imagined. Sir Bernard Callinan was instrumental in securing the rejection of the Fairhurst scheme, which was an essentially conservative revision of the original Freeman Fox plan and which could have been built quickly, safely and cheaply. The Fairhurst scheme was adopted after prolonged examination and then rejected in secret without any proper examination or consultation. It was replaced by a scheme devised by a Mr Wolfram and a Dr Roik from Germany. This new scheme added- this is significant- about $80m in cost and five years in delay. We cannot allow that to happen with our new and permanent parliament house.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion ( by Mr Innes) proposed:
That the honourable member Tor Burke be granted an extension of time.
– I will not give any further time for slander, tittle-tattle and the like.
Question resolved in the negative.
-Whilst I endorse the comments made by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) in relation to the gross allegations which have been made in this House tonight against the members of the Parliament House Construction Authority- they are men of good will, who have been appointed by this Government to undertake a very serious and responsible task- I congratulate the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) on today being his fiftieth birthday. I do so because he has worked with me and many other people before me on the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, and he knows more than anybody else the hundreds of hours of work by members of this Parliament which has gone into the setting up of the Authority, the work carried out by the Authority and the preparation of briefs for the construction of the new and permanent parliament house.
It was very sad to listen to the diatribe which has just been delivered by the honourable member for Burke, when he knows the difficulties which will be encountered in working towards the opening of a new and permanent parliament house in 10 years’ time. It needs the utmost co-operation and understanding from all members of the community. Co-operation will be needed not only from members of this House but also from members of the union movement, the private enterprise area, the builders, the contractors, the designers and the artisans who will be involved in the development of this project so that it will be ready by the bicentennial year of 1988. An aspect which should not be forgotten is the timing. Already there has been a feeling of frustration on the part of those who have been preparing the notices to be inserted in newspapers to start the design competition. They were due to be inserted on 10 March. They have not been inserted because this Parliament House Construction Authority Bill has not yet passed through this House and through the Senate. For the honourable member for Burke to utter slander in this place against people who will have to undertake a very difficult task over the next two years is nothing short of scandalous.
I point out- this point was not made during the address of the honourable member for Burke- the opportunity this Parliament will have to control the design and construction of the new and permanent parliament house. This Bill spells out meticulously the degree of involvement of the Joint Standing Committee which, as the honourable member has said, is made up of members from both sides of the House and from both chambers. Also built into this Bill is a mechanism whereby the Parliament will have the opportunity to review various stages before any work commences on those particular areas of work involved in the construction of the House. I do not propose to take up the time of honourable members by going through the Bill. If one looks at the provisions of clauses 5, 7, 8 and 9, one sees that it is clearly and specifically spelt out that this Parliament will have a great role to play in the control of the construction of the new and permanent parliament house.
– What is your understanding?
– Perhaps the honourable member for Melbourne will just listen for a few minutes. He also is a member of the Joint Standing Committee. He knows and understands the work that is ahead of us all and the understanding that will be required. There will be an opportunity, not only for members of the Joint Standing Committee but for members of this Parliament, to have a say in the design and construction as the various stages proceed through to 1988.
Perhaps we can go back a few points: It may be worth while recording in Hansard- hopefully, it will also be elucidation for some honourable members opposite who appear to be misbehaving tonight, for some unknown reason- what happened when Walter Burley Griffin was charged with the responsibility of designing Canberra and, in fact, actually started on a plan for the new and permanent parliament house. In the competition for the general plan for Canberra the board of assessors, on 14 May 1912, reported that the board remained divided in its judgment. Perhaps the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) would just listen to that and conjecture as to what would happen if that were to happen in 1979. Where would we be? We certainly would not have a new and permanent parliament house constructed by 1988. We can learn from the lessons of the past.
On 23 May 1912 the Minister of State for Home Affairs, King O ‘Malley, had to adjudicate and decide on the design submitted by Walter Burley Griffin as the award for the first premium. I hope that the present Minister for Home Affairs does not have the responsibility of making the decision in a situation where his assessors are unable to make a decision on the designer. The townscape plan for the buildings in the government administrative group was well developed by Griffin. The capitol building- the central feature of the city- was isolated and sited in an extensive hill park. That incidentally- it is worth recording this- was Capital Hill- the place which this Parliament has decided is to be the location for the new and permanent parliament house. Griffin had different ideas in those days. He saw Capital Hill as having on it a building which would ‘symbolise Australian sentiment, achievement and ideal’ and which would be used in connection with public ceremonials, for the housing of archives, and such other things as international gifts and memorials. Its isolation would be maintained by its geographic situation and also by its being 80 feet above the proposed parliament house which was to be located on what was then called Parliament Hill but which we now call Camp Hill. In referring to these notes, I am indebted to a book written by James Birrell, a biography of Walter Burley Griffin, published by the University of Queensland Press. As a matter of interest- I am sure it is something which would stir the hearts of honourable members opposite- I point out that in the frontispiece there is a reproduction of a drawing by Walter Burley Griffin which actually has described on it our own Watergate. That is well worth looking at.
The other point that should be made is in relation to Griffin and the problems that he had to face. We have to learn from those experiences. Just prior to the First World War Griffin got into difficulties in the implementation of his plans. In 1913 he launched an international competition for the erection of a new and permanent parliament house. Some very distinguished people were associated with that competition. The assessors were Otto Wagner, Louis Sullivan, Sir John Burnett and Victor Laloux. Because of the War, and as Wagner was an enemy subject, the Government had to cancel that competition.
The members of the board in those days- I do not think I need to go into the details of the personnel who were involved on it- found themselves unable to recommend the adoption of any of the designs and advised approval of the plan for the layout of the city prepared by the Board. This plan incorporated features from the premiated and purchased designs wherever, in the opinion of the Board, such a procedure was warranted. That was the pattern which was to be established over the ensuing years in which Griffin, with very little support from those who were involved in government in this country in those days, was in head-on conflict with those opposed to him. Griffin’s preliminary plan had been accepted by the Cabinet a month before he left for America in 1913. The frustration was further demonstrated by the fact that, immediately he left, the Administrator, one Colonel David Miller, restricted expenditure. Of course, that meant that very little of the Griffin plan could go ahead.
On 14 June, 1916, a royal commission was issued to inquire into Federal capital administration. The commissioner, Wilfred Blacket, found that Griffin had proved that he was eager to perform his part in the creation of the capital but not so others. The evidence proved that certain officers of the Public Service had withheld from Griffin necessary information and assistance and had usurped his powers, that he and his office were ignored, that his rights and duties under his contract were denied, that false charges of default were made against him, and that the honourable W. O. Archibald, Minister for Home Affairs, and members of the Departmental Board had endeavoured to set aside his design and to substitute the Board ‘s own design.
That is a fairly sad story of the frustrations which were involved in those early days when Griffin was trying to establish this city of Canberra as the national capital and to commence the construction of a new and permanent Parliament House. I am not suggesting that the same sentiments can be expressed against any Minister of the present Government nor against any public servant of the present Department. But at least we can see that there are frustrations and that there will be a need for a degree of understanding in difficult times which I have no doubt lie ahead of us. In 1920 when Griffin came into conflict with the then Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, he declined to serve on a government advisory committee charged with the responsibility to implement his plan and to build a national capital. In declining, Griffin stated:
The issue is that the design and construction of the city is not to be vested in the committee, which is to have no executive power, but in officers of the Works Department which in open court before a Royal Commission have been adjudged hostile to myself, my plan and my procedure.
Shortly after Griffin severed his connection with the Government and with the city and, in fact, went into private practice around Australia as many people would be aware. It is worthwhile emphasising again what I said earlier and that is that this Bill does in fact provide this Parliament, the Authority and the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, with an opportunity, at the significant stage of the design and construction of the new Parliament House, to come in and make a comment and if necessary to in fact pass a motion disallowing any direction, which may have been given by the Minister to the Authority. I think there should be no doubt by any honourable member opposite, who for some reason tonight has lacked the goodwill which was present up until the present stage, that the Government and the Parliament of this country will have the opportunity to control strictly the construction of the new and permanent Parliament House.
Since Griffin’s time there have been many other occasions when Parliaments have debated and when committees have been appointed to look into the design and construction of a new and permanent Parliament House. It was not until 1975, as the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) mentioned, that a preparation of a brief was requested by a joint parliamentary committee. Just as a matter of record I think we ought to record the names of those who were signatories to the report of March 1 970 on the proposed new and permanent Parliament House for the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Not many of these members are present now. I emphasise that because I think it is relevant to those who made the comments earlier that we are not building a Taj Mahal for ourselves. We are building a Parliament for the use of those who will work in it. They will be future generations of parliamentarians and those who serve the Parliament in this country. But the members of that Committee should be mentioned, especially those who are still with us today. The proxy for the then Prime Minister the Rt Hon. J. G. Gorton was the present Speaker of this Parliament, Sir Billy Snedden. The proxy for the Rt Hon. J. McEwen was the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) who was then Minister for the Interior and who is the present Minister for Transport. Senator Cavanagh and Senator Douglas McClelland were also members, as was the honourable member for Willis (Mr Bryant) who I think will be following me shortly. The Deputy Speaker, Mr Giles, was also a member. There has been a great turnover and the members I have mentioned are only a small number of a total membership of that Committee. One of the essential factors that is involved in this particular issue is that we have, since 1927, been occupying a temporary Parliament House. We have, since 1927, from time to time put up with the frustrations in working conditions which would not be tolerated for one minute by any person who would be a member of any union. We have had the situation and the embarrassment where members of staff who had to work here for seven days a week on many occasions- not like parliamentarians who may be here for only three days a week- have put up with the most outrageous conditions possible. These people, whether they be attendants, kitchen hands, or people involved with the Library, have had to work under the most appalling conditions. I hope that there is no misunderstanding by the people of Australia. There is an absolute urgent necessity to build the new Parliament House, not only for members of Parliament but also for the people who work in it. Just as a matter of record during sitting times I think that approximately 1,100 people work in this place under the most outrageous conditions.
In that report of March 1970 reference was made to an earlier committee report as to where the siting of a new Parliament House should be. I just want to incorporate this reference into Hansard tonight by quoting it as it has been incorporated into this report. The words of the earlier committee are:
In this context, your Committee, for the reasons advanced in the report, would restate words used therein, viz., ‘the present and, what would appear to be continuing, functional inadequacies and higher maintenance costs, especially after the next decade, prompt the Committee to suggest that an early start on the new and permanent Parliament House would be, in every way, a sound and practical move’.
That was in 1 969. We are now in 1 979. Of course at long last we have made the decision to proceed with a new and permanent Parliament House. That decision was made, may I remind honourable members opposite, with the cooperation of all members of this House. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition both endorsed the decision which was made to proceed with the construction of a new and permanent Parliament House. I conclude with a plea. I hope that we are not going to have a repeat performance of the honourable member for Burke as to how we are going to approach the difficult task of co-ordinating many disciplines in having the new and permanent Parliament House constructed. As I mentioned earlier it will provide an ideal opportunity for the union movement of Australia to come in and say: ‘We are going to frustrate this. We are not going to have the interests of Australia at heart. We will make sure that the new and permanent Parliament House will not be ready for the bi-centennial celebrations. ‘
– Don’t be such a humbug. Answer the question. Are they going to participate?
– That will be very easy for some unionists to say. If the honourable member for Melbourne will wait I will say that the majority of union members in this country will take up the challenge and realise that there is a national responsibility to have this particular Parliament House constructed by the time of the bicentennial celebrations in 1988. 1 think it is particularly worthwhile recording that there is a challenge not only to the union members but also to members of Parliament, employers, contractors, and all the artisans who will be involved in this particular construction. I emphasise that it will require the goodwill of all men in this country, and, not the least, of all men in this Parliament. If the House is going to take note of the sort of denigration which has been made tonight about people who have offered themselves after being approached by this Government to take on the responsibility of being members of the Construction Authority then I think: ‘God help this country if we are going to have those sorts of people taking part in future debates on the construction of the new and permanent Parliament House.’
