31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the House that we have present in the Gallery this morning a parliamentary delegation from the Solomon Islands led by the Honourable Dr Francis Kikolo, M.P., the Minister for Home Affairs. On behalf of the House I extend a very warm welcome to the members of the delegation.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The 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That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilise whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so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 Aldred, Mr Bourchier, Mr N. A. Brown, Mr Falconer, Mr Hodgman, Mr Jarman, Dr Jenkins, Mr Barry Jones, Mr Porter, Mr Simon and Mr Yates.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, of the Australian Parliament assembled. The Petition of certain citizens of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
Dismay at the reduction in the total expenditure on education proposed for 1 980 and in particular to Government Schools.
Government Schools bear the burden of these cuts, 1 1.2 per cent while non-Government Schools will receive an increase of 3.4 per cent.
We call on the Government to again examine the proposals as set out in the guidelines for Education expenditure 1980 and to immediately restore and increase substantially in real terms the allocation of funds for education expenditure in 1980 to Government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Anthony, Mr Keating and Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Falconer and Mr Martyr.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its Recommendations:
Therefore the Parliament has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial Report and its Recommendations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr N. A. Brown.
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 a grave threat to the life of refugees from the various States of Indo-China arises from the policies of the Government of Vietnam.
That, as a result of these policies, many thousands of refugees are fleeing their homes and risking starvation and drowning. Because of the failure of the rich nations of the world to provide more than token assistance, the resources of the nations of first refuge, especially Malaysia and Thailand, are being stretched beyond reasonable limits.
As a wealthy nation within the region most effected, Australia is able to play a major part in the rescue as well as resettlement of these refugees.
It should be possible for Australia to: establish and maintain on the Australian mainland basic ransit camps for the housing and processing of 200,000 refugees each year; mobilise the Defence Force to search for, rescue and transport to Australia those refugees who have been able to leave the Indo-China States; accept the offer of those church groups which propose to resettle some thousands of refugees in Australia.
The adoption of such a humane policy would have a marked effect on Australia’s standing within the region.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howe.
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:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the house will start to do something realistic about job creation, and will cease attempting to divert effort and attention towards ameliorative and virtually useless window-dressing schemes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howe.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned Members of the Uniting Church in Australia, respectfully showeth:
That we concur with the Senate Committee’s recommendation on advertising of alcoholic beverages.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to have:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howe.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of Parliament assembled the humble petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
We are completely opposed to the concept of charging patients in Community Health Centres, and indeed, the very nature of fee-for-service medical service delivery.
We feel the Federal Health Department directive to charge patients attending Community Health Centres works to the detriment of the people of Collingwood who demonstrably failed to receive full twenty-four primary care before the Community Health Centre was established.
We pray that the Government do continue funding under the present guidelines.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hunt.
To the Rt. Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia residing in the Electorate of Wannon respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kerin.
To the Honourable Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrMacKellar.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned, having great concern at the way in which children are now being used in the production of pornography call upon the government to introduce immediate legislation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will protect all children and immediately prohibit pornographic child-abuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Martyr.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Commonwealth Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth whereas:
We therefore do ask the Government of Australia not to take the action that is believed intended.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Martyr.
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 1 978-79 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 as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Shipton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the attached citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We present this Petition to seek a fairer and better deal for handicapped persons.
We urge you to implement this request through your Minister for Social Security.
The signatories to this Petition are pleased to acknowledge the action your Government has taken to reverse the Budget announcement and therefore exclude the Invalid Pension from taxable income.
We now urge you to act in another area of discrimination to handicapped persons by- increasing the $20 per week income allowed in a sheltered workshop to $40 per week, before that income begins to reduce pension benefits; and then tie the $40 per week level with CPI/pension adjustments in the future.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that you act in this area of discrimination to handicapped persons by increasing the $20 per week income allowed in a sheltered workshop to $40 per week, before that income begins to reduce pension benefits; and then tie the $40 per week level with CPI/pension adjustments in the future.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Shipton.
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 the Federal Government increase its allocation for Pre-School education immediately to enable the provision of adequate pre-school services in South Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrWallis.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House-
1 ) condemns the Government for deliberately increasing the number of unemployed people in Australia,
calls upon the Government to allocate sufficient funds to enable programs to commence immediately, to increase job and training opportunities for the young unemployed and to make subsidies available direct to employers in order that family heads and elderly workers can be kept in employment, and
notes the call by Australia’s Catholic Bishops, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Victorian Minister, Mr Dixon, that the Government ‘s present assistance to the unemployed of Australia is grossly inadequate.
-I give notice that on Thursday, 30 August I shall move:
That this House, mindful of the principles and philosophy of the Liberal Party to assist those in need, is anxious to protect the family and single people in the lower income groups from the worry of bills and charges for medical or hospital treatment due to illness or an accident, and therefore requests the Minister for Health to advise the medical profession that a confidential letter from a local justice of the peace, minister of religion, industrial chaplain or an officer of the Citizens Advice Bureau, Social Security or Welfare or Probation, in relation to any patient, shall entitle that medical practitioner to accept the patient as ‘disadvantaged’ and refer any charges to the Commonwealth for payment.
The motion will be seconded by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Burns).
-I direct a question to the Treasurer. It is based on the Budget forecast of a 9 per cent to 9½ per cent increase in average weekly earnings and a 10 per cent increase in inflation during the 1979-80 financial year. Does this mean that a family with a dependent spouse and two children will be $4.92 a week worse off in real terms after tax as a result of this year’s Budget as against the position last financial year? Further, would a before tax increase of $7.35 a week above what the Government is forecasting be necessary this year merely to maintain the real after tax living standard of this average single income Australian family?
MrHOWARD-I thank the Leader of the Opposition for asking that question because it enables something to be said about the taxation decisions announced in the Budget and about what has been said about those decisions by both the representatives of the Australian Taxpayers Association and spokesmen for the Opposition. Let me make a couple of things crystal clear. Every wage and salary earner in Australia will be better off in take-home pay terms as from 1 December. That is the first point. The second point is that, no matter what income level one takes, the rate of tax payable in 1979-80 will be lower than it was in 1978-79 because the rate of assessment in 1979-80 will be 33.07 per cent whereas the rate of assessment in 1978-79 was 33.5 per cent. Apparently, for the first time, some Opposition members have discovered that if a person’s income goes up, not only does he earn more money but also he pays more tax. There is nothing particularly revolutionary about that discovery.
– What about indexation?
– I will come to indexation in a minute. I say to the honourable member for Gellibrand and to the Taxpayers Association that what they are saying is absolutely nothing new. It runs in stark contrast to the accusations of hoaxing that the Opposition itself levelled at this Government when tax indexation was introduced. Perhaps the most revealing thing of all about the whole debate is the attitude of the Opposition itself towards tax indexation. Opposition members appear now to be saying that tax indexation is a marvellous thing. A couple of nights ago the Leader of the Opposition was really saying that the Government ought to bring in tax indexation straight away. The tenor of the honourable member for Gellibrand ‘s statement was to the same effect. But it is very interesting if one looks at an interview with the Leader of the Opposition on 21 July 1979- barely a month ago- which is reported in the National Times. The Leader of the Opposition was asked this question:
What is Labor’s attitude towards tax indexation?
That is a fair question. The Leader of the Opposition replied:
Well, we are committed to the principle of tax indexation, but I’m not suggesting that we would go ahead with it immediately. We ‘d have to weigh up whether we could afford it or not. The implementation of full tax indexation would cost another $S00m.
But this next sentence is the daddy of them all. I ask honourable members to listen to it. The Leader of the Opposition stated:
We’ve got to trade that off as against tax cuts. Which would people prefer? At this stage, I think they’d prefer the tax cuts.
They are the words of the Leader of the Opposition used a month ago. This is the very man who is allowing his Party, through its economic spokesman the honourable member for Gellibrand, to be associated with a campaign which has criticised this Government for making a choice between dropping the surcharge and restoring full tax indexation. The Government has never made any secret of the fact it would have to make a choice between those two alternatives.
I think this performance demonstrates the total hypocrisy of the Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr Speaker -
-The Treasurer will withdraw the last statement.
-I will withdraw it and apologise to the sensitivities of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I withdraw it unqualifiedly.
– I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which substantiates the claims I have just made about the tax rip-offs by this Budget.
The table read as follows-
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. In view of the many representations, will he consider the issue of a commemorative stamp by the Australian Postal Commission to recognise the value of Apex clubs to Australia over the past 50 years in enriching its communities, servicing industries and providing leaders to this nation?
-This matter is one for the Australian Postal Commission. I have a great deal of sympathy for the views expressed by the honourable member, and indeed by many of my colleagues in this House. I will therefore ask the Postal Commission to give further consideration to the matter because the Apex Club is a great Australian organisation. I think it has claims which, whilst they might not fit within the new guidelines which have been developed by the Postal Commission in this matter, in an historic sense could well be recognised. I emphasise it is a matter for the Postal Commission. I will ask it to review the matter.
– I refer the Prime Minister to his energy statement of 27 June in which he stated:
The Government reaffirms its policy of import parity pricing for domestic crude oil based on the official OPEC price. It will adopt a more flexible approach to the timing of price adjustments to take account of OPEC pricing decisions.
Does that statement mean that domestic crude oil prices will be increased in line with future Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries prices when the OPEC increases occur? I emphasise ‘when the OPEC increases occur’. Does the Government concede that OPEC prices are likely to rise again before the expiration of the financial year? If so, why did the Treasurer estimate the revenue from the levy at $2,023m when this is based exclusively upon the last OPEC price announced on 28 June this year? I ask the Prime Minister. What is the hidden estimate of receipts from the crude oil levy based on further price rises during the financial year?
– The Government has made it very clear in relation to import parity pricing that we will stick with that policy. When the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries makes a determination the Government will examine that determination and make the adjustment in parity pricing accordingly. Why we have to do this is very clear. The world faces a problem with oil products and oil supply. Whatever the Opposition might like to pretend, that is the situation. According to the best authorities that this Government has to advise it, the position is that by 1985 or 1990 the production of oil around the world will not meet demand. That is the fact of the matter. If Australia is to have a proper energy policy, parity pricing is absolutely essential. Unless the Opposition bites on that bullet it will never produce a proper energy policy.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask the Prime Minister, who dodged the question and gave it to his subordinate -
-Order ! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to make that comment.
– The question was: What is the estimate by the Treasurer for the collection of the crude oil levy based on future Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries this year, and when will the price be adjusted? I did not want a lecture on the energy policy. I wanted a specific answer.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
-The Treasurer can add to that answer.
– On that basis I call the Treasurer.
-I did not hear the honourable member’s question when he first put it. If he wants to know whether the estimates include an allowance for a future Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries price increase, the answer is that they do not.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to reports that Pakistan is developing a nuclear arms potential. Are these reports correct? If so, what does the Government intend to do to check the growth of nuclear arms on the Indian sub-continent?
-There is considerable concern internationally that Pakistan is constructing a centrifuge uranium enrichment facility, outside of international safeguards, which would provide it with nuclear explosive capability. Australia shares that international concern. There can be no doubt that achievement of a nuclear explosive capability by any additional state would endanger not merely the security of the region concerned but also international stability generally. It would continue to increase the risk of further proliferation, while obviously international co-operation and trade in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy would be seriously jeopardised. Australia’s concern has been made known to Pakistan. Pakistan has stated that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
The Government considers that if there is evidence to indicate that a country is planning to develop a nuclear explosive capability, broadly based international pressure should be brought to bear to dissuade it from proceeding with those plans. Consequently, Australia has been in close and continuing contact with a number of concerned governments on the matter. We have also informed a wide cross section of states of our very deep interest and have sought their views. Adherence by all states to a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons testing would obviously greatly assist international efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries. As a country with impeccable non-proliferation credentials, Australia will continue to urge that such a treaty be concluded as quickly as possible.
-I ask the Prime Minister What has he done to stop the secretive share transactions by a wealthy few for control of Ansett Airlines and access to the lucrative twoairline concession? Given that the two-airline policy was supposed to serve the public but has now become the exclusive objective of the wealthy, will the Prime Minister end the obnoxious share speculation for private gain by transferring public services such as freight, postage and other franchises to the public’s own airline, Trans-Australia Airlines?
– Hasn’t the Prime Minister any competence in any field at all?
– The reason why there is some doubt as to who might answer this question is that there are two or three aspects of it. First of all, there is the two-airline policy which is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Transport. Then, of course, there is the overriding question of company law in Australia. This is basic to the question which has just been asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It gives me an opportunity to say that this country could have had uniform company legislation, and this country could have had a uniform scheme that would be watching this kind of activity, if it had not been for the obstruction of a Labor government in New South Wales. The legislation has been drafted and has been ready for months.
-Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. What the Minister has just said is not true. The Government itself has the capacity to legislate in the companies and securities area.
-There is no point of order.
– It is incorrect to mislead the House in this fashion. But you, Mr Speaker, know the law.
– Not very well.
-The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw that remark.
– I was only going on a recent visit to Long Bay gaol; but I withdraw the remark.
-The answer being given is relevant.
-The point of order taken by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition just adds fuel to the fire. It indicates the attitude of the Labor Party to the States. What the Labor Party would do in government is what it did when it was in government previously and that is to ride roughshod over the States. We are in favour of cooperative federalism. This is a federation and this Government has done more to co-operate with the States of Australia than has any other government since Federation. It is because of this that the Government has been painstaking in its negotiations with the States to bring about a co-operative scheme for companies and securities law in this nation. If it had not been for the obstruction of the New South Wales Government, much of that law would have been enacted already. Now, at the eleventh hour, the New South Wales Government has given approval for the introduction of this legislation. I propose, subject to all of the States having given formal approval, to give notice later today and then to introduce the legislation into the Parliament next Tuesday.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for National Development, by referring to the Government’s highly commendable policies designed to encourage the conservation of oil and, within this context, the encouragement of motorists to switch from petrol to liquefied petroleum gas. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that this policy is encountering two practical difficulties at this stage- firstly, a shortage of LPG outlets, particularly in nonmetropolitan areas, and, secondly, a shortage of LPG conversion kits? If these practical difficulties exist, will the Minister inform the House of the steps that the Government and industry are taking to alleviate them?
– Because of the incentives that we have provided to encourage the use of liquefied petroleum gas there has been a very large demand for LPG. It is worth recalling what some of those incentives are because they are important. They include the removal of sales tax on all conversion equipment. The Government removed the excise on LPG and, as an example, it has made a firm decision to convert 500 of its Commonwealth fleet vehicles to LPG. I would also remind honourable members that in the Budget announcements compressed natural gas was included as part of this package. Sales tax has been removed now on equipment for the conversion of vehicles to CNG use, as well as for internal combustion engines generally that can be converted to CNG. All these things add up to a successful package which is working.
In relation to outlets, I would remind the House that in talking about this policy for LPG it has been the Government’s aim to concentrate on the cities of Melbourne and Sydney. That is where the main fleet operators are. That is where there are vehicles which do large mileages. Those are the places where the Government particularly wants to see LPG being used. Already, outlets for LPG are increasing. I am informed that they have doubled over the last year. I think there are now in excess of 290 outlets. In Victoria particularly the outlets are increasing. I believe that this is a chance for free enterprise to get into the act. I would confidently expect that trend to continue.
In relation to conversion equipment, it is true that there have been problems, mainly because this equipment is imported from overseas. I have been informed that there are local manufacturers interested in producing conversion kits so I am confident again that that situation will improve, and improve quickly. The only other thing I would add is that my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, is in consultation with the vehicle industry to examine that position to make sure it is improving.
-The Prime Minister will remember that a few minutes ago the Treasurer said in reply to a question: ‘Every wage and salary earner in Australia will be better off from 1 December’. He was referring, of course, to the tax changes. Does the Prime Minister recall being asked on the Willesee program last night: Will people be better off over the year, more disposable income over the year?’ Does the Prime Minister recall answering: ‘I would have thought over the year probably about static. I don’t expect real incomes to improve’. Does he then recall the question: ‘So, between inflation and despite the tax cuts they are no better off?’ and his answer: ‘I would think they are about the same’. I ask the right honourable gentleman: Who is telling the truth here, he or the Treasurer?
– Over the year, the answers I gave are completely accurate. As from 1 December, clearly, taxpayers will be much better off because of the tax cuts that will be introduced as from that date. No amount of argument can hide the fact that as from 1 December the taxpayers of Australia will be paying less tax than they otherwise would be. The honourable gentleman might try to confuse that but he should remember his own statement, which the Treasurer read, which indicates again that he would much prefer tax cuts, and he indicates that the people of Australia would prefer tax cuts, in this Budget rather than a reintroduction of tax indexation.
– I refer the Minister for Transport to comments made yesterday in Parliament by the Opposition spokesman on tourism, the honourable member for Robertson, and to Press reports this morning claiming that the Government has rejected a plan by TransAustralia Airlines to buy three wide-bodied Tristar jets. In the light of the claim that the sources of the information were top TAA executives, can the Minister say whether, to his knowledge, the alleged statement represents the attitude of TAA management and whether the claims are in fact the case?
Mr NIXON It is a fact that Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia have been looking at the feasibility of the introduction of wide-bodied jets. It is not true that TAA has a proposal at the moment for the purchase of wide-bodied jets, nor is it true that TAA has been to the Government with such a proposal. I read with some interest a report that a member of this House had said that he had been talking to three top executives of TAA and that they had said that they had put a proposal to the Government for the purchase of wide-bodied jets and that the Government was sitting on it or refusing to deal with it. I can only assume that the three top executives were clerks at the front desk of TAA, who have as much of an idea of what is going on in the board room as Cohen has about the governing of this country, because there is no accuracy at all in the report.
-Order! The Minister will refer to the honourable member for Robertson by his electorate.
– Very well, I shall say ‘as the honourable member for Robertson has about the governing of this country’. I have no doubt that when TAA has completed its feasibility studies it will come to the Government with a proposal in the due process of time. I will welcome it
-I refer the Treasurer to the defence estimates contained in his Budget Speech. Is the inclusion of an allowance of $30m for prospective wage and salary increases in Defence a departure from the standard budgetary procedure? If so, why have similar provisions not been made for wage and salary increases in all areas of public administration? If this procedure had not been adopted, would the increase in defence spending in real terms have been 1.4 per cent instead of the 2.6 per cent claimed in his speech? Without this substantial allowance for wage increases would the share of government outlays devoted to defence have been 9 per cent- the same as last year’s expenditure- not 9. 1 per cent, as claimed in the Budget Speech?
– I do not know the answer to the question without checking. I will find out and try to let the honourable gentleman know as soon as possible.
Mr Bungey having addressed a question to the Minister for Primary Industry-
-Order! The question will have to be rephrased. The honourable gentleman must ask for information, not for a comment. I will give an opportunity to the honourable gentleman to rephrase it.
– I shall rephrase the question. Has the Federal Government reduced its contribution to wool promotion and research?
-That is a good way to ask a question.
– I am sure that the answer will be just as good. In the general area of the wool industry as with other primary producing industries last year, it has been demonstrated that the policies of this Government in trying to ensure that international access was resecured and that promotional and research efforts were directed towards the best interests of this country, have certainly led to very much higher returns. As a result, wool levy proceeds last year were significantly higher, reflecting the increase in wool prices. An important element of the lift in wool prices has been the firm stand that this Government has maintained with respect to the wool reserve price. In complete contrast to the actions of the Australian Labor Party when it was in government, we have given complete confidence to the industry by setting down a reserve price level -
Opposition members interjecting-
– It happens to be completely true. The reserve price laid down at the beginning of the season has given confidence to producers and consumers alike through knowledge that the price level has been laid down not just for one season but for two seasons. I think that that is quite necessary. I remind members of the Opposition that while they were in government they actually reduced the level of the reserve price, thereby completely destroying the confidence of world markets in the application of the reserve scheme. The whole of the producing industry no longer had confidence in the Australian Wool Corporation. It certainly had no confidence in the then Labor Government and its intention to maintain stability in the wool industry. What we have done this year has been to lift that reserve price. We have provided a guarantee to the wool industry that the 318c whole clip average would apply not only this year but also in the next season.
In the light of the increased returns from the wool levy, we felt that it was possible for the Government to apply funds, that otherwise would have gone into reserves, to build up the contribution of the industry towards research and promotion. Of course, in the calculation of these figures it is also necessary to remember that the Government contributes funds directly to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. We also have within the reserves of the Australian Wool Corporation funds that have been received from the leasing of wool stores round Australia. At the time that those funds were first directed to the Australian Wool Corporation- at that time it was the Australian Wool Bureau- they were said to be available also for wool promotion. So the Government’s objective of maintaining a dollar for dollar contribution towards wool research and promotion has been by no means ignored. We believe that next year, at a time when the International Wool Secretariat will need an additional boost to maintain its international competitiveness and its promotional campaign, it will be possible, because of the shortfall that has occurred this year, for there to be some flexibility. I hope that that will enable a build up of our effort and thereby ensure that wool retains a firm price trend in the future. The present Leader of the Opposition and the present Leader of the Opposition in the
Senate were amongst those who were very instrumental in causing a reduction in the reserve price scheme at the time when their party was in government. That is one of the main things that the wool producers of this country need to remember.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. This kind of blatant distortion should not be permitted. The Labor Party introduced the full floor price scheme at a cost of $300m to revenue. The present Government, in its first year of office, increased the floor price of clean wool by 5c a kilo.
-Order! There is no point of order.
-I will not delay the House, but I think that the interjection of the honourable member for Blaxland demonstrates the Opposition’s natural sensitivity to a question -
– Which without doubt -
– Reduced the confidence of every wool grower -
-Order! I call the right honourable gentleman to order.
– During the term of the Labor Government.
-I draw the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry to the fact that he kept speaking when I was trying to attract his attention. I ask him not to do so. The fact is that the honourable member for Blaxland did not interject; he took a point of order. I overruled the point of order.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Resources noted the market place response to the Budget, especially the response on the Australian stock exchanges? Further, can the Minister say what the implications of this response are for the future of the minerals and energy industries in Australia?
– What about the job exchange?
– The old sell-out.
– It is very interesting to hear the reaction of the Opposition to this question. The stock exchange is an indication of the private sector in the community. The success of the nation depends very much on the well being of the private sector, the future prospects that people see for this nation and the way in which the economy is being managed. Yesterday the
Sydney Stock Exchange index jumped 1 1 points. The mining and metals index jumped by 80.5 points. For the all ordinary indices on the Sydney Stock Exchange the level is 50 per cent higher than it was in November 1975. 1 find it particularly satisfying that the mining and metal indices are 80 per cent higher than was the case in November 1975 when Labor left office. The Labor Government had completely depressed the confidence of the private sector of the community in investing in the expansion of industry in this country. This shows that the stock exchange is a barometer which helps people within the Australian community and abroad to decide whether they should invest in the continuing development and expansion of Australian industry. It is only in that area that we will have a chance of taking up the unemployment in this country. If the Labor Party thinks -
– Tell us about the Queensland Liberals.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide will remain silent.
– Tell him to tell us about the Queensland Liberals.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will remain silent.
– He cannot do that. He will embarrass the Speaker; he is a Liberal.
-The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw that statement.
– What was the statement?
-The Leader of the Opposition knows what he said. He knows that it is a reflection on the Chair, and I ask him to withdraw.
– Yes, I withdraw it.
-I remind the Leader of the Opposition that he is the leader of a party in this Parliament and he should set an example. The Leader of the Opposition ought not to reflect on the Chair. I ask him not to do so.
– But it was the Deputy Prime Minister who did so by implication.
-The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.
-Mr Speaker, the Opposition can do all it likes to try to discredit the Government ‘s performance in economic management and this Budget. The various commentators and pundits can make their remarks, but people who are prepared to put their money into investment in this country and who are looking at the way in which the economy is being managed are the people who are making the soundest and most concerted judgments. If one looks at the Stock Exchange one sees that the great bulk of the people who are prepared to put their savings into this country have obviously determined that we are on the right course.
– I draw the Treasurer’s attention to Budget Paper No. 1, pages 60 and 6 1. It states that the growth in total employment in 1979-80 should be a little above 0.75 per cent or about 50,000 people. Is it a fact that annual net additions to the work force are about 1 10,000? So even if the Budget’s unrealistic and optimistic forecasts are achieved, the number of unemployed will still be 50,000 to 60,000 higher next year as a result of the Budget.
- Mr Speaker -
– Page 6 1 .
– Yes, I have read it.
-Order! The question was asked in silence. I ask for the answer to be heard in silence.
– The honourable gentleman asked a serious question about a matter in which the Opposition claims to be interested and I will give it the answer that it deserves. Estimates regarding unemployment, as the honourable gentleman well knows, are difficult to make within the last few thousand. I do not detract at all from what I said in the Budget Speech because I believe very strongly that when one is dealing with something as sensitive and as important as unemployment the last thing one ought to do is to pretend that one can achieve things that are not achievable. The fact of the matter is that the Government does not believe that on present indications during 1979-80 there is going to be a reduction in the total number of unemployed. I have said that and there is no argument about it.
The figures that the honourable member quoted are not inconsistent with that. The question of whether the level at the end of the year or the level throughout the year turns out to be higher than the level during 1978-79- and therefore, the final answer to the honourable member’s question- will depend critically on a number of factors. It will obviously depend critically on the participation rate, on growth rates and on whether the favourable trends in civilian employment that have been apparent over the last few months continue. I can only say to the honourable gentleman that I do not have the capacity to estimate to the last thousand the number of people who will be unemployed. I think that those sorts of exercises tend to become a bit unhelpful. But what is helpful is to follow policies that address the fundamental causes of unemployment. Those policies are ones which are directed to restoring the general economic health of the country.
-I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that with an increase in average weekly earnings of only 9 per cent to 9lA per cent, as forecast in the Budget Papers, tax paid by wage and salary earners will increase by 15 per cent this year? Is the Prime Minister also aware that for many low income taxpayers the percentage increase in tax to be paid this year will be much higher than 15 per cent? For instance, a taxpayer with a dependent spouse who received $8,000 last year, with a 9 per cent increase in wages this year will pay 28 per cent more tax? Will the Prime Minister now concede that this Budget substantially increases the overall burden of income tax and further reduces the living standards of the Australian people?
-The honourable member for Parramatta either did not read the National Times of 21 July 1979 or he did not hear the answer that was given at the commencement of Question Time because what he is really doing is criticising the policy that his own Leader then supported. That ought to be -
– Answer the question.
– I will answer the question.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Parliament should consider bringing John Stone to answer the question and sending these dummies out.
-The honourable member for Blaxland will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
-Of course, the honourable member for Parramatta is right; there will be an increase of about 15 per cent. I remind the honourable gentlemen that the increase in taxation in 1 973-74 was 1 9.9 per cent in real terms. In 1974-75 it was again 19.9 per cent in real terms. Last year taxation collections fell in real terms for the first time in 10 years. It is a fact of life, and there is nothing revolutionary about stating it, that if peoples’ incomes go up they will pay more taxation. The honourable gentleman drew attention to the fact that the percentage increases at very low incomes are greater than at higher incomes. The honourable gentleman is right in drawing attention to that fact. That results very simply from the fact that if there is a tax free threshold or zone and it is left unindexed, the proportion it bears to the overall amount of salary correspondingly diminishes and as a result the percentage of tax does go up. There is nothing remarkable about that. It has not been suddenly discovered by the honourable member for Parramatta, by Mr Risstrom or by the honourable member for Gellibrand. It has been a feature of our taxation system for a long time.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Resources whether the Government will undertake action to supplement Australia’s fuel supply by providing special encouragement to the development of alternative forms of fuel?
– My colleague the Minister for National Development has already mentioned this morning the assistance being given by way of tax measures to encourage people to use liquefied petroleum gas and compressed natural gas in motor cars. There are many other measures which are designed to try to encourage research activity into forms of energy other than the traditional oil. I think Australians can feel comforted to a degree because Australia is an energy rich country although it is not self-sufficient in oil. An alternative energy source that shows very great promise is coal. There is a joint project involving the States, the Commonwealth and the West German Government to determine whether it is feasible to convert coal to oil. The alternative with the greatest potential- it is of great significance- is the discovery of oil shale in Queensland. There are two deposits, at Rundle and Julia Creek. The Rundle one is of great significance world-wide. The present proven and inferred reserves of oil there would double Australia’s present reserves. The two Australian companies which hold the leases are at the moment carrying out negotiations to ascertain how best to develop this huge deposit of oil shale. If the project is a feasible one it will run into an investment of about $2,000m, which would put it in the same category as the North West Shelf gas fields, so it is very important.
The Prime Minister, in announcing his energy statement in June, said that we would be giving help to the companies to overcome problems and difficulties by forming a special task group of departments. It is working in close consultation with these companies to handle problems that arise. We are also consulting closely with the Queensland Government to see what can be done. At the moment it certainly appears to be an attractive proposition and I hope it will not be long before some firm proposals can come forward. As far as the Government is concerned, where possible we want to encourage and assist these sorts of developments.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact that the proposals for a 50 per cent increase in television station licence fees were developed in the Melbourne office of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal without the knowledge of the Chairman of the Tribunal? Is it a fact that the Chairman of the Tribunal learned of the decision only on Wednesday? It is apparent from the move by the Minister to explain away in the Press what is contained in the Budget that the Minister did not know about it until Budget night. Is this extraordinary episode typical of planning in the Minister’s area of responsibility?
-A lot of interesting ideas have been developed in the honourable member’s question but I will not bother myself with commenting on some of them. Even if they were true, they are not the sorts of things about which Ministers speculate, being matters relating to the operations of departments and tribunals.
– But are they true? Deny it.
– I am not going to confirm or deny them. There is no way I can confirm or deny them and they are not the sorts of things that I would confirm or deny. I will simply say that it was the Government’s desire to develop a new formula for the licensing of television and radio stations and that when the detail of the revenue resulting from an application of a new formula became known it was clear that the effect on the industry needed further consideration. I have had discussions from time to time with members of the industry, who felt that the present formula is outmoded, unwieldy and unfair to a number of stations. Now that the Budget is behind us I will be able to have those discussions and come forward with recommendations in due course.
– The Minister for Primary Industry is no doubt aware of the immense value of the apple industry to the economy of Tasmania. Taking into consideration the assistance of stabilisation and freight equalisation, will the Minister advise the House as to what action he intends to take if the Tasmanian Apple Marketing Authority continues on its present path of destruction for the industry and the Authority itself, which is so vital in co-ordinating markets and prices in the United Kingdom and other countries?
– This year, the apple has been not only vital to the economy of Tasmania but also fairly helpful to the health of the nation. Quite extensive quantities of apples have been sent from Tasmania to the mainland as a result of a shortfall in crops generally. This, I believe, has helped Tasmania and it has not been detrimental to the interests of the fruit growing industry on the mainland. There are, however, very real problems in the nature of the apples that have been shipped to the traditional markets by the Tasmanian authority to which the honourable gentleman’s question refers. Unfortunately, the nature of the industry is such that when the fruit is unwrapped in cold stores customers tend to react unfavourably. As a result prices have not been as satisfactory as they were last year when very high and favourable returns were generated.
There are problems in trying to maintain only those traditional outlets for our fruit. Indeed, the objective at the time the Federal Government, in conjunction with State governments, introduced supplementary assistance was to encourage Tasmania and other fruit exporters to move away from traditional markets and to try to find new outlets which we believed would provide a more secure long term future for the industry. I hope that I do not get myself into a position of confrontation with either the Authority or the Tasmanian Government as to this objective. We are concerned about ensuring that the objective of bringing continued prosperity to the apple industry of Tasmania, which is an objective that I know the honourable member for Franklin has mentioned in this House frequently, is not frustrated by the application of short term objectives by those who administer the fruit policy in the honourable member’s State. There are very real problems in trying to ensure not only short term market access but also long term access to markets that we believe are available for the Australian fruit industry. I hope that greater future efforts of the Tasmanian authority can be directed in that area rather than its continuing to supply traditional markets with inadequate returns to producers which inevitably will be the long term result.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. It is possibly a personal explanation. During Question Time the Minister for Primary Industry made a statement which was an error in fact about the actions of the Government of which I was a member.
-Order! The honourable gentleman said that he was misrepresented. I will call him at the appropriate time.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for the year ended 30 June 1979. This is the Department’s first annual report. The Government is conscious of the need for the public to be more aware of the machinery of government. With this in mind and as announced by my colleague, the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) in the Senate on 9 June last year, all departments have been requested to produce annual reports whether statutorily required to do so or not. It is in response to this decision by the Government that this report has been prepared and I have pleasure in making it available to the House. If honourable gentlemen study the report they will find that there was a decision in 1906 that all departments should prepare annual reports. I must say that it has taken a little while to have that decision implemented.
– Pursuant to section 41 of the Export Market Development Grants Act 1974 and section 20 of the Export Expansion Grants Act 1978 I present the report of the Export Development Grants Board for the year ended 30 June 1979.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Pig Meat Promotion Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Pig Meat Promotion Advisory Committee for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
– Pursuant to section 25 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973 I present the Commonwealth Grants Commission special report for 1979 on financial assistance for local government.
-Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to correct an answer I gave yesterday.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
– Yes, again. Yesterday I spoke about the rise in personal tax collections under the previous government. The facts are that in 1972-73 personal income tax collections were $4,089m. In 1975-76 they were $9,2 19m. That reflects an increase of 125 per cent and not the figure of 254 per cent which I incorrectly used.
-I claim to have been misrepresented at Question Time by the Treasurer (Mr Howard). I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-At Question Time the Treasurer answered a question I directed to him. He may have left the misapprehension in some less than attentive minds that the sorts of policies in terms of tax reform to which the Labor Party was committed were similar to those of the Government and that the budgetary approach of the Government was very much the sort of approach of the Labor Opposition were it to be in government. I want to disabuse immediately the public mind on that matter. Our approach would be considerably different. For instance, we would not be responsible for a $2,000m rip-off of Australian motorists this year with the fiddle in petrol pricing. I draw attention to the 1976 Budget Speech by the Treasurer’s predecessor. In relation to tax indexation he said: is a major step towards ‘keeping governments honest’ with their taxpayers.
I presume that this Government is now determined to be dishonest, something of which we are well aware.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition should not take the opportunity, when he is given the indulgence of the Chair to make a personal explanation, to proceed with a debate on a matter.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I would like to disabuse the House and anybody else of any suggestion that I seek similarity between the economic policies of this Government and the Opposition. I was merely drawing attention to the palpable inconsistency in what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) said on 2 1 July 1979 and what he and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), a month later, would have us believe -
-The Treasurer must not debate the matter.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley-Leader of the Opposition)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Does it relate to the same matter?
– Yes, it does.
-I ask the Leader of the Opposition not to debate the issue.
– The only point I wish to make is that there is a vast difference between the sort of tax changes the Government proposed and the substantial direct and indirect tax cuts that we proposed.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In a document distributed through the Prime Minister’s public relations network, there is included what purports to be a copy of a speech which I made in this House on Tuesday. The copy of that speech, which is probably in breach of privilege- I do not raise that matter here- is inaccurate in that words are incorrectly stated. I will read my actual remarks to solve the problem of going through the whole matter. In respect of the actual report on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund and the fact there was no distributable surplus, I stated:
I do not think it is unrealistic to say that those who did in fact transfer from the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund to the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme would have obtained substantial benefit from that transfer and from the introduction of the new fund, far in excess- I would have thought- of the possible excess contributions that they may have made prior to the introduction of the new scheme under the terms of the new scheme, had it been applied in retrospect, which I am not sure is a good policy. However, there is still an outstanding matter arising from the change in the fund. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has given undertakings that he would make certain alterations to the fund, and the Government has indicated that it has had them under study for some time.
The last sentence is not quoted in the Press statement issued on behalf of the Prime Minister’s public relations network, purporting to be a statement of mine in those terms. I draw the attention of the House to this matter because these statements are being issued in the names of members of the Opposition without their knowledge, without knowledge of the extent of their distribution and therefore without any opportunity for Opposition members to correct them. These statements purport to contain remarks made in this House which are not necessarily accurate. In this case I think the errors are in transcribing. I do not think the transcribing was done by Hansard but by other persons. In the typing there is one case where a ‘not’ is reported as a ‘nor’. I think, Mr Speaker, you would understand that that can make a lot of difference to the meaning of a sentence.
-I will make inquiries as to who distributed the document and under whose authority. I have seen these myself. I think it is an attempt to disseminate the views of members of the Opposition as well as members of the Government. I will inquire as to the way in which accuracy can be maintained.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. During the course of Question Time the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) stated in answer to a question on wool that the former Labor Government reduced the reserve price of wool. I say as a member of that Government that that statement reflects upon the judgment of that Government and its members. The statement is not true. The facts are that we established the reserve price at 250c per kilo, 21 micron clean, and funded it to the extent of $340m. It gave the wool industry a proper base from which to operate for the first time in history. The present Government has done very little to improve on that -
-The honourable gentleman will cease debating.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) suggests that an answer I gave in the House today is not true. Everybody in this House knows that in 1970 the reserve price scheme was introduced by the then Liberal-Country Party Government. Although there have been marked changes to the scheme it has operated since then. In May 1975, at a time when the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) was poised to become the new Treasurer, I understand Treasury prevailed in Cabinet and one particular Friday afternoon the world was advised- particularly the Australian wool growers- that the reserve price was to be reduced from 250c a kilogram for 21 micron clean wool. A very strong reaction resulted in the market place. It was that Friday afternoon’s announcement to which I referred -
-Would the right honourable gentleman resume his seat?
– The following Monday Caucus told the Cabinet that it could not accept it.
-I ask the right honourable gentleman to desist.
– During the course of Question Time the Minister for Primary Industry said the Government reduced the reserve price. It did no such thing.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
Western Suburbs of Melbourne- Recreational Facilities- Australian Broadcasting Tribunal Hearings- Youth Unemployment-Australian Broadcasting Commission: Perth to Fremantle Rail Service-Industrial Relations in the Pilbara- Federalism- Racism and Racial Prejudice
That grievances be noted.
– I direct the attention of the House to the cultural and social deprivation of Melbourne’s western suburbs. I am sure that what I say will apply generally to the western suburbs of Sydney as well. So far as people-intensive activities or facilities are concerned, Melbourne’s west is deeply disadvantaged compared with the affluent suburbs in the east and south-east. The lack of facilities may well contribute to a declining interest in promoting people-intensive activities in the area or activities outside their own homes. Examples of what I mean can be included in the following list of people-intensive activities or facilities: Swimming pools, tennis courts, cricket pitches, football grounds, bookshops, record shops, art or craft shops, coffee shops, restaurants, tertiary institutions, theatres or cinemas, radio stations or major media outlets, and hospitals beds. If one provides a list of all these things one finds that the extent of deprivation in the west compared with the eastern suburbs of Melbourne is very marked, quite often in the order of five to one. The same is true of many rural areas as well. I would be the first to admit that there is rural deprivation even in Victoria, despite the many years of Country Party Government.
– I raise a point of order. There has been no Country Party Government at State level in Victoria for many years.
-There is no point of order.
-On the other hand, I think the lack of Labor governments in recent years does have a direct relationship to the deprivation in the western areas which are mostly represented in this House by the Labor Opposition. There is only one major hospital in the whole of Melbourne’s west. One more is in the course of being built, very slowly, in my own electorate. Even taking population relativities into account, the discrepancy between the number of beds in the east and the west has been estimated as a ratio of five to one. In addition, the west is greatly disadvantaged by the poor level of public transport. The basic public transport links have not changed in my electorate since the 1920s when the population was only a fraction of what it is now. It takes the same time to get from Werribee to Melbourne by suburban train as it did in 1929. It is as difficult to get from Deer Park to Werribee or from Altona to West Sunshine as it was when Hume and Hovell first passed that way.
The poverty of transport links and the extreme difficulty of moving from north to south or from east to west in the Lalor electorate is another factor which inhibits the social interaction that ought to exist between the seven separate urban components which comprise Lalor. One could give another very easy illustration. Eric Page’s recent book Where to eat in Melbourne points out that dinning out is one of the major social activities in the metropolitan area. He lists 700 restaurants in the metropolitan area, of which precisely three are found in the west.
The most serious example of cultural and social deprivation is the wide gap between the levels of educational absorption and educational expectation in the west and the east. I believe that it is a tragedy that the Whitlam Government, despite the generosity of its spending on education, absolutely failed to narrow the gap. In some ways it could be said that it even helped to perpetuate the already existing gap in educational expectation between the east and the west. Of course, the reasons for this are historical. Our educational system is not well suited to narrowing the gap. Australia has a split level educational system with first and second divisions which perpetuate existing social, ethnic, class and regional divisions in society instead of resolving them, which of course was the classic small ‘1 ‘ liberal hope for universal education.
The first division is aimed at producing the officers and non-commissioned officers of Australia’s social army, whilst the second division covers the other ranks and rejects from the system. The first division may be defined as being, firstly, predominantly urban middle-class; secondly, achievement-oriented and with a high expectation of success; thirdly, aimed at producing qualifications for a career with the presumption of affluence, readily marketable skills, and a high degree of professional satisfaction and personal autonomy to determine work patterns; and fourthly, marked by a high level of absorption in post-secondary education. The second division in Australia’s educational system may be defined as being, firstly, predominantly working class, ethnic, rural or regional; secondly, failure-oriented with a low expectation of success; thirdly, producing people who will compete for a declining number of relatively low paid semi-skilled or unskilled jobs, often insecure, with a low degree of personal satisfaction and little personal autonomy; and fourthly, marked by a low degree of absorption in post-secondary education.
Educational absorption at post-secondary level in the first division can be as much as six times greater than in the second division, as can be seen from participation rates in education for first division electorates such as Bradfield and Wentworth in New South Wales, Kooyong and Chisholm in Victoria and Sturt and Boothby in South Australia, and second division electorates such as Sydney and Reid in New South Wales, Burke and Lalor in Victoria and Port Adelaide and Bonython in South Australia. Specifically, for example, the 1976 census figures showed the contrasting rates of educational absorption at the tertiary level in the electorate of Burke, which is marginally worse than Lalor, and Kooyong, which has the highest absorption rate in Victoria. The ratio was in the order of 1 to 5.94. In other words, there was a discrepancy of virtually 6 to 1 .
In my electorate the discrepancy was about 5.5 tol.
