31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr P. C. Millar) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable 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 twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 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. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners in duty bound will every pray. by Mr Dobie, Dr Edwards, Mr Holding, Mr Jarman, Mr Roger Johnston, Mr Lynch and Mr Martin.
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 plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country does not have the support of the people;
That the change is causing and will continue to cause, widespread, serious and costly problems;
That the compulsory tactics being used to force the change are a violation of all democratic principles.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilise whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so desire;
That weather reporting be as it was prior to the passing of the Metric Conversion Act;
That the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional mile units to be restored to our highways;
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Burns, Mr Goodluck, Mr Haslem, Mr Roger Johnston, Mr Simon and Mr Yates.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assent bled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burns.
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 recipients of Supporting Parents Benefit are discriminated against compared to widows, divorcees and separated wives who have the care of dependent children.
The main area for concern is their ineligibility for issue of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card. This card enables recipients and their children to receive free medical care,pharmaceutical benefits and optometrical benefits which are a vital necessity to the well-being of these families. The lack of this entitlement can cause extreme financial hardship and suffering from lack of necessary treatment and medication.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that in this International Year of the Child all Australian children be considered an equal part of this country’s wealthand that the Health Act be amended so that Pensioners Health Benefit Cards can be issued to those receiving Supporting Parents Benefit. We believe this to be an essential step to ensuring that all children in this country achieve their potential stature as human beings.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dawkins.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives this petition of citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
a defined proportion of national income for a defined period
freehold title to traditional land waterways and seaboards
control over related resources and over introduction of alcohol and other alien cultural influences in their regions.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that
Your Honourable House will take urgent steps to concur with the wishes of a majority of electors at every polling booth in Australia at the 1967 referendum by resumption from the States of the major traditional Aboriginal land areas and reserves pending prompt determination of freehold title for Land Trusts and eventually for defined community co-operatives.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr Everingham.
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 strongly object to the modification of the previously gazetted alignments to Cotter Road and Dudley Street and addition to the plan of a link road to Denman Street and a cul-de-sac to provide access to the proposed redevelopment of the old Canberra Brickworks for tourist and residential purposes in Section 94 Yarralumla, as modified in Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. S44 of Tuesday 6 March 1979(Variation5-MapN5).
We are strongly opposed to all the modifications and alterations as indicated in the notice of intention to vary, particularly as: the link road to Denman Street will provide further access for additional through commuter traffic which will adversely affect the established urban environment of the area, the quality of life of the residents and could accentuate intersection accidents; the proposed cul-de-sac and associated townhouse development will cause further fragmentation of Westbourne Woods which is one of the most outstanding arboreta in the southern hemisphere; the above will prevent the future development of the Royal Canberra Golf Course in accordance with the plans envisaged in 1945; they will seriously affect the Club’s chances of securing major tournaments and of establishing an international championship layout with resultant effects on tourism and on the policy of developing the ACT as a national sporting centre; and they are not necessary.
Accordingly your petitioners call upon Members of the Parliament assembled to disallow the modifications and additions as gazetted. by Mr Haslem.
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 we the undersigned pray the Government to reintroduce twice-yearly indexation of Pensions.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Peter Johnson.
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 we the undersigned pray the Government will relocate the Australia Post Letter Box on Samford Road to its original location on the corner of Frasers and Glenretreat Roads, before further suffering and injury is encountered by persons having to cross a busy main road to mail letters.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Peter Johnson.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that there be no extension of Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that there be no extension of Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that there be no extension of Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That technical changes to the Melbourne Channel 0 Television Station could result in a change in Channel 10 in the dialling position of the Channel 1 0 Traralgon Station.
And that a move by the Channel 10 Television Station to Channel 8 could result in adverse affects on some central Gippsland viewers.
Your petitioners therefore pray that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications do all such things necessary to remove the interference which such a change could bring to television viewing in the Central Gippsland area and that in the event that no technical adjustment can be made to remove that interference that the Government consider making adjustments to the projected change which would allow viewers to continue to receive Melbourne Channels 7 and 9. by Mr Simon.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House is of the opinion that the present import parity pricing for domestically produced crude oil:
1 ) unnecessarily ties the Government to decisions made by OPEC nations over which the Government has no control;
is inflationary and has resulted in the doubling of domestic fuel prices since December 1 975;
has had a deleterious effect on employment and the GNP; and,
will lead to even further inflation and unemployment if persevered with.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That, in view of the Government’s failure to honour its promise of last year to increase its expenditure on urban public transport, and because the Queensland Government has not distributed to the Brisbane City Council funds received from the Federal Government through the Grants Commission, expressly for assistance to Brisbane Public
Transport, the House is of the opinion that the Federal Government should make future grants for such purposes specific purpose grants and ensure that they are properly applied for the purposes for which they were allocated and not diverted improperly by the Queensland Government.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether on 25 March this year he stated:
We have been prudent and careful in the use of taxpayers’ funds.
How prudent and careful was the Prime Minister during his six-day visit to New York in June last year when he, Mrs Fraser and 2 1 personal staff and advisers spent $68,000 of taxpayers’ money, including $33,000 for hotel bills -
- Mr Acting Speaker, I take a point of order. The question utterly and completely contravenes Standing Order 144. The honourable member is making a statement which he alleges is fact and he is giving information. He is not asking a question as required by Standing Order 144.
– I require the honourable member for Newcastle to put his question specifically without engaging in debate.
-Did the Prime Minister spend $68,000 of taxpayers’ money, including $33,000 for hotel bills, $ 1 5,000 for chauffeurdriven limousines and $5,000 on telephone calls- all in just six days?
-One thing I want to say about the alleged information is that no money was spent on cars for myself. Any car for my wife and me was provided by the United States Government as a charge on the United States Government. I think it is worth noting the expenditure over comparable periods by the Whitlam Government and the Fraser Government. The former Leader of the Government, Mr Whitlam, spent $2,458,492 -
– How much?
– It was $2,458,492 on visits overseas. The charges on the Commonwealth as a result of my visits overseas are about 35 per cent of that sum. The figures are in equivalent dollars, adjusted by my Department. The average cost of Mr Whitlam ‘s visits overseas in current terms was $223,499. The average cost of my own visits was something much less than half that figure. In total, 258 people in official positions accompanied Mr Whitlam overseas. Approximately 170 people accompanied me. The maximum number accompanying Mr
Whitlam on any one visit was 53. The maximum number accompanying me, including all advisers, on any occasion was less than half that number.
I think it is worth while also giving the same kind of comparison for the Whitlam Government as a whole- in which the present Leader of the Opposition played such a prominent financial part- and the present Government. Over a similar period there were 130 visits overseas under the Whitlam Government and 109 visits under my Government. I should say that for both governments, visits to Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, for reasons which I think are obvious, have been excluded. The cost in current day figures for the Whitlam Government was $5,132,122. The cost for my Government was $2,140,490, a very small part of the total under the previous Administration. The total number of days absent under the Whitlam Government was over 2,100. The total for my Government was 1,578. The average cost of visits overseas was a fraction under $40,000 for the Whitlam Government. The amount was under $20,000 for my Government. Whether the comparison is made between Mr Whitlam and myself or whether it is made between the two governments it is very plain that this Government has shown a prudence in the use of taxpayers’ dollars which was totally foreign to Labor Ministers, whether Mr Hayden, Mr Whitlam or anyone else, when they were overseas. I thank the honourable gentleman for asking the question which I had suggested he ask.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister may be aware of a statement by the Leader of the Opposition which appears in today’s Canberra Times and which alleges that I stood by while last week’s fiscal measures went through at some cost to primary producers. Will the Minister tell the House what effect the policies of the Australian Labor Party had on the rural sector, particularly its policy of” fuelling inflation?
-I am very indebted to the honourable gentleman for giving me an opportunity to refute the comments of the apparent author of an article in today’s Canberra Times. As Treasurer of the Labor Government prior to 1975, he presided over a Budget which significantly disadvantaged the Australian primary producer. He was also, of course, a member of Cabinet at a time when the Coombs report was introduced from which the source of many of the domestic problems of Australian agriculture no doubt emerged. Indeed, the Coombs report, as honourable members will recall, looked at the whole spectrum of assistance provided to primary industry. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro, who has been most assiduous in representing not only rural members of his electorate but also those who live in towns and cities, including Queanbeyan where, I understand, the speech was made, knows only too well that we on this side of the House have introduced policies designed to protect the long-term interests of everybody in the primary sector. At times when industries have been disadvantaged, we have introduced programs designed to ensure that those who are disadvantaged can be helped. To illustrate that, I need only to refer to the beef industry incentive payments scheme- a scheme which gave to beef producers, who were then earning significantly less than average weekly earnings, an amount of money which was about equal to a capitalised unemployment benefit. But when the economic fortunes of rural industry changed, this Government, recognising that there was no need to provide the same level of assistance, reduced the overall level of assistance.
In the package of measures introduced last Thursday night by my colleague the Treasurer, it is true, there are a number of additional payments being called on from the rural sector. It is also true that there has been some reduction in a number of primary industry programs. But in each of those areas this Government is acting totally responsibly. In areas where incomes have improved very significantly, it is asking that sector to bear no more than it is reasonably able to bear, and in other areas programs have been cut back only because the need for assistance has been reduced. In that instance I need only refer to the rural reconstruction program. Quite obviously, the large sums of money which previously were necessary under the beef carry-on loans scheme and schemes of that ilk are not as necessary in the climate of current beef prices.
I completely refute the remarks by the Leader of the Opposition which were referred to in the honourable member’s question. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition failed both in his presentation, as he did in his performance in this chamber as Treasurer, and in recognising the real balance of economic justice in this country. Unfortunately, within the Labor Party there has never been a recognition of the problems of the rural sector and it is quite apparent that the Leader of the Opposition still fails to recognise the problems which exist in some areas.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he stated on 24 March 1 976:
On my own visits overseas, commercial aircraft will be used as far as possible. The argument that Qantas cannot provide adequate security is a specious argument, and false.
If the Prime Minister did say that, why has the Government already spent $ 15m of taxpayers’ funds to buy two 707 jetliners for the Prime Minister’s travels abroad?
-I call the Minister for Defence.
– The question is directed to the Prime Minister.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I thought that the House would like a bit of a change. Therefore I would like to answer the question. In the first place, the information given by my honourable friend with respect to the cost of the Boeing aircraft is wrong. In the second place, the argument which the honourable gentleman presented in his question is utterly fallacious. What happened in 1969 would seem to me to be splendidly irrelevant to what happens in 1979. After all, the last Cobb and Co. coach ran in Australia in about 1929. Do honourable members opposite suggest that we should all travel by Cobb and Co. coach? The question points up the whole intellectual attitude of the Australian Labor Party.
Opposition members interjecting-
– Honourable members opposite form the most disorganised choir I have ever listened to. The simple fact of life is that the Australian Labor Party has the greatest of difficulty in dragging itself into what is left of the 20th century. These aircraft, as every honourable gentleman opposite knows, were bought for security reasons.
– Sit down, you clown.
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide is trying to make himself out to be as rough a member as he was a shearer. Lest there be any doubt about that, I point out that more tar was used in his shearing shed than was used on the Eyre Highway. My honourable friend should go to the Press Gallery- he could hardly call members of the Press Gallery a collection of neuters- and ask the experienced Gallery observers who have travelled abroad with the Prime Minister about these aircraft. To a man and, I strongly suspect, to a woman they will say that the purchase of these aircraft is thoroughly j justified
– The Treasurer would be aware of recent speculation regarding possible shortfalls in government budgetary revenue. Will he supply any up-to-date information which may confirm the current and correct financial situation?
– In recent weeks there has been speculation in the Press as to what the budgetary outcome for 1978-79 might be as compared with the forecast made in August of last year. My colleague the Minister for Finance has already indicated that, on the basis of expenditure decisions that have been taken since the last Budget and very minor areas of additional expenditure that were not specifically anticipated or decided upon, there would be an estimated addition of approximately $230m to outlays, which constitutes 0.8 of one per cent and which, in an overall spending amount of about $29,000m, is an extremely small area of overspending.
The latest estimates that I have been given by the Treasury and the Taxation Office indicate that the revenue will fall short of the Budget target by about $500m, and that this amount is made up as follows: about $70m shortfall for Customs duty; about $46m shortfall for payasyouearn collections; about $200m shortfall for provisional tax collections; and about $200 m shortfall for company tax collections. My advice is that about $ 180m of the shortfall of $400m for company and provisional tax collections has been accounted for by the incidence of tax avoidance arrangements. I mention these figures firstly in the interests of providing factual information on what is the advice to me as to the current position.
-What will the deficit be?
-Would the honourable member mind containing his impatience? We will come to that in a moment. The purpose of providing this information is simply to put an end to any speculation about the advice that is coming to me on the subject. I stress again that at this stage these are estimates of what the position will be at the end of the current financial year. A great deal can happen in the last month of a financial year in terms of revenue collections. If the scenario I painted in fact does occur, then the deficit outcome will be in the order of $3,500m. I should mention that the estimated revenue shortfall of about $500m is less than 2 per cent in a total revenue collection situation of about $26,000m.
Opposition members interjecting-
– It has nothing to do with levels of taxation. It has to do with people who may be interested in what the deficit situation is. I think it is significant, in the context of the decisions announced last Thursday, that those people on the Opposition side of the House and in the community who might argue that the Government had all of the facts to hand in order to make decisions for next year’s Budget are completely wrong. The fact of the matter is that revenue estimates can vary, for thoroughly explicable reasons, and particularly at this time of the year they can vary by several hundred million dollars.
I repeat to the House that the latest information I have is the information I have just given. It is quite possible that those revenue collections could alter between now and the end of the financial year. I think the element of tax avoidance which is contained in that additional figure of $500m underlines the outrage on the Government side of the House at the level of tax avoidance that is practised in the community and will very much strengthen the determination of this Government to pursue an even more vigorous attack on tax avoidance in the Australian community.
– My question to the Prime Minister follows the question asked by the honourable member for Werriwa a few minutes ago and answered by the Minister for Defence. The Prime Minister will recall that in his reply the Minister for Defence stated that the decision of the Government to purchase, rather extravagantly, Boeing 707 aircraft largely for the Prime Minister’s use was based on security considerations. I ask whether it is a fact that the assessment and the report to the Prime Minister from his Department, which was signed by Mr Lawler and Mr Yeend in May 1978 and presented to this Parliament, said inter alia: there are still some risks, but in our judgment acceptable risks, involved in a Qantas charter aircraft specially chartered for the visit throughout and carrying no other cargo or passengers; 1 ask whether this report also stated:
In view of the fact that the Prime Minister is imposing consistently rigorous and austere measures on the rest of the community, why did he opt for the much more expensive decision to purchase 707 aircraft for his own limited use when even Boeing 747 aircraft, on a charter basis, undoubtedly would have been a cheaper proposition?
– It is good to know that the honourable gentleman intends to travel overseas in 747 aircraft, if he ever gets an opportunity. The plain fact of the matter is that, as we know, Qantas did not want to keep its Boeing 707 fleet. We considered asking it to do so to meet the needs of government, but that was obviously going to be a very expensive option because it would not have a use for the aircraft in normal commercial circumstances. Therefore, the cost the Government would have had to bear would have been a very significant one. In addition to that- and I think this has been lost very much in this debate- there is a very considerable defence use for those aircraft. Each aircraft will provide 700 or 800 hours a year. The Air Force will get very nearly as much use out of the 707s as it will get out of each of the Hercules transport aircraft. The 707 aircraft have already been used for carrying troops to Butterworth and back and they will be used on that basis continually. There are approximately 40 flights a year to Butterworth, as I am advised. This was costing the Air Force a considerable amount in charter of 707 aircraft from Qantas. I do not think the Air Force really wanted to charter Boeing 747s when 707 aircraft were no longer available. The Air Force recognise the aircraft as a very real addition to the defence inventory. The use for ministerial purposes will be a very small fraction of the total use. Quite plainly, the purchase of the aircraft represented the best option for the Government and the best option for the Commonwealth. If the honourable gentleman has any wish to charter a 747 aircraft and to travel around the world in such an aircraft, then I leave that option to him. It is not an option that I would like.
-Following the question from the honourable member for Newcastle, I ask the Prime Minister whether he agrees that the overseas trips of this Government have resulted in access to overseas markets which was not available when this Government came to office. In fact, is the Prime Minister aware of any substantial gains to trade as a result of the overseas tourist trips undertaken by the previous Government?
-During the last three years there has been an intense level of international activity involving my colleagues, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Trade and Resources and the Minister for Special Trade Representations, and other Ministers arguing Australia’s interest in many international forums. As a result of those visits, quite plainly we will be ending the trade negotiations with greatly improved access to the United States and a much more secure access against difficult circumstances, and we will be having a much more secure access to the Japanese market than we have ever had.
The agreement announced yesterday, and initialled yesterday by the Minister for Special Trade Representations and Mr Gundelach, has foreshadowed a successful conclusion to a two to three-year negotiation-discussion campaign with the European Economic Community. I well remember Opposition members, saying: ‘Why bother about this? Why not just sell to Asia? Why not give away the richest, largest and wealthiest market in the world?’ That, of course, is precisely what they did. They did not bother even to try to argue to maintain Australia’s access to those markets. Quite plainly, it is not just a question of access to the European Economic Community. It is a question of limiting, controlling and monitoring export subsidies which can do grave and serious damage to our exporters in third markets. As a result of the negotiations, I believe, Australia’s exporters now will be more secure for the future than ever before in Australia’s history. The kind of circumstances which we saw in 1974- when, as a result of the very deliberate policies of the previous Administration, a 100,000-ton meat market in Japan was lost and at the same time nothing was done about Australia’s primary exporters getting kicked out of Europe- represented the greatest betrayal of Australia’s farmers and Australia’s exporters generally that this country has ever seen.
– Another lie. More lies.
-Mr Acting Speaker, honourable gentlemen opposite do not like it very much, do they? They lost markets and destroyed Australian farming communities, and they just do not like people being reminded of it; but that is what happened. It is known quite well that that is what happened. A large part of the international negotiations in which we have been involved has involved repairing the damage done in those times, re-securing markets and making sure that they will be secure for the future. As a result of that, Australia’s exporters can look forward to a more secure future than has been possible for a very long while. Quite obviously, a large part of this would not have been possible were it not for the face-f.o-face negotiations that I and other senior Ministers have conducted on behalf of the Australian people, the Australian exporters and the Australian farming communities.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will withdraw the expression he uttered during the Prime Minister’s remarks.
– I withdraw what I said, sir- that the Prime Minister was a liar.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Port Adelaide not to compound his mischief. He should simply withdraw.
– I withdraw.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he stated last Sunday:
The community can be certain of this Government’s resolve to keep spending under control.
Why was responsible control not exercised in the $8m the Government has spent in the past three years on overseas ministerial travel and domestic flights of the Government’s VIP fleet?
-The honourable gentleman obviously did not hear what I said a little earlier today, so I will repeat it. I think I ought to repeat it because I am sure the honourable gentleman would want to know what I said. The Government has used very considerable restraint in respect of overseas travel. In spite of the fact that there has been an increased requirement for overseas travel as a result of the trade negotiations which have been undertaken and which have been brought to successful conclusions over the last 3 years, the Government has been able to contain the number of visits and the expenditure on those visits much below the levels reached by the previous Administration over a comparable 3-year period. The previous Administration as a whole made 130 visits, excluding those to Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. There were 109 visits from my Government. In current dollar figures, the previous Government spent significantly more than $5m, whereas this Government spent a fraction over $2m. The number of days absent was over 2, 100 for the previous Administration and a fraction over 1,500 -
– Are they both costed the same way?
-Costed exactly the same way.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will remain silent.
-The actual cost of individual visits for the previous Administration was a mere fraction under $40,000 a visit. Under this Administration the cost has been significantly under $20,000 a visit. So even though the visits made by members of this Government have been very real and working ones, compared with the tourist visits of the previous Administration, the cost of those visits has been infinitely less and the number of visits has been infinitely less. But if one would like to measure the returns from those visits- that is, returns to the people of Australia in the way of results achieved- it would be quite plain from the answer I gave to the previous question that this Government through its negotiations has achieved a very great deal for the Australian community by bunding a solid basis and foundation for prosperity in the exporting sector. That stands Australia in good stead and stands in very marked contrast to the Coombs report, the destruction of markets, the loss of access to Japan and all the rest that stand to the undying discredit of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask that the document that the Prime Minister was reading from be tabled and incorporated in Hansard.
-Was the Prime Minister reading from a document?
-No, Mr Acting Speaker.
– I rise on a point of order. Mr Acting Speaker, I submit that you are a fair and trustful man. But you, sir, saw the Prime Minister reading from those documents. I ask you to order him to table them.
-Order! There is no point of order. The Chair is not required to examine the performances of the members in the House other than to see that they comply with the Standing Orders.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Have the States some sovereign responsibility to co-operate with the Federal Government to contain inflation, reduce unemployment and interest rates? Have the States in recent years received each year an increased amount from Federal Government taxation?
Have the States the right to reduce or increase income tax collections from their own States? If so, will the Treasurer remind State Premiers at the next Premiers Conference of their true position in the economic area and the need to contain expenditure for the long term security of our nation even though such a policy which is absolutely responsible may be unpopular in the short term?
-The short answer to the first part of the question asked by the honourable member for Darling Downs is yes. The new federalism arrangements of the present government which have given to the States both increased financial flexibility and increased financial resources also carry with them increased financial responsibility. Federalism cuts both ways. It means more power and independence for the States but it also means more responsibility for the States. It also means a fair sharing of national economic burdens. So far as the attitude of this Government at the next Premiers Conference is concerned, naturally we will be making it plain at that Conference that national economic goals are to be striven for by both Commonwealth and State governments because Commonwealth and State governments share alike in both the benefits and the adversities of changing economic circumstances.
I have to say to the honourable gentleman in all candour that in a number of significant areas the States have not followed the lead set by the Commonwealth Government. It is a matter of regret that, whereas the levels of employment under Commonwealth Public Service jurisdiction have declined during this Government’s, term of office, in the case of a number of State governments the levels have sharply increased. The levels have also sharply increased so far as a number of local governments are concerned. The fact is that under our revenue sharing arrangements the States will receive an increase of 14 per cent, so far as untied funds are concerned, in 1979-80. I make it plain to the honourable gentleman, and to the House, that this Government sees federalism as carrying both responsibilities and privileges. In its approach to the States the Commonwealth Government will not follow a course of conduct which imposes a lesser burden of restraint upon the States than that which the Commonwealth Government imposes upon its own programs and activities.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Having regard to his assertion that the purchase of two VIP aircraft was both prudent and desirable, I ask: Why did the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary refuse the Four Corners television program permission to film work on the conversion of the first of the Prime Minister’s two 707 VIP jetliners? Why did the Prime Minister’s office refuse to permit any filming of the training of the 14 cabin crew, six pilots, three engineers, three load masters and three chefs for the VIP jets? Finally, is the Prime Minister aware that in buying two 707 airliners for his personal use overseas he joins the exclusive company of the President of the United States, the former Shah of Iran and ex-President Idi Amin of Uganda?
-Order! The final part of the honourable member’s question was out of order.
-The failed member from the Victorian Parliament is determined to fail again. I am advised that the VIP fit in these particular aircraft was used by Mr Whitlam. If there had been a great interest in filming it, it could have been filmed at any time during that period. In addition, the media were asked to film the aircraft when they were used to take troops to Butterworth; but I do not think they showed a great deal of interest in that. The offer remains. If the media want to film the aircraft fulfilling their defence role they can do so. That is a major part of the role of the aircraft. I think it is perfectly plain that the decision that was made- having in mind the fact that Qantas Airways Ltd was getting rid of 707 aircraft, and the fact that those aircraft would at the same time have a very considerable defence usagemeant that that was the best purchase for the Commonwealth Government.
– Three chefs for defence usage? Come on!
-There is one thing in relation to this -
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
– Are you going to take away the food services?
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Melbourne.
– I think it needs to be understood that by far the greater part of the use to which these aircraft will be put is for defence purposes. It needs to be understood that Qantas was selling its 707 aircraft and they would not have been available. It needs to be understood that the security requirement has become much more urgent, as advice to the
Government had indicated. There have been incursions into this building by people who are members of organisations which have a record of resort to violence. If these people had thrown bombs into this building, instead of pamphlets, there would have been a keener awareness by members in this building of the importance of security requirements. At the same time there was a very severe bombing incident at the Hilton Hotel. We cannot ignore the fact that, if an aircraft is sabotaged because a head of government is on it and it goes down as a result, it is too late to apologise to the families of the 400 people who would also be killed.
– You had better stay on the farm.
– Holding for leader.
-Order! Over the last two days I have appealed to honourable members to maintain the decorum of this House. I intend to make no further appeal. Any honourable member who engages in disorderly conduct or blatant disregard of the Standing Orders will be dealt with summarily.
-I ask the Minister for Industrial Relations a question concerning the Williamstown Naval Dockyard dispute and strike, where workers claim they have sacked a naval officer and allegedly are working without pay. Does this strike amount to a virtual mutiny by those concerned and does it prejudice Australia’s national interests? Have the unions concerned in fact broken an agreement that management at the yard would determine overtime levels on a basis of need? Is the work being carried out by the workers there at present counter-productive? Finally, will the Government consider closing down the yard and putting it under naval control?
-The dispute to which the honourable gentleman referred in his question goes back some time. It involves a demand on management by certain people at the dockyard concerning the number of electricians to be on duty during various shifts, especially at times when overtime is worked. It is quite true that on 9 and 10 May, after discussions between the parties concerned, an agreement was reached that the number of electricians employed when overtime is worked would be determined by the management on the basis of need. On 23 May some painters and dockers employed at the Dockyard refused to work, following management decisions on this same subject. Therefore, they breached the agreement which had been reached a couple of weeks before. The men concerned were then placed on a ‘no work as directed, no pay’ basis. I understand that there was a mass meeting on the next day, that is 24 May, at which the men resolved to return to work but to accept no directions at all from management. I understand that some limited work is going on at the Dockyard as part of a union tactic to work in. But the men involved have been told that the entire staff of the Naval Dockyard has been placed on a ‘no work as directed, no pay’ basis. The issue involves the question of manning scales, which clearly is one for management prerogative.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister.
Government members interjecting-
– I wish Government members would remain quiet. I ask whether the Prime Minister stated on 2 1 November 1975:
Australians are sick and tired of having their taxes wasted by politicians just scattering money around like chaff.
If so, what is the estimated cost of having the artist Bryan Westwood flown from Seattle in the United States to paint the Prime Minister’s official portrait? In the current climate of economic austerity, why cannot the Prime Minister make do with an artist living in Australia?
-This artist has painted many Australians. He comes to Australia very often. I am advised that the contract for the painting is similar to contracts for other official portraits. The Commonwealth does not pay his fares across the Pacific.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What is the Government’s assessment of the general security situation in Lebanon? Has there been an overall improvement since the serious fighting in October last year? What is the position on the Lebanon-Israel border? What is the Government’s position in relation to the situation?
-I call the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Opposition members- Hooray!
-Do not throw them out for that, Mr Acting Speaker. The situation in Lebanon is actually a matter for very serious concern. If the honourable member for Melbourne, who has consistently asked questions on the migration issue, had a real intent of determining just how serious it was, I am sure that he would not have been leading the noise that was forthcoming then. Whilst the fighting is not on the scale of last year’s fighting, the intermittent violence has continued on a scale that we would all deplore. There have been clashes in Beirut and Northern Lebanon between some Maronite militia forces and the mainly Syrian Arab deterrent force. There have also been inter-Maronite clashes. In Southern Lebanon the Maronite militia has declared the border enclave that it controls- as I recall, the honourable member referred specifically to this- a so-called independent state and has launched some artillery attacks on United Nations positions and Lebanese villages. Obviously, Israel would react strongly to the Palestinian actions which were taken against her.