-I hesitated to interrupt the last honourable member. I would like to say before I call the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) that this debate affects all members of Parliament. I suggest that we all listen to each other’s points of view because I think we are all looking towards the same sort of thing.
-I think it is appropriate that I, as the honourable member for Wills, give some support to the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), not so much in anything that may have been said in detail but in fact on the point that was made that if the Government is setting up the Parliament House Construction Authority to construct a Parliament House for parliamentarians, the Parliament itself may well have been asked to participate in the selection of people to serve on the Authority. Some technique could have been easily devised by which panels were submitted or names were called for, and so on, and we could all feel that we had had our say.
– You are not serious?
– Let me say to the honourable member for McMillan that I have been in politics long enough to say what I mean to say and to keep saying it, even if it is hard to get through to some folk. It would be a quite simple proposition, even in an institution that is run from somebody else’s private property such as this, to call for members to submit names for a panel, even to ask members of the Opposition to sit on that panel, to have curriculum vitae supplied around the place and for people to give advice about it. I would not expect my opinion on the matter necessarily to be accepted. I have been on the losing side in choices and votes for too long to expect that, but I always feel when we talk about parliament that we are talking about people’s representation, the people’s participation and members’ participation. I would not have found it difficult and I will give the honourable member some advice later on how I managed to do it in various parts of my own governmental activities in the past.
In support of the honourable member for McMillan, he has pointed out the rather unhappy history of human endeavour when it comes to doing such things as building parliament houses. Burley Griffin left Canberra in frustration. He was not the first person who had been frustrated in attempts to make a better Australia and he will not be the last. One of the lessons I have learnt in my life is of course that you do not stop. You never really lose a political battle; you might die before you win it, but you keep at it. I recall for the information of honourable members in this place the story of John Thomas Bigge who came out to have a look at Sydney in the early part of last century to examine the plans and programs of Governor Macquarie, and of course he was a man of his time. He would have been well placed in this Cabinet. He looked at Sydney and said: ‘This plan is too grandiloquent. It is too great. You will never need anything like this.’ He managed to put the stopper on that. Of course this is what has happened consistently with this project.
This is a significant night. I think that we are right when we talk about the proposed new building as probably the most significant building and architectural project ever to be undertaken in Australia. It may not be the biggest; it may not be the most important.
– Since the Opera House?
– I am talking now about significance as such. It is an opportunity for the architectural profession of Australia, for the architects and the designers, but it is more than that. It is important because at a stage such as this the role of representative government in the whole world is under challenge. It survives under pressure, it survives because people stand by it. I think there are about 151 governments represented at the United Nations but only about 20 would be called representative and democratic. With a little bit of luck the undemocratic government in Uganda has gone by the board following great hardship and misery. The one in Cambodia has probably gone. However, they will not necessarily be replaced by representative governments. The Australian Parliament is the representative symbol of one of the free peoples in the world- one of the few that are free. This new building has to represent that and we will be putting up a representative symbol of the aspirations of the Australian people. I think that is what we are on about.
Taking up the points of history which the honourable member for Burke and the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) have mentioned, going right back to the beginning, this building was put here as a temporary building. It has been a first class building. I think it has certain unique character and it has a certain functional quality but it outlived its usefulness probably as a Parliament in 1949 when the size of the Parliament was increased. We are now speaking in a parliament where there are new pressures and new practices. The building itself is largely irrelevant. The old functions of parliament where businessmen and people of property turned up, made their deliberations, went thenway and left the Government to the better orders has long passed. But most buildings in which parliaments operate in the world belong to that deliberative rather than executive, administrative and working place. I hope that whatever else we do the Parliament House Construction Authority which is to be responsible for the construction of this new building will remember that. I would like to say a few words on that in a few moments.
What we are looking at is an authority which will be able to appreciate both the symbolic and functional nature of the task upon which it is going to embark. It is symbolic because it will be one of the most significant buildings in Australia. One of the things that one notices in modern times is that people will flock more to institutions of representative governments than they will to, say, the institutions of monarchy. If you go to London what takes your fancy are the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. If you go to Buckingham Palace you will pay some sort of pilgrimage to Westminster. The same in Washington. You will pay the same respect to the White House, but people will go by the millions through the Capitol. The same applies in Canberra. Very large numbers of people visit this place. They do not troop out to Government House. If we had on Capital Hill the symbolic structure of which Burley Griffin thought, I doubt that that is where the people would go either. There is the Australian War Memorial and the National Library of Australia but in many respects this building is one of the places of principal pilgrimage in Canberra.
Back in 1967 the project was launched. The Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House was formed. I was a member of it. One of the first considerations of the Committee was the site of the new and permanent parliament house. There had been deliberations on this long before. In fact the Cabinet in 1958 had decided to put it down by the lake. I was one of those who thought at that stage that is where it ought to be, but once the National Library went up and once the program included the two other principal buildings in the area I became convinced that the area around it would be inadequate. The more I thought of it the more I believed that. When the Committee investigated the whole area and investigated the siting of the building on the hill, that is where I decided it ought to be. I am interested to turn back to the minutes of the time to see that that Committee had before it as one of its first deliberations this question:
That this Committee endorses the decision of Cabinet made in 19S8 that the New and Permanent Parliament House should be situated on the lakeside site- put.
There were 1 1 ayes and three noes. As I said earlier, I am quite accustomed to being on the losing side in the first part of a battle. The then honourable member for Angas, now the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles), voted in favour of the lakeside site. Senator DrakeBrockman, myself and Mr Luchetti, the then honourable member for Macquarie, voted for the building to be on the hill. Subsequently a quite significant parliamentary occasion came out of it all. Whilst the Rt Hon. John Gorton had many magnificent failings as a Prime Minister he did have an attitude about this place. He said This ought to be a free vote’, as he did on questions of Standing Orders. The report was brought before the House. There was a dissenting report which can be found on page 18 of one of the reports. A motion was moved by the then Prime Minister and seconded by the then Leader of the Opposition that the building should be on the lakeside site. There was an amendment from the then Opposition to have the building on the hill. A magnificent debate then ensued for some days. Eventually 50 voted in favour of the hill site and 39 for the lakeside site. In the Senate the votes were 42 and six respectively.
– Hear, hear!
– The honourable member for Phillip will be pleased to know that bureaucracies, governments and so on do not give in all that easily. They threw into the ring the suggestion that we should look at the Camp Hill site, so we took that up. As one of my friends who has since left this place, the honourable Don Willesee- excuse me for using my Christian name but I have to be accurate- said: ‘Listen Gordon. The bureaucracy never gives in. When they are beaten on one spot and you are going to another they will think up a third to confuse you ‘. That is exactly what happened. So there was another magnificent debate on the Camp Hill site. In that debate there were a minority in favour of Capital Hill. I think the difference was three or four. But in the Senate, the votes stood at about the previous vote. The majority of the people in the Parliament voted for the new building to go on Capital Hill. There was a hiatus. Subsequently the Right Honourable John Gorton, having lost some of his grip of the situation, came into the House one night and announced that the Parliament not being able to make up its own mind the Government had decided that the building had to be on Camp Hill. I found it difficult to understand how one could assert that the Parliament had no opinion; the majority of members had voted for Capital Hill. I presumed that because of his long service as a senator and as a member of parties which. make odd decisions about electoral boundaries, he could not count something that had two ballot boxes. The totals of the votes were clearly for Capital Hill. Some people here said more or less: Over our dead bodies’. My friend, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), gave notice that he disagreed with the Government’s decision. My friend, the honourable member for Burke, eventually took the matter up by way of a private member’s Bill after the Senate had actually produced a Bill. There it lay. In late 1974 or 1975, the Senate having passed the Parliament Bill, the House concurred with it. There it stayed. Now at last we are getting on with the job.
No doubt the lesson is, first of all, that Executive government should not intervene in such a way as the Gorton Cabinet did. It was obvious that members of that Cabinet were out of touch with the realities and of the feelings of the Parliament. I think that if they had not made that decision the parliamentary building would be well on its way to completion. It may well be that the delay will result in a better building being produced, but I think that we should realise that we are now facing a very difficult task, which as far as I can tell from examining the endeavours of people in other parts of the world nobody has resolved. The parliamentary committee in 1968 went overseas. We visited Kuala Lumpur. An architect designed the Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur before the city had a proper parliament to give any advice- not that the city, in the best traditions of these matters, necessarily would have take notice of parliamentarians. The building looks beautiful on a postcard but is quite irrelevant I should think for parliamentary business. There is a great tower block. How does one take part in parliamentary deliberations if one is 20 floors up in a great tower block 100 yards away from the chamber. In Delhi the position is similar. A beautiful building was erected in the 1920s or maybe even later. It too was irrelevant to the functions of a parliament. It was designed by one of the best architects available. That city did not have a parliament at the time either. The parliament in Rome is crowded in the busy city. It is quite inadequate. Bonn also was putting up a great tower block which would have made life difficult if it were to be used properly. The people of Bonn knew that their parliament was in their city but their hearts were in the Reichstag in Berlin.
The parliamentary building in London is magnificent. A better piece of architectural landscaping cannot be seen. The Germans thoughtfully knocked it down so that a better building could be erected but the English, being what they were, put the building back up the same way as it wastotally inadequate. Much the same applies in Ottowa and Washington. The real problem, as I think everybody would determine, is that nobody has sat down and examined the actual functions of parliament today. We need a representative building which will be symbolic to the thousands of people who will want to pour through it as if it were a pathway on a public street. It belongs to everybody. We have also to consider the thousand or more people in this case who will work in the building. They will need privacy and immediate access to some of the facilities. That is an architectural challenge of some order. I do not know what the geographical solution will be for functions inside the parliament. It could be said that we would be better off if the two Houses were related to one another vertically rather than horizontally. It is easier these days to move people vertically than horizontally. This is one of the facts of life.
This brings me to the panel. I do not know many of the members but I notice that none, apart from our friends in the assessment panelthe two members of this Parliament- seems to have parliamentary experience. None of them knows exactly what happens in this place and how to resolve certain issues. If we are to have presidents of Liberal parties or whatever, we should be able to find people whose association with the Parliament has been close enough for them to understand the facts of life. Architects and engineers of that order must be available in State parliaments and this Parliament. We might have to expand the panel. I am very afraid that there is no way in which this coterie of people who have won great distinction in their own areas will understand the requirements of this job. I am not too sure that the people who know something about it will be adequately consulted either. Will the assessment panel call for designs, suggestions or applications from the Department of Housing and Construction? I ask that attention be given to this aspect. I take it that membership of the panels is not fixed for good. Perhaps they do not need to be kept at their present size. Sir John Overall brought to this city an intelligence and a professional integrity that none could better. But I am not too sure that he understood exactly what the Parliament was on about when it came to selection of a site. Mr Tony Powell, the present Commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission, is a man of understanding too, but are bridge builders, lawyers and so on who have had no association with Parliament itself likely to bring that kind of critical scrutiny to bear.
I ask that the questions which have been raised this evening be thoroughly examined and that we think of some way of permanent and continuous input from the Parliament. The argument against the site on Capital Hill at the time of the debate was quite persuasive. It was said that the building should be where people congregated and ought not to look as if it dominates. However, I think that the arguments for the Capital Hill site were not only persuasive but almost, in an absolute sense, the right ones. The first thing big public buildings need is space. One of the besetting weaknesses of nearly all public buildings in the world, which require room for many people, is difficulty of access and lack of space. There was a great difference between the amount of space and the amount of access on the lake site, the Camp Hill site and the Capital Hill site. The height of Capital Hill was not considered important. The site was all important. There is no difficulty in erecting a building as high as Capital Hill. Every main road leads to Capital Hill. The site is on a hill. I think the site offers a magnificent challenge to the architectural faculties of Australia. I hope that they rise to the challenge. I hope that the building will be as significant as the Opera House has become.