The greatest sector of unemployment is among young people. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that 16.5 per cent of unemployed people are in the 15 to 19 year age group compared with the overall figures for all ages in Australia of 5.8 per cent. The difference is a factor of 2.85. However, it must be recognised that Australia has an unusually high proportion of young people competing for jobs, as our educational absorption rate is low. Paradoxically we have both a higher level of youth employment and a higher level of youth unemployment, just as we have smaller numbers in full time education. This reflects firstly the lack of interest generated in much of Australian education and secondly the relatively slow growth of an information economy compared with, say, the United States or Canada. Educational absorption is lowest in industrial suburbs, country towns and among girls and the children of migrant families, where education is geared to expectation of failure. It is taken for granted that most students will drop out of school and enter the labour market. In the affluent middle-class suburbs there is a general expectation of educational success and a high proportion of young people complete tertiary studies.
Australia has an unusually high proportion of young people competing for jobs. Young people aged from 15 to 24 years may be divided into roughly three groups. Group 1 comprises those who want to complete tertiary education and actually do so. Group 2 comprises those who have the capacity to complete and undertake tertiary education but who for a variety of reasons prefer early entry into employment, early marriage and establishing a home to waiting for several years to complete a degree and then seeking work. Others in this group, of course, have been socially conditioned to accept lower expectations than those in group 1 . Group 3 comprises those who have no intention of entering tertiary education and would be unlikely to succeed.
In practice, it is largely those in group 3 who are unemployed because the jobs they might obtain are secured by people in group 2. If more people in group 2 were absorbed in full-time education far more jobs would be available for those in group 3. In the United States, basically, the people in group 1 and group 2 are competing with each other within a framework of continuing education. There are plenty of jobs available for those in group 3. This is one of the reasons why the United States has been more successful than any other country in absorbing additional numbers in the work force. On the other hand, in Australia it is basically the group 1 people who go on towards tertiary education. Those in group 2 then compete with those in group 3, not with those in group 1. The result is that we have unusually high unemployment figures in group 3.
However, I must say that the electorate of Lalor compares very favourably with the kinds of urban conditions which we find in many other countries. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard an article entitled ‘Bright Lights, Big City’, which appeared in the Indonesian Observer.
The article read as follows-
BRIGHT LIGHTS BIG CITY
Within the lifetime of children born today, almost twothirds of the world’s population will be living in cities. Graham Hancock of the ‘New Internationalist’ reports on “the largest migratory movement in human history”- the trek of the poor from countryside to metropolis.
In 19S0 Mexico City, with a population of just under three million, was a mere stripling amongst urban giants. By the end of the century it will be the largest metropolis in the world. More than 30 million people will live there. Brazil’s Sao Paulo is under going a similar process of dramatic growth. Its population was two and a half million in 1930; ten million in I97S; and is not likely to be less than 26 million in the year 2000. The list is a long one: Bombay, Calcutta, Karachi, Peking, Shanghai, Seoul, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro are all in the 1 5-30 million mega-city line up for end of the century. Only New York and Tokyo, in the developed world, will be in the same league.
Demographers can only explain about half of urban expansion in the Third World in terms of ‘natural population growth ‘. The new factor, the really explosive change that has taken place in the last few decades, has been the increasing willingness of vast numbers of rural people to uproot from their villages and farms and head for the cities. Migrants from the surrounding countryside arrive on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, for example, at the rate of about 5,000 every week. The authors of ‘Only One Earth’ estimate total migration from the rural areas of the Third World to be somewhere in the region of 75,000 people every day.
The key word of course is people. If, as one expert has argued, we are witnesses to ‘the largest migratory movement in human history’ then there must be a good deal more to it than just the remorseless march of statistics down a page. There are the conditions and circumstances that make village life, a life based on subsistence or small-scale agriculture, less and less bearable for more and more people. There are the consistent biases in development strategies worldwide that lead to over-investment and concentration of resources in cities to the detriment of the countryside.
As Dick Whittington appreciated long ago, cities are where the action is. Though the romantic attraction of the bright lights has to be offset against the intense discomfort, insecurity and difficulty of the shanty towns that await most immigrants, it cannot be entirely discounted as a motive for migration.
One young Ghanaian described his reactions on first arriving in Accra from the countryside: ‘I became a sort of idiot as we moved along, for I stood to gaze at whatever Englishmade articles I had never seen before’. Village life, clearly, had nothing comparable to offer him in the way of status, stimulus or adventure.
However, more pragmatic reasons predominate in most people’s minds. One survey in Peru found that 30 per cent of migrants living in shanties had come to the city to find work. One of the ironies of Third World urbanisation, of course, is that it is occurring without any possibility of a concurrent expansion of productive urban-bred industries and jobs. Indeed the modern industrial sector in developing countries rarely employs more than 5 per cent of the available labour force. Nevertheless, cities do provide work a-plenty for resourceful migrants- from prostitution to boot cleaning; from begging to refuse collecting. Most of all, they provide the opportunity to benefit from one’s resourcefulness- which the rural areas, stagnating in underdevelopment and under investment, do not.
There is a consistent and long lasting trend in many parts of the Third World for the rural poor to become poorer while the urban poor can at least keep pace with the cost of living. In India, for example, the proportion of rural people below a very basic poverty minimum rose from 39 per cent in 1 960 to 54 per cent in 1970. In Bangladesh urban income per person is roughly 3 times as high as rural income. Brazil maintains a similar ratio despite extremly rapid growth in real national products per person.
And the buck does not stop at employment opportunities or higher incomes. City life holds out other equally important attractions. In India, the child born in a community of more than 5,000 persons has seven and a half times as good a chance of receiving a University or College education as the child born in a rural village. This disparity is actually much less than in most poor countries. Similarly the townsman has nine times as good a prospect of medical attention as the villager in India, 1 1 times in Ghana, 33 times in Ethiopia. It seems to be almost a ‘rule’ of underdevelopment that the poorer, the larger in area, and the less densely population the country is, the bigger is the disparity between town and countryside. Agriculture, after all, only gets priority. It is still the cities that get resources. (UNFFPA) (24)
– I noted the points made by the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) about some of the problems in the western suburbs of Melbourne. From some of the trips that I have had to the area I can confirm that many problems exist there that need to be taken into account by both State and Federal governments. It may be a starting point towards having some of those problems alleviated to have more Liberal members from the area who could put those views to both State and Federal governments. But unfortunately that is not the situation.
The honourable member for Lalor may be interested in some of the comments I wish to make today. Certainly, I am sure that he is conscious of the social problems experienced in that area of Melbourne and perhaps in other major urban centres because of a lack of occupational activities. This is causing enormous social problems, particularly in the more densely populated urban areas of Australia. I am sure that the honourable member would be conscious of the fact that, particularly in the western surburbs of
Melbourne and the western suburbs of Sydney, there are not sufficient recreational facilities available for people properly to occupy their leisure hours in healthy physical activity. I believe that from a social point of view this is causing particularly the younger people in those areas to engage in anti-social activities such as drug-taking and other things. I believe that this is occurring very largely because of boredom. The younger people in those areas simply do not have enough facilities with which to occupy their leisure hours in healthy physical recreation.
I believe that from the social point of view and for the long term interests of this country it is a very sound investment for this Government and State governments to provide facilities for training and educating young people to participate in healthy physical recreational activities, to occupy their minds in those sorts of things that would properly equip them for the future. I am conscious of the fact that the Federal Government has made substantial efforts to make more funds available for sport and recreation. It is interesting to note that in 1977-78 the allocation for youth, sport and recreation was $6. 6m and that in the current Budget the allocation has been increased to $11.lm
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Wilmot may not anticipate debate on a matter that is listed on the Notice Paper. I ask him not to make reference in specific terms to the Budget.
– I apologise for that indiscretion, Mr Deputy Speaker; but I make the point that the Federal Government is conscious of the fact that more money needs to be allocated for sport and recreation and is making a conscious effort in that direction. The introduction of the Sir Robert Menzies Trust, the contribution towards the Olympic Games and other matters are a useful start, but I believe that the Commonwealth Government needs to do more in that regard. It is not reasonable simply to take the viewpoint that this area of responsibility should rest solely with the State governments and that the Commonwealth Government does not share in this responsibility. I believe it is only fair and reasonable that the Commonwealth Government should participate, and participate far more fully than it is at the moment. I put to the Commonwealth Government the view that there should be a far greater allocation for sport and recreation at three levels. Firstly, at the international level the Commonwealth Government should make a much greater contribution than it is making at the moment. I suggested that an amount in the order of $5m should be allocated to support individual competitors and teams that compete at an international level.
I am conscious of the fact that at the moment the Minister is investigating, in conjunction with State Ministers, the possibility of introducing a sports lottery. This may or may not come about; we have yet to see. I do not believe that the fact ;hat such an investigation is taking place is ground for either the Commonwealth or the State governments to opt out of their responsibilities. They do have a responsibility and should not use that investigation as an excuse for not carrying out those responsibilities. Apart from the international level of sporting activity, the most important thing is to get a broad crosssection of the community participating in sport and recreation. There are probably two or three main impediments to that at the moment. Firstly, there is a lack of facilities. I am sure that the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) would be conscious of the lack of facilities in the western area of Melbourne, and the same can be said for the western suburbs of Sydney. Facilities need to be made available. There need to be trained personnel to encourage participation in the use of those facilities and there also needs to be an incentive for the people in the community to use those facilities.
I suggested, firstly, that the old Capital Assistance for Leisure Facilities scheme that was introduced by our late colleague, Mr Stewart, was one of the best measures introduced by the Labor Government. It was well accepted by the State governments and the community and there are very sound reasons why it should be reintroduced. In my own electorate, and no doubt throughout the rest of the country, there are a considerable number of local committees which are working on building recreational facilities. These may involve swimming pools, basketball courts, squash courts or a number of other things. In the main the cost of those facilities is well beyond the capacity of a local committee selling raffle tickets in the local pub in order to raise funds.
If we reintroduce the old CALF scheme, which provides that the Commonwealth Government will make a contribution of onethird of the capital cost and the State government will make a one-third contribution, that leaves only one-third of the capital cost of that facility to the local committee. This would bring into prospect a whole lot of facilities that are now on the drawing board. At the moment the cost is well beyond a local committee. These facilities are not being proceeded with and as a result a great number of people who might, under normal circumstances, wish to participate in some sport or recreational activity are being denied that opportunity because the facility is simply not available. I strongly urge the Federal Government, in conjunction with the States, to reintroduce the old CALF scheme. I have suggested that the Commonwealth Government should make an additional contribution of $20m which could then be matched by $20m from the State governments and $20m by local fund raising. That would make a total of $60m. I am quite sure that this would have the effect of not only providing a lot of facilities in areas in which they are badly needed but also creating a lot of job opportunities in areas in which unemployment is a major problem.
In addition to providing funds for competitors at an international level and facilities at a local level under the CALF scheme, I believe that the Commonwealth Government needs to make funds available to the States to engage recreational officers. At this stage each State has a program of engaging recreational officers. If a greater contribution could be made by the Commonwealth to the States, more officers could be employed to work in local areas. Under this program there needs to be a widespread media campaign supplementing the ‘Life. Be In It’ campaign. I compliment the Government on the Life. Be In It’ campaign. This does need to be made more extensive, using some of our more notable sporting competitors. Dennis Lillee, John Newcombe, Tracey Wickham and others who have achieved notoriety could be used as part of a media campaign. If this were done it would encourage a considerable number of people to participate in those sports. I urge the Government to acknowledge that enormous social problems are being caused in areas of Australia by the fact that people do not know how to utilise, or do not have the facilities to utilise, their leisure hours. From a social point of view this is one of the greatest problems that this country faces, and we should all acknowledge that responsibility.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have been increasingly concerned about the scandalous Australian Broadcasting Tribunal hearings on the transfer of control and ownership of a major New South Wales provincial television broadcasting station, WIN4, and its future. The dubious connections between certain media groups and the Tribunal Chairman, Mr Gyngell, and the subsequent role of the Tribunal and the Minister have led the Opposition to call for a reopening of the hearing by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal on the sale of this station. The hearing was riddled with legal inconsistencies. The Murdoch group, News Ltd, owned the controlling interest in WIN TV, but under the Broadcasting and Television Act no company can have more than two holdings of 5 per cent in any two television channels. The Act also provides that not more than 15 per cent of a licence holding may be owned by an overseas resident. Mr Murdoch decided to divest himself of the WIN TV shares in order to clear the way for his takeover of Channel 10. 1 question the Machiavellian tactics involved.
In effect, there were two simultaneous inquiries to effect this transfer of ownership, and both were so legally shaky that one must challenge their entire validity. The inquiries were so hastily conducted, and the tactics used so convoluted, that I and most other Australians are still unsure as to who owns WIN TV Channel 4. Ostensibly Mr Murdoch’s share went to an obscure broadcasting company, Oberon Broadcasters Pty Ltd, apparently controlled by a Mr Bruce Gordon. Mr Gordon was a well known entrepreneur in Australia during the 1950s, but he now resides in New York and is a vice-president of the powerful Paramount Pictures organisation. For the purposes of the Act his Australian residential status is dubious. In order to avoid this obstacle, when it became apparent during the course of the WIN TV hearing that it could constitute an obstacle in the takeover bid, Mr Gordon hastily divested himself of his Oberon shares and two accountants, a Mr Cowley and a Mr Alagich, stepped in; but this was not before Mr Gordon found that he was not in control of Oberon and that his wife had the majority share.
In order to show the extent of this fiasco and the way in which it developed, I quote from the Australian Financial Review of 4 July 1979, which says:
The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal’s inquiry into the sale of Mr Rupert Murdoch’s Wollongong television station WIN-4 came to a stunned- but temporary- halt yesterday.
It was revealed halfway through the hearing that the chief witness, Mr Bruce Gordon, did not own Oberon Broadcasters Pty Ltd, the family company making the $4.5 million purchase.
After some confusion, Oberon ‘s counsel, Mr Henric Nicholas, asked for an adjournment to check the company’s records.
When the hearing resumed, Mr Nicholas told Mr Moremon that it had always been intended to transfer three of Mrs Gordon’s shares to Mr Gordon, but through an oversight this had not happened.
Then they agreed to continue with the hearing on the understanding that the transfer would be made immediately. So there were two major share movements between the opening of the hearing and the announcement of the favourable Tribunal decision. One was the transfer of shares from Mrs Gordon to her husband. The second and more important one was the transfer of shares from Mr Gordon to his two accountants, Cowley and Alagich. But let us not be under any misapprehension about this matter: The business stays in a cosy family group. Not only did the company gloss over ownership discrepancies but also the Tribunal proved itself to be only too willing to do the same. Mr Gyngell has been in business association with Mr Gordon over many years and he has a long business association with the two accountants. I quote again from the Australian Financial Review of 15 August 1979, which states:
Mr Gyngell said he had withdrawn from the WIN4 hearing and did not vote on last week’s decision because of his long association with Mr Gordon, who had looked after Mr Gyngell ‘s family company, Warooka Pty Ltd, while he was in England between 1972 and 1975.
They also shared the same accountants, Cowley and Alagich.
Mr Gyngell said that the Minister for Posts and Telecommunications, Mr Staley, had been advised of these circumstances, and that he (Mr Gyngell) had stated his connections with the applicants and withdrawn from the WIN4 deliberation at a meeting in Melbourne on June 4.
Mr Gyngell, to give him his due, informed the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) of these facts and did not sit in on the hearing. But the decision is the responsibility of the Tribunal and he is the Chairman. He cannot just become a nominal chairman to suit the occasion. The Chairman and the Tribunal are responsible and so is the Minister. What is the Minister’s role in all of this? The Minister, perhaps thinking he had been a little too harsh on Mr Gyngell a couple of months ago when a public outcry caused the Minister to reject a $500-plus liquor bill incurred at Mr Gyngell ‘s home during the course of an evening’s entertainment and which he happily charged to the Government, decided that Mr Gyngell ‘s confession was of no interest to the public. Of no interest to the public! The whole business is a fiasco. If the Minister thought Mr Gyngell ‘s associations had no bearing on the matter, why did Mr Gyngell disqualify himself from the hearing. What precisely has been the Minister’s role in this whole affair?
Finally, just who does own WIN4, Wollongong? Ownership should be based in the region it serves. The people who use the facility should have a say in its operation. If there are no connections on a regional basis, there should at least be links on a State or even a national basis. Do we have this assurance? Mr Gordon has relinquished temporary control and will be free to resume full control at a later date when it suits him and his contract expires with Paramount. In the meantime his two proxies can act on his behalf. If he does not choose to come back they can act on his behalf forever. If links can be made between Gordon, Cowley, Alagich and Gyngell, is there any chance of another more obscure link with Murdoch? Why is no one willing to answer these questions?
The Tribunal already has a questionable record. In May of this year the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, called for Mr Gyngell ‘s resignation because of his obvious bias towards the commercial interests and away from public interest. A Tribunal member, Janet Strickland, resigned in disgust about the way the Tribunal rode roughshod over the public during public inquiries and the intolerable way the Tribunal changed the rules to suit the interest of Channel 9. In the last few weeks we have called for a fresh inquiry to examine, not only the WIN4 situation and the Channel 10 situation but also the whole business of media ownership in Australia. The Tribunal’s dealings are a scandal. The Minister is at fault for allowing such scandals to go unchecked.
What is the Minister’s role? Does he sanction this irresponsible behaviour and blatant disregard for public interest because he is so incompetent that he does not know what is going on? Or worse, does he condone the whole WIN4- Channel 10 scandal? The people of the Illawarra region and the South Coast have a right to know what is going on with regard to their local television station. The Minister has a responsibility to inform them. The Australian people have a right to a new and open inquiry into the sale and transfer of ownership and control of WIN4 and Channel 10 to expose the scandals that I have mentioned and to rectify the injustices perpetrated by the Minister and those who are supposed to be responsible to him.
– It is of real concern that young people who have left school in recent years have been facing an increasingly difficult task in obtaining employment. Youth unemployment today is four times the rate of those aged 20 years and over. For junior females in the age group of 15 to 19 years, the position is much more frustrating. Twelve per cent of junior males- one in nine- are registered as unemployed whereas 14 per cent of young femalesone in seven- are registered. For young people there has been a loss of many traditional youth jobs. Alternative jobs have been created but have required higher training and qualifications. There is no doubt that the school leaver with minimal qualifications and experience has been vulnerable and less able to cope with the system. Youth unemployment is not a temporary phase. It never has been. Patterns of unemployment are now firmly established. For this reason, I would like to discuss this socially depressing issue and what efforts are being made and should be expanded to meet this serious problem.
I believe that we should ask to what extent the situation can be explained in terms of the working of the market place. Such explanations may help to reveal the measures needed to preserve the community’s priceless assets- the selfrespect, fulfilment, incentive and productivity of our coming generations. Although sometimes regarded as an affront to human dignity, it is only realistic to recognise that there is a market for labour where supply and demand operate subject in many ways to community institutions and attitudes. In any market, many factors operate through both supply and demand. An increase of supply normally depresses prices, as when a good season brings a glut of a primary product. Over recent years, strong forces have boosted supply in the female labour market. Many women, especially married women, have found it possible and desirable to join the work force for reasons often unrelated to the level of wages available. These reasons include the attitudes towards women’s liberation, a community acceptance that many married women may work, and the higher education which has given women the ability and desire to participate more actively in community affairs and business and other related influences.
Over recent years the wages of different categories of workers in Australia have increased at different rates, but the wages of females and junior workers have risen faster than those for the work force as a whole. This has been supported by social considerations related to equal pay for equal work and other egalitarian principles. Fortunately, we in Australia, a democratic society, are free to judge such matters. However, such decisions are sometimes taken without full recognition of their longer term social and economic implications. One implication of great importance is that any increase in price offered in a market- in this case the wages of female labour- is likely to attract a greater supply. In this instance, the large potential increase of supply that was available from the ranks of married women was not only willing to respond to a higher wage, but also was probably willing to join the work force even if there had been no noticeable advance in the wage rates. Australia has thus witnessed a massive rise in female participation in the work force. Many of the positions they occupy correspond to those which would have been held by young people, both male and female who, in earlier periods would have entered the work force. At that time, lack of experience was tolerated because junior wage rates were relatively low and most young people had the will and the youthful enthusiasm to learn and progress.
If frequently rejected some young unemployed are threatened by a serious dilemma. They may develop a cynical attitude to the whole system, charge employers with discrimination against the young or blame the irrelevancy of their education or false promises of careers at the end of their training. In some cases, false hopes mean that young people derive little satisfaction when they do in fact find jobs. Another cause of frustration or bitterness, especially prevalent in times of recession and oversupply of labour suited for junior jobs, is the practice of some employers to dismiss juniors as they become older and qualify for the sharp increases in wages required for employees over 21 years of age. Insofar as these discouraging experiences depress the interest and incentive of young workers or job seekers, their image suffers further in the minds of employers, who thus tend to favour older workers, including married women, as yielding a better return per dollar of labour cost. So another vicious circle is completed.
Conventional wisdom held- until recentlythat a solution was to extend education so that all those trying to enter the work force would be acceptable to employers as efficient and productive workers. Allied with this is the irreproachable principle of equal education opportunity for all and this has led to the free availability of higher education for all youth. This revolution was made possible by the vast increases in funds available from governments for schools, universities and colleges, enabling students to attend with little cost, and in some cases, even to receive living allowances. This principle cannot be disputed but its implications are obvious. When employment opportunities are depressed, free access to higher education has a double attraction. While a rising proportion of young people are attracted to tertiary education for positive reasons of improving their chances of employment and careers, some are further encouraged because it provides an activity in some cases even a poor living- when the job market fails to do so.
Unfortunately, the expansion of education has not solved the problem of matching young people’s job aspirations with the needs of the work place. The additional education has often proved unnecesary to qualify young people for their first jobs. Often it has been used by employers as an aid in selecting from competing applicants. It also means that the student seeks his first job at an older age, thus requiring a higher wage because of both his age and his extra training. A further complication arises because the proportion of students, who take out their higher education in academic courses and vocational training oriented to a special skill or occupation, is not always correlated with community requirements for the respective skills acquired when the courses are completed.
There may be a point of development at which a young person gains more, in the overall context of his life, from taking a job than from further full-time education. The imbalance of supply and demand becomes desperate in the context of apprenticeships. There are two levels of anomaly here. On the one hand, employers complain of the inadequate flow of trained tradesmenespecially in the building, mechanical and metal trades- but on the other hand, many aspiring youngsters cannot find employers to indenture them. When employers take into account the limited productive time which apprentices can spend on the job, especially in times of depressed business, their hourly cost becomes excessive. This situation has been aggravated in recent years by the extra costs loaded on to standard pay rates such as workers compensation, holiday loadings, travelling allowances and sick leave which become proportionately heavier because the apprentice is working part time.
Various steps have been and are being taken by governments to remedy this situation, including higher subsidies for employers and attempts to improve standards of literacy and numeracy of employees before taking up an apprenticeship. The seriousness of the shortages has been revealed by the industrial training committee which has indicated that the number of skilled tradesmen in Australia declined from 1,195,000 in the 1971 census to 1,043,000 at the end of 1975. This shows a loss of 12.7 per cent in less than five years. It is critical for young people that their skills and enthusiasm are utilised and that their self respect is preserved. When vacancies are available we must have people to fill them so that the resulting activity and incomes will generate economic recovery and uphold community living standards. If the level of debate in this country continues only in a political and emotional atmosphere, this nation will stand condemned by its young generations. Massive structural change is occurring in the employment area. We have to face up to it and respond to the challenge.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In January of this year the Western Australian Government announced its decision to close the Perth to Fremantle passenger rail service. In the ensuing few months a campaign has developed to retain that service. It has received the support of the overwhelming majority of the people of Western Australia. Indeed, I understand that a poll will be published today which will indicate the evidence for the claim of overwhelming support by the people of Perth. The campaign culminated last weekend with a protest rally and march through the streets of Perth and with the release of a record produced and performed by a local Perth group in which the lyrics protested about the closure of the railway line and criticised the State Government for its decision.
My reason for raising this matter is the reaction of the Western Australian management of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to these developments. In the first instance, after playing the record once, the ABC senior management issued a directive that under no circumstances was the record to be played by the ABC again. At the same time senior people in the ABC management ordered its film crew not to cover the protest rally which was held in Perth on Saturday. The protest rally was no small event. It has been heralded as one of the largest protest rallies held in Perth in recent times. Given the very inclement weather that existed that day, the turnout was indeed significant.
I do not normally criticise the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I recognise that the fundamental principle on which its charter is based is that the ABC should be independent and free of any political pressure from any government or political party. However, these two actions, that is the banning of the record and the decision not to cover the protest rally, have come at the end of a long line of similar instances which I believe reveal a definite pro-Liberal bias on the part of the management of the ABC in Western Australia. I think that this is a very serious situation indeed, because not only is it necessary for the ABC to be independent of political influence, but also it is necessary for the ABC to maintain a level of objectivity, particularly in regard to political matters.
I do not want for a moment to criticise the work or the attitude of the working journalists of the ABC in Perth. I think that they do their very best under some considerable duress from time to time, to carry out their tasks. My criticism is directed to the senior management of the ABC in Perth who I think represent an entrenched clique of people who are no longer able to comprehend the basic tenets of the ABC, that is independence and objectivity. They have allowed themselves to be stood over by the Premier of Western Australia. There is evidence of this. They have allowed themselves to be browbeaten by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). As a result, the management has given quite cavalier attention to any statements that are disparaging of the Liberal Government in Western Australia or, indeed, of the Liberal Government of the Commonwealth. The banning of the record and the decision not to cover the protest rally are the two most recent instances of this bias.
I have been collecting evidence of this tendency within the ABC. I intend to include that evidence as part of a submission I will be making to the forthcoming inquiry into the ABC. I will tell that inquiry that the entrenched clique which controls the ABC in Western Australia has failed to carry out its basic responsibility of political independence and political objectivity. I will make some suggestions as to how the inquiry might go about changing the ABC in order to root out these influences which exist at senior management level in Western Australia. One of the important matters to which the inquiry can give attention is the need for some sort of rotation of the management of the ABC at the regional or State level. The senior managerial positions of the ABC at the State level should be for a fixed term. This would allow for those individuals to be rotated around the country, going from State to State. That would not only have the benefit of preventing the entrenchment of attitudes within a particular State but also would help to encourage a national outlook of this very important national broadcasting organisation.
The State committee of the Australian Journalists Association has taken up this matter and has decided to request from the head of the newsroom in the ABC the reasons for its decision not to cover the protest rally last Saturday. I support the AJA in its decision. I hope that as a result this action we might see a more enlightened view taken by the management of the ABC in Western Australia. One of the most disturbing aspects of this matter is that prior to holding the rally on the Saturday a State Liberal member of parliament, who is known to be one of the most vociferous supporters of the Government’s decision to close the Perth to Fremantle railway line, rang the ABC complaining about what he thought was unfair coverage of a meeting held within his electorate on this issue. We are bound to suspect that it may have been as a result of this intervention by that Liberal member of parliament that the Commission took its decision not to cover the rally on the Saturday.
This is a very serious state of affairs which has developed in the ABC in Western Australia. I hope that, as a result of the revelations that have been made over this current issue and as a result of the forthcoming inquiry, the standard of the Commission’s independence and political objectivity will be increased.
I now wish to raise a matter which relates to the industrial relations situation in the Pilbara. I suspect that not one person in Australia would not like to see a reduction in the level of industrial disputation in that region. Nobody supports the level of industrial disputation; everybody would like to see it minimised. However, in the recent long running dispute between Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd and its employees we saw on two occasions the intervention of politicians into that dispute to exacerbate it and to ensure that a settlement would not be reached sooner than it was. In the first instance we had the quite absurd intervention by the Prime Minister when he was in Western Australia. He made sabre-rattling speeches about the need to establish one union to cover the whole of the Pilbara iron ore industry. That was an act of very great provocation to the workers in that industry.
Those workers believe that it is up to them to determine the union to which they belong and the arrangements which should exist in relation to their affairs. The intervention of the Prime Minister by saying, in effect, that he would close down existing unions which operate in that area, that he would establish a new one and then insist that all workers join that single union was an instance of his crass misunderstanding of the issues involved in that dispute. The second intervention which occurred earlier was on the part of the Premier. It was a deliberate attempt to exacerbate the dispute by the arrest of union officials involved in it. To use the Police Act to intervene in industrial disputes is quite an absurd notion. In this case it is quite clear that it led to the prolongation of that particular dispute.
Recently I, together with three of my colleagues, visited Japan and had discussions with representatives of the Japanese steel industry about this question. Their plea to us was to do whatever we could to ensure that industrial relations in the Pilbara in particular and in Australia in general were carried on in a nonpartisan way. I take that to mean that the Japanese believe that politicians, Premiers and Prime Ministers ought to keep their noses out of industrial disputes and allow those disputes to be settled in an orderly manner.
– I take the opportunity to explain to the people of Australia, and in particular to the people of New South Wales, the generosity of Federal funding to State governments over the last four years. I do this because the New South Wales Government and New South Wales parliamentarians seem to use with regular monotony the excuse of a lack of Federal funds when they choose not to proceed with a program. They choose to use the excuse that no money is available. The New South Wales Government- this is typical of all State governments throughout Australia- has ample funds and has been most generously treated by the Federal Government over the last four years. I realise that at times the federalism policy of this Government is difficult for people to understand, because it involves both tied and untied grants. Federalism is a policy that ensures that the States receive a fair and increasing proportion of personal income tax revenue while at the same time ensuring that untied funds made available to various governments increase so that those governments can choose their own priorities in the spending of those funds.
The anxiety that has been caused over the recent months to the people in my own electorate has been quite unnecessary. I shall refer to a number of such incidents. The one to which I draw particular attention is the so-called cuts in funds by the New South Wales Government to various hospitals in that State. In my electorate the staff and patients in the Calvary Hospital- a well respected and efficiently operated hospitalwere caused great distress by an announcement of cut-backs in funding and rumours that that hospital would not.be able to continue to operate. The excuse given for those cut-backs was lack of Federal funding. That is far from the truth. I would like to incorporate in Hansard a table which shows the extent of Federal funding to the State of New South Wales for the last four years, from 1975-76 to 1978-79. 1 have already sought the approval of the Opposition.
The table read as follows-
– The table shows that the amount of funding to New South Wales has been continually increased. It has received adequate funding. The percentage of increase has more than covered the rate of inflation. The New South Wales Government has been provided with sufficient funds to go ahead with existing programs, or even to expand those programs. An examination of the table reveals that over that four-year period funds made available to the New South Wales Government increased by 44.3 per cent. When one looks at the total increase in Federal revenue during that period one sees that the generosity of the Government is further highlighted. The Federal Government’s revenue during that time increased by only 39.9 per cent. But the New South Wales Government continues to complain about lack of funding. Compare the New South Wales deficit with the Federal deficit. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard another table. It shows the difference in the deficits over the last five years.
The table read as follows-
– In analysing this table honourable members will see that over the last five years the New South Wales Government has incurred virtually no deficit while the Federal deficit has been massive. The Fraser Government has been forced to take unpopular decisions to arrest its deficit while the generosity of its funding has allowed the New South Wales Government to get away with having virtually no budget deficit. This situation has occurred throughout Australia. All State governments virtually have been able to balance their budgets while the Federal Budget has been a tremendous problem. As a further example of the hollowness of the claims on lack of funding of the various
State governments I refer to the increase in State and Federal public services. In this regard I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a third table which clearly shows the increase in the New South Wales Public Service since 1974 as opposed to the increase in the Federal Public Service.
The table read as follows-
– This table clearly shows that in the period I have just mentioned the New South Wales Public Service increased by 41,000 employees while the Federal Public Service increased by 13,000. It is staggering to realise that the size of the New South Wales Public Service alone is almost to the stage of being equal to the Federal Public Service. Today there are 383,000 New South Wales public servants while throughout Australia there are 389,000 Commonwealth public servants. At the rate at which the New South Wales Public Service is growing I would not doubt that even now the total number of people employed by the New South Wales Public Service has exceeded the number employed by the Commonwealth Public Service.
This trend causes me great concern and I think it should cause the Australian taxpayer great concern. In Australia five years ago one person in four was a public servant. Today the ratio is almost one person in three. In making that statement I do not deny the existence of public services. They are excellent organisations. Public servants are necessary to provide and maintain services throughout the community. But I am concerned about the trend that is developing because, as everyone in this House would realise, it is the taxes provided by the private sector that must maintain and support the public sector. Both sectors are necessary to each other but an imbalance creates hardships for both. It creates hardship particularly for the Australian taxpayer.
I put forward this argument today, particularly about the New South Wales Government and its continual desire to hide behind lack of funding when it does not choose to proceed with a project, because this excuse has been misused.
As I said, this situation is causing great concern to the people of the community. This sort of thing is happening in other major expenditure areas. I do not have time to go into those but I particularly mention education. Federal Members of Parliament from New South Wales continually receive letters, petitions and objections from people in the community who have been hoodwinked into thinking that any lack of funding for education is the fault of this Government. The tables I have had incorporated clearly shows that there has been no lack of Federal funding. It is up to State governments throughout Australia to accept their responsibilities, determine their priorities and choose their areas of expenditure.
– I wish to draw the attention of the House to the Declaration of the Commonwealth on Racism and Racial Prejudice which was adopted by the Commonwealth heads of government at Lusaka on 7 August. I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard the text of that Declaration.
The document read as follows-
Lusaka Declaration of the Commonwealth on Racism and Racial Prejudice
The following is the text of the declaration adopted by the Heads of Government on 7 August:
We, the Commonwealth Heads of Government, recalling the declaration of Commonwealth principles made at Singapore on 22 January 197 1 and the statement on apartheid in sport, issued in London on 1 5 June 1977, have decided to proclaim our desire to work jointly as well as severally for the eradication of all forms of racism and racial prejudice.
The Commonwealth is an institution devoted to the promotion of international understanding and world peace, and to the achievement of equal rights for all citizens regardless of race, colour, sex, creed or political belief, and is committed to the eradication of the dangerous evils of racism and racial prejudice,
We now, therefore, proclaim this Lusaka Declaration of the Commonwealth on Racism and Racial Prejudice.
United in our desire to rid the world of the evils of racism and racial prejudice, we proclaim our faith in the inherent dignity and worth of the human person and declare that:
The peoples of the Commonwealth have the right to live freely in dignity and equality, without any distinction or exclusion based on race, colour, sex, descent, or national or ethnic origin,
While everyone is free to retain diversity in his or her culture and lifestyle, this diversity does not justify the prepetuation of racial prejudice or racially discriminatory practices,
Everyone has the right to equality before the law and equal justice under the law,
Everyone has the right to effective remedies and protection against any form of discrimination based on the grounds of race, colour, sex, descent, or national or ethnic origin.
We reject as inhuman and intolerable all policies designed to perpetuate apartheid, racial segregation or other policies based on theories that racial groups are or may be inherently superior or inferior.
We reaffirm that it is the duty of all the peoples of the Commonwealth to work together for the total eradication of the infamous policy of apartheid which is internationally recognised as a crime against the conscience and dignity of mankind and the very existence of which is an affront to humanity.
We agree that everyone has the right to protection against acts of incitement to racial hatred and discrimination, whether committed by individuals, groups or other organisations.
We affirm that there should be no discrimination based on race, colour, sex, descent or national or ethnic origin in the acquisition or exercise of the right to vote, in the field of civil rights or access to citizenship, or in the economic, social or cultural fields, particularly education, health, employment, occupation, housing, social security and cultural life.
We attach particular importance to ensuring that children shall be protected from practices which may foster racism or racial prejudice. Children have the right to be brought up and educated in a spirit of tolerance and understanding so as to be able to contribute fully to the building of future societies based on justice and friendship.
We believe that those groups in societies who may be especially disadvantaged because of residual racist attitudes are entitled to the fullest protection of the law. We recognise that the history of the Commonwealth and its diversity require that special attention should be paid to the problems of indigenous minorities. We recognise that the same special attention should be paid to the problems of immigrants, immigrant workers and refugees.
We agree that special measures may in particular circumstances be required to advance the development of disadvantaged groups in society. We recognise that the effects of colonialism or racism in the past may make desirable special provisions for the social and economic enhancement of indigenous populations inspired by the principles of freedom and equality which characterise our association, we accept the solemn duty of working together to eliminate racism and racial prejudice. This duty involves the acceptance of the principle that positive measures may be required to advance the elimination of racism, including assistance to those struggling to rid themselves and their environment of the practice.
Being aware that legislation alone cannot eliminate racism and racial prejudice, we endorse the need to initiate public information and education policies designed to promote understanding, tolerance, respect and friendship among peoples and racial groups.
We are particularly conscious of the importance of the contribution the media can make to human rights and the eradication of racism and racial prejudice by helping to eliminate ignorance and misunderstanding between people and by drawing attention to the evils which afflict humanity. We affirm the importance of truthful presentation of facts in order to ensure that the public are fully informed of the dangers presented by racism and racial prejudice.
In accordance with established principles of international law and, in particular, the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, we affirm that everyone is, at all times and in all places, entitled to be protected in the enjoyment of the right to be free of racism and racial prejudice.
We believe that the existence in the world of apartheid and racial discrimination is a matter of concern to all human beings. We recognise that we share an international responsibility to work together for the total eradication of apartheid and racial discrimination.
We note that racism and racial prejudice, wherever they occur, are significant factors contributing to tension between nations and thus inhibit peaceful progress and development. We believe that the goal of the eradication of racism stands as a critical priority for governments of the Commonwealth, committed as they are to the promotion of the ideals of peaceful and happy lives for their people.
We intend that the Commonwealth, as an international organisation with a fundamental and deep-rooted attachment to principles of freedom and equality, should cooperate with other organisations in the fulfilment of these principles. In particular the Commonwealth should seek to enhance the co-ordination of its activities with those of other organisations similarly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
– When one considers the remarks of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield), in regard to the responsibilities of the States to raise their own revenue and to make the most of the generous provision’, as he described it, of the Fraser Government, one should bear in mind that the grants to the States are still based on the formula agreed with the Whitlam Government. On the formula proposed by the Fraser Government the States would have received less. Nevertheless, the Federal Government has undertaken commitments to the States which are of particular relevance to the matter of racism and racial prejudice. This Federal Government has not followed the example of the Whitlam Government. I refer particularly, for example, to the agreement with New South Wales- the previous speaker referred to New South Wales- signed in 1975 by the Federal Government, that the Federal Government would pick up the tab for all services to Aborigines. This has not been done and there is still grave deficiency in the services to Aborigines in all States and Territories. There are particular points that I believe are of relevance to our Aboriginal policies in this country and which to my mind perhaps will have more significance for Australia than the much publicised communique on Southern Africa. For example, one is the paragraph which reads:
While everyone is free to retain diversity in his or her culture and life style, this diversity does not justify the perpetuation of racial prejudice or racially discriminatory practices.
Yet I believe every member of this House who has bothered to take notice will realise that such discriminatory practices persist in Queensland despite laws passed by the Whitlam Government banning such discrimination and despite actions under that legislation taken by the Hon. A. J.
Grassby, Commissioner for Community Relations, to overcome it. They will also realise that the Fraser Government not only is dragging its feet in implementing measures to end that discrimination, which are within Commonwealth legislative ambit, but also, we have heard, is moving to abolish the Office of the Commissioner for Community Relations as part of the winding down of so-called surplus bureaucracy. Another paragraph of the Lusaka Declaration reads:
We affirm that there should be no discrimination based on race, colour, sex, descent or national or ethnic origin in the acquisition or exercise of the right to vote, in the field of civil rights or access to citizenship, or in the economic, social or cultural fields, particularly education, health, employment, occupation, housing, social security and cultural life.
In every one of these respects the Australian Government is lacking and previous Australian governments have been lacking. The policies of every major political party in this country, indeed every political party represented in any parliament in Australia, all agree with this Lusaka Declaration. But it is on their work that we should judge them, not on their stated and published policies. We should judge them on the priorities which they accord to these high ideals. The priorities set by this Government for Aboriginies are very low. The sorts of things which have higher priority include States rights, amicable relations with the States, the new Federalism policy, the need to develop and to sell our mineral resources, the need to attract investment in mining and the exploration for and development of oil resources, the tourist industry, the pastoral industry and the fishing industry. Indeed, just about any industry, unless it happens to be Aboriginal industry, will take precedence of these high ideals. I have repeatedly drawn the attention of the House to examples of that.
The next paragraph in the Declaration states:
We attach particular importance to ensuring that children shall be protected from practices which may foster racism or racial prejudicce. Children have the right to be brought up and educated in a spirit of tolerance and understanding so as to be able to contribute fully to the building of future societies based on justice and friendship.
That cannot happen unless the aims in the preceding paragraph of the declaration are carried out. In particular, it states that there must be equality in cultural fields and education. We do not give to Aboriginal children or white children equal access to the riches of Aboriginal culture but for European children or possibly children from other continents who come to this country there is special provision for the teaching of their own culture and language. I know that all governments have been remiss in this regard. All governments of recent years have done something about it.
I regret, however, that a look at the Budget Papers introduced this week shows that virtually every line of the proposed expenditure for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has been cut in real terms. In most cases, but not in every case, the proposed expenditure has increased, but when one allows for inflation one sees that there has been a decline in expenditure in real terms. This trend has continued through all the Fraser Government’s Budgets. The Whitlam Government increased spending in these areas in each of its Budgets, whereas funds are now being cut in each Budget of the Fraser Government.
I do not pretend that money should be the be-all and end-all of the commitment to Aboriginal rights. I know it is not. I know that in many instances Aborigines would prefer other kinds of commitments, particularly quicker moves towards self-management, which is something that is being eroded. In many areas white bureaucracy is increasingly taking over functions from Aborigines who are thought in Public Service terms not to be responsible in their bookkeeping, their auditing or whatever. But if a less strict monetary yardstick were applied and if more humanity and humane values were applied if would be found in most cases that selfmanagement by Aboriginal organisations is cheaper and better. Many of them are doing a better job of balancing the books and auditing than many of the government bureaucrats. We know that many of their projects have gone on for years without proper accountability. Nevertheless, if proper attention in terms of this Lusaka Declaration instead of to monetary considerations were paid to human values and the human advances which are made it would be found in most cases that self-management is cheaper and better than increasing bureaucracy.
The Lusaka Declaration also states: the acceptance of the principle that positive measures may be required to advance the elimination of racism, including assistance to those struggling to rid themselves and their environment of the practice.
I know that Ministers have made high-sounding statements about that from time to time but I wish that some of the increasing amount of promotion money that is being paid to advertising experts to promote various Government concepts like ‘ Let ‘s Advance Australia ‘ and ‘ Life. Be in it* could be devoted to the project for removing the remnants of racism which unfortunately pervade our community.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! It being 12.45 p.m., in accordance with Standing Order 106, the debate is interrupted. I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable members I present the agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America concerning peaceful use of nuclear energy, together with an agreed minute, and the agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning nuclear transfers between Australia and the United Kingdom, together with an agreed minute and an exchange of letters. I seek leave to make a statement relating to the agreements.