The short answer as to the Government’s attitude is that it not only is very concerned at the continuing interfactional violence but also deeply regrets the loss of civilian lives resulting from Palestinian attacks in Israel and from Israeli incursions into Lebanon. Our record is particularly clear. We have not only supported the establishment of UNIFIL but also cosponsored resolutions in the United Nations seeking a peaceful settlement of this tragic dispute, and we will continue to do so. The continuing violence in Lebanon is a potential source of disruption in the wake of the recent welcome progress towards peace in the Middle East. The Government hopes that all concerned- that is, the Lebanese groups, the Palestinians and the Syrian and Israeli governments- will work for an end to tensions in the area. I am pleased to note, on that basis, that President Sarkis recently held talks with President Assad in Damascus about ways of achieving that.
-Is the Minister for Industrial Relations aware that the cigarette manufacturer, Philip Morris (Australia) Ltd, is reported to be negotiating with the Federated Tobacco Workers Union concerning the introduction of a shorter working week? If that is correct, what is the Government’s view on this matter?
– I have been informed that the company named by the honourable gentlemanPhilip Morris (Australia) Ltd- has been negotiating with the Federated Tobacco Workers Union for a productivity agreement which I understand is likely to involve shorter working hours. The information I have suggests that the union is seeking a 72 -hour fortnight in return for its members agreeing to operate certain machinery of the company on a continuous basis. The employees in this industry are covered by a determination of the State Wages Board system in Victoria. This determination provides for a 40-hour week in the industry. Certainly, on a prima facie basis, there seems to be some reason to believe that the negotiations could be outside the wage indexation guidelines. I am told that if an agreement is reached it is likely to be in the form of a private agreement between the company and the union which is not- I repeat not- registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
I have made it clear on many occasions that the Government’s concern is to obtain and maintain adherence to the wage fixing principles of the Commission by all sections of the community, whether those negotiations are carried out within the jurisdiction of the Commission or outside it. I might say that I had occasion to write to this company about three years ago and bring to its attention the Government’s concern about the responsibility that the Government felt the company had in the region of wage determination. A reduction in hours for the same wage has a similar effect to an increase in wages. If this case were in the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, it would be a matter for a full bench, going as it does to the question of standard hours of work. The Government cannot condone productivity bargaining packages which breach the guidelines and add to costs generally. If the reported negotiations resulted in such an agreement, the Government would have to consider the applicability of a Prices Justification Tribunal inquiry into the pricing structure of the company.
– I would like to add to a previous answer I gave. The artist, Bryan Westwood, also painted Senator Justin O ‘Byrne. I think that Senator O ‘Byrne’s choice of artist was a very good one.
Ministers, back bench members of the Parliament have not had the opportunity they normally have to question the Administration.
-There is no point of order but the Chair takes notice of the fact that it inadvertently allocated a question to the Government side which properly should have gone to the Opposition. The Chair will take steps on a future occasion to remedy that deficiency.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the annual report of the Australian Plague Locust Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
Mr HOWARD (BennelongTreasurer)Pursuant to section 1 1 of the Life Insurance Act 1945,I present the annual report of the Life Insurance Commissioner for the year ended 31 December 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council on radiological safety and future land use at the Maralinga atomic weapons test range.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,I present a report relating to the following proposed work:
Patrol boat base at Cairns, Queensland.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-I welcome this report. The Public Works Committee recently visited Cairns, and I congratulate the Committee because it made a very good impression on the people of Cairns. Very seldom do we get a number of members of Parliament in the far north of Queensland. The people who appeared before the Committee and listened to its members were very impressed with their breadth of knowledge of the subject. I congratulate them on their performance and on the fact that they have brought down this report. It is a very important report. It will allow the construction of a patrol boat base in Cairns to replace the very inadequate facilities presently used. It will be an important link in improving the surveillance capacity of the forces in the far north of Australia.
-I have received letters from both the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107 I have selected one matter, that is that proposed by the honourable member for Port Adelaide, namely:
The inadequacy of the Government ‘s training programs.
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-
-One of the unwritten scandals of the Fraser Government has been its deliberate, clandestine and almost criminal cut-backs in training opportunities available to the unemployed. The approach of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to training policies, as articulated through his Minister for unemployment, is riddled with lies, deception and malice. As the level and duration of unemployment have risen, unofficial government policy has been to cut back deliberately training opportunities for the Australian work force.
It appears that this Government has discovered a new and brilliant mathematical formula for drawing up its social welfare and manpower programs. It goes like this: If unemployment rises by 100 percent, cut training programs by 100 per cent; if the number of unemployment beneficiaries rises by 100 per cent, start a dole bludger campaign and cut the total number of beneficiaries by 100 per cent; if there is a shortage of 100 skilled tradesmen, knock 100 people off the dole and bring in 100 tradesmen from overseas. The list is endless but the pattern is set.
Only last week we saw another application of the Fraser Government’s formula. The National Employment and Training scheme is the only government measure presently in operation through which unemployed people can gain new skills and work experience and thereby further their chances of obtaining employment. Figures supplied by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) show that by the end of March 1979, the total number of trainees in the NEAT scheme was 1 7,308 compared with an August 1978 peak of 52,664. That is a reduction of 67 per cent. The Special Youth Employment Training Program, the only government measure in operation with the potential to reduce youth unemployment, has been cut back savagely to 8,233 compared with a peak figure of 39,319 in August 1978- a reduction of 79 per cent.
These clandestine cut-backs should be contrasted with the dishonest public statements concerning government training policies made by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. For example, on 15 February, in an address to the Committee for Economic Development in Australia, he said:
Providing opportunities Tor training in the skills required by industry is a matter of urgency.
Later on he said:
I see the training responsibilities of my portfolio as of prime importance to a successful recovery. Unless, as a nation, Australia invests in the development of the appropriate skilled work force to support and sustain economic growth, we will fail ourselves and we will fail our children.
As of March 1 979, this Government is training 3.9 per cent of the officially registered unemployed. The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research states that there are a further 300,000 ‘hidden’ unemployed. If this figure is included, it means that two out of every 100 jobless are receiving training under the NEAT scheme. This should be contrasted with the situation last August when 13 out of every 100 unemployed received assistance under the NEAT scheme. This is just another example of the Fraser Government’s formula. Manpower programs should be available to all those who are unemployed instead of to the fortunate few who, through a lottery process, gain assistance. These reductions are taking place at a time when unemployment, in absolute terms, is higher than that experienced during the Great Depression. Last Thursday, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) publicly admitted that by January 1 980 the number of registered unemployed would rise above half a million people- an increase of at least 240,000 people since Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister of Australia. As I have said, according to the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, a further 300,000 people are described as ‘hidden’ unemployed- people who are not registered with the Commonwealth
Employment Service. Early next year over 800,000 Australians who would like to work will be jobless.
Since 1976, the average duration of unemployment has continued to rise rapidly. Between November 1976 and November 1978, the duration of unemployment rose from 17.6 weeks to 27.6 weeks. By November 1978, the average duration of unemployment was disturbingly high- about 6 months for most groups and appreciably higher for some important categories. By April this year the average duration was almost 30 weeks- 29.7 weeks. No less than 72,100 people were unemployed for more than a year and a further 48,000 were unemployed for more than 6 months.
I should not have to remind the House of the grave social and economic consequences of this situation. But how does the Government react? It reacts with a despicable campaign against the unemployed who, in the Government’s view, have created their own unemployment. It reacts with the Fraser Government’s formula. In the appropriation Bills, before the House some weeks ago, the Government reduced the 1 978-79 Budget allocation for the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training scheme by 10 per cent. Today fewer apprentices are being trained and many tradesmen are leaving their trades at a time when employers complain of shortages of skills. There is however no shortage of potential apprentices. In March 1978 the ratio of apprenticeship seekers to unfilled apprenticeship vacancies was 57 to one- 57 people were applying for every apprenticeship vacancy in Australia. The chairman of the National Training Council has estimated the shortfall of new trades people to be above 10,000 a year.
How does the Fraser Government formula work in the apprenticeship area? The Government makes a deliberate decision to import 40,000 to 50,000 skilled tradesmen and cuts back on our own apprenticeship spending by 10 per cent. It decides to train 10 per cent less of our Australian young people thereby causing higher levels of youth unemployment. It makes up the shortfall by bringing the skilled tradesmen from overseas. Lies and evasion mark this Government’s attitude to apprenticeship training. Thousands of apprentices have been retrenched and will never have the chance to finish their training. In my own electorate of Port Adelaide there are cases almost every day. The worst anomaly is that the retrenched apprentices who try to continue full-time training for the period laid down find themselves struck off unemployment benefits. But the final pay-off of hypocrisy is the cut back in the Budget on apprenticeship training- almost 10 per cent.
While the Government is cutting back on helping our youth, it is paying for advertisements right throughout Europe to bring skilled migrants from overseas. This Government in continuance of that policy, of course, continues migrant unemployment in Australia. This applies particularly to recent arrivals. How would the people reading the advertisements in Europe respond if they knew that the latest figures show the unemployment rate of migrants who arrived in the previous 2 1 months is 1 6.6 per cent. As two academic authorities, Sheehan and Strieker, commented in a recent paper:
Early school leavers and recently arrived migrants bear an especially heavy burden or unemployment at the present time, and within these two groups both the individual costs of, and the social problems emerging from, prolonged unemployment must be intense.
As the Williams inquiry pointed out, requirements for skilled labour in the years ahead are not likely to diminish; they are likely to grow as fast as if not faster than the labour force as a whole. Given that immigration is presently contributing some 20 per cent of tradesmen entering the Australian workforce and given the known willingness and suitability of thousands of young Australians to undertake trade training, one would imagine that any rational and sane government would be committing itself to a major reorganisation of trade training and financial support. But what does the Fraser Government do? It applies the same old formula.
Perhaps the most despicable example of the Government’s formula to emerge so far is the decision to discontinue payments under the National Employment and Training system for intellectually handicapped persons. The removal of the subsidy of $50 per child per week will exclude thousands from schools where they acquire necessary social skills. It will thrust them into a non-existent job market and condemn them to a life of dependency on government through unemployment benefit and the invalid pension. It is little wonder that the Minister did not want to reveal this in public.
Training policy is too important to be left in the hands of the illiterate and power hungry. In times of economic prosperity, training and retraining is an indispensable tool of economic management as well as a means for those disadvantaged sections of the work force to upgrade their work skills, their employment opportunities and their intellectual horizons. Training policy is an important weapon in the fight against social injustice and poverty. In periods of economic recession, increased governmental commitment to training and retraining programs is an essential pre-condition of economic recovery. If individuals have access to appropriate training facilities thereby acquiring social and industrial skills, not only is the welfare of the individual greatly enhanced but also when the economic upswing is underway there is room for a smooth expansion of demand and output without the inflationary cost pressures caused by skill bottlenecks. Training policy is important not only because individuals acquire specific skills but also in the broader sense of enabling individuals to adjust and develop. Therefore manpower adjustment must ensure that there is available to each worker the opportunities and services he or she needs in order to lead a satisfying life.
The present Government says that it is completely opposed to creating jobs, and it is therefore not prepared to utilise one of the key elements of an active manpower policy. Many other countries in the Western industrial world have set in train big job creation programs as the trend in joblessness has risen. These countries have also upgraded training and retraining schemes to combat rising levels of unemployment. They argue that training and retraining is a natural supplement to public sector job creation. This Government refuses to do either. Close scrutiny of these schemes reveals that the Government has failed to comprehend the immense problem of educating and training an industrial work force capable of adapting to rapid periods of structural change within industry. The Crawford inquiry into structural adjustment pointed this out. It stated:
There has been no comprehensive statement of government manpower policy and objectives since the 1945 White Paper- Full Employment in Australia. While many inquiries have been conducted in recent years, they have not been drawn together into an overall policy framework, nor have all aspects of man-power policy been reviewed.
The cutbacks in present government programs are even more distressing when it is considered that there are significant skill imbalances in the work force as well as significant structural changes within Australian industry. Lack of marketable skills which are currently in demand disadvantages many unemployed people. In November 1978, 60 unemployed, unskilled manual workers were available for every job vacancy in this country. As the Crawford inquiry pointed out, increased import competition, changes in the pattern of demand for goods and services and demographic changes, together with the introduction of more capital intensive equipment, are all forces which will result in further imbalances. Job opportunities will increase in the more highly skilled occupations and decline in the lesser skilled and unskilled occupations. So what is this Government’s reaction to this dilemma? It cut back on the NEAT scheme by 69 per cent. Then last Thursday night it announced:
Education programs have been more rigorously pruned than on any other previous occasion.
There is no need to inquire into who will suffer. It will be the secondary school students and students at colleges of advanced education and technical institutions. Every action this Government takes has the effect of reinforcing the existing unequal distribution of wealth and privilege. This, like the report of the Williams inquiry, will ensure that the universities remain unscathed while the poor, the disadvantaged and those most dependent on government secondary and technical education will suffer. Some 80 per cent of all Australians have no post secondary qualification. To begin with, a lower level of educational attainment is one of the most significant characteristics of the unemployed, and particularly unemployed youth. In May 1976, 57 per cent of all unemployed persons had left school at or below the age of 1 5 years. Some 46 per cent of all unemployed youth who had left school between 1971 and 1976 were classed as early school leavers. The 1 976 survey gives further evidence of this correlation. The unemployed rate in Australia of young people who left school at 14 years of age during the period 1971 to 1976 was 24 per cent. The unemployment rate was 13.1 per cent for those who left school at 15 years of age during that period.
The Prime Minister is always keen, when looking for scapegoats to blame for high levels of youth unemployment, to attack the educational system. The Williams inquiry quite specifically rejected this ridiculous notion. It stated:
The education systems have no control over the labour market and they cannot by themselves correct the social problems which derive from unemployment or underemployment caused by economic policy and economic circumstances.
However, if this Government continues with its policy of redistributing funds away from the needy schools to wealthy private schools, if it continues to downgrade the importance of training and retraining for the unemployed and those workers locked into unproductive and unsatisfactory work environments, the inequality of educational, economic and social opportunities will grow.
This Government refuses to engage in job creation because it panders to the ideological whims of the Prime Minister. It prefers the soft option of income support through pathetic levels of unemployment benefit. It is inflicting a social scar which other western nations would never tolerate. It pretends that the unemployed live the idyllic existence of a millionaire Prime Minister. It is prepared to accept the immense loss of national output which results from people being unemployed. Fraserism is a recipe for social and economic disaster.
– Having listened to the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) presenting himself as spokesman for the Opposition in manpower matters, I can understand why the Opposition does not hold very much hope for being able to develop concrete and sensible manpower policies. The very purpose of the creation of my Department, the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs, was to enable the Government to give greater concentration to this area of government policy. As the months go by, as my Department has the opportunity to concentrate its efforts and its intellect to this area, so the people of Australia will see the benefit of the decision of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to create this special department.
Might I also remind the House that it was this Government which instituted the Crawford inquiry into structural change and the Williams inquiry into the relationship between education and work. Both of these reports were relied on by the honourable gentleman in his speech. As the examination by the Government of those two reports unfolds and is completed, the people of Australia, particularly young people entering the work force and those who are in the work force seeking retraining, and industry, which needs highly skilled and competent work force, will see the benefit of the Government’s consideration.
Let me make three short comments on particular parts of the honourable gentleman’s speech. I would like to comment firstly on the National Employment and Training scheme funding for the handicapped. Let me say to the House straight away that NEAT funding of programs for the handicapped to aid them in their transition from school to work will continue. In regard to the honourable gentleman’s comments about bringing migrants with special skills from overseas, Australia for many many years has depended upon migrants of this calibre, with skills, to come to Australia to serve the needs of industry and commerce and to help to develop our great country. This Government will continue to offer new opportunities to people from overseas who have the skills which we require to take advantage of those opportunities in a country which provides them.
The honourable gentleman must know that shortages of skills are local and regional and that they vary according to different industries and different needs. Australia has not all the specialised skills that we require. I do not think that it will be able to develop them from within its own resources for some time. One reason for this Government sending a mission overseas to examine skill training in other countries which have comparable economies and industry bases to Australia is to provide the Government with expert advice on what we might do in the future to lift our level of skill training. I am not talking simply of trade training but the level of skill under the tradesmen- a whole range of technical and specialised skill which Australia will need in the future.
The honourable gentleman spoke of funding technical institutions and funding tertiary institutions. He obviously is quite unaware of the shift in priorities, which this Government has made quite consciously, so as to provide more funds to the technical and further education field. I am quite sure that when my colleague the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, announces the expenditure programs for education for the next financial year it will be seen that this priority in favour of tertiary institutions is maintained.
The honourable gentleman spoke of the socalled hidden unemployed. It is, of course, a convenient description for him to use to try to cloud the issue and confuse the minds of the Australian people and those who are looking for work. Let me refer to the facts of the matter. The preliminary statements giving results of a special survey of persons not in the labour force, as at March 1979, including discouraged job seekers, refer to 524,600 people who would have or might have liked a job at the time of the survey. Of those, 402,800 people were not looking for work because of personal or family considerations. Notwithstanding that fact, the honourable gentleman and the Opposition wish to lump that half a million people on top of the number of unemployed registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service or the number of unemployed according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics survey.
There were 63,400 discouraged job seekers. They wanted a job but were not looking for work because they believed that there were no suitable jobs in their locality or in their line of work. In other words, they were selfishly looking at their own personal needs. For that reason they were discouraged from looking for work. Employers considered them either too young or too old. That is perfectly understandable in the demographic makeup of Australian society. There were some who lacked necessary training skills or experience, or who had language or racial difficulties. There were indeed, 1 1,200 who were not looking for work because they believed there were no jobs with suitable hours. In other words, for personal reasons they were highly selective as to the jobs they were taking. When people speak of the hidden unemployed, I think they ought to do so on the basis of fact and not on the basis of specious argument of the kind we have heard here today.
I really am astounded at the impertinence of the Opposition for advancing this matter of public importance. We have a record which is unmatched by previous Australian governments, particularly the previous Labor administration. We have introduced a number of manpower programs, particularly geared to young people, to overcome labour market difficulties. I might mention some of them. These programs provide people with skills and work experience to enhance their prospects of stable employment. That is the object of these programs of the Government. Vocational training under NEAT has been expanded and brought closer to the productive requirements of industry and the employment needs of individuals. As I said to the Victorian Branch of the Metal Trades Industry Association of Australia only recently, I see one of the fundamental purposes of my Department as being to serve the needs of industry and commerce and, through them, to serve the interests of individuals who wish to enter the work force.
Special training programs for the disadvantaged have also been expanded under NEAT and a new employment and training strategy has been launched to assist Aboriginals. I know from my three years of experience as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs how important that is to Aboriginals throughout Australia. The number of trainees under NEAT, including the Special Youth Employment Training Program, has increased dramatically since this Government came to office in late 1975. In all, at a cost of some $400m, over 400,000 people have been assisted by various programs, including NEAT, SYETP, the Community Youth Support Scheme, the apprenticeship support scheme and the Education Program for Unemployed Youth. In these programs we have given particular emphasis to the young and the disadvantaged. This year our expenditure on manpower will be about $180m. Again, as I said last night in the debate on the
Treasurer’s statement of last Thursday, this is a solid investment of large amounts of money, consistently over the years, by this Government in people.
The programs, to which I have briefly referred, are designed to ensure that demand for particular labour skills can be satisfied now and during the recovery phase of the economy and to maintain and improve the chances of the unemployed obtaining work. It was this Government which introduced the following programs: The Special Youth Employment Training Program, which I have already mentioned, has helped some 150,000 young unemployed since it was introduced in October 1976. Late last year the Government authorised a change in the guidelines for the provision of training benefits under this program. We were afraid that much of the money that we had invested in young people in particular was being used by employers as a subsidy for labour that they would normally have employed at their own expense. We believed that the taxpayers’ money- it is their money- put into the SYETP should be directed to those in real need of assistance. So, we introduced measures to ensure that these young people, who are the most disadvantaged, who have been unemployed for four months and who could not have obtained a job otherwise, will be the ones who will be helped through the SYETP. In times when the Government must contain its expenditure, I believe we have a firm duty to ensure that the money it spends is spent wisely and well. In this field it means that the money should be used not as a subsidy to employers but as a positive benefit to the young people who need help. As a result, fewer people will be assisted under the SYETP- for the reasons I have just explained, that is perfectly understandablebut I believe that the fewer people will receive a greater benefit than the greater number of people who were helped by way of a subsidy to employers.
The Community Youth Support Scheme has helped 50,000 persons since its inception in November 1976. The Education Program for Unemployed Youth has helped 7,400 young people since it was introduced in July 1977. From speaking to my colleagues I know how valuable the EPUY has been to young school leavers who, because of low educational standards or for other personal reasons, find it difficult to cope with the current labour market. The Relocation Assistance Scheme has helped 2,600 people to move to areas where there were vacancies. The Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training program, or CRAFT as we know it, has helped 67,000 apprentices since it was introduced in January 1977. 1 have recently told the House of my acceptance of the National Training Council’s proposal for a complementary trade training program which will assist older people who have not gone through the normal apprenticeship system at the late teenage stage of their lives but who wish to obtain a trade skill. Where there is a shortage of skilled people in industry, this complementary trade training program could be a very valuable addition in serving the needs of industry.
Against that short background, whatever the honourable member for Port Adelaide might have said in this debate, I feel that anybody examining the facts of the matter will understand that this Government has a record unmatched by any recent government. We all recall the extravagances, the abuse, the pork barrelling of the former Labor Government’s Regional Employment Development scheme. It was called a job creation scheme; but those who had anything to do with it know that it served no useful long-term and sustained purpose for the benefit of the unemployed and certainly did not aid at all in achieving economic recovery. It may well have been a short-term palliative to the unemployment then faced by the Labor Government, but it was certainly not a lasting answer to the needs of the unemployed. We know what the Labor Government did to cope with the massive rise in unemployment it created. In June 1974 registered unemployment stood at less than 80,000 and, under Labor, within 12 months registered unemployment had reached a quarter of a million. The honourable member for Port Adelaide, who has spoken in this debate, knows that between August 1974 and January 1975 unemployment rose from 107,000 to 312,000. And therein lies the source of this Government’s present difficulty.
-The discussion is concluded.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Prices Justification Amendment Bill 1 979.
Norfolk Island Bill 1979.
Remuneration Tribunals Amendment Bill 1979.
– I move:
This proposal is for the construction of a complex to accommodate laboratories, administrative and support facilities for the Division of Chemical Technology which, since 1974, has been housed in temporary accommodation in South Melbourne, Victoria. The Clayton location is being developed as a major centre of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation chemical research. The facilities will comprise: Organic and general chemical laboratories; technical laboratories for large scale research work; prototype industrial process bays for organic chemistry, general chemistry and pulp and paper; workshops and stores; and administrative accommodation and support facilities. Provision will be made for on-site car parking and landscaping which will complement existing site development.
The .estimated cost of the proposed work examined by the Committee was $9.1m at February 1979 prices. The Committee recommended construction of the work in the reference. Upon the concurrence of the House in this motion, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 24 May, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill is a Bill of shame. Its purpose is to give effect to three broken promises and an outrageous tax fiddle. It need hardly be said, therefore, that the Opposition strongly opposes this legislation. The principal measure contained in the Bill is to override existing income tax legislation in respect of the requirement for the income tax surcharge to end on 30 June 1979 and for indexation of the personal income tax schedule to apply from 1 July 1979. As every member of this House and most people in this nation are by now aware, these two matters were each the subject of specific unqualified promises by the Government. However, the Government has seen fit, by this legislation, to break those promises and to provide that pay-as-you-earn deductions will continue at their present rate up to 30 November or such earlier date as may be set by proclamation; but for several months at least the supposedly temporary tax surcharge will continue and tax indexation will not be applied.
The impact of these dishonourable decisions on Australian taxpayers will be substantial. The continuance of the surcharge at the rate at which it applied since November 1978 means, in effect, that unless and until some subsequent decision is taken to change it at the time of the August Budget the rate of the surcharge for 1979-80 has been moved up from l.Sc in the dollar this year to 2.57c in the dollar next financial year. The effect of this higher surcharge is considerable for all taxpayers, and particularly so for the lower income earners. Being levied as a flat rate rather than as a percentage, the surcharge is quite inequitable in its incidence on taxpayers. Thus a taxpayer whose income is between approximately $3,900 per annum and $16,600 per annum has a base rate marginal tax of 32c in the dollar. The impact of the surcharge on his marginal tax rate is to take it to 34.7c in the dollar, that is, a rise of 8 per cent. For a taxpayer whose income is between $ 1 6,600 and $33,200 the basic marginal rate is 46c in the dollar. The impact of the surcharge is to take it to 48.57c or an increase of 5.6 per cent- rather less than the 8 per cent rise applying to those in the lower marginal tax bracket. For a taxpayer who has a high income and who is unable to find a tax avoidance scheme which brings his taxable income below $33,200 per year, the basic marginal rate is 60c in the dollar, which will now become 62.57c in the dollar, that is, a rise of 4.3 per cent in his marginal rate.
Thus the tax surcharge is quite inequitable. The higher the income, the lower the percentage increase in the marginal tax rate as a result of the surcharge. If the Government believed it had to have a surcharge, why did it not express it in an equitable form? The same percentage rise in all marginal tax rates would have ensured equal treatment of taxpayers, but, as this Government has shown in so many instances, it is not really concerned about equity at all. Despite the brazen description by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of the mini-Budget as an equitable package, as he described it in the statement he made in the House last night, it is patently clear from consideration of the impact of the surcharge that it is highly inequitable.
The suspension of tax indexation also represents a significant tax impost on taxpayers. This Government has frequently proclaimed that tax indexation- that is, adjustment of the tax schedule for inflation- is necessary to prevent what it calls taxation by stealth, by which it means the increasing incidence of taxation as inflation takes taxpayers into higher tax brackets. Such a process was most marked in the 23 years between 1949 and 1972, during which taxation by stealth, if one wants to call it that, was a stock in trade of the conservative governments then ruling this country. Following the report of the Mathews Committee of Inquiry into Inflation and Taxation in 1 975- a report which was commissioned by the then Labor Government- the Fraser Government gave effect to that Committee’s recommendations for tax indexation with much rhetoric about its being essential to keep governments honest.
Such statements seem to be a very strong indictment of the Menzies, Holt, Gorton and McMahon governments and have now left the Fraser Government hoisted on its own petard. By its own admission, the suspension of tax indexation is an admission of its own dishonesty. If tax indexation is essential to honesty in government, as this Government has proclaimed very often, the Bill we are now debating, which prevents the application of the promised tax indexation, is evidence of this Government’s dishonesty. That this deprivation of tax indexation also involves a blatant breach of an electoral promise only compounds further that conclusion. It also means that the tax burden on taxpayers will be increased.
It is ironic that supporters of the Government have sought refuge in the argument that weekly pay-as-you-earn payments will not increase at any given level of income. That certainly is true. What they cannot avoid is that the denial of tax indexation means that the increase in the tax burden on all taxpayers whose incomes have increased no faster than the rate of inflation and which has occurred automatically as their income has increased will be allowed to continue. Thus, in a very real sense, the Government’s denial of tax indexation does involve the decision to increase the tax burden on taxpayers generally. The combined effect of these measures on taxpayers is to burden even the lowly paid with a tax bill several dollars a week higher than would have applied had the Government honoured its promises. To demonstrate that, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which spells out the cost to taxpayers of the Government’s broken promises.
The table read as follows-
– This table calculates the cost to taxpayers in the case of a single taxpayer and also a taxpayer with a dependent spouse. It shows the present weekly tax at various levels of income; what that weekly tax would be without the surcharge; what the tax would be without the surcharge and with full tax indexation; and what is the total weekly cost of the Government’s broken promises to taxpayers at the various income levels. We see that the cost to those with dependent spouses and with an income of $120 a week is $4 a week. At an income of $ 1 60 a week the cost becomes $5 a week; at $200, $6; and at $220, $6.50. Quite considerable increases have occurred in the tax burden for taxpayers as a result of this Government’s broken promises. For as long as the Government fails to adhere to its promises in the next financial year then so long will those be the weekly costs borne by taxpayers as a result of those two broken promises.