I do not think that any constraint whatsoever ought to be placed on costs. This country has nothing to worry about in that area. The Opera House was built from $ 100m raised from raffles, lotteries or some other form of the gambling illness that besets this society. There is no difficulty about raising the money; the difficulty will be in making the building functionally correct and adequate for an expanding parliament which may have 500 members in 30, 40 or 50 years time. I think that the Parliament as it presently works needs more members.
– Government architects should participate.
-My friend the honourable member for Melbourne refers to Government architects participating in the whole project, which is a matter I raised earlier. Nobody should be excluded, least of all members of parliament. I hope that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott), who is at the table, will turn his mind to the question of how continual participation will take place in accordance with the requirements of the Act. Honourable members will forgive my cynicism, scepticism or pessimismcall it what they will- for thinking that this is a wonderful place for high aspirations, for democratic parliamentary participation and for very low achievement.
– I join with other speakers in congratulating the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) on his fiftieth birthday. I think that he is probably continuing his celebration which began some time before his speech. I know that the present Parliament is more or less fifty years old as is the honourable member for Burke. I felt at one stage that I should say that both needed replacing, but in charity to the honourable member because of his great support and work for this concept I will restrict that comment to the building and not to him.
When the present Parliament was constructed in 1927 it was designated a temporary building. This has become more and more painfully apparent even in the eight years that I have been a member. Parliament first accepted the challenge in 1955 to appoint a committee and to make recommendations for a new and permanent parliament house. Now in 1979, 25 years and several committees later, the great venture is almost underway. The time lag of 25 years is perhaps either a reflection on the efficiency of parliamentary committees or the hesitancy to make decisions in favour of major public buildings in Australia, particularly parliamentary buildings. I say that the new venture is almost underway because the first stage of the design competition is about to begin and with it the great challenge to complete the building by 1988 which will be Australia ‘s 200th anniversary of settlement.
A great venture and a challenge it is. The new and permanent parliament house will be the most significant, symbolic structure in and of Australia. If it is not, because of failure in the concept and construction of the building or because of failure of Australians to see it as such, it will be an expensive tragedy. Parliament House, the centre of the nation’s capital and the seat of our democratic government, surely should be the symbol to Australians, along with the flag and the national song. The challenge is to have it seen and accepted as the symbol- a worthy substitute for Walter Burley Griffin’s original concept of a capital building on Capital Hill as that symbol.
The other pan of the challenge is the ability of those involved in the process, Parliament itself, the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, the Parliament House Construction Authority, the assessment panel, the people in the National Capital Development Commission and parliamentary officials who have already done so much work for it to have the building actually ready and of the required standard by 1988. The need for a new parliament house is apparent at least to me for both symbolic and practical reasons. It is necessary for practical reasons because the efficient functioning of the nation’s Parliament is now difficult. It will become increasingly more difficult in the intervening nine years or however long it takes for the new Parliament to be constructed.
Criticism of the proposal and the final cost has been made and will continue to be made. Those who have expressed a criticism to me have soon been silenced when I have shown them around the building and they have seen the conditions in which people work. I reassure the doubters and critics that the facilities for those who will work in a building that will be completed in 1988, whether they be members of Parliament or staff, are already modest by international parliamentary standards. I have visited a number of overseas parliaments. I would say that their facilities are more spacious than the facilities we have planned. We have to silence or reassure the doubters so that we can obtain the goodwill of Australians towards this project. We have to take positive action if we are to obtain this goodwill. We have to indicate that the new parliament house will not be just for members of Parliament or the people who work there. The people outside the system have to be involved as overseers or as guardians of the public good and the public purse- hence my reason for supporting an outside Construction Authority representing the public good.
A delicate balance is needed between Parliament in the chambers and in debate, the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, the Executive Government and the wider public. I cannot say that I am 100 per cent in agreement with the balance as I have seen it as a member of the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament
House for several years. For example, all the political parties must support and continue to support the concept. They must be given a continuing opportunity to be involved. If they are not, doubts and problems will arise. I am not convinced that this fact has been recognised to the extent that it could have been. The situation is still fragile. There is still the danger that a group of politicians may attempt to gain short-term political advantage by decrying the concept, the cost or something else as it evolves. I am not completely happy with the way that the Executive has overruled the Committee on several major aspects.
The Construction Authority is a responsible group from wider Australia, but I believe it lacks representation of two significant sectors if it is to be seen as a group representing wider Australia and the public good. The first group it fails to acknowledge or represent is the union movement. I believe that a union representative should be on the Construction Authority. I also believe that a representative of country Australia should be on the Authority. I speak as a country person and as a country member of Parliament. Time after time country Australia is forgotten when we look for representative groups for various purposes. I believe the assessment panel is a most suitable and expert group, blending architecture, construction and parliamentary experience. However, I would make a comment on the parliamentary representation. I believe that one of the two parliamentary members should be somebody with a far longer parliamentary experience than the present representatives. Somebody who has been a member of Parliament for 10 of 15 years and who completely understands the parliamentary process should be one of the representatives. Overall, I support the concept. The criticisms I make are not of sufficient concern to blunt my support for the concept or that of the National Country Party on whose behalf I am speaking tonight. We wish a happy 1988, with the highlight being the opening of the new and permanent Parliament House.
-First of all, I thank honourable members ibr the rational part of the debate which has taken place. That comment applies to most of the speeches. Unfortunately, it does not apply to part of the speech of the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). I had hoped that this would be a moment of unanimity, one of those rare moments in the Parliament when both sides speak with one voice. Unfortunately, the speech of the honourable member for Burke which started on a generous note in making some comments about me turned out to be mean and impoverished. The honourable member became a mouthpiece for villainous infamy and spurious slander. I was sorry to hear it. However, I shall deal with that part of his speech later. If he is listening to the debate I hope he will come back into the House to hear what I have to say about it.
I believe that this generation of Australians is a very lucky generation. We have the task and the privilege to do things that will last for centuries. That is very significant. In this city we are building buildings that have to bridge centuries. We are building a High Court and a National Gallery which will bridge centuries. The building that will be constructed as a result of this Bill is intended to serve Australians and Australian parliamentarians into the very distant future. It will be the Westminster of Australia. Every one of us needs to understand the significance of what we are doing. We are not just constructing another Public Service building. In a sense we are not just constructing a building for parliamentarians. We are building what will be the centrepoint of democracy in this country. Therefore, it is a wheel to which we all should be proud to put our shoulders.
It has taken a long time to get to this point. I am very privileged to feel that I have been able to play a part in the process. I also feel that it is a good thing that the matter has been left for so long. It has allowed the capacity which Australians undoubtedly have to build, construct, design and show their architectural skills to emerge. Had this building been constructed in 1920 or 1930 it would perhaps have shown the capacities of some British architect. This building will be a building for Australians. The building will involve Australian architects, Australian art and Australian design. Within it will be housed the centuries of future democracy in this country. We are the lucky Australians. Let us understand what we are about. We are not building just another building. Although some people in the community might be somewhat critical of politicians and think that we are building a great building for ourselves, I hope that they will understand that we are not doing that; we are undertaking this project for the country. I hope that they will be proud of it. I believe that they will be proud also when they see the High Court Building finished. A lot of comment has been made about the High Court building. Any Australians who walk through the High Court building when it is finished will feel that it is something distinctively Australian, something about which they will want to talk and of which they will be proud.
This Bill is cast against the background of what has been happening in recent months, indeed in recent years. In understanding the Bill one has to realise that the Parliament has already appointed the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. Next week we hope to be able to bring forward amendments which will bring the Committee into line with the proposals in the Bill. That Committee has done a tremendous job. I joined the Committee only last year. The task of the Committee has been very detailed. It has been aimed at producing what is called a user brief. That is a document which lays down the detail of this great building. It has involved many decisions and much discussion and research. The competition document will be based on it.
Tonight some honourable members have discussed whether the building will reflect parliamentarians. It is important to understand that the building will be built according to that user brief. It will be designed around that user brief. It is not a case in which we will design a shell and then decide what we will put in it. We have been working for years on the user brief. It is designed to inform those who will design the building of precisely what will go into it. That is the work of this Parliament. It is the work of its committee. The Committee is to be congratulated on what it has done. Processes to be followed in the future will involve close consultation. For instance, the Committee will continue in existence and will continue to provide advice to the Parliament House Construction Authority and to the Assessment Committee. In the process of the competition it will provide instructions and advice to the people who are chosen to participate in the competition. The Committee in a sense will be the watchdog of the Parliament and in another sense will tell those who are vitally interested the detail and nature of the building and the interrelationships between various facilities. The new parliament house will be a very complex building, but not of a complexity that intelligence and understanding cannot contemplate. The group of men of intelligence, integrity and experience in a number of fields who will work on this Authority will be able to see this job through and build the parliament house that we want.
What were our reasons for having an Authority? We could have asked the Department of Housing and Construction or the National Capital Development Commission to undertake this job; but the Government decided that the job required a group of people who would dedicate themselves to the precise work and who would be given power to get on with the job. Those men ought to be able to put together programs and implement the final plan. The necessary skills are embodied in the experience of these gentlemen whom we have chosen. The Authority is set up to get on with the job, not to be hampered overly much, but to keep within the resolutions of this Parliament. In other words, it does not have a free hand. Firstly, it will conduct a competition in accordance with the instructions of this Parliament, which I hope we will be able to give next week, after this Bill is passed. Later, through the assessment process, the Authority will recommend a final designer. I hope that that person will be endorsed by this Parliament. The final plan, with the sketch plans and details, will be endorsed by this Parliament. The Authority will work in accordance with the endorsed plans. So, at all times the Authority will be circumscribed by the decisions of this Parliament. At all times the Joint Committee will be there as the watchdog to make sure that the Authority is getting on with the job in accordance with the decisions and resolutions of this Parliament.
The honourable member for Burke criticised the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for announcing before this Bill came before the House the names of those who were to be appointed to the Authority. With respect, I do not think that the honourable member for Burke could have been present at some of the meetings of the Committee in January, if he is unaware of the urgency needed if this building is to be completed in time to be opened on 26 January 1988. There is a very tight time schedule. All members of the Joint Committee from both sides of this House are well aware of this fact. The honourable member for Burke is as much aware of it a we are. He knows why we announced the names in advance of the presentation of this Bill. Certain work had to be done over the parliamentary recess. The names would not have been announced early for any other reason.
– What has that to do with the announcement of the names?
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will remain silent.
– The gentlemen concerned had to do a very important job. Firstly, they had to get on with the task of appointing the Assessment Committee. Secondly, they had to settle the competition document. It is not to the point for the honourable member for Burke to criticise the Prime Minister in this place, on some spurious ground, for having announced the names of these people. These gentlemen were introduced by me to members of the Opposition in January. It is not for members of the Opposition to come into this chamber with their spurious tales and slander to try to reduce the standing of these men under the privilege of this House. The attack by the honourable member for Burke on the Prime Minister for announcing the names of these gentlemen is false, unfounded and, indeed, unfair. I am very sorry that I had to be here to listen to it. There was an attack on the people concerned. Who are these people? I will come back to Sir Bernard Callinan, who was attacked in a very unfair and slanderous way. I turn to the others. Sir John Overall is one. Who is Sir John Overall? He was the founding Commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission.
– One is a grouper, an absolute grouper. The other bloke was on the National Civic Council.
– He was not on the National Civic Council, and you know it.
– I am talking about the first person.
-You just be careful what you say.
– Don’t threaten me.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Melbourne to remain silent.
– Well, by the same token, I crave your indulgence, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– And keep quiet.
– Do not tell me to keep quiet.
-The honourable member for Melbourne will resume his seat and cease interjecting. I call the Minister.
– Oh, thank you very much.
- Sir John Overall was the Commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission from the time it was founded until 1 972. During that time one could say that in a sense Sir John was a sort of father of the new Canberra. He was the man who by and large had to implement the plan of Burley Griffin. He was the man who, along with Sir Robert Menzies, at an early date saw the desirability of constructing the lake and who put that into operation. He was then prepared, obviously along with the previous coalition Government, to undertake the task of building this magnificent city. If there is one man who understands the plan, who understands what the city is all about and who understands this Parliament and how it works from an architectural point of view, it is Sir John Overall.