-The agreement with the United States was signed in Canberra on 5 July. I signed on behalf of Australia and Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, signed on behalf of the United States. The agreement with the United Kingdom was signed in London on 24 July. I signed on behalf of Australia and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Carrington, signed on behalf of the United Kingdom. Consistent with the practice I have adopted with previous nuclear safeguards agreements, the texts were published immediately upon signature and are now being presented to the Parliament early in the present session. The signature of these two agreements brings to five the number of nuclear safeguards agreements signed between Australia and other countries. Australia has now succeeded in building up a substantial body of law and practice giving effect to the policy announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 24 May 1977. I have previously presented the agreements which we have signed with Finland, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea. The two latest agreements represent further important steps in the establishment of that network of bilateral agreements between Australia and countries wishing to import Australian uranium which I referred to in the statements presenting the other safeguards agreements.
Both the United Kingdom and the United States are nuclear weapons states and, in accordance with the policy announced by the Prime Minister on 24 May 1977, the primary purpose of these agreements will be to ensure that when Australia supplies uranium to them for peaceful purposes, this uranium will not be diverted to non-peaceful or explosive purposes. Both countries, with Australia, are in the forefront of efforts to promote a strong international nonproliferation regime. The signing of these agreements will enhance and strengthen Australia’s co-operation with them in furthering nonproliferation objectives. The two agreements represent confirmation of the closeness of the views of the three governments on nuclear safeguards issues. Against the background of international energy and fuel problems, the agreements are of particular significance since both the United States and the United Kingdom are expected to be substantial markets for Australian uranium. The agreements are a tangible demonstration of the international recognition accorded to Australia’s potential to supply uranium to an energy deficient world.
Agreement with the United States of America
The agreement with the United States is an important one. It provides a new framework for the nuclear co-operation between Australia and the United States which commenced well before 1956 when the two governments concluded an agreement concerning the civil use of atomic energy. That agreement, which was amended in 1960 and 1967, is superseded by the new agreement, which also supersedes an interim nuclear safeguards agreement of limited scope concluded between the two governments on 8 August 1978. The agreement reflects the shared non-proliferation objectives of Australia and the United States and is a further demonstration of the commitment by both Australia and the United States to stringent controls on the exports of nuclear material. Before this agreement can come into force it must first remain before the United States Congress for 60 days of continuous session. The agreement was presented to Congress on 27 July 1979. And allowing for the August recess, we expect the agreement to remain before Congress until late October.
In transmitting the agreement to Congress, President Carter referred to Australia as a strong supporter of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and of international non-proliferation efforts generally’. President Carter said he was particularly pleased that the first peaceful nuclear co-operation agreement entered into since the enactment of the United States NonProliferation Act of 1978 should be with Australia. ‘The proposed agreement’, he noted, reflects the desire of the Government of the United States and the Government of Australia to update the framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation between our two countries in a manner which recognises both the shared nonproliferation objectives and the close relationship between the United States and Australia in the peaceful applications of nuclear energy’.
I wish also to bring to the attention of the House the nuclear proliferation assessment statement on the Agreement prepared for President Carter by the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. This statement has been submitted to the United States Congress. It acknowledges that ‘Australia’s active efforts on behalf of non-proliferation place it in a position of global leadership in this area’. It goes on to describe Australia’s nuclear export policies as perhaps the most stringent of any country’ and its requirement that a non-nuclear weapon recipient state be a party to the NPT as ‘virtually unique and highly commendable’.
The statement continues that Australia’s efforts to halt the growth in existing nuclear weapon stockpiles have been no less intensive as it continues to emphasise the responsibility of the nuclear weapon states to engage in effective nuclear arms control through negotiations such as the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The statement says that Australia’s ‘serious and sustained efforts to promote nuclear arms control have earned Australia the respect of the international community’. The United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency concludes that ‘it is entirely fitting that the first agreement for co-operation to be submitted’ to the United States Congress ‘for approval since enactment of the United States Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act is with a state of such impeccable nonproliferation credentials’. Perhaps our critics could note that.
The agreement with the United States incorporates all the Government’s safeguards requirements as announced by the Prime Minister on 24 May 1977. These include:
The basic undertaking that material and equipment transferred under the Agreement will not be diverted to military or explosive purposes.
The application of International Atomic Energy Agency- IAEA- safeguards to Australian-origin nuclear material in the
United States, Article 9. As a nuclear weapon state the United States is not required under the NPT to institute IAEA safeguards in its territory. It has however signed a voluntary safeguards agreement with the IAEA to provide for safeguards on its facilities ‘not of national security interest’. This agreement has yet to be approved by the United States Senate preparatory to being brought into force. For this reason the Agreed Minute to the agreement provides that deliveries of Australian uranium under new contracts can only start upon entry into force of the US-IAEA agreement.
Fallback arrangements to ensure continued safeguarding of nuclear material should IAEA safeguards for any reason cease to apply.
Provisions on retransfer to ensure that uranium supplied by Australia is not reexported by the United States unless we are satisfied as to the ultimate destination and the controls that would apply.
Provisions on high enrichment and reprocessing to ensure that these operations cannot take place unless Australia is fully satisfied about the arrangements and conditions. The requirement that these operations can only take place by agreement reserves our position on reprocessing, as we have said we wish to, pending the outcome of current international studies.
Provisions ensuring that adequate physical security will be maintained, to guard against theft or other illegal use of nuclear material by groups or individuals.
All these safeguards and controls to cover nuclear material derived from Australian uranium so long as it remains in a form relevant from the point of view of safeguards.
Provisions for consultations to ensure effective implementation of the agreement.
The format of this agreement differs from the safeguards agreements that Australia has previously signed. This is because of the elaborate co-operation provisions covering not only nuclear material but also other material, equipment and information, and the need to meet the provisions of United States nuclear safeguards policy as legislated in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978. This Act contains some provisions which are not among Australia’s own requirements and reflects the involvement of the United States in a wide range of peaceful nuclear activities. The inclusion of such provisions in the agreement is fully consistent with the intent of Australia ‘s own stringent safeguards measures.
Agreement with the United Kingdom
The agreement with the United Kingdom is the first Australia has signed with a member state of the European Community. As with all of Australia’s bilateral nuclear safeguards agreements, this agreement incorporates all of the Government’s safeguards requirements as announced by the Prime Minister on 24 May 1977 and to which I have just referred in detail in connection with the United States agreement.
Honourable members should be aware that in arriving at this agreement, Australia had to take into account the United Kingdom’s obligations under the European Atomic Energy Community Treaty. In particular, the provision in the agreement on retransfers takes account of the EURATOM Treaty requirement for freedom of movement of material within EURATOM. The agreement provides that material transferred by Australia to the United Kingdom would not be retransferred to any country other than the member states of EURATOM without Australia’s prior consent. Regarding possible retransfers to EURATOM countries, the agreement, Agreed Minute and Exchange of Letters envisage that, by the time deliveries of uranium to the United Kingdom take place, safeguards arrangements will be in force between Australia and EURATOM.
The Exchange of Letters attached to the agreement specify that Australia and the United Kingdom have agreed to reconsider the agreement before the end of 1982 if there is no safeguards agreement between EURATOM and Australia by that time. Australia, of course, has a strong interest in concluding a safeguards agreement with EURATOM as soon as possible and we hope that the European Community governments will reach early agreement on a mandate to enable the European Commission to negotiate with Australia on behalf of EURATOM. Once safeguards arrangements are in place, the way will be open for exports of Australian uranium to meet the peaceful energy needs of the EURATOM member states.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I was making a statement on our nuclear safeguards policy. I will continue that statement.
Control Arrangements on Uranium Concentrates- Yellowcake
During the parliamentary recess, I announced on 18 July that in future the export of uranium will be permitted from Australia without a requirement that Australian ownership be retained until it is converted to a form suitable for fuel fabrication or enrichment. I undertook in my statement to inform the Parliament of the decision as soon as possible after the session resumed.
Honourable members will recall that the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry in its first report drew attention to the fact that yellowcake does not attract full International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. The position is that the full intensity of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards does not apply until the uranium is in a form suitable for fuel fabrication or enrichment, that is, in the form of UF6, uranium hexafluoride, U02 uranium dioxide or, for certain reactors, natural uranium metal. The processing of yellowcake into any of these forms must be done abroad while there are no conversion facilities in Australia. The only requirement under NPT safeguards is that when exports of yellowcake take place the transfer be notified to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry saw this as providing opportunities for states to divert material to weapons production. As a result the Government in formulating its nuclear safeguards policy decided that any future sales arrangements for exports of Australian uranium should be such that the uranium will be in a form which attracts full International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards by the time it leaves Australian ownership. The Inquiry did not propose this measure. It saw the simplest means of dealing with the situation as being to require that no retransfers take place without Australian consent and this is of course one of the fundamental requirements of the Government’s safeguards policy. It is included in the agreements which Australia has already negotiated and will be included in future agreements.
The Government’s decision was taken before an anti-trust suit by Westinghouse Electric Corporation for treble damages had proceeded to judgment in the United States against certain Australian companies. As a result of the judgment, the requirement that Australian uranium remain in Australian ownership would have placed shipments of uranium overseas by those Australian companies at risk of seizure in execution of the judgment. This requirement of the
Government’s safeguards policy had therefore created unnecessary difficulties unrelated to the field of safeguards.
Honourable members will be aware from the remarks I have made beforehand in presenting the two most recent nuclear safeguards agreements to the House that, following negotiations on safeguards agreements with other governments, a practical framework for implementing the Government’s policy as announced in 1977 has emerged. The Government is satisfied that assurances that yellowcake will not be diverted can be achieved. What is important is that there is an adequate framework of control and the question of where ownership lies does not assist materially. This framework of control will include:
Australian Safeguards Office requirements governing physical protection during transport, storage and processing;
Australian Safeguards Office requirements for notification of the movements of nuclear materials; inter-governmental arrangements or agreements with processor countries; bilaterial nuclear safeguards agreements with the country of the ultimate consignee.
The Government is convinced that the framework of control will be fully effective and will maintain the integrity of Australia’s stringent nuclear safeguards policy.
To return to the primary purpose of this statement, Mr Speaker, the two agreements that I have tabled today are important achievements in giving effect to the Government’s nuclear safeguards policy. They demonstrate that Australia is playing a responsible and constructive role in helping to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The agreements are tangible evidence that Australia’s safeguards are a substantial contribution to the international network of nonproliferation arrangements. They also show that the policy is eminently practical and internationally workable.
I conclude by restating elements of the statements that have been laid before the United States Congress by the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. They lend full weight to what the Government has said about its safeguards policy. The House will recall the words I quoted earlier. The Agency said when laying its paper before the Congress that Australia’s active efforts on behalf of nonproliferation place it in a position of global leadership in this area’. It went on to describe
Australia’s nuclear export policies as ‘perhaps the most stringent of any country’ and its requirement that a non-nuclear weapon recipient state be a party to the NPT as ‘virtually unique and highly commendable’. I remind honourable members that the statement continued by saying that Australia ‘s efforts to halt the growth in existing nuclear weapon stockpiles have been no less intensive as it continues to emphasise the responsibility of the nuclear weapons states to engage in effective nuclear arms control through negotiations such as SALT and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
The statement says that Australia’s ‘serious and sustained efforts to promote nuclear arms control have earned Australia the respect of the international community’. The Agency concludes its paper by stating that ‘it is entirely fitting that the first agreement for co-operation to be submitted’ to the United States Congress ‘for approval since enactment of the United States Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act is with a state of such impeccable non-proliferation credentials’. We could not have firmer supporting advice about the stringency and the adequacy of the Governments safeguards policies. That support shows, as I said a moment ago, that the policies are eminently practical and internationally workable.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) by leave- The statement that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has made relates to safeguards agreements with the United Kingdom and the United States of America on the supply by Australia of natural uranium. In his last few remarks the Minister told us how stringent and important these safeguards arrangements are. I place on record that at Question Time today he was asked a question about the danger to mankind if Pakistan were to engage in the enrichment of uranium which could lead to a nuclear device being exploded. He properly expressed the fear of the world that this could happen. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) was also asked a question about the state of the stock market in respect of minerals, including uranium. He was very buoyant in his reply. He said that the stock market was booming.
Those answers indicate the fundamental problems of the Government at present. The Deputy Prime Minister is running the uranium policy. He is saying: ‘We will sell natural uranium because we need to sell it. We need to get some money.’ After it is sold, of course, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has to cope with the problems. It is then too late. Once it is sold and once it has left this country it undergoes the processes of enrichment and, when used, reprocessing, areas about which the Minister for Foreign Affairs expressed so much concern in his statement on safeguards arrangements. It is very significant that in all the safe countries in the world enrichment and reprocessing take place under government control. In Australia we have a government that will sell uranium to anybody. It has no idea what is going to happen, but it purports that it does because of a legal arrangement called a safeguards agreement. It has no idea what is going to happen to that uranium or who is going to be responsible for it because in the processes of enrichment and reprocessing the uranium becomes intermixed with other uranium from other suppliers.
The Government has to rely on the honesty and integrity of governments throughout the world. That is its best safeguard. Our Government must accept that fact. It cannot just rely on a document which purports to control the fuel cycle but has no way to achieve that. As I said in the recess, Australia should own and control its own uranium. If other countries are able to own and control the process of enrichment and reprocessing, it is equally important that Australia have an opportunity also to own and control its uranium. The Labor Party’s policy is very clear: The world has not yet developed satisfactory processes for handling this fuel to guarantee that mankind is not endangered. The answer given this morning to the Pakistan question is an adequate example. The problem of disposing of high level radio-active waste again illustrates the situation. These safeguards are not safeguards in any shape or form from Australia’s point of view.
The last time we heard a major statement on safeguards was in May 1977. We have not had any really comprehensive account of the Government’s policy since that time. There have been previous bilateral agreements, to which the Minister referred- I think there are five- and they have been negotiated on this particular premise:
Pending international acceptance of new international arrangements and institutions to provide more effective measures against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
That statement is a clear indication that the Government recognised that safeguards agreements are not effective. Australia has to do so much more in the development of these processes to guarantee safety. The statement reflects the fact that there are international discussions under way to improve non-proliferation regimes- these discussions are taking place in many places- in particular, the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation and the Preparatory Committee of the 1980 Conference to Review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In spite of the fact that Australian officials have been taking significant roles in these conferences overseas, we have not received any report in the Parliament on these issues.
In April 1978 the Opposition asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs on several occasions to table the Model Bilateral Safeguards Agreement but those requests were refused. In June 1978 the Opposition noted that the Model Agreement was published in the Sydney Morning Herald. In August 1978 safeguards agreements with Finland and the Philippines were tabled. Then in November 1978 the Minister tabled the Model Safeguards Agreement but he has continued to refuse to say which countries have received it. Agreements were concluded with Korea in May and with the United States and the United Kingdom in July and August 1979. We know that the European Commission has not yet obtained a mandate from the European Council of Ministers to negotiate an agreement with Australia. We know now that the Government has negotiated with France but there is a doubt about whether France will accept either the terms of the Australian Model Safeguards Agreement or the authority of the European Atomic Energy Community.
We know also that Australia has negotiated with Japan. Japan has no objection in principle to the terms of the Australian Model Safeguards Agreement but is firmly committed to accepting no agreement more onerous than any agreement with any European country. We also know that agreement was reached in 1978 between Australia and Iran on the text of a bilateral nuclear co-operation agreement. That agreement was not concluded because the then Iranian Government vanished. This event underlines the peculiar nature of the control exercisable by bilateral agreements. The Government has not mentioned anything about this. Nor has the Government told us, for example, that the Philippines has now decided not to proceed with the nuclear power reactor which it wanted to build and for which it wanted Australian uranium. The safeguards agreement with the Philippines, of course, offered no basis for control over the safety of reactor construction and operations in the Philippines.
I recently had a chance to visit Korea, Japan, Great Britain, the United States and other countries where there have been nuclear power facilities. I also held discussions with EURATOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. I want to make it clear that the world recognises the problems of energy. It also recognises the great danger of the misuse of uranium, particularly when it comes to weapon proliferation. It is very obvious that with all the countries in the world the only real safeguard is international arrangements and international control. That applies to the enrichment position, the reprocessing position, the plutonium position and the waste disposal position. International control of international arrangements is the only effective safeguard.
The first requirement is for the Government to discuss these matters in this Parliament. It is not appropriate for us to be told to wait until INFCE is finished. The results of INFCE could be limited. The fact that INFCE is taking place is no reason to prevent national discussion and effort by the Government to secure better arrangements for non-proliferation. We talk about what is happening in this country. It is very significant that, particularly in the State you represent, Mr Deputy Speaker, Pechiney, with the aid of the French Government, is exploring. I would say that it is able to find and develop uranium by itself. It is very significant that other governments in the world can move into this country and acquire natural yellowcake on that basis. There is no Government objection to that; but it is important, is it not, to talk about control of that fuel? As we encourage somebody to come into Australia and develop the uranium it is a bit limited to dictate to them what they may do with the uranium.
I think you will find that France will not accept that sort of dictate for the simple reasons I gave earlier that France is not at all impressed with the controls of EURATOM. For the very same reason, if one goes to France and to the French nuclear research and development establishments and one looks at the processes there, one will see that they are actively engaged- quite fairly, from their point of view- in establishing France as the ‘uranium OPEC of Europe’. That is important to France. The enrichment of uranium for export is going to be the major industry in Europe as far as France is concerned. It will be our uranium. I think the Government will find if difficult to dictate to the French as to what they may do with the uranium. The French want Australian control no more than EURATOM control. It is clear that governments can be dedicated to the pursuit of nuclear energy but it is important that we have a look at what sort of governments they are. There are other problems, such as the Three-Mile Island incident in the
United States. It has caused no end of trouble to the United States Government, no end of difficulty to the United States people. Any person representing the area where that nuclear reactor failed to function is not going to allow that reactor to be re-opened. No representative of that area will be suggesting that that should happen. While you have the problems of nuclear proliferation, even when well-intentioned governments look at uranium for peaceful uses there are grave problems in the use of fuel from the point of view of management, and certainly from the point of view of waste disposal.
It was put to me very clearly in the United States that if the US Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Three Mile Island incident found that fundamental problems exist in operating all nuclear reactors then that will end the commissioning of new power reactors in the United States, at least for the time being. At present, the nuclear fuel cycle in the United States has been set back at least five years because they are not satisfied with the safety of the fuel. The minimum consequence in the United States is likely to be a general restructuring of the electric utility industry to provide greater management and technical depth. In the next year we may expect nuclear policy to be a continuing issue in West Germany and Sweden. Both countries are having elections and in both cases nuclear power generation is going to be the subject of a democratic process- the people agree with it or otherwise. The unknown factor is the danger of the fuel.
The point I am trying to make is that we do not have to sell uranium at this stage. The world is not short of it. It has an oversupply of it. The Deputy Prime Minister is making a frantic effort to sell it in case the market drops. That is no way to handle this energy source. We should be formulating a policy for the Australian people. It is in the context of these wider problems of safety that we should look at the question of proliferation; that is, what we have to say about solving the proliferation problem will not solve these other problems.
Let us look at what is wrong with the Government’s safeguards agreement. The primary obligation imposed by the agreement is for the fuel cycles of recipient countries to be fully covered by safeguards. In the case of nuclear weapon states, Britain and the United States have established or are establishing safeguards arrangements for their non-military fuel cycles. France has declared its readiness to accept safeguards. The Soviet Union would like to buy Australian uranium, but the Government will not sell it. The
Minister has said in the Parliament that no safeguards agreement will be concluded with the Soviet Union. That is an interesting aspect. We have a safeguards agreement with Finland. We supply the fuel to Finland and it will be enriched by the Soviet Union. Chinese delegations to Australia have indicated interest in Australian uranium. Whether this Government would export to China is not clear.
The full fuel cycle safeguards arrangement is that required of parties to the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty. Such an agreement is intended to detect any diversion of material to make an explosive device. In the event of the NPT safeguards agreement or of other full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards not applying, Australia would have the right to institute its own safeguards, but only in respect of material supplied by Australia or equivalent quantities. At no time has it been made clear by what mechanism this ‘equivalent quantities’ principle will be applied, but there are good reasons to doubt the effectiveness or relevance to non-proliferation of our safeguards under this principle.
The Australian safeguards agreements, except the agreement with Britain, also include a right for Australia to exercise a veto on high enrichment, reprocessing or retransfer to another country of material of Australian origin. The capacity of Australia to do this is very doubtful indeed. It would seem to depend entirely upon the good will or good faith and application of the recipient country. Certainly, the IAEA, as the authority implementing the safeguards agreements, has no mechanism or authority under such agreements to track material by origin. Nor does the IAEA have an authority or obligation to inform Australia or any other supplier in the event of its being aware of the origin of the material. In other words, the real issue from the international point of view is non-diversion. This proposal to put obligations on countries in relation to enrichment or reprocessing will not be carried out. The whole issue revolves around the question of non-diversion. The question of accountability really does not arise. What we should be looking at when we talk about safeguards is the formulation of a proper policy. We have a Government that has an obsession about its policy.
I wish to make several observations about the Government’s policy. All the Government’s other actions in relation to the uranium industry are dedicated to diminishing governmental control over it. The Government’s actions tend to isolate the work on safeguards. As we have argued before, the work being done on safeguards is of limited relevance to nuclear nonproliferation. The efforts of other areas of government to isolate safeguards work diminish the prospect of making that work more comprehensive. Therefore, in no sense can it be said that non-proliferation and safeguards concerns dominate or have priority in the development of nuclear policy by the Government. Commercial considerations dominate the policy process.
The ultimate objective of any nonproliferation regime is to enable countries to have access to nuclear material for energy or for medical or industrial uses, while keeping away from national control or use the material and equipment which can enable weapons to be made. I commend to the Minister the paper presented in 1978 by Australia’s Dr Alan Wilson to a conference, which was convened by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute on nuclear proliferation. Dr Wilson is the head of the External Relations and Regulatory Branch of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and is currently the chairman of the key political working group of INFCE Working Group 3. In that article, Dr Wilson criticised the increasing burden of safeguards arrangements as being increasingly onerous, unworkable and of doubtful relevance to non-proliferation objectives. He called for the focussing of attention on sensitive areas of the fuel cycle and the establishment of an international co-operative to provide fuel supply assurance and to exercise control over the use of sensitive facilities and materials.
The Minister has proved himself to be unable to take a substantive view of the proposition that international plutonium storage be established, as was proposed by Mr Justice Fox. I hesitate, therefore, to ask his opinion of Dr Wilson’s proposal, but that is precisely the kind of proposal that the Government should be discussing and discussing openly in this Parliament. Instead, through the Deputy Prime Minister, the Government’s activity is focussed on shedding as much control of the uranium industry as we can as rapidly as possible. Last January the Government encouraged mining companies to seek sales contracts before safeguards arrangements were concluded. Instead, it should have used the prospect of fuel assurance as an incentive to secure the agreement of other countries to nonproliferation arrangements.
Last January the Government announced that it was proceeding further with a study of enrichment in Australia. Whilst the Deputy Prime Minister, in his statement at the time, said that other countries might join the venture, he failed to make clear whether an enrichment project would be confined to governmental participation. He ought also to have given some indication of whether the enrichment project would be used as part of an international arrangement for nonproliferation control. It has that potential, but the Deputy Prime Minister is more likely to try to ensure that the potential is not realised. We have the ridiculous situation whereby the Government is to sell its share in Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd and it could well be that the purchasers of that share will be the British Government, through its instrumentalities, which are anxious to buy our uranium. In other words, the bidders for the Australian Government’s share could be the British Government. It is important that it be the British Government from the point of view of safety control. But to think that we are shedding our share on the premise that it would be socialistic to retain it is utter nonsense.
In July 1979 the Minister announced that the Government would not insist that safeguards apply before uranium leaves Australian control. That was a necessary conclusion to the policy announced in 1977, unless that policy were to be brought forward, brought up to date and given more effect in non-proliferation terms. However, the Government’s overall policy has moved in the opposite direction. It is diminishing government control of the industry and is narrowing the effort on safeguards. Australia could have control of material until and while safeguards apply if agreement were reached with other countries on international control of the fuel cycle and if the Government were to acquire Australian uranium. I suggest that we acquire Australian uranium and control it all the way through the fuel cycle. That is the best safeguard for mankind. It is not a question of profit; it is not a question of socialism. It is a question of international safety. The Government acquires wheat. The Western Australian Government even acquires all the sheep in that State. There is no technical difficulty in the way of acquiring uranium. Such acquisition need not be seen by other countries as threatening supply. In fact, it could enhance it.
This month the Government has shed itself of even more control of the industry by putting its 75 per cent share of the Ranger deposit on the market. I note that a British Government consortium representing British Nuclear Fuels Ltd and the Central Electricity Generating Board is reported to be a bidder. While I was in Britain, the Central Electricity Generating Board indicated to me its interest in buying Australian uranium. I say that there should be no problem about the price. In fact, I suggest to speculators on the stock market that it will even go as high as $80 per lb. The current price is $40 per lb. To rise to $80 per lb is really something. Why would it go to $80 per lb? On the basis that it could still be economical to pay that price for it as against having to use oil, with the escalating price of the Middle East producers, or having to use coal which has to be extracted from 5,000 feet under the ground. There is no problem about the future of the price of uranium. I fail to see the logic of the Government’s position. Its decision -
– The only problem is that you will not sell it to them.
-The Minister’s problem is that he is not the one selling it. He stood up at Question Time this morning and gave a proper answer to a question. I give him top marks for it. He said: ‘I am very worried about what is happening in Pakistan’. Somebody has sold uranium to Pakistan without exercising any controls over that uranium.
– They are not signatories to the NPT and you know it.
-That is a legalism which the Government cannot enforce.
– And he has been telling me to bring down rules!
-The Minister is anxious to enter into the debate. His Government is happy to sell eventually to EURATOM. West Germany, which is also a member of EURATOM, is anxious to sell a reprocessing plant to Brazil, where our uranium also could go. I doubt very much whether the Minister for Foreign Affairs will be here long enough to follow the whole fuel cycle in terms of what will happen in 1985, 1990 or 1995. Let us get to the point of what we are about. On the question of uranium we are the only country in the world that will not own and control its own resources. I make the point again that in every other country every facility for enrichment and reprocessing is government owned and controlled. It is far better to do it that way than to have the problems in respect of which the Minister had to answer this morning.
I fail to see the logic in the Government’s position because the decision to sell off Ranger is a consequence of inability to sell Ranger uranium at the current price of $40 per lb. It therefore plans to sell off the whole property Does the Government expect that the buyers will compensate it at a level that they would not pay for the product? This is nonsense. We also have to ask: Who on the Australian scene has the capital to buy a 75 per cent share of Ranger, when Australian capital could not be found to take up 15 per cent of Yeeliree and Australian capital will have to be found to nationalise the Pancontinental project in which I understand the Getty Oil company has a 75 per cent interest? The point I mention in regard to Yeeliree is very significant. Here we have the Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, stating that he wants a nuclear reactor. The power production of the nuclear reactor is pretty substantial and Western Australia has a very small power demand at the present time. Every reactor has to close down for maintenance for about three months of the year. Having gone through the rigours and dangers of waste disposal at Yeeliree, or wherever the Premier proposes to put his reactor, one wonders what he intends to do when the reactor is closed down for annual maintenance.
-That is about as much as he could do. I am happy to see that that interjection has come from one of his supporters. The Government’s action on Ranger is to sell a significant national asset at a discount because it will not face up to the realities of the uranium market. The uranium market is soft. It will be even softer because this Government has refused to contemplate sequential development of the various mines in Australia. If the Government is going to get in, get the lot and get out as quickly as possible, it is going to get the lowest price. It is not a question of price. It is the understanding of the world that this is a fuel that is also finite; it is also going to run out. There is no problem about the future of the price.
The present problem is the use and diversion of the fuel. The course being pursued by the Government is both wasteful and dangerous. We should respect safety, waste disposal and nonproliferation issues ahead of all others and we should not push to export but await the developments which I believe will occur within the next few years and which will provide a much better guide on safety and waste issues. If those developments produce satisfactory results, then we will have a proper basis for international agreements. That is the solution. These agreements will ensure on an international basis fuel supplies for legitimate energy needs and standards for safety assurances in user countries. These agreements will ensure that the sensitive stages of the fuel cycle and weapons-usable materials are subject to international control and are used only for legitimate purposes. They will ensure that consumers adopt a satisfactory waste disposal technique. So far the Government has just hidden behind all those issues and has not faced up to advocating any policy in those respects.
Let me emphasise that the Government is pursuing a most disastrous course. It is a course that the Australian people do not accept, do not tolerate and will reject, and it is not the best approach to non-proliferation. The Government’s short sighted commercialism and its failure to grasp the initiative is a bargain with our children’s lives. Let me also emphasise that decisions on whether to proceed with nuclear industry will be taken outside Australia and beyond Australian influence. Australian uranium is not critical to the decisions of other countries. The Government has claimed that it can help to avoid nuclear proliferation by exporting uranium. That argument is against logic and against the interests of the safety of Australia and of the world.
– It is absolutely valid.
-It is not valid. Let me make the point in regard to the United Kingdom agreement that the United Kingdom is part of EURATOM and, once the United Kingdom enriches the fuel, that fuel becomes the property of, and under the control of, EURATOM. The whole agreement is based upon the fact that the Government is going to renegotiate it in a couple of years ‘ time on that very basis.
– It is not based on that.
-It has to be, because if it is not based on that EURATOM takes the fuel without any arrangement between this Government and EURATOM. Under the EURATOM treaty, EURATOM has the facility to acquire the ownership of that fuel immediately, once it is enriched. The whole idea of the United Kingdom taking the fuel is to enrich it, and once it is enriched it becomes the property of EURATOM. That is the reason why France is not prepared to enter into arrangements through EURATOM. It is not prepared to lose control over the fuel. That is the reason why recently in the European court there was a case on whether EURATOM had the right to enforce its authority over its members and that case was maintained against France on behalf of EURATOM. I have been to France and have discussed this with the Foreign Ministry. The French view is that when France buys this fuel France wants to know that it can do what it likes with it. It says that it will abide by safeguards. But they will not be the EURATOM safeguards; they will be France’s safeguards. If one looks at the enrichment processes in France one finds that the capacity of that particular process is for export and not for internal use. This Government has no nuclear safeguards agreements with France yet. France wants agreements with this Government, but it wants them on its own terms. How ridiculous it is when the Government is allowing the French to mine and develop uranium in Australia, and this they are doing very successfully. More power to them.
I was in South Korea, with which the Government has an arrangement, and I met Kim Dae Jung, who is under house arrest for about the fourth time. This is on the basis that he has no political rights. He said to me: ‘Do you think that we have a stable democracy in this country when we cannot have full, free and one-man-one-vote elections; when we see the trade union movement hindered; when we see those who have power getting into the issue of preventing me from having my normal rights? How safe is it?’
– Would that become a test for the sale of uranium?
-It could be a test, because this is the point that he makes: What safety is there in the future of Korea if there is no stability?
– I wanted to know whether that test of democracy was a condition for the sale of uranium, and it appears that it is.
-It should be. I do not want to enter into too much debate with the Minister at the moment, but the point is that he would agree with me if he saw Kim Dae Jung under house arrest and if he knew that there was no democracy in South Korea and that, as a former opponent of the President, Kim Dae Jung warned that there could perhaps be more strife. What stability is there? His plea to me was: ‘Can you get President Carter, who has 40,000 troops in Korea holding the peace and safety of South Korea, to use his leverage to get civil, political and human rights in South Korea?’ It is a very important thing. The Government has agreed to give the South Koreans uranium. The point that I am making is: What value is a safeguard if there is no stability of the regime? That is the significant point. This same point was made by the Minister in connection with Pakistan today. This can apply to a number of countries in the world.
– Would you sell to Pakistan?
– What I want to emphasise is that at the present time the Government is prepared to sell to anybody.
– No; you know that we will sell only to signatories to the NPT.
-The Government has no idea who is mining its uranium. It has no control over it once it leaves this country. The real and only safeguard is the international one. It has to be on a government-to-government basis. Uranium is an energy source that requires the maximum supervision and is not to be hived off to the private sector. This is one energy source that cannot go to that area.
– You won’t respond to the interjection about the NPT, will you?
-I responded to two issues. The Government has introduced here today an agreement with the United Kingdom which means nothing because it cannot last. It has to be renegotiated. My good friend the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), as a lawyer, will know that it has to be renegotiated. It cannot last. Yet the Government has introduced it here. The other agreement is with the United States, with which we have friendly relations and to which we have no objection, because it is a reputable power -
– You would sell to America?
-The United States controls the fuel cycle. I emphasise the point that the United States controls it. It controls the enrichment and the fuel processing.
– You will not answer.
-I will ask the Minister a question next week and see whether he can answer it. The point I am trying to make is that this Government has given itself a high power of credibility because of what the United States said in regard to the safeguards agreement. The United States controls every aspect of its fuel cycle and this Government does not. All it does is export yellowcake. It has no idea what happens to it after that. The United States does. That is the difference. The Government is prepared to sell any assets it has to get money, or at least the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) is. I think the Minister for Foreign Affairs is a little better than he is. The Deputy Prime Minister, we would say, would sell his mother-in-law if he could get the price. I do not want to be disrespectful. But it is no holds barred with that sort of attitude. The attitude of the Government is: Get rid of it as quickly as you can, but let us get the money. The issue is very fundamental. The Australian Government, irrespective of its policies from a political point of view, when it comes to uranium must always own and control that fuel as every other government does. No other government will part with it. Honourable members know of the problems already created in the world. There was the problem of West Germany negotiating reprocessing facilities with Brazil. The United States had to step in and exercise its muscle. The United States will have to step in and exercise its muscle in Pakistan. It will have to police real issues. So there is value in what the United States is about. This Government should be helping the United States in these international matters. The United States Government has a lot of problems and is in real trouble over the safe use of fuel. If honourable members talk to United States Congressmen they will find that the United States will opt out of the nuclear energy cycle at this stage if it can because of the dangers to the American people. However, the fundamental problem is with fuel. There is no problem about the market. It is important for a government of the future- that would be an Australian Labor Party Government- to own and control this fuel.
– by leave- In March this year I foreshadowed increased defence expenditure in 1979-80. I outlined the directions given by the Government to the defence administration as to the priorities that should be observed. I briefly recapitulate what those priorities were:
The growth in capital assets was to continue;
More money was to be spent on maintenance spares and other stores;
Restraints on service training activities were to be eased;
Those stores that had been depleted were to be replenished; and
Growth in manpower was to continue to be held down.
At the time, I spoke in terms of real growth of not less than 2 per cent. My colleague, the Treasurer (Mr Howard), last Tuesday informed the House of an allocation to the defence function of $2, 887m. This represents a real growth of about 2.6 per cent. It is the fourth consecutive year when the Government has provided for real growth. This morning the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) addressed a question to the Treasurer regarding the assessment of that 2.6 per cent. That was, in fact, based on a false premise. I would welcome an early opportunity, with officers of my Department, to explain to the honourable member why that is so. Given the overall budgetary context in which it occurs, this increase must be seen as a substantial one. We shall maintain a high level of investment in capital equipment and weapons systems. I shall be saying more later about a number of particular decisions that have been taken in this area.
From a level of 6 per cent of defence expenditure of 1974-75, investment in capital items has increased in each of the intervening years. On a common standard of constant August 1978 prices, the figures are $166m in 1974-75; $2 18m in the next year; then $3 19m, then $342m, and $400m in the year just concluded- getting towards a threefold increase. I repeat that those figures are at constant prices. However for some time, in order to release funds for new capital equipments, certain constraints were applied to that part of the defence outlay which supports training activities. It will be appreciated that when the services are obliged to observe restraints, inevitably that obligation is met in the current year of activity. Capital equipment involves long lead times, so too does the construction of facilities involve substantial time. Commitments with respect to equipment and facilities must be met as they fall due. There will be a substantial increase in expenditure on maintenance stores and equipment repair items. The expenditure for this year will be some 19 per cent above last year. In general terms the position with respect to maintenance stores and equipment repair will be satisfactory.
This country has invested considerable sums of money in defence facilities. These assets are extremely valuable. They are of immense operational significance. They enable a very high standard of operational effectiveness to be maintained. It will be appreciated that those facilities are to be found in many places throughout Australia. I am anxious that these assets should in no way be diminished. This year, expenditure on repair and maintenance of defence establishments will rise considerably above that of 1978-79. In parallel with this increased investment in the effectiveness and reliability of equipments in inventory- which will of course project forward into future years as increased deliveries come to hand- there will be an increased investment in human skill. Money is being allocated to enable more realistic training and exercising of the Defence Force. There will be greater expenditure on administrative support for these and other purposes, and on the movement of men and equipment. It is intended that there should be more opportunities for service personnel to undertake specialist training and promotion courses. More men will be sent overseas for training. This will apply particularly to personnel required to operate the guided missile frigates now being constructed in the United States.
Once again direct manpower costs will be constrained by limiting numbers where we can. Manpower costs will continue to account for just over half the total defence expenditure. Civilian manpower will be reduced by a further 400. However to absorb new equipments entering service, to permit the setting up of the counterterrorist unit previously announced and to meet other commitments, there will be a growth of service manpower of 600. Increases will be for Navy 250, Army 100 and Air Force 250, to a total target of 70,861 regulars. There will be some additional expenditure to reflect the Government’s decision to implement fully the recommendations of the Coldham Committee of Inquiry into Services Pay and Allowances, with the exception of a field allowance which is still under consideration. There will also be expenditure on some important facilities of which I might mention:
A new Army school complex at Bonegilla, on which works will commence this year;
A satellite communications facility at Watsonia, Victoria, which will be built to improve communications with our allies on intelligence matters;
The new Royal Australian Air Force operational headquarters building at Glenbrook, New South Wales, on which work will continue this year;
A workshop and refit building at Garden Island, New South Wales, primarily for the support of the guided missile frigates;
New patrol boat bases, on which work will commence at Cairns and, subject to parliamentary processes, at Darwin.
I turn to capital equipment. There are large financial implications for later Budgets in the decisions yet to be taken on major capital investments. There will be the new tactical fighters, the follow-on destroyers and the capabilities that could be needed when HMAS Melbourne is paid off. These will necessitate further increases in capital expenditure in future years. This year some $45 5 m are allocated under this heading, or 15.4 per cent of expenditure on the defence function. I point out that this provision is some 23 per cent higher than the level established in the 1978-79 Budget, although we did achieve a greater expenditure consistent with this Government’s policy of maintaining expenditure on new capital items and weapons systems at a high level. Expenditure will go chiefly:
On the three guided missile frigates being built in the United States;
The new amphibious heavy lift ship, HMAS Tobruk;
The new Fremantle class patrol boats being built in Australia;
The modernisation of the destroyer escorts at Williamstown; and
On residual payments for items such as the Leopard tanks and the additional P3C maritime patrol aircraft.
New acquisition decisions this year are relatively modest, so as to establish the potential for the very substantial initiatives of the coming years, to which I have already alluded. Commitments will be entered into on new decisions totalling some $129m. The comparable figure in 1978-79 was $ 103m. It has been decided to commit funds to the second phase of a program to ensure that the Mirage fighters remain capable through the 1980s. Some $43m will go into new short range missiles, gun ammunition, engine modifications and avionics updating for the Mirage. I should also mention briefly the Macchi advanced trainer aircraft refurbishment program. Planning is now well advanced. Long lead items have been ordered. The work will be undertaken at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation factory in Melbourne and Hawker De Havilland factories in Bankstown, New South Wales, and Guildford, Western Australia. The Macchi program is expected to commence in the middle of next year and extend through to 1984. A new mobile tactical air defence control and reporting system will be acquired to train our air defence fighter force in deployments around Australia.
New communications systems will be ordered for the Navy’s ships and related shore stations to give secure communication proof against interference. New high frequency radio antennas will be acquired for defence communications. Phase I of a new Discon strategic communications project has recently gone to tender and a decision on the type of system and the capability to be provided will be made in 1980. The new Discon network will provide substantially increased communications capability to the defence force. The Navy’s training capability will be improved by a new airfield radar at Nowra, and by a simulator to train the tactical command crews of our later destroyers. Forging facilities for the production of heavy ammunition are to be improved.
We have decided to provide the Oberon submarine with the facility to launch, while submerged, the formidable harpoon anti-shipping missile already able to be carried by the guided missile frigates and Orion patrol aircraft. Four survey motor launches will be built in Australia to accelerate charting of waters of defence and national importance in the Barrier Reef and north west areas. I now inform the House that, subject to satisfactory contractual arrangements being concluded by the departments of Defence and Administrative Services with French interests in respect of the supply of certain documentation, and with Vickers Cockatoo Dockyard Pty Ltd, that Australian Shipyard will build, to a French design, the new fleet-underway replenishment ship required for the Royal Australian Navy. The contract will be worth nearly $70m expressed in November 1978 prices, and will require Vickers to deliver the 17,000 tonne ship in 1983. Vickers Cockatoo has been chosen because of the competitive price and delivery timescale offered by the company, and the benefits which local industry will derive from the Australian build. This contract will ensure that valuable shipbuilding expertise and repair skills are retained in Australia. Several hundred new jobs will be created at Vickers Cockatoo and other Australian firms associated with the supply of material and equipment to the shipbuilding industry.
In addition to the direct involvement of Australian industry, offsets against the purchase of material and equipment from overseas are to be vigorously pursued by the shipbuilder. I might point out to the House that this will be the third major defence shipbuilding contract awarded to Australian firms in recent years. Other contracts were for the amphibious heavy lift ship, HMAS Tobruk, being built by Carrington Slipways of Newcastle, and the fourteen Fremantle class patrol boats being built by North Queensland Engineers and Agents of Cairns. There is a point on which I feel I should touch. It is a fact that the Australian Shipbuilding Industry has been plagued in the past with industrial problems. I am pleased therefore to inform the House that I recently received a delegation of ACTU officials who assured me of their full support in maintaining good industrial relations at Vickers Cockatoo, and in assisting the company to acquire the additional skilled workers for this task. 1 would like to thank the members of that delegation for their courtesy and very obvious sense of cooperation. I am grateful to them and I am sure that the country should be.