The table which I have incorporated in Hansard refers to full tax indexation. What the Opposition has taken as full tax indexation is an adjustment factor of 7.9 percent, which is the full rise in the consumer price index for the year to March 1979 over the year to March 1978. In this regard we differ from the Government as to what is meant by full tax indexation. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) made plain in his mini-Budget statement that if tax indexation is introduced for any part of the next financial year the adjustment factor used will be 6.5 per cent, not the 7.9 per cent indicated by consideration of the complete consumer price index. The reason for the difference is that the Government intends to discount for the next increase in all indirect taxes including the crude oil levy in the last two Budgets and for the effect on the consumer price index of the phasing in of the import parity pricing policy for Australian produced crude oil. This policy allows the oil producing companies to increase the proportion of their production that they can price at import parity year by year. The legislation covering the tax indexation factor is to be changed to enable this to be done.
One could well query this whole policy of discounting for oil price increases since the aim of the policy is presumably primarily to discourage the consumption of oil and to encourage the search for it and the development of resources already discovered, and to encourage the search for alternative energy sources- at any rate, those are the reasons put forward by the Australian Government’s counsel in the current national wage case as being the reasons for the Government ‘s introduction of that policy. Insofar as the policy is meant to discourage consumption, it does that overwhelmingly by way of a price effect, not an income effect. The large increase in the crude oil levy in the last Budget had the effect of substantially raising the price of Australian produced crude oil not already priced at import parity. That meant a large rise in the price of retail petrol. It is that large relative price rise that has the effect of discouraging consumption. Certainly, to the extent that the real disposable income of taxpayers is reduced, there will be some further discouragement to spend money on petrol, as indeed on everything else, but it will be almost negligible in comparison with the price effect. In our view the crude oil levy is not like an ordinary indirect tax as its prime intention is not to reduce consumption overall but to reduce consumption of a particular item, that is, petrol and related products. If the reason for the levy is to reduce consumption, the Government is being very coy in asserting that as being the reason. It did not say so in the national wage case and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), in introducing the levy last year, did not give that as a reason for doing it.
This reasoning is even more applicable to the decision of the Government which is incorporated in the Bill now before us, that is, to discount for the price rise attributable to the phasing in of the policy of allowing Australian producers of crude oil to price an increasing percentage of their production at import parity. That policy results not in revenue to the Government but in greatly increased profits to oil producers. They would, of course, pay company tax on that. It is in no way a tax measure; yet the Government wants to treat it as such on the flimsy excuse that not to do so would offset the intended downward effect of the consumption of petrol. This is absolute nonsense as the income effect on the consumption of oil in adjusting the tax schedule for an increase in price would be utterly negligible.
However, an even bigger fiddle of the tax indexation system- assuming it is reintroduced in some form eventually- is to be found in the Government’s treatment of increases in the consumer price index resulting from alterations to health care arrangements in this country. The Government’s treatment of this matter is quite scandalous. In 1976 the first massive attack on Medibank occurred resulting in a very substantial rise of the order of 3 per cent in the consumer price index in the December quarter of 1976. The Government then altered the legislation in the Income Tax (Rates) Act to include price rises attributable to the increased costs of health insurance and the health insurance levy amongst the factors to be used in discounting the consumer price index when working out the tax indexation factor. However, that legislation referred only to such increases in the December quarter of 1976; not in any subsequent quarter. Thus the price rise attributable to the increase in health insurance costs at that time was discounted and the tax schedule was not adjusted for it.
In the Budget of August last year the system was changed again, and this had the effect of reducing the cost of health insurance. I am sure all honourable members will recall that the change in the health insurance scheme at that time resulted in a quite substantial reduction in the cost of health insurance. That had the effect of reducing the consumer price index by 1.4 per cent in the December quarter of 1 978. However, in working out the tax indexation factor that perhaps would be applied in the coming financial year, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has taken absolutely no account of the reduction in the consumer price index attributable to the change in health care arrangements. He has completely ignored this factor. If he had included it, then instead of having an adjustment factor of 6.5 per cent for tax indexation purposes he would have had an adjustment factor of 7.9 per cent, which happens also to be the figure one gets if one looks at the total CPI discount for nothing. The Treasurer has taken out the increases in the index attributable to net increases in indirect taxes, including the crude oil levy, and also those price increases attributable to the phasing-in of import parity pricing by oil producing companies, but he has taken no account whatever of the 1 .4 per cent reduction attributable to health insurance rearrangements in last year’s Budget.
It is absolutely scandalous that the Government tries to have it both ways. When the health care rearrangements increase the index the Government passes legislation to make sure that that does not get taken into account in the tax indexation calculations. When it has the effect of reducing the consumer price index, the Government simply ignores it, instead of adding the figure back in, as it should do if it is going to be at all fair to Australian taxpayers. What is involved here is a straight out fiddle of the tax indexation system. There is nothing more to be said about it. Indeed, it is a very shabby piece of duplicity. It will mean that taxpayers in the general bracket of 32 cents in the dollar, as a base marginal rate of tax, will be losing 36 cents every week if the tax indexation system is brought back, and we are not at all sure yet that that will happen. The tax indexation aspect is something about which we have great concern. We have great concern about the Government’s treatment of the oil pricing factor, both in respect of the crude oil levy and even more so in respect of the phasing in of the import parity pricing policy for oil producing companies. We are especially concerned about the extraordinary piece of duplicity involved in not taking account of the impact on the consumer price index of the health insurance rearrangements in last year’s Budget.
What the Government will eventually decide to do in the next financial year in respect of taxation is still unclear because it has postponed any final announcement on tax rates of 1979-80 until the Budget is brought down on 2 1 August. That in itself is rather extraordinary. This Government is clearly at sixes and sevens as to what it should be doing. It is torn between a desire to satisfy its fundamentalists, who believe that anything that lowers the deficit is a good thing, and those who are worried about the political implications of breaking promises. Being unable to resolve that quandary, the Government has postponed the final decision until the last minute of Budget preparation. So much for the Government that promised sound economic management. This blatant indecision is not the action of a government which is sure of its policies and consistent in their implementation; rather it is the product of a government which is searching desperately for the way out, for the magic formula which will bring about fulfilment of the wild and extravagant promises of economic recovery upon which this Government rode to power.
It is important, therefore, that these taxation measures are seen in their appropriate context. The context in which these acts of indecision and dishonour have occurred is that after three and a half years of office- half a year longer than the Labor Government had in office- it becomes clearer day by day that this Government does not have the answers. Its inability to reduce the deficit, despite continual cutbacks in government expenditure, its breaches of various promises to lower taxation, and its fiddling with public accounts to exclude various items from the Budget sector, provide startling evidence of the extent to which this Government has failed. Combined deficits over three years of almost $3 billion, or 45 per cent, greater than those accumulated under the Labor Government tell the story here.
If, as the Liberal and National Country parties proclaimed frequently when Labor was in office, the deficit is the measure of government economic irresponsibility, then the Fraser Government has been far more irresponsible than the Labor Government. This must surely worry Government members and supporters. What should worry them more is that the Government’s failure to reduce the deficit results largely from the failure of its policies to bring about economic recovery. Rather, the economy has sunk deeper into recession, as shown by the large and continuing increase in unemployment. That increase has been the inevitable result of the policies used to reduce the deficit. The severe reductions in government expenditure, and the more recent increases in taxation, have restricted the level of demand in the economy and that has plunged the economy further into recession. With more people unemployed and a low level of economic activity, there was a shortfall of personal and company income tax receipts and an increase in the total payout for unemployment benefits. Thus the Budget deficit has not been reduced as expected. It has blown out to a figure well beyond its budgeted level. This is what happened in 1977-78, when the Budget blew out by 50 per cent. Again this year, despite the completely fortuitous explosion, indeed doubling, of farm income, which has offset the contractionary impact of budgetary policy, it still appears that the deficit will blow out by up to 25 per cent.
At Question Time today the Treasurer admitted that we would have a Budget deficit of $3.5 billion, 25 per cent higher than had been budgeted for. Thus, the Budget deficit will again be over the $3 billion, despite the tax surcharge. The Government must bear that in mind. The Government put on a tax surcharge, but despite the fact that it will bring in $5 60m this year, the Budget deficit is going to be $3’/2 billion greater than the deficit last year. The Government has locked the nation into a downward spiral which is marked by continual cutbacks on government expenditure and increases in direct and indirect taxation, reduced economic activity, increased unemployment, blowout of the deficit, and then further counter-productive expenditure cutbacks and tax increases to reduce the deficit, which only further accentuate the whole downward spiral. These policies are taking us nowhere. They are not even reducing inflation. Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer admitted recently that no reduction in inflation is in prospect over the next year. But still the lesson has not been learnt.
In his statement last Thursday the Treasurer in effect announced more of the same, but just how much more he was not able to say. What we do know is that the Government’s breach of promise on the surcharge and tax indexation will mean an added tax burden for all taxpayers beyond what they had been led to expect they would pay in 1979-80. That increased taxation will leave less money in the pockets of taxpayers for them to spend, as has been shown by the table I incorporated earlier in Hansard. Therefore, there is less likelihood of a substantial rise in the extremely important area of consumer demand than would have been the case had the promised tax measures been implemented. If the Government decides in the next two months that it must maintain throughout this financial year the surcharge at its current rate and to deny any degree of tax indexation, that will mean, from what one can gather from the Treasurer’s statement that the Government will collect approximately an extra $1.5 billion more than would have been the case had it kept both its taxation promises. That amount of $1.5 billion is made up of $980m from the full impact of the tax surcharge over the course of the whole year at 2.57c in the dollar and a little over $500m from the effect of tax indexation.
Such an increase, on top of the income tax that would be raised by the tax that would be paid in any case on increased incomes of existing taxpayers as well as the additional incomes of new taxpayers, would represent a stupendous tax rise. If total taxable income rose by 8 per cent, that would raise an additional $1 billion, even without the increases stemming from the surcharge and the denial of tax indexation. A total rise of $2.5 billion in personal income tax would represent an increase of 20 per cent in one year and would be massively contractionary. On the basis of the forward estimates of a Budget deficit of $4,600m which was mentioned by the Treasurer and the other announced revenue measures and expenditure reductions, a deficit of less than $2 billion would be nominally possible if the current tax schedule were retained. But the contraction of economic activity which that would produce would certainly cause a substantial deficit blowout. Therefore, all that would be achieved would be a further severe twist to the downward spiral on which this Government has set the Australian economy.
To the extent that the Government decides to implement in the Budget one or other of its promises, the contractionary impact of its policies will be accordingly reduced. However, the Treasurer has made it quite clear that there is no chance of the Government’s honouring both promises. In this context it should be noted that there is a considerable incentive for the Government to make a move towards honouring one of those promises, namely, that of tax indexation rather than that in relation to the surcharge, because the cost of honouring fully the pledge of tax indexation, would be only half that of ending the surcharge. Taxpayers can therefore have every expectation that the tax surcharge will continue throughout this year, which will means that an additional $1 billion in tax revenue will be gathered from personal income tax payers, whatever happens to tax indexation.
Quite apart from questioning the highly dubious logic on which this policy is based, this prospect also raises the very relevant question of seeking other sources of revenue rather than continuously placing the burden on wage and salary earners. In this respect, as has been mentioned many times before in this House, the Opposition urges the Government to consider other forms of tax revenue, such as a tax of some kind on personal capital. This Government has abolished such taxes. Of course, it is all very well for the Government to say that it is abolishing such taxes as estate and gift duties. If it does so, it will mean that the Government will have to raise $100m from somewhere else. Under the current system that will lead to the situation of the ordinary wage and salary earners, most of whom would never have paid estate and gift duty anyway, having to fork out the extra $100m in tax revenue.
Similarly, the Government has said that it will not impose a resource rent tax on the super profits of mining companies. If the Government forgoes the revenue which would be obtainable from those sources, a heavier burden will be placed on wage and salary earners. As I mentioned previously, the same situation applies in respect of tax avoidance. If the Government will not take the really hard decisions on tax avoidance but instead continues to try to patch up the current system in a most unsatisfactory way that will simply mean that tax avoidance will continue to be rampant and that the Government will therefore want to increase levels of income tax to gain the necessary revenue.
The Government simply has to cease placing the burden on wage and salary earners. It has to look at other ways of raising revenue. As we have said, there are three ways of doing this which should be considered by this Government. It should look at some form of tax on capital, which equity demands in any case; it should certainly look at the taxes paid on the super profits of mining companies; and most certainly it should take much more effective decisions in respect of tax avoidance. If those things are not done we will see much higher tax surcharges being imposed in the future as this Government tries desperately to gain the necessary revenue.
The legislation which is now before us breaks one further promise, that is, in respect of the stock valuation adjustment. Of course, the stock valuation adjustment was recommended by the Mathews Committee, as was tax indexation. In 1976 this Government promised that it would implement the stock valuation adjustment in full over the course of three years. It has decided to break that promise. It has introduced an adjustment to the extent of only 50-per cent. The legislation which is currently before us will do away entirely with that item. In introducing the stock valuation adjustment the Government was certainly fulfilling part of the intention of the Mathews Committee. But also it failed to take account of the fact that the Mathews Committee recommended that if there were to be a stock valuation adjustment, there should also be some adjustment in respect of liabilities because inflation reduces the cost of repaying debts. That factor should also be taken into account in assessing the taxable capacity of companies, if one is to make inflation adjustments.
In introducing the stock valuation adjustment, this Government, whilst stating that it would implement the adjustment in full eventually, never at any stage mentioned that it might get around to the other side of the matter which would square the balance somewhat. Therefore, in our view, the loss of a stock valuation adjustment is not something which we deplore. We probably would not have introduced it in the form in which this Government has done so, in any case. If we had introduced that aspect of the Mathews report in respect of companies, we would certainly have wanted to introduce all parts of the proposal. We would not have introduced just that part which gave companies increased profits and done nothing about the other part which would have had the effect of somewhat reducing company profits.
Finally, the legislation now before the House, as I said in opening, is a Bill of shame. It gives effect to three broken promises, which surely is a cause of enormous discomfort for all Government members. It introduces a quite extraordinary tax fiddle. It is an amazing piece of duplicity which probably no government will have the gall to undertake in any future tax Bill.
– I do not think anything can be gained by my talking to the speech made by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) or by taking each misleading statement point by point. However, I cannot pass over his continuing references to tax indexation. It ill becomes the honourable member to criticise this Government on the matter of tax indexation. Tax indexation was introduced in accordance with a recommendation of the Mathews Committee to which the honourable member referred a moment ago. That Committee was commissioned by the then
Labor Government to inquire into the matters of inflation and taxation. It reported in time for its recommendations to be reflected in the 1975 Budget. The Labor Government, of which the honourable member for Gellibrand was a supporter, explicitly rejected the Committee’s recommendation in relation to tax indexation.
In his policy speech in 1975 the present Prime Minister undertook to implement tax indexation. The Government proposed to introduce tax indexation over a three-year period but we implemented it in full as from June 1976. In the course of my remarks I will elaborate further on what has been involved in that. It ill becomes the honourable member also to make snide remarks about the Government’s efforts in the field of preventing tax avoidance. I ask the honourable member what the Labor Government, of which he was a supporter, did from 1973 to 1975 in that area?
– It did absolutely nothing.
-As the honourable member for Perth said, it did absolutely nothing. It is important to put this whole matter into some context. That context is the responsibility of this Government to preserve and consolidate the economic recovery of the Australian economy which this Government has brought about. This is necessary because the honourable member for Gellibrand who is leading for the Opposition continues to refer to the recessed state of the Australian economy. One would think that nothing had happened since this Government came to power at the end of 1975. In point of fact, the total output of the economy as measured by the gross domestic non-farm product on the latest figures, is some 10 per cent above the stagnant level that prevailed in 1974-75. When one takes into account the farm component, and the way it has grown recently, the figure for the increase in GDP would be higher than 10 per cent.
The total of production is the base from which we seek to achieve our objectives of higher standards of living, of assistance to the disadvantaged and the poor, of contributing our share to the development of underdeveloped countries and all our other national and social economic objectives.
In the investment field- the building of new factories, roads and schools, the things that make production possible- there has been a veritable ferment of activity with the level of spending in this area some 25 per cent higher than a year ago.
These things are a tribute to the policies of this Government. In particular, they are a tribute to the restoration which has been achieved of this country’s international competitiveness. The major factor there is the halving of inflation which has been brought about by this Government. These are real and important achievements, and in particular, the current acceleration in real activity in the economy. It is these things which are at risk if the Government does not undertake the measures that are now before the House. It is that current acceleration in real activity which holds out the prospect of making an impression in reducing the admittedly too high level of unemployment and especially of youth unemployment.
These achievements and the significant recovery of the Australian economy are at risk because of potential resurgence of inflation, stemming from the difficult outlook on the cost front. That is one factor. The second factor is the too rapid increase in the money supply which, if it were permitted to eventuate, would feed, enable and promote greater inflation and inflationary expectations. It would undermine that solid achievement in the economic area to which I have just pointed. It is the Government’s purpose to prevent this by, on the one hand, curbing its spending and, on the other hand, maintaining its means to finance its spending without having to print money. That latter point involves two things. It involves demonstrating that the Government is prepared to hold off the potential resurgence of inflation, thus strengthening investor confidence in the economy and fostering sales of Government bonds in order to finance the activities of the Government at reasonable interest rates. We want to contain interest rates. The other aspect, and the specific subject matter of this Bill, is to provide for a stay of proceedings in the Government’s drive for lower taxation until it is in a position to proceed in the most advantageous way.
I have outlined what has happened in the area of output growth, new investment and in curbing inflation. What I would like to point to now as a necessary background to this discussion is what the Government has achieved by way of lowering taxation. Just before I do that, let me say that this Bill provides that pay-as-you-earn deductions stay as they are. No one shall pay more and no one shall pay less for the period of months until the changes are announced in the August Budget. That situation needs to be clearly understood, because the Australian Labor Party has been assiduously cultivating the impression that as from 1 July there will be a significant increase in taxation actually paid.
– But we are a low tax party.
-We are indeed, as I am going to stress, as the honourable member for Perth has just stated. What I have said is the initial, holding position. Between now and the Budget on 2 1 August, when the Government will have the money in for 1978-79 and will know where it stands, specific decisions will be made about the two main features that is, Hie 1.5 percentage points tax levy which- I do not mince words- was due to expire on 30 June, and, the tax indexation changes- in effect reductions- for 1978-79. The position is that decisions on those matters are, as of now, deferred. This action is being taken by the Government, as I say, against the background of its record in reducing taxation. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which points out the change in income tax collections over the last several years, adjusted by the price index so that, in effect, there is a measure of the real change in tax.
The table read as follows-
-This table shows that in the year 1973-74, under the Labor Government, the total of personal taxes increased by such an amount that when it is adjusted for the effect of inflation, it still represents a 20 per cent increase in the total of taxes that people paid. In the year 1974-75 the total of personal taxes was 41 per cent higher in actual terms than in the previous year. When adjusted for the very rapid inflation rate under Labor, it was just short of 20 per cent up in real terms. That was the real impact on the Australian people of the swinging increase in taxation. The table shows that from 1972-73, when the total of personal taxation was $4,089m, by 1975-76 it had increased to $9,2 19m. It more than doubled over that period of the previous Administration. That was a veritable tax harvest. It was largely financed and brought about by the very impact of rapid inflation and rising incomes because nothing was done by way of tax indexation, which the honourable member leading the Opposition had so much to say about a moment ago. In contrast the table shows that in 1978-79 the total of taxation, adjusted for price increases, increased by only 0.5 per cent. For 1 978-79- the figures are not all in- it is likely that there will be an actual decrease in the real impact of taxation of 0.3 per cent. This is indicative, as I have said, of this Government’s policy of lower taxation and tax indexation.
The impact of the Government’s tax indexation measures meant that in 1976-77 taxpayers paid nearly $ 1,000m less than they otherwise would have paid. In 1977-78, not only was there full indexing of the prevailing tax scales but also a new rate scale was introduced from 1 Februray which provided further advantages to taxpayers, in particular reduced marginal rates. There was a total saving to taxpayers of $ 1,370m. In 1978-79 the rate scale was indexed again. We hear a lot from members of the Opposition about so-called half indexation; but the new rate scale introduced in February had been affected by inflation for less than half a year so it had to be adjusted only as to half. The effect of this indexation and the new rate scale’s making its impact in that year, even allowing for the V/i per cent tax surcharge, meant a further saving of the order of $700m. These tax reforms of the Fraser Government are cumulative. Thus tax indexation and the standard rate tax scale, even with the tax surcharge, have meant that taxpayers are paying over $3,000m less than they otherwise would. That is the record of the Government. By international standards Australia has remained in the low tax league. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a second table prepared by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It shows for 1977 the total tax revenue, including social security contributions, as a percentage of gross domestic product.
The table read as follows-
-The table shows that for West Germany, for example, total tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product was 38.2 per cent. For Britain it was 36.6 per cent. For Australia it is 30 per cent, which is comparable with the United States of America. For Australia the figure is more than 8 percentage points below that for West Germany. In making this comparison I do not refer to the very high tax, high public sector countries such as Sweden and Norway. The percentage in the case of Sweden exceeds 50 per cent- 53.3 per cent. As I said, the percentage in Australia is 30 per cent. This Government has maintained the position through its low taxation policies.
It is against that background that we are discussing these measures. The Bill before us provides for a standstill in pay-as-you-earn deductions until all the figures are available, the position is clear and the Government has concluded its examination of what is to be achieved in terms of expenditure. Final decisions can then be made in respect of the two matters principally at issue. It has been said that on present indications it is not likely to be possible for the Government to concede both a reduction in taxation by ending the surcharge and by indexing the tax scale. Perhaps that is to put the options confronting the Government too starkly. Tax indexation is designed not so much to reduce taxes as to maintain the status quo in terms of the proportion of income paid in tax in a context of inflation and rising incomes. Tax indexation was never meant to rule out a real increase in tax if national necessity demanded it to consolidate the economy and meet national needs in respect of defence, capital spending and so on. I assure the Australian people however that this Government will not lightly increase taxes in a real sense until all the possibilities for pruning unnecessary expenditure have been examined.
To express a personal view: The Government has to look at the whole situation against the background of a full understanding of what would have been implied by indexation for 1978-79 and then make the appropriate decisions. It might well decide that in lieu of the tax surcharge, which is something of a blunt instrument impacting unevenly on different income groups, it will recast the tax system to spread the necessary burden of personal taxation as equitably as possible. As I said the other day in this House, there are many possibilities. I referred to the recently publicised proposals of the Government’s health and welfare committee as one such possibility. The essential feature of that proposal is to give the option to families to be treated as a notional partnership for tax purposes, which would have the effect of greatly reducing the incidence of taxation in favour of Australian families. Such a new structure would be consistent with any change upwards or downwards in the aggregate of taxes as circumstances reveal the need.
I predict that as a result of this total consideration of the whole situation, looking at what would have been implied by the indexation of scales and considering all the possibilities and options open to the Government, there will be an easing of the PA YE tax take after the Budget. In the upshot, the total of personal income tax collections for 1978-79 will not be much greater in real terms than they are this year, thus preserving the essential and overriding feature of the gains which the Government has achieved in reducing taxation in the interests of the Australian people.
-I have stated before- I will state it again- that this Government is the most distrustful, dishonest, untruthful, corrupt and discredited government that this country has ever known. It is led by a deceitful and dishonourable Prime Minister. One of the reasons I say this is that wherever one goes people are now starting to say: ‘When will a promise given by the Prime Minister on behalf of his Government be honoured?’ It is impossible nowadays to find any that have been honoured.
– I take a point of order. Generally I do not take points of order on aspersions cast in this House. I think that we have to accept them. But I believe that the honourable member went beyond the rules of the House with the description that he gave of the Prime Minister.
-I will rule on the point of order. The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat. As he is a Deputy Chairman of Committees he will be well aware of Standing Orders 75 and 76. Standing Order 75 states:
No member may use offensive words against either House of the Parliament or any Member thereof, against any member of the Judiciary, or against any statute unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal.
Standing Order 76 states:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
I will read part of the description of business and procedures of the House to refresh the honourable member’s memory. It states:
Matters to be dealt with only by substantive motion
Certain matters cannot be debated except upon a substantive motion which admits of a distinct vote of the House. These concern the conduct of the Sovereign, the Queen’s representative, the Speaker, Chairman and Members of both Houses and the Judiciary. Such matters therefore cannot be questioned by way of amendment or during the course of any debate.
The reference is pages 367, 368 and 428 of the 19th edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice. I know that the honourable member has overlooked the Standing Orders for the moment. I remind him of them and ask him to adhere to them during the debate.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. That took two minutes out of my speaking time of 20 minutes. This Bill deals basically with more promises broken by this Government. I have here a list of 15 broken promises. For example, in 1975 the Prime Minister undertook not to interfere with wage indexation. The Government has opposed full wage indexation at every opportunity. The Prime Minister said that he would not interfere with the half-yearly indexation of pensions. We know what has happened there. Pensions are indexed yearly. I make this point because the half-yearly indexation of pensions would cost about $30m out of a total revenue collection this financial year of $24,000m.
-Less than the VIPs.
– Yes. As the honourable member for Gellibrand says, it would be less than the cost of the VIP aircraft. In 1975 the Prime Minister undertook not to interfere with Medibank. Medibank has finally been buried. He undertook not to interfere with the community health program. He introduced the payment of block grants to the States and has steadily reduced those block grants to the point of decimation. In the last Budget, the Government said that the growth in the money supply was to be kept between 6 per cent and 8 per cent. It is now running at the rate of 12 per cent. In the last Budget the Government said that the rate of inflation would be reduced to about 5 per cent. It is now nearer the 9 per cent mark and will go to double figures at the end of this financial year solely because of the fiscal policies of this Government. The Prime Minister said that there would be jobs for everyone who wanted to work. We know the history of that statement. There has been record unemployment which will go through the roof by the beginning of next year.
The Prime Minister has completely dishonoured his promise to maintain the urban development scheme, which was very important to areas such as one I represent, that is, the outer western suburbs of Sydney, and to areas like the western suburbs of Melbourne. It was doing something worthwhile to improve the living standards and lifestyles of the people in those suburbs. But that scheme is non-existent today. The Prime Minister said that he would remove the tax surcharge of 1.5 per cent by 30 June this year. But, to the contrary, in this legislation he is increasing that surcharge to 2.57 per cent. His revenue collections this financial year will amount to $880m. Next financial year he will collect $ 1,320m from the Australian taxpayer -an increase of $440m. The Prime Minister promised that there would be full tax indexation. He gave partial tax indexation this financial year but he has already announced that he does not know whether he will be able to give full indexation next financial year. It is pretty certain that we will not get full tax indexation because already enshrined in the legislation before us today is the fiddling of the consumer price index. In this regard I quote from the explanatory memorandum to this Bill which the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has placed before this Parliament:
A further provision will specifically authorise the continued application of existing rates of income tax instalment (PAYE) deductions from salaries and wages until 30 November 1979, pending the making and implementation of 1979-80 Budget decisions about rates of personal income tax for 1979-80 (clause 5).
The third feature of the Bill will require that the effects on the Consumer Price Index resulting from the first two steps towards import parity pricing of locally produced crude oil be considered in arriving at the tax indexation factor used to adjust the steps in the personal income tax rate scale and the concessional rebates (clause 3 ).