Mr Ling who has also been mentioned is the Chairman of Hill Industries Ltd. I speak of him by repute but he is a man of considerable capacity. He is a self-made man who has built his own company. He is a practical man, a man who will be found to have the capacity that is needed. Mr Macphillamy is a local lawyer and a man of business experience. He is a person of considerable repute and integrity. He is a person of business understanding and an understanding of this city and how it works and how Parliament should fit into it. Mr Muir is the senior partner of Potter Partners. He has been attacked for being a financier. I should have thought that a man who was used to putting projects together was the sort of man we wanted and that his capacity of being one of our leading stockbrokers would have been of considerable help to a body such as this as it undertakes the financial task of getting on with the job. I do not need to speak of Mr Powell because he is the present Commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission.
Certain things have been said about Sir Bernard Callinan who, might I say, served in the Australian Imperial Force with the commandos and the infantry. He commanded the force which in 1942 fought a successful guerrilla war against the enemy in Timor. He was awarded the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order and was mentioned in dispatches. He has held a number of important appointments in engineering and in other fields in Australia. Yes, he did visit South Vietnam, but he did so as an adviser to the then Minister for External Affairs, then the Honourable R. G. Casey. In 1963, he was appointed a Commissioner of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, a position he currently holds. Between 1964 and 1972 he was a Councillor of La Trobe University and First Deputy Chancellor between 1967 and 1969. I ask all honourable members to listen to this: In 1973, Sir Bernard was appointed by the then Labor Government as one of the three royal commissioners to inquire into the Australian Post Office. He was appointed by the Labor Government, and yet we have this attack on him tonight by the honourable member for Burke.
During 1973 Sir Bernard was appointed a member of the Cities Commission Advisory Committee, an advisory body to the Cities Commission which had been established as the National Urban and Regional Development Authority by the McMahon Government. In 1976 he was appointed a Commissioner of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. In 1977 he was appointed a Commissioner of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have not mentioned that Sir Bernard has held senior positions in the Institution of Engineers. The Institution awarded him the prestigious Peter Nicol Russell Memorial Medal for a notable contribution to science and the practice of engineering. Sir Bernard has told me that he has never belonged to the Democratic Labor Party and has never belonged to the National Civic Council.
– Oh rubbish!
– There are people here who have tried to slander him tonight -
– Rubbish, absolute rubbish!
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I warn the honourable member for Melbourne that if he interjects again I will have to name him. I call. the Minister
– The evidence that has been given in this regard is the fact that apparently Sir Bernard addressed a meeting of the DLP. Well, he tells me that he did address an annual meeting of the NCC in the early 1960s, on which occasion he gave his observations on South East Asia after two visits there at the request of the then Minister for External Affairs, the then Mr Casey. He did not visit South Vietnam either for the NCC or for any other organisation. What has been said here tonight by the honourable member for Burke is completely and utterly false and slanderous, and I hope that he has the manliness to withdraw what he has said. One can only think of why he said it.
A question was asked about the position of the Department of Housing and Construction in relation to the competition. It is a fact that in relation to the archives competition the Department of Housing and Construction has been permitted to be a competing architect. So it is possible for the Department to be involved in the competition. As far as I understand the position at the moment, it is not part of the rules of this competition for that Department to be involved. So far as I understand it, the Minister for Housing and Construction will not be involved in the competition, nor will the Department. (Extension of time granted.) I am informed by the Minister that the Department will not be an entrant in the competition.
– The competition will therefore proceed on the basis that has been set out. If the honourable member who keeps interjecting was present at the meetings of the joint committee he would know that these matters were fully considered by the Committee in conjunction with the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. The Department is just not included in the competition, and there it is.
One other thing that is important- I think it is mentioned in the second reading speech- is the assessment panel itself. Sir John Overall is the Chairman. One of Australia’s leading younger architects, Mr Andrews, is also on the assessing panel. I think it is’ very significant that he is on the panel because he represents, as I say, the younger mould of Australian architects. He will be able to bring to bear on the assessing panel the capacity that put him in a very favourable light when he conducted a practice, I understand in Canada, and won a number of awards there for his architectural capacity. He was also the designer of the Cameron offices in Canberra. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) is also on the assessing panel as is Senator Gareth Evans. I will not go into their backgrounds. I will not embarrass the honourable member for McMillan by doing so and by making him feel what a fine person he is, because he is a fine person. I just want to say this: The significant thing about their appointment and selection is first of all the enthusiasm that they have brought to the task, but secondly, the fact that they represent the generation of parliamentarians who are going to occupy the building, and I think that is terribly important. They are the younger members and they will bring the enthusiasm, the knowledge and the aspirations of parliamentarians of the 1 990s to their task. They will therefore represent the Parliament well. In addition, we have been able to obtain the services of one of the world’s great architects on the assessing panel and that is Mr Pei of New York. He is a man of great renown in the field of architecture and I am very glad to be able to tell the House of his appointment.
I conclude my remarks by again thanking honourable members although regretting the tenor of some of the remarks that have been made here tonight. However, once again, I express the hope and the aspirations that I expressed earlier, namely, that we will see this building as an opportunity for us as Australians to express at this time something of our national spirit and our national capacity. I commend this Bill to all honourable members.
– You will be wow in the High Court.
-During the course of this debate, the honourable member for Melbourne has behaved in a manner which I feel is not fitting for the Parliament. Because the subject matter of the debate was something which the House was concerned about on a non-party basis I did not name him but I wish the honourable member for Melbourne to know that in future behaviour of the kind which the House has witnessed from him tonight will result in my naming him with much less warning than I gave him tonight.
– I demand a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I certainly do.
-Does the honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
– I do.
-The honourable member may proceed.
-I believe that I have been placed in a position of provocation by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott). With due respect to you, Mr Speaker you came into this debate some time after the debate had commenced.. In terms of that provocation and some of the matters that were raised in the first instance, you may well have been a better judge whether my behaviour was reprehensible, as you have put it if you had been here all the time. Certain remarks have been made by members on either side of the House. These occur in the general context of a debate when matters such as are in issue now are raised. I certainly do not act in a manner which you put to me this evening as -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. He is not making a personal explanation. He is debating the matter and I will hear no more. The honourable member for Melbourne will resume his seat.
– Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. That is the ultimate of democracy.
-The honourable member for Melbourne will withdraw that remark.
-I withdraw it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Bill reported from Legislation Committee without amendment.
Ordered that consideration of the report be made an order of the day for the next day of sittting
Debate resumed from 22 March, on motion by Mr Adermann:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Wine Grapes Levy Collection Bill, the Wine Grapes Charges (Repeal) Bill and the Wine Overseas Marketing Amendment Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, that the House permits the subject matter of each of these Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering each of these measures? There being no objection, I will permit that course to be followed.
-The Opposition does not oppose the Bills before the House. We can see little point in opposing such a minor measure. The purpose of the Wine Grapes Levy Bill is to ensure that the levy is being paid in respect of all grapes and grape juices used in the production of wine, brandy and spirits for fortifying wine. The Wine Grape Charges Act has been in operation since 1929 and the Australian Wine Board, which is financed by this levy, has recently presented its fiftieth annual report to the Parliament. The Australian Wine Board is responsible, under the relevent Act, for controlling the export of wine, for undertaking promotion in Australia and overseas, and for research into the quality of Australian wine and brandy. I would suggest that, after 50 years, there may be some reason to examine the role and functions of the Wine Board. It has a budget of only about $ 1.2m to $1.4m per annum of which approximately $l.lm was gained from the levy in 1977-78. The Wine Board’s total promotional expenditure during that year was some $736,000 of which the general media campaign was some $416,000. Given the costs of promotions these days, this amount seems to be neither one thing nor another. The Wine Board needs either a lot more or a lot less money. Perhaps it believes that it is down to the minimum.
The major promotion of brandy, wine and spirits is now actively and competitively carried out by wine and spirit producing and importing firms in Australia. The Board concentrates on promotion of a more general nature. It concentrates on the provision of information and education as well as some direct promotions. It was broadly accepted that the Board’s promotions some IS years ago were instrumental in starting the rapid growth in Australian wine consumption. This growth still continues overall. The imbalance that crept into this accelerated consumption was the switch in consumer preference from red to white table wines. I have always been astounded that more promotion is not given to red wine as an advertising strategy; yet when I have questioned private firms on this aspect they have indicated that they believe that they should push what is selling. Some firms are actively engaged in the decolouration of red grapes and chemists have found that they can happily use dried vine fruit varieties for bulk wines. These activities are beyond the Australian Wine Board to the extent that there are insufficient funds for it to play a role side by side with the commercial interests in the industry.
The Board provides a service in respect to controlling export standards. No questions are raised about this function. The Board should possibly look at some import standards and descriptions of imported wines and brandies. It would appear, with respect to export promotion, that the Australian Wine Board finds itself either up against very strong international economic and institutional forces, or unable to mount a sufficient campaign to make any dent in the overseas market. We are small cheese internationally as far as wine production is concerned and the policies and surpluses of the European Economic Community make the market place a difficult one indeed in which to gain a foothold.
Export results have not been good in recent years. Exports of both wine and brandy fell again in 1977-78, the most recent year for which we have figures. The Australian wine industry is losing its market in Canada and the United Kingdom, which to date have been our principal outlets. A drop in exports to Japan was disappointing in that year as this is one of the nontraditional markets to which we look to replace sales lost in markets such as the United Kingdom. On a more positive note, exports to the South East Asian and Oceania regions, with the exception of New Zealand and Indonesia, are more buoyant. I understand that the Australian
Wine Board has received several inquiries from overseas interests for very large quantities of grape origin ethyl alcohol. However, the Australian industry was not able to tender competitively with the virtual dumping prices offered by France.
Let us go through some of the export markets and our performance on a country by country basis. I look first at the United Kingdom. Exports of wine to the United Kingdom are now at a low ebb and account for only 10 per cent of Australia’s exports. They have continued to fall to approximately 485,000 litres in 1977-78. That is another drop of 8 per cent. In the 1960s, for example, the figure was close to 5 million litres. The European Economic Community requires an analysis certificate to accompany imported wines. The Australian Government Analytical Laboratory is the accredited laboratory for Australia. The Commonwealth Government has increased the analysis fee by 250 per cent from $50 to $175 per sample. I understand that the Australian Wine Board has requested the Government to reconsider this decision in view of the harmful effect that it will have on exports of wine to the EEC, especially the United Kingdom. Because of an overriding objective of cost recovery from the ultimate beneficiaries of inspection services, the Commonwealth Government was not able to reverse the original decision to increase charges. But given the predominance of the EEC in the world wine industry it was somewhat a question of ‘taking coals to Newcastle’ if Australia thought it could sell much wine there. The phrase ‘coals to Newcastle’ does not seem to have much relevance these days because I understand we are sending coal to Newcastle and British Steel is buying it.
Let us look at the position in regard to exports to some of the other countries. There has been a decline in exports to Canada, but it has slowed a little. The position is starting to stabilise. Even so, in the last year there was a drop of some 13 per cent. Exports to United States are increasing slightly. There has been a drop in exports to Japan of about 17 per cent in 1977-78. Japan takes about 3 per cent of Australia’s wine exports. As far as South East Asia is concerned, Australia’s proximity to this region appears to make markets there a most attractive export proposition for Australian wines. However, there are a number of limiting factors. For instance Hong Kong principally consumes French brandy, leaving the remaining proportion of the liquor market to be divided amongst other brandy and wine exporters. As always, the major competition faced by Australian wines comes from the EEC countries. Often these markets are limited to the expatriates and itinerant populations. However, we are selling some wine in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore, plus a little in Indonesia and the Philippines. But by and large our export sales are diminishing and we face a larger and larger problem in Australia with respect to the surplus.