A few technical details may interest those honourable members who follow these matters closely. The ship will be of similar design to the Durance class of the French Navy. Although it will be smaller than HMAS Supply, it will be far more versatile. It will be capable of refuelling and providing a wide range of food and other stores, munitions, fresh water and aviation fuel necessary to keep RAN ships and their embarked aircraft operating on the high seas. It will operate helicopters, giving it the capability of resupplying warships by the method known as vertical replenishment. Because of its versatility, the underway replenishment ship will significantly improve the Navy’s ability to operate its combatant ships for long periods away from Australian ports. It will have a speed in excess of 19 knots.
I inform the House that the processes leading to the selection pf a new aircraft for the Tactical Fighter Force are proceeding precisely in accordance with the Government’s timetable. I emphatically reject claims by some desperately illinformed persons that there has been any delay in these processes. If the Government had responded to some of the critics and followed what is held out to be ‘advice’, then this country might well now be saddled with an aircraft that would not fulfil the role expected of it. The TFF project will be the most expensive contract this country has ever entered into. There are other matters of substance associated with the project. We are proposing to secure for this country an exceptionally high technology. The Government is determined that Australian industry will secure advantage from industry participation. Beyond these considerations there remains the fundamental one, namely, the defence interest of this country. The Government will not jeopardise that interest, nor will it put at risk the position of the Australian taxpayer and Australian industry. The Government will not in any way be influenced in its judgment by people not prepared to consider, and to consider honestly, the ramifications of this important project.
Evaluation teams charged with the responsibility of examining operational and technical aspects, and the extent of Australian industry involvement for the four contending aircraft, have made their reports. These are being considered within my Department. Consistent with my information to the House in March of this year, recommendations will be brought forward for Government consideration later this year on further reduction of the numbers of contenders. Detailed and intensive negotiations will then proceed with a view to final selection of an aircraft and commitment to a contract as soon as practicable thereafter. Present indications are that this could responsibly be achieved by the latter half of 1980. 1 shall continue to keep the House informed on this important project.
I now report briefly on the situation regarding the guided missile frigates. Three of these ships are on order. The first, HMAS Adelaide, is due for delivery to the Navy in September 1980. My Department has completed a comprehensive review of the tests and trials of the lead ship of this new class. This review by Australia was provided for in the agreement between the United States and ourselves under which the ships are being purchased. That agreement provides that Australia can withdraw from the program if the basic characteristics and performance requirements agreed to at the time Australia contracted to buy the ships have not been met. The review has concluded that the guided missile frigate will meet all essential design and performance criteria and will be well suited to the Navy’s requirements. Trials of the USS Oliver Hazard Perry have confirmed that these will be fine ships with particularly good resistance to shock.
I turn finally to the question of our seaborne aircraft capability. The Government will be seeking further information through funded studies by selected ship constructors on the capabilities and costs of particular aircraft carrier designs. I would like to make it quite clear that this step does not indicate any particular attitude of the Government towards acquisition of a carrier. The Government has not made a decision to replace the RAN aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. The additional information to be derived from the further studies is necessary to assist the Government in its judgments on whether a carrier should be acquired or not. Present indications are that the Government may be in a position to make a decision before the end of 1 980.
My Department has examined 16 responses to my earlier invitation to designers and constructors to propose investigations on aircraft carrier designs. The particular investigations will now be confined to studies of platform designs which could be suitable to carry vertical and short take-off and landing aircraft and /or helicopters.
Subject to the negotiation of suitable contracts, investigations will be carried out by: Empresa Nacional, Bazan, Spain with respect to the sea control ship currently under construction; Italcantieri of Monfalcone, Italy with respect to the Italian helicopter carrier Garibaldi and Litton-Ingalls of Pascagoula, United States of America with respect to a variant of the United States LPH class. Possible modifications to meet specific RAN requirements will be examined.
Despite the need for our most careful consideration of our resources at this time the
Government’s views of the importance of defence are emphasised once again by its significant increases in the Defence Appropriation. It will be possible to both move ahead in our plans for increasing the efficiency of the Defence Force and to prepare for the greater program of capital acquisition that lies ahead of us. When the Government has examined the advice from the Defence Committee deriving from the recent strategic review and has considered its consequences for Australia, I propose to make a further defence statement.
-by leave-The statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) can be described only as one which leaves one with a feeling of almost hopelessness for the future of our Defence Force. According to the figures published in the Budget Papers- I look forward to the Minister’s explanation of them- approximately 9 per cent of total Budget outlays will go to defence. The increase in real terms about which the Minister spoke is, I think, largely illusory. The Budget figures show that the cost of defence equipment and the cost of maintaining the Defence Force are advancing at a rate significantly faster than was set out by the Minister when equating the increase in real terms. An item of $30m has been included in the estimates for this year. Whilst that figure was part of the total defence vote for last year it was placed elsewhere in the estimates at that time. Therefore the basis of comparison changes.
The Minister chose to use real figures in some parts of his statement and in other parts he used estimates. I draw attention to one part of his statement where he did that. In his statement the Minister indicated that in this year’s Budget the provision for capital equipment is 23 per cent higher than it was in the 1978-79 Budget. Based on last year’s estimates that figure is correct, but based on actual expenditure the increase is 6.8 per cent. I do not think that those sorts of figures help our consideration of defence matters. This year’s share of gross national product diverted to defence is approximately 2.55 per cent. That represents the lowest share of gross domestic product devoted to defence since 1949-50.
Enormous problems are accumulating because the Government continues to defer the placing of major orders for defence requirements. Some of those orders could be placed. Its lack of action will mean that in the mid-1980s the capital equipment budget for defence will be of such a size that regardless of which party is in government it will probably be unable to be met. This year, as in recent years, the major proportion of capital equipment expenditure in the Budget allocations is for items ordered some years ago. Since the 1976 White Paper on defence was brought forward new equipment orders have consistently fallen behind the program set down by the Government. Still further behind are replacement orders or orders for new equipment required by the Defence Force.
I wish to point to some of the problems which will confront the Minister for Defence, whether it be the present Minister or some other person, in the very near future. At present the Navy has 12 major ships and three vessels are on order. It has already been announced that one of those 12 ships is due to retire later this year or early next year. Another is due out of the fleet in 1985. I refer to the major unit of the fleet, HMAS Melbourne. All the other vessels have had half life refits and can be said to be moving towards the time when their continued operation will be at the expense of defence capacity. Apparently no decision has been made regarding the future of naval air power, maritime air power, or maritime capacity. A further study will be undertaken.
HMAS Melbourne has five years of its effective life to run. Whether a vessel with similar capacity will be provided for the Navy or whether another form of maritime air power will be evolved is a decision which has enormous consequences for the future shape of our maritime forces. It has enormous consequences for the capital equipment component of our Budget. The cost of a new carrier, or a replacement carrier with equipment which is adequate to make that replacement a worthwhile investment, would be not less than $500m at current prices, and probably nearer to $ 1,000m. That expenditure must be coupled with additional expenditure for the provision of support vessels for that new unit of the fleet and for the shape of the fleet required.
Because of the present state of naval technology carriers are extremely difficult to defend. If it is decided that that form of capacity is not to be maintained but that another form of maritime capacity is to be evolved, planning for that replacement should take place at the earliest possible date. Resources which are currently used for the training of personnel and the maintenance of the existing maritime capacity should be made available to provide the necessary capacity to replace HMAS Melbourne. I think that this is common sense. I do not think that to date the time made available for these studies has been in excess of that which should have been required for a decision to be made with regard to the tactical fighter force. If we are to have three squadrons of aircraft by the time the Mirage becomes ineffective as a weapons system- I think that time has arrived already but that is a matter for other people to judge -
– If the honourable member is an expert, that is for him to decide. I am not an expert. I said that it is for other people to decide. Approximately 75 aircraft are desirable in order to provide a reasonable air capacity for our Defence Force by the end of the 1980s. I doubt whether budgetary constraints will allow that capacity to be achieved. Nevertheless, if we use the Minister’s figures the achievement of that capacity represents an expenditure of approximately $ 1,500m which must be provided for in the capital equipment section of the Budget during that period. That figure is in addition to the cost of a carrier and in addition to other extensive costs associated with maintaining existing facilities.
The current age and state of technical competitiveness of Navy surface vessels is alarming to say the least. Even the most recent fleet units, HMAS Swan and HMAS Torrens, are more than 10 years old. Given that the life of a surface vessel can be extended to around 25 years- I think that with the changes in modern technology that is doubtful- every unit of our present surface fleet will have reached the stage of obsolescence and of being incapable of meeting modern requirements within 13 years. Allowing for the three vessels that are on order, and ignoring the Melbourne, to maintain existing capacity we are confronted with a requirement for eight vessels. If a decision to acquire those vessels is ultimately taken it will cost not less than $200m per vessel- $ 1,600m in the next 13 years. It will cost $ 1,500m for TFFs and $ 1,000m or slightly less for an aircraft carrier plus associated equipment. They are the major items which catch one’s eye easily.
Since 1977 we have been deferring replacement of the 5.5 inch guns for the Army. We have now reached the stage where it is unreasonable to expect the Army to put many more than a dozen guns in the field in case of emergency. Those guns would be outranged and certainly way below current military technological capacities. The cost of replacements would be of the order of $lm to $1.5m per gun. The 105 mm light guns may be more difficult to replace because it is now apparent that most of the world’s armament makers have ceased manufacture of that type of weapon. The new orders announced in this Budget amount to approximately $180m. Over the next 15 years we will have cumulative requirements for capital equipment costing in excess of $4.5 billion. The Government is repeating almost exactly its performance of the late 1960s. In 1969 the then Minister for Defence, in a statement delivered at the same time of the year as the current statement, outlined a list of requirements which would be met for the defence forces. One year later the present Prime Minister rescinded the majority of those equipment purchase plans.
Today, because of that decision not to proceed with equipment purchases in 1 970, the Minister for Defence is able to say that there is to be a substantial increase in the amount of money spent on equipment this year as compared with 1974-75. The facts are- the Minister is as aware of this as I am- that the reason money was not spent on equipment purchases in that period is that the orders were not placed in earlier years. Therefore the equipment was not being delivered. The same situation will occur in about three years when the major items which make up the current equipment budget are paid for. At least that will be something. There will then be a lag in orders which will be followed by a massive build-up in financial requirements.
There is a serious problem in this situation. If the average expenditure in real terms remains the same but fluctuates wildly because of the way in which payments and budget allocations are made, effects must flow through to recurring expenditures within the Defence Force. I think it is a fault in the budgetary system that ought to be corrected. Nevertheless, it has not been corrected and therefore we have a situation in which in one year 6 per cent or 7 per cent of the defence vote may be required to meet existing debts or repayments for equipment and in another year the figure may grow to 1 4 per cent. It is not as easy to manipulate other sections of the defence budget to meet that requirement. The Minister almost totally neglected to mention other areas.
– I was not going to turn it into an all day speech.
-I am fully aware of that but I think that on some occasions, even if the Government cannot meet the requirements of the Defence Force, the House is entitled to know exactly the problems that confront the nation. I think that is very serious.
– In March of this year you got the most exhaustive statement on defence for years.
-I have read that speech. I found it different from the one in October and different from the one that has just been delivered. There is no mention in the statement of helicopters for the FFGs. If they are not ordered this year it is likely, given the normal delivery processes, that they will not be available for three to four years after the vessels are actually in service. If the helicopters are a vital part of the defence mechanism of the vessels, as I am sure they are, it seems to me that this would place the vessels at risk. There is no mention of the replacement of our minesweeper capacity or the mine hunters, mention of which has been made on a number of occasions in past years. Apparently at this stage provision for this area has slid out of the program. Those vessels are now 25 years old or older. The Minister has indicated that $43m will be spent on the upgrading of the Mirage aircraft- a doubtful investment, nevertheless one on which I think the Minister has decided on advice. He did not indicate, and I am not aware, whether the Swiss study of the capacity of the Mirage aircraft’s airframe to withstand an extended life- on which our future decision depends- has been completed and is available. If it is not available the statement in the Budget either anticipates the results of that study or indicates that we are prepared to take a risk with the aircraft’s stability. I hope the latter is not the case.
– Utterly false logic.
-An amount of $43m has been allocated. In the past the Minister has indicated that the allocation would be dependent on a study the completion of which to my knowledge has not been announced. In the previous statement the Minister announced that firm plans exist for a follow-on destroyer program, having announced three months earlier that a study was under way. I am not now sure which is the case but I am fairly certain that the study is still proceeding.
There are contradictions among the last three defence statements announced in this House, and they are very serious. There is no mention in the statement of any anti-armour capacity for the Army being purchased or being in the pipeline. This also is a deficiency which no defence force that is required to defend itself could afford to have continue. In this year’s Budget I note a figure of $20m to provide for increased fuel costs. The Minister has indicated that there will be a 1 9 per cent increase in the funds available to build up reserves in the areas of support. That 19 per cent increase reflects only the ill-advised reductions in last year’s Budget. Last year’s Budget provided for the reduction of reserves of fuel as a fund-saving exercise. This year we will restore the reserves at twice the price.
Another area which is of serious concern is that there is no mention of the changing of the computer capacity and electronics of the Fill aircraft. It appears that the Government has decided that the strategic situation is such that Australia can continue to have these aircraft without an adequate capacity for offensive or defensive action for at least a further 12 months. I would have thought, given the limitation on the availability of funds, the capacity of these aircraft and the importance of their role in the current concept of our defence, that the changing of the computer capacity and electronics of the Fill aircraft and the equipping of them with modern precision weapons would have been a very high priority in the estimates for the Department of Defence. These aircraft are extraordinarily good at finding a target. Until such time as they have a capacity to deal with a target they are a useless defence platform. Although this reequipment work was mentioned in earlier statements as proceeding, it is not mentioned in this statement. If a choice has to be made, the FI 1 1 aircraft is a better investment than the Mirage because there is some doubt about its capacity and there is serious doubt about its actual performance capacity as a modern fighter aircraft. In this statement by the Minister there is an air of complacency which is dangerous.
– I hope you get up at the briefing and put these views to the technical officers. We will see your strength then.
-The Minister has managed to arrange his briefing at exactly the -
– I want the ill-informed critics to come along and to see how good they are.
-I note that the Minister has arranged his briefing at exactly the same time as the Defence Sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence is holding public hearings. I also note that his briefing was timed to start five minutes ago.
– I think you might learn more there.
– Well, it is possible. After all, it is rare that any information is advanced on these matters. I return to the point I was making. The conservative parties in Australia have always been long on rhetoric and extremely short on performance. I hope that at some time in the future a conservative government and the Minister will match the levels which he set for other
Ministers when he was in Opposition. A reading of speeches made in 1974 and 1975, 1 think, will indicate the shortfalls in performance which are at present evident in the defence area. I reiterate that the constant deferment of taking action on major programs and apparent shortfalls of equipment items in the middle range which will fall back, on top of expensive equipment items which are of an enormous magnitude, will cause budgetary problems in the future which it will be almost impossible to meet.
The Government is now, as it was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, depending on what it plans to do, claiming credit for what has already been done, and, I am sorry to say, regularly reducing the share of the gross national product which is to be allocated to the defence vote. The Opposition views this statement with extreme concern and draws the attention of the House to the fact that in future years other Ministers will be criticised because of the shortfalls which are occurring in the Government’s defence program at this time.
Motion ( by Mr Newman) agreed to:
That the House take note of the paper.
– by leave- On 27 February 1979, I tabled a report of a Commonwealth-States Collaborative Soil Conservation Study entitled A Basis for Soil Conservation Policy in Australia’. The report has provided a disturbing picture of our productive land resources. Fifty-five per cent of all land in use in the arid zone is in need of conservation works and /or improved land management practices if its productivity is to be maintained, while in the nonarid more intensively used zone 44 per cent is in need of treatment. The report estimated that the capital cost of soil conservation works alone to treat affected land, or land at risk, was $675m at the 1 975 level of costs.
The national interest in soil conservation includes the long-term maintenance of the productivity of our land resources for domestic food and fibre requirements and for export earnings; the protection of water storages, watercourses, harbours and estuaries from siltation; the maintenance of water quality; the reduction of damage to roads, bridges, and so on; and the protection of flora, fauna and inland fisheries. The accelerating pace of soil erosion and land salinisation is placing these valuable resources in jeopardy. The report recognises that the full cooperation of governments and landholders is required if remedial measures are to be successful and if the problem is to be contained. The report, therefore, addresses specific recommendations to each of the three tiers of government and identifies the key role of land management practices in the control of soil erosion and land salinisation.
The basic conclusion of the study is that soil conservation throughout Australia must be accelerated. The Commonwealth Government acknowledges the relevance of this conclusion to the recommendations addressed to it. These deal with financial assistance to the States, research, soil conservation in the Territories, taxation policy, administrative arrangements and education. My Department will now enter into discussions with the States on a proposal for a national soil conservation program, under which financial assistance would be provided for approved projects. The elements which the Commonwealth would like to see emphasised in such a program are:
A total catchment approach to the planning of soil conservation and the progressive implementation of projects in a technically and economically sound sequence;
Priority funding for projects in areas of declared soil erosion hazard, protected water catchments, or areas otherwise formally designated as being of particular significance;
The full participation of State and local governments and landholders in the funding and maintenance of projects; and
An equitable distribution of costs between all the parties concerned.
The extent of Commonwealth assistance will in part depend on the capacity of the soil conservation authorities to handle an accelerated effort and, in the longer term, on the extent to which the States are prepared to allocate additional funds from their own resources for such an effort.
With regard to the recommendation on research, we will be taking up a proposal for Commonwealth funding of a national research program through the Commonwealth-States Standing Committee on Soil Conservation. It is likely that suitable research projects will be carried out by State soil conservation organisations, which would provide the basic equipment, facilities and supervision. The report also recommends that, in respect of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, the Commonwealth pursue the recommendations addressed to the States. In the case of the Australian Capital Territory, this is accepted. The Government of the Northern Territory must answer for itself on this recommendation.
The role of taxation policy in encouraging landholders to take appropriate action for the control of soil erosion has also been raised. It will be recalled that I informed the House last March that the Government had agreed to a review of taxation concessions as they currently applied to water resource expenditures, and I will now be discussing with the Treasurer (Mr Howard) the enlargement of this review to include soil conservation. As recommended in the report, the Commonwealth has now clarified departmental responsibility for its interests in soil conservation matters, The Department of National Development has responsibility for the Commonwealth’s soil conservation policy interests and the administration of programs of financial assistance. It has similar responsibilities for water resources. The Department of Primary Industry will continue to have responsibility for the secretariat of the Commonwealth- States Standing Committee on Soil Conservation because of the placement of the majority of soil conservation organisations in State departments of agriculture.
Finally, the report recommends Commonwealth support for the establishment of a graduate and a post-graduate college in soil conservation at an Australian university or college of advanced education. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has informed me that in the current climate of restraint in public expenditure, it woul not be possible to provide special funds for soil conservation courses outside the existing funding arrangements for tertiary institutions. However, there are appropriate procedures for the soil conservation authorities to influence the content of courses at tertiary education institutions towards a higher soil conservation component. In fact, this is already being done. It is now up to the soil conservation authorities to consult with appropriate tertiary education institutions with firm indications of the support likely to be forthcoming for course units relating to the training of soil conservationists.
I would like to stress that responsibility for soil conservation rests with landholders, local and State governments. The Commonwealth has no desire to intrude into this area. More important than Commonwealth assistance to the States for dealing with the serious problems which are now apparent is the extent to which the States progressively implement the recommendations in the report addressed to them on policy, administrative and legislative requirements, staffing, training, et cetera; the extent to which local governments have due regard to soil conservation requirements in carrying out their subdivision, land-zoning and public works responsibilities; and the extent to which landholders adopt land management practices which ensure that their current use of the land does not prejudice the interests of future generations. We will be using our influence to the full to encourage the State and local governments and landholders to implement these recommendations. I present the following paper:
Response to the Commonwealth-States Collaborative Soil Conservation Study Report- Ministerial Statement, 23 August 1979.
-by leave-The Opposition largely supports the recommendations of the Research Directorate of the former Department of the Environment, Housing and Community Development which produced this report entitled ‘A Basis for Soil Conservation Policy in Australia’. It is also encouraged by the Government’s response to the recommendations which the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) in large part accepts. It is, I believe, a very good report. I have had a copy of the report together with the statement for only a couple of hours. I should like to examine it further but a cursory reading of the report seems to indicate that it is a report of real merit on a topic that has occupied the thoughts of many Australians both in the past and at present. I shall read some of the Minister’s comments on soil conservation in the statement. He said:
Fifty-five per cent of all land in use in the arid zone is in need of conservation works and/or improved land management practices if its productivity is to be maintained, while in the non-arid more intensively used zone 44 per cent is in need of treatment. The report estimated that the capital cost of soil conservation works alone to treat affected land, or land at risk, was $675 m at the 1 975 level of costs.
That is quite a significant comment by the Minister arising out of the report and a significant conclusion of the committee which drafted the report. I believe that the report should be digested by honourable members and taken seriously. The authors of the report make the point that the Commonwealth does have State-like functions in the Territories, particularly the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and other federal Territories, but more importantly, that it has State responsibilities in these areas, not only for soil conservation and water policy but also to co-ordinate with the States on the question of soil conservation for the benefit of all Australians, particularly those in rural industry.
The study also looks at the relation between production and conservation- the inevitable trade-off between commerce and the environment or enterprise and the environment and makes recommendations. But primarily it sees the Commonwealth having a research and coordinating role. Importantly, in its recommendations it urges the Commonwealth to join with the States on a soil conservation program, on a total catchment approach and with priority funding in declared areas of soil erosion with full participation by the State and local government authorities concerned. The Commonwealth has gone on to say further that there ought to be an equitable distribution of costs between the parties. It is encouraging that the Government has accepted the report. I know it is a practice in this House for the Government to introduce reports of this nature with a statement, but it is a shame that the Opposition does not have a chance to study the value of the report before a statement is made so that a comprehensive and detailed analysis can be undertaken by the Opposition and a suitable response made to the Government. I am not in a position to do that. One cannot be the oracle on these matters without first understanding the copy, text and recommendations of such a report. We on this side of the House look forward to a debate- I hope a bipartisan debate- on this question sometime in the future. But I also say that those of us who have had a chance to look cursorily at the report offer our congratulations to those who drafted it.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Australian Government to meet the housing needs of low and middle income earners.
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-
-The Fraser Government has neglected people in need of housing as much as it has exploited the unemployed. After the security of having a job, the next most important determinant of a person’s well being is the security of having a decent place in which to live. Next to unemployment, the provision of shelter is the most serious crisis in our community today. The strategy of this Government involves making people insecure, both where they work and where they live. Ordinary people are reacting strongly to this inhumane Government that, without any sign of caring, has presided over the loss of 195 jobs a day since it took power on that tragic day, 1 1 November 1975, and the addition of 75 people a day to the ranks of the unemployed since that time. At the same time, there are 93,000 families on the waiting lists of the public housing authorities and the housing commissions of this country. About 50,000 people are without homes in New South Wales alone. There are 15,000 homeless youth in Victoria alone. There are about 250,000 people living in temporary accommodation and caravan parks.
This Government is responsible for at least five major housing problems that are causing increasing hardship for low and middle income earners; that is, the two out of three workers who receive below average weekly earnings, those on pensions and welfare payments and the unemployed who receive the miserable pittance that this Government calls an unemployment benefit. The five housing problems are: First, a growing shortage of emergency accommodation in this country; secondly, a continuing decline in building industry employment; thirdly, increasing rent costs; fourthly, declining public housing stock; and fifthly, but not the least important, the restricted access to home ownership, particularly for low and middle income earners. These problems, as the Labour Government recognised in its urban and regional development programs, are inter-related. The housing problems are the result of the Government’s cruel economic strategy of transferring funds from the public sector to the private sector- the corporate sector- and of transferring services away from the social needs of the people and directing funds to serve the private profits of the corporate sector of industry.
First, let us look at the crisis resulting from the shortage of emergency accommodation. The shelter organisation estimates that existing emergency accommodation can house only 45 per cent of the emergency housing inquiries which are coming in at the rate of at least 5,000 a month in Victoria alone. Those who cannot obtain housing are forced to sleep in parks, cars, toilet blocks and alleyways. This is not fiction, it is fact. It is about time that this Government understood the real problems. They can be seen in the western suburbs of Sydney and particularly the western and northern suburbs of Melbourne, especially amongst the unemployed youth. People receiving $36 a week and even those who are 18 years of age and over and who receive $51.45 a week cannot afford to pay private rents. Rent prices in Sydney and Melbourne have increased by 1 5 per cent to 20 per cent over the last year. The cheapest two-bedroom flats available in either city cost around $50 a week. If a house or a flat is shared it may cost a person about $20 a week but that cost still absorbs 55 per cent of the income of the young unemployed person receiving the so-called unemployment benefit. These people cannot even afford bond money. They have to save it and it is extremely hard to do so. At this stage, let us note two things. Firstly, the Government is not paying people, especially the young unemployed, a living wage. Secondly, it is not providing sufficient emergency accommodation to meet these people’s housing and shelter requirements.
I now take up the second of the five critical problems- the loss of jobs in the building industry. Since May 1975, 71,000 people in the building industry have been put out of work. Unemployment is creating inability of people to pay for housing or, as the econocrats call it, a fall in effective demand. This is leading to a downturn in the production of housing. The Government’s failure to fund housing to the level necessary to meet the needs for it is causing further unemployment. Unemployment in the building industry is causing long term problems for the industry in the form of reduced capacity. Those who leave the industry go elsewhere for employment if they can find it, leaving the industry short of the training skills necessary to bring about the increase in the provision of housing that is clearly necessary. The problem of falling apprentice intakes is well known. It worsens every day.
Let us now look at the third problem- the increasing costs of rent and the Government’s policy to move towards market rents. Some technocrats seem to be advising very strongly that the way to transfer wealth to get money for public housing is to increase market rents so that people in Housing Commission homes can pay for the bulk public housing expenditure. The market related rents under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement are causing increased hardship, particularly to low and middle income earners. These are the people for whom this Government says it provides public rental housing. Let us look at the facts. Between December 1975 and March 1979 the price index of private rents rose by 1 8 per cent. Yet in the public sector, over the same period, the price index of government rents, particularly those under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, rose by 49 per cent. In Victoria the move to market rents has meant that at least two in five Housing Commission tenants were in arrears in February 1979. Since the new policy was introduced 40 per cent of people living in Housing Commission homes in Victoria are in arrears in their rent payments.
The Government says that it provides rebates for low income earners. But the rebates come after they have scraped up the money to pay out in the first place. One in three of Victorian Housing Commission tenants received rebates in 1978-79. Rebates make up 15 per cent of the rent charged. The money, therefore, is merely doing the rounds of the bureaucracy. But the tenants suffer increasing insecurity, as the number of tenants in arrears and the number of notices to quit demonstrate. On the private rental market there is even more insecurity. Low income earners still living in Sydney’s inner suburbs will soon be thrown out or they will be forced out by increasing prices as those suburbs are occupied by higher income groups. They will be forced out if the landlord decides that he wants to sell out because he wants a higher price and as the increasing demand and reduced number of available dwellings for rent pushes up prices still further.
There has been a decline in the number of public rental units. In Victoria, for instance, the number has fallen from 40,400 in 1974-75 to 39,900 in 1977-78. What is needed is government intervention in the market place as the Labor Government did between 1972 and 1975. The Labor Government bought the Glebe Estate of 750 homes. It helped the then conservative government in New South Wales acquire homes in Wooloomooloo. It co-operated with the Hamer Government in respect of Emerald Hill. That is the only way to protect people on low incomes living in inner suburbs. If market forces prevail those people wanting to live in inner suburbs, particularly those with wealth, will force out the battlers.
Let us look at the fourth problem. As a result of this Government’s cutback in funds to the States under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement and other government housing programs there has been a reduction in the public housing stock. Funding for public housing is now only one-third of what the Labor Government made available in 1974. In 1974-75 $702m was made available by the Labor Government for public housing. This Government has now reduced the allocation in real money terms to one-third of that amount. Existing housing stock is being sold off. In 1976-77 there were 13,000 public housing commencements under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement alone. Now, State housing Ministers expect that only 6,000 homes will commence in 1978-79. There are 93,000 families on the waiting list yet commencements have been reduced from 13,000 in 1976-77 to 6,000 in the current year. The Government has failed to replenish the public housing stock. There is plenty of room for the rehabilitation of existing housing to be made available to low income earners but this Government prefers to neglect the needy, encourage market forces and profit the rich. Under the Glebe housing project 750 homes were purchased by a federal government. Over 100 of those dwellings are still vacant even during the administration of the present Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom). The Government could do something about rehabilitating those homes. Such a move would be labour intensive and would create employment. At the same time, the Government could rent the houses and increase revenue. The houses which we bought for $ 17.5m are now valued at over $35m. There has been a large increase in real value. Of those houses 100 are still lying vacant.
The final problem concerns the restricted access to home ownership. The home savings grant scheme applies to houses of a value of less than $40,000. In Sydney in May 1978 the average price of an established house was $47,700. In June 1979 it was $58,900. There are very few homes to be bought today for less than $35,000, the level at which the full entitlement to the home savings grant applies. It requires an income of around $220 a week to secure a $25,000 loan repayable over 25 years at an interest rate of 91/2 per cent, if a person can obtain a loan at that rate of interest. On this basis it would take at least four years for a family with two children and one income earner on average weekly earnings to save the deposit to buy a $35,000 home. The assumption is that the family can save onequarter of its income during that period to bridge the deposit gap. But by the time that amount is saved the price of that house may well have risen from $35,000 to $45,000. Access to home ownership is increasingly becoming something that only dual income families or high income earners can afford.
Dr Bromilow of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has estimated that a few years ago nine out of 10 people could afford to buy an average priced house. Today only two in 10 can do so. With increasing unemployment and reduced real spending power the ratio of bad debts of insured loans has increased from one in 1,000 in 1972-73 to one in 78 in 1 978-79. In this climate of insecurity the Government is proposing to sell off the profitable and essential Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. This Government is selling out the needy of this country. The Government is acting in a selfish and greedy way. It stands condemned for its failure to meet the housing needs of not only the needy but also the middle income earners.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), in speaking about unemployment, conveniently forgot to mention that the actions of the Labor Government in 1974 and early in 1975 put over 190,000 people out of work. That is not a record of which that Government could be proud. We are now seeing the picture changing within the housing and construction industry of this country. In recent times many people have been re-employed in that industry.
This Government welcomes the opportunity seriously and sensibly to describe its approach to the satisfying of the housing needs of our low and middle income earners and to put its substantial achievements on record. In that approach we have been economically realistic but at the same time very sensitive to the welfare needs of the Australian community. Certainly the Government sees the private housing sector as being very important. Perhaps that is where we differ from the Labor Opposition. After all, more than nine out of 10 Australians satisfy their housing needs in the private sector. At the same time we do, as we must, recognise the need for public housing to assist those in need. But we certainly do not have as our primary aim in government housing policy an expansion of the public housing sector. That would appear to have been the aim of the Labor Government. I am pleased to say openly and frankly that the Government’s approach is certainly very different from that of the Australian Labor Party when it was in government.
I think it is worth making one or two comments about the recent Adelaide conference of the Australian Labor Party. The debates which took place and the decisions which were arrived at during that conference disclosed a distinct preference for public rental accommodation under the control of State housing authorities. I agree that there is a need for a reasonable rental stock, but I do not believe that it should be the preferred and essential aim of government policy. However the honourable member for Reid, as the Opposition’s housing spokesman, and the Labor Party generally do not share the aspirations of the vast majority of Australians who want to own their own homes. The Labor Party does not want to increase the level of home ownership. It would prefer to see it reduced and the stocks of rental accommodation increased. It would prefer to see a greater dependence on government handouts.
– I raise a point of order. I take offence at what the Minister said. It is totally untrue. It is scandalous. The record of the Labor Government shows its great conviction about home ownership. I do not think the Minister’s statement should be allowed to go unchallenged.
– Order! The honourable member for Hughes will resume his seat. He is well aware that that is not a point of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to clarify the position. When the Minister finishes his speech I will make a personal explanation because there has been complete misrepresentation. I will clarify the position.
-It will be completely in order for the honourable member to do so at the end of the Minister’s speech.
-I refer simply to the matter of the home savings grants scheme, which the Opposition, when in government, decided to abolish. Its spokesman on housing has said on at least one occasion since then, from recollection, that he would again abolish the home savings grants scheme if he had opportunity to do so. I do not believe that he will have an opportunity to do so. Is that support for home ownership? The Opposition would prefer to see greater dependence upon Government handouts. On the other hand, the Government ‘s philosophy is: Let us provide generous help for those in real need, in genuine need, but those not in need must be encouraged to have a go and, if possible, become selfsufficient and independent, not reliant on public support.
As a government, we realise that there are many deserving families which have to battle and which do not have the resources to enable them to go out into the private housing market to purchase a house or rent accommodation. We say that we must help them us much as possible. They should be aided and must be helped. That is what the Government is doing. Other families, with some encouragement from government, both State and Federal, will be able to move away from dependence upon public housing accommodation. Let us also give those families that sort of encouragement because when they do become independent they will be able to decide upon the sort of accommodation they should have, where they should live and the size, shape and colour of their house. As a result, the tax burden borne by the taxpayers will be reduced.
The honourable member for Reid made one or two points on the subject of market rents. The whole aim of the market-related rent policy is to ensure once again that public housing funds are directed towards assisting those in most need. The Labor States, through their Premiers, have supported and agreed with that policy. In fact they signed the 1978 Housing Agreement, which set in train that policy. The policy also provides that those who are in need and who are suffering some sort of hardship should be provided with an income-related rent rebate, so that those who can pay a bit more should pay a bit more and those who need proper support should be given proper support. That is the essential aim of the Government’s policy.
The honourable member for Reid has again made the error which he has made many times in equating housing funds with Commonwealth outlays. Commonwealth outlays in fact are a very small proportion of the total funds available for housing in this country. The total amount of money available, private and public, exceeds $7,000m. So it is quite wrong to suggest that the reduction in outlays directly from the Commonwealth will have the dramatic effect that the honourable member for Reid suggests it will have on total housing in Australia. He focuses almost entirely on public housing in this country. He seems to forget about the private sector. In doing that he focuses his attention on the amount that the Federal Government is spending and tends to ignore the other amounts of money which are provided by the States from their own resources and also the so-called revolving funds, which are funds generated out of the sale of houses provided in the past under Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement funds and from rentals. In fact, on the best estimates and advice available to us of the position in the last financial year, the total amount available, from all the sources in public welfare funding for housing was about the same as that for the previous year.
We have provided many important initiatives to assist housing in this country. I believe that our record as a government in housing is one of which we can be very proud indeed. We have done a great deal. One of the major initiatives was the 1978 Commonwealth-State housing agreement. It was an important step forward and has been described by most of the authorities, most people who know something about public housing in this country, as the best housing agreement ever. The record so far certainly supports that view. The flexibility of the 1978 agreement enables the States to attract private capital into the program.
I mention by way of example the interest subsidy scheme agreed to not so long ago between the Western Australian Minister for Housing and me. By allocating $2. 3m to the homes purchase account fund, spread over an eight year period, the Western Australian Government has been able to attract about $I4m from the building societies for immediate lending to low income families. This approach has provided some 500 loans for these people. I think it is important that the States must look to the private sector and to private funds to provide additional finance to help those in need of public housing. As I have said, most Australians satisfy their housing needs in the private market. As long as governments provide the right climate, the market can and
does operate to assist in housing low to moderate income earners.
I do not have time to detail all the achievements of this Government in improving access to housing through the private market. We have, of course, moderated the rate of inflation which has had a dramatic effect on the cost of building materials. On an average annual basis the price index of materials used in house building rose by 6.4 percent between 1977-78 and 1978-79. That was the fourth successive yearly decline since 1974-75 and the lowest increase since between 1970-71 and 1971-72. As I have done in previous debates on this subject, I mention the comparable annual increase. In 1974-75, when we had a Labor government, the increase was 21.2 per cent. So again, we see a significant achievement there. The general reduction in mortgage interest rates in most States has had a substantial and beneficial effect for home buyers. Our unparalleled success in ensuring an adequate supply of housing finance has been of great benefit to people seeking to buy houses in the private sector. I seek leave- I trust that the honourable member for Reid will give it to me- to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out the figures on the amount of funds being provided by the major lending institutions.
The table read as follows-
– The Budget also reports further innovation in welfare housing funding. This year, under the administration of my Department, we are providing earmarked funds for Aboriginals and increased funds for pensioners. Last year we provided $ 1 4m for pensioners. That allocation has been increased by 114 per cent. The allocation this financial year is $30m. We are providing $20m in the form of grants to the States to assist Aboriginals. We are ensuring that funds are provided for these special groups in the community. We believe they are among the worst housed in Australia and they are in need of this sort of support. All up, $100m is being provided in grant money this year, compared with $ 1 4m last year. This means that we cannot make a simple comparison between the funds provided last year and the funds provided this year because of that substantial increase in the amount of grant money available. This will give the States an opportunity to attract funds from the private sector to use in their programs.
I make one important comment about the size of waiting lists for people seeking rental accommodation within the States. It is interesting to note that the honourable member for Reid mentioned the figure of 93,000 people. That was not in accord with the information which has been provided to the Government by the States. The evidence shows that during the period of the Labor Government we had the longest waiting list in the history of this country of people seeking assistance from governments for welfare housing. If we look at the figures for June 1975 we see that at that time 105,753 people were on waiting lists in the States. Our policies have started to bite and the numbers on these welfare housing waiting lists are falling. By December last year the number of people on the list had dropped to 74,000. For the number to drop from 105,753 to 74,000 is a massive improvement. I agree that there are still too many people on those waiting lists but we have made a substantial reduction in those lists.
Our housing policies have been highly successful. I have no doubt that they will continue to be successful in the years to come. They have depth and they have been carefully thought out. They are not based on a philosophy of simply imposing higher taxation and of spending more money to overcome all the problems. Our approach is not as superficial as that. Our policies are certainly working. They are assisting the low and middle income earners in this country to get into houses and are providing them with suitable accommodation. The Government totally rejects the points of view expressed by the honourable member for Reid.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Does the honourable member for Reid wish to make a personal explanation?
Mr UREN (Reid)-Yes. I wish to make an explanation concerning two points, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) said that I had stated that there were 93,000 housing commission applications. He said that that was wrong and then gave a figure. He made available to me a table which clearly sets out this information but he did not read the footnote which states:
Note ( I ) figures from and including 30 June 1978 are for rental accommodation only. Earlier statistics for some States include application for the purchase of a housing authority dwelling.
I gave the number of all outstanding applications for housing commission homes, whether for rental or purchase. The second point I wish to make is that the Minister said that the Labor Party, through its spokesman, had stated that it did not stand for private home ownership. It is true that in a great deal of my speech I stressed that that applied to the needy but I also dealt with the need to make money available for private home ownership. I pointed out that last year the average cost of homes in Sydney was $47,700 and that this year it is $5 8,900. 1 pointed out -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I suggest that the honourable member for Reid is moving away from his personal explanation. He knows jolly well that the Labor Party knocked off the homes savings grants scheme, for instance, which was part of the home ownership program of our Government.
-Order! The honourable member for Mitchell has raised a point of order that the honourable member for Reid is moving away from his personal explanation. I have been listening very carefully and in my judgment he has not done so yet. I think the honourable member for Mitchell was raising issues of argument in his point of order.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I made the position perfectly clear. I said that a person could not acquire a home in the private sector today for less than $35,000. 1 said that the maximum loan that a person -
– With respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member is now debating the issue. He is going on with this debate.
-I ask the honourable member for Reid to deal specifically with the points on which he was misrepresented by the Minister.
– The Minister said that we were not concerned about private home ownership. In my speech I clearly set out our concern and the need for people to acquire homes through private home ownership. I said that even a person on average weekly earnings- around $220 a week- could afford a loan of only -
– I take a point of order. I believe that the honourable member for Reid has made the point as to where he claims to have been misrepresented. He is now debating the issue and I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to rule properly from the Chair that he has finished-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! Is the honourable member for Bendigo inferring that I am not ruling properly?
– Not at all. I am asking you to rule properly.
-By that statement the honourable member for Bendigo is inferring that I am not making a proper ruling. I ask the honourable member for Bendigo to withdraw that remark.
– If you take it that way, I withdraw. Will you now please-
-Order! I have already advised the honourable member for Reid to stick specifically to the aspect in respect of which he has been misrepresented by the Minister and not to debate the issue.
-I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for your tolerance. I want to make it clear that, for the majority of people who are disqualified from the private home ownership, we will do everything in our power to bring home ownership within the right of an individual. We on this side support private home ownership for the individual. It is up to the individual to decide whether he wants to buy a rented home through the public sector or to acquire a home through the private sector, and we will try to assist him to acquire such a home.
-The discussion is concluded.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill complements the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1979 and is consistent with the amendments moved by the Government to the Customs Bill 1979. It repeals and replaces the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act 1960 which deals only with interception of information passing over the telephone system. The Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security recommended that ASIO’s powers of interception should be extended to interception of information passing over all telecommunications systems and this Bill so provides.
Part II of the Bill makes unlawful, subject to limited exceptions, the interception of communications passing over a telecommunication system. It is also made unlawful for an officer of ASIO or Customs to have access to telegrams except as provided in the legislation. The circumstances in which information obtained by interception of a communication passing over a telecommunication system or by virtue of a warrant under the Bill may be divulged are carefully regulated in clause 7. Provision is then made in Part III for the issue of warrants by the AttorneyGeneral and, in emergency circumstances, by the Director-General, authorising ASIO to intercept communications passing to or from specified telecommunication services subject to safeguards similar to those provided in the present Act. Like provision is made in relation to telegrams.
To meet the urgent national problem of narcotic offences, the Government has decided that the power of interception of all forms of telecommunications should be available to assist in the detection of Customs narcotic offences subject to the same safeguards as apply to interception by ASIO. Part IV of this Bill so provides. Recognising, however, that somewhat different considerations apply to interceptions for the purpose of inquiring into narcotic offences than apply in relation to security matters, the Bill provides for warrants to be issued by a judge of the Federal Court or a State or Territory supreme court authorising interceptions for these purposes. The Bill represents an essential complement to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill represents a further complementary measure to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1979. Section 86 of the Telecommunications Act 1975 regulates the interception of information passing over a telecommunication system other than a telephone system. Because this matter will be dealt with henceforth in the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill, it is necessary to amend the Telecommunications Act by repealing section 86. This Bill so provides. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of this Bill now before the House is to make amendments of a formal nature to the Customs Act 190 1, so as to alter references in that Act to the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act 1960 and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1956. These Acts will be repealed and replaced by the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1979 respectively.