In other words, the Prime Minister has enshrined in this legislation his proposed fiddle of the consumer price index in the event- the unlikely event- of his introducing full tax indexation in the August Budget. He promised not to interfere with the children’s services programs but that program has been emasculated. He promised not to interfere with the home loan interest deductibility scheme but it has been completely wiped out. He made promises to the people in 1975 about the home savings grant scheme, but he has now set a limit of $35,000 for homes qualifying for a full grant, reducing to zero at $40,000. 1 ask honourable members to look around and see how many homes can be bought for $35,000 at a time when, under this Government, housing costs are going through the roof. In other words, in no time at all, simply because of this alteration, home savings grants will be available to hardly anyone at all. The Prime Minister has even broken his promise to his mates in big business, the big mining organisations, about the coal export levy.
– As the honourable member for Banks has said, the Prime Minister has broken his promise to Utah. Of course also involved in this legislation is the termination of the trading stock valuation adjustment concession. Once again, he made a promise to his mates about that concession and he has broken that promise.
The Prime Minister is saving $ 1 ,300m through the proposals set out in the mini-Budget. These tax proposals and the other proposals announced in the mini-Budget the other night, including the final burying of Medibank, will cost the average family man at least another $10 a week. Let us look at the tax system. Let us take as an example the case of a taxpayer with dependants who at present pays a weekly tax of $38.69. His weekly tax without the surcharge would be $34.96. His tax without the surcharge and with full tax indexation would be $32.16. Therefore the total weekly cost to him of the tax measures in the legislation before this Parliament this afternoon is $6.53. The present weekly tax of a single man earning $220 a week, that is, around the average weekly earnings, is $50.17. His weekly tax without the surcharge would be $46.44. His weekly tax without the surcharge and with full tax indexation would be $44.54. Therefore the total weekly cost to him of these measures amounts to $5.63. So taking into account the health care costs, one can understand why I say that the average family man will be worse off by $10 a week.
The honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) talked about different types of options for the future. In other words, the Government is already looking at which options it has for breaking more promises. Here is one of the options that the Government could take. The aim of the Government is reputed to be to have a Budget deficit no greater than $2, 500m. Yet the Budget deficit presented with the mini-Budget on 24 May was $4,600m. If we substract from that amount the expected revenue saving of $ 1,300m announced on 24 May, we are left with a Budget deficit of $3,300m. If the Government maintains the tax surcharge through to 30 June 1980, it will gain another $770m in revenue. If the Government gives half indexation instead of full indexation, after fiddling with the consumer price index- and that is enshrined in the legislation before us today- it will collect another $2 50m. The amounts of $770m and $250m total $ 1,020m, which would bring the deficit down to $2,280m. We also have to consider the growth factor. As the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) said, the deficit could really blow right out. The estimate of only $300m is very conservative. The Government might decide in August to give away a sprat and forgo $30m by introducing half-yearly tax indexation. This would then give a deficit of $2,6 10m. But if the deficit blows out, or shows signs of blowing out, which it probably will, more vicious cuts will be made in expenditure. These are the types of options which were outlined so vaguely earlier this afternoon by the honourable member for Berowra.
Why has the Government this revenue problem? One of the major reasons is the Prime Minister’s off the cuff, off the top of the head promises, which cannot in the long term possibly be fulfilled. I am talking about the promises he made to his own supporters- the people with big money, the large mining corporations and so on. The Prime Minister has been quite profligate in this regard. He promised handouts to business, handouts such as the coal export levy. Business has received a portion of those handouts, but he has now broken the promise and is limiting the payments. I refer also to the investment allowance, which has been costing $400m a year. Yet we know that the investment allowance is being used by large sectors of business to introduce into industry new technology which is wiping out jobs. This is one of the major reasons for growing unemployment, particularly in the tertiary and manufacturing sectors of the economy. Honourable members should look at what happened with Telecom and in the business sector. One municipal council, which had a complement of 30 stenographers, introduced word processing machines and now has a complement of three stenographers.
Automation is being introduced into stores throughout the width and breadth of this country. The Government hurried along the automation of our home industries, which are not subject to competition from overseas. There is a case for automation, particularly in industries which are subject to competition from overseas, but the Government has deliberately developed irrational programs in our home industries, programs which, of themselves, have to reduce employment. Then, of course, there is the stock valuation adjustment deduction. All these schemes amounted to big money being outlayed. Handouts were given by the Prime Minister off the top of his head. Such handouts were quite irrational and irresponsible, and the result is that today the Government has a serious revenue problem, a revenue problem of its own making. I notice that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), who is at the table, is very silent indeed.
– He is a worried man.
– I think the Prime Minister is a little more worried than the Minister. At Question Time when the Minister for Foreign Affairs stood up to answer a question we all said: Andrew, you look good’. Of course, the Prime Minister immediately jumped up and went to the other end of the chamber. Did honourable members notice that? He was scared stiff. He could not move quickly enough.
I come now to the issue of tax avoidance. The Government gives lip service to tax avoidance and introduces an occasional measure to combat it. The greatest tax avoidance racket in this country today is the family trust mechanism -
– What did the Labor Party do about that?
– I will answer the honourable member in a moment. Income splitting, deliberately for the purposes of tax avoidance, is practised by the Leader of the National Country Party and Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The time of the honourable member would not be taken up if he did not continually infringe Standing Orders. I ruled earlier on reflections of that type being made against members of this House. I ask for the withdrawal of that remark.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, do you mean to say that there is to be such a cover-up in this place that we cannot point out that a member of parliament is using family trusts without being immediately ruled out of order in order to protect the member? If that is the case, I withdraw.
-I understood the honourable member said -
– I withdraw. I have one minute to go.
-The honourable member will resume his seat. I understood that the honourable member said that the Deputy Prime Minister was engaged in tax avoidance through family trusts. That is the remark I wish to be withdrawn.
– I said that I withdraw.
-I understand that the honourable member has now withdrawn the remark. I want it withdrawn unequivocally.
– I withdraw. I thought you heard me, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was saying that the Government refuses consistently to close up this tax avoidance racket because so many of its own members are involved. It is costing this country many hundreds of millions of dollars. With this sort of deceit, and with all these broken promises, is it any wonder that people are saying that this Government completely lacks integrity?
– I wish to raise a point of order. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to reconsider your ruling with respect to the honourable member for Chifley. I think it is a serious matter if the Chair rules that the Opposition is unable to state that the use of a family trust is a means of avoiding tax. If honourable members opposite, including the Deputy Prime Minister, proclaim that they use family trusts, we should be able to assert that that is a form of tax avoidance. I think it is serious if the Chair prevents that kind of statement from being made in this chamber.
-The Chair is bound by Standing Orders. I will read again, for the benefit of the House, Standing Order 75 and Standing Order 76. It seems that they are not understood by some members of the Opposition. Standing Order No. 75 states:
No Member may use offensive words against either House of the Parliament or any Member thereof, against any Member of the Judiciary, or against any statute unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal.
Standing Order 76 provides:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
It is the duty of honourable members, particularly those on the Opposition front bench, to understand Standing Orders and to adhere to them. It should not be necessary for the Chair continually to point out these things.
– On the point of order: The use of family trusts as a tax avoidance measure in this country, as indicated by documents from the Taxation Office which have been quoted in this Parliament by both the honourable member for Gellibrand and myself, is one of the major sources of taxation avoidance. It is very important that we know the reasons why a government is refusing to legislate against tax avoidance schemes. If the reason is that individual members are being influenced -
-Order! This is not the time for a speech. The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat. As a Deputy Chairman of Committees, he is as aware as I am of the Standing Orders of this Parliament.
– I support the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill which arises from the statement made by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) last Thursday. In my opinion the most important sentence in that statement was this one: the deficit in prospect on the basis of existing policy was in the order of $4,600m.
In a purely economic sense that prospect, in my opinion, constitutes a very real threat to the future of the Australian economy which requires very urgent and substantial action by the Government. It is that situation that has led the Government to the position where certain taxation decisions had to be made. I have stated time and time again in this place that we no longer live in an age when expanded Budget deficits lead automatically to expanded levels of economic activity and employment. On previous occasions, I have given my views as to why that traditional relationship no longer exists. I will not reiterate them.
– It is a pity that the honourable member for Gellibrand did not wait to hear this.
-Suffice it to say that ever expanding Budget deficits now have the reverse effect: They lead to reduced levels of output and employment. Recent economic history shows this quite clearly. The reasons for this are obvious from the way in which they affect monetary policy, wages policy, the balance of payments, community and business expectations and so forth. What is also important, from a monetary policy viewpoint, is not simply the fact that the Government was staring a $4,600m deficit in the face, but of almost equal significance is the fact that this deficit would have been one more large deficit coming on top of a whole series of substantial deficits in recent years. The implications of this situation for monetary policy are serious because not only is it again necessary to sell a large volume of government securities to finance a now large deficit, but also it is necessary for existing holdings of government paper to be maintained if the money supply is to be kept in check. This can only exert further upward pressure on interest rates and further weaken employment opportunities for the unemployed.
The Treasurer mentioned in his statement that the Government’s long term program of restraint has meant that the size of the deficit as a proportion of gross domestic product has been reduced from 5 per cent in 1975-76 to about 3.5 per cent in the current year. What is equally important to realise- this was not mentioned in the Treasurer’s statement- is that the deficit in prospect of over $4.5 billion involves a domestic deficit of nearly $3.5 billion. That amounts to about 8 per cent of the money supply. That figure was not quoted in the Treasurer’s speech. Such a situation quite obviously threatens to create excess liquidity and higher interest rates. Recent economic history shows quite obviously that excessively high monetary growth rates cause inflation rates to rise even at low levels of economic activity. The adverse effect on interest rates is obvious, as is the effect of a leakage of such liquidity overseas and the inflationary effect of that through downward exchange rate adjustments.
Mr Van Lennep, the Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, when referring to countries with rather vulnerable balance of payment positions, stated:
If any one of these countries took action to bolster demand by itself, its current deficit would increase and downward pressure on its exchange rate could worsen the inflationary situation and undermine confidence. These countries cannot therefore ease up on their restrictive policies unless they have a reasonable assurance that others will be doing the same.
In response to the earlier interjection by my colleague the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) when he mentioned that the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) did not really understand the causal relationships between Budget deficits and the domestic and external economies, I think it is interesting to note the comment made last year by Professor Corden when he replied to the policy of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. He said: ‘A mighty Keynesian expansion’- in other words, a large deficit- ‘as represented by the Institute’s policy would lead to a mighty devaluation’. Of course, that comment leads to all sorts of other implications both at the domestic level as well as in relation to the external account.
Even the sale of securities is hardly able to solve the problem of ever-expanding deficits, firstly, because of the securities stock problem which arises over time and causes Budget inflexibility through expanding debt servicing commitments and because of the strain this places on monetary policy in view of the liquid nature of these holdings. The effect on wages policy of a large deficit is not quite as direct. But I would agree with those who suggest that any loosening of fiscal and monetary policy could hardly serve to influence the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the direction of real wage restraint. The implications of that for employment are quite obvious.
Recent economic history also shows us the way in which a move towards large deficits adversely affects business confidence and expectations. In the early 1970s when the then Labor Government first commenced its so-called expansionary deficits, all we saw was massive contraction of the private sector with sharp reductions in output and employment as it became obvious that the financing of its public programs through higher tax, higher interest rates and higher inflation had very serious effects on business confidence. The ones who suffered most from this so-called benevolence were those who are now unemployed and those on low incomes whom Professor Henderson clearly saw as being the major victims of rampant inflation.
In more recent times, when restraint became the order of the day under the present Government, there has been a recovery in national production and, to a lesser extent, a recovery in employment. The fact remains that, with the policy of restraint exercised by this Government, there have emerged the first signs of economic recovery. Even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has publicly acknowledged this, as did the honourable member for Berowra in his earlier contribution to this debate. It is therefore absolutely essential for the Government to prevent a future deficit blowout of the magnitude referred to by the Treasurer in his statement of last Thursday night, because this would clearly lead to the perceptions of big government which caused so much of the trouble in the early 1 970s.
Quite apart from the contractionary effects of financing the deficit, this country has already observed the phenomenon of higher savings ratios as increased inflationary expectations are coupled with expectations of employment and security. The effect on private investment planning is obvious, both for domestic production and for export and import competing industries. In other words, the deficit, particularly when it is in the order of $4,600m, can bankrupt this country. It can prevent the removal of those fundamental distortions such as excessive inflation, imbalances between prices and incomes, poor international competitiveness and private sector uncertainty, which together prevent a return to self-sustaining economic growth, rising living standards, and better employment opportunities. Given this situation, the Government clearly had a responsibility to do what was in the best long term interests of the economy of this country. I venture to say that we are, at the moment, at a critical point in our economic history. A failure to act now against the impending deficit of $4.5 billion would be the death blow to this economy.
I therefore welcome the measures taken to reduce the size of this deficit. It is completely in line with the strategy followed by this Government since it took office. In real terms, the deficit has been contained and substantially reduced from the 1975-76 level, in real terms. The growth in expenditure this year will be approximately 8.5 per cent. That is the lowest rate of increase in a decade. This compares with the growth in Commonwealth spending of 1 15 per cent in the three years of the previous Government. Quite obviously, confronted with a deficit of $4.5 billion, the Government had to take further steps. No government likes doing unpopular things. But all governments are charged with the responsibility of doing what is in the best interests of the country over a longer time frame.
– Doing what is right.
-That is quite correct. Doing what is right and what is necessary. Given these difficult decisions, the Government, in both raising revenue and expenditure restraint, has acted responsibly. The burden has been shared between the household and the corporate sector, between the rural sacred cow and the non-farm sector and between the disadvantaged and relatively well-off individuals. In the health field, for example, the Treasurer has made it quite clear that the pensioners and the socially disadvantaged continue to be fully protected, while the general population remains protected against large outlays on medical services.
On the revenue side, commitments to tax reductions have not been met; and I view that with regret, as does the Government. The Treasurer was quite forthright about that in his statement. The present rate of tax is to be maintained; and, given the budgetary situation, I accept that. Although I am unhappy about the maintenance of these tax rates, I must say that the hypocrisy of the Opposition on these matters amazes me. After all, as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stated on 28 May, under our reforms a marginal rate of over 10c in the dollar less than the rate under Labor applies to incomes of $ 10,000 a year and a marginal rate of over 20c in the dollar less than the rate under Labor applies to incomes of $16,000 a year. Members of the Opposition criticise the Government for maintaining existing tax rates; yet in office the Labor Party expanded the deficit fivefold. It increased expenditure by 1 1 5 per cent in three years and it increased revenue by 93 per cent. (Quorum formed). I am not quite sure why that quorum was called. I do not know whether it was called because the members of the Labor Party do not like their tax record being thrown back at them.
The Labor Government increased income tax revenue by 125 per cent; but the present Government has ensured, through tax indexation and reform of the tax rate scales, that taxpayers are collectively paying $3,000m less personal tax than they would have paid under the tax scales in the last Labor Budget. A worker on average weekly earnings, even with the November 1978 increase, is over $9 a week better off than he would have been without these reforms. I also point out that, under the tax reforms of this Government, up to 500,000 individuals on lower incomes no longer have to pay personal income tax -
– Because they have not a job.
– Because the Government increased the minimum threshold limit; that is the reason. These reforms and corporate sector tax reforms have done much to restore confidence in the private sector. But in some areas of tax reform perhaps we as a Government did too much too soon, and this has led to the present situation. Perhaps this Government overreacted to the high tax days of the previous Administration. I must say to certain honourable members opposite who have sought to put a label on me in recent weeks that I do not happen to be a supporter pf high tax levels. In fact, I am a proponent of lower Budget deficits and as a first preference in closing the gap I would advocate reducing expenditure further, rather than increasing taxation. Unlike the honourable member for Fremantle, I happen to believe very strongly in the private enterprise economy because it is the most productive economic system yet devised and it is the system that has given this country, over its short history, one of the highest living standards in the world. Achieving these standards has also led to Australia’s having a lower incidence of poverty than almost any other country.
As a supporter of this kind of economic system, I must say that it is essential to aim for maximising incentives by minimising the incidence of taxation. That would be my priority because any private enterprise government should seek to resolve budgetary problems by first reducing public expenditure rather than by increasing private taxes. Otherwise, there is a danger of killing the goose that lays the golden egg and the people who would ultimately suffer would be the poorer sections of the community. But, given the dimensions of the deficit in prospect, some restraint on both sides of the ledger was necessary, and I accept that.
In my view, more could have been done on the expenditure side. The Treasurer stated that the health measures being adopted ‘are in keeping with our general philosophy of concentrating
Government assistance on the needy’. The decision to introduce a limit on the value of homes which can qualify people for a homes savings grant seemed to apply the same principle. In my view, this philosophy could and should be extended to the welfare area. Until this is done, taxes in Australia will remain at unacceptably high levels, which militates against the unemployed and against the prospect of generating the kind of wealth which this country can produce and which would be of benefit to all groups in society.
Unlike the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), whose recent criticism of me seems to indicate that he favours more income support for the wealthy, I regard the needs approach to welfare as being equitable and compassionate, for three main reasons: Firstly, it permits greater budgetary flexibility, thereby enabling governments to respond more quickly and more generously to newly emerging areas of poverty. Secondly, it permits a greater concentration of welfare resources on the needy and may allow those resources or benefits to be paid at a higher level and also to be protected from inflation, which often cannot be done with universally paid benefits because it is too costly. Thirdly, it would certainly mean that society could be committed to lower taxation levels, thereby helping to create employment and further increase overall living standards. In that context one could almost say that a rich person’s benefit is another person’s job. I think this whole issue should be closely examined by the Government. But this is not a simple, straightforward call for expenditure reductions. It involves both the income support system and the taxation system.
When I refer to the need for having another look at our method of welfare resource distribution, I acknowledge that we are looking at a complex problem with no straightforward solution. We should look to a solution which is an internally consistent package. I think we should accept that our taxation and income support systems are two sides of the same coin- one adding to income and the other withdrawing income. In my opinion, the present system of taxation and income support is anomalous and fails to meet its objectives of equitable resource distribution, and this whole issue requires the attention of the Government.
I support wholeheartedly the efforts of the Government to continue fiscal restraint, to hold down the deficit, which this Bill helps to ensure.
Notwithstanding the short term political difficulties, this will contribute in the long run to the viability and strength of the Australian economy, which is in the best interests of all Australians. I am very pleased to have the opportunity of supporting this Bill.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Hodges) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr MacKellar) put:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 May, on motion by Mr Macphee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition opposes this Bill which gives legislative backing to the mini-Budget which was brought down last Thursday night. That mini-Budget, of which this Bill is a part, destroyed the last vestige of the credibility of the Fraser Government. Secondly, it created much more uncertainty and insecurity in households and in the business community in Australia. Thirdly, it distributed the cost burden in an inequitable and highly regressive manner. Fourthly, on the admission of the Treasurer (Mr Howard), it will fail to reduce inflation, it will fail to bring down the level of unemployment, and the economy will continue to deteriorate.
We have just dealt with a tax Bill arising out of that mini-Budget. The Bill dealt with some of the more iniquitous effects of it- the fact that no indexation will be applied; the fact that the surcharge is to continue; and the fact that there is going to be fiddling with the consumer price index. The Bill before the House imposes the two per cent ad valorem duty on imports into this country which are not already burdened with some form of duty. The Treasurer attempted to sell his package on the basis of Budget responsibility. Spokesmen for the Government say that its central aim is to reduce the deficit because this will bear down on inflation and reduce unemployment. We have not had any evidence that that strategy works, yet the Government is persisting with it.
On two counts the Government’s concept of Budget responsibility is utterly invalid. Firstly, the Government completely ignores the fact that this process of increasing taxes and reducing
Government expenditure will threaten employment by contracting consumer demand. The Government will create more unemployment. Its policy of reducing the deficit will inevitably create more unemployment. This has been happening ever since this Government bought its way into office. It bought its way into office, both in 1975 and 1977, by making false promises. Secondly, the Government has completely overlooked the fact that measures that have been used to reduce the deficit have had a direct inflationary effect. Where it has increased indirect taxes, this has had an influence on prices which in turn have influenced the level of inflation. Those indirect taxes have influenced living expenses generally. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) said last Thursday night in his reply to that Budget statement:
Fraserism comes with a high cost.
This Bill represents one of those costs. I repeat that we have amateurs in charge of the economy. They run the economy on hunches and guesses, and those hunches and guesses are not working. They apply completely foolish economies. I say that they are foolish because they are inflationary and contractionary- in other words, they play on inflation and help to increase unemployment. If we look at the Treasurer’s statement last Thursday night we find only this explanation of why this Bill has come into the House:
It is intended to impose from 1 July 1979 an ad valorem revenue customs duty of 2 per cent on most goods currently imported free of duty where international trade commitments and understandings permit. This measure is estimated to yield about $80m in revenue in 1 979-80.
Those are the words that introduce the changes about which the Treasurer told us last night. The Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee), in the cryptic and far too brief second reading speech which he made when he introduced this Bill to this House, gave no details of how the Government estimated this figure of $80m. Indeed, he did not even mention the figure of $80m. We have to go back to the Treasurer’s statement for that. I am glad that I cannot blame the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife), who is sitting at the table, for the preparation of this second reading speech because he and I had a little altercation a week or two ago about the need for greater detail in second reading speeches. Now that I look at the departmental advisers present, perhaps this second reading speech was prepared by his Department. I can only say, if that is so, that the lessons have not been learnt because we cannot learn much about this Bill from the second reading speech. However, let me recount to the House some of the few things that we have learnt from that second reading speech. When the Minister for Productivity spoke to the House he gave only a sketchy, albeit a more extensive, indication of the duty free imports which would be excepted from paying this new duty, including goods covered by rates bound by international trade agreements, crude and enriched petroleum oil, motor vehicle components, non-commercial goods such as outside packaging and re-imports and, lastly, government purchases.
This Bill is living proof of the foolishness, deception and, indeed, hypocrisy associated with the mini-Budget generally. It is foolish because the measure itself is inflationary; it is deceptive because it represents an inequitable form of indirect taxation; and it is hypocritical because it is in conflict with the Government’s posturing in bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations. I will come to each of those three elements in turn. I shall deal first with the inflationary impact. The imposition of such a tariff on imported products increases the price. It allows domestic producers of similar products to increase their domestic prices on those products. Thus, the imposition of a tariff can, and usually does, lead to an increase in the domestic producers’ gross returns on their output in proportion to the increase in the domestic prices made possible by the tariff. The gross effect of an increase in tariffs upon prices therefore would be greater than that simply associated with importers passing on to consumers the extra $80m in customs duty. In other words, the consumers of this country will have to pay not only that extra $80m but also the mark-ups on that $80m that will occur in many cases.
How much consumers will have to pay in addition to the $80m is not possible to estimate at this stage. It depends on the market share of domestic producers; it depends on the competition in the market for particular goods against which the imports compete; and it depends on the extent to which imported goods are intended for final consumption or for inclusion in domestic production processes. As the House will readily note, if the goods are for domestic production processes there will be mark-ups as the process continues through to the final consumption stage. It also depends on the gross profit margins which are applied after the imported goods have been landed in this country. Therefore, the burden on the consumers of this nation will be much more than $80m by the time they come to pay for the goods on which these import duties are to be applied.
We are uncertain about how much will have to be paid, but we are certain that, whilst the $80m is only about 0.15 per cent of the private final consumption expenditure during 1977-78, the impact on inflation will be greater than that 0. 15 per cent. Not only will these increased tariff costs be passed on to the consumer of imported goods, whether they be individuals or businesses, but also additional inflationary effects will be associated with other factors, such as, firstly, the many goods previously imported duty free, being themselves inputs into Australian production processes, and, secondly, the action of domestic producers and/or retailers in putting up the prices of domestically produced goods competitive with these imports.
Therefore, this inflationary effect has to be added to the other effects resulting from the steps announced in the mini-Budget, including increased personal health costs and, of course, price rises by companies trying to compensate for higher company tax payments resulting from the abolition of the trading stock valuation allowance. These additional inflationary forces have to be considered against the background of the already resurgent inflation loose in the Australian economy. For example, only yesterday the Australian Statistician described the increases during the last year in the prices of materials used in manufacturing as ‘the highest on record ‘, being an amazing increase of 32 per cent during the 12 months to March of this year compared with an increase of 5.5 per cent the year before. The Government appears to be doing its hardest to ensure that we will soon again pass through the 10 per cent inflation rate barrier- a rate which is double that promised by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in August of last year.
Leaving the inflationary effect of this measure, the next point to consider is the inequity of the measure. As the Minister for Productivity noted in his second reading speech, this tariff impost is not across-the-board when it comes to imports currently admitted duty free. Since the percentage of our imports admitted duty free is around 60 per cent, so that the likely value of duty free imports in 1979-80 would have been in the order of $8,000m, these exceptions would seem to account for about half of all duty free imports. The goods left over- that is, the ones on which the imposition is made and which are still subject to this tariff- apparently will number between 800 and 900 items, ranging through the whole spectrum from raw fish to aircraft. Housewives will find the price of raw fish in the supermarket a burden. When it comes to aircraft, the extra cost will be added to the freight costs of this nation, which will have a multiplier effect and will move through almost everything that we purchase as consumers. This tariff hits goods quite arbitrarily. It is based not on capacity to pay principles or protection principles but on the country of origin or the nature of the consumer criteria.
Let us consider one of the inequities which will result from this additional tax, which is what it is. It is really a form of indirect tax. In spite of the announcement of the Treasurer that he will not impose further sales taxes or a value added tax, he has introduced this measure, which is a substitute for that. But it is not an across-the-board form of applying a tax. This tax will hit our export industries. Their cost structures will be adversely affected because of the increased costs of inputs, either wholly or partly imported. Our exporters are that group in the private sector which we should be encouraging at this time. We should not be pulling the rug from under their marginal markets. We are all well aware of the need to be more internationally competitive, and yet this measure will do nothing but increase the costs of inputs whereby our exporters will find it all the more difficult to be competitive because of the need to absorb those costs. That our exporters, whether of agricultural or industrial goods, will be affected is clearly indicated by the fact that, of our imports, around 45 per cent are producer materials for use in our building and construction, rural and manufacturing industries and around 25 per cent are capital equipment items. Only 25 per cent are finished consumer goods.
The third main point that I want to make in responding to this measure is that it is hypocritical, hypocritical because it is in conflict with the Government’s posturing in bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations. Not only will this measure add to inflation and inequities, as I have explained, but it also underscores the inconsistency of this Government towards trade matters. We have heard that the Prime Minister while overseas often lectures to the effect that the world economy needs freer trade and reduced protectionism. Likewise, the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) has stated- he must have done so with his tongue in his cheekthat the object of our involvement in the Multilateral Trade Negotiations talks has been:
So the 2 per cent additional tariff flies in the face of all of this posturing. This is made even more incredible because one of Australia’s key interests in the MTN has been to push for a meaningful liberalisation of trade in agricultural products as an essential condition for a successful outcome. We had a lot of posturing on this from the Prime Minister before the dinner break last night when referring to the visit by Mr Gundelach, and after dinner by the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations in seeking to persuade us- he was not very successful- a lot had been achieved in the negotiations with the European Economic Community. The most important nations for our agricultural products are the developed economies, those very countries which this increased tariff will most affect because the imports from developing countries are exempt.
Where is the consistency of this Government’s attitude to international trade questions? On the one hand it postures, as I have suggested, in the sorts of statements that are made abroad in international negotiations; yet on the other hand, it comes down with a measure such as this, putting a 2 per cent impost on all those goods which are not now subject to tariffs, with a number of exceptions which are really not very meaningful. Further, this new tariff is in blatant disregard of Article 37 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which involves a commitment to refrain from increasing Customs duties. Unlike the 12’/2 per cent additional duty on goods subject to quota which was imposed on the Australian community in the Budget last August, this action cannot be defended by Article 19, where it may have been excused on the grounds that increased import competition was threatening to cause serious injury to domestic producers. There is no such excuse in this case. It is a tax, an impost which I cannot see comes within the roles of G ATT in any way.