One of the suggestions put forward by the Australian Wine Board in its most recent annual report is a registration of vineyards to generate accurate information on grape plantings, thus enabling informed planning by the industry and possible entrance to it. I think this is fair enough, but it is probably a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. The main feature of the outlook for wine grapes for the present vintage is a forecast of from 85,000 tonnes to 100,000 tonnes surplus mainly of the red grape varieties. This compares with the surplus from the previous vintage of from 30,000 tonnes to 50,000 tonnes. It is expected that 1979 prices paid to wine grape growers will reflect minimum prices set by the South Austraiian Prices Commission and for differing supply-demand relationships for various grape varieties. Total grape production in 1979 at around 770,000 tonnes will be down marginally from the previous year and grape intake by wineries is expected to decline by some 12 per cent to around 380,000 tonnes. Grapes required for drying are expected to decrease to around 285,000 tonnes. Fresh consumption should remain at about 25,000 tonnes.
The rate of growth of dry white table wine sales is likely to remain particularly strong. The rate of decline in dry red table wine sales and most fortified wine sales is expected to slacken significantly. The winery intake for most white grape varieties is expected to continue to expand, while intake of red grape varieties will contract. The intake of red grapes is likely to be down considerably, mainly due to the reduced requirements for fortifying grape spirit. Wineries are expected to continue to seek to run down stocks of red and fortified wines. It is these factors that are expected to result in the surplus of red grapes left on vines increasing by about 50,000 tonnes to the figure I gave earlier of between 85,000 tonnes and 100,000 tonnes. The final outcome will depend importantly upon the actual level of production and stock adjustment decisions of winemakers in the light of current market circumstances and expectations of future market developments.
Beyond 1978-79 wine consumption patterns will depend importantly on consumer preferences, the general level of economic activity and the price relativities between different alcoholic beverages. Price relativities in turn will be affected by government taxation policies . It is apparent from the magnitude of red grape variety surpluses that supply adjustments will need to take place within the industry. I guess this is an economist’s euphemism for saying there is going to have to be a few vines pulled out. The extent of the surplus problem and options for adjustment within the grape-growing sector currently are the subject of an inquiry by the Industries Assistance Commission. I do not know what conclusions the IAC is going to come to with respect to the wine industry. It may be that after three or four years, given that there are no more plantings in the intervening period and given that there is still at least another two years ‘ plantings yet to come into production, possibly over a period of four or five years, the industry will get a little into balance.
There has been quite a deal of speculation about how the surplus came about. I think we can identify clearly two factors. One was the fact that there seemed to be a bit of a bandwagon effect a few years ago when a lot of finance moved into the wine grape production due to the fact that consumption was rising so fast. Some people received windfall profits, but many took windfall losses. I think one of the other things that may have affected the amount of grapes being put into the ground has been the fact that the South Australian Prices Commissioner sets a price below which companies could often obtain grapes by planting their own. This is a feature of the industry. I am not knocking what the South Australian Prices Commissioner does, but in South Australia there are many small grape growers, as there are in the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area which is represented by the member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick). A large portion of the industry has been dominated by firms themselves rather than winemaking firms buying from small growers. Whatever the features of the industry, I think one could economically posit that as being part of the reason why some of the big firms, particularly brandy firms, have gone into planting more grapes.
There can be no doubt that changes in taxation have exacerbated the wine industry’s problems; but it is equally certain that the reintroduction of section 3 1a and a reduction in the brandy excise would not prove an easy panacea. Within the present recessionary climate, there exists an unfortunate conjunction of economic forcesincreased supply costs, demand fluctuations, surplus production and price discounting- which, together with alterations to the tax structure, have left some sections of the industry hesitant of the future. If the present excess of red grapes is to be absorbed, it is necessary to stock large inventories of red wine or to increase brandy distillations. But alterations to the tax structure mitigate against such a course. So it is not surprising that there is a tide of pessimism at present. Unless viable production alternatives can be found or the Government intervenes, many wine grape growers face reduced demand for their crops. That is perfectly obvious.
The technology of winemaking is such that in the main, wine requires a period of maturation before it is ready for sale. Winemakers must keep sufficient matured stocks to satisfy present demand and sufficient maturing stocks to satisfy future demand. Winemakers must estimate or forecast future sales when making their production and stockholding decisions. The outlook forecast for wine grapes in some selected varieties appears to be encouraging, whereas in other varieties there is concern for the future as winemakers and brandy distillers cannot be seen to utilise all wine grapes that are and will become available. It is very important to consider the prospects for the industry over the next few years. We would need to make some forecasts to give the industry, producer and grower, predictions for the wine and brandy producing industry for the years ahead, particularly 1981 and 1982. We need those sorts of forecasts now. We also need to draw attention to the statistical evidence of industry stocks and their implications. There is a need for action in the development of markets for wine and brandy products. I said a moment ago that there is no doubt that the government policy with respect to taxation concerning the removal of section 31a is really hurting wine growers and is causing Government back benchers a lot of concern. I have a copy of a letter to the editor of the Murray Pioneer which was written by my friend the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles) and which he tried to dissemble. In part he wrote:
Frankly, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer do not consult me on the matter of revenue raising.
They do not consult back benchers, nor do they consult the majority of Ministers.
Both myself and the Government Parties Rural Committee repeatedly advised the Government to decrease brandy excise, or if that were not possible, to introduce a differential in favour of brandy.
Frankly, I am just as frustrated as the growers.
It is for that reason I announced last week that I would oppose authorising legislation when it came before the House later in the year, and would continue to do so.
So I suppose we can expect the honourable member for Wakefield to cross the floor with us tonight. Senator Teague, in his maiden speech in the Senate last year said:
Introduction of the proposed 83 per cent increase in excise on brandy . . .
It is now a fact-
Of course, there has been a lot of flak. One need only point to newspaper after newspaper. We have heard of the grapes of wrath and the wrath of the grape, of the brandy tax storm and of the fact that ‘The Brandy Storm Grows’. In October 1978, after the excise was levied, there was a 43 per cent drop in brandy sales.
The Federal Government has disclaimed that it is considering any new tax but we should raise here the possibility that the Government may put a tax on wine itself. It has acted clearly against the interests of the growers with respect to the brandy industry and so far the responsible Minister has not given a firm assurance that the Government has not considered imposing a wine tax and may not do so in in the next Budget.
People on either side of this chamber who represent wine growing areas are firmly opposed to the brandy excise tax and also very concerned about where the wine grape industry is heading. The economics of the brandy issue were covered recently in the Industries Assistance Commission’s draft report on the subject, issued in the last day or two. It points out clearly just what are the economics involved and why the Commission- it is not a question of its not being sympathetic to the industry- believes that, using economic terms rather than political reality it cannot advocate that the tax be taken off. One of the issues raised was the question of granting assistance to the Australian brandy industry as a means of providing assistance to grape growing. Of course, the relationship between growing grapes for wine and for brandy is clear and is understood by all honourable members. It was argued that the wine grape industry could be assisted by differential taxation treatment, such as a reduction in the excise on brandy, or the imposition of further restrictions on imported spirits, which should induce increased consumption of brandy. This is presumed to result in an increase in the uptake of grapes. Assistance to grape growing and to the producers of grape-derived products. I repeat, is currently under consideration by the IAC in a separate inquiry into grapes and wine. The efficacy of attempting to assist grape growers through measures acting on the demand for grapes and grape-derived products, for example, brandy, will be covered in that report, but we can make a few speculative comments about the line of economic argument that the IAC will take. It says:
Any increase in the consumption of Australian produced brandy as a result of excise, or sales tax, concessions is likely to reduce the consumption of other potable spirits as much as reducing the consumption of imported brandy. The excise concession would thus discriminate in favour of Australian produced brandy probably at the expense of other locally produced spirits.
Even if it is possible to induce an increase in local brandy sales it is doubtful whether this would significantly increase brandy output or result in a significantly greater uptake of grapes for brandy production. In view of the current levels of stocks of brandy and rectified grape spirit, there is no guarantee that further assistance to brandy at this time would increase local brandy output or increase the uptake of grapes for brandy production in sufficient time to overcome to any significant degree the existing reported oversupply of grapes.
The IAC further argues:
Even if assistance to brandy were to maintain the level of domestic clearances and exports of brandy at the level which existed in 1977 and 1978, the uptake of grapes to be crushed would be about 37,000 tonnes or less than 10 per cent of the total Australian grape crush for wine and spirits. This would be an indirect and small basis on which to provide any assistance for grapegrowing.
If all brandy imports . . . were replaced by local production, the prospective increase in uptake of grapes for brandy would be only about 6,000 tonnes and would not overcome the estimated grape surplus from the current vintage. It is doubtful whether action against imported brandy would in any case result in a substitution of locally produced brandy for the more expensive imported brandies such as cognac.
I will not continue reading from the IAC draft report but what I have tried to put before the House is the economic argument as to why the IAC is not sympathetic to the wine industry or the brandy industry. Hopefully, the major report on that industry will be a little more sympathetic, but as it is we have before us a draft report which does not exhibit any great sympathy for the industry but which argues purely and simply in terms of economics. I am sure that the growers and responsible people in that industry dispute that sort of economic argument, as a basic political fact. They are concerned about the people involved and about the industry and still want to have some form of assistance. I do not know where the balance of the argument should lie, but I am afraid that the Government will go along with the IAC.
There has also been some speculation on just what effect the increase in brandy excise is having on revenue per se. The Government’s rationale was that it was increased not to hit the industry but simply to raise excise. Some have pointed out that the impost was so savage that perhaps the revenue derived by the Government had actually gone down. The point is that the rise was so extreme that the revenue to the Government will not decline. To pursue that further, the 84 per cent increase in excise announced in the Budget resulted in approximately a 25 per cent increase in bar prices, that is, a price increase for brandy of about 18c a nip, as compared with the figure of 10c a nip projected in the Budget Speech. The additional 8c was due to the operation of the 15 per cent sales tax on spirits, State licence fees- which average approximately 8 per cent- and commercial mark-ups.
Brandy clearances for the October-January period were 26 per cent down compared with the same period of the previous year. That is, I believe, a fair figure to use. Because of the monthly settlement figures, the September figures would include pre-Budget speculation and thus be high. Any figures which include that for September would therefore be misleading. It would be reasonable to expect that the final effect of the Budget on clearances would be less than the 26 per cent decline I have mentioned. The immediate post-Budget clearances were reduced by stock adjustment processes of consumers and distributors after the significant pre-Budget speculation which existed. Even so, a drop of anything like 20-26 per cent is significant. However, it is nonsense to suggest that the Government will lose excise revenue as a result of having increased the excise on spirits. For that to happen, a 25 per cent increase in price would have to cause approximately a 46 per cent drop in clearances; that is, an elasticity of 1.84, and we simply do not have that sort of parameter in the present economic situation.
– Do you know whether they are up to the estimates? Are they getting what they expected?
– I do not know. I have departed from the main topic of the Bills, which were simply directed to giving a bit more levy to the Australian Wine Board, but this industry is in trouble and the IAC is inquiring into it. It has examined the wine and potable spirits section and it would appear that, using the economic argument, it is not making recommendations that are sympathetic to the industry. The crunch really comes in the Riverland. That is where the hurt will really be felt. It was a great pity that the
Government did not take up some of the previous recommendations of the IAC concerning fruit growing in general. One of the points it stresses in those recommendations is that area redevelopment authorities need to be established, particularly for these horticultural irrigation regions, such as the Riverland. Another point of view is that the Riverland itself is probably sufficiently diversified to withstand the pressures upon its wine grape growing industry- the assumption is that a lot of these farms are fruit salad type farms, and that, as long as supply and demand comes into balance in the next three or four years, perhaps these farms will retain viability. I do not know where the equation lies. I am sure that all honourable members look forward to the comment of the honourable member for Wakefield who has a more personal and intimate acquaintance with the situation in the Riverland.