The amendments proposed by this Bill, which also amends paragraph 2 19g (2) (b) of the Customs Act 1901 to take into account the revised terminology incorporated in the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1979 in respect of activities prejudicial to security, will come into operation on the date of commencement of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1979. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
– by leave- Australian manufacturing industry is a major beneficiary of the 1979-80 Budget. Indeed, there could be no clearer indication of the Government’s endorsement of the general policy direction advocated by the Crawford study group than the measures announced in this year’s Budget. Budgetary assistance afforded manufacturing industry has been increased substantially. Direct outlays relating to manufacturing will more than double in 1979-80 as compared with 1978-79. Export expansion grants will rise from $20m to $170m. In addition, funds for export market development grants will increase by $7m to $45m. This represents an overall increase of 270 per cent for export incentives, firm evidence of the Government’s policy commitment to the achievement of a more export-oriented industry structure.
In the Budget the Government has also recognised the need for industry to be highly innovative and technologically advanced if it is to compete effectively in the environment of the 1980s. Funding for industry research and development assistance has been increased by 33 per cent following a 75 per cent increase last year. Funding for productivity improvement programs is up 65 per cent on expenditure last year. Bounty arrangements covering such products as ships, machine tools, books, agricultural tractors and heavy commercial vehicles have been increased 33 per cent to $55m. Direct funding of specific programs for small business has been increased. An amount of $50,000 has also been allocated for a trial project to assess whether there is a need for ‘business information centres’ as contact points for business seeking information on Commonwealth and State industry development programs. The lift in assistance to industry through the Budget is not confined to increased outlays; a number of new taxation concessions, involving substantial cost in terms of revenue foregone, have also been implemented. Special taxation allowances have been introduced to encourage industry to convert from oil fired industrial heating equipment to other fuels.
The overall cost in revenue forgone of these and other existing measures, such as the investment allowance, is estimated at $267m for 1979-80 for the manufacturing sector. The retention allowance for private companies has been increased from 60 per cent to 70 per cent at an estimated cost to revenue of $30m. This move will have particular benefits for smaller enterprises striving to fund expansion. The substantial increase in assistance for industry is being provided despite the need for budgetary stringency. It demonstrates the Government’s determination to provide a sound basis for industry growth and development. In providing that basis the Government will, of course, remain deeply conscious of the social and employment consequences of our manufacturing programs. Australia needs a stronger manufacturing base so that it can provide incentive and additional job opportunities.
In pushing forward into the 1980s we must ensure that we profit from the lessons of the 1970s and earlier decades. The 1970s have been a difficult period, and one which future historians will regard as a time of transition in Australia. For two or more decades following the Second World War, Australia’s economic development followed a particularly stable path. Central to this was the development of our manufacturing sector, geared to a strategy of import replacement. A prolonged period of growth sustained a plentiful supply of jobs for a growing work force. Migrants came to this country in unprecedented numbers. Manufacturing and the tertiary sector of the economy absorbed new entrants to the work force and those displaced from the land. The early 1970s, however, saw many changes to the formula which made our post-war development a reality. The mineral boom, a downturn in our population growth, the energy crisis, rapid inflation, a wages explosion, import competition from newly industrialised countries, particularly in Asia, and the world recession altered the equation of past success. Changing circumstances have markedly affected the course of our development. We must learn to live with change- to seek to mould it to our national interest. We cannot hope to insulate ourselves from change by the creation of artificial barriers. Indeed, we must strive to maximise the benefits from participation in the growth of expanding markets in our region. This will require our industries to adopt new attitudes toward change and competition, to look increasingly beyond the limited environment of the Australian market and gradually come to rely less on government support. These principles were fundamental to the Crawford study group report. The objectives of the study group’s proposals are consistent with the policies being pursued by the Government for manufacturing industry. Since the study group was established, the environment for manufacturing industry has changed markedly. In April 1978 the Government introduced a package of export development measures. In addition, there has been a significant improvement in Australia’s competitive position. Australian industry is now more competitive than for many years. Exports of manufactured goods were approximately 30 per cent higher in 1978-79 than in 1977-78. Significant progress has already been made towards achieving the objective of a more internationally competitive manufacturing sector, a strong thrust of the Crawford report.
The Government will continue to pursue policies to encourage the development of competitive manufacturing industries that are more export oriented, involve specialisation in particular skills and products, use advanced technology, draw on wider markets to take advantage of scale economies, have innovative management, pursue increased productivity and rely less on government support. I have already indicated a number of initiatives taken in the Budget in directions recommended by the study group. The Government is responding positively to the other study group recommendations. As the study group emphasised, in the coming decade resource-based development will play an increasingly important role in Australia’s industrial structure. The report stresses that fundamentally the role of government should be to act as a catalyst for achieving greater resource development. This requires that the Commonwealth Government be prepared to examine resourcebased development proposals on their merits and to adopt measures that take the special circumstances of individual projects into account. Not all developments will require an approach tailored to specific projects. Many will arise and be implemented entirely within the framework of individual State government development policies.
Some time ago the Government instituted machinery under which task forces may be set up to study individual processing projects judged to have sufficient potential to justify serious examination of their feasibility. These processes will enable the Government to consider the need for a project-specific approach to particular development proposals. The task forces will also provide a major point of contact between companies and governments. As a result of an initiative by the Australian Government, a joint study group has already been set up with the Japanese Government, to examine on a long-term basis and without commitment the prospects for further raw materials processing in Australia. The Australian and Japanese governments have respectively completed and exchanged reports on both the potential for Australia to supply aluminium and woodpulp at world-competitive prices, and the future demand by Japan for these commodities. We shall be examining what arrangements might be made with other countries to ascertain ways by which governments might reinforce and encourage any feasible proposals for processing projects within individual industry sectors in Australia.
As far as protection is concerned the Government made it clear in the White Paper on Manufacturing Industry that tariff reductions to induce changes in industry structure and encourage greater specialisation in industry have a role to play in the process of encouraging a more efficient manufacturing industry in Australia. As a long-term objective the community will be best served by a manufacturing sector with a structure requiring minimum levels of Government support. We have stressed that in taking specific decisions on protection, careful attention must, of course, be given to the community’s capacity to absorb change and accommodate the economic and social consequences of change. Generally we have followed a policy of gradualism in respect of tariff reductions. Where appropriate we have provided for reductions to be phased in so that industry has time to adapt to operating in an environment of lower levels of protection. The study group endorsed this approach to protection policy. The study group recommended that the deferred references required to complete the tariff review program should now be sent. This recommendation has been implemented and the tariff review program will thus be completed by about the end of 1981.
The Crawford study group recommended that the Government should give a commitment to begin, once certain conditions were satisfied, a further program of general reductions in protection. The group was referring here to long-term protection. It explicitly assumed that temporary protection would continue to be available to alleviate any short-term problems which might arise. The group also recommended that such a program should not apply to industries for which industry-specific policies were in force. I shall return to the subject of industry-specific policies later in this statement.
The Government is already committed to seek to achieve a less complicated tariff structure, based on gradual progress towards lower and more stable tariff levels than in the past. Significant progress towards such a tariff structure has already been made through the tariff review program. Indeed, the average nominal rate of protection accorded manufacturing industry has fallen by about 40 per cent over the last decade. The Government has decided that the commencement, extent and rate of a further approach to general reductions in long term protection will depend on: Firstly, the Government’s assessment of the effectiveness of its industry development program in achieving the goals outlined earlier; secondly, its assessment of economic circumstances, with particular regard to the question of unemployment; thirdly, the receipt of an appropriate report from the Industries Assistance Commission; and, fourthly, sufficient notice having been given to industry. Any reductions in protection flowing from such an approach would be phased in gradually over time in accordance with the capacity of industry and the economy to adjust and to accommodate the economic and social consequences.
The Government has agreed with the report’s recommendation that the Industries Assistance Commission should be asked to inquire and report as to methods which could be adopted in such an approach. The report implied that this matter should be referred to the Commission, now, for report within two years. This timing would however, in the view of the Government, pose problems. Firstly, the report makes eminently clear that the study group considered that the implementation of any further program of general reductions in protection should be postponed until the beneficial effects of an industry development policy have had time to assist in the development of more efficient, export-oriented industries. In this light, there would be little advantage in seeking too early a report from the Commission, which could well need updating when the time came to act upon it. Secondly, the tariff review program is now approaching completion. Most of the relevant industries have had industry rates of protection set by the Government. A few industries have not and are now before the Commission. The sensible course is to allow that program to come to completion before embarking on a detailed study of possible successors to it.
Finally, to send the reference now could be seen as putting at a disadvantage those industries which are the subject of current tariff review references. Such industries would be under review by the Commission in two different contexts simultaneously. They could have considerable difficulty in preparing evidence for the more general inquiry in ignorance of the Government’s eventual decision on industry rates arising from the more specific references. For these reasons, the Government has decided that the reference to the Commission will be sent after the Commission has reported on the remaining tariff review references. The Commission will be asked to complete its report within 18 months of the date of the reference. Upon receipt of that report the Government will decide upon and announce the details- including the timing of commencement- of an approach to further gradual reductions in long-term protection. In the meantime, the normal arrangements for handling reports from the Commission or the Temporary Assistance Authority relating to particular industries will continue. The Government, in reaching decisions on such reports involving reductions in protection, will continue to apply wherever relevant the general principle of gradualism. Appropriate mechanisms will continue to be available for temporary protection.
In the White Paper the Government recognised that policies would be needed to meet the specialised problems of certain industry sectors. It stressed that such cases are likely to be few rather than many. The study group endorsed this approach. The Government accepts that the existence of an industry-specific policy implies that special arrangements are needed for the industry in question, not necessarily similar to those applying to other industries. Protection as appropriate could be held steady, or reduced at the same rate as or at a different rate from that applying on average to the rest of the manufacturing sector. The Department of Industry and Commerce will continue to monitor industryspecific policies and developments in particular industries to ascertain if additional such policies, or changes to existing policies, seem necessary.
References will continue to be sent to the Industries Assistance Commission in the normal way for the purpose of determining the need for and form of particular industry-specific policies. References are currently before the Commission on passenger motor vehicles and on textiles, clothing and footwear, where such policies have been long applied.
The study group’s report contained detailed recommendations on a wide range of policy issues. Today I have sought to highlight the Government’s response to the Study Group’s recommendations on export and industrial research and development incentives, protection and resource-based development. For the information of honourable members I propose to table a document detailing the Government’s response to each of the study groups recommendations.
An important central theme which emerges from the report is the need for a package of policy instruments aimed at encouraging the development of Australian manufacturing industry away from a diverse and fragmented structure heavily reliant on import protection and towards the efficient internationally competitive industry structure needed for the 1980s. The study group stressed that longer-term competitive gains can realistically be expected from reductions of protection that are carefully designed and monitored. But it also notes that it is essential to allow adequate time for adjustment by phasing reductions in protection and by providing positive encouragement to the development of more efficient export-oriented manufacturing industries. The Government endorses the general policy direction advocated by the Crawford report. In tabling the report in this house on 6 March, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) expressed the Government’s thanks to the group. I would like to repeat that now. The report has been a most important contribution to government and community thinking on policies for manufacturing industry.
In conclusion, I repeat the Government’s strong belief that a more internationally competitive industry structure is a necessary and attainable objective. The analysis contained in the Crawford report serves to reinforce the central importance to attainment of this objective of a rigorous adherence to the Government’s antiinflationary strategy. We have pursued this course relentlessly and we shall continue to do so. We shall expect industry and the community to continue to work with us to attain that objective. For the information of honourable members I present the following papers:
Structural Adjustment- Report of Study GroupGovernment’s responses to recommendations.
Ministerial Statement, 23 August 1979
I seek leave to have the Government’s responses incorporated in Hansard.
-!* leave granted?
– Leave is granted but I place on record that I think that the introduction of the incorporation just repeats the rhetoric of the speech.
The document read as follows-
Government Response to Recommendations
Australian manufacturing industry is a major beneficiary of the 1979-80 Budget.
Direct outlays relating to manufacturing will more than double in 1979-80 as compared with 1978-79.
Export expansion grants will rise from $20m to $ 1 70m.
Funds for export market development grants will increase by $7m to $45m.
Funding for industry research and development assistance has been increased by 33 per cent following a 75 per cent increase last year.
Funding for productivity improvement programs is up 65 per cent on expenditure last year.
Bounty arrangements covering such products as ships, machine tools, books, agricultural tractors and heavy commercial vehicles has been increased 33 per cent to $55m.
Direct funding of specific programs for small business has been increased. $50,000 has also been allocated for a trial project to assess whether there is a need for ‘Business Information Centres’ as contact points for businesses seeking information on Commonwealth and State industry development programs.
The lift in assistance to industry through the Budget is not confined to increased outlays a number of new taxation concessions, involving substantial cost in terms of revenue foregone, have also been implemented.
Special taxation allowances have been introduced to encourage industry to convert from oil fired industrial heating equipment to other fuels.
The overall cost in revenue foregone of these and other existing measures, such as the investment allowance, is estimated at $267m for 1979-80 for the manufacturing sector.
The retention allowance for private companies has been increased from 60 per cent to 70 per cent, a move which will have particular benefits for smaller enterprises, striving to fund expansion. The estimated cost to revenue of this measure in a full year for all industries is $30m.
The increase in expenditure indicates clearly the Government’s acceptance of the general policy direction advocated by the Crawford Study Group.
The following gives details of the Government’s response to each of the Study Group ‘s recommendations. In each case the recommendation is stated first and in italics. The Government’s response follows.
The Export Expansion Grants Scheme be amended to provide a non-taxable flat percentage grant of 15 per cent of the increase in exports over a moving three-year base period.
The Study Group pointed to the need to stimulate exports. There could be no clearer acceptance by the Government of the need to encourage exports than the lift in export incentive payments in this Budget.
Since the Study Group was established, the environment for manufacturing industry has changed markedly with Australian industry being more competitive now than for many years. Manufacturing exports were around 30 per cent higher in 1978-79 than in 1977-78.
Significant progress has already been made towards achieving the objective of a more internationally competitive manufacturing sector.
Partly because of this, the Study Group’s proposal of a 15 per cent non-taxable grant rate would have been far more expensive than anticipated by the Study Group (in excess of $300m in 1 979-80 as compared with Study Group ‘s estimate of$l60m).
Such an increase is neither possible nor necessary in a time of budgetary stringency.
In any event, outlays on Export Expansion Grants will rise from $20m in 1978-79 to $170m in 1979-80. In addition, funds for export market development grants will increase by $7mto$45m.
This represents an overall increase of 270 per cent for export incentives. No other equally significant area of expenditure has received such a large increase in the Budget.
Additional incentives be implemented to reinforce the operations of the Australian Innovation Authority in stimulating I R&D. In this regard, consideration be given to: substantial increases in funding under the project grants provisions and greater commitment to the public interest research funding provisions of the current I R&D Incentives Act greater contracting out to private bodies of the Government ‘s own R&D requirements premium taxation concessions for I R&D expenditure
In the 1979-80 Budget, funding for industrial research and development assistance has been increased by 33 per cent following a 75 per cent increase last year. Funding for productivity improvement programs is up 65 per cent on expenditure in 1978-79.
The Government will be considering the other recommendations following completion of a study by the Australian Science and Technology Council (AS TEC).
An Australian Innovation Authority be established to assume responsibility for: a function similar to that fulfilled by the UK National Research Development Corporation the administration of industrial research and development incentives, including sponsorship of public interest research projects the provision, or at least co-ordination, of assistance to firms to exploit worthwhile innovations commercially government sponsored industry research associations and technical referral centres co-ordination of contracting-out of some of the government ‘s own R&D requirements.
Prior to receipt of the Study Group’s report a number of other studies of closely related issues were in train. These studies included an examination of the relevance of the functions and operating experience of research development corporations and consideration of ASTEC’s recommendations for research associations.
The Ministers for Industry and Commerce, Productivity and Science and the Environment are to bring the matter of an Australian Innovation Authority before the Government for further consideration as soon as the results of these other studies are to hand.
The Tertiary Education Commission be requested to report from time to time on progress in the important field of management education.
The investment allowance not be altered in substance before its expiry. However, the I AC be requested to conduct an early evaluation of the investment allowance, so that any arrangements to apply upon cessation of the investment allowance can be announced well before its scheduled expiry date.
Accepted. So that any arrangements to apply on cessation can be announced well before the expiry date, there will be a sufficiently early evaluation of the allowance. The formal timing of the evaluation will be a matter for Ministerial decision.
A review of depreciation rates for plant and equipment be initiated to ensure the rates are consistent with the pace of technological change and that they encourage industry to move to employ the most modem and efficient plant and equipment.
There is a strong case for the introduction now of a taxation depreciation allowance on new buildings used in connection with manufacturing. The Australian Taxation Office be requested to examine appropriate administrative arrangements to permit the introduction of such an allowance as soon as is practicable.
The Government will call for a report from the Commissioner of Taxation.
A depreciation provision in respect of new traveller accommodation buildings was introduced in the 1979-80 Budget.
Consideration be given to appropriate institutional arrangements for the provision of equity and long-term finance to small and medium-sized firms; the preferred options include: extension of the powers of the Commonwealth Development Bank a specialised financing institution in the private sector, established with, if necessary, a minority government shareholding.
The provision of contributory loan insurance on concessional terms be investigated as a means for promoting innovation, export activity, productivity development and adaptation.
The Inquiry into the Australian Financial System was established before the Crawford Study Group reported. These recommendations will be considered when the report of that Inquiry is to hand.
Business Information Centres be established in major industrial regions in co-operation with appropriate State Governments and industry bodies. These Centres could act as a point of first contact for businesses seeking assistance under State and Commonwealth programs.
The Government will set up, on a trial basis, points of first contact for business.
A National Awareness Campaign be launched to publicise the Government’s commitment to industrial development and to receive industry reactions to programs as an aid to future program planning.
The Government has decided that a National Awareness Campaign of the type envisaged in the Report could not be justified in the present budgetary stringency.
A project-specific approach be adopted for resource-based development projects. The need to pursue separate policies results from the particular characteristics possessed by this form of investment undertaking.
The project specific approach be supported by an administrative mechanism which minimises the number of government agencies which a firm has to contact and enables proponents of projects to identify more clearly the areas of essential bureaucratic involvement.
Accepted. Machinery already exists under which the need for a project-specific approach to particular major processing developments, to the extent that this is economically feasible and consistent with sound industrial development, can be considered.
The Inter-Government Study Group approach be extended as opportunities and circumstances permit. In view of the important role played by long term contracts in project development, the Study Group draws attention to its recommendations relating to trade agreements in Chapter 9 (Trade Policy).
The complex issues surrounding the impact of freight and other charges on the economics of resource processing in Australia be investigated in co-operation with the unions directly involved.
These issues are already under consideration in connection with studies of further processing of raw materials.
Australia continue to seek firm applications of a liberal multilateral trade system based upon the ‘most favoured nation’ concept.
Nevertheless, if it becomes apparent that that situation will be increasingly less attainable, Australia consider on a costbenefit basis whether advantageous departures from the strict MFN rules might be made.
The Government maintain its willingness, demonstrated by its offer in the Multilateral Trade Negotiations, to reduce barriers to imports provided that reciprocal action by Australia’s trading partners is forthcoming.
The efforts of the Australian Government to seek modifications in the agricultural policies of the EEC are supported. These efforts continue even if the outcome of the MTN is only partially favourable. Australia examine the possibilities for strengthened forms of bilateral agreements with the countries of East and South-east Asia. In such agreements consideration be given to whether best endeavour assurance of supply would facilitate further trade.
Accepted, with the proviso that Australia would only depart from the rules of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in the event of wholesale departure from these rules by other signatories to that agreement
A reference be sent to the Industries Assistance Com
Government could adopt in pursuing its policy, enunciated in the White Paper, of gradual reductions in long-term protection as part of the process of encouraging a more efficient manufacturing industry in A ustralia. The IAC be required to report within two years of the date of that reference.
The reference require the IAC to discuss in ils report the way in which the approaches could be aligned with the Government’s industry-specific policies and policies on temporary protection, with the phasing down of protection already in progress in some industries and with the outcome qf the current Multilateral Trade Negotiations, and to advise on any supplementary measures of adjustment assistance which the IAC believes appropriate. On receipt of the lAC’s report, the Government choose a method of reducing long-term protection and announce publicly the details of that method and the likely timing of its implementation. The chosen method be implemented as soon as practicable, subject to the measures described in Chapter 7 (Industry Development Policy) having been put into operation well in advance and subject to industry being given sufficient notice of the implementation of the chosen method.
The general program of reducing protection not be implemented while unemployment remains above, say, 5 per cent. Implementation, once begun, be interrupted only in the most exceptional circumstances (the Study Group assumes that the current mechanism for temporary protection would continue to be available to alleviate any short-term problems which might arise).
In the White Paper on manufacturing Industry, the Government made it clear that tariff reductions have a role to play in the process of encouraging a more efficient manufacturing industry in Australia. As a long-term objective the community will be best served by a manufacturing sector with a structure requiring minimum levels of Government support.
The Government is already committed to seek to achieve a less complicated tariff structure, based on gradual progress towards lower and more stable tariff levels than in the past. Significant progress towards such a tariff structure has already been made through the Tariff Review program. Indeed, the average nominal rate of protection accorded manufacturing industry has fallen by around 40 per cent over the last decade.
The Government has decided that the commencement, extent and rate of a further approach to general reductions in long-term protection will depend on
The Government has agreed with the report’s recommendation that the Industries Assistance Commission should be asked to inquire and report as to methods which could be adopted in such an approach.
The Report implied that this matter should be referred to the Commission now, for report within two years. This timing would appear, however, to pose problems.
First, the report makes eminently clear that the Study Group considered that the implementation of any further program of general reductions in protection should be postponed until the beneficial effects of industry development policy have had time to assist in the development or more efficient, export-oriented industries. In this light, there would be little advantage in seeking too early a report from the Commission, which could well need updating when the time came to act on it.
Secondly, the Tariff Review program is now approaching completion. Most of the relevant industries have had industry rates of protection set by the Government. A few industries have not, and are now before the Commission. The sensible course is to allow that program to come to completion before embarking on a detailed study of possible successors to it.
Finally, to send the reference now could be seen as putting at a disadvantage those industries which are the subject of current Tariff Review references. Such industries would be under review by the Commission in two different contexts simultaneously. They could have considerable difficulty in preparing evidence for the more general inquiry in ignorance of the Government’s eventual decision on industry rates arising from the more specific references.
For these reasons, the Government has decided that the reference to the Commission will be sent after the Commission has reported on the remaining tariff review references.
The Commission will be asked to complete its report within eighteen months of the date of the reference.
Upon receipt of that report, the Government will decide upon and announce the details (including the timing of commencement) of an approach to further gradual reductions in long-term protection.
Deferment of the remaining references of the Tariff Review be reconsidered having regard to the desirability of completing the Review before embarking on any further program of reduction of long-term protection.
The Government maintain its willingness to negotiate reductions in barriers to imports provided that reciprocal action by A ustralia ‘s trading partners is forthcoming.
The Government, in reaching decision on IAC and TAA reports which involve reductions in protection, apply wherever relevant the general principle of gradualism.
Industry Specific Policy
In some instances, special programs of adjustment will be required for certain industries.
Industry-specific policies be formulated within the framework of the set of principles espoused by the OECD.
As a member of the OECD the Government was a signatory to the Ministerial communique of June 1978 incorporating these principles on adjustment policies.
As a basis for determination by government of an industryspecific policy, a reference be sent to the IAC in the normal way the IAC report to advise on whether an industry-specific policy is warranted if so, it encompass all aspects of the appropriate industryspecific policy, including the restructuring expected of industry and an appropriate package of incentives and measures to assist this.
The Department of Industry and Commerce monitor industry-specific policies and developments in highly protected industries to ascertain if additional industry-specific policies or changes to existing policies seem necessary.
Industry-specific programs be developed in consultation with, and, as far as possible, with the involvement of, all par
A reference be sent to the IAC immediately asking it to advise on an appropriate industry-specific policy to apply to the motor vehicles industry after 1984 a decision on this report be announced by mid 1980.
In considering IAC reports on industry-specific policy, the Government take special account of the advice of the relevant Industry Advisory Councils.
The National Labour Consultative Council, which the Study Group understands has already commenced some work in this area, be requested to undertake a detailed study on manpower policy and report on the form of a national manpower policy.
More emphasis be given to programs such as retraining and relocation schemes which equip the unemployed for new and better future employment.
More schemes be designed to assist people to begin adjustment while they remain in employment.
Manpower programs be sufficiently flexible to meet the specific adjustment needs of individuals and firms.
Solutions within firms facing adjustment problems be sought in consultation and co-operation between employees and management. Government stand ready to assist this process by: developing a comprehensive program of enterprise manpower planning and adjustment measures, incorporating an examination of the scope within existing manpower programs and services for greater emphasis on delivering assistance at the level of the firm. convening a tripartite examination to investigate, and report on, existing employee/ employer consultative arrangements and related employment practices adopted by firms; and to make recommendations on the need for action to address any inadequacies and on the form of any action.
Recommendations of the Review of the CES be implemented as a matter of priority.
Consideration be given to a single co-ordinating authority to undertake manpower planning.
Consideration be given to separating, for administrative purposes, the social welfare system and the operations of manpower policy.
The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has these recommendations under active consideration.
The availability of export finance be one of the matters considered by the Committee of Inquiry into the Australian Financial System.
The Committee of Inquiry be asked to examine the effect on the availability of finance for industry of: the 30/20 rule applying to life assurance companies and pension funds stamp duties on capital market transactions variable deposit requirements (when applied) the absence of a forward market for foreign exchange.
Division 7 tax arrangements be re-examined with a view to allowing private companies greater flexibility in retaining profits required for modernisation or expansion.
Accepted. The retention allowance was increased in the Budget from 60 to 70 per cent at an estimated annual cost of $30m.
Information and Foresight
Provision qf adequate information to support industry and employment policies be given greater priority. In particular, the ABS be given sufficient resources to fill its vital role adequately.
The ABS be requested to give strong weight in developing its work program to the detailed recommendations of the Study’s Working Group 2 on Information Systems Supporting Industry and Employment Policies.
The ABS is currently moving in certain areas to incorporate into its work program improvements in areas canvassed by the Study Group.
Usefulness of official statistics, and the efficiency with which they are collected, be maximised by ensuring that the bases of collections are compatible and that duplication is avoided The ABS be strongly supported in its endeavours to achieve compatibility between the various statistical collections of government agencies. To this end, the statutory functions of the ABS in relation to co-ordination of official statistical collections be reinforced by appropriate administrative directions to all Commonwealth departments and authorities.
Utilisation of officially collected information be maximised by ensuring that secrecy requirements are not needlessly restrictive. The secrecy provisions of the Census and Statistics Act be amended along the lines recommended by the Crisp Committee.
The need for further co-ordination of Commonwealth Statistics and proposals surrounding the confidentiality provision of the Census and Statistics Act is under consideration.
A strong effort be made to prepare more forward-looking analyses of future trends and conditions related to manufacturing industries. The BIE be requested to prepare information on likely developments and prospects in manufacturing. This information be published regularly. A major outlook report, prepared by the BIE, be an important part of periodic outlook conferences on manufacturing industry.
Adequate support be given to projects such as the IMP A CT Project, which aim to analyse systematically economic relationships on an economy-wide basis and assess the impact of alternative policy proposals. The techniques, data base and results of such projects, including the IMPACT Project, be open to public scrutiny, and be made generally available to business and government.
Measures to deal with regional adjustment problems be implemented within the framework of Commonwealth and State Government regional development policies in order that full account may be taken of regional issues.
As a general principle, regional adjustment problems not lead to a slowing of desirable industry restructuring. Location-specific measures be adopted to deal wilh severe problems of economic change of regions within States.
As a prelude to consideration by Governments, officials of relevant Commonwealth Departments, notably the Departments of Industry and Commerce and National Development, examine with their counterparts in interested Stales the scope policies concerning regional adjustment problems. In this regard the Canadian General Development AgreementSubsidiary Development Agreement system be investigated as an example of how such efforts can be co-ordinated.
Relevant Commonwealth Departments examine with counterparts in interested States the appropriate measures to deal wilh regional adjustment problems.
The Commonwealth Government share with the States a strong commitment to anticipation of, and preparation for, regional adjustment problems. To this end, the Australian Bureau of Statistics investigate the scope for overcoming those data deficiencies which have inhibited analysis of change within regional economies; and the IMPACT Project extend its analysis of the implications of change.
An Interdepartmental Committee has been established to conduct a comprehensive review on regional problems, with special reference to manufacturing industry.
Policy Execution and Formation
The Department of Industry and Commerce be given the task of co-ordinating execution of industrial adaptation policies and of overseeing the formation and development of those policies. It be aided by a Standing Interdepartmental Committee consisting of representatives of the various areas qf policy covered by industrial adaptation policies, which it would chair. The Department be provided with an increase in staffing to support the proposed Committee.
The Department of Industry and Commerce be responsible, with the assistance of the Standing Interdepartmental Committee, for a continual program of monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of industrial adaptation policies. It be provided with strong research and technical support from the BIE. The BIE be developed further to enable it to perform this and its existing functions effectively.
The Industry Policy Committee of Cabinet will monitor progress on follow-up action resulting from decisions taken on the Crawford Report and generally assume overall coordination on the report.
Where specific elements of industrial adaptation policies involve assistance to industries in some form, those matters be referred on occasions as appropriate to the I A C for public inquiry and report. The Department of Industry and Commerce aided by the Standing Interdepartmental Committee advise when it would be appropriate to refer those matters to the IAC.
These matters will continue to be referred as appropriate to the IAC.
The Department of Industry and Commerce, with the assistance qf the BIE and in consultation with the AMC, prepare annually a report for public release on progress with adjustment in the economy and on the effectiveness of policy measures in dealing with adjustment problems. Such a report form part of periodic outlook conferences on manufacturing industry which be held as a forum for developing broader public involvement in, and awareness of, industry policies and developments.
An increasingly active role in industry-government consultation be developed for the various Industry Advisory Councils. The Councils’s capacity to function as effective consultative media be increased by providing each with a full-time secretariat.
The Government will be instituting a review of the role of these Councils and of the AMC, including the question of administrative support for them.
-by leave-I thank the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) for extending the usual courtesies in allowing me a couple of hours to examine this statement. I do have a point of view to put on it. For 24 hours there apparently has been high drama surrounding the delivery of this statement. Its history is that it was to be made and then it was not to be made. I heard that it was on again and then off again. Even today I heard that it had been put on and then off again. At least it has been delivered. I congratulate the Minister at least on delivering it to the House. The rumours have been to the effect that there have been strong back bench committee objections. If those objections have been to the effect that this is a fairly ineffectual statement, trying to be all things to all men at a time when our country is crying out for strong government leadership, then I have sympathy with those back bench objectors. But I am doubtful that the objections were along those lines.
On behalf of the Opposition let me now state an important objective which it has. If there can be a bipartisan, non-political approach in this sensitive area of industry development then we want to achieve it. We know that job-creating investment requires stability; it requires a long term investment perspective. We seek to help that investment in job creation in our country being carried out in that longer term perspective with the stability it requires.
Our country is in dire trouble. Over half a million of our people are unemployed. Technological developments are running wild and threatening thousands of jobs. Decisions on the introduction of this technology are not being made in a neutral atmosphere. On the one hand we have payroll tax discriminating in favour of employing machines rather than people and on the other hand we have the investment allowance similarly discriminating in favour of employing machines rather than people. So we do not have neutral ground on which these decisions are being made. To a marked extent this technology has entered the tertiary sector with the silicon chip and micro-processing. This sector which in the past has absorbed the decline in employment in the primary and secondary sectors, is threatened.
Rome is burning. Australian employment problems are enormous. Yet the Neros of the Fraser Government are fiddling. This statement is another bit of the fiddle. Let me nail the first sentence of the Minister’s statement. He said:
Australian manufacturing industry is a major beneficiary of the 1979-80 Budget.
It is not a major beneficiary of this Budget. Nobody is benefiting from this Budget. In order to nail that opening statement I will quote from a couple of Press releases. In the Press release from the Confederation of Australian Industry, Sir Max Dillon said:
Overall it is disappointed-
That is, the Confederation of Australian Industry- as a result of the 1979-80 Budget.
In another part of the Press release he said:
Many of the decisions industry had anticipated from the Government in this Budget have simply not materialised.
Sir Max Dillon itemised the points specifically as follows:
I do not think that he will think that any decision of any note has been announced in this statement today. The Press release continues:
I will support him on that matter in a moment. It continues:
In case any honourable member thinks that that is an isolated case, let me quote the Director of the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, Mr Noel Mason. He said:
There is nothing in the Budget to help manufacturing industry, which is a major source of jobs and a vital part of the economy.
We had looked to the Government for a positive stimulus, particularly along those parts of the Crawford report which recommended increased expenditure on export incentives and industrial research and development.
The Government has not shown the leadership that manufacturing industry expected.
That is the response of industry to this Budget. As I have stated, the Minister’s statement does nothing to alter the situation. The Budget does not tackle the problems confronting Australian industry. Instead the $ 184m increased allocation for research and development and for export market allowances largely involves funding for the present inefficient across-the-board schemes. In many cases the funds are to meet carry-over commitments. The Budget allocations have very little to do with encouraging new employmentcreating industrial development. I will discuss this matter in detail later.
Let me mention two enormous difficulties faced by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. They arise from the whole thrust of the Crawford report. Under the heading ‘A time for realism ‘ the report states at page 1 8 of volume 1 :
The Study Group believes that it will be impossible for manufacturing industry to undertake transition-
That is, restructuring for competitiveness- without government involvement.
The first difficulty that the Minister faces when doing anything meaningful to help industry is his own philosophy, and indeed the philosophy of the Fraser Government and the philosophy of members of the Liberal and National Country parties who support that Government. They cannot support the sort of involvement set out in the philosophy of the Crawford study group. Government members do not believe in government involvement. They do not believe in the type of partnership between government and the private sector that we in the Labor Party support. They do not believe in that vital planning framework which is essential if anything worthwhile is to be done to help the manufacturing sector and to create employment in this country. I will return to that planning framework in a moment.
The other great difficulty faced by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in bringing down a statement on a report such as that of a study group which has a philosophy different from his own is related to the last point I have just made. It is a necessary ingredient if changes are to be made so that we can compete against imports and get out and sell exports, namely, expansionary budgetary and monetary policies. Instead we are living in an environment of the most contractionary, recessionary, depression-making Budget that this country has had to withstand for many years. Receipts are up 15 per cent. At a time when inflation is admitted to be 10 per cent, expenditure is up only 9 per cent. There is this contraction about the Budget. It does not set the framework for that restructuring to take place in manufacturing industry which is vital if it is to be restructured in a way that will create jobs for the half a million Australians who are out of employment at the moment.
We have to live in an atmosphere created by the macro-economic policy which has been brought down in the Budget. We have to put up with it over the next year but it is so wrong for the charges that are necessary. Because of these irreconcilable difficulties, we can claim quite legitimately, I believe, that the Crawford report virtually continues to gather dust. Indeed, it has probably been buried. The Minister’s statement will probably have the effect of burying it. In essence his statement is little more than further promises that something will happen in the future. In a few cases it represents policy aboutfaces. In another place it deals with the establishment of more committees or task forces. In yet another place it talks about stalling until other committees have reported. I refer to the Campbell Committee and the Myers Committee. In other cases it refers to recommendations ‘still under active review’. That in essence is what the Minister’s statement, which addresses itself to the recommendations of the Crawford report, is about.
I mentioned earlier that any claims to the effect that the Budget helps manufacturing industry are quite illusory. I illustrate this point as it relates to two important instruments for change. The Minister and I fully agree on the importance of these instruments, namely, research and development incentives and export assistance. Let me talk, first of all, about research and development assistance. The Budget allocation for industrial research and development incentives is up by $8m, or 33 per cent, to $32m. However, the increased allocation is considerably less than the level of funding required to meet, firstly, the carry-over commitments from last year. Anyone who has taken an interest in this area will know just how vast are those carry-over commitments. The Australian Industry Research and Development Incentives Board has had to stall time and again in relation to them. Those carry-over commitments amount to $6m. Secondly, this funding does not meet a real level of demand for industrial research and development assistance which is equivalent to the level apparent in the 1978-79 figures.
What I am saying is that under the present rules- leave alone argument about those rules for research and development assistance being changed, and I would advocate that there is great need for change to make the funding on a more selective basis- and without change at all, the level of assistance in this Budget does not meet past or present commitments for this financial year. By not attempting to meet the current level of commitment for industry research and development assistance within Australian industry the Government is putting the Australian Industry Research and Development Incentives Board in a difficult position. Because it received a strong response from industry and does not want to dampen the awakening interest in research and development activity the Board is tempted to devise ways and means of reconciling the demand with limited funding. It is considering the options of delayed payments and of delaying the processing of applications in order to maintain momentum. It has already started to downplay heavily the role of commencement grants. Because of this the Board runs the risk of getting back to a position, as happened last year, in which the Government will be forced to bail it out from an over commitment of funds. That is the sad situation which we find in this important research and development incentives area.
I now turn to export incentives. The story regrettably is the same in that area. A substantial increase in the allocation for export incentive grants is largely illusory. The $170m allocation- I admit an increase of $ 150m- is to fund carry-over commitments only. But none of the money relates directly to encouraging new exports. The carry-over involves completion of payment of outstanding claims from the last financial year- $ 110m under that heading- and the payment of some of the claims from current year of $60m. The huge backlog of claims is as a result of the insufficient allocation of funds and staff in the last Budget. All we are going to do by continuing this policy is to disaffect people, to discourage them from what is so vitally needed, and that is getting up, getting out and encouraging exports from this nation.
In summary, there are no new initiatives in this 1979 Budget in these important areas of research, development and exports. So the existing policies- described in the Crawford report as ‘incomplete, funded inadequately, intermittent and spread too thinly’- of the Fraser Government continue. Yet we have claims that this Budget is some great document for industry. It is not. I mentioned earlier that the Australian Labor Party believes that it is essential to use these instruments to bring about change. These are the positive, carrot ways of bringing about change to improve competitiveness. This is much more satisfactory than using the negative, punitive stick of tariff reductions. We do not rule out tariff changes. Reductions are to be aimed for in an ideal situation. There is a place for tariff reduction where those reductions follow changes which have already been made; where they create new jobs- which they can do by lowering the cost of production input- where there are alternative jobs for those displaced; where it means that consumers get cheaper goods; where it means that those consumers have more money left in their pockets to buy new goods. Extra demand creates extra production, and that means extra jobs. There is a place also for reduction in order to initiate change where we cannot bring it about by more positive ways through research and development incentives or export market allowances.
We have seen a good example of this change coming about in an orderly way by the use of the tariff- I congratulate the Government and support it in what it has done- in the white goods industry. The merging of the Simpson-Pope and Malleys companies and the merging of the Email and Kelvinator companies we hope will bring about stronger units, economies of scale and increased employment through a rational approach. But at the same time I would have liked more government leadership to make sure that the decisions being made in the market place are the best and the least costly possible. I believe that with proper planning mechanisms with a policy of greater partnership between the government and private sectors we will achieve just that. In an ideal world there is a place for tariff reductions but we have to treat them cautiously. Too often the slashing of the tariff is counter-productive. It merely throws people on to the dole queue. We have seen that in relation to an announcement yesterday concerning Firestone Australia Pty Ltd, the tyre manufacturer. I refer to that announcement as one example of tariff changes which have been nothing but counter-productive to this point. I highlight the difficulties of 700 workers thrown out of work at the Firestone plant. I quote from a statement which reads:
It was announced today that Firestone has decided to close down its tyre manufacturing plant at Auburn New South Wales with a loss of 700 jobs.
The reasons given were: Over capacity, import competition, changing market conditions. Firestone enjoyed a market share of . . . 6 to 7 per cent.
I could go on but I have said enough to highlight the difficulties of poor tariff policy being implemented without any help for those being thrown out of work, without any positive government measures to see that jobs are created for those thrown out of work. Tariff reductions must be used cautiously. We do not rule them out if plenty of notice is given and if there is gradualism. It is possible that the desired result is being achieved in the white goods industry now. I make the charge that there are more committees, more reviews, more pigeon-holing and more stalling in this statement than has met the eye so far.
I shall list the areas where there have been such errors of omission, where there is such a lack of decision making. I refer to the recommendation in the Crawford committee report for an innovations authority. This is one of the recommendations that has been stalled. It has been put to another committee. I refer to the depreciation allowance on manufacturing buildings. We have not had a real announcement of a real policy in this area in this statement presented by the Minister today. I refer to the whole area of finance and to the need particularly for medium and smaller businesses to have more adequate finance at a reasonable rate of interest. There is nothing about that in this statement by the Minister. There is no decision from the Government in spite of the fact that it has had the recommendations from the Crawford committee for over six months now. The Government is waiting for the Campbell committee report to be presented in this House. When that happens we will have another interdepartmental committee, another wait for six months and another statement from another Minister about what the Government will do about the Campbell committee recommendations. Much of that statement will say that the recommendations will be pushed on to another committee to report. This highlights the lack of government leadership which is the hallmark of this Fraser Government at a time when there are over half a million unemployed in this country.
What about that recommendation about the Australian Bureau of Statistics? One of the great characteristics of the Fraser Government has been its decimation of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. We are getting less and less information on which to build proper policies for the health of Australian industry, not more and more as recommended by the Crawford inquiry. We are getting more and more staff ceilings and slower decisions about computers because of earlier bungles. This is the highlight of this Government’s policies. Similarly, I refer to regional policies which were recommended by the Crawford inquiry and which were completely set aside in this statement from the Minister. We do not have anything concrete from this Government on these vital areas. Mr Deputy Speaker, coming from South Australia, you know that they are vital to you and to me. We are concerned about industry specific policies and the need for a better policy than we have now for the motor manufacturing industry.
On the subject of industry- specific policy, we of the Labor Party take some pride in the fact that we supported such policies long before Crawford reported. As I have said in other fora, I am prepared to say to which industries those policies should be applied. I particularly list the motor vehicle manufacturing industry; the clothing and textiles industries; the footwear industry; the fabricated steel industry; the whitegoods industry and other industries. But we have not had such leadership from the Fraser Government in this statement. It contains vague expressions of support for industry- specific policies but there are no details in this statement of what industries are being referred to and what the policies might be.