Coming to my conclusion, the purposes and problems besetting this Bill are a microcosm of those contained in the Government’s mismanagement of the economy generally. For this reason, I repeat that we oppose this Bill in no uncertain terms. We do so because there appears to have been little serious thought given by the Government to the possible consequences of its actions. The Government has grabbed greedily at the opportunity to raise an additional $80m annually. As I have explained, this will not be the amount with which the consumers of Australia are clobbered. It will be $80m plus. This has all been done without asking whether it is worthwhile, given the detrimental effects in terms of inflation, in terms of the inequities it is causing, in terms of the disruptions in the economy, and in terms of our international relations.
In this respect, the Government should be condemned for circumventing the requirements of section 24(3) and (4) of the Industries Assistance Commission Act, which specifies that the Minister should not increase or reduce duties imposed in imported goods without first referring the matter to the IAC for recommendation. In serious doubt is the wisdom of the Government in hastily embarking on this course of action without considered advice as to the effects of the decision. Finally, I suspect that this move is only the thin end of the wedge. Neither the Treasurer nor the Minister for Productivity, when he introduced this Bill, mentioned the duration of this measure. We have heard of the tax rate changes. We were not given, as promised, indexation from 1 July. We were not allowed, as promised, the elimination of the tax surcharge, and those measures date only until November. There is no such promise in this case. This is a revenue-raising measure with which we are going to have to put up fairly indefinitely. Indeed, the words used by the Government seem to indicate that this indirect tax impost on Australian producers and consumers is here to stay. Who knows when and how often it will be increased.
We have seen before examples of thin ends of wedges in cases such as this. We learned in the Budget last year that we were going to be given 40 per cent of our medical costs as a rebate directly out of taxation. Of course, that has now been taken away from us. That was another thin end of the wedge whereby the worst fears we held have come to pass. This is just another one of those fears that we must readily have and from which we have no relief. In short, I repeat that the total package has destroyed the last vestige of credibility that this Government may still have had. It has created more uncertainty and insecurity in both households and business sectors. It has distributed the cost burden in an inequitable and a highly regressive way, and it will fail to reduce inflation. In fact, measures such as this will increase inflation, and through that it will also increase unemployment in our community. Is it any wonder that we will oppose this Bill not only at the second reading stage but also at the third reading stage.
-The Bill before the House follows the announcement last week by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) of the Government’s approach to economic needs. It is a very straightforward and clear piece of legislation. I was surprised to hear the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) expressing criticism on false promises. It is extraordinary to find the honourable member for Adelaide so naive in this matter. He says that the Government has approached this legislation without due regard to the implications, but he put no case to back up his argument. In point of fact, his criticism really was extraordinary. He used the extravagant words: ‘The total package has destroyed the last vestige of credibility of the Government’. He then went on to say that it would increase unemployment. I have got a very vivid recollection of the previous Administration of which he was a prominent member. Overnight it removed tariffs and allowed the flood of goods into this country which robbed an enormous number of Australians of their jobs. It was estimated at the time that 50,000 jobs were lost overnight. The Whitlam Administration came under challenge and it finally conceded that it had taken the wrong action. (Quorum formed). Following the disaster of the Whitlam Government’s policy in the matter of tariffs the present Government undertook a complete review. The House is well aware of its very proper approach in this matter which has resulted in a more evenhanded accountability. This has produced a better system. In particular, the Government has taken into consideration the special needs of many areas in regard to customs tariff matters.
All that this Bill does is to introduce a minimal duty of 2 per cent on a range of goods which are presently imported free of customs duty. If we consider the effect on our economy of imports, the pricing of goods and local production, there is no doubt that the Government has taken a proper approach from a revenue raising point of view in introducing a 2 per cent level of duty on a number of goods. It has done that without imposing on costs, without weighting the cost factor in commerce and industry but at the same time maintaining the exemption of goods from certain countries. I refer to arrangements with New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and other developing countries which are covered under special provisions. In addition, motor components and some imports have a particular relationship to special arrangements that have been made for production in major manufacturing sectors in this country.
It is surprising to hear the honourable member for Adelaide admit that he is so poorly informed on the total spectrum of tariffs that he is unable to recognise the validity of what the Government is doing. There is every justification for the actions that have been taken. It was suggested that there has not been a proper inquiry and that the Industries Assistance Commission has not played a proper role in the lead-up to the
Government’s decision in this matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) will no doubt tell the House at a later stage, the decision is very much in line with the Government ‘s policy of seeing that there is a proper, evenhanded approach to all aspects of customs tariffs. For this reason, I strongly support the measure.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-The Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) we are debating tonight is a measure to impose extra revenue by way of customs duty. My own view is that it is very inappropriate to use customs duty specifically and only for the purpose of raising revenue. Customs can be used effectively I think, for influencing the direction of industry policy in this country, but on this occasion it is being used purely for the purpose of revenue raising and for that in itself, it can be condemned.
However it is worth pointing out that this has become a pattern of this Government. Not only has the Government used personal income tax and company tax as a means of raising revenue, but also in particular it has made a major assault in the area of revenue raising via indirection taxation. In fact, in the last couple of years there has been a massive increase in the amount of revenue that this Government has raised by way of indirect taxation. If we compare the year 1975-76 with the year 1978-79, we find that there has been a 51 per cent increase in the amount of revenue raised via indirect taxation. In 1 975-76, the revenue raised via indirect taxation was about $4.8 billion while in 1978-79 it was about $7.2 billion. That is an increase of about $2.5 billion or 5 1 per cent. It is true that some of that increase can be put down to increases in prices and no doubt some of it can be put down to actual increases in the number of transactions. But over half of the increase can be put down to simple increases in the rates of indirect taxation, that is, $ 1 .3 billion extra has been raised by this Government as a result of changing the rates which applied to indirect taxation.
We have heard a lot about the personal income tax rates of this Government compared with the personal income tax rates of the former Labor Government. In fact the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) was at some pains to put forward the rather absurd proposition that if the Hayden rates or personal income tax applied now, an extra $3 billion would have been raised. That clearly is an absurd proposition because if Government members want to argue in that way, it would be perfectly open to us to argue that if the McMahon rates of personal income tax which applied during 1972-73 applied now, an extra $5 billion in revenue would have been raised. So what we can really say is that whereas it may be true that in the very unlikely event that the Hayden tax rates had remained unchanged from 1975-76 to this year an extra amount would have been raised had the McMahon rates still been in force, an extra $2 billion would have been raised over and above the amount that would have been raised under the Hayden tax scales. In that connection, it is interesting to make a comparison with the rates of indirect taxation. If we do the sums- I recognise that that would present some difficulty to Government members- we discover that if the Hayden rates of indirect taxation applied now, $1.3 billion less revenue would have been raised. I repeat: $1.3 billion less revenue would have been raised if the Hayden indirect tax rates had applied this year as opposed -
– Let us get back to personal income tax.
-I am sure that the honourable member for Perth would love to get back to personal income tax, but what he has to recognise is that this Government is a government of high taxation. This Government is responsible for a 50 per cent hike in the amount of revenue which has been raised via indirect taxation, $1.3 billion of which has been raised solely as a result of lifting the rates of indirect taxation. The Hayden rates of indirect taxation would have resulted in $1.3 billion less in terms of revenue than would have been gained from the rates which now apply under this Government. What this measure does is take that one step further by increasing again the amount of revenue that this Government will gain from customs duty. This measure comes at a time when the Government has announced- but has not legislated for- the continuation of the coal export levy. So we can see that once again there will be a vast increase in the amount of revenue that this Government will achieve via indirect taxation. What has to be recognised by these people who pretend to be interested in equity, who pretend to be interested in looking after those people on the lower end of the income scale is that indirect taxes have a very regressive effect indeed. Indirect taxes apply regardless of a person’s level of income. A person on a high income pays the same rate of indirect taxation as someone on a low income. What this Government has done by increasing the level of indirect taxation is to make its revenue raising even more regressive than it would have been otherwise. Of course, the Government is not immune from criticism in relation to making the personal income tax scales more regressive either. Whenever this Government does bestow a temporary and somewhat trivial benefit in the way of personal income tax, we always find that the benefit is greatest for those on the largest incomes and least for those on the lowest incomes.
This Government prides itself on being a government of reform in the taxation area. In fact I had to sit through a very dreary speech by the honourable member for Perth in which he accused the Opposition of a certain measure of hypocrisy. If ever someone was guilty of the charge of hypocrisy, it is the honourable member for Perth through his support for this Government and through his individual -
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Fremantle that he may not reflect on another member of the House. I do not ask him to withdraw. I merely ask him to watch his language.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I thought that the honourable member for Perth was sufficiently thick-skinned not to be perturbed by the odd reference to his own hypocrisy. But if that is your wish, Mr Deputy Speaker, I of course will comply.
– But he is a high taxation man.
– Not only is the honourable member for Perth a high taxation man, but also he is a ‘high-pocrisy ‘ man.
-Well, Mr Deputy Speaker, he was very enthusiastic in his accusations of the Labor Party and, by inference me, I guess, of the charge of hypocrisy. Therefore I think it is not beyond the bounds of reason for me to cast some sorts of aspersions about the behaviour of the honourable member for Perth.
I have already indicated the extent to which the Government has increased the revenue via indirect taxation. As far as personal income taxation is concerned, there has been a 40 per cent increase in the revenue gained by the Government from that source. The interesting aspect of this movement is that most of that increase has come from wage and salary earners. If we look at the personal income tax receipts of this Government we find that, as a result of its policies, there has been a very vast increase in taxation on people who pay their taxes via the payasyouearn system. In 1976-77 about $8.5 billion was gained by that means. That has grown in two years to $ 10.3 billion- an increase of over 20 per cent. If we look at those people who pay personal income tax via other methods, that is, via provisional income tax, we find that the increase has been very marginal indeed- from $2.5 billion to $2.6 billion. That is a very slight increase. We are discovering that this Government is prepared to protect people who have access to tax dodging schemes. If the -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. This is quite a good speech but I think the honourable member for Fremantle is on the wrong Bill. We are debating the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2). I have not heard the word ‘customs’ used once.
-I have heard the honourable member mention it but not for some time. Perhaps the honourable member for Fremantle might get back to the Bill.
-As is said in the Senate, I will try to tie my remarks to the Bill before the House. The point is, however, that it is quite impossible to separate the import of this Bill, which is a revenue raising Bill, from the whole question of the deficit on which the honourable member for Perth waxed so -
– I raise a point of order. The Bill is the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2), it is not a general revenue collection Bill. Such a Bill was debated last week. The honourable member was supposed to be speaking on the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to put the honourable member on the right track.
-I think that the honourable member for Bendigo can leave it to me to watch the debate carefully.
-I remember that when the honourable member for Bendigo had been here only a couple of months my predecessor had cause to reflect on his debating competence. I remember that the honourable member for Bendigo got up to talk on an education Bill but was obviously way wide of the mark.
-The honourable member for Fremantle would be well advised to get back to the Bill.
– I was just saying that my predecessor had cause to suggest that the honourable member for Bendigo had truly come down in the last shower of rain. My predecessor had to spend the major part of his reply correcting the honourable member for Bendigo. It is necessary for me to follow that tradition and correct the honourable member. What we are talking about -
-The honourable member for Fremantle will not continue along that line of thought any further. The honourable member is here to debate a Bill. I ask him to do so.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, it has not been necessary up to now for me to correct you. If you are being influenced by the honourable member for Bendigo I would point out that we are debating a measure purely and simply designed to raise $80m of revenue.
– To raise tax.
– The reason why the Government is raising that revenue via an indirect taxation measure is, as the honourable member for Adelaide points out, that it has a deficit problem.
– We are debating a Bill to raise revenue. It is a Customs Bill and the honourable member for Fremantle has not touched on that aspect of revenue raising for some little time. I now invite him to do so.
– He doesn’t know anything about it.
-In fact, I know quite a lot about it. It seemed to me that it was important to deal with this Bill in a broader context. Let me return to the specific measure which is before the House. I remind the House of what I said at the beginning of my speech. It has been necessary for this Government, because of the ineptitude of its general economic policy, to look directly to the area of indirect taxation as a source of raising revenue. The Bill that is before us is one such measure. It follows a number of other measures which this Government has introduced over the last few years. The measure that is before us is designed purely and simply to raise $80m for the purpose of attempting to reduce the deficit. This is a most inappropriate way to raise revenue. As I said, in the first instance the tariff can be used as a sensible instrument for pursuing sensible industry policy, but to use it purely and simply as a revenue raising mechanism is quite absurd. It is absolutely arbitrary in its effect on particular industries and, worse than that, it is inflationary. What honourable members opposite have to recognise is that in their pursuit of bringing down inflation they are again introducing a measure which assuredly will increase inflation over the next few months.
– Hear, hear!
-I am delighted to have the support of the honourable member for Adelaide because he is one of the perspicacious members in this area. This measure is inflationary in two ways. In the first instance goods which up to this stage have been imported duty free will now have their prices increased by 2 per cent. That is bad enough. It will also mean that the price of domestically produced goods which are in competition with those imported goods will also rise by 2 per cent. Indeed, it would be quite irrational for domestic producers of those competitive goods not to increase their prices in response to a 2 per cent increase in the price of the imported products. It is very difficult to estimate the extent to which this measure will influence the consumer price index. In fact, I understand that the Government still has not been able to provide for us, or for anyone else for that matter, a list of the items involved in this measure.
– But we know of at least an $80m addition to costs.
-We certainly know that the $80m to be raised from this measure will be passed on in the form of price increases. We do not know yet the extent to which it will affect the prices of goods produced in this country which have been, and still will be, competing with those imported goods. I suspect that the impact on the CPI will be far greater than the impact represented simply by the $80m which will be added to the price of imported goods. This indicates again the dilemma which this Government is in. It is obsessed at the moment with the question of deficits.
What the honourable member for Perth has to answer for is the report of a committee, of which he is a member, which has suggested that the preoccupation of this Government over the next 12 months must be in relation to the size of the deficit. What his committee has suggested, and what he has been a main protagonist for, is an increase in personal income taxation, and that, of course, is something which will follow him to his electoral grave. The fact is that he has been party to a proposition to increase the amount of personal income taxation by 2c in the dollar. But worse than that is the suggestion made by that Liberal Party back bench Treasury committee, or whatever it is called, on the last page of its report. It suggests that the Government should abandon personal income tax indexation. The committee says, in effect, that it is quite inconsistent to have both personal income tax indexation and indexation of Budget outlays.
The committee is saying that the community is faced with one of two choices, or perhaps both. The first is to abandon the indexation of personal income tax. The other is to abandon the indexation of outlays. The committee specifically points to health and welfare benefits. We can see that this particular committee, of which the honourable member for Perth is a member, is not interested in maintaining the indexation of welfare benefits, or else it is not interested in maintaining the indexation of personal taxation. A third proposition is that it wants to abandon both. That is something which I would suspect is to be a matter of considerable debate over the next 12 months. In conclusion, I say that this is a totally counter-productive, inequitable measure but it is in pursuit of the policy of the committee of the back bench members of the Liberal Party.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr McLean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22 May, on motion by Mr Staley:
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 would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1979 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, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both Bills? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-Both measures are machinery measures and in principle represent the adjustments that have been made in recent years and that are necessary from time to time with changing values. These measures follow those introduced by the Honourable Kim Beazley when he was Minister for Education. It is for this reason that the Opposition does not oppose the Bills. However, it must be admitted that recent events make it impossible to debate these Bills and their implications fully. In introducing the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) said:
The amendment to the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1977 will be the final adjustment as it makes provision for increases in the salary and wage content of 1978 recurrent programs to December 1978. The States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1978 will be amended again in the Budget sittings of the Parliament to take account of further cost increases in accordance with the Government’s announced policy.
In respect of the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill, he said:
In accordance with the Government’s decision to restore fixed triennial funding for recurrent expenditure the Bill also provides recurrent grants for colleges of advanced education in respect of the years 1980 and 1981 at the same real level as for 1979, and supplements the recurrent grants to universities, for these years, which were provided previously in the principal Act.
He went on to say:
It is expected that arrangements for recurrent grants for technical and further education in respect of 1 980 and 1 98 1 will be announced during the Budget sittings after the Government has considered the report of the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training.
Only two days later the Treasurer (Mr Howard) said:
Education is another large block of expenditure which has come under close attention . . .
The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) will shortly issue detailed guidelines for the programs of the education commissions in 1980. These will show that programs have been more rigorously pruned than on any previous occasion.
Honourable members will appreciate that the changes that occurred two days after the introduction of the Bills and the fact that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has not announced the proposed guidelines and the changes of direction that he will be trying to attain make it very difficult for us to discuss just where education is going under these Bills. It is obvious that there is to be a serious downgrading of the importance of education to this Government with very widespread effects in the community. As we know already, the guidelines imposed by this Government on the various education committees have already attracted adverse comments from those bodies themselves, particularly to the point of their being able to do their real job effectively. I think that it would be as well for us in this” period of adjustments being made and uncertainty being introduced into the future to look at the general education scene because, after all, these Bills affect the whole broad spectrum of education.
The Australian Labor Party sees education as a great social tool in promoting equality of opportunity. The Government is always proclaiming the virtues of freedom of choice and enterprise. As a maxim it is hard to criticise that. But to be effective there must be equality of opportunity for every individual to cope with his environment, occupation, community, family relationships, work and leisure time. We are not talking about equality of education. Its very nature means the educational process is flexible and innovative. But without resources, without personnel, without hope- to which condition this Government appears to be reverting it- there is little opportunity for the many. So it is as well to restate some of the beliefs that we have in education.
We see education, amongst other things, as a lifelong process, so that while schooling will be normally the province of the young, opportunities should be available for individuals to take their secondary or continuing education at any stage of their adult lives. Education should not be seen as the responsibility of the formal education system alone. Government strategies in education should be aimed at developing a coordinated network of educational facilities which are responsive to community and individual needs and which have a great deal of diversity and innovation and include equality of opportunity, accessibility and the maximum devolution of responsibility, and in that way enhance the quality of life of all people.
It must be acknowledged that any move towards those aims requires participation by governments. That is what we are about at the moment. Governments have already accepted the need for the provision of a compulsory education system and a universal, free, secular system of education open to all citizens. But we have to go further. We have to provide financial assistance to enable the diversity of education provisions in keeping with the equality of educational opportunity I mentioned before. Guidance is already given in the establishment of the various commissions dealing with the stages of education. As I have mentioned before, part of the process must be to recognise the growing importance of leisure and the necessity to provide both facilities and training for recreational and cultural activities.
When we are speaking about Government action we are speaking about the action of both State and Federal governments. The Australian Government has a particular responsibility. When in government the Australian Labor Party undertook to co-operate with the States to provide and operate educational services which were available to all without charge. We tried to provide benefits to students in the same way, in liaison with the States and even with other countries, on matters relating to education, on research relating to education and on the various educational services. What is more, we believe that the Australian Government, in its provision of benefits to students, should ensure that there is a positive discrimination in favour of disadvantaged groups. To this end I have quoted rather extensively from the Labor Party’s platform and policies on education.
The crisis in Australian politics today is one of credibility. In this Parliament we have seen evidence of that crisis of credibility in what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Government offer. Some would say that credibility is non-existent. We should take an historical look at the involvement of the Australian Parliament in education. Honourable members are well aware that constitutionally education was left to the States. During the years of World War II the Federal Labor Government of that time introduced various measures to stimulate education. I think the most obvious of the steps that were taken in order to produce trained and skilled personnel was the subsidising of university students in respect of fees and maintenance allowances. It will be recalled that at that time the Australian Government also took over income tax powers, which greatly increased its revenue and its control over revenue and markedly altered the financial relationships between the Federal and State governments.
From 1949 to 1972 Liberal governments started to intrude further into the education field. We saw university financing. In 1952 Prime Minister Menzies introduced income tax deductions for school expenses, which marked the first break from established practice. In 1963 the science laboratory grants for all schools were adopted and in 1969 library grants were introduced. In 1970 per capita grants were made to independent schools, beginning at $35 for a primary pupil and $50 for a secondary pupil. The levels of these grants were increased for 1972 and 1973. 1 think we should note that at that time the present Prime Minister, who was the Minister for Education, emphasised the per capita grants system. It was in 1972 that the McMahon Government proposed to pay 20 per cent of average State school recurrent costs provided the States paid a further 20 per cent, and this was to take effect in 1973.
The majority of those measures did very little to provide equality of opportunity in education. By their very nature, they further advantaged the advantaged. They were cynical, pragmatic exercises in buying votes. The States themselves were failing to keep up with even minimal educational needs. In the 1960s and the early 1970s the Labor Party identified inequalities in education. It was then that it postulated the needs basis for further Federal participation in education. An injection of finance was required and it was seen that the best way of involving the Australian Government was to adopt the needs basis. As is known, the programs which were suggested received wide public approval and the promise by Labor to implement those proposals was a factor in the election of a Labor Government in 1972. 1 remind the House that two days after the election the Interim Schools Commission was appointed, with Professor Karmel as the Chairman. The terms of reference of that Commission were to recommend on the financial needs of all schools, priorities within those needs and measures to meet them. It will be recalled that, as a result of the findings of that Commission and later the Schools Commission, a number of advances were made in education.
I have already mentioned that these Bills, by their nature, recall the cost indexation that was introduced for capital and recurrent grants in all their aspects. But, more than that, important principles on needs were spelled out. The Karmel Commission and the Schools Commission were able to spell out the resource equality target that should be aimed at for schools. They were able to spell out programs that gave preference to the disadvantaged. One such development was the establishment of the Curriculum Development Centre. It was established, with full State co-operation, to allow some diversity in opportunity, and it did not just stop at primary and secondary school education. The needs in post-school education were also recognised. At that stage the Technical and Further Education Commission was established. It has been changed by this Government. The areas of further education- that is, recurrent education, adult education and the sort of steps that could lead up to the open university- were taken up, explored and encouraged. The House will recall that full funding for universities and colleges of advanced education was introduced. This meant the abolition of tuition fees, which removed a major economic barrier in the community.
There was an acceleration in teacher education programs. Student allowances were provided to enable isolated children to be compensated for their disadvantage and to have a freer approach to education. Secondary allowances were introduced to help able children whose families did not have adequate financial resources. Special schemes for Aboriginal adult students were introduced. There was emphasis on migrant education. Steps were taken in a wide range of areas. Recently I visited Adelaide and saw what is called the Ten Schools Program in an area with a wide range of migrant children. Instead of the children being taught in the traditional manner, at the very earliest stage in their learning they are being taught in a multilingual way, by the use of both the mother tongue of their parents and English. The AngloAustralians who attend those classes are able to learn a second language. This sort of approach came from the stimulus that was offered in the years between 1972 and 1975.
I remind the House that the present Government promised to maintain the levels of education assistance that had been attained during the 1972-75 period and that it even promised to improve them. But, as with so many other promises and policies it has made, that promise will not now be fulfilled. We heard some gobbledegook the other day, when the Prime Minister said ‘The policy of the Government is the policy of the policy of the day’, or something like that. That just means: ‘Elect us on one policy and we will darned soon change it, so that you will not know where you are’. That is what we have now- the topping up Bills introduced on the 22nd of this month, and on the 24th; the announcement of some vague change in the immediate future so that educationists, kids and parents do not know where they are.
Let us look at what some of the actions of this Government mean for education. We need not refer just to Labor Party documents. Let us consider the submission made by the Australian Teachers Federation to the Commonwealth Government on future funding for schools. In this debate I am concentrating on the schools area because it is such a fundamental area. Mistakes and deficiencies in schools now will produce problems in nine or 10 years time, problems such as a shortage of skilled persons. It is not just a matter of skills for the work force it is also a matter of young people being educated in how to deal with life. There are a lot of problems today for which I am sure the young people have not been adequately prepared.
As well as receiving regular reports from the Schools Commission, this Government has had reports from a number of expert commissions, including the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training, the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties, and the Australian Council of Educational Research report on literacy and numeracy. A feature of these reports is that each made recommendations for qualitative improvements in our schools. However, those qualitative improvements had to depend on the availability of resources to meet identified needs. Unless those resources are made available, the schools are not able to gain the capacity to carry out what is needed. Schools today are subjected to enormous pressures, including changes in community structures, community needs and community expectations. There is great diversity in what is going on and greater than usual stresses apply. In his speech the Treasurer (Mr Howard) said in relation to education:
One of the problems is that the resources supply has been nowhere near satisfactory so far as the community is concerned. There must be a clear reason to increase education expenditure in real terms, and in its submission the Australian Teachers Federation stated:
Those commissions have dealt thoroughly with the matter. In debates on similar Bills, I think last year, I mentioned some of the deficiencies that exist in resource levels. One deficiency concerns the question of class sizes, and this is an easily identifiable measurement which is used in the reports. In the Karmel report specification with regard to class sizes was 32 pupils maximum in primary and junior secondary and 25 pupils maximum in senior secondary. The Schools Commission’s specification for 1979-81 states that there should be 25 pupils in infant classes, 30 pupils in primary and junior secondary, and 25 pupils in senior secondary. But what is the prevailing situation? I think these are much the same figures as those I cited last year. Some 35.1 per cent of primary classes exceed 30 pupils, and I remind the House that the Schools Commission specification for 1979-81 suggested that 30 pupils for primary was the desirable resource level. Returning to the prevailing situation, 27.8 per cent of junior secondary classes exceed 30 pupils and 1 9 per cent of senior secondary classes exceed 25 pupils. Unless there is some real growth, advances will not be made in bringing up resource levels to those recommended.
Another matter of concern to the Opposition, and it seems to be happening by stealth in the education policy of the Government, relates to the transfer of funding which the Government is providing. It seems that the Government is moving away from the needs policy. One suspects that there will be a gradual rein traduction of the policy of per capita grants so beloved of the
Prime Minister when he was Minister for Education. One of the objects of the reintroduction of per capita grants would be that the Government would spend relatively more of the education dollar on wealthier private schools, on the ostensibly fair grounds of equal grants per capita. One suspects that the Government is trying to manipulate this situation in a way that will be accepted and even eventually agreed to by the Schools Commission, not only by reason of changing the composition of the Schools Commission but also by progressively changing the guidelines to be followed by the Commission when it is instructed to give expression to this policy. The Schools Commission under its old composition complained of the restrictive guidelines with which it was faced.
There is a wide body of opinion in the community pressing for the maintenance of the needs policy that was introduced by the Labor Government. The wealthier schools do not mind, but government schools and the ordinary Catholic parish schools are pressing for the maintenance of the needs policy. Approximately 15 years ago the question of State aid was a very divisive issue in the community. I believe that the Government by inducing inequalities in its division of the education dollar, is trying to re-introduce this divisive matter, which was removed by the adoption of the needs policy and by the provisions which were given to the Schools Commission to carry on.
There is no doubt that one of the defects in the Australian Government’s involvement in education has been the question of accountability with the States, because they have jealously guarded what they see as their constitutional right. This situation leads to some remarkable disadvantages in many of the schools. I give an example of a school that is probably typical of schools in many members’ electorates. A complaint from the Arthurs Creek primary school states that education allowances set in 1973 have never been updated. The library allocation, together with the education allowance, was set in 1973, and in 1979 the school is still trying to work on the allowances set in 1973. 1 accept that this Government has handed the responsibility over to the State governments. The fact that there is a lack of accountability is not good enough. Some real incentive should be given. I would remind honourable members that a book which cost $4 in 1973 now costs between $8 and $12; and paper which cost 91c per ream in 1973 now costs $3.50. Some schools, because of their size and situation, have to take part in various regional schemes. The Arthurs Creek school is a member of the mobile area resource centre. In order for schools to take part in that resource centre, which is of benefit to them and in which they have to be involved, they must take a severe cut in their educational allowance. They have to use this allowance, which has never been updated, for that purpose.