The IAC draft report also points to the effect of the South Australian Prices Commissioner’s setting a price that may be a little too high. Again, I make no judgment on that, although I can understand that that economic effect could be taking place. A few people are saying that a cut in wine grape prices is likely to occur and that this will be one of the ways in which the industry will be sorted out. I believe that that is a rather cruel way to approach the industry. But, as I said at the outset, we await the IAC report on the industry overall. Then we can see what action the Government takes in respect of those recommendations. As to the recommendations of the IAC, the report is still only in the draft stage.
– I agree with so much that my friend, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin), has said on several occasions that I will have to watch myself. There are areas in relation to which I disagree with him, but he really has done his homework extraordinarily well. I congratulate him on his approach- it is an economist’s approach- to the problems of the wine and brandy industry. I will argue with him later on one or two minor points, but the fact is that I find so much that he said to be exactly true in my experience.
The principal thrusts of the wine grape Bills is to ensure that all grapes that find their way into the wine and distillation industries attract a levy which is used to finance the activities of the Australian Wine Board. With alterations, the Wine Grape Charges Act has been the vehicle for collecting this levy since 1929. The levy is collected at winery or distillery level on grapes used for the purposes I have described. Newer technological advances have led- or, in the case of some of the statements that I am about to make, will lead- to grapes of different varieties being stored in a number of forms. That means that single strength, concentrate and, I believe in some cases, powdered grape juice will in the future form a variety pool from which smaller wineries and other wineries can order varieties to make up their budgetary shortfalls towards the end of the season and thus replenish or reorientate to the demand that those wineries are experiencing. That is the direction in which the new technology is going. This is part of the reason for the introduction of the Bills that we are considering this evening.
The decision as to where such grape derivative is used is not in many instances made at the stage of grape intake. It may well be that, from the pool of grape juice or concentrate, firms will draw variety juice such as shiraz, malbec, riesling, et cetera, to make up any shortfall in their own budget planning. Nowadays, if a wine maker is short of a certain variety for blending or other purpose, he can overcome that shortfall. So I repeat that the commercial position as to the end use of different varieties held within pools is not necessarily made at the time of the intake of grapes. Likewise, such pool juice can be held at the winery at which it is eventually used for distillation or wine making purposes. Of course, alternatively in some of the bigger wineries that juice can be retained and used in the manufacture of grape juice. That does not attract a levy under these Bills.
The operation of the Wine Grape Charges Act, as I understand it and its associated legislation, will continue until the end of the financial year, after which it will in effect be replaced by the Wine Grapes Levy Act. Other matters touched on by these Bills include an updating of the conditions, penalties, et cetera, currently applicable to other industries and the machinery to allow rebates in instances of over payment of the levy.
The honourable member for Werriwa dealt with the statistics- I will not repeat them- in relation to both wine exports and brandy sales overseas. There are one or two things that need to be said. All is not gloom on the wine situation today. For instance, a Victorian firm- I think it is the concern of a Mr Murphy- is currently taking 10,000 gallons of bulk red wine and 10,000 gallons of white wine from the Riverland area per month and selling it overseas. He has mounted, for the first time in the United Kingdom, casks as a means of selling wines to British people. It should be borne in mind that people in America, France, the Continent and England, still think that wine should come in bottles and that any other type of container might taint the product. I anticipate that, through building his casks in London and shifting wine over in bulk, this trade and trade like it can continue to expand over many years.
What is the reason for this, Mr Deputy Speaker? The reason for these new sale techniques and these new organisations is quite clearly the Federal Government’s export expansion incentives, without which that sort of trade probably would have not got off the floor. I instance that as just one of many projects that are currently in operation. I do so only because the honourable member for Werriwa has reminded me of the falling statistics pertaining to export wine over some years in various countries such as Canada and America. I think that the bottom has been reached. I believe that we should take advantage of our own technology and our own use of bulk wines, which always in my house seem to attract the attention and credit of overseas visitors as being very adequate at a price. I believe that only Bulgarian white wines sold on the United Kingdom market will be able to undersell us in any particular way. So this Government- although, as honourable members will know, I am not altogether pleased with its action in terms of increase in excise as it affects the brandy industry- has something on which to hang its hat and some credit that it can claim. The honourable member for Werriwa is then game enough- and I congratulate him on his courage- to mention the pricing arrangement for grapes. For some time now many people- and I am thinking of Treasury departmental peoplehave been very angry at what they regard as the over pricing of grapes from wine grape growers to the market. Of course, the only statutory control on this that I am aware of is the statutory control in South Australia by the Prices Commissioner. The honourable member for Werriwa was properly courageous in mentioning it. He was also properly sensible in not continuing his argument too far from that. I will oblige him and do so.
For some years now the South Australian Government, with the best will in the world, with a heart that frankly was too soft, has succeeded in centring the whole surplus in Australia of grapes in South Australia and, indeed, in the Riverland area. As I look at the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), let me remind the House that just over the border from Riverland one major firm is currently buying brandy type grapes at two prices. One price is for use in the white wine field, where there is a shortfall of grapes, particularly as gordos were knocked back considerably by heat and unseasonable conditions when they were in strong demand. So doradillos and grapes of that nature are being bought in Mildura at two prices- one price for white wine manufacture, which is a perfectly respectable price, and a lower price for use in the distillation industry. In the honourable member’s area, brandy is now being made because of the problems of lack of economy of scale for other firms in South Australia. One can buy at two prices in Victoria. I suppose one can buy at any price there and in New South Wales. But in South Australia one does not have that capacity. So it is rather like labour costing itself out of the market over the last two years, or over the last five year thanks to the Whitlam Government. It is rather similar to that situation. In South Australia, in comparison with any other State, the price of grapes has been set at a level that is too high. Now, I suppose I am being as courageous as the honourable member for Wakefield in pointing that out to this House because small farmers on IS acres irrigated or whatever need every penny that they can get for their produce. They have not got the fat to fight off times when rain hits their grapes. They do not have the fat to ride out a slump in the market. Of course it is for this reason, historically, that over the years the wine grape industry has used the brandy industry for two real reasons. The first is cyclical imbalance that occurs every now and again because brandy and spirit is cheaply and readily stored and, secondly, in seasons like this last one when rain hit the grape crop. Governments, I suppose, cannot be expected to realise that when grapes split due to the ravages of rainfall, frankly they are not very good for use in the wine industry to make quality wine. In that instance we need to have a distillation side of an integral industry. That perpetually has been my problem with both governments. The Labor Government put up brandy excise by 231 per cent. This Government has put it up by 84 per cent. Neither of them could be made to see that there are very good and sound reasons why a spirit and brandy industry must exist to make an efficient wine industry. I do not know what to make of the Industries Assistance Commission which is there, as far as my growers are concerned, to assist industry. The Commission perpetually blinds itself with science to the degree where it does the opposite in all its recommendations towards this particular industry. When I look around me at some sympathetic faces I do not believe that that is the only rural industry that feels that way. Let us be quite fair about it. A big percentage of people in Australia today in rural areas and in rural industries look for assistance from the Industries Assistance Commission. They do not look on it, as a Minister from South Australia described it recently in the Press, as a joke in poor taste visited on the industry. It puts me in a difficult position. I am here because I believe that the Industries Assistance Commission is a vital part of efficient government for the future. But I note in passing, that a high percentage of people today, in those sorts of industries, can see no rhyme or reason in what that Commission tends to recommend. To them it amounts to the opposite of assistance to that rural industry.
The honourable member for Werriwa then spoke of spirit. I do not know that he used the word spirit. I think he meant that the projected demand from Portugal for Australian spirit exported to that market was for fortification purposes and was primarily used in fortified wine production in that country. This in itself is quite an interesting story. Admittedly the honourable member for Werriwa was correct when he said that the industry single-handed could not quite meet the price that was offered. But, my word, it was not far away. It would not have taken governments or proprietary firms a lot of imagination to help quit- if it is the role of governments and of the IAC to disband the production of spirit in this country- or meet that deal. The previous year the European Economic Community, by a series of mechanisms which I will not go into, succeeded in stopping any possibility of that particular deal in a nice display of community selfishness. So Portugal bought spirit with a fundamental source of sucrose from the sugar beet industry. The Portugese are not happy with it. They want spirit with the basic ingredient of fructose which is a form of fruit sugar. The whole of the brandy stock for six years that will stop distillaries buying Australian grapes for that purpose for some years to come, could indeed have been lifted into Portugal this year with a little bit more help and management from various sections of the industry. One of the tragedies as I see it is that nothing has been done about the situation. It looks as though we will not meet that particular situation.
The honourable member for Werriwa also mentioned the Australian Wine Board in relation to the levies collected under these four Bills for use in promoting exports and for other purposes. I hope that a committee which is currently sitting and looking at future functions of the Wine Board will complete its work in due course and that we will find a restructured form of the Australian Wine Board in the future.
I think the House will remember that when the dried fruit corporation legislation was mooted I for one thought that it was a retrogressive step. Surely if we are going to form something as highfalutin as a corporation, it should include the industry of grape growing, not just one section of it like dried fruit production. It should have encompassed the lot, including grape juice, nonalcoholic wines and everything else, if for no other reason than this: If honourable members had represented the wine industry for as long as I have then they would be subjected to the following pulls, namely, the grape growers, State governments, Federal governments, proprieties, co-operatives, dried fruit producers and, more latterly, the increasing sale trend of grape juice itself. There is no possibility of getting them talking with one common voice and of putting forward the interests of grape growers to governments. In passing, I do regret that the Government formed a separate corporation for the dried fruit industry when it could have encompassed other sections of the industry. However, I look forward to taking part a little in any future restructuring of the Australian Wine Board which I think will occur. I add that comment to the comments of the honourable member for Werriwa in relation to the Australian Wine Board.
Let me in the few minutes remaining, touch once again on the surplus of grapes in Australia and why that occurs. I did not complete my remarks. Quite apart from cycles of overproduction which I think occurs in any industry from time to time, I have already dealt with the actions of the Prices Commissioner in South Australia in setting a price in the lean years or in years when demand is stronger than supply. That price becomes the accepted price level across State boundaries. But, of course, when the opposite trend occurs there is no way that the current situation can hold. So we see today, as we saw last year in States other than my own State of South Australia, wine grape producers selling grapes consequentially below the declared price in South Australia. Let us take another example which the honourable member for Werriwa used. He pointed to the new technique of making white wine from shiraz grapes and other forms of red grapes. For example one should pick them early enough, take the skin off them quickly enough and carbonate to remove the colour. I do not think carbonate is quite the right word. But one can only do this if one can buy a supply of red grapes cheaply enough. One cannot pay premium prices for red grapes and then try to turn those into a white type of wine that really is only a filling variety. It is not a variety with the character that one wants in white wines. Even in that case, unfortunately, South Australia has done its best to make sure that people go and purchase shiraz grapes or whatever from anywhere other than the Riverland area. Harness that to the fact that two Labor Governments, with Steele Hall in between, have given water licences to huge firms that could have been controlled. This has caused an increase in the production of grapes in the Riverland area that more than compensates for the current surplus.
Employment- Commercial Publication Failures of Companies- Tourism- EducationSport and Recreation
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-The employed civilian labour force in November 1970 was 5,361,100- a time of comparatively low unemployment- and in November 1978 it was 5,997,300, an increase of 636,200 despite the comparatively high levels of unemployment. The total civilian labour force in November 1978- those offering for work, including employed and unemployed- was 6,538,700. The actual number of jobs held in Australia was higher than ever before, as was correctly pointed out by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume), but there was a widening gap between those offering for work and those actually in work. From about 1945 until 1970 approximately, there was a close correlation between growth rates in GDP or GNP- the gross domestic product or the gross national product- the growth rate of the labour force, and the growth rate of jobs. Since 1970 there has been a continuing correlation between the GDP/GNP growth rate and the growth rate of the labour force, but the growth rate of jobs, whilst still increasing absolutely but only at a low rate, has flattened out on the graph while the other curves are still rising sharply. Part of this is due to the changing population profile and the unusually high proportion of people offering for work. That is to say, the number of people roughly between the ages of 1 8 and 60 is proportionately very much higher as a section of total population than it has ever been before. The other factor of course is the increasing proportion of women offering for work. However, the shortfall- now amounting to 493,000 jobs- between the size of the civilian work force and the actual number of jobs held, largely represents the ‘technological bite’, a situation which is marked by and worsened by the increasing gap between the comparative cost of labour and the comparative cost of labour-displacing technology.