Finally let me refer to this statement, the Crawford report and the difficulties that this Minister has had. I believe that the report destroys some of the Fraser Government’s sacred cows. The report of the Study Group on Structural Adjustment was critical by implication of the Government’s inflation-first strategy. It noted that economic recovery ‘would not solve all of industries problems’ and that ‘it is appropriate for government to assist change by promoting employment creating industrial development’. Further, the study group rejected the Government’s doctrinal reliance upon the solutions offered by market forces. It concluded that market forces alone cannot achieve the desired adjustment in a reasonable time and without a major degree of disruption. The report also shattered the Government’s complacency about its industry development initiatives. It found that the range of programs is incomplete’. It found that the ‘programs are not funded adequately’. It found that ‘assistance has been spread too thinly’ and ‘programs . . . have been of an intermittent nature’ and suffer from ‘a serious communication gap between industry and government’. I quote from the report for very good reasons, and they are that at a vast expense of $100,000 or more four of the most respected people in the industrial area in this country have come out with recommendations which are opposed to the philosophy of this Fraser Government. That is the reason for this feeble statement that we heard this afternoon.
I hope that I will have another occasion on which to say more about the Crawford report and about the policies of the Labor Party in relation to it- policies which will do something about creating jobs in this community through industry rather than having to put up with a statement like this which does nothing but put off decision making
Motion ( by Mr Staley) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Mackellar on behalf of Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment of capital grants to the States in 1979-80 totalling $4 15m. This amount represents the grant component of the Loan Council program for State governments in 1979-80 and is onethird of the total program of $ 1, 245m agreed at the June 1979 Loan Council meeting. The Bill also provides for the payment of capital grants in the first six months of 1980-81 up to an amount equal to one-half of the 1979-80 amount, pending passage of legislation to authorise grants in 1980-81. Payments authorised under this Bill may be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or from the Loan Fund, and appropriate borrowing authority is included. This is consistent with past practice.
These grants represent a continuation of arrangements initiated by the Liberal-Country Party Government in June 1970, which provided that portion of the State governments’ Loan Council programs should take the form of interest-free non-repayable grants in lieu of what would otherwise be interest-bearing borrowings by the States. The effect of the grants is to relieve the States of debt charges which they would otherwise have to pay, and the grants accordingly have a substantial beneficial effect on the States’ financial positions. The grants were introduced to help the States finance works such as schools, police buildings and the like from which debt charges are not normally recovered. The States are, however, entirely free to apply these grants as they choose and no terms or conditions are attached to them.
I turn now to the general context in which this Bill is being introduced. As I have mentioned, the grants which are the subject of this Bill comprise one-third of the States’ Loan Council borrowing programs in 1979-80. The program is some 13.2 per cent lower than the program for 1978-79. This does not mean the States are being required to make a corresponding reduction in their works programs. A proper comparison with last year can only be made in the overall context of total Commonwealth payments to the States and borrowing by State authorities. Funds to the
States from the Commonwealth Budget are presently estimated to be $1 1,168m in 1979-80, which would be an increase of 6.6 per cent. If the State authorities’ borrowings are added to this, the estimated total figure is $ 13,408m, an increase of 8.6 per cent. Even though they are not included in Commonwealth budget outlays, a full consideration of State financing should take account of these borrowings by State authorities. They are an important source of funds for the States and their level has implications for the market for Commonwealth bonds and the extent of Commonwealth support needed for the State Government borrowing programs, which are underwritten by the Commonwealth.
As honourable members may recall, in November 1978 the Commonwealth supported large special increases to State authorities’ programs in the form of infrastructure financing for a number of major developmental projects. In June this year the Loan Council gave inprinciple approval to the admission of two further projects to the infrastructure program. In all, these funds approved under the infrastructure program are to be of the order of $ 1 .9 billion over eight years, with some $400m approved for 1979-80. These borrowings have, and will continue to have a considerable impact of the size of total State authorities’ programs.
This matter aside, it may be noted that Commonwealth general purpose payments to the States, which are the most important element of overall payments to the States and of which the grants proposed in this Bill form a part, in total are estimated to increase by 7.1 per cent to $6, 677m. The general revenue assistance component to the States, essentially comprising the tax sharing entitlements, is estimated at $5,432m this year, an increase of 13.2 per cent. These funds may, of course, be spent by the States however they see fit, including on capital works projects. The reduction in the 1 979-80 State governments Loan Council program must therefore be viewed in the particular context of the strong growth in the States’ tax sharing entitlements. No responsible government could possibly ignore this factor.
The other main area of payments to the States- specific purpose funds- is estimated to increase by about 6 per cent in 1979-80 compared with last year. One particular specific purpose payment of relevance is the local government tax sharing entitlement which is passed on to local authorities as general purpose funds. The local government share of the previous year’s net personal income tax collections is to be increased to 1.75 per cent in 1979-80. The States will receive $22 1.7m for this purpose, an increase of 23.6 per cent. These decisions, including the size of the States’ Loan Council program, have been taken within the framework of the inescapable need to contain the expansion of the public sector.
In recent years the States have been able generally to achieve balanced Budgets- some have maintained Budget surpluses- despite the fact that at the same time they have been reducing or abolishing certain State taxes. The Commonwealth has made a balanced judgement on funding for the States in 1979-80 and has made every effort to give the States flexibility in managing their affairs within the constraints of responsible funding arrangements. This Bill provides onethird of the State governments Loan Council programs by way of an interest-free grant. It is an important measure in the overall arrangements for Commonwealth assistance to the States. I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr John McLeay. and read a first time.
– I move:
When announcing the release of the Remuneration Tribunal’s 1979 review on 20 June 1979 I indicated that the Government would not be accepting some of the determinations and reports contained in the review. The purpose of this Bill and the Ministers of State Amendment Bill 1979 is to give effect to new salary and allowances for members of parliament, Ministers, parliamentary office holders and judges.
This Bill provides for certain changes to Determination Nos 6, 7 and 8 of 1 979 of the Remuneration Tribunal. The modifications to these determinations are contained in Part II of the Bill. These modifications give effect to the Government’s wish to restrict increases to those which result from the application of the national wage case decisions of 21 December 1978 and 27 June 1979. It also removes the provision for automatic application of national wage case decisions during the period the determination is in force.
There are a few special cases when the indexation principle has not been applied. In the case of
Deputy Chairman of Committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives, the rate of additional salary payable in respect of the office has been raised to equate it with that payable to Deputy Whips, other than the Deputy Government Whip in the House of Representatives. In the case of the Government or Opposition Whips in the House or Senate and the Chairman, Public Works or Public Accounts Committee a special allowance was determined for the first time. The allowance proposed in the Bill has been calculated by presuming that the Whips would have been receiving an allowance of $1,100 and the Chairman $550 and applying the indexation principle to those amounts.
As the salaries and allowances in the Remuneration Tribunal ‘s 1 979 review were set by determination they have been in effect since 1 July 1979. They will continue until the date this Bill receives royal assent, at which time the salaries and allowances specified in the Bill shall take effect.
Part III of the Bill gives effect to the salaries and allowances of holders of judicial offices as recommended by the Tribunal in Report No. 2 of 1979. The Bill provides for these salaries and allowances to be applied retrospectively from 1 July 1979.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr John McLeay, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for an increase in the sum payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the salaries of Ministers of State, pursuant to section 66 of the Constitution. In calculating the amount required the Government has not accepted the ministerial salaries recommended in the Tribunal’s Report No. 1 of 1979. It has instead decided to limit the increase to the indexation principles referred to earlier.
The general principle which has been applied in Part II of the Remuneration and Allowances Bill and in the Ministers of State Amendment Bill is to limit increases to national wage case decisions. The Government recognises that Ministers have not had an increase since 1976 and office holders since 1977 and recognises that the objective of the Tribunal was to effect some readjustment of relativities in this field.
However the increases recommended by the Tribunal have gone well beyond what indexation would have yielded and to accept the recommendation would have had the effect of granting proportionate increases greater than those received by the majority of Australian income earners. The Government feels that the Parliament should be setting an example to the rest of the community by declining increases outside those which indexation would have yielded. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr John McLeay, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill proposes certain changes to Part II of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973 which covers the Academic Salaries Tribunal. At present the Academic Salaries Tribunal can make determinations and reports only on academic salaries in the context of a general review of all categories of academic staff. Since the last general review was undertaken in 1976 a number of matters have developed which require the Tribunal’s attention. As the Act is presently constituted it is not possible to consider these matters without undertaking a general review. Such a review is not necessary at this time.
The purpose of this Bill is to allow the Tribunal to make determinations or reports on academic salaries for: Firstly, newly established Commonwealth tertiary institutions; secondly, new categories of academic staff; and thirdly, particular categories of staff in all States and Territories for either universities, colleges of advanced education or both without having to undertake a general review. By extending the Act to cover these three areas it will be possible to clear up the outstanding matters.
The Bill also corrects an ambiguity as to whether the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973 covers technical and further education institutions which resulted from the creation of the Tertiary Education Commission which encompasses these institutions. It was never intended that the Tribunal should cover these institutions and the effect of the Bill will be to exclude them. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned.
-I present the report and financial statements of the Reserve Bank of Australia for the year 1978-79, together with the Auditor-General’s reports thereon. This action is required of me pursuant to the Reserve Bank Act. Copies are being released to the media by the Bank.
– by leave- I report to this House on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Lusaka from 1 August to 7 August.
There can be no legitimate doubt in anyone’s mind that this was a critical conference in the history of the Commonwealth. The way things turned out should not cause us to forget that. Before the event responsible and reasonable people were expressing serious concern as to whether the Commonwealth would survive the conference. There was talk of a break-up. This was not altogether idle talk. Had the conference gone badly, the institution would have been seriously maimed and could have been destroyed. As it happened the conference did not go badly, it went extremely well, and far from breaking up, the Commonwealth has emerged a stronger, more vital and more cohesive body.
No one who has followed events in Lusakaand certainly no one who was present there- can doubt that the Commonwealth is an institution which has relevance, and a distinctive function to perform, in the contemporary world. It has sometimes been asserted and even more often been implied that this is a romantic and exaggerated view, that the Commonwealth is merely the ghost of a vanished empire, a talking-shop, a dealer in myths and illusions. I believe it is now clear that it is those who hold this view who are the real romantics- pessimistic romantics who refuse to come to terms with a changing world and the changing forms of influence and power.
The old Commonwealth could never have achieved what was achieved at Lusaka, for at this conference the Commonwealth took on one of the most serious and sensitive issues in international affairs today, an issue which has resisted prolonged efforts made by major powers, acting alone, to find a solution. In a matter of days, real and substantial progress was made. It seems perverse, therefore, to persist in the defeatist and negative view that this institution does not have the potential for a continuing valuable and constructive role in world affairs. The issue I refer to is, of course, the future of Zimbabwe. As anticipated, this issue was inevitably the central preoccupation of the conference. It was approached with a minimum of polemics, and with a determination to find a fair settlement acceptable to all parties.
In my response on the first day to President Kaunda ‘s opening speech I appealed, as I have done on previous occasions, for a spirit of principled moderation and compromise which would make it possible to bridge different positions. In the event that spirit turned out to be the distinguishing mark of the conference. It was the spirit of Lusaka. That it was so was due, in particular, to the attitude of three of the participants: Our host President Kaunda; President Nyerere of Tanzania; and the British Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher. I take this opportunity to express my personal admiration for the courage and vision of these three leaders. In a situation where there were pressures on each to be intransigent, to ask others to yield while remaining inflexible themselves, all three rejected that path and chose the one leading to genuine accommodation. It is greatly to their credit and represented statesmanship of a high order.
The British Prime Minister, for her part, reaffirmed the unqualified commitment of her Government to the goal of genuine black majority rule in Rhodesia. Much more importantly, in her speech of 3 August, she recognised the validity of the criticisms made of the present constitution, of the blocking powers enjoyed by the white minority, and of the power vested in the various service commissions, which together make it impossible for the Government of Bishop Muzorewa to have adequate control over the country’s affairs. So long as these criticisms could be made of the constitution one could not assert that genuine black majority rule existed in Rhodesia. Such powers, which have not been included in any constitution resulting from a legal transference of power by Britain, deny government powers which are fundamental to a democracy or, indeed, to any responsible government. A government which cannot control appointments in key areas, or the activities of its armed forces, is not master of its own house. Mrs Thatcher also accepted the responsibility of the British Government to bring the country to legal independence on a basis which the Commonwealth and the international community as a whole will find acceptable. She undertook to present proposals as quickly as possible to all the parties.
The leaders of the front line states, Tanzania and Zambia, showed an equally admirable willingness to approach the issue constructively. President Nyerere, in his speech on the Zimbabwe debate, recognised that an advance had been made in recent months. While rejecting the validity of existing constitutional arrangements which allow a white minority to control the levers of power, he accepted that a democratic constitution was not incompatible with special provisions for the white minority in the form of reserves seats ‘even out of proportion to the numbers involved’, as he himself said. He recognised that a cease-fire was a precondition for free and fair elections. Beyond this, President Kaunda and President Nyerere showed a restraint and patience, and a confidence in the British Government which were an essential element in creating the trust necessary for agreement and progress. They were not in the business of confrontation and point scoring.
Let me say something about the part Australia played in the negotiation of the Zimbabwe issue. In the period leading to the conference and during it, we had extensive contacts- both direct and by letter- with the principal parties. Shortly before the conference I had talks with Mrs Thatcher in Canberra and immediately before going to Lusaka I visited Nigeria- a key African state- to talk with General Obasanio the leader of the Federal military government. The Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) had separate talks with the British and with representatives of the Muzorewa Government and subsequently with leaders of the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments. During the conference, of course, we had extensive discussions with all the parties and the Patriotic Front.
In all these talks we expressed the view that, whatever else, the April elections had broken a log jam and created conditions for movement. We maintained that further constitutional changes in the direction of greater Africanisatior were essential. We emphasised that a precondition for a successful settlement was that it should be acceptable to a significant number of African states, otherwise, in the circumstances of Africa, it could not survive. We stressed the need to bring the war to an end.
The invitation to give the first response to President Kaunda ‘s opening address gave me the opportunity to put Australia’s views to the conference very early. I stressed the need to bear in mind the positive elements of agreement which existed amongst those present, the fact that we essentially agreed on ends and differed only on means. I stressed also that recent events had created an opportunity for advance by introducing a new element of flexibility and movement. And, as I have said, I made as strong a plea as I could for moderation and reasoned compromise.
During the weekend of 4 and 5 August, and following the opening of the debate on the Rhodesia issue on Friday, 3 August, a small consulting group of six heads of government was established to try to reach agreement. Australia was a member of that group. The group reached agreement and drew up a communique on Southern Africa, which was subsequently accepted by other heads of government. The communique made nine points. The heads of government:
Confirmed that they were wholly committed to genuine black majority rule for the people of Zimbabwe; recognised, in this context, that the internal settlement constitution is defective in certain important respects; fully accepted that it is the constitutional responsibility of the British Government to grant legal independence to Zimbabwe on the basis of majority rule; recognised that the search for a lasting settlement must involve all parties to the conflict; were deeply conscious of the urgent need to achieve such a settlement and bring peace to the people of Zimbabwe and their neighbours; accepted that independence on the basis of majority rule requires the adoption of a democratic constitution including appropriate safeguards for minorities; acknowledged that the government formed under such an independent constitution must be chosen through free and fair elections, properly supervised under British Government authority, and with Commonwealth observers; and welcomed the British Government’s indication that an appropriate procedure for advancing towards these objectives would be for it to call a constitutional conference to which all parties would be invited.
It is worth noting that that conference has been called for 10 September and that the parties have all accepted to be in attendance. The ninth point was that the heads of government accepted that it must be a major objective to bring about a cessation of hostilities and an end to sanctions as part of the process of implementation of a lasting settlement. It is worth noting that the last condition- that it must be a major objective to bring about a cessation of hostilities and an end to sanctions- places obligations on all states to co-operate in that objective at the appropriate time. These nine points do not amount to a settlement of the Zimbabwe situation. Neither the Muzorewa Government nor the Patriotic Front was a party to the discussion, and a settlement obviously requires their agreement.
Much hard work and delicate negotiating remains to be done. But the significance of what has been achieved is enormous. To appreciate this it is nesessary to contemplate what the position would be had there been a failure to reach agreement. Both Southern Africa and the Commonwealth would be facing bleak prospects. The momentum for change would have been lost. As it is, a very formidable and diverse body of opinion has been mobilised and unified, in favour of a particular process of settlement. Given its nature, that body of opinion will require a serious response from both Salisbury and the Patriotic Front. Before the conference, the opinion prevailed in each of these centres that time was on their side, that they could afford to wait and resist change. It will now be difficult for them to maintain that view. It is very important that, for the first time in many years, the initiative has been seized by the forces of moderation and peaceful settlement, and that has been done within the framework of the Commonwealth, that often derided institution which continues to confound its critics by proving its relevance.
The settlement process that is envisaged can bring peace and allow Zimbabwe to take its place in the community of nations. It allows for genuine majority rule, for a return to legality, for protection of the white minority, and for the ending of war and sanctions. If achieved, it will be acceptable to leading African states, it will remove a festering sore which has threatened to infect Southern Africa with both the poison of racial war and great power conflict. There is no guarantee that these things will happen, that the process will succeed. But I believe that there are reasonable prospects for success. I believe this for two, as I understand it, powerful reasons, firstly because the terms of settlement it envisages are essentially right in themselves in that they are based on the principles that the people of Zimbabwe- all the people- have the right to choose who shall govern them, and that the government so elected should have real control over the affairs of the country. Secondly, I believe the chances of success are good because such a settlement is in the rational self interest of all the parties concerned. It is the only way in which the suffering and bloodshed which has gone on daily and been endured by the people of Zimbabwe can be ended. If the settlement does not succeed, the prospect is for an intensification of the war, a greater resort to Communist arms as probably the only source of supply of arms, a greater turmoil for the whole of Southern Africa, and a greater involvement and a greater interest by the suppliers of those Communist arms. As far as the white community of that country is concerned, it can hope for a stable and peaceful existence, only as part of a genuine multi-racial society. Mr Speaker, it is worth noting that during one particular function which I attended in Lusaka there were a significant number of white settlers. I asked their views of what was happening in Zambia and what was happening in Rhodesia. They could not understand the intransigence of what was happening in Rhodesia. Zambia, they said, was a genuine multi-racial society without tension, without conflict. They could not understand why the white people of Rhodesia resisted the same kind of settlement because they saw in it the only hope of peace, the only hope of stability, the only hope of end to conflict, and in that I believe they were right. Continuing warfare will lead to disintegration and the exodus of white people from Rhodesia with no security for any of them. The Patriotic Front can only hope to participate in the government of the country on the basis of such a settlement.
The front-line states have an interest in ending the state of war which forces them to accept many great and serious sacrifices and threatens to involve them directly in other people’s conflicts. Britain has an interest in ending a situation which has perhaps caused it more international embarrassment than any other over the last decade. The international community at large can only benefit from removing a potential source of conflagration and great power rivalry. Australia, as a member of the international community shares this concern for peace and stability in Southern Africa, and, as a member of the Commonwealth, we have a concern with preserving its integrity, and with the Commonwealth proving itself as a constructive and relevant institution. The Lusaka conference has set a process in train. What other international body could have achieved this? It is our sincere hope that the process is continued to a successful conclusion.
If the Rhodesia issue occupied the centre of the stage at the conference, it certainly did not monopolise attention. A good deal else was done besides and, for the information of honourable members, I table the final communique.
One of the major initiatives was in the economic field, where Australia proposed a Commonwealth group of experts to make a comprehensive study of factors restraining growth within world economies. We put the proposals forward in the context of the historic changes that have moulded the world ‘s economy over the past few decades. In the quarter century after the Second World War the world experienced a period of unprecedented economic growth. The Great Depression, followed by the war, had created a huge pent-up demand for consumer goods. That, together with the Marshall Plan, the widespread adoption of Keynesian policies and the rapid introduction of new technology, led to a sustained upsurge in economic growth and real income in the developing countries as well as in the industrialised world. In those years, the material conditions of the mass of people in Western societies was transformed. But the very success of that process meant that by the mid-1960s conditions were changing and by the early 1970s the consumer boom was clearly running down.
At the same time, there emerged increasing impediments to enterprise and investment. High inflation was becoming built into the major economies; further moves to protection were building greater restraints to trade. Governments conditioned to believing that Keynesian policies were the answer to all problems stubbornly continued to pursue those policies, despite the onset of inflation, encouraged by electorates increasingly accustomed to believing that governments could provide for all needs. The extraordinary growth of the period came to be taken for granted. Increasingly, unrealistic demands were made on world economies, particularly by trade union movements which came to exercise unprecedented power, and it became fashionable to decry growth and to place impediments in its path. An increasingly formidable system of statutory road blocks was placed in the way of development and investment. Very demanding environmental laws, harsh trade practices legislation, prices justification regulations, and the development and investment policies pursued by many countries have acted as impediments to economic growth. Many investment opportunities which had been highly attractive 20 years ago now became uneconomic.
The result of all this is that in recent years the growth in world trade has fallen to half of what was in previous decades, from eight per cent to four per cent. A further constraint to growth is slow rates of development in a number of developing countries. Australia’s experience with the newly industrialising countries has shown us that as they take-off economically, trade both ways grows very rapidly. During the 1970s, however, instead of accepting the challenge and opportunity of greater trade with newly industrialising countries, many major developed nations became fearful and turned to greater protectionism.
We see examples of this in the $25 billion spent by Western industrial countries on wage and export subsidies, the use of voluntary restraint agreements and the contemplation of selective safeguards. This is not only selfish and wrong, but also foolish and short-sighted economics, for the growth of markets in developing countries could well be one of the keys to reducing the rate of unemployment being experienced by Western developed nations in the last part of the twentieth century. It is clear that the conditions which generated and fueled the great surge of growth in the last quarter century have now largely disappeared, and recent assessments by international organisations for the medium term outlook are for a continuation of slow growth or even a further deterioration in growth prospects. At Lusaka, Heads of Government recognised that a continuation of slow growth in the global economy would further damage the prospects of increasing living standards in both developed and developing countries, and could have adverse effects in their political and social structures. They agreed that there would be considerable advantage in a study by independent Commonwealth experts that focuses on the constraints to economic growth and structural change in developed and developing nations, and identifies specific measures necessary to reduce these constraints. The group is to report in time to assist Commonwealth governments in their preparation for the special session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1 980, and the Government has indicated to the Commonwealth Secretary-General that a prominent Australian academic economist is expected to be available to serve on the group.
I believe that Australia has already set an example in some areas of the way that constraints on growth can be broken down. We have reduced inflation, and we will maintain our strong anti-inflationary policy. We have increased company profitability, improved
Australia’s competitive position, and strengthened the Australian dollar. Under our foreign investment policy administered by the Foreign Investment Review Board, last year’s private foreign investment was the highest virtually for the decade. In the June quarter, $1.4 billion prospective expenditure was approved. All these help to reduce the impediments to our national development, but there are many other barriers to growth within the global economy. I hope that the report will address itself to these constraints and recommend practical policies that can be pursued in order to promote growth of the world economy.
The discussion of the Australian economic initiative again made it clear that Heads of Government realised that in confronting the problems we face, we need a fusion of realism, imagination and boldness, and a willingness to listen and understand one another. The eyes of the world were on the Commonwealth at Lusaka. It faced a harsh test. It passed that test and in doing so proved that it has the capacity to make a major contribution in international affairs through the rest of this century. One of the results of what happened in Lusaka is that the members of the Commonwealth will share a new confidence and assurance of what we can collectively achieve, and I am sure that Australians will warmly welcome the fact that the next Commonwealth Heads of Government conference will be held in this country. I present the following paper:
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, LusakaMinisterial Statement, 23 August 1979.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition speaking for a period not exceeding 23 minutes.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– Before dinner the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made a statement on the Lusaka meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government. I am now replying to that statement. The Prime Minister went to the Lusaka conference with the good wishes of the Opposition. On 7 June I pointed out to the House that the Lusaka conference seemed to offer an opportunity for a positive and helpful contribution to be made towards a settlement of the Zimbabwe problem. My statement added, and I quote it for the record:
Therefore, the Prime Minister goes with my good wishes. To the extent that he tries to achieve a settlement of the problem, he goes with my support and with the support of the Opposition.
It is appropriate to say now that to the extent that the Prime Minister can claim to have influenced the outcome of the Lusaka discussions he deserves commendation, and I so commend him. My only reservation is a mild one based on confusion rather than restraint. I have noted that the Australian Press featured the Australian Prime Minister’s role at Lusaka prominently- indeed, almost exclusively. I understand that the Canadian Press has featured the mediating and facilitating role of Canada’s new Prime Minister, Mr Joe Clark, also as if it were the most prominent, if not dominant, factor in the outcome. For the record let there be no ambiguity. I am impressed by the role of the Prime Minister. It was a constructive role; it was an important role; it was an influential role. Without hesitation or reservation, I commend that role.
That aside, it is important to place on record a special commendation of the role of the British Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher. She gave a display of unexpected flexibility in Lusaka on this issue which divides her party in Britain so deeply and sharply. Without her ability and willingness to bend to the forces that had to be recognised at Lusaka, the settlement proposals would not have been possible.
Nevertheless, we must be sober in our assessments of where those proposals may now lead. There is a long and extremely difficult road still separating the Lusaka proposals from a peaceful, lasting settlement in Zimbabwe. I hope that the Patriotic Front will take an active and positive role in the proposed constitutional conference in London on 10 September. The talks between the leaders of the two arms of the Front in Tanzania a few days ago made it obvious that they had deep reservations about the Lusaka proposals. This is understandable in many ways, but it is essential that the Front leaders approach the meeting in a positive frame of mind. I believe that they must realise- they must be made to realise- that unless they do this their base of support everywhere will be seriously eroded. They would make hard-line opposition to their cause more extensive and more vociferous, and they should have no doubts about that.
It is a pity that both the Patriotic Front and the Muzorewa Government in Zimbabwe appear to have stepped up their hostilities as the conference approaches, rather than instituting a ceasefire. Indeed, it is reported today that Mr Robert Mugabe, leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union- the section of the Front based in Mozambique- has strongly denounced the London conference and urged full concentration on a war of liberation.
– He has said that he will go. Both Patriotic Front leaders have said that they will go.
– I welcome that and I hope that before 10 September there will be a moderating of attitudes expressed in the statement which I quoted. I do not want to dwell on the question of just how important these events in southern Africa are to Australia relative to our other relationships around the world. Southern Africa is as distant from the general Australian consciousness as it is distant from Australia geographically. But instability anywhere in the world is a matter of great concern to us. Instability anywhere, inflamed by super power interference, is of enormous concern to us. If there is not soon a just and lasting settlement in southern Africa- and the justice and durability must be acknowledged by all parties- then it will become far more difficult to avoid super power involvement. The front line states and others will find it far more difficult to maintain their valuable and valued independence of super power politics.
Instability is contagious. Like a contagious disease, it grows and spreads in favourable circumstances. And, like a disease, it becomes more difficult to contain and to cure as the process continues. Instability in southern Africa cannot be contained to that region. Inevitably, it will attract the attention of the super powers. There is the greater risk that they will become involved. Once involved, there is the risk that involvement will lead to tensions between the super powers. At that point, obviously, the whole world has cause to be concerned. That is the chain of events that could be set in motion if the Lusaka proposals cannot be turned into a platform for peaceful settlement. No nation in the world with any sense of world community will be immune to such events.
I am disappointed that the Prime Minister has reported on the Lusaka meeting in a somewhat narrow context. For example, the communique, at paragraph 24, notes the very serious economic effects on neighbouring countries caused by the continuing conflict in Zimbabwe. It points out that the needs of the region justify far greater international assistance than is being given now and seeks to find that higher level of assistance. I would have liked to have heard from the Prime
Minister something of his Government’s intentions in this regard. It would have been a much needed earnest of the Government’s intentionsmuch needed because this Government has preached but not practised the spirit of the Lusaka communique on aid. As a proportion of gross domestic product, Australia’s official development assistance in 1975- the last year of the Labor Government- was 0.6 per cent. Last year, it was 0.45 per cent. For the current financial year, aid is down to 0.42 per cent. That means simply that the Government would have to provide an additional $244m to get back to the same level of aid, in real terms, as was provided in the last year of Labor government. I suggest that that sort of information might have been more instructive than the Prime Minister’s report on Australian-initiated trade discussion at Lusaka- a subject upon which this Government constantly speaks with hypocrisy and acts with self-interest. The state of relations with the Association of South East Asian Nations group of countries, with the United States and with the European countries is eloquent testimony to this fact.
When the discussion turns to free trade, the present Australian Government stands out as the practitioner of duplicity. At forums such as the Commonwealth conference in Lusaka and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Manila quite recently, the Prime Minister presented himself as the fearless champion of the Third World and small countries generally. He says all of us will benefit from freer trade and some of us will suffer grievously and unfairly without it. Then he comes home and returns to his domestic role as the doyen of protectionists. The Prime Minister tailors his speeches to his audiences with complete cynicism; yet he never ceases to be amazed that all he achieves is mass ive loss of credibility at home, and abroad as well. In his statement reporting on the Lusaka conference the Prime Minister has injected a series of economic views which are entirely a product of his own blinkered and unbalanced domestic outlook. It is most unfortunate that he chose to do this. It discourages a clear and undiluted bipartisanship on the main issue of the Lusaka meeting- the future of Zimbabwe. When the Prime Minister left Australia for that meeting, there was no room whatever for doubt about the bipartisan approach of the two sides in this House.
Let me give one word of advice to the Prime Minister so far as Australia’s best interests are concerned internationally. This nation is best served when the areas of difference between the main political parties are reduced to the absolute minimum, when those on the other sides of our international relations can have the greatest certainty of where they stand and what they can expect. Injecting crude political hectoring into a report such as the one the Prime Minister offered this House today has no benefit. It reflects his own antediluvian ideology and serves only to fracture where the need is to cement. I would strongly commend to the Prime Minister his own description of what he calls ‘the spirit of Lusaka’. That was ‘a spirit of principled moderation and compromise that would make it possible to bridge different positions’. The Prime Minister may have achieved worthwhile recognition for his style of diplomacy in Lusaka, but the European accusation- that his style is ‘wild buffalo diplomacy’- will stick with him for a long time.
One of the most extraordinary incidents of our recent international relations is confirmed in the book published this week by Mr Alan Renouf, just retired from the position of Australian Ambassador to the United States. In his book The Frightened Country, Mr Renouf details a succession of arguments between the Fraser Government and the Carter Administration in the United States. First, there was the row over air rights, where according to Mr Renouf, the Australians sought to over-protect Qantas Airways Ltd against lower fares and new competitors. According to Mr Renouf, the sourness generated by this matter spilled over into the multilateral trade negotiation discussions. The Prime Minister accused the United States of not adequately protecting Australia’s interests- a task, by the way, which quite obviously belongs to Australia.
The Prime Minister of Australia, according to no less authority than the former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to Washington, reached the stage of making direct threats against the American Government. He suggested, in fact, that the future of United States defence facilities in Australia could be jeopardised unless this country received better treatment from America in the multilateral trade negotiations. What an extraordinary performance from the Prime Minister who has made so much of the American relationship and the ANZUS Treaty which formalises it. What a reflection on this Government’s view of Australia as an independent country pursuing its own interests. That was a disgraceful chapter in Australian relations with the United States. We can be quite certain it will not be quickly forgotten in Washington. It exemplifies the trend noted by Mr Renouf this week for this Government to behave in the world with an exaggerated belligerence. Sometimes that tactic can be useful. But it can be easily over-used, and this Government has over-used it to the point where Australian credibility has suffered seriously in some quarters.
– Oh, rubbish!
– Of course the American association means nothing to these reactionary conservatives. They are anti-American. Their every act betokens it. The assault of the Prime Minister upon this relationship which has been so important to Australia in the past -
Honourable members interjecting-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The House will come to order!
– As Mr Renouf said at the National Press Club on Tuesday- it is appropriate to quote this, given the anti-American reaction of the Government back benchers:
I believe in T. R. Roosevelt’s maxim, ‘Tread softly and carry a big stick’. From time to time it seems to me that the Australian Government acts in precisely the opposite way.
Mr Renouf went on to say:
I note a tendency to prefer confrontation to diplomacy, The Government has shown this tendency to ‘have a go’ in its dealings with the Soviet Union, the EEC, the ASEAN countries and Vietnam- and there has been more than a tinge of confrontation about the handling of a number of bilateral issues with the US.
Well, there are no half measures about the Prime Minister. He is determined to put all of the major countries in the world off-side. Such is the quality of his foreign policy. Prime among them, of course, is the United States of America. Mr Renouf pointed out that the Prime Minister’s style in foreign policy has turned his Foreign Minister into a fireman, dashing around the world to try to put out the conflagrations started by his leader. Mr Peacock is quite good at that sort of thing. He is always going around ringing hands in sympathy at the self-inflicted damage of the Prime Minister. Of course, he cannot wait to dance on his grave. But we should also be able to expect that role of the Foreign Affairs Minister to be unnecessary in a responsible government. It is typical, however, that when comments of this sort are made by someone like Mr Alan Renouf the Government’s first reaction is to try to gag him. The Public Service Board’s statement this week claiming that Mr Renouf was in breach of convention in making his criticisms was hogwash, as everyone even slightly familiar with the subject would know.
– Bob Hawke would do much better, Bill.
– I hear the honourable member for Bendigo- an after-dinner typhoon in a cheap wine bottle.
– Was this speech written in the Soviet Embassy?
-The honourable member for Denison is as elegant as a monkey with a parasol.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, is it in order for the Leader of the Opposition to stand in this House and read a speech which was written in the Soviet Embassy?
-Order! The honourable member for Denison will resume bis seat. He will not address the Chair without receiving the call. The Leader of the Opposition has the right to address the House in silence. I ask honourable members on my right to remain silent.
– I take the point of order that the pro-Soviet comments made by the Leader of the Opposition have nothing to do with the Prime Minister’s statement. He is not being relevant to the statement. I submit therefore that it was proper for honourable members to suggest that perhaps he did not write the speech he is making in this House.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no substance to the point of order.
– Nor to the person making it, I must note. As I was saying, the Public Service Board’s statement this week claiming that Mr Renouf was in breach of convention in making his criticisms was hogwash, a subject about which the honourable member for Denison knows more than any of the rest of us. The Board tried to hang a public service argument on a precedent from Britain which dealt with Cabinet ministers breaching official secrecy in publishing their diaries. But the Board was embarrassed enough by the whole process to admit quite freely that it was ‘asked’ to do something about the Renouf criticisms. And there is nobody in this place who doubts that the request was made by the Government. Most would believe that it was made by the Prime Minister. If it was not, let us hear from the Government who it was. Until we put our own house in order in such matters as trade and air service arrangements with the Association of South East Asian Nations, until we are prepared to accept that there is another side to the arguments we keep putting to others, we cannot expect to be taken seriously in the forums that count. Nothing is despised more in international relations than hypocrisy- and rightly so.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the Opposition is pleased with the outcome of the Lusaka meeting. It is our earnest hope that the proposals formulated there can be translated into a just and lasting peace for all the peoples concerned. Sadly, however, Lusaka is one of the few bright features of this Government’s record in international affairs. On that, of course, we shall elaborate on other near occasions.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22 August 1979, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I remind the House that it has been agreed that a general debate be allowed covering this Bill, the Lighthouses Amendment Bill, the Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Shipping Levy Collection) Amendment Bill, the Sea-Carriage of Goods Amendment Bill, and the Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill.
-Five Bills are being taken into consideration in this cognate debate. They are about enormously complex and complicated subjects. I think it is fair to say that nobody could claim to be an expert on all these matters. Nevertheless, as one who runs a small boat and who takes an interest in navigational and nautical matters, I can express the same views as the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), which were to the effect that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) can be given some credit for taking up the initiative shown by his predecessor, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), who brought a revised navigation Bill before the Parliament when the Australian Labor Party was last in office.
Tonight we are debating the Navigation Amendment Bill 1979, the Lighthouses Amendment Bill, the Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Shipping Levy Collection) Amendment Bill, the SeaCarriage of Goods Amendment Bill and the Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill. I suppose that the main Bill is the Navigation Amendment Bill. It is the only one that we will really have time to talk about. The basis of it came from the Labor Government’s 1975 legislation, which failed to pass through both Houses. On that memorable date in 1975 when the Parliament was prorogued that legislation had still to pass through the Senate. The shipping industry has been languishing in this respect as a result of that. Indeed, Australia has been bereft of international obligations in regard to a number of very important conventions affecting the shipping industry and navigation processes. In 1976 another attempt was made to enact this overdue reform. That was frustrated by the prorogation of the Parliament early in 1977.
The importance of the Navigation Amendment Bill is indicated by the fact that it facilitates Australia’s effective participation in five international maritime conventions. I know that the former Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle, carried a flag about that for the Labor Government of the day, which had a very great sense of responsibility about Australia playing its part in respect of all international conventions. He commissioned the Summers Commision of Inquiry into the Maritime Industry, whose report did not come to fruition until the Australian Labor Party had been removed from government. The present Minister for Transport received that report. It is rare for me to pay any tribute to him, but I think it is fair to say that on this occasion he has grasped the nettle. That is not to say that everything has been taken care of sufficiently. As he knows, there are some notable omissions from the legislation. A few improvements are still desired. One of them concerns off-shore vessels and fixed off-shore stations associated with the exploitation of the sea. Of course, that encompasses the drilling of oil and matters of that kind. These matters have not been finalised with all the States. I understand that Western Australia is pulling rank a bit about this matter.
I do not want to make things harder for the Minister. As one who has negotiated with the States, I know the difficulties that he has experienced in this regard. Nonetheless, he has had a fair time to bring his diplomatic prowess to bear. We hope that it will not be long before that problem is resolved. Another matter for consideration is the penal provisions under section 100 of the Navigation Act and the 1 1 offences that can be invoked under that section. There is a strong view about that to the effect that there is contravention of certain International Labour Organisation conventions. It is a dicey and complex matter. I do not want to dwell on it, but I say to the Minister that it is about time he found a happy solution to that as well. It would have been good, and I think within the realms of expectation, for it to have been incorporated in this legislation. I do not want to dwell on the matter but I urge the Minister to act effectively on it.
Among the five important conventions is the one setting the limitation of liability of owners of sea-going ships. Under this provision liability limits will be increased from, I think, $28 a tonne to $ 1 79 a tonne for personal claims and from $ 1 5 a tonne to $57 a tonne for property. Of course, that is a very great advancement in that it provides the capacity for people to get equity and a just return in times of loss of personal property. It puts an onus on the shipowners to meet in full liabilities in respect of damage caused to harbour works and the removal of wrecks. A gratifying feature of this Bill and the other legislation is that it will give effect to a call by sea-going unions for shipowners to be prevented from limiting liability for claims by crew members serving under Commonwealth articles. I know that the seagoing unions have contended that they have been disadvantaged for quite some time. Their representations to and consultations with the Minister and his departmental officers are bearing fruit. I hope that the employees of the industry- the people who make the world go round in this regard- will benefit as a result of the initiatives taken.
Another convention we will take up with the enactment of this legislation, if it is to be enacted, is a convention relating to the prevention of collisions at sea. Although we have been cooperative in practising these regulations since 1977, giving effect to the whole spirit of the convention, the State and Federal Acts under which our regulations were made were not effective in embracing all coastal shipping. This legislation overcomes that problem. In that regard it serves a very good purpose. The international convention for the safety of life at sea is no less important than the others to which I have referred. The Bill gives effect to that convention, covering as it does the entire gamut of safety. The complexity of the legislation can be seen from the fact that to comply with this convention our Federal and State Acts and regulations have to specify all requirements about safety. The inclusion of a tremendous variety of matters is contemplated. They include measures concerning radio communication and equipment, fire protection, engine specifications, cargo-carrying rules, lifeboats and many other safety related matters which have not been adequately covered previously.
Another convention ties Australia to world standards for cargo containers. It covers matters concerning their size, strength and maintenance. In fact, it covers all the considerations relating to the safety of containers used in the international field of maritime transportation. The fifth international convention which this legislation embraces is the convention on tonnage measurement for ships. It relates tonnage to the volume of interior cargo space and provides for international universality in the measurement of ships and the levying of dues. This Bill, more than most others, highlights the exceptional difficulty which results from the constitutional situation in Australia. We have to have regard for the fact that this is not the only sovereign parliament in Australia. The States often feel their oats and want to make their position felt.
In respect of four of these conventions the States, as well as the Commonwealth, are able to assume legislative responsibility in the case of intrastate shipping. The States, of course, have an unrestricted prerogative to determine the kinds of rules and regulations to apply within the boundaries of the individual States and in relation to the off-shore area that each controls. But in relation to interstate and international trade, the laws of the Australian Government prevail. There can, of course, be a great proliferation of codes and regulations under Federal-State legislation. I suppose that all of us have some anxiety that the user, the consumer, the master of the ship, the ship owner, the union employee might in the end be able to sort out the great mass of paper containing State and Federal laws. Of, course, it is very important for Australians to realise the liabilities under which we operate in respect of these matters. There could well come a time when we have to decide all these things at a referendum which seeks to put Australia on such a basis that it is at no less disadvantage than any other country.
I am told that in respect of small sea-going craft of under 500 tonnes there are some 1,800 pages of technical requirements. It is a most complex code to which both the Commonwealth and the States are likely to give effect. Understandably, the regulating of larger ships and tankers is a bigger and even more complex issue. The adequacy and competence of a ship’s complement is spelt out in the Bill. All these things can be varied by requirements set down by the Minister. In respect of the nature of a ship’s voyage, different rules may be made, depending on where the ship is going.
I turn now to the matter of a ship’s cargo. Let me intrude with the consideration that a ship might be carrying uranium- heaven forbid that that should happen, but it might eventuate- or some other dangerous cargo with pollutive potential. It is within the prerogative of the Minister to make his own special enactments in relation to such matters as the location of the port. These things also have to be taken into account. It just seems to me that that is a great power for any Minister to have. I am not talking personally about the present Minister. I know that he does not revel in the great obligations he has in this area. The sooner we cause these things to become rights by legislative enactments, the better; the sooner we minimise ministerial prerogative, the better. I think this situation underlines the need to set up structures and processes by which the industry at large can be effective in evaluating the situation and advising the Minister. In that way the Parliament can be advised about what the Minister is doing, and we can react and respond accordingly. This legislation lays down new criteria about qualifications of masters, officers and seamen. In this regard new requirements are specified about the instruction, training, examinations, and certificates of qualification of sea-going personnel. Standards are being upgraded. They lay the basis, of course, for the curriculum to be adopted by Tasmania’s new maritime college.
– Hear, hear!