Are we going to accept the situation where the States carry on without accountability and without incentive? There is something else that I can say in this regard. The Yan Yean reservoir in Melbourne is the oldest Melbourne water supply. There are 30 children in the primary school which is located there. The local water supply was introduced in about 1850. The school’s water supply consists of two small tanks. This is its source of water. This is the way resources have been allocated to schools. I raise that matter to indicate that even if the Government intends to slash expenditure it must lay down the principles oh which it does that. If it is to abandon the needs principle which is accepted by people throughout the field of education and if it is to go back to the old divisive system of per capita grants and of allocating funds to privileged schools, I warn the Government that it will suffer a real upsurge and defeat.
-As the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), who preceded me in the debate, has pointed out, these two education Bills are of a machinery nature. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in his second reading speech on the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill stated that the purpose of the Bill is to adjust grants to the States for government schools in respect of cost increases which have occurred since this legislation was last before the Parliament. This Bill will finalise 1978 grants. However, an additional appropriation of $ 1 .6m will be necessary, making a total allocation for the year of $639.6m. The adjustment of the 1979 grants will involve a further appropriation of $ lim which will increase the commitment of the Commonwealth for this year in this area to $673. 6m.
The second Bill we are debating is the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill. This Bill also adjusts the approved programs of grams to the States for tertiary education for the years 1978 and 1979. It does this by providing additional amounts in the light of variations in costs between June and December 1978. In addition to supplementing the grants for 1 979 in respect of approved advanced education level courses in Technical and Further Education institutions, the Bill provides a further $485,000 for these courses. It also modifies the conditions relating to the provision of funds for special initiatives in the training of TAFE teachers in order that State instrumentalities, as well as colleges of advanced education, may become eligible to receive these grants.
In his statement to the Senate on 19 October 1978 the Minister for Education noted that a shortfall in expenditure on the 1978 tertiary education capital programs would enable additional university and college of advanced education capital projects to commence in the second half of 1979. This Bill, therefore, also makes provision for this expenditure of up to $4. lm on the additional projects in respect of 1979, including $1,288,000 for the commencement of the Australian Graduate School of Management building. With the additional amounts that this Bill provides in respect of 1978 and 1979, the total programs of grants to the States for each sector is as follows: Universities in 1978 received $630m and in 1979 will receive $660m; colleges of advanced education received $460m in 1978 and will receive $476m in 1979; and TAFE institutions received $102m in 1978 and will receive $125min 1979
In accordance with these new arrangements for funding non-government business colleges announced by the Minister for Edcuation on 6 December 1978, the Bill makes provisions for grants to the States for assistance to nongovernment business colleges in the 1979-81 triennium. The proposed level of assistance- $55 per student per month at December quarter 1978 cost levels up to a maximum of $550 per student per annum- is the rate which was recommended by the Tertiary Education Commission.
Assistance in general is to be restricted to courses involving more than 20 hours of teacherclass contact a week and of more than 20 but no more than 44 weeks duration. This will not include courses leading to registrable academic awards. Assistance will not be provided for courses in colleges which have not been recognised by a relevant State regulatory authority. These provisions will provide assistance on an equitable basis in an important area of training. However, it should be appreciated that the Government is opposed to the proliferation of small business colleges and to any development of business colleges annexes by non-government secondary schools.
These two Bills represent a fulfilment of a commitment by the Government to meet all supplementary and increased costs caused by inflation. They also indicate attempts to increase input into our technical and trade areas. I am sure that all honourable members will agree that this additional input is essential, particularly in rural areas where tertiary education opportunities are very limited.
The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) engaged in a fairly wide-ranging discussion of education matters. I hope that I will also be allowed to discuss briefly one or two issues that are associated with legislation of this type. I would particularly like to refer to the new trends and tendencies in our education system which have been brought about mainly because of the need for constant retraining by our work force if it is to survive in today’s modern labour market. Perpetual training of modern workers is becoming a fact of life, as old jobs are disappearing and new ones are developing. This is very largely due to the spread of automation.
Today many workers find that they must retrain three or four times during their careers. The people in the work force most affected by these rapid changes are the older workers. Young apprentices often know more about new developments in their trade than the experienced tradesmen. The apprentice has the advantage today of going to school and being taught the latest techniques. Because of this increasing problem of worker obsolescence, I believe that retraining may one day account for greater enrolment in vocational courses than in courses providing original training. At the present time a very interesting experiment is being conducted in New York at the La Guardia Community College. It appears to be accomplishing the seemingly impossible task of taking incoming students, 40 per cent of whom cannot read above an eighth-grade level, and turning them into competent, literate people. This community college attributes its success to several factors: Firstly, intensive tutoring for those who need it; secondly, a job internship program; and, thirdly, the dedication of the faculty and administrators to serving the needs pf the students.
The work at La Guardia Community College is carried out in a busy career counselling centre where a computer gives students useful information about career options and job prospects. Like most community colleges, this one also emphasises service to the entire community. Anyone- not just the students- can walk into the career centre and receive vocational counselling. La Guardia College finds good, satisfying jobs for 98 per cent of its graduates who are seeking work. The College believes that it owes much of its success to a pre-graduate job placement program which involves career exploration, counselling and the co-operation- I believe this is the most important feature- of the business community. More than 300 employers have provided jobs for students from this College, thus giving them an opportunity to prove to themselves that they can find jobs while still in school. Students alternate periods of full time work with periods of classroom instruction. Such work greatly improves a student’s chances of being offered a permanent position once he graduates. Classroom instruction also emphasises practicability, even in the arts courses. For example, a philosophy course includes a section on work ethics. Many teachers at the College hold full time jobs in industry and, therefore, can provide practical, up to the minute insights into the world of work. Regardless of whether they work in industry, the faculty and administrators have convinced the students that they really care about them. Their genuine interest is another reason for this community college’s outstanding success.
Of course, there are many unanswered questions. One unanswered question concerning the education work alliance is whether the right balance is being struck in the training received by apprentices. Today many educators argue that occupational education should be directly related to the trade because the amount of technical knowledge that must be mastered leaves no time for such art or liberal art frills. But other educators argue that precisely because of modern knowledge explosion, on the job training must also be supplemented with language skills and art type information so that students can cope with rapid changes in society in general, as well as in the world of work. However, a danger exists that these new forms will concentrate too much on training people to meet employerlabour market needs and not enough on the needs of individual workers. The amount of time that very busy community leaders can spend away from work and away from their own activities is very limited.
There is no doubt that unemployment has emerged as one of our most pressing and political problems of the 1970s. Governments in industrial countries have been grappling with a combination of inflation and unemployment. Two features of global employment seem to stand out. One is that job shortages will worsen before they improve and it is highly unlikely that conventional economic remedies will offer sufficient relief. Already the number of prospective workers seems to be outstripping the supply for new jobs. I believe that over the years Australia has performed admirably in relation to providing education facilities from resources in this country. I am extremely pleased to see that there has been a change in the input into education, with a greater emphasis on the technical and further education area.
Of course, we all recognise- this is one of the aspects that the Williams inquiry emphasisedthat there must be changes. I believe that the Williams inquiry was possibly not up to expectations. It seemed to generalise too much in its recommendations and in its discussion. However, it provides a basis, I believe, on which to assess the role and the relevance of education as it exists and the changes that need to be made. Of course, many of these changes have been brought about by factors quite outside our control, such as technological changes and the fact that in Australia we have zero population growth and, therefore, declining school enrolments. I believe that this Government has to respond to those factors. It will be essential and necessary for a slowing down in capital growth within our educational system. However, our institutions must offer a variety of locally needed occupational programs. They must also have continuing programs that focus on updating the skills of people working in various fields. Facilities to explore the career field must be available and they must identify a vocation that suits the goals and the personalities of students.
Over the next few months a number of Bills relating to education will be introduced in this House. I know that they will complement the progress that has been made. Perhaps it goes without saying that whilst various new programs have been introduced through this Federal Parliament over many years, we all recognise the tremendous input that was made by the Minister for Education, Mr Beazley, in the time of the Australian Labor Party Government. I do not think it is necessary for me to point out that he was rewarded for his efforts in the education field by being removed from the shadow portfolio. However, I believe that our present Minister for Education and our Government will carry on those advances which were made and which will result in an improvement and expansion of resources in the education area. Therefore, on behalf of my party, I support the two Bills that we are debating this evening.
-The cognate debate on these two basically machinery Bills, the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill and the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill, gives honourable members an opportunity to raise matters of education generally. In that respect, the debate is indeed opportune. However, it amazes me to find that speaking in this most important debate on education we have a medical practitioner, a farmer and a motor mechanic.
– What is wrong with that?
– I would have thought that we would have had some of our intellectual honourable members also debate this issue. The statement by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) last week cast a shadow over education in this country. Before addressing those wider education issues, I should like to comment on one aspect of the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Bill which is before us tonight. The second reading speech of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) stated that there had been a shortfall last year in tertiary education capital programs and that this would be held over to the second half of 1979. 1 have two questions for the Minister. Firstly, the shortfall was $5m. The amount made available in this Bill is only $4. 1 m. Why is there a difference? My second question is: How will this Bill be affected by the Treasurer’s warning to get tough on education spending on capital works?
Now I turn to the questions on the subject of education. Education institutions around Australia are in suspense. The programs for universities, colleges of advanced education, and primary and secondary schools and the hopes of students throughout Australia all hang on the statement which the Minister for Education will make in the Senate in the coming weeks. Every sector knows that it will not escape the Treasurer’s axe. What those sectors and the community generally do not know is the breadth of educational resources which will be affected by the coming cuts. All we have to go on are hints and suggestions. But that is probably enough for us to gauge the extent of what Senator Carrick holds in store. Apart from the cuts foreshadowed in Thursday night’s mini-Budget, the Government has waged a bitter campaign against student unions in an attempt to undermine their effectiveness in lobbying Parliament for a reasonable share of the nation’s resources to be directed toward education. The Government’s motto is to divide and conquer, and the nation’s campuses must be divided before this Government can inflict the full wrath of its policies upon them.
– Who wrote this?
-Secondly, in Melbourne last year the Australian Education Council established a committee to review in very broad terms the work of the Schools Commission. I hear honourable members on the Government side complaining about my statements.
– We want to know who wrote it.
-Do not worry about who wrote it. The truth always hurts, does it not? I said at the time, and it bears repeating, that the Government must not bend to the pressures of the Queensland and Western Australian governments which have placed on record their opposition to the Schools Commission. The Commission has done enormous good for the cause of equality of education resources and facilities, not to mention equality of opportunity, in Australian schools since its establishment by the Labor Government. It has taken much of the politics out of education funding. The Queensland and Western Australian governments have not been able to play the pork-barrelling game of directing Government funds to schools for political and not educational purposes. The Premiers of Western Australia and Queensland have been left with one less political rabbit to pull out of the hat- we will make sure that they do not get those rabbits to pull out of the hat- so that they can use the education programs to further their own political games. The Education Council announced that there was a move to re-introduce block grants, meaning simply that the money goes untied to State Treasurers for them to spend as they see fit. Such an abomination would mean a return to a system which produced one million functionally illiterate Australians and was characterised by massive class sizes, a lack of teacher resources and a general lack of morale amongst teachers. The tension and uneasiness throughout the community caused by the decision to hold an inquiry into the Schools Commission is still evident among parents and citizens associations in my electorate and among teachers associations throughout the country.
Increasingly, the Government has abrogated its responsibilities in education by leaving a vacuum for the States to fill. The Government has completely ignored the principle of funding on the basis of need. The guidelines are heavily weighted against those who need help most, within both the non-government schools and the government system. The Government has chosen to take the needs basis away from the Commission as the sole basis for funding, and has imposed a distribution based on its own prejudices, not social or educational equity. Capital gains for government schools have fallen by 6 per cent. That 6 per cent would have financed 16 new high schools or 32 new primary schools. The decrease for non-government schools is only 3.3 per cent. The wealthiest nongovernment schools will get an increase of $28 per head, whilst the poorest non-government schools will get only $6 per head. Level one primary schools will get $17 per head, whilst level six will get $5 per head. Levels three, four and five in the primary schools and levels four and five in secondary schools will get zero. The drift is obvious. The Government has applied a general reduction to primary and secondary education funding in line with its warnings. However, it has changed the direction of spending. The Government is spending relatively more of the education dollar on wealthier private schools at the expense of not only State schools but also many Catholic parish schools.
– What are the figures?
-The direction of the Government in tertiary education is just as vividly clear. Honourable members on the Government side cry out once again, but they are not game to get up and make a speech. They are just sitting there and carrying on in a manner I would not like to describe. In March this year the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations held a seminar in Sydney on ‘Australian universities after four years of cost cutting’. Their message to the Government was plainly spelt out. It was: Enough is enough. Universities and colleges of advanced education have been squeezed until the pips squeaked. The effect has been to create a class system amongst our universities. The older established universities such as Sydney, Queensland, Melbourne, Adelaide, Monash and the Australian National University will guard their privileges while their poor relations, the new universities like La Trobe in Victoria and Griffith in Brisbane, will be left to struggle without fully developed professionoriented faculties. Griffith University has already had to halve its growth estimates. Growth in funding for the past four years has remained static. In the same period the student enrolment numbers have leapt from 132,600 to 142,500.
The Treasurer has indicated that enrolments at tertiary institutions are stabilising and, therefore, it is possible to- as he calls it- ‘moderate the flow of resources’. If funding has remained static during a period of increasing enrolments, what can we expect at a time when growth seems to be levelling out? May I refer to two tables prepared by researchers of the Australian Union of Students. The tables show that in the period from 1976 to 1979 student numbers at the universities and colleges of advanced education will have increased by 12.5 per cent while funding has fallen 4. 1 per cent. We can expect cuts in real recurrent expenditure and even in total amounts for education this year.
– What is the drop-out ratio?
– I wish the honourable member for Mallee would drop out. How can the Government cut education further? It has already confirmed that there will be no review of its decision to tax Commonwealth postgraduate research awards. In the case of married postgraduate students with dependent children who are just above the poverty line, the tax places them below that line. The long term implications of the refusal to review the Government’s position have been ably pointed out already this year by my colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Button. Australia will be deprived of an adequate supply of qualified researchers in the future as a result of the inadequacies of scholarship allowances. The November tax slug will increase the brain drain. The effect of this sort of mindlessness in education policies is effectively expressed in an advertisement authorised by the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations which was published a few days ago. I seek leave to have that advertisement incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Universities and Colleges
Can Australia afford to waste its highly trained scientists and researchers?
Should we rely more and more on imported know-how to solve our problems?
Six expert independent committees ranging from the OECD to the Australian Science and Technology Council have said that Australia should not rely on overseas technology and that its universities need more research funding.
When will the Government listen?
Four years of cost cutting in universities means that our best researchers don’t have the resources to do their jobs properly. Work vital to Australia’s self reliance is neglected because there is not enough money.
The Federation of Australian University Staff Associations is seriously worried that the funds available for each research worker have slumped by nearly 50 per cent- from $7,380 per researcher to $3,800- in the decade to 1 976.
The major inquiry into education and training by the Williams Committee said recently:
If research funds are not adequate Australia will lose to overseas universities a proportion of its ablest young graduates and become more dependent on overseas developments in science and technology. ‘
Universities need more money for research. We cannot afford to waste the talents of trained research staff.
Authorised by L. B. Wallis on behalf of the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations, 499 St Kilda Road, Melbourne.
-Not only can postgraduate students not look forward to a review of that ill-advised imposition in last year’s Budget, but the word is that the Government may withdraw all funding for second degrees and honours degrees. This would be the last straw. Even members of the staffs of Government members opposite will rebel and defect. Many of their own researchers and legislative assistants are in the process of completing their degrees, or intend to undertake second degrees in the near future. Of course, the Government has already halved most study leave to six months, thus adding to the nation’s intellectual sterility and isolation. It is interesting to note that it did so against the advice of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications who is sitting at the table tonight. The amount saved by such a retrograde step is a miserable $lm. That is what the Government spends on paper clips in half a year.
– I beg your pardon!
– If the Minister does not know what I said, I will be happy to repeat it. He is too busy talking to the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull). There is even talk that fees for tertiary education will be reintroduced. It is generally recognised that tertiary education assistance will be reduced even further. This will be the price paid for Fraser federalism and the old monster of shared funding.
The Williams report has done nothing to allay the worst fears of the States and the community. Much has already been said and written about the Williams report. Suffice it to say that its most appealing proposals will be allowed to gather dust while there is growing fear that recommendations such as the reintroduction of tuition fees and the totally regressive Blandy plan may gain favour with the Government and its back bencher members. The Government would be remiss if it thought that the report it sponsored gave it some sort of mandate for financial cutbacks. On the contrary, it seeks minor additional funds for the system, such as for a return to full triennial funding. The report also established a broader role for education, rather than merely imparting job skills. The report is in line with what the Governor-General has stated but it is not a proposition that is accepted by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
A moment ago I reflected in passing on the paper prepared by Professor Richard Blandy. The wild absurdities of the Blandy paper deserve some attention. Professor Blandy would have students liable to pay fees related to the actual costs of providing the courses they were taking. More controversial than that, he would also have future tertiary education funding drawn from an endowment fund created by levying a tax on all former tertiary students. In the mad rush of this Government to grab more from the public purse, it may well come to consider Professor Blandy seriously. There would then be an education crisis of truly classic proportions.
-I support the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill. I hope that they will help in some ways the schools in my electorate. I suppose that that is the ultimate hope of every member of this House whichever side of the House he sits. I listened with some interest to the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Humphreys). Even though he made an interesting speech, we on this side of the House were not convinced by it and I assure him that we have no intention of defecting in droves, as he prophesised. For the time being anyway, I think that the present Bills are the only way to handle the situation. But I insist- I had something to say elsewhere today about matters like this-that the Government must soon have a more complete look at the tremendous education expenditure to see whether we are getting the value for it that we ought to be getting. We are the people who are supposed to oversee whether value is being obtained. That is a pretty solemn responsibility and one that from time to time we are inclined to neglect. These Bills, these hardy annuals, keep coming up. In the few years in which I have been a member of this place I have seen them time and again. We are inclined to take them for granted. In view of our present situation, I serve notice on the Government that I will not take them for granted any more, but for the present they will have to do.
It was popular once to pour money into education firmly in the belief that money would solve all problems but I think that we have found in this area and in a number of other areas such as welfare and health- in fact, just about any field we have had anything to do with recentlythat money is not the answer. It does not solve all the problems. In education in particular there seems to be an absence of direction and clear vision. There is certainly an absence of dedication in the teaching profession when I compare it with what I knew when it was my good fortune to go through the primary and secondary systems. Unless we are able to look at these matters closely we will fail to be careful about spending the people’s money and those in the bureaucracy which seems to be so beloved of this fair capital will triumph. They will get the lion’s share not only of education spending but also anything else for which we allocate funds.
That more money is not the answer is the firm conclusion of two people, one an educationist and the other an economist. I refer to Mr D ‘Cruz of the School of Education at La Trobe University in Melbourne and Mr Sheehan of the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at Melbourne University. Recently they published a report for the Australian Council for Educational Research. It appears that five years after the Australian Schools Commission began using the money approach as a solution for all problems and to redress inequalities among Australian schools they have found that nongovernment schools, particularly some Catholic schools, are achieving higher levels of education outcomes than government schools in spite of lower resource inputs. At present, when the Schools Commission is providing 85 per cent of the finance for Catholic primary schools and when the amount allocated to government schools is tending to flatten out, the authors suggest that it is no longer sensible to look at Australian education in terms of resources. The conclusion they drew is that there is no evidence to sustain the view that educational disadvantage exists in the area of lowest resources.
– I would expect that sort of comment from the honourable member. I am offering him and anyone else who cares to listen the experience gained over five years of people who were paid by a previous government of the honourable member’s colour to find out something about this matter. They have drawn that conclusion. I believe that it disproves the entire education thesis that people on the other side of the House are continually putting forward. I am sorry to keep the honourable member for Batman up. If he has a glass of water I am sure that it will get him out of the sleepiness that seems to be coming on him at the moment. By way of contrast to the findings of the eminent people to whom I have referred, the President of the Australian Teachers Federation, Mr Van Davy, who is no doubt a friend of the honourable member for Batman, said at the Federation’s annual conference in Hobart earlier this month that up to one in eight adults in Australia is functionally illiterate and that 320,000 school children at present need extra help in literacy and numeracy. What this tells me is that we are not getting value for the money put into education. As I said before, it is a vast amount. We would expect people such as Mr Van Davy, the honourable member for Batman and those on the other side of the House who have spoken in this debate to say that what is needed to overcome this problem is yet more money. Not enough is being wasted already. It seems to me from the experiences of the people to whom I have referred that money will not be enough. Something else needs to be done.
More money is not the answer. That belief is also supported to some extent by yet another educationist, Professor Chipman, the editor of the ACES Review. Recently he told the Queensland Branch of the Australian Council of Educational Standards that there were three root causes in the present education problem. He suggested means by which the situation could be remedied. In terms of the causes, Professor Chipman said in regard to the school sector . . the real issue is not how great the decline in standards has been, but why there has not been a massive improvement with the increased funding, more favourable teacher-pupil ratio, and the higher public esteem enjoyed by education in recent years.
As I said before, Professor Chipman claims that there are three root causes of the present malaise in public education. As to the first one, he states:
The dominance of muddled and largely indefensible educational theories and philosophies in many teacher education establishments, particularly universities, and in education administration.
As to the second: abandonment by parents of responsibility for the ‘socialisation ‘ of their children.
The third: the absence of any effective form of accountability in public education.
I suggest that Professor Chipman is a rather more eminent authority than either the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) and the honourable member for Griffith, who preceded him.
– I am not here as an eminent authority. I am here as an elected citizen. Do you want to have a Parliament of eminent authorities?
-One of the fundamental theses of people on the honourable member’s side of the House is the production of all sorts of social experts, social tinkerers, and people who were closely associated with the former Labor Prime Minister. These are the people who got this country into its present trouble and now we are trying to get out of it. All the things we saw happen the other night happened only because we are trying to get ourselves out of the dreadful mess into which the Labor Party pulled us. Indeed, that situation came about because of people such as the honourable member for Batman.
Let me come back to the point. Professor Chipman feels that the practical solution lies in making educational institutions at all levels more accountable, both educationally and financially. He suggests that there should be a new Australian basic certificate to test the basic skills of school children in four areas: Basic arithmetical and computational skills; elementary natural science; English expression and comprehension; and clear thinking. Indeed, there are people on the other side of the House who should take the latter course as soon as possible. Professor Chipman claims that for that certificate to have any credibility at all with employers there would have to be at least a SO per cent external assessment, that is, the setting and marking of papers by people other than the teachers of the pupils concerned.
The introduction of an Australian basic certificate should be accompanied by a voucher system of educational funding at the school level, coupled with a means-tested system at the senior secondary and tertiary levels. This would mean providing each family with a ticket representing the real cost of providing that family’s children with a standard approved education, a ticket which the family could then spend at the school of its choice, paying additional funds if it wished for any non-standard features a particular school might provide. It is on that matter that I should like to spend a little time. I am going to surprise some of my friends behind me by for once saying a few kind words about the Schools Commission. They know that I have not always been kind to the Schools Commission. I was inclined to think about the Schools Commission in the way in which it was described recently in an article by G. R. F. Hughes in Quadrant: ‘An unlikely mixture created by Gough in the image of the platypus, shoes of the fisherman, arms of Robin Hood and the head of Henry Parkes on the body of pork barrel’. I have always thought that that was not a bad description of the Schools Commission. But, as I have said, I will surprise my friends by saying something in support of the Schools Commission.
In April 1978, the Schools Commission published its triennial report for 1979-81. The first chapter in that report is very critical of centralism, especially of the fact that ‘some catholic systems have moved . . . towards ways of operating from which public systems are retreating’. In other words, the catholic systems were disappointing the Commission’s expectation that, because they existed as individual schools before systemisation, even after absorption they would provide ‘a new systemic model . . which would maximise the service a system might render to schools while enhancing their effectiveness as institutions rooted in and responsive to their individual communities. ‘ They are quotations from the report. I sympathise with the Commission, but I have to say that it must have been pretty starry-eyed to have expected anything else. After all, the government school system, with all its centralisation, a century or more ago replaced individual schools responsible to their individual communities. The old maxim stands, and I know that my friend the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) will be delighted to hear it, because it applies not only in education but in everything else: ‘Fund the supplier and the consumer gets short shrift; fund the consumer, and the supplier meets the demand.’ That is basic doctrine in any government spending anywhere in the world.
The Schools Commission’s excellent project for devolution of educational authority, including financial authority, I assert can best be implemented by funding the consumer, that is, the child attending school or his family- not the school directly or the system, but the child whose education, whose life therefore, is what this whole operation is about. Twice previously in this House I have advocated a form of individual funding. I am sure that that scheme, both economically and practically, will stand open and unprejudiced expert analysis. There are some patent injustices in the way in which we presently fund government and non-government schools. Overall, children in the latter schools receive per capita less than half of what their government school neighbours receive. Equal needs are not being met with equal aid, which is why I recommend that the Schools Commission’s needs policy should be applied to each family and not to institutions, whether public or private, attended by children from quite different socioeconomic backgrounds.
I do not want to go into that now. Rather, I wish to congratulate the Schools Commissionthat will probably shock the Commission as much as it will shock my friends behind me- on its publication ‘Some Aspects of School Funding in Australia ‘. It is a basis for beginning from taws and re-examing the whole issue. I draw attention especially to chapter 5, ‘Payments to Individuals ‘, which discusses a number of rather complicated voucher schemes.
– I bet they are complicated.
– It might even dawn on the honourable member for Batman if he is patient. I agree with the idea of the voucher system, but I think that we should not need anything so complex in Australia. I am inclined to agree with the suggestion that all schools should bulk-bill according to their school population, in the same way as private schools now do, for the meagre aid that, like the diet in slave labour camps, barely suffices to keep them alive. I leave it to the imagination to decide who is swallowing most of the metaphorical food about which I am talking. I applaud the Commission’s initiative and regret that public discussion of its ‘payments to individuals ‘ has shown some immaturity at the moment. Many people associated with established systems, however newly and hastily established do not seem to be as open as the Commission and as ready to consider honestly what is a pretty radical suggestion. Some of them consider that it would not work or even that no government would accept it and that therefore it would be better to make the best of a poor job and grab what one can. It is the usual policy not of need, but of greed. The problem is that the theory is worth thinking out, but at this stage the government unfortunately has refused to do the thinking necessary to make it come true. In any case, a study that might be done on this matter of vouchers might even suggest ways other funding schemes could be made more effective. They would angrily repudiate the charge, if anyone had the temerity to make it, but I fear that there are a few who quite unconsciously are afraid of any change in the centralist- they would say centralised ‘-organisations that enmesh them in false security. The system is working, so far as they can see, far as they are from the schools where the action is, from the need, the deprivation, the decay, the disrepair and the desperation. So let the juggernaut grind on. They do not even realise that in this Year of the Child it is grinding children into the ground. They do not even think that the cost of unduly bureaucratic administration- they do not like that phrasewould open up new worlds, new futures, to hundreds of inner city poor and immigrant children. On a personal note, I must also say that if this money were made available through vouchers, it would certainly help alleviate some of the more difficult situations in my electorate, which is not the most salubrious electorate in Australia.
I greatly regret that the Schools Commission’s brave initiative in the voucher situation generally has not been accepted so far. Indeed, there have been efforts to suppress and even silence discussion on it. There is some consolation in the fact that experiments it has recommended are to be carried out. These will provide solid evidence about how giving money to parents instead of directly to schools will affect the system.