The recent advertisements which appeared spread over two pages in the Melbourne Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review- for example in the Australian Financial Review of 13 March- by Olivetti Australia Pty Ltd, illustrate the width of that gap under the headline in capital letters- and the punctuation is not mine-‘ OLIVETTI INTRODUCE MINI WORD PROCESSING. AT A MINI PRICE, ONLY $33 A WEEK. TAX DEDUCTIBLE’. The advertisement claims, probably correctly, that the TES 40 1 can produce personalised original letters at 350 words a minute- 5 to 10 times faster than a secretary with a standard electric typewriter. On a conservative basis, if five secretaries each earn $ 180 a week in an office- that is $900 gross a week- and are displaced by a mini word processor costing $33 a week on lease this is a 27 to one differential. In fact, it is an infinite differential if the $33 is entirely tax deductible. But let us say it is a 27 to one differential.
Let me examine the question of abolishing payroll tax. Bear in mind that payroll tax is not payable unless gross wages for a firm exceed $60,000 per annum. In a firm subject to payroll tax the annual payroll deduction for five typists on $ 180 a week would total $2,340. If payroll tax is abolished, the differential would still be of the order of 25 to one. In other words, it would hardly make a very significant difference.
I believe that the conventional Keynesian wisdom that employment levels are almost entirely determined by demand is now pretty well exploded and ought to be discarded because it provides a false hope which is unlikely to be confirmed by events. Employment in the provision of many services is certainly in direct proportion to demand- for example, in the provision of personal services. If there is a doubling in demand for haircuts or tooth fillings, we can expect the number of hairdressers or dentists to double. But due to modern technology in the supply of general services on a massive scale employment may well be in inverse proportion to demand, for example, banking transactions are up but employment is down, Telecom Australia is handling more calls than ever but employment is down. The Victorian State Electricity Commission is producing far more power than ever but employment is down. The chemical industry’s output is increasing but employment is down. Sales of petrol doubled between 1 970 and 1977 in Australia but employment of pump jockeys dropped by 40 per cent.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise tonight to give the House further information on the matter that I raised in the adjournment debate on 1 March last. Honourable members may recall that at that time I raised matters concerning a discount shoppers’ club and I related to the House information about pamphlets that were being widely distributed within my electorate. In view of events which have taken place since that time, I feel it is my public responsibility to continue to give warnings against this unscrupulous operator and I would now say very dangerous operations such as the Carlingford Discount Shopper. Honourable members may recall that in my speech I outlined this dubious enterprise. It involves promises of large discounts on the purchase of many items for people who pay $10 to join a discount club. Investigations have since shown that prices advertised by the club are far below even the wholesale price of the goods offered and it would be impossible to adhere to such prices offered in any reputable sales transaction.
My last speech received considerable coverage in the local Press and also in the Sydney daily Press. This in turn caused the man behind the discount club to make his own public response. Mr Nicholas Philips, the fictitious name used by the operator of the Discount Shopper, circulated a letter within my electorate damning me for my speech. He stated that I ‘attempted to ostracize the Discount Shopper’ and that I had used parliamentary privilege to do so. That is a frequent ploy by people who are properly criticised for most dubious activities. He also labelled the Sydney Daily Mirror as a ‘sensationalistic girlie porn type newspaper’ because it chose to print my warnings. His response was as distasteful as his activities. A member of Parliament often has to contend with claims that parliamentary privilege is used to cover erroneous articles and items about individuals. Indeed, there are times when a member of Parliament may well be less than correct in his assessment of a situation. However, it is quite clear to me that this is not such a case.
Far worse than this criticism is the fact that the letter blatantly lied about the position of the Discount Shopper in the eyes of the law. Again I quote from the letter:
We have been before the Fraud Squad and have explained ourselves to their entire satisfaction (i.e. Det. Sgt. Frodsham) and will meet very shortly by appointment with the Consumer Affairs Department.
For the information of honourable members I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a copy of the letter that did circulate within my electorate.
The letter read as follows-
Phillip Ruddock, Federal Member for Dundas recently attempted to OSTRACIZE the Discount Shopper (libel, Parliamentary Privilege, and all the yuk associated with “very little right of reply”) in Federal Parliament in Canberra and as such for me created personal pandemonium.
The “Club” is very grateful and wishes to thank the hundreds of people that have rang us suggesting support for The Discount Shopper. We have been before the Fraud Squad and have explained ourselves to their entire satisfaction (i.e. Det. Sgt Frodsham) and will meet very shortly, by appointment with the Consumer Affairs Department.
We are saddened that Mr Ruddock has chased sensationalism in a Labor intensified seat without consulting us as to our intentions but we can well understand the matter being heavily publicised by a senationalistic girlie porn type newspaper like The Mirror.
The Club lives more gloriously than ever, thanks to your support (kind phone calls and cards). We wish to say ….. THANK YOU….. Where there is smoke there is not always fire…… Just The Mirror.
We are now into serious negotiations with Garuda Airlines for the charter of a flight to Bali. The proposal is for a 7 day trip including 1st class hotels, breakfast, day tours etc in April/May. The normal price of this rather super holiday is $560 approx. and we are estimating a very substantial discount providing we can fill the aircraft. Details later.
I wish to join the Bali Trip for myself and up to four members of my family and would like to place a No Obligation booking herewith
– Investigations have, however, uncovered a very different picture. I believe that the Fraud Squad is anything but satisfied with the operations of the Discount Shopper. In fact, Mr Philips, whose real name is John Barry Green, is considered by the police to be not only unsavoury but dangerous. It appears that he is already facing charges for criminal offences, details of which I cannot or should not in my judgment divulge to the House at this time. As to his appointment with the Consumer Affairs Department, I can tell the House that three such appointments have been made and they were cancelled at the last minute. Late last week officers of the Consumer Affairs Department received a call from Mr Green’s solicitors advising them that Mr Green was seriously ill in Tasmania and therefore could not keep his most recent appointment with them. From what I have outlined tonight I believe that honourable members will clearly see, as I do, that it is my duty to alert and hopefully protect the public from this man and his most disreputable operations in my electorate.
I also draw the attention of honourable members and I hope that it will be accepted that this is a bipartisan approach to the reported statements of the New South Wales Minister for Consumer Affairs, Mr Einfeld, which were reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of today’s date under the section headed In State Parliament’ and also in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of today’s date under the heading ‘Couple Prey on Relatives of the Dead’. Mr Einfeld confirmed the facts in relation to certain prosecutions that the State Government was initiating in relation to an operation designed to seek moneys from relatives of a deceased person. He indicated, in answer to a question, the nature of that Government’s inquiries. He said also that the Trade Practices Commission was prosecuting the Greens for breaches of the Trade Practices Act and that John Green was on remand for malicious injury and harassment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In 1978 this Government’s only original contribution to unemployment it was a pretty perverse one was the shabby statistics of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The Government’s only original contribution to unemployment to date in 1979 has been the instruction from the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) that the work test be more strictly applied. In making that decision the Minister acted contrary to the recommendations of the Inquiry into Unemployment Benefit Policy and Administrationthe Myers inquiry which clearly doubted the desirability of the work test and recommended that the work test as a routine measure be replaced by a work test to be exercised only where circumstances warranted it. In making this recommendation the inquiry believed that the routine application of the work test served very little purpose and was administratively objectionable.
Despite this recommendation at a time when unemployment is reaching record levels, when there is clearly not sufficient work for all those who want it and when the work test is clearly counterproductive in terms of the work of the Commonwealth Employment Service, this Government, instead of trying to educate the public to the contemporary problem of unemployment allies itself with all those simple minded and troglodyte elements in the community who wish to blame the unemployed for their own unemployment. That is simply the essence behind tightening the work test in this situation.
I want tonight to discuss one of the human victims of this contemptible and absurd policy. Mr Jeff Lawson is a constituent in my electorate. He is in his middle forties and was until April last year employed as a butcher. He has been unemployed ever since. His own skills as a butcher are not in high demand in my area. No vacancies for butchers have been listed by the CES in the Elizabeth area in the last three months. But Mr Lawson, although unable to get paid work, has both a handyman’s talents and a social conscience. He has not idled away his months of unemployment. Let me indicate precisely what he has done over the last year. He has acted as a volunteer house father for the Elizabeth Family Home which cares for disturbed children and is organised by the State Department of Community Welfare. He has organised a group of the locally unemployed youth in the area to construct and run a Punch and Judy show and a House of Horrors. These have been made available to various local charities and to date have raised$500.
Mr Lawson, in conjunction with a group of unemployed youth, has played a leading role in the reconstruction of an old farm house as a holiday home for the housebound poor of the Elizabeth area. He acts as a handyman in a handyman’s scheme run by volunteers through the Department of Community Welfare. He has served, for a small fee, as an instructor in a course for women designed to develop handyman skills for women in the home. Despite all these voluntary and socially useful activities Mr Lawson received the following letter on 9 March 1979:
I refer to your claim for unemployment benefit.
To be eligible for unemployment benefit, a person must be available for and actively seeking full time employment at all times. As it is considered by this Department that you do not satisfy this condition, you are no longer eligible for unemployment benefit. Consequently, your benefits have been terminated.
The grounds were that technically he did not meet the requirements of the work test; that because of the activities in which he was involved he did not, quite clearly, meet a strict application of the work test. That was explained to him when he protested about these grounds.
I am glad to say that in my community the community outrage about this decision has been such that the Department of Social Security has backed away from the decision it has made. I have no doubt that if this kind of strict and absurd application of the work test continues there will be more community outrage. Though the Department has backed away it still wishes to punish him. He has been denied a fortnight of his unemployment benefit to teach him the lesson that he cannot go on with all these socially useful activities. He has been told that because he does not have social work type qualifications he will not get a job in that field even though recently he was the runner-up out of 40 applicants for a position as a Community Youth Support Scheme project officer. He has been warned that he should not continue these kinds of activities if he wishes to qualify for the work test which the Department is required strictly to apply.
I protest on his behalf and, I think, on behalf of thousands of other Australians who will be hit by a strict application of the work test. Every committee that has reported to this Government on this aspect has said that it might be all right to have a strict work test in times when there is plenty of employment. But in my own area where something like 6,000 people are unemployed it is socially wrong and inefficient to go on demanding this strict application. If Government members cannot make a few more original contributions to the problem in this country they should get out.
-The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The advent of cheaper international air fares, increased promotion overseas by the Australian Tourist Commission and a general increase in interest in Australia as a tourist destination would almost guarantee a substantial increase in the number of international tourists visiting this country this year. The estimates of how great that increase will be vary. The most optimistic say that the increase could be as high as 20 per cent. The Australian Tourist Commission says that the increase will probably be 10 per cent, but off the record it is conceding that the increase could be as high as IS per cent. I am sure that all honourable members will welcome the advent of the increased numbers of international tourists coming to Australia.
I think it is worth warning the House of some of the difficulties that the tourist industry in this country will be facing in coming months. Surveys carried out by the Australian Tourist Commission are quite interesting. It seems that the two destinations most attractive to overseas tourists are the Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock. But because of the nature of the international gateways in Australia we have an incredible situation which was highlighted in the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism. Something like 78 per cent of all international visitors arrive in Sydney and do not go very much further. The movement of international tourists around Australia is quite staggering. Some 78 per cent visit Sydney and some 35 per cent visit Melbourne. The figure for the two most desirable destinations drops considerably. The Great Barrier Reef attracts 4 per cent of international visitors and Ayers Rock attracts 2 per cent of international visitors. Obviously any moves to reduce the price of domestic air fares will be welcome as a reduction will get more and more tourists to travel around the country.