-The honourable member for Denison obviously enjoys the mention of that institution whose establishment is imminent. He will probably acknowledge that its estblishment was the initiative of a Labor Government of which I am very justifiably proud. I hope that some kind of distinction and recognition will be brought to Tasmania because it will be the home of this great training facility for Australia’s maritime industry. It represents a great achievement of the Government of which I was a member.
New manning scales are to be substituted for the old manning committees. Only time will tell whether the new scheme serves the interests of the workers in the industry and, of course, serves the industry at large to advantage. The Opposition will be watching the situation with very great interest. The six maritime unions do not readily acknowledge that what is proposed is the best idea. There has been a process under which manning committees have taken into account the nature of voyages, the nature of the industry, the nature of the cargo and all kinds of things. As I understand the position, that process is to be jettisoned. I have with me a copy of the MarchApril 1979 issue of the Seamen’s Journal. Under the heading ‘Safety Manning’ an article in that journal states:
The Union reaffirms its opposition to the present proposals on minimum safety manning.
Under the heading ‘Manning Individual Ships’ the article goes on in a very compromising way to state:
While there may be some problems relating to the manning decisions on some vessels we must realistically assess and accept the nature of the industry, the various award provisions and the duties and work involved.
To enable adequate assessment of manning requirements, where possible an inspection of the ship should take place before manning commutes are held. I think the union is demonstrating a fairly responsible view here. There is to be a second phase into which these processes will move. I hope that before the Minister gets to that stage and seeks to lay down laws in relation to which he wants compliance, industrial peace, cooperation and harmony he will seek to get a real consensus. I feel that in relation to these matters he has had more co-operation from the unions than he has had from some of the States. I would not be surprised if he has had more co-operation from the unions than he has had from some of the important components of the shipping industry- the entrepreneurs or the shipowners as one might choose to call them. There are new technological developments which necessitate new crewing arrangements. It would be absurd to require a modern bulk carrier to crew the same number of able seamen as the 1912 Act required for a sailing vessel. The task for this Bill, therefore, is to contemporise an industry by upgrading the standards of operation, personnel, equipment and safety. It is to be done in terms of the art of the possible. The name of the game, as I see it and as the Opposition sees it, is to give effect to all these decent ideals and then to keep Australian vessels in an internationally competitive trade.
A lot could be said about this matter, but let me summarise my feelings. This is a vital industry. We are not doing as well as we should in it. There are 1 1 modern ships operating bulk and liner services. In 1976-77 those ships transported more than one million tonnes in imports and two million tonnes in exports. These quantities represented 3.7 per cent of total imports and 1.3 per cent of total exports. Australia is the seventeenth nation in the world and we have a very meagre participation in shipping. I hope that our acceptance of a new navigation concept and our participation in the objectivity of the world’s shipping industry will enable us to improve our position. We must stop selling out our industry. We have to instil pride in Australians and the shipping industry. We should get into business ourselves so that in the future the Australian flag might fly in many more ports in the world than it has done in the past.
-These Bills were introduced into this House on 22 May 1979. Last night the somewhat unusual situation arose where two Government speakers, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) and the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu), followed each other in the debate. At that time Her Majesty’s Opposition was not represented in the debate.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Last evening the management of this chamber was in a shambles. The sequence of speakers was as it was in response to a request from the Government for co-operation. There was not any lack of action on the part of the Opposition.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)There is no point of order; it is a point of debate.
-Before I was interrupted by the honourable member for Shortland I was about to say that I welcome the contribution tonight of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). As he correctly said, these Bills open up a completely new vista in relation to navigation in this country for an industry which I believe will go from strength to strength. Very few people realise that already today in Australia ships carry over 50 per cent of our national cargo but account for only 8 per cent of national fuel consumption. I predict- others who are better informed on the energy crisis will appreciatethat the two modes of transportation which will come back in a very big way in this country towards the end of this century and certainly in the twenty-first century are sea transport and rail transport. Having said that, I pay a compliment to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) who is at the table. Once again the Minister has tackled a task well. He has presented Bills which in their enormity are such that I wonder how he was ever able to get them to the barrier.
– In between his efforts to get flights between Tasmania and New Zealand.
– As the honourable member said, he was able to do this in between his efforts to assist the establishment of a direct air link between Tasmania and New Zealand. The people listening to the broadcast should know that, the Minister has produced a Navigation Amendment Bill which contains 305 pages, 1 1 1 clauses and ten schedules. The Bill updates and changes law which has operated in this country since 1 894. If that is not a herculean task performed with extraordinary skill and ability by the Minister I do not know what is. I believe that all members of this House and all those connected with the industry would wish to place on record their gratitude to the Minister for the magnificant way in which he has tackled the task and for the legislation he has brought before the Parliament. This Navigation Amendment Bill moves the industry at last into the twentieth century. I repeat that in relation to certain provisions it changes laws such as the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1 894 and 1900- not of this Parliament but of the United Kingdom- which have been the law in this country since Federation. The Minister at last has brought Australian shipping law into the twentieth century. It is Australian shipping law, not United Kingdom shipping law.
Having made those points, I want to refer specifically to the five conventions which are now adopted. Even though the honourable member for Hughes referred to them I wish to refer to them again because there are matters I wish to raise, in particular the manner in which this legislation has come forward. It is a classic example of co-operative federalism, of how we can change laws and bring in a completely new method in a federal system such as we have in Australia if we co-operate. We cannot succeed if we adopt the centralist policies which were rampant in this country from 1972 to 1975. Had the Minister tried to use that approach he would have failed. He has succeeded because he recognises that we have a federal system in this country and he was prepared to operate on that basis, not as a centralist, not as somebody who thinks that Canberra is the font of all wisdom in this country and that anything that is right in Canberra is right for the rest of Australia.
I come from- as does my colleague, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr)Australia’s only island State. As the former Attorney-General, Mr Enderby, once said: ‘Tasmania is an island completely surrounded by water’. That is one of the classic statements of the former Attorney-General in the Whitlam Government. I mention in passing, but it is a fact, that the busiest seaway in Australia is Bass Strait. I could cite the necessary authorities. Bass Strait is not nearly as busy as the Straits of Dover. I make the point that navigation legislation cannot operate in a country such as Australia unless it is approached on the basis of co-operative federalism. Albeit very briefly, on a recent occasion when I was in Canada I had the opportunity of discussing this matter in one of the Atlantic states, namely, Nova Scotia. If we operate on a federalist basis we will be successful but if we adopt the 1972 to 1975 centralist policies of the previous administration we will get disaster.
The first international convention which is imported into the mercantile law of Australia is the International Convention on the Limitation of Liability of Owners of Sea-going Ships, 1 957. Whilst that convention is dated 1957, it came into force internationally in 1968. But the relevant law in Australia up until the passage of this legislation still consists of the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1894 and 1900 of the United Kingdom. The limits set in those laws are interesting to look back on. To say that they are horse and buggy provisions would be to flatter them. The low limits provide compensation of $28 a ton for personal claims and $15 a ton for property claims. These limits are to be raised to more realistic limits equivalent to the convention limits, namely, $179 and $57 a ton respectively at present. The second convention which is incorporated as a result of the passage of the Navigation Bill is the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972. This is interesting to all seamen. I am sorry that the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) is not present. Just before the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) left the chamber he reminded me of an amusing incident in which the honourable member for Newcastle apparently fell out of his own boat. The honourable member for Newcastle would be pleased to know that the new ‘rules of the road’ for ships on the high seas and in all connected waters navigable by seagoing vessels are now the law in Australia. Those who were involved in the naval cadets- green to green, red to red, perfect safety, go ahead- have to go back to look at the new rules because the new ‘rules of the road ‘ are somewhat different.
There have been a number of collisions. Indeed, these international regulations came into operation in 1977. They were incorporated in Commonwealth and State regulations. They are currently observed in practice but the convention had not been acceded to because the Commonwealth and State Acts under which the regulations are made do not enable the regulations to be applied to all the vessels covered by the convention. The passage of the Navigation Amendment Bill will correct that anomaly. It is not a legalism; it is a genuine and serious anomaly which is now to be corrected, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Minister for Transport. I commend to all those who go to sea to make sure that they know what are the new rules of the road’ because if they do not, what happened to the honourable member for Newcastle might happen to them.
The third convention is the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974. This convention is known as the SOLAS Convention. It consolidates and supersedes the 1960 convention of that name that was amended in 1974 and an amending protocol was added last year. Again the law has been consolidated. There can be nothing more pre-eminent in the mind of anybody connected with government than to ensure that we have a convention which does as much as can be done to prevent the loss of life from collisions at sea. If one looks back at history one is interested to find that there was no convention dealing with collisions at sea prior to the loss of the Titanic in 1912. 1 believe that it is an incredible reflection on humanity that as we move into the 1980s men and women are still losing their lives as a result of collisions at sea. The Convention adopted now, including the 1978 protocol, is a substantive convention. I hope it will continue to be reviewed. We should try to reduce this loss of life. One sees from the road death figures a dramatic reduction in certain States in Australia. If we can cut down deaths at sea it will be one sure way to benefit mankind.
It is incredible to me, as it is to many other people, that two ships in an enormous ocean can come into collision, just as it is incredible that two aeroplanes flying in the air can come into collision. One wonders how these collisions can possibly happen, yet they do. The fourth convention dealt with in the Navigation Amendment Bill is the International Convention for Safe Containers. It simply deals with containers other than containers used in the air, quite obviously; nevertheless one has to make the point. The fifth convention is the International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships which simply has the effect of introducing a universally acceptable system for the tonnage measurement of ships, by volume of interior spaces, in place of a number of other systems which previously had had international adherents.
I again want to make the point that the success of this legislation is due in no small order to the fact that the task was approached on a Federal basis. In relation to the first four of the conventions to which I have referred, the States have been given specific power, by virtue of saving clauses, to opt out or to legislate differently if their State circumstances so require. I cannot overemphasise my joy, as a member of the Federal Affairs Committee- I know that if the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) was in the chamber he would say the same thingthat in relation to this legislation the States have been given the right to tailor the situation to meet their own circumstances. As a matter of interest, for the purposes of this legislation the Northern Territory is treated as if it were a State. That is a wise move because undoubtedly it will be a State.
The other Bills being dealt with in this cognate debate are supplementary, in effect, to the Navigation Amendment Bill but one could not conclude one’s remarks on this legislation without a reference to one of the most excellent reports, I believe, that has ever emanated from this House. I refer to the report headed ‘Oil Spills Prevention and Control of Oil Pollution in the Marine Environment’. It is the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, dated September 1978. There are three recommendations in this report to which I wish to refer. For the benefit of people listening to the debate I point out that this is a joint parliamentary report. The Committee is chaired by the Deputy Whip, the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges). The Deputy Chairman is the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). Often when honourable members speak about parliamentary committee reports they neglect to mention the composition of the committee. The Committee which presented this report was composed of members of all parties- Liberal, Labor and National Country. It is a joint report of considerable eminence. The first recommendation of that Committee reads:
The Committee recommends that:
The Australian Maritime College -
As the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) said, it is being built in Tasmania, which is very much to the credit of the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman)-
I give full credit to the Labor Government for thinking that the Maritime College should be in Tasmania. I also give the Labor Government full credit for thinking that the Antarctic Base should be in Tasmania. But the difference between a Labor government and this Government is that whilst Labor promised these establishments we took action to build them. One has only to look at the Budget Papers to see the appropriation for the College- 6.3 million beautiful dollars are to be spent on the Antarctic Base in the electorate of Denison. I give the Labor Party credit for thinking of them and for promising them -
– Labor didn’t think of it.
-The honourable member for Hughes said it did and I believed him. Have I been taken again?
– Yes, you have.
-The honourable member for Hughes does this to me all the time. If Labor did not think of it I take back everything I have said. The fact of the matter is that our Government -
– I did.
-Of course, it was the Minister for Transport. I apologise to him. I am sorry that in a moment of aberration I accepted what the honourable member for Hughes said when he told us- it apparently turns out to be a cockandbull story- that Labor thought of it. In any event, the Maritime College and the Antarctic Base are being built by the present Federal Government. Everybody in Tasmania knows that and nobody can take the credit away from the Government.
As I turn to paragraph 44 of the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, I see the honourable member for Hughes fleeing from the chamber. The Committee recommended:
I think that the next paragraph is illuminating. It states: the relationship between safety precautions and oil pollution prevention is obvious. Draft legislation will soon be introduced to implement -
This is the very Bill to which I have been speaking- . . the provisions of the 1974 Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention. The Committee stresses the importance of Australia ‘s ratification of this Convention.
There is no finer place in Australia for tanker safety instruction to be given than Tasmania and, in particular, at the Maritime College. I repeat: It is of great credit to the Minister for National Development, who, although he did not think of it, is responsible for building the College. It is also of great credit to the Minister for Transport who thought of it.
The next matter to which I wish to refer in this excellent report is contained in recommendation 7 which states: the Commonwealth Government increase the funds available for hydrography work in Australian coastal waters to hasten the upgrading of navigation charts;
Paragraph 77 of the report provided me with some information which I feel I ought to draw to the attention of the House and to the people of Australia because I think it is important. The report refers to the fact that only 35 per cent of Australian coastal waters is adequately or temporarily adequately surveyed. The remaining 65 per cent is unsurveyed. The report says that the need for additional survey work is becoming more critical as the size of ships increases. In the report an adequate survey is defined as a survey line spacing of less than 125 metres and a temporarily adequate survey has line spacing of between 125 metres and 250 metres. The fact of the matter is that in 1970 the Oceanic Grandeur hit a rock in the Torres Strait that had been incorrectly charted. I believe that it is incredible that in 1975 only 35 per cent of Australian coastal waters is adequately or temporarily adequately surveyed. I know that the Minister for Transport places very great store on the strength of the Committee and the recommendations it made. But I believe that all Australians would support an increased commitment for hydrographic work in this country. I hope that it will not be very long before those survey percentages will be reversed. The sooner we have 100 per cent of Australian coastal waters adequately surveyed the better it will be for the safety of the thousands of Australian men and women who sail upon our coastal waters.
The last matter to which I wish to refer in this report, which, as I have indicated, is intimately connected with the legislation, relates to recommendation 1 1. It reads:
The Commonwealth Government encourage State Governments to amend their legislation to increase penalties for oil pollution of the sea;
This is contained in paragraph 104 of the report. I welcome into the chamber the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) who, of course, also is a Tasmanian and is actually responsible for the building of the Maritime College and the Antarctic Base. It is to his credit that the building of these facilities is occurring so quickly. I am concerned to hear- I state this rhetorically because I hope that it is not a fact- that the State of Tasmania apparently has not yet enacted legislation to increase penalties for oil pollution of the sea. I hope that this information is not correct. I believe that other States have acted and have increased their penalties. I ask the Minister for Transport to find out whether this is correct. If Australia’s island State is not prepared to legislate to increase penalties for oil pollution at sea, I believe that we have come to a very sorry state of affairs. I repeat, that I hope the information which was given to me, originally in confidence but then with authority to mention it in the House, is not correct. But if the factual situation is that Tasmania is dragging its feet on the question of oil pollution, I believe that that reflects great discredit on the State Labor Government and I hope that somebody in the Legislative Council or the Opposition under the new Leader, Mr Pearson, will do something to wake up the Tasmanian Government and get it on the job because of all people we in Tasmania should appreciate that our waters must be pollution free.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Once again we have been entertained by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). It is a shame that he cannot navigate otherwise he could help his Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to put Australia on the right course so that it might again become a great nation. Of the Bills before us today the most fundamental is the Navigation Amendment Bill. The other Bills are merely consequential, arising out of the provisions of that amending Bill. This is not the first occasion on which this Bill or one like it has appeared before the Parliament. In 1976, during the debate on the Navigation Amendment Bill 1976, my colleague the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) said that passage of that Bill had been delayed for more than a year. Today we are still discussing what is basically the same Bill. This is the third occasion on which this legislation has been before the House. It has probably made more reappearances than Dame Nellie Melba. Let us hope that on this occasion it will be a case of ‘third time lucky’.
As a Queenslander I am especially interested in the fate of this Bill and the associated Bills, including the Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Shipping Levy Collection) Amendment BUI. Queensland has more coastline than any other State except Western Austrtalia But more importantly, Queensland has Australia’s greatest natural wonder- the Great Barrier Reef. Every effort must be made to ensure that our navigational aids and maritime regulations are of sufficient standard to guarantee the reef’s safety and protection from navigational disasters, which in the last few months have been all too frequent around the world.
We are indebted to my colleague the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), who, when Minister for Transport, commissioned a report by Mr Mai Summers concerning guidance in matters pertaining to navigational aids and maritime regulations. The Summers report highlighted the need for modernisation of existing legislation and one can appreciate how that is absolutely vital when one considers that after almost 80 years as a federation our shipping industry has been regulated largely by British legislation drawn up for the purpose of a nineteenth century colonial empire. Our maritime policy is only slowly emerging from the antiquated shackles of federalism and the attendant matters of uniformity in State legislation.
The Navigation Amendment Bill deals with such matters as ship movements reporting, special purpose ships, and the limitation of a ship owner’s liability. Inasmuch as the Bill gives effect to the decisions taken at four Internavigational Maritime Consultative Organisation conventions, it is most deserving of support. It is especially important in respect of the Convention on the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea of 1 972 and the Safety of Life at Sea Convention of 1974. In this regard the provision that gives legal effect to the ship movement reporting scheme- AUSREP- is commendable. AUSREP provides the matter and organisational cohesion which is vital for sea rescue. I hasten to add that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) should not claim AUSREP as his own because rightly the credit belongs to his predecessor, the honourable member for Newcastle. Importantly, the Bill extends the regulations of the Act to include foreign masters and seamen who are engaged in operations within Australian waters. Recently the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) gave notice that he is considering the admission of Taiwanese fishing interests into Australia’s 200-mile fishing zone. If this comes to pass we should be absolutely certain that the rules of the sea are abided by and that adequate measures are taken for contravention of these rules.
Most of the measures contained in the Bill commend themselves. They are practically selfevident. For example, clause 52 deals with reports of movements of ships. It requires masters of Australian ships to lodge sailing plans with departmental officers prior to their departure. As well, masters are obliged to report daily and at prescribed times. It is intended to cover the passage of ships within a defined area around Australia. The requirements also apply to foreign ships making voyages between Australian ports and engage compliance on a voluntary basis over other voyages. For the most part, as my colleague has already pointed out, the Bill conforms with machinery matters and this side of the House does not oppose the broad thrust of the legislation. There are, however, two areas covered by the Bills which are of special concern to me.
The Government’s amending Bill purports to update what the Minister refers to as old, inflexible amending provisions of the Act in line with contemporary practice in other countries as well as to introduce uniformity into the structure of qualifications for officers and other seamen. Uniformity of legislation in this area is canvassed in the Summers report. I should like to express grave reservations about the minimum manning concept involved in the main provisions of this amending legislation. As a matter of fact, in May of last year the Minister said that he did not want the Government involved in industrial aspects of manning. That statement is consistent with the Minister’s strait-jacket, ideological puritanism, but unfortunately it seems to bear little relevance to the reality of manning policy. The Minister’s minimum manning concept is rejected by both unions and shipowners. As well, there is dissension within the Minister’s Department over the introduction of this concept. Far from removing the Government from the centre of industrial dispute it could conceivably place the Government, through an instrumentality of the Department of Transport, such as the mercantile marine office, at the very heart of the dispute.
At present the system operates satisfactorily; in fact it was suggested by the shipowners themselves in 1964. They wanted the Government to administer the engagement of crew. In the event that a shipowner cannot go out with his full complement and the union concerned is unable to supply the replacement, the Department personally has the authority through the Manning Act to allow minimum manning consistent with safety regulations. The union accepts this and there is no dispute. Under the amended Act this would all change. The union and the shipowners would discuss the manning problem and in the event of no agreement being reached it would then be referred to a safety manning committee, which would include representation of the Department. But this committee has no authority to settle disputes. A committee without teeth has no bite whatsoever. If agreement is not reached at this stage presumably it will then go to arbitration.
The value of the present and proposed schemes parallel the merits of arbitration as opposed to conciliation. Such a move to arbitration as opposed to the conciliatory role played by the Department in the present arrangements will mean a delay in voyages and excessive industrial disputation. It is lunacy to take such a role out of the hands of experienced departmental officers and pass it to the courts. As a Brisbane executive of the Seamen’s Union of Australia told me, minimised government intervention as proposed by the Minister will mean not increased industrial disputation, but the introduction of such disputes over manning. Until now that area has been free from industrial tension.
Certainly, as the Minister said the Schedules, especially Schedule 2, are outmoded, going back to 1912. Having one extra ablebodied seaman for every 500 tonnes over 2,000 tonnes is preposterous in modern terms, but the manning committee has overcome that successfully for many years by good will and co-operation. All the maritime unions and shipowners, apart from the Australian National Line, are opposed to any change. If the Minister had listened to those departmental officers with years of experience in this area he would have adopted a different course.
I turn now to the Seamen’s Compensation Amendment Bill. I was especially interested to see in this Bill an extension of the number of countries in which depositions concerning injured seamen can be taken before a judge or magistrate. Other countries, as well as those of the Commonwealth, are now to be included as prescribed countries in line with the Navigation Amendment Bill. I am interested in this amendment because it was my sorry experience quite recently to inquire into a case of compensation involving Seaman Reginald Saverpson. I inquired through the Seamen’s Union about Mr Saverpson ‘s chances of receiving compensation for the injury he suffered while working on the tug Virile. A member of the executive of the Seamen’s Union informed me that Rollem Pty Ltd which owns the Virile had the tug registered in Tonga. The union does not hold the proprietors of that company in high regard. It has had a good deal of business with them in the past in relation to unpaid wages and so forth. In the opinion of the Union, the only government to which a claim for compensation might be successfully directed by Mr Saverpson is the Government of Tonga. I take this opportunity while the Minister for Transport is at the table to ask him whether under the present or amended Act this man might receive some compensation for his injury.
Like many others, Mr Saverpson made the mistake of working without a contract on a boat owned by people who apparently have no sense of justice or fair play. These types of owners should be investigated. In regard to this matter clause 16 of the Navigation Amendment Bill seems to have some bearing on the limitation of liability a ship ‘s owner has in respect of claims by crew members, their heirs, personal representatives or dependants in cases of accident or death. I fear, however, that it will fall short in providing adequate protection. In 1975 when a navigation Bill was presented to Parliament by the former Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle, the present Minister for Transport said:
There does not exist in Australia the incentive for men to go to sea and earn their living.
Clearly, the provisions of this Bill must be designed to improve the conditions of work for Australian seamen. The Summers report confirms the just claim of Australian seamen to fair working conditions by referring in paragraphs 6 and 17 to the frequent claims from ship owners that labour costs and irresponsible industrial actions are stifling the Australian shipping industry. In paragraph 19 the Commission says that it has been all too easy to blame lack of development in the shipping industry on industrial matters. The Commission called on the Federal Government to act as a go-between to get the labour and management sides of the industry together. The performance of the present Minister has been far from that of a conciliator or an arbitrator. He has chosen to aggravate rather than conciliate.
It seems from my reading of the Seamen’s Compensation Bill that those seamen unfortunate or unwise enough to sign up with ships registered outside Australia with no insurance arrangements will not be comforted by the amendments proposed in this legislation. As far as I can see, the amendments are of no substantial consequence. They afford precious little protection to those who are employed on ships registered in such exotic places as Panama or Liberia. We are left with the status quo where protection is extended only to those seamen who work on ships whose articles of agreement are entered into in Australia. If the Government is genuinely concerned about seamen’s compensation, insurance should be made compulsory. Moreover, there should be a sincere attempt to prohibit foreign registrations of wholly Australian-owned ships. As well the provisions of the Navigation Act should be made to apply to Australian owned but foreign registered ships.
– I do not want to take the time of the House for very long to discuss the Navigation Amendment BUI which has already been extensively debated and on which there is no basic disagreement between the Government and the Opposition. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) in a somewhat casual and provocative manner earlier in the debate referred to the proposed Omega navigation station in Victoria which is about to be constructed.
– It is in Gippsland, actually.
– It is in Gippsland, in the Minister’s electorate. The honourable member for La Trobe said:
He went on to make several other disparaging comments about the position that a number of Opposition members have taken in relation to the Omega base. Within the context of this debate I make it very clear that the Opposition is certainly concerned- its support of this Bill indicates that concern- that the best possible navigational aids ought to be available for Australia. The point to which I draw attention and which I emphasise in this debate is simply that any objections that Opposition members may have to the Omega base relate to the military purposes of that base. It is my understanding that the military functions associated with the Omega base have been consistently denied by the Government. The Government has not been prepared to be completely frank and honest about the functions of the base. I refer to an article by Desmond Ball on the military uses for Omega. I shall quote some of the things he said simply to establish the point that when the Opposition discusses Omega in a critical way it does so with military purposes in mind. In an article entitled ‘Some Military Uses for Omega’ published in the Pacific Defence Reporter of June 1977 Ball said:
The ‘official ‘ position is that Omega has no important military uses. This is not only dishonest, but the record also shows that Governments of both political persuasions have been unnecessarily secretive, uninformative, equivocal, disingenuous, and themselves quite ill-informed and technically ill-equipped to comprehend the system and its strategic and defence implications.
Ball is a well recognised authority on defence installations and the Omega base. In his article he set out what he believes to be the military purposes of the Omega base. Having reviewed the evidence he said:
It is the present writer’s judgment that Omega should be regarded as part of the American FBM system.
It is the fact that the Omega base will ultimately be an integral part of the American military defence communications system, particularly communications systems with nuclear submarines, that needs to be considered when one is making an assessment of the importance of that base. In his article Ball reviewed various other military purposes for which Omega will serve a function. This matter is at least important enough to spend five minutes answering the honourable member for La Trobe who suggested that people on this side of the House are unduly sensitive about the Omega base. That sensitivity is not related to whatever value it may have for navigational purposes. I understand that value to be quite considerable. It is the importance of that base militarily for the United States and the entanglement that that would involve within the American nuclear defence capability that causes people to have what I believe to be a justifiable concern. It is unfortunate that the honourable member for La Trobe introduced that note into the debate which has, on the whole, indicated bipartisan support for this legislation.
Finally, I draw the attention of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), as honourable members from both sides of the House have done, to the importance of the report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation on oil pollution and the critical importance of that issue to Australia with particular reference to the Great Barrier Reef” and Torres Strait areas. Honourable members have canvassed that issue and made points concerning particular recommendations of the Standing Committee. I fully support what has been said with respect to the report of the Committee of which I was a member.
– in reply- I wish wish to thank the House for its co-operation in dealing with this Bill at short notice last night. I thank the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) for his co-operation in allowing the Bill to proceed last night, and the chairman of my own committee, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), and the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) who were also prepared to speak at very short notice last night. I would also like to thank all the members who spoke in the debate. As the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) has said, in the main it was a bipartisan approach to this very important question of the maritime industry in Australia and laws relating to it.
A number of interesting questions were asked of me during the course of the debate. Out of courtesy I would like to respond particularly to some of them. The honourable member for Shortland expressed concern about dropping an amendment to section 100 of the Act. He made the claim that part of the section clearly contravenes International Labour Organisation conventions. The only provision referred to by ILO was the offence in paragraph 8 (c) of section 100 which states: conspiring with another seaman to impede the navigation of his ship or the progress of a voyage of his ship.
The only ILO convention that the provision is said possibly to infringe is Convention No. 105 - Abolition of Forced Labour. The ILO has suggested that such a conspiracy should be an offence only at sea. The 1975 Navigation Bill proposed to make that amendment. The Government has given due attention to the ILO comments and has decided that no amendment to paragraph 8 (c) of section 100 is required. In fact, my own committee insisted on this when we proposed to insert the 1975 amendment in the 1976 Bill. I will give the reasons for this. The Government dropped the amendment because of a combination of factors on which the ILO committee relies and which we believe will never and can never occur in practice.
These factors are, firstly, that a seaman who engages in a strike will be prosecuted under 8 (c). Secondly, the court will convict him of conspiracy to impede the ship’s navigation. Thirdly, the court will sentence the seaman to imprisonment. Fourthly, in the course of serving his sentence, the seaman will be compelled to work. The section is not directed at seamen who engage in strike action. This is borne out by the fact that despite the many strikes that have taken place the section has never been used in such cases. The section is directed at a conspiracy to impede navigation. Such a conspiracy could arise out of a variety of situations unrelated to a strike or a labour dispute. For example it could arise out of malice, or as a result of a bribe by a competitor to the shipowner, as an act of terrorism or for political reasons. In any of those cases the section should be available to be used and a prosecution could be expected to succeed. In the Government’s considered judgement it could not be successfully used in a strike situation or as a means of labour discipline. There is therefore no possibility of a breach of the convention arising out of the use of the section.
The honourable member for Shortland also raised the question of the Crimes At Sea legislation. In his speech he said that he thought Australia was still placing legal reliance on ancient British Acts of Parliament illustrated by the Privy Council cray-fishing boat decision. Apparently he has missed out on the fact that legislation to deal with these matters was introduced by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and was enacted earlier this year in the autumn sittings. The Crimes At Sea Act 1979 received royal assent on 22 March 1979. The Navigation Amendment Bill makes consequential adjustments to the Navigation Act. Clause 73 removes Navigation Act provisions now covered by the Crimes At Sea Act. That Act will come into force on a date to be fixed by proclamation. Clause 73 of the Navigation Amendment Bill is intended to commence on that same day.
The honourable member for Shortland also raised a series of questions concerning tanker safety. The Government’s policy is that the most effective way to deal with the question of tanker safety is at the international level, particularly in relation to foreign tankers. This Bill demonstrates the importance the Government places on the question of tanker safety. The honourable member for Shortland seemed to gloss over this point. This is all that he said:
Worthy of special note are the provisions of SOLAS or Safety of life at sea. The provisions of this convention were aimed at greater oil tanker safety.
Under the Bill, Australia will not only be in a position to adopt the 1974 SOLAS convention which comes into force internationally on 25 May next year; additionally, it will be able to adopt the 1978 amendments to SOLAS which were developed at the International Conference on Tanker Safety and Pollution Prevention only last year and will come into force when there are 15 parties to the convention. At present there are only three parties- the Bahamas, Uruguay and Kuwait. The Bill will therefore place Australia in the forefront of the countries that are prepared to give effect to the latest international tanker safety measures.
The next initiative to be taken will be the adoption of the 1978 Convention on Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, which will affect both Commonwealth and State legislation and is currently under close examination in the Marine and Ports Council of Australia with a view to signing the convention before the end of November. That convention establishes for the first time international standards for personnel and will enable Australia to inspect and enforce the required qualifications standards on foreign ships visiting Australia. It contains additional measures for watchkeeping and qualifications for the crews of oil tankers and chemical and gas carriers. Again, it is the Government’s intention to become one of the early parties to that convention. The tanker surveillance scheme initiated by the Government is a further measure to improve tanker safety.
The next matter raised by the honourable member for Shortland was the Australian ship reporting system. I too pay credit to my predecessor, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), for the way in which he introduced and pushed ahead with this system following the tragic loss of the Blythe Star off Tasmania on 1 3 October 1 973. There was a court case and it was found that when the ship was reported missing no one knew whether the ship intended to take an east-about or west-about route on its voyage from Hobart to King Island. This impeded search and rescue operations. The Government has taken that initiative further as a government and has sought some international initiatives that I mentioned in my second reading speech, so that the Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue 1979 adopted at Hamburg earlier this year provides for the global search and rescue plan to incorporate national ship reporting systems similar to the one pioneered by Australia. So the initiative taken several years ago by the honourable member for Newcastle now has some international repercussions of great importance to the maritime industry. I must part company with the honourable member for Shortland when it comes to praising the honourable member for Newcastle solely for the establishment of the Maritime Training College. I guess it comes to the old adage that success has a thousand fathers. So that it is historically on the record, I point out that in addressing the annual meeting of the Missions to Seamen in Melbourne on 15 June 1971 when I was Minister for Shipping and Transport, I stated:
In some countries nautical academies have been established but mainly they have been for officers only. I believe the time has come when such a facility should be provided in Australia, but it seems to me that it should provide for the training of all seafarers, men and officers.
In August 1971, following that speech, the then Minister for Education put in hand a feasibility study into the establishment of a national maritime training school. The study was carried out by P.A. management consultants and submitted to the Wark Committee on Advanced Education. In early 1972 our Government established an interdepartmental working party to examine the recommendations flowing from the feasibility study. We kept that initiative right up to the election in 1972. It was part of the policy. I am delighted, and pay tribute to the honourable member for Newcastle for picking up that initiative and progressing with it during his term as Minister. But as the honourable member for
Denison (Mr Hodgman) rightly pointed out, it is this Government that is finishing this job off, as it has had to do with many other matters. We part company on that particular aspect.
The honourable member for Shortland also raised the question of Australian flag participation in overseas trading. He seemed to be trying to make the point- I thought he failed- that this Government is opposed to Australian flags operating in foreign trades. I say to the House, not in order to skite but simply as a matter of record, that no Minister for Transport or Minister for Shipping and Transport has seen more ships carrying the Australian flag entering the foreign trade than I have. I have put more ships into the foreign trade than any other Minister. It ought to go on the record just to prove that what the honourable member for Shortland is trying to say is not true.
– That was after you couldn’t sell them on the market.
– The honourable member for Shortland opens his mouth and lets the flies in. Let us talk about the four ships. What did the Labor Party do when it was in power? It ordered four bulk carriers, the most expensive bulk carriers that the world, let alone Australia, has ever known. There were no contracts for them to carry anything. That was the first thing we found out when we came into government. There was no effort or endeavour before these ships were ordered even to see whether there was a contract for them or any work for them. It was left to muggins me then to negotiate to get the ships into the trade. Of course, I could have sold them- that might have been the easy way outexcept that they cost about $80m. When we came to office I found out that the Labor Party had made such a mess of the matter that their market value was about $30m. I will also take the credit for putting those into the trade. Let me list the ships that this Government has seen going into foreign trades carrying the Australian flag and the ships ordered by this Government for foreign flag trades. They are: the Australian Endeavour; the Australian Enterprise; the Matthew Flinders, which is now called the Australian Explorer, the Allunga; the Australian Exporter, the Australian Emblem; the James Cook; the A nro Australia; the Ampol Sarel; a number of Howard Smith Ltd Vessels; and others. For the honourable member for Shortland to try to claim that this Government is opposed to entry of the Australian flag into foreign trades is quite wrong.
The point comes out quite clearly that the sorts of conditions that we as a government expect can be met; that is that the vessels ought to go into foreign trades in a completely economic sense and not in some sort of subsidised manner for some ideological reason only. The fact is that the Australian seamen on the Australian ships that are in trades do this country a great service and do it well. But the ships must go in on a completely economic basis, otherwise this industry will be like some of the railway systems that State Labor governments run- it will be propped up forever.
The honourable member for La Trobe referred to the inadequacy of the prescribed area of 2.5 nautical miles to keep ships away from offshore rigs. We are doing our utmost to keep ships away from these rigs. I should point out that the present enforceable international limit is only 500 metres. That was part of the continental shelf convention of 1958. Australia pressed for an increase of 2,000 metres at the Law of the Sea Conference in New York some three years ago but no other country would support us. Our international efforts are also being maintained at Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation meetings but there is little evidence of support there. The limit of 2.5 nautical miles referred to by the honourable member for La Trobe is a voluntary limit in Bass Strait, adopted by the Government at my behest. It has been well publicised and in our view is quite successful. I have before me a brochure. I cannot incorporate the brochure in Hansard, but it is a very -
– It is beautiful.
– Yes, it is beautiful. It displays a map. The honourable member will notice the electorate of Gippsland on it if he looks closely. It displays a map of Bass Strait which points out where all the oil rigs are and shows the restricted area around those rigs. We have distributed this map around all of the shipping companies, international and otherwise. Mostly they are obeying the voluntary scheme or following the code we have laid down. In 1978 there were only 25 incursions. In other words, of all the ships that sailed into Bass Strait- it is a busy seaway- 99 per cent obeyed the voluntary limit.
– You can’t trust those Tasmanians. That is always happening.
– The honourable member had better take that up with somebody else. The number of incursions is reducing. We are keeping the matter under constant review and watching it very closely. My Department and a number of other departments and organisations are on a committee that watches it very closely. We cannot forget that the freedom to navigate high seas is an internationally jealously guarded freedom. Australia has no power to take unilateral compulsory action against foreign ships on high seas. Of course, such action would also be against our interest as a trading nation. The present voluntary scheme is succeeding and is being constantly reviewed.
The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) referred to the wide powers given to the Minister to make and change orders. I think I should point out that these powers were recommended by the Summers Maritime Industry Commission of Inquiry. I was pleased tonight to hear somebody pay tribute to Mel Summers for the work he did in producing the voluminous reports that led to a lot of the changes that have been made. The Summers’ Commission recommendations were made to cope with rapid technological changes. The powers are limited by the Bill. In particular, all orders have to be tabled in the Parliament and are subject to disallowance. For the honourable member who is concerned about this matter, the honourable member for Hughes, clause 9 1 applies section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act to achieve just this. So he should not think that the Minister has limitless powers in these matters. As is proper, the Parliament has proper control.
I thank the honourable member for Denison for his complimentary remarks. Unless in the last few days or very recently there has been an enactment of which we are not aware, he is quite right in pointing out that Tasmania has not yet legislated to increase penalties for oil pollution. The Commonwealth and the other States have done this. They have lifted the maximum penalty to $50,000. The maximum penalty in Tasmania is still $2,000. 1 think the honourable member for Denison has done a service to the community in pointing out the failure of the Tasmanian Government to meet its obligations.
The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Humphreys) raised the question of compensation for injured seamen. I am not responsible for the Seamen’s Compensation Act. It is administered by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). The honourable member did not say whether he had made representations on the matter to the Minister but I shall have his concern drawn to her attention and see that he gets a response from her. Finally, the honourable member for Batman had to spoil the debate by getting ideological and dragging out the old red herring of Omega being used for military purposes. I do not know how he can stand in his place and say that when even the Labor Party has as part of its policy recognition of the establishment of the Omega navigational aid. He is talking against party policy in the first place, but perhaps he is unaware of that. At least there are some sensible people in the Labor Party who recognise the value of Omega as a navigational aid.
– The Papuan New Guineans have enough sense to use it.
– They do use it. I was in an aircraft in Papua New Guinea the other day that was fitted with an Omega navigational aid. The Papuan New Guineans were very pleased indeed with the service it gives in flying around the country. Indeed, it is being used more and more for peaceful purposes. The honourable member for Batman might not like to know that, but it happens to be true. He raised the old furphy of Omega being used by submarines carrying ballistic missiles. He must know, despite the odd-ball document that he read from, that much more sophisticated systems are available and used by submarines carrying ballistic missiles. Submariners are not interested in Omega other than as a general navigational aid. It is of no more benefit to anybody than other navigational aids around the Australian coast that do not have the magical name of Omega or radar or anything else of that nature. I was sorry to see him trying to drag out the old red herring by claiming that Omega will be used for military purposes. The whole world knows that Omega is a very successful and important addition to modern maritime nations, to ships sailing at sea and to aircraft around the world. I conclude by again saying thank you to honourable members for their contributions. The debate has been a very useful one. The totality of these Bills will advance the maritime industry significantly in the years ahead.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 22 May, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 22 May, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 22 May, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 22 May, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22 August, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House have a general debate covering this Bill, the Judiciary Amendment Bill 1979, the Federal Court of Australia Amendment Bill 1979 and the Judges’ Pensions Amendment Bill 1979, as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– This is a series of Bills which directly relate to the fact that the Northern Territory is now autonomous. The Bills are the Northern Territory Supreme Court (Repeal) Bill and the three related Bills. The main purpose of this package of Bills is to enable the Northern Territory Government to assume responsibility for the Northern Territory Supreme Court. This is to be done by the repeal of the Northern Territory Supreme Court Act of 1 96 1 so that the Northern Territory Assembly can pass laws to establish the Court itself. After the passing of this legislation, the Northern Territory Supreme Court will be in the same position as Supreme Courts of the States.
While the Opposition had many objections to the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act of 1978, particularly to the quite unnecessarily broad powers given to the Administrator, we accept self-government in the Northern Territory as a reality and we have no intention of turning back the clock. Therefore it is quite appropriate at this stage that the Northern Territory
Government and Assembly should assume responsibility for the judicial system of the Northern Territory. Perhaps the one somewhat anomalous provision is that contained in the Federal Court of Australia Amendment Bill which provides that the judges of the Northern Territory Supreme Court will hold office in the Federal Court and some Federal Court judges will hold office as additional judges of the Northern Territory Supreme Court. While we have no objection to this and believe that it is probably a sensible allocation of limited judicial resources, it is also probably not consistent with the status of the Northern Territory Supreme Court being on a par with that of State Supreme Courts.
Other provisions in the legislation go in entirely the opposite direction. The Judiciary Amendment Bill will confer jurisdiction on the Northern Territory Supreme Court in respect of suits between the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory. The basic position of the Court is that, like State Supreme Courts, it will not be subject to Commonwealth legislation except where the Commonwealth confers jurisdiction on it. This is similar to the situation of State courts being invested with Federal jurisdiction. There are also a number of transitional provisions which are necessary to ensure the continuance of cases presently before the Northern Territory Supreme Court and also to protect the position of judges already appointed. The administration of the legal profession in the Northern Territory will in future be regulated solely by Northern Territory legislation. Again this is consistent with the position of State Supreme Courts.
The only other matter I wish to raise is a matter related to section 1 1 8 of the Constitution. Section 1 1 8 provides:
Full faith and credit shall be given, throughout the Commonwealth to the laws, the public Acts and records, and the judicial proceedings of every State.
It will be noted that this section does not provide the same protection for the Territories. While it has not been used in Australia to any extent at all, a similar provision has been of major importance in the United States. In view of the constitutional position of the Northern Territory now, it would seem appropriate to insert a provision based on section 1 18 of the Constitution in the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act. This would not be the only provision in that legislation based on a provision in the Australian Constitution. There is also a provision based on section 92 of the Constitution which we would much rather was not there at all. The Opposition has no objection to this legislation. We welcome it and we wish it a speedy passage.
– I hope that the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) will take up the point that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) raised in connection with section 118 of the Constitution. I thank him for his comments and his good wishes for the legislation and its speedy passage. The Northern Territory Supreme Court (Repeal) Bill 1979 and the three other Bills consequential on it represent a major step in a long train along which the Northern Territory has been tracking for many years.