A number of government schools are to be dezoned so that parents can freely send their children to the government school of their choice. This should encourage schools to better meet local needs, such as teaching in community languages, as I hear some South Australian schools are doing, or combining beginning students in across-grade classes, for instance, years 1 , 2 and 3, as one big state school in Sydney has done. This is an excellent idea and I congratulate the Ministers concerned on encouraging it. I have a word of sympathy for the Federal Minister whose first public mention of it last October to the Australian Capital Territory Chapter of the Australian College of Education was passed over completely by the Press. Dezoning, I suggest, is a giant step in the right direction; full individual funding would go all the way.
Another aspect of the action taken by the Schools Commission impresses me. I believe the Schools Commission has been holding seminars with Professor J. E. Coons, whose book Education for Choice- the Case for Family Control is recommended for study and discussion. Professor Coons was in Australia recently during his study leave and the Commission wisely used the opportunity to pick his brain. He is the best known proponent in the world of individual funding in the United States where the idea has become increasingly popular. He has prepared draft legislation, of which I have a copy, for introduction in California in 1980. No one can predict what will come of it, but the idea has been picked up and is being tossed around. Five years ago it was on the deck; it was an orphan.
In England the Ashford experiment, which is another voucher funding experiment, will take off in a few months, no doubt with much stronger support from the new government than was displayed by the reluctant acceptance of it by the old government.
– It was accepted by the old government.
-That is true, but only just. In the International Year of the Child it is splendid that the Government is once again making available the money that it has previously made available over the years. I wish the Government would look at the voucher scheme more seriously. I think it is the answer to a lot of our problems concerning getting value for money. It would be good if the Government did a little more than it has done so far for the child in terms of its coming into the world. I cannot let the opportunity pass without saying that we are famous for doing all we can in the International Year of the Child to promote abortion. We fund it.
– We are saving the whales.
– We are spending the money and saving the whales. I suppose there is some logic in that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I was rather surprised to hear the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) describe his electorate as rather less than salubrious. It is unfortunate that honourable members speak in a deprecating way about their electorates. It was even more unfortunate to hear the honourable member reflect on the efforts of the teaching profession. When I move around my electorate and visit schools I see how difficult and complex the eductional process is in this very complex industrial society. It needs to be recognised that in the post-war period Australia has been through an enormous period of social transformation. During that period we have built the basis of manufacturing industry. We have imported hundreds of thousands of immigrant people from other societies. These people have come not from just a handful of societies but from many different societies representing many different languages and cultures.
We have been through a period in which the systems of communication and the kind of work that people do have been in a constant process of change. While one may want to be critical of particular aspects of what has been carried on in the name of education, on the whole one never fails to be impressed with the dedication and the enthusiasm that teachers have brought to the school situation and the creative way in which they have tackled what I believe to be extremely compex problems. It is rather sad that, at this period in our history, education is obviously no longer the matter of central concern that it was a few years ago to the Parliament and perhaps even to the Government. The problems that were addressed in the 1960s and early 1970s have not gone away. It is not good enough for the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to make the kind of bland remark he made the other night. It was to the effect that because total enrolments are beginning to decline and populations of universities are stabilising, therefore, we can afford to move into an era of cuts in spending.
I do not particularly want to argue tonight, as I am sure the honourable member for Swan would expect me to, that education ought to be getting a larger share of the national Budget. We have to recognise that its share of the national Budget has considerably changed as a result particularly of the policies of the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975. I do not think that any one on this side of the House- indeed, very few members of parliament- would make an apology for the shift in expenditure that occurred in that period. As a new member of parliament who saw what the Government did very much from the outside, one gets extremely tired of the way in which Government members repeatedly go over what occurred in that period as if nothing positive was done and as if there were no policies which represented important, creative and innovative changes in relation to areas of Australian life.
Education is one of the areas in which the Labor Government’s record is very good. That is true because of the emphasis it placed on its policies. Those policies were not particularly partisan ones. They sought to take politics out of educational funding. We created the Schools Commission which determined the priorities. I would have thought that any genuine Liberal as opposed to a Tory would have supported our policy concerning the redistributive aspects of education funding which sought to provide for people who were in the greatest need some kind of positive discrimination. The whole business of education- the priorities, the school atmosphereought to be a matter which is not decided in the national Parliament or in the State parliaments but which is determined by the parents themselves. Certainly in my experience with schools, teachers have made a tremendous effort over the past few years to get parents much more involved in the life of the school. That very much accords with the devolutionary principles as described by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) and set out by the Schools Commission.
AH of those policies were important ones, but they could be implemented only if there were a tremendous change in terms of funding. I refer to a recent book edited by Scotton and Ferber entitled Public Expenditures and Social Policy in
Australia which is very instructive in terms of funding on a whole variety of social policy areas in the Whitlam years. One paragraph reads:
The consequences or Labor policies in terms of education expenditures are clear enough. Public expenditure on education increased by 79.7 per cent, or 26.0 per cent in constant price terms, in the three years to 1975-76. Total expenditure on education rose from 4.9 per cent to 6.5 per cent of gross domestic product in the same period.
A further paragraph states:
Though to some extent a speeding up of previous trends, the depth and extent of the change in federal rates was such as to mark the beginning of a new epoch in educational funding. It is also clear that, despite the fact that this trend is inconsistent with the ‘new federalism’ policy of the coalition government, most of the changes are irreversible and have broad bi-partisan support.
I hope that is the case. I hope that the policies that were introduced in that period are policies that will be continued in a bipartisan way. I hope that those ominous remarks of the Treasurer the other night were not designed to suggest that somehow we have been spending too much money in the area of education, that somehow there had been waste and extravagance and that somehow that money had not been spent in the best way. I think, by and large, that kind of argument certainly cannot be sustained. I am particularly referring to educational funding in relation to the schools area. When I think in terms of my own electorate, and indeed, of the school which my own children attend and when I see the needs that have existed and still exist in those schools across a very wide variety of indicators, I believe that educational funding certainly does need to be sustained at something like the levels at which it has been sustained over the past few years. I do not particularly want to pursue that issue, but I think that any inspection of the buildings that exist in many inner-suburban areas, in many of the northern and western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, and in many of the provincial cities around Australia, will demonstrate the needs in terms of the rehabilitation of old buildings. Of course, many of the new communities are still being formed in Australia and they need to be serviced with schools.
One could go and look at various programs that are operating in the schools. I think that if one makes comparisons between sectors of education then one sees that there is an enormous way to go for the average government school if it is to reach the kind of standards that the ruling class of this country regard as adequate for its children. I believe that if it is good enough for those schools to have the full range of activities, the full range of programs and the very best of buildings, then that ought to set the standards for the country. We ought to be doing something about taking some of that Government money back that is being transferred to Class 1 and 2 schools by the present Government. As previous speakers have suggested, this situation moves back to some of the characteristics of the bad old days of the 1950s and certainly the early 1960s.
I want to move on beyond the question of funding to just raise some of the issues which I think are important in relation to education. They are issues that, to some extent, have been raised previously in this debate particularly, I guess, by the honourable member for Swan. He was very critical of the funding of schools within the context of the communities and he wanted to move towards the American proposals in relation to an educational voucher system. Of course, the Americans are very strong on voucher systems. Rather than income support for people on welfare, they tend to provide programs like the food stamp program where literally billions of dollars of aid per year are transferred to the individual in terms of that kind of benefit. I do not believe that education is a matter of a welfare benefit. I do not believe that it is something of that order. I think education is a right. It is not something to be conceived of in individualistic terms but rather socially. If we are to achieve equity within education, we have to think not simply of individual people whose needs are impossible to assess in terms of just individual characteristics but we have to try to meet the whole needs of the pupil within a community setting. That does mean a movement towards the improvement, upgrading and sustenance of schools as institutions located within particular communities.
I say to the honourable member that there is a sense in which we have, as a nation, expected far too much of education. I believe that some of the problems that are associated with some of the feeling of let-down that is being expressed by some speakers tonight about education is a reflection that many people in our society expect that if only we could do something to improve education- I believe that we have improved education at all levels- then somehow, many of the other problems from which our society suffers would immediately be eliminated. I do not believe that is the case. When one talks about reading programs and literacy programs and tries to blame the effectiveness of the teacher or the educational system in transmitting knowledge to the children under their care and says that somehow because particular children do not reach certain arbitrarily denned standards, then that is a reflection on the teachers, one is ignoring the whole importance and the basis of social structure and its interaction with educational processes.
We have to recognise- I know honourable members on the Government side do not like to recognise this-that the fundamental importance of social class within this nation as indeed, within every Western nation and within any society which can be broadly described as capitalist. Class is the most important determinant in this particular society of social behaviour and social achievement. I think one does see reflected within the computations about adequacies of skills, very much a reflection of the operation of social class within the community. One sees the importance of that particular factor reflected in the schools situation. As much as one might applaud an emphasis in terms of educational opportunity, if we are to produce a greater degree of equality, a more egalitarian society, I do not believe that this will be done merely through education. That, of course, is not an argument for doing the very best that we can with the educational dollar. It is not an argument in terms of positive discrimination. It is not an argument against the disadvantaged school program which I believe achieved a great deal in terms of designing programs and providing resourcesresources are necessary- towards helping particular children facing particular sorts of difficulties.
I reflected earlier on the changes that have occurred in Australian society. There has been no more important change in our society than the movement towards what was a relatively homogenous society in 1945 to a now multicultural society where we have people drawn from so many different countries in the world and from so many different backgrounds. If one is going to talk about accuracy in terms of numeracy and literacy then one ought to applaud those teachers who have been able, under the most difficult circumstances and with virtually no support whatsoever until Labor came to power, to introduce hundreds of thousands of children from foreign backgrounds into this community with the absolute minimum of social disruption. Very often those children are now numbered in our universities and colleges of advanced education as the very brightest and best students.
When one is attacking teachers and the profession and talking about waste in education, one ought to take account of the fact that hundreds of thousands of children have, in a sense, progressed effectively through that system and have achieved skills. They have achieved skills not because governments have been sensitive to the needs that are there but very often because they have been prepared to innovate, to be creative and to think about what they are doing. Very often they have been prepared to involve the parents in assisting them to develop programs which are sensitive to the needs of particular children.
I just very quickly move to what I think will be one of the more fundamental issues in relation to education and what is certainly quite central to the argument of the Williams report. I refer to the question of the relationship between education and economics, education and employment, education and work or education and the industrial aims of our society. Some people- I would number Professor Williams among them- are arguing in a real sense that primary, secondary and tertiary education ought to be geared very much to economic objectives. I very strongly reject that view. The people who are so concerned about numeracy and literacy, as the sole end of education, are very often businessmen who do not know the first thing about education. They are simply saying to the schools: Your job is to produce someone who will be able to work in my factory or in my office in a totally predictable way’. I believe that much the same argument will be advanced more and more about university education and education in the various college sectors.
I believe that more and more it will be said that education ought to be tailored to the economic needs of society and that the purpose of education is not the self-realisation of the individual, the establishment of a better Australian community or the production of people who have a better understanding of a complex society with problems such as the problems of rapidly changing technology; but that the purpose of education is to produce people who are prepared to accept direction, people who are incapable of thinking for themselves, people who are incapable of being critical of society, people who are incapable of taking on the critical role of citizenship which one would have thought the small 1’ liberal philosophy since the days of John Stuart Mill had always been about. I regret this increasing necessity to talk about the relationship between education and opportunities for young people to work, in a situation in which they are being deliberately denied work, pursuant to a fiat of government policy. It has nothing to do with the capabilities of the young people. They are being kept out of the work force because it suits the Government that is in power in Canberra at the present time to exploit these 200,000 young people in that if they were in the work force it might put some pressure on inflation or some other indicator.
Throughout the post-war period the Labor Party has said that full employment is the fundamental aim of a government. That principle has been deserted by this Government. We ought to be very careful about what this Government is saying about education policy. If we are not careful, it will be designed to ensure that the working class kids of this nation do not get any opportunity to have an education beyond the area of technical and further education, universities will become centres of privilege, and the kids from the private schools will get the opportunity to have the kind of education which is denied to the ordinary rank and file children of this country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to carry on with some of the points that my friend the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) has been making to the House. The attitude of honourable members opposite to the whole system of education has become more and more irrelevant. It is more and more money oriented, more and more functionally oriented as regards the training of people and more and more out of place and out of time. I am not sure whether in a debate such as this at this stage in 1979 one ought to be saddened or angry. Here we are taking up so many of the battles which I thought had been won over the last 10 or 12 years. We thought that we had won the battle about the general direction of education and that the Creadon of an equal society with equal opportunity and an equal education system for everybody on this continent was one of the accepted national objectives. I thought that the position was the same in respect of the advancement of the Aboriginal people. Yet we hear people in this place continually denouncing whatever was done over the three years from 1972 to 1975 as wasteful and extravagant in both areas. We hear the same thing about health. We have heard the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the other day make what can only be regarded as a racist attack upon Labor’s programs in the area of Aboriginal advancement. The same applies in so many other areas.
– We did not hear that.
– Honourable members opposite were not listening to him, and I do not blame them; but we had to hear him because he was shouting at us. Education is the most pervasive social enterprise. It affects every family for some time of their life and many families for many years of their life. It takes up more personal time, I suppose, amongst students and teachers than any other aspect of life. Surely one ought not to have to appeal to an institution such as this, which has a very high proportion of highly educated people in it. Perhaps the word educated’ is not adequate. Many people in this place have spent lengthy periods in the education system; but I am afraid that those on the other side of the House are increasingly becoming insensitive to the needs of the community as a whole.
In this debate tonight I would just like to remind the House of some of the history of education over the last 20 years, because seemingly people have forgotten what it has all been about. There has been an almost irresistible and savage attack on education expenditure since about, I would say, the middle of 1974, or a fraction earlier, after Labor had been in government for about 1 8 months. Nobody could ever point to the actual area of the extravagance with which Labor was charged, but it became part of the mythology. It has crept into the system; so there is a certain disheartened approach by people to the whole question. I think I should remind the House of what it was like six or seven years ago, in 1972. There had been a public campaign for some 15 or 17 years. It was generated by teacher organisations and parent organisations. It was taken up in the Federal Parliament particularly by the Labor Party. The Labor Party, of course, had to face the issue itself for the first time at the Federal level. It was not easy. There were plenty of people who said: ‘That is really not our affair. Education is back there in the State capitals’. But gradually the whole concept of it caught on and the Labor Party itself started to establish policy making bodies at the Federal level. That had its influence upon the people who now sit opposite. A former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, took up the question of universities. There were all sorts of reasons for his doing that. It would be perhaps a little ungracious now to start to attribute some of his policies of that time to the real political reasons, but he had an impact on education. I am afraid that that has diminished with his passing from the scene.
Let me remind the House of some of the Labor Party’s achievements while it was in government. First of all, the Schools Commission was established. One can only pay a tribute to the people on that body. It created a totally new element and a totally new atmosphere in Australian education. I must say that, although I knew the people on it fairly well, to my surprise it produced very rapidly a most comprehensive and progressive report. The continuing reports from the Schools Commission have been the major sign posts in Australian education. Just the establishment of that Commission was a major Australian achievement, in the face of the kind of States rights nonsense with which Federal governments are always beset. One of the achievements of the Commission was to give real definition to the needs policy- to make the needs of the schools and the children in them the principal basis for education policy and education funding. One would think that that would not be necessary in this country, but in fact it was. But to put it down in some sort of scheduled way in which a government could proceed with a steady program in an attempt to lift the schools in Australia to an equal status with one another as regards input and output was a major social and political achievement. I hope that we will not give it up.
In the last two or three years I have seen a continuing attack upon this whole attitude, and in listening to my colleagues opposite I find a continual denunciation of education expenditure and welfare expenditure. I understand that on the other side there is a group of people who are continuously clamouring in the party room for the government to reduce expenditure on education. For heaven’s sake, what are we at? Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. I suppose that in potential we have more resources behind us than has any other individual group of people on this planet. We have not, of course, found adequate ways in which to redistribute those resources so that everybody may take advantage of them. We have managed to achieve increased productivity in every area. There is no shortage of any of the things that we need in a material sense. All we are lacking is the wit and wisdom with which to look at our society and ascertain what we need to do. Nobody would deny the extraordinary challenge of the next few years, which has been developing since about, 1965. What about some of the more important but unnoted progressive things that were done in the education program of the Labor Government under my former colleague, Kim Beazley?
First, let me examine the innovation program. I mention it because members on the opposite side of the House and many other people talk about the Labor Party as being centralist. When we of the Opposition were in government we were supposed to be the regimental people who were going to drag everything under the umbrella of Canberra. Buttons would be pressed here and people would have to hop to it from one end of the continent to the other. Nothing could be further from the truth. The innovation program made grants to the schools of Australia in accordance with submissions written out by the teachers at the schools. These submissions were graded, according to priority, the amount of money required and the purpose for which it was required, by local committees. This scheme was administered very cheaply and brought a whole new environment to Australian education.
My electorate in Melbourne covers three or four major industrial suburbs. At the time of this innovation program my electorate included Brunswick and Coburg. Now it includes parts of Preston and Northcote. My electorate was probably one of the few areas in Melbourne where this program had a real impact. The schools in my area had been deprived during the previous 50 or 60 years but under this scheme they were able to introduce innovation programs. Following the innovation program the Labor Government set out upon a total equalisation program in education throughout Australia- the needs policy was essential to that- and to upgrade the whole principle of education. There were advances in education which people now seem to ignore or forget.
One was the isolated children’s scheme. Early in Australia’s history enormous efforts were made to ensure that every person received some sort of education even if there were only 10 or 12 children in a school. However, that vision seemed to have faded by about the 1950s and 1960s. At that time there were many families with children who lived a long way from school. They were totally disadvantaged. While I was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I recall being at Cloncurry and speaking to one of the railway men there. He told me that there was a certain amount of resentment developing because the Aboriginal children received advantages that did not extend to the local white children. He said to me: ‘I don’t mind the Aboriginal kids getting their chance to go off to the major schools at Hughenden or Charters Towers; in fact I am pleased about it, but I only wish I could have it for my children’.
I remember the discussions concerning disadvantaged children and finally the decision by the Labor Government to introduce the isolated children’s scheme. There were people who attacked that scheme and said that the people out there have tons of money. Sometimes those people do have lots of money but on many occasions they do not. My view is that we are not in the business of creating education as a charitable organisation. A child as a person, has an absolute, inalienable right to equality of education input no matter where he or she lives and no matter whether the parents are rich or poor. I think that is a logical, social attitude to have on education in a country such as Australia which has developed over the last century or so.
I refer now to student allowances in the secondary scheme and to changing the former scholarship scheme into an allowances scheme based on the needs of the child in a certain age group. The unfortunate aspect of scholarships is that people with certain degrees of excellence may be chosen in a particularly arbitrary way, but the approach is unfair and competitive. I do not think our society needs that competitive approach any longer. I believe that a universal approach is what is needed.
That brings me to the subject of the abolition of university fees. That move came under attack. Quite often the people with whom I associate said to me: ‘Look, who goes to universities? The children of the wealthy’. I said in reply to them: That is rubbish. Plenty of children of the nonwealthy go to university, but our objective is to make sure that the children of people who are not wealthy are able to go to university’. There has been an attack on that scheme. I have heard a number of rumours lately that the Government proposes to reintroduce university fees. I would regard that as a dreadfully retrograde step. I would be gratified if the Government, through the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) who represents the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), or the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), denied this rumour. I believe that to make universities as free as primary schools is one of the great social progressions of our time.
The schemes I have mentioned are some of the things that the Labor Government put on the books in the three years it was in office. But let us look at the response from members on the opposite side of the House, so many of whom have been the advantaged people in the Australian community. I mention the attack on extravagance in expenditure. The first Labor Government Budget in which the education vote became greater than the defence vote was regarded by me as a major social and economic achievement in Australia. I think back to the 1950s when the Labor Party used to campaign for increased expenditure in Australian education. At that time I never thought I would see the day it would be increased.
But now the stage has been reached where we need not only to hold education expenditure at its present level but to expand it in some areas. However, I am afraid that the statement tonight by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications concerning the Bill before the House, in which he stated that the Government has made adequate provision for this, that and the other, is a totally disheartening one. There are many things still to be done yet I see no approach by the Government, through its Minister’s ideas and policy pronouncements, to cover these matters. It is still true that a large number of migrants need more teachers. It is still true that Aboriginal communities need to be better endowed with resources.
I hope that during the recess some honourable members will take the opportunity to visit some of the schools in the Aboriginal communities which are scattered throughout Australia, especially the larger ones which teach from 300 children up to 600 children. I recall visiting the Aurukun school last year. Honourable members will recall Aurukun. It has substantial buildings and a good staff. However, these teachers are in a community where they are trying to train children in total literacy but the community itself is not literate. There are very few examples of the printed word lying around. The daily newspapers do not reach them. There is no television so they cannot read words on the screen. In fact, there is just no supply of the printed word. It is a situation that should not be too hard to overcome. A teacher told me that he would be grateful just to get comics or anything that a student could read. Even the well educated children of 15 or 16 who are in the senior part of the secondary school are still inadequately skilled in reading habits and techniques. I recall telling the story in my electorate and gathering boxes and boxes of comics which I sent off to these schools. That is just an example of an area of total inadequacy. I see no attack upon that inadequacy by this Government.
I suppose this Government has a policy of opting out of education. It is all very well to speak in this House about placing responsibility back on the States where it belongs. In the first instance, the States are not equal. No matter whether a government is good or bad- it is quite a while since there was a good one in Queensland- each State has the same problems. For instance, Victoria faces the same problems as Queensland but Victoria’s population is contained in an area of approximately 80,000 square miles whereas Queensland’s population, only about one-third the population of Victoria, is scattered over an immense area of approximately 400,000 square miles. In this way the Queensland State Government faces all sorts of difficulties.
In conjunction with New South Wales, Victoria has been the base of industrial development in Australia for nearly a century, so it starts miles in front of Queensland. Therefore, the States cannot be treated as being equal. They are not. It was part of the Labor Government’s program to see that the children at Aurukun or the children in the heart of Brisbane would receive the same advantages from living in this continent as, say, the children in Canberra. We moved along the road towards putting up the signposts, establishing the apparatus, the inquiries, the school commissions and the whole spirit of the programs, but they had been stopped dead in their tracks. I regard that as a tragedy.
However, there are continuing fallacies. One hears Ministers of Education saying that we have too many teachers. That is utter rubbish. How many teachers should one have for the disadvantaged children of Australia? How many teachers are needed in a community where the literacy is at a low level, such as in the migrant communities of Australia? For the first time in many years we have started to put ceilings on the number of teachers to be employed in schools.
Among the weaknesses in the education system are some of the irrelevancies that still remain. We are not facing up to the difficulties which are experienced by underprivileged children. We are not facing up to the difficulties of educating people for the new period. Honourable members opposite talk about training people to be better components of the work force. As the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) pointed out, we are running an economy so that there is no work for them in the work force. We are just training them all to be better competitors for the handful of jobs. We should train them in a different sort of way. As an example I would like to mention the irrelevancy of the apprenticeship system. It will not work. It is back to front. Taking people away from work for a pan of the time and putting them into schools will no longer work. The schooling and training that they get ought to be the principal element of their working life at that stage and the working part ought to be a part of their education.
I would suggest that in the next few years we should apply our minds to the new challenge of the 1980s. Some 100 years ago when our universal education system was established it was easy to see the objective. It was to produce a literate society and this was accomplished. Governments throughout Australia- conservative and progressive- set about their work in a determined way and established a basically literate society by the 1 980s. When it came to secondary education the task was to turn out professional and technically trained people. In the last 10, 15 or 20 years people have aspired towards obtaining a university education. The system has progressed to the stage where people find themselves proceeding into what might be called a vacuum. This is a great social and intellectual challenge. The Government will not find an answer to it by continually attacking it as a waste of money or by reducing the funds allocated to education. It is tragic that a country which ought to be leading the way is getting so little initiative from the other side. The Government is totally inadequate in this area. I believe that the people of Australia are gradually waking up to that. I hope that at the next election it will be written on every ballot paper exactly how deficient the Government has been in connection with these matters and that the Government will hand the job to the people who will get on with it and will pass into history.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
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 Staley) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 22 May, on motion by Mr Staley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
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 Staley) read a third time.
North West One-Stop Welfare Centre -Appointment to High Court of Australia- Taxation: Commonwealth Post-Graduate Awards-Free Enterprise- Families of Members of Parliament-Visit of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Poland- Local Government Funding
Motion ( by Mr Staley) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to refer to an experiment which resulted from the establishing of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. This Commission was established by the Labor Government and was concerned with evaluating the whole process of government administration. One of the issues to which that Royal Commission gave consideration was the question of how to fashion government services in a way that people would be best able to receive and participate in the delivery of those services. This experiment was conducted while the Royal Commission was undertaking its work. It was known as the NOW Centre-the North- West One-Stop Welfare Centre. It was established within the city of Coburg and was designed to bring together the full range of welfare services- the services of the Federal Department of Social Security, the services of the State Department of Social Welfare and the services provided by some of the voluntary agencies in that area. There was a considerable amount of participation in the management of the centre by people drawn from the community, which one would have to say is a very diverse community with strong Italian and Greek components.
I understand that this centre has been under review on something like three separate occasions since its initial establishment. I know of no government decision which has yet been made that resolves the future of that centre. I find it rather odd that what I regard as a very important experiment in attempting to bring together the services provided by the voluntary and public sector ought to have been under evaluation for so long and yet no decision has been taken either to discontinue the centre and perhaps move towards some other way of devolving responsibility or bringing government administration closer to the people or to continue to fund the centre on a permanent basis.
One of the most difficult problems for people receiving various forms of welfare is that they are shunted from one to another among a whole variety of officers who deal with various types of allowances or various aspects of what very often is part of a human problem which ought to be dealt with as a whole and not separately. In relation to that concept of the NOW Centre, I want to refer to an opportunity which exists in the city of Northcote within the electorate of Batman to develop something along the lines of the NOW Centre. For a period of some five years successive honourable members have been endeavouring to persuade the Government to establish a larger office for the Commonwealth Employment Service at Northcote. The office is currently located in a shop front. Something like 30 people deal with the unemployed persons under conditions which certainly do not offer privacy and certainly do not offer the most efficient circumstances in which to deal with those problems.
Quite recently I discovered that the Department of Social Security has a Northcote office, with something like 50 members of staff, which is currently located in the main government offices in Spring Street in the centre of Melbourne. My proposition is simply that the Government should consider the establishment in the city of Northcote of a Commonwealth Government centre which brings together the Commonwealth Employment Service and the Department of Social Security, possibly in some type of working relationship with welfare services provided by the Northcote Municipal Council and some of the voluntary agencies which exist in that city. I believe that it would achieve some of the central objectives of policy, as I understand it. It would be rational, it would provide co-ordination, and it would provide a working relationship between various departments of the Commonwealth Government and other levels of government. I believe that currently there is such a close relationship between the operations of the Department of Social Security and the Commonwealth Employment Service that considerable gains could be achieved for the people who want to use that centre.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to raise a matter concerning a statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) on 22 May. I realise that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is away at present but I advised his office last week, when I first sought to raise this matter, that I would raise it in the House on the adjournment debate. On 22 May, the Deputy Leader commented on the appointment to the High Court of Australia of Mr Justice Wilson of Western Australia. I felt that he commented on that appointment in a most disparaging and unjustifiable way. In a Press statement he said:
While not in any way detracting from the legal eminence of Mr Justice Wilson, the simple fact is that his appointment was made by the Court Government, rather than the Fraser Government. The Attorney-General Senator Durack, has simply complied meekly with the demands of his State Premier.
At a later stage in the Press statement he went on to say: the main reason for Mr Justice Wilson’s appointment is that his conservative views, particularly on constitutional questions, are well known to, and appreciated by Sir Charles.
His final sentence was this:
For its part, the Labor Party rejects the motion of direct State involvement in High Court appointments, and believes that merit should be the only consideration.