The Sydney situation stands out as being a situation which in the short term is quite critical. I refer to the existing lack of suitable hotel accommodation for those international visitors. For some 18 months now Sydney hotels have been experiencing occupancy rates in excess of 80 per cent. In fact it is quite usual at the moment for hotels to have the ‘full house ‘sign outside. Many international visitors who might be wishing to extend their stay in Australia or who are caught by industrial trouble or by aircraft malfunctions find that they have to go as far away as Gosford to obtain accommodation overnight. Sydney, as I say, has the most critical accommodation problems in Australia. Obviously, if we are to take full advantage of the new wave of international tourists coming to Australia something must be done to provide more accommodation at all levels of the Sydney market- the top end, the medium end and the lower end. Other centres in Australia are also experiencing this problem. One of the biggest problems facing the hotel industry is the cost of construction. At the moment it costs in the vicinity of $85,000 to construct a first class hotel room. That is a lot of money for one hotel room. To break even on letting out such a room $80 to $100 a night would have to be charged. Therefore the burden must fall ultimately on the Government to provide some sort of incentive for new construction to be undertaken.
One of the recommendations of the House of Representatives Select Committee was the introduction of a depreciation allowance on tourist buildings and tourist plant. A great deal of work was done not only by this Committee but also by the Australian National Travel Association. I understand that quite a number of submissions could be made to the Government in the coming months. Tonight I strongly urge the Government to consider seriously the introduction of this depreciation allowance as soon as possible. This type of allowance and similar tax holidays have certainly been the boom for Asian tourism. In countries such as the Phillipines, Thailand and Singapore dramatic numbers of new hotels have been built in recent years. Those hotels, of course, have all had their own attraction in bringing more and more tourists into those centres. I believe that Australia will undergo a similar tourist boom in the coming months and years. Obviously we must try as soon as possible to increase the standard of our accommodation and the physical number of rooms in such places as Sydney as soon as we can if Australia is to get the maximum benefit from the increased number of tourists coming to this country.
– In the few moments I have to speak in the adjournment debate tonight I shall deal with modern education and the criticism of modern education which we hear almost constantly. People tend to describe it in what they think are deprecating terms such as ‘trend’ or ‘socialistic’. I am sure that they do not understand what the word ‘socialistic’ means or obviously they would not use it in an insulting sense. I tend to disagree with those terms. I think back to my education when the three Rs were important. We learned our lessons by rote. We learned all the things which I now view as very peculiar about the wonderful efforts the British Empire was making in its imperialism. We learned what a wonderful bloke Clive of India was and how he managed to extract all the riches from India to make England richer and India poorer. I feel that education in those years lacked sensitivity and depth.
Modern education as I understand it and as I see it with my children tends to be more sensitive by inculcating in children the wonders of the world in which they live and trying to establish in their minds a sense of responsibility about it and a love for people who have a differing sense of values, a different ethnic sense and a different culture. In those terms I think that education today is better and richer. I can remember that when I was a kid the only emphasis on the environment or the world around us that we got in school was perhaps on two days a year. The day the Gould Bird League was the subject of discussion was one of those days. I use my children as an example. They go to a school which happens to be in the electorate of the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock). They get an education which is fuller and more sensitive. They learn something of the native birds, trees and the bush around them. The only time we learned about trees was on the one day a year we planted a tree in the school yard for Arbor Day.
– You look like a George Washington.
– It is true. What brought the matter home to me most prominently was a couple of letters which I found at home. They were written by my children as part of a class discussion. I suppose they were representative of letters which other children in their classes had written to Pierre Trudeau as part of a school project complaining about the slaughter of the harp seals which has attracted a certain amount of interest in the last couple of weeks. I found those letters very poignant inasmuch as children have a greater sincerity and sensitivity in relation to these problems than perhaps their adult parents have. As I have only a couple of minutes left in which to speak I shall read those letters. The first is from a seven-year old. It states:
Dear Pierre Trudeau,
Why kill these baby seals. What use are they to you. Anyway you have enough clothes over there so why do you need fur- it’s only a luxury and only 0.1 per cent of Newfoundland’s money comes from this bashing, beating and killing.
Why do you have to force the mother seal to watch. When a pregnant seal has to travel from Canada over to Newfoundland to have her baby and then see it killed. You murdurers they will be soon be extinct if you don’t stop killing them.
The next letter was from a nine-year old.
– That was not over the Lusher motion, was it?
-No, it was despite that. The letter stated:
Dear Pierre Trudeau,
In a few days 180,000 baby harp seals will be clubbed to death in a bloody orgy of killing on the ice floes of Newfoundland Canada. Their mothers swim from Greenland to have their babies and they are forced to watch their babies being attacked and left to rot on the ice after being skinned alive. Last year the hunters only found half the seals they found the year before. So they waited for more seals to be born and killed these seals at birth. Could you imagine your mother watching you being smashed over your head when you were just born- this is barbaric Also this is the year of the child and I am just a child and so are these poor seals just animal children. This slaughter is disturbing the balance of nature and in a few years- 1983 to be exact that species of seal might be extinct. Only 0. 1 per cent of Canadian money comes from this killing. The fur which is produced is just a luxury and not needed for clothes. 72 per cent of the Canadian people are against this monstrosity and the law says the majority rules. So please save the seals like we save the whales.
Andrew Brown (9)
I hope that the House will believe that these letters are representative of modern education. The education that critics tend to believe is trendy and socialistic is much more sensitive than the education we received. I. commend the teachers who teach children to be aware of the beauties of the world. Perhaps with the world in the hands of children receiving this sort of education, by the time 25 years has passed it will be a much better world than the one we have created for them.
– I should like to spend the last few minutes of this debate by talking on a subject on which I have spoken on other occasions. It relates to sport and recreation policy in Australia. I know that the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton), the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) and the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) are very interested in the Government’s commitment to this area. We can be rightly criticised in some respects because only $1.3m is made available through the sports development program. I will not go into the millions of dollars which have been made available for the Commonwealth Games, the ‘Life. Be in it’ campaign and so on. I shall deal with the sports development program and talk about the Australian Clay Target Association which has made good use of a very modest contribution from the Commonwealth Government.
The Australian Clay Target Association, for those who do not know, is made up of 280 affiliated shotgun clubs throughout Australia. It has approximately 1 1,000 registered members. It has a long term plan to increase that membership over the five-year period to 1983 to 21,000 members. It has an incredible safety record. Since 1928 it has not had one fatal accident in any of its affiliated clubs or at any of its shoots. The clubs shoot about 40 million cartridges each year. That safety record is one which should be acknowledged. The Association also has ambitions to introduce this sport to senior students in secondary schools. Having regard to the shooting accidents which now take place throughout Australia, this would be a first class idea. The people who will introduce it are excellent people who are safety conscious. They are engaged in a very healthy outdoor sport.
In the current financial year the Australian Clay Target Association received $16,500- a very modest sum. What the Association has done with it will have enormous benefit for its present and future members. For example, it has spent $10,000 on appointing and paying a national coaching director who commenced work in January 1979. 1 had the pleasure of meeting him at the national championships in Griffith recently. Six hundred shooters attended those championships for a week’s shooting. I have no doubt that the national coaching director will do an excellent job in encouraging young people to take up the sport, and in encouraging safety in the way in which they handle shotguns and approach the sport. The Association is using $2,000 for other coaching projects. It is using $3,000 for international competition overseas. For example, it has to travel to the United States of America for the Trap tournament, An amount of $1,500 has also been spent on other international meetings.
This is an example of what can be done with very small sums of money. I know that the honourable member for Phillip and the honourable member for Higgins to whom I have referred would like to see much more money allocated to sport and recreation. But the advisory group currently giving information to the Government is doing a first class job in recognising those national sporting associations which should be encouraged, those which have a good record and those such as the Australian Clay Target Association which are prepared to establish long term programs.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted.
The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Industrial Relations (Question No. 2608)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 16 November 1978:
-The answer to the honourable members ‘ question is as follows:
Professor C. Gannon, Associate Professor of Economics, Monash University.
Mr K. Toakley, Assistant Secretary, Department of Transport.
Mr R. Elder, Director, Department of Transport
Mr T. Brosnan, Director, Department of Transport
Mr W. Weemaes, Head, Transport and Resources Section, Department of Foreign Affairs.
Mr P. Crone, Counsellor (Transport), Australian High Commission, London.
Professor C. Gannon, 1 January 1976, Associate Professor, Economics, Monash University; 16 October 1978, Director, Bureau of Transport Economics.
Mr FC. Toakley, 1 January 1976, Assistant Secretary, Policy Co-ordination Branch, Department of Transport; 4 January 1977, Assistant Secretary, International Policy Division, Department of Transport
Mr R. Elder, 1 January 1976, Senior International Relations Officer (Clerk Class 9), International Relations Division, Department of Transport; 18 November 1976, Director (Clerk Class 10), International Relations Division, Department of Transport; 14 December 1978, Director (Class II), International Policy Division, Department of Transport.
Mr T. Brosnan, I January 1976, Clerk Class 6 (unattached); 26 May 1977, Clerk Class 8, International Policy Division, Department of Transport; 11 August 1977, Senior International Relations Officer (Clerk Class 9), International Policy Division, Department of Transport; 14 December 1 978, Director (Class 1 1 ), International Policy Division, Department of Transport
Mr W. Weemaes, 1 January 1976, Counsellor, Australian Embassy, Brussels; 13 September 1976, Head, Post Liaison and Guidance Section, Department of Foreign Affairs; 1 December 1976, Head, Transport and Resources Section, Department of Foreign Affairs.
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 23 November 1978:
If so, how many persons have been offered apprenticeships in each of the last 6 years by:
– The following information is provided in respect of the employment of apprentices in addition to the data previously provided (Hansard, 20 February 1979, page 125).
I assumed responsibility for the Commonwealth Accommodation and Catering Services Ltd on S December 1978. That Company engaged 6 apprentices in 1977 and 9 in 1978; it did not engage any apprentices prior to 1 977.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 24 November 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 20 February 1 979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Registered organisations’ rules must also provide that no amount shall be debited to a fund other than fund benefits, management costs, approved transfers between medical and Hospital funds and, in the case of a hospital fund, payments to the Hospital Benefits Reinsurance Trust Fund.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Professor D. Ferguson, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Sydney (Chairman).
Dr A. Bell, Health Commission of New South Wales (Deputy Chairman).
Mr T.’Reynolds, New South Wales Trades and Labour Council.
Mr J. Froude, Commonwealth Department of Productivity.
Dr R. Simpson, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney. . Dr T. Ng, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Sydney.
Mr R. Broughton, Department of Labour and Industry, South Australia.
Mr G. Boehringer, Senior Lecturer in Law, Faculty of Law, Macquarie University, Sydney.
Dr N. M. Mitchell, Commonwealth Department of Health (Convenor).
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Western Australia Health Department- Dr J. C. McNulty, Commissioner of Public Health, Department of Public Health, Perth.
State Chief Inspectors of Labour- Mr R. S. Marshall, Inspector, Mines Inspection Branch, Department of Mines, Sydney.
New South Wales Dust Diseases Board-Mr B. Virgona, Chairman and Executive Member, Workers Compensation, Dust Diseases Board, Sydney.
Commonwealth Department of Productivity- *
Australian Council of Trade Unions
Australian Workers Union-*
Miscellaneous Workers Union-*
Amalgamated Metal and Shipwrights Union-*
A Construction Workers Union-*
Mining and Milling- Mr H. Robinson, Chrysotile Corporation of Australia Pty Ltd, Woodsreef, via Barraba, New South Wales.
Manufacturers- Mr Charles Russell, James Hardy and Co. Pty Ltd, Sydney.
Industry/Manufacturers- Mr Ian Crawford, Personnel Manager, Bendix-Mintex (Melbourne), Ballarat, Victoria. Construction- Mr E. Morris, Morris Building Company, Smithfield, New South Wales.
Chairman- Professor L. Davidson, Principal, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, University of Sydney.
Secretary- Mr G. Major, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, University of Sydney.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 March 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790328_reps_31_hor113/>.