It is very pleasing to me and to other territorians, I am sure, that the Commonwealth Government has, at this stage, recognised that the Northern Territory legislature, as a body, has shown very real responsibility. By that I mean both sides of the House and the whole of the organisation which was brought into being by the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act on 1 July 1978. That is a great thing for the Territory and I commend the Commonwealth Government for recognising such a fact at this stage. This transfer of the highest court in the land, certainly in that far-off land, is recognition by Canberra and the Government here that the Territory legislature is a responsible body. This recognition reflects on all territorians, not just the Government or the legislature. We will treat it as such. We feel honoured that the Commonwealth Government has taken this step at this early stage after self-government. When the Minister goes to the Northern Territory to celebrate this occasion with the people there I will be present. I am sure that everyone will pay due regard to the fact that the Commonwealth Government has so recognised the Territory at this stage.
In the Judiciary Amendment Bill 1979, which is one of the consequential Bills, very necessary steps are taken to confer jurisdiction on the Northern Territory Supreme Court in respect of matters that may not be within the competence of the Northern Territory legislature. It also puts beyond doubt that provision can be made in Territory laws for the prosecution of indictable offences against those laws. It has virtually given unto the Northern Territory something within itself. Certainly the Territory will have to produce the goods and continue to show the responsibility which it has shown hitherto and which has brought about the introduction of these Bills.
– This will help them considerably, will it not?
-Yes, I am sure it will. I think that the Territory has been showing legally and legislatively that it is responsible. I am certain that it will not let down the Commonwealth Government, having taken one of the last steps towards statehood.
Again I commend the Commonwealth Government for introducing these Bills. I realise that discussions are continuing between the Northern Territory Government and the Commonwealth Government. I hope- this is not a complaint- that these proceedings will continue with as little delay as possible because there has to be a transfer of staff and property. I hope that these transfers will take place speedily and smoothly and that the great responsibility that the Commonwealth Government is passing on to the Northern Territory will be passed on speedily. I wish the Bills a smooth passage, which I think they will get.
– This has been a very happy debate because the Opposition has agreed to wish the legislation well. Of course, it is historic legislation. It is historic because, for the first time, a legislature established by this Parliament is setting up a superior court of record, the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. Its jurisdiction in future will depend on the legislature established last year under the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act. At the same time, it is historic because judges who are appointed by different legislatures, that is, by this legislature and by the legislature of the Northern Territory will be, in effect, sitting in the same court; that is to say, the judges of the new Northern Territory Supreme Court will hold a commission from the Northern Territory Government and they will hold a commission from this Government. That is historic.
The legislation is historic because it provides for a system of dual commissions. It has been said from time to time that this is not a good thing. The view has been expressed in Australia that we should have one system of courts, and that one of our problems has been that we have a judicial system which, to a large extent, is divided up between the State and Federal areas, lt is very desirable in Australia that so far as practicable and to the extent to which it enables the States and the Commonwealth to retain their own judicial sovereignty the court procedures and court arrangements ought to be as simple as possible and that those who do in fact go into the courts ought to be able to have their cases dealt with there regardless of whether a case finds its origin in State or Federal law or in Territory law. So this is historic for that reason.
One might well wish the legislation well not only because it is good for the Northern Territory but also because it is very good in terms of setting a precedent for what I believe we may ultimately have to do in this country, that is, try to establish a system of courts in which the courts have the capacity, whatever their origin and whatever law devolves to deal with cases that come before them. That is a thought that has been expressed by many in the past and that, I think, has been adopted by other honourable members. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned section 118 of the Constitution. Needless to say, I will pass on his comments on that to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). I noted the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s reluctance to embrace section 92 of the Constitution. It is interesting that the Australian Labor Party, while trying to give itself a new look, is still opposed to section 92. It is opposed to section 92 because it realises that it is the provision that prevents complete control by a State or Federal government in this country. On that basis -
– What about the wheat acquisition?
– He might well raise the wheat acquisition but he had better wait until the final Act. I can understand the Opposition’s sensitivity to section 92. It realises quite well that that is the section of the Constitution upon which private enterprise cannot be resumed by the state. I do not want to take it any further as I do not want to introduce into this debate any rancour or ill-feeling.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 22 August, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 22 August, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 22 August, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Motion ( by Mr Ellicott) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to draw the attention of the House to a report that was circulated to all members concerning procedures in this House. Part of the report states:
There is clear evidence that the House today is not seen by the public or, indeed, by members themselves to be an effective monitor of executive activities; nor is it.
The proceedings in this House today have absolutely amazed me as a back bencher.
– A private member, not a back bencher.
– As a private member and as a back bencher. The whole of today’s proceedings have been governed by a private agreement between the Executive and the Leader of the Opposition.
– That is not so.
– There was a private agreement that statements would be made, that a shadow Minister would reply and that that would end the proceedings of a particular matter of great public importance.
– No, that is not so.
-That is absolutely correct in relation to what happened the other day.
– If the honourable member will bear with me, he will find that I am trying to defend the rights of the back benchers in this House. I am trying to make this Parliament more into a debating forum for the nation rather than into an organised charade between the two front benches.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I do not mind the honourable gentleman talking about the rights of the back bencher, but he is making offensive remarks about there being a private arrangement between the Executive and the Opposition. No such arrangement was ever made. The Opposition welcomes as many speeches as the honourable gentleman wants to make, but his remarks are offensive to the Opposition.
Order! As far as the Chair is concerned, there will be adequate time later on in this debate for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to explain his position.
– I will give an example. On Tuesday the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) made a statement concerning all the new arrangements for ex-service pensioners. He made the statement by leave of the House. The spokesman for the Opposition also made a statement by leave of the House. I then desired to express my view. When I was asked for leave to speak the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) said no. I was refused a hearing.
– That was Tuesday?
-Yes, that was Tuesday.
– But you said that today was the problem.
– It would have been exactly the same situation today.
– No, it wasn’t.
– Are we to have an argument about this? I suggest that the proceedings in this House are that a statement is made by leave from the Government front bench, then a statement is made by leave from the Opposition front bench, and when anybody else asks for leave to intervene the answer is no, that they may not. I simply refuse to accept any further private arrangements of that sort. They are not acceptable. That is not the way in which we should conduct our business in this House. For example, let us look at the situation today. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) made a very important speech concerning our nuclear treaties with the United States of America and with Great Britain. What sort of debate did this House have on that matter?
– It was a very good one.
-There was no debate. Oh, yes, the honourable member was allowed to speak. I thank him very much for reminding me. He was allowed to speak. He was the performer. Were any Opposition back benchers asked to take part? Was the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) invited to take part? No, they were not. The arrangement had been made. The back benchers on this side of the House are going to take steps to make sure that these arrangements are stopped. This is not the way in which this House should debate the affairs of the nation. What will happen next? We have been told that there will be a debate on the Budget some time later. What will happen at that great debate some time later? There will be 20-minute speeches from alternate sides to an empty House on no format whatsoever of discussion with no major proposal for debate. Indeed, in my view this House has had only one really good debate. That was the debate proposed by a back bencher involving abortion. That is the only serious debate that this house has had since I have been a member. Honourable members might ask why. It is because our Standing Orders, for example, preclude an honourable member from the Opposition asking for leave to ask me to resume my seat so that he can intervene in a debate and make members of the House take part in a debate. We are being truncated by the Executive because that is the procedure that suits them. Well, I can tell honourable members that it does not suit my electors any more and I am surprised that more honourable members from the Opposition have not formed up with us to try to do something about the situation. I miss the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) very much.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The general aviation industry has suffered as much as and perhaps more than any other industry from the failure of the Government to implement a sound energy policy. General aviation provides an extensive range of services, including charter and commuter operations, aerial agriculture, flying training and essential and emergency services. It is one of the economic and social lifelines of non-metropolitan Australia. Yet the Government has failed to see that the industry has access to its necessary supplies of aviation gasolene. Earlier this year a cargo of aviation gasolene- 925 tonnes in quantity- was exported from Australia to the United Arab Emirates. This avgas was produced at Mobil Oil Australia Ltd ‘s Altona refinery and was produced for use in Australia. It represented about 5lh per cent of the usual annual local production and was exported in one cargo.
On Monday of this week, Mobil’s supply manager, Mr Neville Sutton, denied that Mobil had exported this cargo of avgas. He was right. The export was arranged by BP Australia Ltd. Mr Sutton also said that he could not say whether other Australian companies supplied by Mobil were involved in the export trade. In fact, his company was involved in a deal with BP Australia Ltd to export what it and the Government chose to call surplus stock.
You cannot trust the oil companies to tell the truth about their operations. Mobil knew full well what BP Australia Ltd was doing and was intimately involved in the export arrangements. One cannot trust the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) either. On the radio program AM on Tuesday of this week he said that the export to the Middle East ‘related to the re-export of surpluses which we imported from Abadan’. Government members know that the Minister told them a different story in his private briefings to them, when compared with the one he told the public this week. What is more, the Government- particularly the Minister for National Development- must carry the responsibility for this export. The Minister has repeatedly claimed that the Altona refinery must be permitted to supply Australia’s traditional avgas export markets including New Zealand and Fiji. But the United Arab Emirates is not a traditional customer for Australian avgas. In fact, there has been no other export of avgas to the Middle East, at least, in recent years. The Minister for National Development has claimed: ‘At the time the export decision was taken stocks of avgas in Australia were high’. The fact is that at any time from March onwards there was a worsening shortage of avgas throughout Australia. On 7 April the Canberra Times carried the following report:
Airports at Goulburn, Cooma, Cootamundra and Young are reported to be out of avgas, with Bankstown down to its last supplies. Towns throughout Victoria have also almost exhausted their supplies. Melbourne’s major general aviation airport at Moorabin ran out yesterday apart from some private stocks.
The Minister cannot expect anyone in the industry to believe that his approval of the Middle East export, either explicitly or implicitly by his failure to object, was a responsible attitude to take in this situation. No one who uses fuel would believe the Minister’s assurances about supply. The Minister has been unable to sort out the truth in regard to the date of the export to the Middle East. His Press statement of 20 August claimed that it took place on 2 March. Yet on the radio program AM he said two days ago that the export took place in February. He repeated that it was in February. The Department of Trade and Resources records the export occurring in April. On the same day that the Minister for National Development made his statement, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) claimed that the export ‘took place in March this year’. As I said, the Minister for National Development asserted that it took place in February. Who is telling the truth? It is obvious that we cannot believe the Minister for National Development. Apart from that, we cannot rely on him to manage fuel supplies, which is a crucial aspect of his responsibilities.
For three months there were complaints about avgas shortages, yet it was not until 27 June that the Government implemented a system of ship by ship approval for avgas exports. For at least three months these exports had taken place on a blanket approval basis. The Minister was satisfied to hand over to Mobil the job of distributing avgas during a growing shortage which Mobil and the Government had conspired to create. The general aviation industry- indeed nonmetropolitan Australia- cannot trust the Minister to protect its fuel needs.
– I was amazed to read in today’s edition of the Hobart Mercury an article which ostensibly reports statements by the Tasmanian Minister for National Paries and Wildlife, Mr Polley. The report is related to the generous funding by the Federal Government for the restoration work to be carried out at Port Arthur. Mr Polley is quoted as having said that he was pleased that the Federal Government is providing $400,000 for the restoration work in this financial year. I agree with him. I and I am sure the house at large, and certainly all the Tasmanian members of the Parliament, are very pleased that the Federal Government has seen fit to provide that money for the restoration work to be carried out at Port Arthur. Mr Polley is reported to have gone on to say:
However, the amount Tell short of the recommendations of the Heritage Commission and no indication was given for future funding programs.
That statement is totally incorrect. I am surprised that a Minister in the Tasmanian Government should be so ill informed as not to know that in the Budget the Federal Government has committed itself to a seven year program of funding the restoration work at Port Arthur on a $2 for $ 1 basis with the Tasmanian Government. I think that that statement is indicative of the fact that Ministers in the Tasmanian Parliament are ill informed about the generosity of the Federal Government. Perhaps that is the reason they whinge so much that Tasmania is not well treated by the Federal Government. We in this House certainly know how well Tasmania is treated by the Federal Government. It may well be that the Tasmanian Government simply is not informed about how generous the Federal Government is. If Mr Polley is any indication of the quality of people in the Ministry in the Tasmanian Parliament, it may well be that he and his colleagues need to do their homework much better.
– Do they have a government down there?
-They do. Unfortunately, it is a Labor Government. The statement made by Mr Polley gives some indication of how misinformed its members are. I am sure that my colleague, the honourable member for Bass, the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman), will confirm that unfortunately the Tasmanian Government is not informed and certainly does not provide the representation to which the Tasmanian people are entitled. I congratulate the Minister for National Development, together with the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), for the part that they played in providing these funds for the restoration work at Port Arthur. I know that honourable members on both sides of the chamber recognise the historic and cultural significance of Port Arthur to the Australian nation. As a result of the representations made to the Federal Government by the Minister for National Development and other Tasmanian members the Commonwealth now recognises its significance. The Commonwealth very generously has seen fit to commit itself to a seven-year program, commencing this year with a contribution of $400,000, However, we must recognise that that contribution is made on a $2 for $ 1 basis with the Tasmanian Government.
If Mr Polley, his Department and, for that matter, the whole of the Tasmanian Government are so misinformed as not to know that the Commonwealth has been generous enough to commit itself to a seven year program, I would like to arrange an interview with Mr Polley so that I could let him know the facts of the situation. By that means at least he as a member of the Tasmanian Government would be informed of the generosity that this Government has shown towards Tasmania. The Federal Government has shown its generosity to Tasmania in ways other than simply providing funds for the restoration work to be carried out at Port Arthur, as my colleague from Bass will confirm. We are all conscious of the work that has been done by the Minister in having the Australian Maritime College located in Launceston and in having its facilities located further down the Tamar River in my electorate.
We are all conscious of the work that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) has done in having the Antarctic base located in his electorate at Kingston. I am sure that all honourable members are aware of the work that has been done by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) in getting the Commonwealth Government to provide another bridge to span the Derwent River. I could go on to point to the work done by the honourable member for Braddon, the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom), in supporting the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Ltd. I am sure that all those people who live on the west coast of Tasmania are conscious of and very pleased with the efforts of the Minister for Housing and Construction on their behalf. What I am trying to point out to the House is that because of the strong representations made by all Tasmanian members of this House Tasmania has benefited. Unfortunately, we are not supported by the Tasmanian Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I remind the House of what occurred a few weeks ago in Adelaide when the Labor Party embarked upon its greatest confidence trick in the last 10 years. It has come up with a massive propaganda exercise in deceit, deception and distortion in order to ‘de-Whitlamise’ its image, as its members call it. What we are supposed to be seeing is the Labor Party’s new image, its new de-Whitlamised image. One has to look only at the policies it decided and as soon as these policies are understood by the Australian people, what the Labor Party fears most will happen, namely, the present Government will be returned at the next election with a substantial majority probably equalling its record majorities of 1975 and 1977. An article in the Australian last Saturday said that whatever the public opinion polls might say now, Bill Hayden is going to get done like a dinner because he has made the most fatal mistake of any Labor leader. He made a deal with the Left and as the Australian said, what the Left giveth the Left also taketh
We need look only at its economic policy which is the co-operation of the trade union movement regarding wages, prices and all economic decisions. That was the policy described by Mr Hawke as ‘gutless’. That was the policy described by Mr Wran as a ‘hotchpotch’. The Australian public are not fools. They know that the Labor Party is committed. Every member of the Labor Party in this House is bound by a policy that has absolutely no content, no teeth, and no effect upon inflation whatsoever. The Labor Party sold out completely to the trade union leaders and is trapped in its deal with the Left. This action would lead Australia only to economic disaster. The Australian Labor Party is bound by it. When honourable members look at the policy they will see the old words coming out again- increased intervention in the economy, nationalisation to be used where they think appropriate.
The 1979 platform is a more socialistic document than the one brought out in 1977. Labor is out to cripple industry again. It wants automatic full quarterly indexation in accordance with the full consumer price index. That would have a massive effect on industry in Australia. It is also unconstitutional because it is up to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in Australia to decide the level of wage increases. Labor does not have the power to fulfil this promise. It is an abortive promise. It is an absolute falsehood.
The only way Labor could possibly get away with it would be to embark upon blackmailing the Commission. I would not put it past it to try to do that. Labor has no power to make that promise. It is a grab for votes in an area that is totally outside its domain. It will be seen for what it is; an attempt to cripple industry.
Labor has also come up with a wealth tax proposal far worse than the capital gains tax it proposed in 1973 and 1974 and which Labor’s former Treasurer, Mr Crean, had to get rid of before it even came into operation. He said that it could not possibly work. What does this wealth tax involve? It would mean that everybody in the country would have to be investigated by some vast bureaucracy to determine each individual’s worth. There would be an army of inspectors. There would be huge outcries from civil liberties and privacy groups. The inspectors would have to investigate every person as to his balance sheet. They would determine his wealth. Every individual in the community would have to be investigated to determine whether he would be subject to this so-called wealth tax. When the tax is applied he would be asked for part of his wealth whether he has to sell his assets or not. The tax would be applied and people would have to sell their assets all over the place. It is a vicious, incredible tax. I know of no comparable proposal in the world. The British Labour Party once proposed introducing such a tax and had to give the idea away. It could not bring it in. It was impossible.
I turn to industrial relations and mention only one example; the removal of all penalties against the trade unions but retention of the penalties against employers. This platform is worse than the one Labor had in 1977. In relation to Medibank- the proposal to go back to Medibank mark I- the income contribution required, on any figuring, would require a levy of at least 3’/i per cent of a person’s income. This policy is a cave-in to the Left. Labor proposes a huge bureaucracy with no staff ceilings on the Public Service. This will lead to Labor’s electoral disaster.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to raise something that is closely related to what was said earlier by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates). I preface it by drawing attention to a remarkable passage that appeared on 28 October 1978 in a National Times profile of that warmly human figure, Mr John Stone, Secretary of the Treasury. The article concluded with these words:
The Treasury runs a relatively sophisticated model of the economy that contains nearly ISO mathematical equations no politician could hope to understand.
That is not to say that the words are directly attributed to the Secretary but there is no doubt that they reflect the prevailing view in the Treasury. The tragedy of that view is that it is half right. The Treasury has access to a vast amount of documentation, material and computer time to which we do not have access. Of course the Treasury invariably does not come up with the right answers. But this means that when the Treasury approaches an economic problem it is inclined to say that it approaches it with a vast background of knowledge and we ignorant fellows who make up the Parliament do not have that background of knowledge. So it might be said that the Treasury view in a sense is that on complex economic matters we might as well rack off because there is nothing whatever we can contribute to the debate that would have any technical weight. Even though one might see some half truth in that, the implications for the political system under which we are elected to represent the people- that is to say, the democratic system- are very alarming. If experts in the Treasury are protected by their access to all the computerised technology and all the information that is at their disposal, and we at the other end are the rank amateurs who only represent voters but do not have access to the information that the Treasury has, then democracy is in a very parlous state. I also draw the attention of the House to the answer to question on notice No. 3876 provided by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 7 June 1979. 1 asked:
That is irony of course- between the legislature and the executive.
Honourable members will be not too staggered to learn that the answer from the Prime Minister was:
The honourable member for Holt also spoke about informal arrangements earlier. The problem is that here in Canberra back bench members- I am sure it is true of front bench Opposition members as well- often feel like members of football teams that never play at home. They are always fighting on alien ground. The public servants collectively have about 85 per cent of the information and we have about 1 5 per cent, for much of which we have to rely on leaks, authorised and otherwise, and newspaper reports. The point is: How is it possible for the Parliament to make a proper contribution to governing the affairs of this country in an increasingly sophisticated and complicated period unless we have access to the raw material? We do not have it.
To take up the point that the honourable member for Holt put, there is really an intractable problem because of time limitations. I sympathise with the spirit of what he said. I made a rough calculation. I refer to some of the major issues which have been raised lately on which many of us would like to participate- for example, the debate on the Williams report not yet dealt with here, the Crawford report, the report on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Lusaka, the Budget. Let us assume that half the members of this House, 63 people, wanted to participate in a certain debate. Let us assume that they each take their 20 minutes. In my calculation that works out at just over 20 hours of debating time, which would take up more than an entire week so far as the arrangements of this House are concerned. That would eliminate Question Time, discussions of matters of public importance, adjournment debates and all the other groovy things we do in this chamber.
I mention briefly that one of the great problems that honourable members find is that we are not encouraged to participate in debating as those of us from the Victorian Parliament used to think of it. I must say that since I have been a member of this House I have come to appreciate the Victorian Parliament more and moresomething I never thought I would do.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like tonight to raise an issue, and to support the remarks made last night by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), concerning the problem that has arisen for the Apex organisations in Australia through the failure of Australia Post to agree to the issuing of a commemorative stamp in 1981 to mark the 50th anniversary of Apex. I must say that I find this decision extraordinary. I think that as a Parliament we ought to exercise our voice in the matter and do all that we can on a collective basis to encourage Australia Post to change the decision. As I understand it, Australia Post rejected the application essentially on the grounds that Apex is not regarded as a sufficiently widely significant national organisation. That is really extraordinary. Apex, for example, is the only major service organisation operating in Australia that originated in Australia. It is now actively represented throughout the whole of the nation and it has spread to ten other countries.
– Founded in Geelong.
– Yes. Geelong is rightly proud of it and we in Ballarat have very strong Apex representation, as I am sure most electorates do. There are currently nearly 800 Apex clubs and over 1 8,000 current members. Because Apexians have to retire at the age of forty years, the total number of Australians who have had active involvement in Apex is far higher than this figure. Over the past 48 years of service Apex has made a very significant achievement in service to the Australian community. For example, it helped to set up the Flying Doctor Service; it established the Association of Civilian Widows; and it substantially aided Foundation 41. It raised well over $lm for the Children’s Leukemia and Cancer Foundation. It was responsible for helping to set up the now successful tuberculosis eradication campaign and it has substantially aided many other projects and organisations including the Bush Nursing Scheme, Aid to Autism, baby health centres, Aid to Spastics and Aid to Multiple Sclerosis. The recognition arising from a stamp issue would aid Apex in its endeavour of service to the community in Australia. In view of the state of the nation today, anything that can be done to encourage greater community service must surely be applauded and encouraged wherever possible.
A stamp issue would heighten community awareness of and respect for Apex and serve as a public relations boost that would assist Apex in its fund-raising operations on behalf of very worthwhile organisations throughout the land. As well it would give public recognition to the many young men who are currently serving or have served their community through Apex. It would also be of international interest to the many Apex clubs which have been formed throughout South East Asia to know that the Government of the founding country of Apex is prepared to give recognition to the organisation.
Many organisations have been granted stamp issues to mark anniversaries. They include Lions, Rotary and the Young Women’s Christian Association. I find the rejection of Apex as an organisation worthy of recognition at a time when Australia Post has just completed a series of stamps in recognition of Australia’s great race horses, and I am interested in racing, to be very inconsistent and difficult to follow. I hope that Australia Post will reconsider this matter. I hope that we as individual members of this Parliament and the Parliament itself will use whatever influence we can to bring about a change in what I regard as a very unfortunate decision.
– Tonight I wish to refer to an aspect of the plight of Vietnamese refugees which came to my attention a few days ago and which is worthy of notice by the House. Perhaps I should start bv saying that these remarks may well apply to all refugees coming to Australia and not just to Vietnamese refugees. Many refugees are initially housed in hostels and their first two objectives are, of course, to find a house or flat and to find employment. Being for the most part diligent people they quickly find employment. However, being also very destitute, the costs involved in finding accommodation make that task a very difficult one. Accordingly, they often find themselves in the position of the refugees I came across recently, namely who had jobs but were obliged financially to continue living in the migrant hostel.
From that situation arose their first predicament, that is, they had to leave the hostel so early in the morning to travel to work that they left before the dining room or cafeteria was open and therefore could not have their breakfast there. By the time they arrived back at the hostel at night the dining room had closed and they went to bed without having had the evening meal. These people lived on bread for some weeks. Not surprisingly, some of them were so affected by this travelling without nourishment that they dropped from exhaustion and had to give up their jobs. My point is that it should not be beyond the wit of the authorities in charge of the hostels to stagger or extend the hours of the dining room so that refugees who have to travel to and from their jobs during existing meal hours are able to eat their meals at the hostel and sustain themselves. Surely that must be a reasonable request. Migrant hostels should be run to encourage people to work, not to deter them from working.
The second problem for refugees is finding accommodation. In the case of at least some refugees this accommodation is most likely to be a housing commission flat or home. However, in the cases that I came across recently the people were penniless yet they were faced with having to pay to State instrumentalities installation charges for gas and electricity and even stamp duty on leases. In other cases they have to pay rent in advance and a bond and, of course, they do not have the money to do so. The Commonwealth provides some money for settlement assistance but the money does not go far enough. The result is that some refugees cannot raise the money for these charges. They must stay in the hostel, try to work without meals, as I have already said, and hope that eventually after probably some months of this agony they will be able to raise the money. I hope that the State governments will make the simple gesture of waiving the charges for connecting gas and electricity and the cost of the stamp duty and bonds and will at least defer the requirement for the payment of rent in advance. Surely the State governments could make this gesture to help these unfortunate people to become established and to ease the burden on them, which is much more than I suspect many of us can imagine.
– If I may, I shall continue my earlier remarks. In giving evidence before a House of Commons committee of inquiry about the committee procedure, Lord Glenamara said: . . The balance of advantage between Parliament and Government in the day-to-day working of the Constitution is now weighted in favour of the Government to a degree which arouses widespread anxiety and is inimical to the proper working of our parliamentary democracy.
That is the position in Great Britain. Let me deal with how the Committee stage works in this place. Is there a Committee stage? Legislation is ruffled through this place. It is all over in a few seconds. Let us be frank; there is really no Committee stage. Proper consideration is not given to any Bill in the Committee stage. Why do I say this? The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) and I were members of a committee which inquired into the parliamentary committee system. It involved a good deal of time, a good deal of money and a lot of effort. We visited the parliaments of Canada, Britain and the United States. A report was presented to this House but that report has not been debated. Why? Because the Executive does not want us to have a Committee stage debate.
It was then decided to have some form of judicial committee system. Legislation committees did sit during the last session. One would have hoped that all the problems surrounding legislation would have been solved at those committee meetings, but were they? How many new amendments were brought in at the third reading stage of legislation? I can remember at least nine new clauses being introduced. What a shambles that committee procedure was! This House cannot go on in this way. One day the nation and the people will find out what is happening and they will ask what we are doing in the Committee stage of the consideration of legislation. They will ask what amendments we are considering. We will be asked whether there are any committees of consequence. A committee on expenditure is supposed to exist. The committee on expenditure is a myth. Those of us who were interested asked public servants and those who were involved with committees about the committee system. The whole situation is in a state of utter confusion.
It is time that the back bench members of this place were given a go. The private members of this place are just as important as any of the members of the front bench. The Speaker is duty bound to protect every member and to give consideration to the proposals of every member whether he is on the front bench or on the back benches.
What do Opposition members get by way of time in which to argue their points of view? They get no time at all. Why is a day not set aside for Opposition members so that they can put forward suggestions and examine any Bill over the whole of a day? What amount of time are they given? At present they are able to raise matters of public importance. This is a stunted, runted procedure. These discussions are supposed to be about emergency situations which any private member can bring before the attention of the House. They are supposed to be matters of emergency and of national importance. How many of them have been brought forward by back bench members? I brought forward one such matter but generally the bringing forward of these matters for discussion is restricted to members on the two front benches. What sort of a debate is such a discussion? It is not a debate at all. How many matters of public importance have been brought forward by honourable members on the back benches?
– How many?
– I brought forward one but such a debate is generally conducted between the two front benches, and what sort of debate is that? It is not a debate at all. It is a slanging match usually. I am sorry, I must be polite. It is a contested debate between the two front benches for a short time with no conclusion, no vote. The matter is just over. Really there is supposed to be a committee looking into our Standing Orders and our procedures. Has that committee made any suggestions during the life of this Parliament or of the previous Parliament for the reform of any procedures in this House? I will give the answer: It is no. Therefore, unless this House can pull itself together the people of Australia will really begin to ask why we are being paid, what we are doing and why we are not debating properly the main issues that affect the nation. It is high time every honourable member got down to the job.
– I would like to debate the issues raised by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates), but I do not think that in five minutes one can do justice to them. However, I point out to the honourable member that in 1976 the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) gave an undertaking to this House that the report of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System, which sat at fairly great expense to this Parliament and which brought down a unanimous report from both sides of the House, would be debated in this chamber. A number of changes to the Standing Orders and Sessional Orders have been introduced which at one time would have come from a debate in this chamber on a recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee. There certainly would have been a co-operative effort, agreed to by both sides of the House. But we now have a situation whereby changes are one-sided. The Opposition is consulted only about the introduction of already defined rules. Once that becomes the practice- it appears that this Government has decided that it will be the practice- then the House itself loses control of its opportunities to fix the Standing Orders which not only protect the Government’s right to govern and to have its business conducted but also affect the Parliament’s right and the rights of members of the Parliament, including the members of the Government who passively have agreed to this change in procedure over the last few years. It affects the rights of members of the House to protect their own rights vis-a-vis the Standing Orders and the chamber itself. Until the last time a major report of the Standing Orders Committee was received it was the practice to debate changes to all Standing Orders and to the administration of this chamber. It is unfortunate that no report of that Committee has been debated in this chamber in the last seven years.
– It is because no government has been prepared to allocate time for such a debate. A very important report of the Standing Orders Committee was presented here on two occasions, that is in 1972 and in 1974. Both sides of the House, at a government level, chose not to provide time for debate. The report I have mentioned is the second and equally important segment of considered recommendations for changes in the manner in which this House conducts its business. It has never been debated and we are now in the situation where the rules of this House are imposed from outside the chamber, and already predetermined without any debate or freedom of action on behalf of the members of this House.
I remember a night in this chamber when a proposition to bring in what now exists- a fixed adjournment time for this House- was divided on a tied vote even though the Government of the day had a fairly extensive majority. That night, at least four Ministers voted against the then Prime Minister who said a few words afterwards. It was not the present Prime Minister, although the right honourable gentleman involved is still a member of this House, as are most of those who voted against him. We have had very extensive debates on Standing Orders. We used to change the Standing Orders on the basis of a free vote of the House. This Government is the first Government since I have been a member of this House and, I think, the first Government in the history of this Parliament, which has sought to impose Standing Orders on this House which have been predetermined, without taking into account the rights of individual members of the House to consider and make private decisions on those Standing Orders.
It is no good Government supporters complaining that the procedures being used are not those which would best equip members of the chamber to carry out the functions for which they are elected. The Government, by allowing and even utilising methods such as back bench committees, which I know exist on the Government side, to determine changes which will take place, has predetermined for the future that governments will determine, collectively, the changes which will be made to procedures. The Government has predetermined that members of parliament will abrogate both their responsibilities and their rights as members to determine how the House will function. There is no point in Mr Speaker’s talking about the independence of the Speaker if the chamber itself abrogates its right of independent action in fixing the procedures under which it will conduct its business. The procedures are not government responsibility. They should not be a party collective responsibility. They should be debated by members of parliament individually.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Tonight, I raise the matter of the incredible knee-jerk responses to a letter I wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald during the recess warning against the misure of the ratio of unemployed people to jobs. These letters were curious for many reasons. The main response- I cannot criticise this- showed great sincerity and concern about the problem, but the letters refused to face reality. There is no doubt that it takes more than emotional Government bashing and misstatements of fact to establish a real solution to the problems of unemployment. Unfortunately my attempt to correct those misstatements by writing another letter to the Sydney Morning Herald did not result in its being published. In particular a correspondent Mr McArdle tried to deny my claims that in May this year, which was the latest comparable month which could be used, some 200,000 more people were at work than there were in the same month of Mr Whitlam ‘s last year in office. This is an indisputable fact.
– It should be compared with the population rise.
-This increase of 200,000 people at work is borne out by the fact that, in May 1979, 6,043,300 people were at work compared with 5,851,600 who were at work in May 1975. That is a rise of exactly 191,700 or about four times the figure put forward by Mr McArdle. His assertion that employment had risen by 260,500 under Mr Whitlam failed to mention that 165,000 of this increase in employment was made up of extra public servants- these were paid for out of the biggest tax rises in Australia’s history- with the remaining 100,000 or so increase in employment in the private sector taking place entirely in the first six months of euphoria of the Labor regime before its first disastrous Budget was introduced in 1973. In the following 2Vi years, under Labor the number of people at work in the private enterprise sector actually fell by 36,000 people. The number of people at work fell- I say this for the benefit of the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones)- while the population rose. This seems to me to deny the point that he made a little while ago.
There was a fall of 36,000 employees in the private sector in 216 years under Labor while the population was rising. Admittedly, private sector employment kept on falling but only by a further 6,000 over the next two years as the Fraser Government, in its first two years in office, battled to get the economy back on an even keel. But now that recovery is clear and strong. Private sector jobs had increased by over 70,000 by May 1979 over May 1975. Nevertheless, government jobs were up by 120,000 over the same period as the States have been receiving enough Federal money to increase their work forces. That effectively denies the nonsensical propaganda about cuts. While the Federal Government is holding down its own Public Service, some of its authorities have increased their employment so total Federal employment is up by about one per cent.
There is no doubt that the long term solution to unemployment cannot be found in simply expanding the public sector by a massive total of more than 250,000 people since pre-Whitlam days. This means that an increasing proportion of workers are being paid for out of taxes by the decreasing proportion in the private enterprise sector. Thus is exactly the trend towards higher taxes that this Government is halting. Its reduced income tax scales from the days of the HaydenWhitlam scales in 1975 have meant a saving to taxpayers of about $3,000m in the year to June. Of course, there will be a lot more this year. It will need a major increase in the capacity of the private sector for it to afford to employ more people. A slow-down in the rate of increase in the work force is needed before there will be any effective and genuine long term cut in unemployment. Economic recovery and corporate profitability are slowly bringing about the first requirement.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I cannot resist the opportunity to reply to the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume). I do not marvel at the fact that the Sydney Morning Herald declined to print the letters of the honourable member. I think that he has wittingly or unwittingly attempted to deceive the House about the relativity of absolute figures and proportional figures. The point that needs to be made over and over again- he ought to hear this as he is leaving the chamber- is simply that we have had over the last three or four years an enormous increase in the total number of people of work force age. Normally speaking in relatively sophisticated western economies one will find the magic figure of 42 per cent of the total population which is available for work, which desires work and which tries to enter the work force. What has happened in the last few years is that because of the enormous baby boom in the post-war period and the fact that the veterans of that boom are now well into work force age, Australia has reached a remarkably high figure of nearer 45 per cent of people of work force age who are offering for work. This is one of the highest figures anywhere in the world. There has been an enormous proportional increase in the number of people offering for work. There has also been an increase in the absolute number of jobs.
It seems to me that if one takes a proportional percentage point of view that is probably more valid than looking at the absolute figures. If one does so one will find that there has been a continuing decline. The second point I wish to take up- this is quite important- is that what the honourable member has said is an indication of the naiviety of his thinking about economics.
– No wonder Patrick Partners went broke.
-As my friend the honourable member for Chifley says, it went down the chute. After listening to the honourable member one can see why. Two great engines are running within Australia’s economy. We might call one the productive sector which produces tangible goods and services essentially based on capitalism as we know it. For want of a better term we might call the other sector the convivial sector. That sector is producing quality of life things such as education, information, health and welfare services and so on. As has been rightly pointed out it is largely funded by taxation. We recognise that. It is rather simplistic to say: Here is the noble productive sector relying on capital which produces profit which produces taxation which leads to this parasitic growth that the honourable member would think of as the convivial sector. The point is that the convivial sector does the basic things. It determines broadly the quality of life for most of our citizens and is the greatest single generator of demand. In other words, if one did not have the demand of school teachers, public servants and all of the other people who are involved in that second sector to go out and buy things- buy clothes, cars, fuel and all of the other consumer goods that we take for granted- the demand and capacity in the productive sector would simply disappear. So the relationship of one to the other is not parasitic; they are absolutely mutually dependent.
I ask leave to incorporate in Hansard certain tabulations which indicate, first, the size of the employed civilian labour force in Australia from 1970 to 1977; second, employment and unemployment in Australia, 1 978; and, third, the employment participation rate in Australia from 1970 to 1977. 1 think that is the simplest way for honourable members to understand the position.
– It is usual to let the duty Minister see the documents beforehand, but I will not oppose the incorporation.
The tables read as follows:
-I thank the Minister for his patience and kindness in this matter. The point is that unless we consider the relative increase in population and work force size, all of this talk about increases in absolute numbers is nonsensical and completely deceptive. Worst of all, it is self-deceptive.
– Over the last week the Opposition has tried to run a line that the Government allowed exports of aviation gas at a time when there was an acute shortage of, or problem in regard to, aviation gas in the country. It was begun by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) during the weekend and was carried on in a question that he asked on Tuesday last. In answering that question I told the Leader of the Opposition that his statements were distinguished by the fact that they were completely inaccurate and riddled with misrepresentation. Tonight the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) compounded what had been perpetrated by the Leader of the Opposition, because he admitted in his speech that he was in possession of a document which I circulated to members of the Government setting out the true
position. He chose to misquote, he chose to ignore, and he chose to completly misrepresent the things that were said in that statement.
Let me illustrate. The document that he had sets out very clearly that the shipment occurred on 2 March. He still tonight, tried to have us believe that it occurred late in March; yet, as I say, he very clearly had the document in his possession. Let me make it clear also that if the shipment were to take place on 2 March, the decisions to get it going had to be taken in February. The situation at the end of February was this- and again the honourable member had this information in his possesion as well but did not bother to tell us about it when he made his speech tonight: Stocks of avgas were at high levels. They were equivalent to 156 days cover for consumption at 1978 consumption rates. That is about 5 months’ cover- assuming that there was no local refinery production whatever of avgas.
In fact for the information of the honourable member for Fremantle, the position was better than that. The Altona refinery produces on average about 40 per cent of the Australian requirement for avgas and, at the end of February available stocks, together with anticipated local production, provided a satisfactory outlook for supplies of avgas, adequate for up to 9 months. That is virtually to the end of 1979. In fact, that was a much stronger outlook than existed at practically any other time for any other significant oil product.
Let me go on just to pin down what lack of integrity this man has. I will cite from the document what he did not bother to tell us: First of all, BP International certainly did send those exports off to the United Arab Emirates. But the honourable member did not say that BP International has a commitment to replace this aviation gas.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted.
– I would like the debate to be extended.
-The Minister requires the debate to be extended. The debate may continue until 1 1 . 1 0 p.m.
-BP arranged to replace avgas from international sources later in 1979 at the same price as that applying to the export in March. Again, for the honourable member’s information, I am in touch with BP to find out exactly when Australia will receive the return of that aviation gas. The honourable member for Fremantle, in speaking about shipments before 27 June, implied that there was a mass export of aviation gas from this country.
– I said no such thing.
-Yes, you did. In fact the document makes it very clear that there was one shipment only. That was 1,000 tonnes to New Zealand in May. The honourable member also said that the Government was allowing Mobil Oil Australia Ltd to run the priority allocation system that was decided upon. The honourable member nods. He pins himself for what he is because in this document he did not say that the order of priority was fully discussed with the Government. That means me. Not only was it discussed with Mobil; it was discussed with the Shell Co. of Australia Ltd and BP and I insisted that that should be a common priority system. What the honourable member did not say- it was on the final page of the document that he had- was that I had made it clear to oil companies that the Government expects them to meet their obligations. I have made that absolutely crystal clear to every oil company in the country which is responsible for the distribution of oil and oil products.
Let me say this to the honourable member for Fremantle: Your blatant misrepresentation of the facts tonight, linked with personal vilification, do nothing for the standards or the ethics of this House- nothing at all. It confirms the opinion of practically every member on this side of the House that your integrity is worth nothing.
-The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until 2. 1 5 p.m. on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following notice was given:
Mr Fife to present a Bill for an Act to establish a National Companies and Securities Commission, and for purposes connected therewith.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 22 August 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 7 March 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Act states that the Tribunal shall renew licences unless such circumstances exist for the licence to be revoked, or if renewal of the licence would be contrary to a provision of the Act.
Therefore, in the way the Broadcasting and Television Act is phrased, a renewal of licences for periods of one to three years is envisaged except in exceptional circumstances.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 29 March 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
New South Wales-2CH; 2GB; 2BE; 2BS; 2GF; 2GN; 2WG; 2KA; 2MO; 2NM; 2NX; 2TM; 2VM and 2 XL.
Victoria-3AW; 3DB; 3KZ; 3UZ; 3XY; 3BA; 3GL and 3 HA.
Queensland-4BK; 4AY and 4MK.
South Australia-5DN; 5KA; 5AU and 5RM.
Western Australia- Nil.
Tasmania- 7HT; 7EX and 7LA.
No commercial television stations have indicated that they are in receipt of material from the South African Embassy.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommuncations, upon notice, on 2 May 1979:
When will ethnic television telecasts be extended to Australian Broadcasting Commission regional television stations, particularly in the Shepparton and Bendigo areas, so that migrant communities in northern and north-eastern Victoria and the Goulburn Valley can share in this initiative.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are no plans, at this stage, to extend the ethnic television service beyond Sydney and Melbourne. It would be the hope of the Government, however, that services of this nature could be provided to as many ethnic communities as possible. In planning the permanent ethnic television service, the Government has as a primary objective the extension of the service on a national basis as quickly as possible.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 30 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes, asbestos is potentially dangerous to human health; see answer to ( 1 ) (b) above.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 31 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A notice was displayed in the window of the post office, however, from 20 November 1978 advising customers of the intended closure.
State member of Parliament was not similarly advised. Subsequently, however, in reply to representations made by him. 1 did explain fully the circumstances of the closure of the Seacliff non-official Post Office.
Medical Treatment for Ex-servicemen (Question No. 4216)
asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 6 June 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)I have received representations from Air Vice-Marshal W. E. Townsend, C.B., C.B.E., the Federal President of the Air Force Association, in his capacity as President of the Australian Branch of the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society.
Any proposal to extend full free treatment benefits to exservice airmen who evaded or escaped capture in Europe would need to take into account the claims of many other veterans who spent some time in enemy controlled territory but evaded or escaped capture by the enemy. These include former members of the Forces engaged in commando-type operations in enemy controlled territory and large numbers who became separated for varying periods from their units while engaged in operations against the enemy.
I regret that I can see no immediate prospect of an extension of treatment benefits to veterans who escaped or evaded capture in enemy or enemy occupied territory.
asked the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 7 June 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s qustion is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 August 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790823_reps_31_hor115/>.