I suggest that that is not only an insult to Mr Justice Wilson, it is also an insult to the smaller States in the Australian Federation. The appointment of Mr Justice Wilson has been acclaimed by legal authorities as a judicial event. He is 56 years of age. He has been Western Australia’s Solicitor-General since 1969 and before that he held senior Crown Law appointments in Western Australia. As Solicitor-General he has appeared in many major constitutional cases before the High Court. He has also played an active role in constitutional discussions between the Commonwealth and the States in matters being considered by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. Further, he is the Chairman of the Barristers Board of Western Australia. I wish to quote what one or two people had to say about his appointment. The appointment was acclaimed by legal colleagues in Perth. For example, in an article appearing in the Melbourne Age on 22 May, the dean of the law faculty of the University of Western Australia, Dr A. F. Dickey said:
He is a very fine advocate- one of the very best lawyers this State has ever produced . . .
The views of Mr Leo Wood, who was Mr Wilson’s adversary in many major criminal trials, are also referred to in that article, which states:
He is one of the most able men I ‘ve ever known in 25 years at the Bar, said leading Perth Barrister, Mr Leo Wood, Mr Wilson ‘s adversary in scores of major criminal trials.
Mr Wood is also reported as saying:
I’ve keen respect for his ability. At the High Court hell be just his own man- he has no political alignment. As a lawyer he is sound as a bell.
The complete refutation of the comments made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition occurs in an article written by Professor Colin Howard, who is hardly a conservative lawyer in this country. In the opening sentence of Professor Howard’s article, which appeared in the Melbourne Age on 22 May, the very day on which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made his statement, he stated:
The appointment of Mr Wilson to the vacant spot on the High Court is a judicial event.
He went on to say:
Over a long period of time there has been persistent and justifiable criticism that the High Court is dominated by appointments from New South Wales and Victoria.
Later on he stated:
There has been … a persistent sense that since Australia is a federation and since one of the most important aspects of the High Court’s work is the resolution of Federal Constitutional issues, it would be at least fitting that judicial representation on the court should be more widespread.
Referring to the promise by the Commonwealth Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that he would in future consult with the States on such appointments, Professor Colin Howard stated:
The choice of Mr Wilson seems to indicate that serious consultation has in fact taken place . . .
Now we have the Deputy Leader of the Opposition saying that this is simply an example of jobs for the boys, whereas one of the leading Labor lawyers in Australia is prepared to concede that it is a judicial event and a step in the right direction.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In the time available to me I wish to direct the attention of the chamber to one of the many penny-pinching Budget savings perpetrated by the present Government in the 1978-79 Budget. I am referring to the taxing of Commonwealth postgraduate awards. The award is presently a meagre $4,200 per annum. An estimated saving of a mere $232,303 has brought considerable hardship and frustration to a small but highly significant group of post-graduate research scholars, whose work by no small measure helps to advance the frontiers of knowledge that ultimately benefit the whole community. Surely there must be some members of the Government benches who appreciate the logic of this argument. Can Australia afford to frustrate and potentially waste its most highly trained researchers? Even the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, who must bear some responsibility for the present situation, seems to recognise the value of research. In reply to a question on 3 April this year he stated:
The future development of this country, including its capacity to trade and the living standards of its people, must depend upon a properly based program of research and development.
But what does he appear to be doing to protect the interests of those engaged in such research? Nothing! In reality, despite the fact that research scholars perform a significant role in university research, their present position is such that they are classified as ‘rather poor’, according to the Henderson poverty line criteria. In terms of normal conditions of employees, they have no sick leave, no annual leave loading, no consumer price index adjustment, no superannuation and no workers compensation. Yet the unfeeling present Government claims that the allowances are ‘essentially of an income nature and it is appropriate that they should be taxed like any other income’.
Let me compare the net post-graduate award to the minimum wage and the taxable postgraduate award with the average male earnings over the last decade. Taking the 1 979 figures, the situation is deplorable. The net post-graduate award is now $4,097 and the minimum wage is $7,962. The taxable post-graduate award is $4,200 and average male earnings at present are supposed to be $11,960. Perhaps a more comparable figure can be obtained by examining apprentices in the fourth year of training. For example, a fourth year apprentice carpenter earns $10,199 per annum before tax. In the Navy, in his fourth year of training an apprentice earns $7,435, and an apprentice engineer earns $8,840.
The Council of Australian Post-Graduate Associations has requested that the research scholar’s work role be subjected to a fundamental assessment by an independent tribunal in order to establish appropriate levels of award allowances. Also, interim increases in award allowances should be made as soon as possible at least to maintain the position relative to the poverty level which existed in 1977. Further, course work award allowances should be increased to the same levels as those for research awards. The myopic vision of this penny-pinching government will sacrifice the long-term positive benefits for the whole community of research in higher education institutions. Research scholars make a major contribution to research in all three categories- basic research, applied research and experimental research- but it is in basic research that their contribution is most significant. While the value is less obvious in the short term, the
Australian Science and Technology Council believes that our national status and world standing depends on fundamental basic research. Why will the Government not listen? Why does it persecute this small group of people? Four years of cost cutting in universities means that our best researchers do not have the resources to do their jobs properly. Work which is vital to Australia’s self-reliance is neglected because there is not enough money, and all this for a saving of a mere $232,300. The Government has pushed research scholars close to the Henderson poverty line, as I have said. Certainly the Williams report on education, training and employment acknowledges the flaws in the Government’s policy. It states:
If research funds are not adequate Australia will lose to overseas universities a proportion of its ablest young graduates and become more dependent on overseas developments in science and technology.
We should concentrate on becoming leaders, not followers. Why cannot the Government recognise this? If the Government is so short of funds, perhaps the Prime Minister might be gracious enough to curtail some of his projected 1979-80 overseas escapades in Freebee I.
– Tonight I would like to talk about giving the market a chance to work. Let me begin by quoting Arthur Seldon of the London Institute of Economic Affairs on the subject of change- the choice, as he puts it, of change ‘by degree or by convulsion’. The form in which change takes place and, therefore, the intensity of the resistance to it, depends upon its rate. Here is perhaps the most fundamental distinction between the market and government. In a functioning market with monopoly bottlenecks minimised and access to supply widened by topping up low incomes, decisions in adapting supply to demand are decentralised to individual undertakings or establishments- factories and shops, mines and docks, schools and hospitals. Change is organic, gradual, continuous, by degree. It affects relatively small numbers. Disturbance, dislocation, disruption are minimised. The confrontations in the market are small and are solved by haggling over price which is the peacemaker. In a State economy or State industries, decisions are centralised to planning boards, committees, commissions, councils -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! I do not think the honourable member for Mackellar needs any more help. He may proceed.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am trying to introduce a reasonably intelligent argument. It is a disappointment to me that the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) whom I had placed in a higher level is not particularly interested. In a State economy or State industry, decisions are centralised to planning boards, committees, commissions, councils, government departments, that nominally represent the very much larger number of workers, managers and consumers who will benefit or suffer. Change is therefore more likely to be opposed, repressed, inhibited or postponed. When it takes place it is contrived, jerky, discontinuous, lumpy and convulsive. Disturbance, dislocation and disruption are large-scale. Friction is inflated. In a market there are, therefore, better prospects that change will be peaceful. In a government economy change is more likely to provoke tension, strife and unrest. If it is suppressed, in certain societies ultimately it will provoke violence, bloodshed and civil war.
The United Kingdom has gone farther down the road of state control and market distortion than we have. However, we have gone farther than we should. Let me suggest the following examples of market distortion by government interference or by business monopoly or union monopoly- I make no distinction- which are depriving Australians of benefits they should be enjoying, and where the position daily gets worse: Firstly, our whole transport system, where a population living almost entirely by the sea is denied by Government, business or union restrictive practices the full benefits of carriage by sea; where the economics of rail versus road are not even known because of numerous cross subsidies; and where competition in the air is stifled in the interest of one Government-owned and one Government-supported airline; and all this in a country suffering, as Blainey has said, The Tyranny of Distance’, dependent for its very lifeblood on the cheapness of transport; secondly, the postal system where Government monopoly and feather bedding result in less and less service at higher and higher cost, and where the organisation of alternative methods of communication is prevented by force of law; thirdly, the restrictive framework of limited trading hours, weekend and holiday penalty rates and other protective devices that are, on the one hand, denying consumers the goods and services they have a right to expect and, on the other, denying those who are prepared to work the employment which they seek; and fourthly, a banking system so regulated and controlled that it is difficult to distinguish one bank from another, and in which nobody knows whether the system is responding to new demands or merely moulding its customers into the patterns of its own inertia.
These are but a few examples of market distortion, none of them easily corrected, that are pushing us slowly but inexorably towards the upheaval of discontinuous change so clearly foretold by Arthur Seldon. Let us whenever we can move in the direction of market forces.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I would like to make a few remarks tonight. I would not like them to be considered maudlin in any way, but I think that they are comments that should be made. They refer to our parliamentary spouses.
– What about your electoral ones?
-Well, my electoral spouse. I am referring to the spouses whom all of us leave at home. I am particularly pleased to see the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) sitting in the chamber seeing that he has left a clutch of children at home. I am sure, therefore, that he will feel some sympathy with the remarks which I want to make. In the world in which we live we encounter in a lifetime a tremendous number of people. Some of these exert an influence on our lives, some of them are merely ships that pass in the night, and some of them may be classed as unforgettable characters. Some weeks ago in this House we paid tribute to a person who was in the latter category. I refer to the late member for Grayndler, Mr Frank Stewart. I do not wish to extend the condolence motion moved at the time or to try to embellish the lavish tributes which were made in honour of Frank Stewart They were so generously given and so well earned.
– And all justified too.
-They were totally justified. I would like to place on record a few words about the family that Frank Stewart loved and the wife that he adored. I am encouraged to do this tonight by the fact that Maureen Stewart was sitting in the gallery today. Maureen Stewart is a magnificent woman- dignified, proud, compassionate, and a typical mother. In fact, she is a perfect example of Australian womanhood and a perfect parliamentary spouse, if I may use that term. Because of the peculiar nature of our profession, Maureen Stewart has been surrogate father to six children for the 26 years that Frank Stewart was a member of this House. For a great deal of that time, of course, Frank was here and
Maureen Stewart was at home looking after the children. That she has done a magnificent job in that regard is fully evidenced by the family that Frank Stewart has left behind. I am sure that that was freely acknowledged by Frank when he was alive.
Long absences from home is the penalty that a member pays for being in the Parliament. Maureen Stewart is the perfect model of a spouse enduring the loneliness which is common to all those who send their partners off to the Parliament in Canberra. In paying tribute to her, I also include all those other wives- in this case they are wives because there are no other women in this House; the members are all males- who are left behind at home. I pay tribute to all of those women who send their partners off to the Parliament in Canberra. It is a beautiful thing to be able to go home on a Friday night at the end of the parliamentary week to find a haven of peace and security which a wife has managed to maintain in our absence, while fathering children in a surrogate fashion and maintaining commitments within the electorate. The united family which Frank Stewart has left behind might well be described as the apotheosis of his political career and surely a fitting monument to all those great family causes which Frank Stewart so sincerely espoused in his parliamentary life.
I pay tribute to the wives of the parliamentarians of Australia- not just of the members of this Parliament but also of the members of parliament in the States. While the members of Parliament become substantial figures in public life the wife is often neglected by the members, not in any deliberate way, but surely because of the peculiar nature of our profession. When Frank Stewart died the other day- of course we all mourn his passing because he was a very substantial figure, not only in this Parliament but in Australian life in general- it prompted me to reflect on the fact that we sometimes forget the great contribution that his wife made and all our wives make towards providing the members of the parliament of Australia. Tonight I refer to the fact that no monuments are built for the wives who support their families while their husbands are attending the parliament; no tributes are paid to parliamentary spouses as they are so generously paid to members who pass away by the remaining members of the Parliament. They are, in fact, the silent heroines, the people who are not lauded for their great contribution to Australian life. I would like all honourable members tonight to think of the women that we leave behind, the women who support us so generously without being fully recognised by the Australian public for the great contribution they make to Australian life.
- (Mr Ciles)-I am sure that the House generally would support the honourable member’s remarks.
-As a Catholic and as an Australian, and proud of both attributes, I rise to record the strongest possible protest against the actions of the Soviet puppet Government in Poland in brutally cracking down on the citizens of Poland in preparation for the visit this weekend of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the land of his binh. All members of the Parliament will deplore and condemn the continuing persecution of both Christians and Jews in Poland. All Christians and Jews in Australia will, in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Poland, fervently pray that the church will be liberated from Soviet oppression and will triumphantly rise again in peace and freedom. On 8 May it was the 900th anniversary of St Stanislaus, the Patron Saint of Poland and Archbishop of Cracow. As such he was a predecessor to Cardinal Wojtyla now Pope John Paul II. In preparation for the visit of Pope John Paul II to Poland this weekend the Soviet puppet Government has engaged in a deliberate campaign of persecution of those who are looking forward to that visit. I shall read from two news reports. The first is from the British Broadcasting Corporation. It states:
Polish police have raided the homes of several dissidents confiscating poster and photographs of Pope John Paul the second who’s due to visit Poland in the next few days.
A spokesman for a committee of dissidents released details of the raids.
He said one dissident had been sent to a psychiatric ward after being detained by police while collecting signatures on a petition asking for full television coverage of the Pope’s visit.
Upon making further inquiries, I can now indicate that the person who was arrested is known and is named. His name is Miroslaw Kimnes. He was arrested in Bukowie which is near Lodz. He was collecting signatures for a petition urging the Government of Poland- the Soviet puppet Government- to allow a full television coverage of the Pope’s visit. For this he was sent to a psychiatric ward. In the same area a local Catholic priest was arrested and detained for four hours. A poster of the Pope holding a child was confiscated from Henryk Wujek. The Polish Government has now said, despite these arrests, that it will televise an open air mass and two other events. An article in the Daily Telegraph in London under the headline: ‘Police swoop to prepare for Pope ‘states:
Police have raided the homes of dissidents throughout Poland, confiscating posters and photographs of Pope John Paul II, according to die civil rights movement in Warsaw.
The Pope is due to arrive in Poland on Saturday for a seven-day visit, the first papal visit to a communist country.
One raid took place in Radom, central Poland, where police detained the local vicar for four hours . . . Only cars with official permits will be allowed into the capital while the Pope is there.
I believe that all Christians in this country, all Australians and all who love freedom will condemn out of hand the actions of the Soviet puppet Government in Poland after accepting an invitation for the Pope to visit its country. It is the greatest act of hypocrisy. We understand why the Government has moved the visit back from 8 May being the 900th anniversary of St Stanislaus. But having said that the visit will go ahead, for people to be detained, placed in psychiatric wards and to have posters and photographs confiscated shows what a hypocritical and brutal government there is in Poland. I believe that all members of this House, regardless of their party political affiliations will strongly condemn what has been done in Poland in preparation for the Pope’s visit.
– I rise to point out that in Perth this week there was a meeting of State and Federal Ministers responsible for the funding of local government. I understand that the meeting was called to review the policies of funding local government. I think it is important that in this context we recognise that there has been a very serious deterioration in the arrangements in relation to the distribution of federal funds for local government. Honourable members will recollect that when the Whitlam Government introduced the practice of directly funding local government via the Grants Commission it did so purely on a needs basis. It sought to discover the needs of every municipality in this country and tried to tailor financial assistance to meet those needs. When the Fraser Government came to power it changed all that. It insisted that part of the funds be distributed to local government on a population basis.
In Western Australia this situation was carried to extraordinary lengths. The local government grants committee established by the State Government which had the responsibility of disbursing federal funds amongst the municipalities in Western Australia was instructed that 80 per cent of federal funds had to be distributed on what was called a weighted population basis which meant that only 20 per cent of federal funds were available for distribution on a needs basis. This had the very unfortunate consequence that local municipalities which had very great needs ended up with a smaller proportion of federal funds than they would have obtained under the Labor formula. Those municipalities whose needs were least ended up with a larger proportion. I refer the House to a couple of figures. In Western Australia in 1976-77 $2.5m was distributed to local government on a needs basis whereas the year before $7.5m was distributed on a needs basis. This has meant that municipalities such as one of those in my electorate, the City of Fremantle, have received very much less than they would have received if the old needs formula had been maintained. As a consequence the City of Fremantle has had to find the funds from elsewhere. Of course, it has had to resort to increased rates.
It seems to me that if there is to be an examination of the funding arrangements between the Federal Government and local government, it ought to take into account the very great dislocation that has resulted from the change of policy on the part of the Federal Government. This has been compounded by the fact that under the Labor Government’s program not only were funds provided via the Grants Commission but also funds were provided directly to local government for specific projects, such as employment generating initiatives, welfare assistance programs and so on. Yet, as a result of this Government’s decision, direct assistance in this category fell from $200m in the last Labor Budget to $35m in the most recent LiberalNational Country Party Budget. This has meant that there has been a dramatic fall in the funds available for local government under specific project grants. As a consequence, those municipalities which have the greatest need for welfare services, child care services and employment projects have been affected, in Western Australia at least, in two ways. As I have already indicated, because a smaller proportion of untied grants is allocated on a population basis they tend not to get the assistance that they would have received under the old program. Because the specific project funds have been so drastically cut they do not receive as much as they would have received otherwise. This means that the ordinary rate payers in municipalities such as the City of Fremantle are shouldered with a very much greater burden than they would have been if the former needs principle had been applied.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
The following notices were given:
Mr Street to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Coal Industry Act 1946.
Mr Street to present a Bill for an Act to amend the National Labour Consultative Council Act 1977.
Mr Fife to present a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounty on the production of certain injection-moulding equipment.
Mr Groom to 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 a new terminal complex at Coolangatta Aerodrome, Queensland.
Mr Groom to move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament:
Construction of patrol base at Cairns, Queensland.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 22 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No figures are available on cost of production of separative work.
asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 1 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
They are required to act according to substantial justice and to take into account any difficulty which may exist in establishing relevant particulars about a claim. Such difficulties include the lapse of time between service and the lodgment of the claim, the possibility that records may never have existed or may have been lost, that witnesses may no longer be available and that a veteran may not have reported a disability during service. The determining authorities are required to grant a claim or allow an appeal, unless they are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt, that there are insufficient grounds for doing so.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 6 March 1979:
What was the (a) number and (b) value of (i) domestic and (ii) industrial solar water heaters installed in Australia during (A) 1971-72, (B) 1972-73 (C) 1973-74 (D) 1974-75 (E) 1975-76(F) 1976-77 and(G) 1977-78.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 1 March 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 21 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Positive results demonstrate that the test chemical is carcinogenic for animals under the conditions of the test and indicate that exposure to the chemical is a potential risk to man. The actual determination of the risk to man from chemicals found to be carcinogenic in animals requires a wider analysis.’
5 ) Products containing camphechlor for use on cotton are marketed in Australia by the following firms:
Shell Chemicals (Australia) Pty Ltd.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 21 March, 1979:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
On 27 April 1979 I wrote to the Association advising that they would be funded under the Children’s Services Program as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 27 March 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
) (a) The States and Territories in Australia have the ultimate responsibility for the formal approval for the use and sale of new synthetic chemicals. The Commonwealth and National Health and Medical Research Council (N.H. and M.R.C.) play a co-ordinating role in making recommendations to the States and Territories concerning:
In addition, my Department is involved in the following areas which also pertain to synthetic chemicals:
the approval for importation of pharmaceutical preparations including radiopharmaceuticals;
The legislation concerned with these activities of the Department include the Therapeutic Goods Act, the Quarantine Act and the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations.
Registration of Pesticides and Stock Medicines
Weights and Measures
Shops and Factories
Aerial Spraying Control
Pest Control Operations
(a) The Australian Environment Council, a consultative body of Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers with responsibilities for environmental matters, has established a National Advisory Committee on Chemicals (NACC) consisting of representatives from the Commonwealth, States, Territories, N.H. and M.R.C. and the Australian Agricultural Council. This Committee has established a work programme for the identification, assessment and control of environmentally hazardous chemicals. The Committee has recommended the establishment of a national register of chemicals. A notification and assessment scheme for all new chemicals entering the Australian market is to be established. To assist in its work the Committee has established an Industry Liaison Sub-committee with representatives from the major chemical industry bodies.
Food Standards Committee and the Food Science and Technology Subcommittee
Occupational Health Committee
Poisons Schedule Committee
Pesticides and Agricultural Chemicals Subcommittee.
These Committees may seek advice from other expert Committees of Council. In addition committees at State and Territory level assess these effects. Extensive toxicological data are studied in such assessments. Such data would include:
In addition, surveys have been carried out by the N.H. and M.R.C. since 1970 of noxious substances, including chemicals, in the Australian diet.
On a global basis, liaison has been established with the following international bodies dealing with chemicals:
World Health Organization
Food and Agriculture Organization
Codex Alimentarius Commission
British Industrial Biological Research Association
Organization for Economic and Co-operative
Also, a continuing review is undertaken of the scientific literature and of legislation dealing with chemicals in other countries.
asked the Minister for Heath, upon notice, on 27 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 28 March 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) Individual company information is supplied to the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Australian Bureau of Statistics on a confidential basis. However, aggregate information on expenditure and the source of funds for 1977 is available in The Petroleum Newsletter (No. 74) published by the Bureau of Mineral Resources.
(a) In accordance with the 1967 Joint Offshore Petroleum arrangements with the States the Commonwealth receives full details of the results of offshore exploration activities from all title holders.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 28 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 1 May 1979:
Why is the main thrust of revitalising the Army Reserve being directed towards the Employer Support Scheme when the Millar Inquiry into the Citizens Military Forces revealed that retention problems resulted more from factors such as ineffective training and poor equipment than employer attitudes to the Reserve.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is not correct to say that the main thrust of revitalising the CMF is the Employer Support program, and that other areas are being neglected.
The Millar Report census of CMF members indicated that one in six said their employer was opposed to their service. Considering the number of self-employed and the high proportion (nearly half) employed in Local, State and Federal Government service where release is usually no problem, the figure represented a substantial proportion of CMF members as being so affected.
The Millar Committee made twenty-nine recommendations. Twenty-two have been implemented in whole or in part. One recommendation has not been adopted, one has been superseded, two are being further investigated and three are awaiting approval.
Within prevailing financial restraints every effort is being made to make CMF training useful and realistic. Training directives have been reviewed to make them not only more purposeful, but also in line with the concept of the Total Force Army.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 May 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Military aircraft fly regular patrols around the Australian coast and over the routes used by refugee boats.
Nine RAN patrol boats carry out patrols and are directly available for civil surveillance and enforcement.
The Department of Transport’s vessel Cape Pillar is being utilised as a dedicated surveillance vessel.
The Bureau of Customs is chartering three aircraft exclusively for Customs purposes.
Additionally, I recently announced that total coastal surveillance activity is to be further increased by three speciallyequipped Nomad aircraft for patrols of refugee boat routes and northern offshore islands as well as for surveillance of the Great Barrier Reef for illegal fishing activities.
Russian Vessels in Australian Ports (Question No. 3744)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1973-74, 85; 1974-75, 152; 1975-76; 290; 1976-77, 257; 1977-78, 170.
The tonnage of goods transported by vessels of the USSR mercantile fleet in each of the last 5 years was:
1973-74, 788; 1974-75,918; 1975-76, 1,951; 1976-77, 1,209; 1977-78,595.
1973-74, 244; 1974-75, 239; 1975-76, 226; 1976-77, 274; 1977-78, 125.
3 ) The goods transported under parts ( 2 ) ( a ) and ( 2 ) ( b ) above constituted the following percentages of total exports and imports by sea in each of the last 5 years:
1973-74,0.51; 1974-75,0.55; 1975-76, 1.23; 1976-77, 0.72; 1977-78,0.36.
1973-74, 0.79; 1974-75, 0.80; 1975-76, 0.84; 1976-77, 0.97; 1977-78,0.46.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 2 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There have been continuing advances across a wide spectrum of treatments of all varieties of cancer so that marginal gains are constantly being made. In recent years there have been substantial advances in the treatment of the leukaemias and the lymphomas.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 3 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
However solar cell application has and is being actively investigated, with one system already installed at Ayers Rock, Northern Territory, providing power to a recording anemomenter, and an experimental Distance Measuring Equipment power support system at Essenden Airport. As mentioned in the Annual Report of the Department of Transport for 1977-78 (page 139) tabled in Parliament on 20 February 1979, design work is progressing for a solarpowered lead light system to operate in the Torres Strait. These installations will be continually monitored and evaluated and the results will be made available to me as part of normal departmental reporting. Appropriate information will continue to be included in the Department’s annual reports.
asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 3 May 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Information, on the outcome of such appeals, is not kept in the form requested by the honourable member. The tables below contain details of the numbers of appeals allowed and disallowed:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on May 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A total of twenty-one (2 1 ) consulting persons/firms are to be paid during 1978-79 for professional services.
In some cases the amount shown is an estimate as May/June accounts for consultancy work have yet to be received and processed.
Details of the names, individual amounts paid or estimated to be paid, and the specific purposesfor each major consultancy are listed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 9 May 1979:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
There are several factors that could have affected the variation in the proportion of age pensioners without fringe benefits during this period. However, none of these can be quantified and thus they cannot be ranked according to their importance.
One of the more significant factors was the introduction of means test free age pensions for persons aged 70-74 years from 19 May 1975, the effect of which had not been fully felt by 30 June 1975. Persons who became pensioners because of this legislative change would not be eligible for fringe benefits and would therefore increase the proportion not eligible for fringe benefits in the years after 1975.
Another reason for the increased proportion of age pensioners without fringe benefits is the fact that the nonpension income limits for fringe benefits remained constant between 1975 and 1978 whereas the income limits for payment of part pension have increased with each increase in pension rates, allowing new grants of pensions above the fringe benefit limits. Also the income of some existing pensioners could have increased above the fringe benefit limits during the above period thus disqualifying them from the entitlement to fringe benefits.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 10 May 1979:
Where in the Electoral Division of Sydney are other Department of Social Security offices located and how many
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 10 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The purchase of all training films for the School is at the specific request of the Central Office Fire Service Section or the Officer-in-Charge of the School. The last such request was for’ Amad Warehouse Fire ‘ in 1 977 which was procured and is being used for training.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 May 1979:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 May 1979:
In view of the pressing need for aged persons accommodation in the Booleroo Centre area of South Australia, when can it be anticipated that Commonwealth Government assistance by way of subsidy, will be made available to the Mount View Homes for Aged Persons.
The application relating to a 25-bed hostel from the Mount View Homes for Aged Persons, Booleroo Centre, is one of more than 1 , 000 outstanding applications for Government assistance under the aged persons’ accommodation program.
Not all these projects can be funded in the short term and, therefore, the selection of projects to be subsidised will be based on a rigorous assessment of need.
The 25-bed hostel project at Booleroo Centre will be reconsidered together with all outstanding applications in the context of future allocations of Government funds for the aged persons’ accommodation program.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 May, 1979:
In view of the pressing need for aged persons accommodation in the Port Augusta area of South Australia, when can it be anticipated that Commonwealth Government assistance by way of subsidy, will be made available to the A. M. Ramsey Homes for the Aged.
My department has on record over 1 , 000 outstanding applications for Government assistance under the aged persons’ accommodation program, including an application for the funding of a facilities block in the A. M. Ramsey Homes for the Aged at Port Augusta. Not all of these projects will be able to be funded in the short term and, therefore, the selection of projects to be subsidised will be based on a rigorous assessment of need.
The proposal in relation to the A. M. Ramsey Homes for the Aged will be considered together with all outstanding applications in the context of future allocations of Government funds for the aged persons ‘ accommodation program.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 23 May 1979:
The limits were frozen by the Whitlam Government on:
Based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index from the September quarter 1 973 to the March quarter 1 979, these limits would now be $62 for a single person, $ 108 for a married couple.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 23 May 1979:
Homes for the Aged (Question No. 3847)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 3 May 1979:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 May 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790530_reps_31_hor114/>.